Monday, 27 June 2011

3 poems from May "poem-a-day" project

Red bird days

Because on top of everything else
making you coffee empties the milk jug
it feels today could be the end of an episode.

Or the start of one. Keep the button pressed
to speed up the passage of the hours it says
on the free gift horloge reveil de voyage
the postman brings with your slippers.

On the top of the feeder at seven
the greater spotted woodpecker we first saw yesterday
is back with his head back ready to hammer like the king
of the birds making whatever the call is he makes.
Once he’s gone bless me if for a moment
a big fat bullfinch doesn’t amaze
I think even the goldfinches by appearing.

How’s your history?
I knew Marlbrook s’en va’t en guerre
but until the Versailles programme
last night I was unaware
of the War of the Spanish Succession,
confounding it with the Hundred Years’ War
or maybe - I don’t know -
the Thirty Years’ War.
I knew
tall soldiers with long-legged horses
had paused in twos and threes
by tall trees all over Europe
or at least the Low Countries,
and that a lot of soldier, soldier, won’t you marry me
with your musket fife & drum
had gone on when they found their way home
after all kinds of battles like Blenheim
but the history had eluded me. Now

I’ve got it and furthermore
could I’m sure for a day or two
slot together the Charleses and the Jameses
and William the Third and Anne
in whose reign I know from the fancy lead
down pipes at Forde Abbey
Frances Gwynne was secretary at war
in an early seventeen something.
Poor Queen Anne.

Thinking of the tall men
in long buttoned coats,
buckled shoes with heels and long curls
talking concern over a long table
with a map of Europe
and how to pay the armies
puts in proportion the worries
about us now and what it costs to keep the paras
or whoever it might be this year
in Afghanistan or wherever,
and the state of the banks
and poor old Clegg, poor us. Whatever
became of proportional representation?

A day spent on and off tidying the house,
putting  papers & books away
because my sister was coming to visit.

Then after she had gone
a woodpecker kept coming back
in the garden for more peanuts.

Now we have borage and lemon balm
to plant in the tub by the door. The toys
for my niece’s son have gone.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

...and on into May

All three of you may be interested to know that la lutte continue (sorry - pretentious is a hard habit to break). Any road up, laike, what I mean is that I'm still apparently able to keep on with the project Carrie Etter got me into, of writing A Poem A Day beyond the end of the original April challenge. looking in my head for the beginning of a poem each morning has become another  habit, though what I find varies...

It's now Meredith Andrea who is spurring my creativity, with the idea of a Flarestack Poets pamphlet maybe at the end of the year, assuming of course that enough Good Stuff has emerged by then.

Let me know if you'd like some of the poems posted here.

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Further April efforts

In that kitchen

a cooker called Radiation
where my dad made the flame
burn green annealing copper
to beat into a bowl
with the polished steel peen
of a planishing hammer.

In that kitchen
the sticky-varnished back door
would open too suddenly
on red-polished brick steps down
to what we called the Shed, home
of the noisy old Morrison Shelter
my dad used for a bench, and the garage,
rented home to better-off people’s cars.

In that kitchen, too
lived the Cabinet with the drop-down
white enamel shelf where mum
rolled pastry. Mind your head
when you come up from rummaging
in the bottom cupboard for shoes
or big saucepans.

Never mind That kitchen

in this kitchen Mount Fuji
somehow looms out of the corner
of my eye as I stand at the sink
swirling limescale flakes
out of the white electric kettle
but has gone when I turn to see it.

Teastains in the sink
have made a sepia sketch
of a ghostly samurai reaching
to point to the future with his sword
beneath the mechanical doughnut sun
of the plughole.

Racing the rain back
from Forde Abbey this afternoon
between hedges unbelievably dotted
with pink, red, blue, mauve, yellow, white
I caught myself saying
what a lovely world we have.

In the living room

A purist from a line of purists, made
worse by a lifetime in a pedantic trade,
I think of writing about the two plums
I know are on the kitchen table.

Are they really, I wonder, navy blue
but the minute I look I know
the word for what they are is indigo –
despised term for a spurious seventh colour

Newton or Goethe (or both for all I knew)
squeezed in, I thought I knew, to the middle
of the perfect and rational spectrum of light.
As bad as calling green a primary hue.

How you will come

When you call for me I’ll notice
how you came,
from which direction:
did you walk
past the ethical food shop
smelling of caraway
and yeast, or drive by
the fitness club with its air
of sweat and desperation?

Are you straight to the nearest gate
from the car park, or do you wrestle
your wheelie bag along the street
peering at door numbers?

Will you be so late I’ll despatch
a friend down
to look out for you
or is your knock going to catch me
still basting the fowl?

SELF-INDULGENCE: an infuriating poem about doorknobs

I’m not even going to look. More books
come in the post every day. You know
how polished brass is the colour of dry straw.
Someone woke the birds.
If I was able to, I’d go far a walk round the village.
(Wouldn’t we all, dear). Not saying
what I have to say, I wonder how long
this weather’s going to last.
If you close the door properly or leave it ajar
it won’t bang.
Just a gabble, with no proper words,
lines that have strayed from other poems.

Friday, 22 April 2011

the worst yet

The Good Friday moon

like the stone ball
I suppose it is
hung above the village
at 6 a.m.
Now it’s gone
behind streamers of cloud.
People below sleep on.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Another poem using just the first of Kelli Russell Agodon's 30 prompts

The spectre of repatriation

Twenty-one cracks in the teacup
trace a ship, a suitcase; hint

at missing paperwork on the dock,
reprieve, the nick of time,

salvation on the dot
of eleven minutes to nine.

[prompt-words: cracks, trace, paperwork, suitcase, teacup, dot, dock, ship, time, twenty-one]

A poem from ten prompt-words

- one of Kell's poem prompts: see her blog:  (triumphs, decade, darker, problem, godlike, break/staff, so-called, bound, crow, mark, were the words, the poem title being a nod to the title of the book from page 29 of which the words were selected)

Pocket guide

In the darker place near my heart
I’ll take a crow bound with raffia
to keep him still but not quiet
on my bumpkin explorations.

A decade should suffice to break him in:
imagine the feeling of godlike triumph
when the so-called problem of his struggles
is overcome and I can walk the city streets,
him perched wing-free on my ebony staff,
a hoarse but docile finial calling out landmarks.

Back in the zone?

In place of paint

Could this be the hoped-for corner,
the breakthrough, the turning-point?
[normally I'd frown on such repetitions,
but if it's true...]

Self-portraits seem
so against-the-grain,
egotistical, but
oil-and-water portraits
are not to be managed,
and yet...
using words I can still do
the lilac light on the beech trunks
in the background, even shift
the sitter to a minor place
in the plan, find that magic
A4 sweet spot...

Too sharp by half

Mallory grins sharp-eyed in red & black
back to the wall of the ice-cream stall.
Maybe like a spy she wishes she could hide
or the wind would drop, stop
blowing her hair, that they would open
so we could share a ninety-nine
before starting on the path up the cliffs
where the twelve fearless white goats live.

What you expect to happen

happens? What you fear
will happen happens? What
you hope will happen happens?
What you believe will happen
will happen. What you knew
would happen happened.

The sparrow maybe thinks
Uh oh the hawk might get me
but maybe also thinks I can
hide round the back of this tree
then he won’t get me.

Looking for a Glastonbury festival of the mind

A maze designed to lead me back
directly to where I came from.

Round a corner of the field
- wide  Kidz Field –
a top-hatted man in red on stilts
looks over the heads of the trekking crowd.

Where have all the rabbits gone, I wonder,
and do foxes negotiate the security fence?

Tonight cardboard beer-carriers
will be contribute to our fires
while we dance to the headliners’
heavy music on the hillside.

Before the end the ground will be hard and dry,
impenetrable, full of buried plastic water-bottles

Both sides – all the sides

Day 2

The sounds of lorries & cars on the top road
approach & recede like my thoughts
as I strive without striving to regain
calm after a fraught night.

There seemed sufficient reason
to cut back the shoots of the buddleia.
Like a dammed stream or a dream ignored,
the force in due time will burst out elsewhere.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

And another

They're getting worse...


The man in the tight suit
said it would rain in the afternoon.
It rained.

I wonder if my Mum ate enough.
Her dresses sometimes
seemed to hang off her bones.

My Dad had his head in the clouds
a lot of the time.

Seven pounds a week
sounded a lot in those days
but we didn’t have a phone till 1958.

We used to let other people’s cars
live in our garage.

My Mum said You’re just
like your father. You’ll never amount
to anything. But I think
she was cross at the time.

Even the Radio Times
sometimes gets it wrong.

I have a car. But not a garage.
My car got wet.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Running out of steam: 3 more efforts

These are even less prepossessing than the previous attempts - so I'm presenting them as In Progress , to at least show myself I'm still trying - and I hope I will feel my way into tightening them up in due course. The first, being about a jazz trio (albeit with an ever-changing line-up) uses 3- or 6- word lines as a slight structural discipline.


A valve trombone can also do
the tailgate thing –
and as I write I see
a group in tight black bombazine
suits and inconspicuous
bowler hats they would I believe
call derby
on unpolished brass
genteel white ladies
in a teagarden –

but in Brookmeyer’s hands the instrument
plays smooth as an alto saxophone
The Train and the River running
side by side. The green country
sound of guitar dreams lyrical into
damp shade and lush grass stalks.

a 5-day self-portrait

Day 1

He wanted to be a vagabond,
a swashbuckler, not care
if the hairbrush went in the butter
in the frypan on the shelf, paint
big rangy abstracts, hitch his way
off to Bolivia, to the Pyrenees:
instead he went for security, sat
for thirty years in a job, saw himself
a little grey man in a grey suit
and an invisible pre-sixties bowler hat.


synaesthetic metaphor: just school

fruit: orange excruciating

name from school: hillside library

rhetorical question: newspaper robert

direct address to reader/audience: see attention

foreign word: origato hermanos

game of chance: nutshells chain

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Saturday morning's April poem

Another "technical" poem, to keep the bellringing one company.


Boom barrap-bap boom (pause – three – four)
Boom barrap-bap boom (pause – three – four)

Boom barrap-bap
Boom barrap-bap
Boom barrap-bap
Boom boom boom boom

Boom barrap-bap boom (barrap bap)
Boom barrap-bap boom (barrap bap)
Boom barrap-bap boom (barrap bap)
Boom barrap-bap boom (boom boom boom)
[Repeat al fine]

[Bell:] Uni–versity-of-South-hampton, Uni–versity-of-South-hampton,
Uni–versity-of-South-hampton, Uni–versity-of-South-hampton…

[Shaker:] Chakachakachakachaka

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Two more April "daily" poems

This first poem came out of a dream that seemed partly a recollection of the rather hothouse atmosphere of a couple of courses I attended many years ago - one at Lumb Bank; one a surprising local government 'bring out your creativity' weekend for staff who were maybe not "performing" as "creatively" as might be hoped, at which I first came across the ideas of Meister Eckhart and Hildegard of Bingen.

I have often passed on to aspiring writers the notion I picked up from one of my many poetry teachers (I can't remember which) to the effect that when one intends to be a writer one accepts the necessity to walk naked. I hope I have scuffed my footprints enough to prevent readers identifying any personalities in the poem.


“I am likewise neither a model
nor a member of the library”, I said,

am I a predator, and what
do I think I’m doing, being both
rude and charming to this

fragile naïve girl
who’s come on the course,
I suspect, purely to meet

the lionised monster giant
with the intravenous breath
who’d destroy us both if we crossed his path –

whom she clearly worships for his intellect
and achievements in whatever field it is
he has come to dominate.

By now I’ve moved to dreams of sleeping
with the frail delegate from Hartlepool
(almost certainly lesbian)

whose looks and works
years ago
enchanted me.

The second poem here is a pretty straightforward account of one of my first attempts to play my part in the ringing of a "method" called Plain Bob on six bells at a local church.

(getting the hang
of plain bob doubles)

I am the one, the treble. I ring behind
the two, the four, the five,
the three

then I ring behind the two,
the four, the five, the three
more quickly, then I lead –

Then I start again but remember
the last shall be first, so I follow now
the three before the others –
twice again – lead twice and then apply
the same considerations. Trouble is

I get confused, transpose two bells,
lose track, and all the while
the captain whispers loud
reminders in my ear,

when they’re things I do
already know, and when in ringers’ jargon

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

A Poem a Day in April 2011

Today is April the Fifth. Rising to Carrie's challenge, I've surprised myself by writing six poems so far this month - not all good poems (Meredith pointed out that the deal was just for a poem a day, with nothing said about them being any good) but all doing something at least slightly interesting.

Here they are:

Modelling nostalgia
(never take my advice – that’s my advice)

I‘ll say one thing
about the old police cars
(I mean the ones - you know -
before the ones
you can still get
the parts for) –
they used to go

I got a brass tap.
I did. I sent for – you know –
an ordinary iron fan one
like everybody has,
and that’s what they sent.
It’s to go in the ground,
so it’s perfect.

Just because

A lattice of eggs
because I took out alternate ones
so the fifteen box
would not fall over

An explanation is not a reason

First proper Alfa wash & treat

Swill grit out of bucket

(last month I used
the houseplant sprayer: today
I need more wetter quicker)
Splosh bucket of water all over

Swill grit out of bucket

Tesco’s best wash 'n' wax with
the old black-edged sponge

Swill grit out of bucket

Rinse before you drink your tea.
Don’t leather dry

Swill grit out of bucket

Mix up the treatment.
Splish all over with
the big new sponge
that came with it

Swill grit out of bucket

Rinse. Leather dry.
Admire. Drink your tea.

Swill grit out of bucket

The cement. And a mirror

Morning is the best time: is the worst time.
Mornings are quiet: are noisy.

Mornings are lonely, but you can’t get away from your wife.
In the morning you can think, but you can’t think of anything.

In the morning it’s sunny & bright,
overcast & pouring with rain

The bedroom is full of space and air; it’s crowded
with dolls & soft toys & statuettes of fairies,
a strange angel with a dragon and a crystal ball;
pictures and two drums. 

When you shut the window
I miss the sound of tyres in the wet.

So many times I could recall from other lives in other places

I remember that other life
in the house in the jewish district
that was carpeted with dusty stripes
where the bakery opened on Sunday mornings
for poppy-seed rolls and cream cheese

And another life where I think I stalked
Birmingham city streets all night
on a blood-red night
with my daughter in my arms

A nother notebook
(nicked from Natalie)

You might want to start
a small separate notebook
where you note your writing practice:
how you didn’t produce a poem today
[or how you didn’t produce
a good poem this week]