It’s 2.00 am and after several cans
of Tennents we’re getting a bit
philosophical Jim says he’ll pack in
writing songs and go up the Amazon
in a canoe Mike says he fancies
lying around all day in the forest getting
pissed on jungle juice and Brendan says
that when they’re all too smashed to go out
and kill a creature they’ll send the
women off to gather berries they ask what
will you do I say I’ll teach the women
to be assertive so they can tell you to
fuck off and pick your own berries.
Sylvia Dann’s Back to Nature sounds like a damn good night with your mates. Look at how she does it – those unpunctuated, disrupted lines sound like a drunk person, the language is plain-spoken and her killer last line closes the argument with a hiccup and a slur. She knows when to stop – she doesn’t say “…and so we carried on until dawn, arguing and being close, and we will do it all again one day.” We know that.
Your theme is not Tennent’s lager but time with friends. Your starting point will be different, but still a single moment shared – and aim for the same vividness, the same fidelity to the moment. If it’s mournful then slow it down with vowel sounds like oh and ah – if a motorbike ride, keep it fast with consonants and short vowels.
A friend or friends, then. One you see a lot, or haven’t seen for years (like Chris Beckett, writing in the Ethiopian tradition of praise poems). One who is lost to you through death or distance; one who lives next door, one who you last saw when you were six. One much older or much younger than you. Not, please, one who happens also to be your mother or your husband. Keep it platonic eh?
Remember an extraordinary or ordinary moment spent with them. Don’t intellectualise, don’t try to make it Mean Something. It means something. Get right inside it. Remember what was on the stereo, how bad the pasta was, how awful that man’s hair, how a friend helped you take the bins out when you slipped a disc. Tell the truth, in the language of the occasion – giddy as teenagers, mournful as pallbearers. Try addressing it to the friend directly, for the same immediacy as our epistolary poems in week 20. Fill it with love and keep it concrete.
Then phone a friend. Poems, even the best of them, are only representations of the important stuff. Oh, and erm, have a listen to this - a poem written long before 52 brought so many poets together in a truly invisible space.