Monthly Archives: April 2020

Portrait

 

Exterior-2
In the pre-pandemic life, I would next Tuesday evening have travelled by train to Stalybridge. Now I am in the Netherlands and will probably eat orange-coloured cakes (left over from King Willem Alexander’s birthday celebrations on Monday).

 
The Poetry Society was founded in 1909 to “promote a more general recognition and appreciation of poetry”. It is now a thriving UK arts organisation with over 4,000 members worldwide. Volunteer members run local branches, called Stanzas. These tend to meet monthly to write and critique members’ poems.

 
The East Manchester & Tameside Stanza meets in the buffet bar on Platform 4 of Stalybridge railway station. The building is one of the very few remaining Victorian station buffet bars. It has the original fittings and fire, and it includes the original 1st class ladies’ waiting room with an ornate ceiling. This award-winning pub is like a museum: lots of photos, railway and other memorabilia.

 

3.-Interior-portrait-Stalybridge-Station-Buffet-by-Michael-Slaughter-LRPS

 
During feedback sessions, the poem is read twice – by the poet and someone else. The reading may well be interrupted by an announcement We’re sorry that the 19.21 to Manchester Piccadilly has been cancelled…

 
Portrait was published in my second collection Nothing serious, nothing dangerous. It benefited from feedback from the EM&T Stanza regulars. I hope they are all keeping safe and well.

 

 

Portrait

When I look down
in the water of our harbour,
quiet, resting between barges,
I hope to find a portrait.

White foam is gloves I dropped long ago,
or my grandmother’s starched lace cap,
metal curled at her temples.

*

When I look down in the black water
I hope to see the fish that has
swallowed my wedding ring,
the ring I lost or threw away.

*

When I hold water in my hands
I have it: a portrait of my forgotten
eyebrows, my fingers a gold frame.

A spot of sunshine

 

john-barlow (002)

 

It is an enormous pleasure to introduce the talented John Barlow: poet, editor, publisher and designer. I can’t remember exactly when and where we first met. It may well have been at one of the annual conferences organised by the British Haiku Society.

John Barlow is the editor of The Haiku Calendar, which has appeared annually since the 2000 edition, and co-editor (with Martin Lucas) of The New Haiku (2002). His other books include Waiting for the Seventh Wave and Wing Beats: British Birds in Haiku (with Matthew Paul).

John grew up surrounded by fields and woodlands. A keen amateur naturalist, his haiku appear in Where the River Goes: The Nature Tradition in English-Language Haiku, and he has given talks and workshops on haiku for organisations such as New Networks for Nature, Haiku North America, and the RSPB.

where_the_river_goes_large

His haiku and tanka have received more than 150 awards, including the Modern Haiku Award, The Heron’s Nest Award, the Haiku Presence Award (in 2007, 2010, and 2011), and British Haiku Society Awards (in 2015, 2016, and 2018), while works he has edited have been honoured by the Haiku Society of America and the Poetry Society of America.

In 1997 he founded Snapshot Press, described in Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years as “the most important English-language haiku publishing house outside the United States.” From his published work John has made this selection.  Starting with the inventive vertical haiku, it forms a seasonal progression.

 

down
the
leafless
beech
the
voice
of
a
nuthatch

 

under leaden skies the low-slung belly of a river

 

through her skin
the baby’s heartbeat
fieldfares in alders

 

each one on sunlight the yellowhammer’s phrases

 

summer morning
the riverbed stones warm
beneath my feet

 

sparroweight the groundsel bends to ground

 

a nestful of feathers
and tiny skulls . . .
clouds without rain

 

leaf-cast shade
a hoverfly moves around
a spot of sunshine

 

crab buckets along the quay the gait of trawlermen

 

train delays
for the fifth day now
the dead fieldmouse

 

our shadows holding hands the width of the stubble field

 

inside the clown’s smile the clown’s smile

 

calls of marsh tits
in the autumn woods
leaves release their rain

 

wind-rippled tarn
a raven’s croak
echoes through stone

 

for all the wind-borne spores lungfuls of the wood

 

a stoat arcs into undergrowth thin winter moon

 

the faint pulse
of out-of-tune strings—
winter light

 

 

 

 

 

The light streams in …

 

Keukenhof 18

Yesterday afternoon I watched a TV programme about the Keukenhof, a major Dutch tourist attraction. Annually visitors come from over 100 different countries. A team of 40 gardeners has worked for three months last autumn planting around seven million bulbs – tulips, hyacinths, narcissi. Easter w/end is usually one of the busiest times; this year the Keukenhof will not open to visitors.

The photos are from 2018 when I went with my sister and brother-in-law. Now you cannot visit the Keukenhof, the Keukenhof will come to you. On the website they will be posting more videos. Go to de Keukenhof

 

purle tu;los

 

The poem is by Thomas Tranströmer, from his collection The Sad Gondola, 1996. May you and those dear to you be safe and sound this Easter.

 
The Light Streams In

Outside the window, the long beast of spring
the transparent dragon of sunlight
rushes past like an endless
suburban train – we never got a glimpse of its head.

The shoreline villas shuffle sideways
they are proud as crabs.
The sun makes the statues blink.

The raging sea of fire out in space
is transformed to a caress.
The countdown has begun.

Vanished …

 

broom-2884860_1280

Photo credit Milliways42 on Pixabay

The storm last weekend changed my To Do list: on Sunday morning I opened the door to see the terracotta-coloured broom had been cut down – two parts lay entangled on the lawn.

 
I had planted that broom with its coconut scent, the yellow forsythia and white spiraea as a new hedge in spring 2012 after the new caravan was towed into place November 2011. Nico, the trusted on-site DIY man had removed the gate, shrubs and old hedge, and had taken apart the old wooden caravan my friend Marianne had left me a few years earlier. When she bought that old caravan her partner, a sculptor, had trimmed the tall conifers and shaped them into four guards. I had wanted to keep these, so Nico dug them up and they’ve been attached to the new fence. You can see they’re beginning to look grey and grumpy…

the for men
Good things happened this week too – an extended Skype lunch with a good friend in Manchester. The onsite shop and snack bar has opened, so I can treat myself to the occasional saté and French fries.

I hope that you and those dear to you are keeping well and safe.

The poem is from my second collection Nothing serious, nothing dangerous, with Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2019.

 
Vanished

Vanished the coconut scent of the bronze gorse,
forsythia, the thin red stalks of fuchsia.

Lavenders are dotted around the borders,
a white one with the old red rose that Marianne planted.

The shadows must rest in the memories of grass blades.
Does grass carry its memory from year to year?

Early evening already, the new conifer hedge catches
the sun. The single siren of an ambulance going to Bronovo.

A blackbird hides among the orange berries,
sky is greying. Vanished into the earth
my friends, enemies. Finches swing on the fat ball.