PK Featured Poet - Ted Slade
- "I love the compactness of
poetry, it's Tardis quality of being
- much bigger on the inside than it
appears on the outside." Ted Slade
- The first Featured Poet is Ted Slade,
who is the owner of the Poetry Kit and someone whos
contribution to poetry on the internet is
immeasurable. Ted also has the distinction of
posting the very first piece of post to the PK List on
26th October 2000.
- He is also, as you will see from the
pieces below, a fine poet. We are very pleased that
he has taken the time and agreed to be the first in this
- JJ Howard
- TED SLADE
- I was born in Hull in 1937, but in
1939 my parents moved to the nearby
- seaside town of Withernsea. So I spent
my early days playing happily on
- the beach, and the nights being
entertained by the sight of German
- bombers flying into the searchlights
and anti-aircraft fire over my
- birthplace. At age 11 I spent one term
at the local comprehensive, which
- I loved, then we moved back to Hull
and I got a place at the old and
- venerable Grammar School, which I
hated. From there I went to university
- in Nottingham (BSc Metallurgy), then
in 1959 to London, where I have
- lived and worked more or less ever
since. In 1976 I married Maria Teresa
- from Portugal.
- Although I was born with a severe
kyphoscoliosis my parents and teachers
- never encouraged me think of it as a
handicap, and so until 12 years ago
- I led an active working life -
technical writer, PR, journalist, market
- analyst, businessman, globe-trotter.
Then my health began to
- deteriorate. I had to slow down. For 8
years I worked as a computer
- network manager at my local
university, finally taking early retirement
- in 1997.
- I have always read and written poetry,
although for many years I binned
- all that I wrote. Only when my working
life slowed down did I begin to
- write regularly and with some purpose.
Apart from the unworldly material
- we were obliged to learn at school -
poems about highwaymen and heroic
- admirals - my first real contacts with
poetry came via T S Eliot, W H
- Auden, Dylan Thomas, Robert Frost,
Robert Lowell, Ted Hughes, Tom Gunn
- and the Beats. Then one day in Foyles
bookshop in London I picked up a
- new collection by a poet living in
Hull - Philip Larkin's "The Whitsun
- Weddings". Standing in the shop I
read the first poem. It described a
- train journey I had made many times as
a child, from my grandparents'
- home town to my home by the sea. I
recognised every detail, and it was
- then that I knew that poetry really
could be about the everyday
- experiences of everyday people like
- Today there are many influences. The
most thumbed books on my shelves
- are collections by Elizabeh Bishop and
William Carlos Williams, but
- there are many others. Most prominent
I suppose are those poets I've
- worked with in workshops - especially
Matthew Sweeney, Jo Shapcott,
- Sujata Bhatt, Katherine Gallagher. But
I'm an ecelectic reader, and the
- true list is long.
- I try to write every day. Usually it's
on some unfinished piece, or
- reworking an old poem. If I need to
start something new, then it's
- enough if I get a first line, phrase
or image. I'm a very slow writer,
- often just one or two lines a day.
These days I never start with the
- subject of a poem. I start with a seed
and see where it grows, working
- one line at a time until I think I've
finished. This means a single
- short poem can take days or weeks to
complete. It also means less
- rewriting. I hardly ever get a poem
fully formed, out of the ether.
- Why do I write poetry? One answer is
that having tried novels, short
- stories and plays, I find I can't
write anything else. The true answer
- is that I love the compactness of
poetry, it's Tardis quality of being
- much bigger on the inside than it
appears on the outside.
- The Poems:
- For years I couldn't write about my
physical deformity. Now I don't
- because I don't find it interesting.
But here's one of my efforts.
- On First Seeing Olivier's
- I wondered how he'd do it
- - how would he get that knotted mass
- of cartilage and bone to hang
- from his shoulder, dragging his spine
- into a lazy S? Which shoulder
- would he choose? Or would it be
- one of those Mr Punch jobs,
- dead centre and rising
- like a mountain peak behind his ears?
- Then there were the legs.
- How would he get those elegant pins
- - the ones he'd used in Hamlet
- and Henry V - to twist and lope,
- lose inches from the thighs?
- And would both hands be the same size?
- Or would one be shrunken and cramped,
- inadequate to the holding of swords,
- the balancing of crowns
- or the wooing of maidens?
- My schoolmates knew, of course,
- as they showed me, aping my jagged
- shape and halting gait
- when the teachers drilled us into line
- outside the Regal.
- Olivier, in the end, chickened out,
- stuffed a cushion up his tunic,
- stuck putty on his face,
- and kept the legs as neatly turned
- as ever.
- This was the first poem I ever had
published. It was written just after
- a hurricane struck South-East England,
but has echoes back to those
- war-time days.
- Wind Of War
- All night the wind screamed out its
- shaking the elms in the back field,
- rattling the tin roofs of allotment
- iron-clad warriors
- crossing the face of the moon.
- In the blacked-out house we lay
- safe in our tent of flannel
- bedsheets, woollen blankets,
- hearing the wild sounds
- as from the mountains of Titan,
- seeing only the glow
- of our own pale eyes,
- feeling the touch of warm flesh,
- the heat of close bodies,
- faintly trembling.
- In the morning all was still.
- We could see to the far horizon,
- ships of war riding the grey estuary.
- Silently we climbed upon broken elms
- strewn about the back field,
- remembering the ends of days.
- One of my favourite places in Hull was
the ferry terminal, watching the
- busy comings of goings of the old
paddle-steamers that crossed the
- Humber to god-knows where.
- Corporation Pier, Hull
- From here the ferries shuffled over
- and back, thrashed the Humber
- with the broad bats
- of their side-hung paddles.
- This is where we stood,
- rose and fell with the pier,
- observing those who came to ride
- to the pale grey line
- that was another place.
- What fools we thought them,
- sailing daily to nothing.
- "Who needs it?" we said,
- confirmed in our knowledge
- that over there was nowhere,
- over here was everywhere.
- Then one day you bought a ticket
- and rode south, one way, declared:
- "There's got to be
- First angry, I called you by an
- then within the month I'd done the
- There's a bridge does the ferrying
- while we continue to shuffle to and
- sometimes passing in the middle,
- never quite meeting,
- never once arriving on this pier
- I enjoy writing in strict forms,
making the loose structure of natural
- language flow seamlessly over a
well-defined skeleton - something I
- learned from Larkin.
- A Letter to Philip Larkin
- Just a line or two to say hello,
- I'm home again.
- Too many years of life 'down South'
- you out of kilter with this world -
- you to acceptance of self-interest,
- a disregard for family and friends.
- So here I am, back where I began
- on the edge of nowhere, not quite
- but feeling low, ready to make amends
- for years of silence, making out in
- There's not much new about arriving
- the same wide sky
- blurring to a distant, watery smear
- over a grey, slow-drifting estuary.
- There's the bridge, of course,
unmissable, a skeletal arch
- of steel: 'Bridge for the Living' you
called it, lying.
- But no more smell of fish, no ships up
- While I was skipping round the world
- of life, you watched this city's
- the trawlers gone, the docks filled
in. It waits
- now for some fresh beginning,
- a change of luck,
- anything to stop the creeping
- of a city without purpose. Coming back
- to this reminds me why I left. And yet
- you stayed, caught in this unpoetic
- and found it tolerant of verse.
- I could have found the same, become a
- no mere versifier, learned to express
- some feeling for my roots among the
- Maybe I chose the wrong pub to
- drank in the Tiger
- instead of the Duke, in the lounge
where you spent
- your lunchtimes. Would I have seemed
too young, too eager
- to interest you in my schemes? Such
are the might-have-beens
- that make us what we're not. Too late
- You're gone and all I can do is follow
- around the city streets and village
- the churches and the cemeteries, and
- my life would be if we'd shared a jar
- Best not to think of that - what
might have been.
- We are what we are.
- You said yourself there's no escape.
- as we may of flying off to some place
- from present tensions. So here I am,
- where I began, on the edge of nowhere,
- ready to rejoin the world I left
- seeing through your verse the poetry
in this bleak
- terrain. Perhaps this time I'll leave
- of what I missed, instead of flying
- Nowadays I try to escape from the
directly autobiographical. Here's a
- poem from a series I wrote about
episodes in the history of science, in
- my favourite form, the sonnet.
- The Last Testament of Giodarno
- Roast my broken body on your pyre
- and feed my guts as offal to your
- Tear out my limbs and throw them in
- and set the rats to gnaw my naked
- Show me no mercy. Gouge out my eyes.
- Rip out this tongue from which the
- that so offend you rise. And from the
- call down the crows to gorge upon my
- There are no tortures genius can
- will change the motion of the Earth.
- must always fall, so will this planet
- about the Sun. So as you listen to my
- hear them as the death-cries of your
- Think where lies the guilt of mortal
- But in the end poetry, like life, is
there to be enjoyed. Here's the
- title poem from my forthcoming
pamphlet, due from Flarestack in January
- The Last Arm Pointing
- Al said he didn't need my maps.
- "Got a tongue in my head
- ain't I - can't I ask?
- What use is a map
- when where you're at
- is nowhere?
- What use a compass to a man
- with no sense of direction?"
- So we drove on up
- into blind barren hills,
- asked the way as we went
- till we ran out of old folk,
- followed the last arm
- pointing into the wilderness,
- stopped when the road forgot
- where it was going.
- "That's the way with bloody
- Like people. Just
- when you think
- you've got them sussed
- they run out on you."
- what had we left
- but to sing our way down
- from that hill
- like a couple of aborigines
- or old Van Morrison wannabees
- until we arrived
- where the land died away
- and we danced on the sand
- to the beat of the moon and sea?
- "So who needs your maps!?"
- as he swung Darcy Bussell
- into a brisk pas-de-deux.