All 49 entries tagged Poetry

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April 29, 2012

Four copies of Conquest to give away….

Writing about web page http://www.amazon.co.uk/Conquest-Zoe-Brigley/dp/1852249307/ref=sr_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1335706442&sr=1-6

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Conquest by Zoë Brigley (Thompson)

Conquest

by Zoë Brigley (Thompson)

Giveaway ends June 07, 2012.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

April 06, 2012

Conquest and Repeated Words…

Writing about web page http://www.amazon.com/Conquest-Zoe-Brigley/dp/1852249307

Someone asked me recently about the repeated words that appear in Conquest, and I am posting my answer here. I recently created a Wordle to see exactly which words are repeated most in the book.

Conquest Wordle

It is certainly true that repeated words like ‘garden,’ ‘window,’ ‘long,’ ‘flower,’ ‘never,’ and ‘dreams’ feature prominently in Conquest. I have always liked repetition in poetry: the sense that in reading an entire book you are circling round and round the same ideas. I think that’s why I chose to use the sestina form twice in this new book. You can find out more about the sestina on poets.org .

There are two versions of a double sestina form in Conquest – I say versions because each stanza has fourteen lines like a sonnet, and fourteen repeated words, so it’s a hybrid form different to those used by Swinburne and Sidney . The first (found in the ‘Conquest’ section from p. 35 to 43) uses the words (with variations in brackets):

Conquest

*plot (plotted, plotting);
*land (onland, Disneyland, scrubland, dreamlands, garlands, land-burning);
*fat (fattening, fatten, fattened, fattest);
*gold (golden, golden eyes, gilds);
*graph (cartography, sonograph, autograph, geography, photographs, choreography);
*man or men (bondsmen, woman, ottoman, kinsman, women, workmen, figure, cattlemen);
*earth;
*cell (sells, call);
*script (description, inscription, conscripts, scripture);
*bear or bore (harbour, harbouring, born, borne);
*thing (nothing, anything, everything, something);
*shore (onshore, shore up, shoreline, sure, lakeshore);
*colony (colonists, colonies, colonise);
*and one wild card for words that had something to do with the body: most often I use ‘mouth’, but I also use ‘teeth’, ‘burst’, ‘tongues’, ‘faces’, ‘lips’, ‘open’, ‘hair’, ‘touch’, ‘body’, and once I use the word ‘bereft’ which is an obvious cheat but was necessary for the poem.

There are words related to geography (land, earth, shore) and the civilizing of place (colony, plot). Some of the words relate to the greed of imperialism (gold, fat), and to the suffering that it causes (bear, cell). There is also a feeling in some of the words that the protagonists are trying to chart a course away from such an oppressive way of living (script, graph, thing). This is a physical journey too , as indicated by the bodily words in the wild card list.

The second version of a double sestina is ‘The Lady and the Unicorn’ sequence, and the repeated words (with variations in brackets) are:

*garden (gardener);
*year (yearly);
*day (today, Sunday, daylight, weekday);
*plant (planted, plantations, replanted, transplanted, Jardin des Plantes, planting, pieplants);
*time (thyme, night-time, mistimed);
*flower (flowers, Mayflower, flour, fleurs, marigold, flowering, flowerbeds);
*sweet (sweetest, sweetcakes, sweetnesses, unsweetened, sweeten);
*wreck (wreckage, wrecked);
*out (outside, outed);
*window;
*walls (walled);
*and a wild card for words related to the senses: mainly I use ‘tongue,’ but on two occasions I use ‘eye,’ and once ‘marmalade.’

‘The Lady and the Unicorn’ is a poem about recuperation and healing. The epigraph from A Midsummer Night’s Dream reads: “It fell upon a little western flower, / Before milk-white, now purple with love’s wound.” There are repeated words related to growth (garden, plant, flower), and to obstacles that prevent growth (walls, wreck). Words related to the passage of time (time, day, year) indicate that this is a slow process, but there are rewards (sweet, the sensual wild card list) and possibilities of escape (window, out).


March 18, 2012

Conquest arrives…

Copies of my new poetry collection Conquest arrived last week… Thanks again to the artist Victoria Brookland for allowing me to use her wonderful image Hawk on the front cover. There are also three pictures by Brookland inside the collection.

Conquest

June 01, 2011

Why Poetry Matters: Poetry and Music —– May/June 2011.

Writing about web page http://www.facebook.com/nvwritersnetwork

At a recent event at Penn State, poet Robin Becker opened her reading by noting that poetry had its origins in song, and she quoted the Pennsylvania poet J.D. McClatchy who says: “All arts want to have their birth in music”. Poetry and song do seem to overlap in significant ways. Some poets like the Surrealist Peter Blegvad set their words to music. Musicians also make songs of poems, as in Joni Mitchell’s rendering of W.B. Yeats’ `The Second Coming…

...John Cale’s version of Dylan Thomas’s `Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night…

...or Leonard Cohen’s ‘Take this Waltz’ based on Lorca’s
poem `Little Viennese Waltz’...

Some songwriters, too, have the lyrics of a poet. Many cite Bob Dylan as a prime example, or his forebear, Woody Guthrie, who wrote poetic narratives on the lives of the poor. This particularly American tradition is carried on today by artists like Gillian Welch, who write the stories of the outcast, poor and bereft. Written about the tragedy of American sharecroppers in the 1930s, Welch’s `Annabelle’ recalls Walker Evan’s eponymous photographs of Depression-era poverty. Songs like this also recall the origins of poetry, as an essentially sung form and a means to convey oral histories.


April 28, 2011

Why Poetry Matters: War Poetry —– April/May 2011.

Last year, I joined the Nittany Valley Writer’s Network in Pennsylvania, and I have been trying to convince some of the other members of the wondrous nature of poetry. Consequently, they’ve asked me to write a column in the newsletter on “Why Poetry Matters”, the title taken from Jay Parini’s excellent book Why Poetry Matters.

-

War is all over the news at the moment. The Jasmine Revolution in the Middle East has seen millions of people rise up to demand a new democracy. The news coverage is insufficient to convey their sacrifice. Poetry, however, might fill this gap, because it offers language free from political jingoism.

There have been many solider poets, from the English World War One poets like Wilfred Owen, to the modern day Brian Turner who served in the US army in Iraq. Most recently, however, I discovered Elyse Fenton’s Clamor, which won the $50,000 Dylan Thomas Prize.

Fenton is married to a trauma specialist in the US Army, and_Clamor_ is based on experiences of waiting for him to return from Iraq. The opening poem, ‘Gratitude’, finds the wife listening to her husband describe the grotesque scenes witnessed by her husband. When the body of a burned soldier is delivered ‘beyond recognition’, her husband must be ‘the one to sink the rubber catheter tube’. The distance is frustrating; over the phone, the wife hears ‘rotors / scalping the tarmac-grey sky’. The conversation and the story end, but the question is how long can anyone, let alone her husband, survive? How long before he comes home? The final image might indicate relief or foreboding.


[…] That moment just before we think the end will never come and then
the moment when it does.

January 12, 2011

A Letter to Paul Yandle about my poem 'A Small Unit of Time'.

The poet Paul Yandle wrote to me recently, asking me about my poem ‘A Small Unit of Time’ which was published in The Secret in 2007.
...

A Small Unit of Time [1]

For that which is born, death is certain…Therefore grieve not over that which is unavoidable.
—The Bhagavad-Gita

Some nights he’d make a mug of hot chocolate
before we went to his room: the kitchen
that always smelled of roast beef, milk in a mug
and the microwave timer ticking down.

I stared at the digits, dismantled them with my eyes,
numbers that emerged and vanished in the flash of lines.
Milk bubbling, the mug on the table where I sat,
the jar of chocolate and stacked ladle.

I stirred it slowly until the milk turned brown
and the steam was coated with that chalked smell.
Trying to drink it slowly, I ran my tongue
round the mug’s rim, placed it on the mantel.

‘Haven’t you finished it yet?’ He waited
lounging in front of the TV, legs straddling.
I read the TV guide, filled the time with my voice;
by then it was too late and he had to drive me home.

[1] This poem does not contain the letter ‘P’.

...
‘A Small Unit of Time’ is a poem about avoidance – doing things to fill up the time when you should be doing something else or to avoid doing what someone else wants. It’s a poem about sexual tension too, and the epigraph from the Hindu holy book the Bhagavad-Gita emphasizes that, though the narrator has a reprieve at the end, things have to be faced eventually.

Many people have asked me about the missing letter ‘P’. My mother even asked me if it stood for penis!! That wasn’t quite what I had in mind. You never know how people are going to interpret things though.

In a way, I was thinking of ‘poem’ and ‘poetry’, but strangely enough P is also the first letter of the name of a person on which this poem was based. The poem was really a way to write this particular person away/out of myself, while the lack of the letter P dictates a kind of avoidance – not wanting to confront something or someone.

I don’t quite succeed though. There is P in the poem. I wonder whether you can spot it? There is a kind of bleak humour in this, as when Magritte titles his painting of a pipe with ‘This is not a pipe’:

There is an inability too to keep the P out of the poem, not being able to avoid the painful relationship absolutely. This reminds me of the way in which disturbing things filter through in dreams and slips of the tongue. They are impossible to hide in the end, although the poem approaches the story of sexual tension and fear obliquely rather than directly.


Unravelling the title poem of The Secret.

Some students at Cardiff High School are currently reading my first collection The Secret and their teacher, Samantha Williams, has asked me if I could talk a bit more about my use of intertextuality in the title poem of The Secret published in 2007.

...

The Secret

A peculiar symptom in those poisoned by Belladonna is the complete loss of voice.
— Medical Dictionary

Dyma’r Wyddfa a’i chriw; dyma lymder, a moelni’r tir.
They said: Why do you want to go to that place? There is nothing
to see. And I said: But I like its name. It means “snow” and “death”.
It has something to do with the colours of red and green. So,

they were talking about the war, the table still uncleared
in front of them. Centuries of hate divide the Severn channel
from the Welsh. Far away, dark before the shining exit gates,
some place was waiting, its features unrecognizable.

I was born in the place on a slope few see that falls westwardly
like the feel of a pulse in the dark when I stay up all night.
Its name – how impossible! A piece of grass on the tongue
kidneys slipped from silk or striding the night for speckled eggs.

_But me your work is not the best for–nor your love the best,
nor able to commend the kind of work for love’s sake._
I am a settler East of the River, but back I have come
wintering in a dark without window at the heart of the house.

...

‘The Secret’ was essentially a poem about Wales, based on T.H. Parry Williams’s poem ‘Hon’. ‘The Secret’ begins with a line from ‘Hon’ written in Cymraeg, the Welsh language; it personifies Mount Snowden (Yr Wyddfa), but compares the mountain’s power with the poverty and bareness of the land below. Parry Williams asks whether it matters that he was born in Wales. Isn’t it just accident or chance that causes one to be born in a particular place? Why does it matter? Why feel any affiliation to that place?

‘The Secret’ is not only an exploration of feelings about place, however. It’s also a manifesto that refers to a number of poets who were important for my poetics when I was writing this poem.

-

Jon Ash
When I was writing this poem, I was very influenced by Jon Ash, an expatriate British poet and writer. Ash lives in Istanbul in Turkey, a city where I spent a formative summer as a student. He is a surreal, idiosyncratic and witty writer, and in ‘The Secret’, I refer to his book The Anatolikon, a book exploring place and history (see this review).

-

Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou is an American poet who tends to write about what it is to be black and female. When I was a teenager, she really influenced me, simply because she had such a powerful voice. She wasn’t passive but active, not meek but angry and defiant. In ‘The Secret’, I reference her poem ‘London’, in which she describes how

...


Centuries of hate divide St. George’s
channel and the Gaels

...

I remember liking the idea in this poem that the English channel is a site of contest between the English and their others: the foreigners in Europe. I related this idea to the Welsh and English and the Severn Channel between them, but I thought too, that for certain kinds of nationalists, it isn’t enough merely to be on the right side of the border. Just living near the border can make you suspect or not Welsh enough. Consequently, the Welsh are not only divided from the English but recoil from the border itself in ‘The Secret’.

-

Rainer Maria Rilke
Rainer Maria Rilke’s poetry is simply some of the most beautiful to ever have been translated into the English language. He was originally from Prague and he led a tumultuous life. Following the philosophies of the German dramatist Henrich von Kleist, Rilke believed that there were three ways of being in the world: superconsciousness (gods, angels, higher powers), having no sense of consciousness (e.g. inanimate objects, animals), or being self-conscious (human beings). Being self-conscious was the most difficult, according to Rilke, because it meant always having doubts and anxieties about one’s life.

In ‘The Secret’, I refer to Rilke’s poem ‘Orpheus, Eurydice, Hermes’, which tells the story of Orpheus’s journey into the underworld to save his lost love Eurydice. You can read the story from Greek myth here if you don’t know it. The key moment of the story is when, in order for Eurydice to follow Orpheus out of the underworld, Orpheus is instructed that he must never look back. He has to trust that Eurydice is behind him following. Orpheus can’t resist the temptation to look back, however, and when he does, Eurydice disappears. In his version of the tale, Rilke lingers on this moment:

...


And when suddenly
the god stopped her and, with anguish in his cry,
uttered the words: ‘He has turned round’ –
she comprehended nothing and said softly: ‘Who?’

But far off, darkly before the bright exit,
stood someone or other, whose features
were unrecognisable. Who stood and saw
how on the strip of path between meadows,
with mournful look, the god of messages
turned, silently, to follow the figure
already walking back by that same path,
her steps confined by the long grave-cloths,
uncertain, gentle, and without impatience.

(Read the full poem at this link ).

...

I reference this moment in ‘The Secret’, but instead of a person being unreachable, a place is out of reach.

-

Thomas Hardy
The novels and poetry of Thomas Hardy have been a huge influence on me. I studied The Return of the Native as a school student, and went on to read Tess of the D’Ubervilles and Jude the Obscure, as well as Hardy’s poems. Hardy is wonderful at writing about losses and disappointments. He also gives place, landscape and nature a huge significance, so that the background of the heroes and heroines is like a character itself. ‘The Secret’ references his moving poem, ‘I Found Her Out There’:

...


I found her out there
On a slope few see,
That falls westwardly
To the salt-edged air,
Where the ocean breaks
On the purple strand,
And the hurricane shakes
The solid land.

...

The poem was written for Hardy’s wife, Emma, after she had died. It is a moving poem, which the place described again becomes a larger-than-life character witnessing the sombre reflections.

By referencing Hardy, I am admitting my indebtedness to him, but I am also identifying the narrator as one of Hardy’s women. In his novels, Hardy’s female characters (e.g. Tess, Eustacia Vye in The Return of the Native, Bathsheba Everdine in Far from the Madding Crowd) are often temperamental, capricious, and emotional. The narrator of ‘The Secret’ is one of Hardy’s women speaking back.

-

John Burnside
Burnside is a Scottish poet and novelist and I admire his work very much for its intricate description of place and feeling. I reference his poem ‘The Myth of the Twin’, in which he describes how, at night, he has the feeling that someone is awake in his grandfather’s house. The poem is dream-like and surreal like a waking nightmare, and he describes at one point ‘a feel of a pulse in the dark’: someone or something is out there in the darkness. I used this line to describe the narrator’s quest to discover home or place: a sense that something is there waiting if only she could find it.

-

Marina Tsvetaeva
I have written about the Russian poet Tsvetaeva quite a bit on this blog (see here ), because I admire her work greatly. Tsvetaeva lived through some tumultuous times in Russia in the early twentieth century, but she produced some beautiful love poems including a favourite of mine: the sequence ‘Poem for Blok’, a tribute to the other great Russian poet, Alexander Blok. In the first poem of this sequence, Tsvetaeva tries to define Blok’s name using a display of startling images:

...


A bird in the hand is your name,
An icicle on the tongue is your name,
One movement of your lips is your name,
Five letters is your name.
A ball caught in the flight it is,
A silver tambourine between the lips,
(Read the full poem here at this link)

...

I similarly try to define the name of my home country.

-

Gillian Clarke
The image of kidneys in ‘The Secret’ is a reference to the Welsh poet Gillian Clarke. Clarke often writes about the harshness of farm life in Wales: the slaughtering of animals and the cycles of life. She has been a huge influence on my writing, simply because she writes so clearly and so powerfully about what it is to be a woman and Welsh.

-

David Morley
David Morley was my tutor at Warwick University and supervised my PhD on Welsh women’s poetry. He is also an acute and sensitive observer of nature and place, and though he is a poet, he began life as a zoologist. The reference to searching for speckled eggs is from Morley’s poetry, especially the way that he negotiates the relationship between the life processes of nature and the needs of human beings.

-

Elizabeth Barrett-Browning
During the period when I was writing this poem, I had been reading poems by the nineteenth-century English poet, Elizabeth Barrett-Browning. The nineteenth century was by no means easy for women in terms of gaining the same opportunities as male writers, but there is some incredible poetry by women like Barett-Browning and Christina Rossetti.

‘The Secret’ refers to Barrett-Browning’s novel-in-verse, Aurora Leigh, which tells of the trials and tribulations of a young woman who wants to be a poet. A key moment is when Aurora rejects a marriage proposal from her suitor Romney; he wants her to give up her poetry and go with him to be a missionary. Aurora refuses and pities women who give up their work for love:

...


I do not blame such women, though, for love,
They pick much oakum; earth’s fanatics make
Too frequently heaven’s saints. But me your work
Is not the best for,-nor your love the best,
Nor able to commend the kind of work
For love’s sake merely. Ah, you force me, sir,
To be over-bold in speaking of myself,-
I, too, have my vocation,-work to do

(Read the full poem on Google Books )


...

-

Li Po
Referencing the Chinese “wandering poet” Li Po seemed important for this poem about seeking home and belonging. The line about being a settler east of the river refers to his poems, but it was also appropriate because at that time I was living east of the Severn in England.

-

Sylvia Plath
The final line is a reference to Plath’s poem ‘Wintering’ (read it here ).


January 02, 2011

Why Poetry Matters: The Poetry of Dylan Thomas —– December 2010/January 2011.

Last year, I joined the Nittany Valley Writer’s Network in Pennsylvania, and I have been trying to convince some of the other members of the wondrous nature of poetry. Consequently, they’ve asked me to write a column in the newsletter on “Why Poetry Matters”, the title taken from Jay Parini’s excellent book Why Poetry Matters.

-

The State Theatre put on a production of the play “Under Milk Wood” on New Year’s Eve. The play was written by Dylan Thomas, a poet from Wales, an often forgotten region of Britain. The play tells the story of a small town – its hypocrisies, its victories, its small kindnesses, its gossip. Based on a real Welsh town, the play offers a universal narrative that details the beauty and folly of everyday human life.

Thomas is one of the most inventive poets to have ever written in the English language. Take for example “Altarwise by Owl-light”, a poem that retells the life of Jesus Christ:

The atlas-eater with a jaw for news,
Bit out the mandrake with tomorrow’s scream.

An unsavory tabloid journalist – the atlas-eater – reports the news of Christ’s birth, but there is also the mandrake root, which, in mythology, was said to have a terrifying scream that would kill all those who heard it. Thomas describes “tomorrow’s scream” envisioning the uncertainty of the future, and perhaps the fact of our mortality.

Thomas is an expert at crafting and grafting language, yet he is also a poet of emotion, compassion and nostalgia, and at the end of a long year, I am reminded of the final lines from his prose-poem, “A Child’s Christmas in Wales”.

I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steadily falling night. I turned the gas down, I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept.


December 06, 2010

Why Poetry Matters: Political Poetry —– November/December 2010.

I recently joined the Nittany Valley Writer’s Network in Pennsylvania, and I have been trying to convince some of the other members of the wondrous nature of poetry. Consequently, they’ve asked me to write a column in the newsletter on “Why Poetry Matters”, the title taken from Jay Parini’s excellent book Why Poetry Matters.

-

Just a short one this month!

-

Politics rages on at the moment. Here in the US, Democrats and Republicans are arguing about how best to kick-start the economy, while back in my home country, the UK, thousands of young people have been protesting on the streets against cuts by the Liberal-Conservative Coalition. Poetry can be a wonderful medium for unraveling political conundrums, but, by this, I don’t mean jingoism – the kind of writing that merely delivers a moralizing message.

More complex is poetry by Nirmalendu Goon (born 1945) from Bangladesh. When the Banglasdeshi President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was assassinated by army officers in 1975, Goon was one of the few who protested, even in a dangerous climate of violence. In `Firearm’, Goon describes the police stripping the local people of their weapons. They are now seemingly defenseless, yet Goon suggests otherwise in the final lines:

Only I, disobeying the military order,
am openly returning home a rebel,
still carrying with me
the most lethal firearm of all—my heart.
-

Poem translated Sajed Kamul. You can find this and other wonderful poems in the anthology Language for a New Century, ed. Tina Chang, Nathalie Handel and Ravi Shankar: http://www.wwnorton.co.uk/book.html?id=1184

November 01, 2010

Why Poetry Matters: Poetry and Pain —– October 2010

I recently joined the Nittany Valley Writer’s Network in Pennsylvania, and I have been trying to convince some of the other members of the wondrous nature of poetry. Consequently, they’ve asked me to write a column in the newsletter on “Why Poetry Matters”, the title taken from Jay Parini’s excellent book Why Poetry Matters.

“To write a poem after Auschwitz is barbaric.” This famous statement was made by the philosopher Theodore W. Adorno and it expressed his view of the valuelessness of writing after the unspeakable violence of the Holocaust. Adorno’s vision is bleak, yet poetry has a funny way of delving into pain and suffering and commemorating human endurance.

One of the poems that has moved me the most in all my years of reading poetry is John Berryman’s ‘The Song of the Tortured Girl’. Berryman himself had a colorful life as a member of the American Confessional movement – a group of writers who forced themselves to probe even their most disturbing thoughts. He committed suicide in 1972.

‘The Song of the Tortured Girl’ is wonderful because it looks unflinchingly at human suffering, and it is worth remembering that people all over the world are experiencing such violence at this very moment:


Often ‘Nothing worse can now come to us’
I thought, the winter the young men stayed away,
My uncle died and mother broke her crutch.
And then the strange room where the brightest light
Does not shine on the strange men: shines on me.
I feel them stretch my youth and throw a switch.

Berryman offers us a glimpse of the life of the girl – her family, the weather, her community – and then brings us back to the terrifying reality that she must now bravely face: the faceless torturers and her clinical cell. Most wonderful, however, is the end of the poem, which dwells not her current pain and suffering, but on a joyful memory of a better time that she returns to again and again:


High in a pass once where we put our tent,
Minutes I lay awake to hear my joy.
- I no longer remember what they want. -
Minutes I lay awake to hear my joy.

To read the full poem see this link at my blog, The Midnight Heart:
http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/zoebrigley/entry/the_song_of/ Thanks to
George Ttoouli for introducing me to this poem.


...

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