Thanks for the feedback everyone, I'm glad this seems to be working. I wrote it over a few days, on my phone on a sun-lounger mainly, which was a weird but pleasant writing environment, and posted it when I was still there. Back now. Older, wiser and slightly tanned. Spent an hour today applying for a new replacement driving license.
Roger - thanks, that's very kind.
Thanks Erik - when we got back, there was actually a story about Barcelona's petty crimewave being out of control on the BBC website! I had no idea. Don't know if it made me feel better or not haha.
Hi Martin - Hmm. I sort of
don't care ha. But, the line was an oversight, metrically, in that I can't claim it was deliberately tet for any reason, so I have changed it. Cheers.
Susan - I'm glad it felt authentic to you, and that the Gaudi added something. About the Spanish, I'm a bit surprised by the reaction against it, from you and others. Apart from 'sagrada' and 'familia', which together make the name of a pretty famous building, the only Spanish is the two word phrase 'lo siento' ('I'm sorry'). I don't speak any Spanish, and had to look up the Spanish for that phrase. But it felt right for a narrator who is attempting and failing to 'blend in' and feeling this possibly self-aggrandising connection to Gaudi in order to work through his own mini trauma.
Hi Matt - that's a poem-worthy story! First time I've
been pickpocketed, though I've been burgled a couple of times. I'm glad you like this and thanks for your perceptive reading of it. As to your nit, I get your point but I thought the single word sentence 'Something' here encourages enough of a pause to indicate the speaker coming to a realisation about the nature of the thing nagging at his mind.
but distant, brooding, picking at the thing.
Something. My own grand project undermined,
my own facade — protector — wavering.
Andrew - I feel like there's a certain kind of attitude that could be described as guile which tourists are encouraged to have in these situations — a cunning and even a level of non-malicious deceit: keep your wallet in a hard-to-reach place, look like you know what you're doing even if you don't — don't look like a tourist basically. The double simile felt natural to me: the N is stressed, looks up at the extraordinary facade of Gaudi's building and thinks 'it looks like a brain...Gaudi's brain...my brain!' The feverish mind making quick connections like that. Well, that was the idea.
Thanks Nemo, that makes me happy. I was worried it was too
narrative, but then I couldn't think of what to leave out. I needed the place, the people, the building, the before and after of it. Glad you think it works. I genuinely needed to write it to make myself feel better. My wife was next to me on the beach reading John Fowles' 'The Collector' again, and I was writing this.
Yes, I'm glad you like that line and saw its dual function. I'm naturally all those things, yet somehow also this 'family man' and the poem is a tribute to them for putting up with me as much as anything ha. Cheers.
Thanks for the kind words, Daniel. Is your distinction between the poem and the 'poetry' a metrical concern? Language? I'm not sure.
Rick - that makes me happy, cheers. (The love. Not you getting your wallet stolen...)
Hey Jim - Oh god no, my students don't get to see the poems. I'm glad you like this, thank you. Larkin hmm? Well, I do love him and relate to him, which is both an English cliché and true. He said that reading Thomas Hardy showed him you could write about very ordinary things in your own voice and still elevate them, and I think many people came to the same conclusion after reading him. I did. I read Blake and the Romantics and Whitman and the beats as a teenager and loved them all, but it was grumpy Phil in my late 30s who was the revelation and got me writing. I'm a little cheerier haha. I was able to embrace the world and la familia!
Em-dashes, yes. I probably overuse them. When I'm in the zone where the poem seems to be writing itself they feel like the all-purpose punctuation mark for me. I'll take a look at possible alternatives in places.
Enjoy Scotland! Don't want to worry you but are you familiar with this scene from 'Trainspotting'?
Cheers folks. One tiny change, following Martin's comment.