Strange sights are liable to be seen,
at any time, on St. Martin’s Street.
This very afternoon, for example,
I looked out of my bedroom window
just as an elderly man on a motorized
single-person vehicle – designed,
presumably, for a physically handicapped
person – drew to a sudden halt,
right underneath my window.
Nothing strange about that, you
might say; but wait, just give me
a chance to explain, to elaborate.
I had seen this man before,
several times, in fact, walking
along St. Martin’s Street, but
never before on this
striking-looking silver vehicle.
He is a short, stocky man with a
distinctive, Asiatic appearance.
Narrow, slanted eyes gaze out,
fiercely, from a lined face toughened
and seasoned by many arduous years.
A bristling, dark moustache covers
his upper lip. He wore a furry,
Cossack cap, with flaps
hanging down over his ears.
As I watched, he pulled a half-bottle
of Vodka out of his pocket,
unscrewed the top, and took
a hearty swig. He then kicked
his silver steed into life, and
headed off, along the street,
for all the world looking like
Genghis Khan, on a Mongolian
plain, ready for his next exploit
of rape and pillage.
See what I mean, now?
Last Sunday afternoon, I was listening to an interview, on BBC6 Music, with the American film director Jim Jarmusch. It was a fascinating interview, mainly about Jarmusch’s love for the music of Iggy Pop and the Stooges, but towards the end of the interview he spoke about his latest film, which features poetry by Ron Padgett. Jarmusch said that Padgett was his favourite poet, and was a member of the New York School of poets. I knew a bit about the New York School, but had never heard of Ron Padgett. I went online, to see what I could find out about him, and soon came across a YouTube video of him reading one of his poems – Nothing in That Drawer. I can recommend it, for light entertainment value, if for nothing else. The first line of the poem repeats the title: Nothing in that drawer. The second line is the same. So is the third line. And so it continues; fourteen lines, all identical. Padgett himself comes across as a droll, very likeable individual. He explains that he wanted the poem to have fourteen lines to emulate the classic form of the sonnet, and the way he read the poem gave slightly different meanings to each line – although the words were identical.
Anyway, the main point of all this is that the New York School of the 1960’s were known mainly for “freeing-up” formal verse; making it more spontaneous and free-wheeling. Some of the poems can read like fun, fact-filled personal essays. The next day – on Monday afternoon – I looked out of my bedroom window, onto St.Martin’s Street, and saw the events described in the above poem. I just sat down and wrote it, spontaneously; just as if I were – like Ron Padgett – a member of the New York School. I think it works ok!