VERSE, LYRICS & TRANSLATIONS
My first published poem appeared in the 1995 anthology, That’s Entertainment (Poetry Now Press). Festival was a youthful tirade against the environmental impact of corporate music festivals. In hindsight, it was not entirely successful poetically; neither – judging from images of the aftermath of 2022’s Glastonbury Festival – was it successful didactically. But now, nearly thirty years later, I note with some tenderness towards myself that my preoccupying themes are still music and the natural world.
I mainly write song lyrics and I have also translated a fair number of songs into English. But I continue to write poetry and, as is the case with lyrics and translations, I find that the stricter the container, the harder my imagination works. Thus I thrive on forms like haiku and self-imposed restrictions such as the ten syllable line poems sampled here. I am currently enjoying tormenting myself with the near-impossible dróttkvætt (Old Norse Court Metre).
My latest collection, King of the Wood, was written during Covid-19 lockdown. With outer world restrictions in place, it felt good, for once, to write in free verse.
From King of the Wood
Tending To The Fallen
A dead badger lies in the wood.
I have pink tulip petals in my pocket – another story –
And I carefully place them at her nape.
Not to make her more beautiful,
Because she could not be
More beautiful than she is now,
In the soft tufting of her fur,
The shy half-stretch of her paw,
The nick of blood on her nose;
But because she may like
To try them out as wings;
Because she may like
An unexpected brightness to mark her passage;
Because she may like to know
That my heart paused
To soar with her.
I listen to the storm-felled beeches
Singing themselves back into the land;
Each crack, creak and rustle a descent down the scale
To sink into perfect cadence with the eternal.
From Ten Musical Instruments in Ten Syllables
I’ve sighed oy vey through a sad clarinet;
Cantor-like sobs catch in its reedy throat.
No wonder it’s called the misery stick.
Come on, clarinet! The guests want to dance.
Crazily, it laughs at its own sobbing.
A Pocketful of Tin Whistles
Tin whistles are made of various materials, but none of them pure tin.
My nickel tin whistle is all sea air:
Shrill as the wind over Liscannor cliffs,
Keening its way across Burren granite
Until its breath expires at Dromore Woods.
My wooden tin whistle is all damp air:
Seeping into stone walls and mattresses,
While mildewed paper peels in farmhouses
And peat smoke wheezes from cottage chimneys.
My plastic tin whistle is all hot air:
Coughing like a last ditch drinking partner
Who will spin a fine yarn through rasps and gasps;
Pressing dry cracked lips to the Blarney Stone.
But the true tin whistle is all thin air:
Trilling down the road with a hop and skip;
Last seen crossing over Knocknashee and
Disappearing into the foggy dew.
Red Cedar Flute
for David Cartwright of Second Voice Flutes
I have watched skilled hands coax a flute to life –
And not just any flute, for this one’s mine:
In my chosen key and desired wood,
With a bear claw block, just as I wanted
And finger holes where my own fingers fall.
I blow and this, my flute, sings with my breath.
Yet it has a second voice, too, sounding
Of aeries and canyons I have not seen.
The flute maker knew well to leave it there.
All poems © Paula Tait 2017-2022
KING OF THE WOOD: POETRY & PHOTOGRAPHY BY Paula Tait
King’s Wood is an ancient Chilterns beech woodland on the edge of High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, England.
In March 2020, I began to visit the wood to sit, listen, dream and write. My travels through the inner way stations of the wood, at a time of lockdown and long COVID, was to result in this chapbook of poetry and photography.
Contains 13 poems and 7 photographs.
King of the Wood is published in two formats:
- A5 Gloss Chapbook (£5 + P&P) available from this website
- Ebook (£1.49) available from Amazon