Sunday, September 26, 2010

Write a poem...

... of 5 lines where the middle line acts as a pivot, i.e. it can be read in conjunction with the first two lines, or it can be read as the line that leads into the final two. Here are a couple of examples of mine:

What it might be called

Two women
are sharing a beach picnic
in January
I breathe in the cold sea-air
and what I want to call, love.

First published in Modern English Tanka 2007

How the story ends

In myths the lost girl
is saved by a prince or eaten
in the forest
I will cut off my hair
paint my nails red.

First published in Simply Haiku Fall 2007

I've been reading Jane Hirshfield who says in an essay about short poems:
Whole fields of saffron pollen can be held in a one-ounce glass vial, acres of lavender in a few drops of oil. The same distillations occur in certain poems’ words.

Good luck!
L x

Saturday, September 11, 2010

These are the women

Today's prompt was inspired by this beautiful poem by Eleanor Lerman that appeared on the Writers' Almanac on 8th September 2010 and which she has generously allowed us to reproduce here:

Small Talk

It is a mild day in the suburbs
Windy, a little gray. If there is
sunlight, it enters through the
kitchen window and spreads
itself, thin as a napkin, beside
the coffee cup, pie on a plate

What am I describing?
I am describing a dream
in which nobody has died

These are our mothers:
your mother and mine
It is an empty day; everyone
else is gone. Our mothers
are sitting in red chairs
that look like metal hearts
and they are smoking
Your mother is wearing
sandals and a skirt. My
mother is thinking about
dinner. The bread, the meat

Later, there will be
no reason to remember
this, so remember it
now: a safe day. Time
passes into dim history.

And we are their babies
sleeping in the folds of
the wind. Whatever our
chances, these are the
women. Such small talk
before life begins.

from The Sensual World Re-Emerges (2010)
available from Sarabande Books
and Amazon UK

I love how the detail in this poem recreates both scene and character, how the poet invites us (our mothers, we are their babies) to share this moment of reflection, a time before loss, a time before whatever is going to happen, happens.

I like how the poem expores how life is made up of 'small talk', or ordinary things: a kitchen window, pie on a plate, a cigarette, even decisions about what to make for dinner, yet this attention applied to them helps us recognize their worth, how they are the building blocks of our lives.

I am also incredibly moved by the insight in:

......... Whatever our
chances, these are the

There's an acceptance in these lines I find both comforting and liberating to read. These are our mothers. Whatever comes later does not change that moment.

I look forward to reading your 'mother' poems. Here's one of mine, a haibun (a blend of prose and haiku poetry) that I didn't intend to be about my mother until I came to the end. And that surprised me.

Fast Train

When the 17.22 heads out of Victoria and begins to pick up speed I start thinking about seatbelts, or the absence of seatbelts, and how in an emergency I might be thrown onto the woman opposite, cracking my head against hers, or puncturing my face on a corner of her open hardback book. But then I notice her breasts which are packed beneath a bib of pink frills, her tiered paisley skirt rumpling in waves over plump knees, her curly hair the colour of hazelnuts, her milky skin, which takes me back to her breasts which are pendulous, generous. And I’ve forgotten about seatbelts, as I shift my knees to one side to get a view of her feet, the shoes she’s wearing which I know will make all the difference to whether she’ll scream and push me away as I fall, or cradle my face away from her book, those wonderful breasts receiving me like a tumbled duvet.

not knowing
how to hold her
my mother at eighty

First published in Frogpond Volume XXX Number 3
And in dust of summers (Red Moon Press 2008)

I'm away at the Ghent Haiku Festival in Belgium for the next 10 days so, write well, and I'll speak to you when I get back.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010


Welcome back to the new look AppleHouse after the summer break, or welcome if you're joining us for the first time. I look forward to reading your poetry and comments in response to my posts over the next few months.

When I was a kid September marked the end of summer. Some years there was no perceptible change in the weather but returning to school removed the freedom of the previous months and a prescribed timetable took its place, as well as a different dress-code, and social pattern too: school friends weren't always the same as holiday friends.

Now, apart from this post to AppleHouse, there's really nothing in my life that makes the beginning of this month any different from the last week in August. Ot at least that's what it seems like on the surface.

In fact, if I look closely, there are differences:

1. The humidity level has suddenly dropped. The wooden doors to the pantry and the kitchen cupboard have shrunk back to their usual size and now close properly.

2. The days are still gloriously sunny but the nights are cooler and I wake in the early morning to pull the quilt up from the bottom of the bed, dislodging the cat.

3. The grass is regrowing. There are thick, healthy green tufts spreading across the baldness of July and August.

4. I find myself looking at sweaters and boots and imagine wearing them in the not too distant future.

5. Red wine seems more palatable rather than the chilled rosé.

6. There are less people walking up and down ave des ChĂȘnes, to and from the beach. And the voices of those who are tend to be Italian, or Scandinavian, or British.

7. Today I packed up the buckets and spades, the inflatable blue deer, the beach parasol and straw mats from under the terrace and put them in the garage. We have no guests due to arrive, no children with sandy toes and flushed cheeks clutching pebbles.

So I have said 'goodbye' to lots of things, and 'hello' to others. I suppose we do this often in our lives when seasons, circumstances and relationships change. Perhaps it might be an idea to write about one of those times or about goodbyes and hellos in general.

Of course, 'goodbyes' to things and people don't necessarily have to be sad. And 'hellos' aren't always joyous either. But they can be what we expect too.

Write a poem that explores 'what has left and what has arrived'.

It's good to be back.
L x