Normally reliable suffered a rare failure, taking over on the second day Before grinding to a halt. We’ve experienced an anomaly which made shutdown a precautionary measure. It brought a premature end. It’s crazy: The media and everything.
When I was in high school, as part of an English literature exam we were given a poem to analyse. As part of the analysis we had to say, probably in one sentence for one mark, what the poem was about. No-one got the correct answer. It was a poem about a World War I fighter pilot by a distinguished writer. (Those of you who are knowledgeable may well know the very poem.)
Now, this was at a stage in our high school when we were not newbies; I think we were at Std 8/ Grade 10 stage or above. Our teachers were not too impressed. We had certainly studied World War I in history. Had we done much WWI war poetry? I can’t recall, so perhaps not enough to have made a notable impact. Or perhaps the references and experience were too far from our then existence that we had no reference points. Certainly, in South Africa post-1994 the focus on history’s impact was different and my teenage memories of World War commemoration are almost non-existent. The social discourse around these global history events was (is) different compared with say the UK, where I am currently based.
The exam question incident was an early introduction to the matter of reader interpretation. Later at university I did a course on aesthetics during which the lecturer often said (no doubt quoting some contemporary aesthetics philosopher) that “the proof of the pudding was in the eating”, i.e. whether a work was effective or not depended on the reception. The exam moment showed me that a work can be interpreted in nearly 200 ways, none of which is the contextually “correct” one. I doubt anyone would suggest Yeats couldn’t make a pudding.
Today’s poem is not about lockdown. Given the events of March 2020, it is possible that a reader may interpret it as such and I would not object.
The poem is loosely a ‘found poem’ from an article about a rare failure Lewis Hamilton and his Formula One team experienced with his car. It was an older article I’d clipped out from the days when I collected the free Evening Standard newspaper on my work commute. I like to read the sports pages not for the sport, but for the language. It intrigues me how top sports people and their coaches talk about wins and losses, strategy and results.
Lewis Hamilton articles are a favourite for I admire his ambition, focus and self-belief. I also like the fact that he has many interests beyond his ‘day job’ as a Formula One champion. I’d definitely like to have tea with Lewis Hamilton and ask him about his career. “Like Lewis Hamilton, pursuing my many interests helps me to work better. And like Hamilton, when ‘I’m on the track, I’m on the track.’” This didn’t have the desired effect as the job interview answer when the lines first came to me. Doesn’t matter, I still stand by this comment and I still fill my life with many interests, the latest of which has been taking beginner Korean language lessons.
“Bump in the road” is in Necessary Work, a collection of BeadedQuill’s more recent poems that will soon be available. Also have a look at Jangle between Jangle, a recent mini-book of verse written while jangling to-and-fro across London during the commute.