1964 poems


1964 – poems by a working-class kid

3rd October 2019

I was thirteen, going on fourteen, a kid growing up in a working-class city. I wrote poems. Before 1964, I had written only eight pieces but this rose to 28 in the year in question. Not the kind of poetry you would expect any teenager to write and, especially, not one who attended a secondary modern school in a working-class city. Take for example this piece,

Moonlight poetry, 1964

The sweet scent of a Jasmine bush
drifted, like a spirit, across the still night air.
The dark world was silent:
the trees did not rustle,
the insects were quiet.
A declining moon
hung in the South-East
and edged the land in a pure white light.

I sat under a Beech tree
and looked at the moon.
Its light hypnotised me,
I gazed transfixed
my eyes unmoving.
Slow, slowly I began to fill up with
that silver moonshine.

When my soul was full,
it began to move.
Near, nearer,
close, closer,
went my soul and on to the moon.
There it merged with the white ball,
it sank into it and was gone forever.
I am now without a soul.

Not a theme or a set of sentiments typical of a teenage boy whose only access to poetry was the shelves of a public library. Back then, I knew no one else who wrote poetry and certainly none of my classmates ever did anything like that. They were too busy playing football and chasing girls. Activities I refused. My head was buried in books about oriental mysticism and Western philosophy. Subjects not taught in the school I went to. I continued to write poetry for most of my life. Now, in my seventieth year, I continue to edit what I call my ‘Juvenilia.’ I continue to write poems. I am very happy that nearly everything I have written survives and fills two volumes of my collected anthology of poetry.

If any of my readers are thinking of throwing away their juvenile out-pourings, I would strongly urge them not to. Being able to look back at what I wrote fifty-five years ago is not only very pleasurable but also tells me a great deal about the kind of child I was back in those now far off days. Sometimes I read through my early work and wonder at it; I wonder how it could possibly have been written by the kind of teenager I was.