30 Jul 2011

The Chimaera

My poem 'On Dreams' published in issue 8 of The Chimaera an 'online miscellany of poetry and prose' edited by Paul Stevens. It hails from the other side of the world to me: Australia... The Chimaera
...and for all the millions of poets that there are, what a small world and universe it is: several of the other poets selected are people I know or who have performed with, or who have in turn published my poems in their magazines.
This edition, whose theme is 'Life, the Universe, & Everything' especially features work by the Australian poet Les Murray.

The artork and layout of this edition is quite stunning. Do have a look.

12 Jul 2011

fridge magnet poetry

Symmetry Pebbles

Just a quick mention about Symmetry Pebbles - an excellent 'online poetry journal for new and exciting poets'.

It is edited by a friend, poet Richard Thomas, who has a keen eye and a great sense for selecting poetry that somehow 'hits the spot'. Great design and layout and easily readable.I sometimes struggle to read text on line - the sheer density of it- urgh! Symmetry Pebbles has grace and a sense of space. I read it every-so-often and enjoy the poems a lot - consistently fresh, quirky, moving, clever, delicious, provoking.

Symmetry Pebbles has been extremely succesful regarding responses and further contributions,from every sort of poet and from local to international - two of my poems have been selected for the September edition, (as well as several being published in a previous edition) I am most honoured.

www.symmetrypebbles.com Type name into search bar. Hooray! At last I'm new and exciting!

Gifted & Talented at Killerton

* photo: (c) National Trust.Courtesy of National Trust.

I occasionally work for an excellent project called 'South West Gifted and Talented'. It exists to offer extra-curricular experiences in a number of subjects, to young gifted and talented students. Teachers are chosen from those who are engaged with their art, science, or practical skill in the working world and who also have active involvement with education.
Last week I worked with two such groups, years 5 and 6, (ages 9 -11) at the wonderful venue of Killerton House in Exeter. The children came from all parts of Devon,Somerset and Cornwall, to do some creative writing.

Killerton is a National Trust property, given by former owner Richard Acland in 1942. Acland's generous gift of the Killerton Estate comprised a sumptuous house, hundreds of acres, cottage properties including tenancies of working farms, and land in other parts of the county, all of which hold a wide and sumptuous green belt between sprawling Exeter and other town developments.
The long history of the Acland family refelects generations of strong Liberal, and eventually Socialist views and actions, that have been part of shaping our most precious heritage: rights for women, rights in the workplace, the abolition of slavery, education for girls, and finally - wide public access to the former estate and grounds, and the environmental benefits of this being placed in the nation's trust.

The venue provides an excellent learning environment: a grand structure with furniture and musical intruments, pillars and stucco work, large paintings of the great and the good, and artefacts from those most privileged lives; a small museum of costume and jewellery; and this juxtaposed to the laundry room with the dreaded box-mangle that was known to crush fingers and cauldrons and weighty irons; and in the costume museum - vicious corsets, used to train the soft bones and internal organs of young girls into contortions for the rest of their lives. However, the ideals of this family and the way they lived sometimes reflects and sometimes challenges stereoptypical perceptions of 'how they lived'.

photo: (c) Paul Leitch

This stimulated some fascinating discussions about equality and privilege. To be part of that with young minds and fresh ideas is itself a privilege. National Trust guides and I provided some essential details and perspectives.

I used the theme of 'status' in the workshop which was titled as 'Upstairs, Downstairs'.We looked at status as a device in writing: shifting this in relation to each character as a way to shape the plot and to create and hold interest in dialogue. We also considered status in relation to working on characterisation prior to writing narrative.

The children all seemed to enjoy their day immensely, responded with great skill to the theme and the exercises, and those pieces of work that were read out were skilful and moving.

Any learning environment contributes to the learning experience. With thanks to the Acland heritage and the National Trust, and to Christine Mitchell and Phil Creek of South-West Gifted and Talented, last week's workshops were a huge success and enjoyable, influential experience for many.

2 Jul 2011

The Importance of being a Dole Scrounger

Ernie’s got an attitude – he’s long term unemployed,
they’re going to cut the benefits they say he has enjoyed
for too long - and has scrounged from those who pay their taxes,
so Ernie’s income’s going to fall to governmental axes.

But Ernie’s got an attitude, and no qualifications -
school was dull and disengaging and he didn’t have the patience
to dot the ‘I’s and cross the ‘t’ s and sit all day and listen
while football pitch was wide and green, and fish in rivers glisten,
and nuts and berries grew on trees, and roads led far away,
to fantasies of azure seas far brighter than our British grey.

So Ernie learned his attitude - and that’s a disadvantage,
his intellect is razor sharp his wits pit with advantage,
but he sees through suspect spectacle, and hegemonic farce,
saw all through school, divide and rule constructing class in every class,
he sees the masters and the slaves, perceives the state machine
that mashes minds to sausage meat and souls to might-have-been -

so Ernie values attitude - he does not want to fit
into a cog just like a cog – will not be part of it,
but nuts and berries, fish and seas, cannot sustain or be obtained,
he has to find a way to play the system at its game,
for Ernie’s education taught him how not to belong
(and blind to their own blind spots, systems never learn where they go wrong).

So Ernie says his health is poor, his back is dodgy, racked with pain
he’s got depression and represses tendencies to go insane
he cannot sleep, eats poorly, has schizoid-disordered quirks,
ironically – this will be true – if they send Ernie out to work;
and they’re going to legislate a way to take away his choice,
but Ernie’s got an attitude, and insight, and he’s got a voice.

So now you’ll hear him on the lines when flying pickets join the shout,
you’ll hear him at a demo when they’re trying to get the Tories out,
you’ll see him, just one in the crowds when many march for peace,
you’ll find him starting new campaigns – his wonders never cease -
he is an artist, and a poet, a philosopher, he writes a blog
he’s a busker and a hustler trying to find the clear point in the fog,
you’ll see him on the forums knocking down the racist, sexist trolls -
it’s time this nation valued all the work done by some on the dole:

for every culture needs its speakers, shamans and creators,
the avant garde and visionaries, movers and our shakers,
freelance pickets and resisters and our raging rebel-rousers,
we need our ragged rebels and their philanthropic trousers
in a world more stick than carrot, and a gap between the rich and poor
that’s gaping like precipice and gripping with its ugly claw -
we need our Situationists, our scoundrels and our knaves:
this is a fact of life as long as masters need their slaves.

So stand up for those with attitude, respect those wise and crazy schemes.
This system is a nightmare: please, do not step on our dreams.