Poem of the North 3.3

There are, of course, many ways of dealing with the breaks after the 8th and 10th lines imposed by the 8-2-1 brief given to Poem of the North contributors, but I think there’s a case to be made that prolific poet, biographer, and founder of Rack Press,  Nicholas Murray has used the form as well as any. The shifts in tone from the light (but sharply focussed) nostalgia of the first eight lines to the darker self-knowledge of the couplet, and the sardonic twist of the final short line, are finely-tuned and compelling.

I don’t think I realised until writing about it now, how closely my own piece shadows (however palely) the form and tone of Nicholas’s. I’ve struggled before, as I think I’ve mentioned, with how to render the cadences and linguistic differences from standard English of regional varieties without it seeming inadvertantly comic, but here I felt liberated to ‘go for it’ because it’s intentionally exaggerated, although hopefully with a jagged (or jiggered?) undertow.

I was tempted to provide a glossary, but hopefully there’s no real need. If there are any dialect words or meanings you’re unsure of – well, these days you can look them up online more-or-less like any other word (though be careful to read past the first paragraph of the Wikipedia entry for ‘teacake’ if you wind up there). You may want to check on back-to-backs, though. The narrator of Jigger seems to me to have voiced a common misconception that they are terraces with their back yards opposite each other across an alley/jigger/ginnel/jennel and so on (take your regional pick). If I’ve misunderstood, well never mind – it’s provided a bit of grist to my poetic mill.

We kicked on doors an’ all on mischief neight,
burrit were ginnels that we scarpered dewn
at ‘ends o’ terraces. Back-to-backs ‘ad long sin’
bin teared dewn, but they din’t have nor yards
any road up: they cou’n’t ‘ave, cos, well —
they were back-to-back, tha daft ‘aporth!
An’ did yer all scoff spice while yer were laikin’,
‘before havin’ butties in ‘teacakes yer mums were bakin’?

Nay. O’ course yer din’t. But that’s not right.
A rose, by any other name, and all of that.

Our word games turn  so easily     to spite.

(I suspect I may be the daft ‘aporth, though, with a ‘volta’ whose ambition o’er reaches itself and falls on the other side…

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