Feeling guilty

I swore I’d never let this blog get out of date and now it’s been four weeks since I last posted. I haven’t written anything new (other than two short stories too long to put on here and half a sestina) which means that technically I have nothing to post. So what else can I do apart from write a little Haiku. (Not sure about the little … is there such a thing as a ‘big haiku? Mmm.)

Sunshine

When you feel empty
And there is nothing but space
Fill it with sunshine

If I were a king

Just like I rarely write funny poetry, I almost never write poems for children. However, I wrote this one many years ago and thought I would share it at long last. It was inspired by a book called ‘A Child’s Garden of Verses’ by Robert Louis Stevenson which I won as a school prize when I was about seven (could have been a poetry prize but that is probably wishful thinking!)

If I were a King

If I were a king
And my bed was a throne
And the garden a kingdom
Of my very own

I’d stand on my bed
And proudly I’d say
Sun I command you
To shine every day

Rain you are exiled
From out of this land
And the clouds would disperse
With a wave of my hand

Almost done

Seven years and my degree is almost complete. In just over a week my last ever project will be printed, bound and posted. Then it will be time to start writing for myself only. That is even more daunting. No deadlines to meet. No study books to read. No assignments to polish. No instructions, no marks and no feedback.

Real author time. I won’t be able to call myself a ‘creative writing student’ anymore. The feeling is just slightly uncomfortable. In reality we never stop learning. Like a martial artist who has just attained a black belt, the journey is just beginning.

Seven years

Me, in true fashion
Timely walks out from the nest
This is it, I’m done

Don’t keep your writing a secret

During the 18 months I have been studying Creative Writing, I have come across a number of people who claim that they write only for themselves. Whether it is poetry, short stories or a diary (I have to confess I have NEVER kept a diary), I don’t really understand this.  Why write if no-one is going to read it? It’s like painting a picture and then leaving it in the attic unadmired, with the colour fading over the years.

I know it’s embarrasing to show someone your work the first time – especially poetry which is so much more personal – but it’s worth taking the plunge. (When it comes to poetry it’s much better to read it to them – even scarier I know, but it ensures that the rhythm is correct.) You never know, you may get comments like ‘That’s brilliant’ or ‘I wish I could write like that’. Or they may say ‘That’s cobblers’, but I bet they won’t, unless they are very rude. Most people are impressed that you had a go. They may even reveal that they write as well. Then you can support each other. It may turn out that they have already been published and give you loads of really excellent advice.

And if anyone says ‘Poetry is a load of old rubbish for people who read the Guardian’ well that says more about them than you, doesn’t it.

So if you now feel brave enough to share your work with the rest of us, go visit www.writers-forum.co.uk. You can apply to write for the site and see your work in (virtual) print.

And don’t forget to follow WritersForumUK on Twitter as well as me Cookiebiscuit.

In defence of poetry!

I love poetry, but I know there are lots of people out there who hate it. At best fit only for ‘old’ people and love-sick Romeos and at worst a load of old rubbish, poetry has come to signify something a bit high brow and not for the likes of mere mortals. Unless of course we include Pam Ayres and why not indeed! She brought poetry to the masses and actually did it jolly well.

Now I hear you squirming while being reminded of school poetry like The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner or The Charge of the Light Brigade, which were at times quite heavy going, but not all poetry is long and heroic and concerned with history (or fable). Sometimes (read Roger McGough for instance) it can be fun and modern. And not a lonely wondering cloud to be seen.

Haikus, for instance, are only three lines long and the pattern is very simple 5, 7, 5 morae or sound units (which are rather like syllables).
Here is an example (apologies, I already posted this one):

In my dreams I fly (5)
Birds and clouds pass by the sun (7)
I want to be them (5)

Traditionally they are supposed to be about the seasons, but they don’t have to be these days.
Have a go!

This is the childhood that I daily dreamed of

Another sonnet. I like the sonnet form! The name sonnet derives from the Occitan word sonet and the Italian word sonetto, both meaning ‘little song’. The form dates back centuries and has come to signify a poem of 14 lines with a strict rhyming scheme and specific structure. There is usually (traditionally anyway) a volta or turn more often than not after the first eight lines. This volta marks the place where the initial ‘problem’ in poetic terms, is ‘resolved’. Shakespeare was a lover of sonnets and wrote 154!

This is the childhood that I daily dreamed of

This is the childhood that I daily dreamed of
In beauty, you and I, in laughter, playing
See how I loved you, though I rarely hoped for,
Not yet born, in sleep, in dreams, in praying.
This is the motherhood I daily dreamed of
In beauty, you and I, in laughter, caring
Know how I loved you, though I never hoped for,
Believed that we might, this love, be sharing.

But now that my life is all I wished for
In beauty, you and I, in laughter, loving
Believe I loved you, though I never hoped for
This lifetime, in beauty, walking, living
So quiet now in sleep, in dreams, I wake
To find you not yet gone, but still with me

Saving the roses – a sestina for the environment

Saving the roses is a sestina. A sestina consists of 39 lines made up of six six-line stanzas and a tercet (or envoi) and is probably the most challeging poetic form there is. There are six end words which are used for every line, but in a different order which is referred to as retrogradatio cruciata (‘retrograde cross’). The sestina is reputed to have been invented in the 12th century. The oldest known English sestina dates back to the 1500s.

Saving the roses – a sestina for the environment

If the world ends life will hang in the balance
Ended by ignorance, famine and greed,
To return to love is like climbing a mountain
Pricking ones fingers and hands on roses
In the dark, your path lit only by a lantern,
I can help you, I am music, listen.

I woke up this morning and began to listen
To the music of the birds singing in balance
With nature, the sun rising like a lantern,
So pretty, yet clouded by systems of greed,
Birds’ feathers like the petals of pale roses
Flutter down the side of the mountain.

I will climb to the top of the mountain
And stand at the peak in the stillness and listen,
I am music and I can hear the petals of the roses
Flutter down and the birds create the balance
Between love and hate and greed
And in the darkness shines the lantern.

Out of the darkness shines a lantern
And the people are climbing the mountain,
Leaving behind the famine and greed
And asking for mercy, they want to listen.
They know they upset the perfect balance
I am music, I’ll play out with the roses.

Stripped to the skin and pricked by roses
They walk up the mountain lit by a lantern.
The path is narrow and it’s hard to balance
The love and the hate on the side of the mountain,
The music once played but no-one would listen
And now there is only the loss and the greed.

It’s not too late if we punish the greed
And follow the music which saves the roses,
The birds and the trees ask you to listen,
They light up the dark with their pale lantern
And reach for the skies from the top of the mountain.
I am music, I am silence, I am balance.

The balance is fine between love and greed,
From the top of the mountain I can see the roses
Still lit by the lantern and hoping you’ll listen.