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Literature and books, Uncategorized

Fourteen lines which I really like

It’s been a long while since my last post. I’ve been busy. Or perhaps have fallen victim to the phenomenon of a blog only lasting, on average, around six months. I needed some excuses and there they are.

And this blog post is not even, largely, my own work, not the core of it anyway – being a poem by someone else, beautiful, simple, accomplished; fourteen lines which I really like.

Today, as some will already have seen in the news, is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Lockerbie bombing, in which an American passenger plane crashed in the Scottish town of Lockerbie, as a result of a bomb.

It is not for me to say who was precisely to blame, or even to offer thoughts or condolences to all the many people caught up in the tragedy. Not least to the passengers, the crew, the Lockerbie residents who died, some of whom were never found. And others, orphans, who naturally felt the grave implications of that night far into the future, and who died long before their time.

I really don’t remember why, but I recently came across the poem below. It is by one of the passengers, Ken Bissett, who was twenty-one when he died. Considered a gifted artist, he also left behind this single poem. He was adopted as a baby and his mother only discovered in April this year that her son had been on the flight. Both of Ken’s adoptive parents are no longer with us.

There is little poetry that I like, certainly poetry I’ve read so far from Britain or the United States. Yet, there is

photo of Ken Bissett

Ken Bissett

some poetry I like very much: Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Rilke, some TS Elliot, quite a bit of Wordsworth. Too much poetry seems to be trying to do more than it should, in a borrowed language and tone, and achieving, at least for me, little or nothing. Indeed, some of it I find irritating. In the UK, have we come all that far since Wordsworth’s and Coleridge’s Preface to the 1800 edition of the Lyrical Ballads, in which they rounded on the commonly-used poetic diction?

The poetry I do like seems frighteningly alive but is simple and confident in its direct imparting of raw concepts, ideas and natural imagery. The words and turns of phrase mean only what they have always meant, yet are so framed with love and visionary candour they seem also to look upon themselves, producing an eternal light. Give me the undiluted joy, the twisted irony and the mercurial mastery of Rimbaud over the grim, half-underground, verdigris of Phillip Larkin, however good he is reputed to be, and I don’t say that lightly.

I was amazed when I read this poem and still am each time I read it. It is everything I want in a poem. And it is testament to a talent no longer here, but who will, I would like to think, live on through these few lines.

I believe they are also on his gravestone.

Poem by Ken Bissett

As I was walking along,
I looked up at the nighttime sky
I was passing under a tree,
But, rather than having the tree
Moving past the stationary sky,
I imagined that the night sky was moving;
pulled along by unseen chariots
With white horses
or strong-armed burly men
Or brilliant blue seagulls.
For a split second,
The sky was a huge blue tapestry;
Perforated with tiny holes;
Illuminated from above by some unseen light.

Have a happy Christmas.

(Hopefully part 2 of the Ten Books That Changed My Life, will appear soon…)

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Copyright © 2013 David Hansard / davidhansard.wordpress.com – excluding poem by Ken Bissett
All articles on davidhansard.wordpress.com are written by David Hansard unless otherwise stated.

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