After a recent request from a magazine, asking me to do a piece explaining where my poems come from, I decided to post a poem today (from my pamphlet, Out of the Weather). The poem is ‘To Say We Exist’, which was written after reading Stephen Dobyns’ collection, Common Carnage. The collection was recommended to me by the poet Stuart Pickford. On holiday recently, browsing second hand books, I came across a novel by Dobyns. I’d no idea he wrote novels too, but now it’s on my bookshelf, waiting to be read.
Somehow, a thread links all these things together: reading, talking with other poets, stumbling on new books, new lives, being open to ideas, being interested, having the time to do, and the time not to do (rare, I know, but important). I could go on, but you get the picture. Anyway, here’s the poem, and thank you to all those influences that, on a good day, with the wind blowing in the right direction, make poetry happen.
To Say We Exist
after Stephen Dobyns
How profound to be a miner,
ascending in a steel cage,
that end of shift fatigue momentarily lifted
only to be shouldered again the following day.
Think also of the diver, swimming towards
the thinning colour that is surface;
how dangerous that epiphany
when nitrogen enters the bloodstream.
This feeling has been with me
since childhood, when I stayed in a strange bed
troubled by the ornaments of other people’s lives,
the shape of the dressing gown
hung behind the door, listening
to the constant passage of trains in the night,
coal trucks I lay awake and counted,
or counted because I lay awake.