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'I never intended to write poetry. Keen to get a particular job, I found myself, during the interview, abjectly agreeing with anything the interviewing panel suggested. 'Creative Writing' was pretty well unknown at that time, but Yes, yes, I said brightly, I’m really keen on teaching Creative Writing. Reality entered into the situation: as an English lecturer, one of the modules I was required to teach was – 'Creative Writing'.
'With some fast footwork, I got away with it, but it wasn't long before my charming insubordinate students went on strike, insisting (quite rightly) that I should do all the tasks I expected them to do. Seminars became lively.
'One thing followed another. Caught in the world of poetry, in the slipstream of my distinguished partner U A Fanthorpe, I have never escaped'.
R. V. Bailey's poetry collections are: Course Work (Culverhay Press, 1997), Marking Time (Peterloo Poets, 2004), The Losing Game (Mariscat, 2010), Credentials (Oversteps, 2012), From Me To You (Peterloo/Enitharmon, 2007) with U A Fanthorpe, A Scrappy Little Harvest (Indigo Dreams, 2016); Co-editor A Speaking Silence: Contemporary Quaker Poetry (with Stevie Krayer) and The Book of Love & Loss (with June Hall).
138 x 216mm
£9.99 + P&P UK
R. V. Bailey
"As ever, R.V. Bailey wears her learning lightly and expresses passion with classical control. This latest collection casts its net widely. Most moving are the poems remembering the celebrated and universally loved poet, U.A. Fanthorpe. The entire book is a discreet, understated treasure, a homage to life with love at its centre."
"R. V. Bailey’s poems come from the heart and are nakedly truthful – but also wry, funny, engaging, like the best letters. Their subtlety and understatement, their swerves, ellipses, paradoxes are unpretentious, human, simple; the breaking of bread with the reader."
"These are poems that know what they’re doing, the truth
of their purpose achieved through unobtrusive craft.
They are honest approaches to happiness and to hindsight, to all the territory between getting on and getting there,
often with a frankness that is particularly poignant.
Her poems ask questions that we are left to answer,
in the quiet spaces between them."
On your birthday, yet again
There's not a lot just one can do
But tonight I drink this single malt for you:
You'd have joined me here today
If we'd had our way.
It’s never too late to say hurrah
For all the things you were –
And – I'm pretty certain –
In some sense somewhere probably
That seditious chuckle;
Your double (whoops) –
Jointed-¬ness; your tolerance
Of me. Your resolutions.
(Your magical puddings.)
All the things you'd said and done,
All those things you never forgot –
But hey, I shouldn't go on:
To list these festive quiddities won't do:
I'd take all too readily to the bottle
If I were to celebrate everything
She was a woman. A poor start in life, but you
Can’t change that, and you soon learn. Even
As a child she was grown-up, and like a child she
Didn’t count. There wasn’t much money, so
There weren’t many choices. She said yes,
All right, or else just yes. In a mixed class,
The teacher didn’t ask her, anyway. Did he
Even know her name? The room was crammed,
And she was always at the back.
The last girl picked for a team, she wasn’t
Good at friends. No one tried it on with her,
Or took what didn’t happen further.
The telly made it clear it was her spots
(Blemishes, they called them). Or her breath?
She thinks it was her legs perhaps,
But didn’t worry much. Being a woman’s
All she knows – and what a woman does. She’s
Not abused. She’s fed. She’s got a bed –
She’s lucky. Some day someone will get
Something out of her. Things could be worse.
It’s just a waste of time to write this verse?
The keys of the kingdom
Like next-door neighbours we hold the keys
Of the kingdom for each other. And quietly
When they went, they slipped their signatures
Through our letter-box, just in case.
I think of my father (though we didn’t get on),
And pay bills by return. Haunted by mother,
Who took heartbreak on the chin and made a joke
Of it, I mock my own absurdity.
And you – ah you, who are always there –
Your magic makes me whole. Makes me
Forget myself altogether.
Ghosts have no sense of decorum.
Who’s to say where it will end?
Desert Island Discs
I nearly drowned, getting here.
I suppose I should be glad
I’m not dead.
My choice of music? No song
Suggests itself. But already I’ve heard
The odd bird.
The melodies I know belong
To yesterday. And luxury? Ease?
The Bible and Shakespeare?
I lost my reading glasses in the sea.
Those two are quite enough for me.
Will I survive? How will I pass
The time? What’ll I do?
Haven’t a clue.
But should you ever come this way,
And the paperwork’s OK,
And you got the right publicity –
You might drop off the fee.
I'm not good at writing letters.
There's always so much to say, and
So many words. A protracted education,
A long and undistinguished life,
A thesaurus, a dictionary: all these
Unfitted me for what I want to say.
None of it helps, when words
Matter so much, have such dignity,
Such integrity, can so easily
Burst into flames. For instance,
There is love. But there is also, you see,
Etcetera – everything else. Such a lot of it,
And all of it matters – war, and rivers,
Lunacy and loneliness, bears and woodlice,
The blackbird in the evening
And the smell of hope –
Let's not even mention adjectives.
I am too shy to use that big
Four-letter word. And yet, and yet –
Most sincerely I remain
The bus went as far as the Cemetery –
A point not lost on the jokey conductor.
The Cemetery Superintendent’s son
Was Dennis; Una, tubercular daughter,
Lay dying at home. Outside in sunshine
Dennis and I found grave-stones
Useful wickets, until his sixes
Shattered the greenhouse.
Cover painting by J. G. Collingwood
i.m. U A Fanthorpe (1929-2009)