Thursday, 8 September 2016

Poetry in print

A poem of mine, centred around a historical massacre in York, appears in The North (issue 56), a journal I subscribe to and which is highly regarded in the poetry world. It will be my first poetry print publication. Look for Seeing Bluebells beneath Clifford's Tower, York. (You can see the first few lines of this on my April 25th post)

Writing prose has also continued.  I await with bated breath the result of a submission to Mothers Milk Books, an independent UK press who have already published two great short story collections entitled The Forgotten and the Fantastical.  Quite used to rejections - and see them as a mark of my continuing to write, and write more - I have high hopes of this one, the first time I have tried a modern fairy tale!

Harvesting this summer has not taken up much of my time, the summer being so on and off - the weather that is. Runner beans, gooseberries and young raspberry plants have yielded little.  Only the previously mentioned blackcurrants were undaunted by the late frost. At least this year I've had the pleasure of seeing the ornamentals flourish, giving more colour. Cut flowers are the plan for next season.


Monday, 11 July 2016

Meditating with blackcurrants

Writing poetry, or prose, is like a meditation for me.  So is topping and tailing blackcurrants, this year's harvest, all 1.2 kg of them.  Yes it is a chore - now I know why my mother gave me this job, and podding peas, when I was a child.  But it has its rewards too.  The picking was not so meditative, more a pain in the back!  Anyway here they are.  First in the trug.  Then half of them ready to be frozen in the open.  Blackcurrant cordial is the plan sometime in the future.





Monday, 6 June 2016

'Jebel Marra' short story collecction

Darfur shown in green
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Map_of_Darfur_2011.png

At last weekend's Northern Short Story Festival in Leeds, as well as a plethora of workshops and events, Comma Press had a stall so I immediately bought a copy of the new collection by Michelle Green, Jebel MarraSo far I'm into the second story - all of them set in Dafur where she spent time as an aid worker - and would recommend them.
So I was pleased to read just now that Michelle has been awarded the Julia Darling Travel Fellowship.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

I will be leaving

I will be leaving a war home,
battles played out under the carpet
creating breakers for us all so
chopping off a salty sea
I will be the first to leave,

leave nothing but the boyfriend,
my young brother, discarding mother
and father, past their sell-by date
for a sixteen year old.  I don’t know
all this at the time, I just feel it all.

I will take my haircut, my pink lipstick
my fear, my tears.  It will be nothing
like home; nothing is what I know.
The future is a small pinprick, a large
sky filled with snaky rainbows, a crowd
of girls wearing transparent cloaks
waiting for other outfits to be revealed.

Using the prompt of leaving home from NaPoWriMo this is a raw effort, thrown together quickly.  It's late evening now and this is my leave-taking of the challenge to write a poem a day.  And what a challenge, and what an immersion in living with poetry.  I've had a wild time here sitting at my laptop, and I'm hoping I can glean some stalks to weave into future poems.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Recollections


Hong Kong harbour 1979


sitting high and mighty on my dad’s shoulder
age 5, punished shamed in the middle of the classroom
seeing my baby brother at the hospital, my father saying What big feet!
                                                            wondering if that was polite
bursting the biggest bubbles with a finger

an American accent on the black telephone then being sent upstairs
my first sight of rubber flip-flops on deck at Aden
tumbling about, feeling green, in a plane in a Taiwan sky
the humid diesel home-smell of  the harbour

the Bolton miner’s son at the university disco
my father asking: Does university teach you to be ladylike?

the brass band broadcasting our anti-Gulf War demo
my blistered feet squeezed tight into cheap boots on high moors
the rock-hard gentle brother’s voice at the door

my son taking his first steps for the childminder
my mother’s cold forehead never to be warm again
a chrysanthemum orgasm spent

Starting with a prompt of 'I remember' and a list, this is today's draft poem for my April poem a day challenge, inspired by NaPoWriMo.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

A fish tale

The return journey for pollock


She’s in bits with coriander, cumin, glaring turmeric
sharing space with ginger, coconut and garlic
From cool to freezing in plastic wrapper
hidden behind snapper, old Cheddar cheese.

Left for two minutes and the cat was sniffing ...

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

The freedom of words

Lucky me

I could write a jeremiad about sea slugs, the colour brown in polyester
I could write yawning, of freezing rain, modern jazz, cars racing
I could write only of foolish acts, blue finger ends, wounds that fester
I could write querulous words spitting and hissing and grating
I could write on posters of white ermine, dead animals and might
I could write of rasping old black boards, smudged banda ink, nylon electrics
I could write, bomb blasts unheeded, neglecting the bees and the crops

I could write about spinach and potato curry, smooth yoghurt, a single chime
I could write listening to Summertime, its thousands of versions, 
                                                                                      the best sung by my brother
I could write watching the creased eyes of Julie Walters, and I’d smile too
I could write standing in warm rain, inhaling diesel like an eastern perfume
I could write in a vision of purple and glittering earrings
I can write and mostly my words are not censored.

The NaPoWriMo prompt was to write in longer lines.  And some ideas sprang from a class back in 2012 about things that I like and dislike, a list poem. I hope you've enjoyed reading this draft.




Tuesday, 26 April 2016

CLAY IN OUR HANDS


Searching


What is clay for?
Nourishing soil cast by hands
into an echoing pot.

Where can we find clay?
Thick lumps broken by sand
for garden parsnips.

How deep does clay go? 
How deep can we dig till 
clay gives way to stone, 
to liquid fire.


The prompt today was from NaPoWriMo, uisng call and response.  Then I looked back at a draft written in class in May 2014.  The prompt in class was clay.
This is still in draft form, to be worked on later.

Monday, 25 April 2016

On seeing bluebells


On seeing bluebells beneath Clifford’s Tower, York

there are definitely    one hundred and fifty Jews
bluebells, oaks, sandwiches       at night seeking protection

sunlight on cut wheat       on this site in the royal castle

Inspired again by an exercise of Helen Mort, putting together two contrasting pieces of poetry. This is just the beginning.
York is a lovely city, I know, I spent over three years there as a university student back in the 60s.  One of its commanding sites is Clifford's Tower (see pic below), a round stone keep once part of a much bigger castle, but with a particularly cruel incident in its history that took place on the eve of a special shabbat in the spring of 1190.  So the poem is about that, and about a childhood memory which also took place in a village near York where I spent childhood summer holidays at the farm where my mother came from.  Of course bigotry-inspired killings continue to happen - only today I heard of gay activists being killed in Bangladesh, and people seeking refuge from war or persecution in the UK are demonised. Physical attacks increase on Jews, Muslims, minorities.





With thanks to Michael Clarke for the use of
his bluebell photos (which I have manipulated)


Sunday, 24 April 2016

Proverb

Consequences



You make your bed, you lie in it
You cut the hedge, you get a view
You start a plan, you don’t commit
You’re feeling cool, you get tattooed

You get a job, you don’t get rich
You’re feeling grim, you buy a scythe
You cast a line, you catch a fish
You run a mile, you might survive

You stop in bed, you meditate
You read a lot, you will escape












A quick draft poem for Day 24, again the prompt is courtesy of Jo Bell's 2013 list, using a proverb. Six more to go!




Saturday, 23 April 2016

Swooping

A day of playing my melodica, not my first choice of instrument, in the Persephone Women's Morris band means I am happy, satisfied, darker skinned, pleasantly knackered but probably unfit to present anything near a polished poem.  Excuses over, I have used a prompt provided by Matthew Sweeney and John Hartley Williams in their book Write Poetry and get it published.  Ever since this book was recommended me by my regular poetry tutor, Sally Baker, it has been well thumbed and used.

The exercise is called Voodoo and gives a strict set of parameters to be followed. I followed these, then heavily revised what I had done.  As ever, this needs a lot more revision and adding to.

Swooping

A ruin, a ruin of boulders next to
the sky, the sky, the sky, all over today.
The crumpled newspaper lies on
the seat opposite. The woman snuffles,
nuzzles the tissue.  A falcon glares ...



Friday, 22 April 2016

Blue flight



Taken on the wind, written on the wing
of the jay’s blue wink as she leaves me behind
the blue bringing her closer
as I recall that blue in the white snow
when she left I was bereft
snow on branches, snow left unshovelled,
snow falling, snow hiding gooseberries

fruit bursting, green to purple, to sawfly
blue released in daylight
blue poppies bent in the wind.

Helen Mort -  a poet I follow with pleasure - has set me off writing this poem after having a quick look at her recent poetry writing workshop in MsLexia, making use of film techniques. This is very much a first draft.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

How we scorned a man

Original photo by Paweł Wierzbickic
http://www.freeimages.com/
photo/rabbit-1399159


He didn't expect it to jump out of the hat
the way it did. We were pleased because 
with all the palaver of the drum roll,
the top hat being doffed, arms
waving, endless Ladies and Gentlemen etc
the children got bored, parents yawned.
Never again I silently vowed.

It was slow magic, it was no ...

Just the beginning of the poem today.
The prompt today was to use a saying and make it literal, suggested by Suzannah Evans in a workshop I enjoyed.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Rapper-trapper

Blue and Green Lakes, in a huge volcanic crater
Sete Cidades, Sao Miguel, Azores
Kennings is the NaPoWriMo prompt today, so here is one - draft - to celebrate a good friend. You could rap it!  Shortly she will be visiting the island in the photo.

SALLY 

Number-pundit
Jumper-flaunter
Bridge-buff
Café-chum

Ground-digger
Chicken-feeder
Egg-receiver
Apple-peeler

Whizzy-walker
Island-hopper
Sun-searcher
Son-lover

Volks-wagener
Val-craver
Wine-ranger  
Prize-mate

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Cultivating conversations


The garden rebukes the woman


“It’s only April and I’m overgrown” says the garden.
               What do you mean?” says the woman.
“You’re too busy talking about what 
you’re going to do to me.”
            The woman pouts.
“It’s no good looking at me like that!”
            The woman sinks lower...



With thanks, today, to Jo Bell for her workshop at Leeds Central Library (free!) and the other poets whose work I listened to.  I have used an exercise that we did, based on different kinds of imagined and imaginary conversations. More work to be done on it, of course.
We also followed some exercises from 52, a year of poetry writing prompts that Jo and other guest poets have put together.  I took the chance to buy it.

Monday, 18 April 2016

THE TALL GREY BUILDING


CRIMINAL LIBRARIES


I passed the tall grey building formed of stone
Its shiny plate glass doors caged with top-
hatted men, where riches are enthroned.

I know the pompous men in dust-grey suits
In it together. The nation’s good.
The suits, they’re in cahoots

with shiny money-making Midas touch
a marvelling mist before us grubby tribes.
Wealth is laundered ...

Suzannah Evans, via The Poetry School has provided today's prompt: imagine something that is banned. This must stay in the realm of imagination ...

Sunday, 17 April 2016

The conservative party is right wing

How many people, poets even, keep a specialised dictionary in the house?  Use 10 words from one, suggests the NaPoWriMo site.  Yes, I could have found one online I suppose.  Anyway I delved into a dictionary of politics, bought at the start of my student days.  It seemed a good idea at the time as I was studying Politics!  And the end product of today's poetic work is a draft villanelle, one of my favourite of the repeating forms.
It's an attempt to look at the Tories, now and then.













The Conservative party is right wing
Some words from A dictionary of Politics 1966, Elliott & Summerskill

The Conservative party is right wing
Continental parties are
really reactionary inclining

towards democracy-hating.
Our Tories really do care.
The Conservative party is right wing.

Aristocrats, their wealth and bling.
big business: litany, prayer.
Really, reactionary-inclining.

Welfare state principles supporting
All for social measures they declare.
The Conservative party is right wing.

Heavy taxation – keeping
old ideas are neither here nor there.
Really they’re reactionary-inclining.

Their past they say is worth conserving.
Our welfare is their warfare.
The Conservative party is right wing
really reactionary-inclining.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

It is ...

before

It is not black and white
It is a grey concrete roof in a grey dawn
It is the distant grey Lion Rock
It is the Chemistry lesson on the first floor
It is the Chemistry lesson when I daydream
It is Lion Rock that holds my daydreaming ...

Initially I'd looked at NaPoWriMo who provided an Almanac questionnaire, but then I was reminded of this photo of me as a young teenager on the roof of the flats where we lived in Kowloon, Hong Kong.  

Friday, 15 April 2016

JAGUAR'S REVENGE

First my thanks for a rewarding workshop to Suzannah Evans, at Leeds City Museum, the Victorian stuffed animals there providing poetry ideas.  So I have reworked one of my ideas from that workshop.  It requires further work, as do all the NaPoWriMo inspired poems on here this month.
This time the prompt also came from The Poetry School - to use the time between sunset and sunrise, the dark, as a setting.

The jaguar leaves the taxidermist
 
Original photo by Guillermo Ossa at:
http://www.freeimages.com/photo/jaguar-1623321











Moon-glaring leaded window.
My new old breath bursts neat stitches,
unpicker slicing through mistakes,
stuffing bouquets fall to the floor.
I could be a hearth rug ...

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Just a visitor

A tough challenge today from NaPoWriMo requiring precision, numerical skill, rhyming and, of course, the right words.  It's of Chinese origin: a san san, or three three. An 8-line poem, using three images or terms, each of which is repeated three times, and with a rhyme scheme: abc ab dcd
So ... this is my first attempt.  Definitely needs further work.


GRABBING THE MONEY

Grabbing the money he says it’s a piece of cake
a shaft of light, he is just a visitor.
Just a visitor, a negative force,
everything is a piece of cake, mistakes
are a piece of cake, shafts of blind light
cut hearts in a chaotic tunnel where
he is just a visitor, divorced
blinded, a shaft of light in the air.


Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Morecambe Bay from Ingleborough


Keeping away from the dark side, a valediction is the prompt I've used today, Day 13. Thanks again to Jo Bell.  This NaPoWriMo is a challenge, is also a kick up the bum in a good way.

Looking up at Ingleborough

goodbye to all this

Morecambe Bay from Ingleborough
All-night dance and sprain an ankle
            driving to Casualty not caring he is drunk.
From a neighbour the surprise dark table.

Glide on a street in a weed dream ..
           

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Age is the only way

Day 12 and I'm still galloping - well trotting - towards the finish line.  Using today's prompt from NaPoWriMo, using an index, I've had a quick browse through The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron.  I must say this is not my way whilst it might be for other writers, so I'll be passing it on to someone else probably via a charity shop.
The usual disclaimer: this is pretty much hot writing, and therefore a draft.

Age is the only way of living on the spot

Age is the only way of living on the spot
Anxiety not
Appreciation to be appreciated
Awful truth never substantiated

Bargaining period that time of suspension
Blockage wonderfully stuck at home

Check-in is always too much
Colour schemes – vermilion the sound of such

Excuses not to be heard, or seen
Exercises – whatever – they say keep to a routine

God never goes away never mind
Kandinsky primary colours unrestrained

Play spaces need to be there for the grown-ups
Repetitive action on pistachios and hazelnuts

Stream off, away, down so that you achieve
Success.  What you believe.

Wish list it might include
Work, sleep, cravings, sunshine, being lewd.






Monday, 11 April 2016

Pink fir apples

Today is the day when writing came hard, writing for Day 11 of NaPoWriMo. None of this waiting for your Muse, I had to drag myself to the keyboard.  So using a prompt from Napowrimo - describe an object or place, and finish with a philosophical statement - here is another draft poem.

PINK FIR APPLES

Laid in the spare room
wrinkled alien embryos in a cool
incubator I carry them unbruised ...

For the non-gardeners among you, pink fir apples are a variety of potato, that I would recommend you try growing and eating.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

If you are under the moon’s bleeding sway












If you are under the moon’s bleeding sway

If you are under the moon’s bleeding sway
                                             in the North
If you don’t have a couple of thou
                                             in the North
If you live like an anchorite
                                             in the North
If you don’t have beautiful sex with him
                                             in the North ...

                                           
I've written this in anger at the handing down of a suspended prison sentence to an unnamed 21-year old woman for having an abortion in Northern Ireland. She was unable to afford travel to access a legal termination in England so bought abortion pills online.  The Abortion Rights campaign in the UK has been highlighting her case, and the Guardian ran a full page article yesterday.

Another NaPoWriMo poem written in response to Jo Bell's prompts, this time to write a litany or prayer, repeating a word at the start of each line.  I haven't followed it faithfully as you see.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Our friends

A chant against death is the prompt today, and as yesterday, from Jo Bell's 2013 prompts.  As she suggested I looked first at Mervyn Morris's A Chant against Death. then diverged and took a prayer which you may recognise as the template.  It's a very long time since I looked at my Sunday school bible, awarded to me in 1958.  That's what the fancy label says stuck inside the front page.
Again, this is one I'd go back to and revise.

Our friends

Our friends
who are on the telephone
don’t forget their names.

Your life is now
You will live it now
as it has always been.
Take this day, take what is given
and skip over what has gone past
as the past ignores us.

And the creed is: sustentation.
But kiss, distil
sunshine, wisdom,
inspire stories
of pleasure
for women.

Friday, 8 April 2016

The Very Old


Jo Bell on her blog, back in 2013, has helped in my efforts to post a poem each day this month - she has provided a month of poetry prompts which can be downloaded.  Today's prompt was to write about a group of people, preferably ones you don't like!  I have succumbed to my inner bile, prejudice and sense of victimhood, all of which I keep well under control most of the time.
The poem is in reponse to a Roddy Lumsden poem, The Young.

THE VERY OLD

A hundred and two,
well bully for you!
Smoking a cigarette,
no sight of a cataract – yet.
Brain bell-like and clear
never mind passing years...


Thursday, 7 April 2016

Dogwood Drive

Following The Poetry School again, I've dropped into a surrealist hole here ...















On Dogwood Drive

Max looked at the sign, read Dogleg Drive
And so it proved to be.  It was only later he found
he needed new spectacles. The eyes connive
to lie more often these days, even the sound

of the waves come across as broken wire
cut through, the electricity racing along
like buckets of water seeping out of a tyre.
His feet at least make the music of a song

called Creaking Shoes, he heard many years
before he became a clown, sitting at the desk
where he processed insurance claims, tears
of clients fizzing down the line, their chest

thumping.  At least Max thought it was a thump.
He can never be sure of anything in life.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Brave or nesh

I braved the weather, people say.  The weather here in the north of England was certainly very moody today but I'd be lying if I wrote that I braved it since I walked in the sun, sandwiched by short bus rides, to arrive at Trinity University for a one-day writing festival.  At the end of the day I walked out to driving rain, but after another five minute bus ride there was enough sunshine to walk for ten minutes. Pretty nesh really (look it up, it's a Yorkshire word, I was reminded by Char March today).


Workshop number one was with Debjani Chatterjee - Postcard Voices, giving a chance for some flash fiction work, and the second time I've attended her lovely sessions.  Later a youthful Joanne Clement - definitely a rising star-poet - had us writing ekphrastic poems. The first few lines written today is my offering for NaPoWriMo, as yet untitled, and inspired by Landscape with the fall of Icarus, possibly by Pieter Breughel the Elder. We also referred to the W H Auden poem Musee des Beaux Arts:

When the men in white coats watch
the needles scratch the blue-ish vertical paper
when the bright yellow-edged fishing boats scarper
sails huffing ignoring the catch
                                     of mackerel and sprats
when women gather their gowns, clutch ....

That's your lot today because I intend revising this for submission in the future.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

How to describe pain

Day 4 here we come!
This time I've used The Poetry School's prompt of 'pain'.



How to describe pain

Eight out of ten used to be a good mark. 
Now I shoulder it like a burn.
It gets my back up, being told
to sing a number.

I add half.
I am contrary, never
good on bended knee.

Anyway it pools in the brain
unable to find a lexicon.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Colonial past

In early teenage years I, a white British girl, went to live in Hong Kong.  This poem is about part of my experience there.
I used the prompt from here: Poetry Prompts - first love.  I can barely remember him now, and as you will see I am not sure about all the details.  Again, it needs some work:

colony confession
 
Sitting on the wall outside our flats
you came to me in your white shirt and white
trousers/shorts with/without a friend. 

I am half Portuguese you once confessed. 
I didn’t know why it was a confession
except you looked Chinese.  That
wasn’t a problem in itself except
in my mind you were a lower ....


Sunday, 3 April 2016

Homage to Margaret Atwood

Wow I've made it to the 3rd day of NaPoWriMo using their prompt of a letter to a celebrity, past or present.  I doubt Margaret Atwood would like to be called a celebrity, and I would call her an outstanding writer for what she writes and how she writes - non-fiction, fiction or poetry.  So, not exactly a letter but ... a poem, and which has borrowed many of her words and phrases.


Sonnet in homage to Margaret Atwood

after various poems in Eating with Fireand with reference to the title of her book, The Edible Woman


You speak, Margaret, an edible tale, the dead’s
good bones that admit the cancer cell
is beautiful, we count them like beads,
you continue still to dig with a shovel
beside the temple to the goddess – politics
and the need for passion...

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Coral and kitten-dad

It's NaPoWriMo again this month so I'm having a go and these are the first two efforts since I didn't get round to posting yesterday:

April 1st
The suggestion was a lune, a new form to me.  Three lines of 5-3-5 syllables, or 5-3-5 words.  This is untitled and quite raw, unedited.


Cold coral is like coal
in the mind
not in the solid earth







April 2nd
Family portrait is the theme.  This too has had little in the way of revising, so I'll keep it on file, as it were, for further examination later.

Kitten-dad

Early on mashed banana in porridge
you moved on to fish fingers even though
I wanted you to eat healthy meanwhile nursery
forgot you were off dairy products for two weeks
one mistake plenty of mistakes on
my part too ...


Caveat: ill-health, forgetfulness, lack of creativity, or life - in that order - may stop me posting a new one each day!