Very rough drafts of poetry

Never throw out old notebooks, even with the looming threat of an overseas move. I just came across these lines of poetry. I transcribe them as they are, unpolished, but there is room for development at some later point in time.

I come from a long line of peasant women
plodding uphill on the hottest of days
tilling the soil
harvesting potatoes
lifting full metal buckets of water
dropping babies in the cornfields then back to work.
Men gone to war on fronts left and right
cattle rounded up for troops
making do with bone soup and cornmeal pap
nettle soup and pumpkin plump.

I come from a long line of stoics
who expect no respite from labour
no love everlasting
work is their curse and due and praise
and rest comes too seldom
no one owes anyone happiness.
They crawl up the mountain like a murder of crows
in their black widows’ garb
laugh with gaps in their teeth
grey plaits swung firmly under kerchiefs.
They have never dieted in their lives
food fuels their bending and plucking
running after sheep.
They can drink men under the table.
They’ve endured
and bred in me a fibre
smacks of backbone
yet fluid like a reed
when the breeze turns into storm.

Peasant women in the field, by Camil Ressu (1880-1962), a Romanian painter who often painted rural scenes
Peasant women in the field, by Camil Ressu (1880-1962), a Romanian painter who often painted rural scenes

Teenagers and Drama Queens

Teenagers of both sexes can be such drama queens –  I remember how important and raw and overwhelming EVERYTHING seemed back in those years. The hates, the loves, the passions were all so much more immediate and colourful! So, my thirteen year old has only just become a teenager but is displaying all of these strong feelings. Or rather, the feelings are often getting the better of him.

This sometimes leads to some amusing situations, such as when he is required to write a poem for his French class on the subject of melancholy. His efforts seemed to me worthy of a bloodthirsty and world-weary Baudelaire:

Mélancolie

Dans la ville c’est bientôt le soir.
Mélancolie, la bile noire,
seule la tristesse comme émotion.
Tout le monde est donc en dépression.

Un autre homme tombe mort
Il faudra enterrer son corps
Le cimetière est déjà plein.
Voilà la fin de mon refrain.

English translation (sadly, without the sound effects they were required to create):

The city soon turns to dusk.
Melancholy, that black bead,
sadness the only emotion.
Everyone is in deep depression.

Another body falling down.
We’ll have to bury his corpse.
The cemetery is already full.
And that’s the end of my refrain/song!

Messy teenage bedroom, from alamy.com
Messy teenage bedroom, from alamy.com

And now that my internet connection appears to have come back (hush, softly, I don’t want to jinx it!), I’ve been enjoying the #Teensin5words hashtag. Some of them will resonate with many of us, whether we are currently parenting teens or not:

Stomp stomp stomp stomp SLAM!

You were never my age!

Shut up! I know everything!

Too late for Plan B.

I’m linking this up to Open Link Night at dVerse Poets Pub, although it is not really my poem. But it’s a good way to end a horrendous week (or two, or three) without internet or phone, after not being able to read any of the wonderful poems there!

 

Slick to Swallow

Child, your mother’s hair unwashed for a week

tangles limply on the pillow.

Flattened by overuse, you prop her up, she slips back down.

There is no justice.

You bring in dandelions she has no puff to blow.

She swallows watery gruel and superlatives

with equal indifference,

Spooned out at intervals,

when you remember she is human too.

There is no medicine

if oil tars feathers

and causes the family to mat and separate.

 

Erasure Poetry

Time for a little more poetic experimentation. I read Canadian writer Alain Farah’s Ravenscrag recently and loved some of the passages enough to attempt erasure poetry with them. There is a strange logic to these type of poems which makes you wonder just how much of our language is essential…

Black marble tycoon content with conformist little books:

his merchant fleet takes pleasure in being neutralised

at the Montreal governor’s estate; those pastime books

spin floridly through thirty-six rooms –

not sinking into the mind

not speaking to dark grief

but breeding ravens.

The ballrooms may be mentally ill

yet it’s always the others who

bake cakes and play ping-pong.

The dwarf stumbles down to cavernous Cameroon

and disciples of La Sape

make books with no night.

View from Mont Royal, Montreal
View from Mont Royal, Montreal

Have you ever attempted erasure poetry and discovered that each person will choose different words which resonate with them? That our subconscious will pick those words which best describe our current state?

Media Circus: A Poem

I’ve written before about my distaste for a life lived online or even in front of a TV screen. Of course, I do both, but only when my friends and family are not around. I much prefer genuine conversation. Except sometimes, it has to be said, the more interesting and honest conversation does take place online, when we dare not voice our real thoughts or interests to those around us. The emphasis, however, is on the term conversation, rather than shouting over each other, jeering, trolling. I lived long enough in my childhood in a place where I was told what to think and saw the darker side of herd mentality. I now want to listen to all points of view and engage in informed, considerate debate, like proper grown-ups, instead of a media circus.

Bojangles hums but brazen sky

Listens to others and shuts him down

Next, please, next!

Rainbow juggling, brilliant flash,

Tongue-twisted fire-eaters swallow their words

A pack of blood trolls swoop and snarl

Dribble slogans like so much stray mud

Follow the leader

Lost in the crush

Chirping and tumbling

Booked for daring to face life

Raw, unrevised, with no updates

How you snap those fingers,

Bojangles the merry,

And the lighter side of like

Turns to toasty concern,

So easy to warm on demand.

From celebuzz.com

I am not a political poet, but…

Fair is Fair

I cannot stomach another appraisal in the garb of friendly chat
upstairs at Starbucks
dissecting goals and stretching targets
just beyond the realm of fairytale achievement.

Business drivers and objectives, abstract terms and jargon
jostle for dominion
while a plague falls upon both your houses, tiled with greed.
Slurp your coffee in a bowl of soup,
enough calories to feed a family of four.

Check your privilege like a raincoat at the door.
Please isolate one or two areas for improvement –
oh, I don’t know, pay taxes maybe?
Fairtrade jazz too bland and quiet to offend
as I sip my hot beverage
and bemoan the drop in my shares.

REUTERS/Will Burgess
REUTERS/Will Burgess

Poetry Link-Up: Content Inside

She’s forgotten the hot shiver
of a new hand
stroking her hair

Her skin stretched and soft
like blotting paper
no longer absorbs
the ink bruise of lovebites.

Crooning a broken record of a lovesong
she tangles her hair
for the few seconds
her body convulses

And feels the power she once had given
to the nook of broad shoulders on men.

Image courtesy of favim.com
Image courtesy of favim.com

I’ve been submitting quite a few poems to literary magazines lately, so I’ve been using this blog only to post very rough first drafts or discarded poems or poems which require substantial reworking. Apologies for that! I’m still cheekily linking this up to dVerse Poets Open Link Night, which starts later on today, because I always enjoy going there for a visit. Join me if you can!