Archives for posts with tag: South Africa

in glasses: wine, cocktails, liqueur,
on plates as cake and biscuits
from two discarded plastic tubs,
a litre of ice-cream

Lonely is the currency of sugar.

I’ve eaten two squares of Lindt, 70% cocoa, as I prepare this post. My head’s throbbing lightly with the sugar rush. Depeche Mode is my soundtrack,

Can you feel a little love?
Dream on, dream on.

I’ve just finished a Skype call with my mum who lives on the other side of the world, as do both my siblings. I chatted with them via Facebook this morning.

Originally I had entitled scribblings of this poem “London lonely”, because there are many of us living in this city who are far from (some of) our family or friends. There are still many who come from this city, or have lived in this city for a long time, who are lonely. It fascinates me that in such a bustling mass of humanity, disengagement and marginality exists. In our loneliness many of us find solace, either alone or with others, in the currency of sugar.


As @BeadedQuill I tweet about my London life (much of which is most merry and sociable) and ex-pat interests, notably in arts and culture.
Visit BeadedQuill on Facebook.
I have two books of collected poems. Click on the titles to preview:
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness

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the Shard in tall majestic glints

the architecture of its age

success of Empire State

and iconic like

 

afloat in grand isolation

there is also

an island set on a

raft of mahogany loss

 

a wall hit and under constant repair

encircles the floor

about which nobody knows

a floor matted with digested grasses

I tweet as @BeadedQuill. Please follow me.

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.

Image courtesy of http://vintagefeedsacks.blogspot.co.uk/2011/03/free-vintage-clip-art-vintage_27.html

Image courtesy of vintagefeedsacks.blogspot.co.uk

In which the superhero of pre-used words makes a re-appearance

The superhero of pre-used words 
met watermelon boy.
It was summer.
They had pips to spit
But also fruit to eat and

The superhero of pre-used words 
and watermelon boy
arrived at the driveway, 3 quite sharp.
Between them half a shell of watery sweet
	summer joy
“You first!"	

The superhero of pre-used words 
has met with Watermelon Boy.
They spit pips
at the wall
A noun; a verb;
	too many adjectives

The adverbs sweetly steep the fruit.
They ingest those.
It’s how it’s done,
not what, that counts.

The superhero of pre-used words 
and melon boy
spit pips –

the champion is melon boy
      his best is 2m .03
(quite impressive!)

On a sunny Sunday
the watermelon pips
hit
leftover rinds – green happy smiles

Follow me on Twitter. I tweet as @BeadedQuill.

My first volume of poetry, SHINING IN BRIGHTNESS, explores the quiet pleasures and experiences of suburban life and travel. Preview it at blurb.co.uk

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.

With light that is
     brown
     between the toes
and shines on
    the river banks,
it twinkles in the sunlight.
Star of Sirius,
   lapping
Star of Sirius,
    life star,
        watery star
           carrying children over
your tide
swaying rushes
embracing fish
holding frogs
Star of Sirius.
    Night-star of Sirius
    twinkling in the sunlight,
carrying promise.

Grahamstown, 2008

This poem is drawn from the “Journeys and Experiences, 2003 – 2008” section of my volume, SHINING IN BRIGHTNESS.

During 2007 – 8, I lectured in art history at a South African university, but spent much time pretending to be a musician. I played the viola in the university orchestra and attended many of the wonderful concerts hosted by the music department. This poem was written in loose, free-form while listening to a jazz piece about the annual flooding of the Nile and the mythological Night-star of Sirius. The location markers, “Eastern Cape” and “2008, Grahamstown,” set an ancient, abstract myth about Africa’s seasonal regeneration in a real geographical realm and time. Of course, the location was the recital room on the second floor of the music department, far away from any riverbank mud.

You can own this poem – and 19 others – when you purchase a copy of my first volume of selected work: SHINING IN BRIGHTNESS. Two explanatory essays accompany the poems and the volume boasts beautiful cover artwork by UK artist, Nicola Slattery. Copies are available via blurb.co.uk.

I am on Twitter as @BeadedQuill. I tweet about poetry, art and culture and martial arts.

Betty's Bay

A Thousand Scientific Facts

about the sea

Watch the mist-spray drift

towards the dunes:

A mother is out with

her children.

The daughter plays with

the dog breaking foam

And the little boy sits beside on a rock.

There are bluebottles along the shore today;

many cuttlefish shells;

a dead penguin, his flippers

laid out on the sand.

A few thoughts which originated during time at Silver Sands, Betty’s Bay circa April 2012.

For more of my poetry, see my first volume of published work: SHINING IN BRIGHTNESS, SELECTED POEMS, 1999 – 2012.

Follow me on Twitter. I’m @BeadedQuill.

Friedrich_Wanderer Over a Sea of Fog

On a rock amongst rocks

When the last rays fire
after which all will be still and ashed
Here, on this rock I wish to stand
to see the end of time.

From here you face due South;
face the end of the world, but
between you and then blue-grey barrels roll
toward the shore where

rocks cut the spring tide foam
into a thousand fragment sprays;
rainbows caught because
I have watched today.

The above poem was worked from the following notes, taken in early 2012 while I was enjoying the sanctity of Betty’s Bay. Betty’s, as it is affectionately known, is a small holiday town on South Africa’s southern coastline:

Today I stood on a rock amongst rocks worn flat by time and watched the spring tide. The powerful blue-grey sea rolled towards the shore and crashed against the sharper rocks ahead. The white foam sprayed a thousand fragments into the air and at that angle the sun caught the water droplets in perfect rainbows. Here, on this beach, I wish to see the end of time.

If you enjoyed the above, preview more of my poetry in my first published volume SHINING IN BRIGHTNESS: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012.

Follow my regular Tweets on writing, the creative process and poetry. I’m on Twitter as @BeadedQuill.

Image credit: “Wanderer Over a Sea of Fog,” (1817 – 1818), Caspar David Friedrich, oil on canvas, 94.8 x 74.8 cm, Collection: Kunsthalle Hamburg, Germany.

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.)