Archives for posts with tag: memoir
Image courtesy of Norfolk-based artist, Nicola Slattery. View her enchanting work at www.nicolaslattery.com

“Taken Care Of” courtesy of Norfolk-based artist, Nicola Slattery. View her enchanting work at www.nicolaslattery.com

The 2×52 project developed in April 2013 when I committed to posting two poems a week for a year. I completed my self-made creative challenge this April when I revealed the 104th poem. Next month (June 2014), all the poems will be available in a book at my Blurb bookstore. In the meantime, here are the 104=2×52 poems listed in all their glory! And for your convenience, so that you can click on the titles that pique your interest. Enjoy!

  1. On a rock amongst rocks
  2. Things of the Heart, Told in Quiet #1
  3. £299 from Strand
  4. A Thousand Scientific Facts about the Sea
  5. Nice Words #1
  6. Benefactor of the Blind
  7. On the Way to Westminster
  8. Solutrean Hypothesis
  9. I don’t work for you (or Modern Frustrations)
  10. red herring
  11. Tarantella (two versions)
  12. Conversation
  13. Pakistan’s Gold
  14. 29oC
  15. An arrangement of strangers
  16. Recycled
  17. Packed Lunches
  18. Tightly Sealed
  19. Another Summer’s Day
  20. Look At
  21. Hairpin (a short poem)
  22. A definition, notably for the cloud-dwelling artists
  23. Instructions
  24. Scherzo: Allegro before the Finale
  25. Impatience
  26. Screens
  27. Leo’s Entries
  28. From a Stone
  29. Autumn’s ripened harvest store
  30. The Character Building
  31. An autumn evening in
  32. Preceding seafaring that was not to transpire
  33. The Home Commute
  34. On the declaration of the first day of the Year of Our Light
  35. What we were all thinking
  36. Emulation
  37. Genuine
  38. Stuck
  39. An address from a lectern
  40. Her magical box
  41. Sun Doves
  42. At the right age
  43. Just Punishment
  44. Every morning, because it’s wonderful
  45. Is it worth it?
  46. A Bequest of Wonder
  47. The Benefits of 320 Kicks
  48. I do. Do you?
  49. Five Consequences of Repeated Actions
  50. To the Valleys
  51. supreme ultimate
  52. Operations Meeting, El Dorado
  53. Without realising it, the postman leaves a poem
  54. Another drop in this week before Christmas
  55. A quiet night preludes
  56. Let them eat
  57. I learnt
  58. A New Room
  59. Philip’s Log: Entries about my moonlit sylph
  60. Pairings
  61. Conscripted
  62. Bursting Art
  63. Afloat
  64. Would you ever live in Heather Green?
  65. London’s Molten Hour
  66. Two poems about grey
  67. My friend Ellen
  68. Nice words of the moment (from autumn)
  69. Today
  70. Outpourings
  71. She’d read it in books
  72. Tube sketch (one of a few)
  73. St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden
  74. Near Liverpool Street, under scaffolding
  75. On the occasion of a dinner party in Kennington
  76. Tunnel Days
  77. London. Is it worth it?
  78. At the moment: £2
  79. the currency of sugar
  80. High-end Liquids
  81. Glomerulonephritis
  82. Dying is probably easier than this
  83. The Age Show
  84. Nice words #2
  85. How do you make a dream come true?
  86. Do engineers dream?
  87. Appropriate Recompense
  88. It’s complicated
  89. Every Sign of the Zodiac
  90. Saying it plainly
  91. The Brothers Three
  92. This morning’s request
  93. Recipe
  94. Kindly exit
  95. In the ocean one night
  96. Degas’s Business Card
  97. A small heart panics
  98. Interior holdings
  99. Reviewing the pursuit
  100. Absorbed
  101. Nearing the End
  102. Different Rides
  103. Spring Wants
  104. Escucha
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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’.

A climb up Kili
Only it’s Archway Hill.
Destination: Highgate
King prawns in chilli butter
at Café Rouge –

At the end of last year I was searching for this poem amongst my papers. Although distressed at the loss of the original gem (Where is it? I kept asking on Twitter.), I attempted an alternative take on the subject.

But good news! While typing up the handwritten drafts for this bumper month of 2×52 poems, I found my five-line treasure. I was so pleased – and am delighted to now share it with you as the penultimate verse in this week of London poems.

This micro-poem was written in reply to a friend’s question, posed when we met for a catch-up lunch. At the time I was volunteering at Lauderdale House, a community arts centre in Highgate.

Next month I will be one of four poets reading at Lauderdale in support of a fundraising campaign towards renovating the house. The reading will be at 8pm on Wednesday, 26th February. Tickets are £5/£3 concessions. Further details are available on Lauderdale House’s events page. If you are in London, it would be fun to meet you.

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill

Books:
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys 
Shining in Brightness

Remember how
your grandfather stumbled and then fell
into the garden pond.
You wore a suit, freshly pressed 
-  a strange look from your usual garb
of sweat and day creased shirts. 
I in a satin dress 
of peacock colours,
never wanted to be conventional,
but my bouquet was of white arums
from the garden.
Everyone clustered: 
your mother, mine, 
my siblings, your sister and her fiancé, 
those friends who could make it,
smiles and congratulations.
Remember how we teetered into crinkled rows
on the muddy lawn
for the photographer
and almost forgot to cut
the cake 
so carefully iced by your mother.

Remember our wedding, 
that happiest of days
of our life spent together

that somehow didn’t happen.

While editing today’s entry, I turned to the dictionary to double-check the correct spelling of the man who is engaged to a woman. Dictionary entries often provide a sentence in which the word is used in context. I glanced down. “My fiancé and I were childhood sweethearts.” Interesting, I thought. I wondered, what might be the explanatory sentence for the woman who is engaged to a man? Here it is: “He went back to the valley to marry his fiancée.”

This was beyond interesting. My hackles inflamed. What archaic whatnot continues to be delivered in these sentences?

The woman, as the narrator in the first sentence, is hitched conjunctively and in sentence subject position to the man to whom she is engaged (“My fiancé and I”). This in a twenty-first century dictionary entry designed to clarify the meaning of “a man engaged to a woman.” There are alternatives, which set the two consenting adults as independents entering into an agreed contract. What about, “I proposed to a man, who agreed to marry me”? Or, perhaps it would be congenial to keep the couple pairing and shared history. Then let’s at least add some more believable action to the construction, “My fiancé and I met at work/a conference/playing tennis/surfing/while studying engineering”.

The reference to “childhood sweethearts” adds an overlay of those happily ever-afters much fawned upon in childhood and, well, fairy tales. Of course, there are some folk who meet their partners early on in life. However, the strident feminist in me is most uncomfortable to read of marriage agreement overlaid with tropes of infantilism, at worst, or indulgent adolescent mooning.  For the twenty-first century reader, this explanation is at odds with the times and many adult women’s real experiences of marriage or long-term partnerships.

As general language understanding and accessibility goes, “childhood sweetheart” is a decidedly idiomatic expression. The explanatory sentence simply falters in accessibility.

Yet, the second sentence, “He went back to the valley to marry his fiancée” could be as confusing for contemporary English –language users. Why should a man return to the wilds below the mountains to marry the woman to whom he is engaged? Is this some special English-speaker tradition? Not usually, though country weddings and returning to one’s home ‘village’ is not uncommon. Here the explanation paints a pastoralized version of the cave-man returning to the tribe to take up his woman, presented albeit as a neater pre-Industrialist version. Try the revision method I engage earlier. (Yes, that was deliberate.) Replace the man’s claiming action with some other activity and the valley location to somewhere more in keeping with contemporary, metropolitan contexts. Consider, for example, “He took the bus to the town hall to marry his fiancée”.

And, pray tell, what on earth is any modern-day, city-girl doing back in the valley? Marriage is not exclusively a rural/ peri-urban past-time. Let’s try, “He and his fiancée took their vows in front of the magistrate”. Even better, as a homage to one involved groom I met, “He helped his fiancée by selecting the wedding flowers”.

It also bothers me that both sentences locate the forthcoming wedding/marriage as an activity that involves returning to the past, childhood (time) or the valley to which the man must return (place). The significance of engagement is that it is a preliminary contractual agreement for an event to take place in the future. But now I have run out of possible alternative sentences. Hang on, what about, My fiancé and I will apply for a mortgage with our combined incomes.” Or, “My fiancée and I are planning our wedding on a budget“.

I sense a forthcoming poem about grooms flocking to the valleys.

P.S. Though did you notice, the gender of the suit wearer in the poem is not made explicit?

Fresh off the press this week! My latest volume, Emily’s Poems for Modern Boysoffers insights on life, work and love from the kind and curious poetess, Emily. Preview her introduction and some of the poems here.

My first book, Shining in Brightness, is also available for preview and purchase at the blurb.co.uk bookstore.

Follow me on Twitter as @BeadedQuill. I comment on my practise, writing and anything else that captures my interest – from words to Russian animation.

When it is from deep inside

and through my eyes,

that crinkled nose –

my truest smile.

For some time I was a regular attendee of a writing group. I often presented very short poems (some of which were to feature in ‘Shining in Brightness‘, my first volume and others which are earmarked for the forthcoming ‘Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys’.) It helped that I could print out eight copies of a poem on one A4 page. This meant I saved on printing. The resulting items to be read out were palm-sized scraps of paper. In honour of their size and effect, one of my fellow attendees declared my signature pieces “sushi poems.”

I love the idea that these short verses might pack a punch, prove tasty and nutritious. The poem above is a fresh addition to the ever growing bundle.

Here are some more of my sushi poems available on the Beaded Quill blog:

String

Pavement Writer

Ode to a Golden Mango

Things of the Heart Told in Quiet #1

A Poem about Scales (red herring)

Conversation

At Noon

The hummingbird stands for love

926 Breathless Accomplishments

The Poet

Clementi Brings in 2013

If you enjoyed the above read ‘Pavement Walker’, the first poem in my volume ‘Shining in Brightness, available for purchase and preview at blurb.co.uk

In pack-a-punch style, I love the challenge of a good tweet. Follow me on Twitter. I tweet as @BeadedQuill

I have small veins
that have been drawn
in sinks of scalding water
and vigorous smacking.
Stopped at the upper arm
and with a pumping fist,
the supply is best tapped by the finest needle.

It is sometimes easier
to siphon off blood on Tuesdays
for doctors’ records
than write poems twice a week.

For over three decades I have had my blood taken for medical records, which have been used as teaching material by the hospitals in which I have been treated. Results tallied from my blood, a product of my body, have made a contribution to the world. It is my hope that my writing may do so, too.

My body produces and pumps blood. Surely this same physical entity should be able to produce words? One of my current projects is to write two poems a week. Over a year, this should total 104 new pieces. I sit down daily and write many lines. Sometimes the ideas and deft formations flow with ease. On other occasions, it takes some needling.

Preview my first volume of published poems, SHINING IN BRIGHTNESS.

Follow my tweets about the creative life and my running commentary on the audio-book of ‘Anna Karenina.’ I’m @BeadedQuill

Summer_Vintage_Woman_by_CherishedMemories

This image, ‘Summer Vintage Woman,’ is courtesy of CherishedMemories.

A few recent poems have orbited around summer. 29°C captures some moments from the July heatwave. Another Summer’s Day explores more delights of the warmer season. Summer food and outdoor eating, which we enjoy at such times with childlike relish, are enacted by the child characters who feature in Packed Lunches and Summermelon. Tightly Sealed and Look At draw on observations of ordinary days as they continue to unfold during a suburban summer. Leftovers accumulate in the ‘fridgeResidents must still go to work and pick up groceries on the High Street.

An Arrangement of Strangers, a poem about some childhood fears, proved the wildcard.

I consider Recycled the most beautifully put together of them all.

The ants in his pants
found a dark crack
and bit at the edges
until at night the worms 
came out and about
looking for food
and found ants, from his pants, 
for company.

Together the roundworms
     and the man-eating ants
enjoyed their pantaloni party.


There we go: an offering from my notebooks that takes a side-step from the usual quaint, observational whimsy to the slightly grotesque. Perhaps you’re a little curious about the origin of these ants and worms? I’ll tell you.

I am one of three siblings who grew up in a suburban South African home filled with pets – hamsters, tortoises, goldfish, silkworms (Yes, they’re pets, too.), cats and dogs . When we were little and restless, our Mum or Margaret, our nanny, would ask, “Do you have ants in your pants?” If you were unlucky enough to sit on a thread of the little Argentinean ants, which populated the kitchen, garden and any other nook in the house over the summer, they would quite happily nip at you. As a child, it didn’t take much to imagine pants full of ants nipping away and making one jumpy.

There is another childhood ant memory. One Sunday afternoon on the television, I caught an extract of a black-and-white movie about carnivorous red ants in the jungle. In my imagination’s memory, the jungle is the Amazon, home to those other flesh-munchers, the piranhas. There was a scene in which one of the explorer men dozed off in the afternoon humidity. By evening, when someone came to wake him, his face had been eaten up by the carnivorous ants. Ever since, I have had a phobia about falling asleep in a humid jungle with a Panama hat over my face and not waking up, for my face has been consumed by rapacious ants.

Pair these ant memories, with Mom or Margaret’s other favourite rhetorical question, “Do you have worms?” Any whinging or teary-ness or overtiredness or unexplained snacking or bottom scratching, would be accompanied by the worm question. Then the dreaded threat would follow, “I am going to check you for worms tonight.” Once it was dark, the little white creatures would inch their inquisitive selves into the world. Inspections were most effective at such times. Worms and the annual worm treatment were such a routine part of our growing up with animals, that all this was a regular feature of our childhood. It is such a shared experience that amongst the three of us, we even have a shorthand ‘worm-dance’ (choreographed by my brother) for, “The worms, they are (out) looking.”

“An arrangement of strangers” provides an example of how incidents from my past provide imagination-compost for a creative piece. While much of my writing springs from personal experience, I really do eschew the conflation of autobiography with my artistic expression. It would please me if the man-eating ants and their roundworm associates have entertained you in their own right. After all, they brought along the pantaloni party.


*pantaloni = plural of pantaloon
I think the addition of this word adds a comic, circus-feel to the final stanza, which in turn taps the picayune and surreal world of flea and ant circuses.

If you’re interested in reading more of my poetry, preview my first volume SHINING IN BRIGHTNESS at blurb.co.uk

I tweet as @BeadedQuill. Follow me.

The Gullies (Covent Garden, London)

I have a personal Thursday pleasure and it is to choose my PCF picture of the week over a strong black coffee. The ten I have chosen to date are a visual log of the last two months of my London journey. “The Gullies (Covent Garden, London)” is my picture from 19 July 2012.

The public send in comments via an online option called Art Detective and it is my duty to log these comment. As I do so, I click over to the image referenced in the message. Each week I enter a parallel world of a people’s art and social history. The Your Paintings archive has brought together the outer world of the UK’s paintings and the inner worlds of artists, institutions and lived lives, and put them in front of me on a screen.

I came across “The Gullies (Covent Garden, London)” by Peter Snow after logging an email about another of his works, “The Passing World” (1985).  Snow’s image caught my attention because the Public Catalogue Foundation’s offices are in Covent Garden, on Maiden Lane. The kitchenette windows look out onto similar rooftops and the back windows of rented office spaces. On a grey day, a wintery day, I can imagine that this is how these rooftops are shaded in similar dull shades, murky greens and weary browns.

My view from the computer is of arched windows across the road with three neat, potted round-headed topiaries on a sill. The colouring on this side is different, too: white, those green, topiary balls and bricks of a softer, warmer, baked biscuit hue. Heard though unseen, below bustles a street of restaurants and bars; in the morning string-armed delivery men unpack crates of alcohol, at lunch business commences. I think of as green and yellow/ gold as the colours of below. Firstly because the awnings of London’s oldest restaurant, Rules, are themed in these shades and the door to the PCF offices is green. Secondly, because the South African shop is down the street; the combination of ‘green and gold’ calls on an embedded memory of school-lesson patriotism.

“The Gullies” took me back to my high school art history classes in the early 1990s, in Cape Town. In those days Mr Cain still lit up the theory room wall with images from a slide projector. Those slides opened up the worlds for me. When I saw these Covent Garden gullies I remembered Piet Mondrian’s “Broadway Boogie – Woogie” (1942-43, oil on canvas, 50- 50 cm, New York, Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)). One of Mondrian’s last paintings, it captures his bird’s eye view, we were told, of the hustle-bustle and jazz-fuelled streets of 1940s New York. He was in a great city, but far from home. He looked down on his new urban landscape, as a voyeur of the urban maze.

Gan Gan was my London Granny, she was born in 1917 and raised in the city between the two World Wars. “My Fair Lady” was her favourite musical. In one of my last memories of her more lucid, we are sitting on the edge of my parents’ bed watching it. She was in her 80s; I about 12. This was 17 years before I came to London, when England was still as once upon a time as Eliza Doolittle, Dick Whittington, the bluebells and nostalgia in Gan Gan’s quarterly copies of This England magazine. England was a place of purple, blue, grey and rain. It was “The Cries of London” on decorative plates along her staircase wall. It smelled like Eau de Cologne 4711, tasted like milky tea with honey and Tennis Biscuits. (Coconutty Tennis Biscuits are not quintessentially English, but in Gan Gan’s kitchen at tea time they become so.) London’s song was “Knees up Mother Brown” and the pop of a large biscuit tin opening.

In July I was not so well, but remained hopeful and “The Gullies” maps out a grisly, possibly-paved-with-gold London for me. I love “The Gullies (Covent Garden, London)” for the free-running it gives my imaginary London and my recent real experience. There’s something very rich in it, and it sparks a leaping of parkour proportions in my creative brain. Not unlike the crazy time I have spent in this remarkable city.

2012

My first volume of poetry, SHINING IN BRIGHTNESS is available for preview and purchase at blurb.co.uk

Follow my London adventures, North-South musings and hunt for good biscuits on Twitter. I’m @BeadedQuill

In respect of copyright, I have not reproduced Peter Snow’s lovely images with this piece. If you click on the painting titles above, you will be taken to the Your Painting’s website where these images are archived. “Your Paintings is a website which aims to show the entire UK national collection of oil paintings, the stories behind the paintings, and where to see them for real. It is made up of paintings from thousands of museums and other public institutions around the country.”

In addition to poetry, I have written on travel, art and visual representations of Africa. I also have an affinity for suburban memoir.

Here is my latest published piece, which appears in the Public Catalogue Foundation’s February newsletter: Painting in Focus: 103 True Faces of Robert Burns.

The Public Catalogue Foundation has recently completed a decade-long project to catalogue over 200,000 oil paintings in public collections across the United Kingdom.