e a m harris

Roaming the byways of literature

Archive for the category “Poetry”

On re-reading ‘The Rattle Bag’

7fb35406cc300cf593138475541434f414f4141For my late night reading lately I’ve been re-reading The Rattle Bag, a poetry anthology edited by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes. Apparently the original intention was a collection aimed at the young or new poetry reader, but it doesn’t shirk serious subjects like death, love or loneliness. I love it and, to judge by the reviews around the web, so do many other not-so-young people.

Here is a collection of poems to which the term ‘quirky’ seriously applies, though there are plenty of ‘normal’ poems for readers who like their quirky in moderate doses.

On a more serious level the book goes to the edge of what poetry is, both in subject and form: midnight mice, no punctuation and horses eating violins crowd together with the more traditional.

One of the innovations is to arrange the poems alphabetically by title. This means that the usual pattern of date or subject is broken up. Sylvia Plath is on the same page as Shakespeare, while a pet cat precedes a pilgrim.

I’ve had this book for some years (it was published in 2005) and have read most of the poems already, some several times. However, this time I’ve had a serious look at the glossary at the back.

Many of the entries are dialect or archaic terms I already knew, and some I don’t really want to know: should I care that a danegun is an “old firearm, fairly primitive”?

But there are plenty of new-to-me words to enjoy. I’ve seen many solons (gannets) in my time, but have never met a goney (albatross). As I write the gullies (seagulls) are squawking outside. I didn’t know a rack was a cloud in the upper air and I wonder if, like other clouds, it can be scrowed (streaked).

Tanka for a foggy autumn

30368213160_05994fafdd

Carpe Diem has started a series of posts on tanka techniques. Even for non-writers, it’s worth reading the post to enhance understanding and appreciation.

The first technique is to add mystery and depth. Autumn is a good time for mystery I think; not only do we have Hallowe’en and the supernatural, but we are in a sort of between-ness – assessing summer just gone and looking forward to/dreading winter to come.

But autumn is a time of its own, as the old Japanese writers knew so well and wrote about so movingly, as in this tanka written by Toshiyuri and quoted on Carpe Diem:

Cries of quail
from the shore of Mano cove
winds blow
waves of plume grass
ripple in autumn dusk.

My response is:

A dense, white fog fills
the garden; among yellowed
grasses no blade stirs.
A crow, hidden in whiteness,
croaks three times, then falls silent.

 

 

Picture from Photo Pin.

The words of Gerard Manley Hopkins and others

Cover artRecently I did a post on the words listed in Landmarks By Robert MacFarlane.

In the glossaries are several words attributed to Gerard Manley Hopkins. Words like endragoned for a raging sea, or bright-borough for an area of sky thickly strewn with stars. I never knew we needed a word for ‘thickly strewn with stars’, but looking at it I can see it could be useful and poetic.

I had not realised that Hopkins went in for neologisms in a big way, but I’m not very familiar with his poetry. So I decided to read up on it and found several interesting websites: Crossref-it.info and The Wonderful World of English among them.

Science fiction should be a good hunting ground for novelty in all forms including words, and academia positively blizzards invented/imagined/redefined terminology.

I’ve known people who really hate invented words, but IMHO without all these authors developing new words, our language would be poor indeed.

The Poetry Periscope

The periscope

If you’re in Birmingham or Durham over the next couple of months, you should look out for this strange beast.

It’s a sound installation called Poetry Periscope and it’s on a UK tour. It started it’s journey in April as part of the European Literature Festival, and it’s still going – unwearied and cheery in its yellowness.

It plays 30 poems from 30 European cultures. Each is played in its own language and in English translation. To stand in a shopping mall or railway station and listen to all that may be a bit much, but perhaps the commute to work or shopping trip can be enhanced by a couple of the recordings.

In addition to the Festival, a number of organisations are involved with the project including European Union National Institutes for Culture (EUNIC), The Poetry Society and Pianos on the Street.

Travels of the imagination

1743363664.01.ZTZZZZZZBrowsing around the web I discovered a site called TripFiction, dedicated to reviewing books about places. The suggestion is that, if you have a trip planned, it’s a good idea to read stories set in that place before or during (or after for that matter) your visit.

I agree that this is a great and unstressful way of learning things about a place that you won’t learn from a guidebook. You’ll also learn about the author’s view of that place – does it matter if this colours your response when you actually arrive and see the real McCoy?

Guidebooks have their own appeal – they usually have the most enticing photographs. Only in children’s stories, like the Mr Chicken books, will you find pictures of your destination. I often browse the travel section in bookshops or libraries, just to imagine the journeys that I’ll quite likely never make – and in some cases wouldn’t want to.

Reading the reviews on TripFiction reminded me of another travel related site, Poetry Atlas which claims

everywhere on earth has a poem written about it

and gives numerous examples – some places, particularly the great cities, have huge numbers of poems about them.

 

Carpe Diem and Pedro Calderon de la Barca

P1030724

Carpe Diem has several haiku challenges going at present. I like the one (number 1033) using a prompt by the Spanish poet Pedro Calderon de la Barca.

This is the prompt:

These flowers, which were splendid and sprightly, waking in the dawn of the morning, in the evening will be a pitiful frivolity, sleeping in the cold night’s arms.

There are several ideas here around day/night, the fleeting nature of flowers, the effect of time on perception of splendour/frivolity/pitifulness, whether flowers sleep or wake, and I’m sure there are others I haven’t noticed.

I decided to put the sleep first and look forward to the wakening:

As night falls, so do
the petals of the daylily.
In the summer moonlight,
buds of tomorrow’s lilies
prepare to open at dawn.

The poetry of pink

Rose

I took this photo while on holiday some weeks ago. I noticed the flower among others not only because it’s a beautiful rose, but because it is so pink – ultimately pink. I thought the tiny beetle was sort of cute, too.

Having made a contact with pinkness I looked around to see if anyone has celebrated it in poetry. Sure enough there are a good many poems on the subject.

Poem Hunter has a list. The one that most suited this post is:

This Peach is Pink with Such a Pink by Norman Rowland Gale
This peach is pink with such a pink
As suits the peach divinely;
The cunning colour rarely spread
Fades to the yellow finely;
But where to spy the truest pink
Is in my Love’s soft cheek, I think.

The second verse is about white, so I leave that out.

Then there’s Emily Victoria’s blog called Poetry in Pink, but her poems aren’t actually about pinkness.

Color by Christina Rossetti starts with pink, but then goes on to other colours.

Color
What is pink? a rose is pink
By a fountain’s brink.

Structo 15 now online for free

Taking the trouble to put work online and make it free for everyone is an act of true generosity. Thank you ShortStops for a great read.

ShortStops

Structo issue 15 is now online, in its entirety, to read for free. This most recent issue features 11 short stories, 17 poems, a feature on cover on design, an interview with three of our favourite cover designers and another with the ex-poet laureate of North Korea Jang Jin-sung. You can find more details, as well as bonus material such as audio recordings, at the issue page.

To mark the occasion, the physical issue is currently discounted from £7 to £5, so if you want one before they sell out, now’s the time! Head here to pick up your copy. That said, the most valuable thing you can do is read the magazine and tell a friend about Structo, as magazines like ours thrive by word of mouth. Share and enjoy.

View original post

Evening song

Bird on roof

 

The blackbird’s song flows
through an evening garden; today
ends musically.

Haiku and Estonia

A blog challenge based on a whole country! From pictures Estonia looks beautiful, but photographs are all I have to go by as I’ve never been there.

As usual Chèvrefeuille has given us some great haiku examples and some interesting insights into the country and its spirituality.

Below is my take on the subject.

Version 2

This trail through forests,
valleys, lakelands – since the stone-age
a guide for travellers –
leads us today from the sea
to the heavenly dancers.

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: