Bordeaux Bay

Bordeaux Bay
Watercolour by Tony Taylor http://www.paintingbreaksguernsey.com

Sunday, 28 February 2016

HARE RAISING EXPERIENCE

During the autumn of 2015, I completed a quartet of poems under the working title Murchen, which is the Gaelic word for Hare, a creature that I find fascinating and charming in equal measure.
All four parts of the Murchen quartet are written as stand-alone poems that may be read in isolation or as part of a whole.
The one below, part four, is probably my favourite.


 


HIDDEN

Stillness is her best defense.

So she becomes
a russet stone,
a dark tussock,
a clod of earth, upturned;
perhaps merely a shadow
there by a dry-stone dyke
on stony, open ground.
No shiver of wind
disturbs her tawny fur.
She sits, unbreathing,
stiff as an idol.
Only her eyes, bead-bright
in a fine-boned head,
travel like planets.

With leather-gaitered boot,
green Barbour shape,
tobacco reek,
and slow-departing tread,
danger passes.




A BRIEF NOTE ABOUT HARE COURSING

Hare coursing is the pursuit of hares with greyhounds which chase the hare by sight,not by scent. It is illegal in Scotland, Wales and England and became illegal in Northern Ireland in 2011. Sadly, it remains legal in the Republic of Ireland. 
In England and Wales, illegal hare coursing has continued since it was banned by the Hunting Act 2004. 
A typical hare coursing event involves groups of two to twelve people walking in a line approximately 10 metres apart then letting their dogs loose to chase flushed hares. The activity is filmed so that the coursing can be played later, when betting occurs. 
Illegal hare coursing occurs on a large scale in Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk, and gangs often travel large distances to course hares. Dogs are starved beforehand so the hares are often ripped to shreds when they are caught.
As long ago as 1516, Thomas More wrote: Thou shouldst rather be moved with pity to see an innocent hare murdered of a dog, the weak of the stronger, the fearful of the fierce, the innocent of the cruel and unmerciful. Therefore, all this exercise of hunting is a thing unworthy to be used of free men.
 

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

LOST FOR WORDS

‘There are certain meanings that are lost forever the moment they are explained in words.” 
 Haruki Murakami

As one who was
from an early age encouraged to read, I have enjoyed a lifelong love affair with the English language, whilst displaying no great aptitude for learning Italian, French or even Gaelic.
The absence of comprehension of a language other than English, however, has not impacted on my passion for music and my record collection is eclectic.
I listen, enraptured, to Italian, French or German opera, Portuguese fado, Swedish visor, South American nueva-cancion and assorted Eastern European folk music, allowing the emotion that the strange voices convey to affect me viscerally, without need for translation.
What does this say about words? 

Only that they are important and not important, depending on the context.

Mont Saint-Michel, Bretagne, France.

It's always a great pleasure to discover unfamiliar music or a new voice, and two singers I uncovered recently are long-established but new to me.
Denez Prigent is a Breton singer/songwriter who performs in his native tongue, the language of Bretagne: a minor, thus threatened language.
His duet with Australian singer Lisa Gerrard, on one of his songs, Gortoz A Ran, has an hypnotic quality that had me spellbound on first hearing.
Interestingly Gerrard’s contribution to this duet is in a variant of glossolalia, a spontaneous language akin to Pentecostal tongues.
Despite my ignorance of Breton and the impossibility of understanding Lisa Gerrard’s contribution, this song takes me to a charmed place where comprehensible words are not important.
You can listen to Gortoz A Ran by clicking here.


During the wartime occupation of the Channel Islands, many locals communicated in Guernsey-French to avoid being understood by German soldiers and often to plot some form of resistance

Thus, language can be a weapon of sorts.  
That thought inspired this poem, constructed in the form of a double tetractys.

German soldiers marching in St Peter Port

LANGUAGE

You
stranger
remain deaf
to our language.
We exclude you with our strange words, keep you
away from our true essence. You invade
but you cannot
conquer us.
We stay
free.


Sunday, 21 February 2016

GLOSSING THINGS OVER

I don’t own a television, but years ago when I did, I wrote this little rhyme as a comment on the power of the medium to distort our perceptions, making the unreal real and the real itself barely believable. 




 








REALITY SHOWS

The news reader has glossy hair
and what a cheerful tie he wears;
his voice has rich mellifluence
when speaking of the world’s affairs
but when he pauses, to the screen
come dying children rank with flies,
intransigent politicos
concealing lies with other lies
and burning cities, earthquakes, storms,
dire famines, warfare, threats of war,
Islamic madmen seeking death ...
 

... eventually it starts to bore
 

so I flick to the other side
to find Big Brother’s freak show there,
but none of them wear cheerful ties
and none of them have glossy hair.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

HIGH FLYER

The story of Icarus is a well-known and intriguing one.
An ambiguous fable open to different interpretations, it is seen by some as a cautionary tale about the disastrous consequences of vainglorious ambition. 
The poet W H Auden famously used it in his celebrated poem, Musee des Beaux Arts.      
Doubtless I should be cautious attempting to follow Auden, but here goes.





BIRDMAN
  
I am falling from high
but they do not notice.

The air, through wings
that promised much,
keens like a mourner.

Creeping ants below
evolve
to shepherd,
ploughman,
angler.

I fall unseen.

Someone
will dream it later.

I have no time
to scream.

The water is
hard as stone.


Saturday, 13 February 2016

CHALLENGING TIMES

It’s always a challenge when I am commissioned to write a poem. My response inevitably depends on the specifications of the recipient.
I occasionally receive commercial requests for poems from businesses or charities.
These are fundamentally different from private commissions, which generally come from friends or family and often require humorous rhymes for birthdays, anniversaries or other social events.
The great majority of my writing, however, is recreational and for myself alone. The challenges are those I set myself. 

Occasionally, when a topic has been designated for a forthcoming Guernsey Open Mic event, I find myself with a subject, a deadline and no poem written. 
The challenge of February’s Open Mic topic is Time and, whilst I’ve previously written poems on the subject, I decided to write yet another, Tides of Time.

 


TIDES OF TIME

When I was never sober, young and single,
at closing time, Auld Pat would keep repeating
Time’s up, please gentlemen ...
time’s up now please! 
 

his voice like tide retreating
over shingle,

but in my youthful, drunk elation,
half-legless, careless as a cat,
I gave no thought to time.   

Time’s up now, gents!
I’ve learned the error of my ways in that.
Such cruel education.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

FACE TO FACE

It’s intriguing to think that each of us may have a doppelganger somewhere: another human whose physical appearance is indistinguishable from our own.
Fascinating as it may be, the chances of ever coming face to face with our ‘other self’ are slight.
On those rare occasions that such confrontations do take place however, the media is quick to pick up the story. 

Read one of them here.





 





DOPPELGANGER

A child with bucket, spade and cap,
on muddy sea-side sand, at one   
with earth and sky, his world a game
played on and on, each day the same,
each hour chock-full of newness, fun,
his childish mind an undrawn map,

he squats to dig, untiringly,
through the earth’s core, a tunnel wide
into its fiery crust and out
to Australia.  He has no doubt:
his mother said, the other side,
if he digs on, is where he’ll be.

His adult self, two decades on,
looks in a mirror, sees a face
like his, but with a stranger’s eyes.
Across the world a stranger sighs.
Two images that interlace
but never meet, merge into one.


For  a 'Royal' Doppelganger click here.

Friday, 5 February 2016

WATCH THIS SPACE

Astronaut, Tim Peake's adventures in space prompted this poem. 
How on earth does one settle back into ordinary life having once experienced the extraordinary?



ASTRONAUT

Round and round the earth in space
spins the eager astronaut
in a module like a pebble
far-flung from a vast slingshot.

Oceans, mountains, forests, cities,
spin beneath him like a child’s top.
He could hear the planet humming
if he ever cared to eavesdrop.

Spaceman, when your orbit’s ended,

gravity resumed again;
wings clipped, what can now fulfill you
when earthly life is so mundane?



Tim Peake's image of the Channel Islands from space. The larger lighted areas are parts of the English and French coasts