Archives for posts with tag: career

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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An illustration of a prawn salad from from Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, 1907. Courtesy of the Old Design Shop., a vintage image treasury.

An illustration of a prawn salad from from Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, 1907. Courtesy of the Old Design Shop, a vintage image treasury.

Today I present two poems from the archive –

Now here is something to marvel at… (posted in 2012)
and
Is it worth it? (posted in 2013)

Both poems tackle the theme of worldly aspirations and success. In “Now here…” the concerns of juggling a shoestring budget are interrupted by observations of life’s ordinary marvels and man’s urban success (the Gherkin).

Is it worth it?” uses the image of a well-kept lawn as the metaphor for reigned-in success. Grass is that something else that reaches from the earth and applauds the expansive blue of sky. It exists as a blade of grass merely being for being’s own sake. When the grass has once again reached an unruly height, the lawnmower returns to cut it down.

I explain in the 2013 post that “Is it worth it?” was a based on an earlier short poem I thought I had mislaid. That poem, about prawns and trekking up a London hill, later reappeared.

Success, achievement and priorities have also featured in these poems

Highest Priority
How do you make a dream come true?
A definition, notably for the cloud-dwelling artists
The Character Building
926 breathless accomplishments


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 from The Delineator magazine, Nov. 1891 via the Old Design Shop.

Image from the November 1891 issue of The Delineator magazine via The Old Design Shop.

November marks an anniversary month for this blog for it was in November 2012 that I started posting regularly. Looking back at the poems posted last year (Nov. 2013), I’m pleased to report that the month’s archive crop is a particularly good one. November seems to be a good month. Perhaps it’s an echo of all the NaNoWriMo productivity. Perhaps it’s the season for creative harvest. Stay posted.

From the archive, today I present “At the right age“. This poem touches on the themes of success, life choices, the current changing social strata-education-work climate and the frustrations of being a young person in the contemporary post-Industrial world.

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

Can you believe two years have passed since the London Olympics? I was fortunate enough to attend an evening of paralympic events. It feels as though it was only last year that I was sitting in the massive stadium, with an enormous lion emblazoned across my t-shirt and yelling encouragement at the athletes. Clearly, it wasn’t. That moment was in 2012.

This time last year I posted a loose Pindaric ode to a golden mango.

In the spirit of archives – looking at the back catalogue in the present, possibly to inform the future – I encourage you to read this post about progress. Joanna Penn recommends measuring achievement across the span of four years by asking oneself, where was I during the last olympics? Equally, you can plot your goals by projecting, where would I like to be by the next games?

Where will you be in 2016?

In the meantime, I’m still waiting for this summer’s golden mangoes to appear on the local grocers’ tiers.

Find me on Twitter. I’m @BeadedQuill.

Image courtesy of The Old Design Shop (http://olddesignshop.com/), Vintage Image Treasury.

In response to the questions often posed to me about my writing, I have decided to introduce a new feature on my blog:

Please explain…

Send in your questions about a particular poem, a running theme or even a line that puzzles you. If you’re curious about the creative process behind a poem’s existence, you may ask about that, too.

Here is our first submission. “Please explain…”

This month I once again
neglect to pay into a pension,
fertilize a good egg at ovulation
or further my career. Untoward

outcomes will result! In twenty years
it will not matter
that I didn’t
write this poem today

This poem (Five Consequences of Repeated Actions) covers recurring discussion points of so many of my (female) peers at present: the difficult job market, not being able to put aside financially for the future and the biological clock. The further question is – of all the things you do in a day, which one will be the most important? If you do not pursue your calling (e.g. writing), will this really have an effect in twenty years’ time. Does what one do today really have such a huge outcome on twenty years down the line?

Of course these eight lines are a little autobiographical. (Some say most writing contains a kernel of autobiography.) I question myself about my professional status. (I don’t have one at present.) I freak out about not making adequate provision for my retirement. (I’m just grateful to pay my rent, buy groceries and then blow a fiver on a night of dancing.) The ticking of my biological clock created a recent panic. (After visiting the assisted fertility specialist, I am allowing myself an 18-month/2 year window period to get my health in order before revisiting the biological clock issue.)

I write daily and try to remind myself of my commitment to this path and craft. But for what? Will the world really be any poorer for my wallowing in creative self-indulgence, when perhaps I should be paying into a pension and salvaging some sort of career track? The literal and literary irony of this little poem is that it does exist. Whether or not it hovers in the ether in twenty years’ time is an outcome yet to be determined.

It’s Thursday, 06:15
You wake up to the alarm
knowing you will never 
  win an Olympic medal
  publish a novel
  that would win the Man Booker,
  finish your degree
  or even pay the last R150 you owe
Woolworths.
Your first grandchild will die before 
you and each of those candles you lit
in the cave of the chapel
might have been for your lost
dreams.
	But those little flames did not save you
from the canker fire in your gut and liver
that burned lost dreams and life
in slower motion than every workday Thursday.


This is the second in a set of ‘difficult’ poems.

Woolworths is a South African department store akin to the UK’s Marks and Spencer (rather than the now defunct UK Woolworths).

The described persona of this poem is based on my Dad.

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

This month I once again
neglect to pay into a pension,
fertilize a good egg at ovulation
or further my career. Untoward

outcomes will result! In twenty years
it will not matter 
that I didn’t 
write this poem today.

Not to fear. Come the end of next week, I plan to be on a waiting-list to freeze some of my good eggs. Plus the poetry writing continues.

I now have two volumes for sale. The latest book, Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys, offers insights on life, work and love for the youthful gentlemen of our contemporary times. Shining in Brightness chronicles a twelve-year journey set across three continents and explores the themes of connection, loss and growing up.

Both titles are available for preview and purchase at blurb.co.uk

Please follow me on Twitter as @BeadedQuill. I tweet about writing and whatever else is happening in my life. At the moment this is a cold and listening to Chopin Ballades.

People start to ask questions

they really have no right

to pose

 

At a point, they expect you to be

studying.

Let it be known: a non-graduate works shifts

and packs plastic bags.

 

Since 2008, so do graduates with four degrees.

But people will still ask,

What do you do? They mean are you in a Proper Job:

doctor, lawyer, finance something, accountant,

teacher still makes the mark

 

the arts are hobbies

 

Now, have you bought a house? Or looked at a fifth degree?

MBA’s or the property ladder move

aspirations rung for rung

 

Children are also acceptable. But know,

They are a Lifestyle Choice until you are

Settled and wish no longer to do things for yourself.

 

People will narrow their eyes

if you have never travelled,

or are divorced by 32

or have parented children, now nearing the age of ten.

Then you can see them counting back the years.

 

At the considered right age

you should be doing the proper thing,

so people will ask.

 

I am told it is called making conversation.

If you enjoyed the above you may also enjoy the following poems:

The Character Building

A Definition, Notably for the Cloud-Dwelling Artists

Impatience

They also touch on the themes of life choices, the current changing social strata-education-work climate and the frustrations of being a young person in the contemporary post-Industrial world.

My first volume, Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012, presents twenty poems that trace the study, travel and life experiences of my twenties. The book is available for preview and purchase here.

A second volume, Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys, is forthcoming. Please follow the blog (see sign-up in right-hand corner of the screen) for updates on the content, release date and special subscriber offers.

I tweet as @BeadedQuill. Please follow me.