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.
It’s St Patrick’s Day but still morning so I positively haven’t allowed any alcohol to pass my lips; yet here I am in tears. (Note: a Scottish meaning of the word ‘greeting’)
And why you may ask – what’s wrong with you man?
Well I’ve just listened to a rendition of Danny Boy by a four-year old child. Yes, I did say four years old. She’s called Emma Sophia Ryan. Currently I don’t have the facility on this site to show video but presume you can get it by searching YouTube.
So, why is this silly old fool weeping while listening to a tiny child singing a sentimental song that he’s heard a thousand times before?
Sure, there’s the fact that it’s a touching thing to hear an immature voice stretching to render the tones and meaning of a love song. Sure, there’s something about the purity and innocence of it all.
However, in my case, there’s another layer to this, which is hearing a song anew and in that sense hearing it properly for the first time. Until listening to little Emma Sophia’s version this morning, I had not fully absorbed the words and meaning of the final verse. And that’s what got the tears flowing.
‘You’ll come and find the place where I am lying
And kneel and say an “Ave” there for me.
But I shall hear, though soft you tread above me,
And all my grave shall warmer, sweeter be.
And you will bend and tell me that you love me;
And I shall sleep in peace until you come to me.‘
Undoubtedly there will be cynics who’ll consider me a fool to say this, but this has renewed my belief that visiting the resting place of the love of your life and telling that person you still love her/him does have a point.
And even if you don’t believe it’s possible to bring comfort to the deceased by this means, I can assure you there is comfort in this action for the one left behind. Time is not linear and any moment is a good moment to tell someone you love them.
Today’s experience also confirms that contained within the constraints of this buttoned-up Scot there can be found the emotions of my Irish heritage.
With that admission it remains only for me to wish all of you reading this, Irish blood or not, cynic or not, a very Happy St Patrick’s Day. (Note: the more generally accepted meaning of the word “greeting’)
Today I have to depart from my general plan to post weekly. For various reasons, I feel compelled to include an extra short one but make no apology for that. At the end of a week which included International Women’s Day, I think Mother’s Day is as good a day as any to do this.
In the last few days the murder of a young woman at the hands of a predatory male has shocked me, but not surprised me. We are living in a world in which incels, players and other entitled males are exercising unequal power damaging society in a way similar to the behaviour associated with white superiority. Both must be corrected but today the treatment of females must be the focus.
It is a matter of shame that women are having to hold vigils in memory of Sarah Everard (and others previously affected), and a scandal that they are being told they have to take additional steps to keep themselves safe, precautions which men do not have to take. Men are to blame for this.
Men have an obligation to address their own behaviour so that women do not walk in fear. Women I know, including my young sister, are afraid to walk alone through countryside or woodland, even in the daytime, and city parkland at night.
I, and all other men, have to accept that apart from possessing greater physical strength, they have been nurtured by a society which convinces men they are entitled to more – whether that be higher salaries or freedom of movement. There is also the trite ‘boys will be boys’ label which starts in childhood and tends to carry on into adulthood. In addition to those features, there is constant male peer pressure fuelling the continuance of toxic masculinity.
In the early hours of this morning – all of these things on my mind – I scribbled this first draft of a short poem:-
That is all
I am a man
Not that man
Of whom I am
I truly am
- That is all
Not about love
Nor about lust
Not about any
- That is all
I am a man
Not that man
Of whom I am
I truly am
- That is all
When I first check the time, it is 1.00 a.m. on 5th March. Now that’s earlier than I have been going to bed in recent times, so this is my chance. In an attempt to alter my upside-down lifestyle, I must go to bed NOW.
Okay, I’ll do it just as soon as I check Twitter, Facebook and my email inbox. So I do that two or three times and leave a post on Facebook that I won’t be interacting there for a few weeks, for personal reasons – and they are very genuine personal reasons which will keep me quieter than usual until mid-April.
Good. All satisfactory, and it’s still well before 2.00 a.m. So get yourself into the bedroom, Peter. Sure, no problem.
Then I remember a couple of ideas that were spinning around in my head earlier, when I was out walking…just in case I forget, better do something about those.
Right, suddenly it’s nearly 3.00 a.m; I have written one complete poem, started a second and written lyrics for the chorus of a pandemic-related bluesy song which (let’s face it) will never see the light of day. That last item was prompted by an exchange I partly overheard when I was on my walk. A young woman talking to her friend as they passed by me “…not starting a relationship during lockdown”; her pal responding, “I’m the same…”
So there you have it, for what it’s worth; just a brief insight into my disorganised life and creativity, feeling compelled to respond to the prompts of a brain that sparks when you’d prefer it to rest.
On a positive note, by the following day other ideas had inveigled their way into my anti-social hours and suddenly there were four fresh poems ready to send off for an approaching deadline.
Even more positively, one of those was accepted surprisingly quickly (on 10th March).
I really would prefer to have a more regular lifestyle but when things seem to be working as they are, it is difficult to change.
As the date finally approaches for publication of my debut chapbook Art of Insomnia (ironic, I know!), the first quarter of 2021 has started well in the writing sense.
Some things I am not permitted to mention yet. However, I hope to be in a position to tell you a bit more soon.