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

Sunday, June 02, 2013

On Vivian Maier

The Eye of Fame


Resting alone, the eye of the coming storm,
nervously awake, her own space of mirrors and light.
Vanishing to the streets in style, her own style
made timeless by a Paris memory,
in these quarter-heal leather shoes she walks
and walks in; the restless streets, skyline

“…vivid against the little soft cities.” Demolition men
enter the frame, and a woman being canoodled,
incredulity that the camera lady comes so close, fascination
at this twin lens shooter, the steady aim. Cardsharps
interested as if: “Hey, a dame just took a picture.”




Kenneth hyam may 2013

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Post Below

The post below is a coming together of my own thoughts and an attempt at a translation of Laforgue's Pierrots. Laforgue wrote these Pierrot poems as part of a longer work entitled L'immitation de notre dame la lune, which literally means The immitation of our Lady the Moon. 
Translation is always a dicy business. I realise that the first question is: how does the poet translator circumnavigate the problem that all poems are almost by their nature untranslatable? Has the poet/translator come up with a new poem> If so, how much is this a translation and how much a new poem masquerading as a translation?
I don't on my conscience know the answer to these questions. However , I will be as honest as I can. One of these poems is in fact a translation, the other is well....a transreflection, an extrapolation from the non-existence of a poem which does not have a material counterpart..


Pierrots iii

As dusk falls, these molesters
Of statues, deep in the parks,
Only offer their arms and attentions
To the least improperly dressed.

In a one-to-one with a woman
It feels as if there are three,
Mixing up tomorrow with yesterday,
Intensely demanding nothing.

Claiming, “I love you” with eyes
To the gods, ecstatically dead-pan,
Concluding their mad declaration
With, “Oh hell, shall we just leave it!”

…Until She, in forgetful daze,
Seized by one-knows-not-what need,
Drunk on moonlight, falls into their arms
Very far from respectable ways.

Pierrots After Hours

In a café over absinthe glasses
They stretch the tight rope of a gaze;
A tilting line that gently sways,
Linking them briefly to express

Mad steps with nonchalant disdain,
Twinned in the dim light where they drink,
Where to fly upwards is to sink
And losing balance is to gain

A new context for the curved Moon
the velvet sea she’s swimming through.
Their blood freezes: nothing more to do
Except fall; fallen, fly alone

Onto the blue cobbles where all’s well,
White clothes spread out, a drifting calm,
‘til whirr of metal, crash , alarm
As church clock grates its ancient bell.