Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Startled by the visible

© Image by Caroline Forbes
Dannie Abse, born in 1923, is a poet, playwright and novelist whose literary career spans half a century, the first of his fourteen collections of poetry, After Every Green Thing, being published in 1948, his latest selected appearing in 2009. In between Abse has established himself as one of Britain's leading and most popular poets. Brought up in Cardiff, Abse draws on both his Welsh roots and Jewish inheritance but is above all famous for combining the twin careers of author and doctor. The influence of the latter on the former is considerable and has helped develop his unique identity in British poetry.

You can listen to him reading some of his poems here.

The following poem appeared in Poems on the Underground 10.


At night, I do not know who I am
when I dream, when I am sleeping.

Awakened, I hold my breath and listen:
a thumbnail scratches the other side of the wall.

At midday, I enter a sunlit room
to observe the lamplight on for no reason.

I should know by now that few octaves can be heard,
that a vision dies from being too long stared at;

that the whole of recorded history even
is but a little gossip in a great silence;

that a magnesium flash cannot illumine,
for one single moment, the invisible.

I do not complain. I start with the visible
and am startled by the visible.

Dannie Abse

Read the poem several times over the course of the next couple of days. Don't write anything down at first. After a fourth or fifth reading, make free notes of your responses: direct comments about the poem, what the poem made you think about, what it made you feel. Anything at all that comes into your head, but try and include at least one memory the poem made you think about

Put these notes away for a further couple of days before reading back over them and beginning to draft your own poem.

Write well.
L x

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What's in a name?

Who gave you your name?
Do you know what it means?
Do you like it?
If your name was a shape, what shape would it be?
Would you prefer to have a different name? Why?
Have you ever been called by another name, or names?
Do different people have different names for you?
If your name was the title of a novel what kind of novel would it be? What would the main character be like?
Have you ever had any nick-names?

Free write around your name for about 15 minutes, responding to these questions and anything else that enters your mind.

Let the writing sit for a couple of days, without reading back over it, though continue to think and make notes about any other ideas that come to you.

When you're ready, read back over all your notes to see if you have the material for a poem.

You'll see a poem of mine below, written some years ago when I was alone in a small spanish village on a writing retreat.

Write well.
L x

How Are You?

After twelve anonymous days
I walk into the supermercado and someone says
my name and my heart
ignites with something that feels like heat, light.

No matter that rain is pushing its cold smoke
down the mountains,
that I can smell it coming,
the damp evening air sticking to my skin.

What more is there? My place in the world
confirmed, still hearing it in the street –
Lynne! Que tal? Like a blessing. And I am fine.
I am so fine.

Lynne Rees

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A quickie - 10/10/10 becomes a poem

By way of haiku writers Nora Wood, Dennis Chibi, and Curtis Dunlap: Today is 10/10/10. Can you write a quick three line poem of 10 syllables each? Here's mine:

All day this odd malaise accompanied
by the first true autumn day - grey sky, wind.
A day for spiced tea, letters to old friends

L x

Thursday, October 07, 2010

National Poetry Day UK - write about 'home' today

It's National Poetry Day in the UK today, Thursday 7th October 2010, and the theme is 'Home'.

We looked at this theme from a different point of view in Where Home is so today, let's write about what home really is for us, now, right at this moment.

Is it a place, a person, a feeling, a memory, an animal, a dream, a bowl of porridge, a tree, a book? The list is endless, and we could spend days, weeks and months making notes and working on drafts. But...

...the challenge is to write something today, to contribute to National Poetry Day, and post it today. Of course these will be early drafts and should not be scrutinised with a critical eye. And they won't be. But they will be evidence of our desire to write and be part of a wider writing community.

So post away, as many as you want. Let's celebrate!
L x