Category Archives: Poetry

Summer proper

Leads to poetry. As does life. Here’s one I wrote earlier, about both.

The website that published the piece is the simple but wonderfully executed Visual Verse – one image, one hour and write.

BedHead

Would you ever wonder
Why you bothered to
Get out of bed
From a safe embrace
Into the cold world
Where everything that was done before
Needs doing over
And nothing has changed overnight
Until it does
But not in the way that you hoped for.

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London I

The city holds my heart
Seated at the right hand
Of a lead-grained and calloused
Well-thumbed Mount of Venus.

The fingers
Close
Squeeze

Until the city

Breathes us

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Spring: The Ungive of Snow Bones

I have blogged about spring before – it happens every year after all. I have walked plenty this week, and seen much that is new after the dank, dour months of a brown winter: tight-budded pinpricks studding the hawthorn, a lone bee and butterfly brushing against cream walls, both discombobulated by the sun. A battalion of birdsong firing over the rooftops and this unnamed tactile splendour: a catkin that’s been down the gym.

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And yet, as the snowdrops bloom with all their puny might, with the blowsy crocuses and uniform daffodils following hard on their delicate white heels, I  always think of the Fran Landesman lyric, that spring can really hang you up the most. The Landesman lyrical sentiment is taken from the opening lines of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land

I. The Burial of the Dead

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

The words speak of change, which many of us are hardwired to resist although we generally seem to do worse, psychologically speaking, with external circumstantial changes, not directly within our control. Every year we are aware that spring, a change, is coming about this time – and we might feel, for the most part, that the seasonal change is welcome after months of short, dark days. So what of Eliot’s Waste Land?

For me, it is stark reality of bright light on the ‘dead land’ that unsettles. The sunscald in what once passed for a garden, the illumination of winter dust suddenly strewn everywhere… the fear that spring will, this time, undo us. These tensions provoke action. Spring cleaning and gardening for some, artistic productivity in others. Busyness will save us from the memory and desire, stirring, we hope.

Yes, April is the cruellest month. Be sure to enjoy March whichever way you can.

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The title of this post is inspired by a new book about language and nature titled ‘Landmarks‘ by Robert MacFarlane and published in hardback this week.

N.b. This post has given me terrible trouble what with dodgy punctuation and big ideas gone astray. Apologies if it does not quite cohere.

To vape or not to vape

Vaping through the rain

Makes me think; we really

Need an umbrella

A Poetry Prescription to Myself (and anyone else who needs it)

Not Intrigued With Evening
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What the material world values
does not shine the same
in the truth of the soul.

You have been interested
in your shadow.

Look instead
directly at the sun.

What can we know
by just watching
the time-and-space shapes
of each other?

Someone half awake
in the night
sees imaginary dangers;

the morning star rises;

the horizon grows defined;

people become friends
in a moving caravan

Night birds
may think daybreak
a kind of darkness,
because that’s all they know.

It’s a fortunate bird
who’s not intrigued
with evening,

who flies in the sun
we call Shams.

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Jelal'uddin Rumi - 13th century Sufi mystic and poet
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From The Soul of Rumi. Translated by Coleman Barks.

Symbiosis

 

 

The thorn tree throws sticks

For an imaginary dog

One woman does tai chi

Wearing sand-soled feet

Whilst the sky slopes off

Into the sea’s arms

And the sun bleeds out.

 

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From Southend to Tilbury

crowstone

On the promenade
Palm fronds, cling on
In the wind,
Whilst car doors
And waves slam
In my ears.
Tide’s up
Shuttered down
The moon and sun
Shine bemusement
Women leave the casino
At dusk
Tapping their watches…
And the men walk dogs
Over the cliffs
Off lead.
One ketch argues with itself
On a wet mooring
Tearing its heart out.
My unblind mind’s eye
Conjures up dolphins
And seals in the rush hour
Of a stirred-up estuary
As I try to keep pace
With some cruise ship
Heading to the docks
For winter.

Cuba Libre

Standing out on the street
For a cigarette with you
In the blunt night air
You’ve given up
& I don’t smoke

Working elbows
Sticky with tequila
Contradicting interdictions
That step on the toes of fairy tales
Before they can rhumba

Imagery: Backwards on a Donkey

I have never had writer’s block, but I certainly have a deep fear of editing – which makes writing rather awkward. Ernest Hemingway used to smooth the previous day’s efforts off before moving forward to the new pages. Once you get to the end of something in excess of a hundred thousand words, that approach makes sense. My method is to press on, and then rewrite and edit from the beginning. By the umpteenth time around, I am dizzy.

Chief amongst my editing fears is missing the what I call the backwards on a donkey moment. This is when some word, or phrase, or sentence jars the reader up. Either by a lack of clarity, poor imagery, the wrong idiom, or sheer clumsiness of composition. When writing first drafts the backwards on a donkey moments are inevitable. It is the job of the writer to edit them all out later. I fear I will not. The fear stays my eyes, and my fingers. Nothing gets done.

There it is out.

Now it is out, I must press on.

The backwards on a donkey description for words that don’t work well came to me, when I misheard an Anne Sexton poem, read out late one night on the radio many years ago.  The poem was called Flee on Your Donkey. It’s long, and confessional, as her poetry was. In it, she reflects on being in a mental institution, again.

Sexton was a Pulitzer prize winner.  She committed suicide aged 45. She suffered others; others might say they suffered her, including herself.

We call it life I suppose. Here are the lines – they are the last of the poem. The ‘hotel’ is the hospital. My problem has always been one of imagery – the backwards bit – she is sitting backwards, and the donkey gallops, as they do?  The first time I heard it, I did not hear the word backwards, and could not understand her description at all.  Of course, now, it all makes perfect sense.  I think.  One word, misheard, not said, can make so much difference.


Anne, Anne,
flee on your donkey,
flee this sad hotel,
ride out on some hairy beast,
gallop backward pressing
your buttocks to his withers,
sit to his clumsy gait somehow.
Ride out
any old way you please!
In this place everyone talks to his own mouth.
That’s what it means to be crazy.
Those I loved best died of it—
the fool’s disease.