Monday, 29 August 2011

Tailormade Poems kick off!

Last Wednesday saw the real launch of Tailormade Poems, which I know I've already blathered about to some length but we wanted to go tah dah! and have an excuse for some fancy coffee and delicious cake.

And because we're just a small affair with a low profile (for now) we thought the best place for such things was the Music Room in Lancaster, a spin-off from the coffee merchants, Atkinsons. So all good and delicious.

You may remember from the invite in a previous post, we asked for commissions to write for the launch. Lovely that people took it upon themselves to get us busy... I was asked to write one for a friend on the event of Arsenal's Champions League qualifier, fro his Arsenal watching buddy. Yes, a football match. Yes, for Arsenal. I know little about football. Even less about Arsenal. Not so by 4pm Wednesday 24th August.

Nerve-wracking to read such new poems - the second one I read was one I was commissioned to write for a Munroist - who had just finished them last week after 19 years of walking up and down them... But they seemed to go down well, so I thought I'd share the Arsenal one here. It's not a work from great depth, but then that wasn't the brief. I was asked to write a poem that voiced the 'brotherhood of suffering', that 'it has come to this', which is what I tried to do.

I like writing in this very different style to my usual work. I think it's a very helpful conterbalance: the need for a clear through-line, consequential narrative and simple, cohesive imagery. And there is something hugely rewarding writing stuff for people for particular occasions, directly to them. And those people seem to like it too.

Arsenal v Udinese, Champions League Qualifier, 2011
for Nick

Whole lives can begin again in August,
when ninety minutes promise to repay our loyalty —

despite not winning a trophy for six years;
despite last year looking like we were in line for all four big ones;
despite drawing four all to Newcastle
when we were four nil up with half an hour to go.

Even you, with that half hour to go, almost relaxed.
Now nothing is secure: I've joined you on the edge,
exchanged my sofa for a nail bed.

I've terminated my Red Membership
but can't shake my commitment to the brotherhood of suffering.
I'm on a waiting list for a waiting list to sign up to Lancaster City
but —

tonight's Champions League qualifier is on terrestrial.
For once we won't be watching together.
Plenty will be: we're everyone's second favourite team.

But three weeks in and we're looking worse and worse:
we've lost our two best players;
three defenders injured; three more disciplined.

Our collapse continues, and I cannot distinguish
between we and I. Our spirit, my emotion.

Fabregas and Nasri can walk away
for something like £160000 a week each —
the rest of us can't transfer our allegiances so easily.

We're suckered in, abused
by the monstrosity football has become.
I am an idiot. We're both tense, anxious idiots.
We're all idiots together.
And together, apart, we'll watch the game tonight, hoping
against hope, as we always have done.
As we always will.

footnote: Arsenal won 2-1
Last night I didn't write a poem for their subsequent match. They lost 8-2 to Man U.
Arsne Wenger... a poem's not expensive

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