Archives for category: Dreams

Livelihood

If you were a beast and it was May,
I would say

Listen to me, you golden beauty,
we must walk through those flames.
Do not fear. Shhh, calm,
calm your hooves. Calm your trample, trampling.
Look at me.

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.

Afterwards, I sweep up cold ash and protection for you,
cold ash for me and mark: here, our foreheads are signed
to welcome prosperity.

It is May, and livelihood is not a golden beast with deep eyes
left to summer fields and prophecies. The bonfire –
a stupid superstition swept away.

It is May, we step through cables, then through screens
and the unseen marks our foreheads.

Out of curiosity, over the bank holiday weekend I looked up details about May Day festivities. I wanted to unravel the relationship between pagan May 1st festivities and the International Workers’ Day association. The latter stems from the Haymarket Riots, confrontations between labourers and police in Chicago during May 1886. These pivotal events led to the institution of International Workers’ Day (for more details read here). However, it was the descriptions of the pagan, Gaelic, Celtic Beltane festivals  that captured my imagination. I have relayed the captivating information (i.e. vivid scenes) to almost every friend, associate and family member with whom I have had a conversation during the last couple of days. Now, dear reader, I have incorporated the fascination into a poem for you.

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).

The difference between our present and times past is a recurring theme at the moment. It surfaced in the recent poem ‘Beacons for the utterly lost‘ and my dystopian short-story ‘Gone are the cars‘. Admittedly in ‘Livelihood’ the ‘past’ is a constructed and sanitized pastoral one. It is possibly more like the mythical pastoral that crops up in Friday’s short story, ‘Running in the wood‘. Furthermore, I am also aware that not everyone in our current times is beholden to cables, screens and whatever those ‘unseen marks’ on the foreheads might be.

However, the screen-bound, desk-bound condition is for many the locus and source of a contemporary livelihood. As an artist, the fascination is in the stories that are to be found in the workplace experience, including, as this poem explores, how own might coax a livelihood through flames, or mark it for prosperity. The Beltane acts might strike sceptical office workers as ritualistic hooey, yet there are contemporary equivalents. Organisational targets and projections, meetings and elaborate strategies – all those documents, spreadsheets, published reports – make rational, tangible sense today. In seven hundred years’ time, will Trello boards look like the wild flower garlands on a dairy cow? This may seem an outrageous comparison, for current office methods underpin efficiency and the measurable results prove as much. The movement of money proves as much.

In the days of Beltane festivals, there were fewer bank accounts. Instead there were hungry stomachs to fill. The marked dairy cows provided for the celebrants and then their children’s children, who went on to produce more children whose descendants perhaps send emails and hit targets in this contemporary age.

It bothers me a great deal that all that might be left of my writing output will be a couple of filed applications, some reports and a virtual mound of emails. All this will be destroyed when my workplace footprint has run its course. Whenever I have produced written content for job purposes, it has served such a small audience. Sometimes it has served barely any audience at all. While the same may be said for my posts (and the growing pile of miscellaneous unseen material), it is my hope that eventually my writing will be of substance such that it will endure. It is my hope that writing I produce will touch people in the future and that something endures as good, worthwhile craft. It is my hope that I shall be able to send meaningful work of beauty and value into a realm beyond my present time.

In the interim, practicalities require that I must also earn my livelihood. May rent must be paid, groceries need to be topped up and my cracked tooth needs to be seen by a dentist. I am on the search for a new position of paid employment and watching the bank balance decrease. Once again, the tension between desk-bound livelihood jobs and having head space to create gnaws at me. I am both grateful for the creative bonfire and terrified by the prospect of a summer devoid of a harvest, so my next writing task is to revive my CV.

P.S. If you enjoyed the mash-up of Beltane bonfire and office job, you may enjoy my poem about El Dorado’s operations meeting.

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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

Earthworm 1 (PSF)

“Earthworm” courtesy of Pearson Scott Foresman [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I posted “Impatience” this time last year. It’s a poem about seeking goals. The first lines follow the hard work involved in aiming towards goals. The later lines move towards how things seem not to be working out. The Astro Turf suffocates the earthworms.

Earlier this year I revisited the earthworm motif. In this poem I list how we dismiss the seemingly insignificant earthworm. The poem pirouettes to end with a different conclusion. The earthworm has its part to play.

If these lines seem too downhearted, I recommend “Dante’s Barmaids” to cheer you.

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

T: @BeadedQuill
F: BeadedQuill

SSA40433

Looking Back at Cuttings and Proteas: a log entry about growth and development

Two years and 217 posts ago the BeadedQuill blog was born. On 15th June 2013, after decades of hiding my fiction writing in notebooks, I decided to share it with the wider world. To my 123 signed-up blog followers, I say a thank you. To my 659 Twitter followers and 24 Facebook followers, I also say thank you. I hope you derive some pleasure from my ramblings. To my other readers and supporters, I send appreciation across the cyber-sphere. To those of you who have purchased my work, long life and good health to you! Some of the profits will go into my National Insurance contribution.

Since last year, I have published two books, Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys and In the Ocean: a year of poetry. These books incorporate 129 poems written between April 2013 and April 2014. In the last 6 weeks I have posted a further 9 “fresh” poems. Since starting this blog in 2012, the grand total therefore stands at three available titles and 158 poems written by me out there in the world (and possibly a few rogue ones in letters and on scraps of paper). I mention all this as it has been said, “What can be measured can be assessed”. Productivity for April 2013 – 2014 stood at a poem every 2.8 days.

I’ll spare you the productivity tally for blog postings, but will say that being accountable to a public readership compels me to produce copy. This in itself has been a valuable working method that helped with producing articles and the two long-form projects on which I am currently working. (Spoiler: a potential novel and a non-fiction book about travel.)

I continue to work on brand BeadedQuill. This coming year I would really like to focus on matters such as ‘income stream’ and ‘product development’, ‘marketing’ and ‘audience/market development’. To be honest, these topics tire and frighten me a little. At present, I just want to write and practise (plus a bit of Bachata thrown in for diversion).  The business plan, currently a collection of scribbled notes and mind-maps, needs to be formalised.

In the year ahead, I must once again look into the following: journal submissions, the possibility of securing a literary agent, more readings and public appearances. I need to travel! (Buenos Aires for a tango holiday, ideally.) A change of landscape and diversion will recharge me, I believe. I’ve considered investigating doctoral research in creative practice.

This time last year I was in excellent health, after recovering fully from a nasty turn in 2012. This year, I wish I could say the same. Unfortunately, I experienced a little “flare” (the doctor’s poetic take on the matter) about four weeks ago. A glut of corticosteroids is bringing me ‘round, with a journey into highways of insomnia, mild hallucination (and hearing things), emotional intensity and a pervading drug-induced buzz. On occasions like this, the every two steps forward on the health journey seem undermined by the five steps back. Nonetheless, I pick myself up and go back to start.

“Zen mind, beginner’s mind is apparently a desired state for the eternal student. Encounter moments and activity as though for the first time. In this way you will let it teach you.” I wrote this as the opening of my very first post. This is still such a challenging approach. When your efforts seem to show progress, this provides direction and solace. I don’t want to keep going back to start – with The Writing or with health, or with any other number of circumstances of my life. It is nice to feel as though I’m building something.

To counter beginner’s despair, I say to myself, “There must be something redemptive here.” In addition to the number crunching at the opening, I am pleased to acknowledge that another year later –indeed, three years and seven months after my first conscious day of applying pen to paper – I am still engaged in the labour of Being A Writer.

Since my first post, I have also figured out how to insert a link to my Twitter account.

Image courtesy of Norfolk-based artist, Nicola Slattery. View her enchanting work at www.nicolaslattery.com

“Taken Care Of” courtesy of Norfolk-based artist, Nicola Slattery. View her enchanting work at www.nicolaslattery.com

The 2×52 project developed in April 2013 when I committed to posting two poems a week for a year. I completed my self-made creative challenge this April when I revealed the 104th poem. Next month (June 2014), all the poems will be available in a book at my Blurb bookstore. In the meantime, here are the 104=2×52 poems listed in all their glory! And for your convenience, so that you can click on the titles that pique your interest. Enjoy!

  1. On a rock amongst rocks
  2. Things of the Heart, Told in Quiet #1
  3. £299 from Strand
  4. A Thousand Scientific Facts about the Sea
  5. Nice Words #1
  6. Benefactor of the Blind
  7. On the Way to Westminster
  8. Solutrean Hypothesis
  9. I don’t work for you (or Modern Frustrations)
  10. red herring
  11. Tarantella (two versions)
  12. Conversation
  13. Pakistan’s Gold
  14. 29oC
  15. An arrangement of strangers
  16. Recycled
  17. Packed Lunches
  18. Tightly Sealed
  19. Another Summer’s Day
  20. Look At
  21. Hairpin (a short poem)
  22. A definition, notably for the cloud-dwelling artists
  23. Instructions
  24. Scherzo: Allegro before the Finale
  25. Impatience
  26. Screens
  27. Leo’s Entries
  28. From a Stone
  29. Autumn’s ripened harvest store
  30. The Character Building
  31. An autumn evening in
  32. Preceding seafaring that was not to transpire
  33. The Home Commute
  34. On the declaration of the first day of the Year of Our Light
  35. What we were all thinking
  36. Emulation
  37. Genuine
  38. Stuck
  39. An address from a lectern
  40. Her magical box
  41. Sun Doves
  42. At the right age
  43. Just Punishment
  44. Every morning, because it’s wonderful
  45. Is it worth it?
  46. A Bequest of Wonder
  47. The Benefits of 320 Kicks
  48. I do. Do you?
  49. Five Consequences of Repeated Actions
  50. To the Valleys
  51. supreme ultimate
  52. Operations Meeting, El Dorado
  53. Without realising it, the postman leaves a poem
  54. Another drop in this week before Christmas
  55. A quiet night preludes
  56. Let them eat
  57. I learnt
  58. A New Room
  59. Philip’s Log: Entries about my moonlit sylph
  60. Pairings
  61. Conscripted
  62. Bursting Art
  63. Afloat
  64. Would you ever live in Heather Green?
  65. London’s Molten Hour
  66. Two poems about grey
  67. My friend Ellen
  68. Nice words of the moment (from autumn)
  69. Today
  70. Outpourings
  71. She’d read it in books
  72. Tube sketch (one of a few)
  73. St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden
  74. Near Liverpool Street, under scaffolding
  75. On the occasion of a dinner party in Kennington
  76. Tunnel Days
  77. London. Is it worth it?
  78. At the moment: £2
  79. the currency of sugar
  80. High-end Liquids
  81. Glomerulonephritis
  82. Dying is probably easier than this
  83. The Age Show
  84. Nice words #2
  85. How do you make a dream come true?
  86. Do engineers dream?
  87. Appropriate Recompense
  88. It’s complicated
  89. Every Sign of the Zodiac
  90. Saying it plainly
  91. The Brothers Three
  92. This morning’s request
  93. Recipe
  94. Kindly exit
  95. In the ocean one night
  96. Degas’s Business Card
  97. A small heart panics
  98. Interior holdings
  99. Reviewing the pursuit
  100. Absorbed
  101. Nearing the End
  102. Different Rides
  103. Spring Wants
  104. Escucha

I try to revive a blue whale
with raw eggs from plastic bowls
in different colours
laid out in a wooden fishing boat.
To do this you must put two
or three eggs together in each bowl,
watch their yolks lilt to the tide, then
pour them through the whale’s sieve-like mouth.


This poem is a transcription of a dream I had. The notebook entry of 29/10/12 analyses the stress that probably elicited the scene, “Drowned out by my panic: income! job! career! Aaargh!” Such is the mundane reality that underpins some creative output. I am certain some English teacher in the future will invest the work with a more riveting subliminal meaning.

I have very vivid dreams. Since I was a child, I’ve had vivid dreams. “Afloat”  is another poem based on a nocturnal vision remembered and jotted down. Often my dreams are strong on action, filled with tactility and punctuated with memorable details. Only once I remember hearing music in a dream. When I stayed in South America briefly, I eventually started dreaming in very basic Spanish.

With this poem I conclude my official a Poem a Day for a Month. This bumper month of posts is part of my larger 2×52 project, during which I aim to produce a 104 poems across a year (52 weeks). The idea was to keep writing and producing. Out of 104 poems, some might not be as engaging, some might be readable and a few should, by the law of statistics, must surely be reasonably good. I shall continue to post according to my routine of two poems a week. Sign up to BeadedQuill (see tab in bottom right-hand corner) for these future poems, updates on the aimed for (e)book of the 2×52 project and other news.

Thank you for being part of this month.

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill
Books:
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness 

1.
Wake up.
Work hard.
Plan and strategise.
Talk to someone who
     has done it before.
Find a mentor.

2. 
Protect its pollen from the wind.
Blow on the quills when they
   erupt.
Wrap it in this moment
and suspend it from but what if?

It might rest its weary hope 
in a chest of velvet lined

for the unsplit bean alone 
is the treasure


During a very happy and productive year of my professional life, I used to spend Sunday evenings assessing the week that had passed, plan the week ahead and review my life, especially in terms of where I was in achieving my goals. I felt so wonderfully smug and on top of things. Yes! I was making things happen in my life. Yes! Through strategy, persistence and application I was helping my dreams to come true.

Life, they say, is what happens when you make other plans. I left that particular field, moved from the town and no longer pursue many activities with which I was then involved. Half a decade later there are only three outputs that I hold dear from that organised and hyper-functional period of my life: 1. a couple of special, enduring friendships; 2. a few poems and some essays of interest; 3. that I wrote regular letters to my Dad, who was ill at the time.

I mull much over society’s sanctioned notions of success and achievement. The product-driven pressure that a dream must be brought to fruition follows me like a shadow. If I dream of being A Writer then I must schedule writing time, move towards products and a business plan, target a definable readership, join one of the professional writers’ associations and ideally land a contract or an agent, and if not claim a stake in the indie market. This is The Way to Make a Dream Come True.

See how easily I can write about that? I have been avoiding the business plan for nearly a year. Instead, I have been writing poems, drinking coffee at my laptop and watching Bachata videos on YouTube. (Bachata is a style of dance from the Dominican Republic in which one steps to beats 1, 2 and 3 and adds a tap on beat 4.)

So now I have these additional, distracting dreams. One is of simply writing and writing and writing. The result may be endless waffle. Another is to spend time in my local indie coffee shop up the road, as an out-of-jail option when I’m feeling cabin fever. And then there is the dream of dancing like this – so much happiness on such a small square of stage above the earth. That would be treasure indeed.

Follow me @BeadedQuill on Twitter where I get carried away with YouTube forays into Argentine tango, Systema, Krav Maga and, most recently, Bachata.
Or, if you prefer, follow BeadedQuill on Facebook.
My two creative ‘babies’, my published books, are my successes of 2013. Preview them at Blurb.co.uk by clicking on the links:
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys 
Shining in Brightness 

It’s been a whole year since the first draft of my first published book arrived in the post for my perusal. It was thrilling to see a long-held goal manifested. My Facebook profile was plastered with gratuitous proud mum pics of me holding up my copy of “Shining in Brightness”. I had hoped my first book ‘baby’ would be a novel, but as all parents know, each (creative) child is precious simply because they have come into existence.

“Shining in Brightness” is available for preview and purchase at blurb.co.uk.

Curious about the origins of this work? Read more about these “poems from a mystical decade” here.

 

On the fringe of grey
bring some blue
set above white and petal disks.
Green is a good addition.
Lay down black as tarmac.
Square everything in
Your life and love and happiness
A tree!
No less

Grey like silver
grey like gold
grey like suits
tales of old
grey like hats
grey, like pointer hounds
grey without you
or £100.


I have written before about my habit of dating drafts and ramblings in my notebooks. The above are dated 1 August 2013. Grey, together with blue, is a colour that has featured much in my poetry. Grey is an ambiguous colour for beyond its melancholic associations, it is also an elegant colour with an aura of detachment and timelessness. In the urban and suburban environment it is the colour of utilitarian buildings, paving, transport shelters and waiting platforms. Since I was a child, it has fascinated me that the colour can be written with either an ‘e’ or an ‘a’. Like clouds, the word itself can change its internal dimensions. So many London mornings start with a sky cloaked in grey, so it has become a colour of origin for me and often features alongside blue to bring atmospheric or location transition into a poem.

Here are some other poems with grey in them:

On a rock amongst rocks – about the melancholy of a transient moment alongside grey sea

An Artist Works – the painter Constable captures clouds

Another Summer’s Day – also from 1 August 2013 (note subject matter and thematic resonances)

I was born of poetry – the grey of a cardboard box

Pavement Walker – commuters return home on a grey evening

Look At  – documents a walk on a suburban London High Street

Conscripted – about rain


Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill

Books:
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness