Beholding Fanny



I don't often have enough time to update my blog, and today is no different, but I can hardly claim to write a poetry blog and not post an update on National Poetry Day.

For some poets NPD is no more about poetry than any other day. I woke up in the early hours with an image on my mind but didn't want to lose any more sleep by getting up to write it down, and so it slipped back into the realm of dreams. It was a good one - they always are! - and I still feel satisfied by the way it had enough energy to carry on into a second line.

In the morning I deliberately avoided Radio 4 since I generally dislike listening to actors reading poetry. Even if a poem is being read by the poet, I'm usually not in the mood to stop what I'm doing and give it my full attention in the way I would if I had chosen a book and set aside time to read it. Actors can get in the way of a poem - they perform, and fail to realise the poem, if it's doing its job, will speak for itself. In the worst cases, the poem is completely eclipsed by the thesping actor.

I was looking after my daughter all day so I didn't have the time to find out what other poets were up to on Facebook. Neither was I able to attend any of the many NPD events being held around the country, but not, alas, in Worthing.

Actually, I'm not sure I would have wanted to participate or attend even if there was something happening closer to home. I'm aware that many fine poets were participating in events that no doubt many people found interesting and innovative, but I don't often feel the same way about off-page poetry activity. I prefer to read and write - that's all, and there wasn't even time for that, today.

Aesthetic interest was engaged, however, by a visit to an antiques shop selling lamp stands and pieces of furniture painted in the style one sees in every room at the Bloomsbury Group's country home Charleston. Nearby, I bought some bacon from a hostile butcher who clearly had me down, correctly, as a supermarket customer, then drove back over the Downs on what fifty years ago would still have been a chalk track used by farmers.

A trip to the library to renew First 1000 Italian Words brought about the unexpected pleasure of finding Mick Imlah's Selected Poems. I am the first person to take it out. Although I haven't read any of it yet - I'm trying to get this done first - I have given it a long, loving sniff. Heavenly.

To eek things out a bit longer we stopped off at the museum. Isabella likes sharpening pencils and I like to see the Stone Age skeleton and a medieval green glass goblet with a hare running round the side.

Waiting while she magnified a selection of echinoids and trilobites, I noticed the display on sheep farming. Of particular interest was a poem, written in 1883 by the shepherd Michael Blann. Its first lines read:

'It was on the green where they all danced
There I beheld my fanny'.

On the way home I nipped into Lidl for some milk and noticed a Christmas advert for gingerbread. The text claims that 'the great playwright William Shakespeare once exclaimed, Had I but one penny in the world, thou should'st have it to buy gingerbread.' I wonder if anyone can verify that or are the marketing people indulging in a bit of brazen bullshitting.

So, another NPD has been and gone. John Burnside has finally won the Forward. One of my favourite poets Tomas Transtromer has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. My daughter sleeps contentedly, leaving her father too knackered to do much more than finish this and call it a day. And the ghost of fanny-loving Michael Blann walks on Downland tracks white in the moonlight as the Stollen on display in the supermarket window.

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