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sisters & sparrows

Poetry. Photography. Life.

Category Archives: poetry

{photo: how to catch a sun by Mlyutin}

Patience

Denise Levertov

What patience a landscape has, like an old horse,
head down in its field.
Grey days,
air and fine rain cling, become one, hovering till at last,
languidly, rain relinquishes that embrace, consents
to fall. What patience a hill, a plain,
a band of woodland holding still, have, and the slow falling
of grey rain… Is it blind faith? Is it
merely a way to deeply rest? Is the horse
only resigned,or has it
some desirable knowledge, an enclosed meadow
quite other than its sodden field,
which patience is the key to? Has it already,
within itself, entered that sunwarmed shelter?

Denise Levertov is fast becoming one of my favourite poets (have you noticed?).  She’s so effortless.  Get out her collection This Great Unknowing (her last forty poems, published posthumously) and you will see.

Going to meet all my friends tonight, and then out to dinner with my family at the sexy new restaurant in town.  Dressed up of course – can’t resist.

And isn’t this beautiful?  (Thanks to Ellie for sharing this with me, you legend).  I could really do with a beach day!

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Oh readers, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  This has been a tough week of churning out essays and poems, going to meetings, organising people, deadlines and so on.  But tomorrow I am going home, for better or for worse (at least as far as the essays are concerned) for my sister’s 30th.  It will be wonderful.  The whole brigade is going to upend itself into a big house on the outskirts of Hay-On-Wye, and, if all goes to plan, I will have done sufficient work to not have to take any with me.  God willing (will it, oh do).

(And by the way, meet Globe Team.  My friend Sonia and I are co-ordinating this motley (lovely) crew for the next three terms.)

I’ll leave you with a poem.  It’s an ‘alternative love poem’ (a recent assignment).  I have to admit to reusing material from an old defunct poem.   It worked somehow.

I’ll be back to normal blogging capacity in a few more days.

 

Hawk

 

the dawn happened with a peachy growl

pavements became real

and each leaf defined itself.

I saw

a dark wing on blessed

unholy sky, a virgin blue.

mist off the river veiled

the all-knowing eye,

a sudden dive –

hark!

rustle of ice-clasped air

fierce, unknown panic,

 

soft implode of scudding blood.

 

in the same way, unexpectedly,

my belly unearthed itself

when I glimpsed you

darkly through a window.

 

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I was away for the weekend, back in the shire for a training weekend with Christian Union mates.  But I’m back and now facing the toughest three weeks of this term.  Two essays to do, and tons of stuff with CU to sort out.  I’m gritting my teeth.

{Photo courtesy of my mate Josh}

IN OTHER NEWS. If you are in the UK, click this LINK.  It is to a brilliant company called Graze.  You will get delicious free food delivered to your door, no snags, and I will get me a nifty discount.  Do, oh do.  Please, oh please.

More on topic, I’ve been mulling over the subject of my fat 5000 word poetry assignment which I have to do soon.  I want to do it on something which is really going to interest me, something I can sink my teeth into, so that those 5000 words aren’t unnecessarily deadly.  So.  I’m going to write it about God, and poetry – the harmonies and conflicts between Christianity and literature.  Religious poetry.  The presence of the divine in contemporary poetry.  Or something of that ilk.  I had a massive meeting with my poetry tutor and she gave me some names… among them, Michael Symmons Roberts.  I think I’m going to buy a few collections because the couple of poems I read were wonderful.  Here’s one.

 

Jairus

So, God takes your child by the hand
and pulls her from her deathbed.
He says: ‘Feed her, she is ravenous.’

You give her fruits with thick hides
– pomegranate, cantaloupe –
food with weight, to keep her here.

You hope that if she eats enough
the light and dust and love
which weave the matrix of her body

will not fray, nor wear so thin
that morning sun breaks through her,
shadowless, complete.

Somehow this reanimation
has cut sharp the fear of death,
the shock of presence. Feed her

roast lamb, egg, unleavened bread:
forget the herbs, she has an aching
fast to break. Sit by her side,

split skins for her so she can gorge,
and notice how the dawn
draws colour to her just-kissed face.

 

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a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away

I am writing an essay on Romantic landscape poetry at the moment.  Bring on John Clare.  He is welcome back into my life, that poor sweet crazed farmhand.

The Yellowhammer’s Nest

 

By John Clare

 

Just by the wooden brig a bird flew up,

Frit by the cowboy as he scrambled down

To reach the misty dewberry—let us stoop

And seek its nest—the brook we need not dread,

‘Tis scarcely deep enough a bee to drown,

So it sings harmless o’er its pebbly bed

—Ay here it is, stuck close beside the bank

Beneath the bunch of grass that spindles rank

Its husk seeds tall and high—’tis rudely planned

Of bleachèd stubbles and the withered fare

That last year’s harvest left upon the land,

Lined thinly with the horse’s sable hair.

Five eggs, pen-scribbled o’er with ink their shells

Resembling writing scrawls which fancy reads

As nature’s poesy and pastoral spells—

They are the yellowhammer’s and she dwells

Most poet-like where brooks and flowery weeds

As sweet as Castaly to fancy seems

And that old molehill like as Parnass’ hill

On which her partner haply sits and dreams

O’er all her joys of song—so leave it still

A happy home of sunshine, flowers and streams.

Yet in the sweetest places cometh ill,

A noisome weed that burthens every soil;

For snakes are known with chill and deadly coil

To watch such nests and seize the helpless young,

And like as though the plague became a guest,

Leaving a houseless home, a ruined nest—

And mournful hath the little warblers sung

When such like woes hath rent its little breast.

 

 

Like Robert Frost, Clare capitalised on the image of himself as a peasant poet.  Unlike Robert Frost, Clare did not live a sort of double life, half the time working on the land, the other half lecturing in fancy-pants universities – even when Clare was really popular he still farmed.  Right up until he was chucked into the mental asylum and started believing he was Byron, that is.

 

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I told you I’d tell you about Ynyslas.  Well, this is the legend {via here}:

This land used to be the Cantre’r Gwaelod, which extended some 20 miles west of the current shoreline into what is now Cardigan Bay, and was ruled as part of the Kingdom of Meirionnydd by Gwyddno Garanhir (Longshanks), born circa 520 AD.

The land was said to be extremely fertile, so much so that it was said that any acre there was worth four acres elsewhere. The catch was that the land depended on a dyke to protect it from the sea. The dyke had sluice gates that were opened at low tide to drain the water from the land, and closed as the tide returned.

Around 600 AD, one night a storm blew up from the south west, driving the spring tide against the sea walls. The appointed watchman, Seithennin, a heavy drinker and friend of the King, was at a party in the King’s palace near Aberystwyth. Some say he fell asleep due to too much wine or that he was too busy having fun to notice the storm and to shut the sluices.

The water gates were left open, and the sea rushed in to flood the land of the Cantref, drowning over 16 villages. The King and some of his court managed to escape by running to safety along Sarn Cynfelin, Gwyddno Garahir and his followers were forced to leave the lowlands and make a poorer living in the hills and valleys of Wales.

Another, more bawdy version, maintains that Seithennin was a visiting local King, who, at the time of the storm, was intent on amorously distracting the fair maiden Mererid, who was in charge of the sluice gates. Successful in his mission, Mererid was therefore unable to shut the gates, and the land was flooded.

Here’re my thoughts on the matter:

Cantre’r Gwaelod

by Francesca Fletcher

 

A dull day, studded with slack clouds.

The sun went like the belly of a fish

Across the sand and the fat mulch

At the edge of the spent waves

Made a damp thweat when we kicked it.

We gleaned scraps of driftwood,

Heart shaped stones, watched worms

Slide in and out of the grit.

We walked quickly and sometimes

Some rain fell from the sky

Or upwards from the sea

With that kind of panting wind

 

That catches you and spins you into euphoria.

The land was on our right shoulder.

It was a lonely arm.  All that was on it

Was the chewed ends of ice-pops

One green adder and miles of fence.

Some dead holiday homes too,

But I ignored those.

 

The tide was dragging back as we went

So that before we reached Ynyslas

The drowned forest was undrowned

Naked under the cold appraisal of the sun

The stumps, now stone, stared

Out of their wallowy green pools

Vined with slime.  They were surrounded

By sinking sand. We got an eyeful

And swapped stories about how it happened

This devouring of the land by the sea.

 

We had to walk five miles back

Against the wind. We left the dead trees like

Dead welsh kings on the cold shore

To be reswallowed.

 

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LISTEN

Hello lovelies.  Happy Valentine’s day.

I actually think Valentine’s day is brilliant.  I don’t care if I don’t get a card or whatever, I just think the whole concept is so wonderfully mushy and fluffy and unrestrainedly romantic.  Britons, hold back on the cynicism for a day and write a card – send a text – or an email – make a call – to someone you love, be it a friend, a cousin, an old lady living on her own, or your husband of thirty years.  Make lunch for your mum or something.  Go on.

Also click on the picture to read some (possibly slightly dubious) Valentine’s facts, including this one:

It was once believed that if a woman saw a flying robin on Valentine’s day she would end up getting married to a sailor. If a sparrow was the bird she saw she would end up marrying a man that was poor and live a happy life, if she saw a goldfinch then she was to marry a man that was a millionaire. One can only wonder who she would marry if she saw a crow.

Merciles Beaute

By Geoffrey Chaucer

 

CAPTIVITY

 

Your eyen two wol slee me sodenly,

I may the beaute of hem not sustene,

So woundeth hit through-out my herte kene.

 

And but your word wol helen hastily

My hertes wounde, whyl that hit is grene,

Your eyen two wol slee me sodenly,

I may the beaute of hem not sustene.

 

Upon my trouthe I sey yow feithfully,

That ye ben of my lyf and deeth the quene;

For with my deeth the trouthe shal be sene.

Your eyen two wol slee me sodenly,

I may the beaute of hem not sustene,

So woundeth hit through-out my herte kene.


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Sunflakes

by Frank Asch

 

If sunlight fell like snowflakes,

gleaming yellow and so bright,

we could build a sunman,

we could have a sunball fight,

we could watch the sunflakes

drifting in the sky.

We could go sleighing

in the middle of July

through sundrifts and sunbanks,

we could ride a sunmobile,

and we could touch sunflakes—

I wonder how they’d feel.

 

{photos by Mary Robinson}

 

Full Moon and Little Frieda

by Ted Hughes

A cool small evening shrunk to a dog bark and the clank of a bucket

And you listening.
A spider’s web, tense for the dew’s touch.
A pail lifted, still and brimming – mirror
To tempt a first star to a tremor.

Cows are going home in the lane there, looping the hedges with their warm wreaths of breath –
A dark river of blood, many boulders,
Balancing unspilled milk.

“Moon!” you cry suddenly, “Moon! Moon!”

The moon has stepped back like an artist gazing amazed at a work
That points at him amazed.

 


{photos by Maggie of folkloric – amazing blog}

We did some gardening this morning.  My Gramps, who is 81, is hugely fit and came round to help.  Our fence had been taken out by the flooding and when the water went down it left a whole dead tree on the lawn.  Fun times.

Then we had beer and watched the rugby.  And THEN my sister and I played a game called ‘who’s in the bag’, which is a name-guessing game.  I was trying to describe Eric Morcambe and didn’t know who he was, so I said, ‘he shares a name with the beach where the cockle pickers died’.  Only, always being prone to spoonerisms, I slipped up and said ‘cocker pickles’.  Easy mistake.

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