Over at her HappenStance blog, Helena Nelson is very kindly featuring my poem, La Despedida (from Inventing Truth), as part of a post on "The Ironing Poem Genre".
Now that title might seem somewhat tongue in cheek, but there is actually a fair degree of substance to it. In fact, it reminded me of a poem, Ironing, from Peter Sansom's excellent collection, The Last Place on Earth, which begins as follows:
"I like it best when there's time to see myself
through the drizzle of a weekday morning
with Woman's Hour or a talking-book detective,
and forsythia defining the universe..."
As with my own poem, Sansom is playing with the gender expectations involved with the task of ironing, although he goes about it in a very different way. His focus is on the mechanical and repetitive nature of the chore, beginning with a quote from Stanley Cook that evokes "the perfect release of a limited aim". In this sense, hia poem recalls an Ian McMillan poem, Three Boring Miles on the Exercise Bike, which starts with...
"Three boring miles. The television flickering
in the corner of my eye. A man talking..."
Both poems gradually build up detail so as to explore the significance of a regular event. McMillan and Sansom concentrate on the repetitive nature of the task, while I portray an everyday task that suddenly becomes everything but everyday - in La Despedida a routine is transformed into a pivotal moment and is even more highly charged as a result. These are very different and equally valid examples of how ordinary occurences can turn into ambitious poetry.
Last Saturday I packed my bags for a brief stopover in Devon. The train from Paddington retraced my steps (no – that’s not right; what do you say?) – re-ro...