I hang my head in shame. It has been more than six months since I’ve put finger to key and clacked a new blog post into being. More than six months since sharing a story, poem, or even a trademark thought or reflection. Well, it ends today. I’ve a new poem to share with you, and a little tale to go with it. Patient readers, I present for your pleasure: New Atlantis.
2022: Good for babies, disastrous for writing
You might recall my last blog post. I described the recent changes I’d made in life: I was immersed in teacher training and expecting a baby in January. Well, I’m now a teacher and, even more importantly, a father. Tristan Smith was born on 12th January 2022, and he’s as perfect a baby as we could hope for. Yes: even when he cries all day. I loved that crying when I was trying to complete my final assessment for my PGCE. Loved it. Hmm.
The pincer-movement of working at a school and doing related coursework, combined with the overwhelming upheaval of having a new baby, meant I didn’t have much time for writing. I’ve started one short story this year, a Victorian horror-adventure titled The Infernal Idol, which I still must finish. And I wrote a poem shortly after Tristan was born: Capricornucopia. But that’s it.
Adur Art Trail and New Atlantis
Until June, that is. I live very near to Shoreham-by-Sea, a pretty, coastal town in Sussex. It just hosted Adur Art Trail – a series of open-house art exhibitions displaying talent from local artists. Shoreham Wordfest, a literary organisation, invited local poets to write a response to art on the trail which caught their eye.
My wife, baby Tristan and I saw some especially beautiful art on a houseboat moored out of Shoreham Harbour. I was moved to write a poem after seeing this piece by Julia Ann Field.
It’s called Choke and it immediately inspired me to write a poem. Ever since seeing Blue Planet II and actively engaging in being more environmentally friendly, I’d wanted to draw attention to those issues I thought important. Issues of which, as citizens of the world, we should all be aware. If you’ve read The Patchwork Carnival or seen me perform live, you’ll know what informs my usual style of poetry (Poe *cough* Shelley *cough*). Work on New Atlantis began similarly, with melodramatic descriptions of antediluvian kingdoms and drowned citadels all rendered in iambic pentameter, but it didn’t feel right. It didn’t have the emotive edge that I knew I had invested in the topic.
Casting my fledgling poem away, I let new waves of inspiration roll over it. I wrote without rigid structure, but still incorporated the patches of rhyme, meter and assonance that are my usual MO. I was very happy with the result. As far as I am aware, the poem wasn’t selected for exhibition by Wordfest, but I shared it with Julia Ann Field herself and received some much-appreciated praise and support from her.
I hope you like it too. And if you enjoy Choke, do take the time to look at more of Julia’s work on her website. We’ve got a print on our kitchen wall and happy memories of seeing her excellent and inspiring art in the flesh.