10 Poets in Poetry Cornwall

10 Poets in Poetry Cornwall

The 2009-2010 editions of Poetry Cornwall yield a fine crop of poems to commend to discriminating readers. Yes, this is local fare with all that the label implies – the simple, honest and homespun, generally unaware of international trends, or even of Modernism itself. Free verse predominates, but there’s more than a sprinkling of rhymed verse. Indeed, technically the most accomplished poem – Abigail Wyatt’s Mite – would not be out of place in a nineteenth-century publication. And if the local scenes are described with the loving attention to detail we find in amateur art society shows, they are none the worse for that. True, the really original, and that panache of the professional’s touch are absent, but so too is the mindless adoption of contemporary styles and themes that make the poetry of more prestigious journals such depressing reading. Time-worn themes on human kindness, the changing landscape, the passing seasons, love remembered – perhaps too many of them, but still quietly successful within their small compass.

Poetry Cornwall was launched in March 2002, appears three times a year, is still edited by Les Merton, and receives no funding. It publishes some 70 poems from around the world in each issue, and welcomes work in local dialect, reviews and articles on poetry. A short ‘Meet the Editors’ section provides useful information on other UK poetry magazines.

I give snippets of poems from ten contributors, none of them requiring much comment from me.

Ronnie Goodyer’s Helford Dawn: Summertime is at:
http://www.poetrymagazines.org.uk/magazine/record.asp?id=26924

Note how effectively daylight is announced in the 4th line:

This illuminated land shines a picture,
a high-wheeling buzzard in morning glory;
darkened skyline trees form green coats
and sky is drawn back for day.

Roland Gurney’s Night Storm seems another descriptive piece at:
http://www.poetrymagazines.org.uk/magazine/record.asp?id=26932
But is in fact a little more, as the last lines indicate:

You carry on your family history for hours on the Internet,
researching ancestral connections calling from afar.
I remember late morning’s moorland campions and fret
for all the cancerous droplets drowning the brightest star.

Abigail Wyatt’s Mite shows that rarest and most important of the poet’s ear for language: that exact marriage of words and thoughts. It starts:

One by one, she has surrendered them,
gently and with proper reverence.
She desires, after all, to win the protection
of these absent, inattentive gods.

And can be read at: http://www.poetrymagazines.org.uk/magazine/record.asp?id=26933

Bernard M. Jackson’s Sunlit Leaves probably also belongs to another century (
http://www.poetrymagazines.org.uk/magazine/record.asp?id=27050), but who cares when the lines are so well crafted? It starts:

When westward sinks the sun, tall trees espouse
Immensity of light, where all’s aglow
Within a world at peace. Slow waters flow
Through silent sylvan ways, as time allows
Stilled magic to the Dene.

Sheila K. Barksdale’s Yours Faithfully, Caliban (http://www.poetrymagazines.org.uk/magazine/record.asp?id=26973) uses rhyme in an off-hand, humorous and unexpected way to tie the content together:

Dear Sirs, please say if you would be disposed
To kind perusal of my ms (enclosed)?
I write to you from faraway (and let’s just say it’s tropical),
Am seeking now a publisher, someone not myopical.
1.     The natty title- ‘Existence can be Bleak’
2.     Theme- Coping in the Workplace when they make you feel a Freak
3.     The well-wrought plot- a crazy boss, a real controlling jerk
    who when his daughter meets a guy, things all go berserk.

Barbara Gore’s use of rhyme in My Son is not humorous but exemplary. (http://www.poetrymagazines.org.uk/magazine/record.asp?id=26976)
Note how completely and satisfyingly the thought is rounded off in these first four lines:

Take my hand
It’s stronger than yours
It’s coped with poverty
Struggles and wars

Kindly sentiment is exceptionally difficult to convey but Neil Leadbeater’s Buying Apples from Mr Aldridge (http://www.poetrymagazines.org.uk/magazine/record.asp?id=27051)succeeds succeeds by sticking to what is socially appropriate. It starts:

Buying apples from Mr Aldridge was easy in the ‘fifties
dessert or culinary,
you simply took whatever he had: a Cox’s Orange Pippin
or a heavy cropping Bramley Seedling
there was not much else to choose from
no D’ Arcy Spice or Laxton’s Fortune;
nothing fancy then.

Rosa Thomas’s Osborne House (http://www.poetrymagazines.org.uk/magazine/record.asp?id=26702) is not in rhyme but the lines nonetheless have that cadenced finality which rhyme imparts. The first seven lines:

Victoria, Queen of England
and all her dominions,
Empress of India,
died in this bed.
She has looked her last
on the white sails
of yachts on the Solent,

Andrew Robinson’s Old School Memoir (http://www.poetrymagazines.org.uk/magazine/record.asp?id=26594) has a nice touch of wry humour. It starts:

Snooks (yes, he’s real, though History, being
merciful, has forgotten his true name)
got his member, swollen, excitingly
stuck in a milk bottle, the narrow necked
tall kind. Sister Boddy (actual name)
relieved (in the simply professional,
therapeutic sense) this schoolboy crisis.

And continues to the end with:
Though whether
our farmer’s wife counted herself in, or
lucky to have caught him out, History
cannot, or, if she can, she does not, or
does not just now, frustratingly, relate:
unless, of course, by some improbably
fertile coincidence, it’s Mrs Snooks.

Caroline Gill’s Marazion (after Henry Besley’s Views of Cornwall c.1862), at:
http://www.poetrymagazines.org.uk/magazine/record.asp?id=26617) weaves its narrative as deftly as the rhyme. The first six lines:

It is impossible, it seems, to prove
that Ictis island rose above Mount’s Bay,
between The Lizard and Lamorna Cove;
but Diodorus liked to have his way
that tin was carried when the tide was low,
in years before old Pytheas set sail.

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