Posts Tagged ‘poetry’

The Stillness of the World Before Bach

May 5, 2013

There must have been a world before
the Trio Sonata in D, a world before the A minor partita,
but what kind of a world?
A Europe of vast empty spaces, unresounding,
everywhere unawakened instruments
where the Musical Offering, the Well-Tempered Clavier
never passed across the keys.
Isolated churches
where the soprano line of the Passion
never in helpless love twined round
the gentler movements of the flute,
broad soft landscapes
where nothing breaks the stillness
but old woodcutters’ axes
the healthy barking of strong dogs in winter
and, like a bell, skates biting into fresh ice;
the swallows whirring through summer air,
the shell resounding at the child’s ear
and nowhere Bach nowhere Bach
the world in a skater’s stillness before Bach.

— Lars Gustafsson

Read on Poetry Please (27 minutes into programme).

For Annie, with love.


March 25, 2013

As you set out for Ithaca
hope that your journey is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon-don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare sensasion
touches your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon-you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope that your journey is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors you’re seeing for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind-
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to learn and learn again from those who know.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you’re destined for.
But don’t hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so that you’re old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaca to make you rich.
Ithaca gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would have not set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you’ll have understood by then what these Ithacas mean.

Ithaca by Cavafy, read by Sean Connery, music by Vangelis.

Remembrance Year

February 21, 2013
Remembrance Day

Remembrance Year

Poignant words of poet Shane Koyczan set to music by The Short Story Long.

California teenager suspended for writing poetry

January 2, 2013
massacre of the innocents poetry

massacre of the innocents poetry

Why are we oppressed by a dysfunctional community of haters and blamers. The meaning of the poem is talking about society and how I understand why things like that incident happened. So it’s not like I’m agreeing with it, but that’s how the school made it seem. — Courtni Webb

The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. — Wayne LaPierre, NRA

California high school student Courtni Webb suspended and facing possible expulsion for writing a poem about the massacre of the innocents.

Courtni Webb, a California teenager who expressed her feelings about the Newtown school massacre in a poem, has found herself suspended and facing possible expulsion. “I understand the killings in Connecticut. I know why he pulled the trigger,” wrote Courtni Webb in her poem. “Misery loves company. If I can’t be loved no one can,” she wrote. She told NBC News that she wrote the poem to express her belief that people act violently when they feel helpless. “I didn’t say that I agree with it, I said I simply understand it,” she said of the killings. “I feel like I’ve really been made to almost look like a monster by my school and I don’t appreciate that at all.”

A short extract from the poem on the massacre of the innocents:

They wanna hold me back
I run but still they still attack
My innocence, I won’t get back
I used to smile
They took my kindness for weakness
The silence the world will never get
I understand the killing in Conecticut
I know why he pulled the trigger
The government is a shame
Society never wants to take the blame
Society puts these thoughts in our head
Misery loves company
If I can’t be loved no one can

One week on from the massacre of the innocents, we had the NRA say it was business as usual, their solution to violence in a screwed up society was to pour in more guns.

Over Christmas we had psychos with their semi-automatic assault rifles posing in front of the Christmas tree and posting their pictures on social networking sites.

There is often posited a causal link between violent films and video games and violent assaults, including gun crimes. At least one violent video game is linked to a promotion of assault weapons.

Following the massacre of the innocents, sales of the Bushmaster assault rifle have shot through the roof, the weapon used by the killer.

Arm the good guys against the bad guys (and increase the sale of weapons) is the clarion call of the NRA.

The first victim of the Newtown killer was his mother. She was a psycho with her own private arsenal. It was her weapons the killer used for her killing and massacre of the innocents.

NRA has been lobbying to prevent a UN Treaty on control of small arms.

There is no US Federal Law on gun trafficking. Drug barons and traffickers cross the border into USA to pick up weapons. A classic two way trade, drugs flow one way, guns and money the other.

But OMG, one teenager writes a poem about the massacre of the innocents, and she is suspended from school. She had not even published it anywhere, it was not posted on social networking sites, it was found in her notebook and she is suspended from school.

Backers of Courtni Webb have launched a petition calling for her immediate reinstatement.

Sick society, ok to glorify guns, not ok to write poetry.

In Snows Over Bridges

October 7, 2012
Maria Alyokhina behind glass cage during Pussy Riot show trial

Maria Alyokhina behind glass cage during Pussy Riot show trial

I change into things:
I hang like a convict
I’m dining with kings.
My broken-down carriage
Careens down your street
And under the snow
I’ll lie down for a bit.
I’m dining with freaks,
I change as I go,
I stand like a king
Under bridges in snow.
When my child sleeps, the night,
Time altogether, seems to stop, and turn to water,
Into a sea that unites all with all; even, possibly,
Me with you.
And the greatest treasure would be safe in it,
Afloat on a simple raft. I’ll attach every tree to a place
Where people will find it, recognize it and remember.
They say that home is where you are always missed.
When I hear things like this
I feel like twisting the speaker’s neck
Into a tight tourniquet, and then, steadily,
Making him look
At the rocking of the baby’s cradle.
Then I want to take his hand and say: see
How the lilac’s blooming, can you feel the scent?
Not a thing will be left of us, but this will go on.
Will go on.

— Maria Alyokhina

Maria Alyokhina, aka Masha, one of the three members of Pussy Riot jailed for two years following a Stalin-era show trial.

In Snows Over Bridges is published in Pussy Riot! A Punk Prayer For Freedom (Feminist Press, $2.99, published 1 October 2012).

In Light of Current Events

October 5, 2012
Maria Alyokhina behind glass cage during Pussy Riot show trial

Maria Alyokhina behind glass cage during Pussy Riot show trial

Bad things aren’t scary to do; everyone does them.
It’s not hard to hide in a crowd, no one will notice.
One piece of trash more, one piece less.
What’s there to be said—it’s the times we live in, they’re like that.
We got unlucky. But, no.
You cannot be afraid or ashamed to do good.
You cannot.
There’s so frighteningly little of that around these days.
Cynicism’s in fashion.
Ironic smiles and dull melancholy.
Know this: if you don’t do it, possibly, no one will.
A lot of them just don’t have the time to look at what they’re doing, let alone the time to take stock.
They have time to look at others, they have time to assign blame.
If you choose to do good, if you choose to help come what may, know this: you have lost.
You have most certainly lost.
But this doesn’t mean that you mustn’t do it.
It is important to remember who we are.
It is important to know that your conscience is what matters.
It is important to follow your conscience.
It is important not so much to change things, but to know that you are changing them.

— Maria Alyokhina

Maria Alyokhina, aka Masha, one of the three members of Pussy Riot jailed for two years following a Stalin-era show trial.

In Light of Current Events is published in Pussy Riot! A Punk Prayer For Freedom (Feminist Press, $2.99, published 1 October 2012).

We are one Clit! Free Pussy Riot!

August 18, 2012
Pussy Riot in court

Pussy Riot in court

Too long cunts have been kept quiet

The world unites to say it

Come lets free our Pussy Riot

Chainsaw the crucifixes

Remember what they did to witches

Boys branding us as bitches

Keep us kettled in kitchens

Feed us fraudulent fictions

I weep when my sisters are whipped

We feel the force, we’ve flipped

We know every lady is legit

Lets start a Pussy Riot

Cause they fear our pussy power

Now cometh the hour

When we won’t wear their powder

But don balaclava cover

Cause we are one clit

Lets start a Pussy Riot

They can’t cut off our speakers

Cause we have no leaders

We’re all worthy, we’re all one

We put a megaphone in your gun

We want liberation from Putin

And every version of him

We’ve got our flag, we’ll fly it

Until we free our Pussy Riot

— Catherine Brogan

Posted by Catherine Brogan on her blog.

Whose Games?

July 27, 2012
London 2012 the biggest sponsor of the games is the public

London 2012 the biggest sponsor of the games is the public

Its two miles as the crow flies

But I ride four wide

Due to the Olympic bubble

Plonked in the middle

And I’m thinking, John Lewis,

Will ye let me through this?

All this building mess

So Stratford gets an M&S

Wetland marshes become marches

Football pitches become clear ways

Keep open a canal tow path?

You must be having a laugh

Triathlons with a Big Mac

Have a happy heart attack.

Enjoy, Drink, Think Coke-a-cola

Sure of course they don’t own ya

Taxpayer’s money for capital builds

And whose name’s on the fields?

Every dirty multi-national

All brought to you by visa

Don’t tell me it’s for world peace

Sure what did it do for Greece?

It’s a totalitarian regime

Giving Stratford a clean

A dictator’s wet dream

No one can criticize

As the budgets rise

Contracts to be dished up

Media all hushed up

An Olympic stadium

Is a public distraction

To stop us sussing the system

Give us bread and roses

Give us sexy poses

Give us brand new noses

But we don’t get peace

To cross the land we lease

From our ancestors before us

Corporations don’t own us

— Catherine Brogan

The corporations don’t own us, they are only minority sponsors of the London 2012 Olympics, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s have contributed less than 10% towards the cost of the Games, but one could be forgiven for thinking it otherwise.

We are facing an epidemic of childhood obesity.

Adidas, one of the corporate sponsors, source their Olympic consumer tat from sweatshops.

2012 London time (2312 Moscow time) London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony begins.

Over 2 million people estimated to have seen the Olympic torch relay.

This morning at 0812, bells rang across the country for three minutes. Any bells, church bells, bicycle bells, door bells, even Big Ben.

The torch was carried by boat from Hampton Court Palace down the Thames to the Tower of London.

Last Friday it was taken from Guildford to the Tower of London by helicopter. All week it has been carried around London. Yesterday to famous London landmarks like St Paul’s Cathedral.

The torch will then go from the Tower of London to the Olympic Park where it will light the cauldron.

The Olympic torch relay has proved to be very popular. Not so the Olympic Games. Not because people do not like sport but because it is tainted by the corporate sponsorship, companies like Coca-Cola, McDonald’s.

Top Story in The Poetry Daily (Saturday 28 July 2012).

Top Story in The delhidreams Daily (Thursday 2 August 2012).


July 25, 2012
Colombian poet Mauricio Contreras

Colombian poet Mauricio Contreras

My song inscribes vast geographies, burning chronicles.
Land without memories, skilful in the trade of insomnia and death.
By a fire of thorn bushes a barefoot people forge bronze statues of silence.
Secret dice encode their torment.
I carve my voice on the wind, the sand sustains it.
A rebel, taking my stand on dreams, facing death and his pale banners.

From a sequence of prose poems Geografías in En la Raiz del Grito (At the Root of the Cry) by Colombian poet Mauricio Contreras.

The poems written in the 1980s tell the story of the drugs wars in Colombia in the 1980s, when two groups, intellectuals and peasants, were caught between the drug barons, the left-wing guerillas and the right wing para-militaries.

These few lines are cited by Grevel Lindop in his delightful book Travels on the Dance Floor. Mauricio Contreras is a poet he meets in Bogotá.

Mauricio Contreras Hernández (1960 – ). Nacido en Bogotá en 1960. Autor de los libros de poemas Geografías, En la raíz del grito, De la incesante partida, Devastación y memoria (Antología). Su libro mas reciente La herida intacta, obtuvo el Premio Nacional de Poesía “Ciudad de Bogotá-2005”. Como traductor ha publicado los libros La poesía está muerta, juro que no fui yo, del poeta portugués Jose Paulo Paes; Dos poetas en lengua inglesa, versiones de los poetas Owen Sheers y Vikram Seth y Dos mujeres y una lengua, versiones de las poetas Menna Elfyn de Gales y Tishana Doshi de la India. También ha escrito y publicado en diversos medios de Colombia y el exterior numerosos ensayos. Además se desempeña como investigador en pedagogía, campo en el que ha publicado varios libros. Ha recorrido el país realizando talleres con docentes y estudiantes.


July 11, 2012


Maybe my dates with Wattpad are a bit undignified. But at my age you can afford to be undignified. You’re free to explore, and to guinea-pig yourself, and to stretch the boundaries. — Margaret Atwood

Everyone has a story to tell.

You do not learn to write by going on a creative writing course. I can always tell, that plodding, wooden style, the clichés.

You learn to write through practice. That is how we hone our skills, be it writing or tennis.

Wattpad provides a platform for writers and poets. It also provides feedback from fellow writers and poets.

You write and post a book a chapter at a time.

Is that not a bit naff?

No, it is the way Charles Dickens wrote his books, each chapter eagerly awaited. In the US they were waiting at the dockside for the next instalment to arrive.

The internet leads to creativity. Look at the number of blogs. If you want to write a book, turn it into an e-book and put it on frostwire, turn it into an audio book and put it on bandcamp.

Margaret Atwood is a strong supporter of both the internet and Wattpad.

I got into trouble a while ago for saying that I thought the internet led to increased literacy – people scolded me about the shocking grammar to be found online – but I was talking about fundamentals: quite simply, you can’t use the net unless you can read. Reading and writing, like everything else, improve with practice. And, of course, if there are no young readers and writers, there will shortly be no older ones. Literacy will be dead, and democracy – which many believe goes hand in hand with it – will be dead as well.

Allen Lau, co-founder of Wattpad, tells the story of getting a letter from an old man in a village in Africa. The village had no school, no library, no landline, and no books. But it had a mobile phone, and on that they could read and share the Wattpad stories. He was writing to say thank you.

Nine-year-old Martha Payne wanted to write. She wrote a highly successful food blog, NeverSeconds. Her local council tried to shut her down, public outcry forced them to back down.

Wattpad is not only new writers, classics and modern classics are also there, for example Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse.

I dabbled in wattpad and I have to say what I found was badly written rubbish. That is not to say there are not gems hidden in the dross. I dabble in bandcamp, I find loads of rubbish, but I also find music well worth listening to.

Writers on wattpad even post videos on youtube promoting their work. For example What He Really Did, which is claimed to be a true story.

There are complete novels, chapter by chapter. There are short stories, for example Santiago’s Dream: The prelude in the little church on the mountain by Henry Freeman, a thinly disguised speculation on Paulo Coelho, the P in the story, and the writing of The Alchemist.

The disadvantage of wattpad is you are forced to read on-line. But then there is nothing to stop the writer turning into an e-book and posting to frostwire, or an audio book and posting on bandcamp, or even turning it into a hard copy, a real book.

I do not like the use of facebook to sign in. Never use facebook to sign in anywhere. Not unless you want a sharing of your personal data. Always explicitly sign in.

I find reading within a restricted area of the screen is not very enjoyable. Even worse than reading an e-book. At the end of the day, nothing beats reading a real book.

Piracy on the site is widespread. Most if not all Paulo Coelho books are available.

Writers write for the love of writing, musicians play for the love of music.

Writers write to be read, musicians play to be heard.

If you are doing it for money, you are in the wrong game.

If you can earn some money, that is great as you are getting money for doing what you love doing.

%d bloggers like this: