Billy Bracken’s second song (Will Leadbeater)When I was young
I thought that I would
love only one
the way certain birds
mate only once;
but when I grew older
and that first song broke,
I knew then that I would
have to love again,
or die with all my heart
broken to the sky.
I unexpectedly found this poem by my friend Will Leadbeater in the latest issue of Poetry NZ. which is also the way I am always finding Will in the library. It started years ago, when the poetry books were on my floor, and I used to run into him among the shelves – literally. I never saw him approaching; it was always a sudden appearance, as if he had just then metamorphosed into human form from a mote of dust, a ray of light. Leaving, too, come to think of it. He’d about-face and poof! No one there.
The year that I met Will, five or six years ago, he won Third Prize in the Library’s Montana Poetry Day poetry contest. I was in charge of shortlisting that year, and I remember his poem, handwritten in blue ink on the back of a real estate flyer. And above all, I remember a fabulous image about the moon like a crescent toenail in the Parnell Baths.
Now the poetry is on the floor above, but Will still -- poof! -- appears beside me once a month or so, to present me with a sheaf of his newest poems. There were two series of bagatelles, and then there were clerihews, after I introduced him to these idiosyncratic four line poems invented by the English schoolboy Edmund Clerihew Bentley to combat the boredom induced by his chemistry lesson – at least, I presume that’s where he was, because his first clerihew was
Sir Humphry Davy
He lived in the odium
Of having discovered sodium.
Will's first clerihew was:
Did Henry James
Ever like dames –
We all know he never married
But was this just because he tarried?
-- Will Leadbeater's book of poetry Jubal's Lyre won the 2008 EoSAW Poetry Prize.
-- Down in the Central City Library basement we've got three hoary old Bentley books of clerihews, The first clerihews, a classic with illustrations by GK Chesterton, Clerihews complete, and Baseless biography.
I just discovered that Bentley was not studying chemistry when he wrote his first clerihew, but Roman History. It's in his wonderful essay about the invention of the clerihew in Essays of the year (1929-30) which you can read on Google Books .
Bentley's first clerihew collection, Biography for beginners. was recently republished in a modern edition which uses the original text and artwork, and has just been ordered for the library. You can see a good preview of it on Google books.