Thursday, October 30, 2014

I started writing a poem for Halloween this morning, whilst I was staying with my family at Ettington Park Hotel, reputed to be the most haunted hotel in England.

Although my poem is in its early stages of development, it is inspired by a discussion I had with my daughter yesterday evening, in which, in an effort to stop her from feeling frightened, I told her of a secret people, operating furtively and with humour between the cohorts of Believers and Sceptics. "Do not fear, nor dismiss, be a Storyteller, like the night manager who told us of the screaming lady, stage phenomena, like the concierge who, before it was stolen, periodically pulled out Walter Scott's book and left it open at the same page on the library's floor."

Before going to bed, my daughter and I climbed the stairs where there have been sightings of a murdered female servant, walked hand in hand along detergent-smelling corridors, the carpet sibilant under our feet, pushed heavy doors that squeaked as they closed slowly behind us, lingered outside room number 9, where guests have reported being awakened by another apparition trying to gain admittance, before sneaking into the darkened Long Gallery.

The small round tables looked like they had been arranged for a conference, and on one of them we placed an early draft of the following lines in an open book of French sonnets. "How long", I said, "before the night manager is telling new guests of the time the cleaner found enigmatic words, my words, in a book of Italian sonnets?" "It was French sonnets", she answered. "But that is how hearsay works, publish through hearsay and there's no need to be frightened or cynical. Be a storyteller."

Lines on Ettington Park Hotel, published through hearsay 

Whosoever stole Saint Ronan's Well,
For to piously arrest the spell
That holds The Library, or to can
It to insert into a less than
Grand shelf, in some prosaic study,
Threatens lore and the art of story-
telling, the night manager, alas;
And Narnia would be clothes moth frass
But for a book of Italian
Sonnets, and the verse lying therein,
Incongruous English verse,
                        in the Long Gallery.