"Elizabeth" is the debut poetry volume of English poet, Charlie Baylis, published by Agave Press. Divided into two parts, the first section is a selection of poetry that has appeared in various journals and magazines, including the Pushcart Prize-nominated "Along the Westway" which originally appeared in Agave Magazine, Vol. 2, Issue 2. The second section contains his long poem "Elizabeth," a romantic, post-surreal work.
In this first blog installment, Charlie shares his inspiration, and gives us some insight into his literary process.
Italian and Spanish for spring (of course), spring is the season of new beginnings, so it seems like a good place to kick off my print career. I had a rough version of a different sonnet in my pocket and typed it up, but with new ideas on top, so it became a better poem (this is a good way to write, blend two pieces together and keep the best of both bits). It was my intention to write sonnets for each season; I managed three for winter (included later) but I got nothing for summer or for autumn (strange—as it’s such a poetic season).
Oh dear! I wrote ‘Archangels are playing in October leaves’ last time I checked October was not in Spring, perhaps these leaves have been around a while.
Eugene Gardens is a real place not far from where I live in Nottingham (it is in other things I’ve written too). If I take the bus to the city centre, the automated voice will say, at some point, ‘next stop Eugene Gardens.' I just thought the words sounded nice (but its actually quite a rough place).
"Along the Westway"
An Agave original! It’s thanks to this poem that this chapbook exists, as it forms the basis of my relationship with the lovely people at Agave. This poem has two important musical touchstones. Under the Westway by Blur, which gave me a location and a bit of sad feeling, then the two italicised lines (Maybe there’s nothing here for us/Maybe nowhere we belong) came from me mishearing Book of Revelations by the Drums, which I thought went, "'there’s nothing here/and when we die we die’ but actually go 'I don’t believe/ and when we die we die’." Being hard of hearing is a great way of avoiding plagiarism!
This poem contains a puzzle: to solve it collect up all the single letters (apart from a’s and I’s). It should spell a name. If you need more help look at the back cover of the book for a clue. The poem was originally addressed to someone I gave a very bad review, I guess it came out of guilt, but when I read it through I realize that I was thinking about someone else (I’m not helping by being vague – sorry!). I will say no more.
"In San Francisco"
I’ve never actually been to San Francisco, or anywhere near it. I hoped to make that clear by writing in the future tense but I’m not very good with grammar so that broke. Anyway, the poem is a vision of being in San Francisco. Half-way through, the poem gives away the name Federica, whom we met in "Primavera" and will meet again later, but I’m not going to tell you who she is!
I originally wrote this on blue card, then typed it up and gradually added more and more to it. One of its big influences is referenced in the poem in the line 'Phoenician girls will play in the sand as I read Son de Negroes en Cuba, FGL’ FGL being the magical Federico Garcia Lorca.
Under the title I originally put 'translated from the French of Stephen Mallarmé’ before I realized I’d been so unfaithful to the original that this could never be considered a translation. To see how much it differs, read a faithful translation. Mallarmé is really hard to translate anyway, not that I’m any great expert on translation, as you can read in my Exiles blog. I did manage to crowbar my muse Elizabeth in. This was going to be a substitute for the summer sonnet I never wrote for my four season sonnet sequence, but then I still didn’t have anything for Autumn.
Thank-you, Charlie! We look forward to Parts 2 & 3 on the blog this September. As a special treat for our readers, use coupon code Blog15 for 15% off your purchase of Charlie's book.
Literary, art and photography publications, and publisher of fine books. Quarterly magazines are available online and in print, and feature contributors from around the globe. For current book titles, visit our homepage.
Copyright © Agave Magazine + Press, 2018