Poetry Drawer: The bee in the calyx by Paweł Markiewicz

The bee in the calyx

there was a tender
muse-like moment of charm, such an Apollonian tear
when the cute bee set down on a noble rose
in the kind calyx of the bloom, full dreamy splendour

the gentle sun smiled, at that time, at it fairy-like
oh, a sweet morning gracefulness of rays,
the owl stayed with the courage that is in the habit
of flying into an ancient forest homewards

there was endlessly angelic-beautiful early spring
a tender March like a breath with pleasant smell of hummingbirds
and in bright nightly moonlight which is fulfilled in splendour of butterfly
the ghosts of open fields are dreaming incredible with the gleaming time of fantasy

dreams about the morning star and this steeped in legend Venus
boasted about the dreamy bee with marvellous native glow
because it experienced something very old such a butterfly-like feeling
as if it had been infinite fledged as the heavenly she-daydreamer

that bee wanted to relish only the dew
take a few drops of an eternal water to itself
easy drinking and its wings dipping

yes the rose was knowing in a gorgeous dream of the primeval delight

as soon as the insect looked in the mild kind dew
it saw there an enchanting minute small mirror

through the mirror the bee observed the dreamful nature
the hidden spring mermaid from an other time as trace of ontology

that was the boundless wonderful eagle-like eternity
what a melancholic land of spring dream-magic!

the mermaid with the harp was a young poet of muses
that youth forsooth with a thousand warm lights of hearts

the bee dreamed like an Apollonian rider
through the March into April

meanwhile the soul of the bee became tender
willing to a starry flight as well as worth the ambrosia

the while in rosy calyx and mermaid´s observation
have enchanted forever the dream of the eternity

Pawel Markiewicz was born 1983 in Poland (Siemiatycze). His English haikus and short poems are published by Ginyu (Tokyo), Atlas Poetica (USA), The Cherita (UK), Tajmahal Review (India) and Better Than Starbucks (USA). More of Pawel’s work can be found on Blog Nostics.

Inky Interview Special: Poet Linda Cosgriff

Linda, congratulations on your debut poetry collection, Hormoanal, published by Matthew James Publishing, and launched at the Stockport War Memorial Art Gallery. What made you decide to write about the menopause?

Hi Deborah, thanks for having me!

Hormoanal is actually a collection of two halves: the first deals with motherhood. Those poems were written organically, inspired by my children as they grew up. That’s my favourite way to write, listening out for poems as I live my life. The second half was written much more intentionally: when I realised I was on the menopause I thought (grumpily), ‘Well, if I’m going through this for the next five years or more, I’m getting something out of it’. I made a point of thinking about the symptoms instead of simply enduring them. I love to laugh at life, because laughter makes everything more bearable, so the decision to poke fun at the menopause was easy.

Can you share with us a couple of poems and walk us through the idea behind them?

The Perils of Making a Baby

Stretch marks march over homegrown hills.
Ankles, feet, even knees, swell.
You love this child created in love.
You hate the heartburn, snoring, nausea
but – most of all – your unencumbered mate.
You miss your feet. And sometimes, the toilet.
It’s scary: no one will say what happens at the end,
down there amongst the hair…
They say all your brains go into the first baby;
you can’t concentrate enough to disagree.

You want this child but sometimes,
you just can’t stomach it.

It was difficult to choose representative poems because part of my style is to write in as many different ways as possible, so some poems rhyme, others don’t; some have irregular stanzas, some are regular forms; some are short, some are long; some are punctuated, some are not; some have regimented syllable counts, others don’t, and so on. Plus, I’ll mix it up so that very few poems have the same elements. When I write thematically, I like to approach the theme from as many angles as I can think of.

I chose this poem in the end because it shows my love of wordplay. As an example, this line: ‘You miss your feet. And sometimes, the toilet’ plays with two meanings of ‘miss’ and allows for a punchline. The use of ‘stomach’ on the last line operates in the same way.

The poem also shows how I treat supposedly sacrosanct subjects (in this case, the reverence in which society holds pregnant women) and makes fun of them, using myself as the source: I did love being pregnant; but I hated it, too. I was often grumpy and unpleasant to my husband. Being pregnant does not make you a Madonna, and we should stop buying into that stereotype.

A Visit From Auntie Flo

I had a little show
But it is not considered good
To have an unexpected flow
Of private-area blood

My preventative device
Should have stopped it at its source
It wasn’t very nice
I have to blame the men-o-pause

My poems are often visual and don’t always lend themselves to reading aloud. In this one, I use italics to represent whispers and the way we mouth embarrassing words and use euphemisms. I’m a bit of a preacher, there’s no doubt, but if I make a point, I try at least to be amusing.

It’s Hard Being A Woman

When panty liners curl
and stick to your hairs,
it frickin’ hurts.

This is my favourite poem in the book, and is most representative of my personality and my style: I have no filter, I tend to blurt things out without thinking, but I make you laugh (sometimes against your will). This poem always gets a laugh, though it’s usually shocked laughter.

I’m not great at metaphor and going around the houses to say what I want to say, which is a problem for me, as that is kind of the point of poetry. I remember writing a poem as a teenager, lamenting that poems don’t say what they mean or mean what they say: the meaning/intention of my poems are almost always obvious to readers. A poet for whom I have huge respect once told me that my poems don’t make the reader do any work. She was right; and I’m okay with that. I write for myself but my poems often have an audience, and that audience is most often made up of people with no interest in poetry; if they have to work for it, they don’t enjoy it. If they don’t enjoy themselves, neither do I.

You are part of the excellent Write Out Loud poetry collective. Tell us more.

I attend Stockport WOL at Stockport War Memorial and Art Gallery. WOL is the largest poetry organisation in Britain and has a fantastic gig guide and poet collective on its website. WOL encourages everyone to have a go at sharing their poetry in a safe space.

Stockport is a little unusual in the WOL family in that, though we are classed as an open mic night i.e. anyone can have a go, we don’t have an actual mic, and there’s no stage and no audience; rather, we sit in a circle in the upper gallery. It’s intimate and safe and we welcome newcomers.

We are heavily involved in the Stockport arts scene, collaborating regularly with other groups. Last year alone, we wrote and performed ekphrastic poems inspired by your own Mark Sheeky; we participated in a commemoration of the centenary of the end of World War I, and published an anthology of specially written poems; we supported Marple Book Week by attending their open mic nights as a group. We also support the art gallery each year for World Poetry Day, providing readings and workshops; and right now there is an exhibition of work in the gallery from a collaboration with Stockport Art Guild.

It’s fair to say that Hormoanal wouldn’t have been published without WOL. Matthew James Publishing organises Marple Book Week and they invited Stockport WOL to their first open mic night at the Samuel Oldknow pub. Terrified at the idea of attending a ‘real’ open mic night, but encouraged by the group to give it a go, I did, and I had a blast. One of the publishers approached me afterwards and asked me to send them some of my work; the rest, as they say, is history. I would encourage all poets to attend open mic nights because you just never know who’s listening…and start with us! We’re a friendly group.

Where did you study Creative Writing? Have you any advice for budding poets?

I’ve been writing poetry since primary school but only began to take it seriously when I took a creative writing course as part of my Literature degree with the Open University. Eager to hone my skills, I attended several creative writing courses at local colleges, plus any free writing workshops I could find. One of those – coincidentally, held at the art gallery – led to the creation of Stockport Writers, which we run as a workshop at the Hatworks once a month. Free to attend, we particularly welcome new writers. Finally, thanks to the recent availability of student loans for second degrees, I have just graduated from MMU with a Masters in Creative Writing.

I learned a lot from all of this, of course, but the real learning for me came from writing, reading, and editing. Sitting at my desk each day and writing something – not necessarily a poem; reading poets I like and, more importantly, dislike (I have so many poems inspired by my hatred of Larkin, there’s probably a second collection all ready to go); leaving poems for a while and then coming back to them with a critical eye: these habits taught me to think critically, helped improve my work. As with any skill, practice is how we improve. My advice (I have lots of it) would be to read and write as much as you can; to keep an eye out for free writing workshops; to look online for free writing courses – many universities around the world offer them online (known as MOOCs; simply Google ‘creative writing moocs’) and the Open University has some excellent ones available via OpenLearn.

The best resource for newer writers, however, is to find some like-minded people and set up a critiquing group. I learned a lot by submitting my work for critique; but I learned even more by critiquing the work of others because I had to justify my comments i.e. think critically, and so often I would suggest to another poet the reason why their poem didn’t quite work, and realise that, actually, I made the same mistakes in my own poems.

As you grow in your craft, be an encourager, a mentor, for those who come after you: watching other writers blossom has been a great joy to me, and I often learn from them in unexpected ways.

Don’t believe in writer’s block. Yes, there are times when the words won’t come, so do something else. I think of non-writing times as my brain lying fallow, like in crop rotation; eventually, the words will come again. They always come again. Fretting about it is counterproductive.

Finally, do it because you love it, because you have to. It’s difficult enough to create something from nothing; if it’s a chore, why are you bothering? Go do something you actually enjoy instead.

Who inspires you?

People are going to laugh at my inspiration, but I swear this is true: The Two Ronnies. Listening to Ronnie Corbett’s shaggy dog stories inspired my blog writing style; and Ronnie Barker’s clever wordplay is something I try to emulate in my poems.

My favourite poet is Roger McGough; he’s funny, clever, topical. I read his work as a teenager and realised that poetry didn’t have to rhyme or be serious to make a point or to be enjoyed. I also love Wilfred Owen, but his influence is more about didacticism than style.

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m reading Elizabeth Bishop at the moment. I discovered her on the MA and I spend a lot of time listening to her recite her work in You Tube videos. ‘One Art’ has displaced Owen’s ‘Disabled’ as my all-time favourite poem. I’m also re-reading Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric. Her didacticism is wrapped in a deceptively casual style and I absolutely love it. Andrew McMillan’s Physical is another fabulous read. He writes about a world of which I know nothing and makes it accessible; he is blunt, and that appeals to me.

What’s next for you? What plans have you got?

What’s next for me? Time off. I’ve been so busy for the last two years, completing the MA, preparing Hormoanal, working with various community groups (I deliver poetry readings and writing workshops around the borough), that when I had a recent health scare, I was glad of the enforced rest!

I have two complete collections that I want to shop around; they are very different from Hormoanal, though each is themed and both have humorous moments. I also want to improve my submission rate – women are notoriously bad at submitting their work; Hormoanal would never have happened if it had been down to me. I would also like to get back to sitting at my desk each morning as I haven’t written seriously since my poetry dissertation. But I’m not worried; it’s just a fallow period 🙂

Matthew James Publishing: Get your copy here

Linda on Twitter

Write Out Loud

Poetry Drawer: The Apparition/ Anchor (For Berjouhi) / Amends/ A Student’s Reminiscences by Dr. Susie Gharib

Dr. Susie Gharib is a graduate of the University of Strathclyde.
Her poetry and fiction have appeared in The Curlew, A New Ulster,
Straylight Magazine, Down in the Dirt, The Ink Pantry, the
Pennsylvania Literary Journal, Mad Swirl, Leaves of Ink, the Avalon
Literary Review, The Opiate, Miller’s Pond Poetry Magazine, WestWard
Quarterly, Adelaide Literary Magazine, Grey Sparrow Journal, The
Blotter, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Crossways, The Moon Magazine,
the Mojave River Review, Always Dodging the Rain, and Coldnoon.

The Apparition

The rain seeps into my brain.
The swishing of car-wheels entails mud-stains
on pants, in veins.
I strive to grasp
the shredded clouds
with dripping hands, in vain.

The trees, heeding my gaze,
now sway with contrived grace,
disguising their strain,
for the fog that stalks my pace
has begun to draw a face.

The leaves grimace.
A candle-flame is displaced.
A dog stops howling, disgraced
as a hand on my shoulders pats then strays
down to my hand that has grown quite weightless.

My fingers interlock with boneless flakes.
A torrent of glows seeps into my frame
as of bygone days
when we frequented this very same lane
to evade the hailstones of the human race.

Anchor
{For Berjouhi}

Her face may be blurred by the mist of fifty years
but my childhood shores still boast the marvellous gifts
she once bequeathed,
the aeroplane magically flying above our heads,
the tortuous roads for sliding match-box cars in blues and reds,
Andersen’s tin soldier miraculously resurrected from the belly of the fish,
a doll, my height, with ebony lashes and gorgeous plaits,
a Christmas-ball with ballerinas of silver flakes,
and Joan d’ Arc on a Templar’s steed.

Her presence must have borne the vehement passion
the very ancient monasteries of Anatolia evoke,
she must have carried in her genes some ancestral trait
of the early Christian martyrs who readily died
for the King of Kings,
a Gregorian gift.

I felt anchored in her lap
and securely snug at the altar of her eyes,
on which burned candles whose stature remained intact
despite flames and flickers which refused to weep
while diffusing their innumerable halos of light.

Amends

How can we make amends
to lost friends
when every single utterance has been rendered impotent?
How can we redress the grievances
of forests’ inmates
whose habitats have been effaced?
How can we rectify the gaping holes
in heritage walls,
the crumbling leaves of historic lore?
How can we mitigate the bile
of wounded pride?
How can we reconcile
a face with a smile?

Atonement is not an invisible force
that embalms the mind with a remedial dose.
It is a genuine feeling of remorse
which to serious action it takes recourse.
It is an act of healing rift
that goes beyond verbal craft.
It is an effort to repair damage,
to rebuild, replant, retrieve and salvage.

A Student’s Reminiscences

Townhead, George Square, and Cathedral Street,
I tightly close my eyes on these Glaswegian spheres,
then distill them into cooling tears.
It’s true I was friendless and without means,
but at least I roamed those amicable domains
unmolested.

The front window of W.H. Smith
was my sanctuary in times of distress.
I walked the isles in search of books
I was certain I could not purchase,
instead inhaled the fragrance of print,
regaled my eyes with the gloss of tints
of Penguin, Macmillan and university presses,
and was not found wanting in taste
for preferring books to a hookah’s blaze.

And the monster who resided in the dark blue lake
had imparted its subterranean grace
to my slender frame,
for the ripples that caressed its bashful face
still carry the fragments of Columba’s gaze.

Poetry Drawer: Four Poems by Dr. Susie Gharib

Books From The Pantry: Exposed by T.L. Dyer (The second book in the Hidden Sanctuary urban dystopia series)

“We’re living a half-life… And it’s not enough.”

A reluctant leader, Jacob fights to remain loyal to the tribe’s doctrine.

But in an unpredictable city, how far should they go to bend the rules?

With their mentor gone, Jacob promises to care for the Tribe – its members and its values. But as new threats dog the city backstreets, the men are open to flexing the doctrine to serve the fallout as well as to meet their own needs. Fearing he is losing control of the tribe entrusted to him, Jacob is pushed toward despair and the person he used to be.

In the city, Alex bears the scars of rebelling against their corporate-run government and can’t afford to step out of line again. Jobless, paranoid and alone, he considers leaving the city behind altogether. But then he meets Alice, a new reason to stay, even when in the weeks that follow he’s drawn closer to danger than ever before.

In this second book in the series, protagonist Jacob has been passed the role of Tribe mentor. Not a natural leader – or at least not perceiving himself to be – this is not a position he wants, but is obligated to carry out as their previous mentor’s dying wish. To make matters worse, life in the city is becoming more dangerous for those who don’t comply or fit the mould, and in response the men of the Tribe start to challenge their own doctrine and the values they govern their lives by. For Jacob, such challenges are dishonourable to the man who established this alternative and supposedly pressure-free lifestyle for them all, and what follows is a battle of wills that he struggles to win. Torn between loyalty to his former mentor and maintaining the trust of the other men, Jacob sinks further into despair, one exacerbated by his own perceived inadequacies and prediction of inevitable failure. In this second book, Jacob retreats to a state of mind he hasn’t visited since before the Tribe, but which he slides back into easily and which leads him down the path to self-destruction.

Like the first book, Hidden, this one carries themes of mental health – such as anxiety, depression, imposter syndrome, panic disorder and paranoia. It also depicts addiction and drug use.

T.L. Dyer’s website

Get Your copy of Exposed here…

Inky Interview Exclusive: T.L. Dyer

Inky Interview Exclusive: Romani Poet Raine Geoghegan

Congratulations on your debut poetry pamphlet, Apple Water-Povel Panni, published by Hedgehog Press, which was previewed at the Ledbury Poetry Festival in 2018. Your collection is based on your Romany family. Can you please tell us more?

I have been working with a mentor, James Simpson, during the last two years. About eighteen months ago we were discussing the idea of working on a sequence of poems based on one theme. I mentioned to him that I was half Romany and that I had written a radio play many years ago about my Romany grandmother, which I had never submitted. His face lit up and he suggested that this was what I should be writing about. Once I decided to write about the Romany side of my family everything fell into place. I wrote poems, songs, monologues, prose poems and short pieces of prose, I couldn’t put my pen down. I remembered many things from my childhood and some of the Romani language (jib). I began speaking with cousins, many of whom were full blooded Gypsies. I listened to a tape recording that I had made of my granny speaking about her life in the 1990’s. I dreamt about Gypsy Travellers, wagons (vardos) and members of my family. I even felt my granny’s presence whenever I read one of her monologues. There was a real power in the work and in the process. It’s still with me now, although changing slightly in terms of focus.

After previewing my pamphlet, Apple Water: Povel Panni, at the Ledbury Poetry Festival in July 2018, I received a lot of positive feedback from both Romany Travellers and non-Roma (Gorgios). I soon became aware of a collective thirst for Romany poems and literature, and also of the many Romany writers who I didn’t know existed. David Morley has been very helpful and I have been inspired by the work of Damian le Bas. Like Damian, I am a didikai, half and half. I was born in the Welsh Valleys, my father was Welsh and my great grandparents were from Ireland. I find that only being half Romany helps me to have a clearer perspective on what I am writing about.

Would you share with us a couple of poems from Apple Water-Povel Panni and walk us through the idea?

Keep movin’

The last weekend in May, a Friday, we pulled up on the poove. We got the fire goin’ and washed the little chavvies ready for bed. Our Ria and me were drinking mesci when our Sammy shouted. ‘Dick-eye the gavvers are comin’.’ All the malts came out of the vados and we stood there. We ‘ad to ‘old the men back as the gavvers started to wreck the site. One of ‘em kicked the kittle off the yog. He shouted. ‘Pack up and get going, you’re not welcome ‘ere.’ I ‘ad to ‘old my Alfie back, ‘e don’t lose ‘is temper much but when ‘e does, watch out, like that time he snoped a guerro in the yock outside the beer shop an ended up in the cells for a night. It rained ‘ard, we got drenched as we packed up all our covels. The chavvies were cryin’, the men swearin’ under their breath knowin’ if they said anythin’ they’d get carted off. Our Tilda was moaning about not gettin’ sushi stew. Us malts started to sing,

‘I’m a Romani Rai, a true didikai,
I build all my castles beneath the blue sky.
I live in a tent, I don’t pay no rent
an’ that’s why they call me a Romani Rai.’

As the men untied the ‘orses, me and Ria cleared up the rubbish. I ‘eard the gavver say, ‘bleedin gypos’. My Alfie called out, ‘the gavvers are grunts, let’s jel on, keep movin’.

We kept movin’ but sometimes we stayed put for a while, like when we was ‘op pickin’ or pea pickin’.

‘I’m a Romani Rom, I travel the drom
I hawk all the day and I dance through the night.
I’ll never grow rich, I was born in a ditch
and that’s why they call me a Romani Rai.’

All together in the poove
the best of times.
Thank the blessed lord.

Poove – field; Chavvies – children; Mesci – tea; Vados – wagons; Dick-eye – look there; Gavvers – policeman; Malts – women; Yog – fire; Snoped – hit; Covels – belongings; Sushi – rabbit; Didikai – half Romany & half Gorjio; Rai – a rough and ready person; Drom – road; Grunts – pigs; Jel on – let’s go.

If you look at the prose poem, ‘Keep Movin’, you will see that it has two verses of a song called ‘I’m a Romani Rai’, author unknown. This is a song that Romany folk love to sing even if they’re not didikai’s. Some time ago I listened to a radio programme about Travellers and how in the 1950’s they were constantly being harassed and moved on from where they were staying. It wasn’t easy to find stopping places, (atchin tan’s). I also remember my granny telling me about this when she was alive and how the policeman (gavvers) didn’t care who they moved on. I used my granny’s voice in this piece, voice is very important and in this poem, we learn what is happening through her eyes. She tells us, like it is: ‘We got the fire goin’ and washed the little chavies ready for bed./ Our Ria and me were drinking mesci when our Sammy shouted. / Dick-eye the gavvers are comin’. Later in the poem the women (malts) start to sing. ‘I’m a Romani Rai, a true didikai, / I build all my castles beneath the blue sky.’

I wanted to show how strong the women were, in fact when I have read my poems to an audience, many women have noticed this. This piece was inspired by my granny as she was a very strong and resourceful woman. Her motto was ‘keep movin’ and she loved to sing. The very last line is something she used to say a lot: ‘Thank the blessed lord.’

‘Hotchiwitchi’ has proved to be a very popular poem. It is gruesome, the thought of eating a baked hedgehog, but in the old days when the Travellers would stop by the roadside, they would have to eat what was available, rabbits, (shushi) and hedgehogs were the most popular. How to bake a hedgehog? This is how its’ done.

Hotchiwitchi/Hedgehog

to bake an ‘otchiwitchi;
roll it in the clay,
drop it in the embers of yer yog.

go and sing a song,
chase a sushi down the drom,
do a little jig, jog, jog.

when you open up the clay,
the spines will come away,
what’s left is sweet and tasty.

chank it while its ‘ot,
it maybe all we got,
giorjio food it’s not

chew yer little jig, jog, jog
chew yer little jig, jog, jog

Hotchiwitchi/jog jog – hedgehog; Yog – fire; Drom – road; Sushi – rabbit; Chank – eat; Giorjio – non Romany.

I have loved experimenting with both form and rhythm and when I read this poem aloud it has a definite rhythm.

The cover of Apple Water-Povel Panni is breathtaking. Who designed it?

Mark Davidson designed the cover. I absolutely love it. Originally he was going to go for a collage effect, using some of my old black and white photographs, but he changed his mind as he wanted something more dramatic and colourful. The paisley design works beautifully. Deborah Tyler-Bennett wrote a review for Under the Radar, Issue 22. She wrote this about the design of both outer and inner cover: ‘What Hedgehog achieved with the look of the chapbook, was to mimic aspects of a family album – a deeply personal set of poems matched by a cover printed from a Romany shawl, inner-pages with a stunning photograph of the poet’s Mother, and family pictures throughout the volume.’

How did Earthworks come about?

I founded Earthworks in 1992 while I was studying for my first degree in English Literature and Drama at Roehampton University in Surrey. I had already been acting for some years and had always wanted to do something a little different. Earthworks was an experimental physical theatre company. There were five women involved and we also worked with musicians. Our first play was called, ‘Peace’, and was literally about women and peace making. We used some set texts and poems and also wrote some of our material. The opening scene consisted of various poses whilst we were covered with a large black net, a little like a fishing net. It went down really well at the university and we received a small grant from the Drama department. I then suggested that we create a piece based on Wangari Mathaai, a Kenyon Peace activist whose mission was to plant thousands of trees in Kenya as a way to demonstrate against President Moi. She had set up the Green Belt Movement and had a lot of opposition from the government. She was imprisoned many times and beaten. Her story was incredibly inspiring because she went onto become a member of parliament and the first woman in her community to gain a PhD. I called the play, ‘The Tree Woman’. We took the play out to various venues, other universities, London Fringe and had planned to take it to the Edinburgh Fringe with another production from Questors Theatre in Ealing, however two of the members were planning to go abroad and for personal reasons I opted out. What I loved about Earthworks was that it was a collective, we all shared in the writing and acting and two of us directed. For ‘The Tree Woman’ we even had a tree made which looked real and some of the acting took place around the tree. A wonderful experience for all of us.

You are featured in the film, Stories From The Hop Yards, by Catcher Media, which is based on the photography by Derek Evans. How did you get involved in this, and what did you do?

Last year I was contacted by a researcher working for Catcher Media, a film company based in Herefordshire. She had approached the editor of Romany Routes, the journal for the Romany & Traveller Family History Society, asking for suggestions of people who knew about hop picking. One of my poems, ‘The Way of the Gypsy’, had been published in the journal and was about my Romany granny who used to go hop picking in Bishop’s Frome in Herefordshire. After speaking with the researcher, Marsha, I was invited to go to Bishop’s Frome and be filmed. It was a fantastic experience and I found myself quite moved when I spoke about my Romany family, the Lane’s and the Ripley’s who all picked fruit and hops there. My Mum met my Dad who was from the Welsh Valley’s there and they were married the following year. The film was centred on the photography of Derek Evans and was premiered at the Courtyard in Hereford last February, unfortunately I couldn’t go due to heavy snowfall but I did read at Ledbury Poetry Festival at the film screening there. My interview can be seen on Vimeo. The interviews and other information can also be found on Herefordshire Life Through a Lens. It was a very enriching experience and one I would gladly do again.

Tell us about your dancing days.

Dancing days. How I loved them. My Mother took my sister and I to dance class when were very young. I was three years old and took to it immediately. I trained in Classical Ballet, Tap Dance and Modern Jazz. My first professional job at the age of seventeen was dancing with Jean Belmont & The Gayetimers. It was one of London’s top floorshows. It was hard work, often we would perform two or three shows a night, arriving home in the early hours exhausted. It did, however, give me a good grounding in the business and I went on to work all over the UK and Ireland. I eventually ran my own dance troupe called Burlesque which was a dance/theatrical unit. We supported acts like Shakatak, Chas & Dave and The Barron Knights. I frequently broke away from dance to focus on acting. I had worked at the Royal Court Theatre when I was sixteen and had performed in other plays too. When I was at Roehampton University studying Theatre Practice and English Literature I also studied Indian Classical dance, Kathak, which I loved. It has fed into my love of Indian Culture and there is a strong connection between today’s Gypsies and their country of origin, India. The Romani language is also based on Sanskrit and Hindi. My dance and theatre work came to an end when I was diagnosed with ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and other health issues. I also fell down the stairs and damaged my femur and coccyx quite badly and am registered as disabled. I love the fact that I can write from my bed if I am tired and I believe that there are always deep lessons to be learned from going through difficult times. I am, and always have been, tuned into my spirituality. I practise meditation and use chanting as a way to ground myself. I have had a good life so far and look at me now, a poet. I am blessed.

How strongly would you recommended doing a Creative Writing MA? What three things surprised you about it?

I received my Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Chichester in 2015. It really did change my life in terms of giving me a structure for my writing and a desire to get published. The tutors were simply amazing, they work so hard and try and give each student as much help and support as they can. What really impressed me was the support that came from my fellow students. We work-shopped each week, trying out new ideas and sharing our work. We had deadlines to keep to and a structure that enabled us to take our work seriously. I still keep in touch with some of my tutors and just recently I was invited to read at the University on April 1st, alongside a poet friend of mine whom I see regularly to share ideas and goals. Many of my colleagues have gone on to great things including getting their novels and poetry collections published. I am really proud.

About your monologues….what themes do you write about? Where can we find them?

I love writing dramatic monologues. Nearly all of my pieces are based on either family members or people that I have come across during my research on the Roma. Finding the right voice is so important but once I have that voice I can run with it and be free to allow the character to bloom. I also love reading them aloud and bringing in my acting experience so that I can embody their personality and have fun with it. One piece is called ‘Under a Gooseberry Bush’. It is based on my Great Grandfather and it is written in his voice. You can find it on Little Toller Books. As well as being published, this monologue is also available on a podcast on The Clearing, a fabulous online journal. Another piece, ‘Great Aunt Tilda, a Funny Old Malt’, can be found on The Ofi Press online site, (look for the 60th Issue in 2018). I heard only yesterday that I will be having another pamphlet published and it will contain my monologues/haibun poems and Gypsy songs. I am over the moon. Life is good. Thank you Deborah for interviewing me, it has been a very pleasurable experience.

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Poetry Drawer: There is a River by Raine Geoghegan

Poetry Drawer: The Last Day by Raine Geoghegan (for my father James Charles Hill)

Poetry Drawer: Sunday Mornings by Raine Geoghegan

Poetry Drawer: Hygiene by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Hygiene

My body smells bad
It keeps me from finding a partner
but without a partner
I don’t feel the need for hygiene

I have a feeling of deep resistance
to taking my clothes off
and stepping into the enslaved rain
of a tiled telephone booth

Rain inside a building
designed to keep rain out
is unnatural
If I lived next door to a waterfall
my life would be different

There are places like that in the Upper Peninsula
a 3/2 with attached garage
and adjoining waterfall
but I don’t live anywhere near there

I couldn’t afford a house in those neighborhoods
They wouldn’t let me use food stamps there
They wouldn’t let me talk to their children

Children give me a sense of possibility
but they wrinkle their noses at me
and whisper to each other

I can hear them
I have very good hearing
I hear things others can’t

I took a creative writing class
and wrote an autobiographical sketch
though I claimed it wasn’t

I claimed it was about someone
who had shit stains
in the seam of his jeans

The teacher said
it was a detail that had the power of veracity

I insisted on smoking in the classroom
All the other students were against me
They all washed behind their ears with ivory soap
took naps when they were told
and wore helmets when they rode their bikes

The Dean came and kicked me out
I could tell he was afraid of me
I could tell he was disgusted by my smell

If I had a girlfriend I’d be careful about my hygiene
I’d spray my feet with athlete’s foot spray
I’d go to the drug store and shoplift cans

I’d shave my face and watch the whiskers
flee down the drain
I’d use bay rum by the half-gallon

I’d put it on my clean-shaven face
and the back of my neck

If I had a partner I’d feel a need for hygiene
because there’d be a real woman
I’d want to please
and not offend

but until then my body smells repugnant,
and there’s nothing I can do
about it

Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois has had over fourteen-hundred of his poems and fictions appear in literary magazines in the U.S. and abroad. He has been nominated for numerous prizes, and was awarded the 2017 Booranga Writers’ Centre (Australia) Prize for Fiction. His novel, Two-Headed Dog, is based on his work as a clinical psychologist in a state hospital, is available for Kindle and Nook, or as a print edition. He lives in Denver, Colorado, USA.

Inky Interview: Author Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois from Denver, Colorado

Flash In The Pantry: Serotonin Reuptake by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Flash In The Pantry: Mandela Warp: A Moment in History by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Flash In The Pantry: Cooking Shows by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Flash In The Pantry: Still Wet by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Poetry Drawer: Loch by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Poetry Drawer: Photogenic by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Poetry Drawer: Microwave by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Poetry Drawer: Granite by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Poetry Drawer: Trick by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Poetry Drawer: Coal by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Poetry Drawer: Poetry Slam by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

Books From The Pantry: One Journey by Michael Forester: Reviewed by Kev Milsom

The further I venture abroad, the deeper I travel within.’

Across the years with Ink Pantry Publishing I’ve been fortunate to read and review a wide variety of literary genres. Yet, to my knowledge, I’ve never reviewed a book that focuses upon travel writing. Thankfully, any sense of cautious trepidation at confronting this unknown genre has been somewhat lessened by the knowledge that the author is one I am familiar with, and whose words have genuinely touched my mind and heart in the past.

The book begins with a poem and a foreword, both of which immediately whet my appetite for what lies ahead, for Mr Forester is a writer who seeks not only to educate the mind, but also to touch the heart. His foreword immediately nails a variety of exploratory colours to his mast.

Here are four voyages, ventures undertaken simultaneously into the soul and into the outer world, undertaken over a period of fourteen years:

A confrontation with the devastation of the Amazon rainforest and the unceasing exploitation of its resources and people.

An encounter with the power of forgiveness in South Africa, fifteen years after the ending of apartheid.

A pilgrimage of self-exploration and enlightenment to Nepal and the Himalayas.

A learning and teaching tour of the Philippines, evaluating the impact of rapid economic modernisation.’

Thus begins a series of four, lengthy journeys across the world, with the author as our trusty guide. Within each journey, Michael transports us into the heart of each community, allowing the reader sincere samplings of worlds far beyond our daily comprehension. From each country, we are dropped into rich cultures of society; although ‘rich’, in terms of financial security, is often far from the reality of what we are exposed to. What makes this a truly enlightening experience is that Michael Forester isn’t just taking the reader on a physical journey, he is seeking to find the true soul of each location he visits.

Yet, as I look up at an electronic advertising hoarding, I see a young Nepali couple beam down indulgently on their two-year-old son in his ‘I -❤-Nepal’ t-shirt. The same dreams of love and happiness have brought this couple together as are dreamed by young lovers throughout the world, as were dreamed by my generation and throughout all of history. And now, these stereotypical parents dream their dreams for their son, who, when the time comes, will dream of happiness and love, from which will come another generation to be beamed down upon, indulgently.’

This doesn’t mean that physical descriptions within the book aren’t abundant, for within each village, town, city and country, we are served sumptuous portions of descriptive text, along with a variety of Michael’s personal photographs; more than enough to feel us mentally walking alongside the author as he seeks to unravel the inner truths of each place. Most importantly, Michael gives detailed insights into the people he encounters, from shopkeepers who chase the author through several streets in order to sell him their wares, to enlightened Buddhist monks feeding pigeons in a town square.

Lost in thought, I take the departure gate to the car park. On the ride back into the city, my driver asks where I am from in the UK, for he has spent three years in Hastings, learning business studies. I do not ask why, after such training, he is driving a taxi. He and I both know his time is yet to come.’

Michael’s writing style throughout the book portrays both his depth as a formidable writer and also as a caring, spiritual human being. His words drip with honesty and curiosity, as we are taken to the Rain Forests of South America, then onward to South Africa, Nepal, Thailand and The Philippines. Within each place, we are treated to the highs and lows of the location, with a special emphasis on the native people; how they think, how they act and how they dream. The themes of spirituality and global conservation are common within the book and Michael addresses these issues truthfully, leaving the reader to make up their own minds on the matters addressed. At no point does the reader feel pressured into adopting the author’s personal stance on anything we observe. We are merely there as witnesses and Michael’s words makes us feel like we are his friends. Along with each part of every journey, we are treated to Michael’s changing perceptions on the world around him, such as a piece of self-internalisation when wondering whether to buy a stone pendant.

The questions I habitually ask myself are ‘Why do I want this? Will it enhance or retard my journey?’ The inner answer is surprising. I want it because the energy around me is changing, and yes, this stone is indeed on my route map. I buy. I have long been aware that my journey is taking me in directions I could never imagined. But change brings the opportunity for newness and growth. I am open to change. I am open to growth. I am open to the journey’s moving into new territory.’

I’ve glanced at several travel books in the past, usually the kind of fare one finds within hotel rooms, or laid neatly upon coffee tables in self-catering cottages. In truth, I’ve never felt the urge to pick one up and read it from cover to cover. However, One Journey is a definite exception and, like Michael’s previous books which I have had the pleasure to read, it is likely one that a reader will return to many times after it is complete.

A stunning book and very much recommended.

Michael’s Website

One Journey on Amazon

Inky Interview: Michael Forester with Kev Milsom

Books From The Pantry: Vicious by Michael Forester: Reviewed by Kev Milsom

Books From The Pantry: Forest Rain: Spiritual Learnings for a New Age by Michael Forester: Reviewed by Kev Milsom

Poetry Drawer: At Exit 50; The Shade Oak; Wedding Song by Robert Demaree

AT EXIT 50

On the interstate
Vacant property
Unsold for twelve years:
Once a gentlemen’s club,
Topless waitresses,
Who knows what else;
Later a stand-alone church
(That’s my term—they called it
A Worship Centre),
God’s sense of fair play,
Pastor charismatic but unschooled,
Divorce counselling,
Choir accompanied by bass guitar.
Seller motivated,
Will renovate for new owner.
Builders of big boxes
Wait in the wings.

THE SHADE OAK

Our friend’s husband, now deceased,
Had suggested cutting down
The oak at the water’s edge.
Would improve our view of the mountain,
He thought, but we prefer
Shelter from the high
Hazy sun of July,
The private rise and fall of inner tubes
On the waves of passing boats,
Hidden from jet skiers.
Each year I trim back dead branches;
Our grandchildren grasp the stubs
Like subway straps.
We watch from the porch
When a fisherman’s line
Gets snarled in leaves
Weighed down by a predawn rain.
We did not like Wilbur all that much,
To tell the truth.
We did not cut down the tree
And would not, even if the state allowed,
Content to float in the shade
And picture the mountain
From memory.

WEDDING SONG

Soft light through Spanish moss,
White chapel on a sea island:
We have gathered over many miles and years,
Her law school friends, his cousins from Kent.
His precious little girl bears flowers.
The organist quietly plays Beethoven, Rachmaninoff,
Then, with boldness, Jeremiah Clarke,
Melodies that tell of the tenacity of love,
How it can sometimes get delayed,
How it will come back again,
How love persists, prevails.

Robert Demaree is the author of four book-length collections of poems, including Other Ladders published in 2017 by Beech River Books. His poems have received first place in competitions sponsored by the Poetry Society of New Hampshire and the Burlington Writers Club. He is a retired school administrator with ties to North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. Bob’s poems have appeared in over 150 periodicals including Cold Mountain Review and Louisville Review.

Poetry Drawer: Five Poems by Chinese Poet Yuan Hongri, translated by Manu Mangattu

The Coast of Time

In the pink and white golden words
Of the day outside the garden of gods
Is the hometown of thy soul.
Far before the world was born

The prehistoric giants in gold
Engraved the epic of times to be born
To tell thee, from outer skies the city of the giant
Will once again come to the coast of time


时间的海岸

粉红色 白色 金色的词语
来自天外的诸神的花园
那儿是你灵魂的故乡
这世界还没有诞生之前

史前的巨人在黄金之上
镌刻一部未来的史诗
告诉你天外的巨人之城
将再次来到时间的海岸

The Prehistoric Giants

I live in the very eyes of the stone
I am the light of the light,
The core of the universe.
Out of water and fire I emerge
Yes, churning water, turning fire.
There was a time, in black and white, when
The space of the galaxy was resplendent with colours.
The world is a book of dreams
The city of the future is above the clouds.
The prehistoric giants thence I saw
They are solemn as mountains
Living in the city of gold, transparent in body,
Synchronous with the sun and the moon and the stars.


史前的巨人

我在石头的眼睛里居住
我是光之光 宇宙的中心
我幻化出水与火
于是有了时间 黑与白
五光十色的太空之星系
世界是一本梦幻之书
未来之城在云朵之上
我看到史前的巨人
他们庄严如山岳
居住在黄金之城
透明的身体 旋转日月星辰

The Temple of the Gods

Original words –
A picture of the heart and the spirit
A breeze blowing through the silent music
That which grows in the palm of your hand
The sun, the moon and the stars singing in form
God’s bosom, the ups and downs of the earth
The river is fragrant sweet nectar of life.
Original words are stars in the night sky
Shining bright and light upon the soul.
Plaiting along the bridge of light
Can arrive at the Temple of the Gods.


诸神的殿堂

最初的词语
是心与灵的图画
是微风拂过寂静的乐曲
是万物在手掌上生长
是日月星辰在身体里呤唱
那起伏的大地是诸神的胸膛
河流芳香是生命的琼浆
最初的词语是夜空的繁星
无不闪烁灵魂之光
沿着光芒编织的桥梁
可以抵达诸神的殿堂

Golden and Transparent

When the dainty of dawn lights up your body
You shall see the golden country in stone.
The Giant is walking in the sky
His hand holds aloft a Diamond City.
In the garden outside the sky
The other one robed in transparent gold;
He’s smiling at you.
And behind him, is a huge palace.


金色透明

当黎明之光在你体内醒来
你看到了石头里的黄金之国
巨人在天空行走 手托一座钻石之城
你看到了那天外的花园
那另一个你 金色透明
他在向你微笑
身后是一座巨大的皇宫

Flash of the Giant

When I walk the City
I shall hold it in my hand.
Blowing a breath to make it transparent.
So I saw it in the future:
The Gem edifice, a flash of the giant.
The stars cling to their bodies
As if from another universe
So I know that the sea will be sweet
And the earth will be noble as gold.


闪光的巨人

当我在一座城市漫游
我会把它放在手掌上
吹一口气 让它透明
于是我看到了它的未来
宝石的巨厦 闪光的巨人
星辰在他们的体内
仿佛另一个宇宙
于是我知道海洋将甜美
大地将重新高贵如黄金

Hongri Yuan, born in China in 1962, is a poet and philosopher interested particularly in creation. Representative works include Platinum City, Gold City, Golden Paradise, Gold Sun and Golden Giant. His poetry has been published in the UK, USA, India, New Zealand, Canada and Nigeria.

					

Poetry Drawer: Fables of The Foolish Crow: Little Sony by Saikat Gupta Majumdar

The Foolish Crow

‘How nice you sing’
The clever fox told
To see a crow with a piece of meat
In his mouth to hold.

‘How sweet is your voice?’
He again said
‘Sweeter than the cuckoo’
‘Lovely to hear’ he added

And he pleaded
‘Sing a song dear crow’
As the crow’s heart melted
And he tried to sing
The meat fell down below.

The Little Sony

Sony was the girl
Small and nice,
She could not be quiet for a while
And denied all she did with a clever smile,
While kids played with the ball
Sony was found on the ice.

She ran up the stairs often
And fell down below thrice,
All was helpless to the naughty Sony
She fed the cats her bread and honey,
Only Mom cooled her down tutting twice.

No things unbroken the little Sony left
All felt comfort while she slept
Instead of toys, she played with mice,
She was the little Sony, naughty but nice.