Category Archives: Art

Moment – haiku

Moment arrived at the beginning of the year. A wonderful surprise. It’s a pocket-book size anthology of haiku, senryu and tanka by Ian Turner. Ian, this month’s poet, was for many years a member of our regional haiku group which used to meet monthly. After his career as an Art Teacher, he relocated to France with his partner.

Beautifully produced on thick cream paper, Moment includes well over 300 haiku. Ian has organised these in small sets on a number of themes which recur through the book: the seasons, various places and locations, both in nature and urban, animal behaviour, human activities. So, there is variety and consistency. The poems cover the period 1997 – 2020 and most have been previously published in quality haiku magazines: Blithe Spirit, Presence, Snapshot Press, Shamrock Haiku Journal.

Ian tells me he is photophobic, so instead here is the image of indigotyger. I hope you enjoy my selection from his anthology.

that’s me
in the far thistle field
stalking a tethered pit pony
hooves and heart
skip a beat

early thaw
a snail emerges
from the meter box

hospital maze
I become number seven
on a pink plastic chair

the cool silence
of a prayer room
last flight call

swishing shingle
the putter of a fishing boat
in a smudge of light

throngs of tour coaches
a gypsy woman’s
empty paper cup

phantom moon
red deer at the turnpike
in their own time

yet more protests
riot police greet each other
on both cheeks

stood
in a rippling white cloud
the black calf

safe storage facility
a life free of stuff
so insecure

wild sage
deep in the maquis
a clank of goats

after a squall
the ink stained letter
in an unknown hand

November – a poem

photo credit: redmupfe via Pixabay

Earlier this week I read for Todmorden Wednesday Writers. The Zoom event was well attended, with the open mic attracting poets from UK and abroad. I still want to abolish January – blogged about that before. The Todmorden poets liked this November poem. The pumpkin picture perfectly represents how I’m feeling right now – lockdown in November!

November

The month that offers only Halloween and All Souls’ Day.
That Danish hygge nonsense – an IKEA trick to sell
more scented candles, cocoa, woollen blankets
with a Nordic pattern. All those Scandinavian series –
Killing, The Bridge, different actors playing Wallander,
every instalment set in November.
Groundhog month. Lit-up pumpkins will never
warm the knuckles of your heart.
Every November day is an odyssey.
To be away twenty years and be recognised
only by a mangy old dog.
Check your bonfire for hedgehogs, remember
Battersea Dogs & Cats Home in your will.
Do away with Christmas.

Poetry in Aldeburgh

Moot Hall, Aldeburgh, Suffolk. Photo in public domain

I’m delighted to be reading at Poetry in Aldeburgh. The reading, called Between Places: Britain and Europe, will take place on Saturday 14 November, 12:00 – 13:00 London time. Also reading will be poets Sharon Black (France), Alex Josephy (Italy) and Christopher North (Spain).

The readings are free to attend. You just need to register at the Poetry in Aldeburgh website, to get a link to the Zoom event. The Festival runs from Friday to Sunday.

I will be reading new work, written in my caravan in the Netherlands during the last six months. When I selected the poems, I came across one which reminded me of “Poetry in the Plague Year”. Jim Bennett of the Poetry Kit set up this project. It’s an international project with contributions from many countries: https://www.poetrykit.org/plague.htm

My short poem, written on 29 March, is below.
 

Credit: marcart via Pixabay

 
Poem
 
CORE i3, a blue laptop,
my lifeline to the world.
How to fill the time until sunset?
 
If he was here…no, he is
someone’s husband now.
The only snow, spiraea in the hedge.
 
All that’s well will end.
My friend Helen emailed
There’ll be a cremation, no ceremony
 

Clogs – a poem

Volendam, the Netherlands. Credit: Mel_88 via Pixabay

I’ve been typing up notes from a Zoom writing workshop with Liz Berry. The focus was on short poems – some of them only two or three lines long. One was a two-line poem about a chess game and a raised hand by Charles Simic, the Serbian American poet.

In the early days of the spring lockdown, Dutch TV showed famous places somewhere in the Netherlands which are usually thronging with tourists: Volendam, Giethoorn, Kinderdijk, Zaanse Schans. One night the Red Light district in Amsterdam, empty and quiet.

Here is my short poem about clogs, a cliché along with the tulips, bicycles and cheese. I hope you remembered to put your clocks back!

Clogs, Volendam

Poem of the Clog

The clog was crying.
It wasn’t lonely: there were
thousands of shiny clogs.
I am addicted, it howled,
there are no tourists

Kilmartin

Loch Awe, Argyll and Bute, Scotland

A fellow psychologist I worked with for many years lived near Loch Awe, Argyll and Bute, Scotland. He’d often told me about the splendid views they had from their small house. Loch Awe is the third largest as well as the longest (41 km) freshwater loch in Scotland. If you’re into that kind of thing, it’s famed for trout fishing. The ruins of Kilchurn Castle must be one of the most photographed castles in Scotland!

Before visiting my colleague, I stopped for a coffee and something to eat in Inveraray, with its splendid Georgian architecture. There were coach loads of tourists at the Castle, but I went for some retail therapy: bough a comfortable, warm jacket that I keep in the caravan for those below zero April days.

Inveraray, photo credit Sophia Shilmar on Pixabay

My next stop was Kilmartin Museum in Lochgilphead. The area round Kilmartin with Kilmartin Glen is rich in historic monuments, 150 of them prehistoric: standing stones, stone circles, cairns, rock carvings – often with the familiar cup and ring mark.

Kilmartin Museum with shop and cafe

I was almost the only visitor at Kilmartin Museum which, surely, added to my experience …

Kilmartin Museum

slowly rotting the shell of a coracle

standing stones rock carvings cairns are projected on the walls of a dark room

the floor throbs with pre-historic sounds

i am pulled into this distant past of hunters warriors and i am crying

Cup and ring mark, Achnabreck – speckled in Gaelic

Abseiling – a poem

 

flowerpot-climb-1873479_1920

Photo credit: Elias Sch via Pixabay

 

This coming week would have been the birthday of Bill Huddleston. My second collection Nothing serious, nothing dangerous (Indigo Dreams) is dedicated to him. In one of the poems I wrote:

Bill’s last words were always Have fun, so I will.
He was a very good father, Bill, though he wasn’t my father.

Bill and I first met in 1986 when we worked on an Outplacement project in Scotland. In his 60s Bill retrained as a hypnotherapist, and for many years he and I had a peer-supervision agreement – meeting monthly to discuss our clients.

From a poetry workshop on Working the Body I had the marvellous poem Climbing my Grandfather. It’s a first-hand story by a child, starting at the brogues (shoes) and ending on top of the head, the summit, with the slow pulse of (the grandfather’s) good heart. Here you can read the original poem by Andrew Waterhouse, a poet and musician, who was passionate about the environment. He suffered from depression and, aged 42, died by suicide in 2001.

 
Abseiling Bill

 
The grey hairs combed back are too few to attach the equipment,
so I slide down slowly to his glasses, see close-up the grey hairs
sprouting from his ear. I think of rabbit holes, hear scuttling
sounds as his amazing brain is shifting, growing, learning.
I move carefully down his cheek where I can hear humming
from his sinus. Suddenly I’m dangling as he turns his head
to hear the other person better. His chin is smooth and
soon I reach the safety of his dark green cardigan,
all bobbly terrain and the round boulders
of its leather buttons. I can slide across his chest
where his large warm heart is housed, my feet
feel the rise of his breath lower down as he is
slowing to pace the other person.
It’s an easy journey now onto his chinos.
I walk across his upper leg, sun lights
my path. I rest in the folds of his knees.
From here I can see his steady feet
in the solid grey trainers and I land
without a hitch, safely.

Knitting – a poem

 

bike-247394_1920 (1)

Photo credit: cocoparisienne via Pixabay

In this region, schools will start tomorrow. Everywhere, there are large white banners up reminding drivers that children are about, on foot or on their bike. For various reasons, I don’t have good memories of my time at primary school. When I think about knitting, or see someone knitting, my stomach contracts. But, don’t you love the bike?

 

knit-869221_1920

Photo credit: Foundry Co via Pixabay

Did you knit this yourself?

It would have been a morning.
Glasses, graying hair in a bun,
typical spinster teacher.

Why ask a question to which you
already know the answer?

Because you had never been able
or willing to show me left-handed knitting.

The few centimetres my mother
had added during the week stood out:

too smooth and regular, too clean,
easily done in her click-clack rhythm.

I watched you unpick it, leaving
me sitting with a pile of curly wool.

Hacker – a poem

Keith Lander

 

It’s a great pleasure to introduce this month’s poet Keith Lander. We first met early autumn 2004 in the Village Hall, Manchester where the poet Linda Chase was running a weekly poetry course, on behalf of the Poetry School. The Poetry School is the UK’s largest provider of poetry education, offering a wide range of courses at all levels.

Keith Lander was born and grew up in Manchester. At school he studied sciences and went on to gain a B.Sc. in mathematics from the University of Wales, Bangor. This led him into the IT industry where he worked as a software engineer and for several years was a consultant for Siemens in Munich.

He has had poems published in a number of anthologies and magazines including The North, Envoi and Obsessed with Pipework and has been long listed three times for the National Poetry Competition. He has an M.A. in Creative Writing from Manchester Metropolitan University.

The three poems feature the mysterious “Milo” character. You can find all three in the pamphlet Pandemonium, published by Yaffle Press in 2019. For more information about Keith Lander go to his writing website.

 

Hacker

This morning Wu Mian of Guangzhou province,
Zen hacker extraordinaire, Milo’s big buddy,
will smash through Mr C’s firewall
using a password provided by Milo.

He’ll be sitting alone in his garden
surrounded by clematis and acacia blossom
listening to the music of the fountain
while reading Lu Chi’s Wen Fu.

A trojan horse will appear out of cyberspace
and release its hidden hoard of phisher men
who’ll slide into the fountain,
hack their way into his heart
and steal his deepest secrets.

 

In theatre: Milo’s view

Milo tells me I won’t feel a thing.
He on the other hand will be awake
monitoring the situation.
He’s seen the videos on YouTube,
how they stop the heart, cool the body, pump
the blood through a machine. No way is he

going to get trapped in that infernal thing.
So he stays out of the arteries, surfs
from lymph node to lymph node, watches the surgeon
remove the right saphenous vein through a hole in my groin,
peeps gobsmacked as they graft it in place.
And how he cheers when they remove the valve,

the choked old squeaker. How sweet the bovine
replacement smells—green grass, fresh pastures.
He has to cling to a rib while they staple
the sternum back together, but then passes out
when they shock me back to this world.
Milo was right: I didn’t feel a thing.

 

Pandemonium-cover (002)
Retirement

After a shit life horse-trading with wankers
down back streets of shady deals
he sought nirvana
in a kingdom of ticky-tack and sushi
finding it here, in this place,
with its parity of peace.
The psychedelic visions of his gullible youth
have paled into shades of white.
At last he’s immune to most earthly hazards,
but at night, in his boxroom,
he’s started to have visions
of a black shadow—
Milo in his cave lurking just out of sight.

Birds on Paper (2)

 

sparrow-4334964_1920 (2)

Photo credit: Susanne Jutzeler, Suju Foto on Pixabay

More birds: here is the second half of the sequence Almost complete poems: encounters with twelve birds. The inspiration for these short poems came from different sources:

* The title comes from the Wallace Stevens poem Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird. I decided I needed at least one blackbird poem, but there are two.
* i – Almost complete poems is the title of a poetry collection by Stanley Moss. It is published by Carcanet who (used to) send postcards with pictures of their books with your order. The cover image of the book is Still Life of Grapes with a Grey Shrike, Antonio da Cavalcore. I keep dozens of art postcards in a box, in case there is no inspiration.
* ii – Painting The Sea-Birds’ Domain by Peter Graham in Manchester Art Gallery. The reproduction doesn’t show it clearly, but my dialogue is with the bird on the rock that is nearest to the viewer.

 

Graham, Peter, 1836-1921; The Seabirds' Domain

Graham, Peter; The Seabirds’ Domain; Manchester Art Gallery; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-seabirds-domain-205095

* v – inspired by reading Jaan Kaplinski, Estonian poet.
* vi – observation from my attic window.
* viii, x and xii – a short writing exercise from workshops with Ann Sansom, the Poetry Business. She often does these just before a break. Mostly six or seven lines with restrictions, for example line 1 must have a day of the week, line 2 a building, line 3 no rules. Written against the clock, some small jewels may appear.
* ix – observation from sun lounge window.
* xi – inspired by that phone call. The tanka was published in Blithe Spirit, the magazine of the British Haiku Society, some years ago.

 

peregrine-falcon-371610_1920

Peregrine falcon, Photo credit: Ray Miller on Pixabay

vii
Pocked and pitted stone
visible only to the peregrines
that nest on this cathedral –
a grimace carved by the stonemason
who used to beat his apprentice.

viii
Sundays summer and winter
we went to church at least once –
If I was that tiny sparrow
I would slip out, circle the white
spray, marram grass, the endless shore.

ix
Blackbirds nest in the ivy hedge,
as one comes in with food
the other exits at the side –
I remember those empty rituals
well-meaning suitors spurned

x
All around fields are planted with dill,
among the fronds an anklebone.
Just one pale bone.
Scrawny canaries fly across
the aria Verdi never composed.

xi
My friend calls:
an orphan
at sixty, suddenly
I hear blackbirds sing
thin, feathery clouds.
xii
A lost parakeet, friendly face
against turquoise wings
paper notice on the mat –
small birds are a comfort stone
to be carried around in a sombrero.

Birds on Paper

 

sunset-610097_1920

Photo credit: Foto Rabe on Pixabay

 

The last few months the poet John McCullough has posted many colourful images of amazing birds on Facebook. Other days he shared helpful advice about writing poems. It is fitting that his third poetry collection Reckless Paper Birds was recently awarded the Hawthornden Prize – the oldest of the major British literary awards (established 1919).

Reckless Paper Birds has been described as “dazzling” and a “celebration of abundance”. It was published by Penned in the Margins last year.

 

silver-gulls-4335397_1920

Photo credit: Manfred Richter on Pixabay

When I was putting the manuscript together for my second collection Nothing serious, nothing dangerous, I came across several short poems about different birds. So, these became a sequence: Almost complete poems: encounters with twelve birds. Here is the first half of the set.

Almost complete poems: encounters with twelve birds

i
If they’re honest
most poems are almost:
the nearly-there bird,
bowl of glowing grapes,
sun, this still life, silence.

ii
You don’t belong here
she seems to say.
Two small black eyes peer
straight at me.
There is a shadow over
the bowl of her belly,
a pale-blue shawl for wings,
feet firmly planted
on an outcrop of black rock.

Gannet, you are wrong, I say,
like you I’m mostly in the air,
white spray, white clouds,
lifting and landing.
The in-between domain
often cold and steep.

iii
In her dreams that night angry birds
came and pecked at the cherries,
small red stains on the grass –
it was a summer slowly
shrinking at the corners.

iv
On the shingle barnacled white
fishing boats lie on their side.
Standing above its reflection,
a gull stares straight ahead.
The gulls are tucked into their own lives.

v
The honking of homeward geese,
hush of flags half-mast on a building,
the crunch of fresh snow underfoot.
In Estonia planets were venerated,
I am Stella Maris, the planet’s interpreter.

vi
Squawking draws me from my emails.
I see two magpies closing in
turn on a young blackbird
peck      peck      peck
This bird gave its name to an opera.