findingtimetowrite

Thinking, writing, thinking about writing…

Archive for the category “Poems”

Homecoming? You’re Not From Around Here…

From Wikipedia, shepherd in Fagaras mountains, Romania, attribution unsure.

From Wikipedia, shepherd in Fagaras mountains, Romania, attribution unsure.

I hope I’ll be welcoming when you sweep in after your long journey

But

you’d trail mud across the cream tiles

you’d waft in earthy sweat

loam encrusted in your gnarled fingers

you’d print my white door frame

your voice would boom and scare my children

with toothless joviality as you snatch

their kisses fierce and wet.

 

I don’t pretend I chose my setting.

The colour scheme’s not mine

I added touches, too timid perhaps,

family pictures and drawings.

You’d break the symmetry of photos

you’d want to point at your descendants

and trace each trait to some Carpathian shepherd

with wrinkle-lined eyes from gazing too long at the sun.

 

You would not miss my recoil

even as you laugh it off.

I would not miss your sharp intake

of breath as bleach fills up your nostrils

You laugh at how antiseptic, how shrivelled I’ve become,

how I pay someone else to muddle up

my colour-coordinated mops and sponges

while I read books on sofas.

 

I hoped I’d be welcoming.

But I fear it turns out

deracination is not just for plants.

 

Overwhelmed with house guests this week, so just a quick poem here (not about the current guests, but about my great-grandfather, the Carpathian shepherd).

Poem: Love of Music

Music-Note-Coloring-Pages-For-KidsAnthony at dVerse Poets Pub has us talking about music being the food of love,  and urging us to play on. Who am I to disagree? Musicality, rhythm, sound is all-important to me in poetry – when I read the poetry of others or when I write my own.

 

 

 

When you were mine I took you for granted.

I lost you and never noticed you had gone.

My desk, my car, my home bathed in silence -

I believed them calm. I thought I relished the peace.

Then one day I wandered by chance to a small room

cloudy with sweat, bulging with smoke, but a space

where you were revered

uttered with honey-dripped tongue

encased in love-laden arms.

No more passing by in deafness.

You unleashed yourself against my ears

entered my pulse

forged new pathways in my limited world.

Art, Creativity, Poetry (and Prose)

Two quick reviews today of poetry and poetic prose, by two very different but equally gifted young writers. One born in England but living in Ireland. The other is Swiss, but writes (in this book) about China.

seaofink_0_220_330Richard Weihe: Sea of Ink (transl. by Jamie Bulloch)

The author is clearly attracted by exotic (i.e. Eastern) art – he has also written about the Indian woman painter Amrita Sher-Gil. This slim book is also about a real historical figure, the Chinese painter Bada Shanren, descendant of the Ming dynasty. Little is known about his life, however, although his work has been very influential, hugely admired and extensively analysed. So Weihe is free to weave the meagre details of his life into a slow-burning meditation into the meaning of art, where creativity fits into politics and everyday life, and how to capture the essence of nature and reality. The biographical details are perhaps the least interesting elements of the story, although they provide a certain structure upon which the author hangs his narrative: finding refuge in a temple, feigning madness (or perhaps being really mad for a period) to avoid confrontation with the new political rulers, reluctantly achieving fame. His artistic progress is marked through little vignettes describing his thoughts, emotions and brushstrokes as he creates ten of his most famous paintings. It’s like looking over the artist’s shoulder, watching his attempts to capture the spirit of nature, render it on paper and make it look effortless.

A beautiful, hypnotic book, full of the apparent contradictions of Taoist philosophy (exhaustively researched by the author). A book to reread for inspiration, and not just for painters, full of very quotable pages:

When you paint, you do not speak. But when you have painted, your brush should have said everything.

When you dip your paintbrush into the ink, you are dipping it into your soul. And when you guide your paintbrush, it is your spirit guiding it.

When you paint, do not think about painting, but let your wrist dance.

Originality? I am as I am, I paint as I paint. I have no method… I am just me.

You cannot hang onto the beards of the ancients. You must try to be your own life and not the death of another.

How can it be that, from a dismal sky, this bitter world can suddenly show us that we love it, in spite of everything, and that in spite of everything it will be hard to take our leave of it?

He had set himself one final goal. He wanted to paint flowing water.

silentmusicAdam Wyeth: Silent Music

A fine blend between English realism and Irish romanticism, Wyeth’s poetry starts with a small observation of daily life, which is then suddenly subverted and lets you take a deeper dive into something far more profound. Gathering and cooking globe artichokes becomes a moment of intimacy and exploration, a cinema trip with his mother becomes a heartbreaking revelation of a boy’s helplessness when face with the end of his parents’ marriage, a lost umbrella becomes the metaphor for bad memories of which we try to rid ourselves. Divorce, love, lost friendships, a father’s tumour, trips abroad, childhood pranks, child labour, pigs: there is no subject too big or too small for poetry, but there is no bathos here. Just clear-eyed and very precise recollection and wording.

There is plenty of humour and experimentation amidst more serious poems: this is the debut collection of a young, exuberant writer after all.  ‘Bubbly’ is a poem designed to be read from bottom to top, rising like the bubbles in a glass of champagne – yet it works equally well when read from top to bottom.  The poet makes of fun of fake intellectual pretensions (in the title poem ‘Silent Music’), wannabe poets who lament their lives provide them with nothing interesting to write about, naughty schoolchildren with their secret jargon, even the Danish language ‘that is why there are no famous Danish poets’.

poetryinternationalweb.net

poetryinternationalweb.net

Here’s a short poem in its entirety – the title is longer than the poem, almost, yet so much irony and ambiguity is condensed into those three lines. It’s based on the miracle observed in the summer of 1985 at Ballinspittle Grotto, when the statue of the Virgin Mary moved spontaneously, receiving much national and international publicity.

Waiting for the Miracle at Ballinspittle Grotto

Nothing moves but cars.

First one passes, then I see

a second coming.

 

By way of contrast, however, these romantic, inspirational lines at sunrise:

Some say to witness the break of day

is to witness the hand of God

pull back his black mantle

to touch fingers

with our ancestors

and know something of Adam

as the land was revealed fresh,

like seeing a lover undress for the first time.

 

Life Happens Most When You Aren’t Looking

For dVerse Poets Pub tonight, the prompt is to write about the things that happen while we’re not paying attention, the small things in the corner of our eyes, half-glimpsed. I based my poem upon my almost unhealthy obsession with sneaking a peek at other people’s bookshelves.

Tales of the Unexpected Reader

??????????Loitering with Father Dirt,

in her bookcase I pick up

random titles, authors brittle, dead,

their fame clinging like heavy wet sand

to her hesitant words.

Blue Nights with a grain of sand

I assemble in her silence.

Genji winks at Kafka when

they witness my quick fumble, sorry mess.

Who are they to judge the

81 Austerities between women and men?

Poetry Anthology for a Great Cause

I don’t often trumpet publishing news  or ask you to buy my books (perhaps because I don’t often have anything to trumpet about!), but this book is for such a good cause that I have to share with you.

product_thumbnailOne of my poems has been included in The Wait Poetry Anthology, which is now available in paperback from Lulu. [I've ordered mine and it looks gorgeous - a satisfyingly chunky collection of poems.] Of course, it’s not just my poetry: you will find such a wide variety of poems, on all topics, in all styles, from writers all over the UK and the world, debutants to established poets.

All proceeds from the sale of this volume will go to Cancer Research UK. So let me tell you my very personal reason for wanting to take part in this initiative (and why I am so delighted that my poem was selected for inclusion in the anthology). It’s the same reason why I’ve done the Moonwalk in Edinburgh a few years back (fundraising for Breast Cancer Research).

My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 36 years old. It was quite advanced so she had her left breast completely removed, plus months of chemotherapy and radiotherapy to follow. It completely destroyed her looks: she was not only forever scarred physically but also never wore a swimsuit or went to the beach again. She lost her lustrous locks (she used to have hair down to her knees when she was in her teens) and had early menopause. The cancer was vanquished and she is still alive today, but the consequences of such aggressive interventions have stayed with her, resulting in all sorts of health problems.

Edwardian Rapunzel from Etsy.com. Needless to say, this is NOT my mother in her youth!

Edwardian Rapunzel from Etsy.com. Needless to say, this is NOT my mother in her youth, but close…

I know her greatest fear at the time was of leaving me motherless at such a young age, potentially at the mercy of a cruel stepmother (she was not very optimistic about my father’s choice in female companions). Yet, although I was about 7-8 years old then and an only child, I never got to feel the full impact of her illness or her terrors. I have a difficult relationship with my mother – we have very different concepts of life and people – but I will be forever grateful to her and admire her for the way she held herself and my life together at that time. Fundraising for cancer is one of the few ways in which I can show her that.

An e-book will also be available at some point, but for the time being, here is another link with information about how to purchase the book online. Dead easy.  Thank you very much… and let me know what you think of my poem and those of others!

Myths Ancient and Modern

Over at dVerse Poets Pub, we are sharing our retelling of myths with a modern slant. I took a biblical story from the Old Testament which I’ve always had problems with (blind obedience does not sit well with me) and gave it a contemporary reading.

deckchairsSo Abraham took Isaac’s hand and led him to the barren hilltop

with view unimpeded,

deckchair aligned for a demanding god

to witness ultimate devotion.

Higher and higher they mounted:

in altitude

in death toll

in bare-faced wails and covered eyes

He was bound – he did not ask to be martyred.

Your son is not my son.

How easy to sever limbs you’ve proclaimed not your own!

Yet our sinews are joined,

through our arteries the same venom pulsates.

One cut and history bleeds out unchecked.

‘I was only obeying orders.’

Where is the word to halt, the hand to tremble?

Have they not proved enough to this rancorous Master?

Open Link Night: Autumnal Poetry

P1020461My garden teems with cucumbers, roses’ droop, heavily scented figs.

My floppy bag sufficient to fit all the harvest:

in it I also gather eggshells discarded by chicks.

I lay your boots and spade neatly to rest inside the shed.

Played the gardener enough for today – this week – this month.

So easy to forget in today’s sun-stillness:

those moments I flare in nervous thrall –

when is the shift to sandstorm season?

It’s there in the echo of last cuckoo-call.

 

Musing about the change of seasons with a little help from Sappho tonight. Please join us over at dVerse Poets Pub, where we are celebrating that wonderful free-forming, room-for-all event that is Open Link Night.

Travel Poetry: The Secret Gardens of Vaulx

20140830_154618An assault on the senses: so much to catch the eye.

We wander in a daze, through minarets of clay,

alabaster arches of thousand one more dreams.

We get lost in mazes, guided only by

children’s laughter and gasps of enchantment.

Round-mopped flowerheads beckon us to stroke them.

Birdsong fills the cool shade under the chestnut tree.

Water in every form bustles, trickles, dribbles, laps –

Each fountain a family member,

each square of cement path a pebble-enscribed love-letter.

20140830_154332It shouldn’t work: it’s madness,

disparate elements reclaimed from Morocco, Java, Spain,

brought together with nothing but bare hands and humour.

It started out as child’s play and became a family’s history,

hands in soil for decades, shared sighs, always a surprise,

glimmer of a pool around the corner, where

copper filigree meets bulbous earthen pumpkins.

Day after day they built one more terrace,

seeded another flowerbed,

unhurried, unforced,

mosaics of azure tinged with moss, gold shredded with scarlet.

 

20140830_154442We walked in smarting with petty quarrels.

Thirst quenched, a little silenced,

we leave here hand in hand.

 

These magnificent gardens that I discovered earlier this year  just outside Annecy in France – a source of inspiration and delight. For Gabriella’s brilliant initial hosting prompt about travel writing over at dVerse Poets Pub.

The Peace Mole: Light Into Darkness

I don’t usually do political poems, but this one came out quite spontaneously from an animal prompt exercise and seems to be very well suited to the topic of ‘Light into Darkness’ over at dVerse Poets Pub today.

 

arkive.org

arkive.org (copyright see above)

Perhaps peace requires blindness:

even for that brief interlude of cease-fire.

Swollen eyes peering

amazed at light,

at the velvet quiet.

Perhaps the mole is right to bury so deeply

small treasures: cleft bones, mossy stones,

carrot ends collected overground.

Anything to remind him of better days.

He will build new tunnels

when the first collapse.

He can feel the silt build up in daily doses.

His cartoon-pencil nose-tip amuses and disarms.

But even the harmless,

shy of cunning,

cannot survive – again, once more –

the promise of peace talks.

Yet they must

believe and dig,

again and once more.

 

Observing the Details

For dVerse Poets today we have the delightful opportunity to share the watercolour sketches of one of the founding members, Claudia Schönfeld, and use them as an inspiration for our poetry. I can really relate to what Claudia has to say about slowing down and really observing things carefully:

I tend to be unfocused and unconcentrated at times and I’m not very good with details. Sometimes I just don’t see the things around me. Sketching (and also poetry) forces me to focus and really look at things.

Sketch by Claudia Schoenfeld.

Sketch by Claudia Schoenfeld.

So, I’ve used Claudia’s sketch of her favourite bag as a reminder to myself to really notice the details. And to do a better job of describing them in my poetry. Except that I chose to describe a pair of scissors below rather than a bag.

Scissors

 

Despite my name I seldom rustle

nor susurrate with soothing ease…

Instead I syncopate with my right arm,

terminate with my stronger left.

You think me lop-sided, a cripple, but

I’m the master of Swiss efficiency.

No rust, no weakness,

I’m black and grey,

Grown-up and perfectly sober.

Yet in the pivot point I turn crimson,

a drop of blood

in a lifetime of running with scissors.

I cut and clip,

core of action

Hair, ties, rope – it’s all the same to me,

Trenchant with wire, swift with threads.

Do I repel you with my sharpness?

When I come out, there’s no going back,

quick-fire clack of job well done.

Just one flaw:

gratuitous green plastic handle

touched by so many children that I now

give off marshmallow sweetness.

For more colourful sketches and witty poems, please go and visit the Pub. It’s a wonderful respite in the middle of your week!

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