Linda Goulden’s new pamphlet, Speaking parts, is a collection of 28 poems written in 28 voices. In full disclosure, I must a say I know Linda Goulden and only admire her work, so you won’t be wondering whether I will recommend you get a copy as you already know you should get a copy. You should also go see her perform if the opportunity arises.
As I said, the poems reflect different voices, sometimes from history (Mary Stuart), sometimes from non-humans (a bee queen or a catch from the sea), sometimes from characters in a painting, and sometimes from her own fertile mind. Goulden takes obvious delight in language, as is the poet’s wont, and the result is strikingly original phrasing.
Some of her poems utilise the occasional rhyme, and some do not, but none of the poems ignores meter or form, and none falls into a repetitive meter with predictable rhymes. Each poem brings its own surprises in language that is both soft and compelling. Some of the poems require a bit of attention to get the meaning, as they are not superficial, but your efforts reap their rewards in short order. (That last bit is for people like me who have short attention spans and tend to lose interest before unraveling lengthy metaphors or allegories.)
He picks up the guitar and his fingers begin
To glide across the frets and strings.
Decades of muscle memory carry his hands
Through songs and solos that could go for hours
Without repeating or pausing to remember a note.
He was never a household name like the guitar gods
Of arena rock, but he was never hungry, either,
And every dime he earned came from music.
If he wasn’t known to millions of adoring fans,
He was known to thousands of admiring musicians.
He always had a gig and appeared as a session
Musician on hundreds of recordings in genres
As diverse as jazz, classical, R and B, bluegrass,
Rock, funk, and country and western.
He was unassuming but confident and formidable.
As he played, a much younger man watched
With a mixture of envy and admiration and
Recorded on a cell phone. With appropriate permission
Granted, the recording was uploaded to the masses,
Languishing for a few days before catching on and going viral.
To the online world, the veteran performer was reduced
To an adorable elderly gentleman who amazed
The people around him by being able to do what
He had done for the 50 years preceding. His new
Fans felt they had done him a favor by describing him so.
Please be advised that all characters
Appearing in this work are fictional.
Any similarity to real people,
Alive or dead (even you)
Is purely coincidental.
The author wishes to assure the reader
That he gives you nary a thought
Since his last work was released to
The general public.
In fact, the author never thinks of you,
Except when he smells someone wearing
He did think he heard you last week
When he bumped into someone with the
Exact same laugh,
But that is just the mind
Playing tricks on itself
And has no real significance.
The author wishes to assure his
Audience that he has abandoned
The use of muses,
And relies on his own imagination
For all the intrigue, conquest, and
Psychopathic machinations that
Appear in his stories, poems, and songs.
He would appreciate your
Trust and confidence
On this matter and
Sincerely apologises for any
Embarrassment or inconvenience
He may have caused.
A philosopher of mind,
It doesn’t matter who,
But it was Daniel Dennett,
Made a point of describing
To prove that animals might
React physically to pain
Without being conscious of it.
He illustrated this with the case of
Children who dissociate during
Sexual assaults. *
In a seminar, another prominent male
Philosopher turned to another and said,
“I dreamed I raped and murdered your wife.
Do I owe you an apology?”
A female philosopher left the room.
Thought experiments are expected to
Be free and provocative,
But haven’t we experimented enough
With thoughts of violence against
Women and girls to know where they lead?
*(Dennett said the child thinks, “’I’ am not undergoing this pain, “she” is.”)
Writers often wax poetic over birds
Soaring, gliding, touching the sun,
Portending trouble, and eating their weight daily.
I’m more interested, though,
In the birds that appear to suddenly fall
From the sky without plan or purpose.
On a few occasions, I have thought a bird
Died suddenly in flight and came crashing
To earth only to see it open its wings at the last
Moment and land safely next to a worm or morsel of bread.
I’m relieved to see them touch down without so much as
A ruffled feather, and I begin to think that I may
Be just as lucky and find wind beneath my wings
At the last possible second.
Perhaps what feels like a free fall at the moment
Is my own weight carrying me to my destiny
Or some small nourishment.