Alec Taylor left his native Liverpool to read Classics at Leeds University. He spent his working life teaching Latin and related subjects, moving ever further south. Although he has always taken the writing of poetry seriously, it is only since retirement that he has submitted his work to poetry magazines. Now living with his wife in Paignton, he has read at the Torbay Poetry Festival and on local radio.
The following poems, apart from the version of Catullus, are taken from Alec’s pamphlet Identity Theft (kindly published by Acumen Publications, to whom acknowledgements are due).
Paignton Pier is an updated version of a poem by Catullus (who flourished at about the same time as Julius Caesar), which describes the joy and relief of returning home after a stint abroad. Over the years, Alec has translated all of Catullus’ poems, enjoying the cheerful clash between ancient and modern worlds.
Even though the sonnet Much Too Much hopes to exorcise the depressing effects of Philip Larkin, he remains Alec’s favourite poet.
Sisyphus In Sefton Park was sparked off by Paul Farley’s poem about an erratic boulder elsewhere in Liverpool. This similar stone belongs to Alec’s childhood memories.
Identity Theft (“See picture”. Enough said.)
PAIGNTON PIER (after Catullus 31)
Peerless princess of all the iron peninsulas that grace our coasts,
And queen of every causeway any Iron-Age crannog boasts,
Nice t’ see y’: t’ see y’/Nasty drive.
I can’t believe I’ve got back from Fenland alive
(And actually managed to survive
What a relief, after such a long-haul route,
To unload the jet-lagged baggage from your mental boot
And dump it at your own front door,
And, limp as seaweed washed up on the shore,
Collapse on your longed-for bed –
The one home thought from the Broads that stops you going completely off your head.
Paignton Pier! T’ see y’, nice, nice, nice.
You’ve kept your good old sauce and spice.
Grab every can of laughter every pub in Paignton’s got -
We’ll share it out among the waves, and drink the fizzing lot.
MUCH TOO MUCH
Much have I travelled in the realms of gloom -
That is: I’ve shuffled slowly through the dark
In labyrinths devised by Philip Larkin.
Life has been a dusty catacomb.
My kingdom for a torch, a bright new broom!
My guesses, mild surmise, have missed the mark
In cobwebbed corridors. One well-struck spark
In Lazarus might laserize this tomb.
The newly resurrected waking dead
Proclaim in laughter Where there’s life, there’s hope.
And laughter might well change this heart and head.
Throw me a line or two, a helpful rope,
A phosphorescent clue of witty thread,
My smiling Ariadne, Wendy Cope.
SISYPHUS IN SEFTON PARK
This is the boulder Sisyphus rolled
He rolled it into Liverpool
And left it by the lakes,
The final Palm House hill of course
No doubt he swigged some melting ice
And left to find another.
(He's pushing now in Norway.)
Children clambering year by year
Have worn the rolled rock smooth
And kept it shining mossless.
Leaning, shoulder to the stone,
Some, laughing, try to shift it.
The real one, kids, comes later.)
and him that taketh away thy cloke
forbid not to take thy coat also.
They say that the latest crime
Is theft of identity.
You can have this one any time.
You’re welcome to be me.
Would hardly fill me with dismay
Or leave me bereft.
I’d give me away.
If you steal my vest,
You must take my coat
And all the rest,
Table d’ hote,
The whole bag of tricks,
The whole, not the part.
You can’t pinch-‘n’-mix:
There’s no a la carte.
If you don’t like the menu,
Go case some other venue.
With the excellent pension -
Stroke of luck for a thief -
Come things I don’t mention.
But I’m sure you’ll “sort” the “grief”.
Allow me to advise,
Since you can’t pinch and choose:
Try me for size.
Go on! Stand in my shoes.
(He’s got his snout in the trough.
Hallelujah! I’m off.)