Monday, January 11, 2016

Fairy Tale In Verse

In a local branch of Age Concern I came across an LP on the old Camden label. It was entitled simply Brahms Liede. I paid for it and brought it home full of anticipation. I am very keen on Schubert and like particularly the Winterreise. These liede by Brahms were all new to me. What was so fascinating was that I did not recognise any of the poets. Frustratingly there were no translations, only the original poems in German. I listened to the LP and made a CD of it. Then with the help of my German dictionary I set about working out what the songs were about. Eventually I managed to come up with some translations. This one by Dieter Rihm (with the date 1858) has a beautiful lilting rising melody and haunting rhythmic accompaniment on piano. I have not been able to track down Dieter Rihm though I assume him to be a little known, perhaps unpublished poet who was a friend of the composer.

It is called Fabel in Versen which means Fairy Tale in Verse.

There was a town of noble heritage,

A church, shops, thatched roofs with spiral chimneys,

A hill that sloped down to a landing stage.

I see white blossoms drifting on the breeze,

The pleasant boredom of the boats in Summer,

How Autumn’s setting sun and fiery leaves

Influence the lake with bronze, how it grows calmer.

I see the stillness deep Winter conceives


When in the lake an image of the town

Appears: sloping roofs, smoke in blue air,

The shops closed-up, the church’s gentle spire,

This holiday, pointing both up and down

Into the water, which holds as in a mirror

Good will for everyone, both here and there.


Friday, May 02, 2014

A Ballad for Joe and Heidi

I have changed the title to “A” ballad rather than “The” because I realise this poem is far from definitive, others may write their own ballads of the same subjects, also I may try again. Clearly also, the first stanza owes something to LP Hartley’s:

“The past is another country; they do things differently there.”

I would like to thank RR (formerly known as LDP) and LK  for their encouragement and support for the idea behind this ballad, which is I hope a beginning of something more…

Sitges is a town famous for its Bohemian atmosphere and long beach on the Costa Dorada 


Finally here is a link to Joe’s book of sonnets Handbook for Explorers with photographs by Lucy Kempton. It is a deluxe colour edition. A beautiful book visually and   aurally    A second more affordable edition for the pocket or bag may soon appear…





A Ballad of Heidi and Joe


First we must draw a country of the mind,

its maps and contours, pictures; then agree

to go there. If it’s anywhere we’ll find

the explorer’s life, it’s in another country,

a country with a Sitges and an August sea

and with a Tunbridge Wells where they’re content

walking both together on the pavement.


Who swam the furthest, talked the most, was thinner,

understood people best is hard to know;

who could divine an animal’s agenda,

some would say Heidi, some that it was Joe.

It is a fact: until just a while ago,

not as some couples,  one leader, one behind,

they walked both together on the pavement,


crossed over to the sand and breathed sea air.

Their sufferings and illnesses seemed past;

the future like a strong and rusty stair

led upwards to a landscape set to last;

they did not know its light was fading fast;

the past in front of them, their present was behind,

walking both together on the pavement.


Whole stories hide here; pictures stun with colour;

trees ebb like tides at night, by day a-buzz

with multiples of wing and throat. A cooler

and glasses, Ipad, he waits to greet us

with maps and plans, and later on he’ll tweet us

with routes that he and Heidi have in mind

walking both together on the pavement,


as if we too with root and flower could stay

unmindful of the assassin, changeless summer,

within the panorama of this day;

not noticing the sky’s not getting dimmer,

nor fireflies by right begin to glimmer.

Our shadows lengthen, leave them both behind,

walking both together on the pavement.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Of Ballads and Blogs

It has been a slow and gradual return to the blogger’s universe for me since Joe’s funeral. The moving tributes and accounts by Joe’s friends have meant a great deal to me, as the brief meetings with them at the funeral were not representative of the large meaning of their presence. So thanks to Robbie, Lucy, Tristan and Claire, and to those who in turn commented on their posts.

Joyce has also been recovering from a severe asthma attack following the Dust Cloud over London, which entailed a 10 day stay in hospital. She is only just adjusting now, and it will take several more days before she will be fully rehabilitated.

I have been fortunate to have a storehouse of memories of seeing Joe regularly in the weeks before he died and am attempting to turn these into some kind of ballad, maybe The Ballad of Heidi and Joe…

However, this is proving hard and unpredictable, a project in the making rather than a statement or even the draft of a statement.

My friend John Arnett met me in The Pineapple for a drink. He was telling me about his favourite aunt, who has recently died, and how on a visit to her he found himself alone with her, while his cousin went to make some tea.

“What are you thinking about?” John asked his aunt. Her vagueness and memory loss of recent months had not prepared him for the answer. She looked straight back at John and pronounced, “I’m thinking about you!”

On the way back to London in the car (I imagine a late sun slanting in under the visor) John found the words of a poem forming and formulating in his mind. As he drove the phrases became more clearly etched and by the time he reached home he was able to reach for a sheet of paper and write down what was in his head. It was only then he fully realised the poem was all about his favourite aunt.

I happened to have an envelope and a pen in my pocket and it was on this surface that John wrote out the following while I fetched him a pint. Here is John’s tribute to his aunt.

Try to remember where

You saw it last

This thing you lost

Somewhere in the past.

It won’t be where you left it

That’s a fact –

And I know to my cost

It can’t come back

This thing you lost

This thing we call the past.

Some things aren’t meant to last

Some things do, and should

So, whatever else you lose,

Don’t lose heart –

There never was a heart

So true, or good.


Thanks to John for allowing me to share his poem on my blog, and for the willingness to appear in the Pineapple from time to time to drink deep and discuss consciousness.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Joe Hyam 20/09/1933 - 10/03/2013

Handbook for Explorers 19

And yet, you must keep saying "and yet",
To preserve your mind from loss of balance
And keep on thinking that there's still a chance
To find a route which you can safely bet
Will lead into an unlikely country
Where people have learnt the art of kindness,
With no rules of play and no blind duress,
No referee to insist how you must be.
But if they tell such stories to keep up hope;
And if you choose to sing as you trudge on,
Valiant hymns of love and salvation,
You'll feel better; and feeling better, stop
To reflect that no end is more worthwhile
Than, when it comes, you can't holdback a smile.

Joe Hyam

Monday, January 20, 2014

Peace Sonnets Not War Poems


Photographers’ Sonnet

Rupert Brooke 

Now, God be thanked Who has matched us with His hour,
And caught our youth, and wakened us from sleeping,
With hand made sure, clear eye,  and sharpened power,
To turn,  as swimmers into cleanness leaping.
We have found safety with all things undying,
The winds, and morning, tears of men, and mirth,
The deep night, and birds singing, and clouds flying,
And sleep, and freedom, and the autumnal earth:

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds, dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.


Reassembled  by K.Hyam from Rupert Brooke’s sonnets Peace 1914, Safety 1914 and The Soldier 1914.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


 Perspectives on a Lake

On that shore small people move,
walk tiny dogs, sit on small benches;
on this shore birds patrol their grove,
slow and long-legged under green branches
that etch the unrelenting rays
in bars of complicated shade.
Stretched wide, out there the sunshine plays
easily on tree,  colonnade

and path. Perspective grinds them down
to semblance on a tapestry,
a distant likeness of the town,
pastiche of inches, lacquered sky.
Whilst here, an insensible curved rat –
still wet from the swim that made her great.


Saturday, August 03, 2013

Jazz Riff for Nigel Henderson

Italian Street Scene                    after                                   Nigel Henderson         Stressed Photograph 1951


space against space
                                  horse w/ cart
going up
              the street’s tiled zig-zag  
paved crazily
                      swirled in Henderson’s dark dish              

                      rippling up to white-walls
of a displaced convertible –
                                    merged into brick
                low door open –

white shirt hair slicked back
as if sprouted from his own car

it’s all been pulled back squeezed up stretched                                 
so not knowing
                which way to look
                                         you’re in the photo too

                                         coffee in the air
breadrolls flowers
like the bunch she’s carrying
                                in one hand
haloed by morning sun
as she arrives walking
                             too cool to agitate
unstoppable jazz walk
                                unstressed –
testing the hem
of her retro-for-real check-print dress
the staccato tattoo
of those heels
wins out in all the other sounds –
motor starting                      
an aria of an argument
                                neighing horse –
in the old cacophony
                                    a rhythm-awakening