In 2019, my daughter and I were enjoying a beer in a bar near her flat in Berlin. I was prattling on about poetry, W.B. Yeats, I think. She then asked me to recommend a book of poetry. I failed. She really wanted some sort of anthology and I knew of none, apart from the very bulky New Oxford Book of English Verse. So, as the damp, debilitating mist of COVID engulfed us all in 2020, I decided to use the lock-down to select a few poems, write about them and get the end product (privately) published as a gift for my children, grandchildren, and friends. I titled the book Ramblings (about poems). My idea was to write with zero structure or plan. I intended the whole exercise to be spontaneous. I decided to write it and revise nothing (apart from typos, spelling, dates) and other minutiae. I just wanted to ramble, as I do in real life, being a geriatric. I did not want the book to be so long as to put people off. I wrote it and the only reverse engineering was to insert chapter headings when I’d finished it.
I had written books and bits of books before, but the subject matter had been economics and philosophy. And all that was in the previous millennium. But I picked up my quill and settled down to writing in March, two or three hours a day, primarily in the morning when one’s old, grey cells are oxygenated. It was fun. I don’t think my choice of poems was especially original, but they were all good…apart from some bad ones and some good-bad ones included for contrast and comparison. I decided to eschew poetry I studied at school, apart from that of the greatest Welsh poet ever, R.S. Thomas. When I worked in the City, I was described by one journalist in the Financial Times as a “professional Welshman”. Too bl**dy true. A person I respect told me there were two main defects in Ramblings. First, there was too much use of the “perpendicular pronoun”. That is possibly true, too. But it was intended to be a personal book and so you do tend to use the word “I” a lot. Secondly, my critic bemoaned the droning on about Wales. But they were English, right?
I contacted Douglas Walker at SPP in May 2020 and filled in the forms and paid a deposit. I told Douglas that I needed a book back from him by mid-July, as my children had their birthdays then. Actually, on the same dates every year. He then handed me over to Frances who helped me with the covers of the book and the bits between the covers. She had someone read the proof and I was shocked by the number of typos and errors I had produced. For example, for the 65 years, I have graced this planet with my presence and been able to read, I had always written apropos of as a propos of. I allowed the proofreader to correct Shelley´s dates ( I got the birth year so wrong it was after his death year) and the title of a Beatles song but resisted changing most rambling errors. Frances was ace. My books arrived bang on time.
By Paul Luke