Archives for posts with tag: reading
Armenian Manuscript, fragments. Thick vellum flyleaf Wellcome L0031105

Armenian Manuscript, fragments. Thick vellum flyleaf (pahpanak). The text is from the Gospel of St Mathew 21: 11-27, 10th century. Asian Collection courtesy of the Wellcome Trust via Wikimedia Commons. [CC-BY-4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)%5D

Calligraphed with ancient ink,
the straitened letters claim release;
fling themselves like Butoh men

Bashed skin to skin, they
slap at you: Make us, Shape us
into that which we are
  a scriptured dervish
  of our Calligrapher.

I started writing a convoluted explanation of the metaphors woven into this verse, the themes and how the idea came to me. However, I think it is more interesting for the poem to stand without such buttresses. What do you think? Leave a thought. I’d be interested to read your comments.

The themes of writer and writing and the subject matter of letters and calligraphy may also be found in these poems:

On a meander
Communication
Proper Poetry
Cast them together
A day to fine for words

For more information about Butoh, the avante garde Japanese performance art/ dance form, read here or view these videos .

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

Please follow me on
Twitter @BeadedQuill
or Facebook BeadedQuill

vintage rooster image, visit to the farm, chicken chicks illustration, farm animals clipart, barnyard animals

Image courtesy of The Old Design Shop, a vintage image treasury.

stuffs
extrapolation
exponential
resonate
apt
assimilate
peanut chickens
plait

As promised yesterday, a current list of favourite words. Bachata should also be included, but it didn’t really fit with the rhyme and rhythm of the list. Follow me (@BeadedQuill) on Twitter for the latest on my current favourite activities, which include AfroCubanLatin dancing. I’m also on Facebook (BeadedQuill).

When I’m not dancing, I like reading. So, I decided to write a few books myself. You can preview them by clicking on the titles:
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness

I am excited (and a little nervous) to announce that next week on Wednesday, Feb. 26th I shall be reading at Lauderdale House, in Highgate. Tickets are £5 per person/ £3 concessions. There will be four poets reading. Proceeds from the evening will be donated to Lauderdale House’s renovation project.

In short: Poetry reading at Lauderdale House, Highgate (N6 5HG) to start 8pm. Cost: £5/£3 concessions. There will be refreshments for sale. More details here.

“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

During the last two months of 2013 I entered a reading glut. It had taken me much of the year to finish the two Orhan Pamuk novel’s Snow (2004) and The Black Book (1994/ 2006). A friend even commented over the summer that perhaps I was deliberately taking my time with Snow because I was enjoying it so much. My plan was to follow through with as many Pamuk titles as I could find, but by November I had lost steam. This current spell has been, I suspect, an eager indulgence in alternative territory. I needed the voices and fascinations of other authors.

I  turned to non-fiction about art. My reading included The Girl in the Green Dress (2012), Carola Hicks’s thoroughly researched and entertaining account of the history and mystery of the Arnolfini portrait. I also picked up Hanging Man (2013), an account by journalist Barnaby Martin of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s time spent in detention.

Over the 2013 Christmas week I read Toni Morrison’s, The Color Purple, (1983) Rose Tremain’s Music and Silence (1999) and started Philip Roth’s Nemesis (2010). I have now left polio-infected Newark, New Jersey and am back in Istanbul of 1975 with Pamuk’s The Museum of Innocence (2008). It may be another couple of months before I finish this 532-page exploration of obsession.

Most of these were borrowed from my local library. The Color Purple was a greedy borrow off the bookshelf of family with whom I spent Christmas. Yes, I am that sort of guest who will burrow through your titles and disappear into a comfy corner chair with one of them. In my younger youth I spent a New Year’s Eve in Los Angeles devouring Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale over making drunken conversation. Since then, I have learnt to be a little bit more acceptably sociable. This year I played Bananagrams and charades, which included book titles as a category.

At present I seldom buy books, but with a Christmas windfall I purchased Lewis Hyde’s The Gift: How the Creative Spirit Transforms the World (1983). I had been dipping into it at Waterstone’s during lunchtimes anyway. So, it’s Pamuk again and The Gift as I go into January 2014. In the interim, here is today’s creative endeavour. Like Leo’s Entries, this poem imagines an author’s externalised log of thoughts about the characters he might feature in a novel.

Philip’s Log: Entries about my moonlit sylph

Log, entry #1

I have met 
an elfin creature, tanned
with dark curls
that caress the collar 
of her polo-shirt.
She is the counsellor at 
a children’s summer-camp
in the mountains. But to this log
I must account that I am a
serious and respected 
author. Elfin creatures
with small breasts 
are not enough for 
quality novels.

Log, entry #2

I have found a solution. I shall
introduce my sylph 
to a duty-bound, athletic fellow.
Regrettably he has poor eyesight,
so cannot be drafted.
It’s 1944 and the summer 
heat is unbearable.
Yes, they’ll take off their
clothes, but here must be
some weighty themes, too.

Log, update

Agent called. New novel well
received; a potential prize shortlist.
Ah, my waif
it is a good thing there are
the bigger questions of
God and duty, epidemics,
fairness and despair,
life’s capriciousness and death.
They allowed my protagonist
the summer darkness and
an island dense with silver birches.

There you asked him
to undress you.

The sylph of “Philip’s Log” is drawn from the protagonist Bucky Cantor’s love interest, Marcia Steinberg, in Roth’s novel, Nemesis (2010).


My books of poetry are available for preview and purchase. Click on the titles to view:
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness

BeadedQuill is on Twitter (@BeadedQuill) and Facebook. Please join my followers!

SSA41111

It’s been a busy two weeks on the writing front. In addition to preparing two articles, one on the gap year in my twenties and another on overseas work experience in my thirties, I’ve continued to make the regular poetry posts on this blog.

Item three is the most exciting. On Tuesday, my second book of poems went off to press! This draft print-run of Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys is due to arrive next week for me to sign off.

Your help is requested for the fourth item. I’m compiling a mini-pamphlet for the holiday season. Fans and readers have already made a few suggestions based on the poems from this blog (of which there are close on 80!) and from the contents of my two books.

I invite you to make a recommendation for the mini-pamphlet. I’d love to hear which poem has resonated with you, and why. There are plenty of archived poems from which to choose, but here are the most recent ones to get you started.

You may want to read yesterday’s poem, “A Bequest of Wonder”, inspired Japanese erotic prints and Chinese painting,

or from Monday this week, “Is It Worth I?”,

or from last week, “Every morning, because it is wonderful to watch” and “Just Punishment”. (Warning: this poem is a little bit dark and sad.)

You may also wish to read some of the poems from my first book, Shining in Brightness, which came out earlier this year. The book’s content is available for preview here.

Please do send me a comment! (See below.) I look forward to hearing which poem you enjoyed and why.

Success is speaking to the people who matter,
In networking when due. Waste no time on a satyr.
Success is doing what you should
for Work, for Security, for Good.

It’s silence when your speech would rattle,
And indifference to a pointless battle.
Success is deafness to all that’s ugly,
But sympathy if your deed’s seen widely.

It’s loyalty as the price dictates; 
Courage when others might judge, “Flake.” 
It’s patience when the drudge seems worth it,
But for laughter, song or frivolity – surfeit.

Success is found in application, 
financial stability and securing one’s station.
In all of life and nothing less
Is this almighty guidepost that’s called Success.

--

Sometime between the ages of eight and ten, when I had already learnt to read and was in the habit of memorising written material (mostly bible verses for Sunday School and gedigte (poems) for Afrikaans lessons), my paternal Granny gave me a palm-sized laminated card. On the card was printed the motivational poem “Success.” In sing-song iambic quadrameter and neat AA, BB, CC end rhyme the poem sets forth fourteen guidelines that should assist one in living the worthy life. My earnest pre-adolescent self set about memorising these words of wisdom.
In trying to write out the poem, I was certain I had forgotten part of it. So I turned to Google, and found the full piece.

Success
author unknown

Success is speaking words of praise,
In cheering other people’s ways.
In doing just the best you can,
With every task and every plan.
It’s silence when your speech would hurt,

Politeness when your neighbour’s curt.
It’s deafness when the scandal flows,

And sympathy with others’ woes.
It’s loyalty when duty calls,
It’s courage when disaster falls.
It’s patience when the hours are long,

It’s found in laughter and in song.
It’s in the silent time of prayer,

In happiness and in despair.
In all of life and nothing less,
We find the thing we call success

Interestingly, it is the verse about loyalty, courage and patience and the third to last line that I had not recalled. This was my reconstruction of what I thought to be my favourite part of the verse: “It’s found in laughter and in song,/ And in the silent time of prayer,/In all of life and nothing less,/ We find the thing we call Success.” I had erased, “In happiness and in despair.” Or, rather, whenever I have thought of the line, “In all of life and nothing less,” I simultaneously imagine the line in church marriage vows, “In sickness and health,” which serves to encompass all joys, hardships and eventualities of life.

This ennobling little verse, if a verse can ever imbue such upon its reader, resonates with Max Ehrmann’s (1872–1945) poem “Desiderata” (1927), which also lists actions and mindsets through which one could foster a good and worthwhile life. My earnest adolescent self also went through a phase of trying to memorise this work. The favourite line, besides the famous opening (“Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.”), is “You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars.”

Yes, a poet would cling to such a line.

Shining in Brightness,” a book of my poems and essays was compiled earlier this year. Preview this first volume at blurb.co.uk
Follow my Twitter musings about the artist’s life, the successful life and the wonder of dried figs. I tweet as @BeadedQuill

Today, 7th March, is World Book Day. Is this a day for a species facing extinction? As someone who has created a book, I suppose I should encourage you to go and save a book from extinction. Go and pick a book off a shelf at your library, indie bookstore or your own overfilled shelves. Or at least, order a copy of mine.

Forgive the tone, for in truth I love books. I love how as an adult I can carry one around like a comforter, for I suspect many of us do. Even in this age of digital reading options, some people I know will carry around a choice of volumes on transport with them and those in addition to a few ‘must read’ newspaper articles and supplements. So we go out with these talismans against boredom, those of us with brains that struggle to keep still or who have become arrogant enough to think a stranger’s conversation will probably be uneducated babble and a waste of time. My Father, who would talk to (though not with) anyone, was well known for having a book stuffed in the back pocket of his trousers; my Mum would despair at how this ruined their spines.

At Primary School on a Friday we used to watch old fashioned reel-to-reel movies in the school hall. Usually there were a few cartoon balanced with a couple of Department of Education issues. One week we watched about book care. In the clip, we were shown a book wailing out in its moments of torture: being dropped in a bath, having its spine bent, being written in, having liquid spilled onto it. (What else was there to educate little girls about in late 1980s South Africa?) I took these warnings to heart and endeavoured for many years afterwards to spare the books in my life such agonies.

In our home, books were regarded as precious, except by my Dad who left them lying open on top of the ‘fridge or stuffed ungraciously in-between others in a bookshelf (habits that proved of further irritation to my Mother.) At one point during my growing up, we had twenty-two bookshelves of books, many shelves bulging with many more than one neat row.  My Dad, who littered his volumes around the house, was the one who was always reading. He read while eating, shaving, even walking home from the station. He juggled life with absorbing those volumes and read a great thick volume about the Irish Potato Famine at least three times over in the last few years of his life.

The wonderful habit, which drove us all batty, was that Dad would recount, chapter for chapter, page by page, what he was reading. It was a running audio book (seldom on subjects of our interest) in the household. We all longed for silence and less incessant “Did you know?” Now, of course, we miss it. Even “Anna Karenina” on MP3 download is not the same. Nobody else has the same knack for recounting what they’re reading.

Books can be precious. They can be portals. They certainly were an addition to my childhood home life. However, I believe it is the storytelling – over and above the format – that warrants celebration. So, yes, go and support your local library, the indie bookstore, dig out an unread volume from your shelf, but add a story to it. Write it, tell it, leave it on a voicemail. Give that story to someone else. Love a book, sure; just enlarge the stories that they carry and share the love with another person.

(Image credit: “A Young Girl Reading” (c. 1770) by Jean-Honoré Fragonard in the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC. A copy of this painting hung next to the window in the old, attic library of my Primary School.)