Then Again

If Jung was right, as he surely was, that synchronicity rules, one couldn’t be surprised that, at any given time, two or more poets are wrestling with the same problem. Thus it was that when my fellow Eyewear Publishing poet, another Matthew with a surname that can be a first name and, like me, born and bred in Surrey – Matthew Stewart – posted on his excellent blog, Rogue Strands, recently about how to avoid using the word ‘then’ in poems, I’d been considering the matter too.

However much I try to vary my poems, I am essentially a narrative poet. Nearly all the poems in The Evening Entertainment and in my work-in-progress second collection tell a story of some kind. As Matthew said, it’s hard to sustain a narrative without often resorting to ‘then’ as a prop. The same goes for ‘and’. One way to remove the problem is to obviate the need for conjunctions per se by end-stopping syntactical units sooner than habit would normally dictate. That also has the benefit of injecting pace into the narrative if it’s needed. You wouldn’t want to do that all the time though. There are other, craftier ways of course, but making the narrative in-linear to the point of comprehension isn’t my bag.

Matthew’s collection, The Knives of Villalejo, with its distinctive short poems and thematic unity, was one of the most enjoyable books I read last night, and its launch at the London Review Bookshop on a scorching evening last summer was a typically wonderful Eyewear occasion, with Todd on fine form and the poets, including Matthew, reading beautifully.

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Next weekend, I’m off to Sheffield for another Poetry Biz Writing School day. We’re coming towards the end of the programme now and I know I’ll be a bit bereft when it finishes. At the moment I’m trio-ed up with two wonderful poets Marie Naughton and Tom Weir, but none of us has had much time yet to exchange poems and thoughts on our reading. I’ve managed a no doubt rather ropey translation of a long-ish André Breton poem – my A Level French was never the best: my French literature teacher took delight in telling me that my pronunciation amounted to “desecration of the French language”. Teachers certainly knew how to inspire confidence in their pupils in the Eighties . . .

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