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The Poetry Place

Following - nearly there...

Friday, 9 November 2007 15:06:16

Friday, 9 November 2007 15:06:16

I can recall easily what he wore but I’ve got to keep it brief so it’s just the big dark apron I’ll mention and the pockets where he kept everything he might need. I finally get to use a special word, like Heaney – in this case, ‘bass’. It was a kind of string made of straw – now replaced by plastic twine, unfortunately, because bass rotted away and baler twine is a menace.

A navy blue apron with pockets for plants,
Secateurs, garden knife, bits of bass
To tie up the dahlias, tomatoes, chrysanths
 I’d ‘help’ if I could with each task.

The rest of the verse came easily. I’m thinking how to end the poem now.



Following

Friday, 9 November 2007 15:06:16

Friday, 9 November 2007 15:06:16


Coming back to it, I saw how neatly a rhyme would be made if I swapped spade and fork. Then I wanted to deal with the missing line 4.

My father worked with a fork and spade
His hands rough with the pulling of thistles
And the management of handle and blade.

I don’t have to say ‘thistles’. I could use weeds which would give me agood way into the following verse with the rhyme ‘seeds’. A bit obvious but it will probably work. Also I preferred a specific thistle to a general weed – but writing is about compromise and you can’t always get what you want. Well, I can’t.

My father worked with a fork and spade
His hands rough with the pulling of weeds
And the management of handle and blade.
The shed bench littered with packets of seeds.

(Do I keep hands? Is the repetition in handles good or not? I could use palms instead. I can’t decide.)

An expert. He would set the seedlings
In neat rows labelled with Latin names:
Rows made straight with sticks and string.
In the greenhouse, in the cold frame,

His eye narrowed and angled on aphid
Or wasp. He’d use knife, fingers or
Pungent poisonous fumes to rid
The greenhouse of pests.  

I can use all sorts of words for a rhyme or a near-rhyme for ‘or’.  In the end I settled on wore, and the sense / sentence will have to go on to the next verse.



Following

Friday, 9 November 2007 15:06:16

Friday, 9 November 2007 15:06:16

I got stuck here and decided to leave it and move on.
My dad was an expert so I left that bit in:

An expert. He would set the seedlings
In neat rows labelled with Latin names:
Rows made straight with sticks and string.

I like the way Heaney goes on from one verse to the next in a continuous sentence. I shall do the same;

'In the greenhouse, in the cold frame' being the last of verse 2 and the next one going on: 'His eye narrowed and angled on aphid / Or wasp.'

My dad would spot pests with a steely eye – so Heaney’s phrase suited me well.

I need a rest here though.  And so do you.  Have a good half term break.

 



Follower

Friday, 9 November 2007 15:06:16

Friday, 9 November 2007 15:06:16

My father worked with a horse plough,
His shoulders globed like a full sail strung
Between shafts and the furrow….

When I re-read Follower, I recalled the poem I’d written about my mother. It seemed natural to write onw about my father – and Heaney’s description of his father seemed a good place to start.

When you look at a poem with a view to writing something similar, you notice new things. I noticed how easily the rhymes worked – almost invisible sometimes. I saw again how much he used the technical terms for things – and how he could remember how his father looked as he worked. Could I remember such things?
 
There was nothing as dramatic as the man with the plough in the field: my dad worked in a smaller environment, though big enough to me as a child.
So I used what I could remember; simple things: spade and fork, trowel, seeds, seed trays, and so on.

My father worked with a spade and fork,
His hands rough with the pulling of thistles
And the management of handle and blade.

More soon...



Follower finished

Wednesday, 31 October 2007 09:34:21

Wednesday, 31 October 2007 09:34:21

My dad was never a nuisance to me – he died when he was 66 and never got really old. I think the poisonous fumes contributed to his death from cancer, though the rough cigarettes didn’t help. But Heaney’s thoughts about wanting to be a ploughman gave me the idea for my ending. Perhaps it’s a bit too neat – and I’ve changed the rhyming – but I like it.

Don’t be a gardener, son,’ he’d say
Not for the work, but the pay.
And was glad when books took me away
And gave me things he’d never had.

I’m also aware of how much I’ve left out about my father. More I want to say. But not in this poem. I’ve learnt how partial a short poem is. So Heaney must have left a lot unsaid about his own father. I also know how much harder it is to start from scratch. So thank you Mr Heaney for giving me this starting point.

Trying something like this yourself:
Use the idea and the pattern as a way of getting started but don’t worry too much about departing from it. Once you start writing, you often find that you have discovered things to say – and a way of saying them that is your own.  Writing about a person, especially someone close to you like a parent, grandparent, brother or sister can be surprisingly hard. Heaney gave me the way in – which was to write about what they did and how they did it.  Simply the way your mum peels potatoes can be enough to get you started! Little details mean more to you – and to your reader – than big generalisations.

 



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