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My Favourite Planet > Blogs > Edwin Drood's Column > Bird under water
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While the Drood's away at Edwin Drood's Column
Bird under water

A selection of poems by Hugh Featherstone

Hugh Feathersone, known primarily as a songwriter and musician, is also a prodigious author of poetry which has delighted audiences and friends for many years. He has kindly granted My Favourite Planet permission for the first ever online publication of a selection of his poems.

Poems from this selection are published by My Favourite Planet Blogs during periods when our
regular blogger, The Mysterious Edwin Drood, takes one of his occasional breaks, in the section
"While the Drood's away..."



Contents


  Foreword by Hugh Featherstone


  Linked list of poems already online


Foreword

I’ve written poems as well as songs for almost as long as I can remember. The two don’t mix at all. They are very different processes, subject to very different rules. My songs tend to spring more-or-less fully formed from the brow of the goddess. Just a little bit of brushing-up: change a word or two, insert a middle eight before the second refrain and Roberto is your mother’s brother.

However, the poems are contrary and downright awkward at times. No matter how inspired I might feel in the instant of creation, I come back again and again to edit and review, making finer adjustments each time. Thus they absorb enormous amounts of energy and care, far beyond any literary justification and certainly far beyond the needs of a posterity for which I have precious little regard. Yet I rephrase the same passage a dozen times, polishing, burnishing, cropping and peeling it back to its roots until the rhythm flows just as it should, the language sits exactly right and the verse delivers whatever dose of truth I feel it should ... at least to me. For when I speak of an “audience of one” in “Mr Heaney’s pen”, I’m referring more to myself than to some other real or ideal lector.

My verse is unfashionably formal. “By any other name” is in sonnet form and many of the others – in particular “Nicky’s window”, “Bread on water”, “Sofia Central”, “The water stone”, “The prodigals return”, “The Ethiopian”, “The inheritors” – are strict in their respect for rhyme and metre. “The inheritors” is textbook neo-formalism, although I have never read anything, anywhere with such a 6 – 6 – 7 – 5 – 5 iambic footprint to every verse, while “The water stone” is a work of pure neo-classicism, right down to the way it winks at Donne and Milton in its use of images and significant (ergo capitalized) metaphysical nouns. It even boasts an introduction in the best rhetorical tradition, which I chose not to include here.

Concerning anything that may seem obscure: “On falling into Casablanca ...” of course refers to the film. “By any other name” should send you running to your Shakespeare. For “Arnheim at the Tate” consult the works of René Magritte. “The Beeching Report” concerns the unforeseen effects on my childhood of a government White-Paper that heralded the closure of Britain’s branch-line railways in the 1960s. If “The prodigals return” reminds you of the first stanza of “Winkin, Blinkin and Nod”, this is not an accident. “Wire” and “The inheritors” are both about the existential fears inherent to life in Belgium in the late 1990s: “Wire” referring to the pervasive sense of paranoia surrounding the Dutroux case, while “The inheritors” deals with the limits of compromise as a political panacea and the limits of apathy as a form of resistance. To understand the phrase “the pallid empire of the meek” I suggest Matthew, chapter 5, verse 5.

My heartfelt thanks go to my other “audience of one”, Bahiyyih Nakhjavani, who patiently read, minutely commented and even, to my great delight, actually enjoyed this entirely gratuitous task. She has been an encouragement and an inspiration throughout, teasing out those finer skeins from the mounds of wet wool left lying in the corners of my life after years of habitual gathering from fences and hedgerows. Thanks also, belatedly, to my dear mother, who commented most of these verses in their raw state back in 1999. Her advice was not ignored, as a mother’s advice so often is. It generally saved me from my meandering self and brought me back to the essentials.

I have used “Mr Heaney’s pen” and “Of love and language” as bookends. The former as it serves to set the tone, and the latter as there is not much that could possibly come after it.

Hugh Featherstone, November 2012


You can read the lyrics of many of Hugh's songs at www.featherstone.co.nr
Poems already online
Title Date published on
My Favourite Planet Blogs
Mr Heany's pen 27 November 2012
From Arcadia to Academe 25 December 2012
On falling into Casablanca by accident 29 January 2013
Nicky's window 5 March 2013
By any other name, II, IV 1 April 2013
Lounge piano 23 April 2013
Small world 18 June 2013
The Beeching Report 16 July 2013
Bread on water 30 July 2013
Arnheim at the Tate 20 August 2013
Sofia Central 1 October 2013
Legend of the turf 22 October 2013
Word processes 4 February 2014
The water stone, IV 4 March 2014
The prodigals return 18 March 2014
The Ethiopian 9 July 2014
Erosion 7 October 2014
Waiting 10 February 2015
Wire 23 June 2015
The inheritors 24 September 2015
Owls 15 December 2015
Daughter, my heart 23 February 2016
Jeep 12 April 2016
Aerial fish 26 April 2016
Of love and language 10 May 2016
 
Poems and foreword © Hugh Featherstone
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