Fraying but not hating every minute –
withdrawal-addled, dissipating nimbus
of cotton-wool with spastic clawing – can it
be that these delapidated timbers
have weathered enough foulness, and are creaking
back now into their soundness-after-rumpus?
I try not to look down. Albeit on waking
there is accustomed fellness, it is finite.
May make it out. Am fraying but not freaking.
This Monday’s poem is one of the fifty-word poems in my collection of fifty fifty-word poems, “Half Cocks“.
NOTES LIKE RAIN outpouring from overwhelmed
guttering during a deluge – “transcendental
technique”, now taught in magazines.
Numberless books on lepidoptery
an evening’s study. The mind’s uncageable
papillon, fluttering through the fingers.
“Some kind of spirit” as convected warmth,
as sonic youth, as torrents remotely
seeded, propagating to the last breath.
This one comes ready-glossed to some degree – see “Neovores and Educators“.
The late Douglas Clark was a poet who lived in Bath. Of himself he said “my health, both mental and physical, has never been good and my life has been troubled”. In the best of his poetry, the terrors of acute mental breakdown are described without sensationalism, along with the sadness, inertia and disorientation of life in its aftermath. Lyric poetry typically projects an ego under stress, reinforcing itself through the willed exacerbation of its circumstances. If I can magnify the forces that assail me, then in some sense I can also command them. Douglas Clark’s is not a poetry of command in this sense. His voice can sometimes seem very small, unassuming; his verse flat in affect, matter-of-fact in subject matter. “The antiquated engines of love trundle out,” he writes, “I have forgotten how to write poetry”. In spite of this his poems about cats and kittens were widely enjoyed, which might have bemused this poet whose early models included Ezra Pound and Basil Bunting.
As far as this “homage”
is concerned, all of the necessary context can be found by browsing the poems collected on Clark’s still-extant homepage. It may seem odd to dedicate a “homage” of all things to such a “minor” figure, but I admire him for his fifty years (by his own reckoning) of living “a peculiar life, like Spinoza but without his intellect”, for his frankness about the causes and courses of his own failure to thrive, and for the gentleness and openness of his attention to other living creatures.