POETRY – a small selection, and link to the Bruno Scarfe collection as a whole

I am told I wrote my first poem ‘Summer’, when I was eight.

It strikes me now as embarrassingly flawed. I seemed to think that swallows landed on the ground and, a little while later and at another place I seemed to think I could recognize a particular swallow … well, I ask you! Not to mention the matter of describing a cat I claimed to be unable to see …! Yet my father was delighted at this effort. Why? I suppose he considered these ingenuous aspects as secondary, reflecting a child’s psychology where reality may come second to the wish and where time sequences are not of the essence. I can feel though that the poem has a sense of rhythm … actually rhythms, and all over the place, but rhythms neverthelesss. Perhaps he thought the existence of rhythms, however confused … promising? I believe he used the poem when lecturing on poetry, possibly making some of these points.

All so embarrassing. And yet there can be no doubting the positive effect his pleasure had on me. Later, during the rest of my school years, I continued to receive his encouragement, and from his mother a little reward which helped supplement my meagre pocket money. Yes, truth will out!

So that’s how my poetry began … and continued … and continues, for even now there can be errors of fact, and there can be controversy regarding suitability and taste, not to mention difference of opinion on technical matters and presentation.

When, a few years ago, I decided it might be worthwhile at last to bring together and present my poetry, I decided to call it ‘Lines of a lifetime’, and organised the poems alphabetically by title. But this gave rise to an objection, and so I postponed further action. I have been urged, in the end, to sort the poems according to subject, not at all easy … as many poems fall into a number of subject categories, leading either to perceived misrepresentation or to duplication. Tough. The total collection now appears under the original title, above, but with these 11 subtitles: 1) ‘Cadiz’, poems on situations and individuals in Cadiz, 2) ‘Eros – foibles of the flesh’, 3) ‘Eros – heavings of the heart’, 4) ‘Eros – in absentia’, 5) ‘Measuring up’ and some of the inside story, 6) ‘Mixed blessings’ food, drink and quirks of the table, 7) ‘The Natural World – heaven and earth’, 8) ‘The Natural World – the bestiary I’, 9) ‘The Natural World – the bestiary II’, cattributes A-Z, and others, 10) ‘Words at play’ plays on words expressed in verse, 11) ‘Wrestling at dawn’ or, simply, Juvenilia. There is a twelfth heading or subtitle, ‘Series apparatus’ with subject notes and information on prior publication, chronology etc.

Hopefully, these subtitles and the accompanying comments will provide some insight into the range and nature of experiences I thought fit to express in verse. The poems, covering the period 1947 to the present, include ones written or conceived in the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, France, Spain, Germany and India. The majority are in English, many are in Spanish and there is a handful in other languages both dead and alive.