Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Here's to the Metropolitan Line

SONNET Autumn 1959
Hearing the pulse of Betjeman we rode
The line north-west to its extremity.
By Spice Isles (Wembley Park and Chorleywood)
To empty smoking roads of privacy.
That newness of ourselves we lost elsewhere
Yet I may touch the texture of that day:
The soft beige calf-length coat, the sleek gold square,
Suede gloves, the cloud-sprung head, the breath’s bouquet.
While I – a shabby swain – in mackintosh,
The stigma, later, of perverted age,
Smooth jowled, smooth cropped, smooth mind, all false panache;
A vagrant on an unaccustomed stage.
An afternoon of chance-bred unity,
That led to this, a vital memory.

NOTE (7/11/09): I am dissatisfied with the way I responded to kind comments on the above sonnet. My latest "re-comment" tries to explain this.

Novel progress (Working title: The bent con-rod). Chapter one: 3420 words, Chapter two: 3806 words. Chapter three: 2890 words - 8/11/09; previously 2376 - 6/11/09. Comments: Another goodish afternoon - 500 words. Big bifurcation ahead, possibly to the dismay of Hatch lovers.


Plutarch said...

The word count tantalises.Keep writing. I'm sure I'm not alone in wanting to know the fate of Hatch.

Sir Hugh said...

A genuinely pretty picture evoking the romance of youth – what a captivating expression!

Rouchswalwe said...

Oh, is love in Hatch's future? Will she be a beer-swilling lady? Will he write her poetry comparing her eyes to Nut Brown Ale and thus win her heart?

The Crow said...

Is this lovely woman Mrs. BB? Easy to see why you wrote your poem about your memorable afternoon.


Barrett Bonden said...

Plutarch: I have added dates to the word count as a better measure of progress.

Sir Hugh: When the narrator in "A dance to the music of time" gets married he reflects on the impossibility of including comments about his wife in the story. The sonnet above is structurally defective and was written far too quickly in a mere afternoon. Even to write bad verse a sense of detachment is necessary. But it celebrates an anniversary and Mrs BB seems surprised and pleased.

RW (zS): Hatch is involved with four ladies, although others may exist unforeseen. None of them at the moment drink beer but it's a detail I can't rule out.

The Crow: The afternoon is as sharply remembered now as it was experienced then, even though the words lag some way behind it all.

Avus said...

The poet is usually his hardest critic, BB. I found your sonnet delightful.
Even if you had not mentioned one of my favourite poets I would have found your offering very "Betjeman-esque". The place names, clothes descriptions, the pretty girl, the self-deprecatory remarks about the poet's age ("for I am bald and old and green")
You only now have to start a crusade to save Victorian buildings!

Barrett Bonden said...

Avus: First Gunk and now this deep penetration into my inner workings. A post launched by one of Betjeman's observations is fermenting just like the stout brewed by RW (zS). I'm grateful for your delight.

herhimnbryn said...

Oh BB,of course Mrs BB was pleased.

Stop being so critical of yourself.

Your words conjur up a wonderful memory.

The Crow said...

You wrote, "The Crow: The afternoon is as sharply remembered now as it was experienced then, even though the words lag some way behind it all."

Oh, I don't know about that, BB. Anyone who has been in love, then married the love, remembers sharply the moments such as you have described. They are written on our souls like carvings in stone, and your words evoke those memories each of us carries.

Your words, your poem, your love are magnificent tributes to your wife, then as now.

I know not the occasion of this anniversary, but please accept my heartfelt good wishes for you both.


Julia said...

The texture of the day middle section turns the photo technicolor; it's really very nice.

Do you ever read Marianne Moore?

Congratulations on the anniversary!

Rouchswalwe said...

Stout, rich and deeply delicious, does take longer to ferment, but it is well worth it. I drank a pint of Chicago-brewed Oatmeal Stout in your honour tonight!

Barrett Bonden said...

HHB: Thanks, but if the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, then constant self-criticism is what keeps the egg off my face. There's a clever, clever verse I wrote several months ago and I grind my teeth down to the gums every time I read it.

The Crow: Well, I hope so but see above. The anniversary is of the walk: we took it at this time of year, half a century ago.

Julia: Nobody's commented on my dirty mac. Alas, I hardly read any poetry but fragments get to me every now and then.

RW (zS): You're sure you don't drink oatmeal stout because it sounds healthy? An under-the-table form of porridge?

Hattie said...

Love her wistful facial expression. You are a wonderful poet.

Barrett Bonden said...

Hattie: Thanks for your kind comment. For the moment, however, I prefer to see myself as a versifier.

All: Two things appear to have got tangled up on this one: (a) The feelings that led me to consider writing this sonnet, and (b) The way I turned those feelings into words. People who write verse don't deserve marks for their feelings; they're a given, we all have them. Even the simple conversion of feelings into words doesn't deserve praise; what's up for judgement is the verse itself. As verse. In trying to do this mind-bending stuff patience always pays off. Twenty-four hours is a great leveller for "fine" writing; a week even better. But through sheer impatience I posted. And, such is the way with these things, this semi-permanent display immediately showed up the defects.

Readers aren't constrained by any such rules; they read and respond. Frequently they make allowances and I'm very grateful that they do. The dissatisfaction arises between the "then" and the "now" in my head. Some of what I wrote is OK, and I'm moderately content with the theme by which I executed my feelings. But the structure wobbles (at best) and needs re-arranging. I'm irritated with myself and I fear this may have translated into dismissiveness and facetiousness in my "re-comments".

All of which wouldn't matter if this verse hadn't, to some extent, taken on a life of its own. For that reason editing isn't an option. The sonnet stays as it is and here I am, bleating. I'd like to repeat my gratitude for the things you've all said - there's always a tremulous moment when I see the number of comments has risen (now flagged by my email account) and I click the mouse in nervous anticipation. I suppose too this apologia, or whatever, was necessary given the intimacy of the subject. Which only goes to show that the author Anthony Powell, referred to in the re-comment to Sir Hugh, was probably right. Normal service will now be resumed.

Avus said...

Betjeman certainly took immense time over his final results. He wrote his ideas and the changes in any verses on odd bits of paper, fag packets, bus tickets, then put them in his pocket and forgot or lost them.
I guess it went with his intentionally projected image of the nation's eccentric, disorganised favourite "teddy bear". The battered trilby, plastic mac and old shopping bag. All a front to cover up quite a cute cookie.

Julia said...

Easy peasy, don't edit old post, but after a bit of settling, post new poem. Artists get to paint the same scene multiple times, why not poets?