Archives for posts with tag: poetry
Pigeon krakow
By Kulmalukko (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, Dead pigeon via Wikimedia Commons

The evening of score

You will stand at a window
The clouds will part.
A dead pigeon will fall
down thud down at
your feet. The day will turn.
We now bar the exits.

Cower. Plead.
Waste your breath.


As mentioned last week, I have been expanding my Spotify playlists to include Grime and Rap. The latest is Trap (which as a term new to me I had to look up in the urban dictionary).

It is lazy of me to describe these tracks generically as ‘angry music’, but in contrast with ambient woodland meditation, on the surface they are. It was out of curiosity about this perceived musical-emotional attitude that I clicked on the playlists in the first place. And hallelujah! Because angry music is hard liquor from which I am enjoying a good drink at the moment.

The rhythmic beats and aggressive vocalisations takes my current writing along some highway with pace and fury. I recognise the creativity in compiling a whole song about ‘Shutup’ or ‘Shutdown’ or ‘Feed ’em to the Lions.’  In my time, I’ve struggled to configure resonant poems and pages about topics like disappointment, revenge, hope, personal and collective narrative. It’s there in these songs and many many people are moved by them. These Rap, Grime, Trap creators make it look easier and more fired to write such material than I’ve found it to be.

To my surprise, it’s the verse among the beats and aggression that makes me stop and listen. I jot down the lines I really like. Some blog appropriate ones include: “Tomorrow I’m going to come scoop you.” “Go on, then, go on.” “I’m so London; I’m so South.” “I used to wear Gucci, but I put it all in the bin. That’s not me.”

Granted, what I’m absorbing is commercialised and comfortably distant from my quiet, rented room with its pink lampshade and chintzy duvet cover. I acknowledge that I am not tough or ‘cool’ or ‘street’ or whatever. Not by the longest shot. I am a library geek who enjoys opera and symphony concerts. At the moment, I don’t drink, I spend my evenings doing press-ups and am reading Chinese poetry in translation and a volume of Afrikaans letters. In the words of JME, compared with the heavy flavours of the Rap, Grime and Trap world, I may have, “No taste, like vegan cheese.”

Here comes Skepta with ‘Track 5.’ Like other wanderers, he taps into his surrounding urban landscape, “Suffering from the dark psychosis”… “Just me and my cats and the foxes roaming the streets at night.” Through the song he treads London streets and the back alleys of one’s personal, vocational and creative direction. Such London street narratives take me back to the Museum of London’s Dickens exhibition of a few years ago. One of my favourite exhibits was an artist’s video. Footage of London streets was voiced over with Dickens’s descriptions of his night time wanderings around the city. Perhaps at some point this poet-storyteller Skepta and I really could wander London’s back streets. And after the meander, we could stop for tea.

It occurs to me – through the song we have already made the meander. And it’s now that time of the afternoon for tea. I have a choice of Waitrose English Breakfast or Fortnum and Mason’s Russian Caravan. Apparently Skepta also enjoys tea, just not the crumpets.

Grime! Grime! Feeling super. And coming next week with more poetry from the Spotify highway.

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By Suzuki Harunobu (The Metropolitan Museum of Art) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Suzuki Harunobu (The Metropolitan Museum of Art) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Supportasse Boughs

The blossoms have come!
The blossoms are here.
On parade, white ruffs
of spring’s courtiers.

24/3/2015

Today I present the second of the two poems about spring blossoms. These lines, indeed like those of “March Burst” (posted last week) and many of my ‘sushi’ poems, owes a debt to Ezra Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro” (1913).

I was in Standard 5, all of twelve years old. We relocated to the school hall while our ordinary classroom was enlarged and converted into a specialist science classroom. (Now that I think about it, this was quite a progressive enterprise for an all girls’ school in 1990s South Africa.)

The hall was dark and echo-ey. On the hall wall, as in the school passages, there were block-mounted reproductions of famous Works of Western Art. I spent many hours staring at a faded, blue-tinged reproduction of “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” wondering if the lady in conversation under the black umbrella would ever make it down the riverbank to the water’s edge. Of course, I had spent six years sitting through assemblies and other high day occasions in the hall, yet being taught in this formal space made it more intimate. The back corner of the ceremonial cavern became our classroom and learning nest for half a year.

It was during an English lesson that we sat over photocopies of “In a Station of the Metro” as an introduction to haiku. Years later, with some literature knowledge, I know that this is an unconvincing approximation of a haiku (inasmuch as haiku can even work in the English language and literary tradition) and an example rather of the Imagist poems of the twentieth century. I have also learnt a bit more about Pound’s work and life, which now adds conflicted layers to my adult reading of the poem.

But when I was twelve and I first read the poem, it was just me, the scene in the metro and the vivid image of petal-faces, a visual motif that I realise crops up in my own verse.


‘Supportasse’ is another term for the starched, lace collars worn by courtiers during the Renaissance. Read more about supportasses courtesy of the following links:

http://www.thefashionhistorian.com/2011/11/ruffs.html
https://historyofeuropeanfashion.wordpress.com/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supportasse

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

In the Ocean_Cover Final
I wrote about whales last week in “Ulterior Motives.” It’s odd then that this time last year I posted “In the ocean one night,” a poem about whales that I had transcribed directly from a dream. Yes, I kid you not. This was one of my genuine, vivid sleep-time dreams.

The poem inspired the title of my third book, which was published last year.

The whimsical cover art is the work of the generous and gifted Norfolk-based artist Nicola Slattery. Her work features on all three of my covers.

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

Chorui_Bird_in_Mymensingh

House sparrows in Bangladesh (cropped) courtesy of Audree at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons.

For some reason hymns, sermons and church architecture invigorate my creativity. Yet the result usually explores a counter-narrative, such as in “Just Punishment“, a poem written this time last year which re-imagines the scene of Proverbs 7.

The standard interpretation of this chapter is that the pursuit of wanton desires results in people’s downfall. The femme fatale is an adulterous woman, whose “house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death.” (Proverbs 7: 27) The seductive woman is the danger; the wayled is the compliant man.

I watched the minister grow more red-faced as he brought his emphasis – a rail against internet porn – to a crescendo, and at that moment for some reason I saw a tiny bird hopping on desert sands. Alone, naive and in want of comfort was the little bird. A pretty lady, alluring and soft-voiced, takes the little bird into her heart. But this is the downfall, and for their transgressions they are punished. She is stoned to death by the tribe and Little Knowing is hanged.


A few months later, I wrote a poem about the forgotten raven in the story of Noah’s Ark.

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
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Books

 

Screenshot 2014-10-21 15.03.53

The South African edition of Shining in Brightness is at the printers!

Pictured above is the cover proof that came in last week. Note the genuine ISBN barcode. This makes it a Real Book and by law a dozen copies will find their way to legal deposit libraries across South Africa. The artwork is once again Nicola Slattery’s illustration, because the etching “Flying High” now simply belongs with the collection of poems. (I also happen to own an original of print.) I explain the work’s significance here.

Shining in Brightness presents twenty poems about loss, love and growing up in quiet suburbia. These poems chronicle a young woman’s journey from 18 to early adulthood. After leaving the leafy Cape Town suburb of her childhood, the poet-wanderer travels to California, Brazil, Cambridge, Poland and the Eastern Cape before alighting in North London. Two accompanying essays provide insights on both the poems and the writer’s process.

You can preview Shinning in Brightness at my Blurb Bookstore. The  UK edition of the title came out in February 2013. Since then I have been searching for a print-on-demand service to offer the work at an affordable price to readers in South Africa, the country in which I grew up. I am thrilled to have found a suitable service. Stay posted for details of the book’s online listing at MegaBooks.co.za.

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Currently I have three titles available through Blurb. You’re invited to preview each of them at my online Bookstore:
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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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

Calligraphy.malmesbury.bible.arp.jpg

Calligraphy.malmesbury.bible.arp” by Adrian PingstoneOwn work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Words cast spells through the magic that is poetry. Here is today’s verse:

Cast them together

A bra, a bit,
cad bitty, a bra,
bo bitty boo:
read the magic
these words spell for you.

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

Paul Klee, Red Balloon (1922), via Wikimedia Commons. This work is in the public domain in the European Union and non-EU countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 70 years or less.

Five poems posted on the blog this time last year. You may even have read some of these before. Which one made the strongest impression on you? And why? Write your comment below. It’d be lovely to hear from you!

Baby arrived in the post

The real, hard copy of my latest book arrived on my doormat this morning. With 132 pages, she makes quite a substantial volume. My babies are getting bigger. (Click the image to preview “In the Ocean” for yourself.)