Sunday Poem – Christopher Reid and musings on the Phantom

Afternoon everybody.  It’s been a whole week since I’ve updated the blog – I’ve been playing trumpet in Phantom of the Opera this week for The Lakes School.  This has involved teaching all day and then driving straight to Windermere, which is about 45 minutes from my house.

So this week I’ve felt really far away from poetry – both physically and psychologically.  I’ve not had time to read any poetry, let alone write any.  More importantly, I’ve not had anyone to talk about poetry with.  If I’d had time to stop, I know I would have missed it – as it is this week has been so busy, I’ve not had time to miss it. 

It has been a great week though, and playing in shows is my favourite type of performing and Phantom of the Opera is one of my favourite musicals.  It was also lovely to see the level of appreciation for Adam Theobold, the Head of Music at The Lakes school who has worked for 13 months to put the musical together.  There were lots of thank you’s last night for the various people that had helped  – the children raised over 15000 pounds to fund the production and there were lots of volunteers involved but I think it is fair to say that without one extraordinary person to drive these things forward, they don’t happen.  I also think often as teachers we don’t get to see whether we make a difference really, not until years later if at all.  For example, I never thanked my lovely English teacher, Mrs Smith or my brass band conductor, Rob Boulter who were hugely influential.  But last night, it was clear and obvious that the children involved with the musical will not forget the experience – most of them were in tears and all were saying thank you to Adam for everything he’s done.  Adam also learnt to conduct in about a week – the first rehearsal he was conducting a downbeat as an upbeat and then he completely transformed in a week – I wish I could improve that quickly. 

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been doing this week – nothing to do with poetry but I wanted to put a Sunday poem on here that I’ve always loved and that would maybe help me find my way back to poetry.  So today’s Sunday poem is by the wonderful poet Christopher Reid.  One of my favourite poems of all time is the first poem from his collection ‘Mr Mouth’  published in 2006 by Ondt and Gracehoper.  Looking at my copy, it says that the edition I have is limited to 1000 copies, so I don’t know if there are any still available, but I would really recommend trying to get hold of a copy.  In the book, the character of ‘Mr Mouth’ is explored, always with humour.  Re-reading it today, I also loved that it is an in depth exploration of speech, words and everything associated with the mouth.  I also love the way Christopher has created a whole world around this character of Mr Mouth and this rather fantastical world where a baby has full speech by the time he is born keeps just enough of a grip on reality to make it pertinent to our lives, when the issue of speech and silence and being able to speak out is still being fought for across the world. The Mr Mouth poems remind me of Ted Hughes’ ‘Crow’ and Martin Kratz, a previous Sunday poet on this blog, is writing a wonderful sequence of poems with a central character called ‘Skeleton Man’ which in its lightness of touch and sense of ironic humour seems to be in the same vein as ‘Mr Mouth’. 

Anyway, here is the Sunday Poem!

Mr Mouth is Born – Christopher Reid

Mr Mouth is born
to his life on earth
neither early nor late
not ripped untimely
not a difficult birth
nothing miraculous or heroic
just the normal form of conception
then nine months
and as punctual as you please
a textbook delivery

You shot out like a sneeze
his mother will tell him
more than once
in the years to come

But the trouble starts
when the nurse holding the wee chap
by his ankles
upside down
like a skinned and marinaded rabbit
deals out the slap
that is meant to set
the vital motor going

Ouch he says
quite unmistakably
twisting his features into a frown
That wasn’t kind
and thereby establishes
the lifelong habit
of speaking his mind
at every least provocation.

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