Archives for posts with tag: light
tilted galaxy

This image of a tilted galaxy appears courtesy of http://www.sciencekids.co.nz/pictures/space/tiltedspiralgalaxy.html

For World Space Week last October I wrote “On the declaration of the first day of the Year of Our Light.”

There are some wonderful lines in this poem, such as

“The swirling spheres in proclamation”,
“Light of more silver bright”
and the bit quoted for the headline, “The whole kerfuffle woke the stars.”

Sometimes I just like poetry for the way it allows words to sound.

For more about my fascination with words, see
Nice Words #1
Nice Words #2
Nice Words #4
Nice words of the moment (from autumn)
Cast them together

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

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"Midnight Harp" by Esmira, on DeviantArt

Midnight Harp” by Esmira, on DeviantArt

Bell-like, round and clear
Hopeful and transparent 
as a copper bauble,
it lifts the congregation.
From the sanctuary 
the maiden’s voice soars
and plunges
as she elongates the siren call.

 

I am not a groupie. I’d rather spend my days in a hermit’s hut on a mountainside with books, green tea and yoga for company instead of people. I find people politics and inane conversation immensely annoying. But I keep seeking out institutionalised assemblies. In these experiences I find vestiges of tribal inheritances, which seem to inspire my creative work. At least, this is my theory as to why I keep seeking out groups and gatherings which jar with my loner’s soul. Being part of a martial arts academy is one example. Volunteering in various organisations and an ongoing relationship with institutions of learning, such as schools and universities, are others. Then there’s church attendance, which has influenced a few recent poems (Just Punishment, Let them eat).

Attending church takes me back to my childhood and familiar language patterns. My father claimed a deep personal religiosity. When we were children, it was a weekly parental pleasure for him to walk me and my brother to Sunday School. After the morning’s service proceedings we would play outside. He would siphon egg sandwiches, Salticrax with cheese and little cakes from the adult’s tea-table for us. (The Anglican Church to this day offers an excellent post-service tea spread.) He would spend a long time explaining things to us like the flat stones in the graveyard, the gruesome Stations of the Cross and the purple covering-cloths at Lent.

Today’s poem is drawn from a recent church experience during which I was struck by the clear, enchanting voice of the young woman who lead the singing. Her voice was neither trained nor very brilliant, but it moved me. In that moment, a flood of young maidens singing swept over me. I saw maidens with harps in old villages. I imagined maidens next to seas and riverbanks singing as they worked with others or alone to keep themselves company. I saw maidens next to firesides singing with the transparency of youthful hope, watched by audiences of older women and men, who in that moment were reminded of their youthful expectancy. This memory suspends itself like a copper bauble, picks up the fire-light and lifts them in the moment. It was all this that propelled me to write the poem.

The title references the “Libera me” at the end of Verdi’s Requiem. Instead of an awe-inspiring chorus with trained soprano, the single lay voice of this poem rings out unaffected and haunting. The siren call in this context is not entirely destructive. It is hypnotic, but it re-directs its listeners towards hope. The catch is that for many of them this hope is a bauble of the past, but it still frees them.

It only occurred to me years later that our absence from the house on a Sunday meant that my hard-working, music teacher mother could have a morning of quiet respite. At the end of 1987 and in early 1988, my Mum was also pregnant with my sister. Now when I look back at those memories, I add this layer. While we were running around the grounds of Christ the King on Lower Milner Road, stuffing our kiddie faces with egg sandwiches (on white bread! With crusts cut off!) and staring at faux-granite gravestones, my Mum was at home with a growing belly which contained my little sister.

My sister is now big – a maiden herself in her later twenties. She plays the harp and occasionally sings, though not in church. Her siren work with words is in a different field. She is a journalist.

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

The poet wants
new curtains, please.
Yellow and white, in a gingham print
of medium squares; lined in white cotton. The light 
will stream through across the room
and catch the duvet on the bed in a stroke of 
sunny warmth,
The poet wants
new curtains, please.
New ones that don’t 
slump from hooks 
that snapped long before
the poet moved into this little rented room.

The poet wants 
a clean carpet. One without
an encroaching margin of
London grime
which the bristled hoover 
only tickles each week.
The poet would prefer
poetry to flutter down 
as easily as blossom-petal confetti
spread pink on the pavement 
near Summerlee Avenue.

The poet wants
more travel and 
less frozen broccoli. 


At the beginning of April, the spring bloom, preluded by daffodils, was joined by red tulips, forget-me-nots and bouffant trees in blossom. With the sunnier days, the return of nature’s colour and the chatty birds, I started to feel restless. It was time to shed the cabin-time of winter. Some have been turning soil in their gardens. I have turned to cleaning out my rented room and allocated kitchen cupboards.

The food I was eating annoyed me. I was sick of my neighbourhood. Trying to write the last poems for the 102 project was an irritation. Above all, I developed an intense dislike of the curtains in my rented room.

I have yet to solve the curtain situation. A few charity shop visits and the occasional Freecycle search have not yet yielded any finds. In the interim, there’s a flowering Easter cactus on the chest of drawers next to my bed. And I have done away with the dust-covered, wicker light-shade that cast a strange cross-hatch shadow over the walls at night. My new shade looks like a large, light-emitting pink macaroon. Delicious!


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

Responsible. Spring cleaning. Light-bulb.

In mid-January 2013 I wrote about the ordinary routine of a quiet creative. I wrote about the things I accomplished during a week and the chores left undone. “The hooded empty eye-socket of the desk-lamp stares at me. A year since moving in, it still needs a light-bulb. ”

Since writing that post, the bulbless light has been in a cupboard. After nearly two years, I had finally felt I could spare the cash (all £2,29 for the two 60W bulbs) and make the commitment. Today was the day I bought a bulb! I screwed in this symbolic purchase.

And then – tada! – the light didn’t switch on.

This was meant to be a home-making triumph. How could I have erred in something as simple as putting in a light-bulb? I stared at the dead, bulb-eyed light in woe.

Things are always easier when you have knowledgeable friends. A friend versed in DIY had come come over today to fix two collapsed drawer-runners and a doorknob which had come unstuck.

“Oh, it’s probably the fuse.”

My friend was now excited, “While I’m here, I can have a look at that, too.”

He was  enthusiasm for the new found problem diffused my disappointment. He disappeared to the local hardware and knick-knacks haven to find a replacement.

This lamp still protrudes like some sort of space-eye on my desk.  Now it’s an eye that’s finally emitting light.

 

"Auspicious Cranes," a hand scroll on silk attributed to Song emperor Huizong (1082 - 1135, r. 1101 - 1126). Image courtesy of http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AAuspicious_Cranes.jpg

“Auspicious Cranes,” a hand scroll on silk attributed to Song emperor Huizong (1082 – 1135, r. 1101 – 1126). Image courtesy of http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AAuspicious_Cranes.jpg

Within the confines of a silken sheet,

the observers attend upon the temple.

Before it returns to ash and dust,

they light a votive offering.

It is

 

in a portrait

the thumbnail of the painter’s right hand

 

the sparse arm-hairs of a samurai

beset by ghosts

 

the frog at the woman’s feet,

gazing, as we do, as she steps out of her bath

 

21/11/13

Yesterday and today I have had the great pleasure of visiting three temporary exhibitions of glorious visual/material culture. I find visual stimuli a great well for my writing and am delighted that today’s poem gives credit to this recent input.

Freshest in my mind are the Shunga scenes, which I saw at the British Museum this evening.  Shunga (‘spring pictures’) are erotic paintings, prints and illustrations paintings and prints from Japan.

The last two descriptions in the poem above are drawn from two works on show. I searched for links to the images, but unfortunately could not find these particular ones in the British Museum’s online collection. Possibly they are loan items, or I am in error as to my search criteria. I’ll add a note later should I come across them.

The image with the artist’s thumbnail is “Portrait of Shen Zhou at Age Eighty” (Unidentified Artist, 1506, The Palace Museum Collection, Beijing). Shen Zhou (1427–1509) was a notable painter during the Ming dynasty in China. (You can view an image of the work here.) It was at the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum’s Masterpieces of Chinese Painting, 700 to 1900, that I saw the original of Shen Zhou’s portrait. I was supremely fortunate to also see the original of “Auspicious Cranes” (possibly Emperor Huizong, about 1112, The Liaoning Provincial Museum Collection). A reproduction of this image had inspired my poem Twenty Auspicious Cranes in July.

As for today’s poem, I ask for some artistic leeway from the post-colonial theorists and rigorous Asian Cultural Studies scholars. They will have noted two misdemeanours. The first, that I group the creative production of two distinct traditions in one list. Secondly, I overlay the poem with a veil of ‘spiritual East’.

Now I spy two further inadvertent creative devices that may tempt critique. I have compounded the ‘spiritual East’ with the ‘historical Orient’.  This imagined benevolent kingdom of the past bequeaths, through its exotic treasures, wisdoms about greater universal truths to the present (read: curious Western scholars or readers). Note the tactility elicited in the poem. We read about silk, ash, dust and light. We imagine the referenced water. Thumbnails, arms and feet are mentioned. Alluded to are the hands as they attend, light offerings and paint. We imagine the form of the woman stepping out of her bath. The poem catalogues wonder through an exploration of sensual (sense) experience and the ‘body Orient’. Here, it is worth cautioning that I am conflating East and Orient at will. Ai me. Edward Said and his followers shudder.

Finally, I suspect not all the images are painted on silk either. Yet, this quintessential fabric of the East sets the canvas.

When I look at the handiwork of other artists, artisans and craftsman across time and cultures, I am frequently drawn in by their attentiveness to those small details like the thumbnail, the arm-hairs and the gazing frog. It mattered enough at some point in time for them to add that observational asterisk to the image. This is what, as an artist, I perceive as a votive offering. I indulgently imagine their bequest of wonder is of a similar sentiment to my poetic attentiveness that declares, Now Here is Something to Marvel At…

P.S. The third exhibition was a marvellous homage to pearls at the V&A. It had my imagination at sea with mermaids, but all that for another post.

P.P.S. I didn’t even mention the samurai.

Masterpieces of Chinese Painting, 700 to 1900 is on at the Victoria and Albert Museum until 19 January 2014. Tickets: £13,50 with concessions available. Advance booking is strongly recommended. For more information see the exhibition website.

 

Victoria and Albert Museum details:

Tel.: 020 7942 2000

Address: Cromwell Road, London, SW7 2RL

Opening times:

10:00 – 17:45 daily

10:00 – 22:00 Fridays

Website: http://www.vam.ac.uk/

 

Shunga: Sex and Pleasure in Japanese Art is on at the British Museum until 5 January 2014. Kindly be advised, the exhibition will be closed all day on Saturday 14 December and until 12.00 on Sunday 15 December. Tickets: £7, Members free. Parental guidance advised. For more information see the exhibition website.

British Museum details:

Tel. for ticket booking: 020 7323 8181

Address: Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3DG

Opening times:

10:00 – 17:30 daily

10:00 – 20.30 Fridays

Website: http://www.britishmuseum.org/

You’re invited to take a peek at my book of selected poems, Shining in Brightness.

I tweet about art, writing and London life as @BeadedQuill. Please follow me.

 

Hark! Hark!

The swirling spheres in proclamation

jangled silver bells.

The whole kerfuffle woke the stars and the

Light of more silver bright to

Magnify that

 

We

 

We humans all

Understand

 

Understand, understood, know

The planets, the universe,

All there is

To understand and know.

All of everything.

 

the planets therefore

understood above all

of the universe

since we all

understood (finally, absolutely)

all there is

 

We humans know all

all of

therefore,

all of today,

all of the universe, the planets, understanding,

knowledge,

light,

years,

everything.

I heard on the radio this morning that it is World Space Week. I am often overwhelmed by the enormity and intricacies of the greater universe. Will humans ever really understand it all? Do we really need to? I imagine, loosely, a poetic press conference on the day full knowledge of all is announced.

Preview my first volume of poems here.

Please follow me on Twitter. I tweet about my curiosities as @BeadedQuill.