Archives for category: London

Fruit ice lollies (8588758339)

By Lablascovegmenu from London (Fruit ice lollies) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Warm mayhem

It was a scorcher today.
We ate ice-lollies in the office
and called it quits at five
only to find
the District Line had melted.

24/08/2016

It really is too hot for any more words about this very warm day in London. Some say it has been the hottest day of the year. The weather forecast suggests there may be another day or two of similar intensity.

A couple of years ago I happened to write another poem about a warm summer’s Wednesday and being confined to an office.

And along with the District Line melting, my internet connection has been on a go-slow while preparing and uploading this post. Perhaps the heat has jammed its way into all the day’s component parts.

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OldDesignShop_StorybookFairiesBees

A Round Robin, by M. A. Hoyer and Robert Ellice Mack, illustrated by Harriett M. Bennett, c. 1891. Image sourced from The Old Design Shop

Watching the bees

Here are the words of the blazing day
and the once beautiful arrangements.
It was heady, was it not?
The arrival of this brightest of days.

Outside the day was perfection.
Here a few few bees in the garden
hid under clumps of cut grass.
Why are they tucking themselves away?
Or are they burrowing for pollen,
heady on word from the other bees?

Our day of blazing perfection was heady,
was it not?
Was it not?


It has been a wildly warm day by London standards. I tried to write in the garden first thing this morning. The bees and butterflies and a single large-bodied horsefly were my ground company.

Aster yomena yomena02

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. by No machine-readable author provided. Keisotyo assumed (based on copyright claims). [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons. No endorsement of BeadedQuill’s work by this author should be implied.

Plant asters by autumn

When all else fades,
semi-trailing heath comes
into its own. In banks and borders

snow-petalled asters make a
brilliant ground cover. Shimmering
their heads: a butterfly magnet
in the wildlife garden’s

banks and borders. Plant this by autumn,
plant this great choice in height and spread
before the winter turns.


I spend the occasional sunny, bright afternoons sitting on a plastic chair in the backyard staring at the hanging roses, pink hydrangeas and purple foxgloves. I am no gardener at present, and do nothing in this patch of yard in the house where I lodge. When I was a child, I first had a corner bed in which grew a pink hibiscus bush. Later I had a patch of soil next to my wendyhouse in the back garden and as a pre-teen I changed the flowering contents of a box outside my bedroom window. Since living the rented room life, I have dabbled with the usual supermarket herbs in pots and seasonal indoor bulbs. Currently, I am nursing an Ikea spathiphyllum that moves from the chest of drawers next to my bed to the sun-catching shelf on the other side of my room. It really needs a dose of plant food and would probably benefit from re-potting.

I love spending time in green spaces, surrounded by plants, and sometimes I find myself drawn to glossy, coffee-table garden books in bookshops or the gardening pages of home magazines. Yesterday I was leafing through the Guardian Weekend and stumbled across the gardening pages and started reading the “What to do the week” section. The advice covered Thin this, Read this, Plant this; reduce clusters of fruit on your trees, read up about 101 chillies and consider planting asters in time for autumn.

Today’s resulting poem is drawn from the column and echoes another poem, “look – really look”. This poem of two years ago (and uncannily this very time of year) was also inspired by the Guardian Weekend’s gardening pages. The relationship between gardening, seasons and plants holds a deep mystery for me. Birds, and especially butterflies, are for me symbolic messengers from another realm. My paternal grandmother was a botanist and her interest in the flowering world seemed to be the science and beauty. My interest is the beauty and lessons it offers about our human flurries.

It is no coincidence that garden banks and border feature in today’s poem during these times when both national and economic security are under pressure in many parts of the world. There is something of ‘the lilies of the valley in all their beauty’ about the delicate snow-petalled asters. Yet, as they trail like other determined ground-covers, they may prove the surviving, life-continuing film when the monuments of mankind have faltered. There are seasons of all kinds, both in the natural world and in our rhythm as humanity. Perhaps planting star-like flowers is not such a bad task to consider before autumn. As three of my favourite lines from “look – really look” remind us:

Concrete is brutal.
It needs softening.
Plants should have dominion.

Sullivans-Island-Lighthouse-beach-night

By JonathanLamb (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Beacons for the utterly lost

A bright star led seekers 
    and wise men. 
A bright light gave comfort
to the night 
    and travellers crossing.
A bright beam from the shore
struck ships from death-knell rocks.

Today's nights, made bright with bulbs and glare,
blind the guiding lights
    we still seek everywhere.


I like that these lines read like a carol for the searching, modern spirit. I could half hear it set for voice when I read it through while searching for the title. (This could also have been the influence of Spotify in the background. It isn’t an angry playlist today. Instead it is Hot Hits UK, and right now the Jonas Blue, Dakota remix of Chapman’s ‘Fast Car’.)

I have been thinking quite a bit about our modern lives and how they diffuse the deep resonances of motifs and symbols from the past. Consider the darknesses in the poem: the very depths of night, an unknown travel route and a dark ocean. Our screens and lights illuminate so much of our lives making them visible and navigable. That a bright star or light on a far horizon could provide guidance and encouragement during a journey is something of folklore. It is as quaint and almost as downright silly as talking foxes or birds delivering messages from the faerie realms.

From this, I suspect that the part of us that resonates with fictional motifs recognises these old stirrings, while our modern selves blink it as far as the retina, only to move on with a swipe or tap. Yet for all the bulbs, lights, fluorescent tubes and bright screens, we still use a language of celestial signs and wonders when talking about hoped for beacons. We still seek our lodestars, our North Stars, our guiding stars, our supernovas.

Osterstrauss 08

Goldi64 at the German language Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

By ribbons from branches

Where are we today,
you and I? Each,
together? Further, closer,
the same as yesterday?
Suspended from our meeting-
point of a hundred points,
each weighing down the end of a branch.

The celebration season done
we will be rustled back
into the box where our
meeting-points of a thousand tones
will once again lie side-by-side
in the dark, at distance
unmoved until we once again rotate from
the branches in the glow of celebration.

The celebration season done
where are we today?
Rustled back, you and I. Each
into the box where
together, further, closer
our meeting-points of a thousand resonances
the same as yesterday
will once again lie side-by-side,
suspended from our contentment
in the dark, at distance,
point of a hundred points
unmoved until once again the hanging ornaments rotate;
each weighing down the branches
in the glow of celebration.


In the wake of my previous post I promised a friend a happy poem. It helps that this last week I had the pleasure of house-sitting a home that qualifies as a sanctuary.

There’s a gleaming, bright-toned piano in the music room and a wary, self-possessed cat. There are books on art and works of European literature in translation on shelves and dressers, and on the walls hang original landscapes and life-drawings. The furniture and soft furnishings nod to the influence of French Provençale style, as do touches such as the blue-and-white ceramic jugs atop a wardrobe, raw-cut soap in the bathroom, lavender standing tall in a tarnished coffee pot. It is absolutely my kind of home.

Together with trusty porridge oats for breakfast I have been left rations of wholesome home-made soup, pasta sauce, battered-peppered fish fillets and a wonderful lentil-artichoke salad. I sneak a chocolate digestive after lunch and discover that the coffee supply is utterly decaffeinated. In under a week, I notice that my jumping mind and heart-rate are stilled.

In this quietude, I finish the last 5,000 words of my 22,000-word draft, start Günter Grass’s “The Tin Drum” and try to convince the cat that I could be a friend. From 10pm, I fall into a routine where I switch on the tv (a novelty) and scare myself witless on late-night American crime dramas, like CSI and Law and Order, and an old series about Jack the Ripper starring Michael Cain and Jane Seymour. When my eyes are sore and I am so wrought up into a flap, I run around the house, switch on as many lights as possible and hop about next to the bed trying to recall all the happiest things I can before falling asleep under a heavy, comforting duvet, covered by a white coverlet with a migration of red triangles that keep terrifying dreams at bay.

In the sanctuary house, enveloped by order and quietude, I turn to contemplation and fall into personal, domestic contentment.

At the kitchen table, I settle to write in my smaller, pink, Poundland notebook, the notebook currently reserved for work on poems. This is in an attempt to develop the happy poem. There’s a window box on my near horizon and on the table, in an enamel jug painted in folk-art flowers, springs an Easter tree. From a dozen branches with small green leaves and shoots hang tiny, wooden eggs painted in pinks, yellows, blues and the palest lilac. They all are all suspended from fine, yellow ribbons. I make notes about the tree, about other objects on the table and notice, for the first time, a spider’s web hammocking from the bottom of the window-pane to the corner of the blue window-box.

Amidst these vestiges of spring and Easter recently past, I wonder to myself, if not a poem about happiness, then perhaps a poem about contentment? I start with a first draft and fiddle a bit with two further variations. Later, I work up another version on my laptop. While the Easter tree inspired it, the resulting poem is pleasingly ambiguous. It could refer to any celebration where ornaments are suspended from branches. The poem could, for example, reference Christmas and its associations with togetherness and contentment (and the holiday’s opposites of abandonment and family friction). I look into some other tree decorating practices, many of which centre around winter, spring or New Year festivals.

The eggs remind me of little heads, and the point from which they hang on the ribbons looks like the crown of a skull. In concepts around traditional Chinese meridians, the meridian meeting-point at the top of the skull is known as “the meeting-point of a hundred points”. Where is the location of a meeting-point for expression? At which a good forte wallops from Tchaikovsky’s 5th (Symphony) on the radio. It reminds me, of course communication is in the source of tone, sound, resonance, impact, touch. For a person, perhaps this meeting-point is the mouth, the vocal chords or the hands.

I am intrigued by these ideas as applied to the hanging eggs or any festive ornaments, as well as a moment of contentment. When the ornaments are laid down, the meeting-point may be turned upside down; when the moment of contentment passes the locus fragments, the people and time scatter. How might baubles, or people, packed away after celebration continue to find within themselves and others an alignment conducive to contentment? Or must they wait for the next glow of celebration? I think the poem is also wondering along these lines.

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Pigeon krakow
By Kulmalukko (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, Dead pigeon via Wikimedia Commons

The evening of score

You will stand at a window
The clouds will part.
A dead pigeon will fall
down thud down at
your feet. The day will turn.
We now bar the exits.

Cower. Plead.
Waste your breath.


As mentioned last week, I have been expanding my Spotify playlists to include Grime and Rap. The latest is Trap (which as a term new to me I had to look up in the urban dictionary).

It is lazy of me to describe these tracks generically as ‘angry music’, but in contrast with ambient woodland meditation, on the surface they are. It was out of curiosity about this perceived musical-emotional attitude that I clicked on the playlists in the first place. And hallelujah! Because angry music is hard liquor from which I am enjoying a good drink at the moment.

The rhythmic beats and aggressive vocalisations takes my current writing along some highway with pace and fury. I recognise the creativity in compiling a whole song about ‘Shutup’ or ‘Shutdown’ or ‘Feed ’em to the Lions.’  In my time, I’ve struggled to configure resonant poems and pages about topics like disappointment, revenge, hope, personal and collective narrative. It’s there in these songs and many many people are moved by them. These Rap, Grime, Trap creators make it look easier and more fired to write such material than I’ve found it to be.

To my surprise, it’s the verse among the beats and aggression that makes me stop and listen. I jot down the lines I really like. Some blog appropriate ones include: “Tomorrow I’m going to come scoop you.” “Go on, then, go on.” “I’m so London; I’m so South.” “I used to wear Gucci, but I put it all in the bin. That’s not me.”

Granted, what I’m absorbing is commercialised and comfortably distant from my quiet, rented room with its pink lampshade and chintzy duvet cover. I acknowledge that I am not tough or ‘cool’ or ‘street’ or whatever. Not by the longest shot. I am a library geek who enjoys opera and symphony concerts. At the moment, I don’t drink, I spend my evenings doing press-ups and am reading Chinese poetry in translation and a volume of Afrikaans letters. In the words of JME, compared with the heavy flavours of the Rap, Grime and Trap world, I may have, “No taste, like vegan cheese.”

Here comes Skepta with ‘Track 5.’ Like other wanderers, he taps into his surrounding urban landscape, “Suffering from the dark psychosis”… “Just me and my cats and the foxes roaming the streets at night.” Through the song he treads London streets and the back alleys of one’s personal, vocational and creative direction. Such London street narratives take me back to the Museum of London’s Dickens exhibition of a few years ago. One of my favourite exhibits was an artist’s video. Footage of London streets was voiced over with Dickens’s descriptions of his night time wanderings around the city. Perhaps at some point this poet-storyteller Skepta and I really could wander London’s back streets. And after the meander, we could stop for tea.

It occurs to me – through the song we have already made the meander. And it’s now that time of the afternoon for tea. I have a choice of Waitrose English Breakfast or Fortnum and Mason’s Russian Caravan. Apparently Skepta also enjoys tea, just not the crumpets.

Grime! Grime! Feeling super. And coming next week with more poetry from the Spotify highway.

There will be a final page,
the faded note
and empty seats.
One day the concert hall
will be an office block
and after that a hospital.
Our hands
at the serenade
took home the note that fades.

blue pink birds illustration, vintage new year postcard, singing birds clip art, holly berries bird illustration, music conductor bird graphics


It’s spring again. The blossoms I wrote about last year came too early this year, even before January had concluded. I wasn’t ready for their exuberance and I wasn’t ready for what 2016 would bring.

Here starts a new season of public posts. ‘Jangle Between Jangle’ are words about working, living and trying to survive in the big smoke. Not all the verses are as gentle and nostalgic. I, die-hard BBC Radio Three devotee, have been listening to a lot of Grime Shutdown and Rap Caviar on Spotify. Please visit again soon for some grittier verse. In the meantime, may ‘There was a first time’ ease you in.

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With thanks to the Old Design Shop for the image of the vintage New Year’s postcard.

Queensland State Archives 1615 Public Instruction Activities at the Teachers Training College the College Council April 1951

By Agriculture And Stock Department, Publicity Branch [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

While looking for some entertaining archival posts, I came across this micro-poem from a year ago:

The Best Instruction

You might receive
an email telling you
such ‘n such.
Don’t worry! Take no action!

May your week include more emails that require less action.

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

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