Category Archives: Art

John and Mary meet …

 

2 romance

A romantic display at the 2018 Keukenhof, the Netherlands

A poem for Valentine’s Day:

 

John and Mary meet

John and Mary meet.
John and Mary greet.

The Film and Reels.
The Cog and Wheels.

John falls first.
Therefore, he kneels.

Mary thinks she knows
what John feels.

So, Mary falls as well,
as far as John can tell.

The sorcerer, a spell.
The Bell and Peals.

John and Mary greet.
John and Mary eat,

more sour than sweet.
Their eyes no longer meet.

Year of the Golden Pig

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Shop Window in Siena, Italy

Wishing you a happy, healthy and prosperous Year of the Golden Pig, with a haiku sequence.

I wrote this after a visit to Little Gidding in August 2001, while on a writing week with the poet Lawrence Sail. Little Gidding is, of course, well-known as the fourth and final of T S Eliot’s Four Quartets. He wrote it after his own visit to Little Gidding.

My haiku sequence was published in Presence #18, in September 2002. The illustration below of the wild boar is by Ian Turner. It’s a photograph of Wild Boar Clearing Sculpture by Sally Matthews, 1987. It was made of mud, cement and brash and situated in Grizedale Forest, Cumbria, UK. Grise dal is Norwegian for Valley of the boars.

 

Little Gidding

following her
across the field
a white butterfly

almost hidden by grass
three wooden crosses

the church bell
covered
in pigeon droppings

pink geranium petals
a droning plane

on the terrace
calling us old, advanced –
the toothless guide

finding the pigsties –
number one boarded up

as we leave
sunlight
on the font

 

Golden Boar

A Golden Shovel poem about Brexit…

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The Campo, Siena, Italy.

The Golden Shovel form was invented by Terrance Hayes. His poem Golden Shovel is a tribute to the poem We Real Cool by another US poet Gwendolyn Brooks. It is a poem about a group of young black men playing pool in the Golden Shovel. Terrance Hayes’ poem stays close to the subject of the original poem. You can find it on the Poetry Foundation site.

A Golden Shovel poem takes a line from another poem and places the words at the end of the lines of the new poem. So, Terrance Hayes’ poem starts:

When I am so small Da’s sock covers my arm, we
cruise at twilight until we find the place the real

men lean, bloodshot and translucent with cool.
The UK is inching closer and closer to the 29 March deadline for leaving Europe. I’ve had chronic “Brexit Anxiety Disorder” for over two years now, so was glad to escape for three weeks to Lanzarote – warmth, sun, walks by the sea, good books, company of family and friends.

Here is my first attempt at a Golden Shovel poem. It is inspired by a line from Nine Allegories of Power, by John Siddique: The accumulation of seconds in which empires are born, gather their height and become broken statues and friezes in museums far away.

In Blighty

So much here in Blighty has been lost, replaced or deleted: in the
grey city centre European Christmas markets confront an accumulation
of dirty duvets in doorways of offices and hotels. I hear the faint ticking of
clocks, hold memories of closed libraries, swimming pools. No seconds
are offered in foodbanks. Minutes after my friend put tinned rice in
a cardboard box in Sainsbury’s, she tripped on the cracked pavement which
has an outline in white paint. The people, many of them, dream of empires
returning. The past was always another country and pipe dreams are
made of clay. One man’s dream is another woman’s nightmare. I was born
in a land below the sea, the North Sea, a country where politicians gather
around tables, walk the corridors in The Hague to arrive, eventually, at their
destination: consensus, compromise, through polderen. I cry at the height
of hypocrisy when Britannia rules the waves, Jerusalem, and
other iconic symbols are stolen by those moneyed men who have now become
European citizens simply through buying in. The UK, my home for 45 years, is broken
but the chimneys of empty factories will outlive the stately statues
of proud admirals on horseback. They are already covered in pigeon shit and
some wear a fluorescent yellow jacket. High up in the Gallery are Victorian friezes
and dusty glass cases display the relics of civilisation, while upstairs in
the Elgin Room a silent queue shuffles, some people are crying. These museums,
(yes, every town or city has its Museum of Lost Marbles), have at the far
end the emergency exit, a green man running, running, running away.

Let’s abolish January

xmas baubles 2018

Winter passed.  The Christmas lights came down / together with the shabby stars / strung across the various shopping streets.   (Louise Glück, The White Series, from her collection Faithful and Virtuous Night.)

Today is Epiphany, day for putting those baubles away.  None have broken this Christmas. I read Lincoln in the Bardo over Christmas.  That reminded me of my January poem.

 

Let’s abolish January

Delete these damp and dreary days.
Disperse this suite of thirty-one.
The country ravaged by storms and floods.
Baubles broken, fir trees bare, marriages
cracking behind steamed-up windows.
January is the uninvited guest. Sea-sickness
feels eternal to the retching sailor.
Blue-black ink seeps from the ballot boxes.

By missing out January we would save lives,
livers, light bulbs, pointless resolutions;
but lose snowdrops and Epiphany.
And what of those destined to die
in that cold, dark cave of the year?
They would be doomed to wander,
blocking our chimneys, spooking children.
Singers without a voice, sailors without a boat.

Meeting Paula Rego at the Whitworth, Manchester

The Poetry Shed

Meeting Paula Rego at the Whitworth, Manchester

Shading her eyes with a small black fan
she looks distressed and even out of place.
Ash trees cast a greenish shadow on her face.
To me she seems older now, frailer than
in the short winter days of that other year when
the quiet ghost of a drowned baby played
with black hen, spiders, women who prayed
for open roads, escape, a private den.

There was a boating lake once in the park.
We wait for panini, service is slow.
Café in the trees, I say, canopy.
Her ear rings sparkle, her eyes are still dark.
It’s from the Greek; “konops” means mosquito.
Paula’s face lights up; her imagination set free.

.

Fokkina McDonnell’s poems have been published in over 20 anthologies and in magazines, such as Magma, The North, Orbis, Poetry News, Strix, Erbacce, The Journal. Several have been placed, commended…

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Discarding clothes

discarding clothes

It’s now just over a year since I closed my psychotherapy and supervision practice. I’ve gone through some wobbly spells. But, I feel more settled in this new way of being, especially after five glorious weeks in my caravan in Holland.

In my psychotherapy work, sitting closely with traumatised clients, I used to dress in sober colours: plain tops and trousers in grey, dark blue, black, dark green. No long, shiny ear rings, or clanging bangles… I wrote the poem Discarding clothes on a workshop last year, after a poem by Robert Vas Diaz.

Discarding clothes

Cheerio, black briefcase,
hand stitched in France,
with the deep smell of leather.

So long, three-piece suit,
pleated skirt, thin stripes;
a trio of ceremonial blue.

Farewell, flat shoes
you sensible goodie-goodies.
There’s pale skin underneath my watch.

I’m flip-flopping into retirement
with dangling silver ear rings,
Capri trousers, a selection of sleeveless tops.

I’ll need to fly back to Hawaii and Fiji.
Aloha! Colourful kaftans,
strapless pink and a cocktail or two.

 

The photo is of exhibits in the current exhibition Stage of Being at Voorlinden Museum, Wassenaar, the Netherlands: Please (neon) by Jeppe Hein from Denmark, with Dawn (polyester, hair, glass, oil) by John DeAndrea, USA.

Decluttering

 

Blue Horn 1

There will be many varied events across the country today on National Poetry Day.
Twenty poets have donated poems to York Explore Libraries.  These will be on display in the libraries in and around York and given out to visitors. Below is the poem I gave away.

Decluttering

I rarely used the cups and saucers:
good enough for the Red Cross.
Dark forest-green rim and each of the five

remaining dinner plates (Poole Pottery, Dorset)
chipped, thin brown cracks running
across the plain centre like a fault line.

You have turkey and trimmings in front of you.
You were wearing that 70s polo-neck jumper,
corduroy trousers, the lopsided smile.

Stacked securely in a cupboard,
suddenly taken away,
placed in a black plastic bag.

 

The accompanying picture is of Blue Horn by Tony Cragg. He collected 40 used objects in different shades of blue and then ordered them by size in the shape of a scythe, a reference to one of the oldest things used by men to work the land. The artist looks for ways to connect art with daily life.

I took the photo during a recent visit to Voorlinden, a new private museum in Wassenaar, the Netherlands.