Monthly Archives: January 2022

Lockdown Latitudes – poems

I am delighted to introduce this month’s guest poet Steven Waling. I first met Steven over 30 years ago after I’d moved to Manchester and joined the local poet’s group. Manchester Poets is the successor to South Manchester Poetry Group, started in 1978 by Dave Tarrant and still going strong!


His brief biography says ‘Steven Waling lives in Manchester and is apparently a stalwart of the Manchester poetry scene. His latest books are Disparate Measures 1: Spuds in History, and Lockdown Latitudes.’


From his most recent book Lockdown Latitudes I have chosen three different poems. Steven ‘writes overlooked life into vibrant presence’ says Scott Thurston. It is this quality I particularly admire and love in Steven’s writing.

Photo Credit: Steven Waling



Jesus Strolls Down Market Street

All he wants is new underwear and a coffee in Starbucks, time to himself to phone his dad and see he’s looking after himself during the lockdown. He sees they’re back again on the corner of Piccadilly Gardens and Market Street, shouting his name like a weapon at random strangers. He sneaks past, hand in front of his face. He’d like to shout in their faces, ask them what the hell they thought they were doing. Not that they’d recognise who he was, and anyway, these days he just gets embarrassed, avoiding the hassle of conflict that won’t get anywhere. Everyone ignores these men in old-fashioned suits sweating in the heat, lifting holy books like clubs to beat the sinful air away. So he goes to buy his pants, dashes into Primark before they clock him. People don’t, he thinks, realise how shy he is. He’d much prefer they found him by accident, when they needed him. Like later in the coffee shop: some old lady confused because they don’t take cash for drinks any more. Someone pays with his own card and when she looks up, they’re gone

Back to his bench to sleep with the pigeons

Snow Moon

Night stands at the tram stop
over head the moon a

soluble aspirin slowly dissolves
into the big black night goes

nowhere the spider in my right
eye is flashing again I walk

past the street they’re planting
non-aggressive trees spindly roots

spring flowers berries in autumn
that won’t disrupt the neighbourhood

kids kick the moon down the road i
wait for light rapid transit late

due to police incident keep my
distance from the moon its snow

face bending over the quick brown
cat crossing the tracks quick quick

Links to Steven’s books below:

Some Roast Poet – Manchester Poetry Magazine and Pamphlets (wordpress.com)

Steven Waling – Lockdown Latitudes (leafepresspoetry.com)

Tulips from Amsterdam

Credit: Kang-min Liu,  Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license


Today is dovetailed between yesterday’s National Tulip Day and Blue Monday. Nationale Tulpen Dag is an initiative started by Dutch tulip growers 10 years ago. On the third Saturday of January, about 200, 000 tulips are placed on the Dam Square in Amsterdam. These free flowers start the tulip season. This year people will be handed two bunches and are asked to give one to someone else – share the happiness.

Credit: WCoda on Pixabay


Research seems to have pinpointed the third Monday in January as the worst day of the year. There was some easing of the lockdown here in The Netherlands. However, the hospitality and cultural sector are still closed. I’m leaning more towards being blue …
Here is my poem about tulips.

Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

They’ve not yet reached one of the tulips,
the central one of this display.
You can imagine a window, if you like.
Five parrot tulips lean towards the light.
Degrees of purpling. The ants appear
half-way up the bulb-shaped vase.
I’ve left the thin pencil lines
indicating a flat surface.
Look closely and you’ll see this vase
should tumble, fall or slip.
Three fingers’ width, water level
in the glass. Greying water extracted.
The tulips were a present.
You can count the ants, if you like.

Note: This is the title of a watercolour painting, donated by the (anonymous) artist to Manchester Art Gallery. The poem was published in my second collection Nothing serious, nothing dangerous (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2019).

Miniature French Suite

Credit: fsHH on Pixabay

It’s a rainy weekend here in Holland. So, I’m writing the blog piece for this month’s guest poet: Steve Waling. That reminds me of this poem which I wrote on a short workshop with Steve. And it was in January 2011 that I heard the countertenor Andreas Scholl sing in the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester, UK. It’s such an experience seeing and hearing your heroes live!

Miniature French Suite

Allemande

Do you mind if I borrow your man?
The old one with the beard that has
sparrows nesting in it. It’s only
for the Open Gardens weekend.
He needs to wear something
beige-brown, corduroy and I’ll
provide food. Tell him to wear
a cap or a southwester – something
to keep the fledglings dry.
He can hum to them. It might rain,
it could snow, warm boots.
Rameau or Telemann, I don’t mind.

Sarabande

Rameau or Telemann, I don’t mind.
A countertenor can’t be that choosy.
A voice like that is a rare find
but keeping it alive and strong taxes
me and my agent, bless her.
She tells me to let go of worries
and fears. It’s her domain to get
me engagements, book flights,
the new portrait and such.
She says a voice like mine is a horse,
that needs to be whispered to,
not broken in.

ErikTanghe on Pixabay

Gigue

I’m warming up in an empty church,
on a grey Sunday afternoon.
It’s winter, the radiators gurgle,
the conductor is late.
I let my eyes wander in order
to keep my thoughts at rest
but now they take flight,
filling the gallery, the arches
and the painting of the old one
with the beard that has
sparrows nesting in it.

(published in Another life, Oversteps Books, 2016)

Gratitude and Forgiveness …

Happy New Year to you all.

Twice a year, early July, on or close to my birthday, and on New Year’s Eve, I sit down and write a gratitude list. Being alive and kicking: always the first item. It’s a practice I got from the classic Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain. I have the 1982 Bantam edition, with that special yellowing-pages smell.

The Dutch couple below made the paper. Most days they put a gratitude note in a glass jar. On NYE with a glass of wine and music in the background, they take items out and read them to each other. Of course, it’s often the small things: the colleague who did your work when you were ill, a kind note from someone when you needed it, a hug, waking up with a body that’s just doing its job, a walk in the forest. Ah yes, that was a special moment they say to each other.

Two more things I am grateful for are the acceptance by Broken Sleep Books of the manuscript Remembering / Disease. Here are the names of other poets and writers with a book out with BSB this year.

Matthew Stewart publishes an annual list of Best UK Poetry Blogs on his site Rogue Strands. I was chuffed that this blog is one of five ‘top notch newcomers’. You can read the full list here. Matthew lives between Extremadura, Spain and West Sussex. His collection, The Knives of Villalejo, is published with Eyewear and a recent Poetry News Book of the Year selection.

Here are two short prompts. In the current issue (27) of the online poetry magazine Allegro, editor Sally Long, the opening stanza of the poem by John Grey caught my eye. For Gratitude I’ve chosen the opening stanza of Joy Harjo’s poem Perhaps the World Ends Here.

Forgiveness

The woman with the forgiveness
is out there in the world somewhere.

Gratitude

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.