Singleton's 10p Recital

Introduction; 4 Openings; 4 Closes; interspersed notes, and General Conclusion.



Magic is a word I avoid---there’s too great a gap between rosy spectacle and horrific fright---whereas ghost appears ubiquitously, as do the various guises of Fairy. Once upon a time I used to suspend disbelief not only in the poetic fiction, but in Supernatural Actuality. Eventually I had to let go of that, to avoid cognitive dissonances, since I broadly accept the scientific consensus on the nature of the universe. Then the ghost of the otherworld might be contained as merely the prime and foremost traditional poetic image, merely sovereign of the imaginary imaginary. But that won’t quite do. I thought I was writing about something real. Then I reckoned my subject might be, in a phrase, ‘the prehistory of social and natural electricity’, on the supposition (of an ignoramus) that the metaphoric application of electricity, as in a ‘charged’ or ‘electric’ human atmosphere might be somehow true of the social field in which magic had seemed, but now ceases, for me, to operate.

[Opening: 1-5; Singletons Recital]

This immense blue loneliness cannot originate
in me alone, can it? A quarry blast
            and rooks lift off tall trees.
While I was trying  to tie a button on
a torn shirt sleeve, a warm March wind
was splashing at the door.


This immense blue loneliness cannot originate in me alone, can it? There was a soft New Age affirmation that All is (or will be) One, that deserves the riposte that Everything is Multiple. And yet, if the cosmologists are right that Everything was born yesterday (or a mere fifteen or so billion years ago) then I must suppose that my fantasies and delusions were contained in potential in the originating moment, Bang, and that Nothing comes from Elsewhere, and Nothing is Not Nature.


[Opening: 6-8; Singleton’s Second Recital]

Fulgor lights the fall of
Troy, I think it must have been in flame.
Disaster spat, but licks soft curling hair,
and a great wash of phooey slid out there.


There’s an exhibition of divine electricity in the astonishing Book II of Virgil’s Æneid, for example, here in Dryden’s translation. There’s a vigour, by the way, in Dryden’s abstract formulations that degenerated over the next hundred years to become the sort of poetic diction that Wordsworth objected to. There’s something to be said for calling a spade, for example, an horticultural blade.

…..from young Iülus’ head
A lambent flame arose, which gently spread
Around his brows, and on his temples fed.
Amazed, with running water we prepare
To quench the sacred fire, and slake his hair;
But old Anchises, versed in omens reared
His hands to heaven, and this request preferred:
“If any vows, almighty Jove, can bend
Thy will, if piety can prayers commend;
Confirm the glad presage which thou art pleased to send.”
Scarce has he said, when on our left we hear
A peal of rattling thunder roll in air:
There shot a streaming lamp across the sky;
From o’er the roof the blaze began to move,
And, trailing, vanished in the Idean grove.
It swept a path in heaven, and shone a guide,
Then in a steaming stench of sulphur died.

That seems to figure in my own Idean groove, when I’m sweeping my path into steaming stench. I think such fulgor lights the way towards both nuptial bed and grave. 

[Opening: 9; Tone:]

Give me a tone, a tune, a single tune.
There were a lot we lost
        at Waterloo, or were it Paddington?
A lot of books, a box of tricks.
And I had come a cropper on her cheap
        tin whistle. One bright night we two
were caught up in a right feng-shui
        sort of show.


Here Waterloo is not primarily the battlefield. When we’d published Continual Song, me and the then wife went down to London to try to hawk the things around the bookshops. Somehow a box of the things got left on a train at Waterloo Underground, and didn’t turn up at Lost Property. Many years later I heard that Compendium Books, in Camden, had a stack of the things, that hadn’t come from here. I suppose the box had found a home.

[Opening: 10; Tune:]

Could this be me? I'd have to see myself
        Hysterically Laocoon,
in twisting coils convulsed, but with
the snail, for horns and trace for trail.


A snail appears, late on, to join The Phantasmagorical Menagerie, in the fulgor of hysteria.

[Close: 1-5; 1st Recital:]

Make room at last,

(but the Clown was a great disappointment, he looked
lazy and inadequate, and all he got was one
impertinent and bitter brittle laugh. He called his
simpleton's recital Miracle Asylum. Funny it was not).


Miracle Asylum, like My Chasm, is myself again. Here’s an irrelevant story. In the days when us “hippies” had revived the ideal Ancient Laws of Hospitality, I was visited several times by a madman (whose name I can’t remember). Apparently he’d have walked from some Looney bin near Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The only explanation he could ever give as to why he came to me was that Haslam=Islam=Asylum. His talk was very mad. His enemy Peter Gilgal (I remember that name) would be stalking him, on the road outside. It was weird. He’d stay a day and night or two, and then be on his way. Eventually I repealed the Hospitality Laws, and refused him admittance, and I never heard of him, or Peter Gilgal, again.

[Close: 6-8; 2nd Recital:]

A single seagull and a simple tune.
The fall of Troytown
        on the Banks of Lune
whence all the indigenes are flown.


After it was all over between me and the ‘Bridge that Sings’ lass, I went camping with her up near Silverdale, Morecambe Bay (and actually on the Kent, rather than the Lune estuary), in Lancashire. We slept chastely in a little tent. It was amicable, but rather sweetly sad. The whole affair had reached a detumescence. Perhaps the ‘electricity’ I referred to is fundamentally sexual. By 2007 I find my own emotional electric shocks are rather rare. I shan’t forget them.

[Close: 9; Tone:]

But then the sky cleared and the outline fell shone
silvered with a branch of living water.


Axe Edge Moor. When the lass (see above) was doing her course (by then she’d be at Shady Grove, Alsager) I used to drive down the Pennines to see her. One day I stopped on Axe Edge Moor, and realised that down below me was the swimming-hole at Three Shire Head, where, two decades before, I’d been swimming, naked, with three naked bonny lasses, all of whom I loved. I was almost embarrassed in the solitude of finding myself feeling a deeply poetical emotion.

[Close: 10; Tune:]

Or else canst please me, ease this petulant
who pleads poor petals and whose nose is blown
        on leaves; whose idle lakes
leave puzzles in a naked heart's bestartlement;
but plumps the pith from throat to throne
        of that which having flown ye seek
and may not find, although it fly
        above the gate a tone too high:
If I were you we had let go the whole balloon.

[Concluding Note:]

So I let go of the bauble, the bubble, the balloon with its basket of creatures, Goat, Snake, Duck, Dove, Phœnix, Boggart, Chimæra et cetera. And yet I must be with them as I see (like, these days, using Google Earth) the Lancashire Coast shift scale to become a global hemisphere. I’m either highly elated, or deeply dissatisfied with myself, as writer and as person. The poetry tries to navigate between these states.


Back to Mid Life Notes

or home:

[return to homepage]