Ian Stewart Black

Modern master of classical poetry

Month: October, 2010

There are worse ways to be rejected (email from a potential publisher)

Dear Mr Black,

These seem to be skilfully done but you seem trapped somewhere, or rather somewhen, else, probably a couple of centuries ago. Here, I’m only interested in contemporary writing using contemporary language, and I’m afraid these don’t meet those criteria. I like reading classic poetry from the past too — and publish quite a bit of it in the Shearsman Classics series — but I prefer my living poets to be in the here and now.

Sorry I can’t help you here.


Tony Frazer


The Birds Will Always Sing

On the day we fell in love,
I prayed to see the dawn.
Held your hand and starry gaze,
And soon, the night was gone.
But as the sun ascended,
The sky was painted grey.
No vivid flame, but storm clouds,
I looked to you, dismayed.
But in your smile, as ever,
My joy was set to wing.
With those words I came to know,
‘The birds will always sing’.

On the day we made our vows,
I prayed to see the sun.
Held my nerve and said aloud,
To all, ‘You are the one’.
But as the doors were opened,
We looked towards the sky.
No morning star, but showers,
I thought to see you cry.
But in your smile, as ever,
You wouldn’t change a thing.
As we danced amid the rain,
‘The birds will always sing’.

On this day, I stand alone,
Now greyed, of aged cast.
Holding back a torrent’s worth,
How many years have passed?
But as the skies have opened,
And thunder crackles, too.
Light is breaking through the clouds,
And shining down on you.
In a suit of black, I stand,
My love, my wedding ring.
As I rest beside your grave

‘The birds will always sing’.

A collection of thoughts (Not a poem)

This is quite out of my usual xanga repertoire, but go with it and I’m sure you’ll be fine. It’s a collection of things I’ve said on twitter or just emailed to myself because I found it important. I suppose I’m putting it here because it’s something more personal and I don’t think my poetry has really been good enough lately, so this is kind of compensation. Additionally, I believe that, if everyone were to think the same way as some of the following, the world would be a beautiful place….Oh, and everyone would be happy, even the depressed kids who find release from a knife, which I used to be. One thing to note: ‘Grace’ is a word that essentially sums up my entire belief system, so it’s significance to me is monumental. So, no further explanations, just phrases and speeches, make your own sense from them.

Death means nothing if you live for something.

The only torch one must bear in the darkness of life is that of self worth, But without the means to justify it, that flame will soon be turned upon you.

Hate to break it to y’all, but we are little more than parasites upon this beautiful ancient world. Tis only hubris that tells us otherwise. For as long as we consume natural resources, destroying this natural world. For as long as we accumulate weapons and kill its creatures. As long as these things continue, parasites is all we’ll ever be. But if you want my view (That’s a big if), we CAN become the most beautiful of its beings. We can become angels on this blue heaven. All we need to do is free ourselves from the unspoken tyranny. All we must do is dismantle society. Once the government falls. Once we all leave the rat race. One we stop burning these one-use resources. We can begin to ascend. And then?…Poetry. Art. Music. Sculpture. We tell our stories, songs and very souls. We share what makes us human among everyone. And only when we have shared what makes us human, we can all learn to be more. We can all be angels. Beautiful, elegant, graceful angels. So, who’s with me?

Life is given to us from the unrelenting obsidian ether so that we may create beauty from nothingness.
            – Understanding these words is the first and last step to peaceful happiness. Everything in between will follow of its own accord.

To quote Tim Minchin: ‘To gild refined Gold, to paint the lily. To throw perfume on the violet, is just fucking silly’. Take your pleasures where they come. This is a world of such endless beauty and wonder, our petty human struggles mean so very little. What about Casablanca?…. the troubles of two people (whatever the quote was) don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world! My point is, this world is filled with such incredible beauty, wonder & majesty that if every single moment of your life isn’t spent in awe-
          – Your eyes simply aren’t open.

I want to be more than anyone has ever been before. I need to surpass humanity, to ascend to heights none could ever dream of.

Think, for me. I beg you to think. WHO is truly enslaved? Those who claw at their shackles or those who BELIEVE themselves free? Find your own answer. If you want more than belief, but knowledge, you will find your way to Grace.

I had mastered and embodied grace and beauty. I was invincible, elegant and had embraced divine light. So I have fallen from Grace. So I shall fall from Grace again. But now, I know that we can become living angels. It takes oh so little. Now that I know what I can be, I will never, EVER settle for less. We can all become eternal, immortal and luminous beings of Grace. All you need to do is open your eyes. And take my hand.

Alright, cards on the table. I’m going to change the very fabric of reality or die trying. I know what I believe and I will walk through hell to show others what I can see. Poetry, philosophy, beauty, grace, wisdom. Angels.

If one should die without changing the world, One has not achieved one’s purpose.
The world I was born into is a well oiled machine, a world of order. I consider it my duty to burn it down.
Consider me no simple anarchist. Tis not chaos that I crave, it is liberation.
One day, I will bring the world to a standstill. People will be crying in the streets, strangers will fall upon each other in floods of tears,
reaching out for someone to share their moment of freedom. My name will be immortal.
    Grace, Beauty and Liberty




Society offers you a job, a partner, some kids and a casket. I offer you Grace.
The choice is entirely yours. But you only have one life.

Lament of the Lost

Amid the whistling winter winds,
When blood is frozen still,
And silent are the seabirds’ cries,
A silence, deathly ill.
For shadows in the soaring mist,
And calls among the deep,
No sailor dares to breathe a sound,
Nor close his eyes to sleep.

A shiver, chill, a tremble,
The never-spoken dread,
A creak, a step behind,
The vestige of the dead.

A hand upon your shoulder,
And whisper in your ear,
You stand, a master of the sea,
Yet shuddering with fear.
No mortal hand can vanquish,
With gun or silver knife,
Hoping, when the mist descends,
That Death has spared your life.

But I was once a sailor,
And I have stood in fear,
As you, who now, do tremble,
At my footsteps drawing near.
My whispering, a warning,
Tis for your sake that I pray,
Make for any merry port,
And til your death, do stay.

But never more a sailor, be,
And do not join the ranks of we.
We, who call among the deep,
The ghosts of old who died at sea.