Monday, 2 November 2015

Praise for the lesser spotted poet

The other half of my A-Z, might appear tomorrow! Today I want to talk about a poet whose work I enjoy, Christopher James. I'm not sure how I came across him, maybe via the National Poetry Competition which he won in 2008 (he has won some other big prizes too!). Anyway, I have three of his poetry books, England Underwater, The Invention of Butterfly and The Manly Art of Knitting. His poetry amuses but is also thoughtful. It would be wonderful to see him perform live.

I was prompted to write this post because this morning my Inbox pinged with a post from Christopher's website informing me that he and his wife had just stayed in Bleak House, where Charles Dickens wrote David Copperfield. They slept in his bed, sat in his study. How cool is that?

Christopher's work was possibly the first non-BIG name poet I read. I'd read a few classical poets and poets such as Seamus Heaney, Carol Ann Duffy and Tony Harrison. All these are well known poets. Maybe by finding Christopher's work I began to realise there were other poets out there writing good stuff which never gets the same 'air space'. Christopher was now up there with the big boys through his win, but he'd been ploughing away at it for years before. Even now his name is not on everyone's lips, hence the plug!

At the Altar of the Green Goddess is a poem from The Invention of Butterfly and charts the exit of people from the Tate as the fire alarm goes off:

Their look says: Does that mean I have to leave?My look says: Save your own skins


Two teachers sweep a class off the floor
in a flurry of golden cut-outs and satchel buckles;
felts tips rattle like spent cartridges.

in  the last stanza:

We spill onto the wet steps and look for smoke.
Others are still inside basking in Turner's sunsets.

The Title poem from The Manly Art of Knitting begins:

When my father taught us to knit
he held the needles like fencing swords

His father ..carried his crochet hook like a penknife;

The last stanza begins with advice:

When we were bullied, he told us to think
about the big centre forward who knitted
the world's longest football scarf.

I do hope that has whetted you appetite! Have a lovely day.

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