He Says She Says They Say

From nownovel.com
From nownovel.com

I don’t know how, I don’t know why
but one day
on the sly
and on the fly
my poems turned into surly teenagers.
No more tender night cuddles
no tear-smirched cheeks to smooth
seldom around for longer than it takes
to grunt and disapprove
of my repetitive attempts
to ask them
how
they feel.
***
Sometimes she constrains our flow
in dismally low fixed forms, barriers and the like…
Oh, pu-leee-ze, lady, make up your mind!
She twirls us endlessly,
frets, crosses out
the best among us.
Then, too late,
she introduces us to new words
still stiff from their dictionary plaid.
So why should we be easy, pleasant and obedient?
Stop trying to make us fit in!

And that’s about all you’re going to hear from me for the rest of the week, which will be dedicated, alas, not to writing, but to amusing and feeding the children, and going through an immense To Do list.

Erasure Poetry – Yummy Mummy

For every inspiration
there is a yanked deception
all for your good, your own good, your very own good
Old Dobbin work horse, clothes horse,
fit in, fit in, or back to the bargain bin.
Black and white world views:
all men cheat, all women punish.
Snide remarks, alimony payments, guilt oh guilt.
Children? A boast, a blackmail,
nothing too tangly.
Oh, princess, princess, you’re too old,
your pink trousers far too rolled…
Life is to be endured
remembered with regret.
Jump in, drown, in perfect pool
of emoting gushingness – so like a woman!
Seductive but not a slut,
mother in bloom, household goddess with Cath Kidston apron,
organic, fragrant, don’t pop the balloon!
Stay average, stay you, stay submissive,
woo hoo,
how happy we are in our 4X4 car!

The School Run, from moneymagpie.com
The School Run, from moneymagpie.com

I’m linking this to Open Link Night over at dVerse Poets (doors open later tonight) – always a great opportunity to experiment and share. Admittedly, I cheated slightly and added a few bits, but relied mainly on the prose text I’d posted here. I chose a childish beat and repetition, to further emphasise the infantilisation of yummy mummies. Which version do you like best? I always tend to choose the more succinct and ambiguous, but am I right?

Point of clarification: I am neither for nor against Yummy Mummies. But I don’t envy them. Life circumstances have made me feel their pain – or what I imagine to be their pain. Luckily, I’m not yummy enough to quite enter their ranks. 

I Pretend to Go to Tango Classes

I’d love to dance a proper tango

with flicks and slicks, quick and slow,

in sensuous syncopation,

perfection clinging to my limbs

like the smell of danger.

 

I still dream of a partner to explore

the musical vibration in every pore.

Connect with eyes closed,

be guided yet seduce to influence,

push back when needed,

make our music last beyond the final note.

 

But I fear the slide and bite

of feet so restless across the sprung floor.

I distrust the closeness of the hold, refuse to lean in…

Because I’m tired of looking clumsy

and trying too hard,

being old-dog-new-tricks kind of odd.

Because I no longer know how to walk in heels backwards.

Because nowhere do I feel as alone

as in the arms of all those others,

reassessing, readjusting, taking measure every dance.

 

So I pretend to go to weekly tango classes

and sit in my car in the woods, scribbling poems.

 

 

Cleaning the Palate with Two Unusual Books

lesignorantsÉtienne Davodeau: Les ignorants. Récit d’une initiation croisée

Davodeau is a French author/illustrator of BD, Richard Leroy is a small-scale producer of dry white chenin in the Anjou region of the Loire valley. The project is very simple: they spend a year together, learning from each other about vineyards, grapes, the soil, but also about books, writing and drawing, storytelling. Wise and witty words and illustrations ensue about the world of publishing and bandes dessinées, and a down-to-earth view of the wine-making world. We find a vivacious exchange of ideas (sometimes confrontational), two adorable strong-headed main characters and simple drawings that give you room to breathe and enjoy.

The 'real' Richard Leroy in his vineyards, from wineterroirs.com
The ‘real’ Richard Leroy in his vineyards, from wineterroirs.com

A complete surprise and a delightful book that left me with a long TBR list of graphic novels and an even longer list of wines to try! I also like the humble premise of ‘ignorance’ about each other’s profession, with both friends eager to learn from each other.

The book has been translated into English under the title ‘The Initiates’ by Joe Johnson, published by NBM Publishing.

Wendy Cope (ed.): The Funny Side

This is, as the editor explains, a very personal selection of 101 humorous poems – not funny poems, not light verse, no long essays about definitions, simply poems that have amused Wendy Cope at some point in her reading and writing life. Some of them are laugh-out-loud funny, some are more droll or curious. Some are very well-known indeed (such as the limerick ‘There was a young bard of Japan’ or Dorothy Parker’s summary of suicide methods), others are a pleasant new discovery. Finally, there is a third category, those that leave me with an ‘Oh, is that all?’ feeling of disappointment. But that’s fine, because we all find different things amusing.

funnypoemsMy personal favourites are (unsurprisingly perhaps) on gender themes or mocking the life of organisations: May Swenson on ‘The James Bond Movie’, Liz Lochhead’s ‘Men Talk’ and Simon Armitage’s ‘Very Simply Topping Up the Brake Fluid’ (anyone who’s been patronised at a garage will love that one) for the first, Julie O’Callaghan’s ‘Managing the Common Herd’, Hugo Williams’ Desk Duty’ and Gavin Ewart’s ‘The Meeting’ for the second.

But, for a taster, I’ll share two very different poems in their entirety. Facetious? Perhaps, but they brightened up my day.

Scintillate by Roger McGough
I have outlived
my youthfulness
so a quiet life for me

where once
I used to
scintillate

now I sin
till ten
past three.

Alma Denny: Mrs Hobson’s Choice

What shall a woman
Do with her ego,
Faced with the choice
That it go, or he go?

 

 

Reading in the Merry Month of May

It’s been a changeable old month weather-wise, this May, and that has been reflected in my choice of books. I’ve read 12 books, and only 4 of those were by male writers (and two of those were for review). I finally managed to tackle 4 from my Netgalley pile (sinking under the greed there…), 5 from my bookshelves (although two of those may have been VERY recent purchases), plus one random purchase while being stuck at the airport. 7 of the books above may be classified as crime, one was spoken word poetry and there was no non-fiction this month.

DSCN6617
Gotta love the cloudy days of May… Lake Geneva from Vevey.

 

Julie Schumacher: Dear Committee Members

Louise Penny: How the Light Gets In – dare I count this as the first of my TBR20?

Helen Fitzgerald: Bloody Women

Clare Mackintosh: I Let You Go

Daniel Quiros: Eté rouge – this one counts for my Global Reading Challenge – Central and South America

Kristien Hemmerechts: The Woman Who Fed the Dogs

Quentin Bates: Summerchill – reviewed on CFL website; you can read my interview with the author here

Ragnar Jonasson: Snowblind – reviewed on CFL website; I’ve also had the pleasure of interviewing Ragnar here 

Megan Beech: When I Grow Up I Want to Be Mary Beard (poetry)

Ursula Poznanski: Blinde Vögel – a Facebook poetry group turns deadly in Salzburg – how could I resist?

Hadrien Laroche: Orphans – philosophical fable – I thereby declare this #TBR1

Sara Novic: Girl at War – survivor of the war in Croatia returns ten years later to her home country – #TBR2

These last four were all memorable in quite different ways, so I want to write more thorough reviews of them soon, so watch this space.

Siglufjordur, location for Snowblind. Picture taken by the author, Ragnar Jonasson (thanks to Twitter).
Siglufjordur, location for Snowblind. Picture taken by the author, Ragnar Jonasson (thanks to Twitter).

Crime fiction pick of the month is going to be a tie between Snowblind and How the Light Gets In. But I also have my eye on this Austrian writer Poznanski now and hope she gets translated more into English (she also writes YA and children’s fiction and is known as Ursula P. Archer in the English-speaking world).

Finally, how has writing fared this month? Some rough handwritten drafting has taken place, but it’s been another tough month, with business trips, lots of holidays and parental visits. Must do better next month (famous last words?)… The good news is that poetry has started to flow again after a long period of feeling stuck.

 

 

 

 

 

And now for something really, really different…

Megan Beech in performance, image from Flickr (unattributed).
Megan Beech in performance, image from Flickr (unattributed).

Megan Beech is young, loud, unashamedly intellectual and feminist. She is one of the freshest voices in the powerful spoken word or performance poetry movement, which is gaining momentum especially amongst young people in the UK. You may have heard of Kate Tempest and her audio recordings in Britain or Saul Williams in the US, one of the leading lights of slam poetry – which is like a sort of ‘dance-off’ for poetry. Megan is just as talented, though less well-known (so far) and I love the way she combines her bluestocking propensities with wit, humour and outspoken candour.

When I grow up I want to be Mary Beard.
A classy, classic, classicist,
intellectually revered.
Wickedly wonderful and wise,
full to brim with life…

Although this is poetry to be heard rather than read on the page, I’ve had ot make do with this slim volume of poetry entitled When I Grow Up I Want to be Mary Beard, published by Burning Eye Books in 2013. There is something clearly declamatory and more direct in this kind of poetry than the one I am used to reading. So much depends on the personality of the poet, I suppose, how they ‘perform’ the poem. It is also much more political – a form of protest poetry.

So sit down, retire your reckless, restless rhetoric
and actually start listening.
Make some decisions.
Sort out the system.
Or better yet,
give me a Britain that’s actually Great
and not this state that I live in.

Portrait from thepoetrysociety.org.uk
Portrait from thepoetrysociety.org.uk

However, although it looks artless and ranting, spoken word poetry is also carefully planned and balanced, it has to sound just right, there are internal rhymes, puns and word plays. The rage and indignation are carefully controlled and edited – yet still ring true and raw.

The charm of fearless youth is that there is no subject that is off-limits. Michael Gove,  rowdy students, negligent parents, Easyjet, a boyfriend with widely differing musical tastes, Harry Potter and a couple snogging on the Circle Line are all targets of her barbed wit. I particularly enjoyed the rant about ‘Behind Every Great Christmas There Is Mum':

…it seems crazy we’re embracing
misogynistic depiction presented by ASDA-ian dictum,
whereby women must be prim, proper and Christian,
and only give birth to children
in order to spend Christmas in the kitchen.
Having no sense of own volition
under patriarchal systems
which are clearly non-existent.
While her family insist on
a swell of patronising applause
which only stands to reinforce
subservient slave is her dictionary definition.

I can’t wait to see what Megan Beech does next. I hope she doesn’t lose her wild streak and continues to expand her subject matter. You can see Megan in action in one of the videos featured on her website.

Everyday Happiness

Happiness Is…

ParisSpring

A sunny day early in the Paris spring.

Happiness is sun-dappled apple in its freshness

but lingering smooth like chocolate almonds melting on your tongue.

Hearing flowers grow or each blade of grass unfurl,

or gentling out of fluff lining the nests.

Happiness is hearing the bustle elsewhere

oneself in no hurry

quick only to smile at passers-by.

Sweet hesitations of nothings to fill a day.

A perch somewhere astray, to pontificate and contemplate

glimpses of famous monuments,

but no need to tick them off your list.

You admire the sleek and chick Parisian parents, their control

of pushchairs…  breathe relief they’re not your own…

It’s the little everyday things we celebrate today on dVerse Poets Pub. Join us there for a drink, a chat and plenty of good poems!