About London Poems

Bookcase

London Poems is a slim volume written by a middle-aged English fat bloke. The poems were composed in London, about places in London and in reference to feelings that emerged as the writer found himself processing random thoughts in or near London.

The subjects of the poems are those, pretty much, that have preoccupied practitioners since the year dot. They are about love, loss,self-examination, and the woes of the world. A few more uplifting verses are chucked in to deflect accusations of rank melancholy.

Readers may spot the poets of the great tradition to whom debts are owed. One of the writer’s methods is to match the occasional overflow of powerful feelings to a poem from the canon. It doesn’t matter whether readers’get’these references. It is appropriate, however, to give credit where it is due.

Robert is especially indebted to Elizabeth Browning, William Blake, Gaius Valerius Catullus, John Cooper Clarke, Wendy Cope, Emily Dickinson, TS Eliot, UA Fanthorpe, Stephen Fry, Thomas Gray, Thomas Hardy,Tony Harrison, AE Housman, Patrick Kavanagh, Clive James, John Keats, Philip Larkin, John Milton, Adrian Mitchell, Ruth Pitter, Dylan Thomas, Wilfred Owen, Brian Patten, Christina Rossetti, VikramSeth, William Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, WB Yeats, and Benjamin Zephaniah.

London Poems book

Clive James

“At a time when almost everyone writes poetry but scarcely anyone can write a poem, it is hard not to wish for a return to some less accommodating era, when the status of a ‘poet’ was not so easily aspired to, and the only hankering was to get something said in a memorable form. Alas we would have to go a long way back.”

péage

peage

péage

No prayers nor bells: we shoot in scuttling shells
up and down the line. We go and return,
passing Arras, Béthune and Neuve Chapelle,
the Bois de Noulette, Messines and the Marne.

From Calais, past Flesquieres and Verdun,
with only the Alps in mind, we hurtle
through demented days, dusks gilded by sun
and black rain, in skirmishing battles
of the road. Through grey-day pallor we see
the brown, wide-open acres where they fought;
and sense the eerie emptiness reploughed.

At night, headlamps flare and brake lights bleed
sudden fear of hasty death into my heart,
spearing the tensioned tedium like a dart
whose aim is true, then redirected, then gone.

All around here they died for us;
now they lie under stones etched and erected
to the left and right, at Mametz and Loos;
at Langemarck, Vendhuile, Cambrai and Lens;
on either side of this paid-for auto-route,
dotting countryside, cresting horizons.

peage

Between Le Touret and Richebourg L’Avoue,
on land once used by field ambulances,
thirteen thousand men of no known resting
place are remembered. It’s ground holding
my great uncle Jack, too. There, inside a fence,
under mown lawns, lies John Wesley Davies,
31, of the Royal Welch Fusiliers.

Further on, teams of gleaming windmills now stand
where once cold trenches were dug. In place of mud
and bloody hell, turbines mourn in silence:
generating clean warmth, dry light, hot food.
These are monuments also: testaments
to doomed youth on euro no man’s land.

In volleys to and fro, we, the fragments
of dead men’s shattered futures, pass fast and
glide, stuttering only at péage
queues. In our comfortable distress, our health
and holidays, our years, we have the breath
they did not have. In our petty rages
we drown the fading echoes of their cries,
their tender patience, their lingering goodbyes.