It’s a year today since I started this blog, and tomorrow I’m playing the first of my four concerts in Edinburgh.
The song I’ll start with is called “On Sören Jessen’s Sand”.
Sören Jessen’s Sand is a desert that has surfaced on the north-western tip of Fanö, which lies just off Esbjerg on the west coast of Jutland.
I moved to Fanö from Aarhus on 30th March 1991. My wife, Ann, had been chosen to run a media school in Esbjerg. Although I’d only just started at Aarhus University, I was happy to continue my studies long distance.
Never have we slept as well as we did that first night on Fanö. The sea air, you know. We spent our first two weeks outdoors, mostly on the fantastic, wide sandy beach on the west coast collecting amber, thanks to a constant fresh south-westerly breeze.
The day before Ann started work the wind suddenly dropped, and we witnessed a magical sunset on Sören Jessen’s Sand, which I described in prose and then turned into verse.
Soon after moving to Fanö I began trying to get my poetry published in small magazines in the UK, but my only success was one small piece in Candelabrum in 1991. It seemed either poetry in rhyme and metre was out of fashion, or my poetry wasn’t very good, or perhaps a combination of the two. In 1992 I sent “Sören Jessen’s Sand” to Quartos for feedback. It was a couple of years before Quartos merged with Acclaim and became The New Writer. I received this critique:
If English isn’t your first language I can understand the use of such dreadful end rhymes. However, the humorous last verse saves the poem from going up its own arse.
Ten years passed before I took a fresh look at “Sören Jessen’s Sand”. A critique can be so misguided that it can help you go in the opposite direction, and in that sense the comment from Quartos was constructive. I reworked the piece in exactly the opposite direction of what had been suggested, changing the last verse so that it was no longer humorous. And in November 2002 the poem won the 1st Prize of £50 in an open competition at the Scottish poetry magazine, Quantum Leap.
It’s online here, and sounds like this:
The last verse was originally:
a phantom boat appears, afloat
behind the stricken star.
The waves begin to tiptoe in
and touch the amber jar.
We realise where we are:
we’ve ventured out too far.
We’re cut off from the car.