Michael Swan

The Shapes of Things by Michael Swan, published by Oversteps Books 2011

When I first contacted Michael Swan I introduced myself, explained about Poems in the Waiting Room and also requested the loan of one of his poems. After the poetry card containing his poem was published I wrote to Michael to let him know how well his poem was received in New Zealand. He then offered to send me his latest book – it arrived at Christmas time, hence the tinselled photo! Michael has generously allowed me to include three poems from The Shapes of Things  on this page.

And his reaction to an artist interpreting his poem? Michael wrote – I’m very pleased about all this; can’t wait to see the picture.

Introducing: Michael Swan

Michael Swan

I taught English as a foreign language for many years, and then moved into writing English-teaching materials, which I have been doing for even more years. Does this mean I am very old? You may well think that; I couldn’t possibly comment.

PITWR is one of the best ways of using poetry I can think of, and I’m delighted to have appeared in it. I write a good deal of poetry, perhaps in the hope of proving that grammarians have souls. Most of my poems seem to be about the deeply confusing nature of the world, and the difficulty of communicating anything to anybody; this doesn’t stop me trying. I’ve been published a good deal in magazines, and have brought out two collections: When They Come For You (Frogmore Press) and The Shapes Of Things (Oversteps Books). One of my first reviewers said that my poetry had ‘a certain loose, rhythmic flow’; he didn’t say of what. I mostly write poetry I can understand (which sets the bar pretty low). Probably because my day job involves making things as clear as possible, I dislike obscurity in poetry, especially when I feel it’s elitist or self-indulgent. I use humour a good deal, but generally for quite serious purposes. I translate poetry from time to time – a doomed enterprise, but I greatly enjoy it. Favourite poets? Villon, Donne, Owen, Frost, Dylan Thomas when I can make sense of him, Rilke even when I can’t make sense of him. Greatest favourite of all, the wonderful Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska; I want to write like her when I grow up.

Nantlle Ridge, Snowdonia

Other things I like: mountains, paintings, music except pop, good food and wine, good company, my wife’s singing, watching whales, telling silly stories to children, the sound of my own voice. Places I love: Snowdonia, the French Alps, Yellowstone Park, Antarctica, my wonderful old house. Things I want to see while I can still focus: the northern lights, a volcano, an African safari park, New Zealand.

Tiger Dreams

Child
one day
you will meet a tiger.

You and the tiger
face to face.

What will you do?

I know you.
You will hold out
to the tiger
on your bare hand
a small globe
spinning,
throwing light at all angles.
And you will tell the tiger your dreams,
and a special thing
that only you know.

And the tiger will come close,
press her muzzle to you
– if she were not a wild creature
you would swear
it was a kiss.
And in her turn
she will tell you a secret.

For a long time
you will share each other’s eyes.

You will go away
pad, pad, pad;
and when no one is looking
you will wash your fur
with your rough tongue.

And the tiger
will tell your dreams
to her babies.

It’s Wednesday

If you want to understand them,
you have to start with their language,
which is different from ours.
For example, when we say ‘It’s Wednesday’,
‘it’s’ means ‘it’s’
and ‘Wednesday’ means ‘Wednesday’.
When they say ‘It’s Wednesday’
they mean ‘Put the bins out’
or ‘Remember Granny’s coming to supper’
or ‘Jessica’s got her maths exam’
or ‘It’s your turn to babysit’
or ‘Why haven’t you –––?’ (fill in the blank)
or ‘You bastard,  you’ve forgotten our anniversary’
or just ‘Guess what’s in my head’.
There are no dictionaries.
Good luck.

If you’d like to see and hear Michael reading  It’s Wednesday go here

Take it or Leave it

This poem showed up
the other day
and asked me to write it.

OK
I said
state your requirements.

Well, it said
I was thinking
maybe a sonnet
with some slick rhymes
a pervasive note of melancholy
and a neat twist at the end.

I don’t do sonnets
I said,
and rhymes are right out.
I could knock you up
a nice ten-liner on sunsets.

I don’t like sunsets
it said.

Well
it’s sunsets or autumn leaves
I said.
Take it or leave it.

Yeah right
it said.
I’ll let you know.

If you’d like to read more of Michael’s poems or order his books transport yourself to his webpage.

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