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Writings and Witterings


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Spring Morning Steps

A walk in the morning, a fine spring day,
eight little legs prance through dew in wet grass,
they ignore drops and drips, they run and play,
Mexican stand off, bow to each other,
chase round the meadow, chase birds and squirrels,
sniff at March scents, searching for who knows what?
This is walking dogs on a fine spring day.

Polly Stretton © 2021


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Mothering Sunday 2021

The kids flew the nest long ago
their chicks are grown
and have chicks of their own.
All send something–
a text with a kissing emoji,
‘There’s a bag by the gate.’

Lockdown.
Mum texts, ‘Thank you,’
adds a hug, sends love,
collects the bag before it gets damp.

A tear
trails through blusher,
marks make up
that no one will see,
splashes onto her best blouse.
She thinks of other mums,
fingers tremble,
she puts the TV on,
switches it off.

A cup of tea and sit on the sofa
surrounded by gifts and cards,
she opens the cards, alone,
reads,
misses faces,
misses hugs,
will open the packages later.

Polly Stretton © 2021

😘


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Brown and Blue

We live in canvas bells for five days’
sweat-clammy shelter,
hot in fields of hay,
as a great war rages.
Anne and I become snake
and snake charmer around a smoky campfire.
The menfolk ‘on the front’
– some of our dads –
kill.
My dad’s a Local Defence Volunteer. He has a gun.
We have a singsong, Pack Up Your Troubles for wide-eyed mothers,
nurses, head-scarved land girls,
and munitions factory workers, canary-faced women
who feast on fat pork spitting
splitting sausages that stay
on the tongue with charred onion breath, for hours.

We wonder what it’s like
on the bloody muddy Western front.
Will jam jars and cotton reels really help?
If You Were The Only Girl In The World
our mothers’ eyes shine.
Big blue-garbed Girl Guides
tease us because we’re brown
– few gongs yet –
Me, arms akimbo, in a khaki sleeping bag;
writhing, serpentine, up and down,
side to side,
while Anne tootles, fluting on her recorder,
face dark with gravy browning.
In the trenches guns shatter eardrums, pop eyeballs, make mush of bones.

The big girls give out rubbery gas masks
– hard to breathe –
they send messages using small flags;
wrinkle soapy fingers in hospitals; lather and launder dressings;
roll bandages; prep stretchers for bleeding bodies.

We collect warm hens’ eggs, harvest cabbages and keep our chins up,
knit socks and scarves for the Tommies,
and hope our mums don’t get a telegram.

Polly Stretton © 2014

This poem was published in Remember, the Paragram Poetry Anthology 2014, I mentioned this in conversation with my friend, Mike Alma, who has sent me the photo below to show what the Girl Guides looked like in the early 20th century. Many thanks Mike. Here is Mike’s photo of Doris and Peg, bet they loved camping.

Mike's mum as a Guide circa 1920

Mike’s mum as a Guide circa 1920


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A Flower Growing in the Wrong Place

A soothing blue cumulus of cranesbill clusters beneath laurel, the petals grey veined, stretching for sky under a leaf green canopy. Pecking flowers clamber up tangled with a sweet clingy weed, you know the one, with sticky burrs later in the year. There’s an empty bed with last year’s faded, crumbling woodchips; the scent lingers still. Look again, the bed is not so empty—a crumpled weed control membrane lurks partly hidden by compost, held down by terracotta bricks butted up to decking. Silverly shining, a meshed pit shows off yellow ragwort; a flower growing in the wrong place addresses the buzz and clatter of a chainsaw in the park.

Polly Stretton © 2021


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Dear Reader…

I am delighted to say that my poem ‘The Seasons Turn’ is featured in the February online ezine ‘Dear Reader’. I really liked the picture prompt that they provided, saying that it wasn’t mandatory to write to the prompt. I found the image inspiring, wrote an ekphrastic poem, and…well…they liked it! You can read it by clicking here 😄 And here’s the gorgeous picture (with acknowledgement to Dear Reader):


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Spring in Rectory Wood

Last November, 4 November to be precise, I joined some committee members of Leigh and Bransford Parish Council to plant bulbs in the newly managed Rectory Wood. Imagine my delight this morning, out walking the dogs, to find these beautiful snowdrops and winter aconites in full bloom. The pretty flowers made me smile—so happy—hope they make you smile too 😊


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Under the Cloak of Winter

‘…under the cloak of winter lies a miracle’ Barbara Winkler

Beneath elegant beech trees,
pause at pillows of moss
until a coracle’s in view.

Not yet in the water,
a boat is waiting.

Step in
and settle
on striped animal hide.

Mist wraps and rises,
all else is still.

Peace falls.

No swallows, no lilies, no damselflies.
Nothing moves.

Silence stirs
and the fagus listen to a promise
heightening in the haze.

Under the cloak of winter
changes occur;
drift with the current.

You will row again,
energy restored,
as the season shifts.

Polly Stretton © 2020


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New Year’s Day

At New Year
we stood in the back garden
watched sparkles and flares,
listened to the bangs and screeches
of city and county fireworks.
No scent of cordite marred or jarred
the sweet rural air.
Nothing destroyed the calm of the countryside,
the homes of small animals and birds.
No sky lanterns polluted the night.

We reflected on 2020
—the Covid year—
we’re glad to see the back of it.
This brand new year will be better,
it can’t be worse, we decided.

We thought of dear friends and family,
of lost friends, and unhappy families,
of the marvellous NHS;
of sights previously unseen.
We thought of unthought-of happenings
and poor planning
that made last year dire.

Despite all, we are still human
and so, full of hope.
No breath of snow whispered past.
A touch of frost tweaked noses and toes,
confirmed life.

No matter what, the ceiling
of the country always celebrates
time, people, purpose.
We stood in the back garden
and sipped spiced hot wine.

Polly Stretton © 2021


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New Year

At New Years Eve
we’ll stand in the back garden
to watch sparkles and flares,
listen to the bangs and screeches
of city and county fireworks.

No scent of cordite will mar or jar
the sweet rural air.
Nothing shall destroy the calm of the countryside,
the homes of small animals and birds.
There’ll be no sky lanterns to pollute the night.

We’ll reflect on 2020
—the Covid year—
and be glad to see the back of it.
The coming year will be better,
it couldn’t be worse, we’ve decided.

We’ll think of lost friends,
unhappy families,
the marvellous NHS;
of sights previously unseen,
unthought-of happenings
and poor planning that made the year dire.

Despite all, we are still human
and so, full of hope.
Will a breath of snow whisper past?
Will frost tweak at nose and toes?
No matter what, the ceiling
of the country celebrates time,
people, purpose.
We’ll stand in the back garden
and sip spiced hot wine.

Polly Stretton © 2020


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First Love

piano

The piano is in need of tuning
so it can be played in key
music is my first love
rock opera symphony

I love music sheets tucked inside the seat
of piano stool beneath
music soft music loud music beautiful
uplifting and complete

Dissonance: off key
jangles discord—clang clang
the music chaotic bitter sharp
air disturbed—bang bang

Black keys and white keys
wait proud and still
for the piano tuner’s lever
(here he comes up the hill)

He plays sotto voce
presto forte staccato allegro
adagio tosto tutti vivace
tenerezza eco o o o o oh

A tonic in tune once more
affettuoso read the score
pianissimo dolcissimo
come play me piano implores

Published in Girl’s Got Rhythm by Black Pear Press 2012 and reprinted 2016. Reposted for Poetics – Under the Influence of Music, a prompt from Anthony Desmond, 2014, at dversepoets.

Sotto voce: in an undertone
Presto: very fast
Forte: loud; strong
Staccato: brief; detached
Allegro: fast
Adagio: slowly
Tosto: swift; rapid
Tutti:
all; everyone
Vivace: lively
Tenerezza: tenderly
Eco: echo; an effect in which a group of notes is repeated


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No Small Trifle

T’was the night before Christmas
and, in our house,
nothing was stirring,
no rat, bat or grouse.
But mousse made appearance
and trifle with cream.
It’s Christmas Eve,
time to fantasise, dream.
The tree is waiting
for baubles and balls,
holly and ivy
to deck up the halls.
Home is so … homely
at Christmas
and neat,
with carpets fresh vacuumed
and dusting complete.
Parsnips, potatoes,
sprouts and fine wine,
sherry and cabbage
and walnuts sublime;
bacon and turkey,
pudding and snow,
pigs in their blankets,
tree lights all aglow.
I’ve laid the wreaths for the parents long gone;
yesterday’s garland a baby’s swan song.
Christmas memories of bygone years.
Now, look to the future,
enjoy a few beers.

Polly Stretton © 2013

Merry Christmas everyone 😘 🎄


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Young Writer Anthology 2020

Wonderful news for Worcestershire young writers 😄

Patron of Reading

Fantastic news – 22 pupils from Blessed Edward have been included in the Young Writer Anthology 2020

In addition, Dan T came first in the Years 10-12 category and Daniel T came third in the years 7-9 category

Congratulations to them all!!

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He Drinks Blood

You will know him by his powers,
his inhuman speed,
his sinister silence,
the way he can fly at the flick of an eyelid;
by his ability to conceal himself in the shadows,
his talon-like claws,
very sharp;
made for tearing flesh.
Just know that he has to drink blood.
He has to drink blood,
or age fast, falling
to dust if no blood is found.
But then, you will know him by—
he cannot tolerate garlic,
can’t abide sunlight or crosses
and to him, water is loathsome, it dilutes his power.

He drinks blood;
coppery-tasting human blood,
rich, claret human blood,
it is mine he seeks now.

I sense him getting closer,
secreted in the darkest shadows,
concealed by the cloaks in the closet,
hidden beyond the hat stand in the hallway,
stalking slowly up dust-laden stairs
—silent—
he waits for me to fall asleep.
I know it,
yet can stay awake
but for a few minutes more.
It has been 11 days
—264 hours—

I cannot keep my eyes
open much longer,
even though,
I know,
the moment they close
he will siphon the life out of me.
He has tried twice, already,
I am so weak.

Cold, cold, icily cold, he draws the blood from my soul.
He drinks blood;
coppery-tasting human blood,
rich, claret human blood,
it is mine he drinks now.

Polly Stretton © 2020

This poem is one of 42 poems in the 2020 collection The Alchemy of 42. To see more: https://blackpear.net/polly-stretton/the-alchemy-of-42


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Worcestershire LitFest & Fringe 2020 Competition Results

The results of Worcestershire LitFest & Fringe Competitions 2020.

Worcestershire LitFest & Fringe

Competition results for the Young Writer Competition and Flash Fiction 2020.

Young Writers Winners 2020
Years 4-6


1.    The Pop-up book – Daisy Jenkinson (Kings Hawford)
2.    Opposite Day – Arlo Cocklin (Claines School)  
3.    The Castle of Doom – Sophia Smith (Claines School)  

Years 7-9


1.    Which Choice? – Cerys Wright (Christopher Whitehead School)
2.    Info in Pictures – Ibrahim Yahie (Brentford Post Code)
3.    The Day I was Saved by a Whale Shark – Daniel Thomas (Blessed Edward)


Years 10-12

1.    Waves – Daniel Tipple (Blessed Edward)
2.    The Painted Frames of Silver – Joshua Falcon (Baxter College, Kidderminster)

Flash Fiction Winners 2020


First “Her Final Goodbye” author: Georgie (Georgina) Bull
Second “False impressions” author: Yvonne Clarke
Third “Smoke Without Fire” author; Susan Howe

Congratulations to all the 2020 Winners!

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Update

I’ve had some lovely news…for the first time in ages I entered a poetry competition and, to my surprise and delight, I’ve been told that my poem For Walls is ‘one of [the] top three winning poems’. I can’t tell you how pink I’m tickled!

This made me think about reviewing my past publications and gives me the opportunity to let you know about my forthcoming collections, so here goes.

In 2012 I self-published Girl’s Got Rhythm, in 2014 it was picked up by Black Pear Press and they reprinted it in 2016.

GGR BPP Front Cover - Stretton

2014 found me busy researching Thomas Chatterton the tragic 17-year-old poet, a new-Romantic, who died in a garret.

Chatterton Front Cover–StrettonI called the series of poems, written from the  viewpoints of people who were close to him, Chatterton. Only 50 copies were printed and they soon sold out. It’s still available on Kindle and I was delighted to receive keen interest and feedback from the Thomas Chatterton Society in Bristol. They asked me to go down and give a presentation about the collection to the society.

I’ve always loved Croome Court, so when I saw a Tweet from them inviting artists to apply to join their ‘Soul to Sole’ project I sent a copy of Girl’s Got Rhythm and Chatterton to them and asked if poetry was planned as part of the project. They immediately asked me to a meeting and the two poems I wrote, one about Anne Somerset, Countess of Coventry, and one about William Dean, the head gardener of that time who worked with Capability Brown, featured in the basement display of the project. I was asked to join the Croome Poets—there were eight or nine of us altogether—we put together poems about Croome Court and the surrounding grounds and delivered them that summer. I listened again to the wonderful Apples and Snakes audio that Heather Wastie put together: go to this link: https://www.mixcloud.com/applesandsnakes and search ‘Poets at Croome’ to listen to some of the poems created for Croome Court and gardens. It was a wonderful experience sharing work with so many talented poets. My poems from 2014-2017 can be found on my Croome Court website.

The next publication was a collation of WWI poems and stories called Remembering the Somme, published in 2016.

Created with GIMPIt’s an anthology, a collection of poems from many different poets, compiled as part of the Big Ideas projects that were going on at the time; many of the Worcester Writers’ Circle sent in submissions. We were asked by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to join the Big Ideas company at the Military cemetery in Maidenhead for Armistice Day that year. By gum…it was cold! But wonderful to see the results of many projects nationwide.

Front Cover A5 Unremembered 2017In 2017 a second Big Ideas project saw me curate another anthology about the First World War—we were, of course, remembering the event as it was 100 years ago—this time the book was to commemorate The Unremembered of WWI and that became its title. It discussed those who are not traditionally remembered from the war, folk like the fishermen, miners, the fruit pickers, milkmen and so on, and within a year there was a request for a second edition so The Unremembered—World War One’s Army of Workers—The British Story was published in 2018.

/Users/pollystretton/Documents/BPP/1.Published/Scribus The Unrem

Also in 2018, Big Ideas gave a different title for us to get our teeth into, Motherhood, Loss and the First World War. This brought in amazing poems and stories from all over the country. There was no charge for the books, though many gave donations to the Royal British Legion and other charities, which is why you’ll find all four of them on Amazon for practically nothing—the nominal payment you’re asked for is simply to allow them to be uploaded to Kindle or any other platform. There was a marvellous commemoration of WWI at The Guildhall in Worcester where people who’d been involved in projects met and displayed the results of their endeavours.

Created with GIMP

2019 saw me corralling another anthology of poetry, this time aided and abetted by the Worcestershire Poet Laureate Charley Barnes. The poem that won Charley her laureateship was about sunflowers and I’d written a poem about sunflowers some years before; I sent it to her and she said, ‘Let’s ask other poets to send in poems about flowers’—we did—and Pressed Flowers was born.

Featured Image -- 14703

All of the above are still available either from Black Pear Press—I’m one of the team alongside Tony Judge and Rod Griffiths—or from Amazon.

I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing what I’ve been up to over the past few years, so now onto what I’ve been working on more recently. First, there’s a collection of poems written to prompts at 42Worcester, the spoken word event that I’ve been part of since 2012. You can imagine that over nine years there are many many poems. Selecting the ones for the collection was quite a task. Luckily, some of my friends from 42Worcester were happy to help and the collection The Alchemy of 42 will be launched at 7:30pm 11 August on Zoom. The invitation will be published here and on Facebook closer to the time.

Later this year or perhaps early next year, I hope that a second collection, called Growing Places, will be published. It’s currently being held up as I sent it elsewhere and I’m still awaiting their comments. Whatever they decide, I’m lucky that Black Pear Press are eager to publish it, so we’ll have to wait and see…I confess that I’m not very good at waiting and seeing! The poems are in a sequence covering places where I grew…it brings together memories of childhood and other places both real and imaginary where my growth, or growing, continues. I’m immensely grateful to everyone who read, commented and supported me in selecting the poems for Growing Places. Having an idea for a poetry collection and turning it into a book is as hard as it sounds; the experience is both challenging and revealing.

If you’ve got this far, thank you for reading. I believe this is the longest post I’ve ever written so you deserve a gold star if you haven’t given up!

I hope to catch up with you soon.


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Haiku #60

Dusk, and the moon rises,
nicotiana scent wafts
with evening jasmine.

Polly Stretton © 2020

This is the sixtieth Haiku that I’ve posted on a daily basis since napowrimo 2020, and it’s also the last day of June, a good place to pause for the time being as I focus on my new collections of poetry ‘The Alchemy of 42’ and ‘Growing Places’ – look out for them – and thank you for reading and following.