findingtimetowrite

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Archive for the category “Poems”

The Goat: dVerse Poets Photo Prompt

Intriguing, unusual and slightly nightmarish… the photos by Phyllis Galembo of masks and rituals are an anthropologist’s treasure trove. Anthony Desmond over at dVerse Poets is encouraging us to use one of those pictures as a prompt for exploring our own masks and underlying boldness. For me, the image below evokes an annual Romanian New Year’s tradition known as CapraThe Goat Dance.

Water Buffalo Devil in Africa

Water Buffalo Devil in Africa

‘Vine capra, vine capra!’

We waited in vain, my cousins and I. There was no goat dance for us that night.

They came in the morning, in the ice-encrusted dawn hours.

‘It gets earlier every year,’ grumbled Uncle Ilie.

But he shrugged on his sheepskin coat and went to open the gates.

The yard filled with men, stamping, drumming.

A squeaky accordeon player stood a little aside to avoid the kicks,

the prancing, the clattering jaws of the goat.

They spoke words we could not fathom, sense now lost, left only rhyme.

Caught up in frenzy of voices, we waved our arms like windmills, tried to catch

the gauzy frills or greasy kid fur,

tried to match it jump for jump,

little knowing that the devils we were chasing

were far too deep within.

 

The Sound of Rain

rainI cannot stop the rain

it pours straight into me

through lightly-stabbed holes in my clingfilm.

 

I despise the British drizzle,

that mealy-paced drip

of convictions skin-deep.

There are obvious parallels

with acknowledged tear drops,

cycle of perdition, repetition, hum-drum…

Give me bursts of whip-flash

boil over gurgling of resentments

in fierce downpours

drops as big as fistfuls

punching to my gut to bring back

the smell of paddy fields,

that eternal wombish damp.

 

rainstormBe Latin! Uncontained! Dramatic!

Misunderstood                 theatre                 maligned

Be a storm of epic sounds:

sudden, surprising, outrageous!

Stop being

safe gully to the stars.

New Poetic Forms: The Hum-Along

We’re having a DIY moment over at the dVerse Poets Pub. Gay Reiser Cannon has us creating our own poetic form, which is quite an ask for someone like me who mostly shuns rhyme and meter. So I have cheated a little bit… but other contributors haven’t, so their work is certainly worth checking out.

But it’s a Friday, it’s been a tough week, so, ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce you to The Humble Hum-Along! This is something I do quite regularly, usually because I don’t know all the words of a song. I make up my own words to fit the tune and the beat (especially of the chorus), a bit like scat singing in jazz, but with words that make some sense. Hang on a second, maybe that’s not all that original – some people call that song-writing…!

Anyway, here’s the song I keep hearing on the radio and whose rhythm has influence my poetry today:

 

Rustle after Rain – Hum-along

Birds wake shy

getting stronger all the while

persistent chirrup stands out

but the girls ignore him…

Go out in strong air

turn your pages in deep peace

pause between the bursts of song

don’t compare to others

don’t compare to others…

 

 

 

Emotion in Poetry: Misaligned

Mandarin.duck.arpYour ducks poised for flight         forever

askew, misaligned,

I linger to add my knowledge

whether you want it or miss

the days of silent entertainment.  Mirth

drops like bounty from that dog-eared sky

where geese meet your ducks, summer meets winter.

And I, alone, my ducks in a row…

One just off,

so easy to shoot at

just mock.

just mock.

Claudia has us playing with our emotions over at dVerse Poets Pub: don’t show, don’t tell, just hint. I’ve been trying to remember all the delicate allusive texts of Japanese literature. Mandarin ducks are regarded as the ideal couple in Japanese poetic and theatrical tradition. Tachibana Akemi, one of the greatest poets of the late Edo period, summed it up beautifully below, but it all changes when geese come into the picture. Or more ducks.

My sweetheart and I,
Sleepy face side by side,
Look out at the pond
Covered with snow and watch
The mandarin ducks floating.

 

An Even Better Cat Poem (By My Sons)

My sons were not impressed with the poem I wrote about our cat for dVerse Poets Pub. They suggested (insisted) I should post their ‘Song for Zoe’ instead. They’ve composed it themselves, written the lyrics and regularly perform it as a lullaby for our bemused cat. So here goes: the much better cat poem which perfectly captures her quintessential nature (and it rhymes!).

Zoe can be fierce and Zoe can be scary,

Zoe can be cute and Zoe is so hairy.

Zoe can be fussy and Zoe can be strong.

Zoe can be greedy and this is Zoe’s song.

My First Pub Night and Animal Poem

I am very honoured and pleased to be hosting my first session behind the bar at the dVerse Poets Pub today. Feel free to join me there for an animal-themed poetry session (and link your own animal poetry if you feel inspired).

ZozoBlankieThere are two reasons for this animal theme: first, it is Poisson d’Avril (the fish which the French use to trick you on April Fools’ Day). Secondly and more selfishly, I cannot get enough of singing the praises of my lovely recently-adopted cat. Today is her (approximate) birthday: we think she is roughly two years old. It has been my lifelong desire to have a cat, always thwarted by parents, landlords, spouses, travel and international moves. But my patience has been rewarded with the sweetest, most affectionate cat in the world. Even though she does bring in an occasional lizard or bird…

 

At night a cat purrs me to oblivion

with rhythmic chant she kneads my mind

wet nose nestled in my blanket

she slows my needs and wants right down

mistress of silent companionship

she asks nothing, no rush to judge or refute

listens with pupils like pools of ancient knowledge.

 

I live scarcely aware of the encroachment of loneliness

until the tinkle of her arrival signals comfort

that small paw of trust

nuzzling the crook of my arm

her hunting instincts quelled for the moment

bloodthirst slaked in the wish to be loved.

Celebrating the Colours of Spring

We’ve a wonderful prompt over at dVerse Poets today, namely the richly colourful pictures of Sunita Khedekar. Her lush dream landscapes, tinged with an Indian mythological sensibility, are the best way to celebrate the coming of Spring. And it is coming, isn’t it? You can find more of Sunita’s work here and you can read some of the other poems inspired by her paintings here.

Happy Tree by Sunita Khedekar

Happy Tree by Sunita Khedekar

Happy List and Happy Trees

What makes me happy?

Let me list away!

Things you cannot pay

things you seek words for and poof!

they vanish when you find them.

View of mountains after weeks of cloud cover

that first gasp of air on a cold morning

puffing away at dandelion clocks

naming clouds lying back on freshly mown grass

to hell with the grass stains

bless my tail with my sons’ giggles

setting the world aright with old friends, whom you can still trust to think and feel like you

finding a new favourite book or author

music to match my moods

And the list expands with love and laughter

to be examined on dark days

to be etched in every movement, word and smile.

And yes, indeed, trees make me happy

their wisdom of renewal

yet

those lists are made, are chopped off trees

so maybe trees are not so happy…

 

The Seeker (Attempt at Micropoetics)

Cable Land at CERN

Cable Land at CERN

When you find the restless boson

touch it gently in the depth

seek the wonder ever further

beyond the forest prose of cables.

Micropoetry of 140 characters or less is being served in conjunction with macro photography over at dVerse Poets Pub. Join us and have a look!

Poetry Review: Drysalter

DrysalterI enjoy reading poetry very much, but seldom read it systematically, an entire volume of poems carefully conceived and published as an architectural creation by one single poet. And it’s even more rare that I actually review such a book when I do read it. So I’ll try to remedy this now.

Michael Symmons Roberts has won the Forward Prize for the best poetry collection of 2013 with ‘Drysalter’, a volume of 150 sonnet-like, rather metaphysical poems. But don’t be put off by its apparent obscurity: there are many beautiful, touching and immediately accessible poems in this volume.

I did not know what a drysalter was (an 18th century dealer in chemicals, salts and dyes, apparently), but there is a poem in this collection called ‘Wetsalter’, which speaks of all the pain and wounds an over-sensitive soul must endure. Perhaps the poet himself.

So here’s the rub: his salt, your skin.

He flays you first, then kneads it in.’

But then self-irony kicks in, there is no time nor patience for weeping and wailing:

but cured you are, prosciutto-man

your self preserved in perma-tan

It is this irreverent mix which makes such a strong initial impression: modern concepts, words with shock-factor writ large, technology creeping in at the seams and jostling alongside old-fashioned cadences, the psalmodic quality of the work, the titles and forms of the poems themselves, each perfectly executed on a single page. A rich tapestry of vocabulary, ranging from mentions of sonnets, cobalt, thou and portents to hymns dedicated to cars, photo-booths or karaoke machines.

There are echoes of John Milton or Donne to many of the verses: ‘essence of turmoil I plead and I pester’ or ‘you start and finish me, you’re my extent’ or ‘slowly, come slowly, o agents of despair/ paint the sky with portents, number my regrets’.  Just as you get caught in the beauty of the rhythm and the language, the poet turns suddenly towards the resolutely modern. ‘Email me the date’, he asks of you or states quietly ‘the resting actor hunts down his demons in the pool’.

There are three recurring themes or landscapes in this volume of poetry, all interconnected yet distinct.

1) A grey winter (English winter, which means relentless November most times), a landscape of storms, abandonment and ruins, with flaked brick walls, lit cars flashing by, but also a hint of hope, in the shape of wind-sorrell and willowherb growing amidst the concrete.

2) The desert, both physical and metaphorical: canyons with snakes and scorpions, the villas backing onto the empty, the crack that lets the desert in, tumbleweed rattling in the wind, the blanked, orphaned, vacant set of Hollywood life.

3) A post-apocalyptic world gouged by invisible fires, where you feel pursued by a guild of salters, both wet and dry, where none of the rules or normal signs make sense. You have to work out ‘what the sea could want from us’, you feel dessicated, as if ‘somebody is after me, gaining miles a day/ and unlike me they never stop to sleep.’

poetryfoundation.org

poetryfoundation.org

But it would be wrong to see just angst and despair in these grim landscapes, although the overall feel of these poems is grim and disquieting. There are some beautiful instances of trust and love, the comfort of personal relationships, such as in ‘The Vows’. Ultimately, it feels like Michael Symmons Roberts has tried to take a world which has broken into fragments ‘a world more fragile than we thought’ and put it back together to the best of his ability, with nothing wasted. There are many references to song, psalms and elegies in this collection, as a way of making sense of a world only partially perceived and understood. “Sing as if singing made sense,/ sing in the caves of your heart.’ He seeks to convey all the variety and richness of emotions, the original fury of words, a diversity of experiences until

…one day the world drops into your hands

like a bruised fruit, a-buzz with what you take

for wasps, but is in truth all human life.’

And, ultimately, is that not what all poetry is about? Trying to capture multitudes, forever seeking and asking questions, trusting to find and save a thin glimmer of truth for all time. A book to savour and return to, in times of plenitude and times of despair, like all good poetry.

Last Snow of the Season

Endless purgatorial descent,
I burn and twist and stop again.
No silent bliss here, no chase of thrills.
The pleasing swish is watered down.
Nothing effortless about this glide:
My feet disgraced in strange contortions.
I will them left and they swing right.
I merely linger through the motions.

Snow in Switzerland

An older poem today, as I’ve been busy all week skiing with my children during the half-term holidays. Intense, hard work (on all sides), but ultimately I hope it will have been worth it!

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