Monday, November 15, 2010

Comet (for Chris Woods)

Where the high horizon sutures the sky
to Holcombe Moor
way up above the padlocked hut
his dog tailwags up ahead alongside the one
stringvested hillrunner
while he and his alchemist hold
this season-soaked day about them
as they calibrate and calculate
and examine a sclerotic sky for
one sign of it.

But jagged time arcs away
towards Two Brooks and beyond
as the weather presents
a fond bleakness.

Down the generations
it’s a night tingling with stars
that grants his last wish to his grandchildren
now full-grown who step aside for
the ghost of the hillrunner
as they screen subatomic
pointing the autoscope
to capture at last
the faithful messenger sizzling
through an ocean of sky.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Chris Woods visits Bank Street

A very well attended November Bank Street Writers meeting in Bolton had the well-known local poet Chris Woods as guest.

Chris started by referring with affection to Anne Hendy, whose recent loss was felt by so many of us, and read from her ‘Snapshots’ collection the poems Pisces, Visit from my Great Aunts and Mother’s Day.

Chris then treated us to a baker’s dozen of his own poems. The first of these was about North West Water digging up his road. Naturally, some of his poetry reflects his locality on the edge of Holcombe Moor. The next poem Racing Time for Ron Heaton referred to a local hill-runner whom he got to know whilst out walking his dog. Another dog walking poem followed this time in the snow. White Walk, just like the previous poems, had striking imagery and a powerful ending, ‘up to my knees in dazzle.’

The theme changed to astronomy and we were treated to On Not Seeing Halley’s Comet where a repetitive affirmation was seen in the comet’s return. Newtonian Analysis dealt with one of Chris’s pet subjects, the master scientist, whilst Hut was about a retreat for writing and meditation. There followed two festive poems, Pumpkin Lantern ( with its final ‘You have changed into yourself’) and Bonfire Night, a vivid poem about children and firelight.

A moving poem for his father, Sealham Harbour For My Father considered the power of the tide ‘as the sea takes the sand and time away’ whilst Seasons For My Father reflected his belief that we tend to associate memories with particular seasons: ‘snow and silence everywhere.’

As a GP he would be expected to write a lot of poems about medecine but in fact, though using medical imagery, not many of his poems are about his job. One that he read for us was Coronary Care. In this poem he addresses the heart directly: ‘my red balloon…my bruised red apple… sweet heart… such love I took for granted.’

To Cows was just that and included the clever ‘the Milky Way their memorial overhead.’

The final poem The Lawn Is Green, about planting a new lawn, referred to with the medical image of ‘a graft’, again involved his children at play on the new carpet and contained a line which certainly made me green with envy: ‘elbowing the distance to one side.’

What struck me above all about Chris’s poetry was that it was considerably elevated above narrative or location poetry through astounding and unexpected imagery and the juxtaposition of the personal and the external, the individual and the panorama.

Thank you Chris for your inspiring poetry!