Back Again – Or Not!

Well I am back after a wonderful long weekend away with the tandem at the Tandem Club National Rally near Oxford. The weather was glorious for the time of year and I even caught the sun before remembering to slap on the sun scream cream. We managed about 124 miles over four rides around roads, lanes and tracks.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that I may not be around much over the next few weeks as I have rather a lot on. First my brother-in-law, who is moving back to the UK from Portugal is staying with us while sorting out the purchase of a retirement apartment a few miles from our home. Although an offer has been accepted on an apartment and this is proceeding it could take some time and it is always difficult to find time to do your own thing when you have a house guest!

Secondly, my poetry group has produced collections of poems by members from time-to-time over the years, often for special occasions. We have decided to produce one for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and I will be editing it as our previous editor is not at all well and is no longer a member of the group. I shall need to get on with the job over the next couple of weeks so that it can be with the printer in time for it to be produced for the Platinum Celebrations in early June – and I haven’t even written my own contribution yet! The deadline for contributions by our members is 30th April so I must try to comply with my own rules. Most of my available spare time will be spent on this project.

I will drop in when I find the time but this may be infrequently until at least the middle of May.

Face-to-Face

Finally face-to-face.
Poetry Group meeting
yesterday afternoon.
After all this time
it's good to be back.

Magic Box

Following on from my previous post about ‘Cargoes’ I thought you might like another challenge that the poetry group has had during lockdown.

A few months back one of our members shared the poem ‘The Magic Box’ by Kit Wright (find it via Google if you are unfamiliar with it) and challenged us to write our own version, listing what we would put in such a box. This could be in any form we liked; our own poem in whatever form, a simple list, a prose piece – whatever. I chose to contribute mine in poem form, loosely following the same form as the original although I allowed my version to overflow into an extra fifth line in each verse. Here it is (please note it is my copyright):

My Magic Box by Elizabeth Leaper
(after Kit Wright)

In my magic box I will put
the silent stillness of the heron at the waters edge,
the blue streak of the kingfisher along the river bank,
the babbling burble of a mountain stream
tumbling over the rocks beneath.

In my magic box I will put
the gentle cooing of the pigeons in the early morning,
the bright song of the robin in the cherry tree,
the sound of the wind through the woodland trees
that becomes the ocean when I close my eyes.

In my magic box I will put
the gossamer of a cobweb bedecked with pearls of dew,
the sweet smell of new mown hay on a summers day,
the velvet darkness of a moonless night
studded with diamond stars.

In my magic box I will put
the earthy fragrance of the ground after gentle rain,
the pristine white of undisturbed snow freshly fallen,
the joy of the first snowdrops as winter ebbs away
and spring is just around the corner.

My box is made from the horn of the last unicorn,
the lid is hinged with dragon claws
and straps made from rainbows wrap it round.
It is fastened with clasps hammered by the thunder god
from the finest gold.

I will hide my magic box away
and guard its secrets with wards and spells
until the earth is green once more and the sky is blue.
Then I will open its magic locks
and share its treasures with you.

Cargoes

I may have mentioned before that I belong to a poetry group that meets twice a month in our local library. We are not strictly speaking a writers group though some of us do write. We usually have a topic for each meeting and take along 3 or 4 poems to read out, some of which may be our own but mostly from ‘proper’ poets!

Naturally we haven’t been able to meet over the last 12 months due to COVID but we have kept the group together by sharing a poem via email during the weeks that we would normally have met, then one of our members collates the poems into a pdf file which is then sent out to the group so we all get to see them. For this we have not had a topic each time, just a general feeling that they should be uplifting and of course participation every time is not compulsory.

From time to time we have also had an additional ‘challenge’ (again, participation not compulsory). Last week was our ‘poetry week’ and one of our members submitted the well loved poem ‘Cargoes’ by John Masefield (if you are not familiar with it you can find it at http://www.poetrybyheart.org.uk/poems/cargoes-2.) The member used to be an English teacher and with her reasons for the choice of poem she recalled that she had once set her class the challenge of writing an additional verse for the poem and received some impressive offerings. This then became our most recent challenge – to write an additional verse.

I thought I would share my offering with you here; actually I have written two extra verses as having written the first I decided it was no longer topical as the problem had been solved. The second one is really about how things were – and how they will be again once COVID has ceased to cause such problems. Here they are for your amusement:

Cargoes Challenge
1)
Gigantic container ship aground in the Suez,
blocking up the shipping route and halting trade
with cargoes of livestock,
car parts, electric goods,
children’s toys and fashion wear all cheaply made.

2)
Great big Boeing Jumbo Jet flying here and there,
dropping of its passengers on some exotic shore
such as China, Turkey,
Viet Nam, Mexico,
Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.

Discovering New Poets

I may have mentioned before that I attend a Poetry Group at our local Library on the 1st and 3rd Thursday each month. This is not a writer’s group but more of an appreciation group, though we may read our own poems if we wish so long as they fit the topic. We have a yearly programme of topics suggested by members and this can be anything from, for example, simple ideas such as ‘Yellow’ through things like ‘Trains and Boats and Planes’ to named poets, such as Milton, Shakespeare and of course more modern poets too. The topic can be interpreted how you like and is for guidance only.

One of the things I like about attending this group is that in researching poems to take along I often come across a poet entirely new to me, or maybe I’m introduced to such a poet by someone else’s choice, especially poets who may be less well known. I have found many a poet to admire this way.

Last Thursday was our first meeting after the summer break and the topic was ‘An Irish Poem’. This gave pause for thought about semantics – why not Irish Poets? What makes a poem an Irish poem? This was by-the-by, most people interpreted it as Irish Poets. I wished to avoid the obvious such as W.B. Yeats and Seamus Heaney whose books number amongst my collection and who I thought would be well represented by other members of the group so I set about researching Irish poets writing about Ireland. I came across Eavan Boland.

Although apparently well regarded as a poet I had never come across her before. I am lead to believe that she is somewhat better known in the US than in the UK. She was born in Dublin in 1944 but spent her childhood in London and New York (her father was a diplomat), returning to Ireland for secondary school and University at Trinity College, Dublin. She is married with two daughters and her poetry often takes on board the relationship with her daughters. Her subjects tend towards domestic life, myth, love, history and the Irish rural Landscape. Poet Ruth Padel refers to her ‘commitment to lyric grace and feminism’ and she is keenly aware of the troubled place that women hold in culture and history, including the difficulties faced by women in a male-dominated literary world. She endeavours to write an honest account of female experience in Ireland.

If you have never come across her before I thoroughly recommend you look her up. I was most taken with the samples of her poetry that I discovered on the Internet and choose two to read at the meeting, although in the event I only read one of them but I was pleasantly surprised to find that one of our other members had also brought a poem along by Eavan Boland – her chosen one was one of the family poems whereas I had chosen poems about Irish myth and history, poems that could only be set in Ireland. The poem that I didn’t get to read at the meeting I would like to share with you here. Since I found it on the Internet I hope I am safe in assuming it is in the public domain:

‘My Country in Darkness’ by Eavan Boland

After the wolves and before the elms
the bardic order ended in Ireland.

Only a few remained to continue
a dead art in a dying land:

This is a man
on the road from Youghal to Cahirmoyle.
He has no comfort, no food and no future.
He has no fire to recite his friendless measures by.
His riddles and flatteries will have no reward.
His patrons sheath their swords in Flanders and Madrid.

Reader of poems, lover of poetry—
in case you thought this was a gentle art
follow this man on a moonless night
to the wretched bed he will have to make:

The Gaelic world stretches out under a hawthorn tree
and burns in the rain. This is its home,
its last frail shelter. All of it—
Limerick, the Wild Geese and what went before—
falters into cadence before he sleeps:
He shuts his eyes. Darkness falls on it.

Topic

Dark Poems;
yesterday’s poetry group topic.
Melancholy lingers.

Site content copyright of Elizabeth Leaper (Libby).

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