e a m harris

Roaming the byways of literature

The Forgotten Kingdom by Peter Goullart

I’ve just finished reading this book and can recommend it to anyone interested in a different, beautiful world.

Fleeing the Russian revolution, the author ended up in China and finally in Lijiang in Yunnan province in the late 30s and 40s, where he worked for the government in the Co-operative Movement. He was there for nine years before fleeing again, this time from the Communists.

photo of Nakhi dancerIn the forgotten kingdom of the Nakhi people he seems to have found his true home: the people were friendly and cheerful, the area was beautiful, wildlife plentiful, he made many friends and had enough work to feel fruitfully occupied.

This is not a travel book, he was not passing through but lived the life of a local person. It is more a memoir of a time and a world that no longer exist. Goullart describes the area as a paradise on Earth, despite the bandits and diseases. Whether the people he knew there felt the same will now never be known.

 

Picture: Amazon
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The darkest hour and its poetry

I have recently discovered a new-to-me word that is really useful, probably to most people. It isn’t a new word, in fact it’s pretty old having been used, rarely, in Old English.

It is uhtceare and it means to lie in bed before dawn worrying.

Who hasn’t experienced this horrible, sleep-robbing feeling? Who hasn’t panicked during the darkest hour before dawn then got up after sunrise feeling a bit of an idiot for fussing over trivia?

If you haven’t, may you never go there. But if you have, you now have a name for it. Does having it named make it less scary?

The word is found in a longish Anglo-Saxon poem called The Wife’s Lament.

hæfde Ic uhtceare
hwær min leodfruma londes wære

I don’t know what this means but, given the ‘uhtceare’ it must have something to do with the lady’s worries.

The word is having something of a revival and getting more usage than it did in the lamenting wife’s days. Sauviloquy has a whole poem about

that wretched uhtceare

and so has Sohinee. There are probably others I haven’t found.

It isn’t certain yet if this word will become generally known, but it looks as if it has a chance. Maybe in future, instead of sharing dreams over the breakfast table we’ll share uhtceares.

Short poems – the triolet

How great my grief, my joys how few,
Since first it was my fate to know thee!
Have the slow years not brought to view
How great my grief, my joys how few,
Not memory shaped old times anew,
Nor loving-kindness helped to show thee
How great my grief, my joys how few,
Since first it was my fate to know thee?

The poem above is a triolet, written by Thomas Hardy who was one of the stars of melancholy. I don’t think the very subtle change of meaning in the repetition of the first line is essential, but it expands the poem.

The rules are simple: the first couplet is repeated at the end and the first line is also the fourth; there are only two rhymes. For more information on its history etc try poets.org.

I was first introduced to the form in a poem by Susan McLean in the May edition of Snakeskin Poetry, an online magazine with a wide ranging content of both modern and traditional styles. (To find her humorous poem Crushed use the link above then click on Snakeskin Archive and then on Snakeskin 250).

I thought it would make a change from writing haiku and tanka. I found it took a while to get into the flow of the style but it was fun to try.

grey day photo

Shortest day – peevish, groaning, grey –
don’t turn your back on my shivering smiles;
backwards is another dark-lit way.
The shortest day – peevish, groaning, grey –
shakes hands with twilight, makes the sunrise pay,
as at our sour assembly in these cold-lit miles.
This shortest day – peevish, groaning, grey –
don’t turn your back on my shivering smiles.

 

 

Poetry Book Society Choice: Venus as a Bear

My Poetry Book Society choice for this summer has arrived. Its title is a challenge to start with – do bears and Venus have any relationship?cover art

The book has been widely reviewed and with good reason. I haven’t had time to read it thoroughly yet, but, as one expects from Vahni Capildeo, the poems I have read make me think.

For instance, very few poets deal with the subject of pets. Capildeo doesn’t cover the cuteness or amusingness of domestic creatures, but what it means to be a pet and the deep relationship between two species. Many other poems deal with animals and plants in their natural or semi-natural state. Then there are the places: the roads, the seas, the foreign, the homes.

This is a wide-ranging collection and I’ll be reading it for some time.

Whales and Poetry

Whale swims

Browsing around the other day I came across a poem about whales by D H Lawrence. Entitled Whales Weep Not it is about their love life.

They say the sea is cold, but the sea contains
the hottest blood of all, …

Reading it made me wonder if others have written poems about whales.

Hawaii has a welcoming celebration for the migrating humpbacks and this includes poetry, but none of the poems are quoted on the website.

The orcas get a whole site for their poems. But this is made up for on Hello Poetry which covers all whales.

I also found a number of short doggerels, as if the hugeness and majesty of whales are more manageable in small, simple pieces.

 

The picture comes from flickr.

Poem for April Fools Day

Sunrise over buildings

The sun rises
on April Fools Day to shine,
for one morning, on Truth.

 

photo credit: Thanks for over 2 million views!!
<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/113086034@N04/38546106460″>Copenhagen</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

The uses of poetry

These days poetry can be found anywhere and is given many uses.  Today the BBC reports a passenger complaining in verse to Norwegian Airlines and getting a verse response.

I can’t reblog BBC reports but here is the link.

Norwegian plane

 

Here today gone tomorrow

snow sceneThe sun is shining so hard today it’s difficult to remember that everything was white with snow less than a week ago.

I took this picture last time we had snow, I no longer have a pampas grass to catch snowflakes and hold them up to be admired.

The white beauty lasted longer then; this year it was only decorating the garden for two days.

I’ve written haiku about snow before but it’s a subject that lends itself to the lightness of  very short poems.

Today the garden
is lovely with snow, but will it
last ’til tomorrow.

Wandering about

When I opened my blog this morning I realised that it is well over a month since I posted anything. So I have made a new New Year resolution – to post more frequently. The exercise routine resolution is already not happening, so I hope this new one will be more successful.

goodreads

On the other hand, I have done a lot of reading, most of which is recorded in Goodreads.
Listing my reading in Goodreads is very useful; browsing back through my previous entries I find that I often forget what I’ve read and need a reminder.

Pulsar webzine

On the submissions front I’ve had a few successes so far this year. Pulsar, a longstanding online magazine, has published one of my poems and you can find it among a group of great poems, ostensibly for March but on line now.

Paragraph Planet

Paragraph Planet, an online flash magazine, has taken one of my very short tales (to read it you have to scroll through the archive to Jan 31). In case you aren’t familiar with this site, it publishes a 75 word story every day and some of them are really amazing – so much said in such a little space.

I’ve also had a couple of acceptances and am waiting for actual publication.

Good luck to anyone else on the submissions circuit and to anyone thinking of starting it – it can be fun.

New Year: New Reading

A belated Happy New Year to all my readers. I hope you have had a good festive season and are enjoying the feeling of newness that a new year can bring.

PBS Bulletin

After a lot of hectic: travel, parties, shopping, eating etc, etc, I have finally got around to seriously reading the winter offering from the Poetry Book SocietyJoy by Sasha Dugdale.

Along with the selected book comes the quarterly PBS Bulletin. Now the Society has updated it and it looks completely different. After years of receiving the old one I’m a bit nostalgic for its look and feel, but the new version is very nice and no doubt I’ll get used to it.

So I start 2018 with some newness spilling over from last year.

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