'Lorraine Motel' by Colin Hill is Write Out Loud Poem of the Week

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The new Write Out Loud Poem of the Week is ‘Lorraine Motel’ by Colin Hill, about the former motel in Memphis where Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated in 1968, which is now part of the National Civil Rights Museum. Colin wrote the poem while on his current road trip around the US “to discover (maybe) the meaning of the American Dream”. His poem concludes with a reference to “this black guy / a taxi driver / who offers to take my picture / under the motel sign / with a cheery smile / and have a nice day / I'm humbled / once again.” In his answers to Write Out Loud’s questions, Colin reveals that one of his favourite open mic haunts is Browns Hotel in Laugharne, legendary watering hole of Dylan Thomas.

 

How long has poetry been an important part of your life and can you remember why it became so?

As an angst ridden teenager poetry seemed the natural choice. My heart always ruled my head. I was forever falling in love. My heart was always being broken. Bedsit days in Brighton. Trips across the channel to Paris. All the ingredients were there. Except the poetry was crap! Well most of it.

 

What kind of poetry do you write?  What motivates you?

Gosh that's a tough one. My writing continues to change and I try not to allow myself to get stuck in cul-de-sacs. I'm always looking for a different angle, a new perspective, some new way to interpret the world around me. I'm not sure there is any one style to my writing but I am acutely aware of how a piece reads, is spoken and how it looks on the page. I will often go back and change the odd word or rearrange lines even after posting. If I can achieve that flow in my head then I'm reasonably happy.

Of late I have concentrated on being less autobiographical. A little while ago I deleted all my work from WOL and took a break to find new inspiration. As some of you are aware I am currently on a two-month sabbatical in the States and my recent posts have been inspired by the people, culture, history and landscape of this curious and contradictory nation. There's a link to my blog on my profile page.

I have no idea what motivates me to write. There have been many years when writing wasn't a part of my life. And now it has once again become a central part of my being. I hope to improve. I want to finish the books I have half written. I want also to thank WOL and the friends I have made here for their support and understanding. It's really very much appreciated. I guess we write because we have to.

 

If you could only have one poet’s work to read, which one would you choose?

I recently answered this question on a discussion thread so if it's ok I will copy and paste.

Henri, Patten and McGough. Sorry that's three but they get lumped together as the Liverpool Poets from the 60s. I first came across them as a teenager and instantly thought this was the way to write. There was a simplicity and innocence that was new to me. And they weren't afraid of joining words together and experimenting with formatting and presentation. I think their work is as important as anything that has gone before. If I had studied them at A-level instead of Shakespeare and Chaucer I might not have dropped out after only two months! Admittedly my teachers were awful, the school was failing and I had other distractions.

That said, I appreciate there is a place for poetry ancient and modern, that we all have different tastes. There is no right or wrong way to write. And language evolves. When the younger generations invent new words it doesn't mean the old ones have been deleted. It means we have more to choose from and play with.

 

embedded image from entry 59636 Do you perform your work and if so, where are your favourite places to perform?

I started performing less than a year ago. The purchase of my doughnut shirt kinda helped. I cannot memorise but I'm ok reading out loud and it's been a great confidence booster. My two favourite places are The Queens in Carmarthen and Browns in Laugharne. Dylan Thomas used to drink in Browns when he lived at the Boathouse down the road so that's some history to live up to. The regular P&P [Poems & Pints] crowd there are lovely.

 

You're cast away on a desert island. What's your luxury?

Chocolate. I've given up or drastically reduced most of my vices but I will never give up chocolate. Ever!!

 

 

LORRAINE MOTEL

by Colin Hill 

 

 

I stood outside

the Lorraine Motel

it was worth the drive

all that way downtown

through Memphis blues

and torrential hell

you see the roads

in South Louisiana

were mostly underwater

and the weight of traffic

was re-routing north

in endless convoys

of eighteen wheelers

queuing to be weighed

at each state border

but anyways

that's kinda by the by

I'm glad I came here

on this rainy Tuesday

the museum was closed

no need to pay

just insignificant me

and a few curious others

wandering about outside for free

standing, looking

contemplating

this landmark location

in a nation’s history

the murder scene

that's little altered

since April 1968

when that fatal shot of hate

was fired

from a boarding house window

across the yard

a moment captured

for us future generations

in black and white

a testimony for the world to see

on that famous motel balcony

and right outside room 306

now hangs a wreath

a reminder of the weight

he likely carried

the knowledge that

his days were numbered

and I am truly humbled

not knowing what to think

or feel

but some kind of sadness

I turn to leave

maybe one more witness

to this black guy

a taxi driver

who offers to take my picture

under the motel sign

with a cheery smile

and have a nice day

I'm humbled

once again.

 

 

 

 

◄ Deadline nears for £1,000 Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre prizes

The Poems of Basil Bunting: ed. by Don Share, Faber ►

Comments

<Deleted User> (13762)

Sat 27th Aug 2016 05:00

Cynthia - thank you. I'm so glad you enjoyed this piece and even more so that you left a comment. I hope you find time to read my other poems here on WoL which are all from my ongoing US travels. I'm always open to feedback and suggestions. All the best, Colin.

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Cynthia Buell Thomas

Fri 26th Aug 2016 17:27

Your sense of place and pace is superb. The details that propel on one hand and arrest on the other, are both clear and sensitive. I really enjoyed this, and must get back to more of your work.

Your interview is an excellent sharing of the poetic mind.

<Deleted User> (13762)

Wed 24th Aug 2016 15:29

Cheers Graham - I will look out for that book when I get home. Must admit I've been too busy to read the ones I brought with me. I shall need a relaxing week in the Pyrenees to recover when I get back! Your comments any time are always very much appreciated. Thanks again.

<Deleted User> (13762)

Wed 24th Aug 2016 15:24

Steve - thanks for leaving your comment and liking this one - very much appreciated.

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Graham Sherwood

Wed 24th Aug 2016 11:41

Sorry for being one of the last to comment on this Colin, just returned from the South of France.

I am minded to remember Travels with Charlie (Steinbeck) reading your work. If you haven't read it, read it!

He was trying to do what you are doing. His conclusions might make you think.

Anyways good work as usual!

Graham

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steve pottinger

Wed 24th Aug 2016 07:27

I really enjoy the way this piece works, and how it pulls together past and present, the grand sweep of history and small human kindnesses. Thanks, Colin.

<Deleted User> (13762)

Wed 24th Aug 2016 05:01

Thank you for all your kind comments. I'm just catching up now having lost my WiFi in the canyonlands of Arizona.

David - staying safe and keeping clear of rednecks. Honestly, the company you keep!

Harry - unless there's an anniversary we don't get to hear much about this kind of history in the UK. So I'm glad my writing inspired you to listen to his speech again. I somehow felt my poem was a little out of step with all things currently newsworthy but maybe not. Same issues, different year.

Suki - I always read your poems with curiosity and think they make such a useful addition to the world of WoL. Thank you for writing 'fully deserved' in regards to this piece. Much appreciated.

Rachel - what I didn't mention in the poem was that the taxi driver had already helped an elderly white couple out of his cab and showed them where to go with much laughter and smiles. I was dawdling about taking pics and he offered to take one of me under the motel sign. At the time I just thought what a nice guy but later it seemed like he was meant to be there somehow. I dunno, his kindness and the experience of taking in that whole scene was very moving. Thanks again.

<Deleted User> (15871)

Tue 23rd Aug 2016 23:12

This poem makes me think how crazy it is that one bullet being fired can create such a historical landmark.
I really like how you included your modern/present day interaction with the taxi-driver at the end. Even though there is still so much hatred in the world, small but significant changes like the friendly interactions between different ethnicities show a positive change that people like MLK Jr fought for.
Congratulations on winning POTW!
Rachel ?

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suki spangles

Tue 23rd Aug 2016 02:18

Hi Colin,
Congratulations on winning POTW - fully deserved!
Cheers, Suki

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Harry O'Neill

Tue 23rd Aug 2016 00:02

Congratulations Colin,
Your poem caused me to listen to the whole forty minutes of Kings speech the night before... It was a very moving (and admiring) experience.

<Deleted User> (13762)

Mon 22nd Aug 2016 04:36

Ray, thanks as always. Your support and encouragement for my writing has been invaluable. Keep on rockin' mate.

Which reminds me. Driving along Route 66 I've had that song in my head for a few days now. But guess what? A Roadrunner bird dashed across in front of me today so thanks to him I have a new song to sing!

Cheers,
Colin

<Deleted User> (13762)

Mon 22nd Aug 2016 04:31

Thank you Dom for your comments. It's nice when a poem hits a chord and I'm honoured to have been chosen for POTW.

I like mixing up seemingly unrelated images to create a kind of walk through atmosphere if that makes sense. But it was the floods in Louisiana which forced me north to Memphis. I might never have gone there otherwise.

I hope your friend is safe. I heard 12 people lost their lives. I've seen more lightning in the last few weeks than I have in years back home. Today I was on top of an extinct volcano with thunder and lightning all around me. Exhilarating!

All the best
Colin

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raypool

Sun 21st Aug 2016 19:18

I'm thrilled that this poem hit the spot Colin. My comments would be the same as before, so no need for more. Cheers Ray.

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Dominic James

Sun 21st Aug 2016 11:46

That's very nice Colin, the run-away rhythm & rhyme, not overstated, captures the weight of the eighteen wheelers, the fatalism of "his days are numbered" a really good drop down through impressions and attachments.

Looking at your blog, I see I've got a buddy dealing with the same floods as you at the moment, and the bibles abound, I'll send him a link in case you're at crossroads.
Dom.

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