Remembrance Sunday, a day I always find hard to blog on. Some years I post war poetry. Some years I evade the issue by not blogging at all. Some years I wear a white poppy, others a red, others none at all.
Remembering is important, of course, be it on the world war scale or individual losses of a big, or small, kind. But there is that delicate balance between remembering one day only, and carrying remembrance with us every day as a positive thing to be built upon or help improve/protect the future. There is also a balance between honouring sacrifices or becoming so bogged down or saddened by sacrifices that they mar the very thing those sacrifices were made for. Obviously, for me, this is not just relevant to war and Remembrance Sunday but all the tiny sacrifices and losses throughout life.
In this vein, the rest of today’s blog is about the everyday things of life, poetry, reading, the landscape around me.
First, the protest poetry of the Against Rape campaign organised by Michelle McGrane and Sophie Meyer, comes to an end today. This a topic I found very hard to write about. I’m fortunate enough not to have had to face this first hand. It is horrendous that I find myself having to have the word ‘fortunate’ in that sentence. No one should have to have faced this first hand. It goes without saying, yet still it has to be said.
The range and quality of poetry produced for this campaign has been astounding and some of the poems very hard-hitting. I say this as warning to anyone linking to the website, in case it causes flashbacks to anyone. My small protest was on Friday’s post, there are poems spread across the week.
How to move on from that? In reality, I don’t know. In this blog, I’m simply going to leave some questions marks before I continue, to signal that I just don’t know.
On Tuesday, I headed over to Coventry for Nightblue Fruit, featuring the amazing headline poets Rab Urquhart and Julie Field (aka Julie Goo). The Irish poets’ sets were terrific and it was a great night of poetry and chat. Plus I even sold a few copies of Be[yond] too!
This week I have been thinking a lot about the little things that make a difference – in life and poetry. So, the friends that are important to me, and the small gestures, not just from friends but strangers too – the dropped object that is returned, the smile and chat at a shop checkout…
Similarly, on a poetry front, good reviews are, obviously, great. But also the real people who stop one in the supermarket to say they’ve enjoyed a poem or collection, particularly those that might not have read much poetry before. This week, my parents told me they’d lent my books to a local A Level student, whom I don’t even know, because she wanted to read them and use them for her study and learning more about contemporary poetry. It was as amazing to hear this, as it was the first time someone asked me for a reference, or quotation for a collection’s back cover blurb.
Amongst the other mundane tasks this week that became suddenly, and unexpectedly, unmundane was clearing out the spare bedroom to create a study or me to write in/V. Press office. In the process, I rediscovered lots of boxed memories. Letters and photos. There were tears, and smiles. Most of these are, of course, too personal to be of importance or interest to anyone but me.
One thing I found that surprised me though was a poem I’d written when thirteen. Up until this point I’d always have said that I’d written one poem when I was seven (about a flea in a dressing gown that hopped down to do some shopping – one of the few humorous pieces I’ve ever written, so I must have had a happy early childhood) but nothing else, except a few late teenage angst pieces, until my late 20s. Obviously, this 13-year-old effort is cringe-making. Like the seven-year-old rhymes and the late teenage angst pieces, I’d hesitate to even use the word poem for it. But what was most strange was the fact I’d completely blanked it from my memory. Yet it’s my handwriting, with my name and age on it. Clearly, I have actually been writing, or preparing to write, poetry for longer than even I remember, though I shudder in advance for any other childhood pieces that may (hopefully not!) turn up in the future!
From writing to reading, and a couple of pamphlets, I have particularly enjoyed over the past two weeks.
The first two are from Happenstance, beautiful quality paper objects in themselves, with elegant black and cream covers.
The Manager by Vaughan-Williams has a particularly appealing cover image, while the poems inside are instantly recognisable to anyone who has worked in such an office environment. These poems are humorous, ironic, different, thought-provoking and well worth the read.
Will I Ever Get to Minsk by Jim C Wilson is a very different kettle of poetry, enjoyable in a different way, for different reasons. There is humour here too, observation, thought, striking details, paintings brought to life and strong emotional cores. Also an admirable range of form and literary allusion.
Finally in this very brief snippet round-up, the beautiful, moving and intriguing Templar Poetry pamphlet Eclipse by Kim Lasky. As the title suggests, the moon figures heavily in this sequence, where the science of the skies, beautifully enhances questions and observations of personal relationships and the wider universe. Where there is known, there is also unknown, and not least of the beauties of this pamphlet, for me, is the atmosphere of mystery and awe it evokes.
From awe evoked by such words, to the awe of evoked by the Worcestershire landscape around me. Making the most of the beautiful autumn light, I have been both walking and cycling during the past week, managing to capture a few snapshots from the towpaths.
And I’ll round it up there for this post, with apologies for this rushed end (having lost my earlier version of this blog post, oops!). Plenty more poetry news to come, but it will wait for next week!