Wednesday, 27 February 2008

P-i-R's Gustav Mahler poem

Poets are often expected to submit for publication material that has not been submitted or accepted for publication elsewhere. That's the general rule. And woe betide the poet who breaks it; not that Poet-in-Residence would ever dream of breaking it, he adds hastily. But there's another side to this. It's when editors accept submissions subjected to the above rigorous conditions and then sit on them for months or years on end. And then don't use them. The poor poet now has to chase around like a demented detective to discover the fate of his beloved poems. Have they in fact been published? Are they about to be published? Have they been rejected? He must do all this before he can send them elsewhere.
The poem that follows was sent to a publisher in March 2005 and immediately accepted. P-i-R is not aware that it was ever published. Today it has reappeared, almost like a mirage, in the shifting reams of paper through which this humble scribe navigates this poetic caravanserai. The following is a slightly modified version.

With Gustav Mahler in Ordinary Circumstances

The original is something like this
and at the same time it
is nothing like this. It
was carelessly un-scrawled
and set down in lugubrious longhand,
laid out by a long-limbed roguish fellow
too fond of whisky and adjectives
slumped in a comfortable too-easy armchair
in a dusty window
in a rambling house
full of curious spiders
and annoying ants.

To the background of Mahler's 10th
on his crackly radio
the green buds of poetry opened themselves
in that befuddled brain of his
and with his red-inked nib he un-squiggled
and scratched
his bleak verse
with bardic abandon
onto the cardboard stiffner
rather laboriously it must be said
from the inside of his new white shirt
with a snug-brown Ulyssean night
in sight (half-price
due to the recent demise
from natural causes
of an octogenarian shirtshop owner
and his family's subsequent 50% off everything
clear-out sale).

Be all that as it may, and it may be all that and more,
the painful pinpricked point is 'Yes!'
- 'Yes!' it is still possible
to compose a passable poem
on the shiny smooth surface of a half-price shirt insert
with an almost empty pen
and a pinprick of blood
in ordinary circumstances.

And now you may pray
that it may always be so.

c) Gwilym Williams


  1. Musings on writing and sufferings to get it right and all in one poem.



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