Friday, 2 December 2016

Literary Advent Calenar Day 6: Hello Winter

Image result for winter

Winter is the season of solitude, the season of wisdom and inner growth.

Relearning Winter - Mark Svenfold

Hello Winter, hello flanneled
blanket of clouds, clouds
fueled by more clouds, hello again.

Hello afternoons,
off to the west, that silver
of sunset, rust-colored
and gone too soon.

And night (I admit to a short memory)
you climb back in with chilly fingers
and clocks, and there is no refusal:
ice cracks the water main, the garden hose
stiffens, the bladed leaves of the rhododendron
shine in the fog of a huge moon.

And rain, street lacquer,
oily puddles and spinning rubber,
mist of angels on the head of a pin,

and snow, upside-down cake of clouds,
white, freon scent, you build
even as you empty the world of texture—
hello to this new relief,
this new solitude now upon us,
upon which we feed.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Literary Advent Calendar Day 4: Trees in Winter

Art by Erika Pochybova-Johnson

"And don't think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It's quiet, but the roots down there are riotous." 

~ Rumi

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Literary Advent Calendar Day 3: Starlings

Image result for starlings murmuration

' I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings...'

In this season of waiting and winter, there are many beautiful things... 

Starlings in Winter - Mary Oliver

Chunky and noisy,
but with stars in their black feathers,
they spring from the telephone wire
and instantly

they are acrobats
in the freezing wind.
And now, in the theater of air,
they swing over buildings,

dipping and rising;
they float like one stippled star
that opens,
becomes for a moment fragmented,

then closes again;
and you watch
and you try
but you simply can't imagine

how they do it
with no articulated instruction, no pause,
only the silent confirmation
that they are this notable thing, 

this wheel of many parts, that can rise and spin
over and over again,
full of gorgeous life.

Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us,
even in the leafless winter,
even in the ashy city.
I am thinking now
of grief, and of getting past it;

I feel my boots
trying to leave the ground,
I feel my heart
pumping hard. I want

to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Literary Advent Calendar: Day 2 The Wonder

Image result for white christmas flower

Whatever way you look at it, the Christmas season is a season of wonder. 

The wonder of Christ being born, the wonder of one year ending and another beginning, the wonder of childhood, of generosity, of genuine heartwarming goodwill.

What this poem touches on so well I think is our longing at this time of year to return to that innocent and wondrous state of childhood, all that 'spirit-shocking wonder,' which allows us to see again 'the newness that was in every stale thing'. And to do this, we must leave overindulgence behind and focus on the simplicity of things, the 'heartbreaking strangeness...wherever life pours ordinary plenty'. 

Advent - Patrick Kavanagh

We have tested and tasted too much, lover-
Through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder.
But here in the Advent-darkened room
Where the dry black bread and the sugarless tea
Of penance will charm back the luxury
Of a child's soul, we'll return to Doom
The knowledge we stole but could not use.

And the newness that was in every stale thing
When we looked at it as children: the spirit-shocking
Wonder in a black slanting Ulster hill
Or the prophetic astonishment in the tedious talking
Of an old fool will awake for us and bring
You and me to the yard gate to watch the whins
And the bog-holes, cart-tracks, old stables where Time begins.

O after Christmas we'll have no need to go searching
For the difference that sets an old phrase burning-
We'll hear it in the whispered argument of a churning
Or in the streets where the village boys are lurching.
And we'll hear it among decent men too
Who barrow dung in gardens under trees,
Wherever life pours ordinary plenty.
Won't we be rich, my love and I, and
God we shall not ask for reason's payment,
The why of heart-breaking strangeness in dreeping hedges
Nor analyse God's breath in common statement.
We have thrown into the dust-bin the clay-minted wages
Of pleasure, knowledge and the conscious hour-
And Christ comes with a January flower.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Literary Advent Calendar: Day 1

Image result for literary advent calendar

Well I searched everywhere for such a thing as a 'Literary Advent Calendar' - but no, seems there is no such physical thing. So I'm following the lead of the fabulous Book Riot website and making my own digital one, here. 

Join me for a daily dose of seasonally inspired poetry, literature, music or musing over the next month.

Suggestions warmly welcomed!


Day 1: 
Who better to kick off the seasonal pageant of poetry than Carol Ann Duffy, who as well as being Poet Laureate of Britain is also a sort of Poet Laureate of Christmas, with her many Christmas poem projects. Here she is with her sombre but beautiful take on Advent:

Advent - Carol Ann Duffy

One last silvered leaf fails to fall
from its tree.  A hard year’s winter
has frozen your voice.

                           You would still rejoice
if you could sing, in your listening church -
where candles thrill to their endings,
light’s brave lovers - gold carols
this dark Advent;
                     the hurt heart hearkening:

Lo! He comes with clouds descending.
But there is the descant moon
over our scarred world, its cold, pure breve,
and you will sing to your child
                                   on Christmas Eve.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Day 28: Transformation

Today's theme is...transformation. For some reason, transformation always makes me think of...metamorphosis, alchemy. 

Image result for gold light

Especially how love can be alchemy and gild everything gold...

'The Alchemy Between Us' ~ Young Galaxy

 And how it can trigger a metamorphosis, a 'soul shift' like Sylvia Plath talks of here:

Love Letter - Sylvia Plath

Not easy to state the change you made.
If I'm alive now, then I was dead,
Though, like a stone, unbothered by it,
Staying put according to habit.
You didn't just tow me an inch, no-
Nor leave me to set my small bald eye
Skyward again, without hope, of course,
Of apprehending blueness, or stars.

That wasn't it. I slept, say: a snake
Masked among black rocks as a black rock
In the white hiatus of winter-
Like my neighbors, taking no pleasure
In the million perfectly-chisled
Cheeks alighting each moment to melt
My cheeks of basalt. They turned to tears,
Angels weeping over dull natures,
But didn't convince me. Those tears froze.
Each dead head had a visor of ice.

And I slept on like a bent finger.
The first thing I was was sheer air
And the locked drops rising in dew
Limpid as spirits. Many stones lay
Dense and expressionless round about.
I didn't know what to make of it.
I shone, mice-scaled, and unfolded
To pour myself out like a fluid
Among bird feet and the stems of plants.
I wasn't fooled. I knew you at once.

Tree and stone glittered, without shadows.
My finger-length grew lucent as glass.
I started to bud like a March twig:
An arm and a leg, and arm, a leg.
From stone to cloud, so I ascended.
Now I resemble a sort of god
Floating through the air in my soul-shift
Pure as a pane of ice. It's a gift.

But the thing I associate most with transformation is vision. How poetry, for example transforms vision. To most of us, a something so ordinary and simple as say a stone, is just that, a stone. But to a poet, imagination transforms it into a thing of wonder:

Stone - Ogden Nash

Go inside a stone
That would be my way.
Let somebody else become a dove
Or gnash with a tiger's tooth.
I am happy to be a stone.

From the outside the stone is a riddle:
No one knows how to answer it.
Yet within, it must be cool and quiet
Even though a cow steps on it full weight,
Even though a child throws it in a river;
The stone sinks, slow, unperturbed
To the river bottom
Where the fishes come to knock on it
And listen.

I have seen sparks fly out
When two stones are rubbed,
So perhaps it is not dark inside after all;
Perhaps there is a moon shining
From somewhere, as though behind a hill—
Just enough light to make out
The strange writings, the star-charts
On the inner walls.  


Sunday, 11 September 2016

Day 11 Tattoo

 Image result for pattern of light on water

Tattoo - Wallace Stevens

The light is like a spider.
It crawls over the water.
It crawls over the edges of the snow.
It crawls under your eyelids
And spreads its webs there-
Its two webs.

The webs of your eyes
Are fastened
To the flesh and bones of you
As to rafters or grass.

There are filaments of your eyes
On the surface of the water
And in the edges of the snow.

And similar to this, I love the tattoo that the shadows of leaves in summer create on the ground: 


Image result for swallow tattoo on wrist

Tattoo ~ a mark of freedom, free spirit design, a stamp/statement of individualism, a moment of fleeting impetuosity forever captured in ink...

A tattoo can be many things, metaphorically speaking. A mark of some kind, one you maybe regret, but have to learn to live with. or a declaration of personal intent, a peekaboo glimpse of personality, a permanent accessory that proclaims who you are.


(for World Suicide Prevention Day)

You didn't ask for it,
this inscribed dark matter.
Its ink runs in you, black,
night after night.

But the world will return soon
with its story of colours.
Shadows only make
for temporary tattoos.

Image result for heart tattoo


Your love has etched itself in my life
like a tattoo
I never wanted;

pierced my heart
in a painful flair
of permanence

I wasn't ready for.
At first it looked
like the trembling shadow 

leaves cast on sunny ground -
arabesque intense truth. 
Now, it's a wizened scribble,

deep dark scar tissue
of how keenly I felt,
how deeply I lost.

When I love, I feel its needle sting.
When I write, I use its ink. 


Tattoo Ideas

I've always wanted a blue butterfly on my wrist
to flick and flicker should life get dull and flat.
The colour of creativity, the spark of a whim
to carry as a totem, blue and deep as a dream.

Or a swallow with outstretched wings -
visual footnote stamp of what it means
to be free, to swoop and glide through days,
an inked charm against being tied down in any way. 

Or in eloquent script, a favourite quote noted, 
a spiral of words to invoke haughty heed,
a spell realised as the letters bleed into skin.
What's on the inside clearly marked from without

(You see why temporary just won't do.)

 Image result for small blue butterfly wrist tattoo

Poems (c) Siobhán Mc Laughlin

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Day 10: Time

Image result for time is now

"Forever is composed of Nows..." ~ Emily Dickinson

Is Time a constraint or a construct? Does it consist of moments or momentum? Is it linear and limited or / An ever-ticking down commodity or an never-ending expansive resource? How Time can stretch into long-lasting or shrink and speed by.

“We live in time - it holds us and molds us - but I never felt I understood it very well. And I'm not referring to theories about how it bends and doubles back, or may exist elsewhere in parallel versions. No, I mean ordinary, everyday time, which clocks and watches assure us passes regularly: tick-tock, click-clock. Is there anything more plausible than a second hand? And yet it takes only the smallest pleasure or pain to teach us time's malleability. Some emotions speed it up, others slow it down; occasionally, it seems to go missing - until the eventual point when it really does go missing, never to return.”
― Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending


Image result for dali - memory 
'The Persistence of Memory' ~ Dali

My collage tribute to Dali and Shakespeare's sonnet 'Like as the waves make towards the pebbl'd shore,. So do our minutes hasten to their end..'

"The past beats inside me like a second heart" 
~ John Banville, 'The Sea'

So many fascinating things about Time, not least of all, memory, a sort of repository of Time. 9I read a really fascinating short story recently by Anthony Doerr from his collection 'Memory Wall' about a future world in which memories are commodities, bought and sold on the black market. 

Image result for memory wall - anthony doerr

Also, time travel. The Space-Time continuum (Interstellar anyone?) Oh to go back in Time and fix everything Marty McFly style. 

Image result for time space continuum

Image result for julian barnes quotes on time

The Universal Clock, Clock Museum, Mexico

                                                          Image result for white rabbit in alice in wonderland

"Time in the hand is not control of time..." 
                                                     ~ Adrienne Rich ' Storm Warnings'
 Image result for inside of a clock

horologist. 1 : a person skilled in the practice or theory of horology. 2 : a maker of clocks or watches.
A cool book about time and Horologists:

    Image result for david mitchell the bone clocks 

And perhaps to master Time would be a real masterpiece. Speaking of, Marcel Proust's  A La Recherche du Temps Perdu  or 'In Remembrance of Times Past' is perhaps the finest musing ever written  on the subject of Time. 

Image result for marcel proust quotes on time

Time, A Poem

A souvenir of time: memory. 
A side effect of time: nostalgia. 
Consequence of time: age.
Currency of time: weeks, days, minutes, 
golden moments.



Friday, 9 September 2016

Day 9: Dance

Image result for don't walk dance

 Image result for famous art about dance
 'Dancers in Blue' ~ Edgar Degas

"How can we tell the dancer from the dance?"
 ~ WB Yeats, 'Among School Children' 

 "Couldn't possibly tell you how I feel, but I can dance, dance, dance..."

"Put on your red shoes and dance the blues..."