The first draft of this poem was written at the Chelsea Pensioner pub back in June during my vacation in London.
In Praise of Mushy Peas
Green as spring
Birthed in the garden
Plucked by man
Bred for the task
Popped from their womb
Dropped in the boil
Unified as a paste
Enriching a taste
Worthy of Persephone
This quickly approaching Sunday afternoon at 2pm, I’ll be one of the featured readers performing at McIntyre’s Books as part of the North Carolina Poetry Society Reading in Fearrington Village. I won’t just be reading from my latest book, Milkshakes and Chilidogs, I’ll also be offering prizes to the bravest and brainiest members of my audience. Be there and be square!
We had a Sorting Hat at the Harry Potter workshop Saturday and I wrote down what it whispered in my ear when I put it on. Try to remember what you heard and post in the comments below. We’ll be doing another Potter Poetry Workshop in the autumn.
The Sorting Hat
This one needs focus–
mind always flying
like a magpie
to the next shiny
to collect and catalog.
Too smart for his own good,
too much sarcasm,
so many flaws,
he belongs in House Ravenclaw.
A few months ago, I received an owl from Hogwarts. Secrecy being what it is, I could not reveal the true reason for my recent trip to Britain until now.
I have been recalled to my position as Poetics Master after an extended sabbatical in the New World. I objected to the recall, having built a comfy little life here, and after prolonged negotiation was able to come to an arrangement where I can remain in Hillsborough, teaching my classes remotely using a combination of bi-location and VoIP.
As part of the arrangement, this Saturday afternoon at the Read With Me bookshop in downtown Raleigh, I’ll be holding a special poetry workshop for young witches and wizards. Since poems are simply magical spells cast in the mind of the reader, we’ll learn how to better construct these spells to express and evoke powerful emotions.
If you know any aspiring students who would like practical instruction in the magical art of poetry, they should register at Read With Me. Send an owl or visit their website.
While I was in London, I was a little distracted so I missed that my poem Portrait in Violet had been accepted and published in Mused – the BellaOnline Literary Review. I wrote this poem on April 2nd as part of the 2018 Poem-a-Day Challenge when prompted to write a portrait poem.
I think this is the quickest turnaround for me between composition and publication.
Posted in Poetry
Tagged mused, portrait
This will be my last post from London. One of the reasons I decided to come here and explore the city was because of the history. In addition to the usual statues and monuments, there are almost a thousand little blue plaques scattered around the city marking the places important events occurred or important people lived. I’m sure I noticed at least a couple every day on my adventures and most of them I had no idea who or what was being commemorated.
For example, today I visited the homes of Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot and on the way I ran into the house where Sir Charles Stanford lived. I had to look him up on my phone before I realized that I’d heard some of his compositions on the classical music channel I listen to most mornings.
I had to ask a helpful shopkeeper where to find Mr. Pound’s house. It seemed like she’d been asked before. The street he lived on is very short and it looks like there’s an apartment building now with his street number. Instead his front door was hidden off a little alleyway. Seemed like a nice enough place, none the less.
The apartment where T. S. Eliot lived his final years and died was easier to find. From what I read online, his widow continued living there until her death in 2012. I think it’s safe to assume there’s someone else living there now. I’d pay a premium to live in the same apartment as T. S. Eliot!
Earlier this week I also found a blue plaque for the place Gandhi lived while he studied law in England. He has at least two statues in London, one in Parliament Square Garden, a nice contrast to the rest of the admirals and generals there.
I’ve had a lot of fun these past couple of weeks but it’s time to get back home. I wonder if they’ll let me back into the country…
Posted in Poetry
Tagged poets, travel
I took a little boat ride on the Thames to the Royal Observatory Greenwich and wandered into the Eastern Hemisphere.
My Oyster Card, which is what I’ve been using to ride the Underground all over London, also covers their river services. They actually run boats along the Thames as standard public transport here. I was enjoying myself until a school’s worth of kids showed up on a field trip and pretty much took over the ship. Fortunately for me they were only going to the Tower of London so I didn’t have to deal with the noise for too long. I know they were going to the Tower because I heard multiple teachers and/or chaperones threaten the most boisterous with not going to the Tower. I think that’s irony.
The highlight of the observatory for me was seeing the last surviving section of the Great Forty-Foot telescope built by William Herschel in the 1780s. This device allowed him to be the first human to see Saturn’s moons Enceladus and Mimas. I’m a big fan of Herschel’s as he’s also the first human to notice the planet Uranus and he did it from his backyard in Bath, England with a telescope he made himself.
Obligatory selfie with my feet in different hemispheres.
The most popular part of the Royal Observatory’s ground is the Prime Meridian where we start counting longitude. I didn’t realize that it had migrated slightly over the years as the Royal Astronomers built better equipment to calculate stellar positions which was half the problem for determining a ship’s longitude at sea. The other half was having an accurate timepiece in the era of pendulum driven clocks which was also a major exhibit at the observatory. The Prime Meridian has actually moved a little further east since we’re mostly using GPS these days.
I took the train back to London and traveled under the Thames a couple of times along the way, a satisfying coda to the excursion.
Now I can claim to have an international audience since I’ve read poetry in England. I participated in Poetry Unplugged, the Poetry Society’s weekly open mic at their Poetry Cafe. Our host, Mr. Niall O’Sullivan did a great job of keeping things rolling but what impressed me the most was how polite the poets were.
According the website if there are less than 25 readers then we’d get five minutes each. If it goes over 25 and we only get four. This evening there were 37 readers! I’ve been to plenty of “over-booked” open mics where the poets don’t respect their time limit but there were only a few who even got close to four minutes. Most stayed in the two to three minute range which I think is just about perfect.
Since we were pressed for time, I decided to only read two, Jane Avril and Milkshakes and Chilidogs. Both were well received and I’m content with my reading. As with all open mics one finds a mix of veteran performers and rookies, a mix of funny poetry, angry poetry, sad poetry, good poetry and bad poetry but overall this was one of the better open mics for quality. I highly recommend it as a great way to spend a Tuesday evening in London.
During his introduction, Mr. O’Sullivan asked that we not smoke in front of the cafe because the vent keeping us cool in the basement pulls air from there. A little after I completed my reading, we all started smelling something kinda like cigarette smoke but not quite cigarette smoke. Our host made a sly comment which the audience seemed to think was hilarious but I, of course, have no idea why.
Westminster Abbey was underwhelming but I’m still glad I paid my fee and got inside. This nasty English weather meant I had to stand in the bright hot sun in a long line for almost an hour but the guides at the entrance were suggesting it would ninety minutes or more. They may have been exaggerating to scare some people off. The entrance fee was also supposed to twenty-two pounds but they’d run out of audio guides so they were letting everybody in half price.
Unfortunately no photography was allowed inside and I was glad that everyone respected it. The most impressive tomb was that of Queen Elizabeth I. The carving on her sarcophagus was exquisite and the detail on her face in what I assume is white marble was quite lifelike, ironically enough.
I really went for Poets’ Corner but I discovered that few of the writers honored there are actually interred there. Chaucer, Browning and Tennyson are really there but most of the stones set in the floor are just a “Hall of Fame” for England. Still it was nice to see the giants enshrined, Blake, Burns, Byron, Eliot and some guy named Shakespeare.
I was a little surprised to see that Ted Hughes had a stone there, not because I doubt his quality, it’s just that he only died twenty years ago. I think he’s the most recent addition to Poets’ Corner.
I was also looking forward to seeing Isaac Newton’s tomb but it and the rest of Scientists’ Corner were roped off because some musicians were rehearsing for a performance of Haydn’s “Creation”. So while I could see the magnificent sculpture of Newton it was only from a distance. I also was unable to visit Charles Darwin and Stephen Hawking. Very disappointing.
Since I couldn’t take any pics inside, here’s an exterior of the west end of the Abbey where they have statues of ten 20th century martyrs. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is fifth from the left. I only recognized two other names, I’m ashamed to report. From left to right: Maximilian Kolbe, Manche Masemole, Janani Luwum, Elizabeth of Russia, MLK, Oscar Romero, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Esther John, Lucian Tapiedi and Wang Zhiming.
Posted in London 2018
Old Bunhill Fields Burial Ground
How old is this tree
under whose branches
What’s left of George Fox
is somewhere nearby.
Maybe his flesh fed the tree
whose leaves form a dome
of green protecting
me from this strange
sunny day in London.
I see faces in the gnarled bark,
my predecessors coming up for air,
nonconformists, dissenters, Friends.
I would climb this tree
but the lowest branches
are out of reach
and neither my claws nor wings
are strong enough to lift my bulk
unlike the squirrels and birds
who know the truth,
beg for alms
yet remain silent.
I am one of the thousand leaves
sprouting from high branches
furthest from the earth
yet utterly dependent
upon it for life.