These are linked poems created week by week for a year, inspired by the book No Choice But To Follow, and the poets therein who did it first.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

October #4

Diagrams in Felt-Tipped Pen

Or in pencil. Or biro.
Sometimes even fountain-pen —
we used them then, and my parents
gave me a slim one for my twelfth birthday.
The felt tips, of course, came quite a lot later.

But I never lost the habit,
starting in school exercise books.
'You're a great old doodler, aren't you?'
one English teacher said — but tolerantly.
I was always top of the class in English, after all.

It was an aid to thinking.
Don't ask me how that could be;
I only know it worked for me. Between
taking notes, I filled the corners of the pages
with close, elaborate, complex, abstract shapes.

Nothing recognisable —
not at all realist, nor naturalist.
It was all geometric: endless variations
of triangles, rectangles, diamonds, squares,
tempered by circles and coils, arcs and undulations.

After creating the outline
I might then decide on sections
to fill in solid, painstakingly making
new patterns in the old traditional shapes.
Each pattern piece was tiny; the whole, intricate.

When Rorschach tests became
the latest whizz-bang thing, back in
the seventies, some of my (ahem!) friends
wondered aloud what my doodles might reveal
and made rude, amused speculations, with guffaws.

By then, I was doodling upon
telephone message pads, train tickets,
restaurant menus, as well as my own journals
and the edges of any letters I still wrote by hand —
the ones to elderly relatives, who still thought that polite.

Those who knew me well
came to accept this eccentricity.
They seldom even remarked on it any more.
I decided it had to do with the pattern-making urge
and therefore, I supposed, not inappropriate for a poet.

Then the whole world changed.
Now I write emails on computer, make poems
on my iPad, jot down the shopping lists on my phone.
We text each other details we need to remember. No place
for proliferating diagrams in felt-tipped or any other kind of pen.

— Rosemary Nissen-Wade


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