Poems From The Library

Today is World Poetry Day and I had the pleasure and privilege of accompanying a group of students to our local care home, where they performed poetry they had written for the residents. It was a wonderful and moving experience to see these young people engage with such care, kindness, and interest with the older generation in our community. It was also a true testament to the power of poetry to move and inspire.

The students involved revelled in the opportunity to create poetry, several of them never having attempted anything like it before. The whole experience reinforced my own love of the poetic word and prompted me to reflect on my own experience of writing poetry. Unlike with other forms of writing, I often find that poems materialise inside me in a very natural way. Writing stories, articles, and blog posts usually takes a conscious effort of considered construction, but poetry often seems gifted to me.

I heard a wonderful TED Talk by Elizabeth Gilbert in which she shares Ruth Stone’s poetic process:

“…when she felt it coming – because it would, like, shake the earth under her feet – she knew that she had only one thing to do at that point, and that was to – in her words – run like hell. And she would, like, run like hell to the house. And she’d be getting chased by this poem. And the whole deal was that she had to get to a piece of paper and a pencil fast enough so that when it thundered through her, she could collect it and grab it on the page. And other times, she wouldn’t be fast enough. So she’d be, like, running and running and running and the – she wouldn’t get to the house, and the poem would, like, barrel through her. And she would miss it. And she said it would continue on across the landscape looking, as she put it, for another poet.”

My own experience of being discovered (or chased!) by an emerging poem is not quite so dramatic but I can completely relate to the idea of a poem coming to the poet! Don’t get me wrong, my poems don’t just blink into life fully formed before me. I usually find that they sneak up on me and then just part of it will just appear to my consciousness very suddenly. It is like seeing something glinting in the grass and when I pick it up it becomes a thread for me to follow. I follow the thread and hope I can figure out where it was supposed to lead. I weave it into something new and hopefully capture that moment in time.

Lat summer, I was lucky enough to stay at Gladstone’s Library – something which I HIGHLY recommend to any writer or bookworm – and my time there really rekindled my love of writing poetry. One poem found me whilst I was writing in the library late one night and I thought I would share it with you today:

Night birds sing their sunset tune,

As the eloquence of trees is cloaked in shadow.

The final note rings out the day

And silence envelopes the warm, red brick.

But lights still glow through the leased windows,

And gentle figures sit in quiet reverence,

Breathing deep the ink and parchment dust

Of ages past.

Walked in by layers of words and prayers and panelled oak,

Held close by the carved pillars and balustrades

That guard the ancient knowledge of the library;

They sit

And seek

A knowledge of their own.

Outside the darkness creeps

And chases off the warmth of day

But inside the write by their own cones of light,

Cocooned in the low steady burn of ideas.

And even as the lights dim and blink out,

One

By one

By one,

And heavy heads hit feather pillows, to

Dream

And dream

And dream,

The seemingly slow and silent life of the library,

Carries on it’s endless forays into

History and Destiny and Fantasy,

Because imagination never sleeps.

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The Joy of A Moment

Yesterday, I walked in the spring sunshine with snow swirling round me on a wintry wind. I watched my spaniel companion try to catch snowflakes in her mouth and leap amongst the tussocks with sheer joy and abandon. I had taken my kindle with me because I was so engrossed in my current read (A Thousand Perfect Notes by C G Drews), and so I walked through two worlds, alternately losing myself in the music woven into the words of the story and revelling in the beauty of the snowy, sunny, spring world around me. I had the works of some of my favourite composers playing in my ears, the twining melodies and harmonies lifting me from the inside and somehow heightening the many and varied beauties around me. All these little, everyday things, in which I found such delight, came together, as I reached a small rise at the edge of the field, and I felt a profound moment of joy and peace.

In the chaos of everyday life, and particularly through the struggles of coping with mental illness, it is so easy to forget what an exquisitely beautiful place the world is, and just how miraculous it is that we exist at all. As the height of that poignant moment passed, and settled into a quiet contentment, I found myself wishing I had a way to catch that peace and carry it with me, a way to hold it inside me somehow and bring it out when I needed it.

I have a lot of joy in my life. I am exceptionally lucky in my friends and family, my love and livelihood. And yet I sometimes lose myself. I become mired in worry and fear and an unfounded conviction that life is just too difficult and I can’t do it, despite evidence to the contrary. I have come to realise that this is one of the reasons I write – one of the reasons I want to write more: so I can capture those moments of joy and peace, and so hold on to them. So I can capture those moments of panic and fear, and so let them go. Writing has the magical property of allowing me to do both.

I have recently been practising (albeit sporadically) mindful writing, a concept I discovered through the book ‘The Joy of Mindful Writing’ by Joy Kenward. I have found it invaluable in helping me focus on those small moments and recalling past joys. I have found that the exercises help me feel centred – in a way that other mindful practices have not – and have the dual benefit of getting me to write and getting me to engage in some meditative practice. If you’re looking for a way to combine creativity, particularly writing, with mindfulness, I would highly recommend giving this book a read.

I really just wanted to write this today as a reminder, both to myself and to anyone who happens to be reading, that there is joy to be found in the everyday, even when life is hard or the world seems dark or you just feel lost. When you notice it, do what you can to catch it and carry it with you.

Wishing you all a peaceful week.

Searching

Are we all

Caught

In an endless search?

For love

For faith

For fulfilment

For purpose

For understanding

For peace

For comfort

For home

For away

For that certain

Unnameable

Something

That we crave

Without knowing

What it is.

Is the whole of

Humanity

Caught

In an endless seeking?

A seeking in which

Every time we find

What we thought

We were looking for

There appears

On the horizon

Something

Else

That catches the light

And with it

Our

Fleeting

Eye

And the thing we previously

Sought

With all our

Heart

And

Mind

And

Energy

Hangs forgotten

From our hands.

A discarded toy.

Maybe we leave behind us

A debris trail

Of Found Things.

The list of what

We need want

Goes on

And on

And on

And on

But maybe

What we really want need

Is not the

Thing

We are searching for

So unceasingly

But the searching itself.

Because without looking,

Without flipping the stone

Following the unmarked path

Peering round the next bend

Turning the page

Asking

The Question,

How would we ever

See

And

Know

And

Love

The world?

Maybe when they said

“Seek and you shall find”

They were right.

Borrowed With Thanks

When she woke, it was gone. Everything else was in its rightful place: watch laid out on the bedside table, its gentle tick having lulled her to sleep hours before; earrings placed carefully side by side, hooks aligned so as not to become entangled with the copper filigree leaves that hung below; bracelet creating an uneven circle of shadow, light glinting off the worn, engraved bar bearing a simple motto of encouragement: inspire. But of her necklace there was no sign.

Searching with increasing puzzlement for the gleam of the fine, rose-gold chain, she tried to recall any ‘safe place’ she may have left it, mentally rolling her eyes at her own uncanny ability to sabotage even the simplest of her daily routines.

She lifted each book from the stack by her bed. She rifled through the pages and lifted the dust-covers. She checked inside the pillow cases; unmade and remade the bed; peered under the bed frame; checked in the bathroom and even looked through the wardrobe. Nothing. Not a link or clasp to be found.

With a great air of frustration and disappointment, she gave up the search and got on with her day, feeling distinctly unfinished without the light touch of the chain round her neck. It was a day filled with quiet busyness. She worked in silence whilst grey clouds scudded past the window and a late summer drizzle darkened the panes with silvered rivulets. As the day wore on, she forgot her missing necklace, distracted by imagines worlds and daydreams. It was only after she had eaten supper and headed up the creaking stairs to bed that she recalled it’s absence.

She fell frowning into a fitful sleep.

The next morning, she woke to a dull, misty light filtering through the small bay window. Stretching, she swung her sleep heavy legs out of bed. As she rose, a tiny, unexpected glint if light caught her eye. There, at the foot of the bed, just visible under the fold of her rumpled duvet, was her necklace.

With warm surprise she tugged the duvet back further. Surely she must still be dreaming! She knew how carefully and thoroughly she had checked the bed. But maybe she had not been thorough enough, for there, as she perched back on the edge of the mattress and peered a little closer, without doubt was her necklace.

As she reached out to pick it up, she paused in a moment of surprised curiosity. The necklace was not, as one might expect, lying in a knotted clump but rather in a perfectly cooked pile. When she picked it up, it uncoiled to reveal not one knot, not one tangled link.

How strange, she thought, before fastening the clasp behind her neck and continuing with the business of preparing to face the world.

Her mind already wandering to the tasks that lay ahead, as she remade the bed she missed the tiny folded note that became lost in the folded sheets, like a fallen bonsai leaf in a snow drift. She missed the words hidden within, written in a tiny perfect hand:

Borrowed with thanks. It saved our lives.

Come Home To Rest

The Earth smoulders

With the turning of the season

And the clouds drift down

To kiss the burning land.

A veil of tears

Lands softly on flaming leaves

But even heaven’s weeping

Cannot dull the

Rioting palette

Of autumn’s inferno.

And when the most parts,

Making way for the pale light

Of winter’s promise,

And the chill of year’s end

Arrives on the breath of the hills,

The leaves curl and crisp underfoot,

Rustling their accompaniment to fading birdsong.

Polished conkers gleam amongst summer’s debris.

Woodsmoke hangs in the air,

The crackle of logs echoing in the quiet.

The world exhales

A long sigh of letting go.

As though, after a long day,

She has come home to rest.

Sharing a Snippet

I seem to keep promising myself two things: that I will write more, and that I will share some of what I write. I am never very good at keeping either of these promises. During my wonderful stay at Gladstone’s Library I had intended to write some short stories and maybe a bit of poetry. What actually happened was that I wrote quite a lot of poetry and only two little segments of a short story. Turns out I am not very good at actually getting to any sort of narrative. (Note to self: work on that.)

Regardless, I’ve decided to share one of the little bits I wrote. I’m sharing it raw and unedited because if I get into all that I will never share it. This particular snippet was inspired by a writing prompt I found on Pinterest: “write about a new season and it’s impact on the world”. I had in my mind the effects of climate change, and how sometimes our seasons appear all out of whack, and I decided to set it in the far future, but beyond that initial thought I basically free wrote. What came out was a sort of message in a bottle…

No one knew what to call it. The first time it happened it was a ‘freak occurrence’; a ‘meteorological abnormality’; ‘nothing to worry about’. We were captivated by its beauty, and we believed them.

The light was entrancing: ethereal. Streaming from the sky in undulating ribbons, almost pearlescent and tinged with dawn colours. Like a day-lit aurora, it seemed as if each heavenly light fall should deposit a seraph in our midst. We soon discovered they were more of hell than heaven.

After years of this beautiful torture, the equatorial line is now a deep, permanent scorch, circling the Earth’s belly, growing wider with each passing orbit.

The Sun giveth, and the Sun taketh away.

We never know when the burning season will arrive. Unlike the old transitions, there is no gradual change; no slow curling and crisping of leaves as the hues shift to flame; no slow emerging of buds and shoots as greenery pushes its way to the surface once more. It comes in a sudden, terrible blaze. Without warning, the clouds part and the sun spears down, searing everything it touches from the face of the planet. It has proven impossible to predict when it will come and where it will fall. The Northern and Southern Hemispheres are now cut off from one another completely. No one dares cross the scorch band and the light falls have slowly created a no-mans land, not only on the surface but in the upper atmosphere as well. It was a shock when the first satellite fell.

Understandably, people fled from the Earth’s belt, humanity tearing like a seam around the middle. People surged North and South, seeking refuge; the upper and lower reaches of the planet have become unbearably crowded and we are running out of room. The scorch band expands inexorably towards us. All the old boundaries are gone and we are on the brink of war.

As if fighting the sun was not enough.

We did not heed the warnings and now nature takes its revenge for our ignorance and arrogance. The universe sends a mere sliver of its power, through a crack of our own making, and our downfall is sealed.

There is nowhere left for us to run. All our technology and bold proclamations are useless in the face of such relentless, uncompromising destruction.

This is our final hope. These words. Sent out in a direction we can’t control, into the vacuum of space, where we don’t know if anyone is listening. Where anyone who might be listening could be forgiven for ignoring our plea. Our trespasses, after all, are great and many.

But we plead with you anyway.

Because if you are reading this, you are our only hope.

If you are reading this, please send help.

Procrastinating

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I have always been a talented procrastinator. Excelling at putting things off, I am the master of the last minute.

Lately, I seem to have taken my procrastination skills to a new level; I am somehow managing to procrastinate away my free time…

On those occasions when I have the time to sit and read my book, write something, make something, DO something, I seem to fritter away my time with nothingness. I scroll my Facebook and Instagram feeds; I read endless articles about the incompetency of our government (and irritate my social media friends by sharing said articles…); I spend time gathering the notebooks I’m going to write in, the pens I’m going to use, the books and pictures that inspire me…and they sit in a pile next to me whilst I scroll through Twitter and Pinterest…

Something isn’t working. I’m not allowing myself to unplug and do the things that I really want to do.

Part of the problem is this weird sort of anxiety I have about not doing these things well enough. I want to write, but I don’t think my writing is that good. Of course my writing would be better if I just got on and wrote! I want to read but sometimes find that I’m not quite in the mood for *that* book, and I really shouldn’t start a different one, or I know I’m tired and will probably fall asleep after a page. You see reading actually makes my brain relax and stop it’s daily whirring, and when that happens I find it hard not to fall asleep. But if I fall asleep now then I’m not doing all those things I could be doing with this precious free time…

And so the cycle continues.