Friday, 18 October 2013

A poem from 'Recreation Ground' the book


Perfectly flat source
of glass-half-empty wisdom
(You never gain without you lose),
these drains and fenland ooze;
unbroken horizontals
bred smallholders quick
to silence, feuds.
Cousins, not on speaking terms,
learnt allegiances, who was who,
precise degrees of indifference to use
in the family’s every orbit.

A lack of generosity in nature, then,
accounting for a hardness of heart?
Well, yes, there was that – breeding fruit
and veg from plots that felt the brunt
of poor winters, North Sea winds,
relentless, giddying skies.
No wonder they took the dim view,
were adamant they knew what they knew,
distrust of water, close observation
of changes, levels and rules,
the fragile treachery of things,
a closed world better off for keeping closed.

From here, though, also, eccentricities of will:
great-grandfather who made do
and the most out of left-overs,
sticks, old hat. Always on the loose,
ditch-strider, habitual trespasser,
or, back home, his having to explain,
if anyone should ask, why the swan
he’d killed was better called a goose.
Such stamina for living on the hoof:
as if each morning, bent-double and running,
he was tempting snipers to shoot him down,
which on such open ground they could have easily done.

Tom Phillips

Copies of Recreation Ground in which 'Fenlanders' appears are available here: 

Saturday, 5 October 2013

From 'Below Tsarevets'

Excerpt from a work in progress

Chance has been a fine thing.
In Sozopol, in the Bar Small Tequila,
I was ordering bottles of Burgasko
for a friend from home I’d not seen
in months – and not being able
to find my hotel in labyrinthine Nesebar,
who’d have guessed that I’d run into
that Irish Bulgarian after closing time
who was staying in the room next door?
Never mind how we coincided
six months before ...

And so, yes, now I’m sitting below Tsarevets
as lights play over the church, castle walls,
thinking you should be the first to know
that I’ve reached Veliko Turnovo,
that I’m learning to trust to my luck.

Tom Phillips, Oct 2013

100 Miles North of Timbuktu

Originally a ten-minute 'curtain raiser' for Theatre West's first A2Z season at Bristol's Alma Tavern Theatre, an hour-long version of '100 Miles North of Timbuktu' is currently running in A2Z2 at the same theatre (until 12 October). There's an interview in which I talk more about the play and its evolution here: