Although it is not quite on the same theme as my most recent post https://peterawriter.com/2021/09/30/random-monday-meander-27-september-2021/ , I feel compelled in this postscript to display a couple of photos of a statue of Charles Rennie Mackintosh of which I was not previously aware. I would still be unaware of it had I not ventured to, and quite unexpectedly found it in, Finnieston.
I like that he is shown seated in one of the chairs associated with his furniture design.
It’s a few months since I wrote a blog for this site and quite a few things have happened in the interim, most of which I’ll spare you. There were two or three highlights which will be covered in my next blog but first a simple example of my regular randomness.
At this stage of my life it might have been expected that I’d operate to some kind of plan; I know I can because I have done so before – when I had to.
Nowadays I like to think that – writing deadlines apart – I don’t HAVE to work to a plan so I tend to be very forgiving of my lack of direction and occasional self-indulgence. When I do allow life to spin me along, the resulting outcome is often satisfying so why not?
Monday, for example, I awoke with very little thought of what the day should bring. I knew that I was physically out of condition and that I should be exercising. I was also aware that I had not yet started working on a chapbook submission with a fast-approaching deadline.
Before I realised how much time had passed I was already watching the lunchtime news – a habit which should be avoided as it tends to generate negative thinking which can blight an otherwise optimistic day. By the time the news programmes on both main channels were complete, it was well past lunchtime, no physical or mental exercise had been undertaken and I was starting to feel guilty about my lack of activity.
Compounding my personal sense of stasis, the weather deteriorated and the world outside my window grew dark as it was was visited by a heavy deluge. I didn’t feel like going for a walk, or forcing myself towards the doors of the nearest gym.
In an effort to throw off the weight of guilt I attempted vigorous exercise with the undemanding home barbells I recently acquired. That helped a little and, as the sun rose and the exterior dark and dampness began to dissipate, I started to think more clearly, remembering there was an outstanding mission to accomplish; a special package awaited uplift from the Finnieston area of Glasgow.
That was it! I’d get out of my pyjama bottoms and t-shirt (standard daywear since the pandemic started), get into some outdoor clothing, walk briskly to my local train station (20 minutes on foot), travel by train to Charing Cross, walk to the fabled Hidden Lane (15 minutes), get my package then do the journey in reverse. So lay ahead the opportunity to complete a practical and necessary task, in the process walking briskly for a total of 1hour 10 minutes; why had I not thought of this before?
All good in theory except that when I arrived at my destination I did so too late as a result of my earlier procrastination and brain fog, and the resultant delayed departure from home.
A past version of me would have become quite frustrated and annoyed with myself but thankfully the current version of me is more self-forgiving, in fact more forgiving in general. Worse things happen at sea (but that’s another story with which I shall not detain you at present).
The only thing that did concern me was a fairly urgent need to use the loo.
To cut a long story short I used my need to find a place to pee to justify stopping in Finnieston for a meal and a drink. In practical terms it saved me going food shopping and also saved me the risks associated with sharing a busy rush-hour train in these days of plague. It was also very tasty, and had the accompaniment of a decent retro background music selection.
There was a further bonus, illustrated in the photographs which accompany this blog. On the way back to the railway station I spotted these two beautiful buildings and thought how representative they were of Glasgow. Two places of worship representing two of Glasgow’s quite different religious communities, standing side by side in the evening sun. And (not photographed) immediately across the road from these structures stands the Glasgow Gaelic School, keeping alive an old language of Scotland, still important to a small but significant proportion of the population. In such a small area, facing each other or standing side by side, the people these buildings represent all confident of their place in the dear green place.
If there are messages in this random piece, I guess they are pretty obvious – to avoid sweating the small stuff, be forgiving, try to turn negatives to positives when you can, allow yourself to go with the flow occasionally, always look outward, appreciate the cultural diversity of your surroundings and take joy in the knowledge that we are all different but ultimately all Jock Tamson’s bairns.
I remember reading Phil Vernon’s micro-collection, entitled This Quieter Shore, back in 2018 and thinking what a talented writer he is. Therefore, I looked forward to delving into Poetry after Auschwitz (SPM Publications, 2020) when it arrived and wow, what a collection it is!
Vernon’s principal concern in Poetry after Auschwitz is the way history affects us. He gives a voice to historical figures (such as Judas, Stalin’s daughter, and a liberator of Belsen) to articulate the transformative effect of past events upon the present: he portrays their influence as a constant presence in our lives. In El Tres de Mayo he writes: ‘What’s past is present: faded cryptogram of sound – no matter we try to prise/ a meaning out of or ignore it – fills/ our ears with its abiding , quiet refrain.’ How the past affects the present is complex: the effects differ but are always significant…
Well, well, well – that was quite something last night, and I am a little lost for words today!
To be paired with a poet possessing the experience, inventiveness and skill which Phil Vernon has in abundance, in a poetry presentation format which enables viewers to see the text of the poem as the poet reads. To be hosted so skilfully, enthusiastically and insightfully by Florrie Crass on the very professional Home Stage platform.
That was a dream for any writer, and I feel truly blessed that last night happened.
As I expressed at the start I am somewhat lost for words at the moment but we all had a fair bit to read and say during the livestream. So, if that interests you, please click on the YouTube link and savour some of last night’s flavour. If you want to view the video recording of the livestream the YouTube link for it is here https://youtu.be/hFESWt62dag
Finally, if you wish to order a copy of Art of Insomnia it can be obtained from Hedgehog Poetry Press, Amazon or from my Art of Insomnia page here https://peterawriter.com/art-of-insomnia/ (the only way to get a signed copy if that is what you require); and if you wish to purchase Phil’s Poetry After Auschwitz it’s available on Amazon.
I remember back in the eighties reading Douglas Dunn’s Elegies, his profoundly moving collection of poems about the passing of his wife that were at times almost too painful to read. The same can be said of Peter A’s Art of Insomnia (Hedgehog Poetry Press, 2021), a chapbook of twenty-two direct, intimate, almost conversational poems through which he explores the loss of his partner.
Like Dunn’s Elegies, whilst Peter A’s poems are about grief, they are also about love. They honour a relationship which was cut tragically short. Take for example, his Found in France. We see the French rural retreat through the eyes of his wife. There is true affection and warmth in his amusing description of what she would not have liked. This is an affection derived from the intimate knowledge that comes through sharing a life with another and from an uncritical acceptance of what…
Following a break from blogging I shall return to posting fairly regular blogs this month. In the meantime, I take this opportunity to Reblog from my Drop-in with Nigel Kent published this morning. Next Saturday his review of ‘Art of Insomnia’ will appear on the Nigel Kent – Poet website
Drop in by Peter A
Today I have great pleasure in inviting Peter A to talk about a poem from his moving Art ofInsomnia (Hedgehog Press, 2021)
My debut chapbook Art of Insomnia is personal in a way that is not very typical of my poetry to date. That said, in much of my previous and ongoing work I have tried to deliver an emotional punch where it is justified by the subject matter or theme of the poem.
Art of Insomnia comprises 22 poems written in the nine month period following the unexpected death of my wife; in it I attempt to express the impact of incomprehensible loss and signal the potential for a bearable way forward. The chapbook is divided into four sections and the poem I have selected is the second poem of the third section. Following the second section, which describes a temporary escape from familiar surroundings and people, this section [RETURN TO WHAT REMAINS] is about coming back to the inescapable reality of loss.
In the poem selected here, I mainly use a fairly conventional, uncomplicated, almost-conversational form of address direct to the reader, with many of the same words repeated in each of the nine-line stanzas.
The words which are unique to each stanza set out two issues which may arise when well-intentioned people try to offer comfort and praise at a time when the recently-bereaved person is at the stages of grief where he feels only guilt and powerlessness. These lines of the stanzas arrive in a form which is more poetic or dramatic in style leading the reader to pathos at the end of each stanza.
The title comes from the word ‘better’ at the end of the first line of the poem, and the word ‘fail’ at the end of its last line. Any resemblance to Samuel Beckett’s ‘Fail Better’ is fortuitous but also somewhat fortunate.
Thank you, Peter A. Next week read my review of this exceptionally powerful collection.
This is a very short post, mainly for the purpose of introducing a very short film I have just made for a poem recently written, called Unauthorised Use.
The poem is short, and fairly straightforward I think, so there is no need for me to speak about it at all, except to tell you when and where it will appear, so I’ll do that in a moment.
Before giving you the publishing information, however, I simply want to recount that I have just spent 100 minutes (no special significance in the number – it just worked out that way) in my back garden. Though I was ostensibly doing some rough weeding and digging, I spent some of the time attempting to commune with nature in the form of one bird initially, then that bird and its mate.
They were a pair of robins as it happens. Each individually, then as a pair, came fairly close to me. Cautious, but apparently confident I meant them no harm. When I whistled, attempting to imitate their song, they cocked heads to one side, listening but unimpressed. Their focus was more upon the earthworms my digging had uncovered but they showed me friendliness at the level of casual acquaintance before leaving.
I was reminded of my dad whistling to starlings when, as children, he took us on long walks. His whistle, as I recall, was much more musical than mine.
Anyway, all of that is relevant only to the extent that Unauthorised Use relates, at its simplest level, to the perception of birdsong by humans. It will appear in a massive poetry anthology called Summer Anywhere due to be launched, appropriately, in the summer. However, it can be pre-ordered now from hybriddreich.co.uk. (Click on ‘LATEST BOOKS HERE’.)
The film poem for Unauthorised Use is available on You Tube at this link:
This strange photograph, which to my eyes has the appearance of two fluffy poodles competing in a race against each other, was taken by my hairdresser following my recent appointment for a lockdown-style haircut. The photo captures the hair gathered up following that event.
It took me over nine months to grow those luxurious lockdown locks. They gave me great comfort during that period. In a school magazine decades ago I had a piece of prose published which described my slightly long hair at that time as ‘nature’s scarf’; my detached locks are now useful only for stuffing a couch (if they still do that kind of thing these days).
I genuinely have felt very much colder during the last eight days, and I’m conscious I’ve been a bit quieter too. There’s many reasons for my reduced volume but the chill has felt like a physical weakness.
Though I have never imagined myself as any kind of Samson (who got his strength from his hair), I have gained a little understanding of the way he must have felt when a treacherous Delilah arranged for a trim so that he could be handed over to his Philistine enemies without offering resistance.
Confidence is a strength and I feel that the removal of my Covid comfort blanket of hair has left me feeling exposed, naked and, as I mentioned before, kinda cold.
Before continuing, I should clarify that there was no devious Delilah involved in my story, that I arranged the appointment myself and the hairdresser followed my instructions.
More than that, I even brought my Irish passport with me to give the hairdresser an idea of the style I was looking for. On looking at the passport photo, my hairdresser remarked that there is no way in the world passport control would have accepted it as an accurate likeness of the way I looked pre-haircut!
You will notice that I have not attached a photograph of my newly-shorn head and so far very few people (some on Zoom) have seen the shock transformation.
Speaking of Zoom, this would be an appropriate time to mention that Dragonflies present…are supporting the launch of my debut chapbook Art of Insomnia at their event on Tuesday 4th May. I have three brilliant support stars, whose names I’ll reveal in a post closer to the date. There are also three other poets publicising new publications on the same evening.
Dragonflies events are very relaxed, friendly and welcoming and that’s why I’m delighted they offered me this opportunity. I know that if you come along you’ll find the evening enjoyable, and comfortable even if you’re not in the habit of attending literary events.
On that page you’ll find a link to register and book a digital ticket. There are also links to individual pages relating to each poet, so if you want to find out more about each of us and our books, and see a sample of what you will find therein, you can.
I hope you can make it and look forward to seeing you there.
Here we are. It’s a sunny Friday, it’s 9th April and it’s National Unicorn Day!
As a Scot I am delighted that King James II endorsed this mythical creature, representing purity and power, as my country’s national animal but I have also learned that it has a lengthy history in other parts of the world.
In Ancient Greece it was spoken of as existing in far-flung India, to them an exotic place about which very little was known at the time. The writers of that time and place characterised it as an animal of power and ferocity.
In mediaeval times it was thought of as one of the creatures spoken of in the Bible, to which was attributed not just strength but the purest kind of love, a suitable pet for the protection of virgin women.
Unicorns have featured in more modern times in the writings of Lewis Carroll, J.K. Rowling and C.S. Lewis.
However, I have discovered that the modern invention of Unicorn Day boasts the objective of celebrating the positivity which can be achieved by allowing magic into our days from time to time, the sort of thing adults forget to do.
In recognition of the day, I have concluded this short post with the only poem I have written featuring a unicorn. As it does have a political message, perhaps at odds with the idea of pure fun and fantasy associated with Unicorn Day, you may be choose to ignore it.
Instead you may wish to grab the spirit of the day – bake and eat colourful cupcakes, for example, watch a fun fantasy movie, or indeed read a fantastical book. The main objective, apparently, should be recalling the magic of our childhoods.
So, in your own personal way, I trust you enjoy Unicorn Day!
[I have a half-formed draft of a poem on the topic of the joy of childhood perspective but it’ll be some time before it is ready for exposure, so in the meantime, if you wish it, here is flight, published last year in A Kist of Thistles ‘An anthology of radical poetry from contemporary Scotland’, (pub. Culture Matters http://www.culturematters.org.uk)].
so fearsomely beautiful
and innocent and pure
he scares the proud lion
according to folklore
it may be dangerous
to unchain the unicorn
but as desire for
will at time of re-birth
be the first priority
let us unleash and bareback ride the beast
making myth reality
while breezes from infinity
refresh us to the core
we shall hurdle every boundary,
healing as we soar
on a flight of the seemingly impossible
our hearts at last will sing of freedom
and Alba Gu Bràth the land of compassion
First of all, welcome one and all to Peter/A/Writer blog post number Forty, the first of the astronomical Spring, 2021.
In the recent warmer dryer weather there has been much to enjoy of nature, though I did not during that balmy time see any hedgehogs or dragonflies.
Now in the windswept and wet days of late March, though I have ventured out less, I have received within my home alternative manifestations of the hedgehog and dragonfly variety. And I have to tell you they have both been very welcome visitors.
I can now release the breath I’ve been holding. I can tell the news I’ve received and perhaps permit myself to experience a little nervous excitement.
This weekend a hedgehog called past to confirm that in April there will be a book – a chapbook of twenty two poems bearing the title Art of Insomnia, a book showing me as the author of all of these little works, a book published by Hedgehog’s very own Poetry Press. It has been in the offing for a wee while but it is actually happening for real within weeks.
As if that wasn’t sufficiently exciting, there have been dragonflies too; dragonflies who flew through my window bearing a kind invitation requesting I join them at a special event on 4th May 2021 to read a number of poems from Art of Insomnia.
The Dragonflies present…Zoom event on 4th May will also feature two other poets, Margaret Royall and David Bleiman, who have work coming out at around the same (April/May) time.
Each featured poet has also been encouraged to select at least two poets to share a ten minute ‘support slot’. I am delighted that the three poets I asked all agreed to come along to be my ‘support stars’. I’m bursting to tell you who they are but have decided to keep it a surprise… just get yourself a ticket (free of charge, praise the Dragonflies!) and come along virtually, with a drink from your free home bar, or a camomile tea, to enjoy what will be a genuinely varieties evening of poetic expression.
I’m so confident you’ll have a great time that I offer you this promise -money back if not totally satisfied!
This is the link to the Dragonflies present page, where you can secure your free ticket.
It also has links to author pages kindly provided by Dragonflies for each of the featured poets, where you can get to know more about the author and his/her new publication and other work. There’s even a short poem sample from each of the new publications to provide a flavour of the book and hopefully whet your appetite.
Though somewhat nervous about all this, I’d be honoured if you decide to come along to join the evening.