I’ve recently had the pleasure of hearing and reading poems by James Giddings and I asked him to contribute some poems to showcase here. I don’t want to label James’ work as it is varied and obviously evolving, but many of his poems contain dry self-effacing humour and gentle melancholy. This element of wistful tragi-comedy is combined with high narrative energy and neatness and economy of style. I hope James won’t mind me saying that these two aspects make his work sometimes seem like a cross between Simon Armitage and John Hegley, although his own voice is very distinctive.
James is twenty three years old and is currently studying for his MA at Sheffield Hallam University, funded by the Arts Humanities and Research Council. His poems have appeared in magazines including Black & Blue, Antiphon and The Cadaverine. He once won a silver medal for swimming at Cubs.
‘But we will be dead, as we know
beyond all light.’ Carol Ann Duffy.
Like new, or so they said.
But there’s lines of lead, graphite
graining the pages, some darkened
grey-black, so sure of themselves,
and the asterisk inked in blue,
rushed, not quite a star,
marking the sentences –
‘Yes, like an angel then,
to be truthful now.’
There’s more on twenty-nine
scribed beneath the title,
struck with potluck candidness;
‘mad’ they said, scoring
a tally through the thigh
of the letter H, capitalized
to hold its weight.
I rub away at the grey shadings,
thoughts they left
like litter down a side street;
the words ‘I’m falling asleep’
ghosted now, only half there
when held in the light.
And in the contents
there are marks, little hearts
next to the lovey ones
and with them the initial R
which I can’t bring myself
to remove; to do that
would kill love, leave love
in the dark. In my hands
they have a second chance
to stay alive in the light.
I couldn’t hate you more than I hate myself
at 3.00am watching cat videos, with this dusting
of orange moustache from all the Cheesey Balls.
Yes, I thought about killing myself, but then
I watched a five-minute clip of a pug barking
at its own reflection, found the bottom of rock
bottom. The car is running in the garage, and I left
the hamster by the bins. I’ve packed five years
into a rucksack. In the bottom drawer are the bills.
I’d see him every shift; he’d come in,
order a bottle of the house
Shiraz, sit in his booth with the paper,
doodle the quiz, fill in the Sudoku.
I often imagined how he lived
at home, if he had wine there,
a lady-friend who he could argue
over the answers of the crossword with,
or if that was it for him, our forced
friendship: me providing napkins, calling
out to him as he enters, the usual is it?
Him leaving an inheritance through tips.
After Miriam Van hee
standing on the embankment you watched
the coast drift through the evening
and thought of your Father and Mother
about the distance keeping everyone apart, but
paths are everywhere, even on the water
you look for signs forming in the foam