The 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 who’s 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 series.
JJ Howard
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 me.
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 Richard III
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 pain,
shaking the elms in the back field,
rattling the tin roofs of allotment sheds,
iron-clad warriors
crossing the face of the moon.
In the blacked-out house we lay entwined,
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 there
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 something."
First angry, I called you by an unfamiliar name;
then within the month I'd done the same.
There's a bridge does the ferrying now,
while we continue to shuffle to and fro,
sometimes passing in the middle,
never quite meeting,
never once arriving on this pier together.
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' can throw
you out of kilter with this world - resign
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 depressed
but feeling low, ready to make amends
for years of silence, making out in London.
There's not much new about arriving here -
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 streets.
While I was skipping round the world in search
of life, you watched this city's dying,
the trawlers gone, the docks filled in. It waits
now for some fresh beginning, resurrection,
a change of luck,
anything to stop the creeping dereliction
of a city without purpose. Coming back
to this reminds me why I left. And yet
you stayed, caught in this unpoetic place
and found it tolerant of verse. Perhaps
I could have found the same, become a poet,
no mere versifier, learned to express
some feeling for my roots among the back-to-backs.
Maybe I chose the wrong pub to frequent -
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 now.
You're gone and all I can do is follow your trail
around the city streets and village greens,
the churches and the cemeteries, and wonder how
my life would be if we'd shared a jar of ale.
 Best not to think of that - what might have been.
We are what we are.
You said yourself there's no escape. Dream
as we may of flying off to some place far
from present tensions. So here I am, back
where I began, on the edge of nowhere,
ready to rejoin the world I left behind,
seeing through your verse the poetry in this bleak
terrain. Perhaps this time I'll leave aware
of what I missed, instead of flying blind.
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 Bruno
Roast my broken body on your pyre
and feed my guts as offal to your hounds.
Tear out my limbs and throw them in the mire
and set the rats to gnaw my naked wounds.
Show me no mercy. Gouge out my eyes.
Rip out this tongue from which the sounds
that so offend you rise. And from the skies
call down the crows to gorge upon my bones.
There are no tortures genius can devise
will change the motion of the Earth. As stones
must always fall, so will this planet spin
about the Sun. So as you listen to my groans,
hear them as the death-cries of your doctrine.
Think where lies the guilt of mortal sin.
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 roads.
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!?" cried Al,
as he swung Darcy Bussell
into a brisk pas-de-deux.