Sunday Poem – Alex MacDonald

Evening folks

I’ve had quite a nice poetry week this week – On Friday my copies of Ambit arrived with a really nice review of my pamphlet by Donald Gardner.  And I also got an acceptance from Acumen for a poem entitled ‘For Jan’ which I wrote at the Fermoy poetry festival.  The poem is about when you meet people who you feel like you’ve known all your life, when in fact you’ve only known them for five minutes.  I had that feeling a lot in Ireland, and although the poem is for a lovely dutch poet I met over there, Jan Glass, a lot of the lines come from stories that the people that I met over there told me.  I think  a lot of the Fermoy poetry people will probably recognise themselves in the poem – once it comes out I’ll send a couple of copies over.  In fact there is a line that references Jan Glass, Tsaed Bruinja, Billy Murphy and Ita Dempsey – ooh and Pat as well.  So I’ll have to get five or six copies maybe.  A friend also informed me that apparently there is a review of my pamphlet in Orbis – I went on the web to order a couple of copies of that today and couldn’t find a way of getting hold of it anywhere – does anyone have any ideas? 

Other news – I’ve just been in Leicester all weekend – got back at about 7 into Barrow – it was my mums 61st birthday so we had a big family meal last night which was nice. 

This week’s Sunday poem is by Alex MacDonald, who I think I’ve met once in real life, or maybe twice but have communicated with on Twitter a little bit, which I’m just getting into really.  He is an officially ‘Young Poet’ still, and therefore eligible to enter for the Eric Gregory Awards and I rather cheekily asked if I could read his submission – which I really enjoyed.  I think he is trying to do some really interesting things with language and is exploring what poetry is for (maybe I should have capatalized that).  He is also one of the few poets I know who can write a good political poem. 


Alex said, regarding this poem ‘It’s part of a short series I’m writing about instances of public speaking – or where someone is talking to someone else or a crowd directly. I’m currently writing up some more, specifically to do with Parliament speeches and debates etc.’ 

I really like the poise of the poem, and how the title sets up certain expectations which are then swiftly disturbed by ihe tmages that occur throughout the poem.  For me it all turns on that final line from the hymn ‘Morning Has Broken’.  It strikes me as brave and daring to use that line as a last line – a lesser poet might have bottled it I think. 

Alex’s poetry has been published in several books and online, including recently the Oxfam Book of Young Poets. He also runs the blog Selected Poems and ran the reading series ‘Selected Poems at the V & A Reading Rooms’, championing independent poetry presses.

His website where you can find some more of his work is :

Self Help Tape – Alex MacDonald

In hushing tones – the meadows
are being cut, imagine it.
You are the rapeseed, grown out of nothing.
We’re painting your portrait in muted sun,
so calming, this picture, we can destroy it
by the sea, where the slot machine’s music
is like an old joke, where the beached bathers
are covered in cooking oil. The rapeseed’s soil
has broken glass in it, people go there to get lost.
You’re loosing yourself, the you with heavy breath.
Take each day as it arrives, with tired eyes,
open the front door to an empty wet field,
turn the tape over, this is the first day,
blackbird has spoken like the first bird.

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