Signpost Eighteen, two poems from The Sky is Cracked, Sarah L. Dixon

Lock 15e

Sarah L Dixon is the Quiet Compere, bringing poetry events to the North of England. You can read more about her at http://www.thequietcompere.co.uk and from the links below.

Reading the poems in her first pamphlet, The Sky is Cracked, I was struck by their apparent fragility and strength.

I’ve chosen two short poems from the pamphlet, to illustrate how a poem doesn’t need to be about an epic event, or story, but can simply encapsulate a few seconds in a person’s life and show the beauty and importance of that moment.

‘Pruning’ and ‘Bridge 38, Lock 15E’ are reproduced here with the kind permission of the author.

Pruning

A hedge has been cut down
at the local graveyard.
It is as if it was never here.

The words on The Bowling Green Inn are clearer.

The trees stand taller.

It was pleasing to me when I noticed.
But it took me several days to realise
what the difference was.

 

The simplicity of language, rhythm of the words and spaces between the stanzas are gently compelling. We assume from the previous poems in the pamphlet that this is a poem about moving on from a broken relationship, but it could equally apply to moving on through other stages in our lives. I enjoyed the idea of it seeming as if the hedge “was never here” and I somehow saw a hedge that’s not there as I read the poem. I like the words being “clearer” and that “trees stand taller”. The last line cleverly highlights the shift in the poet’s perspective in a subtle, intimate way that brings you closer in to the poem.

 

Bridge 38, Lock 15E

 I hold my tongue
as we approach,
bite my lip,

Don’t tell you
of the opening up
that comes with the view
across the fields to Titanic Mill.

The soft slope of hills.
The chimney with a tree growing out of it.

I let you take it in,
without a word,
as I did.

 

This begins with quite a sensual feel, with “tongue” and “lip” and not telling. Then the “opening up”, the “view across fields to Titanic Mill” give a panorama and a feeling of space. “The soft slope of hills” is again, a lovely sensual line, then “The chimney with a tree growing out of it” is quirky and intriguing. The last stanza is delicious.

I particularly enjoyed the poet’s restraint – letting the person she was with discover the view without the poet smugly pointing it out and possibly spoiling the moment.  There’s also the idea of holding back here; of being unable to say something you’re aching to say.

***

So, for our own poems, try thinking of significant moments in your life. For example, a first day at work, or a last day at work; how a place visited with someone you loved felt completely different with someone you’d only just met; the moment you knew you were in love, or noticed you weren’t any more. There are rich pickings here for poets, as life is – of course – made up of moments.

***

 

cracked

The Sky is Cracked is published by Half Moon Books and available from this link:

http://thequietcompere.co.uk/the-sky-is-cracked-poetry-pamphlet-out-now/

 

The launch for the pamphlet is on 24th November in Leeds. The Facebook Event page can be found on this link:

https://www.facebook.com/events/183969262181099/

 

 

 

 

 

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Signpost Seventeen, ‘Echo and Narcissus’, Siân Thomas

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‘Echo and Narcissus’ is  from Siân Thomas‘ Ovid’s Echo,  a stunning collection of poems retelling stories from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Please note, you don’t have to be an expert in classics, or even to have read Ovid to enjoy this collection. Several of the stories are known to most people and there are notes on the poems at the end of the book to help you. It’s worth buying the book simply to have the brilliant potted versions of Ovid’s stories, so you can sound clever at dinner parties, or while having sausage & mash with your mates at Spoons, whichever is your comfort zone. I found it extremely difficult to choose one, but was helped by the decision that it had to be one of the poems with one of Johnny Marsh’s poignant illustrations. I eventually chose ‘Echo and Narcissus’. Here’s the note from the end of the book, and then the poem below,  both reproduced with the kind permission of the author:

“Jove employed witty Echo to distract Juno from his infidelities. When Juno found out, she cursed the nymph, so that Echo could only repeat what other people said. Narcissus, Echo’s beloved, was a proud young man. Another nymph who loved him too was so hurt by Narcissus’ lack of attention that she prayed to Nemesis to make him feel the same pain he had caused others. Nemesis cursed Narcissus and he fell in love with his reflection in a pool. Echo, who had followed Narcissus, could only repeat his words of self-love. She became a disembodied voice and Narcissus changed into a daffodil.”

(Apologies – the poem covers two pages, so a big gap, which should just be a stanza break, appears between the two where I’ve scanned so that you can see the lovely font and illustration.)

Echo & Narcissus page 1Echo & Narcissus page 2

 

Now the purpose of this blog is not to dissect the poem, or review it, but to help you (and me) to write our own poems. I shall therefore point out some of the poet’s super-clever ideas. I may jump up and down a bit, because Siân’s ideas make me a little excited:

  • Quite frankly, Ovid’s Metamorphoses is crying out to have poems written that are inspired by it. It’s a great idea to go hunting for stories – from any genre or period – to help you find ideas to create your own poems. I’ve been floundering for inspiration for one I need to write about a particular mental illness for a new pamphlet, so I’m going to use the story idea and go looking as soon as I’ve finished this blog entry.
  • Look at the poet’s compelling use of the second person, addressing the poem to you to grab your attention,
  • and the imperative – she orders you, “Find him…Reach for him…unbutton him”!
  • Look how sensual the words and images are; the undressing, unzipping, pressing, holding.
  • Back to, “Titian reaching for the hand of Christ”. This gives the poem a depth that’s Biblical, historical, ancient and important, all in a seven-word phrase, which is also desperately sad and conjures the hopelessness of the unattainable.
  • A “diptych” ( a folding, two-part hinged art work, often an icon, found in churches), also has some of this ancient importance to it, but is so useful in showing a connection and folding together between Echo and Narcissus, or, indeed, between you, the reader and whoever you might want to fold together with. Gosh!
  • “Cast a circle” makes me think of magic and adds yet another dimension.
  • “so sharp you could cut a falling feather” is frankly, sublime.
  • ‘Art gives you what you cannot have’ is breath-taking, and the last stanza,
  • “Now untie your life. Leave it by the pool. You can breathe under water,” literally takes you breath away.

 

There is so much to this poem. It has clearly not been chucked on a page in an afternoon, but mulled over, slept on, developed. The poet has collected ideas and words to create a feast of ideas and feelings. And the effort has paid off. I’m running out of adjectives, so I’ll desist.

***

Ovid's Echo cover

 

A note on the actual, physical book. It’s published by Paekakariki Press, a letterpress printer. It is gorgeous to look at and hold and would make a lovely gift. Have a look at Paekakariki’s website, where they explain how they came to be and how they chose to print poetry (of course they did):

http://www.paekakarikipress.com/index.php

You can buy this sumptuous collection from this link:

http://www.paekakarikipress.com/?content=publications.php