Minotaur – how a poem becomes a poem

A minotaur
I’ve been putting my poems, as they come, onto my Facebook page, and the one that has caught a lot of attention recently, is my latest sonnet ‘minotaur’.

Where do poems come from? It’s a mysterious business, as any artist will tell you. I described my poems recently [tongue slightly in cheek] as a journey though my conscious and unconscious minds, and I also referred to what Beryl Bainbrigge [of blessed memory] said when someone asked her what she wrote about. Her answer was succinct, rather like her novels, ’What everybody writes about, of course, death and sex.’

I felt very bruised last week, sensitive soul that I am, by the mutilation that a neighbour carried out on their front garden, dragging out beautiful, though untidy, flowering plants and chopping back an ancient rhododendron to within an inch of its life. It felt like an assault on life and living things, by someone who did not understand their beauty and their essential messiness.

As I write this little piece, weed-killer and concrete are being applied liberally to finish the job, and garden off, properly!!

I went off for a couple of days in London wondering how I was going to write about this assault, suspecting that this would be a better way of dealing with it than trying to get help from Victim Support. ‘Well, no, I wasn’t actually mugged, but there’s a garden in my road that has been.’

I thought about it all weekend, as we walked around the Saatchi Gallery and the Royal Academy, and then the next day off to the Barbican for a surrealism exhibition. All the usual suspects were there, Magritte and Dali, with some Joseph Cornell, Bourgeois et al. And there in a room in the gallery in a glass case, were some magazines with pictures of the monster from classical myth, The Minotaur, half man, half bull and trapped in a labyrinth or maze.

There was an almost audible ping in my brain….PING!! And I realised that I had got my image, my idea. Here follows the poem, half-written sitting on a bench at Kings Cross, and finished in my office at home. It’s in the first person, so that I could inhabit the head [an uncomfortable experience] of my character and write from his/or her perspective.


I love this dark, each granite twist and turn,
Long since gave up meadows for this maze,
And if at times for company I yearn,
There are those poor, lost ones on whom I graze.
I do not miss the sun, the burnished air,
My knotted heart cannot conceive of love,
I have taught myself to be happy here,
Not pine for, or miss, the world above.
But sometimes as I wander through these halls,
A green breath of spring can seep below,
I shrink, my horns scrape useless on these walls,
Against my will let out a muted low,
Then snort and bellow, toss my bullish head,
I hate such signs of hope. I wish them dead.

© James Nash 2010

A writing holiday in Wales, and new friends

Caerleon Collge
I went down to South Wales from Yorkshire in the last week of July to give a talk in Caerleon about my life and work as a writer, as part of Anne and Gerry Hobbs’ wonderful ‘Writer Holidays’ (www.writersholiday.net).

It was one of those train journeys across the heart and belly of England and on into South Wales which always make me think of those lines from Philip Larkin’s great poem ‘Whitsun Weddings’,

‘All afternoon, through the tall heat that slept
For miles inland,
A slow and stopping curve southward we kept’

And then I arrived in Newport, and took a taxi to the atmospheric, stone-built Caerleon College, which has its own ghost and everything. The first person I came across, literally as I climbed out of my cab, was my lovely friend Lynn Hackles, and all the childlike worries I’d had, about being lonely and on my own, disappeared. In fact once I had met the fabulously eclectic mixture of writers, all there to run or take part in workshops, to listen to the guest speakers, and just re-charge their writing batteries, I felt completely at home.

I gave my talk, which seemed to go well. Phew!! And then in the evening sat with my new friends to listen to the Cwmbach Male Choir sing all those songs that were played in our house every Sunday morning by my Welsh Dad. I had to keep rubbing my eyes. Must have been hay-fever.