Monday, 2 December 2019

Not quite poetry but still art

Imperial War Museum, London
I hadn't intended to go to the Imperial War Museum yesterday, but I was a little early for the Morley College Winter Fair, so I nipped over the road just to kill some time. I ended up spending about an hour there taking in the free exhibition Culture Under Attack, which is split into three sections - Art in Exile (the choosing of which art works in museums and galleries to store away during World War II), What Remains (why culture and heritage is attacked during war) and Rebel Sounds (how musicians used music to resist and speak out against war and oppression).

I found these exhibitions really interesting. The first thing of note was whose paintings were saved. Mainly William Orpen as he was highly thought of. Paul Nash (a favourite of mine) had just three paintings saved (his prestige is higher these days and it was admitted that more of his work would be saved now!). What's in a name one might ask!

I'm sure we all remember seeing artifacts and historic buildings being smashed by Isis. I still remember how that made me feel. This was what was looked at in What Remains along with other war destruction like Dresden in WWII. History and culture are important. It's where we come from, our roots and can leave us devastated at the sheer mindless destruction. At the end of each exhibition is a chance for visitors to vote on different questions, like is it important that buildings should be restored? Even...would you die to save a building? When you vote you get to see the percentage of people who agree or do not agree with you. It's a nice interactive task.

In the Rebel Sounds exhibition there are videos and info about various conflicts and the part music played to rebel. From the Hot Club in Frankfurt during the war, The Undertones (Teenage Kicks) from Belfast in the Troubles, Public Enemy and a group from Africa. The Taliban banned music but people still listened despite the consequences of being beaten. I certainly remember when my hubby and I were in Belfast our guide talked about the Punk era in Belfast. Our guide was friends with the DJ Terri Hooley (featured in the exhibition). Punk was a backlash to the Troubles.

The room where you can sit and listen to four tracks is great. It has the sound of the stylus making contact with vinyl (you can't beat it). The bass notes vibrate through the benches so you really feel the music! I loved it. I did my voting in the end room and I heard Teenage Kicks playing again next door, and yes I did do a little dance (I love that song and I have it on vinyl). It probably gave the CCTV security guy something to smile about! I just can't keep still when music is playing.

What does this have to do with writing? Well, certainly a lot of poetry was written during the wars. Like the war artists I'm sure some was censored. Many paintings were rejected because they didn't want the folks back home to see what war was really like (not good for morale). Poets and painters told it like it was. It was their way of expressing their emotions. Sometimes writing poetry is the only way you can do that. It's cathartic.

Anyway, this turned out to be a nice little diversion yesterday. A good hour well spent. The exhibition is on until 5th January if I've whetted your appetite.

The collection to save during WWII

Paul Nash - The Ypres Salient at Night  (1918)

Outside the Imperial War Museum

Saturday, 30 November 2019

A sort out day

A bit of a strange day. It began with a parcel being delivered. My son, on shutting the front door, said that it was addressed to me but it had the wrong name (right surname, wrong first name). It was from a publisher (I'm not saying who) whose competition I entered but didn't make the shortlist. I decided to open the parcel to see if I could work out what this was about. There was no correspondence just three copies of the same book. Checking inside I found the name of the person the package was addressed to - she had a story published in it. I think this was her prize as a shortlisted contestant.

Is it wrong of me to be miffed? I know mistakes happen but this made me angry, perhaps because it's been such a bad year writing-wise, this kind of rubbed my nose in it. I've sent the publisher an email - I don't think I've quite calmed down. In fact I know I haven't!

Next, I've been searching for something I cut out of a magazine last year - a tip for a home made gift. It should have been with my cookery books, but I've been through everything and it's not there. I even had one of those plastic re-usable water bottles fall on my head as it was balancing on top of the books. That didn't improve my mood and I had a go at the boys about how many they'd accumulated and I had no where to keep them.

Finally, I have two shelves of books, files and writing stuff as well as part of the shelf on the sideboard. I went through all this and have actually thrown some old notebooks out as I am sure everything is on my computer. I need the space, and sometime I will have to go through stuff individually and throw more. At least it's tidier and sorted better. I've picked a few more notebooks to go through and see if I can throw those out. It would be great to keep everything, but I just don't have room.....and no room of my own to work in. I'm considering throwing a lot of my early stuff as I've moved on from that, besides I feel I'm gradually winding down from that manic sender-out of stories and poetry. I want to get on with other things., maybe dig out my art materials and play!

Tomorrow I switch into Christmas mode with Advent services to attend, singing events to take part in, meals to consume and present shopping. (I have actually got all my cards and most presents). The stereo will blast out the usual Christmas hits of years past, as well as carols - Enya's album And Winter Came will be first to be played! If my hubby ever moves his boxes we might even get a Christmas tree up! The course with Live Canon will finish next week and apart from my daily poem that's it for this year.  And this is it for my daily blog for November (yes, I did miss a few days). I hope you've found it interesting and fun. Thanks for reading. Hope to see you again sometime.

Friday, 29 November 2019

Friday musings

I've just spent an age deleting emails from all those sites you sign up to. All have Black Friday deals. I was only after two - a cheaper holiday to somewhere I actually want to go (still looking at the brochure) and bottle of cleansing water from White Rabbit - no plastic and cruelty free. It was on a half price deal and I was going to need one soonish anyway.

I was hoping to get a Black Friday deal on a new laptop but that didn't happen. However, my son has helped me and a laptop is being built to my specifications from scratch. It costs a bit extra but comes without all those annoying pre-loaded software packages that you never use but clog up space.

This morning was my over 50's racquets class and I was pretty chuffed that another lady and I took on the men at short tennis and beat them three games to one. We had sideline cheering after our points which made for great fun and laughter. There was also a point where serving changed to the other side mid way through a game. Strange and confusing, but we won that game anyway! We all had a good laugh.  Often we can't remember the score or whose turn it is to serve. It's not just us, the badminton ladies are as bad. The most often phrase heard in that hall (for short tennis) is 'let's call it deuce'!

There is only one day left for me to post in this November splurge. Only one more day to think about what to write!

Anyway, here is a little fun poem I wrote a few mornings ago when yet another grey, wet day loomed.
(Great to see the sunshine today).

Ode to the Sun

Sunshine, where art thou?
Hiding behind grey blankets,
Heavy on the cloud,
Heavy on the rain
It’s a drain on thy energy,
Thy mojo has departed thee.

If I bring forth offerings
(you name it, it’s yours),
And drape thyself at your feet
Will thou look on thee kindly
And part those pesky clouds
To shine thine rays on thee?

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Creative crossovers

River Mersey, Liverpool
When I think about creativity and my own leanings there is so much crossover. I think words and pictures sums me up. I love taking photos and quite often they poetry in their own right. Images create words. My story ideas often come from dreams or things I see. I usually visualise my scenes before I put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).

My preferences for photography are sky, water, shadows, reflections, sunrise, sunset and moon. I've been known to stop a conversation in mid flow to capture a passing cloud form. I've been found leaning out of the bathroom window in the middle of the night to get that moon shot. Often in the evenings I have one eye on the window to see what sort of sunset we are to have, and if it's good I'm in and out of house like a jack in the box.. I live in a built up area with light pollution so it's not always easy to avoid the light of an advertising hoarding and the bright beam that shines on the car repair forecourt. I will venture into the garden in the frost or snow still in my nightwear to get a shot that might disappear before I've got dressed and I love it on a warm summer evening to sit in the growing darkness in the hope of spotting the bats (yes, despite where I live there are bats).

My back garden is a tool for my photography and my poetry. Many an idea has been got from my window staring! There is a tree in the alleyway beyond next door that I watch it changing throughout the year (I call it my tree because I take photos of it so often). Then there are the birds, squirrels (even a rat once) and mice that frequent the garden. Not to mention the butterflies and bees. As a child I'd pick up worms in my hand without thinking. Getting muddy never bothered me (when did that change?). I kept woodlice in a box (outside, my mother would have gone crazy if I'd brought it in!). I studied ants as they moved their eggs when their home was disturbed. My brother and I even rescued two pigeons and kept them in my dad's shed until my mother got wind of it! So the love of animals has always been there. We had dogs when I was growing up. We also, over the years, had a budgie, hamsters and goldfish (that was a rescue one too!).

When my eldest son was young my parents bought him a hamster for his birthday. He was over the moon and still talks about it all these years later. I think it's good for kids to have contact with animals and we've had hamsters, fish, guinea pigs and now rats. Photographing animals and writing poems about them seems natural. They have features somewhere in my writing.

So here are a few photos of my favourite subjects.


St Mary's Church, Kingston


Morden Hall Park

Bridge over the Wandle river

Taken from my back garden

Brighton, remains of west pier


Spot the ball!

Squirrel in the garden

My tree (November)

Autumn from back garden (November)

This mouse discovered a slice of pizza we threw out. It dragged it to a hiding place
to devour it!

I can't quite claim this one. I couldn't focus properly.  My son took this.

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

A consolation prize

Well, this is a strange one. Today I received a letter and a copy of the winter magazine from The Salopian Society. Although I hadn't won a prize in their poetry competition the editor (who thought my poem was winner, the the adjudicator didn't!) decided to award me a year's subscription to their magazine worth £15 as a consolation prize. Along with it is a members entry form for their next competition. Well, I'm pleased to know the editor liked my poem (it's one written as part of my one-a-day-for-a-year challenge), and at least I get to read some poetry free for a year. It would have been nice to be a winner though.

I spoke a few days back about the dental problems I was having and today is the first day I've felt a bit more me. I've had a horrendous week and have struggled to keep upbeat. I've been aware that from next week my Christmas diary really kicks in and mentally I've been working out what I might have to cancel, and as for a Christmassy feeling, well I can't comprehend it. This morning the sun came out and that perked me up. I went along to choir rehearsal because I needed to know which Christmas music was going to be performed and what harmonies/descants I would be doing (these aren't given on sound files like the rest of our music). To be honest the one thing I am desperate to do is to perform in our end of term concert on 11th December. All the rest can be ditched if need be. It was good to catch up with friends again, but I didn't give my voice it's full wellie today until we got near the end when we did two descants - one was O Come All Ye Faithful and the other Hark the Herald Angels Sing. I've grown up with these so was able, with a couple of others, to lead the rest of the sopranos. The latter has the highest notes and I think only one other person was singing it! It was a stretch for me today as I'm not at my best. But I did enjoy it. Even if only a few can sing the descant we'll stand out and amaze our audience (hopefully). We are a community choir after all, not a crack choral society.

This has been my best day since that awful dentist appointment and I'm hoping it continues. When I begin to get bored and start planning, when I start climbing walls and want to be out, that's when I know I'm on the mend. There has been a glimmer of that today.

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Live Canon at the Boulevard Theatre, Soho

View from the first floor,
Boulevard Theatre
At the weekend I received an invitation from Live Canon to the launch night of four poetry pamphlets. This event happened last night in the bar of the Boulevard Theatre, Soho, and I was pleased to be able to go along. It was an opportunity to introduce myself to Helen who runs Live Canon, and who has been giving me such encouraging feedback on my poetry, and to hear a clutch of poetry readings.

The evening was lovely and had a great mix of poetry from each of the four poets - Miranda Peake, Katie Griffiths, Robin Houghton and Tania Hershman. It was nice to catch up with Robin Houghton who I have met before. You can read her thoughts on last night here.

The bar area of the theatre was a nice space for this event. The theatre has only been open for five weeks and is pretty impressive from what I saw, this includes the ladies (I always rate venues on their facilities and these were excellent).

After a lovely evening it was time to head home. London was still busy with shoppers and the lights sparkled on the wet roads.

Katie Griffiths, Tania Hershman, Miranda Peake and Robin Houghton

Helen from Live Canon

Oxford Street

Regent Street

Monday, 25 November 2019

Poetry games

I rather like poetry games. I find them stimulating, good fun and sometimes a way out of a dry patch. Some years ago I took a course with The Poetry School entitled Adventures in Form and we explored all sorts of forms, distorting old ones and trying new ones. I particularly enjoyed Oulipo poetry using the N+ Generator. Type in/cut and paste one of your poems and see what happens.

If you want more games of Oulipo check out this site which explains and gives examples. There is also something here from The Poetry Foundation in their glossary of terms.

I searched around online for other things and came across but it may be a bit basic for most poets, yet great fun for beginners, or just as a fun tryout. There seemed to be a lot of stuff for schools online. I didn't look at any but I was amazed. Things have changed since I was at school back in the 60/70's. I only remember one poem being read out to us in the school hall. I can't even remember if it was primary or secondary. I quite liked it. But it was the only brush I had with poetry. When my son was at school he studied poetry and I still remember the poem Digging by Seamus Heaney and I thought what a wonderful poem. He also studied Gillian Clarke whose poetry I knew vaguely. It seems I learned more from helping my son with his homework than I ever did at my own school.

Finally I came across these Poetry Bingo Cards by Maria Taylor and published by HappenStance Press. I think I bought them at a poetry publishers day in London a few years back. I think anything that makes poetry fun is good, and I do use other things like random words to create poetry when I am completely stuck. With my self-challenge of writing a poem a day for a year I do often get stuck. I'm having a bit of a struggle now, yet when I come through 'the wall' I hit several days when things just happen and the words flow.

If you know of any other websites or poetry games you use do let me know. I know there is a problem with my site in leaving messages quite often. You can always leave a message via twitter @heather91404743