‘Far and Near’ was the chosen theme. And some of our poets’ poems drew on the unexpectedly familiar. Few of Dominic’s Smiths Knoll readers would have known that his ‘best loved house … bricks made with sand from the beach’ (‘Snail in Moonlight’) was built, like ours, by Welcome Thompson. The ‘snail’ followed by a shooting star whizzing ‘the other way’, seen by the poet on his last evening in Gong Lane, have continued to live inside him. Another of Dominic’s poems appeared recently in Briony’s Poetry Magazine, Ambit. This one concerned a sandcastle car that might have won a prize in Pol’s annual competition, though it was simultaneously a sadness for the nonexistent child to share the game (‘Lovesong with a Sandcar’). A second Ambit choice was a triumphant lovesong that pitted the focus of what is revealed at low tide against the intoxicating waveslap of the high tide. Then we heard a ferry poem about the Lanes, father Laddy and son Tiddler, making trips to the Island and in Tiddler’s case, The Lord Nelson (‘The Problem of Identity’).    ‘ .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  ‘None of this    is difficult confusing or philosophically troubling.    But on a full moon, it is a sight to see    with the entire creek flooded, the mashes covered,’ The advantage of inviting two poets is in the contrast, and Mick’s long conversational lines, generally close to free verse, felt immediate and inclusive after Dominic’s pared voice.  ‘Far’ and ‘near’ were immediately clarified as Greenwich and the West Irish coast of Kerry. Since retirement from the BBC World Service, he has spent much time in the latter. The challenge and delights of sailing single-handed informed most of the             poems from Opening Time. There were a lot of birds as one might expect, and much wonder at what is alive to the senses.                            ‘ .  .   .   .    I had sailed all the grey day toward this,  it’s seas breaking in white feathers on the fringing rocks.’                                                                                                                                                (‘Kerry Head’) Mick is a historian with a lust for travel ‘to exciting new places’ and a family given to gatherings. All came together in a poem set in Chitral, high in Pakinstan’s Hindu Kush mountain range. A long poem of coming to terms with his father. ‘Out in a boat he’d know what to do with a spinner and line; back on shore, I learned to look elsewhere for winners.’  (‘D.N.C.O.’) Dominic’s second reading roamed as far as Deptford. We enjoyed the quiet humour of reflective poems shot through with a moral edge. Questioning poems that made a stab at the yin and yang of coming and going, loss and fullness. Poems that hinted at the complexities of life’s conundrums. There was an intriguing one inspired by a fire escape workshop (‘Ladder Training’) in which the form of quatrains identified with steps. ‘Was there more room for manoeuvre if a colleague held the ladder while we progressed, as gingerly as we liked, towards what was effectively the stars? We tried to keep the thing in perspective but it kept travelling far, far, away.’ * From the floor, there were variations on our theme. Even the Emily Dickinson (‘A light exists in spring’) could be interpreted could fit the plot. ‘It [light] waits upon the lawn; / It shows the furthest tree / Upon the furthest slope we know … There was Ron Graves ‘the significance of beauty’, brought by Evelyn from an Adenbrooks Hospital compilation. Here, the nobility of the dog star initially makes the poet feel insignificant. ‘the dog star sirius / eight thousand six hundred / and eleven light years from me / and think I am standing / on a tiny grain of sand’. Then, the realization:  ‘this is bullshit … sirius is beautiful … and so are we.’ Our theme also had the Crampins musing on Blake’s grain of sand. Sally L wrote of internal schisms that disconnect body and soul. John personalized the paths of an electron friend and a hydrogen atom in the discovery of the Higgs bosun. Here, we touch on particle physics which I don’t understand. Maureen’s space between far and near was only 3,000 miles, but it left her ‘bereft’ until a significant morning   ‘For it was the same air – here and there –    But oh what a difference it made.’ We had a lot of moon and stars. Peter’s moon and ‘scratchy’-topped pine trees led us to sea and beach with the ebb and flow of words, in an effort to express what he felt. Michael C’s fearsomely titled ‘Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory’ brought stars together with Blake, Newton, Einstein and friendly Felix in a physics hot-pot from galaxies via ripples, to electrons. I usually know what Pol is after. This time her ‘poem’ beat me. Maybe because I haven’t watched strictly come dancing. This didn’t stop me enjoying the idea of inverting the lenses and mirrors of binoculars for another ‘new perspective’.
Mick Delap & Dominic McLoughlin          feedback    2 .10. 2017