Into the Carnival: Influences

When you write poems for publication in magazines you are often not aware of common threads or influences. I didn’t notice any of mine until I started to pull together my back catalogue along with some new poems for Ghosts of a Low Moon (Lapwing, Belfast).

In the past, one critic, from Flux magazine likened me to a modern Dylan Thomas. Though Thomas’s Under Milkwood is an influence on some of my longer poetry, especially The Anchor, his poetry has never really influenced my writing (you can hear The Anchor here). I cannot recollect many of Thomas’s poems, and neither can I say these are my favourite poems.

It became clear as I pulled together an ms for the collection that there where ghosts haunting my work, Coleridge, Eliot, Stevens, Williams where all sat side by side, the Liverpool poets crept in, Billy Collins did a lightning attack for the poem Why Guns Will Never be Legal in England (broadcast on the Nation Poetry Day 2010 edition of BBC Radio 4’s Poetry Please). I did not seek to harmonise with Collins, I knew conciously as I wrote this poem that I wanted that observational voice and the humour inherent in it. I am observational, most writers and poets are, I choose not to hide this or in some cases not to disguise the language of others. It is their language, I am merely celebrating it and in some cases stealing it. They influence me as much as the poets above.  You can buy Ghosts of a Low Moon here, and I will happily sign it if you buy a signed copy. It includes that BBC Radio 4 poem:


Every time the sun is out

My neighbour has a barbeque

And invites all his family

They are loud

I try to drown them out by singing

My wife sings and the dog we never bought, sings

And the neighbours join in with tubas

They are louder

I go outside to the bottom of the garden

But I smell the burgers on the grill

Hear the yells and arguments amongst the onions

Louder still until they vibrate and

Everyone in my neighbour’s garden splits

Like amoebas, identical division that speeds up

Two, four, eight, sixteen men flipping burgers

Louder still amongst the smoke

Two, four, eight, sixteen women screeching

Keep out of the road, get off that wall, don’t do that

Their growth pushes down the garden fence

Louder still they move in

They now have barbeques in my cupboards

Divide in my bathroom and bung up plug holes

And sit on the dog we never bought

Louder still in the kitchen amongst the pans

Their children divide in our drainpipes

The continuous barbeque smoke drives out the spiders

In the end we move out and leave no forwarding address

(taken from Ghosts of a Low Moon published by Lapwing, Belfast 2010, ISBN 978-1-907276-60-6)

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