Archives for the month of: February, 2015
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

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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

Scrambled eggs-01

By Tom Ipri (Scrambled Eggs auf flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Into your hands
I commend the
beating of tonight’s
eggs. This will
be the last meal
of solid food.

When my Dad was in the final stages of his cancer, one of the few things he ate was scrambled eggs. That period of my life still circles in my mind. It was a strange time when we all continued with the daily activities of feeding him and being with him, neither realising nor acknowledging that he was actually dying.

I still think about what is it was like to be with the ‘almost gone.’ As I do not work in a profession that confronts death on a regular basis, my only experiences have been related to passing family. I sometimes wonder about the ushering performed by those in pastoral or hospice care, medical or funeral professions. How much of their work is solely the task at hand? How much is curating the metaphysical surrender of the body that expresses our life and appetites?

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_YoungLove

Image from Two Children by F. E. Weatherly, illustrated by M. Ellen Edwards, circa 1884, and via the Old Design Shop.

It’s complicated” posted this time last year proposed a point-blank assessment of The Relationship Drama, especially as recounted by heterosexual women (as this encompasses most of my experience). It’s the “He loves me, he loves me not, why doesn’t he love me?” tune. The poet/narrator declares, none of this is complicated. Either it moves forward, or it doesn’t.

I noted in the accompanying write-up to the post:

“My younger sister prophesied that one day I – à la Carrie Bradshaw – would be sitting at my laptop in my apartment typing up many a misadventure. This evening almost fulfills her premonition, bar the fact that I type this in my little rented room.”

The likeness to Carrie Bradshaw has veered even further towards uncanny fulfillment. Over the last couple of months I have once again dabbled with dating, partially because I thought it would be interesting to meet a potential partner and partially because I sought new writing material. Previously, I had written about love, attraction, dating and relationships through Emily, the sister and sweetheart of the modern boy.

Not this time ’round. My current note-taker in the field is crazier, quirkier, more abrasive. She is yet to be named and she is yet to make her observations public, but watch this space.

Keep up-to-date with BQ’s news on Twitter (@BeadedQuill) or Facebook
Read all twenty-five poems gathered by Emily “for edification and amusement” in Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys

A year’s worth of poetry, 104 offerings in total, make up In the Ocean: a year of poetry.
Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012, BQ’s first title, charts her youthful travels and life observations.

By Daderot (Own work) [Public domain or CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Photograph of an Edo period work, 18th-19th century Japan by Daderot (Own work) [Public domain or CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

It was very suspicious
the way that whale
rolled over and opened
its mouth for tips,
then set fireworks
to the water gods
from its blowhole.

Whales have featured in my poetry before. Like sluice gates and bears, whales prefigure as a childhood fascination. In my first or second year of school, we learnt about blue whales. They were enormous yet ate such small food with little effort through their sieve-mouths. Either in conjunction with the curriculum topic or with my family I must have visited the South African Natural History Museum where there was (and still is) the large skeleton of a blue whale. Alongside was a booth in which recordings were played of whales in communication. These creatures had a language, which I could not penetrate. I was in awe.

Southern Right whales come into the sheltered bays around Cape Town to calf. Whale watching is a notable annual event. I still think about a particular train journey from Simon’s Town, past Glencairn, when I saw two majestic whales dancing in the ocean and spouting the fireworks from their blowholes.

So it is that whales crop up every now and then in my musing, in my writing and even in my dreams.

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

Bunch of blueberries

By Jeff Kubina from the milky way galaxy (Blueberries) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

There’s something in the blueberries
that my body needs.
It might be the blue
citric blue in its
vitamin skin. It might
be the tray of pebbles
on a shelf in my ‘fridge.
There’s something blue
that’s missing from my body. Even a doctor advises
that something’s in the berries. blue.

It could be spurred by personal anxieties or simply a quirky habit, but when I feel penny-pinched I lock down on my grocery consumption. I don’t realise it until I start losing weight, get sick or people comment on my bad skin (I’m prone to horrendous staph infections when my immunity is low). It doesn’t help that my body must contend with a cocktail of medications consumed to neutralise a chronic kidney condition (glomerulonephritis). Eating a diet that is nutritionally inadequate and unadventurous exacerbates everything. In all the years I have been responsible for feeding myself, I still haven’t learned.

It has been suggested that anorexics and the chronically obese obsess over food. That is, obsession characterizes our patterns of denial and excess. But surely some of us express obsessions at other points along the spectrum? I write regularly about food. As a recurring subject matter it explores a variety of themes such as provision, inner-states, comfort, class standing and social identity. Right now, I am thinking about a coffee (a black Americano, because cow’s milk doesn’t agree with me), what I’ll consume for lunch (warmed up butternut soup) and what I should eat before this evening’s 3-hour training session (high protein – probably scrambled eggs with spinach). If this is not a degree of food obsession, what is?

In the days when I was ‘more vegetarian’, a young man said to me, “Are you anorexic vegetarian or vegetarian vegetarian?” At the time I thought it was such an interesting and astute comment. Most women have a fascinating relationship with food irrespective of culture and social bracket. Of course, men also have a relationship with food (for starters, they eat it), but conventionally it is not framed as notably psycho-emotional. This is not the whole truth, for as we see more and more in our modern age, men also have complicated relationships with food.

In “Taste: The Story of Britain Through its Cooking” (Kate Colquhoun, Bloomsbury: 2007) there is mention of young people – she mentions young bachelors in particular – who live alone in bedsits and rented accommodation during the early and mid-twentieth century. For the first time, they were disengaged from a community network in which their food would have been prepared. Their isolation was made complete by the canned and pre-portioned packaged foodstuffs made possible by the Industrial Revolution. At moments in my rented existence, like on Saturday when I portioned up butternut soup and pasta bake for the freezer, I think about this chapter.

Pantry staples of my childhood such as canned pilchards or peanut butter seem a million miles away from blueberries, or berries of any sort. The mere suggestion that blueberries might be a viable everyday item takes some reconsideration. The further suggestion that they might be a necessary vitamin source during a cold, grey London winter sounds like saying chocolate will help with PMS (which it does). My logical brain objects: I take a multivitamin and paracetamol is available for pain.

Yet, ‘that missing something’ like the ‘x-factor’ is elusive. Blueberries might indeed possess a quantifiable nutritional and vitamin content. On my ‘fridge shelf they do look like little pebbles in a plastic tray that await plopping into porridge and goat’s milk yoghurt. Perhaps their very presence satisfies the ‘missing something.’ I shall give this experiment in blue at least a month.

Any contributions of blueberries for the poet will be gratefully received.

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