Category Archives: Poetry

My 2015 World Book Night choice

logo-3e7f897841e4955042171959b9b03c0aReal Poems for Unreal Times

#WBN has been running for four years now. This is the third year that I have been participating and the third year that I’ll be handing out my first choice pick – this year it’s Essential Poems from the Staying Alive Trilogy.

I love poetry. Before I could read – heck, before I could speak – I was surrounded by tiny tales…that rhymed! The vast majority of us are introduced to language, stories and literacy via poetry and nursery rhymes so it always surprises me when people don’t enjoy poems or see them as relevant to their lives.

Deep down I believe that if the poetry you’re reading isn’t calling out to you; you probably haven’t encountered the ‘right’ poems yet! And if all you’re coming across are daffodil’s or Grecian urns (not that there’s anything wrong with the classics, but there’s a time and place!), it’s completely understandable.

wbn 04Which brings me to the Staying Alive trilogy. The first book was released in 2002 with sequels in 2004 and 2011. The goal of the books was to highlight contemporary poets and poems – of pushing forward new works that speak to us all; for where we are *now*, regardless of our location, our differing experiences, … and whether we love poetry or not.

The overarching theme is to reflect the differing ways in which we live in the modern world. The poems in these books are collected from all over the world, demonstrating that at our core, we are all tacking the same thoughts and issues. There are poems focusing on how we cope with identity, love, fear, wonder; to just *being* and imagining and coping with the world around us.

The World Book Night compilation has selected 100 poems from the 1500 so far released in the three anthologies. Neil Astley (the editor) is at pains to note that these are not a selection of ‘best off’s’; but rather a travel companion, an opportunity to take these experiences and reflections with you as we traverse the globe.

Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota

Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly,
Asleep on the black trunk,
Blowing like a leaf in green shadow.
Down the ravine behind the empty house,
The cowbells follow one another
Into the distances of the afternoon.
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,
The droppings of last year’s horses
Blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.

 

James Wright

 

 

As my friend and Book Guru Jess Haigh writes –
Do enjoy World Book Night, wherever you are celebrating. The aim of the whole enterprise is to get more people reading for pleasure, so even if you’re not a giver, why not recommend a book to someone you know isn’t a reader?
Create an office bookshelf, join a book club, leave a book on a train or in the pub with a note saying why people should read it.
And I hope that if you are lucky enough to be a giver that you have a fantastic time and remember that one of those books you give could change someone’s life.
wbn 01wbn 02 wbn 03
The #WBN Blurb

“Staying Alive”, “Being Alive” and “Being Human” have introduced many thousands of new readers to contemporary poetry, and have helped poetry lovers to discover the little known riches of world poetry. These books have been enormously popular with readers, especially as gift books and bedside companions.

The poems by writers from many parts of the world have emotional power, intellectual edge and playful wit. This pocketbook selection of 100 essential poems from the trilogy is a “Staying Alive” travel companion (also available as an e-book). As well as selecting favourite poems from the trilogy, readers’ and writers’ choices as well as his own favourites, editor Neil Astley provides background notes on the poets and poems.

These essential poems are all about being human, being alive and staying alive: about love and loss; fear and longing; hurt and wonder; war and death; grief and suffering; birth, growing up and family; time, ageing and mortality; memory, self and identity; faith, hope and belief…all of human life in a hundred highly individual, universal poems.

REVIEW – Fancy Pants Poetry 2 – Agostino Scafidi

FANCY PANTS POETRY 2

Recently I reviewed a book of poetry by Agostino Scafidi. No sooner had I pressed publish, then he let me know that the sequel had become available.

While there are no major stylish or drastic format changes, this is a very different book from its predecessor. The original was dark, cynical and sarcastic – caustic in tone. This – while retaining the quick sharp observations that seem to typify Agostino’s writing – is much more cheerful in general with a greater focus on positive (or at the very least more neutral) interactions and experiences.

Whatever the situation, Agostino appears to be tackling his challenges with a different viewpoint, one that is less stung by rejection or betrayal and more capable and confident of his own worth. For me, this was a far more pleasurable read (though I greatly enjoyed the first!) as it better suits my point of view.

 

So Many

There’s always more than one,

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that,

It’s not like I can help it,

However there still might be one.

 

One who I’ll always come back to,

Who I’ll hold above all others,

I just hope that won’t die either,

Because quantity doesn’t comfort me.

 

Today,

Each moment,

I’ll cherish it,

While it’s here.

 

Reminders

Petty and grand,

Mostly pretty,

Little itches,

Nothing to scratch with.

Can’t scratch it,

Just ignore it?

Can’t ignore it,

Just watch it?

Yes,

That feels better,

I think I’ll do this more often,

And have faith.

The Hermit Rant

Agostino’s STORE

Agostino’s TWITTER

Agostino’s FACEBOOK

 

Review – Fancy Pants Poetry

Review – Fancy Pants Poetry 2

POEM – Notes on the Art of Poetry – Dylan Thomas

happy wbdNotes on the Art of Poetry

I could never have dreamt that there were such goings-on
in the world between the covers of books,
such sandstorms and ice blasts of words,,,
such staggering peace, such enormous laughter,
such and so many blinding bright lights,, ,
splashing all over the pages
in a million bits and pieces
all of which were words, words, words,
and each of which were alive forever
in its own delight and glory and oddity and light.

Dylan Thomas

Poetry Moment – Dust if you Must – Rose Milligan

dust if you must

Dust if you must, but wouldn’t it be better
To paint a picture, or write a letter,
Bake a cake, or plant a seed;
Ponder the difference between want and need?

Dust if you must, but there’s not much time,
With rivers to swim, and mountains to climb;
Music to hear, and books to read;
Friends to cherish, and life to lead.

Dust if you must, but the world’s out there
With the sun in your eyes, and the wind in your hair;
A flutter of snow, a shower of rain,
This day will not come around again.

Dust if you must, but bear in mind,
Old age will come and it’s not kind.
And when you go (and go you must)
You, yourself, will make more dust.

Rose Milligan

REVIEW – Fancy Pants Poetry – Agostino Scafidi

Fancy_Pants_Poetry_-_600_x_831Recently Agostino Scafidi left a message on the blog about his new book of poems. As I’m always on the lookout for new authors and poets, he sent me a copy to review.

Laid back, contemporary and bitingly sarcastic, these poems are a mix of specific and stipulated themes and vague concepts and thoughts – allowing the reader to follow the thought train or to project their own interpretations as they wish. Agostino is a poet, no doubt, but I suspect that he is a bit of a philosopher also.

While the poems themselves are predominantly quite dark and cynical, the language used is deceptive. Just when you feel that the sun will never shine again, there are flashes of an uprising – of a soul and spirit that isn’t quite ready to throw the towel in just yet. Of most importance to me; these poems do not read as poetry – they are accessible and feel real world relevant.

Honestly, I looked forward to the sparse cheerful poems dotted throughout by the end. While there are quite a few gems tucked away in this short book; the mood is almost unremittingly bleak. My personal favourites include ‘Let’s be Irrational’ – which feels like a standing truth – and ‘Do it’ – which feels like it could not have been written at any point in time but now!

According to his twitter feed, there will be a follow up – Fancy Pants Poetry 2 – in the near future which I look forward to reading!

Let’s Be Irrational

Honesty,

Certainly a punishable offence.

No matter what anyone says about how admirable honesty can be,

Don’t risk it.

There’ll always be repercussions,

Honesty is hated,

You’ll only bear the brunt of the derision.

Heed these warnings at your own peril.

You might be strong enough for this crusade,

Just be sure before you ship out,

Some people won’t ever forget their face to face with truth.

The Hermit Rant

Agostino’s STORE

Agostino’s TWITTER

Agostino’s FACEBOOK

 

Review – Fancy Pants Poetry

Review – Fancy Pants Poetry 2

101 Poems about Childhood

101 poems about childhoodAs well as recently becoming an aunt; many of my friends have brought splendid little people into the world.

Naturally, my first impulse has been to read up on the whole experience. So last week I checked out ‘101 Poems about Childhood’ from my local library.

While I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting – perhaps very visual, emotional poems on cute cuddily wuddilies, or a series of odes to the joy and love and poop that only parents can really ‘get’; the moment that I realised that this collection was edited by Michael Donaghy, I knew that I was going to be exposed to something very special, something that would both educate and challenge me.

In his introduction, Donaghy makes clear that he considers poetry and childhood to be ‘entwined on a deeper level’, pointing out that much of our language development takes place in part due to exposure of nursery rhymes and verse. Donaghy was looking for a specific slice of poetry –

Be advised: this is not a book of children’s poetry. Much of it is challenging and some of it bleak. There are dead children here, but it’s not a collection of elegies. And while I couldn’t resist some ecstatic observations of children by parents and poems of parental love, remorse and responsibility, its not really a book about parenthood either. Some great names are missing […]

I was most interested in poems about children’s minds. These seemed to fall into three categories; either a descriptive observation of a child by an adult spectator (Pinsky, Baille, Williams, Rilke), a rhetorical poem discoursing on that state of mind and the development of our language and emotions (see Graves, Burnside, Duffy) or a directly recalled or imaginary event dramatising the energy with which children encounter the world (see Bishop, Jarrell, Justice).

I’m not reading this in any sort of systematic way, or particularly following the chronological order. Rather I’m flicking until a phrase, an expression or an author catches my eye (or is it my imagination?) and so far have been stuck dumb by a couple. For almost every poem that I’ve read, I’ve thought of a person that I want to share it with or had a specific incident pop to mind, some event that felt the same way to me. Perhaps there truly are universal experiences – such as that described in the poem below:

The unjustly punished child

SHARON OLDS

The child screams in his room. Rage
heats his head.
He is going through changes like metal under deep
pressure at high temperatures.

When he cools off and comes out of that door
He will not be the same child who ran in
and slammed it. An alloy has been added. Now he will
crack along different lines when tapped.

He is stronger. The long impurification
has begun this morning.

I read this one a few times, at first bemused then eventually a little concerned by the tiny kernel of pure livid anger that was hidden in my heart – the details have faded, but the emotion – perfectly described by Sharon Olds!

art-black-and-white-child-childhood-children-cute-Favim.com-38632

Another (new to me) poem that I just fell in love with is:

A Child Half-Asleep

TONY CONNOR

Stealthily parting the small-hours silence,
a hardly-embodied figment of his brain
comes down to sit with me
as I work late.
Flat-footed, as though his legs and feet
were still asleep.

 
On a stool,
staring into the fire,
his dummy dangling.

 
Fire ignites the small coals of his eyes;
it stares back through the holes
into his head, into the darkness.

 
I ask what woke him.
“A wolf dreamed me,” he says.

This is a wonderful little book and I’m probably going to try and find a copy for my shelves. It goes back to the library on the 19th, worth looking up and taking out yourself! Not that my friends need to worry…I’ll be peppering their emails/facebook pages with specially selected poems for weeks to come! I can hear the collective Huzzah from here!!

childhood-poetry

Rhyme for a Child Viewing a Naked Venus in a Painting of ‘the Judgement of Paris’

ROBERT BROWNING

He gazed and gazed and gazed and gazed,

Amazed, amazed, amazed, amazed.

About the Editor

Michael Donaghy was a New Yorker of Irish origins – if the name hadn’t made that obvious. Donaghy lived in London from the mid-80’s and immersed himself in both the poetry and folk scene. As a musician, he played the tin whistle, bodhran and flute and founded Samradh Music as well as performing in a variety of Irish music groups as well as a jazz/trad crossover band Lammas. He published his first poetry collection in 1988, which won the National Poetry Award. Donaghy achieved greater recognition and awards with each subsequent publication.

His work was at once melodic, playful and beautifully structured.

Donaghy commented “I owe everything I know about poetry to the public library system (in New York City) and not to my miseducation at university … I mean, the Bronx, who knows, now it may be full of cappuccino bars and bookshops, but back in those days it wasn’t. My parents would say something like ‘go out and play in the burning wreckage until dinnertime’ and I’d make a beeline for the library.”

His died in 2004 at only 50 years of age.

A Visit From St. Nicholas

A Visit From St. Nicholas 
 
by Clement Clark Moore (1822)
 
’T WAS the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that ST. NICHOLAS soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,         5
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ’kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.         10
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,         15
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;         20
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,         25
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St. Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.         30
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,         35
And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;         40
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,         45
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,         50
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle,
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,         55

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.
 
 
 

Andrea Gibson – How It Ends

On each occasion that this poem is receited; it has a unique opening. Ms Gibson uses the actual time period elapsed; a device which provides context for the experience and connects with the audience anew. I particularly like it because it pushes the event further and further back without reducing the emotional impact. The song in the background, I believe, is DeVotchKa’s How It Ends.

Every time I revisit this piece, I am struck by newly realised imagery and thoughts – it’s one of those forward moving momentum builders that strikes a different chord depending on what’s happening in my own life.

How It Ends

It has been [X] years,
[Y] months
And [Z] days
Since the first time I saw you naked
Since the night you ripped off your shirt,
Stuck your boobs in my face and said
Touch them
I touched them like a diabetic third grader opening a Snickers bar
You said
Hard
I thought, yes I am
But you are so soft, I said,
Your lips, they’re like whale blubber
That wasn’t my best line
But it worked
Tonight in the grocery store, I found one of your hairs in my underwear
I pulled it out in the frozen food section and screamed
THAT is so gorgeous, it could kill a man!
Good thing I’m a leprechaun
Lucky…
Lucky…
Baby, I have no idea how this will end
Maybe the equator will fall like a hula hoop from the earth’s hips
And our mouths will freeze mid-kiss on our 80th anniversary
Or maybe tomorrow, my absolute insanity
Combined with the absolute obstacle course of your communication skills
Will leave us
Like a love letter
In a landfill
But whatever
Whenever
However this ends,
Heather,
I want you to know, that right now,
I love you forever
I love you for the hardest mile we walked together
For the night I collected every sharp knife in the house
And threw them one by one on the roof
Then told the sun,
Listen show off,
From now on, you are only to give me blades of grass;
Things that are growing and soft
‘Cause there’s this girl who says she wants to float on her back
Through my bloodstream
And when she does,
I want my rivers to reach the sea
D’you hear me, lover?
Do you know, the night you told me you had a crush on my ears,
I swore to never to become Van Gogh
And look, baby,
They are both still there
Just like my firefly heart is still right there in your glass jar
I never trusted anybody more to poke enough holes in the lid
So on the nights you sleep like a ballerina,
I try to snore like a piccolo
And I press my lips to your holy temples
And I say,
I crash in to things in the dark
Even when the lights are on
And I am wrong more often than I am writing
And even then, I am often wrong
But when my friends are in the bathroom at the bar
Rolling dollar bills in to telescopes,
Claiming they can see God,
I will come to you
Holding my grandmother’s Bible,
I will press it to your chest
And I will bless it with your breath
And when you ask if I wanna roleplay Altar boys fucking in the kitchen during Sunday Mass
I will say,
Hell yes
But only if you leave a hickey on my ass
In the shape of Jesus’ palm
So I can be sure I got nailed
Down
Heather,
You will never lose me to the wind
You are the lightning that made me fill my chest with candles
You are the thunder clapping for the poem that nobody else wants to hear
You are an icicle’s tear watering a tulip on the first day of spring
You melt me alive
You kiss me as deep as my roots will reach
And I want nothing more than to be an eyelash fallen on your cheek
Then being collected by your fingers
And held like a wish
I promise
That whatever I do
I will always try my best
To come true

POETRY

The Poetry of Jill Scott

JILL SCOTT

Jill Scott

 

Actor, Musician and poet.

(I don’t agree with all of her stances and statements but love her poetry)

Haiki #2
It was a loud cry
When I was brought to this world
Been loud ever since

When the women gather
Ever watch the women?
How they laugh?
bend from the waist
Like
wind make wheat do.

They listen chile
deep
all up in they whole selves.
They be smilin”
All them molars and wisdoms showin”
Like Cheshire cats
They be cookin’ too
Season fish
fry
serve fresh squeezed lemonade

Legs wide for best air
bras relaxed on the floors
“Rules…sit out on that porch and wait!”
they say
“We busy”
Yep they be busy too
Sewin’ highlights
Makin’ quilts of days to come and gone gone
They be singin’ too chile

‘Bout all them good convulsions
those sweet sweats
those screamin’ yeses
th lacks of yep.
They be cryin’ too
hand holdin’
doctorin’
sewin’ raggedy edges
It’s beautiful chile
Truly”But don’t rush”
They say
Don’t rush
Gone head on outside

You’ll know fo yo own self soon enough

POETRY

Excerpt from the Princess – Lord Alfred Tennyson

Metrophobia is the name for a fear of poetry.

Perhaps it’s a bit less scary if Tom Hiddleston reads it?

Happy National Poetry Day!

DrNeevil's Notes

Read by Tom Hiddleston

Because why the hell not?!?!

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