Tag Archives: Roger McGough

Two Poems from the Past

I keep saying I will put some of my poems in the blog, but never quite get round to it. I just found a few at the bottom of my email box. They were first published in Acumen in May 2021. One of them was on  the page facing  a poem from Roger McGough and I felt quite famous for a while. They are not particularly cheerful, for which I apologise, but writing something serious is an occupational hazard of being a poet.

When COVID struck in 2020 we just thought it was another flu. When the idea of a lockdown was first mentioned we were in the middle of Norfolk, heading for the Suffolk coast. The poem, The First Week is written about that time. The other one was a poem originally written after my mother died, but repurposed after my father died from COVID. When we stopped at the Garden centre on the way home (see the blog post) we had intended seeing him. By that time he was locked down and we never did see him again.

Here they are.

The First Week

We didn’t know what was to come that year, the lack of holiday,
freedom and fresh air. Walking on the shore, shingle ground underfoot.
Aldeburgh is not a restful beach. In the distance we saw a house in the clouds,
and the nuclear power station nestled on the edge.

We stopped at the stainless steel clamshells, changing shape as we
drew nearer – seabird, shell or boat. Slipping from one to the other,
clever design. Punched through with letters – I hear those voices
that will not be drowned.

Back in town, amongst the living, we passed the place where the pier
used to be, queued for fish and chips with people fleeing London to their
holiday homes. When we set off we had no idea that this would be
a week in history remembered for so many wrong reasons.

Eating in the car park at the end of town, we saw concrete cubes,
the left over tank traps from another war. Further along, a village the
waves washed away and the Martello Tower that protected the coast
from invasion, but could not stop the sea.


New Normal

Is this how it ends? A shaded room, light filtering through curtains,
and an on-line fight for breath.
At home, surrounded by familiar things, I hear the magpies chatter,
as I watch my father fading in his final, silent scene. I feel I should be
there, and dwell on my regrets. The scent of brewing coffee fills the air.
Only one visitor allowed: I let my sister go to say goodbye. In my
imagination staff monitor and measure and make notes, passing through
my mind like helpful ghosts. Machines make noise. I’ve heard it all before and
can supply the sound effects the computer cannot play. Death at a
social distance. It is the modern way.

Later, at a distanced service, dismal poems will be read,
to say you are just waiting in another room and are not really dead.


Water Lily


Me and Roger McGough

I’ll go back a couple of days for this one.  I had an email yesterday. As is customary I have had three haibun rejected by the editor who always rejects me.  He thinks there were some interesting points but they aren’t quite there yet. He has been thinking that for around two years. I have submitted to him half a dozen times and have failed to find favour every time.  Two years of being “not quite there yet” seems like a long time – in that time I have had haibun published in six other journals.

I don’t mean I should be accepted very time I submit, or that the rejecting editor is wrong. Even the magazines that generally accept me don’t do so without the odd rejection, and once in a while I get a hard time from one of the editors demanding changes I don’t always want to make. When that happens, I get annoyed with myself for not writing to a high enough standard. That’s not difficult to cope with.

However, when you are consistently turned down by one editor you reach a point when you have to wonder if it’s worth the effort, and whether he is looking for something I can’t produce.  I’ll probably try a few more times, because each rejection is one more for the year’s list. I’m supposed to be aiming for 100 rejections and have only made 22 submissions so far this year. I’ve been a bit lazy recently, so need to up my game. It doesn’t do me any harm to get a few rejections because it does make me sharpen up, the only proviso is that I want to send stuff out that has a chance of success, and that takes time. Recently it has been taking longer than usual.

Anyway, that’s a rejection, and the lessons to be learned from it. I will now go back by another day.

My copy of Acumen arrived. I has two of my poems in it. They were shortlisted in February and accepted in March, so it’s been a while. I have become so used to the rapid internet world of most haibun magazines that this seems a long time. It’s the 100th edition and is bigger than usual, and is very glossy. To say I was pleased with myself would be an understatement.

When I opened it I found there were quite a few famous poets in there, Mimi Khalvati was on the opening page and Roger McGough was about half-way through. I’m right at the back, but it doesn’t matter, I’m still in a magazine with some famous poets. I’ve been in magazines with some notable haibun writers too, but none of them as famous as Roger McGough.

It took a while for me to calm down after that, which is why the Saturday rejection bounced off me, and why I’ve had to wait until now to write about it. It’s probably very un-Zen to be too excited about this sort of thing, so I also had to watch out I didn’t upset any passing haiku practitioners with my unseemly showing off.