Archives for posts with tag: metaphor
Digital clock of a basic design commonly found in hotels. Photo shot by Derek Jensen (Tysto), 2005-September-29 via Wikimedia Commons

Digital clock of a basic design commonly found in hotels.
Photo shot by Derek Jensen (Tysto), 2005-September-29 via Wikimedia Commons

The electricity tripped.
Time fused
at 05:17.
I woke to the flashing.

On my ‘phone 08:03.
The day well underway
and no new messages.

I waiver over the buttons
to recoup the extra hours.
Inside this digital turn-back machine,
once a bedside radio-clock,

05:17 is closer
to that stolen other time.


This poem reminds me of another I wrote when I was younger – ten years younger, which made me do a double take when I realised that I could have ten years behind me and have been writing for over a decade.

I posted “Knowledge,” the poem in mind, on Monday. You can read it here.

A friend asked me recently about negotiating the cross-over between topic and auto-biography. When I wrote the postlude to my first book of poetry, Shining in Brightness, I still aimed to disembody the writing I produced from me, the person who lived some of the source experiences. I have since come to a different understanding of creative process and its resulting work. I shared as much with my friend in a reply comment:

In the beginning I tried to pretend, “Oh, this is this is the through the conduit of the Narrative Voice” blah, blah. Now I care less. I just write my stuff. It’s all the laundry of my mind, clean, filthy and otherwise. People must deal, or not. Anyway, many other creatives shamelessly mine their own lives for material. Look at artist Egon Schiele, or even [writer] JM Coetzee, or any songwriter. So do celebs. They just make more money by selling their stories, together with photo-spreads, to the tabloids.

So, yes, today’s new poem derives from personal experience and specific observations. Sometimes I do write solely for myself, but if I make my work public, it’s meant for an audience. I hope you also find some stolen time in the turn-back machine of this poem.

On a lighter note, I must add that I am of the generation that loved the Back to the Future trilogy. I cannot think of time machines without a twinge of nostalgia for Doc, the DeLorean and Back to the Future III, which is my favourite because there was a smart, pretty lady in a crinoline with whom the Doc fell in love.

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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This image, courtesy of HelloSprout, is a handmade card and available for purchase from etsy.com. See http://etsy.me/r1D7Vd

This image, courtesy of HelloSprout, is a handmade card and available for purchase from etsy.com. See http://etsy.me/r1D7Vd

To feel
waves
must crash
if they thirst for the shore;
they must trip stones smooth,
burst jagged hands,
pierce the stretch strain
of speckled beanskins
learning the ground.

The walker must trip.

2003,
after Las Vegas, Death Valley and Flagstaff, USA

“Knowledge” appears in Shining in Brightness (2013), my first book of poetry.

It is one of the self-identified process poems that were included as snapshots of my period of adolescent whimsy. They are the very sort of poems a creative writing seminar tutor or professor would probably rip to shreds and ban one from showing to the world. In defiance, I have posted “Knowledge” for you here. I have also posted it because it came to mind while I was preparing Thursday’s post. This is a fresh poem that mentions a trip of a different sort, but also touches on the themes of time and process.

Please do return and read “Time tripped”, the new poem which is scheduled for Thursday.

T: @BeadedQuill
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Books

A detail from Child Life, A First Reader, by Etta Austin Blaisdell and Mary Frances Blaisdell, 1902, courtesy of the Old Design Shop.

A detail from Child Life, A First Reader, by Etta Austin Blaisdell and Mary Frances Blaisdell, 1902, courtesy of the Old Design Shop.

I proceed on the outside with my daily life, all the while taking mental or handwritten notes. These observations saved ‘for writing’ often echo personal revelations. The regularity of this continues to astound me, especially as I re-post poems from this blog’s archive. It is sometimes said among writers that we are called to write what we are called to learn.

Today’s archive treasure is “a small heart panics.” It is a companion piece to “String.” In the former poem, the birds flit from the speaker in fear. In the latter, the birds in the wood are settled and stable, but here the speaker’s presence is not human. The speaker has transformed into a balloon, which is less threatening to the squirrels and wood pigeons.

A small heart panics” reminds me of my own jittery flight when someone veers too far off the path to say hello. I am cautious and prone to wall myself off against vulnerability. I also know that this poem originates from a walk in the wood when I tried to befriend some birds and did indeed see myself in them. Similarly, with my author’s knowledge that “String” resonates with one singular moment of comfort, I can measure how these poems inform and complement each other.

When writers are called to write what they need to learn, this need not be biographical or psycho-emotional. In some instances we are called to write in different styles (e.g. an annual report) or for unexpected purposes (e.g. an explanation of an alarm system). On occasion, I have been required to write about topics for which I could muster very little interest (a narrative report of a workshop comes to mind). Yet through these processes I have learnt about style, brevity, research and working with an editorial team.

You write what you need to learn. You often teach what you need to learn. In sharing the work and self-aware process, you expose yourself twice over. The passersby will not only proffer hellos, but indignance and criticism. In such a state of vulnerability, your forest birds will no doubt become wary. Mine do.

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

Chess gameboard.

By Levente Fulop from Brno, Czech Republic (The King’s Game) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve always wished
to be expert at chess,
but I overthink
every move and
lose my pawns
and queen in the
oldest, quickest
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.

Chess also features in an earlier poem, “I told her.”

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

Green Lock and Door

By Swastiverma (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The lock on the bolt
hung like a coat
flashing its lining
of polished gold.
The weathered door was envious;
Its varnish long sapped
by the sun.

New poems have been a little scarce recently because I have been writing about my dating experiences again. I have yet to find the courage, or fictionalising voice, to share these tales with the general public. Some have said I should; others have cautioned against it. Being a geek, what I have done is turn to research.

From my local library I have borrowed dating memoirs and raunchy books about female sexuality (you know the sort that raises the librarian’s eyebrows to a quiver and the only issue dates to three years back). I’m currently reading a psychologist’s take on infidelity and the difficulties of monogamy. Plus I’ve been on something like 21 dates with 18 men, with another scheduled for 45 minutes from now. For an introvert, this has proved exhausting. Not surprisingly, I have been down with some chest infection, which is now on day 11. I’m not sure if there’s actually any real point to the whole dating enterprise. It has been said that for every 12 ‘nos’ the 13th is a ‘yes.’ I’m also still waiting for that to transpire in my career

Today’s poem is about a polished, gold lock on a weathered door. Perhaps it’s a meditation on my exhaustion and envy of the seemingly solid. Irrespective of any psychoanalytic interpretation, I hope you enjoyed the short verse.


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

Ursus arctos - Norway

Image courtesy of  Taral Jansen/Soldatnytt [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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.

31/12/14

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”.

2015, here we come
with our hearts that haven’t yet quit (even though they are a little tired).

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

Tulips from A Day in a Child’s Life by Kate Greenaway, c. 1881 and courtesy of the Old Design Shop.

I did not set out to write poetry. I intended to write Novels. And anyway, I am of the view that much superbly written and evocative poetry already exists. The Shadows of Giants loom large. At the moment I have no illusion about even coming close to their kneecaps, never mind shoulders. This time last year I posted “Emulation“, a poem about the finely wrought craft of three (English language) poetry giants.

Emulation” references two poems that had a notable impact on me during my adolescence: Sylvia Plath’s “Mushrooms” and “The Thought Fox” by Ted Hughes. (Yes, we studied them at school in our English lessons. Some exposures in life just can’t be helped.) Both poems struck me with the synaesthetic potential of words. To this day, I can still feel those mushrooms mouthing their insidious, hollow-breathed o’s at the world (“So many of us! So many of us!”). That Thought Fox still darts with a hot fox stink across my imagination.

(I had not noted, until reviewing these poems for this post, that both set the scene in a forest. How very archetypal; how very Brothers Grimm.)

“Mushrooms” is referenced via Plath’s famous “Tulips” (1961). I came across “Tulips” when I was older . Although a recognised and fine work, it does not evoke the same nostalgia for me.

The third poet to whom homage is paid is John Donne for his poem “The Flea“. Besides the pleasure of the words, it latched onto my leaning towards the miniature and slightly odd. Perhaps my little poem “An arrangement of Strangers” owes Donne a debt.

I may not (yet) have found myself on the shouders of giants, but I have written nearly 200 poems. 149 of them are available in book format:
In the Ocean: a year of poetry – 104 poems written across a year
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys – 25 poems about work, life and love
Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012 – 20 poems about loss, love and growing up in quiet suburbia

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This illustration gem appears courtesy of the Old Design Shop, a wonderful resource for vintage images.

This illustration gem appears courtesy of the Old Design Shop, a wonderful resource for vintage images.

You cooking me

Two burnished hazelnuts
singe flax.
Golden Savoiardi shake
loose vanilla pods.

An oiled aubergine
turns roasted cumin seeds.
The sorrel and bay sauté
with wild mushrooms,
freshly picked.

A wholesome slice seals
the Dijon.

I have written a number of poems that draw on the influences of cooking and kitchen. Today’s offering started as a meditation on the colour mustard, the most unglamorous (even unsexy) of colours. The meditation shifted along the colour spectrum towards synonyms of yellow, golden-yellow and brown. (A Poem A Day October was once again the prompt source.)

“Mustard and brown” vied as an alternative title for the poem. In this version, the end lines would also have been different:

A wholesome slice seals
you cooking me.

Here is the alternative version in its entirety.

Mustard and brown
Two burnished hazelnuts
singe flax.
Golden Savoiardi shake
loose vanilla pods.

An oiled aubergine
turns roasted cumin seeds.
The sorrel and bay sauté
with wild mushrooms,
freshly picked.

A wholesome slice seals
you cooking me.

I’m still undecided as to which combination works better poetically. I prefer the opening version for it’s punch and mustard. What’s your take?

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

View of the Riiser-Larsen Ice Shelf in Antarctica

By Ben Holt – National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) (NASA (Image galleries)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


From night’s horizon
sweep in yowls and howls
across the polar plain.
Glacial blue dims.
The sharpest window opens above:
stars minted by the chill.


Today’s prompt for A Poem A Day October was, “Write a poem incorporating the concept of being ‘frozen,’ whether literal or not.”

All day I have been mulling over the idea of ‘frozen’ as a transition state of water, rather than a state of matters set. In preparation for my idea doodling, I found a recording of Sinfonia Antarctica (Vaughan Williams) on Spotify. An image search online yielded this Guardian photo-essay about spending 9 winter months in Antarctica at the Concordia Station. In the article, the clear view of the stars above earth is mentioned.


Twitter: @BeadedQuill
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Books

Northern (Hen) Harrier.jpg
Northern (Hen) Harrier” by Len Blumin from Mill Valley, California, United States – Northern Harrier. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

a poem written in London on Sept. 26th, 2014

Sky’s signal stopped September 10th.
Three days later, Hope’s did too.
Birds of their kind hunt small mammals.
Birds of their kind are near extinction.
This plight of the birds sparked action
and the hatchlings all were tagged.
Now Sky and Hope have vanished
there’s a reward for word.

In bed after my radio-alarm clock goes off, I listen to an early morning news bulletin. Half-asleep, half-awake is a strange state in which to have the bad, ugly and feel-good filter into one’s mind. In this doze I have half-heard, half-imagined many strange things about the world’s antics. The juxtaposition of the news items can in itself be uncanny, as was the case yesterday. The opening story was the impending Westminster vote about whether or not ‘to go to war’. Later in the bulletin was the item about two rare birds of prey that have disappeared.

I take in a breath when I see magnificent birds of prey in the air. Condors, eagles and falcons soar with a self-assurance that inspires awe. I don’t think I’ve seen hen harriers; they’re found further North of London. Yet the image of sharp-winged birds of prey cut down, whether by game shooters of misfortune, struck me. (Hen harriers are on the brink of extinction due to their unsuccessful breeding rate.)

With the names ‘Sky’ and ‘Hope’, a poet couldn’t have asked for better ready-made symbolic material.

The Westminster vote, the first item of the bulletin, is scheduled to happen today (Friday, 26th Sept.). I have omitted this last line from the poem, “In cabinet they vote on war.”

The line felt too obvious. I hope the smart reader is able to join some literary dots.

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