I don’t know why I wrote that title, ‘Crying Time’, by the late great Ray Charles, but it was going through my head as I thought, “Let’s do a Blog this morning.” Ray Charles is one of my musical heroes, along with Nina Simone and a whole host of others in the jazz/blues genre. ( and just to be eclectic, I love opera and Pink Floyd !!) Anyway, the title suits the weather this morning, it’s coming down in stair rods and bringing loads of snow/sleet with it. It’s enough to make you cry, and the faraway look in your eyes? … It must be a longing for the dry half of Spring and (hopefully) sunny Summer.
To the point of this Blog. Wishing to hone my literary skills, or at least Gain some, I recently enrolled on a CREATIVE WRITING course with a local community charity. The three sessions were ‘Taster’ sessions, during which I wrote my life story in three foolscap sheets of paper. At the end of the three sessions, it left me thirsting for more of the same and I was disappointed it had to end. I asked the tutor if any longer courses were in the pipeline but she replied, “Not to my knowledge.” ‘Ah! well, I thought, I enjoyed what we were given.’
About a week later I received an E-mail from the tutor telling me an eight-week course was starting on such and such a date, would I be interested? I was over the moon when I found out that the third session would embrace my favourite writing topic, POETRY!! It’s this topic I wish to explore in this Blog, including some of my own work. Here is a poem inspired by one of my Army tours in Northern Ireland, a market town close to the border with the Republic in South Armagh. I was stationed at the Keady police station (then the R.U.C ) I’m not publishing it because it’s good, I’m publishing it because it’s me …….
My turn in the Sanga
This wet Winter’s night.
A young trooper, alone
With a gun, and my fright.
My job was quite simple,
To observe and protect
My comrades in arms
From the I.R.A. threat
I hated that Sanga!
I could see through the slit
Down Keady’s main street,
And right, up the hill,
Where streetlights and darkness
And my fears did meet.
I hated that Sanga!
The ample young woman across the way
Who, with the bedroom light on, took off her kit,
Tempting a young face to peer long enough
To get a bullet, in his head, right through the slit.
Then howls of derision from a gang of drunk youths
As they sped past in a car hurling bricks and abuse
I hated that Sanga!
Nothing happened that night, tho’ oft’ times it did!
The thud of a bullet on sandbag or brick,
Narrowly missing my trusty Tin-Lid.
Sometimes it was spittle, SPLAT ! in my face
As a group of young women walked past my place.
In the Sanga, cold and shook up — Wanting my home.
GOD ! I HATED THAT SANGA !!
It must be obvious to an accomplished wordsmith, a real writer, that I am not an expert on poetry. I don’t know much at all about the construction of poems, the ‘proper’ way to write poetry. For me, I often just feel ‘stirred’, or enough emotionally involved in some thing or event, to write about my feelings about whatever ‘stirred’ me. Much of my own poetry is political in nature because I feel very … passionate about my political standpoint. I get angry, I write … I feel good, I write and that’s me. Regarding other people’s poetry, I have my heroes and I have ones I can not fathom. I suppose I’m like an uneducated drinker of wine, ‘I know nothing much about wine, I just like what I like.’
My two poetic heroes are MAYA ANGELOU … What a woman, admired by me for her role in the political arena, the fight for civil rights and fighting for the women of the world as well as being a poet that can stir my soul. The world is a much duller place without her. R.I.P. The other poetic hero is RUDYARD KIPLING. Although he has come up against much criticism as a poet, I love his work. Of particular interest to me are his poems about the British soldier. Not very PC in this modern … enlightened ?? age, but he reflects the attitudes and values of the British Empire at the time and does so quite well. During his epic GUNGA DINN, you can fair smell the gunpowder and hear the noise of battle as you read… well, I can!
At the risk of writing an overlong post, there is one more poem I would like to share with you. It is quite well known but has a secret that fascinated me as I learned more about the poet himself … THE LIFE THAT I HAVE by Leo Marks (1920-2001).
Leo Marks was a cryptographer during WWII and although he didn’t quite make the cut for working at Bletchley Park, He worked in secret for the S.O.E, compiling codes mainly for the agents in France and the resistance. He invented the concept of using poetry as the all-important ‘KEY’ for the codes, The ONE TIME PAD. The agents memorised a couple of poems and used them as the KEY to decipher the messages. However, the Germans proved quite good at cracking the codes because they had a load of poetry anthologies and simply, through a process of trial and error, went through all the poems until they found the poem that was the KEY. Leo Marks started using his own ‘ORIGINAL’ poetry not found in any anthologies, including THE LIFE THAT I HAVE, which was written after the death of his girlfriend in an air crash in Canada.
He gave the poem to Violette Szabo a female French agent who was captured, tortured and murdered by the Gestapo. She never divulged the secret of the poetic code. So, here is a poem that had been weaponised, it fought the Nazis, was inspired by a Canadian Tragedy, written by a British intelligence officer and smuggled over the channel into the hands of a French woman who gave her life for her country ……….
THE LIFE THAT I HAVE
The life that I have
Is all that I have
And the life that I have
The love that I have
For the life that I have
Is yours and yours and yours
A sleep I shall have
A rest I shall have
Yet death will be but a pause
For the peace of my years
In the long green grass
Will be yours and yours and yours.
LEO MARKS (1920-2001)
I hope you enjoyed reading my witterings and in particular my choice of poetry. Like I said I’m not an expert but I do enjoy writing my own poetry and reading/listening to that of other people. If you can spare a minute, please let me know what you think, of both my writing and that of Leo Marks …….. Until the next Bloggeroony.. TTFN.