Archives for posts with tag: water
"Midnight Harp" by Esmira, on DeviantArt

Midnight Harp” by Esmira, on DeviantArt

Bell-like, round and clear
Hopeful and transparent 
as a copper bauble,
it lifts the congregation.
From the sanctuary 
the maiden’s voice soars
and plunges
as she elongates the siren call.

 

I am not a groupie. I’d rather spend my days in a hermit’s hut on a mountainside with books, green tea and yoga for company instead of people. I find people politics and inane conversation immensely annoying. But I keep seeking out institutionalised assemblies. In these experiences I find vestiges of tribal inheritances, which seem to inspire my creative work. At least, this is my theory as to why I keep seeking out groups and gatherings which jar with my loner’s soul. Being part of a martial arts academy is one example. Volunteering in various organisations and an ongoing relationship with institutions of learning, such as schools and universities, are others. Then there’s church attendance, which has influenced a few recent poems (Just Punishment, Let them eat).

Attending church takes me back to my childhood and familiar language patterns. My father claimed a deep personal religiosity. When we were children, it was a weekly parental pleasure for him to walk me and my brother to Sunday School. After the morning’s service proceedings we would play outside. He would siphon egg sandwiches, Salticrax with cheese and little cakes from the adult’s tea-table for us. (The Anglican Church to this day offers an excellent post-service tea spread.) He would spend a long time explaining things to us like the flat stones in the graveyard, the gruesome Stations of the Cross and the purple covering-cloths at Lent.

Today’s poem is drawn from a recent church experience during which I was struck by the clear, enchanting voice of the young woman who lead the singing. Her voice was neither trained nor very brilliant, but it moved me. In that moment, a flood of young maidens singing swept over me. I saw maidens with harps in old villages. I imagined maidens next to seas and riverbanks singing as they worked with others or alone to keep themselves company. I saw maidens next to firesides singing with the transparency of youthful hope, watched by audiences of older women and men, who in that moment were reminded of their youthful expectancy. This memory suspends itself like a copper bauble, picks up the fire-light and lifts them in the moment. It was all this that propelled me to write the poem.

The title references the “Libera me” at the end of Verdi’s Requiem. Instead of an awe-inspiring chorus with trained soprano, the single lay voice of this poem rings out unaffected and haunting. The siren call in this context is not entirely destructive. It is hypnotic, but it re-directs its listeners towards hope. The catch is that for many of them this hope is a bauble of the past, but it still frees them.

It only occurred to me years later that our absence from the house on a Sunday meant that my hard-working, music teacher mother could have a morning of quiet respite. At the end of 1987 and in early 1988, my Mum was also pregnant with my sister. Now when I look back at those memories, I add this layer. While we were running around the grounds of Christ the King on Lower Milner Road, stuffing our kiddie faces with egg sandwiches (on white bread! With crusts cut off!) and staring at faux-granite gravestones, my Mum was at home with a growing belly which contained my little sister.

My sister is now big – a maiden herself in her later twenties. She plays the harp and occasionally sings, though not in church. Her siren work with words is in a different field. She is a journalist.

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 

Star of Sirius, lapping Star of Sirius

Yesterday my poem “And a” was inspired by a CD of The Best of Boogie Woogie. Quite coincidentally, on June 3rd last year I posted a poem I’d written many years ago in response to a piece at a jazz concert.

Music has long been a source of great enrichment in my life. Playing in amateur and student orchestras during my younger youth, I spent wonderful times in the company of musicians. I still play my viola, though my endless attempts at Kreutzer, Mazas and Bach are at present only for myself and my neighbours. I listen to BBC Radio 3 obsessively and have discovered spotify playlists. For writing and typing, I often return to a rotation of predictable material: Miles Davis “Kind of Blue”, Depeche Mode, Crystal Method, Fever Ray, Gotan Project, Putmayo’s French or Italian Café. Bachata playlists are a current addition. It helps that many of these tracks are strong on rhythm and known so well to my ear, that they don’t distract me from the task at hand. Sometimes I try to sing along, but my lyrics tend to be surprisingly inventive. This is a poetic license of sorts, I suppose.

Thanks to the immense generosity of friends and happenstance, I have enjoyed some of London’s finest musical offerings: LSO and LPO concerts, ROH and ENO opera productions, Cadogan Hall and Wigmore Hall chamber recitals, opera at Holland Park, renowned string quartets (Kronos Quartet with Laurie Anderson, the Borodin Quartet playing Stravinksy) and free recitals of many kinds – a Polish jazz trio at the Yamaha showroom, Guildhall student recitals, a cellist streamed playing in a boat suspended above the Southbank Centre. At such performances, I’ll often pull out my notebook. I did so recently during a performance of Verdi’s Requiem at the Royal Albert Hall, simply to note the sensations that the music evoked. These included “a bold shadow on the pavement” and “Christmas pudding alight, then served with custard”.

In Night-Star of Sirius (of 2008), my poetic associations were more pointedly directed by the piece’s original title. I have since become more relaxed about allowing associate creative disciplines (art and other literature, as well as music) to trigger a seemingly unconnected creative response. After all, a poem may form yet from the moment towards the end of Verdi’s Requiem that is as “a napkin laid down after a satisfying meal”.

Wikimedia Commons image under an Attribution Share Alike 3.0 license. Author Jeff Dahl.

To kiss a little human huckleberry

My poem ‘Huckleberry Thing‘ is such a crowd favourite that it gives me great pleasure to have an excuse to share it yet again with you, my readers.

It is one of the twenty poems in my first book, Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012.


The illustration image was donated by Pearson Scott Foresman, an educational publisher, to Wikimedia Commons, and is thereby in the Public Domain.

Image courtesy of Norfolk-based artist, Nicola Slattery. View her enchanting work at www.nicolaslattery.com

“Taken Care Of” courtesy of Norfolk-based artist, Nicola Slattery. View her enchanting work at www.nicolaslattery.com

The 2×52 project developed in April 2013 when I committed to posting two poems a week for a year. I completed my self-made creative challenge this April when I revealed the 104th poem. Next month (June 2014), all the poems will be available in a book at my Blurb bookstore. In the meantime, here are the 104=2×52 poems listed in all their glory! And for your convenience, so that you can click on the titles that pique your interest. Enjoy!

  1. On a rock amongst rocks
  2. Things of the Heart, Told in Quiet #1
  3. £299 from Strand
  4. A Thousand Scientific Facts about the Sea
  5. Nice Words #1
  6. Benefactor of the Blind
  7. On the Way to Westminster
  8. Solutrean Hypothesis
  9. I don’t work for you (or Modern Frustrations)
  10. red herring
  11. Tarantella (two versions)
  12. Conversation
  13. Pakistan’s Gold
  14. 29oC
  15. An arrangement of strangers
  16. Recycled
  17. Packed Lunches
  18. Tightly Sealed
  19. Another Summer’s Day
  20. Look At
  21. Hairpin (a short poem)
  22. A definition, notably for the cloud-dwelling artists
  23. Instructions
  24. Scherzo: Allegro before the Finale
  25. Impatience
  26. Screens
  27. Leo’s Entries
  28. From a Stone
  29. Autumn’s ripened harvest store
  30. The Character Building
  31. An autumn evening in
  32. Preceding seafaring that was not to transpire
  33. The Home Commute
  34. On the declaration of the first day of the Year of Our Light
  35. What we were all thinking
  36. Emulation
  37. Genuine
  38. Stuck
  39. An address from a lectern
  40. Her magical box
  41. Sun Doves
  42. At the right age
  43. Just Punishment
  44. Every morning, because it’s wonderful
  45. Is it worth it?
  46. A Bequest of Wonder
  47. The Benefits of 320 Kicks
  48. I do. Do you?
  49. Five Consequences of Repeated Actions
  50. To the Valleys
  51. supreme ultimate
  52. Operations Meeting, El Dorado
  53. Without realising it, the postman leaves a poem
  54. Another drop in this week before Christmas
  55. A quiet night preludes
  56. Let them eat
  57. I learnt
  58. A New Room
  59. Philip’s Log: Entries about my moonlit sylph
  60. Pairings
  61. Conscripted
  62. Bursting Art
  63. Afloat
  64. Would you ever live in Heather Green?
  65. London’s Molten Hour
  66. Two poems about grey
  67. My friend Ellen
  68. Nice words of the moment (from autumn)
  69. Today
  70. Outpourings
  71. She’d read it in books
  72. Tube sketch (one of a few)
  73. St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden
  74. Near Liverpool Street, under scaffolding
  75. On the occasion of a dinner party in Kennington
  76. Tunnel Days
  77. London. Is it worth it?
  78. At the moment: £2
  79. the currency of sugar
  80. High-end Liquids
  81. Glomerulonephritis
  82. Dying is probably easier than this
  83. The Age Show
  84. Nice words #2
  85. How do you make a dream come true?
  86. Do engineers dream?
  87. Appropriate Recompense
  88. It’s complicated
  89. Every Sign of the Zodiac
  90. Saying it plainly
  91. The Brothers Three
  92. This morning’s request
  93. Recipe
  94. Kindly exit
  95. In the ocean one night
  96. Degas’s Business Card
  97. A small heart panics
  98. Interior holdings
  99. Reviewing the pursuit
  100. Absorbed
  101. Nearing the End
  102. Different Rides
  103. Spring Wants
  104. Escucha

This time last year I wrote up an explanation about “Winterreise”, a poem in which a glass of water features as a symbolic object. (Regular readers will have noticed that water is a recurring motif in my poetry.) “Winterreise” describes a meal out with my father, who passed away on the 5th May five years ago. Click on the drawing above to read both the poem and the write-up.

Image courtesy of http://olddesignshop.com/ – Vintage Image Treasury

The facts of a beach-walk as seen by a poet.

Caspar David Friedrich, "Wanderer above the Sea of Fog" (1818). 94.8 × 74.8 cm, Kunsthalle Hamburg.

Caspar David Friedrich, “Wanderer above the Sea of Fog” (1818). 94.8 × 74.8 cm, Kunsthalle Hamburg.

I often write to capture moments that I have experienced in solitude. Consider for example the afternoon that produced this poem, “On a rock amongst rocks. I had walked out beyond the beach of white sand to the rocky inlet beyond the seafront houses, the fishermen and the dog owners. Each day I used this landmark as the half-way point measure of each afternoon’s walk. That day I climbed onto the rocks.

These rocks are the jagged kind. If you walk across them barefoot, a delicate tread will still not circumvent the occasional stab to your sole. The sky was grey. Into the tide-carved chasms between the rocks dashed the waves. As the wave foam tossed against the jagged rocks, a further alchemy transpired. I would not have noticed the elemental magic had I not stood on that spot in stillness.

As the sea spray dispersed, it caught the light. On the rocks, bordered by the sea, encased in this salty mist, I stood within an orbit of tiny rainbows.

 

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

I try to revive a blue whale
with raw eggs from plastic bowls
in different colours
laid out in a wooden fishing boat.
To do this you must put two
or three eggs together in each bowl,
watch their yolks lilt to the tide, then
pour them through the whale’s sieve-like mouth.


This poem is a transcription of a dream I had. The notebook entry of 29/10/12 analyses the stress that probably elicited the scene, “Drowned out by my panic: income! job! career! Aaargh!” Such is the mundane reality that underpins some creative output. I am certain some English teacher in the future will invest the work with a more riveting subliminal meaning.

I have very vivid dreams. Since I was a child, I’ve had vivid dreams. “Afloat”  is another poem based on a nocturnal vision remembered and jotted down. Often my dreams are strong on action, filled with tactility and punctuated with memorable details. Only once I remember hearing music in a dream. When I stayed in South America briefly, I eventually started dreaming in very basic Spanish.

With this poem I conclude my official a Poem a Day for a Month. This bumper month of posts is part of my larger 2×52 project, during which I aim to produce a 104 poems across a year (52 weeks). The idea was to keep writing and producing. Out of 104 poems, some might not be as engaging, some might be readable and a few should, by the law of statistics, must surely be reasonably good. I shall continue to post according to my routine of two poems a week. Sign up to BeadedQuill (see tab in bottom right-hand corner) for these future poems, updates on the aimed for (e)book of the 2×52 project and other news.

Thank you for being part of this month.

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

A quality beverage enhances your life
and social opportunities.
Consider,
	coffee,
	wine
	and clean drinking water.
Of a high end luxury brand
might be the water 
as it flows from a crevice
in a rock
on a mountain
 in the sacred hills 
of a dew-studded place.


This is a companion poem to yesterday’s “the currency of sugar”. Written around the same time (original notes probably originated at the same sitting), it also explores the theme of consumables in human relationships, and our relationships with the consumables.

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