Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Four haiku and a tanka


Doubly sad to see
long-buried hatchets dug up
with such clumsy haste.


Sno-pake whites out "Ice"
in the index to one class
of the Bliss schedule.


Wrong ends, touchiness,
perverse mutability,
and amnesia.


"Those farewell chords are
from Strauss' Alpine symphony"
 -- your note, twelve years back.


Dusk in the garden;
the house like a photograph
of murders or ghosts.
Dimly grouped amid midges
we murmur, thirty-three, -four...

Today, according to the hashtag, is Haiku Poetry Day.  The haiku above were written in an access of them in the autumn of 1995, and published in Cou-cous 10.  Follow the label for others from the same batch.

The "farewell chords" referred to are the mountain theme of Richard Strauss' Alpine symphony. What I, synaesthetically, see through them is a red sun, probably rising not setting, over a very steep city -- Edinburgh, Bristol, Leeds -- and a small group of people mourning a visionary who has just died. 

Another hashtag tells me today is Bat Appreciation Day.  The tanka 'Counting bats' is of the same vintage as the haiku.  A kinsman had at that time a great enthusiasm for bats, and gathered a number of us in the garden to count them as they flew out from the roof at nightfall.  Murders and ghosts, I'm happy to say, were completely lacking from this event, and their presence in the tanka is excused solely by poetic licence.  Remembered dusk is two spaces for the imagination.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Than to arrive


It's partly true.  Arriving at
the bed and breakfast hours too soon,
unsweating, unached, unexhausted,
unthirsty -- that's a lot of un.

But post-concert bike home through snow,
cashless, phoneless, with frozen brakes,
and feet swollen in new shoes,
call-boxes that nobody makes 

for, nobody makes good, the first
dark and stripped of tech, half a mile
with feet and bike to the next (in light --
will it work?).  Reverse charge push-dial

instructions in Australian voice.
Did you, or I, not hear the sound
of the other speaking? Try again.
We had at least one further round

before somehow my phone box got 
your mobile with all this striving.
We fixed to meet at a spot nearby.  
You hung up and started driving.

Let me say and be senten-
tious that arrival had it then.

This is the first poem I've blogged from the output stimulated by my following Jo Bell's book 52: write a poem a week. Start now. Keep goingI succeeded in writing 52 poems from the prompts in the book!  I took sixteen months, so this was a poem every 11 days, not one a week, but that represents a tripling of the output rate I'd had before.  I don't expect to keep it up.

The 52 prompts in the book are a most varied yearful.  'Than to arrive' was written in response to prompt 29, for a poem relating to a proverb.  The adventure in the poem took place in England, which is why the  Australian voice in the automated instructions was more or less unexpected.

Long-time readers of this blog will know my fairly strict rule of not putting poems on it unless they have already been published elsewhere.  'Than to arrive' is in The possibility of living: poems from Poetry Space Competition 2018.  Buy it.  I find myself in very good company.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Delius and Gershwin


Yes –
putting Sea drift with Porgy and Bess
worked like an unexpected rhyme.
Loss, self-deceit, eastern seaboard
made their shared chord.

The above was written in 2004, after a Cambridge Philharmonic Society concert featuring the two works mentioned.  It earns its place in this blog, let me admit, by virtue of self-publication.  I fielded it using the #losslit hashtag on Twitter.  It did well compared with my tweets in general, if not compared with other people's #losslit tweets, so I offer it now.

I have found a seam of creativity by following the book 52: write a poem a week.  Start now.  Keep going by Jo Bell. My rate of production hasn't come to one a week -- after nearly a year I've only just got on to number 37 -- but the book's prompts include published poetry that has opened several new planets to explore.

Friday, 4 May 2018

How I learned to ride a bike


I learned biking late, and later still
heard how aged six, not understanding brakes,
I'd crashed against a wall. Eleven years,
while that unlearn eluded memory,
cycling balance eluded me too, made
bicycles a phobia. But –

"Rode Hugh's moped" is in my diary.
Not why, or who came up with that idea.
A stable drive was long enough for me,
longer than any pushbike I could fear.

For months, I risked no balancing on wheels.
Urged to a Christmas job some roads away,
too far for bus or walk, and to these skills,
I tried my sister's bike on Boxing Day.

The moped ride had not been fluke or fake.
I whizzed to the next village down the lane.
Uphill I found was harder. It would take
longer and the straight line was extra strain.

My ageing feet now say "Walk bad, bike good."
The prequel crash continues to elude.

The above was my contribution to the 26 Memory Maps project.  The map I drew for it is this:

The 26 Memory Maps project was the brainchild of Neil Baker (no relation).  Taking part in it did me a lot of good as I convalesced from a knot of health problems in the summer of 2017.  At the time of blogging, cycle journeys are again out of bounds for reasons of convalescence.  I have been putting this time to good use by following another creative project.  Work produced under that other project will be blogged, according to my usual rule, as and when it gets published.

Meanwhile, take a look at 26 Memory Maps.  50 contributions besides mine!

Sunday, 27 August 2017

The remembered village


After Mum and Dad's Golden was our first return.
We drove through steady rain uphill but missed
the turn, entered the village further west
by the school, followed the S-bend past
hall, vicarage, cross. Walked up the steepest
north-sloping churchyard path. It was mid-August.
In church, the numbers since Dad's time reduced.

After I reached fifty was the second.
Late at night, we drove uphill, northward, turned
in by the school, the village western end;
again the hall-and-vicarage S-bend.
The missed B&B; the phone call, turn round.
Next morning, in dampness, we were shown around
the church, the steep north-facing slope of ground.
We left the village at the eastern end,
Beacon Hill, water tower; homeward bound.

Dad's memorial service was the third.
In a bright March morning, we drove westward,
took the right turn; the water tower, crossroad,
again right, swooping north and down, past wood
gates, left, and left again into the farmyard.
The party walked the unpavemented road
west, south, uphill, the cross, the village grid,
the steep north-facing path in the churchyard.
The plaque unveiled, and many kind words said.
Then path, cross, downhill, left at chapel, led
west to where the Borstal had once stood.
We saw the new-built road named after Dad.

So my lines. They'd make an incomplete
map, lacking streets and homes once known inside.
Returning took from memories no heat,
and the troubled return dreams have not died.

The poem was written in December 2013 for the Holland Park Press 'What's your place?' competition.  It has now found publication in Orbis 180 (p. 6).  It has benefited, as poems in Orbis tend to do, from suggestions by the editor Carole Baldock.

You might like to read my earlier poem 'Wikipedia on the village' and the village's own web site.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

An impromptu imitation of Edward Lear

How this one came about represents the best of Twitter (yes, I'm aware that Twitter is not always at its best). The gardener and writer Harriet Rycroft tweeted a video showing her attempts to get a fledgling goldcrest out of her hair. I saw it when it was retweeted by Cambridge rare books librarian Emily Dourish. It drew the comment that the adventure was "like something from an Edward Lear limerick". This spurred me to the following, which appears here very slightly altered: 

There was a young Cotswold goldcrest 

Who mistook someone's hair for a nest 

When they said "You belong 

In an Edward Lear song" 

He flew off, that presumptuous goldcrest.

I'm not copying and pasting other people's entire poems into the blog, so follow this link for Harriet's own limerick on the adventure. You might also like her blog post about it, and about garden encounters with wildlife more generally.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

A most welcome birthday present

Clare's present for my 60th birthday was to commission a musical setting of one of my poems from Kathryn Rose.  Clare pointed Kathryn in the direction of this Blurtmetry blog, and gave her a free hand in choosing.  The poem Kathryn picked was 'Apology' from 2010.

I blogged 'Apology' after Sue Butler kindly accepted it for her 'Walking with poets' blog at the Benmore Botanic Gardens near Edinburgh.  Thanks to Sue for encouragement in connection with the present post.

The song comes with a CC-BY-SA (Attribution-ShareAlike) Creative Commons licence.  You may photocopy it, share it, perform it, record it, do pretty well anything you like with it provided that

(i) you attribute its authorship correctly

(ii) you impose no copyright restrictions of your own on anything you make of it.

Here's the score.

And here's Kathryn's recording.

It was quite a thing, opening that on the day.