Street gutter in Old Town Stockholm

By Bengt Nyman (originally posted to Flickr as IMG_2356-1) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Tight red-green leaves sprout on
the curbside trees. Drizzle taps the
flattened Strongbow cans
stomped down with an empty pizza box

American hot
pepperoni and chilli.
Baronsmere’s pink petals
line the gutters;

blown down in April rains.
I even spied a spider.

12 and 13/4/2015

In rhythm and feel, this poem bears a resemblance to ‘Ninja Turtles Strike Again!’. They both hint at melancholy and contain a tone of nostalgia for things past. In each, things of the gutter and underground animal world are referenced. Plus there’s mention of pizza.

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
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Books:
In the Ocean: a year of poetry
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012

By Suzuki Harunobu (The Metropolitan Museum of Art) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Suzuki Harunobu (The Metropolitan Museum of Art) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Supportasse Boughs

The blossoms have come!
The blossoms are here.
On parade, white ruffs
of spring’s courtiers.

24/3/2015

Today I present the second of the two poems about spring blossoms. These lines, indeed like those of “March Burst” (posted last week) and many of my ‘sushi’ poems, owes a debt to Ezra Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro” (1913).

I was in Standard 5, all of twelve years old. We relocated to the school hall while our ordinary classroom was enlarged and converted into a specialist science classroom. (Now that I think about it, this was quite a progressive enterprise for an all girls’ school in 1990s South Africa.)

The hall was dark and echo-ey. On the hall wall, as in the school passages, there were block-mounted reproductions of famous Works of Western Art. I spent many hours staring at a faded, blue-tinged reproduction of “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” wondering if the lady in conversation under the black umbrella would ever make it down the riverbank to the water’s edge. Of course, I had spent six years sitting through assemblies and other high day occasions in the hall, yet being taught in this formal space made it more intimate. The back corner of the ceremonial cavern became our classroom and learning nest for half a year.

It was during an English lesson that we sat over photocopies of “In a Station of the Metro” as an introduction to haiku. Years later, with some literature knowledge, I know that this is an unconvincing approximation of a haiku (inasmuch as haiku can even work in the English language and literary tradition) and an example rather of the Imagist poems of the twentieth century. I have also learnt a bit more about Pound’s work and life, which now adds conflicted layers to my adult reading of the poem.

But when I was twelve and I first read the poem, it was just me, the scene in the metro and the vivid image of petal-faces, a visual motif that I realise crops up in my own verse.


‘Supportasse’ is another term for the starched, lace collars worn by courtiers during the Renaissance. Read more about supportasses courtesy of the following links:

http://www.thefashionhistorian.com/2011/11/ruffs.html
https://historyofeuropeanfashion.wordpress.com/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supportasse

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
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Books:
In the Ocean: a year of poetry
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012

These exuberant blossoms were taken by Filipa van Eck. They appear courtesy of the photographer, who is by day and night a talented opera singer.

These exuberant blossoms were taken by Filipa van Eck. They appear courtesy of the photographer, who is by day and night a talented opera singer.

On March 2nd when I woke up, I opened my curtains as usual. My first view is of the neighbour’s tree at the bottom of the garden. What had been bare brown branches across the winter had exploded seemingly overnight into white blossoms. It felt as though spring come. The poem ideas started to percolate. Here is the first of two poems about this year’s spring blossoms:

March Burst

Anthers atop a filament;
eyelashes pink.
The blossoms have come!

11/3/2015

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill
Books:
In the Ocean: a year of poetry
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012

Photo by Anders Knudsen via Flickr | Creative Commons

A blazing sickle of the sun
cut a toothless smile
unseen by rushing city men
caught up in the Mile.

Thick cloud across
the southern skies
obscured the time majestic
when darkness peaked –
nine thirty-five:
a normal day of business.

21/3/15

This poem was inspired by the solar eclipse mania of last week Friday. I was so excited about the event, but it hardly filtered through the clouds that covered London that morning. The only indicator was eeriness and discord as the birds registered the unusual event. All the busy city folk continued with their commutes to work. I, like others, was at my desk.

The day’s later blue skies allayed my disappointment. The day moved on.

On the commute home, I was reading the follow-up articles in the Evening Standard when some ideas for a poem started to form. So, here it is – a little after the event, and with some touches of artistic license (the peak time of the eclipse, for example).

What was your experience of ‘the smile in the sky’? Did you take any photo’s?

I have written some other poems that feature the sun, stars and moon:
On the declaration of the first day of the Year of Our Light
Transition/ Disclosed
Another Summer’s Day
Philip’s Log: Entries about my moonlit sylph

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill
Books:
In the Ocean: a year of poetry
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012

Cowboy.1887.ws

John C. H. Grabill [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

At Noon

Quiet or quick off the mark,
it’s your draw now, cowboy!
At the trough
a whinnow mane
shakes desert dust.
A shutter creaks and midday wanes.
Brass badges rust out here.

2012

This poem has divided audiences. You can read here about early readers’ objections to and compliments about the uses of artistic license. “At noon” was later included in Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys.

If the spirit of the above captured your imagination, you might also enjoy “Wild Horses Don’t Break.”  From the archives there is also this poem set in the desert.

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
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Digital clock of a basic design commonly found in hotels. Photo shot by Derek Jensen (Tysto), 2005-September-29 via Wikimedia Commons

Digital clock of a basic design commonly found in hotels.
Photo shot by Derek Jensen (Tysto), 2005-September-29 via Wikimedia Commons

The electricity tripped.
Time fused
at 05:17.
I woke to the flashing.

On my ‘phone 08:03.
The day well underway
and no new messages.

I waiver over the buttons
to recoup the extra hours.
Inside this digital turn-back machine,
once a bedside radio-clock,

05:17 is closer
to that stolen other time.


This poem reminds me of another I wrote when I was younger – ten years younger, which made me do a double take when I realised that I could have ten years behind me and have been writing for over a decade.

I posted “Knowledge,” the poem in mind, on Monday. You can read it here.

A friend asked me recently about negotiating the cross-over between topic and auto-biography. When I wrote the postlude to my first book of poetry, Shining in Brightness, I still aimed to disembody the writing I produced from me, the person who lived some of the source experiences. I have since come to a different understanding of creative process and its resulting work. I shared as much with my friend in a reply comment:

In the beginning I tried to pretend, “Oh, this is this is the through the conduit of the Narrative Voice” blah, blah. Now I care less. I just write my stuff. It’s all the laundry of my mind, clean, filthy and otherwise. People must deal, or not. Anyway, many other creatives shamelessly mine their own lives for material. Look at artist Egon Schiele, or even [writer] JM Coetzee, or any songwriter. So do celebs. They just make more money by selling their stories, together with photo-spreads, to the tabloids.

So, yes, today’s new poem derives from personal experience and specific observations. Sometimes I do write solely for myself, but if I make my work public, it’s meant for an audience. I hope you also find some stolen time in the turn-back machine of this poem.

On a lighter note, I must add that I am of the generation that loved the Back to the Future trilogy. I cannot think of time machines without a twinge of nostalgia for Doc, the DeLorean and Back to the Future III, which is my favourite because there was a smart, pretty lady in a crinoline with whom the Doc fell in love.

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill
Books:
In the Ocean: a year of poetry
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012

This image, courtesy of HelloSprout, is a handmade card and available for purchase from etsy.com. See http://etsy.me/r1D7Vd

This image, courtesy of HelloSprout, is a handmade card and available for purchase from etsy.com. See http://etsy.me/r1D7Vd

To feel
waves
must crash
if they thirst for the shore;
they must trip stones smooth,
burst jagged hands,
pierce the stretch strain
of speckled beanskins
learning the ground.

The walker must trip.

2003,
after Las Vegas, Death Valley and Flagstaff, USA

“Knowledge” appears in Shining in Brightness (2013), my first book of poetry.

It is one of the self-identified process poems that were included as snapshots of my period of adolescent whimsy. They are the very sort of poems a creative writing seminar tutor or professor would probably rip to shreds and ban one from showing to the world. In defiance, I have posted “Knowledge” for you here. I have also posted it because it came to mind while I was preparing Thursday’s post. This is a fresh poem that mentions a trip of a different sort, but also touches on the themes of time and process.

Please do return and read “Time tripped”, the new poem which is scheduled for Thursday.

T: @BeadedQuill
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Books

A detail from Child Life, A First Reader, by Etta Austin Blaisdell and Mary Frances Blaisdell, 1902, courtesy of the Old Design Shop.

A detail from Child Life, A First Reader, by Etta Austin Blaisdell and Mary Frances Blaisdell, 1902, courtesy of the Old Design Shop.

I proceed on the outside with my daily life, all the while taking mental or handwritten notes. These observations saved ‘for writing’ often echo personal revelations. The regularity of this continues to astound me, especially as I re-post poems from this blog’s archive. It is sometimes said among writers that we are called to write what we are called to learn.

Today’s archive treasure is “a small heart panics.” It is a companion piece to “String.” In the former poem, the birds flit from the speaker in fear. In the latter, the birds in the wood are settled and stable, but here the speaker’s presence is not human. The speaker has transformed into a balloon, which is less threatening to the squirrels and wood pigeons.

A small heart panics” reminds me of my own jittery flight when someone veers too far off the path to say hello. I am cautious and prone to wall myself off against vulnerability. I also know that this poem originates from a walk in the wood when I tried to befriend some birds and did indeed see myself in them. Similarly, with my author’s knowledge that “String” resonates with one singular moment of comfort, I can measure how these poems inform and complement each other.

When writers are called to write what they need to learn, this need not be biographical or psycho-emotional. In some instances we are called to write in different styles (e.g. an annual report) or for unexpected purposes (e.g. an explanation of an alarm system). On occasion, I have been required to write about topics for which I could muster very little interest (a narrative report of a workshop comes to mind). Yet through these processes I have learnt about style, brevity, research and working with an editorial team.

You write what you need to learn. You often teach what you need to learn. In sharing the work and self-aware process, you expose yourself twice over. The passersby will not only proffer hellos, but indignance and criticism. In such a state of vulnerability, your forest birds will no doubt become wary. Mine do.

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill
Books:
In the Ocean: a year of poetry
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012

Chess gameboard.

By Levente Fulop from Brno, Czech Republic (The King’s Game) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve always wished
to be expert at chess,
but I overthink
every move and
lose my pawns
and queen in the
oldest, quickest
thrashing in the book.

I have a knack for completely overthinking things. The reference in this short verse reminds me of a line from “Escucha.” During the dance, the poet/narrator “[worries] too much about accurate footwork.”

Both poems propose that striving doesn’t always fare well for the perfectionist. In “Escucha” the dance partner, even though he employs patience, “shares nothing” and departs. In this poem, the opponent beats the player/narrator at speed and without mercy.

Chess also features in an earlier poem, “I told her.”

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill
Books:
In the Ocean: a year of poetry
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012

In the Ocean_Cover Final
I wrote about whales last week in “Ulterior Motives.” It’s odd then that this time last year I posted “In the ocean one night,” a poem about whales that I had transcribed directly from a dream. Yes, I kid you not. This was one of my genuine, vivid sleep-time dreams.

The poem inspired the title of my third book, which was published last year.

The whimsical cover art is the work of the generous and gifted Norfolk-based artist Nicola Slattery. Her work features on all three of my covers.

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill
Books:
In the Ocean: a year of poetry
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012

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