Black Iris: Poems from Jordan by Alexander Williams
I met Alex at the premier showing of Heaven’s Rage (Leslie Tate and Mark Crane) in October 2017. Since then, Alex has joined the TSL team as an author. His book His Hidden Wings was published in 2018.
Alex is multi-talented. At the showing of Heaven’s Rage (Berkhamsted Live), Alex was singing numbers form the musical he’d written for a school production. Later I heard him at The Kitchen, Croxley, were he hosted Dial Up – an open-mic event featuring music, readings, poetry and whatever goes. THis was the last night at Croxley, the new venue being the Improv Theatre on Finchley Road (entrance the North Star pub. For those not wanting to travel, The Kitchen has a new open mic host).
Singing, writing musicals, a young adult novel written and poetry. I’m not a great poetry fan but asking Alex about his two-year stay in Jordan, he produced Black Iris, a short book of poems based on his stay.
Now this is poetry which speaks to me – reflections on life, what you see, in simple bite-size chunks. However, Alex’s use of words allows something simple to become multi-layered and nuanced. The poems covering an event or a range of experiences allowed an insight in a way a narrative would most likely have flattened, or telling rote.
Highlights included encounters with children and learning the language – reminscent of my early days of Swahili learning in Tanzanian schools; and how soon you settle in, forgetting to remind guests of morning calls and such like.
This is a poetry book I think I’ll find myself dipping into again on occasion. And for those wondering about the title: it’s the national flower of Jordan.
Limericks. You can view them as silly, irrelevant and infantile nonsense. Or as witty, nicely balanced and subtle jokes. For me it all depends on the punchline. And yet when the father of limericks, Edward Lear, made them so popular in the 19th century the established custom was that the last line was often essentially a repeat of the first line. To me this is all wrong. A bit of a damp squib in fact. An anti-climax.
I believe the last line should provide, when possible, an unexpected explosion – or at least a pleasant chuckle – of mirth. For this reasonI usually write the last line first so that the joke is taken care of. And then work backwards. I’m also a great believer in limericks that scan. This can be tricky as sometimes a word or syllable can be pronounced or emphasised in different ways, so depending on how you pronounce it, it can make a line scan – or fail to scan.
Here’s an example, based on a genuine screening of Spectre I went to in Innsbruck in 2015.
We all viewed the latest James Bond
Of whom we are all very fond
But what WAS it about?
All the words were in Kraut!
Overall we were jolly well conned!
Unless you stress the word WAS by putting it in block capitals, and just say what was it about, it suddenly doesn’t scan.