Wednesday, 23 November 2016

more than words

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I wonder what you think of when you hear the word poetry? More often than not when I've introduced the topic to a class of teenagers there follows a collective slumping of shoulders.

And for a while, even in adulthood, I may have been inclined to agree. But just as I balk at the absurd suggestion when I'm told that someone doesn't like books - they just haven't found the right one for them yet - I have come to the same conclusion with poetry.

There is a poem (and poet) for everyone. And I reckon you need to start with the subject. What is it you're interested in, what experiences have you had and what in this world sparks your emotions?

I've never been a fan of the long and breezy poem that meanders with floral contortions over hill and dale. Nah. A couple of my earliest poet loves were Michael Rosen and Roger McGough. Two men who appeared on kid's telly with humourous rhymes I could relate to (and in the case of Rosen - the most hilarious facial expressions; us kids were glued).  Moving through secondary school and coming to understand the term ' ethnic minority' I devoured the words of Jackie Kay who in just one poem summed up my high school experience (go to page 13)

You see it didn't matter whether these poems rhymed or not, used fancy words or slang; I got them because they got me.

And so I continue onto my womanhood, mix in a little higher education, love and lust and loss and a whole heap of black women...well now...let me just rest while I cool myself with this here fan...Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, ntozake shange, Valerie Bloom, Jean Binta Breeze.

Poetry has power. I connected with the words which lead me to search for poems that would reach out and make sense to the closed ears in my classrooms. To do this I leant back to the poets I loved because then my enthusiasm for the poems I read out loud would be infused in each line. Luckily the exam board I taught thrust the likes of Simon Armitage and John Agard onto the curriculum so I dragged students and staff out to see them...LIVE!  Being a busy working mum of three my nights grooving at gigs may well and truly bitten the dust but here I was cheering and brap, brap, brapping with a bunch of year 11s at these two blokes who picked their words off the page and kicked them off the stage into a raucous crowd.  But you see, these kids...they got it.

We have come full circle in my house of poetry as I read Michael Rosen's poetry that makes my daughters double up in hysterics.

And so have I.  My teenage angst was penned across years and pages and whilst I may cringe a little, I have learnt to celebrate the me from then. And the me from now has re-discovered my love for my own poetry once again. Words and phrases seem to flow, just now, borne from an image in a photograph, sensation from a song, memory from my past, a face in my present, wishes in my future. All in all I am wrapped up in my poetry.

So that's what I'm writing these days.

This post i in response to the What I'm Writing linky week98




more than words

Copyright: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/profile_wavebreakmediamicro'>wavebreakmediamicro / 123RF Stock Photo</a>


I wonder what you think of when you hear the word poetry? More often than not when I've introduced the topic to a class of teenagers there follows a collective slumping of shoulders.

And for a while, even in adulthood, I may have been inclined to agree. But just as I balk at the absurd suggestion when I'm told that someone doesn't like books - they just haven't found the right one for them yet - I have come to the same conclusion with poetry.

There is a poem (and poet) for everyone. And I reckon you need to start with the subject. What is it you're interested in, what experiences have you had and what in this world sparks your emotions?

I've never been a fan of the long and breezy poem that meanders with floral contortions over hill and dale. Nah. A couple of my earliest poet loves were Michael Rosen and Roger McGough. Two men who appeared on kid's telly with humourous rhymes I could relate to (and in the case of Rosen - the most hilarious facial expressions; us kids were glued).  Moving through secondary school and coming to understand the term ' ethnic minority' I devoured the words of Jackie Kay who in just one poem summed up my high school experience (go to page 13)

You see it didn't matter whether these poems rhymed or not, used fancy words or slang; I got them because they got me.

And so I continue onto my womanhood, mix in a little higher education, love and lust and loss and a whole heap of black women...well now...let me just rest while I cool myself with this here fan...Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, ntozake shange, Valerie Bloom, Jean Binta Breeze.

Poetry has power. I connected with the words which lead me to search for poems that would reach out and make sense to the closed ears in my classrooms. To do this I leant back to the poets I loved because then my enthusiasm for the poems I read out loud would be infused in each line. Luckily the exam board I taught thrust the likes of Simon Armitage and John Agard onto the curriculum so I dragged students and staff out to see them...LIVE!  Being a busy working mum of three my nights grooving at gigs may well and truly bitten the dust but here I was cheering and brap, brap, brapping with a bunch of year 11s at these two blokes who picked their words off the page and kicked them off the stage into a raucous crowd.  But you see, these kids...they got it.

We have come full circle in my house of poetry as I read Michael Rosen's poetry that makes my daughters double up in hysterics.

And so have I.  My teenage angst was penned across years and pages and whilst I may cringe a little, I have learnt to celebrate the me from then. And the me from now has re-discovered my love for my own poetry once again. Words and phrases seem to flow, just now, borne from an image in a photograph, sensation from a song, memory from my past, a face in my present, wishes in my future. All in all I am wrapped up in my poetry.

So that's what I'm writing these days.

This post i in response to the What I'm Writing linky week98




Tuesday, 15 November 2016

evergreen

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Growing up my perception of the family union was via Black American sitcoms, hip hop and soul songs or dramas and it was committed with utter perfection. Leaves of a family tree gravitating to a matriarch's kitchen table laden with food that would sustain ten armies. Generational branches momentarily re-twigging so aunts and uncles become brothers and sisters again, distant cousins break through the initial i-don't-know-you-but-i-know-we're-related ice to collectively roll their eyes at disco parents, and the elders get to reign supreme with a view of all that they have created and nurtured. 

My childhood experience amidst my Caribbean family certainly echoed with strains of what I was seeing on TV; add a little curry goat and lovers rock and you're there. I cherish memories of a beloved St Lucian aunt who would play the same reggae song about ten times in the course of a visit and would sing with glorious energy every single time and pull my awkward self to dance with her softness. Or another Grenadian aunt-cum-grandmother who would cook the Sunday dinners of all Sunday dinners then hold our mouth-watering attention whilst she prayed with us over the good part of an hour; but the food and the love of her was always worth the wait.

Two women who I wish my daughters could have known, two women who, through the prism of my young eyes, encapsulated warmth, love, joy, family. 

Life's demands can often fracture the ties that bind so I am now grateful that part of my clan have reclaimed and reconstructed our family union for nearly 8 years. Where I once stood as the child, cuddled and chided by grown ups, I now see the children of then having children of their own, the parents change their status to grandparents, the teenagers blossom into adulthood.

Our annual reunions which began as a necessary replanting of relationships, after a passing, have flourished into a happening that raises up the achievements and rites of passage amongst us, sustains the growth and collective need of an evolving family and cradles the sorrows within us. Our boughs reach from the newborn to the newcomers to the never-to-return; all life is within our roots.

And settling here on my branch, I will take time to cherish the view from here.


Tuesday, 8 November 2016

the times they are a-changing

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It's the day before the night that will be. For us in the UK,  we are mere bystanders to the US election process but will undoubtedly be affected in some way to its result.

And so we watch and wait.  Discussions have paused briefly from the Brexit fallout to decipher who is the best candidate to be (adopts TV Drama American voice) the leader of the free world.

Similarly to my own experience standing in the ballot box for our own elections this year; pen wavering over a list of names belonging to a plethora of people I didn't want to choose.  So what to do? Close my eyes and drop the pen on a random name?

No. I'm Black. There are far too many anti-people-like-me politicans on those lists. Too risky.

Go for the one I think is more likely to win and isn't too awful? Go for the one that holds at least one of my views in high regard but has no chance of winning? Screw up the ballot paper, making it invalid thereby communicating my mistrust of all candidates (or indeed my inadequate admin ability)?

Having listened to various Americans on the news over the last year, many seem to be in the same position as I was. Hearing the phrases 'best of a bad choice' or 'lesser of two evils' pre-empting their decision, I am filled with empathy and sympathy alike. I imagine there are those who will not vote because of this. So either way there are people out there who's voices will be muted in this US election.

But the prompt asked if voting was a moral imperative. I have been known to lecture my classes, my kids, anyone who deigns suggest that they won't bother to vote, that we all have a moral obligation to vote. Our Xs in boxes momentarily resurrect the souls that fought to gain this honour.

Therefore if I was faced with an unsatisfactory ballot selection, I would forget about the cult of personality, ditch the media's prismatic influence and do my research on the policies that the party of the candidate believe in.  Then clutching the one, big issue that was close to my heart and values, I would force myself to vote. 

Good Luck America.

This post was inspired by #post40bloggers #writingprompt no36: voting-a moral imperative?


Thursday, 3 November 2016

i'm still standing

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I've been really strict with my writing after the long summer holiday. Really I should have gone back to the day job but I'm dragging my 'new direction' out for as long as possible.

The writing calendar is adhered to. The coffee mornings have been declined. The housework is neglected (not sure I can blame writing for that one.). Although the novel is floundering as I consider a narrative / target audience change I am focusing on my poetry, short story and blogging writing with a mind to finding as many submissions as I can. I realised that sitting alone hiding with my writing won't do much good so it was time to get it out there.

And there lies the rub...

Whilst I know there will be rejections, it don't 'alf sting when yet another submission / competition email bears no positive news. And I haven't been doing it that long so I am aware there may be many more to come. But still. That moment when runners up are tweeted every day of the week and when you don't see your name on the penultimate day, there burns that little flame of hope - maybe, just maybe.

The announcement of the winner's name not being the same as mine can often colour my whole day - I'm still working on the whole dust myself off, pick myself up and start all over again routine - but I think it's because the length of time between any kind of 'win' seems to be stretching a tad too far for my liking.

But I suppose I won't appreciate that elusive win if I haven't felt the losses, right?

Right.

* picks up pen *

Time to start again.



This post is in response to the #WhatImWriting linky  


Wednesday, 2 November 2016

somebody's watching me

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With the family birthdays finally parked up until next spring and Christmas peering, menacingly, around the corner, I regularly stand agog at the mountain of toys belonging to my 3G. How on earth did this happen? Do they actually play with any of these toys anymore? Will they really miss any if I take half to the local charity shop? And if I hide the Argos catalogue would they be able to ask for anything at all this Christmas?

They don't need anything else.

They have food and shelter and free education, That should be enough right?

I think this because I didn't have a huge amount of toys. It's okay, pop your violin away, there are no regrets here. I had stuff; teddies, board games, a bike, my recorder, a piano and I think I managed to wangle a tamagotchi out of my parents at some point. But as most of you reading this will recognise...we were playing outside. So my feet were my toys - hah - I'm saving that one when the Christmas lists start being written next month.

The thing I do remember about my toys was how terribly afraid I was of seeing the collected button eyes peering out from furry faces that were cute and cuddly in the day but by night...

I had a huge, built in wardrobe in my bedroom that I shared with my much younger sister and every night the sliding doors would have to be firmly shut with the brood of bears obviously 'sleeping' behind. Especially the biggest one. A broad brown bear with the texture of Playschool's Big Ted but the expression of Hanbel the miserable doll.

I don't know who bought and burdened me with that bear. I imagine I should have have been grateful. But I was absolutely convinced that when I went to sleep the bears and ragdolls, lead by Beariarty would come alive, chattering about my Teddy Mother qualities, and possibly, very possibly, plotting.

So, despite incurring
the wrath of my toy charges, I ensured they were restrained nightly behind the heavy wardrobe doors. Surely those stitched fingerless hands couldn't open doors, could they?

This post is in response to a #post40bloggers #writingprompt no101:Childhood Toys


Tuesday, 1 November 2016

a question of time

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The role of the parent is a powerful thing. Do we ever stop and think how much our behaviour, mindset, welfare, skills, religion and beliefs play a part in our child's life? This may all seem very obvious but when reconsidering an answer and a conversation about two things last week, I also realised how my answers shape the world my daughters see.

First. The Trump. When his last bit of stuff and nonsense entered our homes via the media and indeed the backlash from figures such as Michelle Obama, one evening's dinner was accompanied by question after question about why people are getting so angry about this guy. It would have been very easy for me to denounce this man as a tail-swinging, pitch-fork carrying member of the human race but I decided not to. A discussion ensued with the facts we could find - my favourite place for the girls being The Week news magazine for children - and I threw their questions back at them about why people might have positive or negative views about both American candidates. I didn't believe it was my place to dump my opinions about Trump or anyone else, for that matter, into the impressionable ears of my daughters.

And second, motherhood. Mid phone conversation I became aware of the many overheard comments highlighting the not-so-starry-eyed side of being a mum. You know, the locking yourself in the loo to drink a hot cup of coffee bit. Or those moments when you have scoured the recipe books to create a healthy, fun, colourful, tasty meal only to get three sets of curled lips of disgust in return. Or the moans and grumps about what they've done again and how I have to this, that, the other, save the world because I'm a mum and who the hell else will do it?  Whilst I will not shy away from the downsides of motherhood, I have to admit I may have forgotten to counteract it by talking openly about the good bits.  Is it fair for me to be so derisive of the role that they know they are directly responsible for? And may one day choose to take on?

There are things we may give high status to in our daily parenting: not breaking the law, not littering in the street, being respectful to people.  But I'm discovering that I may have to step back in other things, offer guidance and alternatives to my views when the questions come in.