Archives for posts with tag: childhood memories
By Markus Kuhn at en.wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Markus Kuhn at en.wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

the people are eating
are wondering
if eating in the morning?

porridge dense in the bowl
raspberries adjoin

a breakfast complete

22/07/2015

On Facebook I follow Elle Korea. I can’t read Korean and I seldom read women’s magazines even in English. Yet, for some reason I find Facebook translations about Korean fashion developments and the latest pretty-boy model intriguing. It’s an enrichment of my experience of contemporary global culture.

Cape Town is a port city and during the later 1980s and early 1990s there were many Koreans connected with the shipping industry that passed through or were in residence. At the time I attended violin lessons with a Korean boy whose father ministered to the sailors. Perhaps we spoke to each other during our lessons, and I remember his name so very clearly, but any recollection of true conversation escapes me. This is odd, as we learnt with the same teachers for nearly six years. I mention this only because the connection is Korea and how one association simply triggers another.

On my Facebook feed a few days ago, Elle Korea posted the most enticing photograph of a simple bowl of porridge supporting a few red raspberries. Of course, it was styled – placed on a dark wooden table-top. To the right was a hand holding a spoon at the ready. (Here be our world ever instagram-able.) Yet the image nourished my desk-bound soul. The muse had sent virtual sustenance.

Food, breakfast in particular and my personal affection for porridge have all featured previously in my oeuvre. It would seem that perhaps – perhaps – this poem heralds the start of new activity, as breakfast does a new day.

For yes, I have not posted fresh work for the last couple of months. Words from Wendy Cope consoled me. (I read them during my tube commute.) She, too, spent months, even years, not writing…

But write the writer must, for without the practise the practitioner is not.

I have another verse ready. I shall post it very soon.

Yours fed by porridge complete,
BeadedQuill


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 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

Scale (PSF)
The beam of a true poem balances
when each pan hovers
with just right the weight.
A real poem contains rhyme;
Each line leads us to a prediction.


When I was at junior school, it was the end-of-term duty of the girls in the highest class, Standard 5, to gather news from each year. These reports were compiled in rhyming couplet form:

As we close the door to Sub A,
it’s to the next classroom we stray.
So now enter the class of the Sub B’s,
where this term they’ve been busy as bees.

It was often as stilted as that; after all the authors were twelve-year-olds, most of whom had had little exposure to rhyming odes themselves. These reports together with the school song, national anthem and hymns we were obliged to sing in assembly were among the early influences of rhyming English in my life. Before I went to school there was rhyme at home. This was fun and storytelling rhyme that shaped Rupert-the-Bear adventures, Ahlberg’s classic “Each, Peach, Pear, Plum” and “’Twas the Night Before Christmas”. By the time I heard these and other rhyming songs and stories related to my younger sister, I was already reading long-form prose. Her educational video sang on a loop, “Five little ducks went out to play, over the hills and far away…” and. I was reading ‘grown-up’ books. Rhyme was little kids’ stuff.

Consequently, rhyme struck me as something twee and childish. It was used to round off pairs of ideas – whether ideology or fun nonsense – so that they would stick in your mind. When I discovered that poetry could exist legitimately without rhyme, I was hooked, though initially, more to reading this sort of poetry than writing it. I loved non-rhyming poetry so much that I thought, I must be a child of modernism’s sentiment. Rhyme seemed to constrict words’ directions, and a sad fate simply because words found themselves slotted into the line of a poem.

Playing with rhythm and meter, musicality and lilt, alliteration and soundscapes enticed my ear and imagination. Yet it is still those predictable lines ribboned together by rhyme that tumble from my memory all these years later: “Success is cheering words of praise, in cheering other people’s ways; in doing just the best you can in every task and every plan”.

More recently I’ve reconciled with rhyme and now deliberately expose myself to old hymns (with wondrous words like ‘eyelids’ and ‘slander’). But I’m still not convinced that Proper Poetry has to rhyme in words. There are surely other tools that craft an idea worth remembering.

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 with thanks to Dark Roasted Blend http://www.darkroastedblend.com/2009/03/victorian-flea-circuses-lost-art-form.html

Image thanks to the blog Dark Roasted Blend*.

From this time last year, a poem about little creatures getting up to mischief.

* While searching the interweb for images of ant and insect circuses, I came across this diverting article about flea circuses on Dark Roasted Blend. DRB is self-billed as “a highly visual ‘Weird & Wonderful’ online magazine to complement your daily coffee ritual”. It’s worth a peek.

From this time last year: an essay about a painting of Covent Garden rooftops. The image triggered a series of personal memories about school art history lessons and my ‘London Granny’.

Roll up! Roll up! To see
the hairy Caucasian lady
with her mandible chin hairs
protruding since she long gave up
plucking or pulling
or waxing them off. And
nobody else cares to do it for her.
Hairs and cavernous wrinkles! Roll up!
It’s not a wig. That’s naturally grey.
Under the chin? A wattle of flesh.
Stare on at those mandible chin hairs
sprout afresh.

For Doris, 1911 – 1998

My London-born granny, my maternal granny, was considered a handsome woman. She told me as much herself, proudly holding up a 1940s studio photograph as evidence. She remained a strikingly attractive. In these early memories, she was a formidable, confident and vital woman.

In the darkness of her bedroom, she had once shown me how she pinned her long, white hair into the trademark chignon she wore. After twirling her mane into a pony and tucking it under itself, one by one, she picked up and inserted the hairpins laid out on the white windowsill.

Gan Gan had impeccable style and a polished fashion sense. Her home in Newlands was furnished with complimentary imbuia furniture, always gleaming. She did not believe in wearing trousers, but was fond of a jacket and skirt suit. Perhaps this was an influence of her youth in London of the 1920s and 30s.

In my early teens she fell and broke her hip. Over the next five years, as she was shunted from one smelly, dismal old age home room to another, she grew more and more frail. Sensible elasticised tracksuit trousers became part of her wardrobe. Her once well-fed, upright frame crumpled. Her sturdy voice became a wobble.

“Nurse, nurse, don’t hurt me,” she’d plead.
“Gan Gan, for the zillionth time, I am not the nurse!”

Even her magnificent hair became “too much to manage” and it was chopped into a practical bob.

Then there were the chin hairs. We gave up plucking them; too fiddly for us, too painful for her. We tried waxing; also too painful for her. For a period we used depilatory creams. In the end, we simply left them for longer and longer periods of time.

As the plumpness of life left her body and face, she developed this jowly flap of skin under chin, like a turkey’s mandible.

Gone was my beautiful, fiery grandmother who terrified us all a little and would merrily sing “Knees up Mother Brown” or “Pack up Your Troubles”. Instead there was the woman with the mandible chin hairs.

My granny passed away in 1998 when I was 17.

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

“His father beat him around 
the head.
Only a little bit
on Wednesdays, after pay day,
or on Friday late,
after the races.
Clean up your mess, boy!”

The teachers preferred 
her creative writing 
to include such
notable topics.
So mature for her age!


In the accompanying essay to yesterday’s posted poem, I wrote about my creative process. Today both poem and essay are a comment on subject matter.

In my youth and during my brief teaching experience, I noticed a tendency towards a certain tone of pathos favoured by school creative writing. Describing meaningful life-knowledge in correct language and with well-chosen form, students showed maturity of expression. Such were the conditions of mark allocation.

As a pupil, when I wrote to emulate the style of this School of Pathos and Poignancy, I knew very little. My own life did not seem mark-worthy for creative writing submissions. There seemed to be nothing of Pathos and Poignancy in what I did know about – my suburban home-life, our small family dilemmas, my adolescent anxieties about would it all be ok, the constant balance of schoolwork and extra-murals and monthly visits to the renal clinic. Oh, how I dreaded Tuesday nights, because it would be tomato-bean-sausage pie for supper. My worst! 

Now I have grown confident about my small life. I have also been fortunate to meet many who have shared of their lives. In these stories have I been touched by life’s school of pathos and poignancy.

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

I learnt
not to throw a tennis ball
indoors.
That’s how you shatter a ginger jar.

I also learnt one should not
break a violin bow.
Did I snap it 
or cause the hairs to explode?

If your nose is running,
and your mother is pinning
your ballet costume
don’t move.
If she pins you,
don’t move.
Don’t move. If you do

she will hit you with the thing
closest to hand

which may be
a pair of scissors.


Originally the above was titled with the opening,

A Damn Good Hiding
will never go amiss.

Parenting is surely one of the most challenging tasks. This I acknowledge with deep sincerity and appreciate all my parents have done for me. But poetry will have its way.

For more poems about suburbia with its quiet battles and ambiguity, preview my two published books of poetry:
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill