Category Archives: Poem

NaPoWriMo Day 11 – Unleashing Counter Protest Poetry

Standard

Day 11 – I was super busy and had time to look at the prompts and not write any poetry. So this is the first day of NaPo that I failed to write my poem a day – this happens. It happens to most people embracing the challenge, maybe the poetry that comes today will be stronger having lingered in my head for 24 hours.

Yesterday I spent the morning making an Easter Promotion video for Fragile Houses (better than an egg), reading proof copy, organising festival events and writing blurb for programmes. In the afternoon I went to Swindon with Rick Saunders (Willis the Poet) to watch him Headline at Oooh Beehive, Clive Oseman & Nick Lovell’s Spoken Word Night. Other Headliners were Aaron Samuel (who has been in the game for just 4 short months and is AMAZING) and Bryony Vine – both of whom were spotted by Clive and Nick at Milk Poets. It was a great night!

Totally forgiving myself for not writing poetry.

Let’s step back in time…

napofeature2017-2

http://www.napowrimo.net/

Our featured participant for the day is Unassorted stories, where the poem for Day 9 is a portrait of a mental makeover.

Today, we’re also featuring a 1962 interview with Sylvia Plath. In popular culture, Plath is known for three things: (1) she wrote angry poems, (2) she killed herself, and (3) teenage girls who feel angry and a little gothy read her to feel angrier and a little gothier. But look a little further, and you’ll find a deeply philosophical poet, a master of unusual similes that set the reader rocking back on their heels, and a refuser of obvious or comfortable ideas, particularly about motherhood, femininity, and the reality of existing in a physical body. There’s a lot to learn from her densely layered, uncompromising verse. Looking for a few examples of her work beyond those poems you might have already seen? Here’s one, and another, and another.

And last but not least, here’s our (optional) prompt for the day: the Bop. The invention of poet Afaa Michael Weaver, the Bop is a kind of combination sonnet + song. Like a Shakespearan sonnet, it introduces, discusses, and then solves (or fails to solve) a problem. Like a song, it relies on refrains and repetition. In the basic Bop poem, a six-line stanza introduces the problem, and is followed by a one-line refrain. The next, eight-line stanza discusses and develops the problem, and is again followed by the one-line refrain. Then, another six-line stanza resolves or concludes the problem, and is again followed by the refrain. Here’s an example of a Bop poem written by Weaver, and here’s another by the poet Ravi Shankar.

napo2017button2

Yesterday I got as far as reading the examples and writing out my frame. Today I sat down to write my first ever Bop. My first attempt worked technically and was something I needed to write out of myself. It stands as a poem, but didn’t say enough. Then I thought back to recent events in Birmingham. The EDL marched on the city and one of my friends was racially abused. I wanted to write about that. Go Back Home

Saffiyah Khan’s photo (smiling at protestors as she stepped in to defend a woman who was surrounded) has gone viral, I watched a video interview with her yesterday and the whole thing needs to be united against. It seems to me the Bop is a perfect form for such a political statement. So I set back to my page again.

Saffiyah Khan Birmingham Mail

I am working on a re-write and depending on whether I bag an open mic slot at HOWL tonight, might share it with the city.

Our multi-cultural city stands united.

napo2017button1


Carrie Etter’s prompt was to describe an image in 2-5 lines and use this as the end of the poem and work back from there.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/birmingham-edl-march-photo-picture-woman-mosque-best-of-british-tea-party-muhammad-afzal-a7674726.html

I wrote about the image of Saffiyah Khan

edl The Independent

The Independent © 2017

Fighting against this dark veil

shrouding Centenary Square.

I think it is important for people to know that there were Unity Rallies, Counter Protestors and demonstrations, like the tea party held at the Mosque. 300 attended that, there were 50 EDL members. The protest was originally planned for the East Midlands, but moved to Birmingham after the Westminster attacks.

Saffiyah was not a counter-protestor, she was just in the city and came to this woman’s aid. Stepped in where others looked on.

I was not there – I was in the city in 2014 when the EDL came, I was performing at an event at the Library for Birmingham Literature Festival, an event that one poet pulled out of because her skin was the wrong colour that day. I was afraid and I was inside the library. Saffiyah states she wasn’t being brave, but it takes a lot to stand up like this. Look how straight her back is!


Jo Bell shares Late Fragment by Raymond Carver http://www.jobell.org.uk/


58d3e6b0bba6c-bpfullThe Poetry School gave us Day 11: Old English Day

Old English or Anglo-Saxon verse is fascinating and powerful. To write in a typical Anglo-Saxon way, you need:

·         lines with 4 stresses (though it doesn’t matter how many feet, i.e. your line can be as short as ‘Hold. Stay! Hold, hold!’ or as long as you want providing it only has 4 stresses)
·         an optional central caesura or pause between stress 2 and 3
·         alliteration of 3 of the 4 stress words (this doesn’t have to be on the first syllable if the stress is on a later syllable, e.g. although would alliterate on ‘th’).

It’s all very flexible though. If you want to alliterate 2 of the words, or all 4, or you want to skip your caesura, that’s absolutely fine. Sound complicated? It’s not! You’ll soon get the hang of it and it’s a very natural, flowing way to write.

It’ll all be much easier with an example few lines from Simon Armitage’s translation of ‘Gawain’ (which is actually a Middle English revival of the alliterative style). The stresses are indicated in bold.

as he heaped his hair to the crown of his head,
the nape of his neck now naked and ready.
Gawain grips the axe and heaves it heavenwards,

A longer extract can be found here https://www.theguardian.com/books/2006/dec/16/poetry.simonarmitage


 

NaPoWriMo Day 9 Prompts & Poetry

Standard

Well after an epic morning writing the gaps I am finally back on track with prompts for NaPoWriMo.

napofeature4

Here is what is on offer over at http://www.napowrimo.net/day-nine-3/

Our featured participant for the day is Ordinary Average Thoughts, the repetition poem.

Today, our interview is with Thomas Lux. When he passed away earlier this year, he was the author of twenty books of poetry. Known for his sardonic verse (titles of his books include Pecked To Death By Swans and Tarantulas on the Lifebuoy), Lux taught for many years at Sarah Lawrence College in New York, as well as in other writing programs around the country. Find examples of his poems here and here.

poetry foundation

Finally, here is our prompt (optional, as always). Because today is the ninth day of NaPoWriMo, I’d like to challenge you to write a nine-line poem.

I wrote a very personal poem so I won’t post any snippets here. I am not sure it is one I can do anything with. So I set about writing more and after two false starts caught a poem that went somewhere.

‘…scared to ruin what is precious…

…time does not lace… with its trace…’


Carrie Etter’s prompt leaves me with a lump in my throat before I even attempt pen to paper. Writing about loss. Writing about the month of loss and listing all the horrible things about the month then revealing in the endline that this was the month of loss. I am thinking of a friend who died, who I miss dearly.

I came back to writing this a while later, an incredibly short poem of 10 lines. Powerful, going somewhere.

…frost grieved evenings…

snow bleached hospital sheets…

November took you to that colourless place.


Jo Bell under a post called leaping greenly, gives us an untitled poem by EE Cummings. http://www.jobell.org.uk/

In her post she shares the EE Cummings poem that first got her into poetry (thank goodness, a poetry world without Jo in it would be a poorer place). At 17 she wrote out the last two verses, Jo writes It can be explained, just as happiness can be explained as a ratio of endorphins – but that’s not the point of either poetry or happiness.

Which made me smile.

I am a Cummings fan and this was an insightful read. Enjoyed spending some time with Cummings.


Over at The Poetry School 58d3e6b0bba6c-bpfullcalls for a response poem.

Day 9: Response poem

Morning all. Today’s challenge is a response poem: argue against, agree with, re-write, or converse with someone else’s poem. The difficulty, of course, lies in making your poem stand up on its own. © The Poetry School 2017 


 

INKSPILL: Gaia Harper and the Foyle Young Poets Prize

Standard

inkspill-2016-share-button

You met our Guest Writer, Gaia Harper, you read she won the Foyle Young Poet prize in 2015. Here’s where you find out about the competition and hear a BBC Radio interview Gaia excitedly managed when she was in London for the prize giving last year.


Every year, 15 young people across the country are selected as top winners of the Foyle Young Poets competition. In 2015 judged by esteemed poets Liz Berry and Michael Symmons Roberts. There were thousands of entries from all over the world.

The winning entries were anthologised in Wolves of Normality

16-foyle-antholog-wolves-rgb-300-565x800

Image copyright 2015 The Poetry Society

You can read them here

The Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award is the biggest award for writers aged 11-17. It welcomes poems on any theme and entry is completely FREE.

Since it began the Award has kick-started the career of some of today’s most exciting new voices. Past winners include Sarah Howe, Helen Mort and Caroline Bird.

© 2016 The Poetry Society

The Guardian also publish the winning poems, read them all here https://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/2015/oct/08/foyle-young-poets-winners-2015-poetry-day


 

RADIO INTERVIEW with Gaia Harper

Gaia-Rose Harper is interviewed by BBC Radio Shropshire on National Poetry Day about her prize-winning poem ‘Columbia Calling’. Gaia-Rose’s poem was chosen from over 12000 entries from 69 countries as one of the 15 winners of the 2015 Foyle Young Poets Award.

In the photo, Gaia-Rose gets her picture taken with poet Liz Berry, one of the judges of the competition.

 

This year they received over 10,000 entries. The judges were Malika Booker and W.N. Herbert. Find out more about the 2016 results here

INKSPILL Guest Writer Interview with Gaia Harper

Standard

inkspill-2016-share-button

letters-1161947_1280

gw

Gaia Harper talks to Nina Lewis about her love of language, why poetry is important and winning Foyle Young Poets prize in our exclusive INKSPILL interview.


 

Can you describe a time when you realised creating (writing) was something you absolutely had to do?

As soon as I had read Howl by Allen Ginsberg, I knew I had to write. That was the defining moment for me; it still continues to be one of the most powerful influences behind everything I write.

Who are some of your favourite poets?

Ever since I first got into poetry I’ve adored the Beats, so I’d have to say Allen Ginsberg. Rainer Maria Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus is one of my favourite collections, and anything by Whitman catches my eye. As for modern poets, I’ve recently got into Sarah Howe and Claudia Rankine.

Why is poetry important?

To quote Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society, “We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race.” Poetry is in everything you or I do, in the folding of a napkin, the simple act of smiling. We would be stupid to ignore it.

What comes first in a poem, are you prompted by the idea or form?

Most of my poetry is purely spontaneous; I am rarely one of those people who can sit down and choose to write on a certain topic. The smallest things can trigger a poem for me. Often song lyrics or quotes from films prompt ideas; writing purely on a song or film is something I’ve recently got into. I have a love-hate relationship with form, as most of what I write is in free verse, however I love playing with form from time to time; I’m a big fan of a loose sonnet.

interview

What books are you currently reading?

Salem’s Lot by Stephen King and Naked Lunch by William Burroughs. I love books that make you think, but sometimes you need a good horror to get your teeth into. Poetry wise, I’m currently flicking through Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman.

What was it like entering the Foyle competition?

To be honest, I was dubious about entering at first considering the vast number of entries, so it took me a long time to get around to submitting. When I eventually sent them off, the anticipation was awful, but obviously the results were worth the wait.

How did you find Arvon with Liz Berry & Michael Symmons?

It was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. Liz and Michael are such lovely people as well as poets, and they are so supportive. It was strangely wonderful to be able to have a lesson with them, and then have Liz helping you cook dinner.

Are you a member of the Young Poets Network?

I’ve been a member of the Young Poets Network for a couple of years now. Everything they post comes straight to my email, so it’s great to get unexpected prompts and competitions I could enter.

Do you have any advice for aspiring young poets?

To any young poets out there, I would say ignore everything anyone has ever told you about what poetry has to be. School is never going to teach you a thing about poetry, even if it tries. Rant and shout about every little thing you want to, and write it all down. Don’t let anyone put parameters around your writing; whether it be a rhyme scheme or a way of feeling. What teenagers write is often dismissed as angsty; fight back. Write whatever the hell you want.


 

INKSPILL: Guest Writer Roy McFarlane Workshop ‘Letters, Phone calls and Texting’

Standard

gw

Following on from the earlier workshop ‘Objects to hang our words on’, Roy takes us deeper into exercises and writing in the next session ‘Letters, Phone Calls and Texting’.

This workshop focuses on poetry from Pascale Petit and Roy McFarlane. You are invited to extend on your earlier writing. So take a deep breath and dive in.


workshop-1

Letters, phone calls and texting

Arrival of the Electric Eel from Fauverie by Pascale Petit

Each time I open it I feel like a Matses girl

handed a parcel at the end of her seclusion,

my face pierced by jaguar whiskers

to make me brave.

I know what’s inside – that I must

unwrap the envelope of leaves

until all that’s left

squirming in my hands

is an electric eel.

The positive head, the negative tail,

the rows of batteries under the skin,

the smell, almost blind eyes,

The day turns murky again,

I’m wading through the bottom of my life

when my father’s letter arrives. And keeps on arriving.

The charged fibres of paper

against my shaking fingers,

the thin electroplates of ink.

The messenger drags me up to the surface

to gulp air then flicks its anal fin.

Never before has a letter been so heavy,

growing to two metres in my room,

the address, the phone number, then the numbness

I know you must be surprised, it says,

but I will die soon and want to make contact.

Pascale captures the dread of opening a correspondence, there’s that association with an indigenous girl from the Amazon, a brave Matses girl, the knowledge of knowing and then we have the electric eel. The letter is alive; charged fibres of paper, thin electroplates of ink. Now feel the weight of the letter watch it grow two metres and then the last two lines leave us in turmoil.

The next one is Leaves are falling from my collection Beginning with your last breath. Autumn plays a big part here, the way I guess things slow down when you hear bad news, like leaves falling but for me a storm is coming and you pray that the weather forecasters have got it wrong.

I didn’t notice the leaves falling

the day they told me it would be

weeks more than months.

The rest of their words

fell softly on deaf ground.

I remembered in the morning

they had forecast an oncoming storm,

the tail end of a hurricane

from the Caribbean seas.

What do they know?

They never get things right,

it will never ever reach here.


writing

Exercise

Take yourself back to the moment you received news about a terminal illness, the passing away of a loved one, somebody moving on or a message via letter, email, friends, or searching through your beloved belongings and you find a message addressed to you. Hold that moment, imagine the feeling, numb, shock, surprised, scared, angry, start writing those feelings, just the feelings, get a thesaurus and explore the feelings, look at its root meaning, the etymology of the word you’re playing with. (15 mins writing) Now think of an animal, weather, or nature inhabit their essence, their very being, imagine every nuance you can think of, don’t link the two together yet, just keep writing (15 mins) Now you should have two A4 writing of notes, (I’m joking, a few lines are just as good). Now put the two together, hopefully you’ve been bursting to correlate the two things to make your poem.

 

 

RELATED LINKS:

Beginning with your last Breath by Roy McFarlane – buy a copy here

http://ninearchespress.com/publications/poetry-collections/beginning%20with%20your%20last%20breath.html

Fauverie by Pascale Petit – buy a copy here

https://www.serenbooks.com/productdisplay/fauverie

http://www.pascalepetit.co.uk/

NaPoWriMo Day 10 – Strength of a Spine

Standard

Day 10 is a third of the way through NaPoWriMo, I am still hoping I can squeeze the next 20 poems into May. Mathematically it is possible, the diary is full and I have my fingers in lots of pies again, so it will be a challenge.

Day 10’s poet in translation is Pakistan’s Faiz Ahmed Faiz. Faiz was known particularly for his ghazals, a traditional Urdu form of poetry. Six of his poems, translated into English, can be found here, and a number of additional poems are available here.

napo small

Today’s prompt encouraged book spine poetry.

I am excited about Book Spine Poetry, although I have never attempted it myself. The easiest place to try it out would be a library. I initially thought I would use my poetry shelf, but I have some obstacles in the way of my bookcase at the minute. Mr G has lots of Art books, so that was my next port of call. Then I remembered a pile of ‘self-help’ books I have been sorting through. I added a few plays and a book of quotes and came up with ‘The Guilty Bystander’.

The photo isn’t the clearest, I found stacking the titles in frame an impossible task. Book spine poetry can be harder than you would imagine. That’s what makes it a poem I guess.

book spine napo 10

The Guilty Bystander

There’s a hole in my chest,

everyday I pray

you can heal your life.

So long desired,

wake up and dream.

Love is like a crayon because it comes

in all colours.

napo2016button2

 

NaPoWriMo Day 9 – Be Brave

Standard

There’s nothing like a good book launch to get creative juices flowing, that is why I couldn’t get back to sleep at 6 a.m and why the coffee is settling in the cafetière. Poetry time. Of course I emptied the junk mail and scoured inboxes first, but now – an hour later… I am ready.

napofeature1 Our poet in translation today is India’s Mallika Sengupta. Her poetry has been called “unapologetically political”, but it can also be pretty funny. I particularly like her “Open Letter to Freud,” which can be found, along with three other poems in English translation, at the link above. Further poems translated into English can be found here.

napofeature3

Today’s prompt asks us to write a poem including a line that you’re scared of. How’s that for suddenly emptying your head. All those brave lines ran away scared and I was faced with an empty screen for a while.

First cup from the newly used cafetière….

I started listing brave lines, I knew I had them in me. These are lines that hold emotion or personal secrets, are ugly or strange. I was shocked by some of lines and decided that those brave lines that shocked me should be my focus.

Really my focus should be buckling down with my manuscript… creating new poetry has more of a first thing in the morning appeal.

napo2016button1

I use my ‘brave’ line to open the poem;

‘I am still scared of the dark’

throughout the poem I explore recent memory, coping strategies, childhood recollections, rituals and eventually the crux of the matter in the closing stanza, which I will share here.

I do not fear the dark in company,

sometimes I quite enjoy it,

intimacy found in the empty spectrum.

I think it is being left alone I fear.

NaPoWriMo Day 8 Back to the Future

Standard

Throughout May I will be posting my belated participation in NaPoWriMo.

We’ve passed the one week mark. I’m so happy to see that so many of you are still going strong!

napofeature1

Our featured participant for Day 8 is Ghazals and more at the bitter wished-for child, which shows how a successful tritina can be built from very simple language and simple words.

Our poet in translation today is Nepal’s Banira Giri. Giri emphasizes the importance of spontaneity in writing poetry, as well as expressing the connection between living things. In this way, her poems navigate between the personal and the political, the lyric “I” and the socially conscious “we.” Some of her poems, translated into English, can be found at the link above, here, and in the online literary journal The Drunken Boat.

napo small

Day 8 invited us to write about a flower. My Shakespearean based poetry from Day 5 was heavily floral, but I welcomed the prompt because I know just the sort of flower I wanted to honour today… and I don’t tend to write about flowers, so it is good to increase my bank of floral tributes. The white Plumeria flower of Hawaii.

This is the second poem of NaPoWriMo that I consider to be a finished piece. I enjoyed writing it and taking myself back to Hawaii. I am sharing the 2nd stanza;

napo2016button1

As common as an English Rose to these islands,

this flower seeps effortlessly into dream-time.

Reflecting sunlight, the cleanest ke’oke’o

heightened against blue sky. Five petalled star,

overlapping like playing cards spread in a magicians palm.

Scent of beauty with essence of white magic.

 

plumeria-pixabaycom © pixabay.com

 

NaPoWriMo Day 6 Ingredients: Actual Poems

Standard

It is around about now (days off the end of the month) that I realise this challenge is not going to end in April for me. After 4 weeks off from my writing life, I am returning to writing for performance, performing and editing current projects. The summer is fast approaching and lots needs addressing in my life outside of poetry. My poetry life is busy preparing for festivals, events and submissions. Tag on the day job, I don’t even want to think about all the boxes I am trying to unpack my way through or the need for a DEEP Spring clean at home… the result is chaos.

I have decided not to rush the NaPoWriMo project, I want to enjoy this process and benefit from time to write – after all that’s the main point, that and to have fun.

I may dream of writing business but the nuts and bolts are art. Art needs nurturing, time, commitment, space… I am approaching it softly.

From now on I do a day a day, as it should be. Welcome to day 6.

napofeature3

Our featured participant today is Kevin O’Conner, who struggled at first with our Day 5 prompt, but came up with a great poem, well-seeded with seed names.

Today’s featured poet in translation is Burma’s Ma Ei. Very little of her work is available in English, but you’ll find two poems at the link above, and two more here.

You may be interested in checking out this short film, showcasing the work of contemporary Burmese poets, including Ma Ei, as well as this interview with James Byrne, editor of a recent anthology of Burmese poetry, which includes Ma Ei’s work.

napo2016button2

Today’s prompt was to write about food.

teatime

This is my friend’s microwave (7 years ago), maybe they have these models in the UK in a higher budget than the mark Mr G and I look at, I just loved the message. Usually they just ping, beep or flash. Perhaps I should have written about this microwave instead of taking half a day (and night) deliberating my food poem.

I think the writing process for Day 6 is juicier than the poem so I am sharing it first. I love food, this write should have been easy. But I remember Jo Bell’s advice; abandon your first thoughts, dig deeper. Immediately, like a naughty child, I want to write all my initial foodie thoughts.

 

Butter Fingers

I haven’t written a poem about cake.

Or biscuits.

Or fish fingers, crabsticks and spaghetti hoops.

There is no advice about what foods to avoid

on (first) dates,

or heavily veiled descriptions of tier towered

wedding cakes.

No Saturday night take-away

chicken madras, sweet and sour pork, fish

and chips,

but there is a poem about food.

napo2016button1

 

If in doubt write what you are not going to write about. Just a bit of free write fun there, in the shape of a poem. Although it does pass as a food poem. At this point I placed a title above it and moved on. It is a poem.

I started with pictures of food, trying to disguise identity in an almost riddle.

Bright circus colours

a Big Top in stream form

The mustard and ketchup on a hotdog.

Then came a mind-map. Some ideas from which I may explore in the summer when I have maximum writing time.

Films about food and drink was taken from the mind-map and became an enjoyable hour of research and created some ideas for my next writing group, in May. I have a list of 27 alternative film titles substituting food words. ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crumpet’ a particular favourite of mine. Harrison Ford, dishy – doesn’t take a writer to get to crumpet there.

I then looked at Tarantino film clips involving food (another idea to chase later). I ended up on a recipe page and then spent a futile Google search looking for US Market canned Pumpkin, previously available in Tesco & Waitrose and now seemingly not reaching our island at all. I thought of filling suitcases and then baggage allowance and security.

Then I wrote a poem about Mr G and I cooking in the kitchen together.

Tango on terracotta tiles…

cabinet perimetered dancefloor…

hands gathering busy.

From here I ended up falling asleep and I woke up (2 hrs after my alarm) with a poem spilling from my head.

 

Eggs is Eggs (A pillow head poem)

Mum poached them

Dad fried them

Paul boiled them

I scrambled

and David,

was too young to cook.

 

me hallo

 

NaPoWriMo Day 2

Standard

The beginning of today’s message (April 2nd) reminds us that NaPoWriMo is about experimentation rather than perfection. It is likely in 30 days of writing (or 12!) that some poems will ‘have legs’ as they say, it is important not to worry about the others.

NaPo is about the writing, the exercise of pen to paper and word flow. It is good not to put pressure on pleasure.

Our poet in translation for today is Indonesia’s Toeti Herati. Born in 1933, she started publishing in her early forties, and her work is known for its feminist bent, using irony to expose Indonesian culture’s double standards. Very little of her work is available in English, but the Poetry Translation Center has posted English versions of seven of her poems online, and also offers a dual-language chapbook featuring her work. © 2016 NaPoWriMo

Today’s prompt a poem that takes the form of a family portrait. I immediately look at the framed pictures of family in my room, nephews, brothers, grandma, weddings, birthdays, lazy mornings. I think about the black and white portraits in the family album beside the bookcase that I started to compile a decade ago, I notice dust where there shouldn’t be any and try to think about poetry instead. I have had a work call and now have less time to write, I know I won’t catch up today and I need to filter everything else to write about family. My manuscript covers a lot of memory and family work so it is a subject I am familiar with, but know that I can’t pop this poem out, like I did for the Lune challenge this morning.

napofeature4

Pondering time…

an excerpt from Family Portrait Challenge Day 2.

‘moments no longer printed on paper

pixel memories trapped inside our screens.’