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Category Archives: poetry

Dog Names, A Poem and A Dedication

Today, I give you a poem, ‘My Dog’ by Ian MacMillan, a poet we met several times when we lived in Yorkshire and whose work invariably makes me smile. There has been correspondence in the Guardian letters page of the  human names people give to their dogs which disconcerts some people. I think this name beats the lot.  Try to get hold of the rest of the poem to discover the wonderful name Ian gives his cat!

My Dog

by Ian McMillan (I Found This Shirt, Carcanet)

April is the Cruellest Month
might seem like a strange name for a dog,
and sometimes I think it is
when I’m shouting her name
on the high moors
in the driving wind.

‘April is the Cruellest Month!’
I shout,
‘April is the Cruellest Month!’
and my dog runs up to me,
barking, wagging her tail,
and I feel slightly, ever so slightly
embarrassed.

But then when people say
as they walk by me
on the high moors
in the driving wind,
‘Can a month bark?’
‘Can April wag its tail?’
I swell with pride
because my dog’s name
is image, and metaphor, and poetry.

I won Ian’s book, “I Found This Shirt”, in a raffle at one of his readings and he wrote in it for me with his usual dry humour.

I Found This Shirt

Signed book

 

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2018 in Humour, poetry, Postaday2018

 

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Blackberry Picking, Stile, Zebra and Jam

We collected pounds and pounds of Blackberries on our walk this afternoon, enough to freeze some, make a Blackberry and Apple Crumble and many jars of Blackberry and Apple Jam. I was reminded of Seamus Heaney’s poem as we went around though we have left none of them to go mouldy!

Juicy blackberries

Stile en route

The Zebra coat on this pony amused us

Blackberry and Apple Jam

Blackberry-Picking

for Philip Hobsbaum

Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full,
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard’s.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.
I love the child’s voice in this poem – the ‘big dark blobs burned/  Like a plate of eyes’ , the reference to the Pirate, Blackbeard and the hope that the cans would stay full of blackberry sweetness, a disappointment that happened year after year.
 

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The Right Word, Cornish Lane and A Cat

As we listen to the news around the world of wars and oppression, a poem I read once by Imtiaz Dharker came to mind, “The Right Word” and I thought again as I have before of how important the ‘right word’ is.  The women fighting for the vote a hundred years ago, including my Great Granny, were sometimes described as terrorists. Imtiaz Dharker puts her finger on it perfectly here as she so often does and makes me think of the children who are sometimes used in wars.

                The Right Word

Outside the door,
lurking in the shadows,
is a terrorist.

Is that the wrong description?
Outside that door,
taking shelter in the shadows,
is a freedom fighter.

I haven’t got this right .
Outside, waiting in the shadows,
is a hostile militant.

Are words no more
than waving, wavering flags?
Outside your door,
watchful in the shadows,
is a guerrilla warrior.

God help me.
Outside, defying every shadow,
stands a martyr.
I saw his face.

No words can help me now.
Just outside the door,
lost in shadows,
is a child who looks like mine.

One word for you.
Outside my door,
his hand too steady,
his eyes too hard
is a boy who looks like your son, too.

I open the door.
Come in, I say.
Come in and eat with us.

The child steps in
and carefully, at my door,
takes off his shoes.

I love the dappled sunlight that scatters its glow around our Cornish lanes.

Cornish lane

Walking back from our rehearsal at St Euny Church tonight, we were accompanied by this pretty cat who wouldn’t keep still for a photo!

The cat who followed us almost home

 

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Castle, Monkeys and John Clare

Walking home from town today, we suddenly caught an unusual view of Carn Brea Castle from just near our house.

Carn Brea Castle

Our Three Wise Monkeys are now in charge of a floriferous Begonia which was yellow when we bought it, changed to pink soon after and is now this lovely peachy colour.

Begonia

This morning on Radio 4, I heard this beautiful poem by John Clare being read but I missed the introduction so don’t know why it was chosen.  The summer has not been ‘beaming forth’ today as temperatures have plunged from 30C to 15C and the skies have stayed grey though the last many weeks past, we have had the most glorious sunshine.

Sonnet by John Clare

I love to see the summer beaming forth
And white wool sack clouds sailing to the north
I love to see the wild flowers come again
And mare blobs stain with gold the meadow drain
And water lillies whiten on the floods
Where reed clumps rustle like a wind shook wood
Where from her hiding place the Moor Hen pushes
And seeks her flag nest floating in bull rushes
I like the willow leaning half way o’er
The clear deep lake to stand upon its shore
I love the hay grass when the flower head swings
To summer winds and insects happy wings
That sport about the meadow the bright day
And see bright beetles in the clear lake play

Looking it up, I discovered that ‘mare blobs’ are marigolds – what a delightful name!

 

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Cygnets, Cosmos and Pablo Neruda

What a delightful sight today as we were singing – cygnets on the river!  Aren’t they lovely?

Cygnets on the Penryn River

We have planted lots of Cosmos which we do every year. This year they are a special reminder of our holiday in South Africa though we didn’t see any yellow ones while away.

Yellow Cosmos

This poem from Pablo Neruda is new to me and I like it very much.

You start dying slowly
if you do not travel,
if you do not read,
If you do not listen to the sounds of life,
If you do not appreciate yourself.

You start dying slowly
When you kill your self-esteem;
When you do not let others help you.

You start dying slowly
If you become a slave of your habits,
Walking everyday on the same paths…
If you do not change your routine,
If you do not wear different colours
Or you do not speak to those you don’t know.

You start dying slowly
If you avoid to feel passion
And their turbulent emotions;
Those which make your eyes glisten
And your heart beat fast.

You start dying slowly
If you do not change your life when you are not satisfied with your job, or with your love,
If you do not risk what is safe for the uncertain,
If you do not go after a dream,
If you do not allow yourself,
At least once in your lifetime,
To run away from sensible advice…

 

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Beetle, Clematis and A Poem

I found a little green beetle on my trousers as I was working in the garden this morning.

Green Shield Bug?

Our Clematis in the front garden is spectacular – this is only about half of it!

Clematis

Regular readers will have seen several of cummings’ poems on here,  another today that somehow suits the Spring and the blue skies we have been having until this afternoon.

o by the by – ee cummings
o by the by
has anybody seen
little you-i
who stood on a green
hill and threw
his wish at bluewith a swoop and a dart
out flew his wish
(it dived like a fish
but it climbed like a dream)
throbbing like a heart
singing like a flameblue took it my
far beyond far
and high beyond high
bluer took it your
but bluest took it our
away beyond wherewhat wonderful thing
is the end of a string
(murmers little you-i
as the hill becomes nil)
and will somebody tell
me why people let go

 

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Desiderata, Clematis and A Web

I am preparing for a Humanist Wedding ceremony this coming Saturday and as I started work this morning, a message came in from two of my colleagues who did a Wedding last weekend (no, not that one!) where  Desiderata was one of the readings. I was reminded of how special it is.

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Desiderata by Max Ehrmann

Our Nelly Moser Clematis has its first flower and something is eating the petals!

Nelly Moser

I was sitting enjoying the sunshine when I noticed this circular web and wondered what creature may be responsible.

Who made this very neat web in the wall?

 

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