Friday, December 15, 2017

The Living Dead

~ Honouring our poetic ancestors ~

In A Far Land Upon A Day

In a far land upon a day,
Where never snow did fall,
Three kings went riding on the way
Bearing presents all.

And one wore red, and one wore gold,
And one was clad in green,
And one was young, and one was old,
And one was in between.

The middle one had human sense,
The young had loving eyes,
The old had much experience,
And all of them were wise.

Choosing no guide by eve and morn
But heaven's starry drifts,
They rode to find the Newly-Born
For whom they carried gifts.

Oh, far away in time they rode
Upon their wanderings,
And still in story goes abroad
The riding of the Kings.

So wise, that in their chosen hour,
As through the world they filed,
They sought not wealth or place or power,
But rode to find a child. 

– Eleanor Farjeon (1881-1965)

I've featured Eleanor Farjeon a couple of times already in the last few months (here and here, if you missed them) and in the course of researching her I came across this poem, which I thought would be great to save and share with you near Christmas.

Even for those of us who are not church-going Christians, it's a wondrous story with deep meaning, and I like the way it is told here (by one who was a believer).

Her writing often includes her delight in the natural world; her appreciation of folk tales and mythology, which she subtly reworks to make her own, adding a new dimension; and her wisdom about human nature. Here, too, you may find those things. But she was, above all, a lovely story-teller – or a teller of lovely stories – and this, also, you can see in this piece.

The ballad rhythm (a loosely metrical pattern of alternating 4-beat and 3-beat lines) can gallop inappropriately in the hands of an inexperienced poet. She avoids that trap, slowing the lines with commas, multi-syllabic words, extra syllables in some bars, and long vowels – just enough of them to do the work unobtrusively. I also like the naturalness of the rhymes – except in the first verse, where they seem a bit forced to contemporary ears; but when Farjeon began writing, inverted syntax for the sake of rhyme was an accepted convention. And it does rather fit the under-stated grandeur she achieves in simple, straightforward, yet artfully chosen words.


Image from Public Domain

Material shared in 'The Living Dead' is presented for study and review. Poems, photos and other writings and images remain the property of the copyright owners, where applicable (older poems may be out of copyright).

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Celebration

      “Let us celebrate the occasion with wine and sweet words.”— Plautus


People of our time are losing the power of celebration.  Instead of celebrating we seek to be amused or entertained.  Celebration is an active state, an act of expressing reverence or appreciation.  To be entertained is a passive state--it is to receive pleasure afforded by an amusing act or a spectacle. . . . Celebration is a confrontation, giving attention to the transcendent meaning of one's actions.” — Abraham Joshua Heschel

Midweek Motif ~ Celebration

Celebrations compel all to look forward to it, to have fun, to enjoy, to de-stress.

There’s no dearth of celebrations in this world. From the tiniest particle to the cosmos is in a mood of celebration.

For people everywhere there are funny, bizarre, interesting, solemn, traditional, religious celebrations.

Celebrations are part of our lives bestowing a sense of belonging, recognizing, strengthening and honoring relationships & also adding a purpose to life.

Life itself can be celebrated too, in a breath of gratitude.

Now it’s time for Celebration. It’s your choice how you connect your poems to it.

by Anna Akhmatova

I pray to the sunbeam from the window-
It is pale, thin, straight.

Since morning I have been silent,
And my heart - is split.

The copper on my washstand
Has turned green,
But the sunbeam plays on it
So charmingly.

How innocent it is, and simple,
In the evening calm,
But to me in this deserted temple
It’s like a golden celebration,
And a consolation.

I Love You Sweetheart
by Thomas Lux

A man risked his life to write the words.

A man hung upside down (an idiot friend
holding his legs?) with spray paint
to write the words on a girder fifty feet above
a highway.
 And his beloved,
the next morning driving to work.
His words are not (meant to be) so unique.

Does she recognize his handwriting?
Did he hint to her at her doorstep the night before
of "something special, darling, tomorrow"?
And did he call her at work
expecting her to faint with delight
at his celebration of her, his passion, his risk?
She will know I love her now,
the world will know my love for her!
A man risked his life to write the world.

Love is like this at the bone, we hope, love
is like this, Sweatheart, all sore and dumb
and dangerous, ignited, blessed--always,
regardless, no exceptions,
always in blazing matters like these: blessed.

 When The New Year
by Rg Gregory

when the new year
came out of nowhere
and peeped into rooms
it was so flattered to find
all the tv's drinking its health
praising its innocent appearance
it responded with its warm
dark smile and went round
filling people's dry hearts
with joy   

over the coming weeks though
those same tv's attacked it
criticising its puerile style
its sickly contemptible face
one year is the same as another
(they said) for the doom
time belabours us with
it took the year all
its length to discover
that the celebration
so welcoming its birth
just happened to be
where the beer was

Please share your new poem using Mr. Linky below and visit others in the spirit of the community—
          Susan’s Midweek Motif on 3/01/2018 will be ~ Doorway(s)

Monday, December 11, 2017


Today, my friends, we are catching up with   one of Poets United's very first members, Eileen O'Neill, who writes at My Poetic Parlance. Eileen lives across the pond in Cheshire, England, a very beautiful landscape. Pour yourself a cup of Earl Grey tea, draw your chairs in close, and let's find out what Eileen has been up to recently.

Sherry: Eileen, we are so happy to be catching up with you. Our newer members will be most pleased to know more about you.  We so appreciate your loyalty all these years, Eileen. You are a very valued member of Poets United.

Eileen: Thank you so much, Sherry, for this wonderful opportunity to refresh my connection with Poets United.

I have been a member from the  formation of Poets United by Robert Lloyd, back in 2010. It was a most welcoming community of Poets back then, and still has that warmth of welcome today.

Sherry: Yes, I owe a great deal to Robb Lloyd for welcoming me to Poets United in 2010. What a journey it has been since then. Poets United opened the world of online poetry to me. Would you bring us up to date with your life since we last spoke?  I gather you have done some traveling. And I have been watching your adorable grandson growing up on facebook. Tell us about him, too, won’t you? 

Sherry, since my last interview in 2012, many things have changed. My original writing blog, Words and Thoughts, is now sadly dormant,  due to the infringement of my blog site by an unscrupulous marketing company. My posted poems were stolen and relocated to their marketing site. It was a very bad experience, which caused me to start my present poetry blog: My Poetic Parlance

Sherry: I remember when that happened. It was horrifying, and frightening. 

Eileen: During that time, I also set up a Twitter account @Eileenton and found the idea of writing brief poems at a poetry interest site very rewarding. Having to contain a poem within 140 characters encouraged me to develop an extra style of poetic formation. My previous poetry compositions were of varying lengths and, generally, a non-rhyming style.

My world has also changed so much, as I am grandmother to Michael, who is now six years old. He is the darling of our family and has so many joys to bring to us with every visit.

Michael has an amazing personality and endears himself to everyone he meets. A little philosopher, artist, guitar player, singer, footballer, lover of cars and a true adventurer of life.

His creative spirit is very much to the fore and it rarely rests.

Sherry: He is adorable, Eileen - such a bright spirit! How he must brighten your lives.

Would you tell us a bit about growing up in Belfast? I know your heart is always with what is going on there. Have you been back in recent years? 

Botanic Gardens, Belfast

Eileen: I grew up in the south of Belfast city, where the university is situated. It was a most wonderful area and, luckily, escaped the worst of the situations which happened during that dreadful period of time, known as The Troubles. It was still a time which destroyed many opportunities, taken for granted in other places, unaffected by daily disturbances to freedom, quality of life and the many ravages of murder and  mayhem. It forever be in my mind, but does not dominate my thinking, especially since moving away from Belfast, to live elsewhere over twenty years ago.

Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland

Sherry: Ireland is very lovely, for sure. You live in a very beautiful area now, in Cheshire, England. I always love your photos. Would you tell us a bit about your life there?

Eileen: I have been living in Macclesfield , Cheshire for over twenty-three years. It has become my very settled home, since leaving Belfast.

Macclesfield is a market town and was home to the silk weaving industry, back in previous times. It is situated in east Cheshire and is accessible to so many other areas of England, within a couple of hours.  Manchester, Buxton, Sheffield, Liverpool, Chester, Birmingham and London. Manchester International airport serves almost any world destination, thirty minutes from my home.

Macclesfield Canal and Clarence Mill

I am surrounded by the most beautiful scenery in the world, as I live on the edge of The Peak District National Park. An area swaddled by hills, plains, rivers and miles of walking, rambling and sightseeing. Outstanding beauty is a fitting description.

In some ways Sherry, it seems to have much of the beauty and the wildness of your home area in British Columbia, Canada.

The Peak District, Cheshire

As a poet, inspiration abounds all around me here and in beautiful Derbyshire, which adjoins Cheshire, ten minutes from my door.

Sherry: We poets are fortunate when we live in such beautiful landscapes. I believe the scenery informs many of our poems.

Would you like to share three of your poems with us?

Eileen: The first poem I shall share here is called Wishful Thinking. I have chosen it for its upbeat and encouraging time, as a novice poet back in 2009.

Wishful Thinking ...

What a wishful idea
To write a book
With a novelty aspect
And facetious fun
Destined to bring
Enjoyment and pleasure
Relief from burdens
And stresses in life
Vitality and vivacity
Overflowing from words
With roguish parlance
And a comedic fervor
Dripping with witticism
And hilarious laughter
Delivered sublimely
Through a poetic tongue
Simply a fleeting notion
So wistfully far-flung.

My second choice is:

Calmly Composed....

Within the stillness of the night,
There is less to stress the thoughts.
Calmly evolving and presenting as notions,
Enjoying the freedom of the silence.
Tasting that sense of accomplishment.
From the first twinkle of clear thought,
My soundless, silent soliloquy.
Patiently composed and assembled
Created in the stilly hours of darkness,
Emerging later towards fruition,
The morning light and warmth of words,
Lauding the gift of this day of life itself.

Third poem……

If I Were…. Childlike….

Country roses would still garland the doorways,
Crisp cotton dresses would still look neat and cool.
Every day another dreamy adventure just arrived,
Summer evenings allowed playtime to never end.
Imagination was a best friend who never argued,
Simplicity enjoyed Christmas and birthdays better.
The give-me-now had not been invented back then,
Enjoyment was easily purchased and appreciated.
Yet childhood shielded so much of harsh reality,
Mayhem and murder were foreign and very far away.
The radio told the stories which could be moderated,
No images to upset or to impact on the idyll of life.
Belief saw only goodness while looking with childish eyes,
The truth hid its nasty words spat behind silent whispers.
Love always hugged everyone with relative frequency,
The foibles and the cracks were not glimpsed at first.
Realisation hits hard with its eventual unfeigned impact,
Naivety wrapped and sheltered within childlike innocence.

Sherry: Thank you, Eileen, for sharing these very beautiful poems with us. I love the photo of Michael on that big old turtle.

available here

available here

You have two books out and are working on a third, I understand.  How is it coming along?

Eileen: My third book is slowly coming together and will hopefully have a release date in Spring 2018. It is going to be a very different style and is an interesting project at the moment.

Sherry: That sounds very intriguing! We look forward to its publication. I know you have traveled to some wonderful places. Would you like to tell us about a trip that was extra special?

Eileen: I have been so lucky to have spent most of the past ten years travelling to destinations in the United States of America and Europe.

In San Francisco

Without a doubt, California is my most favourite US state.  I don't believe it would ever be possible to grow bored in the midst of that state, and its Pacific coastline.

I also fell in love with the island of Nantucket, after a visit to Boston..and Chicago. My favourite music sounds so much better in the city of the Blues and the Kingston Mines Club.

In France, Switzerland and Spain, I have found many inspirational corners where it's possible to escape busy life for an awe inspiring hideaway...

Andalusia, Spain

Sherry: You have been to some wondrous places. You had a birthday recently and your husband surprised you with a little trip. Would you like to tell us where he swept you off to?

Eileen: I had a birthday a few weeks ago and had a lovely unexpected stay in the city of Sheffield, not far from my home. The nature of the surprise  was wonderful and fitted within our busy schedules at the moment.

Sherry: So lovely to be surprised on one's birthday.

Eileen: I am planning a holiday abroad in the spring of 2018, to find sunshine!

Sherry: That sounds wonderful! When you aren’t writing, what other activities do you enjoy, Eileen?

Eileen: I enjoy reading, music, my garden, extensive travelling and precious time with my children and grandson.

Sherry: Is there anything you’d like to say to Poets United?

Eileen: Poets United has been a most wonderful home for me and my poems since 2010. I am indebted to the commitment of Mary, Susan, Rosemary, Sumana, and you, Sherry, for having kept the good ethos and spirit of Poets United alive and thriving from those very first days. It always feels like a place of familiarity. You can have been absent; yet return as though ever-present.

Sherry: Yes, our little boat chugs along so reliably. We take joy in supporting the love of poetry.

Eileen: Thank you so much, Sherry. It has been a delight to talk with you today.

Sherry: Thank you, Eileen, for graciously allowing us to catch up with you, in the middle of your busy, happy life.

Wasn't this a lovely visit, my friends? Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Poetry Pantry #382

Vaalannkurkku Railway Bridge - Finland

Greetings, Friends.   I found the photo above on Wikimedia Commons.  I thought it was beautiful and suggested this wintry time of year.

We had another interesting week at Poets United.  Many of you wrote for Susan's Narcissism / Vanity prompt. This coming week Sumana will be prompting us to write to the prompt - Celebration.

Friday Rosemary shared the poem "Afterthought" by the Australian poet Tony Foley!  It really is a meaningful poem, one I think many can identify with.

Don't miss Sherry's feature on Monday.  She is featuring one of the original poets of Poets United.  It is great to see her back once again sharing her poetry.

Just a heads up to everyone:  Poets United will be taking a holiday break in December.  We will have a Poetry Pantry next Sunday,  December 17.  Then we will have about two weeks off to give us all a bit of a break.  Smiles.  We will resume again on December 31, the last day of the year, for those who are interested in ending the year with a sharing of poetry!

With no further delay, let's share poetry!  Link your poem below.  Stop in the comments and say hello! And visit the poems of those who link.  I look forward to seeing you on the trail.

Friday, December 8, 2017

I Wish I'd Written This


No poem is capable of expressing life,
no lyrical phrases adequate to the task,
no bleak aphorisms suited to the tears,
no adjectives alive to expressions of joy,
no metric rhythm sufficient.
So we have to try another angle,
weep like babes torn from a mother,
laugh like kids playing hopscotch in the street,
frown like scholars pondering Sartre,
make love as if death is ruffling your sheets.
See how simple it becomes?
Love and Death dance around
autumn blown leaves,
soft lips brush your cheek
as doors close on starlings.

But, and there's always a but,
you peer around the corner of
desire and find only mist,
then touch the stars and cry
for lost words.

– Tony Foley

Tony Foley is an Australian poet, a friend of mine, and married to another friend I've known even longer, poet and musician Whitefeather Light. They live in Melbourne (where I once lived too) and we keep in touch on facebook.

The bio at his blog says:

I've knocked around with lots of different jobs from cab driver to forklift driver, postal clerk to pollster, but since 1989 have worked in an academic library. I've performed in plays - mostly in character roles with a Russian theatre company. In performance poetry I've been feature reader at many venues around Melbourne including The Perseverance Hotel, La Mama Poetica, Montsalvat Poetry Festival, Victorian Writers' Centre, Dan O'Connell Hotel, Westword, and even been a wandering poet at the Melbourne Wine and Food festival (that was one weird gig). I've had few poems published here and there but don't really care much about chasing publication, mostly I've contributed a piece when invited. I've been filmed for community television and been interviewed on community radio. Oh, I love reading, but that's pretty normal for a librarian.

As a book lover and former librarian, I'd have to agree with that last! 

(The places he mentions are among the most notable poetry performance venues in Melbourne.)

I think most of us must have known those times he talks about, when the words seem inadequate to express the richness and depth of life itself. Of course, he does a wonderful job, here, of expressing that dilemma (smile) and creating a beautiful poem while he's at it. May all our poems 'fail' so successfully!

Material shared in 'I Wish I'd Written This' is presented for study and review. Poems, photos and other writings remain the property of the copyright owners, usually their authors.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Narcissus (Vanity/Narcissism)

Range of Narcissus cultivars
“The main condition for the achievement of love is the overcoming of one's narcissism. ” Erich FrommThe Art of Loving 
Vanity is as ill at ease under indifference as tenderness is under a love which it cannot return.  George Eliot 
“. . . . 'But... was Narcissus beautiful?' the lake asked. . . .   
'I weep for Narcissus, but I never noticed that Narcissus was beautiful. I weep because, each time he knelt beside my banks, I could see, in the depths of his eyes, my own beauty reflected.'”  Paulo CoelhoThe Alchemist
File:Dante Gabriel Rossetti - "Persephone".jpg

Dante Gabriel Rossetti - "Persephone".jpg

Midweek Motif ~
Narcissus (Vanity / Narcissisum)
The narcissus is one of December's birth flowers.  According to Greek myth, it is the flower that grew when the vain young man Narcissus drowned in the lake in which he admired his own reflection.  There's more to the story--Echo, goddesses, love,  and, related to it is the story of Persephone and Demeter, a pomegranatedeath, winter and summer.  Picking a narcissus flower separated Persephone from her peers, and Hades kidnapped her.  Her story associates her with the life cycle of plants.  

Do any of these stories have meaning to you? 
If not, hold with the beautiful flower itself.

Your Challenge: Write a new poem in response to the themes of one of the images included in this prompt.  (You may also provide images of your own that relate to narcissus and/or vanity).  


Persephone, Falling
One narcissus among the ordinary beautiful
flowers, one unlike all the others!  She pulled,
stooped to pull harder—
when, sprung out of the earth
on his glittering terrible
carriage, he claimed his due.
It is finished.  No one heard her.
No one!  She had strayed from the herd.

(Remember: go straight to school.
This is important, stop fooling around!
Don’t answer to strangers.  Stick
with your playmates.  Keep your eyes down.)
This is how easily the pit
opens.  This is how one foot sinks into the ground.
(In Mother Love by Rita Dove. © 1995, W.W. Norton & Company.  Used with permission.)

Echo And Narcissus, John William Waterhouse (1903)

Encircled by her arms as by a shell,
she hears her being murmur,
while forever he endures
the outrage of his too pure image...

Wistfully following their example,
nature re-enters herself;
contemplating its own sap, the flower
becomes too soft, and the boulder hardens...

It's the return of all desire that enters
toward all life embracing itself from afar...
Where does it fall? Under the dwindling
surface, does it hope to renew a center? 
Image result for Sylvia Plath mirror
Sylvia Plath | Source
by Sylvia Plath I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions. Whatever I see I swallow immediately Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike. I am not cruel, only truthful- The eye of the little god, four cornered. Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall. It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long I think it is a part of my heart. But it flickers. Faces and darkness separate us over and over.
Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me, Searching my reaches for what she really is. Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon. I see her back, and reflect it faithfully. She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands. I am important to her. She comes and goes. Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness. In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.
Jan Vermeulen Vanitas Still Life.jpg
Ecclesiastes 1:2, Vanity of Vanities, all is Vanity.  Still Life by Jan Vermeulen (1653)

My song has put off her adornments.
She has no pride of dress and decoration. 
Ornaments would mar our union;
they would come between thee and me; 
their jingling would drown thy whispers.
My poet’s vanity dies in shame before thy sight. 
O master poet, I have sat down at thy feet. 
Only let me make my life simple and straight, 
like a flute of reed for thee to fill with music.

Please share your new poem using Mr. Linky below and
visit others in the spirit of the community— 
(Next week Sumana’s Midweek Motif will be Celebration. )