For all you music lovers out there, especially bass players, here is a poem I wrote about one of my heroes, Steve Harris, bass player with Iron Maiden. It’s from my collection, The End. Hope you like it.
On Steve Harris
By David Jordan
Like Hendrix, you pushed your instrument
To the fore
And created a unique sound,
All your own.
Nobody plays like you.
Fast and melodious,
Full of sweet fills,
Your fingers tapping madly
Like a moth’s wings.
Slow and dulcet,
The calm exquisite hand
Only a real bass player
Fast or slow,
A true metal hero.
You cut through like a sword.
Ok, so I’ve changed the name of my blog to Who Goes with Fergus?, the title of a great early poem by W.B. Yeats. If you haven’t read his earlier work then try this as a taster and you’ll be hooked in no time. There is so much escapism in his early poems, especially everything up to The Wind Among the Reeds, that it rivals The Lord of the Rings. I could get more out of this one short poem than a whole chapter of Tolkien. It also beats any drug out there, it brings so much pleasure and is so mind altering. The imagery is so powerful and original and the music is so sweet.
In case you don’t know, Fergus is an ancient Irish king who gives up power in order to go dwell in the wilderness. He passes his kingship on to his son, Conchobar. Here is the poem:
Who Goes with Fergus?
By W.B. Yeats
Who will go drive with Fergus now,
And pierce the deep wood's woven shade,
And dance upon the level shore?
Young man, lift up your russet brow,
And lift your tender eyelids, maid,
And brood on hopes and fear no more.
And no more turn aside and brood
Upon love's bitter mystery;
For Fergus rules the brazen cars,
And rules the shadows of the wood,
And the white breast of the dim sea
And all dishevelled wandering stars.
If you read the lines slowly, over and over again, the poem transports you to another place. It is a truly mind altering experience, even a life changing one. It shows us that there is a whole world available to us which we largely ignore. I’m talking about imagination, of course. However, as is the case with much of Yeats’ poetry, there is a contrary at work also. Fergus gives up power but in the second stanza Yeats lists everything that Fergus ‘rules’ now. The suggestion is that he can’t escape his past. He will always be a king, even in the wilderness. Yeats is perhaps indicating that we cannot give ourselves to imagination completely. That we still must deal with the ‘real’ world.
Hopefully if you had never read this poem before now, you will have found it a richly rewarding experience and have been turned on to more of Yeats’ early work.
I love to read Seamus Heaney. The way he makes you work to understand his poems. I always have a dictionary at hand when I read him. But after a while the difficulties become the pleasures. I love his complete lack of sentimentality and the concrete nature of the language. There is a perfection to his poems which makes me want to return to them again and again.
Here’s a poem I wrote about him a couple of months ago. RIP
On Seamus Heaney
By David Jordan
A life in the loam.
The cool dark earth of memory
From which your poetry springs
Like a satyr.
Vivid nouns and strenuous verbs
Local and concrete.
Catching the moment in one singing leap
Or ruminating like an idle shepherd,
A white garland on your head.
Hard work for you and me
But when a poem opens up
And blooms its secrets
Something happens that keeps us
Digging in the dark.
I’ve been writing a lot about childhood lately. Luckily I had a blissful time growing up on the north side of Cork city in Ireland. I’m thinking of calling my next book of poems ‘North Side Pastoral’. I think many poets and authors write a lot about their childhood as those memories die hardest.
This is a memory of my father that I shaped into a poem. Hope you like it. The ending is a bit weak I think but, for me, there comes a time with every poem when you must just stop and put down the pen.
By David Jordan
All day long he laboured and
His hands letting him down.
In the end
He cobbled together a
Shoddy, temporary house
Inside of which
The rabbit crunched on his
We watched in silence for a while
And then my father began to
For he was a quiet man and
Though he rarely laughed and
Always surpressed his smile.
The next day
He built a fine hutch
In no time,
His hands returned to form
Though there was no more laughter.
Here’s a poem about one of my favourite poets, W.B. Yeats. It’s in my collection, The End. Hope you like it.
By David Jordan
Thoughts born out of nowhere
Like the goddess Athena.
Your mind flashing with intuition.
Or, under the sun, a sword
at play, flashing
On a perfect day.
With a blade that kept its edge
And its passion over time,
As the darkness came.
On death cast a cold eye
He dared to write.
The sweet sounds, rhythms
Instinctual, musical, masterful.
And the imagination
Like a Titan, towering,
Watching the ever changing, soaring
And the discipline of the
Craftsman, the technician,
Shaping the iron, ever cooling,
Working it into perfection:
The master at play.
This man was born to do it.
I really like the mechanical nature of Homer. By this I mean how easily it is taken apart and understood, how it yields so much to analysis. I also like the serenity of the Homeric epics – what Nietzche called the ‘Apolline dream state’. I’ve just finished the Calypso chapter, at the end of which is one of my favourite moments in the Odyssey: Odysseus makes it to the isle of Scherie, home of the Phaeacians, and, exhausted, finds a couple of bushes which act as a weather proof place to hide and sleep. There is an abundance of leaves out of which he makes a bed and falls into a deep sleep, safe and sound.
Here’s a poem about Homer I wrote recently.
By David Jordan
This elegant machinery:
All its mechanisms readily
Analysed and understood.
This beautiful edifice,
This Apolline dream.
These names and their deeds
Are so far away
And yet close to home:
Immediate and clear
As Mediterranean air.
Achilles rejoining the Aecheans.
Odysseus reclaiming his home.
These names and their stories will last
As long as stories are told.
This is one of my favourite Seamus Heaney poems. It’s from his 1969 collection, Door into the Dark. I think the key to understanding the poem is the Eleusian mysteries practised by the ancient Greeks. The man in the poem is basically giving the role of the corn goddess, Demeter, to the woman, though she doesn’t know it. It’s a measure of how much he loves her but she is mystified.
I think a knowledge of the Classics helps to understand much of Heaney’s poetry.
The Wife’s Tale
By Seamus Heaney
When I had spread it all on linen cloth
Under the hedge, I called them over.
The hum and gulp of the thresher ran down
And the big belt slewed to a standstill, straw
Hanging undelivered in the jaws.
There was such quiet that I heard their boots
Crunching the stubble twenty yards away.
He lay down and said, ‘Give these fellows theirs,
I’m in no hurry,’ plucking grass in handfuls
And tossing it in the air. ‘That looks well.’
(He nodded at my white cloth on the grass.)
‘I declare a woman could lay out a field
Though boys like us have little call for cloths.’
He winked, then watched me as I poured a cup
And buttered the thick slices that he likes.
‘It’s threshing better than I thought, and mid
It’s good clean seed. Away over there and look.’
Always this inspection has to be made
Even when I don’t know what to look for.
But I ran my hand in the half-filled bags
Hooked to the slots. It was hard as shot,
Innumerable and cool. The bags gaped
Where the chutes ran back to the stilled drum
And forks were stuck at angles in the ground
As javelins might mark lost battlefields.
I moved between them back across the stubble.
They lay in the ring of their own crusts and dregs,
Smoking and saying nothing. ‘There’s good yield,
Isn’t there?’ –as proud as if he were the land itself–
‘Enough for crushing and sowing both.’
And that was it. I’d come and he had shown me,
So I belonged no further to the work.
I gathered cups and folded up the cloth
And went. But they still kept their ease,
Spread out, unbuttoned, grateful, under the trees.