'Edward Lear rewrites The Flea by John Donne' by Marnanel Thurman is Write Out Loud Poem of the Week
How long have you been writing?
I've been writing poetry all my life. When I was five years old, I cadged a school exercise book and started making an anthology. I still treasure that book. Most of the poems are from other people, but there are a few of my own. Here's one of them.
What a flutter!
What a butter!
The jam is spreading on.
And Marmite too
And Marmite too
We will eat it up
When I was seven, someone gave me a copy of Kaye Webb's anthology, "I Like This Poem". It's categorised by the appropriate age, going up to the teens, but I read them all. This was my introduction to RS Thomas, whose "Welsh Testament" I loved even though I hardly understood it, and Christina Rossetti's "Something I Remember", whose rhyme scheme I gleefully dissected. Alfred Noyes's "The Highwayman" terrified me enough that I counted the number of pages it took, so that whenever I reached that point in the book, I could turn past it with my eyes closed. And Betjeman's "Portrait of a Deaf Man" was what might be politely described as a mindfuck. But it probably helped me through the death of my own grandfather, three years later.
Do you go to any open-mic nights?
Not many since I became sick, about five years ago: it exhausts me to go out too much. When I lived down south, I adored Dónall and Janice's spoken word night in Guildford, now called 1000 Monkeys, where I cut my teeth as a performer. I play guitar, and open mic audiences which aren't specifically about poetry seem to prefer music. But that's all right, because I can steal a tune and write a poem to it.
What’s your favourite poet/poem?
You want me to pick *one*? After some thought, I'll go with Francis Thompson. As a young poet, he considered throwing himself into the Thames. Apparently the ghost of Thomas Chatterton appeared and told him it really wasn't worth it. (Chatterton was a fine poet who had overdosed at the age of seventeen, 150 years earlier.) Thompson is justly famous for ''The Hound of Heaven", but the poem of his I love best is "An Arab Love Song". It has very little to do with actual Arabs, but a lot to do with romantic and erotic love:
The hunchèd camels of the night
Trouble the bright
And silver waters of the moon.
The Maiden of the Morn will soon
Through Heaven stray and sing,
Now while the dark about our loves is strewn,
Light of my dark, blood of my heart, O come!
And night will catch her breath up, and be dumb.
Leave thy father, leave thy mother
And thy brother;
Leave the black tents of thy tribe apart!
Am I not thy father and thy brother,
And thy mother?
And thou – what needest with thy tribe's black tents
Who hast the red pavilion of my heart?
You're cast away on a desert island. What's your luxury?
Brewer's "Phrase and Fable".
EDWARD LEAR REWRITES 'THE FLEA' BY JOHN DONNE
by Marnanel Thurman
Upon a Bed of Biting that a Flea was occupying,
a Woman and a tasty-looking Poet were a-lying.
The Poet never heard the Flea arriving with a leap,
as he chattered at the Woman, as she tried to get some sleep,
and the Fearless Flea was sated when he'd fed upon the two
(and their juices mixed inside him, which is more than she would do).
The Fearless Flea has fallen! for the Woman struck him dead,
and felt that in the future she should sleep alone instead.
She made a Memorandum that you're surely ill-at-ease
if you share a bed with Poets or you share a bed with Fleas,
for the Poet kept on rhyming till the rising of the Sun,
(as she privately decided that she never should have Donne.)