For poems by the founders and organizers of Poetry Teignmouth click here.
A series featuring the work of Poetry Teignmouth members. For previously featured poets, click here.
Born in 1959, St. Anne’s on Sea, Lancs
Studied English Literature at Leeds University and trained to teach English and Drama at St Martin’s College, Lancaster.
Taught in Cornwall and then became Head of Drama at Heathfield School, Taunton.
Author of eight full-length plays for young people, including Heartland, The Name of the Beast, Hope Street, Brave New World and Tracks of the Free. He has been fortunate enough to be able to direct and stage them all at The Tacchi-Morris Arts Centre, Taunton.
“Since giving up school teaching I have recently returned to poetry, which was a passion in my teens and early twenties and went underground for many years. Now it feels like a spring has bubbled up and I am really enjoying the challenge and unique excitement of making poems, rather than plays, come alive and open doors in the imagination - voices of worlds that are present under this one. The three poems selected here link for me with something Debussy once said: ‘I meant the infinite sea.’”
I am beginning to understand the quickening
of lives we have not yet lived inside us,
how many years it has taken to see
their filaments, feel the sea dropping from a height
its bright stitches onto ribbed sand we walked
a lifetime ago. We cannot work out how our footprints
got here, but they are ours. The same cloudscape
over the street which bears the sky-writing of a jet’s
vapour trail turns now into the branches of a mock
orange tree, by the door of the shed I opened
fifty years ago in a red-brick garden. Presences
walk not as ghosts on this lawn, they are living.
In all the chambers of the heart I did not
know till now how to tell them I was ready.
Party at Pigeon Ogo
(A sea-cave in Cornwall)
The spray that plunges
at the base of each rock
scatters Bollinger and amethyst
with a whump of bass
adds a dash of chartreuse
in fistfuls of mist
turning to rainbows the nebuchadnezzars
and sizzling melchizedeks
from the sea’s capacious cellars
proclaiming Vyaj sallow!
to the black-back gulls
that cork the waves
in bladder-wrack submerge-upsurge -
cables of spume a-sprawl
in a power-surge of sun
blowing brilliant tunnels of curves
so the waves glow glass-green -
each crest a barmitzvah of light
a jeweller’s tray, a wedding
today the sun
picks up the tab
and knows much more
than any of us
so head straight to the bar
most fitting guest
Yvaj Salow! ‘Have a good journey!’ in Cornish
The Homeless Man Thinks of Ancient Egypt
I pray to the sun on these temple walls,
the shifting angles and blaze of it,
the way it melts the pavement ice
mid-morning near the cash-point.
I imagine them as merchants, astronomers and viziers
sitting at the window of the coffee-shop opposite
then they become slaves and slave-owners,
baboons manoeuvring the flow and current
of glinting windscreens,
tax-collectors with the snapping heads of crocodiles
that cancel me with an eye-blink;
asps and hawks and chattering ibis.
I am sore beggar and heretic
but Horus shares the sun’s strength with everyone
and for moments He lets me stop time
freezing the figures in KFC and BetFred the Bonus-King,
jamming the screens inside Lloyds Bank
while Ra makes a gong-bath out of the street-roar.
The gas-workers toil in their jack-hammer clatter
on the banks of the traffic-river.
One squeezes the life out of a cigarette,
the vapour of his breath in a shaft of sun
like the frost of my breath in the aching air - we are brothers
under this midday moon I take for divination and augury.
The sun’s transit takes the blaze
behind high roofs; there is a trapezium of light
I shuffle to at the corner, it forecloses.
Someone has bought me a coffee, her glance contains a smile.
I open the lid and take a careful sip. A packet of crisps too.
The moneylenders have not quite taken over the temple.
Anubis looks out through the eyes of a jackal-headed dog
that walks up to me, just out of reach. It sniffs.
Weigher of souls, tomb-guardian, am I fit for Paradise?
Winning poem in the Teignmouth Open Poetry Competition 2018