Writing verse

I think about writing verse in the same way as Willie Nelson about writing songs. Remember his, "you cain't write a song if you ain't got nothin' to say"? So, whether I'm dreaming up a theme for a poem to go alongside one of my paintings in progress or whether it's just a stand alone effort for my own amusement, that which I aim to say comes first, the verse structure second; the words themselves, when I'm lucky and they come at all, come last.

As a case in point, a day or two ago I posted on here an image of my new painting 'Achnasheen'. What follows is now the finished (?) poem - and in this case the poem took longer than the painting both in time elapsed and in dedicated hours…

Up in Achnasheen

Like some arched bridge from one world to the next
the road goes west, from Kessock forty miles,
but without time to read wild nature's text
you'll lose the beauty here, you'll miss her smiles.

Old Achnasheen is at the highest place
before you swing down fair Glen Docherty
up here's this heathered crown on Highland space
down there's Loch Maree and the distant sea.

A railway line runs through from east to west
small trains traverse the country, few each day;
but go by track or road, whichever's best
to hear the things these Highlands to you say.

Yes come along with me to bide awhile
In old Ledgowan Lodge, sure time's no loss;
here, raise your cup or glass in lordly style
to antlered heads, to Easter-Wester-Ross.

So this one is intended to be about the height and remoteness of Achnasheen, its tiny railway station, the comfort of its hunting lodge hotel. This was the fourth and final version. Previous attempts were constructed in blank verse, unstructured, or in part rhyming stanzas. Why the changes? I've no idea. Even now I sense its imperfections, know full well I'll go back to change a word here, a punctuation there. Hopefully not the whole thing - again! Ah well …

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