“ Time to write something about poetry “, I thought. This was what came out :
It is 17 months since my Dad died. Yes, he was old, yes, he was ill. I can even say, yes, I knew somewhere deep within, in my gut, that it was coming. But when it happened, it brought a slurry of debris, a landslide that overwhelmed me with suffocating grief and even smothered my tears. Like everyone else, I comforted those who were left, attended to the death certificate, the financial aspects , spoke at the funeral and managed to go along with today’s requirement that we “ celebrate a life” . It was good to see those long lost relatives and the Ramblers and others who had loved my Dad . A common theme was, “ he was such a nice man, a real gentleman” and I am lucky to be able to concur with that wholeheartedly.
After the funeral, normality resumed in the form of Work and family life. I had shared the loss with others of course, my Mum, my own children and my husband. Life would carry on and my Dad would be the first one to want that – “no need to be morbid” was a strong mantra when I was growing up.
So, back to work five days a week in social work dealing with other people’s loss. Back to normality. My body gradually made it known that it would not let my grief “ go gentle into that good night” . At first, I put it down to not sleeping properly, to getting older myself, to hitting a brick wall in a job I had done for 31 years. My brain was struggling to retain information, I found myself looking across a table , intently focussing on what someone was saying , but not being able to process any of it. Gradually I felt myself slipping away, sliding down with the slag heaps around me , unable to hold on to anything firm , nothing could break my fall. Next came the car accident – someone went into me and my car was a write off. He had one of those huge 4x4s which survived unscathed. Of course.
Yes, I know it is a cliche. “The Crash” resulted in my crash. It was the archetypal last straw and all the things my body had been trying to tell me now happened. I felt the loss of my Dad so much, it was beyond words so that is exactly what happened, I lost my words. For months my brain could not keep up with my tongue. My legs started to give way, out of the blue. I thought I must be going mad as all the things I had done before to get through trauma and loss did not work. I realise now that mainly what I had done was just keep on, act as normal, go to work, hunker down and let the storm pass, smile and say “ I’m OK, thanks, how are you? “All the time, I was deeply depressed.
This all stopped. I needed silence, I needed quiet, predictable places to be . I needed to stand on firm ground with people that could hold me and show me their kindness. I needed to be in nature and especially by the sea. My Dad was a sailor as a very young man, as part of National Service and he never lost his love of the sea. I wrote poems for him, and for me, as I sat in a silent cottage on the Isle Of Mull overlooking the ocean.
Poetry has helped me cope with the loss of my Dad and to work through the grief. We all lose so much in this life, whether family, children, friends , lovers, animals, homes, countries , that ways of acknowledging this, of working through the meaning of our own and others’ lives and of holding the grief without clinging to it are essential. Poetry does help.
Ok, I have obviously taken inspiration from Dylan Thomas , but it seems like the perfect reason to explain why I have been blog-absent for nearly two months. Yes, honestly I have been diving into poetry, though no, I am not pink…
April / May was taken up with Easter and seaside stays in early Summer heat . Then came the exciting Nottingham Poetry Festival , with a vibrant open mic at Sneinton’s The Fox and Grapes . The latter is fast becoming a cultural hub as it hosts poets and writers , whether for creative huddles or big , thrown open wide poetry nights. The NPF Open Mic delivered a burgeoning mass of verse, song and polemic . Poets spoke, poets listened, poets praised other poets and , yes, it was a good night. Four hours of freedom , speech and love, with humour and the odd cynical flourish thrown in. Georgina Wilding charmed the poets out of their beers and perfectly hosted such a varied crowd. All this and the launch of the NPF Programme, so it was a great way to get started.
Lytisha Tunbridge took us on an inspired trip, “ To The Moon and Back” . It certainly got Nottingham’s creatives in its gravitational hold and I wanted to stay , but other planets beckoned.
The highlight for me was Roger Mcgough and Henry Normal at Lakeside, supported by Cleo Asabre-Holt and Harminder Nagi. Roger seems effortlessly cool but his poems are warm , responsive and always full of humour and wry observations. Henry holds the audience in his hands and I mean that in a good way! His poetry is pared down to its finest points, never too much said but the precision draws wonderful pictures of his life and ours. Henry shows us how to write, how to live each moment and remember what it means, how to temper the knocks life throws at you with love and a light touch. Cleo offers raw emotion and polished verse, Narminder wows with his personal recollections.
There were a myriad of wonderful poetry offerings during the festival to suit all tastes and pockets. Unfortunately due to over excitement (?) I had an attack of the vapours and had to lie low in bed for most of it. This was not what I had planned at all. Conserving my energies was essential as on Friday May 3 , as part of NCP, I launched “Poetry Cocktail Open Mic” . There were 50 attendees and one ecstatic host. What an enjoyable night with local Lady Bay poets, writers and enthusiasts joined by some fine poets from further afield. Georgina Wilding, Nottingham Young Poet Laureate did a surprise reading which delighted all and featured poet Lytisha Tunbridge had an aptly named “ gatherings” theme for her poetry, with fine work from her own collection.
Poetry Cocktail was a blast , with a cherry garnish! More Cocktail poetry night to come…🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸💕💕💕
Hey, we did it! It was a great night @ New Art Exchange, Hyson Green, Nottingham and we made our voices heard, in celebration of some wonderful women writers. The very much alive Nottingham poet Panya Banjoko made the evening by joining us to perform some of her own poems .
The anthology celebrates the lives of Susannah Wright; Mary Howitt; Dorothy Whipple; Helen Cresswell, together with the current contributions made by Panya Banjoko to Nottingham’s rich literary heritage.
A range of contributors from across Nottinghamshire have written stories, poems and scripts which are a tribute, some reflect the style or themes of these writers and others were inspired by their writing to come up with something very personal and individual. All workshops were run by award winning author , Helen Cross .
You can obtain a copy from Nottingham Writers Studio , £12
Spring in Nottingham
No bright sun , the bulbs are hiding,
Poets arise in the rain
Working people face the pain
Of another day
In suicide grey
Promises of warmth
Belie the slab square monotone
Poets arise through the murk
To chronicle those that lurk
The colour of ashes.
Blanketed in faceless quietude
Poets arise , rise with me,
Rise in company
We must find the light
Behind the drab white.
Let Summer come in
Bringing colours blazing and bold
Poets arise in brilliance
Build our resilience
Carnival day comes
Light night shines and hums.
I have been so thrilled to be part of this writing project and now to take part in the launch of the anthology on Monday 29th April 2019 at the New Art Exchange, Hyson Green, Nottingham. It has been so interesting to remind ourselves how much freedom we have in the UK to read what we like, speak our minds and how important it is to value this freedom of expression. It has been hard won by the women that came before us – those who took risks in pushing social, political and literary boundaries. We need to carry forth their Independent spirit , their determination to publish and be heard, the power of direct action and their faith in women’s voices.
The anthology pays homage to Susannah Wright, Mary Howick, Dorothy Whipple, Helen Cresswell, writers from the past , and to our living poet Panya Banjoko. Now is the time to celebrate these writers for their willingness to be radical, to shape new ideas and give women from ordinary backgrounds a voice.
Contributors to the Anthology have come from a wide range of backgrounds and writing groups, all tutored and encouraged by the lovely Helen Cross and now the work is being published. I think I write like a woman, but with the heart of a girl and with the resilience of all the girls before me. Thank you for this opportunity. 🗣🎉
Leanne Moden is a poet based in NOTTINGHAM and cohost of the Crosswords open mic night held monthly . Recently, she had a successful one woman show at Stamford Arts Theatre. Fresh from all this Leanne is running this one -off session on language and poetry and I have been lucky enough to take part.
We are a motley crew of poets , writers and thinkers, about 10 of us, all wondering what to expect. Leanne is warm and welcoming then gets straight to it by suggesting a free write session based on the theme of “ Today”. That gets the creative juices trickling …
“ Today is a day much like any other but at the same time it is a whole fresh new day like no other. A singular day, a clean sheet, a tabular rasa, a mystery waiting to unfold, the latest episode in the box set of life, a riveting, engrossing snapshot in the discourse of the universe “
Next, time to experiment with a Pathya Vat, a Cambodian verse form consisting of four lines of four syllables each, where lines two and three rhyme. When a poem consists more than one stanza, the last line of the previous stanza rhymes with the second and third lines of the following one. So, 4 line stanzas; 2nd and 3rd line rhyme which must be spoken aloud , with the option of varying the rhyme. Straight into writing a poem – I love it! Despite the sceptical looks and sighs of self doubt shared around the table, we all manage to come up with something.
No stopping us now , we are on to a Landay, apparently the linguistic equivalent of a small poisonous snake , with sarcasm the main tone. It covers big themes in only two lines, of 9 syllables and 13 syllables.The Landay is a traditional Afghan poetic form consisting of a single couplet. These short poems typically address themes of love, grief, homeland, war, and separation.
“ Strange we cannot solve all the knife crime
To do so we would need to admit our poverty”
Ok, well I tried. It is surprisingly tricky to hit the required note of sarcasm required for this poetic form
I am struggling to keep up on this whirlwind world tour but at the same time it is refreshing and simulating.
The Japanese Dodoitsu has a comical, cheeky aspect and often focuses on love or work in a spare 4 line arrangement of 7,7,7,5. This was what I came up within the night, but I will definitely experiment further :
“You love me and the others
With ardour and great passion
How was I to know from this
You love only you”
Leanne makes sure we have tea to keep us going before sharing her store of other language unusual words ( not the strangest collection I have heard of …). This seems confusing as we have no idea of their real meanings but it proves to be very effective in prodding our minds and eliciting different responses. My word was “ Greng- jai” which I imagined as a Japanese feeling of fresh Spring green . It turned out to be Thai and was a rather more prosaic “ feeling you get when you do not want someone to do something for you, because it would be a pain for them”!My poem about a child’s birth suddenly seems misjudged.
We are all inspired by Leanne’s knowledge, her confidence in us and her willingness to share and to mentor us. Knowing that she is a great poet herself does help too! I think I will be travelling further in my armchair than I have travelled before.