'Song for the old year' by John Marks is Write Out Loud Poem of the Week
The new Write Out Loud Poem of the Week is ‘Song for the old year’ by John Marks, a 14-line poem about winter weather and birdsong. In his answers to our questions John says he is interested in shorter poems and in adapting the sonnet form to “a modern milieu”. He is inspired by poetry from the past, and endorses Wordsworth on poetry being “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings”. It is the second time that John has won Poem of the Week.
How do you think your poetry style has changed since you started writing?
I have tried (often unsuccessfully) to write shorter poems, focusing particularly upon adapting the sonnet form to a modern milieu, bearing in mind Shakespeare's dictum “brevity is the soul of wit”.
What inspires you most when gathering material for new poetry?
The poetry of the past and how I have felt about, and reflected upon a particular person, incident or event in the recent (or distant) past that has left its impression upon me. Again, there is nothing new under the sun, so I echo Wordsworth: “Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity.”
What are your views on the emergence of performance poetry and it becoming more mainstream these days?
Anything that brings poetry to public notice is to be welcomed. However, I think (?) that I write poetry for the inner voice rather than the public stage. However, if another person wished to declaim one of my poems in public they would be very welcome to do so.
Who would be your four dinner guests (living or dead) at your last supper?
Jesus Christ. Sylvia Plath. William Blake. John Clare.
SONG FOR THE OLD YEAR
by John Marks
Redemption comes at such a cost
Freezing winds off the Irish sea
Blow me away from hearth and home
At such a cost - loss pressing on loss -
Yet still the winter-birds sing,
Seemingly so carelessly,
And we know it costs them their whole life
To fly this way and sing and eat and build and build
Yet still this merely human, framed of earth,
Cannot scrape away the curse of discontent:
Sitting solid as a rock, squatting squarely
On the chest where a bird would build a nest
Then fly high high into the blue skies of summer
So far, far away from this deep and dark complacency.