Reflections/poem biography for Past Sacrificial
past sacrificial smaller

“Twelve eyes of flattened metal,
hole-punched with night.”

This poem was drafted at a time when I was feeling very aware of the fact that current poetry trends favour the specific, and often the (apparently) real. If you don’t have a particularly exciting or interesting life, then this means looking hard to find or adapt specifics that will make good poetry.

Right up until the very last moment, I wasn’t sure about this poem as a whole. I was happy with the sounds and punctuation effects in the first stanza, and the overall imagery, particularly the eyes ‘hole-punched with night’. I had tried to make 12 ordinary sprats extraordinary but, at the end of the day, it was still just a poem about fish!

This is where Elizabeth Bishop’s ‘The Fish’ comes in as an influence. Her poem which is at one level ‘just about a fish’ is actually a wonderful poem about so much more. Linking into her poem with the rainbow hooks (recalling, hopefully, the Bishop lines that epigraph plenty-fish*), I hoped to set my poem in a wider context.

I also hope that placing it next to the fish of ‘Losing Faith’, its title ‘Past Sacrificial’ and the number 12 (like the apostles) might bring some connotations of faith, without hammering this aspect home.
There was still something that was missing, something that didn’t quite click in the poem. I could sense it, feedback suggested it, but neither I nor those commenting had pinned down what it was.

A last-minute flash of clarity brought me a new ending, one that seemed to capture the shadow that had been in the back of my mind while writing but had taken a long time to rise to the surface – “the slipperiness of life, | and death’s strong stench.”

For me, this is still one of the more modest poems in plenty-fish, but then, sprats are quite small, modest fish, and most of us live quite modest, unshowy lives.

*“… – until everything
was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!
And I let the fish go.”

Electric Questions - lit version smallerDiscussion Point

Are all the little details of precise description necessary in this poem and used to good effect?

Inspiration/Writing Prompt

Pick a shop that you know well, whether it’s a high street independent, artisan boutique, national chain or supermarket. Imagine what secret life is hidden beneath the shelves, what might happen there after hours or the journey one of the items on sale might have taken before it ended up there… 

plentyfish cover (1)At poetry readings, I often enjoy hearing about the background to a particular poem. ‘Wednesday Reflections/Sometimes I smile’ is my attempt to share the inspiration, frustrations, pain, philosophies and thoughts that lie behind my poetry collection ‘plenty-fish’. Each Wednesday, this blog will contain one of these ‘poem biographies’, as well as points for potential reader discussion and also writers’ prompts. My collection ‘plenty-fish’ may be bought from Nine Arches Press, here, or my website, here. More Wednesday Reflections on other poems in the collection can also be found here.