So Old and Yet So New (Poetry)

This is some poetry inspired by my current re-reading of The Tale of Genji.

From ink-treasures.com
From ink-treasures.com

The brush at rest, she sweetly shed
her kanji burden in black rain.
Told it slant, but all refrain
from advice or like
on poetry’s thin frame.
Safflower and cicada shells linger on pages
but nothing compares
to the shy violet blush of
crocus beneath dried leaves.
How could I forget
the persistent folly of men
and how quickly sleeves are

dampened by the morning dew?

 

And, in the spirit of Royall Tyler’s multiple footnotes: kanji are the Chinese characters or ideograms used in Japanese (alongside the syllabic hiragana and katakana), safflower and cicada shells are nicknames used for certain ladies to whom Genji has shown some affection, while the wet sleeves are a recurring motif in all of Classical Japanese and Chinese literature and represent mourning, regret, suffering.

Multiple Choices

For Open Link Night over at dVerse Poets Pub, I was inspired by this wonderful poem about Persephone by A. E. Stallings, written as a multiple choice quiz. Political indignation is all my own.

She pitches forward

  • in darkness
  • under cover
  • haunting waking hours
  • with mocking laughter

He wonders quietly

  • at her tangled shyness
  • how such a vamp could
  • where to shut her in
  • why she’s so cold

Their children hesitate

  • on brink of teendom
  • always picking the other side
  • which game to play next
  • to pick up weird vibes

We are so convinced

  • we have motley choices
  • our minds are our own
  • there is a right answer
  • we’ve the right to stun
www.thewhitepalace.com
http://www.thewhitepalace.com

Entitled in title and privileged, created in our image,

we sit back and enjoy

picking over the poor choices of others.

 

 

 

 

To all heads of department who’ve never raised their brow above the parapet

The art of dialogue is not hard to master:

you shout top-voice above prevailing storms.

The fittest lungs pierce lint-fuzzed matter.

Your ground-hugging pessimism forever warns

them off fangling a-new what has not worked in the past.

It’s this storming of brains got us in a mess in first place!

Time to rant, hone your leadership skills and craft.

Mind not the barbarians nor bigots at the gates.

Good luck, hugs, in fellowship,

your HR team, who’ve taken refuge ashore.

What? Don’t you like the cut of our jib?

 

We are reviving the lost art of letter writing over at dVerse Poets. Mine is a tongue-in-cheek corporate newsletter, ostensibly asking for leadership courage. But we all know what that means in corporate speak…

 

My First Attempt at Villanelle

Apologies for the rather obvious rhyming and prosaic language. I’m attempting a vilanelle for the first time for dVerse Poets, in the spirit of being brave and trying out new forms. Join me there for some (far better) villanelles and a great sense of community.

I’ve been reading a lot of media stories lately about cyber-bullying, trolling and other cruelties of our online world. Not that there isn’t plenty of pain that we can cause each other in ‘real’ life, but wolf pack attacks are so much easier when we are anonymous.

P1020292You crawl into the bush to hide

Arrows quiver on your flanks

Lick your wounds, stem the black tide.

 

It’s such an easy slope to slide:

their office cheer, their thoughtless pranks.

You crawl into the bush to hide.

 

Cracks start spreading, fissured pride,

from dream to hell it rudely yanks.

Lick your wounds, stem the black tide.

 

You ventured forth, ignored and lied –

pretended words were toothless blanks.

You crawl into the bush to hide.

 

But something inside has surely died

as foaming waves erupt over banks.

You crawl into the bush to hide –

Lick your wounds, stem the black tide.

However, I don’t want to spoil your Passover or Easter holiday, so let me wish you beautiful weather and a relaxed, peaceful time!

 

Reading, Writing, Sauntering About in March

I’ve already admitted that I’ve not managed the TBR Double Dare this month of only reading from the books I already own. It doesn’t mean I won’t try again over the coming months, though!

So what else have I been up to this month?

1) Reading:

I’ve read 12 books this month, of which 6 may be classified as crime fiction, 5 are from the TBR pile (hurrah!), but only 2 translations (initially, I thought three of them were, but one turns out to have been written in English by a Polish author). Must try harder…

I did manage to read two books for Stu’s East European Reading Month Challenge:

Vladimir Lorchenkov: The Good Life Elsewhere (also qualifies for Global Reading Challenge – Moldova – Europe)

A.M. Bakalar: Madame Mephisto -this is the one that tricked me into believing it was a translation, set in Poland and England.

FataleI reviewed two books for Crime Fiction Lover, as different as they could possibly be: the start of a cosy crime series set in Wales, The Case of the Dotty Dowager by Cathy Ace, and the very dark, very despairing Fatale by Jean-Patrick Manchette.

The other crime or psychological thriller type novels I read this month were: Tom Rob Smith’s The Farm (no review yet), Belinda Bauer’s The Shut Eye, Helen Fitzgerald’s Dead Lovely and Laura Kasischke’s Mind of Winter. Of this genre, the two most memorable (and, in this case, haunting) were Fatale and Mind of Winter.

liarjonesI also read Maggie Hannan’s hugely influential debut volume of poetry Liar, Jones (1995). It’s very different from any poetry I’ve recently read: more muscular, more playful, more deliberately obfuscating and difficult. Not quite my type of poetry, but there was a lot of fun and exploration. There were no efforts to be ‘poetic’, pretty or lyrical. I particularly enjoyed the poems addressed to or about Jones and the Diary of Eleni Altamura (a real historical character, an amazing Greek woman who dressed as a man in order to study painting, but tragically lost her children and thenceforth gave up her art).

Finally, I also read two of the buzzed-about books of 2014: Matthew Thomas’s We Are Not Ourselves (moving but over-long) and Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven (not reviewed yet). I wonder if the buzz did them more harm than good in my eyes, as both of them were good pieces of fiction, with passages of very beautiful and perceptive writing, yet somehow failed to wow me overall. Perhaps my expectations had been set too high or perhaps I should stop reading reviews beforehand?

2) Writing

I’ve set an ambitious goal for myself for this year: to write my second novel by September and submit it to an agent (which means it’s got to be better than first draft quality, obviously). However, considering that I only started the first page at the end of February (although I had planned most of it out in my head already, bar the ending), and given my chronic inability to find time to write, I thought I would give myself an achievable goal for the first month: one page a day (about 8000-9000 words). May sound like nothing more than  day’s writing for some of you, but to me it was a mountain to climb. I know I need to up my game, though, in terms of quality and quantity, over the months to come.

Lyon13) Flannelling around

I was going to use the term above, based on the French ‘flâneur’, someone who is walking around aimlessly on the grand boulevards, but the English word actually means something very different. Far be it from me to try and flatter or mislead you! What I mean of course is ‘sauntering’ or ‘gallivanting’ about. This means I had a great time in Lyon, at the Quais du Polar, which is the highlight of my year in crime. I’ve just written a thorough round-up of my first impressions for the Crime Fiction Lover website today, but there’ll be a few posts to follow on this blog, with further details, pictures, lessons learnt and some great quotes.

Waiting for Fireworks in Windy Chill

Image courtesy of srboom.com
Image courtesy of srboom.com

Much ado about nothing.

Let the wind find an occasion, any will do.

It’s bitter: we draw close to escape the freezing bite.
But then, the magic. Each time the lights are flung upwards, we revert to child’s stares, gasps of pleasure, chorus of ‘Aaaahs’. The last two minutes impossible to fathom in gathering of smoke-clouds.

I’ve never been without them.

At first they were empty ritual, a sweetener to parades. Post-prandial cognac to stadium choreography to mark the soporific afternoon of a people so inured to bread and circuses they could gasp no longer.

So I suppose resistance would best describe me – indifference… until…

A chill descends on the city one night in December.
Machine gun rhythms in streets howling with wind, with sirens, with rage.
Walls came tumbling down, words recaptured meaning, crying for happiness seemed normal and fear disappeared for a while. Crowds gathering, kissing strangers.

Then more popping sounds. Not fireworks these: snipers. Each sound could bring you to your knees.

I shiver in my nest of contentment.
So now I put those darker fireworks most firmly in a box. And go out with my children to mimic their awe.

I’m posting this as a response to the prompt over at dVerse Poets, where Kathleen Everett has us writing wind-inspired stories. In my memory, fireworks are not summery displays of gaiety, but hanging around waiting for something to happen, wind-chill factor rising and rising.

Jousting for Attention

Walk up, walk up, fair knights and ladies! Meeting in battle today for the first time ever are two poems of very different composure, manner and attire. The first, inspired by a verse from a ballad by that incomparable bard Sir Timothy of Br’ian, is serious and moody. A knight of darkness, riding to the rescue of damsels in distress. The second jumped fresh as a daisy from a line from Lady Claudia’s Book of Adventurous Deeds: sweet, rambunctious and all white fluffiness. They are competing here for your favours. Which one will get your vote?

From kidswindow.co.uk
From kidswindow.co.uk

 

1) One day you stop filling in cracks

with smiles, guts and vapour.

One day the paint becomes too heavy for the wall.

One night your eyes unblink in reddened wakefulness

and never come to rest again.

One morning your boots start walking all by themselves.

 

2)  Time is a thin line on a cat’s back.

When you most want to tickle it awake

and grab it by its fleeting softness,

it scampers away in offended silence.

Yet when you blissfully ignore,

pace forth in multitasking skullduggery,

reluctant to waste a drop…

it curls into a placid ball

and purrs contentment into your impatient lap.

 

These two poems are in response to our ‘medievally themed’ week at dVerse Poets Pub, where we are bidding fond farewell (but not adieu) to Claudia and Brian, our founding parents. Do come over and join the celebrations! [I have marked the lines from their poems in italics.]

Brian claudia