Thursday Thoughts

Say No To Clowns

Red Nose Day

What are your thoughts on clowns?

I love clowns and still remember feelings of excitement when, as a young child, the circus rolled into town. Sitting at the ringside watching them with their large feet and red noses, driving square wheeled cars and wetting audiences with their buckets of confetti. What more could a young boy ask for?

Clowns appear to be having a hard time at the moment with movies like Stephen King’s “It” and the series, American Horror Story. But relax you Coulrophics out there, today’s post isn’t about the joy of clowns, it’s the opposite and a journey Down Under to one of my favourite places on the internet, the “Say No To Clowns” blog, written and hosted by the talented Vanessa.

Some of you may already be aware of Vanessa’s blog, but for those of you who haven’t been there it is well worth a visit. Her self-description of being, “just a girl standing in front of a salad, asking it to be a donut,” gives you an insight of the humour, mind bendiness (is this a real word) and talent on offer with Vanessa’s brand of writing and poetry.

What I love about her work is she squeezes every ounce out of a post and the title, tags, art, music and writing all come together to give your brain a good workout. Vanessa’s poetry is the kind you need to sit with for a few days and her posts always draw you back looking for another clue or another piece of the jigsaw. For an old Detective they are a blessing, a bit like pulling the pieces together in a complicated case.

I could go on all day about Vanessa and her writing, but rather than wasting time reading me blabbering on why not pay her blog a visit and discover the magic yourself.

Here’s the link – Say No To Clowns– have a great Thursday.

Are Poets Just Lazy Writers?

Are Poets Just Lazy Writers_

Thank you all for taking part in last week’s post, Even Poets Can Be Funny. Your responses kept me smiling well into the weekend. Mrs D got in the act suggesting my humour was like me, best kept in a MOOseum. Hopefully we can have a few more posts like this throughout the year.

In today’s Thursday Thoughts I am returning to the exploration and journey through poetry and a question asked at a writing meetup I attended a few weeks ago, “are poets just lazy writers?” My first reaction was to go on the defensive, but I took the question home with me and it has opened some interesting ideas and reflection.

Poetry can appear, from the outside, to be a writing form taking less time and effort than other types of writing. Compare, for example, one of Issa’s Haikus with Tolstoy’s War and Peace and the finished work on paper can lead to the impression poetry is a less time consuming and challenging activity.

At the same meeting I was asked, “How long does it take you to write a poem?” My answer was “55 years…. at the moment”, because each poem I write contains every ounce of my being going back to the time I took my first breath. This would be no different whether writing a novel, short story or a six-line poem.

Sometimes an idea for a poem can sit in my head for weeks and only after a hundred miles of walking and pondering will the first draft make it on paper. Then there is the drawn-out process of reducing the 1000 words of mayhem into something resembling poetry.  Many poems are put to one side in journals or files and may not see the light of day for months or even years.  In among all this there are the hours of doubt and frustration and a process that may be taking place with numerous poems at any one time. There are many words I could use to describe poets but lazy would not be one of them.

C.K. Williams said  his poem, The Hearth (in the singing), took twenty-five years to write and there are many other poets whose poetry and collections were the product of years of hard work.  Each one an example  poets are far from lazy writers.

Well that’s enough for this week. I have had my daily ten minutes of stretching the pen and grey matter; the log fire and armchair beckons (it’s a poet thing).

What are your views on this. Are poets lazy writers, or is there much more to the dark art? The floor is yours.

Even Poets Can Be Funny

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Photo: © Davy D 2018

My brain has been crammed full of stuff this week and it has been difficult to get any thoughts on paper, so I thought we could lighten the mood on Thursday Thoughts and have a little bit of fun.

I captured the above photo whilst out on a walk last Summer and it is one of those photos begging for a caption.  It is over to you. Have you got any funny words or poetry inspired by the picture of the two cows? I am too Northern to include a prize but look forward to reading your responses.

Here’s mine to start the ball rolling.

“I hope he’s not going to start reciting one of his Hi-Cows.”

A Travelling Fair

A Travelling Fair 2

I am excited for this week’s Thursday Thoughts. One of my favourite poets, Nigel Smith, has released his latest collection of poetry, A Travelling Fair, and I have been consumed in the book for the past week.

Many of you will be familiar with Nigel’s work over at his blog, Voices of A Hidden Self.  A Travelling Fair is a collection of some of these poems plus many new and unpublished poems. Rather than babble on about how good it is, here is the review I posted on Amazon and Goodreads, which gives you a flavour of the book.

 

Imagine the delight when one of my favourite poets on Social Media decided to bring his latest collection of poetry to the market, and Nigel Smith’s, A Travelling Fair, has only deepened the joy and admiration for his poetry. The book starts on The Drizzled Cobbled Street and takes you on a journey through life with poems and reflections told in Nigel’s inimitable style, carved from his Yorkshire heritage. These are poems to spend time with and be savoured. Each one leaving a thought or refection that stays with you for some time. Whether you are new to poetry or a seasoned veteran there are poems here for everyone. My favourite poetry book of the year. A Travelling Fair is worth a visit; you will definitely leave with more than a Goldfish and Candy Floss.

 

If you want to buy A Travelling Fair, and find out what all the fuss is about, then please follow this link at Amazon and you can help Nigel by posting a review on Amazon or Goodreads.

Mrs. D is shouting at me now to get moving for our weekly outing to the shops. The book is going into my Manbag and coming with me. The aisles at Primark and Lidl (it’s all a poet can afford) are going to be much more interesting today.

Enjoy the rest of your week.

#BeastFromTheEast

Beast From the East

It’s the first day of calendar Spring and the UK is in crisis. I’m not talking about Brexit, it is much more serious. We are in the grip of a visit from The Beast From The East. Schools have been closed, flights and train journeys cancelled and there have been reports of hand to hand fighting in supermarkets as traumatised Brits rush to stockpile food for the impending doom.

Although the slight covering of snow sitting on the grass outside of the Poetry Den have left me a little perplexed as to the hysteria, watching and listening to the news bulletins provides plenty of material for the poet.  Which brings me to the focus for today’s Thursday Thoughts, Spring Poetry.

Spring provides so much for the poet to write about. The beautiful blooms of snowdrops set against dark soil, the gold tinge of daffodil stalks about to bloom; and the sudden change of pace of the Robins, Blackbirds and Thrush in preparation for the mating season.

There have been many wonderful poems written about Spring and I thought I would share one of mine, To Spring, by William Blake. I would love you to share your favourite Spring Poem (maybe one you have written yourself) in the comments section to this post. The beast is forecast to hit our village over the next few days and I might need some uplifting Spring poetry to raise my spirits. And to accompany having to break into the emergency rations of Malbec and chocolate.

 

To Spring

 

O thou with dewy locks, who lookest down

Through the clear windows of the morning, turn

Thine angel eyes upon our western isle,

Which in full choir hails thy approach, O Spring!

 

The hills tell one another, and the listening

Valleys hear; all our longing eyes are turn’d

Up to thy bright pavilions: issue forth

And let thy holy feet visit our clime!

 

Come o’er the eastern hills, and let our winds

Kiss thy perfumèd garments; let us taste

Thy morn and evening breath; scatter thy pearls

Upon our lovesick land that mourns for thee.

 

O deck her forth with thy fair fingers; pour

Thy soft kisses on her bosom; and put

Thy golden crown upon her languish’d head,

Whose modest tresses are bound up for thee.

 

William Blake.

 

 

How Do You Know When A Poem Is Finished?

Is a poem ever finished blog

I really enjoyed last weeks conversations about How Do You Read a Poem? and was interested to learn all the different ways and methods a poem can be read; especially the thoughts around how poems can appear different when they are written to being spoken. The conversation sparked this week’s Thursday Thought and got me thinking, how do you know when a poem is finished? Are the poems we read the finished article? and how do poets know when the end is reached?

Sometimes when I have written a poem on paper and completed a few drafts I let it sit, thinking the work is done. When I come back to it and read it aloud I realise there are things missing and rhythms not flowing in the words. This can happen with poems written many years ago. There always seems to be words or stanzas that don’t fit, and the poem is redrafted to suit the new moment.

The French poet and essayist, Paul Valery, claimed a poem is never finished, only abandoned, and most of the time it does seem he is right.  There have been many occasions when I have pondered and drafted a poem to such an extent that it has become a different poem and it has been left, as the excitement of a new idea or poem has taken precedent.

Maybe a poem is complete once it has left your head and hits the paper? Japanese Haiku Master, Basho, alluded to the fact the first thoughts of a poem are the purest and said, “when you are composing a verse, let there not be a hair’s breadth separating your mind from what you write. Quickly say what is in your mind; never hesitate a moment.”  Is the drafting and working of a poem  something habitual and what we are taught to do to seek perfection that can never be found?

Sir John Betjeman was ruthless in how he ended a poem, writing out the completed draft only five or six times before being contented with it. Once he finished the process he was no longer interested in the verse. Clinical although this may seem, Betjeman’s poetry is testament to the fact applying logic and process may be the only way to get a poem to the finish line.

Preparing today’s Thursday Thoughts has left me more confused than when I started, and I am thinking many of my poems have been finished out of boredom and frustration.  With some there is more to write, others – things to be taken away.

I need some help with this. How do you know when your poem is finished?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Do You Read A Poem?

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In 1972 my parents bought me my first poetry book, The Golden Treasury Of Poetry, edited by Louis Untermeyer. For a nine-year-old this was like being given a piece of treasure. Many an evening was spent under the bed clothes reading the many poems by torchlight and being held by the magic of Walt Whitman’s Miracles, becoming the baddie in Alfred Noyes’, The Highwayman, and floating in the madness of Edward Lear’s, The Courtship of the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo. The innocence of childhood allowed me to get lost and become part of the poem.

Forty-five years on, my reading and understanding of poetry has become a little more difficult. Reading glasses come provided with filters of life experience, value and belief systems, norms of culture and society, as well as the pressures and pace of modern day living. The art of reading a poem is very different.

The question of how to read a poem has challenged poets and readers for centuries. Going back nearly two hundred years, poet and literary critic Samuel Taylor Coleridge divided readers into four types.

  1. Moghul Diamonds – the best type and someone who profits by what they read and enables others to profit by it too.
  2. Sandglasses – remember nothing of what they read and just go through a book to get through time.
  3. Strainbags – remember merely the dregs of what they read.
  4. Sponges- absorb all they read and return it in nearly the same state, only a little dirtier.

I can identify as being all of these during my life.  A few years ago, I realised there was a need to get back to the Moghul Diamond stage as the quantity of poetry I was reading had superseded the quality, hence the blog and journey further into the heart of poetry.

Now the reading of a poem goes much deeper than the words and rhyming pattern. It is about the life and background of the poet, the story and emotion behind the poem and spending more time with the poem; living and breathing it to become part of what the writer intended.

In his recent book, The Poetry Pharmacy, William Sieghart gives some good advice about how to read a poem. He suggests not reading the poem like a newspaper and novel, but more like a prayer. Speak it aloud to yourself so you can hear it properly. Take it to bed with you and read it night after night, for at least five nights, remembering that no poem deserves only a single visit.

Just as I was putting together these Thursday Thoughts two of my favourite poets have combined to give me some poetry to test Sieghart’s theories. Roland Keld at Roland’s Ragbag has written an excellent poem, The Meaning of Life, which just lends itself to spending more time with and appreciating the full meaning.

Nigel Smith at Voices of a Hidden Self, has produced an audio version of him reading Roland’s, The Meaning of Life and listening to it brings more depth and meaning to the poem; hearing it read aloud as Sieghart suggests. I will be having more time out this week reading and listening to the  poem and both versions are well worth the time if you can spare it.

What are your thoughts on how a poem should be read? Do you have any tips or habits you use to get more meaning from the poems you read? Please jump in and share them in the comments section. I’d love to read them.

Snowflakes and Poetry

Snowflakes and Poetry

Image: Canva.com

We are in the grip of winter here in the UK and my Thursday Thoughts this week are filled with ice and snowflakes. Not snowflakes falling out of the sky, but rather the term used to characterise young adults of the 2010s who, in certain quarters, are viewed as being more prone to taking offence and less resilient than previous generations.

It appears the UK Government is pushing British youth to its limits and forcing them to learn poems by heart for examinations. The trauma such, a petition containing 160,000 names has been collected and asks for the practice to stop, allowing students to take text books containing the poems into examinations. The number of names on the petition means the matter must be raised and debated in Parliament. According to the report in the Daily Mail, the poems causing the most consternation are The Charge Of The Light Brigade, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson and Follower by Seamus Heaney.

The main crux of the argument centres around a task of learning 15 poems with a minimum of 300 lines of poetry and then being able to analyse them under exam conditions. Petitioners think this is too much. Isn’t one of the joys of poetry in the learning and reciting? There is no better feeling than reciting a poem from memory as it takes you into the heart and soul of the poem.

I remember at the age of 10 being given a school task to choose and memorise a piece of poetry. Being one for a challenge, I selected William Shakespeare’s All The Worlds A Stage, the monologue recited by Jacques in As You Like it. It was a struggle, but I can still capture the feeling of pride standing in front of my parents, teachers and class mates, reciting it word for word; although the lads at the rugby club kept me at arm’s length for a few weeks after.

Recent research by the University of Cambridge has found learning a poem by heart can be good for you and supports my view about getting to the heart of a poem. One of the authors of the study, Dr. Debbie Pullinger, said “Yes, it does seem that there is something special about committing a poem to memory. You’ve invested in it and made it yours. Learning, giving voice and understanding – these all go hand in hand.” The research also found learning a poem by heart had benefits for well-being and “having the potential to enrich lives over many years.”

What are your thoughts on this? Do you think the practice of learning poems verbatim for examinations is outdated and not necessary in this technological age? Maybe you have a story to share about a poem, or poems, you have learned by heart and how they had a positive impact for you.  Whatever your thoughts I would love you to share them.

The Militant Negro

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Illustration and title Trademark of The Militant Negro.

On the last Thursday of each month Thursday Thoughts will focus on one of the blogs I read and gain inspiration from.  Many of you may already know and read these blogs, but I wanted to dedicate this space to shine a little light on their work and signpost their blogs, so others may share the love.

For my first visit and feature of 2018 I am heading over to The Militant Negro, who is one of the shining lights of this community. Its author, JB, dedicates his writing and blog to fighting the oppression and injustice taking place in the world. He is also a collector and spends his days trawling the internet to find the best blogs, writing, poetry, music, art, you name it, and bring it all into one place.

The Militant Negro is one my first ports of call at the start of the day and more so if I am weary and lacking inspiration. My favoured posts of JB are his monthly roundups where he highlights everything you need to know about the month, its symbols, observances, celebrations and festivals. Who would have known today is Opposite Day, where everything you do, say and hear are exactly the opposite. I am not writing this post and you are not reading it. Have a look at January as there are still some weird and wonderful days to celebrate. National Clock Punching Day looks a good one.

For those of you with faint hearts or of a nervous disposition be warned, JB is someone who tells it as it is. As he says, “when a man speaks the truth with No concern for consequences, He becomes a great man.”  His writing never fails to leave me with a smile or spending five minutes screaming at the computer screen.

Please pay JB and The Militant Negro a visit and give some thanks for the excellent and unselfish work he does to promote art and the work of many bloggers in the Worstpress  community. You will not be disappointed.

 

Told You Shakespeare Was Bad!

I Told You Shakespeare Was Bad (1)

Regular readers of Inside the Mind of Davy D know about the fractious relationship I have with William Shakespeare. As time has progressed I have learned to appreciate him a little more. The love deepened in October 2017 when it was revealed students at Cambridge University were having to be given warnings, alerting them some of his works, like Titus Adronicus and The Comedy Of Errors, could be upsetting; the warnings given to help protect student’s mental health. You can read contrasting reports from these links at The Guardian and Daily Mail.

Maybe I missed a trick, but wouldn’t someone have noticed, and discussed at length, the content of Shakespeare’s poetry and plays over the past 400 years. Cambridge University defended the action saying it wasn’t a general University policy, but it was down to the discretion of individual lecturers as to whether warnings were issued to students.

This is just one example of an over protection culture taking hold in the UK and every day is beginning to feel like the 1st of April. Watch any TV channel and you will see telephone numbers for helplines at the end of programmes for anything liable to offend any human sensibility. Although they have merit, are things becoming overprotective to the point where the realities of life are being hidden or at least distorted?

As a writer this has an impact. Working a path through this culture of over protection can restrict the writer’s freedom of expression, which in turn affects the writing and poetry. For example, a few weeks ago I was working on a piece of poetry reflecting something I experienced in my time as a Police Officer. Throughout the drafting process the questions of, Will this word or graphic description offend anyone? What if someone has had this kind of experience? Do I need to place a warning or alert at the start of the poem? played on my mind. In the end the poetry was so safe it was hardly worth the effort, as the emotion had bled out of it.

I am not talking here about poetry or writing which is offensive or hurtful to any group or individual, there are laws in both civil and criminal statutes taking care of those issues. I am focusing more on words which accurately portray and reflect the world we live in, and our opinions in how we navigate through it. I think most poets and writers are mindful of the effect their words will have with specific audiences and self-censor to a point, but sometimes hearing a view or opinion taking us out of our comfort zone can lead to more informed conversations.

As a poet and writer, what are your thoughts on writing in a culture of over protection? Maybe this is something relevant only to the UK and you live in a country where freedom of expression is exactly that. Or, is it the opposite where in the words of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington you, “publish and be damned.”