Week Two Poem Post

Where I begin

Me and maternal Grandmother Edith Leahy outside Granville Terrace

Where does the journey of a family history begin? Is it with a casual comment of ‘do you remember a particular person’. Is it in response to a television programme like ‘Who do you think you are’? Is it curiosity about a memory or a photograph? If it is your own family history like this is it was more about the physical places and the events of the times. Of course like many I shall begin the recording in a more conventional place. One black and white photograph and only my Mother’s word that the blur is my face. This is 1960.

This week’s theme

I or me.

As a poet you might refer to yourself directly as John Clare does here.

I Am

I am—yet what I am none cares or knows;
My friends forsake me like a memory lost:
I am the self-consumer of my woes—
They rise and vanish in oblivious host,
Like shadows in love’s frenzied stifled throes
And yet I am, and live—like vapours tossed

Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life or joys,
But the vast shipwreck of my life’s esteems;
Even the dearest that I loved the best
Are strange—nay, rather, stranger than the rest.

I long for scenes where man hath never trod
A place where woman never smiled or wept
There to abide with my Creator, God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept,
Untroubling and untroubled where I lie
The grass below—above the vaulted sky.

And here is a contemporary poem about a life event. The poet Srikanth Reddy is both reflecting and deflecting from the implications of a medical procedure. Here is the poet reading his work.

Winter Term XV

Admittedly I may be blowing my <6 mm mole somewhat
out of proportion in the general scheme of things. At my
last follow-up, Dr. Song gently reminded me that we
entered the “catabasis” phase of my journey through
dermatological oncology some time ago.

 Cata-, from the ancient Greek κατά, or downward, prefixed
to the intransitive form of the verbal stem baínō, to go. It
means a trip to the coast, a military retreat, an endless
windstorm over the Antarctic plateau, or the sadness
experienced by some men at a certain point in their lives. 

In a clinical context, the term may also refer to the decline
or remission of a disease. So why do I still feel a ghostly
pinprick along the crease of my arm where the needle went
in before I went under? I suspect that I am not quite out of
the woods yet. Then again, maybe the woods have yet to
exit me.

Here I am in my garden. I am now sixty. How do you describe yourself? Maybe you have an ideal? Maybe like me in these times of social distancing and only the hour for walking (when you usually walk or roam a lot) have taken a fancy to elasticated waistbands and are wearing joggers.

Me at Sixty

And here is a poem by Jenny Joseph. But maybe you can span an actual period of time or recount a childhood memory. You might also want to listen to Pam Ayes making up a regret.

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practise a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

You could write a poem in praise of yourself. Tell us how wonderful you are at driving, brushing your teeth or perhaps eating an apple quietly in a cinema.

Week One Poem Post

Where I begin

Today I took a photograph of the Lily of the Valley growing at the back of my husband’s allotment plot. I had noticed the plants the day before and they had reminded me of the garden I lived in as a young child. The same day my parents gave me some more family photographs to add to my growing collection. They have been sorting through their photograph albums for some time now because I had expressed an interest in putting together a simple family history. It has been very much a work in progress in my thoughts rather than a realised project. I needed to find something that could work in tangent to the task to motivate me. I think linking to a poetry prompt which I shall forward to both a poetry stanza group and another two groups I belong to using social media tools and email will work.

What prompted me to begin

The photographs came in a smart, shiny blue box. I thought as they handed me the box that it would contain chocolates. I was a little disappointed but not for long. The photographs themselves are not particularly interesting but a couple of lines from a poem came to my mind as I walked home with them.

What will survive of us is love

What will survive of us is love.

This is the last line from Philip Larkin’s, “An Arundel Tomb“. In these days, as I now refer to them, in these Covid-19 days when so much art and cultural happenings are going digital, I wonder about touch and tangibles things such as tombs, heirlooms and souvenirs. What place or future do keepsakes or physical archives have now?

This week’s theme

Is walking.

The rhythm, the place you are going, the watching of someone else, perhaps you recall trying to walk with crutches after an accident or teaching a child or laughed at the way competitive walkers wiggle their hips. It might be the walk you do every day or the shuffle walk in a supermarket queue.

I took my parents shopping to them during my hour of daily exercise. I walked through East Park. My local park. When I realised that the purple box contained photographs I asked if any were of Holtby Close. That is the first place I remember as home. Mrs Green lived next door to us. In her garden was a border full of Lily of the Valley. It was dense and always felt damp. I knew this as I often had to retrieve tennis balls from the leaves. Even though I would see the place the ball landed it was never found at that spot. Mrs Green’s daughter Marchelle baby sat sometimes. She must have been at university. I was around five years old and was fascinated by the way she put her hands in her jeans with the palms facing outwards so are arms looked twisted. I would have liked to include a photograph of Holtby Close, but I am not sure I can get there and back here in an hour.

The poem that follows is by Alison McVety from her collection The Night Trotsky Came to Stay.

How you can know a place

and not. How you can know it
through your feet, through the pitch
and crack of pavement, through games;
their stones and sticks,
through hopscotch numbers
scratched on flags with chalk or coal.
Through the clip of ropes on kerbs,
The tap on grids, through the clap of hands,
The toll of dustbin lids, the spark
Of stud boots. Through Messerscmidt
And Spitfire arms, strobed or flecked
With rationed sun. How you can see a thing,
Defined through shadows,
The twitch of nets, the very thick of it.
Through the snatch and flare
Of two fags lit with the same match,
Through the warden’s bawl
to put that bloody light out,
to shut the flaming door. How one shell
can re-shape the place you know,
shift a shelter three feet north,
so you dig for the man in the tin hat
in the wrong place. And how
when they lift your father,
caked in dust, there are no cuts,
no bruises. This is how a man drowns
in earth, this is how you know a place.

You can see how McVety uses the word through repeatedly in this poem. It steps through the poem keeping a regular pace. Today Captain Tom Moore has been celebrated as he reached his hundredth birthday and a staggering amount of money raised by his walking around his garden. Is references to behaviour in the blitz comparable to our shielding and social distancing?

Watch here Neiel Israel -reading “When a Black Man Walks” for a different view of walking

read “When a Black Man Walks” here.

We are in the fifth week of what is referred to as lock down. Life is becoming for us routine. The imagining of the future is beginning. We are thinking about how we will meet people when this pandemic is still active, while this virus is still without containment other than social distancing and hand washing.