For me, what’s so exciting about having a featured poet is sharing an example of their work. Jonathan Davidson has a poem I really admire in his collection Early Train which is called ‘Driving The Children’. When I read it with the local writing group, there was that beautiful silence for a second or two afterwards, before everyone praised it – yes, everyone! So, I thought that would be the poem I’d be sharing on the blog, but no, I’ve gone one better than that because Jonathan has allowed me to print a poem from his forthcoming pamphlet, Humfrey Coningsby: Poems, Complaints, Explanations and Demands for Satisfaction. Needless to say, I feel very priviledged.
Jonathan Davidson’s most recent poetry collection is Early Train (Smith/Doorstop, 2011). His pamphlet Humfrey Coningsby: Poems, Complaints, Explanations and Demands for Satisfaction is due from Valley Press in 2015. Seven of his radio plays have been produced by BBC Radio, with an eighth due for broadcast on BBC Radio Four in April 2015. He is also a theatre/poetry performance producer working with Midland Creative Projects (www.livepoetry.org), most recently on The Hundred Years’ War – Verdun to Afghanistan (touring Spring/Summer 2015). He lives in Coventry.
The Last Dream
i.m. Humfrey Coningsby, 1567 – 1610?
Where had I got to? That boy has gone again.
I believe I have asked for sweet mint tea
And perhaps some of those little… things.
The aroma of her perspiration soothed me,
Collapsed my seasons into scattered straw
And flew me all about the ridge and furrow,
And headland. I go back to my childhood
But cannot claim it. That too is lost to me.
The desert shifts its shoulders like a sea.
I think of my Captain from Bruges or Ghent;
No more of him. Her voice was secretive,
Drew music from my bones. I will see her
Again. Here or there. Now and again. Now,
This sleep envelops me. Sweet mint.Tea.
Published in the forthcoming pamphlet, Humfrey Coningsby: Poems, Complaints, Explanations and Demands for Satisfaction, Valley Press, April 2015.
A Poet of Influence.
Why do I feel so attracted to the poetry of Peter Didsbury? I stumbled on his book The Classical Farm thirty years ago. The cover was quirky – a dog wearing deely-boppers (a form of head gear favoured by pre-pubescent girls in the 1980s) on a sea of cobble stones, and it was a strange shape, more square than usual. And it was Bloodaxe. The poems were either long, conversational – and at times aggressive – journeys into the corners of Didsbury’s mind or short portraits of times and places, often moving incongruously between the two. ‘Cider Story’ was a good example. It was about the poet Milton and the daughter (or possibly wife) who read to him in his blindness. But it focusses on cider and the price of it. Glorious. Beautiful. So not a heartfelt lyric, but an exposition, and exploration, a little piece of grit thrown into the eye of the reader. Over the following decades I was never without a Didsbury book knocking around my shelves. Sometimes I didn’t read him for years but always I came back. His poems had enough that was not explained to keep me happy. And more than that, I felt here was a truly learned, humane spirit, casting a rueful eye over the world. He was – is – funny and charming and knowing and willing to be friendly if you are willing to sit and listen. He is not that much read, and that makes him more important to me. He certainly isn’t the recipient of many prizes, which is a shame, and I’m certain he doesn’t play the poetry game so no snakes and ladders for him, just quietly writing poems when they occur to him. Thanks to Bloodaxe for continuing to publish him. I do not want him any better known except that some may enjoy him, for I am slightly selfish about what I have had from reading him all these long years. If you can be bothered, read his stuff. If you can’t, don’t. I’m not fussed.