Theatre and book reviews by Janice Dempsey
I'm taking some of my small canvases to this little bazaar to sell to the highest bidder! I have prints of my Italian work, too. I hope some of my readers will come down and meet up, even if not to buy a picture!
Here is another poem inspired by the Arvon course on writing lyrical poetry that I went to a couple of weeks ago. This was from a short writing exercise at a seminar led by Mimi Khalvati. It's very closely modelled on a poem by Mahmood Darwish.
For the last two weeks, since coming home from a residential (Arvon) poetry course I've been reading more than writing. The course was at Totleigh Barton in North Devon, in the depths of a landscape that I know quite well because my parents lived nearby. It was an intensive four days in close company with fourteen other poets as well as Dónall (my partner) and the two tutors, Mimi Khalvati and David Harsent, who led seminars and gave individual help most generously. I was also introduced to poets whose work I hadn't read before. Robert Hass was one of those. I'm reading his collected poems now and I'm absolutely blown away by the power of his observation, thinking and language. The poem below is one I wrote today after reading the first few poems in "The Apple Trees at Olema" (Bloodaxe)
I wrote this poem in response to a prompt about touch. It's really about other senses, though - I was remembering the way as a child I would run a stick along railings as I walked down a road, enjoying the vibrations of the iron through the stick as it ran over the uneven surface.
Even now I have the impulse to run my fingers across radiators as I pass them, as though they're xylophone keys.
The title of this poem is from an incident in a novel I read the other day ( I can't remember which it was), set in mediaeval times, in which children's heads were knocked against the boundary stones of their village to make them remember that they belonged there. So this is a rather weird posting but here goes.
There seems to be a National Month for just about every human activity these days. I haven't yet come across National Pick Your Nose Month but no doubt someone will announce it one day. Meantime I'm announcing National Open Mic Month with this poem which I shall probably read at The Old Ship open mic in Richmond-upon-Thames this evening!
I thought I would experiment a bit with 'found' poetry. The poem below is the result of flipping through the TV channels at about 6pm and jotting down lines that caught my ear. I haven't edited the words, just the order of the lines and the result is a slightly mystifying but intriguing account of the world. I had some trouble with TV reception on one of the channels and decided to build that in - you'll spot where, I'm sure.
The picture, a drawing I once made, seemed suitably strange to go with the poem.
Yesterday I was looking through a book of Edward Lear's collected poems (and laughing with surprise at the limericks I hadn't read before) when I had a request from a friend to draw a character for her to use. I enjoyed doing the drawing very much and together with Lear's inspired nonsense writing it moved me to write a limerick in his manner. Here are both limerick and drawing:
I decided to write about my name, and realised that I wasn't sure what name is really mine. My surname now is not the one I was born with, though I took it on some thirty-three years ago. I suppose it's not my legal name now that I am divorced - though all my documents carry it.
I began to think about the way that women lose the use of their family names when they marry, because of course the family name in Britain is generally taken as the male line's name. I researched the meanings of all the names I knew in my family's history and found I knew more about my mother's family names, because she talked about them, than my father's family name, which was taken for granted. My maiden name was Watkinson, and I began by finding out the history of that name, then went on to find out about my mother's family names. Here is the poem.
National Write a Poem Month is over but I shall go on posting poems each day that I can. I was away for the last few days of NaPoWriMo in April, on a poetry writing course at the Arvon Centre, Totleigh Manor, North Devon, where the rule was, no Internet or mobile phone reception for the duration of the course, which was five nights. It was an experience that taught me a lot. I didn't come home with many finished poems but drafts to work on.
On the way back, we called in to the village of Week St Mary, just over the Tamar into North Cornwall, to visit my parents' grave in the churchyard there. The gravestone with their names
engraved on it had been put in place since the last time I'd been there, after the memorial service last year. I wrote this poem about going back to the village as the last piece I produced on the Arvon course.