Sunday, 30 April 2017

2017.30 - Conflagration

I ask you what to write about
You ponder, eyes crinkling;
“Write about a fire,” you say,
I smile, but do not ask: what type?

There have been so many:
The sparks whirling in the dark
Pinprick kisses hinting
The caress of greater heat…

The open, clay-cupped crackle
Of night-time conversations,
The unfurling barbecue scent
Of easy summer chatter…

The turfed-in glow of trust,
Banked to last for ages,
The open-throated roar
Of wildfire, raging, consuming…

The thin, flickering reconciliation
Of candlelight, breaths held,
The steady, everyday production
Of the forge’s rhythm…

And, central to our orbit,
The song and slumber of the hearth,
Breathing the miracle of home,
The warmth we’ve built together.

And that’s it, folks - the final poem of this year’s NaPoWriMo/ GloPoWriMo. Thanks for following along, hope you’ve had a good month, and I’ll see you next time!

Saturday, 29 April 2017

2017.29 - The Beginning Is Always Today

We are greeted by the voices of women
And the visions of women
We step into a forest of arms held wide
And fists held high.

We enter a riot of colours
All the shades of defiance
All the textures of acceptance
All the shapes of love.

We are told to be bold
We are granted permission
We listen and we are heard
We watch and we are seen.

Here are the dreamers of worlds
And the builders of dreams
Here are the wall-shakers
Here are the bringers of light

We have encoded resistance
Into an insistence to be heard
And we have changed the shape of conversations
In the realisation of worth.

And by one man’s metric,
We are nasty. A degeneration of
Our one true station of servility;
Civilisation’s demise in four syllables.


Listen: if the tower must be dismantled,
Brick by brick, to be rebuilt as kilns
And hospitals, and libraries,
And bridges, so be it.

If the walls must be torn down,
Again, we’ll lift our busy fingers
And strong hearts to the task,
Talking all the while.

And we will break silence with song,
And fear with laughter,
And dark grey fences with pinks and browns, 
With violets, whites, and greens.

And we will plant flowers on your
Place of rest, and remember.
And we will walk on,
Dancing into the dawn.

We’re very near the end of the month, which is exciting (and, if I’m honest, somewhat relieving, and also sort of sad: I’ll have to make up my own excuses to write poems…). The last Sunday of every month is usually Allographic’s open mic, but this month we’re teaming up with Nasty Women Cambridge to help them celebrate the end of their exhibition in aid of Corona House (housing single, homeless women with a Cambridge connection), Cambridge Women’s Aid (providing dedicated and specialist services to women and children affected by domestic abuse), and Cambridge Rape Crisis Centre (offering support to women and girls who have experienced rape, childhood sexual abuse or any other form of sexual violence).

What’s that got to do with this poem? Well, glad you asked. I went to see their exhibition on text art resistance, and came away with my brain buzzing and my heart dancing, as I was pretty sure I would. I wanted to write something for the exhibition. And that’s definitely how the poem starts, but it becomes more about the general Nasty Women movement and I am so looking forward to performing this to a bunch of other footstomping, outspoken, resistant, Nasty People of all genders on Sunday evening. The title comes from one of the pieces which, in turn, is a quote from one of my literary heroes, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. Boom.

Friday, 28 April 2017

2017.28 - Flight

She’s rapt in jungle far away
Bright colours beg her: one more day
Water seems to sigh
Begs to know quite why
She’d quit its gentle sway

They’re wrapped in jumpers far away
While grey clouds blanket every day
April’s face a lie,
Changeable and sly
And driech seems here to stay

The time is spent; she’s on her way
Due North and East in half a day
Touch the shifting sky
Land to be shown why
Warmth blossoms here, dear stray.

A soppy, personal one, for once. My partner is currently 5,425 miles away. Every so often we get texts about snakes and monkeys and sloths and white water rafting at peculiar times of the day and night. She’s back in a few days’ time. Aww. Anyway, this is a clogyrnach; a Welsh poetry form.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

2017.27 - Meet Me In Marigolds

The post-it note has a smiley face
And it’s a race between emotions -
Notionally: pleasure, beckoned by
The sight of your handwriting,
The way you fail to dot your every i
“There’s nothing else it could be!”
My smile stretches, sly and sweet.

Next: anticipation, a wave of adrenalin
Spiking through the morning fugue
With images of rising to the challenge,
Followed swiftly by the warm reward.

And then: contention bells in my head
Dread lurching to the fore:
For all the sweetness of imagination
There’s more, broadening the view of
Victory to see us… where?

Are we in a field of fleshy flowers,
A barely-veiled metaphor dotting us
With pollen?
You’re not hardy or hearty,
Usually eschewing outdoor pursuits,
Pressing your suit in more… suitable locations

Okay. Maybe we meet wreathed in blossoms,
Top-heavy under some local post,
In-joke harking back to spy movies
And classified ads and brown paper-wrapped
Nasty habits in seaside retreats…?
But still not there yet.
Betting on landmarks seems foolhardy
In a city thronging with history.

This is a brutal test of my affections.

Next I consider: who am I missing?
Is this the name of one of your many associates?
Am I to approach a list of barely-retained
Strangers to say “hey, is my… um… there today?”
Stumbling and mumbling over names and titles
Bright with embarrassment and everything
We’ve never said?
You’re off your head, babe,
Hey, maybe we should call it a day?
This pressure’s getting heavy.

And then it hits me and I
Dip my head, grin, slip to the sink,
Rummage in its undercarriage and
Come up golden.


This is going to be one dirty weekend.

Six-and-a-half years ago, a poet named Tim Clare upped the ante on his annual poem-writing challenge, and set the stage to write 101 poems in a day. He asked for suggestions, and I ventured the title of this piece. He did it proud! I’m now the kind of person who runs poetry workshops, it turns out, and, when I’m faced with people who’ve done my standard prompt for a poem (“Lemons”, if you’re interested), I tell them: “Pick a book off the shelf and open it at a random page. That or you could try ’Meet Me in Marigolds’.” They never take me up on that, sadly. I thought it was time I put my stanzas where my stylus is. Or something. Anyway, this is what happens when I’m being fussy about other people’s prompts - random story poems.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

2017.26 - Degrees

“There’s always seasonal work…” you say
Gazing through the window to the world beneath
“The year’s come round like a big circle thing.”
It’s hard to bite your lip and smile

Gazing through the window to the world beneath
I wonder what to say to you
It’s hard to bite your lip and smile
The window mostly gives me back myself

I wonder what to say to you
Waiting for the connection to resolve
The window mostly gives me back myself
I ask you what you’re doing now

Waiting for the connection to resolve
(The year’s come round like a big circle thing.)
I ask you what you’re doing now
“There’s always seasonal work…” you say.

Trying out a pantoum for the first time, yet again spending longer on untangling the explanations (and making a spreadsheet to do some of the heavy lifting for me) than on writing the poem. In case you’re wondering: the quotes in the first (and, therefore, final) stanza are genuine things a recruitment agent said to me while looking out of the fifth floor window after I was made redundant from a teaching post. It’s made a pleasing refrain and repeated (not always entirely sweet) in-joke in the intervening years, and seemed to suit the form.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

2017.25 - Living

Sits foresquare
Against the radiator,
Sagging, ragged, lightly stained.

Taps syncopatedly
On the sofa
Staring at life sideways.

The NaPoWriMo challenge of a few days ago was to write a double elevenie. It feels very much like it took me longer to untangle the description of the form on the site than write this. I feel insufficiently challenged. However, I have written a new poem in a new form so… there you go.

Monday, 24 April 2017

2017.24 - Birthday Clerihew

Malcolm IV of Scotland
Feared to get a shot hand
He spent half his life in chain mail
Which made his later love life a bit of a fail.

Afonso II of Portugal
Said: “haven’t I ever taught you, gal?
“Make sure you’ve got the best hand…”
His daughter sighed and replied: “Yes dad, that advice is grand.”

John de Vere
Employed a kind of seer;
Not to tell the future,
But as a sort of gambling tutor.

George of Poděbrady
Loved a stubborn countess sadly.
Said she could never wed him
Until he’d taught her entire court how to swim.

Joan of France
Liked to underwater dance
Said there was nothing like it
Although her local facilities were frankly a bit of a pit.

Robert Fayrfax
Invented the chair tax
Those levied, on the whole,
Tended to club together to temporarily hide them in a massive hole.

Julius Caesar Scaliger
Was not your average scavenger:
He was a great collector of unconsidered trifles,
Which people considered a far safer hobby than his previous one of collecting prototype rifles

Alexander Ales
Was mortally afraid of gales
He wouldn’t go out in them in case someone might
Sneak up on him unheard in the bluster and put him in their sights.

Johann Stumpf
Wrote an awful lot of gumpf
Would insist on taking it to parties
Where he’d regale people with hot air in a voice considered almost offensively hearty.

Georg Fabricius
Liked a lot of birthday fuss
He’d celebrate for a whole week
Which, some people muttered, was frankly a bit of a cheek

William Shakespeare
Was caught up writing King Lear
He didn’t notice it was his birthday
Until people interrupted him with hip-hip-hooray!

I’ve just realised that this is the part where it becomes particularly clear that I’m writing one day ahead; all these historical figures have their birthday on 23rd April, according to Wikipedia, and it was a case of write a poem about one of the seemingly endless series of battles that took place on this day (a notion that may make its way into a poem by itself at some point), or write some daft Clerihews (there are other kinds?!) about as many of those listed until I lost the will to string any more words together. I made it to Shakespeare without feeling sick on gorged ridiculosity. Done. :)