6 Poets in The Cannon’s Mouth

6 Poets in The Cannon’s Mouth

The Cannon’s Mouth is the quarterly journal of the Cannon Poets, a local group of poets that meets every month in the Post Office Building of Moseley in Birmingham. Anyone who attends such groups in England will recognize the work as typical of poets who have a day job and/or family to support. It’s straightforward, friendly and unpretentious. Not much would be published by the more serious and prestigious magazines, I suspect, but there are several accomplished pieces and more that simply need time and thought to be worked up properly. About half the work is ‘restricted access’, i.e. readers can consult the magazine in the Poetry Library but the authors have not given permission for Internet access, though why is a mystery, since the greatest problem facing contemporary poets is not having their work stolen but finding a readership at all.

We start with Barbara Peterson’s Horoscope, which can be read  here:
It seems a simple piece of fun, rhymed on alternate lines, with a very pleasing fluency. These are the opening lines:

Eve rules today
flirting with evil
Circe in shadow
consorts with the devil

But has a feminist message, wittily put:

Though stridently uniform now
sheathed to excel
or trousered like men
we never can tell
what tumultuous strivings
lie in our breast from
our feminine forebears

That humour with a streak of seriousness continues with Michael Newman’s Four Girls at:  http://www.poetrymagazines.org.uk/magazine/record.asp?id=29313 So much more could have been made of the piece, which starts:

Maggy and Mandy and Mary and Mo
Went down to the sea
Seven summers ago

Maggy met mermaids
And played all day

And ends, far too quickly, with

Grown ups don’t understand any more!

John Alcock’s Poem XXll takes a few potshots at that famously overpraised ‘So much depends’ piece in William Carlos Williams’ 1923 Spring And All ( http://www.poetrymagazines.org.uk/magazine/record.asp?id=29407) Or perhaps they’re not potshots. We follow the good doctor as he leaves his surgery to meet up with Marshall the old Negro trawlerman, confessing that he can’t get beyond Poem XXI:

Twenty-one grunts Bill
can’t get beyond that
till I start to think medicine
and poetry don’t mix

The Doc stands up
and paces the yard
staring at the old man’s
white chickens scratching
around his old barrow
old red wheelbarrow

So what’s it to be
asks Marshall but Bill
hushes him up

So much depends
he says with a smile taking

And so on: the poem is born.
Justine Knowles’ Ghosts of Krakow is a more sustained, ambitious and gloomy piece at:  http://www.poetrymagazines.org.uk/magazine/record.asp?id=29415
It says what can be said at the banality of evil, from its starting:

Someone has chalked the outline of a man
Onto a rusted door on Miodowa
But only pigeons live here now
Among the ghosts of sixty thousand souls.

To its concluding comment:

When ‘luxury apartments’ claim the ghettos
And museums hold the secrets and the lies
Will the ghosts of Krakow still haunt Miodowa
Or will there be nowhere left for them to hide?

But needs a bit more ‘human interest’ material to come alive. Andy Conner’s Karma over Birmingham ( http://www.poetrymagazines.org.uk/magazine/record.asp?id=15572 )
has the opposite problem, that of fusing these snapshots of Birmingham into a incisive or endearing portrait of the city. Marvellous material is in this theme, but the cameos lack the empathy to be poetry and/or the bite to be satire – a  great pity:

A Handsworth woman
Will perpetually feel cold
For allowing the marital bed to freeze

In Erdington, the butcher
Is deserted by the wife
He cleaved from his best friend

Three Northfield girls
Forget to lock the door
As they leave their flat to shoplift

On a side-street in Aston
Two drug dealers face each other
And fire simultaneously

The ending is excellent:

It’s calmer over Birmingham
The gods have finished for today

Rod Dungate’s Anderton Lift is in fact prose, but a supple and balanced prose that does exactly what is required of it, interweaving reflection, observations and personal reactions in a seamless narrative:

Trent and Mersey Canal & Weaver Navigation
Lifts make me nervous at the best of times, so when
I peer from my twice suspended vantage point
to the Weaver navigation far below
I’m buoyed by anxiety potently mixed with the thrill
of fulfilling a long-held ambition

Through informed observation:

We rest, tethered, in our floating tank –
it’s counterbalanced by another, a return
to the system a Victorian engineer designed
except computers monitor every move
and shift, hydraulic rams now fill with oil
and steam is long forgotten. 

To end with a muted epiphany:

as we leave behind this fabulous engine’s maw
cruising, quite dwarfed, beside soda works
to the rural, sun-lifted, long-suffering Weaver beyond.

One could happily read a good deal of this material. The piece is at:  http://www.poetrymagazines.org.uk/magazine/record.asp?id=15574


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