I’ve always wished
to be expert at chess,
but I overthink
every move and
lose my pawns
and queen in the
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.
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.
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”.
Last year I wrote this diffuse poem. The setting is the large ice-mass that perhaps once bridged Siberia with North of America. A couple are migrating across this inhospitable realm. Imagine the pair dressed in furs, with all their worldly possessions in tow – tent, working dogs, blankets, food and household items tied to sleds. In the poem they are travelling towards the dragon’s gate. This endpoint motivates the woman with hope; it propels the man through sworn duty and allegiance. Both are so focussed on this outward destination – a gate in all its majestic and architectural wonder – that they are not aware of the small stirrings of life. The “soft pearl” is a growing child who embodies the para-reality of their journey and relationship. In contrast with the gate, a settled and solid structure, the child is something organic that will change and is less definable.
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.
I am so very thrilled! My second book of poetry is rolling off the press. Here is a preview of the cover design for “Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys”. The image is another beautiful work by Norfolk-based artist, Nicola Slattery.