Category Archives: Poetry

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.

Shoes and siblings

The Garsdale Retreat

This week I’ve been on a writing course at the Garsdale Retreat: Memoir/Life Writing. It was an intense four days with tutor Cathy Rentzenbrink. She wrote a successful memoir The Last Act of Love and has published two books since. Of course, we were meeting via Zoom. Rebecca emailed us recipes to make up for the fact we would not be eating her delicious, home cooking. There was an afternoon chatroom option, but it could never replace Rebecca’s home-made cake!


One way to elicit memories for a memoir is to think of objects. I’ve read exercises about shoes, seen a tutor on another workshop bring in her first shoes. I have no memories of the shoes I wore as a child, but I have fond memories of the green shoes with three tiers – glamorous and comfortable – I wore that year when I was doing my MA at Sheffield University.


I do recall the astonishing poem My Shoes by Charles Simic. It starts:

Shoes, secret face of my inner life:
Two gaping toothless mouths,
Two partly decomposed animal skins
Smelling of mice-nests.

There are four more stanzas, with a surprise in the second stanza – two dead siblings.

Last year at Garsdale, I was delighted to find that another woman on the course was wearing identical boots! Briefly, I felt like I had a twin sister …

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

Words to Remember

I am pleased to be one of the 43 writers who have contributed to this anthology by Printed Words. It includes fiction, creative non-fiction and poems. They cover writing about cancer and loss, but there are also pieces of writing that provide some lighter relief. The profits of the book are going to several cancer charities. Words to Remember is edited by Amanda Steel (@Amanda_S_Writer) and is available on Amazon as a paperback and Kindle Edition.


One of my two poems is Bitterne Park, Southampton. A friend who also used to work for P&O bought the house that I shared for just a few years with my late husband. I can still visit…

Bitterne Park, Southampton

The blackout curtains
don’t let the sun through.
I wake to the small sounds
that come with morning:
squirrels jump around the oak tree
at the heart of our cul-de-sac.
A bus strains up the hill.

At the Triangle, the bank opens
and the smiley greengrocer
limps his vegetable crates outside.
On the river Itchen
John strokes his beard, thinks
about brewing tea.

It is meant to be an ordinary day.
But this month is a long-distance runner,
this month is a marathon.

On the other side of the narrow bridge,
a woman is taking two large black bags
into a charity shop. Suits and shirts,
all washed, dry-cleaned, ironed.
She had forgotten the silk ties.
Now they’re rolled up, placed
in a see-through Biza bag
that once held duty-free cologne.

World Animal Day

Photo credit: Artcats via Pixabay


World Animal Day was started in 1925. I was looking for an animal poem in my file. Looking back on this experience, we might question the animal welfare aspect. The horse seemed happy enough at the time.

Circus

The Arabian thoroughbred
and his blue-blood spinster
lodged with a middle-aged couple
living in the Dutch bible belt.

My parents despatched
my younger brother and me
that summer to acquire
circus skills in two weeks.

Each morning a child took
turns standing on the horse
as it walked round the ring
inside the stuffy canvas tent.

In the afternoons we swam
in the local pool, tried to get
the couple’s fat ponies to obey.
There were prayers, a lot of eggs.

By the end of the holiday we
balanced, arms outstretched,
on the trotting horse. We swung
off and on as it cantered.

Neighbours Day – poem

Photo Credit: andrewlloydgordon via Pixabay

Yesterday was Neighbours Day here in the Netherlands. The Neighbours Day initiative was started in 2005 by Douwe Egberts, one of the traditional Dutch coffee makers: social contact starts with a cup of coffee. A few years later they were joined by a charity called Oranjefonds. Each year they provide funds, support and advice for a large range of social and community activities, such as Dutch language support for refugees, mentoring, club houses for the old and young.

During the lockdown earlier this year, many new initiatives were started by people volunteering in their own street or local area. A good fit with this annual initiative. My neighbours here on the camping have cut their hedges and have gone home. My day always starts with a good cup of coffee made in a cafetiere. It happens to be D.E. – a firm started in 1753 in a small shop in Friesland, a northern province.

Earlier this year I talked with my brother about events in our childhood. This memory came up.

Getting to know the neighbours

We’re snoozing after lunch
in a Sunday afternoon garden.
One of our family, still awake,
sees silent orange flames rising
that side of the opaque glass.

It’ll be a small insurance claim.
As evening turns pink, the old
Belgian couple walk their Borzoi.

Photo credit: akunnen via PIaxabay

Because of the War

It is an immense pleasure to introduce this month’s poet Aziz Dixon. We first met, just a few years ago, on a writing day with Peter Sansom of the Poetry Business. I immediately admired the economy of his poems: a great deal is expressed through some well-chosen words. Much is unsaid, between the lines.


Aziz has been published in The Curlew, Moon Magazine,  Panoply and Perspectives (Ontario), The Fat Damsel and The North). His collection North Wales Pilgrim is available on Amazon. His work featured in Best of Bolton, November 2017 and Burnley Creative, September 2019.


Early June Aziz launched his poetry collection Because of the War, published by https://www.maytreepress.co.uk. The stunning cover photo Remembrance is by Ian Ladbrooke. Here are the title poem and four other poems, reflecting on different aspects of war.

Because of the War


On holiday none of them liked us.
I was seven when I found out.
When we open our mouths
they hear screams,

my father said,
because of the war.

Now I know what they did,
my people to yours. You reach
across the toast crumbs,
catch my eye. 
We share today, you say,
because of the war.

Metro

The metro runs from Aleppo
to Bury. Bullets for breakfast
pepper the door. She glimpses

the hills beyond, snow
but no mountains here. Market
on Thursdays, but the souk

has been razed. Already
her children have friends,
speak English, except

in their dreams. She screams
less often at night, but
still he calls out to her.

One day they will need her less,
but she will not see him again,
on the metro, in Aleppo, or bury him.

Tuzla

Coal smoke thickens the sunset,
shrouds the dank park where
this bright morning she garlanded

her only son. Each day
he dies to her
these twenty-three years.

Maybe tonight it will rain,
dissolve at the edges
the bomb blasts inside,

wash from this salt-spa town
another speck of history,
twenty-four hours of pain.

(The poem refers to the cemetery for young people killed by shellfire in a square at the start of the Serb attacks on the Bosnian town.)

Veteran in the gallery
after Under Windsor Bridge on the Irwell, Manchester, by Adolphe Valette
Manchester Art Gallery

Under the bridge in fog
you stood, but could not see
your face in the dead canal.

Back from the front, you hung
in a painting one floor up;
but today I met your eyes

where you slump on the street
on a bed of card, with a cup
for coins, and I saw

the battle paint you grey
like the desert at dusk
when life and the sun drained away.

Geese come home
Ty Newydd

Geese flood east above a walnut tree,
their haunting caught in a spider’s web
spun on the autumn leaves. The migrants’ cry

echoes from this Mediterranean tree
on a buffeted Celtic shore. Mountain-love,
dawn-blessed shapes rise misted out of the sea,

and my heart goes out to those who flee
with no imprint spelling sanctuary.