Michael Shepherd

(8.4.1929 / Marton, Lancashire)

! A novel situation

She looked not unlike the anti-heroine
of her own novels
or was it the other way around?
mousey but together,
neatly dressed
in an understated way
like her Paris dressmaker mother
who'd fled Vienna

Though in fact she was a brilliant bluestocking lecturer
and trenchant critic
who'd embarked, on the side,
on novel writing

However the British
don't like people who do two things well
and the critics - mostly men -
panned her rotten
while the women reserved judgment.

She had a standard plot -
mousey, together spinster
meets possible, quiet Him
who might be The One
but who turns out too morally wet
for Her.

But her increasing sublety with variations to this
and increasing literary skills
won her praise from feminist critics
and even a minor prize.

I had expressed envious admiration for her trenchant criticism
to a colleague; one day
the unsolicited word came:
she had expressed interest in meeting me...

A shared life of letters -
the Sunday papers read in bed -
with her reviews in them -
the flow of sparkling wit -

a shared life of letters -
the plot of all her books the same..
the failed romance,
the material to hand...
the literary world's knowing gossip..

I flunked it

on Friday afternoons,
I sat opposite her on the bus
from Piccadilly
to her small but dress-maker- neat flat
just off King's Road, Chelsea
bought with the prize-money, I guess
and the increased royalties
(the men still scoffing at her standard plot,
the women admiring her subtlety in describing
the bruised but knowing human heart...)

I knew her face, from in the press;
she didn't know mine.
I sat opposite her on the bus
- neatly dressed, together -
in bittersweet incongruity
the novel I never lived
and she never wrote

Submitted: Sunday, February 13, 2005
Edited: Friday, October 05, 2007

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  • Julia Klimenova (5/8/2006 2:06:00 AM)

    A sad and moving story. A woman afraid to live differently, unfulfilled, escaping to her novels, hoping to give her life a beautiful form, if not content. Wonderful write. Thank you. (Report) Reply

  • Michael Shepherd (10/25/2005 7:31:00 AM)

    Max, I'm open to suggestions! What makes women read on from 'mousey' in her novels, like 'sharp-eyed', but which is visible in her appearance? Actually, she doesn't use her eyes on the bus - but in her writing - wow! She dresses the 'carefully thought-out underplayed chic' way Frenchwomen do...'neat'
    doesn't carry much weight...gimme the woid, Max! (Report) Reply

  • Max Reif (6/20/2005 6:57:00 AM)

    It drew me in instantly with the promise of its descriptive details about 'her'. I wanted to know more. I was yours.
    Wasn't disappointed.
    One caveat, I'm not sure if the word 'together' quite works. It's a hippie colloquialism that should have become so much 'part of the language' by now that one could use it anywhere. But I dunno, I'm not sure it has enough meat to pull its weight.
    I'm only comfortable saying that because I loved your poem.
    Any thoughts about it? (Report) Reply

  • Rich Hanson (2/13/2005 12:35:00 PM)

    This is the kind of poem that I can only shake my head at and say 'God, I wish I could've written that. (Report) Reply

  • Michael Shepherd (2/13/2005 10:20:00 AM)

    You have all the ingredients I have, Lenchen - farm-fresh, dawn-picked, touched with the dew of humanity - it's all there is, the larder's empty and I don't use substitutes...not a word isn't true, sniff, sob... (Report) Reply

  • Lenchen Elf (2/13/2005 10:10:00 AM)

    Michael, this is superb... delicious, I want more, but know that this is plated-up as it should be tasted, thank you (Report) Reply

Read all 7 comments »

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