belonging

Poetry Breakfast ~ at home

 

Here is our choice of poems for this week, I do hope you enjoy them.

I would like to say, from all of us, a REALLY BIG THANK YOU to our three guest poets who have been with us throughout the month of May.

Their poems have added such richness and diversity, and their distinctive voices have been very much enjoyed by us all. Thank you, Alison, Gill and Char for your generous and lively engagement with this project.

Please feel free to make suggestions of poems via the comments section below, or by email.  Next week’s theme is More Precious than Moons and will feature our new guest poet, my Hebridean friend, Pauline Prior Pitt. Pauline’s poems for this theme will be about grand-children, but remember, the theme is only ever a jumping off point – what is ‘more precious than moons’ to you?

(PS The cottage pictured is our holiday rental cottage on Berneray in the Western Isles)

Alison Brackenbury

Char March

Gill McEvoy

Homecoming

 

Horses have quick routes they know

A few safe roads, down which they always go,

They are not tempted by the sudden lane

The silver poplar shivering in light.

They only crave heaped hay again,

And pull to keep the low white yard in sight.

 

So I must fight them, if I am to go

On fruitless roads, on past the dulling tree;

Nor could I tell them, even if I knew

What it was we turned so far to see,

Before the hungry stables of the night.

 

by Alison Brackenbury, published in Gallop published by Carcanet, 2019

Produce of Cyprus

 

Picking grapes from a paper bag, sucking the misted skin
I think of the island which grew them, Venus’ ground
(the rain is in sheets on my window, wet, green, blind)
there, the dry song of the cicada, there the warm nights
with the window propped open, sea’s stripe on the counterpane.

Yet they too, have their troubles. The frosts were late;
the land does not love us, relentless stony ground
though we own it down generations. The price of grapes
is falling; and so on. No doubt they dream of us
that far and prosperous country; on its window, the wealth of the rain.

The last is tough. The bag, as I put by the rest
rustles and whispers, Paradise is the place
of which we know nothing, which we know best.

 

by Alison Brackenbury, published in Gallop published by Carcanet, 2019

Herd  

this morning, when he’s eating his cornflakes,

and yawning, and chatting with his Mum,

and messaging his girlfriend, and streaming music

in the shower, and snapchatting his pals,

and playing Nioh, and fitting in half an hour

of Splatoon with his kid sister, and then racing

biscuit across the park, and tossing the steaming

black bag into bushes, and throwing the slobbered ball

till his shoulder aches, he’s an individual

with a name: Josh 

this afternoon, when he puts on the striped top,

the scarf, buys a packet of Dequadin to get him

through the shouting, and a six-pack to sup

on the bus there, he becomes one of the 21,000

who are sucked from all directions to the plug-hole

of a stadium where they are sluice-gated

into different colours kept distinctly

apart, and he is now an unheard

below roaring up the throat of 

the 15,452 that are his colour.

by Char March, from Full Stops in Winter Branches, published by Valley Press

Mid-Atlantic Ridge 

I started moving

around the time

of the Great Oxidation Event:

round about two

and a half

billion years ago.

Yes. A while ago, and

I’ve not moved far. Well,

not moved at all actually.

Always been just here.

Very slowly shoving 

all the Americas West;

everything else East.

At about the same rate

that your little human

fingernails grow.

Nothing, really.

Quite a bit of Atlantic Ocean

now? Yes, I suppose.

But that hectic Ring of Fire lot,

over in the pacific. Do you know,

they sometimes move

a couple of metres a year.

Madness.

by Char March, from Full Stops in Winter Branches, published by Valley Press

There

where trees crept up to the cottage walls at night,

where, hidden in shrubs, the young stag

raised his velvet branches to the dawn,

where the owl sat brooding on his bough

in autumn mist that swallowed up the day,

where the primrose lit the paths of spring

and bluebells trembled underneath the moon,

where our window was a triangle of trees and sunrise,

where the Rayburn glowed and the huge oak table 

filled the room, where books padded the width and breadth

of every rough stone wall, where the curtains 

were printed with big blue plums, green pears,

red apples, their names in bold in French,

prune, poire, pomme. 

There.

Where someone else lives now.

by Gill McEvoy

Football, Kuala Lumpur

Rain loves this place, loves

the way the open hands

of city trees receive it,

the way its great drops

trampoline the pavements.

It sends the people

scattering for taxis,

forests of umbrellas sprung

like orchids opening,

It empties streets and

brings a thousand frogs 

chuckling from the storm-drain walls,

calls out barefoot boys

to football pitches

where they kick the ball

through floods of water,

spray and warm steam flying.

Arcs of rainbow fly from foot to foot,

shrieks of laughter mingle

with the chortling of frogs

that leap and spring

in their own games

on every pavement’s edge.

by Gill McEvoy 

In Wales, wanting to be Italian by Imtiaz Dharker

 

Is there a name for that thing

you do when you are young?

There must be a word for it in some language,

probably German, or if not it is just

asking to be made up, something like

Fremdlandischgehörenlust or perhaps

Einzumanderslandgehörenwunsch.

What is it called, living in Glasgow,

dying to be French, dying to shrug and pout

and make yourself understood

without saying a word?

 

Have you ever felt like that, being

in Bombay, wanting to declare,

like Freddie Mercury, that you are

from somewhere like Zanzibar?

 

What is that called? Being sixteen

in Wales, longing to be Italian,

to be able to say aloud,

without embarrassment, Bella! Bella!

lounge by a Vespa with a cigarette

hanging out of your mouth, and wear

impossibly pointed shoes?

 

from Over the Moon by Imtiaz Dharker, published by Bloodaxe

Over the Moon by Imtiaz Dharker

Published by Bloodaxe Books, you can see Imtiaz reading her poem on this BBC Arts page (with Gillian Clarke enjoying it and laughing in the background!)

Huge thanks to Imtiaz for giving permisison for us to reproduce her poem in full here: she says:

Your Poetry Breakfast is one of the bright hopeful things for people to look forward to (as Wenlock Poetry Festival was in its sun-filled time). I would be honoured to have the poem included and have copied it here so that you don’t have to type it out again.

 

 

This poem was chosen by Christine

Christine also chose Love after Love by the late Derek Walcott, read here as a tribute, by Linton Kwesi Johnson

My copy of this poem is in the wonderful Emergency Poet edited by Deborah Alma and published by Michael O’Mara.

Anna

Love after love

The time will come

when, with elation,

You will greet yourself arriving

at your own door, in your own mirror,

and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

And say, sit here. Eat!

You will love again the stranger who was yourself.

Give wine, Give bread, Give back your heart

to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored

for another, who knows you by heart.

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,

peel your own image from the mirror.

Sit. Feast on your life.

 

I have chosen the poem ‘Home’ below, because it speaks so powerfully to the condition of refugees everywhere: belonging is a luxury so many of us can’t afford. https://fcrs.org.uk

Ruth Walmsley

Founder, Friends of Conakry Refugee School

Looking for a nest

An uncoordinated clutch of birds’ eggs

 oval Relics in a kipper box

have survived moves, jobs, forgotten friends, dead family.

Gently nestled in a saw dust shrine

they have migrated with me everywhere.

Now hidden in a  shed

out of guilt of a naive boyhood,

passed down by Uncle Geoff 

added to by brother Stu

though some were faked with budgie eggs,

sketched with ingenious rotary marks

to look like the scribbles of a yellow hammer.

I get them out at Easter

fill a discarded nest with coot and crow 

and Polish wooden eggs

put the nest in a naff straw basket-

valueless family heirloom that escaped the tip-

unlike the strong solid people who have passed

while these blown shells remain

still looking for a nest and home.

by Steve Harrison, from the Anthology of Home and Belonging, for Friends of Conakry Refugee School

Jude has chosen The Emigrée by Carol Rumens – from Thinking of Skins, published by Bloodaxe in 1993, and the poem ‘Make Believe’ by Gerda Mayer: from Bernini’s Cat: New Selected Poems, 1999, Iron Press.

The author’s father, Arnold Stein, escaped from the German concentration camp in Nisko in 1939, fled to Russian-occupied Lemberg/Lwów, and then disappeared in the summer of 1940. It is thought he may have died in a Russian camp.

I’m sorry I couldn’t upload this video – but you can see Gerda reading it here.

Beyond the Drift by David Scott, published by Bloodaxe

This marvellous books is one of my favourites, I hope to share many more of these poems with you as we go along.

Click on the image, then scroll down to ‘In My Country’

Chosen by Ali

Poetry Breakfast ~ at Aardvark Books

Atlas – by UA Fanthorpe 

There is a kind of love called maintenance.

Which stores the WD40 and knows when to use it:

Which checks the insurance, and doesn’t forget

The milkman; which remembers to plant bulbs;

Which answers letters; which knows the way

the money goes, which deals with dentists

And Road Fund Tax and meeting trains,

And postcards to the lonely; which upholds

The permanently rickety elaborate

Structures of living: which is Atlas.

And maintenance is the sensible side of love,

Which knows what time and weather are doing

To my brickwork; insulates my faulty wiring;

Laughs at my dryrotten jokes; remembers

My need for gloss and grouting; which keeps 

My suspect edifice in the air,

As Atlas did the sky.

from From me to you – Love Poems by UA Fanthorpe and RV Bailey, published by Peterloo Poets, 2007

Chosen by Tim

Poetry Breakfast, Much Wenlock

The House Was Quiet and the World Was Calm 

by Wallace Stevens 

The house was quiet and the world was calm.

The reader became the book; and summer night

Was like the conscious being of the book.

The house was quiet and the world was calm.

The words were spoken as if there was no book,

Except that the reader leaned above the page,

Wanted to lean, wanted much to be

The scholar to whom his book is true, to whom

The summer night is like a perfection of thought.

The house was quiet because it had to be.

The quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind:

The access of perfection to the page.

And the world was calm. The truth in a calm world,

In which there is no other meaning, itself

Is calm, itself is summer and night, itself

Is the reader leaning late and reading there.

Chosen by Anna

Poetry Breakfast ~ at the Poetry Pharmacy

So that’s it for another week!  Please send us poems on this (or earlier!) or next week’s themes by email 

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We would love to hear (and share) your suggestions!

Anna

4 Comments

  1. Gill McEvoy

    Yet again wonderful choices of poems! Lovely to find Padraic Colum’s Old Woman of the Roads here and Jaan Kaplinski too who for the whole of one year was my favourite poet and I read him over and over. Very much liked Nun on the Platform by David Scott, a beautifully thoughtful poem. And I want to say a very big thank-you to you, Anna, for having me to join Alison and Char as guest poets for May. It has not only been a real joy, but also a very valuable distraction from “Covid and Cummings”!
    I look forward to seeing what you bring to us in June. Warmest good wishes.

    Reply
    • Anna Dreda

      Thank you Gill for your lovely contributions and for being part of the Poetry Breakfast ‘family’ – I hope you’ll continue to dip in! As for being a distraction from (Covid and) Cummings – I agree entirely: we need better things to think about! Lots of love, Anna x

      Reply
  2. Jude Walker

    I’ve thoroughly enjoyed indulging in this selection of poems with my Weetabix this morning. Definitely set me up for the day.

    They’ve left me wondering about my sense of belonging… And it’s always good to wonder.

    Thank you all so much – and thanks Anna.

    Reply
    • Anna Dreda

      Thank you Jude – yes, they made me think too, and I came up with how grateful I am for belonging here, right where I am, and how lucky I am for it to be so …

      Reply

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