Archives for the month of: December, 2014
Ursus arctos - Norway

Image courtesy of  Taral Jansen/Soldatnytt [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

January brought with it a blizzard.
Icy darts aimed for our knees
and the testing froze our sense
of belonging to that land.

The old bears sunk deeper in their caves,
groaned and turned their backs
on winter’s sluice
trusting that in time from it
would flow all the blooms of spring.

31/12/14

I wish to take this moment to applaud myself. Here, and in time for the end of 2014, I present my 200th poem for public consumption. (If you’d like to read them, there are 180+ poems available on this blog and another 20 poems in my book, Shining in Brightness.)

The threads of inspiration in today’s poem include a line about spring flowers in The Diary of Anne Frank, a childhood conversation about sluices with my Dad and watching Paddington (the movie) yesterday. There’s probably also a trace of my recent read, Willa Cather’s O Pioneers!

I shall make no secret of the fact that over these last few weeks I have found myself in a writer’s fug – and questioning my overall productivity. This surely stems from the seasonal tendency to review the year. Where is the novel I planned to write in 2014? What about all the poems I was going to submit to Proper Poetry Journals? When would I ever start earning any money from my writing (Indeed, when would I again start earning some Proper Grownup Money in general)? I am so, so, so tired. And it feels like I have been in this place (this winter?) for a very long time. It sometimes feels like this is the place people identify as ‘being an adult.’

When I was a child, my animal guide (or familiar) was undoubtedly the bear. In addition to my beloved teddy Edwina, who went to hospital with me and for years was carried all over the world as a security blanket, I collected figurines, books and anything teddy bear related. It was through this interest that I channeled my early writing. For over five years I compiled a monthly teddy-themed magazine.

It doesn’t surprise me, as I do a little cursory reading, that to call on the bear totem invokes grounding and strength. Since bears live a solitary life, they are examples of balance and comfort in one’s solitude. As expert survivors of harsh winters, theirs is an example of a wise animal-guide teacher. They are also associated with women of shamanic power who are able to communicate with other dimensions and pursue healing of self or others. The teddy bears of my past in no small way are the bears in this verse.

Finally, I must add that this poem was born of a prompt to “write about a heart that wouldn’t quit”.

2015, here we come
with our hearts that haven’t yet quit (even though they are a little tired).

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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Another perfect image courtesy of the Old Design Shop.

A quiet night preludes the festivities” nods to the classic “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

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

Image courtesy of the Old Design Shop, a vintage image treasury.

Image courtesy of the Old Design Shop, a vintage image treasury.

“Another drop in this week before Christmas” is a companion piece to “Without realising it the postman leaves a poem.”


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

OldDesignShop_EnvelopeBack1887

Vintage envelope postmarked 1887 courtesy of the Old Design Shop, a vintage image treasury.

Today’s piece from the archive is “Without realising it, the postman left a poem.” It was a great delight last year when I composed this poem from the postman’s pre-Christmas visits. This year eight cards have made their way through the door, but I am still waiting for a verse.

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
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Books: BeadedQuill’s Blurb Bookstore

Muisca_raft_Legend_of_El_Dorado_Offerings_of_gold

Photograph by Andrew Bertram courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Operations Meeting, El Dorado always makes me smile because it juxtaposes the mundane with the historical and fantastical. An office meeting, overheard during a morning coffee, is recast in an imaginary Ancient Columbia and overlaid with the myth of El Dorado.

About the photographed Muisca raft: This representation of the initiation of the new Zipa in the lake of Guatavita is a possible source of the legend of El Dorado. It was found in a cave in Pasca, Colombia in 1856, together with many other gold objects. It is 19.5 cm long, 10.1 cm wide and 10.2 cm high. Dated between 1200 and 1500 BC. It is made of an alloy of gold (80%), silver and copper, by using the lost wax method. The cacique in the center is surrounded by attendants and oarsmen. (Text from Wikimedia Commons.)

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

Betty's Bay
The tides of
tomorrow
and tomorrow
and the next tomorrow
sweep into crevices of shored shells.
The waves nudge these hollows of yesterday’s habitat

into the barrels of
tomorrow,
tomorrow
and the next tomorrow.
There the shored shells

break with tomorrow,
tomorrow
and another tomorrow dashed
to granules that lip the tideline.

Salted foam seeps this watermark
and in the kelp-laurels sandhoppers dance.

While paging through the anthology of Chinese poems on my bookshelf, I came across a nostalgic poem in which the poet embarks on a journey in his imagination and progresses to reminisce about his favourite landscapes. (The poem was Su Tong-P’o’s Inscribed on a Painting in Wang Ting-Kuo’s Collection Entitled “Misty River and Crowded Peaks”)

He ends the poem,

Returning to your painting, I’m taken by sighs of sad wonder.
I have old friends in those mountains,
	and their poems keep calling me home.(p. 381)

I loved this image of his friends’ poems calling the poet/speaker home. This was the starting point for my poem. Who would I call home with my poetry, if I could?

There is a crescent of beach to which my melancholy imagination often turns. This fragment of strand is in Betty’s Bay, one of my favourite spots in the world. It is in this place that my call home is set.

This beach has also featured in
On a rock amongst rocks
A Thousand Scientific Facts about the Sea

Betty’s Bay has inspired
Wild Horse Don’t Break
In this place, I eat butternut soup

Su Tong-P’o’s poem is in Classical Chinese Poetry: An Anthology, translated and edited by David Hinton (Farrar, Straus and Giroux: New York, 2008), pp. 380-381.

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

OldDesignShop_EasterBride1914BW

Image courtesy of the Old Design Shop, a vintage image treasury.

To the Valleys” describes the return of hard-working hartebeests who hope to woo brides back in their home village. I wrote this poem last year after “I do. Do you?” another imagined narrative about a wedding that did not come to pass.

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
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Books available through BeadedQuill’s Blurb Bookshop

Achilles departure Eretria Painter CdM Paris 851

© Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons, via Wikimedia Commons

Worn on the sleeve
or exposed at the heel,
	once the organ has surfaced
it is ready to bleed. Transfusion
will occur.


Following on from my experiment earlier this week with clichés, today’s verse explores idioms. It is also influenced by my current read – an engrossing book about ancient Rome and Jerusalem, in which the author mentions the influence of Ancient Greece a great deal. (For those who are interested the book is Martin Goodman’s “Rome & Jerusalem: The Clash of Ancient Civilizations.”)

In popular discourse Achilles’ heel features as metaphor for vulnerability. Similarly, to wear one’s heart on one’s sleeve is to divulge emotional weakness, usually in the form of love. The poem started with an exploration of physical and emotional defencelessness. However, in researching for this post I was reminded that Achilles was a warrior. He was prone to anger and acted to avenge. He lived by the sword and died in combat. (In another version he is shot by the brother of a Trojan princess with whom he is in love, rather than perishing in battle.)

The heart is the seat of courage. Courage derives comes from the Middle English for the seat of feelings. We often think of the heart in connection with love and romance. We seldom think of the heart in connection with rage and the transfer of aggression or avenging slights. That belongs to idioms and clichés about blood (consider “his blood was boiling,” “there was bad blood between them” and “he was spitting blood”). In its quiet way, this poem explores the transfusion of both rage and of love; both of which reflect our lifeblood of passion and our vulnerability.

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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See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. c. 1886

While it’s going for a song,
let’s play this dalliance.

It’ll knock wind from our sails.

That’s the hazard of entanglements.

Over the weekend I watched a movie about a song-writer. Many of the songs featured dreadful clichés. This prompted some fiddling of my own with clichés.

The poem’s title is thanks to an associative trigger courtesy of the illustrative photo. “Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do…” was a song from my childhood.

Interestingly, one of the few words of dating advice that came from my father was, “One does not have to be the village bicycle.”

Associative triggers. They’re a funny, possibly Freudian, business.

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