The Blame Game 2016. A poem.

2016

image: radionz.co.nz

I couldn’t sleep last night. The turmoil that has been 2016 spun angry vortexes in my head through the wee hours. After a couple of hours of fitful sleep, I realised I had to write myself out of this funk. I don’t write poems very often. But I can’t tell you how much better I feel for writing this one.

Goodbye, 2016.

Onwards, friends. Onwards.

The Blame Game 2016

I’m not sleeping very well.

 

I blame 2016 and the horror that’s been this year of seismical change.

The world seems transformed, full of hate, fear and scorn; ugly, divided and strange.

 

I blame Brexit for severing the links with my bretheren with whom I have always felt tied.

They said we’d be better sans cette euro-type fetter. They made up the numbers. They lied.

 

I blame May and her minions for duplicit opinions that pretend to put everyone first.

They’re sly politicians, these social morticians; all blue-bloods with vampirical thirst.

 

I blame bold post-truth liars and climate deniers for peddling deliberate falsities.

And internet trolls, who with twitter-hate moles, dig holes in our fragile democracies.

 

I blame Daily Mail leaders, and yes, every last reader, for their role in our country’s demise.

But with a media in thrall to the governments all, it really is no great surprise.

 

I blame terrorist cells and the western cartels whose policies allow them to flourish.

Blatant state-building and oil-dollar wielding are the fuel with which ISIS is nourished.

 

I blame armaments bosses who won’t countenance losses; it’s their bombs that maim and do kill.

Wars keep on going, and refugees flowing. It’s a lack of political will.

 

I blame Jeremy Corbyn for not sticking his oar in, precisely when it was needed.

With progressive position and clear, honest vision, a call to arms might well have been heeded.

 

Yes, I blame Donald Trump, and all of his gumph, for pretending to speak for a nation.

Can the people be saved from this populist wave? A tsunami that threatens annihilation.

 

I blame me for allowing these thoughts to keep flowering and grow in the soil of my mind.

But it’s easy to feel that it’s a bloody rum deal, to be fighting these woes, don’t you find?

 

And yet

 

The world keeps on spinning, politicians keep winning on platforms that seek to divide.

Our task is quite clear, march forwards, my dear. Heads held up high, and with pride.

 

The blame game is easy, but it can’t ever please me and it won’t ever sustain through next year.

I’ll put pen to paper, and hopefully, later, produce stories of hope, not of fear.

 

Writers. Keep writing! Our words should be fighting for a future where everyone thrives.

It’s never too late. Write! Draw! Create! Let our voices be heard. Be alive!

 

©Justin Nevil Davies 2016

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Writing Between Two Bridges

It’s been two months since we came to live in our house between two bridges. In the first few days, I wondered how the change of location would affect my writing; would I become so instantly inspired by the astonishing aspect we have here that I began to reel off story after story of an impressively high standard?

Well…no.

But I have felt inspired. Inspired by the views of course; how could I not be? And inspired by the bridges themselves:

They carry hopes and dreams across the water.

They transport lovers to romantic trysts and loners who roam alone.

The optimistic who can’t help but smile; the pessimistic who stare out for miles.

On them travel workers to work and shirkers who shirk

Expectant couples fresh from a pram emporium; mourners returning from the crematorium.

Trains full of cement and trucks with parcels we’ve sent.

Horses and hearses and tractors and trailers and brand new beginnings; the famous; the failures.

North bound. South bound.

On two wheels or four.

By bike, by train…

They fly; they soar.

Across the river. Away. And away. And away.

I don’t quite know what happened there; I seem to have come over all Betjeman-like. It must be the bridges because I never, ever just sit down and write verse. This was supposed to be a blog post written in prose; and now look.

I’ll leave it in. It isn’t poetry of distinction. It may not be poetry at all. But reading it back, I think it makes me smile. It might do the same for you.

And it does illustrate my point that living between the bridges gives a very real impression of the world moving. Even in bed with the curtains drawn, I’m aware of trains and vehicles crossing one way or the other. It is an outward looking place. A place which transports you. It is quite literally a place built for transportation.

Even the house we now live in was once used by the ferry operators; in the days before rail or road travel.

And then there’s the traffic passing under the bridges out to sea. Oil tankers, tugs; perhaps the occasional cruise ship. The sense of motion doesn’t go away. And of course, the water itself is in constant flow. Or ebb.

It is ultimately an incredibly hopeful place. It engenders a feeling of optimism, and although I haven’t produced much in the way of writing, (I haven’t had much spare time: moving home steals any you might have had), I do feel optimistic about the few pieces I have produced since arriving here. I’ve written some very different flash fiction pieces for competition and have returned at long last to my main Work in Progress. I also have a better idea of what’s been missing in it; its major deficiency, if you like.

It might not be the change of location, (it could simply be the change of season) but I’ve a suspicion that being here will only be good for my writing. The outlook from my place between two bridges is looking good. For writing and everything else.

(All images flyingscribbler’s own)

© flyingscribbler 2013

 

Losing My (Poetry) Virginity

 

CREATIVE WRITING STUDENT IN

VIRGINITY LOSS SHOCKER!

 

I was a virgin until last night.

There, that got your attention. It’s also a shameless ruse to bring traffic to my blog; well, if it’s good enough for the tabloids…

But I was a virgin; a poetry virgin.

The theme for my creative writing class yesterday was poetry. Clearly, there’s a limit to how much ground you can cover in only two hours, and I wasn’t expecting to learn about every aspect of poetry in such a short space of time. I wasn’t even expecting to graze the surface. But then again, I wasn’t expecting to come away having written my first ever poem; but I did.poetry

Sensibly, the tutor concentrated on aspects of writing poetry which can also be useful to the prose writer, and how these writer’s tricks can improve all of our efforts.

We were asked to find, and bring in, a short piece of poetry or prose which had influenced us, or which we had found particularly inspiring, and to concentrate on the sound qualities of the writing. Oddly, I found even this simple task rather difficult. Short of re-reading every book I own to find a suitable passage,(and being short on time, this wasn’t a sensible or achievable option), I decided to simply choose something from the book I’m currently reading. As luck would have it Mrs Dalloway is crammed with beautifully poetic prose. I have always struggled with Virginia Woolf, but having determined to read this novel in two sittings, (and these need to be daytime sittings: a novel with no chapter divisions, a stream of consciousness, requires proper concentration; my day-weary bedtime reading frequently lasts only ten minutes before my book drops to the floor as my eyelids droop south), I succeeded in completing her masterpiece. It is, and I rarely say this, a work of genius, and furnished me with the necessary example of a piece of writing with interesting sound qualities.

The class read their various selections, which ranged wonderfully from Sappho to Carol Ann Duffy, via Dave Eggers, Gerard Manley Hopkins and, of course, Ms Woolf.

It was refreshing, and interesting, to hear how such varied writers use language, rhythm and words to create atmosphere and emotion. It was also an instructive way of introducing the poetry novice (me) to aspects of writing verse or poetic prose. We spent some time discussing use of alliteration, assonance and repetition in writing, using further examples to illustrate how each can be used effectively. alliterationI have always been reluctant to dissect writing like this, but as I found out last week, it’s entirely necessary to the study of how successful writers write successfully. This week, I found that I enjoyed the task even more. I think because I’ve never really tried my hand at poetry (I’ll be honest: I’m a touch in awe of poets) I’m really keen to understand how they go about their art.

Throughout the session, I was aware that the class would culminate in being asked to write a poem. It was a moment I had been, if not dreading, then nervously anticipating; and my previous weeks’ efforts at on-the-spot writing hadn’t been entirely satisfying. The tutor offered us two wildly different types of poem (although by the same poet) to use as inspiration: the first was a series of words depicting colours; a poetic roll-call of paint shades, formed into carefully constructed stanzas. This poem, titled ‘Colours’ by Georges Szirtes, makes full and glorious use of alliteration, assonance, musicality and goodness knows what else to astonishing effect. The second Szirtes poem was ‘We Love Life Whenever We Can’. Following a more conventional (to me, at least) form, the poet reuses the title line repeatedly throughout the poem. There’s a lot more than that going on here, (surprising punctuation, unexpected line breaks, varied sentence length), but it was this feature I decided to try and emulate for my attempt.

For two terrifying seconds I had no idea where to start, but then decided to latch on to the very first thing that came to mind and just write it down. This then became my repeating phrase: ‘If you ever get the chance.’ I don’t know if it was the convivial atmosphere in the room, or the inspiration from having heard so many great pieces of writing, but I suddenly found myself writing fluently. Before I was aware of what I was doing, I’d given birth to a poem, fully formed and crying to be read. So read it  I did. To the class. It may not be a Carol Ann Duffy or a Manley Hopkins, but I am, never the less, proud of my effort. I was thrilled when my fellow students and tutor made encouraging comments. Actually, the tutor said I looked shocked. I was. Shocked to have written my first poem.

It’s the least I can do to reproduce it for you here. I have made no changes; what you read is what I wrote last night. Kindly comments will sooth. Constructive comments will improve.

 

If You Ever Get The Chance

 

If you ever get the chance

stop awhile and stare.

If you ever get the chance

linger there and take a look.

If the lights are on I don’t mind you peeping

toms can sometimes be excused.

If you ever get the chance

rest your limbs and slowly regard.

If you ever get the chance

wait outside to keep your watch.

If the lights are off shine a torch

songs always make me cry.

If you ever get the chance

ring the bell for your return.

If you ever get the chance.

© flyingscribbler 2013

 

Stickybeak’s Lexicon. Gimcrack. A fantastically useful word.

Stickybeak’s Lexicon

Expanding my vocabulary one word at a time

Gimcrack

 

Some words simply shout out to be used. Yes, they sit quietly enough inside your dusty dictionary, chatting occasionally to the words either side of them, but they yearn to be let free and roam the pages of novels, newspapers, poems and, who knows, maybe even e-mails.

 

Gimcrack is one such word. If ever a word suited its meaning with such glorious perfection, then surely this is it.

 

I came across it in a poem by John Betjeman. In the second stanza of ‘Felixstowe, or The Last of Her Order’ (Collected Poems, 1958), he refers to “the gimcrack attic of the villa”. I hadn’t encountered the word before, but even without a dictionary to hand, I think I could have made a pretty good guess as to its meaning. I immediately had an image of creaking old rafters through which the cold wind could blow freely. Perhaps the occasional drip, drip, drip of water or a brief glimpse of daylight where the roof tiles have slipped.  As an adjective gimcrack can indeed mean shoddy; it can also be used to describe something showy but flimsy and worthless. Equally, as a noun, a gimcrack is a cheap showy ornament; a knick-knack; a poorly made flimsy article; a dodge, a trick. Alternative forms of the word are gimcrackery (n) and gimcracky (adj). My Collins Concise offers the alternative jimcrack, (and this is how it is pronounced in all forms, if you were wondering).

 

Isn’t it wonderful? The possibilities for this word are legion. I wonder if gimcrack is one of those words which was more commonly known a half century or so ago. Perhaps it still is in regular use and I’ve failed to notice.

 

My favourite form is gimcrackery, especially when spoken with pronounced rolls to each ‘r’, (think Lady Bracknell and you’ll know what I mean).

 

It also occurs to me that it would make a rather good name for a comedic character: Jim Crackery, good friend of Tom Foolery and Gerry Mandering. Do you know them?

 

I think it would be right and proper to end with Betjeman’s poem in full; it was his work which led me to this splendid word, after all. Enjoy.

 

Felixstowe, or The Last of Her Order (John Betjeman)

 

With one consuming roar along the shingle
The long wave claws and rakes the pebbles down
To where its backwash and the next wave mingle,
A mounting arch of water weedy-brown
Against the tide the off-shore breezes blow.
Oh wind and water, this is Felixstowe.

In winter when the sea winds chill and shriller
Than those of summer, all their cold unload
Full on the gimcrack attic of the villa
Where I am lodging off the Orwell Road,
I put my final shilling in the meter
And only make my loneliness completer.

In eighteen ninety-four when we were founded,
Counting our Reverend Mother we were six,
How full of hope we were and prayer-surrounded
"The Little Sisters of the Hanging Pyx".
We built our orphanage. We built our school.
Now only I am left to keep the rule.

Here in the gardens of the Spa Pavilion
Warm in the whisper of the summer sea,
The cushioned scabious, a deep vermillion,
With white pins stuck in it, looks up at me
A sun-lit kingdom touched by butterflies
And so my memory of the winter dies.

Across the grass the poplar shades grow longer
And louder clang the waves along the coast.
The band packs up. The evening breeze is stronger
And all the world goes home to tea and toast.
I hurry past a cakeshop's tempting scones
Bound for the red brick twilight of St.John's.

"Thou knowest my down sitting and mine uprising"
Here where the white light burns with steady glow
Safe from the vain world's silly sympathising,
Safe with the love I was born to know,
Safe from the surging of the lonely sea
My heart finds rest, my heart finds rest in Thee.

 

© flyingscribbler 2011 (not the poem, obviously)