Archives for posts with tag: women
Medieval illustration of man reading via XX. With appreciation.

Medieval illustration of man reading via www.mrmediatraining.com. With appreciation.

The speaker of “An address from a lectern” is, in my writer-narrator’s mind, a young woman from the Eastern Cape. From the poem itself, I guess it would be difficult to deduce as much – and that she is presenting to an audience in London.

I wished to find a woman speaking from a lectern as the accompanying illustration. Neither my wikimedia commons search with such key words, nor even ‘woman giving speech’, delivered much. I shall let you draw conclusions, if there are any to be drawn about a lack of images of women giving speeches at lecterns.

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Preview my trio of current titles here.

Image courtesy of the Old Design Sop, a vintage image treasury.

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

In preparation
          for life’s many little pageants

We brush out our hair,
cut the dry, split ends,
straighten out the frizz.
We lather up our legs
and smooth out the bristle.
We take concealer to those rings beneath our tired eyes
and layer over the unhappy spots.
We tint tiny rainbows on our eyelids
and add a flick of Cleopatra’s kohl.
Heeled, contoured, groomed, composed,
we stage a tincture of our most come-hither selves.

Emily, sister and sweetheart of the modern boy, returns. Here she offers some observations about her sisters at their pre-seduction toilette.

This time last year, I gathered together twenty-five poems inspired by Emily, an ego de plume who communicates with the Modern Boy. Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys covers the broad topics of life, work and love. Preview it here.

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

"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
Facebook: BeadedQuill

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

Image courtesy of clker.com

When I first posted this poem, it elicited some strong responses.

“Blatant manipulation. Far better to say what you mean.”

Ah! Love chess.

This poem, along with 24 others about life, love and the modern boy, are collected in my book Emily’s Poem for Modern Boys.

Image courtesy of The Old Design Shop (http://olddesignshop.com/), Vintage Image Treasury.

In response to the questions often posed to me about my writing, I have decided to introduce a new feature on my blog:

Please explain…

Send in your questions about a particular poem, a running theme or even a line that puzzles you. If you’re curious about the creative process behind a poem’s existence, you may ask about that, too.

Here is our first submission. “Please explain…”

This month I once again
neglect to pay into a pension,
fertilize a good egg at ovulation
or further my career. Untoward

outcomes will result! In twenty years
it will not matter
that I didn’t
write this poem today

This poem (Five Consequences of Repeated Actions) covers recurring discussion points of so many of my (female) peers at present: the difficult job market, not being able to put aside financially for the future and the biological clock. The further question is – of all the things you do in a day, which one will be the most important? If you do not pursue your calling (e.g. writing), will this really have an effect in twenty years’ time. Does what one do today really have such a huge outcome on twenty years down the line?

Of course these eight lines are a little autobiographical. (Some say most writing contains a kernel of autobiography.) I question myself about my professional status. (I don’t have one at present.) I freak out about not making adequate provision for my retirement. (I’m just grateful to pay my rent, buy groceries and then blow a fiver on a night of dancing.) The ticking of my biological clock created a recent panic. (After visiting the assisted fertility specialist, I am allowing myself an 18-month/2 year window period to get my health in order before revisiting the biological clock issue.)

I write daily and try to remind myself of my commitment to this path and craft. But for what? Will the world really be any poorer for my wallowing in creative self-indulgence, when perhaps I should be paying into a pension and salvaging some sort of career track? The literal and literary irony of this little poem is that it does exist. Whether or not it hovers in the ether in twenty years’ time is an outcome yet to be determined.

Little Knowing, a lonely desert bird,
was small and light of wing.
Along the road he saw a woman.
She smelled of cinnamon.

“My bed,” she said, “smells of more – 
of myrrh and desert aloes.
It is richly covered, soft – and ours –
in colourful Egyptian linen.” 

Little knowing saw the tent
to which he now was bidden:
a desert plain in bloom and blush,
a-sighing after winter’s hold,
in lighter joy  ‘fore summer’s ambush.

The lady then held out her hand.
“Little Knowing,” she whispered, “come – ”

He hopped into her painted palm.
Her veils fanned him with her scent.
Her eyes cupped his restless wings
and said, “Little Knowing, be not afraid.
Tonight we drink deep of love.”

Next morning Little Knowing shared
his bursting heart with all. 
“My love,” he sang in sweetest tune,
“has brought me joy. Let all rejoice!”

This called the people to the tent
and there, the woman now found out
was dragged to meet deservéd death
and Little Knowing – stupid, foolish bird 
to be seduced by scent and desert blooms,
those kindly eyes and gentle words –
was placed correctly in the noose.
Little Knowing – stupid, foolish bird –
darted into that snare 
and such it did cost him life.

The moral of this tale is thus,
young man and maid forget it not:
your lusts will take you far from god
and with them reap all death, damnation, loss.

I don’t want to write too much about this poem at this stage. I sincerely hope that it does not offend, but I do hope it stirs some mulling. You may find a reading of Proverbs 7 will add a layer to engaging with today’s piece. In tone the above is actually similar to this poem about success, which I wrote in August.

For more of my poetry, see my first published book, “Shining in Brightness“.

You can also add “Shining in Brightness”  as a  “Like” on your list of Facebook reads. Simply search the title in the Facebook search box. Your support would be much appreciated.

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