Catching The Moment – Gerry Wells
Gerry Wells published Catching the Moment in 2018 when he was 92 years old and almost blind.
The book is a collection of 147 individual ParaShots, which Gerry had written over several years. Each one describes happenings in his well-lived and well-loved life, from a fleeting thought to portraying a more significant event.
But, what is a ParaShot you may ask. Well, a ParaShot is a unique writing format developed by Gerry. A ParaShot can be considered as either poetry or prose. It’s not just about sound and rhythm, but shape too. Each ParaShot is made up of seven lines, each of which must be the same length as the first, without use of automatic justification.
This example from the book is entitled Back to School 1942
Paddington: no glass, gross barrage balloons overhead; Sir Galahad
fizzing and steaming waits with Tom; early, we bag window seats as
All clear sounds. Trains are dodgy… long stops in remote places, no
heating, kit-bagged soldiery at station stops…all this at snail’s pace.
We change trains in blackout Hereford, notable for its three pickled
eggs, eyeballs in a jar. In Ludlow it snows: no taxies. Matron makes
cocoa no sugar as we doze on our feet…finally to bed. Mine’s damp.
“I’m getting long in the tooth now and Catching The Moment is a collection of particular memories, ideas, even fantasies which for one reason or another have gone to roost in my very imperfect mental retrieval system – and often for no reason at all are back in focus as if they had never been away. I am of course a sucker for such indulgence and cannot possibly justify it since it diverts me from what I should be doing; however, I find comfort in the thought that it is most likely what everyone else is doing as well.
As with many of my literary betters my inclination is to digress, so I have developed my ParaShot format to keep me to the point, because you can’t wander far in seven lines. I am not sure whether ParaShots are poetry or prose – editors I have fired them at are not sure either but, bless them, have been kind to me and have suggested that ParaShots are a bit of both – and that will do just fine. Well into my dotage now, I have enjoyed stirring up some of – for me – the wow aspects of what is proving to be a lucky life.”
Gerry is a WW2 tank veteran and holds the French Legion of Honour.
As well as writing poetry, memoirs, and short stories for BBC radio, he has been a farmer and a college lecturer.
Here is another of Gerry’s ParaShots from the book. This one called Enlisting – 1943
Starting early – Clee Hill afloat on private sea,
rain to Hereford: recruiting sergeant’s sharp,
shiny, waxy moustache you could spike dough
nuts on. Medical: starkers in icy cell – trapped
by testicle (amazed he found them) I’m told to
cough; so to IQ test, swap soul for the shilling,
then off for our rite of passage beer. Men now.