The girl in the sea

Back in February I did a course about poetry and paintings. One if the exercises was to imagine yourself in a painting. I couldn’t immediately think of any paintings so I was writing myself into an imaginary one, but here it is:

The girl in the sea

She is knee deep in riptides
angry greys and blues and browns
swirl round her feet.
Dark cliffs loom behind her

merging with heavy storm-
filled clouds.

I am hot, sticky and oppressed
by the humidity of a city summer.
My blue cotton dress reflects
off the protective glass
and I threaten to overwhelm her.

I step closer
squeeze beneath the gilt frame,
between glass and oils
and sink into her world.
Breathing with relief for a second
as the cool air embraces me.
Then icy spray
spits at my bare arms
leaving goosebumps.

I should have chosen that picnic scene
in the last room;
the one with glasses of wine
and the glow of autumnal gold.

The girl still stares towards the horizon
knee deep water becomes waist deep
and I become afraid.
The sea is untamed and will think
nothing of taking her as prey.

I don’t think I can save her.

My bookshelves… Poetry

And a couple of poetry writing books…

Responding to a poem

I am part of a poetry group and due to Coronavirus we have had to cancel meeting up but we have continued via email. So instead of meeting up yesterday, one of the group sent round a prompt for us. She asked us to take a poem and write a response to it.

I thought it appropriate to start with Poems for a World Gone to Shit and found In Preparation for the End Times by Francine Elena.

In Preparation for the End Times – my response

In preparation for the end times
I plan to build a time capsule,
think of it as a future curation,
a warning styled as a museum.

Walls will be lined with loo rolls,
antibac will flow from taps.
Everything in the kitchen will be pasta,
the table and chairs as well.

Half read books and unstarted
projects will be piled up
on the floor.

A stack of unused face masks
will be built up like a house of cards.

Boxes of gloves will fill the bath
and bottles of water
will form the sides
of an isolation pod.

In a display marked
Well, it can’t hurt…”
will sit cures next to their
fake news headlines;

cocaine snorted
sterilizes nostrils”

“drinking cow piss
will wash out the virus”

“eat more garlic
to wipe out the toxins”

And as you leave
you’ll pass through
a bleach shower

and maybe
just for good measure
be asked to drink some too.

Poetry about paintings

On Saturday I attended a course about writing poetry based on paintings. It’s not something I’ve ever tried before but my poetry group was going and it looked interesting.

Most of my writing wasn’t great but then I was writing about very different subjects to normal. Throughout the day we wrote about being part of a painting, about moving into or out of a painting, about meeting the artist and being the person who was posing. It produced some fun experiments and got me outside of my normal thinking which is always beneficial.

For a couple of my exercises, I chose to think about a cave painting of a bison.

If I could paint like the cave woman…

…you would see animals dancing across the rock
…you would feel the beat of your heart
crash with each thrash of hoof

I would show you the creativity of nature
so you want to reach into the stone
and pull out your own magic
– personal, powerful, empowering

and then you, you
could create your own universe
with your own mystical imaginings

I want to be like the cave woman

I want to be like the cave woman
feeling the rock and knowing
that’s where the spirit of horse
or bear or bison lay
& knowing how to release them
from their prison of stone.

I want to be like the cave woman
who knows earth, and air,
and stone as kin
& the plants that crowd the forest floor
as well as she knows her child.

But I reach out in the dark
of my bedroom, not cave,
to the untamed sculpture
that is my bed
with its heap of books
and phone chargers
searching for the lamp switch.

I could never be without my sacred
night space, it’s coccoon of safety
edged with fleece and teddy bears
and the convienece of electricity
that the cave woman could never have dreamt of

I want to be like the cave woman.
I want to know my home and land
with the intimacy that comes from survival,
but with the comforts that turn survival
into certainty and in doing so,
render the relationship
between the land and me
nul and void.

The making of a witch

The making of a witch

There was a storm once
– long forgotten –
when Night threw flames
and set the galaxy spinning.
Here you’ll find Her eyes.

Scratch at constellations
until stars fall
to sand; this petrified
lightning is Her wrath.

Look for old stone stacks,
moss covered, lining paths
that are not passed.
Fight the brackish tentacles and thorns.
Release her Scold’s Bridle
and unsilence Her tongue.

Find the place where the tide
rips over scorched limestone
and quartz.
Buried below is Her heart
pressed to coal
over lifetimes.

Listen for the
shrieks of foxes fighting
and the night splitting scream
as an owl releases its prophecy.
This is Her song.

Hold a hurricane
in the cup of your hands.
This is Her.

To love Her
is to offer your heart
to smouldering ashes,
knowingly.

To resurrect Her
is to summon
the souls of the women
who were wronged.

For witches cannot be made,
just reignited.

The Night Stage

The Night Stage

In tired eyes
specks glow
and grow
like the constellations
behind closed lids

A liquorice sky; the stage is set.

Overhead, Venus shines golden
and the Moon casts a spotlight.

From velvet draped wings,
the supporting cast
step out.

Under the gaze
of the Goddess of Love,
Act One unfolds;

A vain queen holds court.

The Great She Bear
and her timid cub
watch an arrogant
huntsman petition
for the banishment
of the scorpion
who threatens his ego.

Night’s shadows conceal
stage hands
as they flip the scene

& then

without a curtain call

the cast

the stars

the stage

all fade
away.

The play is lost to sleep.

York Festival of Ideas

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been very busy!  It’s been the Festival of Ideas which is an amazing array of talks, lectures and workshops, the majority of which are free and accessible.  It’s my idea of heaven and came with a book stall…  What more could you want?!?!

There were many interesting topics and I thought an intriguing way to share my experience would be to share titbits from each lecture.

The Magic of Numbers
Children learn number words before they learn the concept and they learn the concept of numbers before the digital representations.  The step after that is comparing numbers but you can see that even just the initial process is quite complicated and I find it amazing that such young children are able to acquire the knowledge as quickly as they do.

Disposing of mass murderers
What happens when mass murderers die?  Should they be entitled to a funeral like everyone else?  Should their wishes be respected even if they violate the wishes of the victims families?  Are the remains of mass murderers toxic, and if so why, and who is toxic and who is not?

Whilst this talk did look at some specifics, the wider questions it raised were very interesting.

The Science of Sin
Why do we do the things we know we shouldn’t?  An interesting kick off example was that we don’t touch ovens because we get instantly burnt, we how many of us go without suncream and later pay the price?

On a smaller scale, each of the 7 sins aren’t that bad and can even be helpful, but anything taken to the extreme seems to turn out awfully… Take pride, it can be a healthy dose of self confidence, or it can be narcassism.  Envy can motivate you to raise yourself up, but can also lead you to tear someone else down.

Write what you wonder
Tackling the idea that you should write what you know, this workshop asked us to look at the world through a lens of wonder, of curiosity and of childlikeness.  Look at what is under the surface.  Be an explorer.  Be open.  Be uncertain.

Love Factually: The science of who, how and why we love
Laura Mucha turned to science in a quest to understand love it all it’s many forms, be it lust, romantic love or companionate love.  She unpicked the idea of love as an object – “the one” – and turned it into a skill that requires us to work at it.

The Gendered Brain?
The myth that there is a female brain was tossed out in this talk, in fact all brains are different and because they are plastic, they are always changing.  Our environment shapes our brains and our brains shape our environment.

Whilst there is no female brain, there are brains that have been moulded by society’s ideas of gender and what women are and aren’t good at.  If you give a girl a test and tell her that it’s ok if she doesn’t do well because girls are bad at the topic, then she will perform worse than if you hadn’t said anything.

This is important because society has scripts for gender and children seek to understand and perform these (on the whole).  They become aware of gender from birth to 2 years old, they detect gender and align themselves with their gender between 2 and 5 and from 5 to 15 they start to or continue to comply with this gender script.  With this in mind, it is so important that we start to unpick and break down the scripts and stereotypes and roles that permeate our society.

Nine Pints: The mysterious, miraculous world of blood
Blood is fascinating.  It is priceless.  And yet it is also disgusting.  Especially if it’s menstrual blood… If it’s blood being donated then it’s the gift of life.  If it comes from a vagina, then at best it tends to be considered dirty, at worst, toxic and contaminated.

Unseen, blood keeps you alive.  Seen, it signals a problem.

The Wonder of Trees
Trees teach us that everything is connected.  They teach us respect and cooperation.  They give and give and we take and take.  Not just the wood that makes their trunks, but the oxygen they give out, the food they provide, the medicines that they create.  And we take and we take.

We plant rows of trees, uniform, in plantations.  But these are not wild trees.  They will not talk to each other, care for each other and nurture each other like a wild forest.

In a naturally grown wood, the trees communicate, they share resources and they share warnings.  They give each other space to grow, they cross species boundaries and they sacrifice themselves for others.

Trees literally make us healthier.  The air around a tree is cleaner, as the tree absorbs pollutants.  Studies have shown that time around trees improves our attention span, our memory and makes us heal more quickly.

When you can, take the time to say hello to a tree, get to know it, and thank it.