Saturday, 20 December 2014

A life in the day

I think this was the first poem I ever had published, at least, it was amongst the first, appearing in Reflections issue 85, back in 2012. It brings together four short pieces, septets, each expressing a single thought and based on the theme 'a certain slant of light' (from the eponymous poem by Emily Dickinson), which is what binds them together in the unity of the poem.

These four stanzas conjure images throughout a day in the lives of several unconnected souls in diverse places, hence the subversion in the title. The rhyme scheme is a non-rigid 'ababbcc' and I make no apologies for using Rhyme Royal. It's not always necessary (although some would say never) for form to dictate, but in this case, it suits the poem.

There is symmetry and rhyme in nature, which is apparent to all the senses, not just in sounds. Listen to the dawn chorus sometime, there's rhyme right there in your ear. Look at the reflection of overhanging willows in a pond, look at the wake behind the duck making for the shore, there's rhyme in all of that. Look at the rows of cabbages in a garden, there's rhyme in those lines – and that's human nature.

If you're going to break the rules of a form, always consider what's best for the poem. It's often better to look for alternatives within the constriction of the form, before considering breaking with the ideal. Nevertheless, do not shirk from bending the rules as they are not sacrosanct. That's especially true in a final line, for example, where the emphasis is on closure and where some dramatic effect, crafted through some divergence from form or strict meter, is perfectly acceptable. Making your words count is what matters in the final analysis.

He went a-poaching, seen as ancient right
and rounding wooded hill as day awoke
he saw at first a certain slant of light
like threaded silk appear.  If spun by folk
who went unseen by grey and shadowed oak,
that hillside, bracken clad, with lonely slopes
was tethered, earth to sky, with sunlit ropes.
Beyond the red and yelling orange glow
of noonday sun exposed above, their plight
in desert's harsh, relentless status-quo
accursed, for in that certain slant of light
illusive haze threw waterhole in sight,
on shimm'ring wings of heat, an arbour found,
enticing, but forever out of bounds.

A certain slant of light is cast sublime
at times when days dissolve at water's edge
and seagulls cries are lost in windswept mime.
As night approaches slow, its darkness pledged,
there, framed by blues and depths, not yet submerged,  
a vivid canvas, brushed against the sky,
paints horizon's glory in jaded eye.
If black or blue or shades of greying dark,
no matter now, we've lost our dayling sight.
We're left with shapes as indistinct remarks
that fall upon our eyes like they'd indict
our minds for fear and certain slants of light
escape between the blinds as thrown by lamp
they cut through shadowed night in furtive camp.