e a m harris

Roaming the byways of literature

Archive for the category “Poetry”

Poetry of leap years and days

Thirty days has September,
April, June and November.
All the rest have thirty-one,
Excepting February alone,
Which has twenty-eight days clear
And twenty-nine in each leap year.

I was reminded of this old rhyme when I switched on my computer this morning and realised that I’d forgotten the leap year.

We get a whole extra day – to do what? In my case much as I always do; write, cook, gardening – perhaps not today as it’s so cold, read – currently A Killing Frost by R D Wingfield and fiddle about – something I’m good at.

I thought I’d see if anyone has commemorated this calendrical oddity in verse.

Hello Poetry has a section on leap year poetry. Some of the poems don’t seem to have much to do with the date, but perhaps something that only occurs occasionally stimulates the imagination to look at other rare happenings.

Let’s be like leap year.
Let’s leap through time

A nice idea from Monkey Zazu.

Reading Juice is well into the spirit of things with all kinds of leaping, not just the day. Kangaroos, frogs, crickets and others get in on the leaping, hopping, jumping act.

The only serious poem on the subject I’ve come across so far is Jane Hirshfield‘s Ode to the Leap Day on Brainpickings site.

A tangka for a cold day

Today has been a sunny day where I am, but cold; the forecast lately has promised snow, but it hasn’t actually arrived. My meditations on the subject of snow ended with this tangka.

central-park-142894__180

Fine snow falls slowly
onto the old, cracked tarmac –
gently, politely.
The road can’t resent this slight
covering, too thin for comfort.

 

Picture from Pixabay.

Haiku in Spain

I’ve been away on and off for over a month, which is why there’s been no action on this blog. I plan to get back into posting and sharing from now on.

First, a belated Happy New Year to all my readers. I hope you’ve had a great winter so far.

Orange tree

While roaming around the sunny streets in southern Spain and looking for subjects for haiku, it occurred to me that the haiku I’m familiar with all come from further north; from autumn harvests and snowy winters. This isn’t a necessary feature of any poetry, so I looked again at where I was and what was around.

The year’s shortest day;
oranges ripen under
blue and cloudless skies.

 

Carpe Diem special 184: in the spirit of Ese

At this end of November, damp and windy where I am, Carpe Diem has given us a glimpse of spring in some of the haiku he’s chosen for today’s inspiration. His model is a lady called Ese who has written many simple haiku that say a great deal in a few words.

The examples are mainly about nature and its ephemeral beauty.

Here’s what the spirit of Ese has inspired me to write:

A leafless forest.
The wind howls. From far away
someone’s dog answers.

‘Pages of Pain’ from Kimberly Wilhelmina Floria

Great poetry for free!

silentlyheardonce

Beginning tomorrow November 1 until November 5 Pages of Pain Kindle edition is available for free.

Just wanted to let you know. I’m still putting 100% of myself into Hidden Temptation and I’m feeling good about it.  See you all soon.

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George Orwell and his poetry

IMG_6289-189x300George Orwell’s poetry was recently published as a collection. Apparently this is for the first time. Given how famous he is, I wondered why. Surely after his death any unpublished work would have been extra-valuable.

The BBC interview goes some way towards explaining this. According to Dione Venables, the collection’s editor, he wasn’t a great poet and the value of much of his verse lies in what it says about him as a person, not his politics nor poetry in general.

He was a persistent poet. Like many, he discovered the joy of writing verse when very young, but unlike many, he never gave it up, which means that this collection covers a lifetime’s output.

A good deal of his poetry has been available for some time. He published a few in magazines himself, and various websites have selections. The Orwell Prize site has links to several and also to scanned original pages of others – his handwriting was reasonably legible, but they are still difficult to read.

A lot of the poetry is light and easy reading:

A happy vicar I might have been
Two hundred years ago
To preach upon eternal doom
And watch my walnuts grow;

But born, alas, in an evil time,
I missed that pleasant haven,
For the hair has grown on my upper lip
And the clergy are all clean-shaven.

There are several more, similar, verses.

Cover picture from Scarthin Books.

Reading a mystery

Another Carpe Diem challenge and this time one open to an even wider range of responses than usual. To check out some of the ways others have interpreted the prompt go to the website and follow the links – an exploration well worth taking.

The prompt comes from a haiku by Cor van den Heuve, a well-known American haiku writer.

This is his:

reading a mystery
a cool breeze comes through
the beach roses

One could speculate for hours on the exact meaning – what mystery? a book, or something more profound? I wondered, too, what beach roses are, but a quick google answered that question.

This theme is so rich I wrote several haiku using it, but finally settled on the following as being truest to the original.

Reading a mystery
in the garden; a blackbird sings;
mystery resolved.

Ferocious effort

Soft toy

This little fellow comes from a museum in Holland, but I can’t recall which museum or what exhibition he was part of.

I was browsing through some old photos and came across him. I know why I kept his picture. He’s trying so hard and getting so cross in the process – a familiar experience.

The picture reminded me of a poem by Josephine Miles that I stumbled across recently called Effort for Distraction. The full poem is on the Poetry Foundation site, but it’s the first verse is what really suits.

Effort for distraction grew
Ferocious, grew
Ferocious and paced, that was its exercise.

I don’t know what our little creature was working on, but I do hope he was successful.

 

Late summer flowers

Version 2

Flowers the colour
of flame, echo the sun. Soon
the season will change.

Rhapsodomancy: a form of divination

Rhapsodomancy is another word new to me, and one that actually has some application. It means using the text of a poem to foretell the future.41VKAAY5nvL._SX333_BO1,204,203,200_

According to Wikipedia there are several ways of determining which poem to use. Some of the systems involve writing a poem or some poems’ titles on bits of paper (or tree-bark if you want to be really authentic), putting the papers in a pot and drawing one out (without looking of course). Alternatively you can spread the papers over your desk and toss a die at them. The one the die lands on is the one you use.

Fortunetelling isn’t really my thing, but I was intrigued by my reading about rhapsodomancy so I thought I’d give it a go. Writing a lot of titles or lines out seemed like work and a waste of paper, but using the die is a good idea, so I decided to adapt that. It took a few goes to make it work, so what follows isn’t entirely my first effort.

Some time ago I was given a copy of a lovely book, Poem for the Day: One edited by Nicholas Albery, which has one poem for each day of the year. It seemed a good book to use as my text – very varied poems by many poets.

To find the poem I need I have to have a randomly chosen date. Since we are in the first half of the month I decided the date used should to be in the first two weeks. So I toss a die. It lands on 6.

I don’t need another toss – I’m not going to do any adding. If I used another toss I might get a 1 or 2 and could use them with the 6 to give me 16 or 26, but I’ve already decided to rule these dates out.

So now to toss for the month. I get a 2 – February. I toss again in case I get December, but I don’t – I get a 3. Since there are no months 23 or 32, I stick with February.

Now for the text for 6th February. It is The Passionate Shepherd to his Love by Christopher Marlowe. But it has six stanzas which seem too much for divination, so I toss again and get a 6.

The verse:

The shepherds’ swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May morning.
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me, and be my love.

All this die work is just the preamble. We’re now at the tricky part, which is working out what it means.

An experienced diviner could probably draw a lot of conclusions from such a verse. My immediate reaction is that next May there will be dancing and singing near enough to me for me to observe it and maybe join in. This is such a cheerful prediction that I’m going to stop there and wait until May 2016 to see if it comes true.

If any of my readers see something different in the verse, I’d love to hear what it is.

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