Monthly Archives: May 2014

Hold Back the Night

THE GREAT VERSES (6):

He reads the great verses, in the bath,

at his favoured time, as the evening begins.

It is the night when the clocks are changed.

The hands go forward; time rearranged.

As he enters the bathroom, it is still daylight;

a few weeks ago, it would already be night.

He gratefully sinks into fragrant warm water;

opens his book, stilling his mind,

for the chiming cadences, lyrical lines.

 

The poems sink in, at varying rates.

Some do, with words, what Vermeer does with paint:

create motionless moments, meditative states.

He reads on, engrossed; outside, darkness falls.

Inside the house, too, darkness encroaches;

his bathroom the only oasis of light.

He emerges into darkness; fumbles for switches.

It is not so easy to hold back the night.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The brutal brevity of human existence, how fleeting our time is in this “vale of tears”; this is a subject that has fascinated many of our greatest poets.  Shakespeare, for instance, makes it one of the focal points of his sonnets.  How can we halt the inevitable march of time; how to “hold back the night” – to quote from a pop song of my youth.  One way is, perhaps, to capture certain magical moments, meditate upon them, and recreate them in poetry.

It’s a subject I’ve touched upon more than once in my own sequence of poems inspired by the many happy hours I’ve spent reading anthologies of poems whilst relaxing in a warm bath.  The poem above is the penultimate one in the sequence, and it came about due to a combination of changing the clocks at the Spring Equinox, after having watched a television documentary about the great Dutch artist Vermeer.

 

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Writers’ Blog Tour

I was delighted to be invited to take part in the Writers’ Blog Tour by the poet and blogger Marc Mordey themarcistagenda.wordpress.com  The Writers’ Blog Tour is a growing international community of writers working to introduce each other’s blog to a wider audience.  Each writer involved answers four questions about their work, and provides links to the other writers who will follow-on from them, in a continuous “chain”.  Marc had been invited onto the tour by the creative writing partnership mirrenjones.wordpress.com, and he in turn invited the writers Helen Carey helencareybooks.wordpress.com , Gillian Mawson whaleybridgewriter.BlogSpot.co.uk, and me.

So, now it’s my turn to answer the four questions:

1. What am I working on?

I have just completed a poem, so I am not, strictly speaking, “working on” anything at the moment.  I do, occasionally, work on sequences of poems that are connected by a theme, but that isn’t the case just now.  I have the germ of an idea for the next poem, but I’m happy to leave it for a few days, in the hope it might “flesh itself out” a little in my mind, before I start to work seriously on it.  My natural working rhythm seems to produce a poem every couple of weeks or so.  Overall, I am working towards publishing a first collection of my poems.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My poems are definitely more immediately accessible than a lot of the contemporary verse I see published in poetry magazines.  I really don’t see the point in trying to make a poem so obscure or oblique in meaning that it becomes virtually impossible to understand.  On the other hand, of course, a poem should not be so transparent that it only needs to be read once.  I suppose I aim to place my poems somewhere in the middle of those two polarities.  I’m trying to write about serious subjects, from a slightly offbeat angle, often underscored with a wry humour.

3. Why do I write what I do?

For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to be a writer; but I never dreamt that I would end up writing poetry.  Experts on Creative Writing often emphasise how important it is for the writer to find his/her own authentic “voice”.  I spent years writing novels, essays and short stories, but I never felt that I found my own voice, and even began to think that I didn’t possess one.  It took me a long time, learning, slowly and painfully, that I simply wasn’t very good at the kind of writing I was trying to do.  It was only when I started seriously trying to write poems that I finally found my own voice.  Writing my poems is the only creative thing I can do, and now it’s all I want to do.

4. How does my writing process work?

First Step: As soon as the idea for a poem comes to me (this often happens at inconvenient times – when I’m submerged in a warm bath, or half-asleep in bed in the early hours of the morning), I take pen and paper and jot it all down.

Second Step: The next day, I start developing the poem.  What sort of poem is it going to be?  Are rhymes involved?  If so, what sort of verse-scheme?  Is it, basically, a short poem, or a longer one?  What sort of line-breaks: long lines or short lines . . . I work on it for a maximum of an hour or two, then leave it until the next day.

Third Step: Continue working on the poem (all this is done with pen and paper) until it reaches a satisfactory conclusion.  I work on it every day, but only for an hour or two each time.  The shortest time it has taken me to complete a poem is about 45 minutes; the longest it’s taken is about 12 hours (spread over about ten days).

Final Step: “Type-up” the poem onto computer.  I often find myself making last-minute changes at this stage, as the poem often looks different, on the computer screen, from how it looked in my notebook.

And now I’d like to introduce a wonderful, highly-talented writer: Siobhan Daiko siobhandaiko.wordpress.com

Siobhan is a freelance writer, online blogger, and e-book short story author.  After a life of romance and adventure in Hong Kong and the UK, in 2012 Siobhan moved to her family’s house in the Veneto, Northern Italy, with her husband and two cats.  She’s always been passionate about writing, and loves to indulge that passion while living the “dolce vita”, exploring the area where she lives, and researching historical characters.

I urge you to visit Siobhan’s blog, where she will be taking part in the Writers’ Blog Tour on May 26th.

 

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Sleep

SLEEP:

There was a time I’d go to bed,

fall, blissfully, asleep.

Basking in cool darkness,

I’d slumber long and deep.

 

My teeming brain would quieten;

fantasies rich and strange

would infiltrate my sleeping mind,

and delightfully derange.

 

I floated on the vast ocean

of The Unconscious, effortlessly.

Each night a joyful journey;

a sojourn by the sea.

 

But, tides of time;

the waves withdraw.

The sea no longer

laps the shore.

 

I know this is not

as it was before.

I know I need sleep;

I know I need more.

But this is the way of it;

unwritten lore.

 

I splash in the shallows;

on the rim, not the core.

Hear the muffled sound,

the retreating roar.

Followers of this blog will probably be aware of my periodic problems with sleeping – also alluded to in an earlier post: “Purging the Bins”.  I wondered if I could make some kind of a poem out of my nocturnal struggles, and “Sleep” is the final result.

A lot of the poems I’ve written recently have been unrhymed, but, as soon as I started thinking about sleep, all sorts of rhymes suggested themselves, and I soon realised this was going to be rhyming verse.  I always have a slight fear that poems with conventional rhyme-schemes can seem to be old-fashioned or twee, but I think this is really a secondary consideration.  The main question should be whether the poem works or not, on its own terms; and I hope “Sleep” does!

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