Getting a Present

Discovering a new poet is always a joy, rather like being given a present you’ve always wanted.  I came across Richard Georges recently when catching up on some back copies of Poetry Review.  He has two poems in the Winter 2017 edition, volume 107:4.

Georges’ is a writer, lecturer and editor.  He lives in the British Virgin Islands and his poems portray his love of the country through beautiful language, which is strongly visual as well as emotional:

‘when I leave I want there to be a carpet of poui/and the scent of fresh dew and longing’

from Too Full of Vermouth and Cigarette Smoke

He has a website : richardgeorges.com where many of his poems can be found, as well as some interesting articles and details of his two published collections.

On Remembering, or Dreams of Remembering has a dreamlike quality.  The narrator is in a state of bliss, describing the landscape and the animals in wondrous detail.  I will end with my favourite lines from this poem:

‘A tarantula sits/on my bed, black hairs bristling in the halogen.

he bids me sit. I sit.  He raises two rust-tipped legs/as if in question…’

Richard Georges is a poet to follow.

 

 

Richard Georges

 

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Interior Music

The title isn’t mine.  It forms a chapter in In The Palm of Your Hand by Steve Kowit, a book I’ve mentioned in an earlier posting. This book is like having a poetry teacher with you whenever you want him.  He writes clearly and informatively with lots of poems as examples.  The chapter in question is about the music of poetry, found through use of alliteration, assonance and interior rhyme.

Raymond Carver, best known for his short stories, also wrote poems, and his subtle use of interior rhyme requires close reading in order to notice it.  Here is an extract from After Glow :

‘The dusk of evening comes on.  Earlier a little rain/ had fallen.  You open a drawer and find inside /the man’s photograph, knowing he has only two years /to live.  He doesn’t know this of course, /that’s why he can mug for the camera.’

I counted 6 different internal rhymes in these lines – I expect there are more.

Kowit goes on to mention Walt Whitman.  He isn’t a favourite of mine, but I plan to try Kowit’s suggestion of writing down brief descriptions of anything that catches the eye: birds, flowers, trees, animals, objects around the house.  Kowit suggests writing no more than two or three lines, making the description as accurate as possible, avoiding use of adjectives, and not being ‘flowery.’  You might like to give it a try yourself.

This observation is an example of Whitman’s, taken from ‘Leaves of Grass’

‘Where burial coaches enter the arch’d gates of a cemetery, /Where winter wolves bark amid wastes of snow and icicled trees…

Wonderful lines!

 

 

Writing Prompts

Part of my Masters Degree was to undertake a piece of research. I chose to look at the work of 20th century American women poets and during this time I acquired a large number  of relevant poetry collections.  This week I’ve been delighted to re-discover some of these old friends so long neglected, and left to gather dust on my bookshelves.

Favourites?  Well, Sylvia Plath, known to everyone must head the list, but other names to mention include Sharon  Olds, Louise Gluck, Adrienne Rich, Carolyn Forche and Marie Howe. There are poems about the body, intimate, often raw, that deal with the big themes, but there are also poems about the everyday which draw the reader in, inviting them to notice the hugeness of life in the mundane.  I first read these poems between 2001 and 2004, but returning to them in 2018 I like them still.

I mentioned Dorianne Laux in my last blog posting.  I’ve been reading every poem of hers I could find on the internet, but although I found her in an anthology, I have no collections of hers.  I can’t think why!   Laux also co-wrote a book called The Poet’s Companion along with poet Kim Addonizio, and surprise, surprise, I do have that on my bookshelf!  Subtitled A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry, it is indeed that.  Accessible and easy to read, the Guide has chapters on the poet’s craft, subjects for writing, the writer’s life, as well as lots of ideas to get you started.

In The Palm of Your Hand, The Poet’s Portable Workshop is another great find.  Steve Kowlit is an experienced teacher of poetry workshops as well as being many times published himself.  The writing exercises here go into more detail about how to structure a poem depending upon the chosen subject.  I’ve used this as a guide in a poem I wrote this week about a childhood memory, an episode at school which was embarrassing to recall and difficult to write.  Kowlit’s suggestion to keep everything in one place and to write in simple language was very helpful.

 

New Beginnings

I notice my last blog posting was in 2016 but really  it’s been a longer silence, a silence punctuated by grief, following the death of my dear husband in 2014, also adjustment, to my changed status as a widow and a single woman.  During this time, I had no wish to write, although in 2017 I wrote two poems, both of which were accepted for publication in a Manchester anthology, Gazing at Gaia, which  was a real confidence boost. However, the writing silence continued until recently when a dear friend offered to be my ‘Poetry Buddy’.  Feeling inspired, and feeling I now have some aims and a goal (to write 20 or so poems to submit for publication in a pamphlet) this week  I’ve been busy going through past poems and taking down my much neglected poetry books from the shelf in my study, to re-discover old favourites and see if there are any I’ve missed.

My blog entries will be occasional and short.  I’ll share details of poems I like,  summarise my own writing, the subjects and themes and techniques I’ve chosen as well as passing on any poetry ‘news.’

As a senior citizen, (although I don’t feel like one!) I’ve got a lot of memories that I’d like to put into poems, and I was excited to see that the Poetry School are running a course in Manchester with the theme of childhood, which will be led by Mark Pajak.  Mark has one publication, ‘Spitting Distance’  and some of the poems in this collection are about childhood.  I’ve just enrolled on the course and am looking forward to it very much.  I love his work.  It has a raw energy and feels very immediate somehow.

One poem I found in my trawl this week is called The Tooth Fairy.  Written by the American poet, Dorianne Laux, it’s one memory of childhood which is magical,  but just with a few extra facts, written simply and understatedly, Laux reveals a childhood that was anything but that.  This sort of writing is brave and inspirational.

 

Looking for Writing Opportunities

Today I promise not to be theatrical.  Instead I’m going to be specific about my wish/need to write, and how I am realising that there are ways I can do this alongside of my carer role. Its about becoming more focused and aware.  This is called ‘mindfulness’ and is the core of meditation practice.  I’ve done meditation, and I think it has a lot going for it, but hadn’t considered it as a way of finding opportunities for writing, until my coach mentioned it during my consultation.There’s a wonderful book called Change Your Mind http://www.amazon.co.uk/Change-Your-Mind-Practical-Meditation/dp/1899579753/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1341759275&sr=1-1 in which the author, an English Buddhist, describes the benefits of meditation, and how to practice mindfulness.  Just reading a few pages on the mindfulness of breathing made me feel very centred and energised.

My coach suggested that I carry a notebook around with me, so that if, for example, I’m sitting in the outpatient clinic with my husband, I could observe other patients, nursing staff and doctors, eavesdrop on what is said and make crafty notes in my book to use as inspiration for poems!  This is something I’ve done before, that is before I was a carer, in the days when I wrote and wrote.  Still, this is no excuse not to try it again, especially as it gives me a good excuse to go out and buy a new notebook and pen to keep in my handbag.

View from the Window

Because this is my first post, and because I haven’t written anything for a long time, I feel nervous. I used to be a writer until my confidence flew away, but just recently I thought I’d try writing a blog, that it might entice that winged creature to return. It would be different from creative writing, easier, like writing a journal (Dear Diary, help!) but now that my fingers hover above the keyboard, self-doubt is leaning on the edge of the desk, shaking her greasy locks. Who would want to read a blog by me, a woman of a certain age, who cares for a husband of 43 years, not only disabled with Parkinson’s Disease but also a form of dementia that may or may not choose to take hold, but in his case has, big time.

In order to make any start at all, I decided I must imagine who might read my blog, (even if no-one does) and that I would write it as if speaking to them, so I am thinking about carers, in particular carers who care for their partners/spouses. There must be legions of you out there, washing, ironing, shopping, cooking, seeing that your beloved takes their medication, attends outpatient appointments, dentist, chiropodist, optician, G.P., physiotherapist, speech therapist, the list goes on and on. Does he need shoes, clothes aids? And when you’ve done all that, he needs stimulation, for heaven’s sake! When you’ve done all that, and maybe helped to wash, dress, and on occasions feed the one you care for, I bet there isn’t a lot of time left for you, and when there is, you feel too tired to do anything, to feel anything, so you just fall into bed and sleep, get up early the next morning and begin all over again. But you have a life too, a creative mind that longs to express. If you love baking cakes, growing roses, embroidering cushions, sewing dresses you are creative. Maybe you still find time to do these things, but maybe you have just lost interest, had it all drained out of you with obligations.

I spend a lot of time looking out of the window. I look at the sky, the formation of clouds, the way the light changes as the day progresses. I watch birds, butterflies, bees, imagine what it’s like to have wings, to fly away, then I return into myself and my role as carer. One day I’ll write about it in poems, but in the meantime, I’ll write my blog, and in the writing, I’ll explore the possibilities of how to keep creativity alive.