Reflections/poem biography for Oil and Water

oil & water

“the black spot is on our hands.”

Initial inspiration for this poem came not from the news, politics or environmental concerns but sheer appreciation of Earth’s beauty when viewed from above.

The opening details come from observations that I jotted down while on a plane back from Cork after I was chosen for the Coventry-Cork twin cities poets exchange. This trip to Ireland had made me think a great deal about history embedded in the land and, from the plane windows, I could imagine the world below set out in archaeological layers.

But it’s hard for me to write about landscape and nature without considering what is happening in terms of wars, pollution and environmental damage. The T.S. Eliot framework from The Waste Land, drawing on older Fisher King legend, seemed inevitable.

Around this time, I read a newspaper article on the effects of fracking in Texas. Fracking has always concerned me. Scientific figures about its safety may be cited, but statistics in politician’s hands often seem to be wielded like dangerous weapons. My common sense and instinct say that submitting the land to such immense pressure and not expecting it to have potentially drastic effects is folly. (I have seen documentaries on the possibilities of supervolcano eruptions in the Yellowstone Park and how far away the impacts of this might be felt. In a way, fracking feels like the physical, geographical equivalent of a panic attack – but on a worldwide tectonic-plate scale!)

Within these considerations, I chose to play with a shifting ‘they’ to explore the way modern western society seems to pass blame and avoid taking responsibility wherever possible. But ignoring the reality has to end somewhere, we cannot wash our hands of everything. Ultimately, it’s our world and we all have to play our part in it and the state we leave it in for future generations.

I’m also very grateful to James Byrne for his editorial suggestions when he accepted this poem for The Wolf magazine.

“The black spot is on our hands.”

“The black spot is on our hands.”

Electric Questions - lit version smallerDiscussion Points

1) What contrasts are used in this poem and to what effect (history/current news, line lengths, punctuation/not…)?

2) Consider the different possibilities and restrictions offered by poetry as protest and poetry as a witnessing.

Inspiration/Writing Prompt

Take a recent news story or current political situation that you’re not happy about. Are there any historical or literary precedents that brought to mind by the current state? In what way? What might happen if such a historic/literary character met his modern counterpart?

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.