The little cat from Grenfell Tower
Looked more confused than frightened.
Unless it had lived in Syria what could have prepared it for
A night illuminated in its heart by burning stuff
Some madman had wrapped around the tower
Like Xmas paper.
There, looks nice, they said when they finished
What would become a crematorium, an inferno
Near the homes of the rich , and as they say, famous
A pity they don’t believe in the Last Judgement.
That doesn’t mean there is none, of course.
What we choose to believe makes no difference to reality
Only in our perception of it.
It wipes some stuff off the blackboard but the truth remains
The little cat knows something is wrong.
It has a black smudge on its nose.
Looks so young.
“In his book Poetry in the Making, the poet Ted Hughes talks about how to write a poem about an animal. The key, he says, is to concentrate hard enough on the animal, to choose the words that best capture the animal you have in your mind. You can use this approach with any subject matter.
In the beginning, you don’t have to worry about “style,” about writing in a “beautiful” or a “poetic” way. In fact, if you start to think about “being poetic,” it can distract you from what you’re actually writing about and hurt your poem. Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone who was trying to impress you? Then you know how boring this can be. The person is really thinking about himself or herself, not about the conversation. Similarly, if your attention is focused on “being poetic,” if you are worrying about what impression your poem will make, then that takes your attention away from the animal or weather or whatever the subject of your poem is. “
Virginia Woolf knew subtlety was the key to craftsmanship when she counseled that “we have to allow the sunken meanings to remain sunken, suggested, not stated.” “All bad writers are in love with the epic,”Hemingway admonished. The talented writer, Delany reminds us, is a master of induction, suggesting the general through the deft deployment of the specific, and in the process producing an even greater dramatic effect than the bombast of sweeping statements ever could:
The talented writer often uses specifics and avoids generalities — generalities that his or her specifics suggest. Because they are suggested, rather than stated, they may register with the reader far more forcefully than if they were articulated. Using specifics to imply generalities — whether they are general emotions we all know or ideas we have all vaguely sensed — is dramatic writing. A trickier proposition that takes just as much talent requires the writer carefully to arrange generalities for a page or five pages, followed by a specific that makes the generalities open up and take on new resonance. … Indeed, it might be called the opposite of “dramatic” writing, but it can be just as strong — if not, sometimes, stronger.
“Words have their own firmness,” Susan Sontag reflected in her diary. “Use the right word, not its second cousin,” Mark Twain famously advised, but great writing isn’t just a mere matter of concision. As E.B. White reminded us, “Writing is not an exercise in excision, it’s a journey into sound.” Delany bisociates this dual requirement for precision and eloquence, with precision and eloquence:
Jesus’ body burned in Grenfell Tower
And many others died along with him
In the bitter, dark blue morning hours
The Government and Council, how they cowered
The volunteers made beds up in a gym
Still Jesus’ body burned in Grenfell Tower
With love and kindness, common people flowered
While ministers were too afraid to come
In the bitter, dark blue morning hours
The half elected leader with shame showered
Saw the drama, then withdrew shrunken
While Jesus’ hung and burned in Grenfell Tower
Now will lambs rise,well will lions roar
As we see our ruined kingdom done
In the bitter, dark blue morning hours,
Human rights to tragedy fearsome
Will show the world what horror we’ve become
Jesus died with those in Grenfell Tower
In that bitter, dark blue morning hour
t seems odd to me that anyone who hates reading poetry should want to write it at all. Are there amateur painters who never go to an art gallery? Or amateur musicians who never listen to music? Sometimes non-reading poets explain that they are afraid of being influenced. They don’t understand that being influenced is part of the learning process. Some of my earliest (and unpublished) poems read like poor imitations of Sylvia Plath. Others read like poor imitations of TS Eliot. I was unaware of this at the time. Gradually I worked my way through these and many other influences towards finding my own voice. Nowadays I hope I sound like myself in my poems but I am still influenced by what I read, still learning.
Well, I have to keep quite busy as I do not like to think
I have 59 new credit cards and I wash them in the sink
I take each one quite carefully, rotating them in use
Or they may be jealous and accuse me of abuse.
Then I have to pay them off or they incur interest
Not like handsome men might do when they don’t wear a vest.
Interest is money which the banks demand be paid
If we spend just pence more than the limit that they gave.
I do it on the telephone so I can have a chat
Sunday is the best, I find, if you decide on that
Enter all the numbers that run straight across the card
A pity there’s no hurdle and that gambling has been barred.
Also, you must tell them then, just what you want to pay
Make your mind up when you start or you’ll be there till May
And 59 in total is more than there are months per day
My head is reeling from the bills, my canary has gone grey!