Monday, 28 November 2011

Where there is life, there is hope...

When I posted that the dog killed the chicken, I wasn't entirely truthful. The gruesome truth was the dog had really hurt the chicken and I couldn't put her out of her misery so I took her to the old chap who lives next door.

He keeps lots of chickens and I knew he wouldn't be as soft as me about it. He was very kind and took her off me. Anyway I thought he would have killed her as soon as I had gone, hence why I wrote the sad post about my chicken being dead.

Yesterday my little boys were playing outside and came to fetch me because he said the old man next door had something for us. Off we went, expecting vegetables or a bag of apples. Imagine my shock and joy when he said, 'Look, one lucky chicken.'

There was Snowdrop scratching around, eating corn and drinking water. She looked bedraggled and pissed off, but I would be unhappy if a dog had attacked me. The old man had rubbed some magic cream of his own invention onto her back and bandaged her up. I have never seen anything like it.

Today the chicken is back in the pen with her friend Bluebell and seems a bit perkier. I have no idea if she is going to make it. Will her skin and feathers grow back? The old man seems to think so. He said, 'Where there is life, there's hope.'

Friday, 25 November 2011

Wolf with white feathers

Our pet wolf.
Snapping and feathering.

Our pet wolf killing our white chicken.
She was called Snowdrop and belonged to my daughter.

The dog always disliked the white chicken, who was bold and would sneak out of the pen to peck in the garden. When the dog was locked in her kennel Snowdrop would peck right outside as if to say, 'Ha! What can you do about it?'

Well the dog took her chance and executed her. It was horrible but I was quick to tell the children they couldn't blame the dog...she was only acting like a dog. It was our fault for not fixing the small hole in the chicken pen. One of those jobs we meant to do and kept forgetting.

Daughter took it very well, 'I'm OK. Chicken's don't live long anyway.'
Older son was very sad, we both cried as we were fond of the silly white chicken.

That's what happens when you domesticate a wolf and keep it as a pet.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Hit The Ode Tonight!!

The Victoria, Birmingham
48 John Bright Street, B1 1BN
Birmingham, United Kingdom
'Hit the Ode brings the most exciting poets from the region, the country and the world straight to the heart of Birmingham. We have poems unlike any others. These are poems which show up like that last night bus you thought you'd missed; poems which double as functioning dream-catchers; poems which sound like ice cream tastes. Good poems, that’s what we have. Come and get them. Our guests this time will be:

From Derby, Joe Coghlan: a writer and performer who blends the rhythms and rhyme schemes of rap with the breathing space of good storytelling.

From Totnes, Matt Harvey: writer, poet, enemy of all that’s difficult and upsetting, and host of Radio 4’s Wondermentalist poetry cabaret.

From Ireland, Catherine Brogan: a multi-talented performer and multiple slam winner, multiple times better than what’s playing in your multiplex.

A very few open mic slots are available - sign up via email 
( or on the door.'

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Poetry Bites with Joseph Horgan and Bobby Parker

Poetry Bites is a monthly poetry event based at the Kitchen Garden Cafe in Kings Heath, Birmingham. I have wanted to go to it for a long time but it clashes with my daughter's gymnastics class. During the week Bobby Parker put out a call for a lift on facebook to get to Poetry Bites and it seemed like the perfect chance to go. Gymnastics not quite as important as enabling a poet to read his poetry out loud to an audience!
Bobby Parker

Then I thought if I am driving I may as well fill my car up with a collection of excellent poets. So I messaged Chris Guidon and his beautiful, talented fiance Emma (she paints amazing pictures) and invited them to come.

Then I asked the poet Sarah James if she wanted the last space and she said yes... a whole car load of poets (and one artist and muse) heading for Poetry Bites. What could go wrong?

I picked up Sarah from Droitwich and headed for Kiddy, this went fairly well as I know my way around The Shire, problems began after I picked up Bobby, Chris and Emma.

Does anyone know the way?
Nobody knows?

I had a map.
It was useless.
Actually I was useless at reading the map.

Under pressure to deliver one of the headline acts my brain melted into custard and I sat gaping like a goldfish somewhere in Hagley whilst the people in the back waited for me to find my way. Luckily sat next to me was a calm voice of reason who also had the foresight to bring her Sat Nav thingy.  

Sarah programmed it to bark orders at me in a bored female voice but I was so happy to be able to get there I welcomed every snotty order the Sat Nav directed at me. Thank you to Sarah James for getting us all to Poetry Bites, you are an absolute STAR!
Sarah James

Anyway we got there, on time as well. So what was the poetry like? Let me tell you, but remember I wasn't in official review mode so I didn't write notes on all acts or record all their names. So this is just an impression of the night not a review of every single poet, just the ones that really stood out to me, and relying on my slightly faulty memory.

Jacqui Rowe and David Calcutt were brilliant hosts and it was a very packed audience. There was a chap called Roger, I think, who read a number of observational poems about travelling on buses, I thought he captured some insights into human nature very well and speaking to him before hand it seemed that poetry meant a great deal to him. There was a guy called Chris who performed a powerful poem about the tricks and lies of the media which was excellent. Then there was a female poet who read two poems about a willow and a rowan tree which I enjoyed as I love tree imagery and I liked the pagan symbols about the trees that were layered into the poems. David Calcutt read two beautiful poems, his poetry is so carefully constructed that it makes strong, vivid pictures in my head as he reads them.

rowan tree

Chris Guidon read three excellent poems, I really like the way he writes and I like the way he reads them to the audience, quite mesmerising. One of the poems opened with the lines,

'We came across an abandoned car
still clicking in the snow drift,
poised there like a nervous dog left -
tied to the railings outside some empty shop.'

It was a stunning poem. The last poem was about time spent on holiday with his girlfriend where they were watching a helicopter lift water to release onto an olive grove. The poem was skillfully tense and expectant, filled with sensual, erotic metaphors.

Gary Longdon read a very interesting set of three poems about Aston Hall and he showed off his excellenet performance skills but investing each piece with different pace and emotion. The inspired idea of likening the Jacobean mansion to an alien spacecraft set down in urban sprawl was brilliant and funny.  The Long Gallery poem was clever too, very well observed and a good connection (the image of the walk along the gallery ) to the final poem which was softer, introspective and had a stong central image, things appearing different under the surface, of the layers of grime hiding the oak walls and the last line was so strong.

Sarah James read two poems which contrasted very well. The first was very clever, called 'The je ne sais quoi of it' she was playing with the ideas of linguistics and memory. It felt emotional but not sentimental and had a film like quality. She followed that with a witty little poem imagining the dreams and desires of a fridge. I like the way poets take you places you have never imagined.

Laurence Inman's poem about running was really excellent. I enjoyed it very much, It had so much going on it and he performed it very well.

Adele's poem about her daughter was perhaps my favourite of the night. I identified so strongly with her feelings about motherhood, her relationship with her daughter and coping with people's judgement about having a baby at the apprently incorrect time. Although I wasn't as young as Adele was when she had her daughter (and I loved how her daughter was so proud of her poetic, hippy mum) I had my own share of people thinking I was mad to have a baby as a single mum. Adele cleverly encapsulated many of my own feelings and her poem made me laugh and I nearly cried too. A wonderful performance and talent.

Antony R Owen is a poet I have seen twice before now and each time I hear him read it is a very intense and assured performance, he commands the audience by the power of his voice and his poetry. His poems often make me feel uneasy but at the same time they absorb me. His poem about his father was one my highlights of the night.

Janet Smith came on late in the second half and she cast a spell over the whole audience with her poised and elegant performance. Softly spoken but she holds the audience with her spare, beautifully constructed poems. She read two poems with an Alaskan theme including her stunning poem 'Pacific' which is in three parts. The way Janet says the numbers before each section is like a pause for the audience to take a breath before the next vivid description. To me, her poems feel like paintings made with words.

Mal Dewhirst read an interesting poem about his time in Ireland as part of the Cork/Coventry poet exchange which complimented the poems Joseph Horgan would follow with later. Mal reads very well and his poems are crafted so the listener can go on the journey too, with the poet as he observed his surroundings in Ireland.

Joseph Horgan, was originally born in Birmingham, to Irish parents but has lived in Ireland since the 1980's. He obviously has a close connection to the city and it made his performance feel very special and quite emotional as the audience recognised the descriptions of Birmingham in his poetry. He had everyone in the audience hanging off every word. His poems were short and I liked that, it takes skill to be succinct and convey so much. He read a poem about watching his sisters washing their hair in the sink, chatting and gossiping, full of life and the hair seemed to me to symbolise innocence, childhood happiness and it ended with the sisters moving out and cutting their hair short. It was one of the best poems I have heard this year, I loved it. It was a pleasure to hear him read.

Bobby Parker was on fire last night, he read last and was extremely relaxed and confident. Reading from his collection 'Digging for Toys' he picked out different poems on various subjects but all were well received by the audience. He made them laugh, gasp, bellow and cheer. He explored difficult themes but never wallowed in misery, he has a lightness of touch that allows the audience to share his sense of humour. His poem about his feelings of fear before his wedding called 'HGWell's' was a typical example of his skill. Surreal, humourous on one level, it has layers below that explored his relationship with his girlfriend, family and the conventions of marriage. It was excellent. I also thought his poem about his love for his daughter was extrememly clever. To write about his baby smelling of piss may seem horrible but in the skillful hands of the poet Bobby Parker it is an expression of deep and pure love that doesn't need sentiment or pretty similies. He writes poetry that has the ring of truth about it and that is very talented indeed.

I also read but I will leave someone else to write a review of my poems.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

The defence of Guinevere by William Morris

sketched by Rossetti (Lancelot?)
    But, knowing now that they would have her speak,
    She threw her wet hair backward from her brow,
    Her hand close to her mouth touching her cheek,

    As though she had had there a shameful blow,
    And feeling it shameful to feel ought but shame
    All through her heart, yet felt her cheek burned so,

    She must a little touch it; like one lame
    She walked away from Gauwaine, with her head
    Still lifted up; and on her cheek of flame

    The tears dried quick; she stopped at last and said:
    O knights and lords, it seems but little skill
    To talk of well-known things past now and dead.

painted by Morris (Arthur?)

Saturday, 19 November 2011

The Liebster Award

Today the extremely talented and kind poet Sarah James chose this very blog as one of her five choices for The Liebster Award. Wow! It was a lovely lift on a grey day. So I want to say a massive thank you to Sarah James and explain what it all means...

'Liebster is a German word meaning dearest, and the award is given to up-and-coming bloggers with less than 200 followers.

If you receive the award, you should:

1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.

2. Reveal your top five picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.

3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.

4. Hope that the people you’ve sent the award to forward it to their five favourite bloggers and keep it going!'

Here are my 5 choices for the Liebster Award, all are blogs I visit often (I would have chosen Fergus McGonigal because I am always loitering on his blog but he got an award already today and one is enough for any poet):

Chrissy Dano Johnson: silver fin of hope is a place to find daily posts of haiku, verse, fiction and real life. Beautiful, intense writing that I never get tired of reading and luckily Chrissy writes a lot.
Diane Perry: working 2 write is a blog written by a passionate and hard working writer who is  crafting her writing and sharing her journey. The blog is interesting and always has good tips and inspires me to write more.
Charlotte Turnbull: the deadliness of leisure is a sharp, witty and surreal blog that has meandering thoughts and questioning posts, reviews, dialogue and prose. It always surprises me and that is a good thing. The writing can be hilariously scathing.
Melanie Ann Green: inkmeup designs this is a lovely blog that showcases the wonderful artwork, feltmaking, prints and designs of Melanie and I often visit to ponder what I will buy next.
Gary Longdon: Garyswordz is a brilliant blog because it has excellent poetry to read and an invaluable list of what's on in the poetry world as well as film reviews, blog lists and general artistic trivia.

Friday, 18 November 2011

a life dedicated to pleasure and poetry

'All women together, ought to let flowers fall upon the grave of Aphra Behn... for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds.'
Virginia Woolf

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Rorschach Inkblot Test

Wolves in profile, heads tilted back
Howling either side
Of a Shaman.

Blur into the shape
Of the vulva.

Two African women
Leaning over a cooking pot
Sharing stories.

The next is a monster;
But it is important to note
He is affable.

A bat.

A cat that has been squashed
Flat and pasted into
A collector’s book.

Two creatures, half woman
Half rabbit, thin and cruel
Poised to bolt.

Mirrored bears dancing
In a pine forest;
They are joyful.

A unicorn and a satyr fighting
On a bank of clouds
With trumpets.

A pair of wizards surrounded
By the magic and claws
Of their familiars.

View the ten plates here... 

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Morning Pages

Today I burnt my morning pages when I lit the fire. Curiously satisfying to get rid of them and not horde them like I usually do. My house is full of scraps of paper covered with lines of poetry and half written stories. Diaries from the age of fourteen and all the notebooks I have ever used to write in.

All stored in boxes and drawers. I keep them because they are a permanent record of whatever I was thinking, hoping and dreaming at that age and one day I may want to remember.

But these words are just there for the moment they were written in and can be cast aside, they are impermanent. A release from my constant desire to create words to pin down.

'Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages– they are not high art. They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Occasionally colorful, more often than not Morning Pages are negative, fragmented, repetitive or bland. Good! Worrying about your job, the laundry, the weird look your friend gave you – all that stuff distracts you from your creativity. It eddies through your subconsciousness and muddies your day. Get it on the page first thing in the morning and move on with your day with a freer spirit.' Julia Cameron

Friday, 4 November 2011

Write! Just write anything!

I have had a severe case of writer's block since July. My Grandfather's funeral (followed by a rift between myself and a loved one) turned something off inside me, something creative. I have spent too much time thinking and not enough time writing.

I knew it was severe because I didn't want to read either. The idea of Ruth not reading is quite astonishing seeing how my nose has been stuck inside a book ever since I worked out how to read.

I normally read three or four books at the same time all located in different parts of the house. A bedroom book, a book balanced on the arm of the sofa, a bathroom book, a book to read in the kitchen instead of cleaning it. Reading in the bath is one of my favourite things and don't worry, I have never got a book wet. Books are my favourite pastime. So losing the desire to read highlighted something serious was happening.

I have a pile of excellent books next to the bed and I could hardly face looking at them, let alone pick them up and read them. They felt so weighty and oppressing. Of course, one of the problems is that I was procrastinating in a major way to avoid facing the books I need to read so I can write my dissertation. Despite the fact I am excited and interested in those very same books. I am fearful of starting such a vast piece of work when I spend all my time hurrying from one domestic chore to the next. Three children who all need loving, playing with, cleaning, feeding, escorting to school, parties, activities. Grandparents to visit and friends to help and be there for. It can be overwhelming and that is before I even start the most important writing I have ever attempted to do. No wonder I am frozen and can't start.

“If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” Stephen King

Not wanting to read was not stopping me from doing any writing but it was a symptom of the problem. I had to struggle to write a poem for my monthly stanza group. I didn't read the book for my monthly book group meeting. Things were certainly odd. Things had to change. Reading to my daughter helped break the hurdle. We spent the evenings reading Harry Potter. I was dreading it when she chose it, but her enthusiasm made me enjoy it so much that when we finished book 4 I went off and read the next three. Fast, in greedy gulps. Now I have picked up the first novel in a long time and I am enjoying it. Reading is a pleasure again.

Stephen King is a writer who I admire very much. His memoir 'On Writing' is an interesting and useful account of his experience of being a writer. It is part autobiographical and part a guide to writing, including tips and advice. I read it years ago and I still remember lots of the quotes from it, like:

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.”

That sums up my feeling all summer. The fear of starting the darn thing. The fear of opening my novel and finishing it. The fear of looking at my collection of Queen poems and actually trying to edit them into something resembling a poetry book. Mr King says a writer should sit down every day and just get on with it. He suggests 2,000 words a day should do it. I also like the idea of 'morning pages' one of my creative writing teachers told me about from the book 'The Artist's Way.' Three pages of long hand every morning, that can be about anything, just write whatever comes into your head. Like Mr King suggests it will establish the habit of writing and then you can turn that into something tangible and worthwhile.

So this morning I wrote my three pages. It was hard at first. It was quite a rant about everything I have been worried about. Then it formed the bones of a poem. That is a good start.