Helen Dunmore, I’m very sad about your death.

I loved your poems and your novels…

Listen

When you’ve got the plan of your life
matched to the time it will take
but you just want to press SHIFT / BREAK
and print over and over
this is not what I was after
this is not what I was after.

When you’ve finally stripped out the house
with its iron-cold fireplace,
its mouldings, its mortgage,
its single-skin walls
but you want to write in the plaster
“This is not what I was after.”

When you’ve got the rainbow-clad baby
in his state-of-the-art pushchair
but he arches his back at you
and pulps his Activity Centre
and you just want to whisper
“This is not what I was after.”

When the vacuum seethes and whines in the lounge
and the waste-disposal unit blows,
when tenners settle in your account
like snow hitting a stove,
when you get a chat from your spouse
about marriage and personal growth,
when a wino comes to sleep in your porch
on your Citizen’s Charter
and you know a hostel’s opening soon
but your headache’s closer
and you really just want to torch
the bundle of rags and newspaper
and you’ll say to the newspaper
“This is not what we were after,
this is not what we were after.”

Source: Goodwin, D 2002, 101 Poems That Could Save Your Life: An Anthology of Emotional First Aid, Harper.

Review of Queen, Jewel, Mistress

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Illustration: Ruth Stacey, oil pastels and pencil.

“History holds such a wealth of material for any writer – but especially so for poets. And yet, so few poets find themselves looking to such inspiration. Of all the poets I know, of all the (contemporary) poets I’ve read, I’ve never quite found someone who interprets history through poetry like Ruth Stacey. I’m not talking of using poetry to illustrate history. I’m not talking of political ballads or of waxing poetics. I’m talking of recreating history, provoking ghosts, resurrecting the dead. I have many friends who are history interpreters, working or volunteering at historical sites. They dress in costumes, don weaponry, and wield the mannerisms and speech of the people who were there. Ruth Stacey interprets history in just this way. I was once told, of a poem I wrote of an American Civil War widow, “If they taught history like that in school, I might have paid attention!” Pay attention, dear readers. You will love Stacey’s Queens.”

Eve Brackenbury,  Poet and owner of Inklings’ Books & Coffee Shoppe.

No one sings like you anymore

Essence of Dreams by Chris Cornell
Posted on 10/13/2008
“The essence of a dream can follow you all day long. Sometimes two or three days. I have had dreams as a little kid that I remember like they were yesterday, though as time goes on these dream are sometimes hard to tell from actual events as they survive in my memory.

I am fascinated with the essence factor of dreams, period. They are as real as the essence felt from the ambience of an actual place, like a house you grew up in. Your favourite bar, or your school. The first Christmas tree you see every year, the smell of it, and especially songs. Some feelings these environments evoke are awful, some magical. All of them completely real.
Real enough that numerous cultures throughout history have believed that the dream world is every bit as important and substantial and a vital part of human life as the conscious state. Some mysticisms actually look at the world of dreams as being the “true and only world” and everything else an illusion. For my money, if you put an ice pick through your hand, I think it will prove to be a pretty fucking good illusion.
Last night I had a dream that has been following me all day like a sick dog. I was in a hotel near the house I grew up in. I was in a cafe that happened to be the lunch court of my elementary school. Various friends from my past were walking up and talking to me.

In the middle of this scene walks Layne Staley. He looked much like he did the first time I met him. Shoulder length hair, clean shaved. Clear eyed and looking about 20 years old. I was so happy. Confused a little, but in a dream like this, I just wanted to accept the idea that there was some mistake and he was alive and well. He seemed happy and said was working on some new music project.

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I woke up not long after that with the feeling that I had really just talked to him and he was somewhere doing just fine.
My next thought was one that has plagued me for years. Sitting in Kelly Curtis’ living room with about 30 people, all sobbing. We had just come from Andy Wood’s extra weird funeral-wake thing at the Paramount Theatre. It had these new age overtones that didn’t fit Andy’s life at all. There was an amazing film of Andy with Mother Love Bone band mates. All of Andy’s friends and family were there, mixed with a bunch of fans who I didn’t like but knew Andy would have loved. The fans went home. His friends went to Kelly’s.
We were crammed in a smallish living room with people sitting on every available surface. Couch arms, end tables, the floor. I was leaning on the back of one of the couches that face away from the rest of the room and toward the front door. I remember Andy’s girlfriend looking at everyone and saying “This is just like La Bamba” then suddenly I heard slapping footsteps growing louder and louder as they reached the front door and Layne flew in, completely breaking down and crying so deeply that he looked truly frightened and lost. Very child like. He looked up at everyone at once and I had this sudden urge to run over and grab him and give him a big hug and tell him everything was going to be OK. Kelly has always had a way of making everyone feel like everything will turn out great. That the world isn’t ending. That’s why we were at his place. I wanted to be that person for Layne, maybe just because he needed it so bad. I wasn’t. I didn’t get up in front of the room and offer that and I still regret it. No one else did either. I don’t know why.
Years later, at Layne’s funeral, I was angry. I kept hearing the “twice as bright, half as long” speech and the “he was just too special for this world” nonsense that I had heard at so many other funerals for so many other friends that were so young and talented. I’m not sure why I was that angry. Angry at Layne? Angry at all my other friends for leaving me? Angry at the people running around in circles saying “I knew him best” or “I was the only one he really trusted”, angry at all of them for squandering what I thought of as brilliant futures that would make the world feel to me like a place worth living? Or maybe I was just mad at myself because he was dead, and one time I had a chance to pick him up, dust him off and let him know that there was a person who cared about how much pain he was in and I didn’t do it.
If I ever run into him in a dream again, I hope I remember to apologise.
Night all. Sweet dreams.”

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‘Right Turn’ from Sap by Alice in Chains: Chris and Layne singing together

Giveaway!

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Queen, Jewel, Mistress is a collection of poems that journeys from Anglo-Saxon times to the present day. Every famous queen and many forgotten ones get a moment to speak with the reader. In the back of the book is a brief history of all the queens. To win an illustrated copy of my book just comment on this post and share with your history loving friends.

The queens in the sketches are Anne Boleyn and Ælfthryth, wife of King Edgar. Plus, a songbird for Eleanor of Provence…you will have to read the poem to know why!

I will choose a winner on 30th April. Good luck!

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NaPoWriMo

Pressure. To write a poem every day for a whole month. Will it force me to focus and help my current period of writer’s block? Will the daily deadline just create an accumulation of mini failures as I don’t hit my target? Will it be fun?

I did it a few years back, using Carrie Etter’s prompts, and got a good number of drafts that became published poems. Jo Bell’s 52 project was also very useful. However, this year I am feeling quite flat and uninspired, even with prompts.

I have written a couple so far and it’s day 10 so I am way behind. Instead of trying to force something, I have been writing observations in careful detail. Describing people, conversations, scenes. It’s taken the pressure off and it is fun again. Like sketching instead of painting the final portrait in oils.

20131029Raphael Self-Portrait

We grip our hearts and cannot entertain book, thought, or each other.

Wind

This house has been far out at sea all night,
The woods crashing through darkness, the booming hills,
Winds stampeding the fields under the window
Floundering black astride and blinding wet

Till day rose; then under an orange sky
The hills had new places, and wind wielded
Blade-light, luminous black and emerald,
Flexing like the lens of a mad eye.

At noon I scaled along the house-side as far as
The coal-house door. Once I looked up –
Through the brunt wind that dented the balls of my eyes
The tent of the hills drummed and strained its guyrope,

The fields quivering, the skyline a grimace,
At any second to bang and vanish with a flap:
The wind flung a magpie away and a black-
Back gull bent like an iron bar slowly. The house

Rang like some fine green goblet in the note
That any second would shatter it. Now deep
In chairs, in front of the great fire, we grip
Our hearts and cannot entertain book, thought,

Or each other. We watch the fire blazing,
And feel the roots of the house move, but sit on,
Seeing the window tremble to come in,
Hearing the stones cry out under the horizons.

Ted Hughes

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