e a m harris

Roaming the byways of literature

Archive for the category “Poetry”

Redundancy and discount

I recently discovered that our language is full of obsolete words, threatened with removal from dictionaries and other places where words gather to be noticed.

drysalter coverAren’t they still needed? Can one write a historical novel without frigorific or charabanc? And how about the poets? Michael Symmons Roberts recently won the Costa Prize with a book called Drysalter, another threatened word.

I wonder sometimes how this rationalisation is managed. Perhaps the dictionary editors call the words into the office, one at a time, and tell them quietly, with overtones of regret, that they are no longer needed. Redundant! Having experienced the shock of the ‘we don’t need you’ moment, I can sympathise with those lackadaying words.

What sort of payout do they get? I’m not sure what the current requirement is, but if it’s a week’s pay for every year of work, then after a few centuries jargogle is going to get a good whack.

Does he have a leaving do? Or does he rush home and invest his money becoming self-employed, with an ad in Yellow Pages? Later he’ll send out flyers to historians and poets offering his services as a scene setter or a new rhyme. He’ll mention his hourly rate:

Anent this bargain price; ’tis discounted if you twattle me on Twitter.

Cover art from Goodreads.

Writ on water

Poets' graves in RomeThe BBC website today has an article about the Protestant cemetery in Rome. Among the numerous rich and/or famous people buried there is John Keats, who died at twenty-five.

It is so sad that he didn’t live long enough to know how popular his work would become and how his genius would be appreciated. He felt he was leaving no mark on the world.

Never one to deny what he saw as truth, he asked for this epitaph on his gravestone:

Here lies one whose name was writ in water.

Reading that made me wonder how we could describe those of us who write electronically. ‘On water’ doesn’t quite cover it; ‘on ether’ is a bit fanciful.

I do sometimes wonder what will happen to the billions of words written daily in websites, blogs, social media and others. Will they withstand any test of time? Does material stored on a hard disk slowly fade, first to a stuttery whisper and finally to a white hiss? Will the future be saddled with inaccessible diaries and letters on unreadable DVDs? If so how will future biographers manage?

Now that some of the material has taken to radio waves I picture it floating around the world and out into space to eventually saturate the galaxy with the thoughts of people who will be millenia dead by that time. Will future historians leap into faster-than-light spaceships and pursue the words of the famous across interstellar emptiness?

Keats’ works have proved durable, but part of that is that they were committed to paper.

Public domain picture from Wikicommons.

 

 

Tennyson had many words for it

castle

Hohenschwangau from Neuschwanstein

Now that the stately home visiting season is upon us, my mind has turned to those most fairytale of stately dwellings, the castles. In Europe we’re blessed with a lot of them – this is IMHO one of the most beautiful – floating in its valley surrounded by mist and trees.

There is far too much poetry about castles for me to attempt to look at it, but I’d like to share some of my favourite lines from Tennyson’s The Princess: The Splendour falls on Castle Walls. The picture painted is so vivid.

The splendour falls on castle walls
And snowy summits old in story;
The long light shakes across the lakes,
And the wild cataract leaps in glory.

He understood that a castle isn’t alone, it has a location and, if the old time builders got it right, the building and setting enhance one another.

For the rest of the poem see The Poetry Foundation website.

Those little things we love to jump in

Today’s haiku challenge from Carpe Diem is ‘puddles’.

Puddles are friendly little things; didn’t you love to jump in them when you were a bit younger than you are now? I did, and I also loved their mirrorness when they reflected the surroundings, particularly me as I leaned over them to look (I was a vain child and always enjoyed my reflection).

But puddles are junior members of a big family and may be practising to grow up like their big brothers – floods. After all the rain we’ve had, floods are on a lot of minds in southern England, so I find puddles a very apt prompt.

Carpe Diem gives, as usual, some wonderful examples of haiku to inspire us. Here is my result:

Falling rain all day,
uneven pathway – puddles
reflecting moonlight.

A new online magazine with 100 haiku

Kigo mag cover artFor all you haiku fans, here’s a link to a new online magazine Kigo: Seasonal Words – available to download free.

It contains four of my haiku, which, of course, makes me really happy, but that’s not why I recommend it. It has 96 other haiku and they are a wonderful collection.

This first issue is a Winter/Spring one, but having a restricted subject matter has not restricted the poets. There are so many ways of looking at a season; many of them I wouldn’t have been able to think of ever. A formal poetry style, a restricted subject, but so much variety.

The human brain has so many manifestations – if all the 8 billion people in the world sat down and wrote a haiku about winter no two of them would be the same. And yet in all that difference almost all those 8 billion people respond to poetry. Behind the diversity is an underlying sharing.

Those who write haiku, tanka or haiga may be interested to know that the publishers, Chuffed Buff Books, are now taking submissions for the summer issue.

A day of silence and its poetry

The last day of March was Nyepi Day for the Balinese. This means a day of silence – traffic stops, people stay at home and contemplate, all is quiet. I wish we had such a day here.

I couldn’t find poems about Nyepi, not in English anyway, but the website Bali for the World has what seems to be a translation of one, as well as a good write up of the deeper meanings of the day.

With flowers make yadnya,
Melasti with going to the beach.

It is the sort of ceremony that ought to have a rich literature. Perhaps some of my readers know of it, if so I’d be grateful if you could let me know.

The mighty bear – Rondeau for dVerse

E A M Harris:

I love this story and the picture that goes with it.

Originally posted on Björn Rudbergs writings:


The mighty bear that walk her home
a girl should never lonely roam
as little hands caress his fur
the vicious beast will gently purr
they slowly walk in twilight’s gloam

she’s talking ‘bout her dreams of Rome
her chatter fills the air like foam
and see him silently concur
the mighty bear

in smell of honeysuckle bloom
the beast will leave her to her room
he walks alone among the firs
but in her dreams will always stir
she’ll never find another groom
as mighty bear


The Bear by Michael Sowa

The Bear by Michael Sowa


Today at dVerse poetics, Marina Sofia will make her premier appearance doing poetics. We should write about animals, and since Björn means bear, the animal choice was easy.

April 1, 2014

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Haiku challenge

Today the challenge from Carpe Diem is about raking sand or stones to form a Japanese dry landscape garden.

I would love to see one of these gardens ‘in the flesh’. So far I’ve only seen photos.

My poem is:

One rake arranges
a million pebbles as
a sea of calm.

Haiku for a Chinese garden

Chinese pond and pavilions

Pavilions circle
a tranquil pond; beyond them
lies a storm-tossed world.

Cities

Cities coverYesterday I picked up my copy of Cities: A Book of Poems, an anthology compiled by S Philip. It has one of my poems in it, and it’s nice to see my work in print on a freshly opened page.

But I didn’t buy it just for that; as an ex-Londoner and urbophile, I was keen to see what other poets had made of the subject. The answer is – lots. The pages of the book are crowded with lovers, haters and indifferenters of cities. They work, play, run, stroll, take photos and do a lot of remembering.

Leah Angstman describes the fine detail of a season in memory (Autumn on Oak Street), while Barbara Wiedemann introduces us to the homeless (Urban Homesteading) and Pearse Murray has a city full of noise and ghosts (Timbral City). Others give us stories covering years or records of moments in time. I’ll enjoy dipping into this book for some time to come.

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