‘You won’t ever be an academic poet’ said someone wise. But that’s never stopped me!
Two of my poems follow from ‘Grasshopper Cocktails’ 2017 an autumn anthology of poems inspired by the John McCullough on a course at New Writing South. There are poems by every member of the group. The pamphlet was the brain child of Lucy Cage a fellow poet who produced it!
Dreamt I was dancing along a lane in a pink petticoat
an old lady was picking apples when daylight intervened.
Half awake I was reminded of the anniversary of Aberfan
the silhouette of a young girl with ribbons of purple bubbles
streaming from the open window and Connie Yates
painting bubbles over and over again.
From my bedroom window I can see the worn stone
paths I created in the garden. The pathway meandering
through the park leading to the sea where dog walkers
congregate every morning. Tiny paths threading their way
to Telscombe Tye and roads leading in and out of town.
Now blackbirds are back pecking the ground under
the wet brown flower heads, a robin sings on a leafless
Laburnum, a smart pigeon marches under the bird feeder
hoping careless sparrows will flick a few seeds his way
a tabby cat emerges just below the magpie’s nest.
But what I’m seeking is a new direction.
I have had half a dozen poems published in magazines and won a minor competition. But that was before I got old quite unexpectedly so decided to publish two collections in quick succession myself. Piles of poems yet to be improved and/or placed before a skip gets the lot!
But in the summer of 2017 I was on of several poets selected for another short residency as part of London’s Open Square weekend, this time in Earls Court Square.
Earls Court Square
untamed ivy creeps
into ancient urns
at night foxes run over
the roofs of parked cars
slide down the windscreens
drink from the waterfall
sunlight through plane trees
creates shadow puppets
on the grass
a shimmering globe
mirror of distortion
white space crumpled sky
a black cat raises havoc
with noisy parakeets
blackbirds and robins retreat
terraces red brick
symbols of Egyptian gods
sit in state
guarding the garden
their ears sadly
Eyre knows every flower
with shears he cuts
a bush into a neat ball
work in harmony
with the soil
Peggy Long’s roses
thrive next to
lily of the valley
near to George’s bench
not far from Californian lilac
a stone’s throw
from white viburnum
of Japanese anemones
and wary of racy newcomers
‘Weaving Spells’ is from ‘Don’t Throw Away the Daisies’
He was a magician to us
weaving spells with wood and clay.
Other people’s dads went to work
and reappeared for supper.
Ours spent his days
and most nights
in his cluttered workshop.
He was always engrossed
kneading clay or carving wood,
the music of Glen Miller blaring
from a battered radio.
We would clink through the chaos
with mother’s homemade cakes,
the smell mingling with the stench of glue
boiling on an ancient cooker.
Our faces shone with shy smiles
as his hand took the teacup.
He had been whisked away to war,
we barely knew him.
We lived at Gran’s
and discovered him one day
in the hallway
with a battered trunk.
in a coarse khaki uniform,
a clarinet in a case
and chocolate in his pockets.
The following poems are from ‘The Puppeteer’s Daughter’
In the kitchen
Let’s draw daffodils
and talk about compassion,
capture papery parcels
that hold the tightly packed
buds still green in their pods.
Let our pencils trace
the shapes of ambitious petals
intent on jumping the gun,
reaching out to the world
before their traditional season.
Let’s fill in the details
on their frilly faces
add a few shadows,
for they had no say in the matter
like us simply here in this kitchen
at this particular time.
Everyone helped on Christmas eve, the children in the living room
trusted to make neat crosses on sprouts bottoms,
peel potatoes and prod the hot chestnuts
We’d laugh at my mother’s story of corn beef roast during the war.
Now a few years on it was a roast chicken killed by Grandma
out in the garden and hung in the scullery for two days
Grandpa staggered up the hill from the underground at eight
with apples, pears and nuts from our greengrocers in Goodge Street,
gifts from fellow shop keepers, glace fruits being our absolute favourite
Grandmother insisted all through the war there would be no black market;
her Methodist her beliefs could not sanction anything dishonourable.
“Pity”, said Uncle Jack in later years, “we could have had butter, eggs,
A Valiant Brood
Prolonged wintry weather savaged the bees
despite honey stocks and bee fondant
wind rain and snow penetrated
their sturdy wooden hive.
Now they lie in tiny icy cocoons
clustered around their queen
a valiant brood
that did all it could
to stay alive.
The old Adana
never stopped clanging
virgin paper fed its jaws.
Nearby large drawers held
sets of single letters in
Garamond or Dorchester
for straight talking
Venetian Gothic, curvy
sheets destined to be
hand fed between rubber rollers
emerge in sticky black ink
publicity flyers, leaflets
programmes, plays for
all laid out on every
available space to dry.
We did everything ourselves
to cut costs.
A hundred years ago
TJ Cobden-Sanderson threw
all the type from Dove Press
into the Thames when he fell out
with his partner.
I was one of the poets on a two day residency run the The Poetry School as one of the poets for London Open Squares weekend.
I wrote poems in Postman’s Park in the City of London in 2015 and again in 2016. There were 16 poets were in different squares many not usually open to the public.
Poems inspired by the park.
The formal lawn
Full of tools
one wheelbarrow stands
forks, spades, brushes, stakes.
His mate kneels at one corner
carefully sifting soil, troweling edges
his head bent, intent on perfection.
A third man brings in a barrow
rich green turf, all three
in harmony, finely tuned.
The handkerchief tree
I sit under the loggia
and consider heroism
what it must take
to jump into the depths
of Highgate ponds
to save someone from drowning
to risk being crushed to death
by the weight of a runaway
to die on a burning stairway
trying to save your mother
from a house on fire.
Is it all your gentle spirits turning
the leaves on the handkerchief tree
pure white in remembrance.
On the path
I just avoid
stepping on a
I place him
on rain-sodden earth.
After all, anyone
St Botolph’s Aldersgate
I hope this is the pew where the poet once sat
having enjoyed his breakfast of burnt toast
sitting in his morning chair looking out to the grave yard
where his great grandfather is buried
drafting a letter then leaving his acorn
papered eerie to saunter out of Cloth Fair
in his heavy coat and wide brimmed hat.
I hope this is the pew where once the poet sat
listening to sacred music from the deep throated organ
wafting through ancient pillars up to the ornate ceiling
looking up at the famous alter painting stored in Wales
during the war and now with the day light flickering
on the angel with the chalice in Gethsemane
offering strength and courage to The Son of God.
I hope this is the pew where once the poet sat
next to the Wesley window that was not his favourite
but near the stone memorial for a much loved daughter
and not far from the detailed deliberations
of Dame Anne Packington, widow, who in her will
in 1595 tried to devise ways to ensure her estate
would help the poor in perpetuity.
I hope this is the pew where once the poet sat
singing the hymns and half listening to the sermon
as thoughts of the letters he still had to write
and the women that he loved passed through his mind
having time to later wander to favourite memorial
where it implies that it is not a man’s ornate plague
but his good name and the deeds he accomplished.
in memory of John Betjeman
I started writing poetry on a regular basis when I retired, studying part-time at Sussex University a day a week. Short courses at The Poetry School, Arvon, New Writing South with Dr. John McCullough and some workshops at Troubadour.
I love Amecian poetry. If there is a ‘one off ‘session somewhere in London that will not break the bank I will be there! Last year Mathew Dickman was over for a few days, magical!
Years ago I had a poem published in Compact, a piece in The Sunday Times Supplement. Later on three poems published in Writing Magazine. Since retirement I have had several poems in anthologies in Brighton.
I have tried competitions but I am never sure anything is good enough and they can be expensive to enter on a regular basis, but I won one competition judged by New Writing South and was shortlisted in The Bridport Prize in 2014 and long listed for a pamphlet with Cinnamon
Getting published in today’s world is very competitive and can be expensive. Most poets of my acquaintance attend courses. festivals, go readings, subscribe to poetry magazines etc. Having done all that it can also be a question of who one gets to know! Twas ever thus!
I have always exposed to poetry because both my grandmother and mother loved it. As the daughter of marionette makers and performers my sister and my schooling was often disrupted but our parents shows used music and some sketches were in rhyme.
I know a lot about ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and ‘Through the Looking Glass’ because we performed scenes from the book twice daily for summer seasons. (some of these performances I put on youtube) I was also lucky to have seen many of Shakespeare’s plays from the gallery of the Old Vic in the 50s! Lack of schooling has its advantages!
I self published first ‘Don’t Throw Away the Daisies’ and more recently ‘The Puppeteer’s Daughter’. I had written several of the poems on courses and paid for mentoring so had some confidence in it. I also had the interest of a publisher but after seven months he changed his mind!
Both on sale in City Books in Hove and The Open Art Cafe in Rottingdean and on line at Lulu and Amazon,
I have enjoyed trying to move with the times so I have a poetry blog and a podcast blog and even some with films on youtube.
Thank you for your interest.