Before Dawn by David Calcutt
I was lying awake
In a darkness so utter and complete
I could feel it brushing against my skin
A no-place, where end and beginning
Had little meaning
A labyrinth without minotaur or thread.
Some sound had awoken me.
Was it my wife’s slow breathing
Or the far-off bark of a fox?
Slung between these two lay the estuary
A blank on the map, empty
And featureless as the one in my skull
And into which everything was sinking
Flesh and bone and spirit sinking
To lie at the bottom, a scattering of pieces
Waiting for the touch of that first light.
I was lucky enough to be sent the above poem by David, as we have worked together on two pamphlets, and tend to share our work sporadically still – I immediately loved it – and I asked him to tell me all about the poem. Whenever I have asked him specifically to write something about his work he has always said how difficult he finds that. But this time, because I was just asking him privately – he gave me a wonderful reply…. which I have since asked if it would be alright to share. Here it is – I feel lucky to know him
David Calcutt says – about his poem “Before Dawn”
I try to write in a language of demotic speech, a kind of a rough-hewn language, or the language of thought as it rises and speaks about the things it’s experienced in wherever it’s been to, in the best language available to it. So, you hear the thoughts as they occur, almost like a dream-language. As in dream, one image may give rise to another, seemingly unconnected on the surface, but having deeper connections which can be felt rather than explained. So, the whole movement up to the minotaur line is the voice trying to make sense of a formless darkness, in a world that has been drained of everything, even myth. So, no minotaur or thread. No way in or out, and no purpose in being there. This is because the whole poem is about being in a state of stasis, of absolute loss from and of everything. The second part of the poem, takes the voice even further into this depth, down to the very bottom, where it must go if it is to start living again, which there is the promise of in the final line. What I was trying to touch upon there was that the state is like the state of Adam before God woke him, hence the “touch of that first light”.
I was on a farm in Laugharne when I wrote this
Increasingly it isn’t poetry or poems that interests me at all. It’s what the poem or play or story is trying to give a voice to, or the voice it’s trying to speak in, and if that voice is rough and a bit harsh and crabby, so be it. It has its own strange music.
David is a playwright, poet and novelist. He has written many plays for the professional and community theatre, and for BBC Radio. His novels include Shadow Bringer, published by Oxford University Press, and Robin Hood, published by Barefoot Books. Several plays for young people are also published by Oxford, among them Lady Macbeth, The Terrible Fate of Humpty Dumpty and Troy 24, and adaptations of Beowulf and Dracula. He has worked closely over the years with Midland Actors Theatre, on pieces such as Lady Chatterley’s Lover and The Mothers, and, most recently, The White Shining Land, an ongoing community theatre project based on stories of refugees, immigrants and asylum seekers. His poetry appears widely in magazines, and he has two pamphlets published by Fair Acre Press, Road Kill and Through The Woods. He has also worked on writing projects in dementia care homes and hospices. Among other things, he is presently working on his latest novel, The Hunt for the Great Bear. His most recent piece for theatre is the one-man play, Life and Times and the Tat Man. He is currently writer-in-residence at Caldmore Community Gardens in Walsall.