poetry


This Saturday we are ‘celebrating’ the 5th birthday of our writers’ club, Writers on the Wharfe (now ‘virtual’ of course). Formation of the club was life-changing for me although for most of my working life I was writing for a living. It’s a good time I think to reflect on my ‘writing’ journey.

I’d rarely tried to write fiction or a ‘poem’ before the club (other than haiku and those were usually linked to a photograph in what I called ‘picture haiku’). I can think of only a couple of very short stories.

Restricted forms

Those who’ve been following me for a while will know that when I try to write I often prefer a tightly restricted format, like an English sonnet, an acrostic, haiku or even, with prose, writing to an exact length, eg 100 words or even 25 words, or some self-imposed restriction like in my recent post when I tried to ‘make’ a character in 20 sentences or less.

I cannot force myself to sit down and write, though that was never a problem as a journalist. So, although in the writers’ club we are usually given a theme about which to write for the next meeting I now rarely follow this.

I gave up attempting haiku when I decided good haiku were not possible except probably in Japanese, as I explained here. But my real journey into ‘restricted poems’ began after an hour with ‘eyup poet’ Matt Abbot on a barge in Leeds on the Leeds-Liverpool canal.

The décima

A portrait of Vincente Espinel

Vicente Espinel

So, I was excited to discover a new-to-me restricted form, the décima. It was created in Spain in the 16th century by Vicente Espinel, born in Ronda in 1550. Like haiku, it was often used in a ‘conversation’ between two poets, one answering the other’s décima with another décima. However, like haiku, the décima was created for a different language and a different culture so those written in English can never be quite right.

Even more exciting was the discovery that, set to music, there are competitions in Puerto Rica where the décimas are composed ‘on the spot’ to a given theme. How they are able to do that is just amazing. However, just as rhyming poetry is easier in Romanian because of the grammar, the décima is possibly a bit easier in Spanish as two written syllables are sometimes voiced as one. On the other hand, the interchangeability of eg,‘don’t’ and ‘do not’ in English can make achieving the syllable count easier.

In an attempt to make the occasion ‘special’ I’ve attempted to write two on the theme ‘birthday’, one by my alter ego answering that from ‘me’.


Birthday

I’m celebrating a birthday
A truly golden day for me
My start in fiction as you’ll see
A few false ‘haiku’ on the way
Even ‘tankas’ kept boredom at bay
But then came someone, she’s crazy
A sylphlike figure far from lazy.
Dark tales left, came a writers’ club
First coffee shop then kind of pub.
Ruxandra is now boss; rules are hazy.

Alter ego’s response

Well, I’m grumpy tyke it seems
Even hazy rules bring rebel
A milder revolt than Bebel,
I often don’t follow the themes
I tend just to follow my dreams
I’ve done it today yet again
Not today’s ‘Isolated Brain’,
The set theme for why I don’t know.
Having considered I said “NO!”
Adopting ‘Birthday’ kept me sane.


If you haven’t worked it out from my efforts, the décima is a poem of ten lines each with eight syllables, the rhyming plan being ABBAACCDDC.

There’s more info on:
https://dversepoets.com/2016/04/21/form-for-allmeeting-the-bar-decima/
from which I took most of my information. There’s also an example of a competition with sung décima in Puerto Rica.

More information about formation of the writers’ club at:

https://wp.me/pkm0h-NI

Petronela (my wife for those who don’t know) and I have confined ourselves to our flat for at least two weeks, until we know whether she, as a teacher, picked up the virus at school.

Our writers’ club has become virtual but the theme given for the next  meeting on 28 March is ‘addiction’. Here’s what I sent to club members.


Here’s something ridiculous to amuse you, I hope, while I think of a more sensible response to Ruxandra’s theme of ‘addiction’ for the now virtual meeting on 28 March.

It seems some people still don’t accept as fiction
That anything less than total restriction
Will wave a welcome valediction
To the current widespread affliction.

It’s also a widely believed nonfiction
That any eventual bronchoconstriction
Will be banished by a benediction,
Having resulted from some malediction.

I also have a firm conviction
Even something of a little prediction
That even if my throat condition is no longer in my jurisdiction,
It will not, in future, affect my diction.

I say that because my throat already has a little constriction,
Caused some months ago by the eviction
Of a giant tube not shortened by magnetostriction,
Not by any kind of vasoconstriction.

Even so, there was no interdiction
Nor any kind of dereliction.
(So far I couldn’t fit in depiction,
Not even a bit of crucifiction.)

It’s just some nonsense, even a contradiction,
But I can end up with a bit of metafiction:

You guessed it, words and true rhymes are my addiction!

Thumbing through the notebook I use for writing pieces to be read at a meeting of our writers’ club, Writing on the Wharfe, I saw a ‘poem’ which I thought I had never read. Evidently I did when there were few members there so I read it again today.

The theme set for today, ‘Change’, prompted another bit of nonsense in the form of an acrostic.

Facebook

Facebook
So many people on the hook
They’ve forgotten how to write
They’ve forgotten how to spell
Punctuation is nowhere in sight
While distorted grammar makes me yell.
Lies broadcast at random
Often with overphotoshopped pictures in tandem.
Plagiarism is rife
Just forwarding others’ work, not acknowledging the source.
Bullying too often takes a life
Particularly of the young and vulnerable, of course.
It all began with an idea which was great,
Now so often it is just an instrument of hate.
Recent changes are not to improve it,
Just to make bigger the owner’s pot of gold.
If it were up to me I’d remove it
But will any who have the power be so bold?
If I could I’d never give it another look.
Do you get the idea? I really dislike Facebook!

Acrostic

Cos of a little variation
He subjected himself to some radiation
Atoms and the like are not to be messed about
Neutrons should be left alone without doubt
Grizzly face is all that remains
Electrons pouring out of each of its veins
All change
Electrons are probably no longer there
Grizzly features covered with hair
Neutrons lost in their neutrality
Atoms give the face brutality
He shouldn’t have gone through that door
Cos the sign said ‘No entry’, and more.

Ben Nevis, Britain's "highest hill"Those of you who have followed me for some time (11th anniversary for grumptyke the other day) will know for my attempts at poetry and short stories I like to write short, often very short, and in a form for which there are strict rules.

Something I have never tried before is a pantoum, based on the Malay literary form of pantun, which has a rhyming structure and in each quatrain repeats lines from the previous quatrain.

Wanting to write something in praise of my friend Ruxandra’s (and founder/leader of our writers’ club Writing on the Wharfe) amazing hike of 120 miles in 3 days in the Scottish Highlands, in aid of a young persons’ mental health charity – Young Minds Trust – I chose to scribble a pantoum over my pre club meeting lunch.

Here it is:

Homage

She climbed Britain’s highest hill
In a trek of some 120 miles
Covering Scottish Highlands with only will
Yet her reports were filled with smiles

In a walk of some 120 miles
Some of us might give up before the end
Yet her reports were filled with smiles
Not a glum face wherever she might wend

Some of us might give up before the end
To return to the start by bus or train
Not a glum face wherever she might wend
But a walk for troubled youngsters has much to gain

To return to the start by bus or train
Never entered her crazy Romanian head
Not a glum face wherever she might wend
But I bet she welcomed at last the stay in bed

Struggles with longer writing

My battle to finish the one ‘long’ piece of fiction, working title Miranda, I’ve attempted continues. Starting as a 300 word short story, it’s now become a novella at about 30,000 words but my ambition is to grow it into a novel. The subtitle – ‘A tale of unlikely love in 60s-70s London‘ – tells me there’s enough material in my head from that exciting time, my time, in our capital to merit it. Dragging distant memories to the fore and turning it to fiction, easy for the first few chapters, is proving more difficult as  the journey through subsequent chapters continues. It is, after all, a period of my life between 47 and 52 years ago but draws somewhat on my experience a few years further back than that.

A photo of the moon taken from my sitting room window

Moon from my sitting room window (photo on film, ‘legacy’ Zeiss Sonnar lens)

It is now unusual for me to pick up on the theme given for members of our local writers’ club Writing on the Wharfe – to write something for the following meeting. Our most recent meeting before today was on the 50th anniversary of the moon landing so the theme given, no surprise, was ‘moon’.

Why it appealed to me I don’t know, perhaps  because on a clear night I follow with wonder her travel across the sky from our sitting room window, perhaps because I covered the event (from an engineering point of view) as a journalist in 1969.

My ‘poem’, however, has nothing to do with engineering.

Moon
brightly watching me through my window
Venus at her shoulder
stirring thoughts of love
Mars more secretly telling of his presence
protecting the three of us
from what I do not know
i feel the trio watching over you too
so far away
can you see them?
i know you feel the stardust
always
even when you cannot see the stars

My ‘poem’ is dedicated to my female blogging friend(s) who feel the stardust.

A screen shot of a preview screen showing the menu structure of my reorganised blog.

I still use the editor with which I began 11 years ago; in my opinion few, if any, of WordPress’s changes have been an improvement, rather the reverse. I disliked the ‘app’ from the start and I haven’t changed my mind.

Recently I decided to restructure this blog, in particular to highlight things which interest me more than when I began to post on it seven years ago (though it was created four years before that!). I didn’t want to change the overall look of it, with which I’ve always been happy; in particular, I now want it to be principally a ‘library’ of my fictional prose and ‘poetry’, grouped under menu headings. So I’ve changed the tag line in the header a little too to reflect that.

What has amazed me during this exercise is not only the number of short stories and ‘poems’ I have written but the different genres I have tackled. My first attempt at a short story was almost seven years ago; the ‘poems’ began about a month after that, prompted by a haiku from a blogger ‘five reflections‘, who I believe posts no more.

However, the greatest influence has been our local writers’ club, Writing of the Wharfe, formed by our lovely Romanian ‘leader’ Ruxandra Moore. I was a founder member.

A change of emphasis only

I continue to ignore the desperate attempts by WordPress to change my way of editing: “There’s an easier way to edit posts …”, it insists at the top of every editing screen. Not for me there’s not!.

Although I’m changing the emphasis, I do not want it to be a blog only as somewhere to publish my fictional writings, as many writers’ blogs are. I still want grumpytyke to feel free to have a grump about something from time to time and, when appropriate, give some background to the ‘creative writing’.

Until now all my so-called ‘creative writing’ appearing on this blog has been within a post giving some background, eg, this piece was what I wrote to read at a meeting of my local writers’ club, that piece was what I presented at the Ilkley Literature Festival, this work was inspired by something written (link) by this blogger, etc. So I wanted to separate the story or ‘poem’ from the post originally including it. Eventually there will be a link to the original post including it. I did this with my ‘haiku’ (I don’t now believe they are haiku – just 5-7-5  verses) and ‘tanka’ some time ago, collecting them together on a single page.

A work in progress

It’s a work in progress at the moment. It’s not too difficult to extract pieces from a post, put them on a page and put them under the appropriate menu or sub-menu heading, though I’m no IT expert so it’s far from perfect. Another problem is that I have quite a bit of writing which has never appeared on this blog.

’Poetry’ not Poetry

You may notice that I usually put inverted commas round the words ‘poem’ or ‘poetry’ when referring to my own creations. After reading and listening to poetry for more than seven decades I’m still not sure what poetry is so I am reluctant to call any little piece of mine a poem. Of course I have to tag them as such.

One of my favourite poets, David Machin, a member of our writers’ club, insists on calling his creations ‘verse’,  not poetry. Another, Matt Abbott told me during an hour spent with him on a barge on the Leeds-Liverpool canal, “If it makes the audience cry it is poetry” (see my ‘poem’ A Lesson in Restriction). The poetry of another, Iulia Halatz, which I ‘lost’, I’ve just unearthed hiding in an interesting writers’ collective, Sudden Denouement

An added difficulty is that for the past few months I’ve produced so-called ‘creative writing’ only with a fountain pen. So, unless I’ve typed it up to put in a post, it has now to be typed up to add to this archive.

A novella/novel in progress

Finally, I wanted this library to include pieces I’m working on so I have a sub-heading ‘Writing in Progress’. At the moment this is mainly chapters of a novella?/novel? I pick up from time to time (it began as a 5,000 word short story; now it’s reached about 30,000 words). Even this list gives something away: I don’t write by starting at the beginning and proceeding to the end. Nor do I ‘work’ at it; I write only when I feel the urge to write and may pick up a story, or ‘poem’, at any point. (Recently I read a blogging ‘guru’ saying that writing was hard work and there was no such thing as an innate ability to write. That may be so for him but in my view it is nonsense, even arrogant, to apply it to all writers.)

The work in progress is password protected.

For me, the only art form to compete with writing is music but as I do not create music I do not have a menu heading for that, any more than for my reading, though I may occasionally have posts about either. I’ll rely on the search facility to find those.

Food and Romania

I used to blog a lot about cooking/food and Romania so I decided to leave a menu heading for each of those categories, to display posts which fall into that category. At some point I’ll sort those out too.

As I said above, this reorganisation is a work in progress. If a particular story or ‘poem’ is clicked, you should be taken to that story or poem. If you click on a menu heading or sub-heading it should take you to all the posts in that category, as usual, but it doesn’t always do that. I’m working on it!

Regular readers may notice that I’ve simplified my menu system, majoring on my writing which is now my main interest as far as blogging is concerned, at least as an archive. Although I do not now do much fancy cooking, food remains a major interest, mainly satisfied through following other foodie bloggers. In the future I’ll be gathering together posts about food and Romania under those headings.


In my previous post I wrote of the emotion evident in a poetry ‘collection’ launched by K M Herbert, a fellow member of our writers’ club, Writing on the Wharfe, and her collaborator, Sussi Louise, who illustrated each poem.

Two years ago I wrote of my surprise that so many bloggers “lay their souls bare” and maybe I should do it. I do not think that I ever did so. So …

A blogger’s lament

I miss you.
How can that be?
I’ve never crossed the miles which divide us,
Nor have you.

Boxed in

I push up on the lid,
Just a small crack, but
The light comes in.
Four directions, illuminated.
Where my feet are standing now I cannot see:
Dark.
Empty?

Again I push the lid
More strongly, more urgently.
A flood of light
Tells me
It’s a wonderful world
In which we live.

Useless vocabulary

Friend’,
Another word corrupted.
Like ‘fuck’
And ‘gay’
And ‘passion’,
Maybe even ‘love’.

Two years ago

Here’s an extract from that post I wrote way back in early May 2017.


“I was particularly struck very recently by the final paragraph in a post from a Romanian blogger, Iulia Halatz, a teacher of English in Bucharest (moreover, she runs her own business – check her out at https://blogdecompanie.wordpress.com). Here’s the final paragraph of her post ‘tyrannosaurus writing’:

To write with the truth of pain in your mouth is gruesome poetry…You’ll have to cut out your heart with every word and show it to the world, then hope it will heal. This is how the light gets in, also the dark. To acknowledge fear, defeat, despair and pretend serenity of a lesson learned while patching up the wounds is…Life.”

“As someone much influenced by Leonard Cohen in my younger days I found the bow (or curtsy) to him striking. It made me think maybe I should write posts now and then where I open a few cracks, to let the light in.”


Do my three little ‘poems’ do that, I wonder?

Photo of poet Poet KMHerbert - Kayla - at the launch

Poet KMHerbert – Kayla – at the launch

Writers and other artists talking about their works, graduates in English literature (even professors!), or critics, analysing novels and poetry, usually just irritate me; I long ago gave up going to ‘an evening with … ‘ at the Ilkley Literature Festival (or reading blog posts with a similar theme – though there are rare exceptions – just a couple of women blogging writers). Usually so much self-indulgent, pretentious claptrap from others!

This probably stems from my experience with Swift’s ‘Gulliver’s Travels’. I first read it at seven years old and loved it. Eight or nine years later it was the set book for my English Literature GCE ‘O’ level; the analysis over a year ruined it for me and I have not been able to read it since. Of course I failed the exam. Fortunately I didn’t need it but ‘O’ level English Language was no problem and that was handy to have when I changed career course from science to journalism.

A surprise

Photo of Sussi Louise at the launch

Sussi Louise Smith – Sussi – at the launch

It was a delightful surprise when I attended the launch of a ‘collection’ of poems and illustrations by two members of our writers’ clubWriting on the Wharfe – this week. Far from irritating me, the ‘presentations’ had me enthralled – K.M.Herbert (Kayla) explaining some of the motivation behind her poems and Sussi Louise Smith (Sussi) showing clearly the emotions aroused by the poems and carried through into her illustrations.

Kayla is Canadian, Sussi is Danish, but both have lived in Yorkshire for a while.

Here’s what I wrote on our writers’ club Facebook page the following morning:

So glad I made it to Kayla’s and Sussi’s launch last night. A fascinating evening to have a little of the creative process of two of our ‘collective’ of talented artists explained and such openness about the emotions driving the writing of Kayla’s poems over a five year period and Sussi’s reaction to them, inspiring her wonderful illustrations.

Anyone who knows me will know that I generally don’t react well to writers and other artists explaining their thought processes – usually so much pretentious b……. – but Kayla and Sussi took us on a wonderful journey through the ‘collection’ of 12 poems and illustrations ‘Between the Spaces’.

The chosen medium, a set of postcards, Kayla’s poem on one side, Sussi’s illustration on the other, was inspired.

You can order a set at:  www.kmherbert.com

The setting for the launch was perfect too: surrounded by books in the intimacy of  Ilkley’s The Grove Bookshop.

Just one poem and illustration

I cannot choose a favourite poem nor illustration now, possibly never, it’s been difficult enough to separate out just one, but here is one of Kayla’s shortest fills of the spaces in her life over five years and Sussi’s illustration for it.

PS. If you see an advertisement in the middle of this post it has nothing to do with me. I do not, of course, object to WordPress putting an ad at the end of a post as I’m not willing to pay to get rid of them. But messing up a bloggers’ carefully constructed posts with advertisements in the middle is unacceptable. Much as I like most aspects of WordPress after using it for about a decade I’ll have to look for an alternative.

Worse, the ads are usually completely inappropriate; the latest is for a military video game. I object strongly to such a game being associated with my blog. I do not play video games, I don’t believe many of my followers will play video games either. 

Photo of Paula’s letter and the envelope it came inYesterday was a real ‘red letter day‘ for me, though the letter was blue – blue paper, blue ink.

One of the highlights of my usual summer trip to Romania last year was meeting two of my former students, from around a quarter of a century ago. Since then I’ve kept in touch, a little via internet but, more importantly, by handwritten letters, in line with my rediscovered love of the fountain pen.

A letter in the post

Yesterday I received a 13 page letter from Paula, now a teacher of English in the beautiful Bistrița valley in Romania; she graciously tells all that her present career is due to my teaching in the 1990s.

Paula is a busy lady, a full-time teacher in high school, supplementing her income with private tuition as many Romanian teachers have to do. Her husband is now working abroad as many Romanians find necessary so with a young son, it’s not surprising that she began her letter to me in early December last year and finished it in early February this year.

A poet remembered – Labiș

I was delighted to see she’d remembered that I’d said it was good to receive something in Romanian so she’d written a paragraph in her own language (which I had no problem reading). However, she also remembered I had said that one of my favourite Romanian poets was Nicolae Labiș and had written out two of his poems for me: Moartea căprioarei (The death of the deer) and Meșterul (The master {craftsman}). They will take me rather longer to fully understand but I’ll enjoy the exercise. I read the first many years ago on a visit to the village of Mălini (in my beloved Bucovina) where Labiș was born, when my Romanian was much less good than now; I remember that even then it brought tears. It was probably what first created my love for the poetry of this poet, who died tragically young in strange, controversial, circumstances. Meșterul I do not know.

I’ve already begun a letter back to her which I’ll complete over a little time in the future; I’ve also begun one to my Latvian blogger friend Ilze, which I’ll complete in a rather shorter time.

The pen is mightier than the keyboard

I’ve said it before, I now write all my stories and poems on paper with a fountain pen, and am even trying to expand my single attempt at a novella into a novel using the pen not the computer; I find the creative juices flow more freely with the ink. But hand writing letters seems to be a powerful medicine when the stresses of daily life are trying to take over.

 

I don’t now often pick up on the writing prompt given in our writers’ club, Writing on the Wharfe, but that for today – Poem in the Pocket – appealed. So, picking up my fountain pen I saw the words pouring out into my little primary school exercise book. For certain, as I had the day before read the latest offering from one of my preferred blogging poets,  Jenni Winterburn (a Yorkshire lass, the optimistic pessimist) – you might say my absolute favourite – I have to acknowledge that it’s been influenced very much by her poetry.

§

poem in the pocket
among the coins
screwed up tissues
words
and things better forgotten
a poem jostled by the little ones
1p, 2p, 5p, even 10p
which no longer buy anything
just wear holes in the pocket
so the poem slips out
word by word
lost for ever
unless you’re careful
longish beautiful words
like happenstance
which i’ve been trying to fit
into a poem for ages
slip out too
lost for ever
even floccinaucinihilipification
might escape
thus preventing sesquipedalian texts
or poems
and logomachies
disrupting our writers’ club meetings
somehow this little ‘poem’ did not get away

but those long words

better
lost for ever?

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