I’m a sucker for synchronicity and having chosen to focus on this particular poet, a timely connection with his birthdate (26.6.1914) and today’s Poetics challenge became apparent.
As with most of my favourite naturalist poets, Laurie Lee employed description with the light touch of lyricism, devoid of complex structures or the aggrandisement of the Romantics. In fact in answer to his critic Roy Fuller, his riposte was: ‘You dare me to be more complicated, but I dare to achieve simplicity’.
And he succeeds too – take for example his Christmas Landscape:
“There is hunger in the mouth
Of vole and badger,
Silver agonies of breath
In the nostril of the fox,
Ice on the rabbit’s paw”
True, Lee was a Neo-Romantic willing at times to sacrifice meaning for the mellifluous (though not to the extent that Dylan Thomas does). After all, he was musician too and hence the euphonious effect was all important:
“I hear the branches snap their fingers
and solitary grasses crack,
I hear the forest open her dress
and the ravens rattle their icy wings.
I hear the girl beside me rock
the hammock of her blood
and breathe upon the bedroom walls
white dust of Christmas roses”
The beautifully simple way he draws his lines of poetry is not so different from the way he pencilled his drawings. And as artist poet, he could word-paint vividly too:
“Such a morning it is
when love leans through geranium windows
and calls with a cockerel’s tongue.”
“ When red-haired girls
scamper like roses over the rain-green grass,
and the sun drips honey.”
(Day of These Days)
“So do I breathe the hayblown airs of home,
And watch the sea-green elms drip birds and shadows,
And as the twilight nets the plunging sun
My heart’s keel slides to rest among the meadows”
(Home from Abroad)
It is evident that Laurie Lee made a distinctive contribution to the lyrical landscape of English verse, although fame and renown came to him not from poetry but from his autobiographical rhapsodic writings.
The Challenge therefore is to CHOOSE ONE of the extracts of his prose below and with your own alchemy, turn it into poetry.
1. “I had never been so close to grass before. It towered above me and all around me, each blade tattooed with tiger-skins of sunlight. It was knife-edge, dark and a wicked green, thick as a forest and alive with grasshoppers that chirped and chattered, and leapt through the air like monkeys” (Cider with Rosie)
2. “That first long secret drink of golden fire, juice of those valleys and of that time, wine of the wild orchards, of russet summer, of plump red apples, and Rosie’s burning cheeks. Never to be forgotten, or ever tasted again” (Cider with Rosie)
3. “Darkness came, full of moths and beetles. I was oppressed by the velvety emptiness of the word and swathes of soft grass. Then the fumes of the night put me to sleep” (As I walked out one Midsummer morning)
4. “White elder blossom and dog roses hung in the hedges, blank as unwritten paper, and the hot empty road reflected Sunday’s waste and indifference. High sulky summer sucked me towards it” (As I walked out one Midsummer morning)
Use some of the original wording if you like but essentially the idea is to put your own imagination on the selected prose, whilst writing a poem in the deceptively easy style that Lee employed. I think the clue is in the unexpected adjectives he employs.
Quite often he wrote in the 1st person, in quatrains, without enjambment and with ABCB rhyme – these are additional, optional tweaks to the prompt
Once you have published your poem, add it to the Linky widget and leave a comment below. Then go visiting, reading and sharing your thoughts with other contributors which is half the fun of our dVerse gatherings.
There are a few of Laurie’ Lee’s poems @ All Poetry