Friday, 25 April 2014

Noir Poetry

My dissertation will be poetry it has been decided. Of the poems written over the last couple of years I have two themes running, one the reflections of Ivan Shrimpton, an old widower from Suffolk. He talk odd he do. He remembers stuff from the past, notices things from the present. All in his accent. The second has been falling back to my favourite genre of film, the film noir. Those US films from around 1943 to 1957, and all the nods to them ever since. There are a few poems about these, some interesting ones in Silver Birch Press's anthology 'Noir Erasure Poetry'.

Rosemarie Keenan's 'My Lovely' from Raymond
Chandler's 'Farewell, My Lovely' copyright Silver Birch Press
Erasure poetry is where the poet takes a page or two of existing text and picks out words and phrases, in order, to create a poem. Many in the anthology have used famed noir authors James M Cain, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Cornell Woolrich amongst others. The book's good, the poems well thought out. I can't imagine it takes very long to construct a poem this way, you have to have a feel for the rhythm and language of course. I don't think I'm that attracted to writing it though although will be very tempted to use it as a poetry writing exercise in any future teaching.

For my portfolio I will watch each of the film noir dvdd I have, that's some thirty-eight films, a real treat! Indeed, I watched the first one this afternoon, 'Angel Face' with Jean Simmons and Robert Mitcham. Great start and a couple of ideas sprung up too which was most welcome.

Anyway, here's the first noir poem that I wrote some time ago now. It was submitted for a module early in the course so I doubt I can use it for the dissertation.

On the Night in Question

Grainy noir streets in every shade of damp gunmetal
where under-lit over-coated characters
are busy watching, stalking, their footsteps uncertain,
shuffling, worn and scuffed shoes heavy on the asphalt,
and cigarette smoke mingles inside exhaust fumes
thickened with extracted grease-riddled steam
and the fog that rises confused off the oil-laden canal,
he switches off from the hum, the shouts, the abuse,
“yeah, she’s gone home,” leaving him to sway 
the pock-marked path to the final bar.

Distant sirens ascending into closer sirens,
too loud alcoholic laughter, fragmented screams,
merriment and anger, stupidity, misunderstanding,
incessant arguments, booted bottles breaking in the gutters,
improvised jazz straining the ears of but the few,
the swollen bass player nodding very nearly in time,
disgusted guitarist noodling aggressively to drown him out,
ice tumbling into glasses, the barman giving a damn,
his side of the bar cluttered in clean glasses,
the other dripping in beers, forgotten knives and forks.

At the far end slouches our lonely, blurred victim;
he finds he’s finished off the whisky bottle
he thought he’d been in the middle of,
his insides becoming as wet as the outside air,
he lays his worn out head onto his dampened hair,
unaware of the black-handled, dull-bladed knife
piercing his already tormented kidney,
of his seeping blood rolling down his leg and his mac,
of the taste of his iron blood filling lungs and mouth, salty, clagging,
of his eyes blinking shut, his heart and brain powering off,
body still balanced ridiculously on the stool sinking into the pool.

Not even the spotter with secondary responsibilities,
not even he saw our killer making his way out of the scene,
heading for the station’s chaos, into its final hour of mayhem,
of frenzied young couples already late by hours not minutes,
of scared individuals, uncomfortable with no peace of mind,
their anonymity being betrayed by their nervous bulging shadows
amongst the drunken, piss-stinking rabble
eyeing them full of threat and hate-soaked disdain,
our murderer is at home here, in the gristle of the world,
waiting for train’s motion to take him deep into the night,

while anxious train staff only see their shift lengthening yet again.

No comments:

Post a Comment