We welcome Mardiwriter Douglas Thompson, who discusses his working process.
Hanging out with Chalky
There’s a stalactite called Chalky, in a cave not far away.
And sometimes, I hang out with him, and we pass the time of day.
He never seems to do much, he’s always hanging around.
Hanging from the ceiling. And staring at the ground.
Chalky’s not his real name, he won’t say what that is.
I call him Chalky, as he’s white; It’s better than Fred or Liz.
I asked him when his birthday is, he said’ I couldn’t say.
I’ve been here about a thousand years, give or take a day.
I must have been a baby once, if stalactites are born.
But maybe someone hung me here, the ceiling to adorn’
I asked him why he looked so sad, he said’ well wouldn’t you?
I’ve been hanging here a thousand years, with nothing much to do.
I’ve never seen the daylight, I’ve never been outside.
Its humiliating, hanging here even stalactites have pride.
Even bats can go outside, and smell the outside air.
But all I do is hang around, it really isn’t fair.
The calcite always sticks to me, I think I’m getting whiter.
And it makes me bigger too, so I have to hang on tighter’
I wanted to be positive, and give him good advice.
But given his predicament, I could think of nothing nice.
Perhaps one day, you’ll reach the floor, and won’t need to grip so tight’
Chalky staring down at me, said,’ perhaps I stalag might;
“For me, writing a poem always starts with a simple idea, often the last line is the first thing that comes into my head and then I work backwards to the first line.
That is just how it was with ‘Hanging Out With Chalky’, though originally I called it ‘Chalky’s Problems’.
I imagined myself sitting in a cave, talking to a stalactite, the original idea of course was that the stalactite would continue growing very slowly until it reached the floor when it would become a stalagmite.
Giving the stalactite a name and gender allowed me to emphasise how boring a life it would be if stalactites really were alive, and then I could create a little story around his troubled life with bats coming and going every day and cavers visiting occasionally.
Rhyming verse and nonsense poetry is out of favour with most poetry groups these days but I feel that some of us should carry the banner.
For me, poetry should have a message or story to it, or at least some humour, all three together can make an excellent poem, I always try to get at least one of them in.
When it comes to the general public, most are not interested in poetry at all, and those who are, generally expect it to rhyme, that is not to say a string of words forced into rhyme, is a poem, it must catch the interest of the reader or listener in some way.
Usually, if a poem is good, the reader would want to read it again, though I have seen poems which I have read two or three times in an attempt to find some meaning in it, if the reader cannot see what the poet is on about, (or at least thinks he can), then the poem has failed.
So I for one will continue to write rhyming poetry, some of it nonsense, and I will make no excuses for that, but just hope somebody likes it.”