Sunday, 27 May 2012

The Sunday Poem: Shakespeare

I'm a little late with the weekly poem today - I've been waylaid by the gorgeous summery weather we've been having!

Maybe the most famous of 'sunny day' poems (even though it does not explore the subject matter) - is Shakespeare's infamous sonnet and love poem 'Shall I Compare Thee?' in which the bard compares his beloved muse to a summer's day.

And how can you better that simile? Summer's days are the epitome of happiness with everyone's spirits uplifted as if by magic. The ultimate compliment indeed to be compared to one

I personally love this poem for its lounge-worthy tone, its breezy shuffling manner of thought and the delighted revelling in a lover's perfection that parallels to that incomparable contentment of lying in and basking up the sun's rays, with not a care in the world. (No, not even aging, Mr S...)

Enjoying the sunshine,

~ Siobhán

Sonnet 18 - William Shakespeare

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course, untrimmed;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
Nor shall death brag thou wand'rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to Time thou grow'st.     
  So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,     
  So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Monday, 21 May 2012

RIP, My Beloved HP!

I am devastated. I am so sorry to say that my beloved HP laptop, after 4 years of excellent service to me, has met its demise. And oh dear reader, the loss!

I feel like I've lost a limb. A phantom pain. So I thought I'd write about it - to offload my grief, to give you all a heads-up on my maybe future absence and to pen an honourable epitaph to my trusted writing machine for so long.

I enjoyed such a special relationship with my HP. It was my trusted steed that carried me into word battle, not just my writing instrument, but my writing incentive. How it would assent to my every demanding whim and finger tapping frenzy without freezing, without complaint, without malfunctioning. It was one of the sole things in my life that could live up to my fast-paced synapse-firing thinking. (I am currently using my sister's laptop, an obstinate Dell - how many times it has tested my patience - and although I am thankful, it will never compare to my beloved neat and nimble and speedy and extraordinarily efficient HP.

My HP was conducive to sporadic writing fits. Its keys were soft and responsive to fast typing (whereas these keys are heavy and cumbersome and not made to glide with the speed of a writer's words!) Oh how I long for its black keys, finger smudged lighter in the middle from use. I love the sound they'd make as they tapped frantically along to the sparking of thoughts. God I miss it!

And I've been so less prolific now because of the loss of not just my writing medium, but all my files, that have been banished to hardrive limbo until I invest in another new laptop. (No I didn't back-up - the pain!)  And how to do that exactly? Where would I start? Losing a laptop is like losing a pet. How can they be replaced?

I feel so lost without it. So cut off. Feel like I'm floating along in limbo ever since. My laptop connected me to my power source: my writing. Sure, I scribble in notebooks, random pieces of paper whenever inspiration strikes, but it's NOT THE SAME. For me, computer script has always been synonymous with a  finished written product, the professional draft, not the pencilled one. The ease of editing and pasting and chopping lines can never be equalled with pen and paper.

I know most writers would profess their love of the quill and paper method, the alchemy of ink transforming a blank page, but I don't! I need my computer to do that for me! Pen and paper just screams amateur, reminiscent to me of diary scribblings, doodles, and worse -feather-light ramblings that will never be committed to digital permanence and weight, ideas, in their most infant stage, with no hope of growing into fully-fledged scripted pages.

Oh the ache of it! To be disconnected from all my years of wordship is hard to take. I feel so wordless - the intellectual equivalent of legless I'm sure.  And to be writing on another person's computer doesn't feel right. I can't find my groove. Can't navigate through this model's slow and bedamned programs compared to my own! (By the way, any Dell owners ever experience random demonic cursor leaps?? I'm typing along and suddenly I'm three lines above typing----- malforming a perfect sentence into gibberish. It's out to get me, it really is. I feel my nerves fraying every moment I'm on it - THEE most annoying thing a writer could experience while in writing mode, ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

So I'm going to have to sign off and maybe not write again until I can find a suitable replacement. Every day without my familiar blue screen and hundreds of Word files of thoughts at the click of a very compliant mouse is one in which I feel blanker and blanker. Can words really affect us so much? Yes! I'm sure if you emptied out my insides you'd find Garamond fonted words, entrails made of sentences and ink where there should be blood.

And my poor desolate HP now lies with its heart (hardrive) removed, a big blank black silence. I am sorry to think I will never see its blue light power up again or hear its welcoming start-up ping or  be comforted by its blue-sky Word backdrop or feel its heavy weight on my lap or comfortingly smudged keys fit snugly beneath my fingers.


If you don't see any posts from me in the next while, know dear readers, that I am in mourning for a dear friend. A medium and a mentor. Know that somewhere out there, in the non-digital universe, I am surely scribbling, but only on paper. Until that opportune time, when I meet the next ideal HP and take to the neon lights of Word again.

Laptopless and lost-in-limbo -

~ Siobhán.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

The Sunday Poem: Alice Oswald

Hmm. This is my new venture - the Sunday poem. Sounds very literary doesn't it? But, it's just this: a poem offered as a whisper, a piece of peace in a sometimes chaotic day. Instead of a 'thought for the day', a 'poem for the day.' Like in the Sunday papers, but better choices of course! (Why, oh why must they serve up the traditional pickings as predictable as a Sunday roast when there are so many more fascinating poems and poets out there??? They certainly aren't doing anything to help poetry's reputation!!!)

I thought I'd start with one of my favourite poets - Alice Oswald. Why? Well honestly, because I just happened upon a collection of hers I have -  'Woods Etc' and opened it randomly. And how appropriate to May this one, with dandelions in full bloom, their fuzzy heads an invitation to fits of childish picking and blowing and wishing.

Alice Oswald is renowned for her original use of language, which can be clearly seen here, comparing the dandelion to an old woman being shaken to pieces. It is the flower of amnesia she points out -  ditsy and forgetful and scattered and scatty.  But it is also much more than that, a playful invitation to contemplation. The tipping point in the poem comes in the last line, with an unexpected reference to Osiris (mythical god of the afterlife) weighing the soul with a feather. (There are lots of mythical references in Oswald's poetry.)

Who would have thought the dandelion to be representative of the soul? Well, that's the beauty of poetry - uncanny comparisons that'll jolt you awake and link the seemingly ordinary everyday with the extraordinary world that exists parallel to it, layered in beauty  and meaning and spirit.

You can read more of Alice Oswald here.

Have a great Sunday,


Head of a Dandelion - Alice Oswald

This is the dandelion with its thousand faculties

like an old woman taken by the neck
and shaken to pieces.

This is the dust-flower flitting away.

This is the flower of amnesia.
It has opened its head to the wind,
all havoc and weakness,

as if a wooden man should stroll through fire…

In this unequal trial, one thing
controls the invisible violence of the air,

the other gets smashed and will not give in.

One thing flexes its tail causing widespread devastation
it takes hold of the trees, it blows their failings out of them,
it throws in sideways, it flashes the river upriver;

the other thing gives up its skin and bones,
goes up in smoke, lets go of its ashes…

and this is the flower of no property,
this is the wind-bitten dandelion
worn away to its one recalcitrant element

like when Osiris
blows his scales and weighs the soul with a feather.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

642 Ways to Kick Writer's Block!

Stop the presses! Alert the media! Step away from the blank page! - A cure for writer's block has just hit the shelves! - '642 Things to Write About' is a book to beat the block like no other.

Not a writing manual or guide. Not a meditative reflection on creativity. No. It's a book of writing exercises to be precise. 642 of them. Designed to beat writer's block. And put the fun back into writing.

But wait, listen. It's not like all the other writing exercises us writers know and loathe. You know - the classic workshop ones like: write about your morning, your journey to the group, an interesting character, an overheard conversation blah, blah, blah... Or the classic writing guide staples like: describe an object right in front of you or write up observation notes. Nooo sir-eee.  

These exercises are unlike any others you will have come across. They're uber original and quirky and fun and laugh-out-loud ridiculous and zany and zeisty and exciting and so out-there as to be encouragingly and enthusiastically do-able.

I fell in love with this book when I saw it masquerading as a copybook/notebook in a bookshop a few days ago. I memorised some of the exercises and tried them at home, and voilá, today I have purchased this bible of creative nurturing due to: a/its insanely cool exercises and b/my innate writer's block now in remission, hurray! If there's anything that can kick its butt - this is it!
Don't believe me? Have a look at these random samples and try to stop your mind from galloping into its wild imaginative recesses:

-You are an astronaut. Describe your perfect day.
-Write a poem about a tomato.
-What can happen in a second.
-Write a love letter to a person you dislike.
-Describe a sneeze.
-Write about a tree from the point of view of one of its leaves.
-At a romantic restaurant on a Saturday night, a guy gets down on one knee and begins to propose. You are a sportscaster doing color commentary of theoccasion for a live television audience.
- A beginner's guide to getting up in the morning.
-Describe a red item without mentioning the colour.
-A superhero's bucket list.
-Write a bathroom wall limerick.
-Describe your favourite part of a male/female's body using only verbs.
-Describe a tree from the point of view of one of its leaves.
-Write a stand-up comedy routine to address the United Nations.

It's the zaniest writing book ever! And the most entertaining. Written by a group of San Francisco writers, thirty-five to be exact, and the exercises, all 642 of them, were penned within a day. In the introduction, writer PO Bronson explains that the book was written to stir up creativity, but also 'to remind you that no, not everything has been written, not every good idea is already taken by someone else. There are infinite number of things to write about and so many fresh directions for your story to go.'

The book itself is like a notebook/textbook, with ruled lines for each exercise, so you can carry it around as a journal and keepsake of your progress into the creative unknown. And the feint ruled lines beckon to be filled in right away - no room for planning or putting off. It's genius! A revolutionary writing handbook - in a store near you!

Me, I can't wait to dive in to these exercises and see that, even on boring blank page days, when no words are willing to show  and everything seems so sombre and serious, writing is truly meant to be fun. A playground. Where the imagination exhausts itself in enjoyment.

I think I have just stumbled upon the anti-dote to block, and this one, unlike all those other medicinal exercises the doctor ordered, is gonna be fun.

Let the spontaneous scribbling begin!

~ Siobhán.

*Read more on '642 Things to Write About' here

Monday, 7 May 2012

Sakura Season

It's Cherry Blossom Season! May. All blue skies and pink-petalled trees. I LOVE cherry blossoms! They're so beautiful. They have the wow factor, with the power to stop you in your tracks with their fluffy bunched blossoms beckoning and the petals swishing around in the wind like confetti.

There is something so special about cherry blossoms and whenever I see one, I'm stunned in my tracks. They are beautiful from a distance, their sprawling pink blossoms magnificent against a blue sky. Or even up close, where the papery flowers hang like decorations, their darker centre like a face. And petals softer than any Kleenex ad maintains!

They're especially special in Japan, where they are called 'sakura.' The cherry blossom is not only a thing of beauty for the Japanese, but also a metaphor for the ephemeral nature of life. Impermanence is what they represent. They only bloom for a few weeks, then shed all their petals and return to ordinary green-leafed trees again.

But the Japanese make the most of this special time. They hold cherry blossom festivals - 'Hanami' (which translates as 'flower viewing') all over the country, where they come together in parks and gardens to picnic and hold parties beneath the trees, celebrating the beauty of the blooms and all the blessings that go with it. It's an annual custom that dates back many centuries in the country and has even spread to some places in America, and I'm sure, many an appreciative cherry blossom lover's garden worldwide.

I love this idea of Hanami, of celebrating the beauty that nature offers and with it, simultaneously, the blessings of friends, family, get-togethers and gratitude. And of course, the symbolic bloomings of our own selves, happiness, love, hope and everything else that flowers in this season.

What I love most of all about cherry blossoms is their ability to uplift. You can't help but feel buoyant when you see one. Their very appearance seems festooned for Spring. They are celebratory, waving bunched blooms around like pom-poms, a pink flush against the sky, and at their best when the petals are shedding and the ground below them becomes carpeted in pink.

I'm sure many of us missed the news story last year that occupied only a little square in the newspapers but represented so many ounces of hope - about the 1,000 year  old cherry blossom tree in Fukishima, blooming after the terrible nuclear disaster there.  Scientists and spectators alike were amazed to see the flowering of the cherry tree, not far from the plant itself, flowering in March last year. It represented a potent symbol of hope for the country.
(Read more about it here)

For me, cherry blossoms mean so many things, but namely: beauty, happiness, inspiration, hope - and a buoyant declaring of all these joyous Spring feelings. I've included a few of my own poems below celebrating the cherry blossom, as I'm afraid I couldn't find very many poems on them - does anyone know of any? Or even any of your own? I'd love to read them!

So whatever cherry blossoms mean to you - get out there and enjoy them while they're still here in all their baby-pink or cerise glory! Because like all things of great beauty, their allure lies in their transience.

~ Siobhán.

Cherry Blossom Haiku

Like careless pennies
lucky cherry blossoms fall
soft wishes granted.

Hanami Haiku

My heart sits under
falling pink cherry blossoms,
basking in blessings.


Cherry Blossom Blush

Each blossom is a blush.
Look closely and you’ll see,
beneath the bluster of blooms
a pale white petal, like a face
demure and pure;
and then, the delight
of its most striking part:
the inner cerise heart
at its centre, deep
and dark and sweet,
keeper of nectar secrets.
And how it has stained
the outer petals a pinched pink,
like a dye overrun;

just like love
has run through you
like a raspberry ink,
colouring every pale insignificance
into a tell-tale revelatory pink.

Now I see how you blossom
when I'm around,
long-held buds of love burst
into blushing blooms
in this Springtime of flowering sentiment;
now ripe-ready for shedding
like cherry blossoms falling
floating, fragrant and soft
from a blue sky smile,
their confetti petals
celebrating the tumble
to earth,
to telling,
to truth.
Each causing the ground beneath
to blush pink in acceptance.

But all before
transient Time
whooshes in like a wind,
and withers and wounds them
into tissued tears.

© Siobhán Mc Laughlin (May 2011)