Tag Archives: Indigo Dreams Publishing

Birds on Paper

 

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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.

 

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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.

Music

Schimmel sideways

 

Looking in the Cloud for a picture of a frog I came across a photo of my piano: a white horse (Schimmel). My friend Marianne who left me the old caravan had a digital piano here. I took that across to the UK and started having lessons with John who came to the house.

The next year (2009) I even took the Grade 1 examination. Turned up at the venue to find bemused children staring at me. I passed, just short of a Distinction. As a reward, I got  a proper acoustic piano. Found this lovely Schimmel with a warm European sound.

Horror! One day I lifted the lid to see a moth appear from between two white keys. Yes, a proper infestation. Fortunately, the wonderfully eccentric tuner, also called John, managed to take the piano apart and deal with that. I continued with lessons. But I was too anxious to go for the Grade 2 or Grade 3. When I moved into the flat, so did the piano. On its side, still a mellow sound. I sold it a couple of years ago. It went to a good home …

The poem Music is from my second collection Nothing serious, nothing dangerous, published by Indigo Dreams Publishing (2019).

 
Music

There was always music going on in our house,
live music, piano and song. The organ was
down the road, past the Catholics’ houses.
We were Protestant then, some of us, anyway.

There was always music in our house.
Bach on a black piano and Brahms
Mein Mädel hat einen Rosenmund.
My mother, the diva, practising before
her weekly lesson with the best alto
in Holland, who kept a pet monkey.
My father, with his piano hands,
shaking his vigorous black hair.

In our house there was always music.
More often than not it would be
minor chords, discordance, long
silence above the empty bar lines.

Moment

 

Clingendael 2

Photo credit: Ted Koehler

The warm, sunny weather this week has helped me to stay more in the present. I’ve been for walks in the nearby estate of Clingendael.

Clingendael estate has a 17th Century manor house which is home to the Dutch Institute for International Relations. Since the 16th Century the gardens have been remodelled, from the original French design, to the popular English landscape style. Now you can find a rose garden, splendid azaleas and rhododendrons, and a walled fruit garden. There are some marked walks, cycling paths, and canoeists and rowers can travel through by water.

However, Clingendael is most famous for its Japanese garden. It is the only Japanese garden from around 1910 and is, therefore, of great historical importance and a state monument. Marguerite M, Baroness van Brienen made several trips to Japan by ship to purchase the lanterns, statues, bridges and the wooden pavilion. Because of its fragility, the Japanese garden is only open eight weeks of the year, from mid-May to early July. Because of the Corona-crisis, it is closed. Here you can view a short video clip that The Hague city council put on their website.

Clingendael 3

Photo credit: Ted Koehler

 

My poem Moment from my second collection Nothing serious, nothing dangerous was inspired by a poem with the title This Moment by the Irish poet Eavan Boland who died recently, aged 75, after a stroke. Her poem, with its short, choppy lines starts A neighbourhood/At dusk and is an excellent example of how a short poem can give us a snapshot of time, the night and temporality. You can read the original poem here. It is deceptively simple, but Boland uses several poetic techniques to achieve the effect, such as alliteration and repetition.

 
Moment

A suburb at dawn

People are turning back
from dreams
into their own lives

Frost and spiders,
shrubs cradle themselves.

One side of the road is black.
One row of houses a yellow pink.

A cat wakes up
to the footsteps above,
secure in his oval basket.

Frost fades,
spiders stretch,
ferns unfold in the sun.

Vanished …

 

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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.

Ferry crossing

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The Departure, book and me (Photo: copyright Sophie J Brown)

 
Here I am with my second collection Nothing serious, nothing dangerous at the launch, held at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Manchester on the 3rd of March. It was a wonderful occasion, made very special by Graham Kingsley Brown’s painting The Departure being there too.

His daughter Sophie Brown (herself a talented artist) designed this website. Visit www.grahamkingsleybrown.com and click on the Curator’s Diary for her account of the launch and to read what the meaning of the painting may be (entry 28 November 2019).

Below is the first poem of the book. This may well be the ferry from Harwich, UK to Hook of Holland, the Netherlands. A ferry crossing is a departure of a kind …

 

Ferry crossing

Two people sit at a table by an oblong picture window.
Sun lights up their hands which are curled round coffee cups.

The window is made of safety glass. There have been announcements:
location of lifebelts, life rafts, long and short blast of a horn.

While words are hidden at the obscure side of imagination,
other people are queuing for lunch or buying alcohol in the shop.

The folded hands are the back of playing cards, The Queen of Spades,                                    operas, novellas, the shortest of short stories.

It is not strange to see these cards turn into sea gulls.
A white ferry is a city where nothing is permanent.

Why are we in Vietnam?

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Tomorrow is the publication date of my second collection Nothing serious, nothing dangerous. The book is already on Amazon and has been available for pre-publication orders from Indigo Dreams Publishing.

The publishers have selected six accessible poems for the author page, and the author photo is by my nephew Ted Köhler who lives in the Netherlands and is beginning to build up a photography portfolio. The end of November is too close to the festive season for an official launch. That will be here in Manchester, at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation on Tuesday 3 March.

The title was inspired by a Raymond Carver poem called My Boat. Raymond Carver is one of my all-time favourite poets. Someone I return to when I feel stale and in a negative frame of mind.

The poem Why are we in Vietnam? was written on a workshop at the wonderful Almassera Vella, Spain. We were to find any book in the library, open it at random and use a few lines as a starting point for a poem. Then we were to imagine finding a postcard inside the book. Where was the postcard from? What was written on the back? Who had sent it? I picked the paperback because of its intriguing title. It’s by Norman Mailer. I was surprised to find the lines and I imagined there would be an art card inside, a card I’d bought and forgotten about. It’s a reminder how working with “found” materials can easily trigger our creativity. The poem was commended in the 2016 Havant Open Poetry Competition.

 

Why are we in Vietnam?

It has held up the broken leg
of a single bed in the attic.
Everything is dusty now.
Who brought this Panther
paperback into my life?
Then the trail of the blood
took a bend, beat through dwarf alder.
The postcard isn’t of Cezanne’s gardener
seated upright in his chair,
or Venetian gondoliers.
Didn’t want to die in those woods,
wounded caribou…
Green lines, black dots,
small yellow triangles,
Miro’s insects and birds.
Neat black lines for the address,
the black box for a stamp.
To the left white space,
the white space of that Alaska.

 

Leaving Czechoslovakia, 1964

Image

 

I was invited to read at a European Language Day, held at the Instituto Cervantes here in Manchester. I selected poems that all had a European connection, including the poem below.  It was a joy to take part in the evening event. And I very much enjoyed watching and listening to Hungarian dancers in traditional costume, and a young woman singing melancholy songs from the Balkans and Romany songs.

The next morning I did a bit of clearing through photo albums and found a black-and white photo of that red Trabant! The young woman leaning on the driver’s door had only just passed her driving test and advertised for someone to go with her.  In the event her father drove us to Munich from Amsterdam, and after that we were on our own.  Her mother was Czech, so we met a lot of family out there.  The poem was included in Songs for the Unsung anthology, published by Grey Hen. It will be included in my second collection Nothing serious, nothing dangerous which will be published shortly by Indigo Dreams Publishing.

 

Leaving Czechoslovakia, 1964

When we reached the border
in her small red Trabant
our cases were lighter: the pleated dresses,
jeans we’d given to aunts and nieces;
our footsteps behind us on the mountain
where we walked with her family
up towards the border with Poland,
our plimsolls wet, our hair lank from drizzle;
sweet and savoury Knedlicky we’d eaten;
songs we’d sung, drunk on vodka,
already flown, small skittering birds;
the yellow Objizdka sign in Prague diverting us
into the path of a funeral, black plumed horses.
The border guards with their guns gather
around us as we try again to open the boot,
our stiff smiles telling us not to think
of the airmail letters for America
hidden under the back seat.

Anxiety and Dogs

I was thrilled to get the news: Indigo Dream Publishing will publish my second poetry collection in early Autumn 2019. IDP are well-established, have won awards, and they publish about two-three poetry books a month. They’re organised and business-like: I’ve already signed the contract and had the template, with a production timetable.

When my debut collection got accepted in Spring 2016, I was prepared for a dip, or even worse: a few poet friends had told me they couldn’t write for six months. But I managed to keep writing, sending work out and it was summer…

This time I’ve plummeted: we’re heading for Winter; a lot of poems have been accepted elsewhere, and another 40+ have now been spoken for. When I get anxious, I try to deal with it by tidying up, clearing and de-cluttering. That was the worst thing I could have done! I deleted a lot of old so-so poems from my pc; then put dozens more so-so poems in a single file. I felt bereft and at a loss.

A good friend, a qualified proof reader, will go through the manuscript. I’ve checked, getting confused about punctuation: a comma, a colon, a semi-colon?? I’ve put them in and taken them out. Time to email it to my friend!

During the clearing and sorting, I came across a photo album. Here is a picture of one of the dogs in a poem that’ll be in the new book.

Pablo

Dogs

I would love to buy a recording
of the dogs we had, but not for long.

The grey poodle called Pablo
with a disease of the stomach.

The two grown hunting dogs
that howled through the nights

of a week, tore a door to shreds,
were returned to the owner.

Our red Irish setter Alexander,
re-homed when my father

gave up the battle and our whole
family moved into that small flat.