To think that one agonises for weeks or months over what will be read or recited in a moment. A poet can but hope it is the sweetest moment in a reader’s life, echoing in his soul for a lifetime thereafter.
Buzzards, Swallows and Swifts
It is high summer in South Africa, and buzzards are a frequent sight—solitary raptors perched on posts at the waysides. Some take flight at the slightest disturbance, but others are unhindered, stilly surveying the scene.
There are also swallows and swifts on the wing, low over the fields and dirt roads. Whilst the buzzard gazes intently at the grasses below, they feed on flying insects—a spectacle for any who will stop to admire it.
It is sights such as these that compel me to labour at poetry in its traditional sense, to assemble rhyming stanzas that delight in the rural scenes about me—compositions as joyful and simple as the countryside they extol.
Writing Steady and Slow
That said, this month past, I have done little writing, using the time to rest and reflect upon my progress in poetic and professional life. In both, I have become convinced that a qualitative approach suits me best.
Therefore, I shall continue my current pace, taking as much time as my compositions require. In this anthology, there are nine unfinished sketches, excluding the “Little Evening Lily” set I am currently developing.
If, as is typically the case, I spend a month on a poem, that should see the compositional part of the anthology completed by the end of the year. I shall then spend a few months more preparing for its publication.
I continue to work on the “Little Evening Lily” poems as summer comes to South Africa. The lily in question has disappeared from the hillsides, but other wild flowers have taken its place. Among them is Cyanella hyacinthoides, its purple petal cuffs and golden stamen gloves earning it the common name Lady’s Hands. They add specks of colour to the waysides which grow ever paler with dry wild grass.
Four separate poems are emerging from the “Little Evening Lily” sketch. They are variations on the same theme, born from the many stanza experiments whilst developing the composition.
It should come as no surprise that there is such an outpouring of verse on the subject—the lily in question, Gladiolus liliaceus, is my favourite flower1—but, I am nonetheless amazed.
I am also intimidated, as I wonder whether the four poems will be worthy of their subject, and frustrated, as this further delays the anthology’s completion (likely by four months, given my pace)2.
- If I might do a little introspection: I associate Gladiolus liliaceus with the joy of my mother in spring (September to November in my country, South Africa) when it appears in the wild. Moreover, it evokes the happiest time of my childhood at age eight and nine in the Babilonstoring Valley—of which I have written before in “This September”, “This October”, “This November” and “A Return to the Valley”—when I recall her displaying the lilies on the kitchen table of the little labourer’s cottage we inhabited at the time, its intoxicating fragrance filling the room at night.
- I typically spend a month on a poem.