Two poems have recently won competition listings for me – ‘Admission Times Five’, about five different views of a man having to be admitted to hospital with heart trouble, got through to the last 30 of the Havant Literary Festival, though that’s as far as it did get. Now, a poem called ‘Vivaldi and the Metro: Pride in Survival’, written while reflecting on a Paris experience listening to a busker playing ‘The Four Seasons’, has made it to the last 20 list in the Fylde Brighter Writers’ Competition. I have had short fiction success in the Fylde Competition before, but this is the first time with a poem, and I hope it goes on into the places this time. Even a listing is something of an achievement, with all of these competitions generally receiving hundreds of entries.
With my poetry book, ‘Raised Voices’, about to receive a very positive review in the next edition of the print and e-zine Linnet’s Wings, I thought I might take a couple of blogs to look at the poems in the book directly connected to Devon. Born in the south-east, brought up in the north-east and now settled in the south-west for the sake of warmth and sunshine, I have never been short of place sources for poetry in this country only, never mind foreign cities.
‘Early Devon’ is the first poem in Raised Voices to connect with this beautiful county, and it describes the people and sights of early morning in a seaside Devon town, following a stormy night:
an all night of intermittent crackling skylight
jamming away with gasp angry wind shakes
and no other world but a slit of a moon.
We visit some of the local characters – a greengrocer with a bad leg, planning to retire when Tesco arrive in the town; a man who deliberately goes to collect his paper early, so that he can exercise his arthritic legs without too many people seeing; a weighed-down paper boy, and a free walking gull
like a bandy-legged pirate
swaying along; perhaps hilarious research
or a breath-saving moment between bombing raids.
We move on from a passing, super-efficient care worker and the early opening Spar, to the promenade itself, with ‘pebbles and seaweed strewn by wind petulance’ and look out to the great stretch of water beyond:
and out there the mass, the unknown, the mystery;
cruelty, triumph, tragedy, escape,
lapping the beach like exhausted kisses.
‘Viva La Devona’ imagines a scenario where climate change has made Spain so hot that the Spanish are looking for somewhere up north to have more comfortable holidays (it could happen – try the heat of southern Spain in the summer now!)
a few years down the line, investigation reaches
the blue skies and sweeping sands of Devon’s golden beaches.
The Devon locals are not at all sure about it:
The people remain dubious, being generally the sorts
who always reckoned finkas were people lost in thoughts.
Drastic changes are soon occurring:
There’s tapas cafes in Sidmouth, and all the catering sellers
are phasing out the fish and chips and starting on paellas
It’s only a matter of time before the tourists are actually moving in
and soon, the tourists talk to local mortgage lenders
and all along the Torquay front, they’re building haciendas
Where will it all end? What’s to become of dear old Devon? See ‘Raised Voices’, an eclectic volume of verse both serious and not so serious, now available at www.bruceharris.org