Skip to main content

A plague on all these houses



It's a great poem, Lowell's For the Union Dead.
I only recently came across it - at least, that's what I thought - but it's been grunting (I choose the word advisedly) away in my head ever since, especially that fourth verse.

Behind their cage,
yellow dinosaur steam shovels were grunting
as they cropped up tone of mush and grass
to gouge their underworld garage.

It took a little while for me to realise why.
Before (I thought) I'd read it, I wrote a poem about the new housing estates springing up round our little town. I was thinking about the various creatures that had lived on the field that was to be covered with houses - sheep primarily - and then those that were to follow.

The first were, well, a sort of dinosaur.

Here's my second verse:

At first it was the one-armed monsters,
set free within their caged arena
to trundle round, and gently paw
the ground, then pile up mounds of earth
accompanied by Lego men.

I was pleased with my trope, so much so that I continued with it later in the poem.

And then I encountered Lowell's dinosaurs.
I was sure my metaphor was my own original idea. So, what had happened?

Had I heard or read the Union Dead before, and 'forgotten' it?
Or perhaps the idea wasn't very original anyway?

Would it have been better if I hadn't recently met Lowell's poem? Then I'd never have known.
So I've made the discovery, and wonder what's best to do. I really don't want to take out that
verse, as jettisoning my one-armed monsters means the whole poem has to follow suit.

I wonder how many others have had this experience.

Having been involved in an unpleasant plagiarism incident (not committed by me, I say
quickly) maybe I'm extra sensitive to such issues. Be that as it may, I felt uneasy.

Well, all this has got me thinking about these things. I hope that in talking about it, I'm not
pretending or covering up, which is what the plagiarist would do.

Covering up?

That's what happens in the poem...


Field Work

One night the stock-proof hedge just went,
and gate and bank. Instead there sprang
a clean steel fence. What stock requires
such stout protection, or has need
to be enclosed, to hold them fast?

At first it was the one-armed monsters,
set free within their caged arena
to trundle round, and gently paw
the ground, then pile up mounds of earth
accompanied by Lego men.

A half-built road the next arrival
brought to a halt by two tall poles
flimsily strung with ribboned string.
The kerbs continued after the gravel
petered out, while hi-vis men stood

round in groups like sheep, and watched
those clever yellow creatures draw
walls from the ground in that old field,
then scaffolding, so they could climb
to see each roof fall into place.

I never saw them plant the lights,
unroll the lawns or pin on porches –
I’m sure the shiny-sinewed ones
saw to that, after the men
removed their helmets, taking home

their noise. The dock-filled field behind
its hedge has gone for good. Instead,
conservatories and garden sheds,
sparkling cars and wheelie-bins and
miles of wooden fences.

Comments

  1. Looking forward for more amazing posts like this one.
    luton Meet And Greet

    ReplyDelete
  2. If you are planning a low hedge for a garden or driveway border, and you are using smaller 14cm or 20cm pots, you should plan at least 5 to the metre. For more information, visit here - hedgesonline.com.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Looking for mold removal, water damage repair, or fire damage restoration services for your home or place of business? You're in the right place! Call Now. For more information please visit the website https://servicemastersrq.com/.

    ReplyDelete
  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete

Post a comment

Popular posts from this blog

The Cadence

He embraces the sheep
an ungainly bundle unusually tilted
now leaning back against the man
who bowed over, grasps with his knees
and left hand, to perform. Like a cellist

he knows how to play.
Fingertips splayed to tension the skin
right hand guiding across the bridge
a gleam of blades to separate fleece –
music from silence, wrapped up in wool.

The animal listens
accepting the prospect of resolution ahead,
resigned to his practised hands, grip of the thighs
the charm of the music
and caressing of steel.

He stretches his arm out
to reach high notes in third position.
Lanolined leather feet shift softly beneath.
The sheep tips back more to enable the soar
of melody heard only by them.

He lets fall the burden
accustomedly righting the sheep. He arises
to bow for a moment as if in acknowledgement
then straightens – the fleece being lifted
and folded, like music.

The performer resumes
with no pause for applause. He turns
to the next – there are more
many more waiting. So the music contin…

Viral Information

Viral Information




Virus - a word much heard not just at this time of year ('there's a lot of them about') but one that's spilled quasi-metaphorically into other non-biological areas, you might say succeeding virulently... gone viral?

 But that's what viruses do, and do very well.
Fulfilling only some of the criteria for qualifying for life status, here are strange creatures indeed, not that that's the right word at all - not organism, more construction, set of instructions or even just a programme.  So the use of the word in computer malfunction is hardly metaphorical...
Approaching this extraordinary - but so frequently encountered, so in a way not extraordinary at all -  thing (I find myself reduced to using this rather weak word) that may be represented in (admittedly astronomically colossal) sequences of numbers, with words - all that poetry possesses, however they may be presented - poses problems. 
So I thought I'd turn to a different sort of poetry: …