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Poet of the Week – 18: Adrian Blamires

TWO RIVERS PRESS POET OF THE WEEK—18: ADRIAN BLAMIRES

Adrian Blamires was born in Cornwall in 1964, near the Culdrose naval base where his father was stationed with the Fleet Air Arm. He spent his first ten years in various towns in the south of England before a move north to Lancashire. He now lives in Reading with his wife and son. His main career has been as an English teacher in sixth form colleges; he currently works at The Henley College. In 2017 he completed a PhD in Renaissance drama at the University of Reading, where he also taught on the English and Creative Writing programmes. He is the author of two collections of poetry, The Effect of Coastal Processes (2005) and The Pang Valley (2010), both from Two Rivers Press. Eliza’s Entertainments, a Tudor-themed pamphlet produced in collaboration with the artist, Robert Fitzmaurice, was published in 2015.

Adrian Blamires writes:

My mum recently discovered a poem I wrote when I was about ten years old, a rhyming squib on the school Sports Day. I have no recollection of it and haven’t yet been reacquainted with anything other than an unfortunate line about ‘girls’ behinds’ which amused my mum. This poem pre-dates by two or three years my earliest memory of actually writing a poem, a homework task I found excruciating, having nothing to say and no facility for saying it. In the end I decided, for no good reason, to describe a floating bubble. I wrote in free verse – I’d evidently been told that poems don’t have to rhyme – and produced several lines of ‘waft’ and ‘iridescence’ before ending with the word ‘POP!’ in capital letters. It prompted a succinct critique in red biro: 6/10. Sad.

I’m intrigued by my mother’s discovery because most of the poems I’ve written as an adult rhyme. I don’t have any ‘new formalist’ agenda, no sense that rhyme is integral to poetry; I simply struggle (still) to write in free verse. No spire without a scaffold. Out of the initiatory babble and doodle (Northrop Frye’s terms) it’s nearly always a rhyme which catches my ear, my eye, and about which a poem starts to take shape. It’s a choice of instrument, I guess – a period-instrument, perhaps, but one that I hope still lends itself to lyricism in the here and now.

Juvenilia might be on my mind because I’m starting to write poems again after several fallow years. Intensive farming leaches the land, of course, and I’ve been happy enough to wander uncultivated fields, admiring lady’s smock and milk-thistle, only occasionally visiting those marshy spots where old, failed poems despondently lie. But after this phase of mental rewilding, I’m learning anew the pleasure of planting, and even trying out different ways of doing things. Almost inevitably though, the first few shoots have leaves that rhyme.

INTRODUCTION TO VIRGIL

in memory of Gerry Nussbaum

As Gerry read from The Aeneid, Book VI,
His quick fingers hesitated over the braille
(The skiff yet to leave the margins of the Styx),
Having sensed a shift in the lecture theatre,
Always alert to a flaw, a faltering metre.
All eyes followed a paper plane’s slow trail.
Someone stifled a laugh. I still feel the smart,
Each time it descends, that poison-tipped dart.

There’s something more I summon from that hour,
As he continued with his passage – And this is how
It sounds in Latin – a conjuring of vatic power,
The changed voice, an ancient otherworldly boom,
A sonorous authority that held the room:
Virgil himself presenting a shield, a golden bough,
To the boy from Köln, eight years old, whose eyesight fades,
Passing through a throng of six million shades.

[From The Pang Valley]

OS EXPLORER DRESS

Her degree-show dress,
…….never-before-worn,
was based on a map
……….of where she was born.

Green-sewn woodlands,
…….streams of blue thread,
a permitted bridleway
……….in long-stitch red.

‘I was christened here
…….by the River Frome.’
A church with a spire
……….in the contoured combe.

[uncollected]

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Wulf’s Journey

The following poem came out of a workshop with Robin Thomas, Lesley Saunders and Adrian Blamires, with theme of Reading Abbey.

Wulf’s  journey

Wulf maketh preparation for his journey

then he made up his mind

to visit the Abbey, leaving

his own dear Besse to twist

the flax and gather the bones.

First he made his way

to the water’s edge, thick as it was

with vetches, lillies and herbs

and there summoned

Blood-eye, the blind

terms agreed with the bote maker

boat maker who lived there

among the glittering frogs

and tail-less adders

‘Maken me an bote’ Wulf said

‘of herb and wasp nests

fastened with eye of fish

and Royal pitch’.

‘Master I will,’ he said,

straightening himself

like a wrought sword, like

a glottal tree.

‘What must I render?’

said Wulf, ‘three golden pins,

two stones from the shore, a dace

and nine withers.’

Night after night laboured

Blood-eye in his earth-sodden

byre to make and to finish

the boat

and by the day of the waif

its shape could be seen.

it glowed like a fleeing eel.

Then did Wulf seek out

and with Edgemon, sword-maker

Edgemon, the deft, deaf

maker of blades

in his dark cavern

under the yearning cliffs.

‘A blade shall ye maken for me’,

‘so I will, master, for you, for

payment of prayer for my father

and his, a noggin of pith and

a basin of scrawl.’

‘Those you shall have’, said Wulf,

on proof of its strength

and lightness of hold’.

he setteth forth on the streyme

Then went forth Wulf, in his boat

on the stream, leaving all

he had known, trusting his boat

to convey him with safety.

Thus was his journey: 

first, he encountered the

divers adversities

watery wolves.  These

he dispatched with his

new-finished blade, then

did he find the teeth in the river,

their insidious grin, the dark

of their threats, but prayer

made them shudder and sink,

But grimmest of all were the serpents

which swam, under the waves,

in their silvery sheen, but these

he ignored, trusting the will of his boat.

his journey continueth

And so he continued, by night

and by day, past monsters

and witches and tygers

and men in their fearsome

accouters, their accurate

spears in their hands, under

weather of lead or scorched

by the sun as if through a lens.

Now, as the boat

rounds a curve in the stream,

a vision of majesty

a vision of majesty, great

to behold

but which words cannot win

into verse.  There,

he reacheth his destination

Wulf ended his journey.