coming back from a spin today, i met
mr dodds with his cartload of bread.
he must have known
that horses shy at bicycles, but
he did not get down, and sure enough
his wretched animal
reared, backed into the dyke, and emptied
22 stone of bread and six stone of flour
into the water
for the past twelve years, the islay jazz festival has been held at a variety of venues across the island, some more unique than others (a lighthouse anyone?), and the great islay public has ignored it in droves. there is no indigenous history of jazz music on islay, and rather than listen to the cream of scottish and international jazz musicians, most would prefer ceilidh, pipe band, gaelic, occasionally rock music and a smattering of country and western. i say this not as a complaint or a dismissive against the island's population, for each is entitled to their own taste in music, but it depends on what you have been exposed to by way of jazz. it would not be the first time i have played someone a track on my ipod to be met with 'ah, but i wouldn't call that jazz'.
possibly if upbringing has meant that acker bilk represents all that has been classified as jazz, then weather report, miles davis or even polar bear will suffer from this initial classification.
i have exactly the same problem with poetry.
primary school education brought me to expect that at least every second line of poetry ought to rhyme; if there was no rhyming to be seen, what differentiated it from regular prose? how would i know flowery writing as separate from words identified as poetry? who decides? any further smidgeon of interest in poetry was effectively drummed out by the seeming requirement to analyse every word, nuance and punctuation mark in the works of the world's major poets. enjoyment that may have been accrued in reading out loud or silently was crushingly destroyed by this process, and by the time i had reached the stage of studying 'a' level english literature, poetry was anathema.
that is until lord carlos of mercian lent me a copy of ten poems about bicycles published by candlestick press. not that i asked him for it; the word poems was in the title after all. however, as you will have noted, the word bicycle is also in the title; a palliative if you will. edited by jenny swan and published in 2009, the introduction explains its raison d'etre being 'the affection that bicyces have inspired in their riders, and the miraculous and sometimes poignant associations that have gathered around them in poetry.'
'a spider bought a bicycle
and had it painted black
he started off along the road
with an earwig on his back
while the bicycle is a joyous transport, providing many hours of pleasant kilometres, its purpose ranges far and wide, not all of them associated with pleasantries.
the graves of children who go missing
are abandoned bicycles set in concrete.
but it is surely measure of the importance of the bicycle that not only did the publishers see fit to provide this slim volume of ten poems for our enjoyment, but that the bicycle was deemed an important enough edifice for those involved in this branch of literature to put pen to paper. and in so doing, many have seen what those of us obsessed with the bicycle may well have missed in our keen-ness to climb aboard and do battle with hills, roads, wind and rain.
as bicyclists and harpsichordists prove
who only by moving can balance,
only by balancing move.
tyres correctly inflated, gears that are properly adjusted, bearings that smoothly run, and chains that do not squeak are perhaps rightly of more concern to the daily or even weekly cyclist. poetry is often far from the mind at the beginning of a sunday ride. we are, however, constantly reminded of the poetic licence and uniqueness of our situtation and location by the mighty dave t. as we moan of the pressures the world brings to bear, tangible or otherwise, there is always the eternal optimist on his re-bracketed coppi sitting but a few spoke lengths behind, berating us for our pessimism, and making it clear that in reality, our cups runneth over.
that i can only blame on catherine at deb's on a sunday; cappuccino froth all over the saucer.
the wind behind me
water bottle is my friend
watch that taxi door.
candlestick press is a small, independent publisher based in nottingham, england. since 2008 they have been publishing poetry pamphlets aimed equally at people familiar with poetry and those who are not. 'ten poems about bicycles' costs a mere £4.95 (plus postage) and is proffered either as the ideal way to celebrate the life of the bicycle in poetry, or as a practical alternative to a greetings card. the book is delivered with a matching envelope and a bookmark left blank for an appropriate message, should you wish to pass on the good karma.
posted sunday 30th january 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................