(A Clarean Sonnet)
If I had ever taken note at school,
those moments often shunned by this poor fool,
of literature, philosophy and tomes
that offered us the sustenance of poems.
Be gowned, our masters strenuously plead
that sonnets and soliloquy we read
to dress our minds and feed our souls with love
of words that speak a language from above
our mundane daily toil; speak of the day
when I am moved with eloquence to say
“I understand … Oh now I understand!”
And when I feel my heart in her soft hands
I move to paint her love with words I see
embedded in my mind’s sweet mystery.
© 2012 John Anstie (This poem was submitted for the ‘FormForAll:Clarian Sonnets’ over at the dVerse Poets Pub where Samuel Peralta (Twitter ID @semaphore) is teaching us about the sonnets of early 19th century poet, John Clare.)
“Life is short and art long, the crisis fleeting, experience penniless and decision difficult”
As a young man, John was sporting and fit. It was then as much his recreational therapy as a cappella harmony singing, music, walking in the hills and writing is now. Playing Rugby Union for over twenty years, encouraged in the early days by a school that was run on the same lines and ethos as that famous Scottish public school, Gordonstoun, where our own headmaster had been as a senior master. This gave shape and discipline to a sometimes precarious early life.
His fitness was enhanced not only by playing rugby, but also by working part time jobs in farming, as a leather factory packer and security guard, but probably not helped, for a short time, selling ice cream!
His professional working life was spent as a Metallurgical Engineer, Marketing Manager, Export Sales Manager, Implementation Manager and Managing Director of his own company. Thirty five years spent, apparently in a creative desert, raising a family, pursuing a career and helping to pay the bills, probably enriched his experience, because his renaissance, on retirement, realised a hidden creative talent as a writer of prose and poetry. He also enjoys music, with a piano and a fifty-two year old Yamaha FG140 acoustic guitar. He sings bass in three a cappella harmony groups: as a founding member of a mixed voice chamber choir, Fox Valley Voices and barbershop quartets. He is also a member of one of the top barbershop choruses in the UK, Hallmark of Harmony (stage name of the Sheffield Barbershop Harmony Club), who, for the eighth time in 41 years, became UK Champions in 2019. He is also a would be (once upon a time or 'has been') photographer with drawers full of his own history, and an occasional, but lapsed 'film' maker. In his other life, he doubles as a Husband, Father, Grandfather, Brother, Uncle, Cousin, Friend and Family man.
What he writes is sometimes autobiographical, often political, sometimes dark and frequently pins his colours to the mast of climate change and how a few humans are trashing the Earth. In 2013, he published an anthology of the poetry (including his own) of an international group of poets, who met on Twitter in 2011. He produced, edited and steered the product of this work, "Petrichor Rising", to publication by Aquillrelle.
His sort of strap-line reads: “ iWrite iSing iDance iChi iVolunteer ”
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Technically adept, yet charming, simple, rhythmic and romantic – an unorthodox mix for a 21st Century poet. Great writing my friend.
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You’re very kind to say so, Brian. Thank you.
I read your essay and I only smiled thinking: “Funny! True, but “…
I read your poem and I got a shiver: you conceived a poem to rhyme, which is very rare if not impossible to read these days. Usually people tend to express themselves in free verse, line after line, with a few mixed fancy words and they’ve got themselves a poem, postmodernist…
I stopped now, in my evening, to read your poem three times: you don’t know me hence you cannot know what this means. I stay still with your poem.
I say: ” Thank you, Poet of 3rd millennium for shaking my doubts, for answering my prayers, for giving me the hope that I might quote a Poet once again and this time he will be alive and not one hundred years long gone and all classic!”.
Blessed you be!
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I don’t know how I missed this earlier, but it is an eloquent express of the form, John. Reads like one of the classics.
Thank you, Victoria. Throughout my life, I’ve held a deep-seated feeling that I was born after my time. I am nonetheless very flattered that you think it reads like one of the classics.
Oh, I adore your romantic side. When I snap out of this daze, I will tell you how wonderful you crafted this Clarian Sonnet. Thank you for letting me find that faraway space through your words.
Beth, that’s very sweet of you to say so. Some times writing poetry is more rewarding than others, like when people like you say things like that! It’s also funny that, as difficult as sonnets are to write well, this one came in very quick time: from conception to completion in a couple of hours I recall, and most of that was spent in deciding the ‘turn’, that closing couplet, which resolves the whole thing.
Thank you again.
Thank you Rosemary
This was the most romantic of the clarion sonnets I read tonight. Really beautiful.
Thank you, Lydia, he said *Flushed with pride*
Oh, that’s simple and beautiful! And what I mean by that is, not all of us find those words in high school and that’s okay cause we find them later. I think it’s very unique when we reach out to something, when we give it time. Actually I believe it’s there all along. Thanks! I was wondering when I would read something of yours.
Thank you for thoughtful comments. You’re right about it being there all the time. Our subconscious minds are an absolute goldmine, but we need to open our eyes carefully to see any of it. Life so often gets in the way, but it refreshes the spirit when we get there.
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A beautiful, romantic sonnet John ~ wonderful to read 🙂
I thank you, Squire, for your generous note. It is romantic in an old fashioned sort of way. I certainly think the closing lines capture its essence.
John, I love this!!
‘I move to paint her love with words I see
embedded in my mind, sweet mystery.’
What an utterly adorable sonnet! 🙂
And what an utterly adorable comment, you beauty. Thank you Abi.
Lovely. You have a tone of the scholar’s language here – and cadence too. The intimacy at the end works beautifully. K.
“.. a tone of the scholar’s language” Wow that’s a huge note for my virtual CV! Whilst I may be a scholar only of life, that does feel good .. for a moment .. I shall dwell on this comment a while 🙂
love your close on this…and we try to get as close as we can to what that really feels like, sometimes with a bit of magic we get close…i like how you built this, from paying attention in school to really be able to articulate the now…
Thank you very much Brian. Yes the now is always going to be different once we open our eyes to beauty. I appreciate your considered view.
Excellent turns of phrase here in your Clarian sonnet, and the theme is just subtle enough, that life is the greatest teacher, and especially so in the art of poetry. Great read!
Thank you Sam, it does have much meaning for me and is probably one I’ll come back to from time to time.
I enjoyed this very much. Loved the nod back to school days and the application of poetry in the present day toward the end.
Thank you Shawna. That was definitely the intent, along with a feeling of nostalgia…
I move to paint her love with words I see
embedded in my mind, sweet mystery….love this john..
Oh thank you very much Claudia. You know, I sometimes think that, no matter what has gone before, if the final lines of a poem are good, then it has done its job.
Yes, life tends to be such a vastly more interesting(and demanding) teacher, I think–though the love of words may have been instilled somewhere in there subconsciously, because your piece has a nice feel for them, and a classic tone and structuring that goes well with this form.
That’s generous praise indeed and very informative. You have clearly read my words carefully, which is very gratifying indeed. Thank you.
This is excellent. LOVE “feel my heart in her soft hands” and “paint her love with words.” Beautiful.
Thank you for your generous comment.
John! This is wonderful…absolutely love the closing couplet…wonderful read to start my day! Thank you 🙂
Good heavens, you were quick off the mark! Thank you Natasha, for your very sweet compliment. I sort of dashed it off today, but I’m not sure it doesn’t need some fine editing to make it join up better.