New Introduction, June 2008.
The sequence of ten short poems below arrived at the end of 2006. Since then, I have been increasingly afflicted with outbreaks of poetry. (I hadn't suffered from the problem for over a decade, and had thought myself cured.)
Last month, while I was reading at Listowel Writer's Week, a publisher (Salmon Poetry's Jessie Lendennie, the great heroine of contemporary Irish poetry publishing) asked to see some of my poetry.
Last week, she asked me to do a book for Salmon. So the problem of what to do with the little feckers has been solved. The book will be out sometime in 2010.
Original Introduction to The Book Of Longing Has Disturbed My Sleep:
I don't want to write poems. I don't even like most poetry. But sometimes, irritatingly, poems arrive, often in the middle of the night, waking me. And if I don't get up and write them down, I can't get back to sleep.
So I get up, and write them down.
Given that poems arrive in my life unwanted, like birds blundering in through an open window, what should I do with them? I could kill them, and sell the tiny carcasses, but that seems cruel and... no. Don't want to. It seems best to free them.
So here they are, free.
I haven't worked out a proper way to display them yet, and the automatic formatting messes up the spacing. But for now, here is "The Book Of Longing Has Disturbed My Sleep", a ten-poem sequence from late in 2006... Never before published anywhere, for what that's worth (Because I've never offered them to anyone. Haven't even shown them to my agent, Charlie. Funny, that a poem can be too personal to show to your friend and agent, but it feels fine slipping them quietly onto a website, to be read by puzzled drunks who've mistyped "porn" into Google...). I guess that makes them a WEB EXCLUSIVE! Maybe I should put up a flashing banner somewhere...
The Book Of Longing Has Disturbed My Sleep
Poems are so hard to read
Who has the time?
I started one in nineteen sixty six
And I still haven’t got to the rhyme
My daughter says
“I’m cleaning the self”
As she wipes her face with the floor sponge.
She will be two in January.
I wrote a poem
On my daughter’s scribble
And ruined the only piece of art in the house.
I write these tiny poems
At five in the morning
And read them over
With a feeling that is neither pleasure nor displeasure
Like a rabbit eating its own droppings.
And now we have the internet
And my bad poem can be read in a billion homes.
If that isn’t progress, what is?
Eventually the dawn will screw me up.
But for now I sit on the floor of this flat in Berlin
My back hardly hurts
My pen works
I write a short poem and stop
Write a short poem, and stop.
The motor of the refrigerator cuts in,
and runs for a while,
Nothing happens for a while.
The motor kicks in again.
This is good.
Poems are so hard to write
Who has the time?
I started this one in nineteen sixty six.
I should have written more when I was young
I should have fucked more women.
The only hours I didn’t waste.
They add up to so few days.
As I sit here writing this
I hear my women breathing in the other rooms.
You get up at five in the morning
And write poems about poetry for an hour and a half.
You are forty and you have no money and your trousers have split and nobody reads poetry.
But your wife is beautiful.
And your daughter is beautiful.
And you’re wearing a great shirt.
In a few hours you will all have coffee together.
You make a note at the top of a new page
“Write to Leonard Cohen and thank him before he dies.”
Of course it would have been nice
To sum it all up in a few lines
And enlighten the world before going back to bed.
But that is what the sun is for
And it does it once a day for free
And it’s hard to compete with that.
In fact, here it comes now
Rising over Rückerstrasse
Putting me out of business again.
(Julian Gough, Berlin, 4.35am to 7.25am, December 15th 2006.)