Most of my poems are just a bit of fun. The ones people know of anyway – the ones I’ve come to recite on St Andrew’s or Burns’ nights. However, now and then I’ll write a poem just to get emotions and thoughts out of my head and down onto virtual paper. Doing so is a release of mental pressure and I’ve a folder full of “abandoned”, incomplete verses that have spilled out of my mind at various times but were too personal or painful to either complete or share.
One that hasn’t seen the light of day is If I Had Known, which I wrote in early November 2021. In the space of 18 months I’d dealt with the loss of various people from my life. I’m not going to name names but they were people who were special to me, people whose lives had been intertwined with my own for varying lengths of time. Yet for one reason or another, I’d lost them.
Emotional pain from a sense of loss is immediately jarring, like being startled by a sudden loud noise and only being able to escape the echoes when there’s distance from the source. In the poem, I tried to capture my feelings at the loudest point, so that I might be able to measure the change as the echoes fade over time.
That said, reading it back even four months on makes me wince a little. I’m still bruised from a couple of years of seemingly relentless emotional trauma, with the backdrop of the global covid-19 pandemic making life feel like a nightmare I’m only just now waking up from.
Writing this poem was like drawing a line in the sand from an emotional perspective. I had to acknowledge the hurt, tuck it safely in a folder and try to move on. For World Poetry Day 2022 I thought I’d take it out and publish it here instead of hiding it away. I’m not sure why. Perhaps as part of the healing process. I hope it resonates with someone else.
For World Poetry Day 2017 I thought I’d share this poem I wrote in October 2016. The idea came to me after a silly conversation with Crazy Uncle John when we’d had a few whiskies. We were talking about the future, in a science fiction/march of progress sense, and he said something to the effect of; “Some day, robot dugs will be commonplace!”
As you can imagine I practically laughed ’til the wee ran down my leg, because it struck me immediately how absurd it would be if that became a reality! But then, there are many examples over the years of how the advance of technology has brought us things that weren’t really needed.
On Friday the 13th of January 2017 I attended my first Burns Supper of the season, hosted by Helensburgh Burns Club. I will complete my third year as secretary for the club in May and, as we draw performers from a selection of guests and from within the club, that meant I was invited to do “whatever I liked” by this year’s president, Geoff.
That’s quite an open remit, but when I was asked earlier the previous year I had a good idea of what I would like to perform. The first Burns’ poem that I learnt was To a Mouse and I have always been fond of it. In early 2016 I had the idea of writing a reply on behalf of the titular mouse and this eventually became my poem, Fae a Mouse. So that and the work that inspired it became the core of what I would do and as fortune would have it, with our club supper being so close to the festive season, I could open with I’m Really Glad Xmas Is Over which I had written during the festive season of 2015.
At our St Andrew’s Night I had to read the poems I performed because I just wasn’t confident enough in my ability to recite them off by heart. The fact I did drew some gentle criticism which I happily accepted. I really had no excuse for not learning my own poems properly!
This time around I had put a lot more practice in and could probably have done all three without any cues. That’s tempting fate when you’re drinking though, so I printed my two out and put extra effort into getting To a Mouse learned. In the event I stumbled once on that one – it was going so well it seemed too good to be true, so I checked I was doing okay with one of our past presidents!
I received some really good feedback on my poems. A couple of people asked for copies and a lady who is performing at the Edinburgh Fringe asked for a copy of Fae a Mouse because she wanted to use it there.
I couldn’t be much happier with how my part of the night went. It’s both rewarding and a relief when you perform something you’ve written and have it be so well received.