I intend to post here once a week. Thursdays or Fridays as a general rule. In due course I will probably say something about each of the eight sonnets showcased last week, but if there is anyone who would like to learn something more about one in particular before I get round to it, then feel free to say so, either by commenting here or contacting me by e-mail. Otherwise, what I intend to do next is present some of the other sonnets I sing, one at a time. Unless they are part of a sequence.
I’m very much a revisionist, and although I do occasionally feel like I’m hacking at a stone that should be left, I soon get over that. Often I see it as a good way of warming up when I want to write something new and don’t have a clue what that will be. Sometimes I’m perhaps fooling myself, but then I do sometimes actually succeed in improving some old pieces. I have made significant amendments to several pieces many years after having abandoned them.
I choose to update some of my pieces so that when/if I recite them tomorrow, they will represent me where I am today in relation to those pieces, rather than where I was yesterday in relation to them. The new versions don’t mean the old ones were inadequate. But I do like to think that when I change something I’m improving it.
One of the very first sonnets I wrote was “Lucky Charms”. I wrote the first draft in Oxford on 23rd December 1985, the day after the events described at the outset of “Regret, and four days after a friend and I had been lucky to survive a wipe-out on the motorway unscathed. I sensed a guardian angel had saved me that day. As the ending of “Regret” records, I fell in love with someone in Italy. Her name is Ann Bilde. I went to Denmark with her, we got married, and in May we’ll be celebrating our silver wedding anniversary. Her birthday is on 19th December.
So this sonnet has meant a lot to me personally. It was first published under the title, “A Moonflower”, in my collection of poems from 1987 called Red Moon. This is how it looked then:
The sun had folded into clouds swarming in the west,
I felt at peace and thought about the way that I would rest,
The waxing moon reminded me, her messenger by birth
That like a flower I was planted in the listening earth.
I wandered through the dusk without a single fear,
The wind brought different noises to my silver ear,
The future of a car, the sainthood of a brook,
I was a little thirsty, so I went to take a look.
The water was refreshing, and I felt very good,
I decided to enjoy the wonders of the wood,
The precious trees invited me with their smiling charms,
Exhilarated, I embraced them with my gracious arms.
Before I fell asleep, curled up beside a log,
I found a revelation in the calling of a dog.
Please excuse my very poor punctuation for a start.
I later rewrote it, smoothing out the metre and excising the worst poeticisms, and managed to get it published in Candelabrum in April 2003 looking like this:
The sun had been surrounded by a gang of clouds out west;
I felt serene and thought about the way that I would rest.
The moon appeared, invigorated by a day in bed;
I sensed I’d better find a place that I could lay my head.
The silence of the countryside was music to my ear;
I listened briefly to a blackbird singing loud and clear.
The roaring of a car nearby turned out to be a brook;
I noted I was thirsty and resolved to take a look.
The water was delicious, and the air was sweet and good;
I walked upstream and came upon the shelter of a wood.
The ground was buried under leaves, a million lucky charms;
I tumbled down and pulled them to me with my legs and arms.
The stars conspired to close my eyes, and there, beside a log,
I found myself enchanted by the calling of a dog.
Here’s a recording (a release, folks!):