Featured Poet - Christopher T. George
"I think poetry is a medium that can help us touch the beauty and tragedy in the world as well as realise certain truths about ourselves and the world around us." - Christopher T. George
When I was asked to edit an anthology of poetry containing work from poets
influenced by the City of
Featured Poet 18 - Christopher T. George
Tell us something about yourself.
My poetry has been published on
both sides of the
How/when did you start writing?
Before I left
How do you write? Do you have any particular method for writing?
No, the writing comes by inspiration, by experience and through the extensive reading that I do. So I don't have a regular regimen that some writers say they have, get up, do two hours of writing at the same desk etc. Since I have a full time job and am involved in all types of historical and other writing, I fit in the creative writing where I can.
Do you make much use of the internet?
Yes! I make extensive use of the Internet for communication and research, also for tuning into writing workshops. As you know, I am editor of the site Desert Moon Review. I probably owe my present writing career to the Internet, and certainly many of the contacts that I have made in writing and history circles have come through the Web.
I think poetry is a medium that can help us touch the beauty and tragedy in the world as well as realise certain truths about ourselves and the world around us.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
In regard to getting published, just keep writing. It will happen. If you get a rejection letter from an editor, don't take it personally and at all costs keep writing.
I admire my friend Guy Kettlehack's expressed philosophy, that if you don't put great store in the results, and just keep plugging away, you'll get there.
Guy says, "Just love writing the stuff, is my main thing. . . take enough joy in PLAY and you won't care who's watching. . . . Dominoes you didn't realize you'd set up start to fall."
In other words, do submit your work but don't take the rejections to heart, just keep at it, and enjoy what you are doing!
Finally, Chris, I have read and watched your sequence of Father O’Malley poems, of which "His Father's Funeral" is an example, grow and develop. Would you like to tell us about your thinking behind the sequence?
His Father's Funeral
Home from his mission to attend the funeral,
O'Malley sits in the funeral car; his mass kit
jiggles on his knee. The lanes near
sodden with summer rain, just as he remembered.
People stand on the curbside as they pass, the Rolls
bumping along after the hearse. "Nice to see
that Dad was so cared about," O'Malley remarks.
"Dad's been gone so long, as if he'd gone
to another room," his sister Colleen sniffs.
"A richer conveyance than Da' ever rode in life!"
As he speaks, she twists a lace handkerchief.
Mam's face hidden behind her black veil.
The worn black Italian leather case bounces,
surface blotched with dampness from the jungle.
Clinking of chalice, votive glass candlesticks,
the wine bottle, the host box, 60-host capacity.
The limousine scrunches on churchyard gravel.
Businesslike, he draws out his purple silk stole.
"We'll see the old fella has a good
he smiles as swans rise from a lake into the sky.
A cycle of Father O’Malley poems appeared in Crescent Moon Journal in Summer 2004.
Let me say up front that I am not a Catholic or even a
churchgoer, and that I was brought up in a household in
First, although I had been brought up in an English
Protestant family, on my re-emigration to the
On graduation from
I hope that helps to explain the Catholic and Latin American aspects of the O’Malley series. So what about the Irish element?
In September 1992, when I was researching a book on the War
of 1812 between
Parallel to my interest in
The ancient peoples of the
Reading the prose of the British master Graham Greene,
many of whose novels are set in the tropics, I began to conceive of a series of
poems set in an impoverished land and featuring Father O’Malley, a priest
Greene’s novels, although the characters and places are often fictional,
the circumstances are real. Thus, O’Malley labors in an
Indian village at a bend of the Rio Chuckwalla, and has to work along with the
members of the oligarchy, headed by the president, General Madragal, a man
reminiscent of Juan Peron, and with Archbishop Costa, a man who loves Elvis
Presley along with Christ, and Mother Superior Rosario, who in her young days
was Miss Los Petos, 1948. It is a poor land beset by civil war waged by
the guerrillas of the September Moon insurgents led by Commissar Delgado.
O’Malley himself is scarred by his experiences in his adopted
land—scarred like the worn black Italian leather case of his mass kit as
it bounces, “surface blotched with dampness from the jungle” in the
funeral car on the way to his dad’s funeral in
I am proud to have been able to bring Father O’Malley and his world to life. I would like to think that readers of the O’Malley cycle will agree with the words of Crescent Moon Journal editor, Mustansir Dalvi, in introducing the series of poems in the Summer 2004 contest issue. Mustansir wrote: “We, at the Desert Moon were witnesses to their development, and now ‘the imperfect martyr’ Father O’Malley of Rio Chuckwalla, at the edge of the Mestite jungle, is flesh and blood, not mere words.”
"Naturally, after a career. . . which spans more than forty years, Redgrave knows something about entrances, exits, and costuming" - The New Yorker, June 27, 2005
For weeks now, I've monitored the trackside
on my rail trek from Baltimore to Washington
to see when the orange trumpet vines burst
into bloom. And now summer heat has zinged
the Bay area, here they are! Growing lushest
in stinky places, processing plant, underpass.
Actresses of common roots! Gorgeous dames
who trip their finery in trackside dumps!
I'll forgive as one smiles as she throttles
a purple clematis. Miss Marple's revenge!
I have been working for the last five years as a medical editor in
The Griot of
By ember-light in an acacia clearing, she hums
an Afro-Cuban lullaby as faces watch in shadow:
blood red Caribs, Conquistadors, Communistas.
Dawn at Gitmo: a parched crescent is lapped by
of chain-link garnished with razor wire.
No longer just sailor accents of Flatbush or
now the guttural of
of captives in prison orange in wire cages.
She claps in time to gourd rattle, calfskin
drum. She's a news-bringer, praise-singer,
carrying scars for her murdered son.
Ghost guerillas move in the shadows;
chamber click, snake hiss, panther snarl.
Patiently, the griot blows on the embers,
to illumine the future. Underbrush rustles.
A spirit conflagration sets fire to the night
This poem does what I try to do a lot in my poems, bring in a sense of the history and a view of some tragedy of mankind. I have been struck for some time by the kind of out-of-time nature of
The Ghosts of
The old farmer takes us to a temple splashed
with magenta bougainvillea; a carving shows
a royal horse trampling a king's unfaithful
wife to death. Below, a saronged woman
offers rice and plum wine to the dead.
A ruined school is now a shrine stacked
with skulls rescued from the fields;
offerings of fruit and cups of water sit
in the door. He says, "Where the skulls lay
in the fields, they became soft and smelly.
"The water buffalo began to eat them.
If we hadn't gone and collected them,
the buffalo might have eaten them all.
"Nightly, the spirits of the dead startle
us as they call out, 'Bring us water,
it's so hot and crowded in here!'
Still their spirits cry out, taunt us."
The core subject matter for this
poem is the atrocities carried out in
I wrote the poem after reading an article in the Washington, D.C. Examiner about how the skulls from Pol Pot regime's victims were put in a ruined school by local policemen near Tonle Bati Lake. I later researched on the Web and discovered that there are
Walking to Hilbre
Grandad, you wake forgetting
that we ever walked to Hilbre,
the sand ridges hard under our bare soles,
the advancing tide filling the valleys.
When we reached the sandstone island, we ate
tongue paste Hovis sandwiches, crusts trimmed
by Nanna, thermos coffee, her dark date loaf, but
all now forgotten by you. Your gold puzzle ring glints
in the morning sun. A sandfly annoys
the diamond panes of the leadlight window.
Oh, but now I am being forgetful: a plain
picture window now, the preference
of new wife, Olive. And I'm that fly
attacking the glass. My complex eye
sees everything and nothing.
I run through the waves
trying to reach you; the tide
of memory keeps us apart.
Appeared in the poetry(WORM) 29. About my childhood in Liverpool, looking back on my grandfather, and referencing a place that is close to my heart,
Grandma Potts Had an Unmarked Grave
Every week, Nanna and I would board a green
Corpy bus for the ride to
We'd get off in Garston by the swimming baths.
She held my hand as we walked to the graveyard.
We insert the posy of anemones in the jam jar
on the grassy grave of the lady I never knew.
Hubby died in a fall down the ship's ladder,
her daughters sent to the seamen's orphanage.
Black wooden box in the cupboard with Nanna's
worldly possessions: "Sara Elizabeth Potts"
stenciled in white on the side. Tomorrow's
aunts' day*we'll visit Nanna's sisters,
two more bus journeys, a green Crossville bus,
a red Ribble bus. I count the red motor cars,
our allies in the make-believe war I fight.
A cold ham salad waits for us at Auntie Mary's.
Appeared in Triplopia. Another poem about my
You desired to make me your receptacle
for all you knew. No child of your own,
you meant to pass to me your lifetime's
knowledge of history, flora, and fauna.
So you introduced to me by its Latin name,
a rare speckled orchid on St. Aldhelm's Head,
by the side of the hermit's ruined chapel.
Named the swirling birds, cormorants, auks,
as we hiked along Beeny Cliff, the waters
below us twinkling with a million suns.
You prepared the strains of knowledge
like skeins of wool at a spinning wheel,
sheep's wool caught in clifftop barbed wire.
We slid down the shale to
seeking fossil ammonites and trilobites,
the world's wisdom in a raptosaur's tooth.
This poem is about my uncle, Douglas Matchett, who had a great deal to do with engendering my love of history as well as flora and fauna. The poem appeared in poetry (WORM) 31.
Even after all these years, the women are still screaming,
fingers transmuted into sausages or sardines
that won't stop the babies from falling.
Body parts mix with those of bull and stallion:
eyes flared, hooves, horns, teeth, faces ripped in two.
The bellows of animals become human.
Here I try to say something new about Picasso's famous painting, and perhaps make a statement about the timeless nature of war's agony. The poem won second prize in the IBPC competition in April 2003 and appeared in the poetry(WORM) 20
The Monkey on the Terra Cotta Patio
scrambles for peanuts thrown by the old poet.
She sits on her purple haunches, gnawing a nut;
pieces of husk rain onto the red tiles.
The poet sits amused in the sun, a blanket
on his knees, an intricately carved cane by
his side, if he cares to walk, but he does not.
Scents of honeysuckle and gardenia play
in his nostrils. Snow-white peonies
avalanche over the red-tiled walk;
the sun glints in water spewing from
a bronze fountain and on a cherub's cheek.
Beautiful enough to write about, if he still
wrote, if anyone remembers his verse. Once
he was a performing monkey too, dancing
to an organ grinder's calliope, wrote novels
that entertained a certain audience, made a mark
on the New York Times best sellers list.
The honeysuckle is interwoven with poison ivy,
but the hospital staff don't seem to care.
The monkey scratches herself, looks sideways
with expectant eyes at her old companion, whose
still hand rests in the crumpled bag of peanuts.
This one perhaps says something about the transitory nature of this writing life!