And

From an original photo by Polina Zimmerman from Pexels
a poem to be paired with With

And, another word –
verboten in excess,
the Creative Writing Rules
would warn.
And then another thing
And, and, And, and.
Dandy and, 
Like but, not to be 
ushered in at sentence starts.
And so for years, and 
carefully was placed or
 erased.
But now the rules are weaker.
Butands, andbuts
Buttons, and boîtes,
All found in these small words.

15/03/2020

Today’s poem is a companion to With. Both poems are about a personal rebellion against recommended creative writing rules. Don’t end sentences with with. And don’t start sentences with and and nor should you use and in excess by using it to tag on extensions and meanders to your primary thoughts. Of course, I have an affection for these two small words. With and. And with.

There is a third word in this list of to be used correctly words and that is but. Like and, it should not be used to start sentences (with). In the poem, you can see how the association with but finds its way into the playful end list:

But now the rules are weaker.

Butands, andbuts

Buttons, and boîtes,

These three little words are little buttons as they attach and close the gaps between meanings and sentences. And they are little presents that add an extra thought (And then this other thing happened…) or swerve the original direction (I had planned to, but…) or bring in the possibility of open adventure and movement (Let’s go with).

Don’t do this in your homework, kids. You may have to wait until you are the final arbiter of your writing style.

This poem is in Necessary Work, an unreleased collection that BeadedQuill has in the wings. In the meantime have a look at Jangle between Jangle, a collection of verse written in 2018 while jangling to-and-fro during the London commute.

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Having accomplished

Photo (altered) by Andrey Grushnikov from Pexels
There is that lull
Where you can’t unhook
from sinkhole hours lost
to nothing with nothing
to show for it.

Having completed no task,
cursory to dos
eating, basics, coffees, two
evening closes in
and mad-desperate panic
of IS THIS ALL YOU LEAVE?
will be your watching gong
of dervish disappointment.

17/05/2020


With a book token I was gifted for my birthday, I bought Four Thousand Weeks (by Oliver Burkeman). The title comes from the calculation that if one lives eighty years, one lives four thousand weeks. (I find this calculation as terrifying as the estimation one will spend 80,000 to 90,000 hours in the Day Job in one’s lifetime.) Four Thousand Weeks is about how one may, or may not, make best use of this time. In some accounts, it is identified as a time management book for not managing one’s time. What I took from reading the book is, you will do what you will do – and will not do what you will not get around to doing.

Which is an apt start for this Monday morning (25th October 2021). I have a week’s leave ahead of me, during which I intend to accomplish All Manner of Things: 7,000 word output for a study deadline, Korean language homework, exercise, bleaching and washing the white towels and getting a stain out of some linen. There was this post that in my mind I’d prepare for a 10am posting; here we are nearing midday. Usually I join an online writing group for 7am(ish). It was during that slot I was planning to write this post. I slept through and would still happily be resting my aching self under the duvet, only – really – it’s nearing midday.

This poem is very similar to What is it even all for?, which was posted back in March as Airtime will be of little use. Of course, we get things done day-to-day, week-to-week. It astounds me though, that I and so many of us, have this ability to sidestep the big project. The “big, hairy, audacious task” as time management lingo might call it. It’s no surprise that a whole industry, which in turn can morph into procrastination, has ballooned around setting out to conquer your BHAT to do.

The sinkhole in this poem may refer to that moment in a day, or when you’re reviewing your week, when you realise, there is no time left to make significant or minute inroads into your BHAT or SmaTs (smaller tasks). For me, that’s usually 11pm. At 6pm, I convince myself I have another 2 to 3 hours to accomplish a few items. The most dangerous is the mornings, when I’m convinced – at 7am – I’m going to Get Stacks Done with my fresh brain before 9am or 10am. My aching, tired self protests and it takes a lot to overcome this do otherwise.

Yet, as Burkeman suggests, here I am having done the thing I was going to do and having not done the thing I have not done. The October 2021 blog post is complete and 600 words of study writing and a short jog are still on the list. I have resigned to being underprepared for tonight’s Korean lesson and have had my first cup of coffee for the day.

This poem is in Necessary Work, an unreleased collection that BeadedQuill has in the wings. In the meantime have a look at Jangle between Jangle, a collection of verse written in 2018 while jangling to-and-fro during the London commute.

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Things you do with things

Photo collage by BeadedQuill

The sun comes up,
the sun goes down, what
does the sun do in the 
middle of the day?

Answer:
It stands in the middle 
of the sky.

25/01/2020

I am preparing this blog on the day of the autumn equinox 2021. At 7am-ish, the big, white moon was still in the sky already blue with morning light. I took a moment to log the scene in my poet’s files: the sun had risen in the East, on the far side of my loft, while that white moon was descending to the horizon in the West, where I stood looking out over my Juliet balcony at the face-brick, 1930s tube station and that hovering moon.

In my online yoga session last night our teacher shared that it has been the season of a full moon and the Harvest moon. Paired with the autumn equinox, this makes for a time of review and change. I read somewhere else that this is a season for nostalgia, for stoking over the memories.

The poem in this post is a funny little one. I really wrote it in September 1989 when we went on holiday as a family to Betty’s Bay. I compiled, as children do, a diary of the trip. I found the notebook in a box of papers when I was in Cape Town at the end of 2019 and decided to courier it, along with a few other sentimental keepsakes, to North London. The little Croxley Exercise Book includes: daily entries; drawings of the animals and plants, a mermaid and the house we stayed in; a comic strip about a fight between my parents; maps; activities like a crossword and a series of “riddles”, this sun poem being one of them.

For some reason, when I read the riddle page (after reading about brushing my teeth – that resulting poem perhaps to follow), I burst into a fit of teary laughter. I know that as an eight-year-old I was not writing about the movements of the heavens, but the thirty-eight-year-old me imposed an adult’s interpretation. The other riddles are also amusing when read on multiple levels. (And the detail that each is followed by “Answer” amuses me, too.)

You eat rice with a spoon. 
You eat cut up your vegtabels (sensible spelling I would say) with a fork, 
What do you eat with a knife?
Answer

Fish swim, people walk, what do 
Butterfly’s do? 
Answer

Sun may come out and the clouds may 
come out what other two
things could come out?
Answer

Answers on page 25

The answers on page 25 are headed “Answers to pages”. For those of you who are avid Morning Pages (or general pages) writers, any “Answers to pages” would be quite the welcome find. Returning to the riddles, the answers are:

Oranges
Fly
The rain could come out or the wind. 

There we have it. Oranges are eaten with a knife. Butterfly’s (sic) fly and beyond the sun or clouds, it is rain or wind that could come out.

My time capsule notebook currently lives on my bookshelf between an anthology of Chinese Poetry in translation and Petra Müller’s “Swerfgesange vir Susan en Ander”. Perhaps one day it will have outlived its harvest and be sent to the fire (it deserves an end more symbolic than mere recycling). For now, I still page through those back leaves and note how much of that eight-year-old still endures, and how much has changed. Or, in this season of shift, it is to contemplate how much might need to change.

In the extract below I can hear my work email voice and the responses I now send on WhatsApp to a degree that’s uncanny. I still love garden spaces and need an annual pilgrimage to the sea. In this season of harvest reflection I wonder: how much are qualities deep-seated “for a person like me” and which ones need to be felled in preparation for a new season.

A little say about Betty’s Bay
Betty’s Bay is really a
lovely place; it’s got the
sea and flora which 
makes it perfect for a 
person like me.
I enjoyed the botanical
gardens the most.
I also enjoyed the
sea.
I am looking forward this
time and sincerely hope
I will enjoy it. 

“Things you do with things” is in Necessary Work, a forthcoming collection of BeadedQuill’s 2020 poems. In the meantime, have a look at Jangle between Jangle, a recent mini-book of verse written while jangling to-and-fro across London in pre-pandemic commute times.

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Another correct map

Stephen McKay / High Road / CC BY-SA 2.0
From the tube station,
exit left to the High Road.
Pass the fruit and veg stand. 
They are already selling daffodils 
and the asparagus looks fresh.
Turn up the High Road,
cross, and cross, to where
the bicycles stand.

Stop. Turn ahead. Wait for a break
In traffic. (I have seen people and 
cyclists hit.)
Cross, twice again:
Now at Baronsmere (You’ll
know by the billboard; corner-shop – left;
chemist – right.) go straight.
Stay on pavement, right.
First right.
Third right. You’re there.


Yesterday evening I was walking home and took a moment, as I turned past the pharmacy, to snapshot the corner shop opposite. It’s been closed for some months now, covered in torn, graffitied posters of the liquors it once offered for sale. On Saturday morning, after meeting a friend for a coffee and collecting an order, I again took a moment. This time, under the awning of another corner shop in the neighbourhood, I took in the low table of luxurious orchids, arthuriums and bromelias. These were not your usual scrappy £8.99, plastic-sleeved bouquets. Had I forgotten it was Mother’s Day or something?

From this point at Kentucky Fried Chicken I must make a choice. Should I cross the road? On the other side is the second-hand bookshop, the tempting window of a charity shop and a few cute coffee places, one of which I follow on insta for their cake and pastry updates. On the KFC side is the youth arts centre, a grocer-deli that has an ardent local following and the Thai eatery that I love for its disco fish tank and attentive service.

The last third of the High Road is my favourite section. At the four-way preceding while waiting for the lights to change, I may pause to look up at the stucco and decorations of the late-Victorian buildings (I presume, thought must check), take in the sky (grey, clouded, sometimes blue), glance at the other pedestrians waiting to cross, log Domino’s and the gastro-pub on the corner, perhaps there will be some red buses on the roads, too. At these moments, I’ll think, yes, here I am living in London.

I’m now intrigued to pick up a copy of a new art book from Laurence King – Think like a street photographer. (Seen on insta, like so much of what tempts my consumerist urges these days.) I like the idea that the poet may also be a notetaker of the street.

For more street snippets see


Today’s poem is in Necessary Work, a forthcoming collection of BeadedQuill’s more recent poems.

In the meantime, have a look at Jangle between Jangle, a recent mini-book of verse written while jangling to-and-fro across London in pre-pandemic commute times.

Follow BQ on the gram (@beadedquillwrites) and Facebook.
Find BQ’s books for sale via Blurb.

A correct map of 29 Columbine Road

Photo by Jan Segatto on Unsplash
would include the corner honeysuckle hedge
and two houses with high walls.
Not ours, at first. 
When did it change?

A pink hibiscus in the corner bed
is where the hiding-place might be.
Two white-yellow oleanders 
each side of the gate, their 
seeping white sap not safe. The 
wet path, too, when it rains
the tiles can crack
your head if you don’t walk carefully.
	
For a photo we stood on 
that path:
Granny, Grandpa, Dad and 
me


Lately, like yesterday near Regent’s Canal, I have seen honeysuckle all over the place. If I am able to I’ll sniff it to gauge the strength of scent and see if it will take me back to a lost time.

One’s childhood home inevitably is the site of full-bodied memories (1). And these memories often include the senses beyond sight. The weight of holding my sister as a baby with her bald, slighty fuzzy head beneath which there was a hole where her skull had not yet fused. Fried fish fillets and Smash (processed mashed potato from a packet), Margaret’s chicken and vegetable soup, sharp Granny Smith apples (I can’t eat Granny Smiths anymore). The endless soundtrack of Umhlobo Wenene (the isiXhosa radio station), yet still not understanding most of what was sung or said, piano students playing Dozen-a-Day or that unmistakeable opening of Für Elise, but never the (more difficult) middle section. And then there is scent.

When I was five or six, I used to play under the honeysuckle, or in the nook with the hibiscus tree on the opposite side of the garden. Back then, I wanted to capture heady, sweet fragrance of a happy summer. For some time, I was determined to make honeysuckle perfume and tried milking the flowers for their sap. The next attempt involved fermenting brown flowers in tiny bottles. (I have subsequently found out from friends that they, too, tried perfume making in their childhoods. Perhaps it is a right of curiosity passage like school volcano projects in sit coms.)

None of the methods worked and I have not yet found a commercial scent of honeysuckle that matches my memories. Instead, I must wait until the summer when nature makes a limited season available, not unlike that lost time.

(1) A friend kindly gave me a copy of Giuseppe Tomas Di Lampedusa’s “Childhood Memories and Other Stories” to share the vivid memories of his family’s old palazzi. This nostalgic read will surely conjure your own memories of first places.

This poem will be included in ‘Necessary Work’, a forthcoming collation of poems. In the meantime, have a look at Jangle between Jangle This a collection of verse was written while jangling to-and-fro across London during the commute in 2018. Follow BQ on the gram (@beadedquillwrites) and Facebook. Find BQ’s books for sale via Blurb.

Bump in the road

Image by mibro from Pixabay
Normally reliable
suffered a rare failure,
taking over on the second day
Before grinding to a halt.

We’ve experienced an anomaly
which made shutdown
a precautionary measure.
It brought a premature end.

It’s crazy:
The media and everything.

When I was in high school, as part of an English literature exam we were given a poem to analyse. As part of the analysis we had to say, probably in one sentence for one mark, what the poem was about. No-one got the correct answer. It was a poem about a World War I fighter pilot by a distinguished writer. (Those of you who are knowledgeable may well know the very poem.)

Now, this was at a stage in our high school when we were not newbies; I think we were at Std 8/ Grade 10 stage or above. Our teachers were not too impressed. We had certainly studied World War I in history. Had we done much WWI war poetry? I can’t recall, so perhaps not enough to have made a notable impact. Or perhaps the references and experience were too far from our then existence that we had no reference points. Certainly, in South Africa post-1994 the focus on history’s impact was different and my teenage memories of World War commemoration are almost non-existent. The social discourse around these global history events was (is) different compared with say the UK, where I am currently based.

The exam question incident was an early introduction to the matter of reader interpretation. Later at university I did a course on aesthetics during which the lecturer often said (no doubt quoting some contemporary aesthetics philosopher) that “the proof of the pudding was in the eating”, i.e. whether a work was effective or not depended on the reception. The exam moment showed me that a work can be interpreted in nearly 200 ways, none of which is the contextually “correct” one. I doubt anyone would suggest Yeats couldn’t make a pudding.

Today’s poem is not about lockdown. Given the events of March 2020, it is possible that a reader may interpret it as such and I would not object.

The poem is loosely a ‘found poem’ from an article about a rare failure Lewis Hamilton and his Formula One team experienced with his car. It was an older article I’d clipped out from the days when I collected the free Evening Standard newspaper on my work commute. I like to read the sports pages not for the sport, but for the language. It intrigues me how top sports people and their coaches talk about wins and losses, strategy and results.

Lewis Hamilton articles are a favourite for I admire his ambition, focus and self-belief. I also like the fact that he has many interests beyond his ‘day job’ as a Formula One champion. I’d definitely like to have tea with Lewis Hamilton and ask him about his career. “Like Lewis Hamilton, pursuing my many interests helps me to work better. And like Hamilton, when ‘I’m on the track, I’m on the track.’” This didn’t have the desired effect as the job interview answer when the lines first came to me. Doesn’t matter, I still stand by this comment and I still fill my life with many interests, the latest of which has been taking beginner Korean language lessons.

“Bump in the road” is in Necessary Work, a collection of BeadedQuill’s more recent poems that will soon be available. Also have a look at Jangle between Jangle, a recent mini-book of verse written while jangling to-and-fro across London during the commute.

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Find BQ’s books for sale via Blurb.

Now

Photo by Dieter K on Unsplash

In a week, everything has changed.

Now the sun is out, the sky is blue.

The seasons have made a turn.

Today I am reminded of a much loved poem look – really look that was inspired by an evocative interview with an elderly gentleman about his balcony garden in the Barbican (London). The return of bees, butterflies, pansies in different hues, fuchsias, columbine and trees re-leafed in green have made me look again, really look, at the gardens and green spaces in my neighbourhood.

With the bank holiday weekend, the good weather and the stirrings of nature, it feels as though summer has arrived.

Jangle between Jangle is BeadedQuill’s latest collection of verse. The poems date from 2018 while the poet found inspiration in the to-and-fro jangling across London of commuting when it was still a part of the work-life routine.

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The good news is

Photo by Anjana Menon on Unsplash
The wet streets
open for
    furtive foxes
alleys for cats
      swaying branches 
for turtledoves
coo-cooing in the rain.

Fewer people will be out.
03/05/2020

An apt poem from the back catalogue to follow a wet, May weekend. It felt like it rained for two days solid, but that is not true. I went out twice to walk and during that time the rain let up.

“It’s raining.
I’ve got a window open.”

say the intro lines in my notebook of last year.

It is not advisable to open any of the skylights or French doors of my loft room when it rains. This means that the only window I can have ajar is the window on the teeny-tiny ‘landing’ of the winding stairs. If I keep my room-door open, and the window open, then a breeze can come through. This is the window that stays open when it rains. And the raindrops fall down its slanted pane onto the rooftiles below, and into the gutter. Sometimes I’ll stop and watch the raindrops; think about clearing away the spider and his web.

Jangle between Jangle is BeadedQuill’s latest collection of verse. The poems date from 2018 while the poet found inspiration in the to-and-fro jangling across London of commuting when it was still a part of the work-life routine.

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Find BQ’s books for sale via Blurb.

It is May, and livelihood is not a golden beast

Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

I do wonder how one of my ancestors, who lived a life centred around tending her cattle, may see my screen-filled days. It would probably baffle her as to how what I do is work.*

It was from such a wondering that I imagined the scene in Listen to me, you golden beauty. This poem evokes a Beltane tradition:

“One of the practices during Beltane was to usher cattle, beasts that provided the livelihood for the people of the settlement, between two large bonfires. The beasts were sometimes garlanded in yellow May flowers. Ash from the bonfires was considered sacred, so it was swept up and used to mark the cattle. In some instances, it was cooked into food (such as oatcakes).”

I say to myself that I am grateful I do not have to rely on the vagaries of nature for my livelihood as my potato farming ancestors may have done. 2020 reminded me that the job market has its vagaries, too. There are lean seasons and workers must scratch in the earth until the rains return. Our late capitalist world is in many ways, for many of us, a world of prosperity. In the cosmic world, change is the only constant. As such, even in 2021 let this be the petition to the Beltane beauty: may it be a year of abundance, sustenance and providence.

With my hands to the muzzle
I lead the prosperity of my summer yield,
garlanded in cowslips, buttercups and wild daffodils,
through the Beltane flames.

Read the full poem and more about May Day and Beltane here.

*Whenever I hear the word “work” my brain immediately plays Mrs Honeychurch from A Room with a View reciting her immortal line, “To mess about with latch-keys and call it work?”

They’re purple but blue better rhymes

Background photo created by Dragana_Gordic – www.freepik.com

They’re purple
but blue better rhymes

The hyacinths nosing us
with their blooming scent.
Us – the other houseplants,
the fridge, the drying linen
on the clotheshorse,
the competing scented candles.
The bold blue hyacinths
exude regardless
and bloom out of their pot.

01/04/2018

The fridge is humming this morning as I sit at my table and prepare this post. I woke before my alarm set for 06:45. Today is Friday and from my table, a small dining table with black hairpin legs, in the upper reaches of my loft room I see the neighbours’ garden yards. The blossoming trees at the far end have ended their week-long display. The petals fell in confetti piles on the flat garage roofs and collected on the pitched roof of my neighbour’s garden photography studio.

The spring burst now is a young tree flowering in pink, balls of blossoms clustered on its twiggy branches. There’s more going on: striking red photinia and the new greens; birds returning to my rooftop. I have to remember it was only a few weeks ago that the trees were still bare, the world desaturated.

Now I tell myself, “But something was waiting.”

Today’s poem, like many of my vignettes, is a daily scene captured. It dates from 2018, but it could have been a spring scene last year or today. The clotheshorse, the scented candles, the linen drying and the humming fridge, they all remain.

That is no bad thing.

This poem is included in Jangle between Jangle, a collection of verse written while jangling to-and-fro across London during the commute in 2018, when commuting was still a part of work-life jangling. Follow BQ on the gram (@beadedquillwrites) and Facebook.
Find BQ’s books for sale via Blurb.