The rain washes his eyes
(I rose before the stars wanted to dim)
They suppose that he cries
With sadness that his love is not with him
But she is always there
Who rose before the suns and earths were made
(You whom I think most fair)
With echoed smiles of joy that will not fade
And he is always here
Who rose before the stars had walked above
Two eyes and one small tear
(Why? I would say my spilling fuel is love)
An edited extract from the original accompanying notes
The ideal audience the poet imagines consists of the beautiful who go to bed with him, the powerful who invite him to dinner and tell him secrets of state, and his fellow-poets. The actual audience he gets consists of myopic schoolteachers, pimply young men who eat in cafeterias, and his fellow-poets. This means, in fact, he writes for his fellow-poets.
– WH Auden: Poets at Work
My poetry has always been private – born of emotion-of-the-moment into a world where I’m afraid to let my offspring wander, in case it is harmed, rejected, or simply scorned. But we all crave praise for our creations, I suppose, as well as wanting to coddle them – qualities, which, after years of being a father, I realize are instinctive in us all. We have to trust not only in our child’s ability and right; but in the world, to offer its acceptance.
Prior to this semi-reluctant untethering of my poems (to a pride of my “fellow-poets”), then, my audience consisted usually, only, of one: of “the beautiful who go to bed with [me]”; plus an occasional close friend or two; and it has usually also been the case that my poems were written to, about, for – or occasioned by – such companions.
I described myself in my submission as:
A chemical engineer by degree(s) – a modern romantic by nature – most of my working life has been spent sitting in front of various computers: marketing IT (information technology); writing about IT; editing newsletters about IT; and designing annual reports about IT. I only write poetry when I’m sad. (My personal life is happy; but my working life is sad – which is not to say I only write at work.) And I’d like to be as good a poet as Robert Graves. (One day…)
…which was supposed to make the point that much of my emotion – and thus my poetry – stems from antithesis, from conflict: whether flippancy and earnestness; art and science; good and bad; happiness and sadness. (Isn’t this the same for all artists?) But, also, to ‘warn’ that my particular brand of ‘lyric poetry’ may not be to modern taste.
I started writing poetry, as many do, I suppose, in an adolescent blur of angst: sometimes for “myopic schoolteachers” and the school literary magazine; but, more often than not, to burgeoning blondes and brunettes who I worshipped, unrequited, and from afar.
Perhaps at fourteen every boy should be in love with some ideal woman to put on a pedestal and worship. As he grows up, of course, he will put her on a pedestal the better to view her legs.
– Barry Norman
But real love came much later. And it was only with the pain that comes with the realization that one’s love is not always perfect that my poetry also ‘matured’. (I hope.)
This poem was written in a telephone box in the rain at six o’clock, one rainy Saturday morning, a few years ago – in a micro-depression caused by having to ’phone for an ambulance for an elderly neighbour suffering an obvious, life-threatening, cardiac arrest; as well as an aching absence. Unusually for me, the poem originated completely in my head, waiting for the medics, watching the rain; and I only scribbled it down later, as one of many “pimply young men who eat in cafeterias”, eyeing the early-morning buses going by.