Who is on the plum tree?
I am delighted to finally welcome John Anstie to the Wednesday corner. I have been wanting to post John’s fine piece for months now, but like many things we want to do in life, lists intervene. Anyhow, I know you will enjoy John. Not only os he a very fine poet, he is a fine writer of prose also. He is precise and studied and has produced and been involved in some very fine poetry anthologies. Great to have you here, John.
When Niamh asked me who is my favourite poet or poem, I found this question impossible to answer. I can only nominate any that I have read, thus far; so the answer may change in time. William Shakespeare should be one, because of his huge influence on the English language and he championed one of my favoured forms of scansion, iambic pentameter; that he wrote whole stories using this, still astonishes me. For the same reason, John Updike, in his “Endpoint” impressed me. It could equally be Ella Wheeler-Wilcox, who wrote some of the most passionate and compassionate poetry, as well as some memorable lines … “Laugh, and the world laughs with you; Weep, and you weep alone” ..from the poem “Solitude” by Ella Wheeler-Wilcox .
My favourite contemporary poet, however, is a man, who is as good to hear live, performing his own poetry, as he is to read. Who could think of writing a poem about something as trivial as kicking a mushroom, that is also rather poignant; or a poem about the discovery of a book of poetry in Poundland, by Ezra Pound, which finds some inspiration from Greek mythological characters, but was also full of witty observation and sometimes laugh out loud funny? No-one I yet know, but the very eloquent Simon Armitage.
Why do I like poetry? For many, many reasons! Poetry is like magic, the kind of magic that children can see, because they believe in dreams. Poems, like children, can open our eyes to be able to see their value. It can be found in book shops, on the internet, written on the back of park benches, carved in stone; it is everywhere. I’ve even seen it hidden within the marketing bunkum written on the back of a sauce bottle, although I doubt that this was intended by the copy writer at the time! It is words concatenated into rhythmic lines, lyrics and verse; it is music with only the voice of thought as its instrument. I’ve enjoyed writing for a long time. In my private and commercial working life, this might have been letters, reports, emails! But it is the fact that poetry is a vehicle for expressing the otherwise inexpressible; it provides the platform to think about and develop life’s deeper and seemingly irresolvable issues, to philosophise and develop solutions that are hidden from those, whose daily survival strategies disable their insight, their honesty and the genuine search for their own truth. Somehow, good poetry has the power to reveal the visions, of which we only get a glimpse in scrambled dreams, in hypnopompic or meditative moments; it is capable of opening hearts, searing souls and moving us to understand the world; it can give us a new perspective on life itself and help us realise that those very human worries and challenges we face are not new, because we can read about these same insights in the poetry of poets who lived centuries ago. I love poetry because it makes me feel like a Time Lord. So be prepared to wait patiently for your voice to be heard!
JOHN ANSTIE is a British poet and writer and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, and is a contributing editor to The Bardo Group.
John has been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these isThe Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising“. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.
* Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.