Archives for posts with tag: trees
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
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Books:
In the Ocean: a year of poetry
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012

With appreciation to Val Ghose for use of the photograph. Original image to view on Wikimedia Commons.

With appreciation to Val Ghose for the image. Original on Wikimedia Commons.

They are tall
and have green eye-lids.
See how they blink 
at the sun.

trees


Being amongst trees makes my soul so happy. There are a number of woods where I live in London and I consider it my commute to work to walk through them when I have time set aside for writing. Below the Cape Town’s world renowned Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, is a piece of land known as the Arboretum. As the name suggests, it is filled with trees. In the periods when I had my own transport and was a working gal in Cape Town, I took up tramping through the incline of the Arboretum as a Sunday ritual. For a long time I have turned to trees for solace.

The trees that really call me out of myself are the tall, old ones. They are such majestic beings.

When my father wasn’t well, one of my aunts sent me a postcard with a two wonderful lines about trees from a poem by an Irish poet. I propped the postcard up on my makeshift nature table/ altar amongst my treasured stones, pinecones and loved leaves. I tracked down the whole poem online and wrote it out. As it goes with such meanders, in the years that have passed and all my moves, I have mislaid the scrap of paper. But I often repeat the two remembered lines, “Those tall truths that tap and trap the sun”.

At this difficult time, I started to carry a call around with me, “May the peace of the tall, wise trees be with you.” Every time I saw a tree, I asked for perspective and wisdom. After all, some trees in our cities and suburbs have seen many more decades than we have. Many people have walked under their branches. They have shaded many incarnations of the road and pavement. Those tall truths have seen storms, sunshine, rain, troubles and peace.

Trees are incredible.

Twitter: @BeadedQuill 
Facebook: BeadedQuill
Books:
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness

Detail from Anton Melbye, "Lighthouse at Stora Bält" (1845) from image courtesy of www.wikipaintings.org/

Detail from Anton Melbye, “Lighthouse at Stora Bält” (1845) from image courtesy of http://www.wikipaintings.org/

The second-to-last exertion
is not the rainbow.
It is the to-and-fro flight 
of a raven clamped in darkness for 150 days.

Let there be
	beats the raven’s wings
Let there be
	beats the raven’s hope

No land, raven. No release.
Below yap choppy waves,
corpses float and catch 
on broken trees. No release, raven.
No land.

The raven’s wings beat
	there be no land
	there be no release
The raven’s wings beat 
above the choppy waves
and the rocking sucklings of the flood.

But the dove! 
This white-winged wonder bird
reaps the budding olive branch
and on the second flight, freedom.

The last exertion
is not a rainbow.
Although supposedly
one beamed for Noah
when the dove flew
away.


A link to Genesis 6-9 (NIV translation), which outlines the Bible story of Noah’s ark, the flood and the reconnaissance birds.

With four poems to go until the completion of the 104 project, there’s no denying that one may read in here an echo of art imitates life.

When I’m not posting on this blog, I tweet as @BeadedQuill. This Twitter account is linked to the BeadedQuill Facebook page.
If you prefer your reading in old-school format, perhaps you would consider adding one of my books to to your library? There are two from which to choose. Click on the titles below to preview.

Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys

Shining in Brightness

Cold fingers,
       the volunteer gardeners rake leaves
       from the flowerbeds 
       that circle tree-trunks.
       A last green and white hydrangea
       stares its bath-cap head at me.
       Cars hoot near Bedford St.
       There’s a helicopter overhead.
       Leaves and Tesco receipts 
       blow across the square paving-stones.
       It’s 1 minute to 10.
	  A cold breeze catches
	  the morning.


Covent Garden is my destination on many mornings when I disembark from the tube. If I have a few moments I sit in the garden of the Actors’ Church, St Pauls of Covent Garden. This poem was drafted on a cold November morning as an exercise in specificity; a careful attempt at noting sound, touch and sight sensations.

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Books:
A volume of twenty-five poems about work, love and life for the Modern Boy and another of twenty poems about the ‘stretched decade’ of 18 to 30. 

On the fringe of grey
bring some blue
set above white and petal disks.
Green is a good addition.
Lay down black as tarmac.
Square everything in
Your life and love and happiness
A tree!
No less

Grey like silver
grey like gold
grey like suits
tales of old
grey like hats
grey, like pointer hounds
grey without you
or £100.


I have written before about my habit of dating drafts and ramblings in my notebooks. The above are dated 1 August 2013. Grey, together with blue, is a colour that has featured much in my poetry. Grey is an ambiguous colour for beyond its melancholic associations, it is also an elegant colour with an aura of detachment and timelessness. In the urban and suburban environment it is the colour of utilitarian buildings, paving, transport shelters and waiting platforms. Since I was a child, it has fascinated me that the colour can be written with either an ‘e’ or an ‘a’. Like clouds, the word itself can change its internal dimensions. So many London mornings start with a sky cloaked in grey, so it has become a colour of origin for me and often features alongside blue to bring atmospheric or location transition into a poem.

Here are some other poems with grey in them:

On a rock amongst rocks – about the melancholy of a transient moment alongside grey sea

An Artist Works – the painter Constable captures clouds

Another Summer’s Day – also from 1 August 2013 (note subject matter and thematic resonances)

I was born of poetry – the grey of a cardboard box

Pavement Walker – commuters return home on a grey evening

Look At  – documents a walk on a suburban London High Street

Conscripted – about rain


Twitter: @BeadedQuill
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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!

Yonder far o’er vale and glen
whereto grooms return
and bread is leaven.
This is another country.

Today, outside, is a new room
in which five builders,
tiered upon scaffolding,
cannot hear All Blues.

This is no time 
for saxophone wails.
Stand at the window
and look out

on the fresh planks.
The backdrop:
bared trees and
blue-skied bright.


All Blues” is a track from the Miles Davis album Kind of Blue (1959).

The books, available for preview:
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys 
Shining in Brightness

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill

Here ‘fore me, plinth of polish

For the tree to rest on wood

In flat sheets with fastened thoughts

Set forth as marching words.

 

Heralded tonight and often

They are by crest announced.

We cluster! And applaud.

It is a shared experience.

 

Now, to – I must address:

 

From nothing written

from have

and only have

of a fatted dream now fit for parade

with open palms and empty hands

‘fore that company and polished staff

all suited in investiture

I on tip-toe said,

 

I have nothing written here.

I speak only from my heart.

Of late I have drawn inspiration from a combination of lived and imagined experiences. Today’s poem along with ‘Stuck‘ and ‘Genuine‘ of last week are the products of this current creative “sourcery”.

Please preview my first volume, available for purchase, here.

My second volume, Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys, is forthcoming. I’ll keep readers posted on progress, so if you’re interested please follow the blog.  See ‘follow’ box at far right of screen.

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