'The Stone Tape' by Tony Hill is Write Out Loud's Poem of the Week
‘The Stone Tape’ by Tony Hill is the new Write Out Loud Poem of the Week. Talking about the poem, Tony said: “The title is a reference to a 1972 BBC production of the same name, quite a chilling ghost story that can still be seen on YouTube. Stone Tape theory is the speculation that ghosts and hauntings are analogous to tape recordings and that electrical mental impressions released during a traumatic event can somehow be stored in rocks and other items.” In his replies to Write Out Loud’s questions, he praised TS Eliot, Derek Mahon and Wallace Stevens as poets he admires. He does not submit poems to magazines, adding: “I post the occasional poem on Write Out Loud, hope for a positive response, and then retreat.”
What got you into writing poetry?
I have been writing poetry in a very haphazard way for about 30 years. Since retiring from teaching recently, I have been able to devote more time to the writing process, which in my case can be very slow.
Do you go to any open-mic nights?
I don't attend open-mic events, nor do I submit my poems to magazines in the hope of publication. I would occasionally subject one of my classes to a poem, but I think that falls into the category of a captive audience. I post the occasional poem on Write Out Loud, hope for a positive response, and then retreat.
Your favourite poet/poem?
My favourite poet is TS Eliot and for sheer scope and brilliance of language it's hard to see past 'The Four Quartets'. I also love Derek Mahon's 'A Disused Shed in Co. Wexford'.
You're cast away on a desert island. What's your luxury?
My desert island luxury would be the collected poems of Wallace Stevens. I know he is a great poet, but he is also one I sometimes struggle to understand. With all that spare time on my hands, I would need a challenge.
THE STONE TAPE
by Tony Hill
Not the overexposed, unwanted guest
who outstays his welcome, the forebear
who is taking familial shape in the corner
in a coming together of shadows and mist.
Nor even the third man on your shoulder
as you reach the pole or gain the summit,
and not the specious exhalations of spirit
in those gas-lit, overburdened parlours.
Ignore the widows’ running mascara,
as they stand in sepulchral silence under
the bower, refusing all pleas to pass over,
petitioning lost causes for ever and ever,
like souls who remain after the events
they witnessed, the stone tapes that still
record whatever caused the air to ripple
and rend in disorder. All revenants.
The will-o’-the-wisp, the ignis fatuus,
the marsh’s headlights that lead you off
the straight and narrow down the primrose path,
each step you take more obsequious.
But standing in a wood in the late spring,
among the smoky columns of afternoon
sun, a photo-ghost of memory: a classroom,
the film running off its reel and left to spin,
the claptrap, the brightness of the screen,
as tremulous as any egg I’d ever blown,
and empty of the actors who’d walked on
and played their parts. These are the ghosts I mean.