I wrote this poem the morning after dreaming of my Mum, it felt real, normal almost. Meeting in dreams eleven years after her passing is bitter sweet.
Gloaming – meaning twilight
Today was a day of self loathing, of oily hair, and clothes that didn’t feel nice, of sweatiness and earache. Today was a day of hunger, of not being able to satisfy my stomach, or quench my thirst. Today was a day of worry, of feeling anxious, of sore boobs and chin hair. Today was a menopausal day that felt remarkably like a teenage hormonal day without the black heads and back to back sad songs.
At some point during my misery, I must have went to the fridge, (likely to see if there was anything worth picking at) and found words everywhere. You see, we just topped up the magnetic poetry, and the words were hard to resist, in fact, they forced me to stop.
There is great presence in writing poetry with only a limited amount of words. And with the magnets in no particular order, the eye is forced to search, glance over the words and make connections. If you are lucky, a theme will occur, and while you carefully select each word in that theme, the sound of the magnets clicking into place is not only satisfying, but you begin to feel order. Suddenly your realise your heart is beating a little bit slower, your breathing is calm and smooth. You are present, you and your words and it is calm and nice and the turmoil has subsided.
Here is my poem. It’s not an epic, but it was fun to write.
It has been a day of rainbows here in the Scottish Highlands. I have counted six in total, ranging from faded half rainbows, to a full arcs.
We were out with the dogs today when Helen said to me, isn’t it amazing that we live in a world that does that, and pointed to the rainbow. I have to agree. I’m almost 49 years of age, and a rainbow still stops me in my tracks. They are a gift from mother nature, a reminder of her power, and that beauty still exists amongst the dreariest of days.
Write a poem, or a story beginning with the line – If she was colour blind, why did she chase rainbows?
Happy writing folks.
Snow whipped down the Tarmachan Ridge, and gathered in hoof prints in a field by the Lochay.
That’s where we met.
You, hunkered in a grey fur coat
Bedraggled and stiff
Gathering the cold
Like a sobering drunk at a bus stop Knowing the last bus has gone,
And me, cowering from the wind,
Dressed for Siberia,
With hot-breath-blow-back flowing Like the Dochart beneath my mask.
I might have passed you by
Had it not been for the sun’s flame
Painted on the dead bracken
Catching my eye.
But I stopped, and a moment passed, You fluffed your feather boa, And I straightened my mask.
Thanks to Thrawn Craws for posting this poem to their Facebook group today . I realised, after an hour of pulling my hair out, that Facebook no longer allow us to embed video’s. How annoying. So here is the video that was posted on the Thrawn Craws Facebook page. Please also click on the link to be directed to their page, check out all the creative talent they offer and give them a like.
I told him to come.
I put the key in a plant pot,
And a slice of Madeira cake
Wrapped in cling film, on a floral plate.
I said, ‘Please, help yourself,’
And left the porch light on,
And brown sugar cubes
In a silver bowl, and a sachet of coffee mate.
I said, ‘It’s going to be a cold one.’
And I stoked the fire with extra logs,
Folded the scarf I’d knitted last June
And left it on the armchair.
I said, ‘I won’t wait up.’
And I drew the curtains on a blinding blizzard,
Took photographs from the shelf,
Leaving eleven lines in the dust.
I said, ‘Perhaps he’ll come.’
And left well worn slippers by the fire,
A blanket folded in a plasic bag,
And a kiss on an old book from another time.
In the morning I said, ‘I wonder.’
As I counted the sugar, dusted the crumbs,
Then drew the winters curtains
To size eleven footprints in two inches of snow.
With a fire whipped ocean
And the boatmen’s song.
Voices in waves
Sail the morning winds.
Tumbling from salt spray lips
Rhythm and hymns,
Caught on wings of a guillemot.
In a theatre of fog
Music takes flight,
Rising, like a streak of mist
To face heaven’s door.
And boatmen weep.
Sing goodbye, to the waves,
Lost upon the sorry sea,
As day dies still,
And the boatmen sleep,
And the boatmen sleep.
And we sleep.
Is the ocean chained to the land or is the land chained to the ocean? Are we free is this world or are we chained to a system that benefits the few over the many? Are we chained to a system who would drown those in need in order to keep those who don’t afloat?
I planned to write a prompt based on the above image but when I posted, all I could see is a big rusty chain and it got me thinking. Is it time for change? Can capitalism survive this pandemic or the next? How do the wealthy survive when there is no more capital, do they win or loose? Will the many ever be free from their chains?
Okay. I have a prompt
Write a short story in the form of a news article, T.V news report or radio report named, The Day That Money Ran Out.
Pick a ring, any ring. Take a moments to feel it in the palm of your hand. Now look closely, at the colours, the patterns, the tiny clasps that hold the stones. Now bring the ring to your nose. Smell it. What does it smell like? Where did it come from? Who once owned the ring that you hold in your hand?
Write a poem or a story about searching for the perfect ring in a charity shop. Who was it for, what was the occasion or, was it just a random purchase. Now tell the story of where it came from, perhaps the cashier told you, or you found a name inscribed inside it and looked it up, perhaps it was stolen and you found an article online while you were trying to find out what type of ring it was. Will you keep the ring, give it away, or return it?
Happy writing folks.
Imagine stumbling across an old grave yard. Imagine wandering amongst the dilapidated weather worn grave stones. Imagine a cold chill wrapping around your neck while a black crow squawks from a stone wall. Imagine the iron gate creaking as it swings to and fro on rusty hinges. Now imagine a shadow, small at first, but growing longer as a figure appears below the orange light on the old kirk building. Suddenly, you see a face.
Write a story or poem about the face that appeared in the old cemetery. Who is it, what do they want? How do you feel and do you stay to talk or run as fast as you can? You decide.
Happy writing folks and thanks for visiting.
Today was a never day,
A failure to arrive day,
A day lost like edges of the earth
In a mucky kind of fog day.
Today was a nothing day.
A ‘didn’t even walk the dogs day,’
A day lost like carrots in a stew
In an empty kind of dish day.
Today was a forever day
An ‘is it time to go back to bed day?’
A day lost like the end of this rhyme.
Where does a poem come from? Where does it begin? When does a thought become a creation?
The same applies to prose. Where does that unplanned story strand come from? How, in a split second, can a character fall in love without first consulting it’s creator?
Is it inspiration?
I was walking the dogs yesterday. We went to our usual haunt which is generally the big field down by the river. The weather was average for Scotland in January, dreich, windy with a wee bit mizzle in the air, and damn cold. I was trying (and failing) to stop the dogs eating rabbit shit, while being careful not to step awkwardly on the uneven ground. I wasn’t thinking about anything in particular, in fact, I was just looking. I was looking at my feet, at the dogs, at the snowy mountains, and the people on the old railway in the distance. Suddenly, a sentence popped into my head.
I miss the sea.
This was followed by:
I miss the sea fi when a wis wee
Fair enough, I hear you say. Don’t we all miss what we can’t have at the moment in time, the pandemic has taken so much. And besides this, I’ve seen and heard references to the sea over he past few days through various mediums, so perhaps this subconsciously inspired me. The thing is, I haven’t written any poetry or prose since the start of December 2020. There is a number of reasons for this, (as discussed in previous posts, and I’m not going to bore you with them now), but I wasn’t looking for inspiration, or magic for that matter. And perhaps you don’t think the above lines could be classed as poetry, I mean, the two lines are statements aren’t they? Perhaps. But then the next line came to me in a rhythm so perfect, that I pulled my phone from my pocket and recorded it. This is written in Midlothian vernacular.
I miss sand
stickin to ma broon sauce piece
Is it sounding as epic to you as it is to me? Try saying it out loud, with a pause after sand, and the second line rolling of your tongue.
Or if you understand measuring meter in poetry:
I miss sand (strong, weak, strong)
Sti-ckin to ma broon sauce piece (strong-strong, weak. weak, strong, weak, strong).
Okay, you might not be as excited about the birth of my new poem as I am, but watch this space.
Back to my question though…
Did the poem arrive because of inspiration, or was it magic? My opinion is that it’s a bit of both.
Let me give you another example. Whilst working on my current novel in progress, Little Red Rowing Boat, I have become more and more aware of how often a new thread/strand appears during the writing process. This thread is unplanned, it might be an unexpected character appearing, a childhood flashback, and often a key plot line that materialises from no-where. I often find myself in a trance like state when I’m writing, or deep writing. This is when the magic begins. I generally do plan my writing before I sit down; I pretty much know the direction the story will flow, but regardless of my intention, there’s a genie in my head that sprinkles star dust on my fingers while I write and weird shit happens. Is it just me?
I would like to know your thoughts on this matter. Please leave a comment.
How colourful is this photograph? It was taken in the garden of our old house in Bannockburn. I was trimming the roses when I looked up and saw Buddah, and he looks like he’s sneezing. It made me smile.
I chose to post this photograph today because not only have I been clearing out my writing study/meditation space, but I’ve also been sneezing. To be honest, I think it was the dust from the tumble dryer filter that irritated my nose, but I have done a bit of rearranging so it might be that.
I love having a clear space to work. I find that along with regular meditation, and an uncluttered work area, I can sit down at my desk and write easily. I began writing a novel on 1st April 2020 and am now 63000 word into it. I haven’t written since the beginning of December, my partner had a relapse of her neurological condition, NMO, feel to look it up, then we both thought we had covid but, it turned out not to be, and obviously there was Christmas. Now I’m ready. I have the rest of the novel planned out, I reckon I could complete it in a few weeks then begin the editing process.
But I’m ranting now.
Write a short story or a poem in the form of an email. The email should be an apology for not going on a date and, the excuse should be allergies.
Happy writing folks
I’ve just finished watching the opening concert of Celtic Connections 2021. What a show it was. I love music. I love hearing it sung in many languages as well as in my own tongue. Music brings people together, joins the dots between this land and that, builds bridges and, forms connections. Tonight’s prompt isn’t entirely a prompt, it’s a: FINISH THIS.
Write a poem, story poem, flash fiction or short story beginning with the line,
Let me sculpt music from this old silhouette
The only thing I ask is that, if you use this line and then post it on your blog, please credit my blog. Plus, I if like your post, I’ll share it.
We were on our first caravan holiday in Arbroath, me, Helen and Kimber (we didn’t have Millie at that point). It had been a hell of a week, Kimber was stung by a jelly fish, then a bee the following day, but was treated to her first ice cream cone by the harbour while we tucked into some greasy chips.
It was our first time on Arbroath. The seaside town looked tired, ramshackled in parts, but with pockets of charm dotted around and we fell on love with the place. The beach was long, and at one end flies buzzed around slimy seaweed, rotten and stinking. But in the opposite direction, it was wide, flat and when the tide slipped away into the distance it left silver mirrors in the golden sand.
Famous for its Arbroath smokies (smoked fish), we expected the harbour to reek, but instead, we were greeted with the smell of the salty sea spray that lashed the rocks and soaked our faces. The smell of garlic from a nearby restaurant hung in the air, and as we passed fishing boats tied to metal cleats, a waft of engine oil. I was struck by how much colour was to be found on the coast, from the lobster crates stacked in piles, to rows of washing flapping in the wind above a small cove, to the pretty white lighthouse, stark against a blue sky. One night, we even saw a supermoon.
There was one place that stood out above the rest though. It was close to the end of our holiday and we were wandering. We’d climbed a hill above the harbour and had a picnic while looking down at the orange roof tops and the grey sea, then we strolled by the abbey, and shortly after, into a hidden garden. It was tucked away, between Arbroath’s high street, a park and a rural area. We wandered through an archway into a beautiful walled garden. The garden was in bloom with red roses, white roses, trees, a manicured lawn and a variety of shrubs. There was a wooden bench where we sat for a while. All around us, birds sung in bushes and trees, butterflies fluttered and insects buzzed, hovered and jumped. It was a lovely day and the garden offered shade and a pocket of quiet and stillness, a rest from the world outside.
I have such fond memories of this trip, and I never intended to write such a big post.
But perhaps a prompt?
Okay. Write of place of tranquility, somewhere hidden amongst the hustle and bustle of busy life. Was it found by surprise, why was it there, what did it look like, smell like, sound like, feel like? Was it surprising and did anything happen that changed you or your character? Now hide something, bury it, hide it in a wall or a tree or amongst shrubbery? What was it and who will find it?
Happy writing and thanks for reading my post.
This is me, my partner Helen and our youngest dog Kimber.
I love this photograph so much, it says a lot about our little family. The photograph was camptured by Helen’s mum while we were camping at Comrie Croft in Perthshire. You can see that is was a happy day, a fun day. I think we were relieved, it rained loads while we were there, but on this day, there was a break from the grey, the cold and the dampness, and it lifted our spirits.
Write a story or poem about a group of people camping, but write it in two parts.
The first should be set inside the tent. The weather is cold, wet and grey. Everyone is a bit damp and miserable. What does the atmosphere feel like? Is there conversation? What can you see, smell, taste, feel?
Now write the second part. The weather has changed, the clouds have shifted and the sun is high in the sky. The tent is suddenly warmer, there are voices outside as people unzip their tents and venture out into the bright open field. How does the mood change inside, and then outside of the tent. What happens? How does it feel? What can you see, smell, taste, feel?
Happy camping folks
There is so much going on in this photograph and that’s why I took it. It was taken outside the 17th century mansion Bannockburn House. Notice the man in his traditional Scottish dress, the wheelchairs – one neatly placed, one abandoned. Then there is the bike propped under a window beside a 1980’s wire bin.
Using the photograph above, write a short story or poem about arriving late to a party and finding yourself back on 1984. When did you realise and how? Who was there that you haven’t thought about in a long time? How was everyone dressed, what music was playing and what was on the buffet?
Have a ball and happy writing.
Can you remember the first time your work was published in print? I don’t, but I have the proof. This is a photograph of a story poem that I wrote in 1984. At the time I appear to be a compassionate twelve year old, it’s good to see that the issues that bothered me then, still concern me today. But, current affairs aside, I wonder how excited I was at seeing my words in print. I wonder if I showed the publication to all of my friends and family. I wonder if I called myself a writer?
I doubt it
I knew when I was twelve year old that I wanted to become a writer. I knew it when I left school and began working in a frozen food shop for £24.50 a week on a YTS, I even knew it when I fell into the role of retail manager and somehow survived the role for twenty years. And throughout that time, even though I spent my happiest hours writing, I was never a writer, not a real one that is. I wrote. I wrote and wrote and wrote and began to see pieces of my writing appeared in magazines and newspapers. Yet when ever I introduced myself to someone, I was Eilidh, the retail manager, writing was just a hobby.
When is a writer a writer?
I began calling myself a writer half way through my undergraduate degree at Stirling University. That’s not to say I was comfortable with it. In fact, I would say it under my breath, quickly, and would try to hide my scarlet face. It felt uncomfortable, I felt like a fraud. By this time though, I had managed my way around an essay or two, I was getting decent grades and my reading had increased ten-fold. And as my confidence grew, I began to publish more. The writing itself was mediocre, the publications were small, but I was being published and more importantly – read.
I published a 42,000 word novella in 2014, (under a different name). It was a piece of work I had written many years before, and that was reflected in the writing style. Never the less, I sold over 1000 copies and made a small, very small amount of money. But I was still embarrassed to tell people that I was a writer, and even more so, published. Online was easier though, I marketed my book like hell. I went full on hard sell, talking to strangers, engaging with people who I couldn’t see, and hiding the fact that deep down inside I was terrified of the person I was becoming, the person I always wanted to be, I just wasn’t sure exactly who she was though.
In 2016, I began a Masters in Creative Writing. The course was okay, but it was the legitimacy I felt while doing the course that finally gave the confidence to say, ‘I am a writer,’ still, however, very quietly.
It was probably the year after graduating from university that I began to discover the answer to my question –When is a writer a writer? I was still working part time in the retail sector, but for a charity, and actually using my managerial skills to do some good. When I wasn’t at work, I was reading or writing, or at least thinking about writing. I began to send more and more of my work off to magazines, zines and competitions. I got plenty of rejections, but a small proportion was published and my confidence grew. I began to really enjoy my craft, I enjoyed putting new skills into practice and writing at my own pace. I felt connected to the work I was producing, passionate and I looked forward to it. I had read so many writing tips about when to write, how long I should spend writing, do I need to write daily, how do I find inspiration? I read articles on how to combat writers block, I was even told writers block doesn’t exist. And although all opinions are legitimate, they are only legitimate to the person writing them. In the end, I decided that the only advice I should listen to, is my own.
When I stopped putting pressure on myself to write a particular way, or at a particular time, or for that matter, act in a way that I thought a writer might act, I found I could just write. For me, and this is my opinion, a writer is a writer when they connect to their work, when they allow the writing to be part of them and them a part of the writing.
When I look back at the The Tramp, I see Eilidh the twelve year old writer, she is the writer I have been striving to become for all these years, connected, compassionate, self determined and confident, it just took me a while to find her again.
In week one
The apple tree in the garden of the white and yellow rental house was full, but the house was empty. I walked past a dozen times, five times to the shops, four to the play park with the dogs, once to post a parcel at the post office, and twice for a look.
In week two
The apples on the apple tree in the garden of the white and yellow rental house were ripe, but not picked. I walked past the house at the crack of dawn, hovered by the garden gate, pretended to watch the bluetits flit between branches, just to glimpse at the reddest apples I had ever seen.
In week three
The apples on the apple tree in the garden of the white and yellow rental house were falling, and no-one noticed. I wanted to scoop them up, stuff my pockets and hand them out, but the streets were as empty as my pockets, so I just watched another apple, plump and sweet, fall with a thud. A muffled sigh lay stale between my lips and layers of fabric.
In week four
There were six apples left on the apple tree, in the garden of the white and yellow rental house, the rest were rotten, scattered and bruised, pecked, and burrowed. I should have plundered one, bent the branches until the shiniest apple, cold and smooth, dipped into my claw like grip. I could have sunk my teeth into the flesh quicker than the curtains twitched in the window of the house next door.
The apple tree in the garden of the white and yellow rental house is finally empty, and the house is still empty, yet as I pass, a sudden flash of red amongst the green grass. A robin.
The weight of the world smothers you
Like a wet wool blanket
On tired bones.
And you lie there as still as death.
Your eyes; dusted in grime
Follow my reflection along the ground
As my footsteps silence the sound
Of a town laid on its side before you.
A red umbrella flicks to the side
To hide you from a pigtailed child,
While a balding builder wipes pie grease
From his mouth.
I step into your space and listen.
And like a shell pressed upon my ear
All I can hear is the sea and my heart
Beating. Beating because
I’m afraid of you.
I’m afraid if I don’t shake you
Who will wake you?
But I won’t shake you
For fear of hearing you rattle
Like a bag of bones.
I find your cup, drop a coin and say
‘Sorry man.’ Just like the last time
And I wonder,
When the first freeze frosts the leaves
Will you see sparkles
When I see dust.
This poem is dedicated to the man who died in the doorway of the old BHS in Stirling. R.I.P. Never forgotten.
Amber mist sweeps the woods and treetops burst like fireworks red, orange, yellow and green - against the silhouetted Trossachs, Leaves plucked from branches - A leg and a wing, to see the king, Fall under Wellington boots, Into a cold casserole of dead summer. The hill is a graveyard. Thistle corpses are crispy baskets. Bramble bushes bow low, and autumn Shoots jets of freezing air, I feel them creep into my hair as I descend Into the valley. A swirling cloud hovers over the grass And a snapping twig halts A tap-dancing gull, it hops sideways Over a flattened mole hill. I pause in the shadow of a goal post, While the ghost of summer wraps around my neck Like a feather boa.
I am the talk of the village,
Hanging out undies in mid November
When the mountains are snow capped
And the wind is wheeling the whirly gig
In sub-zero blusters.
But when this morning turned up
With a tangerine sun spewed on roof tiles
And a sky split open like that last free day in March
I rummaged through mucky clothes,
Separating darks and lights.
And now they flip and flap, and high five the sky
Like primary coloured kites
In a sub-zero November sun.
I am the talk of the village
Because I’ve pegged out woollens too,
Rammed the lines in a slap-dash
Rush because the sun is at its height
And the shadows that lurk behind the trees
Will soon spill onto the porch.
And I know my laundry won’t dry in this sub-zero sunshine,
But will collect instead,
The wind that skims the
Heather trimmed mountain crags,
And spray from the thrashing river.
And only when the shadows come
And the wood smoke weaves
A waft into the wool, will I unclip those pegs,
Hang damp washing inside,
Out of sight, on the clothes horse instead
And remember the day
When villagers nattered in windows frames
And my knickers danced free.
She breathed deep, Jaggy at first, And at her feet a pigeon pecked at pickings While a bus shuddered close by - Its doors folded open to the street. She breathed out. Her second breath was smoother, And as people sped by Hunkered under raincoats, rain tap tapping In stereo around their ears, The walking school bus Marched hand in hand in high vis vests, And she sat with cold bus-stop-feet. She blew out an shivering ‘oh.’ Her third breath was quiet As still as the gap Between the ‘Caw’ of the rook And the flap of a pigeon’s wings. Behind her a shop bell tinkled, And the smell of baked bread Hung as heavy as coffee in the air, Warm and steady Like her out breath. She paused a while longer. Watching a line of charcoal cloud Make a bridge between two tenements blocks While a buddleia swayed left and right In an unused chimney pot.
Dedicated to Susie, from PauseandBreathe
To My Inner Bountiful Beast,
It’s been a while since we spoke, since I stroked the tips of my fingers over the waxy wires that poked through a hole in my ankle socks. Remember that time I accidentally paraded you around town, all frizzy and brown like twisted hazel on plump pink toes. Nobody saw my toe-nails, newly manicured and emerald green, or the obscene diamante studs that gleamed in the sunshine. No, my friend, they saw you, my bountiful beast. Oh, and how they laughed at you, they pointed and jeered, and I realised, I had become the woman I’d feared, half blind through middle age and apparently unkempt. Oh, how I wish I could have saved you, but (with my newly purchased reading glasses perched on the end of my nose) I chose the shave you as I bathed in the embarrassment of my day.
Well, as it turns out you’d been a follicle bursting bonanza, and not just in my socks, I found you creeping into crevice’s beneath my frock where even a yoga master might suggest that ‘before you rock into such places, consult a GP’. And little did I know, that the more I looked, the more I’d see. I found you in clumps on my knees, tiny little trees growing wild and free, I worried about overthrowing an entire eco system when you fell. And my beast, you did fall.
But I’m writing to say I’m sorry. I knew you’d be upset, and I didn’t bet on the permeance of the bald love heart shaved accidentally into my pubic parts. I didn’t bet on red raw arm pits, or the purple zits where a chin hair should be, I didn’t bet on the shame of fingers pointing at toes, or the woes of being caught wearing you, my bountiful beast. You see, it isn’t you, it’s me. Everything was fine when I couldn’t see, when you were free to be part of me. And you are part of me.
My inner bountiful beast. I wrote to tell you, I miss you.
Alexander Pope wrote the first edition of Rape of the Lock in 1711, after persuasion from his friend John Caryll. Caryll, who was once guardian to Lord Petre, discovered that the Lord had cut a lock of hair from the head of Arabella Fermor, thus causing a rift between the two families.  Pope wrote the poem in a humorous attempt to mend the rift. In 1714 Pope expanded the original poem which became a five-canto mock epic (Gurr, p.5).
In predicting the hostility that he may have encountered from Miss Fermor over the content of the newly extended version, Pope explained to her in a letter that, ‘The ancient poets are in some respects like many modern ladies; let an action be never so trivial in itself. They always make it appear of utmost importance.’  The purpose of the letter was to clarify to Miss Fermor that the newly adapted version of Rape of the lock was an exaggeration of the earlier incident. Considering this, I would suggest that Pope purposely refuted the customary disciplines of feminine behaviour in the early eighteenth century, within Rape of the lock, in order to restore Miss Fermor’s pride.
The female role was a performance taken very seriously in the early Eighteenth century. Women were encouraged to follow codes of conduct. ‘Codes of civility and courtesy were a matter of active practice, generating their own concepts, values and behaviours which could then be deployed as a set of power relations.’  These behaviours included modesty, sociability and humbleness. Silence and obedience were also essential during this period, unless stimulated by a man. Chastity was a value which was not only desirable to men, but a marital attraction.  Rousseau suggested that, ‘One no longer dares to appear what one is.’  Furthermore, women were encouraged to conduct themselves with virtue and an ability to talk knowledgably.  Knowledge may have been problematic for women, as education for many females was not encouraged. As a result, a female’s only profession was that of wife and mother. Women were described as a tender and weaker sex and trusted that men should be their stronger counterpart. 
The above illustration of female behaviour was ridiculed by Pope in Rape of the Lock, whose portrayal of Belinda, both mimicked the correct behaviour in which society deemed suitable yet, at the same time, furnished her with opposing qualities such as, strength, power, and intelligence, this often resulted in rebellious behaviour.
Pope began to represent these characteristics through his metaphoric use of the sun.
Sol thro’ white curtains shot a tim’rous ray;
And ope’d those eyes that must eclipse the day; (1.13-14)
The rhyming couplet not only exemplified the beauty of Belinda’s eyes but suggested that, she was in fact bigger, or more powerful that the sun. The metaphor continues,
Bright as the sun, her eyes the gazers strike,
And, like the sun, they shine on those alike. (2.13-14)
Along with the theme of beauty and power, Pope created a sense of irony at the end of the couplet when he wrote that Belinda’s eyes ‘shine on those alike’, these words demonstrate that it was Pope’s illusion to describe Belinda as a goddess yet he demonstrated a humbler side to the lady, who believes herself as an equal to those persons around her. Many critics fail to see the irony in Rape of the lock such as Cleanth Brooks, ‘is Belinda is a goddess, or is she merely a frivolous tease?  Pope created the illusion within the poem to generate such controversy. However, Brooks does go on to suggest that the sun metaphor may be interpreted in many ways, one of which suggests, that Belinda gives her generosity ‘like a great prince’. (Brooks, p.140). This ironic comment clarifies the opposing feminine qualities in which Pope demonstrated.
The poet continued to exemplify Belinda’s strength of character in canto one, when her maid Betty and the sylphs (Mystical beings) prepared their ‘goddess’ for her day ahead.
And now unveil’d, the toilette stand display’d,
Each Silver vase in mystic order laid. (1.121-148)
Although it may be argued that the presentation of the items on Belinda’s toilet were a representation of consumerism, these items would have been common in the period in which the poem was written. In the early 18th century the rapid growth of the British economy, resulted in an increase in consumerism.  Watkins suggested, that the elaborate beautification of Belinda only served to tempt the Baron to cut off the lock of hair,’ (Watkins, p.257). However, on closer inspection of this scene, Belinda’s transformation was in fact a mask that gave her strength in the outside world.
Now awful beauty puts on all its arms (1.139)
Pope deliberately wrote this line to be interpreted in several ways. Firstly, the word awful could be understood as creating awe; however, the actual meaning of the word signifies that Belinda saw her mask as a disguise from her real identity. The second part of the sentence, ‘put on all its arms’, suggests that Pope was arming Belinda for battle. The mere proposal of a fight, in which Belinda was willing to confront, allowed great strength and character.
Canto two set the scene for Belinda’s voyage along the Thames. Pope took the opportunity within this scene to enchant his readers with clear descriptions of Belinda’s beauty. However, his narrative of the silver cross in which she wore around her neck, served several purposes;
On her white breast a sparkling cross she wore
Which Jews might kiss, and infidels adore (Canto 2.7-8)
The cross, from Pope’s perspective, was a symbol of worship which, in the early 18th century was highly contentious. Pope himself was a Roman catholic and was raised during a time in which a Protestant monarchy held the throne. Catholics at this time were disadvantaged and treated at foreigners and, as a result, were forbidden from public schools and universities and could not live within the city of London.  Pope adorned Belinda with the silver cross to expose her rebellious nature as well as mock the political doctrines in which his religion had been compelled. (Hernandez, p.580) suggested that ‘Pope, on the contrary, looks on the ‘Goddess’ with uncharacteristic sympathy for the period.’ Hernandez was denoting that the cross was merely a commodity for Belinda. However, the cross bared such significance that the very use of it suggests power in its beholder.
Strength and rebellion were only a few of the characteristics that Pope displayed in Belinda’s role within the poem. He also portrayed her as an intelligent woman by displaying, in her possession, items of literature.
Puffs, Powders, Patches, Bibles, Billet-doux (Canto 1-138)
Payne proposed that the two items (Bible and love letter) should ‘give us cause for hesitation, but the diction Pope uses in describing the objects, as well as the lady in question, makes them without a doubt subversively charming indeed.’  Payne recognised that Pope was using these items to enhance the character of Belinda. Pope intended to have his audience take into consideration that Belinda could read, which as discussed at the beginning of this essay was unlikely for a female in this era.
Moreover, Belinda was also a skilful card player. Pope wrote this scene at Hampton court to introduce Belinda and the Baron.
Belinda now, whom thirst of fame invites,
Burns to encounter two adventurous knights (3.26-27)
In the first line of the couplet, Pope addressed Belinda’s ambition to win. This also gave Pope the opportunity to put Belinda into direct competition with the Baron. Not only did Pope introduce a battle of sexes, but Belinda was playing against two ‘Adventurous Knights.’ She dominated the game with her skill and intelligence, overthrowing the knights. Wimsatt, who reconstructed the card game Ombre in his essay, said that ‘appearance or probability, is what has a bearing on the elements of skill and fate in this game of Ombre and hence on its dramatic and poetic interpretation.  Wimsatt was implying that Ombre is not a difficult game, yet for an eighteenth-century female who had little or no education, Belinda proved to be a highly competent player and she dominated the game with her skill and intelligence, overthrowing the knights.
The pinnacle of the Popes exploration of Female sexuality occurred when the Baron, cut the lock of hair from Belinda’s head. Belinda’s first reaction was to shriek in horror, which would have been an improper response for a lady in the eighteenth century. It was at this point in the poem that Pope introduced the caves of spleen. The fictional representation of the underworld, explained how Pope believed Miss Fermor to have felt when her lock of hair was stolen. According to Lillian Feder, the caves of spleen are ‘often cited as evidence of Popes interest in libidinous drives and blind compulsions.’  Although this may be an alternative perception of the poem, the main purpose of Spleen was to arm Belinda with the necessary courage to fight back against the Baron. Pope also wanted to invite his audience to accept that the incident had caused Miss Fermor a great deal of sorrow and pain. This scene allowed Pope to give Belinda a voice;
For ever curs’d be this detested day (4.147)
Her speech continued to describe how she wished that she had stayed at home, for she knew in her heart that something bad was going to happen. It was not Pope’s intention to address Belinda as a weak character during this speech, but rather a conscientious woman who made great effort to fulfil her female role. Yet the final canto in Rape of the Lock defined Belinda as the strong, powerful and rebellious character that Pope designed in order to maintain Miss Fermor’s reputation. Belinda fought back against the Baron and threw snuff in his face, at which point the Baron sneezed and lost the lock of hair. Pope ended the poem in a ceremonial style by celebrating the lock of hair and sending it to the stars. This ending, for the benefit of Miss Fermor, was to assure her that she would become as well known as the poem, therefore, the poem had served its purpose in reinstating her reputation. Throughout the poem, Pope protected the reputation of Belinda’s Chastity. Critics such as Reichard believed that the plot of the poem was ‘a contest of wiles between commanding personalities – an uninhibited philanderer and an invincible flirt,’  this opinion does not demote Belinda’s character for she was merely representing an eighteenth-century woman by flirting with a gentleman. Her virtue and chastity remained intact.
The evidence of Pope’s desire to reinstate Miss Fermor’s reputation may have resided in the original title of the poem ‘Rape of the Locke’. For Pope, the word ‘Locke’ was a pun to describe the philosopher John Locke, who opposed the practice of Catholicism. This contained not only mockery but is a parody of John Locke’s theory of the state of nature. In his Two Treaties of Government 1689, Locke wrote,
Though the earth, and all inferior creatures be common to all men, yet every man has a property in his own person. This no body has any right to but himself. The labour of his body, and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever then he removes out of the state of nature hath provided, and left in it, he hath mixed his labour with, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property. 
This ironic evidence clarifies that the lock of hair was in fact the property of Belinda, yet when the Baron put his labour into the cutting of the lock; it therefore became his property, thus, justifying that Lord Petre’s actions were merely a misunderstanding which, once again reinstates the reputation of Miss Fermor.
It is evident throughout Rape of the Lock that Pope alternated the characteristics of Belinda to complement Arabella Fermor. His depiction of feminine conduct was inconsistent within the context of its period, yet he allowed the ill-fitting gender stereotype to form the foundation of his poem. Pope hoped that the reader of his time would therefor see the illusion that he created. Although the construction of the poem and the remaining characters may have produced alternative criticisms and interpretations of Pope’s intention, this essay provided an explanation of why the character of Belinda was written at such a contradictory way in comparison to eighteenth century femininity, concluding that its purpose was simply to console Miss Fermor.
Brooks, C, ‘The case of Miss Arabella Fermor’, in Alexander Pope, The Rape of the Lock, A selection of Critical essays, ed. By John Dixon Hunt (London: Macmillan and Company Limited, 1969) 
Dutton, R, ed., Alexander Pope A Literary Life (London: The Macmillan Press, 1990) 
Erickson, A.L, ‘Women and Property: In Early Modern England (Routledge: London, 1993) 
Feder, L, Madness in Literature (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1980) 
Hernandez, E, ‘Commodity and Religion in Pope’s The Rape of the Lock’, Studies in English Literature – 1500-1900, 48 (2008) 
Jones, R.W, ‘Gender and the Formation of Taste in the Eighteenth Century Britain (Cambridge: The Press Sydicate of the University of Cambridge, 1998) 
Locke, J, ‘Two Treaties of Government’, ed., P.Laslett; (Cambridge University Press,1988) , in Political Ideologies, ed., Mathew Festenstein and, Michael Kenny (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005) 
Payne, D.C ‘Pope and the War against Coquettes: or Feminism and ‘The Rape of the Lock’ Reconsidered- Yet Again, The Eighteenth Century, 32 (1991) 
Reichard, H. M ‘The Love Affair in Pope’s The Rape Of The Lock’ in Alexander Pope The Rape of the Lock, A selection of critical essays, ed., John Dixon Hunt (London: Macmillan and Company Limited, 1969) 
Rogers,P, ed., Alexander Pope The major works, (Oxford:Oxford University Press, 2006) 
Rousseau, J.J, ‘Discourse on the Arts and Sciences, or first discourse’ (1750) in) in L.Brace, ‘Improving the Inside: Gender, property and the 18th century self’, British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 12 (2010) 
Ward,A.W, ed., M.A, Litt.D, The Poetical works of Alexander Pope, (London:Macmillan and Co, Limited, 1930) 
Williams,C.D.’The Luxury of Doing Good: Benevolence, Sensibility and the Royal Humane Society (1996) in L.Brace, ‘Improving the Inside: Gender, property and the 18th century self’, British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 12 (2010) 
Wimsatt, W.K and Source, J.R ‘The Game of Ombre in Rape of the Lock,’ The Review of English Studies, New Series, 1 (1950) 
Wipprecht, C, ‘The Representation of Women in Early 18th Century England’ (Druck Und Binding :Norderstedt, 2006) 
Please feel free to use this essay for academic purposes but please reference accordingly. This is an academic essay and failing to reference this paper accordingly may result in plagerism.
I remember her sitting there,
Long amber hair, and a chair with wheels
The colour of the sea.
I remember sitting there,
Daring her to care, wishing her eyes
Would fall from the sky into mine.
But we just sat there,
I paid my fair, while she looked for mermaid
Shapes in the clouds.
Yet as I sat there,
Listening to the whistle tear a note
Into the station
She looked, she smiled, and we shared,
And I sat there, and she sat there,
A pair, connected.
Then the train rumbled out of the station
This poem ‘A Moment,’ was been selected to be part of the Renfrewshire Mental Health Arts Festival, ‘Passing Time.’ This is an exhibition of Poetry on the station platforms of Renfrewshire. This particular poem was displayed in Johnstone station. For more information about the exhibition, click here.
I mentioned some time ago (2017), that one of my poems was selected to appear at two railway stations as part of the Renfrewshire metal health festival Scotland. A few days ago, I got along to see it displayed. I hope it moved some people, or just passed a minute while they waited at the station. A fresh batch of poems will go up in May.
I hadn’t seen her in a decade, Not since that time we … Now she’s lying before me, tucked-up warm In hospital sheets. Her face is older now, saggy in parts - And sallow. Her mouth puckers into A tight circle when I arrive, an ‘Oh!’ Like that time we… She touches my arm, cold fingers That leave cold circles for minutes after. ‘How have you been? How time flies, Tell me, what have you done since… You know.’ Her shoulders hunch, eyebrows rise. She reads my face, faster Than the note I left by her bed… ‘Tell me,' she insists, 'did you sail to that island, Where the wind whips the waves Onto the lighthouse by the edge Of the sea. Did you? ‘Did you climb the thousand stone steps To the castle in the sky, Where the world ends And life unfolds like a paper chain?' ‘Did you finally find that missing moment, Capture it in a photograph, A half-truth bent into a scrap Of happiness? Or did you leave it behind?’ Her chestnut eyes leave mine, Trail the cracks on the ceiling And rest in the corner of room. The sound of my footsteps echo After I leave.
This poem is now published by The Ogilvie.
It was dawn when they arrived. Two orange beams of light Cutting tight between the lines of furrows, And illuminating trees. Her baby stirred. It was dawn when they arrived. Gravel crumbling under tyres. A slither of sun crowning the hill, And puffs of cloud lay as still As her sleeping calf. It was dawn when they arrived. Two brown rubber boots crunching On grass, still tipped with frozen dew. A banging gate. A magpie flew. The baby shook. It was dawn when they arrived. Two white hands and a noose. A gate held ajar by a damp lump of wood Four white walls, a nest of hay, A trembling baby stood. It was dawn when they arrived. Two blue eyes trailing the floor, Stealing her crying calf out of the door White walls, empty bed, empty floor Her mother stood - alone. It was dawn they left.
Now published in Veggie Wagon Website.
Sir Walter Scott recalls in his book Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border that ‘The Twa Corbies’ was ‘communicated to [him] by Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe, esq. jun. of Hoddom, as written down, from tradition, by a lady.’  The use of the word ‘Tradition’ suggests that ‘The Twa Corbies’ ballad survived orally. According to Buchan
The nonliterate person does not possess […] visual imagination, words for him cannot be translated into pictorial symbols, they exist in sound groups; his facility for imaginative retention is largely auditory. 
The traditional methods of ballad structure such as form, convention, uncomplicated language, and rhyme create the sound groups that Buchan is suggesting. Whilst assisting the performer and the audience in memorising the ballad, the construction of the ballad ensures that its bones remain intact regardless of time and place. This allows the longevity of the story.
The anonymous ballad, ‘The Twa Corbies’ has a chivalric theme. Morgan suggests that in the chivalric ballad ‘Neither historical figures nor legendary idols escape criticism, [in] the ballads of chivalry [they] serve to strip the façade of honor from their social betters.’  Within a particular genre, the use of common tropes assists in memorising the narrative through fixed characters and themes. This also allows a performer to make a ballad contemporary whilst retaining the familiar narrative. Like most medieval ballads, ‘The Twa Corbies’ begins in Media Res, keeping the narrative brief whilst allowing the audience to quickly interpret the ballad’s intended meaning. The commonality of ballad themes means that multiplicity may occur, for example, ‘The Twa Corbies’ has great similarities to the English ballad ‘The Three Ravens’. Although the narrative of these ballads is similar, the tone sets them apart. ‘The Three Ravens’ conveys an optimistic tone which Morgan suggests ‘upholds the chivalric tradition of romance, complete with references to knightly behaviour, courtly love, and Christian piety’, (Morgan, p.119-120). The sombre tone of ‘The Twa Corbies’ however, implies a negative interpretation of chivalry with a realistic view of a social situation in which the importance of survival is crucial. This is found in the following three lines:
‘His hound is to the hunting gane,
His hawk to fetch the wild-fowl hame,
His lady’s ta’en another mate, 
The abandonment and disregard for the dead knight’s body offers the audience a natural and realistic account of life and death and the nature of survival. These three characters resume living in the most natural way. The theme of survival is clarified in the final line of the stanza:
So we may mak our dinner sweet. (TTC, 12)
This line highlights not only that compassion is essential for survival but also that all creatures are equal, a direct criticism of chivalric hierarchy. The tone of ‘Sir Patrick Spens’, is similar to ‘The Twa Corbies,’ in that it demonstrates the danger of the hierarchal structure, for example
‘O wha is this has duin this deed
An tauld the king o me 
The phrase ‘duin this deed’, suggests that the speaker has already accepted his deadly fate which, predetermines the remainder of the ballad. In addition, these lines not only demonstrate danger of royal hierarchy but also of the Kings right to assume the role of God. The ballad audience however, are already aware that the elderly knight is responsible:
O up and sat an eldern knight (SPS, 5)
The use of ‘O’ at the beginning of the line mimics the form of the traditional hymn. As a result, this technique elevates the position of the knight to God. This allows the audience to question not only the idealism of royalty, but also the hierarchal structure of the royal court and it’s danger of improper decision-making. The effect of tone in both ‘Sir Patrick Spens’ and ‘The Twa Corbies’, in addition to theme, structure and word choice directs the reader to the underlying meaning and intention of the ballad.
The generic ballad form allows the performer to navigate his way through the ballad by creating self-contained narrative frames, or stanzas. Each frame consists of a variety of stylistic conventions that create auditory symbols, instructions, and prompts, essential for the performer and the audience in memorising the song. For example, the opening couplet in ‘The Twa Corbies’ acts as an essential idea, setting the scene of the narrative. The first person speaker recalls an incident in past tense:
As I was walking all alane,
I heard twa corbies making a mane; (TTC, 1.2)
The use the of verbs ‘Walking’ and ‘makin’ rather than ‘walked’ and ‘make’ are coded words which have a dual purpose, firstly to fulfil the rhythm of iambic tetrameter and also to describe movement, firstly from the speaker then followed by the corbies. The progressive verb choices, in addition to the past tense narration demonstrate the continuity of life and the underlying theme of the narrative, which is survival. Performed in thin Scots, the mixed dialect gives the audience a sense of place, whilst acting as a comparison to the English dialect – the dialect of the hierarchal chivalry. In addition, the refrain of the rhyming couplets assist the performer in memorising the sound units whilst allowing the narrative to be adapted and developed within a set structure. In the first couplet ‘all alane’ (TTC, 1) is a triad of assonance, with the ‘a’ sound at the start of the three syllables. This acts as a sound group, important for memorising. In line two, ‘making a mane’ (TTC, 2) is a refrain of consonance. The ‘m’ sound lands at the beginning of a two-syllable word followed by a one-syllable word. This elongates the sentence making the ‘mane’ onomatopoeia. It is therefore the manipulation of sounds and beats that aid the speakers memory rather than the words themselves.
The symbolism of the corbies – a Scottish word for ravens, has various mythological connotations, one of which is that ‘Ravens as birds of knowledge appear throughout myth, especially in Odin’s two ravens, Huginn (Thought) and Muninn (Memory)’.  This tale will have been familiar to audiences in medieval times, therefore informing the audience of the role of the corbies within in this ballad to represent thought and memory, crucial for the survival of the narrative.
There is a tense change in the final line of the first stanza when the narrative changes into dialogue:
‘Where sall we gang and dine to-day?’(TTC, 4)
This change indicates a scene break that allows the oral storyteller to move on to a different frame with different conventions. The leaping between scenes or frames requires the audience to read between the lines and flesh out the narrative themselves. This closing line in stanza one is the last line in a long sentence, moving from past to present. This demonstrates movement in time, also survival and tradition – which is the link between past and present. The introduction of ‘we’ prompts audience participation, a further mode of memorising.
In stanza two, the speaker uses ironic juxtaposition in a couplet. The ‘auld fail dyke’ (TTC, 4) conceals ‘a new slain knight’ (TTC, 5). ‘Auld’ is the primary word, situated before ‘new’ in the stanza. This gives the former superiority. Not only does this romanticise an older way of life but also demonstrates the strength of the old through the symbolism of the wall and its survival. These conventions are important to allow the framing and unfolding of each stanza, important for prompting memory, and continuity.
The generic form found in ‘Sir Patrick Spens’ is the most commonly found traditional ballad form; a four foot line followed by a three foot line. The consistent rhyming scheme, ABCB allows the framing of each stanza, which, like ‘The Twa Corbies’ is an arrangement of quatrains. Whilst this ballad is greater in length, the techniques are consistent of the ballad tradition. The sound refrains such as ‘whare will’ (SPS, 3) creates a sound like the wind, whilst ‘skeely skipper’ (SPS, 3) makes a storm like sound. These techniques not only create an ambiance, but also are sound symbols. Due to the length of this ballad, the refrain is demonstrated on a wider scale, such as ‘To Norway’ is repeated three times in stanza four. Using a variety of different conventions within each frame, aids the memory of the oral storyteller through the use of sound, symbols and prompts.
Whilst ‘Sir Patrick Spens’ is a much larger poem in length than ‘The Twa Corbies’ the techniques of style and convention are similar. The overall effect of the style and convention in both ballads is to aid the memory of the performer whilst guiding and prompting himself and the audience. The purpose of this is to deliver a story within the bones of a well-known narrative theme, which, through auditory symbols and sound groups, makes it adaptable as it is re-told and reworked over time. Moreover, whilst many medieval ballads adopt a familiar theme, resulting in multiplicity, the tone and dialect set them apart.
Anonymous, ‘Sir Patrick Spens’, in The Penguin Book of Scottish Verse, ed. by Robert Crawford and Mick Imlah (London: Penguin Books, 2006)
Anonymous, ‘The Twa Corbies’, in The Penguin Book of Scottish Verse, ed. by Robert Crawford and Mick Imlah (London: Penguin Books, 2006)
Buchan, David, The Ballad and the Folk (East Linton: Tuckwell Press, 1997)
Frankel, Valerie Estelle, The Symbolism and Sources of Outlander: The Scottish Fairies, Folklore, Ballads, Magic and Meanings that Inspired the Series (North Carolina: McFarland and Company, 2015)
Morgan, Gwendolyn A., Medieval Ballads: Chivalry, Romance, and Everyday Life. A Critical Anthology (New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 1996)
Scott, Sir Walter, Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, 2nd edn (Edinburgh: James Ballantyne, 1803)
Using a limited amount of words can result in something quite meaningful.
I wrote this poem using a magnetic poetry set that I picked up from a charity (thrift) shop. I found the process of scattering random words across my writing bureau, and then carefully selecting the words that sparked my imagination both fun and challenging. Magnetic poetry is a great way to think about words, to explore theme and to construct something meaningful out of word chaos. You could also do this by collecting interesting words from newspapers and magazines, or writing inspiring words on scraps of paper that you hear someone use on a bus, or in the supermarket line. Pop your words into a jar, adding sticky words such as and, it, or, as etc. and have fun.
I wrote this poem during my MLitt year at the University of Stirling. The plan was to select one of the many sculptures in and around the campus and write a creative piece based on that sculpture. This was aimed at children between the ages of 9-12.
Growing Form is an acrostic poem; a visually pleasing as well as challenging form for younger students. I also increased the word count on each line of the poem to incorporate the theme.
Out of Shangri-la.
Waking the whispering world,
In melancholy maddening moans that
Night cannot conceal; his silhouette unravels.
Gathering height, he reaches, cutting sky with
Fork like antlers until the stars collide – like
Orion. He awakens the hunter. Down the cosmic fire
Rains upon the earth, blazing scorn and fury, and the
Mighty beast bellows. He gathers up the river and runs.
I am separated. Segregated-
An inch away from vertical blinds
And the switch to turn of the Sky.
To shake away the World Wide Web
Of fabricated lies.
I am separated. Segregated –
A mile from the world outside,
Hidden behind grey vertical blinds.
Dry from the rain,
Fighting the pain of oppression.
I am separated. And bleeding from the outside in.
I am separated. Segregated –
Peeking through artificial lines,
Looking for the ordinary kind,
The crowds of mankind,
Unveiled and unmasked, separate and free
Instead of shackled to the reign
Of her majesty – To the so-called face, of a modern race
Of dumbed down, media choked,
Free folk. I am chained.
I am separated. Segregated –
Pained by a society –
Rich in lies and Tory piety, flying toward
Mars in dream boats –
In hopes of a better land.
I published this poem in Untitled 8 in November 2017.
I’m Letting the Outside In.
The double glazing is stained with winter splatter.
Porridge is cooling in a retro bowl and my bare feet –
Baking from the heat of a sun kissed puppy
Who is baking on a vertically striped carpet.
There is a reek of yesterday’s shenanigans at the burn
Wafting from tartan collars
and the air feels.
Music ripples through my rib cage
There’s washing hanging, half-arsed, on radiators
While a new load spins in the machine.
The sagging rope in the back garden
Is empty. Waiting for the weight of winter warmers
to be nipped with plastic tipped pegs and a satisfying sigh.
I’m letting the outside in.
Three squirrels scurry along the naked trees across the way.
I’m resisting the need to weed the garden
I’m letting the outside in.
The above photograph is my oldest dog Mille, she is a 6 year old chocolate lab.
I published this poem with Anti-Heroin Chic on 25th May 2017.
They dressed you up like Christmas day. A faux
Silk blouse with ruffled trim – garnet red. Black
Pressed polyester trousers with an elastic waist,
The comfy yins. But the shoes,
the shoes were wrong.
Unworn kitten heels – black. The yins ye bought
Fi Marks and Sparks that rubbed yer bunions.
They dressed you up like Christmas day and put you on display. Painted
Your face back to life, with tinted rouge and peach lipstick that puckered
Like melted wax, concealing your smile,
Your tea stained teeth. They put you on display – Dead
Jon brought you a school picture of your grandson Jack; slipped it under your pillow
Then squeezed a private letter into your clenched right hand. I
Gave you a card. A pink one with a rose. I placed it beside your left hand – sealed
Happy Mother’s Day Mum
They put you on display, dressed you up like it was Christmas day but without
Your love heart locket, your gold embossed wishbone ring.
Those damn sentimental things that might hold tiny particles of skin,
Fragments of last week – lingering in the grooves.
Since writing this poem, I have begun writing a novel titled ‘Cheese Scones & Valium’, which is biographical fiction of part of my mothers life, and is embedded in memoir. This has a direct link to my poem.
I published Funeral Parlour with Anti-Heroin Chic on 25th May 2017. The poem was originally written for an assessment at university and was difficult to write. This poem describes my own experience of seeing my own mother for the last time.
Alone in a Council Flat
The Curtains twitch. An ambulance passes. No siren. No need. There’s a hush - A breath Held harder than a hiccup As silence swells Into the four corners of o’clock. Through the letterbox A whiff of kippers; Of soup and salty socks, sink Like a stain into embossed Net curtains and settle. Settle. A beat - A tick of life – A wave from a crackling stereo; and the Corries pinch the space Before the light-bulbs blink And press the night like putty- Into the lips of the garden Behind the disinfected wheelie bin And the whittled bird box Tomorrow waits. For news and for open blinds, For fresh pheasant, hung dead On a hook by the washing line, And footsteps – And an old man Carrying a loaf of bread In a crumpled up carrier bag. The curtains twitch.
This poem was published by Tell-Tale Magazine on 31st July 2017.
It was like this…
We whaur raking for treasure this efternuin,
Doun the back of the bing,
The bit where ma Ma kin see us,
Frae ower the kitchen sink.
Buried doun beneath some foosty plastic bags-
Fou of someone else’s ‘sexy’ Tennent’s Extra cans,
We fund four wheels of a Silvercross pram.
We brought them hame and dunked them in a puddle by the kerb,
The drain gunk cleaned the rust up, they whaur looking quite superb.
Willie wis having a muck aroond –
Spinning the wheels, and ripping them
Roond and roond and roond,
Until the cauld muck spat
Intae the plumes
That our laughing made.
Oh, and then!
Willie chored a fence post frae oot the back eh Mr Bain’s
While I was shottie.
‘But it was Ian that made the bogie!’
And it was the best boggie the Fruit-and-Nut scheme had ever seen.
A pure dr-eeam.
He made the seat frae a scullery chair,
And drilled it tae a widden frame-
Remember? The fence post that Willie chored frae the back eh Mr Bain’s?
Then Willie – he bagged first go.
So he pulled the boggie up the hill.
Right oot the top of the street – and wow!
There I wis, racing him doun the hill like Seb Co
Aboot to cross the line –
And claim ma gold,
When Willies orange helmet slipped – or so am told
And the next thing I kent-
On the kerb –
And wi a skint knee.
And Willie –
He wis flying oor ma heed and
As you ken I was lying there – half deid
But the blooming bogie –
It didnae even ken tae stop,
into the back
Of Mr Law’s
New – fancy – Ford –
‘But is no oor fault officer – Ian never put any breaks on it. ‘
This poem is featured in the Lies, Dreaming Podcast #11 named Treasure. Click here to hear me read this poem.
Today my poem Dusk, was published in Tell-Tale Magazine. Click on the link to see more from Tell-Tale.
Dusk sucks the sun intae the mucky earth
And the night sky isnae born yet.
Ower the loch a purple landscape,
Scribbled and scratchy
Like jaggy curtains
Shuts out the day.
I force my eyes tight shut
So the wolf can cross my path
And drink the water that I bathed in.
I want tae hold this wildness
In my mind’s eye,
And feel the breath o night
Frolic with my daydreams
I want to sleep, I want to sleep.
©Eilidh G Clark
South Street Arbroath
Every day is laundry day on South Street.
White cotton flat sheets, stone-washed jeans; yesterday’s pink and yellow striped knickers
Dip and duck like multi-coloured bunting.
Children climb up from the beach
Where the sand hems the grassy slope. Plastic sandcastles filled with shells; razors
And limpets, purple mussels speckled with shingle, and a wee deid crab,
Protected inside a bleached Hula Hoop bag, Crumpled.
The children’s laughter rips through the flapping blankets as they zigzag,
dodging Mrs Campbell’s frilly knickers that joyride on the briny wind.
The postman waves.
He’s sinking useless junk mail through the rusty red letterboxes of
the fisherman’s cottages. Unashamed.
A peg pings and a denim leg kicks the sky, snapping the wind as it buckles around a
Heaven rests like burning oil on the ocean.
A wrinkled man with leather lugs sits outside number twenty-five,
His eyes a hazy mist of blue sea, and cataracts.
He picks up his thick wooden board, red with blood and guts,
A deid head of a deid haddock with deid
Eyes. He wipes his knife clean on a Pizza Hut flyer.
©Eilidh G Clark
This poem was first published by Artist Moira Buchanan in her art exhibition ‘All Washed up’. You can follow Moira Buchanan on Facebook by clicking this link or visit her website.
Today my poem Procrastination was published by The Ogilvie – (Click on the link to see it live).
I wrote this poem on a day when I was supposed to be writing an academic essay. Clearly my mind wasn’t on the job.
Prods me through vertical blinds.
I am slumped on an un-reclining recliner with
warm-breath-blowback burning my cheeks,
my toes, curl like a fist on the carpet, as cold as the kitchen tiles.
I cannot move.
There is a pork and Apple loaf
Baking in the oven
Two hours too soon
And a laptop on standby.
I am waiting
I have been waiting for years
For that phone-call, that chance
But it will not come
Not in this bitter cold dark
Afternoon. Not in this room.
I need to put the light on
But I won’t,
The dogs will think they
Can go out to play and I can’t bare the dampness, the half night day,
That is turning all the Orange brick brown.
I am writing, or at least I am typing, anything except
What I ought to write. But I will wait a wee bit longer. Until I am
Kicked up the arse by the artificial light of night, when the start of time begins to run out.
It is going to be a late one.
Writing by light-bulb and shaded by the un-dusted cobwebs.
©Eilidh G Clark
Inside the church
my heart went cold
I’m no longer the one
you want to hold.
You said ‘I do’,
the words still linger
like the pain in my chest
as his ring fit your finger
and genuine joy
spread over your face
on mine was just sadness
at what had took place.
Sealed with a kiss
the couple held hands
full of hopes for the future
and matching gold bands.
As I turned to leave
I caught your stare
with a flicker of memory
I knew you still cared
but the church bells rang
and I turned to go
would you always love me?
I’ll never know.
©Eilidh G Clark
“Books open, pens on paper.”
Her voice is fanciful –
Worldly words of wisdom.
Take a breath Miss Brown.
Over your shoulder, birds trilling
in your ear. Knowledge?
“You understand, You hear?”
“Wings have spanned, grown and flew”.
Miss Brown is telling you.
Over your shoulder in her parchment suit.
Scattered somehow, this puzzle
this test, this class.
Yet sewn together so neatly, so tight,
so fast, that brains leak words inspired.
Alert, not tired Miss Brown.
Spoken proper. Knitted
like a scarf, like the missing words
from a mother passed.
Thank you Miss Brown, Thanks for that.
“That’s all for today.”
An end in sight. Taught by one with
gust and might,
taught by Miss Brown in her parchment suit.
©Eilidh G Clark
This poem is dedicated to one of the most amazing and inspirational people I have had the pleasure of meeting. Madeleine Brown, Stevenson College Edinburgh. Access to Humanities course – English Literature and Communications 2011.
I can see the wind.
You can see the airborne leaves, scooped
up from the ground,
You can see the waving branches
on tired trees
but I see the wind.
Not the inside out umbrellas
or the skirts around red faced ladies,
or even the cigarette packet
zipping through the air.
I can see it.
It’s not invisible!
Its long and its night coloured
and shaped like a snake and
it slithers and swishes through my hair
I can see the wind.
I see it laughing
when it reaches in our chest
and sucks our breath
then whips our words into a whisper.
I’m not fooled
by its malice
when it asks the rain
to join in.
I can see the wind
and it’s ugly.
©Eilidh G Clark
I am filled with vitamin D, with a pink
lemonade kiss and a fancy free
Candy floss smile.
It is a marvellous and menacing mischief
that had now pumped up my heart,
and a vitamin glee that I have swallowed.
Rays of sunbeams are hiding in my sweater
and my unshaven legs – prickling
with joy, how glorious to be shown the light.
I am shimmering and dancing in my pants,
and there is a party in my bed socks –
And they rock, because bed socks do that.
And if my eyes were as blue as the sky
-and they are as blue as the sky,
they would be lost, in disguise and forever.
“What is this poem you ask me muse?”
“What is its purpose?”
“The purpose my beautiful fairy-tale wife,
Is that summer came for a day,
Like sand in my toes and a three wheeler bike
It snapped its elastic on my bum cheek and cheered.”
©Eilidh G Clark
I looked in to the distance, not so far away,
the sparkling lake was dancing
to celebrate a perfect day.
Spring burst through the mother earth
and coloured it with sun
painted it with brightness
and completed it with fun.
I looked upon the picture
and felt my soul awake,
then a temperamental notion
was to jump into the lake.
instead I breathed in firmly
and I fell into the day
and let this happy vision
take me out to play.
I walked into the open air
the suns arms hugged me tight
and I held that shiny feeling
til it disappeared at night.
©Eilidh G Clark
Time is running like the River Forth
and it is flowing down my spine.
Big Ben is printed on the back of my eyelids
And my heart is beating
Tick, tick, tick, tock.
Time is painted in the Stirling sky
and is burning holes
into the big fat orange moon, beating on me,
Beating like my pulse
Tick, tick, tick, tock
Time is flapping in the wind
And punching kisses on my chest.
White breath coughs from behind my teeth,
Chattering like supermarket baskets.
Tick, tick, tick, clatter.
Time is waiting on the bus,
Its holding a student pass outright
and the driver is checking his watch, shaking his head
Like a pendulum
Tick, tick, tick, bong
Time is passing by the window,
In the old ladies rain mate,
and it’s trapped in the spokes of an inside out brolly
and it’s pouring
Drip, tick, tock, drip
Time has landing on my face
From a charcoal dusk and
Airborne tear shapes that slap my skin
Tick, tick, drip, drip onto my essay.
Published in Brig Newspaper – University of Stirling
©Eilidh G Clark
burst into the empty room and sinks
into wood-chipped walls.
I am thrilled
There isn’t a cushion of place,
Or a dirty plate,
or a dish cloth dotted with swollen toast crumbs, no.
There is just me, alone in clean silence.
I tiptoe on my tea stained carpet and hold my breath
in case the robin in the back garden stops singing.
Or the train on the railway track 400 yards away slows.
In my little cupboard sized kitchen
the kettle rocks on its silver disc,
and the fridge performs its hourly shudder.
And the walls sweat.
I put last nights dinner in the ding – chicken supreme and second day roast potatoes,
better reheated, yes, better.
I scroll through Facebook,
watch people talking to one another
without opening their mouths.
I turn off my phone – to feel.
I feel everything.
Maybe I should do something?
Maybe I should clean my plate,
eat a jammy Wagon Wheel just because –
Maybe feel a little guilty so practice Yoga on the Wii?
Maybe just sit and watch the robin in the tree.
©Eilidh G Clark
Our heaving lungs suck the air as we climb.
Aching legs and numb feet scramble over boulders and broken branches.
Rain, wind, and a glimmer of sun. A distant mist descending
from the sullen sky onto the earth, erasing a castle, a monument
Leaves shake violently in the cutting wind. Noise.
Squelching mud, snapping twigs,
unnatural sound, we create it.
On the cliff top, the landscape is our canvas.
Acorns and chestnuts, branches and stones, litter the floor
like a countryside collage hung on a classroom wall. Winters decay.
Carcasses of cream coloured leaves, consumed by insects, lie randomly
forming delicate lace arrangements.
Brown mud, brown leaves, brown bark, paint the backdrop
of a multi coloured woodland.
Green moss on a broken wall,
orange, yellow and grey foliage A tiny shoot, pushes through the earth.
Layers of life on death, death on life. The liberty of nature.
Nature is shrinking, the colours rinsed out by
buildings, roads, litter, wire fences
hemming in the farmers cows
hemming in history.
Humanity’s smell is pungent,
food and people
people and food.
Through the wind, a distant drilling is heard.
©Eilidh G Clark
As a poet, I feel I have to invest parts of my own identity into my work in order to build a relationship with the poem – I need to feel it tug on my sleeve. This means that prior to writing about a particular subject I have to take an emotional journey. This might mean simply touching parts of my mind that are easy to reach, however, it often means scouring through dark and lonely emotions that I have tucked away. I find this process is an essential part of my preparation. The emotional link, for me, is the most honest way to bring the subject to life.
The uniqueness of any poem comes from the link between the poet and the poem. The truth is the soul of the poem. The truth is etched into the poems conventions. Without an emotional link, language is flat, motionless, and stale. If I were to write about a tree, any tree, the tree is lifeless unless I can create an emotional link. A link could arise if it was planted as a remembrance for someone I love, or if the tree provided shelter during my first kiss. If a leaf falls from the tree and brushes my face, it may spark a memory of a loving touch. The tree might have a knot that resembles the face of an old school teacher or smell like the time I smoked my first cigarette in the woods. The swish-swish of the branches might bring to mind a road sweeper cleaning up litter, and my anger at people’s disregard for the environment. Without an emotional connection, the tree is just an object, an image, a flat word on a page. Poetry, ‘opens a corridor between the head and heart,’ (Andrew Motion, 2012) a statement I fully agree with.
In my own work, I use truth and personal experience in addition to the poetic conventions as an art form. In discussing the making of poetry, Jamie said that ‘just as much as sound and rhythm, what makes a poem is its relationship with truth’. (Kathleen Jamie, 2012). I believe that truth allows the poet to work more closely with form, imagery and most certainly tone.
I am greatly influenced by poets such as Carol Ann Duffy, Chris Powici, Raymond Carver and Kathleen Jamie an. Duffy’s relationship with truth is evident in ‘Stealing’:
Part of the thrill was knowing
That children would cry in the morning. Life’s tough. (Carol Ann Duffy).
The blunt words and lack of emotion from the speaker actually give the poem an emotional feel. The tone is sombre, almost desperate.
Truth for me is found in reality, my own reality, and in experience, emotions, and a connection with the natural world. Finding the truth in the everyday, and exploring language, form the basis of my work. Therefore, the need that I have to invest parts of my own identity in poetry means building a relationship with the poem – I need to feel it tug on my sleeve.
©Eilidh G Clark
Duffy, Carol Ann, ‘Stealing’, in Emergency Kit: Poems for Strange Times, ed. by Jo Shapcott and Mathew Sweeny (London: Faber and Faber Limited, 2004)
Jamie, Kathleen, ‘Holding Fast – Truth and Change in Poetry’, in Strong Words: Modern Poets on Modern Poetry ed. by W.N. Herbert and Mathew Hollis (Northumberland: Bloodaxe Books Ltd, 2012)
Motion, Andrew, ‘Yes and No’, in Strong Words: Modern Poets on Modern Poetry, ed. by W.N. Herbert and Mathew Hollis (Northumberland: Bloodaxe Books Ltd, 2012)
Nobody comes but the postman.
She watches him pause by the fence.
He slips his wedding band into
his pocket. The red light beckons.
His guilt, as thick as his folded fivers.
©Eilidh G Clark
N.B. The first line in this poem is taken from Gillian Clarke’s ‘At One Thousand Feet’.
Midnight, On the blackened sand.
Waves crash upon the shore,
yet I’ve seen this place before.
Lying flat, eyes to the sky;
the stars are out of reach,
I’m all alone without you,
on this cold and lonely beach.
The gnawing cold snags my breath.
I wrap myself up tight,
I’m shrouded in a veil of grief
yet bathing in the moonlight,
I close my eyes and ponder
this melancholy mind,
I’m seasick from the universe
vanished from mankind.
Onto my feet I wander,
to the gentle lapping tide,
I asked the stars to help me,
in the moon did I confide,
but the burden was too heavy,
and my face a sorry frown
as I walked into the ocean
I said goodbye and drowned.
©Eilidh G Clark
Mid April, calm yet breezy night,
I walked in the dark and was guided by moonlight.
The world was silent and the only sound
were the leaves in the tree’s and my feet on the ground.
Alas I was tempted by songs in my pocket
And the picture of you that hung in my locket,
But I felt that a change had grown wild in my brain
Like the seasons were changing, and so was the pain,
A stranger had challenged my withering heart
Twas the first real arousal since we’d been apart,
I looked at a distance but fantasised near
and the prospect of new love sent shivers of fear.
But she clawed like a blackbird at passions inside
And I craved her like coffee like a moon and the tide.
She danced on my gravestone, she lay on my skin
And she started a bonfire that burned from within
But the night was so lonely and the stars became shy
As the moon rode the heavens and rivers ran dry.
I looked to the shadows to picture her face
But shadows are demons that laughed in its place
And leaves brown and crisp sung tunes to my feet
The drizzle of rain arose perfumes so sweet
And the dark was forever and my thoughts took flight
She kissed me so tender in all shades of night.
But the season was April and the time was ‘not yet’
And the moonlight was kind and my destiny set.
©Eilidh G Clark
I’m lying on my side of the bed in a comfortable cocoon,
I’m tapping my phone to silence Florence, and her
Version of ‘You’ve got the love’.
Outside my window the world is an audio cassette.
I wrap myself tighter and bathe in sleepy warmth while
the street lights hum and illuminate my room.
then I blink –
The world pauses for a minuscule second,
but when I press play – the world has turned black and white.
My eyes may be deceiving me, my brain may be
wandering to a comic strip existence,
but as I squint through the crack in my eyes
and peer through the crack in my curtain,
beyond the glass,
the world had been wrung out and its black and white for sure.
I won’t panic, although it may seem alarming.
Instead I will listen for the sound of horses,
I will stand up straight and look through the darkness
in my bedroom, and wonder what clothing to wear.
for in this black and white world, I have nothing
to fit the occasion.
©Eilidh G Clark
Beads of soup-sweat cling
To my arm hair as I hack a hulk of turnip. Slabs of flesh,
sculpted into yellow dice, tumble
onto a hummock of carrots. Resting
On the surface of a simmering pot, a sliced leek splays,
Its silver loops belch hoops of pungent fog.
My window is crying.
The pot hisses and pirouetting lentils rise to the surface and tumble,
Dragging sodden leek down into the rolling stock.
Fists of steam punch the air,
Then creep and crawl
Around the walls like silver ghosts. Waving.
I wipe my brow on a dishcloth; toss the root vegetables into the pot
Then open the window,
The smell of autumn drifts outside.
©Eilidh G Clark