Today, I am delighted to welcome author and poet, Geoff Le Pard to Writing to be Read as my “Treasuring Poetry” guest for October.
Geoff is sharing some interesting information about his favourite poem and poetry and I am sharing my review of Geoff’s inaugural poetry book, The Sincerest Form of Poetry.
My favourite poem
Of course, everyone will say this is impossible, there are too many and that is true. But put on the spot I will plump for High Flight by John Gillespie Magee. You may not have heard of Magee and that’s probably because he was killed in WW2 in 1941 aged 21. I suppose I am drawn to the poignant and the powerful, having enjoyed the WW1 poets, if that’s the right word – Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon et al – from when I was introduced to them. There’s something raw about the emotions they carve out of a few lines, often the passion or despair that, because it is coming from someone so young, who is probably experiencing such exhilaration for the first time it is clean and honest and timeless.
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air . . .
Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or ever eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
This is a paean to the excitement of flight, of the sense of rapture and wonder that being alone in the cloud-smudged skies gives him. His freedom. Battle of Britain pilots had a very short life expectancy which he would have known. He would have sat waiting for the call, to scramble. He would have taken to the air full of fear and adrenaline, seen his friends and colleagues blasted out of the sky and felt relieved and guilty that he was glad it wasn’t him and desperate that it was them. I can imagine the intensity of the Mess, the quiet voices, the unspoken terrors, the shared desperation that being on the ground forced him to confront. And even though taking to the air meant an almost inevitable appointment with death, it also took him away from the mundane realities of life as a pilot. He could give rein to the child he still was, tumbling, living, on the edge, but to the full. Every sense heightened, every nerve and sinew stretched to the max. Those images would be burned, seared into his imagination. And once again he’d return, be a man, debrief the day, go through the appalling motions of paying his respects and yet, for the sake of his own sanity not really engaging in the awfulness of the loss, of what his friends’ families and loved ones would be going through and knowing that these moments could be his soon enough. So he losses himself in a sonnet that captures those few moments of true freedom when death, like the ME109 behind him is breathing down his neck. I admit I have no faith, a happy committed and convinced atheist, but even I can understand his last sentiment, in those moments, in that bounteous, beautiful firmament when he can feel he is so near his Maker, so enraptured by His creation that he can touch it.
I have never experienced war but my parents did and I can put my poetry-loving father in that plane and imagine him finding the same extraordinary inspiration that Magee found. And it’s a sonnet, too, the perfect format for this love poem, a love of life, a love of the person to whom he is writing, a love of what it is just to be, to be in the moment and breath and take in something of the wonder of being alive and aware.
I have goosebumps every time I read this as I’m there in that plane, not sure if I’m about to be ripped apart by some egregious unnecessary act of slaughter, yet, just then I’m like him, delirious with the gift I’ve been given to be alive.
My favourite poet
Again it is an almost impossible question. There are those, like Magee who wrote the one poem and while that is delightful, I think we must consider a poet with a proper oeuvre and decide across several examples. So who I am drawn to and who uniformly triggers in me the delight response? Some poets have been so prolific that they almost count themselves out by failing to maintain a uniform appeal – I can’t fault their quality. I’d include Wordsworth, Kipling, Thomas and Duffey in that list.
So, I’m going to default to the poet whose poetry collections I’ve amassed more than any other: Roger McGough. I was first aware of McGough in 1975 when I went to University and a friend took me to my first poetry slam, of Liverpool poets. McGough read from his book ‘Sporting Relations’ and I laughed and was hooked. Since then I’ve read so many and been struck by the combination of off-beat humour, much like my own, his quirky punning, again which I do a lot and his oblique view of the human condition. If Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett, whose novels I absorb like nectar wrote poetry, then McGough might be their inspiration.
This one, from Sporting Relations is a case in point. Read out loud there’s some simple humour but it is when you see it, realise it’s also playing on the absurdities of English spelling that the poet’s visualization becomes clear. And you still have the last line of punning word play with ‘grass’. Simple, effective, accessible and fun. That’s the sort of poetry I aspire to write.
Cousin Angelina owned a yacht
And smoked pacht a lacht.
So when things got haght,
Away sailed Angelina (so regal)
To where the grass was greener (and legal)
Thank you, Geoff, for visiting here today and sharing these thoughts and poems.
Review of The Sincerest Form of Poetry
I know Geoff Le Pard as an author of hilarious books that frequently poke fun, in the tongue-in-cheek way of the British, at many of the situations and achievements we humans hold the most dear during the course of our short lives. I am a big fan of this type of humour and have enjoyed several Geoff’s short stories and pieces of flash fiction. Geoff’s writing has another side to it, a more serious and family orientated side which also comes through in some of his books and writing.
The unusual book of poetry by Geoff Le Pard is his inaugural poetry book and is a mix of these two sides of his writing. The poems forming the first part of this books are a hilariously slapstick take-off of the works of many famous English poets. The poet has reproduced the exact tempo and rhythm of the original poem, replacing the original wording with his own amusing poetic descriptions of topical events and circumstances.
My favourite of these poems was the very first one in the book, which is based on one of my favourite poems, The Listeners by Walter de la Mare. The Listeners tells the story of an unnamed traveler who approaches an abandoned house which seems to be occupied by ghosts. In Le Pard’s version, the public toilet is held up for discussion and probing commentary. Here is an extract from The Relief of Waterloo:
“Is there anybody there, said the traveller
To open up this loo?
It’s surely wrong that one must pay,
For our numbers one and two.
It’s not a function of the state
To limit where I go.
My body ain’t so politic
But it has some rights, you know.”
The second part of the book is devoted to sonnets which generally have a more sophisticated and serious flavour. One of my favourite poems in this second part is The Hand That Guides. Here are a few lines to give you a sense of the poet’s sonnets:
“I continually try to do it my way,
To give into weakness of flesh and of soul
But you hold my love tight, I cannot stray
And we remain linked, two parts of one whole.”
If you enjoy poetry, in all its varying shapes and forms, you should not miss out on this collection.
Purchase The Sincerest Form of Poetry
About Geoff Le Pard
Geoff Le Pard (not Geoffrey, except to his mother) was born in 1956 and is a lawyer who saw the light. He started writing (creatively) in 2006 following a summer school course. Being a course junkie he had spells at Birkbeck College, twice at Arvon and most recently at Sheffield Hallam where he achieved an MA in Creative Writing. And what did he learn? That they are great fun, you meet wonderful people but the best lessons come from the unexpected places. He has a line of books waiting to be published but it has taken until now to find the courage to go live. He blogs at https://geofflepard.com/ on anything and everything. His aim is for each novel to be in a different style and genre. Most people have been nice about his writing (though when his brother’s dog peed on the manuscript he was editing, he did wonder) but he knows the skill is in seeking and accepting criticism. His career in the law has helped prepare him.
About Robbie Cheadle
Hello, my name is Robbie, short for Roberta. I am an author with seven published children’s picture books in the Sir Chocolate books series for children aged 2 to 9 years old (co-authored with my son, Michael Cheadle), one published middle grade book in the Silly Willy series and one published preteen/young adult fictionalised biography about my mother’s life as a young girl growing up in an English town in Suffolk during World War II called While the Bombs Fell (co-authored with my mother, Elsie Hancy Eaton). All of my children’s book are written under Robbie Cheadle and are published by TSL Publications.
I have recently branched into adult and young adult horror and supernatural writing and, in order to clearly differential my children’s books from my adult writing, I plan to publish these books under Roberta Eaton Cheadle. My first supernatural book published in that name, Through the Nethergate, is now available.
I have participated in a number of anthologies:
- Two short stories in Amazon horror anthology, Spellbound, compiled by Dan Alatorre;
- Two short stories in #1 Amazon bestselling horror anthology, Dark Visions, and three short stories in #1 Amazon bestselling horror anthology, Nightmareland, both edited by Dan Alatorre;
- Three short stories in Death Among Us, an anthology of murder mystery stories, edited by Stephen Bentley; and
- Two short stories in Whispers of the Past, an anthology of paranormal stories, edited by Kaye Lynne Booth.
I also have a book of poetry called Open a new door, with fellow South African poet, Kim Blades.
Find Robbie Cheadle
Instagram: Robbie Cheadle – Instagram
Facebook: Sir Chocolate Books
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