'Pheasants' by David Blake is Write Out Loud's Poem of the Week

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The new Write Out Loud Poem of the Week is ‘Pheasants’ by David Blake. It was inspired by a time when David worked in a restaurant kitchen in Devon and the owner brought in pheasants that he had shot on his estate as an addition to the restaurant’s Christmas menu. David said: “One week my job was - literally - plucking pheasants. It was the worst job I've done to date, not least as I was already a vegetarian by then.” It is the second time that he has won Poem of the Week.

 

 

Can you tell us about the background to this poem?

About five years ago I worked as a kitchen hand in Plymouth and one week my job was - literally - plucking pheasants. It was the worst job I've done to date, not least as I was already a vegetarian by then. The owner of the restaurant used to shoot pheasants on his estate (a nice little area between Plymouth and Dartmoor), load them on a pick-up and cart them into the city as part of the Xmas menu. Later on we visited the estate as part of a staff barbecue. Very gentleman-farmer-ly place. Not somewhere I'd like to holiday regularly, but I've always been interested in class-based sports and activities like this and that's what fuelled the inspiration for the poem basically. Other parts are just creative writing rather than real-life experience (thankfully I've never caught my foot in a poacher's trap).

 

Would you say that your poetry has a particular style?

I often go in for heavy imagery, wordscapes and quite like to emphasise space rather than words. I think of some of my poems as being images, formulations on paper that can be just as important as the content if you know how to manipulate both content and layout (I'm aware this sounds a trifle pretentious).

 

When you last won Poem of the Week, just over a year ago, you said you had only just started going to open-mic nights. Do you still go? If so, any particular favourites? How do you feel about performing your poems?

Most definitely. I don't often go as much as I should but I have two regular readings I attend in Bristol and in Bath. 'Pheasants' I actually first performed in Bath a couple of months ago and it went down quite well. I'm aware that quite a few of my poems don't translate that well to a performance setting, so I've branched out into writing more interactive poems, delved a little into humour and expression - always a confidence booster if you've got your audience onside.

 

Your Write Out Loud profile says that you also write music and lyrics. Do you consider that work equally or more important than your poetry? What do you feel about the relationship between poetry and music?

 

It's less important to me personally. I've always thought of lyrics as bad poetry that can be compensated for by the music ... but occasionally I've written very poetic lyrics. Poetry and music are of the same genus but at the same time I also view them very differently, I guess maybe because we're not exactly conditioned from a young age to recognise that the two can combine.

 

What was your reaction to Bob Dylan winning the Nobel prize for literature?

I was surprised, as I'm sure most others were, upon hearing the news, and I presume for the same reasons. But as a second take I can obviously appreciate this guy has - for over half a century - carved out a place in history that he can call his own. The topics he brought to the table in the 60s have been massively influential and helped sublimate the protest song into mainstream culture in the following decades. For that alone it's easy to argue he deserves a higher platform of recognition than a mere lifetime-music-achievement award or something similar.

 

 

PHEASANTS

by David Blake

 

Upon being handed

the gun I

choose to recline on wet, springy turf

and then lay down on the

wrinkled blue tarpaulin,

to pepper the air,

Phasianus Colchicus

blurting out the why and the where

and clasping my sweat

at 26 metres.

 

The older corners are the best

the low-hanging branches,

the leafy hollows, amalgamated bark, bush

and clumps of stone,

discarded cartridges,

catching the straying boot,

on private land.

The nests arrayed in diamond formation,

enclaves wrought for brigands,

bandits, poachers,

and accidents...

the winter solstice

and my friend

in severe pain,

in the back of a bumping four-by-four,

crying out among the heaps of ring-necked game,

tetanus-shot and coffee-headed;

the snow red through a creeping dusk,

and crazes in the asphalt

which still saw them home,

plucked, dried, stored for deep freeze;

and piercing eyes, the colour that

could still recall above the trees

the freedom of a pastel sky.

 

 

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Comments

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Cynthia Buell Thomas

Wed 5th Jul 2017 11:47

Well done, David. I much enjoyed your comments as well.

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Stu Buck

Sun 2nd Jul 2017 23:30

a great poem and worthy winner
i too have spent many a terrible day plucking pheasants, as a chef in a country hotel right in the middle of game teritory.

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suki spangles

Sun 2nd Jul 2017 16:43

Hi David,

A well deserved winner. Congratulations on winning POTW. An excellent poem.

Suki

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raypool

Sun 2nd Jul 2017 15:25

HI David. I've commented on this quite fully but here I am again! Interesting to read the background to your inspirations and style. I agree about the music and lyrics concept - there have attempts to shoehorn obscure poetic themes to songs over the years, but with a kind of distancing from understanding in many cases. Simple works well with simple music I say!

So pleased you've garnered POTW.
Class act in my book.

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Martin Elder

Sun 2nd Jul 2017 14:41

This is excellent David. I love the richness of your description in the whole poem but particularly.
'enclaves wrought for brigands, bandits , poachers and accidents' rounded off nicely with pastel sky
so beautifully put and a well deserved POTW
congratulations

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