On National Poetry Day: Truth … (and a golden shovel)


Today is National Poetry Day in the UK, and the national day’s theme this year is “Truth”. To celebrate, Glosso presents two poems by British poet Marc Woodward — both of which address this year’s theme with searing and witty relevance. The first poem is a “golden shovel” — a poetry form invented by the US poet Terrance Hayes in which all the poem’s line-ending words, put together in order, form the line of another existing poem. Woodward’s poem An Egret In Jerusalem speaks for itself, but by way of a brief introduction: historically egrets used to migrate to England from the continent, but since the 1970s they have gradually become residents of the island nation. The second poem, also relevant in today’s Great Britain, plays on King Henry II’s infamous line “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?”, which he is said to have uttered over Christmas in 1170 with dramatic consequences. Enjoy both poems: we’ll be hearing more from Marc on Glosso’s pages in the future.

An Egret in Jerusalem (a ‘golden shovel’ after Wm. Blake)

He holds a clutch of sea-worn pebbles in his hand,
ignores the threatening sky as if nothing he did
could change his lot. Blanks out the narrowness of those
who regard him as less than dog shit at their feet.
The hurled stone flies up like a goal kick to land in
water rippling around an egret – ancient
obelisk or some angel from biblical times.
A witness to days when a working man could walk
on the waves, and more, lay out enough food upon
a cloth to feed his family. But this is England’s
truth where angels are as rare as Norfolk mountains.
The immigrant bird flies off. He hawks a gob of green.

(from Woodward’s Hide Songs collection, Green Bottle Press 2018)


The Sovereign Speaks

How dare that commoner address his Queen
with such a trumped up ministry of lies?!
He approached ‘Her Majesty, Q of E’
pulling the wool over Sovereign eyes!
It’s been a long time since a monarch said
Rid me of this turbulent prick – off with his head!

Yes, One knows you’re thinking One can’t do that
and capital punishment is no more –
but call a vote on it and you’ll soon see
the plebiscite’s unfit to write the laws.*
Still it’s been a while since a monarch said
Rid me of this troublesome prick – off with his head!

One knows One’s own position’s not so sure
although One hoped to see the Union out,
but the Scots are banging on the exit door
One fears the Brexiteers began a rout.
And who’s to blame? Dead in a ditch he said –
Rid me of this meddlesome prick – off with his head!

This is how it goes – Charles the First was right
we gave the reins to common imbeciles
knowing our day would come, they’d screw it up
and we’d again revive the Royal seal –
rule by decree – now it’s time the monarch said:
Parliament’s prorogued for good – off with all their heads!


Footnote: In August 2011, a representative survey conducted by Angus Reid Public Opinion showed that 65% of Britons support reinstating the death penalty for murder in Great Britain, while 28% oppose this course of action. Men and respondents aged over 35 are more likely to endorse the change. This is regardless of the fact that in 2004 the 13th Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights became binding on the UK, prohibiting the restoration of the death penalty for as long as the UK is a party to the Convention. Source: Wikipedia

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Marc Woodward is a poet, mandolinist and singer. He has published two poetry collections:
A Fright Of Jays (Maquette Press, 2015) and Hide Songs (Green Bottle Press, 2018). He has contributed to a number of publications including anthologies from Forward Press, OWF Publishing and Ravenshead Press, as well as having work published on the Poetry Society website and on The Guardian’s web pages. His CD, Bluemando, is on iTunes. Visit his Facebook page here.

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Photos: 1. John Tenniel: Illustration from The Nursery Alice (1890) / 2. Charles J Sharp: Dimorphic egret (Egretta dimorpha) white and black; both Wikimedia Commons