The Advice Box
When you open the advice box, it tells you how to use a knife-grinder; the difference between garlic and dahlias; how to find a nice pixie car (god bless the childe); how to turn the story into a butterfly; where to find coral; where to drink from the brook; how to write a banging tune; how to sew mitts for the snow; how to live with verve; when to take up archery; what's the best way to spot those frogs you hear so often but have never seen. Ceramicist Clare Solomon created it. When you visit the gallery you write down a question you want advice about and put it in the box, things like Should I keep writing poetry? It's hard to learn and get published. You draw an answer from a tray and receive the advice to a previous question, like Try it for a year and see if it works. Then you offer advice to the question the person before you asked: Keep the baby, it's the essence of the thing, the bathwater superfluous. If you go back to the exhibition later, you get to see what someone replied to your question: Just write for yourself.
We ate curly-wurlys in those days. Too big to steal from the corner shop's helter-skelter, where we waited like humpty-dumptys for the bus to school, from the teeny-weeny hamlet to the hurly-burly of 1200 kids, in pods, willy-nilly, 30 at a time, leaving behind Incy-Wincy and Apply-Dapply, hoping for lovey-dovey and rumpty-tumpty with girls too grown up — why the interest in wibbly-wobbly boys? At least we learnt about art: Shakespeare and Meatloaf — the hurdy-gurdy came later in the topsy-turvy of the festival where the great learning began, higgledy-piggledy, itsy-bitsy by itsy-bitsy to the umpty-doodly and hocus-pocus of grown-up life.
In my half-jersey, I sip a pint of half-and half at half-time in a game I probably won't watch till the end. Someone will win someone will lose, my half-sister says. Light from the half-moon shines on my glass, clicks the old half-pennies in the half-window. Determined not to get half-cut or half-under, I lean into a recent memory: my half-life party. Past twenty-two years in the new country, a half-dozen each of friends and family invited to do items in the half-lit lounge. Half-tones and half-notes, a half-naked belly-dancer; poetry half-truths and aphorisms' half-wit — yet nothing half-baked, half-arsed or half-cocked. Even half-sized neices scooped a half-measure of hip-hop with half-steps and half-nelsons as the half-hour of half-dark neared, half-smiles and better all round, no half-mast well past half-light. And now, I'm over halfway.
It's a win-win, not a so-so. Like a four-four, reliable, resonant through the ages, from Sumer is icumen in to Kendrick Lamar — you don't need to go beyond it for a go-go or a can-can. With a tom-tom, you get up, watch the pom-pom shaking, yo-yo jiving, the audience with a la-la. Give yourself a bon-bon, good bun-bun, ten-ten. Not a no-no to have fun — in Wales the farmers say yes-yes to agreements — but you have to move on from a good night, maybe in a tuk-tuk, ta-ta.
's most recent publications are the chapbook, Impression
(Beir Bua Press, Tipperary, 2022), a single long poem, and Uma rocha enorme que anda à roda
(A big rock that turns around), translations of his tanka into Portuguese by Francisco Carvalho (Temas Originais, 2021). He has also published three collections of poetry; five books of haiku; and the novella, A Cornish Story
. He has a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Canberra where he teaches. Other interests include juggling, music and chess. His website is poetry-in-process.com
and he can be foun on Twitter @OwenTrail