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.

Refugees

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

Calais

Twenty Years After in Cecile’s Writers’ Magazine

I don’t usually celebrate my publications on my blog [And why exactly don’t I? That is a subject for another day.], but I do want to share this one with you. I am very pleased that Cecile’s Writers’ Magazine has just published one of the poems which has meant the most to me, Twenty Years After.

This is a poem I wrote three years ago in a sudden fit of inspiration on a business trip to London. The first draft of it is here. It’s about the person I fell in love with during my first year as a student in the UK, someone who broke my heart. I’d forgotten or buried the memory for many years, and have never seen that person again, but revisiting the Barbican brought it all back. On a frozen winter day, we’d practised our ballroom dancing on its empty terraces, just before going to a theatre performance. As the snowflakes started to fall around us, I thought I’d met the love of my life. Now, older and wiser, I know that life is constant flow. And so is love.

I’m really pleased it’s this particular magazine, which I’ve been reading online for a few years now, because I really admire its mission of interculturalism, more important than ever in today’s world. So, if you want to hear some international voices, all united by a love of the English language, do join me there.

Barbican Centre, from euron.co.uk
Barbican Centre, from euron.co.uk

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?