Something broken

I went right to the last page of offered words and it didn’t get any better. The Oracle is weeping too.

 

I am dancing in the dark

no voices hear

in the heart of the night.

Something is broken

in the light or life itself,

the brilliance used up perhaps.

Wild fire haunts the sky

no longer limpid but full of smoke,

and the glowing eye

beats down with ferocious glare.

I listen for the faded voices, lost laughter,

catch only words tossed in the stream—

tree, star, home—

the morning melts in the heat,

clouds pass.

Smitten: review

I was very kindly given a copy of this anthology of poems by women for women by one of the editors and contributors, Candice Daquin. Unfortunately Amazon won’t let me post it. I don’t spend enough seems to be the reason. I apologise, Amazon, for being poor.

Here it is, a very short review as it was intended for Amazon.

 

The Smitten anthology is a massive and important undertaking. With so many different poets and styles of poetry, it would have been astonishing if I had enjoyed every one of the contributions, and I didn’t. But there are a lot of poems that I did enjoy, some like Paula Jellis’s I want a woman with a big Bouffant and Clementine’s Please like girls made me smile. Others like Halleluja R. Huston’s vivid The Queen of Spain took the pain of one woman and implied its relevance to thousands. Likewise Lynne Burnett’s Willowy Rose & Chrysanthemum took a simple scene in a restaurant as a symbol of what love ought to mean to everyone.

It is the poems like these (there are many more: Jennifer Mathews’ What He Gave Away being one of my favourites) that make this collection interesting for me, because they are universal poems, about universal truths, of relevance to us all. There is nothing cliquey or clubby about them, they are simply good poems.

My poems in Monologging

I knew my poems had been accepted in this year’s issue of Monologging magazine, in fact, Jeffrey Barken and I had quite a bit of correspondence about it, but I wasn’t sure when it came out. Either that or I forgot, which is also quite possible.

Anyway, the Summer issue on the theme of urban v rural, is out and here are my poems plus a mail I sent to Jeffrey to explain my tardiness in replying to one of his.

Thank you, Jeffrey for including me in this issue. It was a subject tailor made for me.

 

Haibun for a nagging doubt

I read a poem today by a proper poet with fellowships and residencies to his credit, and it made no sense to me. I am educated in literature and history. I read the classics in several modern languages. Yet the words made no sense, recherchés, self-consciously obscure, and their addition made no message that my highly educated, highly literate mind could untangle.

I always thought poetry should appeal to the emotions, pluck at chords, say something recognisable to the kind of person who would choose to read a poem. Am I wrong, then? Is this what poetry should be, an élitist ego-trip for those with the biggest dictionary? Or is it a failing on my part, my literacy not the right kind, or not finely honed enough to understand the subtleties? Perhaps we are not all endowed with the chords that a poet may pluck to make music.

clouds roll grey

August wind blows

the summer away

even I feel it leave

in my numb human bones

Haibun for an ordinary day

Today I saved a baby vole from the jaws of death and saw it scuttle away, I saw a jay have trouble with a giant katydid, watched a pair of flycatchers catching…flies, found a tiny frog that had made its way right up to the house sheltering from the sun beneath the sarriette, rescued a big spotted lizard from a rain bucket, discovered that a favourite rose isn’t dead after all, made delicious bruschetti with aubergine, courgette, tomato and mozzarella and started to feel my way into a major rewrite.

small things

like distant stars bright as

a string of pearls

Some personal thoughts on the relevance of poetry

The dverse discussion yesterday evening was about poetry and its relevance today. I write poetry but I don’t consider myself a poet. What I enjoy in poetry is something elusive and beautiful that I can’t reproduce. It doesn’t stop me trying though. The world needs amateurs as well as pros. It set me thinking about the nature of poetry and why so many of us think it’s important. I don’t see writing poetry as a group activity, something that can be improved upon with group input. You’ve either got it or you haven’t. You either see/hear what needs changing or you don’t. What interests me though, is how poetry has changed or not over the thousands of years human beings have been pumping it out.

Before the invention of the Internet and more specifically Instagram with its instagratification, art forms changed slowly and painfully. It’s hard for us to look at Paolo Uccello’s Battle of San Romano or Manet’s Le déjeuner sur l’herbe or anything by the German Expressionists and see dangerous precedent, degeneracy, sapping of public morals and possibly presaging the destruction of society as we know it.

New meant, we’re in dangerous waters here. Until the Pope, the President or the local vicar had pronounced on whether a new book or artwork was morally ‘sound’ the ordinary man in the street averted his gaze.

“Is it a book that you would even want your wife or your servants to read?” The question, remember, was asked not by Sir Thomas More at the beginning of the sixteenth century but by the prosecuting council in the Lady Chatterley’s Lover obscenity trial in 1960. Conservatism had been the watchword since forever, and novelty was suspect at best, at worst a capital offence.

The tide has changed. Now, novelty is de rigueur. In poetry, anything that has a classical form is accused of emulation of another (possibly dead, but always acclaimed) poet. Poetry used to be easy to understand. It didn’t set out to be obscure, exclusive or highly personal. It was for the consumption and enjoyment of anyone who enjoyed the music of words strung together like notes in a melody. Enjoyment meant a certain knowledge of the language, familiarity with a certain vocabulary, an education of sensibility, and until recently, literacy itself was the preserve of the privileged.  But that is true of literature in general; it is supposed to inspire, to draw upwards, not wallow in the gutter with the empty fag packets and beer cans. It can be inspired by empty beer cans, but the language used ought to transcend Heineken- and Carlsberg-speak.

The trend until very recently in poetry and visual art has been for work that is so obscure nobody is really sure what it means. There are just interpretations of what it might mean, and cleverness has been accused of becoming a substitute for art. On the other hand, lyricism has become frowned upon because everyone understands that. It’s been done. It’s hackneyed.

Possibly in a backlash, the younger generations have discovered the instapoets, rap and slam. Here, the meaning is crystal clear, the words easy to understand, the message immediately recognisable. Poetry has come full circle, back to the bawdy familiarity of Chaucer and the simplicity of Shakespeare’s language but without their masterly execution. The two schools of poetry, the intellectual and obscure, and the instafix co-exist in an uneasy truce. Real poets who are poor, despise the instapoets who are coining it. The instapoets must be laughing all the way to the bank.

Whether either school produces great poetry is not an argument I’d want to get involved in, since I don’t enjoy reading either the poetry that has got lost up its own arse, or the trite, catchy, instantly forgotten stuff. I don’t know exactly what ‘relevant’ means in the context of poetry, and I’m not convinced it matters much anyway. All I’d say is it’s a shame that everybody seems to despise poems like The Highwayman or Sea Fever that we were taught in primary school, without asking themselves, why is it that after maybe forty years we can still recite them, their magic still works?