The Bell Jar: Jo Bell's blog

"She lives the poetry she cannot write" – Wilde

NaPoWriMo. MuWe?

NaPoWriMo again? Oh goody

Yes, we must. It is National Poetry Writing Month and like a sucker, I have signed up again. Yes, I know it isn’t our nation, and it’s gimmicky, and it works on the same principle as Alcoholics Anonymous – your solidarity with fellow addicts shames you into action. But it does work. I got a number of new poems out of last year’s effort, and this year with three new projects on the boil, I hope it will help me to generate a good pile of first drafts. They won’t all be posted here, in fact only the ones that seem particularly unlikely to get published will surface in these pages!

Lots more news to come, and I shall soon have lots to tell you about the Small Lightnings project, Riverlands and new work with Alastair Cook. Meanwhile, here is my first attempt for NaPoWriMo 2012. It’s from the forthcoming poetry show Riverlands, which I am staging with storyteller Jo Blake Cave later this month – and it’s dedicated to Matt Merritt who appears in it. Matt is a fine poet and professional birdwatcher (yes, really) who took us on a dawn chorus walk this time last year. It was a memorable morning, which helped Jo Blake and I to find our way forward in writing new material. This poem is a poor thanks but I offer it anyway… and yes, I know the title sucks but it is late and I only have half an hour to get my first NaPoWriMo post up  – so cut me some slack, dear reader.

Birdman
for Matt Merritt

This morning’s peacock curls a call through nettles,
sends its two blue notes from Lilford down the river,
up the lock and here to Wadenhoe. I’d like to feel
the gift of that, the feather touch of God, but more

I’d like to go back to my bed. It’s 4 o’clock
and we are waiting in a car park for a man.
He pulls in with his little car, his books, binoculars.
We meet in the doorway of the day; and walk in.

I’m not expecting miracles. I’m forty three and tired.
Still, the moon’s a thumbprint on the nearly-village sky
and as the day stretches its hand across the wood,
the man with the binoculars is naming birds

so we can see them. Once they’re seen, we can’t unsee.
We gasp as every hedge lights up with words;
every shrub and copse aspark with names, with scores
of feather-fettled lives we had not recognised.

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