As part of my ‘Writing Poetry’ module for my Masters, we were asked to produce a pamphlet of up to 15 poems i.e. to put our marked Portfolio into a physical format. No marks were attached to this (thank God, as mine was far from perfect) but it is nice to have. I am enjoying studying at Keele so much; just want to be back on campus again!
I have been trying to write a poem about grief. (in connection with my Uni stuff) Specifically, the grief that comes after the death of a much loved person. I thought of several people who are grieving, sometimes after many years, as I wrote about this most difficult of subjects. I thought about loss/death and how it feels when it seems one CAN'T grieve, because there was not enough love in the relaitionship to summon up that feeling, or there has been an estrangement.
Now is winter, and the solstice is close, which resonate with death and darkness but also the return of the light. I've tried to use recent landscape images I've been inspired by to express how the 'journey' (that word!) of grief might unfold. but there is a fine line between portraying emotions and descending into doggerel.
The photograph of a solstice sunset (2014) is mine. I suspect it is a finer thing than this poem. Genuine critique welcomed.
It seems this is the price we pay for love.
Pain, distilled into a deep frost hollow
the sun never reaches, sits squat and silent.
Be glad there was love; loss without love
is the perma-frosted ground where a village
needs to dig its graves in summer; every summer.
With love, grief is the route back; the low sun
sitting just behind, not blinding the way ahead.
A late afternoon glow, hazing winter-torn leaves.
Embers, not fire. Bracken, dark orange umber,
opaque and lightfast, the colour of earthiness.
The landscape softened, and water-washed with time;
sighting the unexpected familiar on a country road.
Two pheasants peering from a field, their bright blue
and new-penny plumage enamelled by the last of the light,
then disappearing. The zig-zag road becomes shadowy;
dark, with frost in the hollows beneath ivy-twisted trees.
The sun is standing still, before days begin to lengthen.
I was reading something different from my usual stuff...a short story 'The Girl who took a Bullet for the President (of Kalămatizstan*)
*home of the world’s hottest – allegedly - chilli
The story seemed to go down well...there were some smiles, which I was pleased about, but also hopefully the audience were imagining the world of a young female student who (somewhat ironically) buys the memoirs of an Alpha Male president of one of those countries one can never quite find on the map. Jessica falls (quite literally) into a very strange world indeed; seductive, dark, and definitely dangerous.
The Red Beach is a kernel of a story I have had in my head for a long time. To be "immoral" is one thing, and can be highly subjective. To be amoral is quite another. Meet David....7pm onwards at City Central Library in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent
I am so pleased to have been asked to participate in this event, not just to read poetry but experience 'an exchange of words, poems and an intimate outdoor performance.'
I hope amongst other subjects to read about urban green spaces, being outside, Stoke, canals, canal boat culture, water....even cats! Yes, cats do live on canal boats. I should know as I live within yards of a canal, lucky me.
I and the other poets will also be asking people to share any poetry they know, and we will be also poetically appreciating the sound and arts installations at the festival. I'm not giving too much away though, except to say that I know it will be an amazing day, and the weather is forecast dry and around 19c for the afternoon. So win win!
I emailed Hereford’s Left Bank Village https://herefordleftbank.com/ never thinking they would let me utilise their lovely courtyard space. I hastily explained that I was a student at Keele University, studying for a Masters Degree in Creative Writing. I would be giving free Tarot readings in exchange for some written feedback, from which I would create Found Poetry. Somehow it worked. After I had completed my Tarot readings at The Village, having squeezed my campervan into the courtyard between a blacksmith’s demonstration and a stall selling clothes to raise money for refugees (it’s that kind of place), I was informed that although ‘things seemed chaotic here, somehow it always works’. I could say the same about the Tarot, a random selection of six from seventy-eight cards (which also can have a reverse meaning) chosen by a person I have never met before and know nothing about. How can I possibly tell anything about that person, their life, and the choices they have before them? I have no idea. Yet in Hereford as in Stoke-on-Trent almost everyone who had a reading said that it resonated with them, helped them, and they left feeling better about life than they did before. More than that I cannot say, but there is a power in the cards and the reading of them, maybe because they create a space to think. The creativity came from the feedback given and recorded by my lovely friend aka Mooncat, (who because of her occupation had to have a sticker on her photograph), the people I spoke to in the gorgeous venue – not at all chaotic – and the amazing, beautiful and mysterious border country of Herefordshire. At this point it’s fair to make a few comparisons between the two Tarot experiences. I was far more blessed with the weather at Hereford, and the Village is a place that the community visit purely for socialising, eating and drinking and all the other experiences provided in the evening too. Despite the eighty mile drive (the M6 was clear!) I felt quite relaxed; I had already fulfilled the brief at Stoke, which was also a sound learning curve. There were a lot more distractions for people at the Village, which has an air of prosperity. Yet when I held the readings over more than four hours (this time I had a break) it was not the differences I saw in people from the two communities, but the similarities. Social conditions may be slightly different, but the things people are anxious about, and care about, are not. It may be a cliche, but we are all just people under the skin. The poetry on the blog is partly mine, and partly poetry 'found' from the verbal and written feedback form the Tarot recipiets. It is totally anonymous, and photographs have been posted only with permission. Other found poetry (also anonymous) has formed part of my Masters portfolio. Thank you people of Hereford for sharing your leisure time with me, and to the chilled events organisers who accomodated me and my van.
Here I must mention that I knew the area of Hereford and the Welsh borders from when I travelled on business. The folklore and facts about the border of England and Wales (including modern times) is mind-blowing. I have complemented the poetry with images captured as I travelled the borders long after I finished my on-the-road days. (The reasons why belong to a separate blog) It is one of many stupefying co-incidences since deciding to use the Tarot as a creative tool, that I ended up back in Hereford - and that really is the truth.
All Border Country poetry copyright June Palmer
Dilwyn, Ewyas Harold, Llandinabo, also
Llangarron, Llanrothal, Llanveynoe
Welcome to England. Croeso!
The ebb and flow
of border country is shaded dark.
Boundries have shifted,
castles collapsed, and no spark
lights the hop-kiln
yet the church at Kilpeck
seems lit from within by unknown energies.
spreads her fanny like a porn star.
On the south door,
the Green Man is carved.
He has older names - the Wild Hunter,
Lord of the Forest, horned Cernunnos.
Taken high above myself
to see an overview of my life
we both agreed
how easy it would be
to enjoy complacency.
To live the happy retired couples life
of pub lunches and two-some holidays,
champange brunches on Sundays,
I could see what I needed to do,
the depth of it, the simplicity.
Just let go, go with the flow
that takes me back to travels and camps,
The past lives never fully lived.
Once I was a warrior.
Reassured, I can be so again.
I haven’t valued it
The reading told me this,
informed me of what I already knew.
Friends, I haven’t valued you.
Everything has been about family,
not about me
not about the friends I have forgotten.
I have closed myself away,
now it’s time to be open.
To involve myself in life
* Found Poetry
A confluence of history
The tree at Whiteleaved Oak is suffering,
votive offerings of a once-Pagan nation,
its white leaves stilled, under the moon.
I hide in the hem of your skirt
like a young hare.
Those of you who know me are aware that I have been up to very weird, wonderful and creative things recently, all part of studying for my Masters degree in Creative Writing at Keele University. Some of the story can be found on my Facebook page ‘Chalice Creative Writing’, which looks at the preparation I made for two events, one in Stoke-on-Trent, the other in Hereford. In the pursuit of creative material, and because I love doing them, I provided free Tarot readings as part of my Writer in the Community Project. In a few days time the full story will be on this blog, but there is a part of the preparation I haven’t really talked about. Before I held the two events, I went for my own Tarot reading with a lady I met a few years ago, a very experienced reader. What happens in the reading is always confidential, but I did talk to her about my cat who died three years ago, it just so happened exactly three years to the day I went for my reading. The date was chosen by the Tarot reader because that was the date she could fit me in. This cat was very special to me, but of course the reader could not have known about the significance of the date. I was so close to this cat I have sometimes wondered why I’ve never dreamt about her or ‘seen’ her, as has happened with another cat I had. It prompted me to write a poem about my conversation with the Tarot reader when we talked about my ‘soul-cat’. It's more emotion than high art, but true.
The image of the moon is copyright of J R Biddulph who kindly gave me permission to use it.
I still cry for her, my familiar.
Strange I never glimpse her;
a shadow on the stairs,
a fleet movement in the half-light.
Soul-cat who sat close to me,
and shared my nights.
I loved her. She was my friend
from the tips of her soft paws,
her needy claws and coat of spices,
to her skinny talkative tail.
Her chirrup greeting never failed
to make me happy
She never made me cry,
until that moment
I had to let her run free.
You will see her
when your grief is not so hot.
she is imprinted on you.
I will be reading at Stone Library tomorrow night as part of Stone Scribblers Spring Festival to celebrate their first anniversary. The artworks above by artist and sculptor Liz Watts are the inspiration behind the poems I will be reading. It will be a great night - I am only a tiny cog in the mighty wheel that Stone Scribblers Writing Group truly will be.
“The North Chose Us” said Nils-Aslak Valk eapää, poet of the Sami people. I would never, ever say I am capable of evoking Sami identity, or the geography and ecology found where the Sami live in the far north of Sweden, Norway, Finland, and northwestern Russia. The furthest North I have ever been is Iceland, which I have visited five times, but I remain fascinated by those countries and cultures which lie near and within the Arctic Circle. Inuit, Sami, Greenlanders and Icelanders seem to me to be the ultimate survivors. Iceland alone has suffered not just the harsh cold, but earthquakes, volcanoes and disease that at one point in the country’s history seemed destined to wipe out the entire population, which even today stands at just 339,764. I hope on World Poetry Day to pay tribute to some of ‘The Peoples of the North’ not by writing some sort of poetic hagiography or cultural appropriation, but attempting to show how inspiring the cultures of the far North are to me.
Yes, I will highlight some of the problems, indignities and cultural destruction that have been forced onto these peoples. Most importantly however I will try to perform poetry that reflects the mystery, the beauty, and the culture that I have seen and read about.
Author - June Palmer