#NationalPoetryDay Let’s Celebrate!

This is shaping up to be a lovely week full of my favourite things: World Ballet Day, World Teachers’ Day and now National Poetry Day here in the UK. Here are a few favourite fragments of poems to celebrate.

About dancing:

I cannot dance upon my Toes—
No Man instructed me—
But oftentimes, among my mind,
A Glee possesseth me,

That had I Ballet knowledge—
Would put itself abroad
In Pirouette to blanch a Troupe— (Emily Dickinson)

About teaching:

…such things are said to be
Good for you, and you will have to learn them
In order to become one of the grown-ups
Who sees invisible things neither steadily nor whole,
But keeps gravely the grand confusion of the world
Under his hat, which is where it belongs,
And teaches small children to do this in their turn. (Howard Nemerov)

Nevertheless, I am extremely grateful to those teachers who shaped me into what I am today (caveat: all mistakes my own, etc. etc.)

From LifeintheItalianHills.com
From LifeintheItalianHills.com

About poetry – well, I can’t stop thinking about this poem today, by Robert Bly:
Oh, on an early morning I think I shall live forever!
I am wrapped in my joyful flesh,
As the grass is wrapped in its clouds of green.

Rising from a bed, where I dreamt
Of long rides past castles and hot coals,
The sun lies happily on my knees;
I have suffered and survived the night,
Bathed in dark water, like any blade of grass.

The strong leaves of the box-elder tree,
Plunging in the wind, call us to disappear
Into the wilds of the universe,
Where we shall sit at the foot of a plant,
And live forever, like dust.

Finally, I leave you with this amazing line from Mahmoud Darwish:

You are reluctant to emerge from the metaphor in case you fall into the well of loneliness.

Journey of a Poem: The Bare Bones

Reading the article by Michael Mohammed Ahmad about the universality of bad writing and bad attitudes towards receiving feedback was an experience which had me laughing and wincing in recognition. It’s a harsh article, but perhaps a very necessary one. I’ve read (and written) an excess of lines which are too pretty, too laboured, trying just a little too hard to RAM the point down the readers’ throat, and I couldn’t agree more with his recommendation ‘to write something honest, specific, tangible, to use original metaphors and symbols that I could see in my mind’s eye, and to write something that was not a rehash of what they had been conditioned to believe a poem should be’.

My particular problem in poetry is that I go too unfiltered and raw, trying to fit in all the ideas and metaphors, all the images and juxtapositions which occur to me. It’s almost like I scribble down from dictation. Which is fine for a first draft, but a poem requires far, far more subtlety and editing!


So I thought it might be fun to share with you the journey of a poem. Here is the ‘raw material’ for a poem which I jotted down following a pique of anger at the weekend. I will be working on it over the next few weeks and provide regular updates, the reasons behind the changes I make, links to poets who’ve done it better than myself etc. I hope it’s a fun way of approaching poetry for those of you who don’t read it so much for enjoyment or find it too ‘ivory tower.’ For the time being, since it’s just an info dump, I’ve not used any punctuation. It’s the way I always start a poem – making a note of certain ideas or feelings before I forget.

Outwit with passwords
you do me
fat on apps, accounts and Facebook foxiness
offshore squirrelling

Outrun in the gym
to keep yourself trim
belly suck and crow superior

Outcry me with your pulled muscles
nestle in your tea-based need
triumphant in your bedrest
you ignore panda-eyed flu ghosts around you

Outmother me, won’t you,
all laughter and scientific depth
masking the many hours of boredom
which you refused to partake
the allure of long-distance parenting
Swiss chocolate vs. squished pies
drowned in custard

Van Gogh Erasure Poetry

Picture and art credit to Emily Blincoe at www.emilyblincoe.com
Picture and art credit to Emily Blincoe at http://www.emilyblincoe.com/arrangements


Even if I go under in the attempt

this I know:

I have a definite belief as regards art.

The great doesn’t happen through impulse alone.

If one is competent in one thing

one can learn rhythm in other areas.

It’s the succession of little



even if we’re tired, we go on –

because we’ve already gone a long way.

You may not always be able to say what confines you.

And the Prison is sometimes called mistrust.

If it were that easy

one wouldn’t have any pleasure of it.

That is all I seek:

always something other than heroism.

I try not to forget how to jest.

Based on the Selected Letters of Vincent Van Gogh. The picture above is one of a series of pictorial prompts on the theme of ‘Arrangements’ from dVerse Poets Pub. The colours reminded me so much of Van Gogh’s palette. Plus, I tend to be a stickler for a tidy desk arranged just so before I can start writing…


The Over You Blues

This poem was inspired by a night of blues at the fabulous Fetes des Fourvieres at the Roman Amphitheatre in Lyon. So it’s dedicated to Emma, reader, blogger and friend, who encouraged me to spend that glorious summer evening there with her.

Over You Blues

I’m gonna leave this town                   and take my mailbox too.

I’m gonna leave this goddam town                and take my mailbox too.

So when I leave this fake old town                 what are you gonna do?


With my mailbox all mine                   no more of your excuses will do.

When my mailbox is all mine                         your wrong address excuses won’t do.

I’ll keep my mailbox all to myself                   no more excuses from you!


I’m so over you now                even though you done me wrong.

I’m over and out with you now                       ‘cos you done me so wrong

I’m so over you now…                Don’t know why I’m writing this song!

The legendary Bessie Smith.
The legendary Bessie Smith.


Mistranslation of French Tax Forms

There is still plenty of unfinished business on the French side of my administrative papers, so I amused myself with some ‘literal’ translations of their menacing letters. Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Wolf and wakes up at night panicking about fines and other punishments? Not me, not me!


Apple of the Côte, apples of all orchards unite!

Pursue this chance

limit the number of dates you go out on

keep your bearing regal

and return your ransom

in the envelope joined to the hip of this letter.

You major retard.

Even I can’t keep the imperatives and bad language out.

A man doing his taxes using a calculator and pencil on a white background

What Poetry Is Not

tumbled_gemstone_pebbles_arpOpen eyes of pearl,  ruby mouth,

wax translucent about gemstones and full moons,

wrap waves in gossamer twinkles,

love’s courage and dejection tear at us

with fixed card-greeting smiles.

Stuffed to the gills

with cluttersome grandiose:

pretty-sounding words

don’t worry about the meaning!

I’m linking this to dVerse Poets Pub, my first contribution there in a long, long time. The form is one created at the Pub: a quadrille, a poem of precisely 44 words, and the prompt in this case was to contain the word ‘open’. I cheated a little bit with some double-barrelled words, but for much clearer and better poems, do join us over at the Pub!

Happy Anniversary, dVerse Poets!

I’ve become a much less frequent visitor to the dVerse Poets Pub in the last few months, but it’s still the friendliest, most fun poetic community that I’ve come across. They are celebrating five years of poems, discussions, shared thoughts and laughter, so join us there , find out what Brian Miller (one of the founders of dVerse) has been up to recently, and take part in the first challenge of the week: a quadrille about ‘Journeys’.

A quadrille is a poem of 44 words exactly. Here is my attempt.


The journey’s start
your journey’s end
Ouroboros alone knows
when we are done exploring in porous dinghies
or flour containers
in baroque façade deceptions
carton jungle of dead ends
where our feet move on and on for miles
yet our hearts not one iota