The quirky and talented Geoff Le Pard has a new book and this time its poetry. Geoff being who he is, this is no ordinary book of poetry. It is hilarious, touching and poignant all rolled up into one.
I invited Geoff over to talk about his journey in putting together this particular book and here he is with some interesting insights and thoughts.
Welcome Geoff Le Pard
Since 2007 I’ve written poetry. Sometimes intensely, sometimes sporadically but rarely a month goes past without something stirring my muse to action. I suppose, of those creations, I’ve kept maybe 150. And of those, maybe 75 have the sort of quality that I think may justify being seen by a wider audience. That said, a lot still need work.
Two years ago, I thought it was about time I bit the poetry bullet and put out a volume of my work. But which ones? Genuinely I had no idea. I’ve many types, on many topics and while there are some themes, it felt an almost impossible task to distinguish the wheat from the chaff.
I put out some discreet soundings and received offers of help from maybe four or five people whose opinions I was prepared to trust. I sent them a batch of poems and rather threw myself on their good offices. Was there, I asked, any in there that deserved publication?
Everyone helped, some giving specific comments on specific poems, some offering a selection of their favourites. Chel Owens, of the terrible poetry contest gave some of the toughest yet most thought-provoking feedback – essentially do more work – but between them, they convinced me I needed to work on theming. Lisa at Arlingwords made the best contribution in that regard.
The easiest decision was to focus on my sonnets. I’ve loved the sonnet form ever since I started writing poetry and I knew I had a few that were worthy of inclusion. I began to revisit them as a group and make changes. Some are barely recognizable and most have had some improvements.
As an example of the barely recognizable, Sonnet of Sand started life while on holiday in Tobago. I don’t like beach holidays much. I’m not a hot person, I begrudge time spent on sticky loungers when I could be exploring or walking or writing. I really really don’t like swimming. But I’m one of four in the family and the children were spoilt. But so many do and people watching is an indulgence that beaches and sunglasses allow. I spent several days carving out an epic poem, part sneer, part diatribe about my fellow beach and pool users, all of whom I assumed were British and after many revisions this was the final piece. It was anything but a sonnet.
Cinnamon sand, bathwater warm seas.
A rocky cove, delicately whitewashed with guano.
A chorus of gulls,
Hectoring backbenchers all.
Tarty in their coral finery,
Flit with each wave and shadow.
A threatened afternoon shower,
Lurking out west,
Plays Grandma’s footsteps with us.
Insidious if welcome relief.
Dotted about, dolls house furniture, neatly ambiguous,
Gives form to our sense of free play.
There’s a theme-park perfection
To our brochure born dreams:
Delicate palm thatch sits on wood-effect cast steel struts;
Natural gardens of scarlet and lemon,
Are chemically sprayed in the pre dawn
To remove the sweet sucking locals
And maintain their garage forecourt perfection;
Somnambulant waves crunch constantly
On carefully constructed coralesque outcrops
Of concrete and clay.
Intelligent broadsheet readers,
Risk averse to their last mortgage repayment,
Strip to expose fields of white melanoma seeds,
For proofing in the fiery Caribbean sun.
Out here, once cynical plumbers and sceptical lawyers
Believe in miracle potions,
Sold by plc paid shamen
Sitting in concrete and glass.
They poach happily in the calypso heat
Confident in the protection of their chemist’s latest best
Baste, boil, burn, balm.
The daily mantra.
One day, in a break from the lullabying sun,
These successors to Speke and Burton
Hire a guide to explore this foreign country.
Such exotica, so much novelty, the frisson of new experiences:
The baked breadfruit and goat curry to eat,
Specially prepared by curious locals
(My aunt has a stall in Brixton: you know it?);
The glimpses of a bird life unique to this area
(Though the same species has now taken over our local park)
They explore the coral and come face to face with sharks and conger eels
(Through the medium of the glass-bottomed boat).
They will tell how they steeped themselves in this foreign culture,
Deep enough to fuel several dinner party boasts
And oft-repeated family anecdotes
But it is a mere gossamer’s touch
For they’ve paid for the inoculations
That this resort provides.
Later, the first grizzles
From their sand frosted charges
Keep them from sinking completely into
This closed-eye fiction;
Some deep ingrained part of Arnos Grove
Or Clapham remains alert
Amongst the beach buffet of bloated human roti,
Ready to move at the slightest whinge
With due Hampstead haste
To avert disaster,
And return, with reclaimed inertia,
To their sun beds.
Tucked to the side, away from adult sightlines,
Are the adolescent actors.
One side slyly, shyly struts, playground porn movie wannabees;
The other watches with faux indifference hiding lust and acne behind Boots best aviator shades.
Each retains its hard-wired instinct to avoid
The occasional, random tidal surge of parental interest.
A surfeit of Rum cocktails and jetlag
Releases their corralled hormones
From the constraints imposed
And suffocating supervision,
And give 3D shape
To their flat screen, sweet sticky-sweat dreams.
Onto this fired and febrile world
That creeping afternoon shower,
Delivering large wet dollops of reality,
Can’t come soon enough.
I liked it. It had some neat ideas, but it was flabby, repetitive and rather snarky – reflective of my mood. So I set myself the task of turning the kernel of that poem into a sonnet and this is where it ended up:
Sonnet Of Sand
The Disco Junk thrums past, a rainbow
On the puckered sea. Rock-like skulls,
Guano-iced, are parliament to trilling gulls
Eyeing the coral fish, flashing their tarty show.
Cinnamon frosted babies paint the beach
With plastic spades; eyeless parents, basted
For spit roasting, happy to have wasted
Their nurtured cash on dark staining their peach
White flesh. Seven days of frantic relaxation,
Spent anxiously checking for zebra stripes,
Are reward for a year’s dead-eyed toil. Gripes
Are banned; they have their compensation
In the form of a cheap booze-induced coma
And the first stirrings of a melanoma.
It still conveys my somewhat snobby views on those other denizens of the resort but it carries far more of a punch and doesn’t drift off into what I thought were rather clever descriptions of looming thunder, which, in fact merely distract from the main thrust. By accepting the need for discipline I feel I’ve done homage to the original but created a far better, more coherent piece.
It was while I was working on these that I began to realise the re-imaginings of great works that I’d started and which I was developing might work as a suitable counterpoint. There were sonnets on this side of the line, too and, indeed the first and second poems, both sonnets I ever wrote fell into the collection naturally.
I must be honest and say I’ve had more doubts about publishing these than anything else I’ve done. So much needs saying in so little space, it needs saying well and more than anything it needs to avoid cliché, unless that’s the point of the poem. Poetry needs to be fresh, resonant and able, instantly to capture the reader. If the first page is critical to a book’s success, then it’s not even the first line for a poem – it’s the first impression as the reader turns the page and catches sight of it, all laid out and waiting to be read. On what does the reader’s eye alight, in those first few seconds? Are they drawn in, or put off? The title has to speak volumes, as it does in flash.
I hope I’ve achieved that with this book. I’m not sure I’ll repeat it. Two years is a long time to agonise and Chel is right in that so much more work is needed, work that I might not be prepared to put in while I also have so many books I want to write.
Congratulations, Geoff, on this new step in your writing career!
About The Sincerest Form of Poetry
An anthology of poems, inspired by the top 100 British poems and a love of sonnets.
You can purchase The Sincerest Form of Poetry from Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Sincerest-Form-Poetry-Geoff-Pard-ebook/dp/B08HJRJHWC
About Geoff Le Pard
Geoff Le Pard (not Geoffrey, except to his mother) was born in 1956 and is a lawyer who saw the light. He started writing (creatively) in 2006 following a summer school course. Being a course junkie he had spells at Birkbeck College, twice at Arvon and most recently at Sheffield Hallam where he achieved an MA in Creative Writing. And what did he learn? That they are great fun, you meet wonderful people but the best lessons come from the unexpected places. He has a line of books waiting to be published but it has taken until now to find the courage to go live. He blogs at https://geofflepard.com/ on anything and everything. His aim is for each novel to be in a different style and genre. Most people have been nice about his writing (though when his brother’s dog peed on the manuscript he was editing, he did wonder) but he knows the skill is in seeking and accepting criticism. His career in the law has helped prepare him.
You can learn more about Geoff and his writing on his blog here: https://geofflepard.com/
Geoff has lots of other great books which you can find here: https://www.amazon.com/Geoff-Le-Pard/e/B00OSI7XA0
Geoff Le Pard is also a contributor to Spellbound horror anthology, compiled by Dan Alatorre. I have read all three of his stories and they are magnificent.