Slow your pace to a meander
that I may spread my waters
like a sheet upon your bed
here upon my mossy lap take root
and reflect as do I
on the shifting sky
while my babel tongues
hush to still
trickles through your fingers
and moves on –
a journey ended
when only just begun
I with my spate and flow
gather the rubble from a thousand dreams
pour over rock
seep into cracks
Sitting above you, my feet on rock,
My bottom on a thoughtfully placed bench.
I ask you…
And you wash over me.
The sound of your cells colliding,
It is the buzz of connection.
The voice of the world,
All its cells moving together,
You flow over and through me,
We are one.
All at once – bonded together.
Free of separation,
I am one with the world,
As are you.
This tingling dance of life,
Swiftly and easily,
Through my flesh
And hard bones!
How I delight in flowing like you do.
Ever changing – as you are,
With the wind,
The Cumbrian skies.
Different, but in truth the same.
With every visit,
We share contemplation.
You show me with mastery,
The way life is when true essence prevails.
That strengthens my ground.
I am rich,
I am abundant,
I tear myself away.
Letting others sit with your wisdom,
My heart is open,
‘Stay with me?’
I know I’ll be complacent,
Allowing my true essence to fade,
I ‘will’ need your teaching again!
There’s a café in the town
that’s not to miss
with a poster saying 50 cents a kiss!
There’s an old piano
anyone can play
and people come and
brighten up the day
The coffee’s good, the soup as well
and cakes too numerous to tell
There are sofas and individual chairs
and dogs are always welcome
no-one minds the hairs
And if you are a one
who likes to knit
there is a shelf of wool
and you can sit
and do a stitch or two
or take away
and bring the knitting
back another day
The candles round the room
all help to give
a welcome atmosphere
So come to Mrs F’s
and rest awhile
You will be greeted
by a cheery smile
I reach to take my jacket from the peg
and my eyes again are drawn
to the next peg just along
where hangs a collar and a well-worn leather leash
and once again my eyes begin to mist
Then I wander back in time to when my old pal Fly and I
would go to gather sheep from off the fell
I didn’t need to speak much or tell Fly where to go
for there were no hiding places – not from Fly
She knew each nook and place of shelter
where sheep huddled in bad weather
and turned their backs against the wind and rain
eyes half closed as though in contemplation
deep in thought and cheering on the cud
I did not have long to wait as I stood there by the gate
until faint bleating I would hear above the crags
below the mists that swept and swirled
up in their rocky rooftop world
then single filed they showed upon the trod.
An odd one would make a dash but Fly would turn her in a flash
snapping at her heels in reprimand –
there was no doubting who was in command
Then all were down ‘in bye’
where for winter they would lie
until Spring when they would lamb beside the farm
more sheltered in the valley
from the elements and foxes on the prowl
Then we too would go ‘in bye’
and again I’d welcome Fly to my abode –
no kennel, not tonight
for she had earned herself the right
to dine in and lie beside the kitchen fire
And never will I part with her collar or her leash
or from the friend that in memory I fondly still admire
as now lonesome and in solitude
with misted eyes and heavy heart
I sit alone beside the kitchen fire
A shape, etched
For future fingers yet to trace
Hunched and wall eyed
I meet your gaze
A flickering moment
and then –
A turncoat self
I march along
to any song that please my ear.
A frozen statue in a forest glade –
Or assassin lurking in the shade?
Houdini-like I come and go,
A cameo part I play.
But always, still, unseen
My razor tongue, held in,
Catches, flicks around your words
And pulls them deep within.
I taste your thoughts upon my tongue:
A self dissolved
Unsure of where my margins lie
Know only that
In my fishy depths strange energies
Tossing me hither and thither.
The storms that make me heave and writhe
Pull my tears into the sky
To fall as dew on a rose’s bloom
Or rain on forest canopies.
Am filled by others’ lives
Their stories flowing into my depths
Tranquil now, a mirror, I
Reflect the stars and sun and moon
And, yes, your face.
I cast myself in arching bows
A dove of peace upon my breast.
From my cave I do behold,
I look around at all I see
And listen to legends told.
I stand upon a lofty edge
And look out upon bird and tree.
From animals wild I protect my ledge,
Wolf, cats large and small
My family – I must protect them all,
Children, wives that belong to me.
I cannot write but on my wall
I paint all that I see and spy,
For life is good as days go by,
The sun doth shine and that’s fine for me
As I paint animal, bird and tree.
I don’t know why I do this,
But something inside me needs to be expressed.
I don’t talk much.
I just feel, and see, and hear, and touch and smell.
So I make marks on the wall.
Marks that look like the things around me,
And express the things I feel inside.
Marks made from the juice of the berries I crushed,
Mixed with my blood.
I place my hand against the cold dry wall.
I fill my mouth with the warm, bitter tasting fluid,
And spit it at the back of my hand,
Until my hand and the wall are coated deep red.
Then I take my hand away,
And reveal the print of where it was.
This is me.
This is my mark.
And I was here, do you see?
I was here.
I was here.
Genes, genomes, DNA in a lovely spiral,
And inside a soul stands proud,
Creates meaning as, like the prongs of a tuning fork,
I quiver into existence,
Excite the air around me at
My own frequency.
I try to bring you closer
To my wavelength, by scratching
Symbols on a page, a piece of bark, a cave wall,
I put a foot through the ice on the top of a puddle
Just to show you that I’m here.
All of my security is found
in the predictable ticking of the planet
As it spins reliably upon its axis and measures out the hours,
My soul responds with a sigh of recognition
To the same indicators
That chug around and pull into the station
Every year, more or less on time.
So don’t give me a balmy Christmas day,
Or a cold shower in July,
I have watched these days go by
And my heart pumped with the waning of the moon
And soared in my veins as the rays of a hot noon sun
Fall, and bake me into the ground.
Give me life, death, renewal,
Give me spring’s early wakeup call, or winter’s death.
Give me gold in autumn, give me responsive, bitter, living,
In all its fashions.
But never give me snow in Easter,
I will not have it.
We who are water know
familial communion with
pond and river
lake and ocean
and we abide and communicate
by way of ripple and reflection
warmed by amniotic held
flotation – raised from
which our primal gasp and
cry signalled alpha and omega
of incarnate gradation – and
sight of mothered Wisdom
and taste of liquid nutrition
alongside growth spurt’s
Yes: our infancy born from
someone else’s depths never
leaves us – we are forever
embraced by it and so return
to reflection and histories
and promise as though to the
breast – and in gazing into
layered depths see at the
same time the light of height
yes: we who are water know
familial communion with
pond and river
lake and ocean
and we abide through all
Where to start
My love is life itself
Favourite loves change with age
More gentle past times play a part
Music, sailing , oceans and rivers
Still stir my heart
Family – the bond of love ever strong
Grandchildren on the cusp of life
What will their future bring
I want to know but cannot
Log fires, red wine and friends
I’m more claptrap than Von Trapp so
What do I love? You really wanna know?
Well here’s a list and here I go
I love the tricks that light can play
How it chases the night and colours the day
And that’s kinda cool, no colour no hope
So I wanta live in kaleidoscope-scope
Pick up a brush and paint for joy
No ulterior motive, no sinister ploy –
And hey, Mr Bach, now he’s my man
He makes a tune like no one else can
And on that cello
he’s soaring and mell-ow
He’s on in my car where I feel at ease
To come and go just as I please
Now smell those hyacinths and look at those trees
In their greens and browns
And their red autumn gowns
Sliding cool into black for the snow to scarve
As it covers the world in waves of white
But most of all I love just this
The Black and white of the written word
That gives me wings to soar like a bird
And draw a picture for you to see
What I love
Cos you are my literary fam-ily
1 – Following our conversation about this year’s Mirehouse Poetry Prize winners (winning poems here) – think about the poem you chose as your favourite and write one of your own (poem or prose poem) along the same lines. 200 words maximum
2 – Allan Jenkins’ Morning (his Plot 29 was also mentioned) reflects on what he values about mornings. Write a few lines about your own appreciation of morning, or evening
3 – Think about your use or non-use of punctuation in some of your recent poetry
And on the hillside
where we stood
the something that passed
as though it were a
tidal current was already
as old and as new as the
Ancient of Days – in the
retrospect and in the
there and then and now
and in the prospect of
That light, that current –
illumination and anticipation
launched a something that
is the everything
Yes, something to be
like a song among the stars,
laughing and crying
held safe and aloft and
on that hillside
held and holding
you and I encountered a
Divine Love and knew it to be
in us, primarily
in those graced moments
but also in whomsoever –
and all are ultimately
capable of simply
letting go, and smiling and
then the final thankful sighing –
oh, little one, yes, you
Elevated, celebrated: I love you
Simon Marsh – for JMT, 1960-2018, on the eve of her birthday
It rained again.
And then it rained some more.
The wind came howling from the West.
Waves pounding at the shore.
Spring tides, the highest of the year
combined with non-stop gales
destroyed the pier and breakwater
like matchwood swept away,
and along with them my memories
of summer nights upon that beach.
We were what is known as sweet sixteen,
heads full of foolish dreams.
We held each other in the dark
and whispered silly things
like we would not be parted.
We didn’t even last through Spring.
I carved for you a Cupid’s heart
on that breakwater’s underbelly,
just to find when you were gone
I was only one of many.
I put blisters on my hands for you
when I did that breakwater carving,
oh how I cheered above the storm
as I watched the timbers parting.
Seasons blur into one another
Gone the clear cut lines
Between autumn leaves and snow covered fells
Daffodils and warm scented roses
Nature cast adrift
Pushed by ever changing elements
To an unknown end.
Trees, flowers, grass, crops
In constant hesitation
Gardeners similarly so.
Last night in dreams I went again to my old house in Castle Lane
I climbed the stairs up to the top, by the nursery door I came to a stop
I turned the knob and the door opened wide, I looked all around then stepped inside
By the flickering firelight shadows danced upon the walls. They leapt and pranced
Tiny footprints led from the door to the tattered rug that lay on the floor
On the window ledge sat Barnabus Bear sadly looking the worse for wear
He’d been to the opera and I think had just had a little too much to drink
His speech was slurred, his breath was beery and he couldn’t see quite clearly
But he got to his feet and with a gesture grand, bowed and politely shook my hand
A pale moon shone on the window seat where Amelia Jane all prim and neat
Reposed sedately in her outdoor clothes, coat, hat, fur-muff and stocking hose
She smiled and beckoned and I sat down, she said she was going up to town
She’d like to offer me some tea but the car was coming at a quarter to three
She tidied her hair with a tortoiseshell comb and told me to make myself at home
A light shone under the cupboard door, then a rumbling noise made me stir
The door flew open, I fell on my back as the Flying Scotsman flew onto the track
With whistle screaming and puffing steam the headlights casting a ghostly beam
Twice round the track he hurtled full pelt then back through the door, but I still knelt
As memories stirred by the pungent smell of the old transformer I remembered well
A race between trains for a tuppence bet and the Flying Scotsman is racing yet
In yonder corner something moves. I hear the thunder of horses’ hooves
With a flick of his tail and a toss of his mane old Beaucephalis rides again
I jumped on his back and took up the reins, we galloped up mountains and down leafy lanes
With the wind in my hair and my hand on the crop we rode round the world till we rocked to a stop
Just then the tramp of marching feet made my poor heart miss a beat. I turned.
It was just as I thought, a hundred lead soldiers advanced from their fort
The armies lined up, English and French, I watched them do battle and choked on the stench of gun powder, smoke, the wounded and dying, I stood there transfixed and silently crying
The room grows silent. I feast my eyes for one last time ere the fire dies
The memory has faded, the dream it has fled. I wake in the chill morn alone in my bed
With pounding heart I speed,
And with heaving chest, I gasp.
The air wrenched in,
I must endure,
Or my pups, they will not last.
The calf from the herd, we have coerced,
For his mother, his voice is shrill!
A shriek of fear, he bolts chaotic,
We shall break his will.
We move on him, it is not long,
Defeated his courage gives in.
No mother came to rescue him,
He is forsaken, it is our win.
As we bring him down I hear his pain,
His fear consumes my heart.
My pack tear at his flesh and bones,
Broken from his soul, I played my part.
I stand still heaving, for want of air,
And behold this calf’s demise.
The cry’s now silent,
The air is still,
Grey cloud of death across his eyes.
I have to choose my pups or theirs,
My chest aggrieved for his mother’s loss.
I will protect my pups, their life is mine,
I resolve to feed them – at any cost!
Yawn, stretch, a voice calls, ‘fetch.’ No not yet, I tell my pet
I’m warm and cosy in my bed, don’t want to raise my sleepy head
Sniff! Sniff! Something smells good; I’ll get up now it’s time for food
Pitter patter cross the floor, hurry up pet, open the back door
Ah that’s better; give myself a shake, now I’m feeling wide awake
Today is Sunday if I’m not mistaken, that tempting smell is frying bacon
Chairs push back – breakfast’s over, pet’s scraping plates, ‘come on Rover’
What’s this in my spotty dish? Last night’s cold, leftover fish
Congratulations to JBB upon publication of her new poem
Food all ordered, we’re at the table, Chance to talk, now that we’re able, Phone in her hand, ‘What are you doing?’ ‘Connecting Mum!’ – An argument’s brewing! I’ll join her then, where’s my phone? Chatting with Mum, she’s clearly outgrown! Now I’m on Facebook – what status to post? A picture of ‘good food’, not coffee and toast. Food arrives and it looks so pleasing, Photo opportunity I’m certainly seizing! Wait! The angle, the colour, effects or not? Drinks in the picture? The cocktails we got? Picture taken, I’ll post it now, If I can just remember how. Caption? – I need words too? This is too stressful a thing to do! What’s the time? Do I call it lunch? Or is it too early, is it more ‘brunch’? She’s finished her meal, I feel old! Status is posted – but my food’s gone cold!
I’m writing to you to let you know about Kendal Poetry Festival, which I’m the co-director of, along with Pauline Yarwood.
The festival will be taking place from the 16th-18th June 2017 at Abbot Hall Art Gallery and other venues in the market town of Kendal.
Last year was our first year of running the festival, and it was a complete sell-out, so we’re hoping to replicate this again this year.
We have a really exciting programme of events and poets coming from far and wide. Our Festival Poets this year are Hannah Lowe and William Letford, Inua Ellams and Chrissy Williams, Katrina Naomi and Malika Booker, Kathryn Maris and Tim Liardet and IanDuhig and Linda Gregerson. We’ve got a series of workshops, discussions and open mics as well as readings and the full programme is now up on the website.
It would be lovely to see you in Kendal this year at the festival – there is some great bed and breakfast accommodation available in Kendal that is fairly cheap. The nearest train station is Oxenholme Lake District which is on the mainline and just a five minute taxi ride from the venue.
We believe our festival is unique in the UK in its programming of young poets alongside our invited guest poets. Last year people remarked on our friendly and welcoming atmosphere as well as the quality of the programming – please have a look at our programme, and if you’ve got any questions, you can email me here or at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’d like to be added to the Kendal Poetry Festival email list, just let me know and I can put you on there.
Finally, any help you can give with spreading the word about the festival would be much appreciated. We don’t have a budget for marketing or even a marketing expert, so we rely on word of mouth to let people know about the festival.
MARCH is here already – another turn of the calendar page – and hopefully you’ll have marked up yours with our March meetings – on the 9thand the 23rd. Proposed homework for the 9th is here.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, we’ve been unearthing some of Mungrisdale Writers’ early work – some of which was published in now unavailable MW booklets years ago, and more of which was stored on the floppy disks of the time (1.44mb!).
The aquisition of a new floppy disk reader has enabled retrieval of the archived Voices of the Mountain – in which, among other fine work, the late Vi Taylor’s poem Blencathra was found.
Mungrisdale Writers will celebrate 20 years in 2019 and is still an inspirational bedrock for several original members, as well as a host of newer ones over the years. 7 or 8 new writers have joined the ranks in recent times.
All this is quite an achievement – and one which founder Angela Locke can rightly be proud of. We’ll seek to celebrate all this and more, in all sorts of ways – not least, I expect, in writing!
Beyond my cosy window lies
A monster with enormous grass green thighs
He haunts my dreams
Disturbs my waking eyes
Blotting out my skies
Furrowed, fretted, ridged his wrinkled face
Drops slow tears of frothing lace
He rears his head, a coronet of rocks
Wreathed in sunny veils and envaporous locks
Before man came or time began
God saw his dawn
A million million years ‘fore I was born
The Roman tread here spoke the Celtic fortress rose
My petty four score years he laughs to scorn
He is the torment of my dying time
The last peak I have not strength to climb.
‘the judge (poet Bob Beagrie) was impressed by the scale and quality of the entries … we were very much impressed by all of your submissions …’
Congratulations to our own Ann Miller who was present for the Northern Writes Festival Finale in Stanley Civic Hall on Saturday 18th February when the new Northern Writes Anthology was launched. Ann’s poem The Dark Walk – entered for NW’s most recent poetry competition is included.
Had we but world enough and time,
This quasi-courtship would be fine,
You’d break my heart with cruel words,
And hang around with other birds.
Nocturnal visits to my flat,
Your sudden loving, would be all that
I’d think about all day at work,
Then you’d turn round and be a berk.
I’d flatter you and praise your looks,
Then spurn you, like they do in books.
And none of this would really matter,
Just a game, the craik, the patter
We’d laugh, we’d cry, we’d fight, get better,
Then send each other “Dear John” letters.
Years would go by, and we’d mature
And trust, as soul mates, love so pure.
But dearest one, we have not time
To pussy foot, to think up rhyme,
The truth, the facts, the real brass tacks
Is that I cannot keep on waiting,
In this eternal grown up dating.
You really should have understood,
Your long foray in singlehood
Was over, finished long ago,
It’s only now I’ve let you know.
The marriage day is all arranged,
And you’ll find nothing’s really changed,
So while you’re tall and young and svelte,
Just do as you’re bloody well telt..
Templar Poetry is delighted to present a new series of Poetry Live readings at Keats House in 2017. We begin on Tuesday 31st January with the launch of The Penguin Diaries, a unique collection of sonnets by Chris James.
The Penguin Diaries is a 65-poem sonnet sequence about the British Antarctic Expedition (1910-1913), better known as the Terra Nova Expedition. There is a sonnet for each member of the party, from Captain Robert Falcon Scott and ‘Titus’ Oates, to figures, such as Francis Drake, the secretary and Dennis Lillie, one of the biologists.
The poems serve as elegies, telling the human story of a journey which continues to hold the public imagination, against the haunting backdrop of Antarctica itself.
I can hear your short, sharp intake of breath.
You wince, step gingerly onto the moss, dark
December green, peeled with care from the graveyard wall.
It must feel cold on your sandaled feet,
wet too, after all the rain these past few months.
You emerged from the cardboard box, shook off
dry, flaky creases of torn tissue, grey
and yellowing now, like ancient skin.
You’ve been hibernating here almost a year,
since I wrapped you up on Twelfth Night.
‘Why must we always stand on this?’ you ask.
‘It’s too green, too soft, too moist.
Where we come from the earth is hard, Hebrew, brown.’
My children agree with you. ‘Mum’, they joke,
‘I think you’ll find there is no moss in the Holy Land.’
I can’t help it. My mother did it like this,
hers too. And you, travelling time,
a century steeped in Celtic climes,
handled by dozens of cold little hands,
you should be used to our northern ways by now.
I make you comfy; fresh straw from a neighbours’ farm,
robust bark walls. Even a fire, tiny twigs and logs,
‘real’ smoke, from the teased, stretched wool of a sheep,
to warm your hands, talk in old familiar
Aramaic tongues, when we are all asleep.
The children spray-painted a willow star gold
to match your caskets and turbans and robes.
And the dear old camels, their necks taped up
in three places, must surely prefer
moss to rock, on chipped, arthritic knees.
You should recognise the water colour
on the wall behind; hung specially for you;
the Via Dolorosa, in the Old Quarter of Jerusalem,
painted by my great grandfather
as his wife haggled for you.
Don’t get too misty-eyed.
I just wanted the honey-coloured stone
and the hot blue sky
to warm you.
To make you feel at home
Merry Christmas and all good wishes for 2017
To everyone at Mungrisdale Writers, may you all have a wonderful time over the festivities. I’m looking forward very much to catching up with you again come February.
What is a ‘like’ really?
Behind the lies, the ‘oh so nearly’,
Why does she always lie?
Being herself no one sees eye to eye,
Why does she make the bad seem good?
For ‘likes’ of course, I knew she would.
Why so many ‘likes’ on her pic?
Boobs and bum out, makes me sick!
What is the perfect picture profile?
A selfie taken, pout, don’t smile!
Don’t show my stomach or my thighs
I need them to believe my lies,
Is perfect being attractive to men?
Full make-up and ‘Photoshop’ it then,
Why confidence in this fantasy living?
Be careful or you’ll end up believing.
Jessie B Benjamin
for The Great British Write Off – The Power of the Pen
I first caught sight of you in my wing mirror
half way up the Sma’ Glen; high place, grey rock
smoothed and polished by four clean winds,
bog myrtle, sphagnum moss, bent over bushes
stunted, blunted down the years.
You were parked up in a layby,
about to get back in your old silver hatchback,
your kilt aswirl in the breeze.
Who knew we were going to the same place?
And when you stood later by the grave,
you and your fellow pipers resplendent
in black and red, the silver pins on your plaid shawls
glistening, the sharp point of Schiehallion poking the heavens behind,
I knew you’d filled your pipes with mountain air
for you blew all the wild wonder of the glen
into your pibroch lament.
Many congratulations to Kit who won 3rd prize at the 2016 Maryport LitFest – ‘Wild’ – for this evocative poem
The first flakes of snow coldly kiss my cheek
Melt and are gone,
Replaced quickly again by others
But determinedly, head down, I still press on,
I know that snow is forecast
And quicken my stride up the fell.
I am checking and closing down my traps
Before the forecast wintry spell.
Three traps I am closing
While still the snow is light,
And in the grey of winter’s day
I strive to finish quickly
Before the onset of bleak night.
I am determined to complete the task
Before light fades away,
And lengthen my stride, collie by my side,
Constant as ever disregarding the weather
My ever faithful guide.
The task is simple. I reach with my stick
Put pressure on the treadle,
Give a firm push and the door swings shut
The trap is now disabled.
I repeat the procedure at each trap
Then Fly and I drop down the path
Through the swirling snow,
Both I am sure pleased with ourselves
As I start the van for home.
The stone bus shelter smelling of urine, a punctured football under the bench
A laminated timetable and Man United graffiti on the noticeboard
Echoes of insults and taunts bounce around its walls
Like billiard balls looking for their targets
Transit lounge in Dubai airport during the Haj
Men in white robes sleep curled round their bags next to a clacking moving walkway
Trim bearded young men who ooze wealth from their pores
Fuss over wheezing wizened companions
Whilst prayers and announcements boom from a tannoy above their heads
Packing the car for university
A sandwich toaster perches on top of a printer still in its John Lewis delivery box
A clarinet case with its indecipherable grimy name tape rests on a sticker covered laptop
A camera captures teeth clenched in a fixed grin in front of the open car boot
While a Harry Potter duvet spills towards the damp gravel driveway
When I find it hard to pray
My thoughts to music start to stray
Music soothes a need in me
It helps me form the words to say
That as a child slipped glibly off the tongue
But have been lost along the way
A life enriched with music brings
Compassion, love, a soul with wings
Music fills my heart with joy
And the power that it brings
Is more primitive than prayer
In the Valley of the Kings
A prayer at night, a prayer by day
My parents’ gift to me was music
Their legacy is prayer
A dozen writers met in Mungrisdale today for what turned out to be an inspirational morning, buzzing with light and ideas. Our tutor Angela Locke’s ability to listen to a piece of work with loving acuity enables her to offer precise and pertinent advice, together with encouragement, in every case. This gives us a marvellous sense of making progress!
Once again there was great writing from all participants and some of this will be posted here over the next week or so. The pieces posted today are Sue’s We will remember themand Tanya’s Moments.
Angela’s proposal for homework to be heard at our next meeting on the 24th November invites
a 1st person speech (soliloquy using “I”) by someone who isn’t you but you have to research a bit (eg – a countryman or woman, a streetwalker etc). The piece can be either prose or poetry in 150 words or fewer. You might look to Hamlet’s ‘To be or not to be’ or to TS Eliot’s ‘Murder in the Cathedral’ for a bit of inspiration.
My eyes flicker over yours
I capture their ocean blue
Like a giggle. I save it for later,
So I can feel it billow
Watch it soar like a kite
Dancing on a day full of yellow.
Rain weeps across the window
Creeping a diagonal path
A reminder that life is not straight
Or forward but meandering,
Slow; a sudden rush.
Faster falls the rap tap patter
Droplets dart and shuffle together
Race and slide, transparently
Slip over the edge to a life unseen;
Their fluid dance, a silent stream.