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Writings and Witterings


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Lamb

My favourite springtime poem, published in Girl’s Got Rhythm: Lamb

Lamb

At the start of spring sunshine
in May, a clamour occurs,
an ignominious din.

She sees the lambs born
on a cool summer morn, stumble;
bumble, late in the daylight.

The sun rises at four,
red, ruby-gold glows up high
and christens the new-born babes.

It comes round, it goes around
it returns on this morning
of joy, of hope, of new lives.

Polly Stretton © 2012

For those interested in form in poetry, this is a Triversen which is described as:

The rhythm of normal speech, employing 1 to 4 strong stresses per line.

Stanzaic  Written in any number of tercets. Each tercet is one sentence, a kind of natural breath.

Grammatical  There should be 3 lines. L1 is a statement of fact or observation, L2 and L3 should set the tone, imply a condition or associated idea, or carry a metaphor for the original statement.

Alliteration contributes to stress.

Other ‘rules’ found on the internet:

Triversen:

Each stanza equals one sentence.

Each sentence/stanza breaks into 3 lines (each line is a separate phrase in the sentence).

There is a variable foot of 2-4 beats per line.

The poem as a whole should add up to 18 lines (or 6 stanzas). As you’ll see, I did not heed this rule, the poem seemed complete to me after just 4 stanzas 🙂


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The Poacher And The Hare


A witch astride her besom
is flying wide and high,
her cape flaps all about her
as she travels through the sky.
Her hair is black as coal dust,
she peers through one good eye,
as people far below her
look up, stupefied.

The final day of February,
beneath a wintery sky,
we find the local poacher
catching rabbits on the fly.
He is no big brave soldier
just needs some food to eat
before the world gets colder,
a stew will be a treat.

The witch sees him beneath her,
his gun slung o’er his arm,
she takes her eye out, polishes,
puts it back, still warm.
With clarity of vision
she sees a running hare
close enough for him to shoot,
she shouts out, ‘Run! Beware!’

The poacher takes exception
‘My supper’ he exclaims,
‘You’ve done me out of meat tonight,
‘for shame, old witch, for shame.’
‘Don’t you shame me, soldier,’
the witch forthright declaims,
‘That hare is running wild and free
’tis you should feel the shame.’

Polly Stretton © 2019



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Finger Lickin’ Hallowe’en

Old-fashioned sweets

Finger Lickin’ Hallowe’en

My favourites came in cubes:
Pineapple, Kola,
and other boiled sweets
like toffee crunch
loose in quarters,
weighed out from glass jars
lining the sweet shop shelves.
Square quarter bags
and two ounce triangular paper cones;
right at the base,
where small fingers could firkle,
there lay the sugar
and slivers of sweets,
a delight on the fingertip,
on the tongue.
A memory so sweet
it makes the mouth water,
has lasted as long
as sherbet fountains
and liquorice sticks,
gob stoppers and bubble gum.
And Hallowe’en
brought cinder toffee
and Blackjacks
to stain your tongue.

Polly Stretton © 2013

Published by Silver Birch Press ‘MY SWEET WORD’ Series: Halloween Edition (2013)


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Mabel On A Mission

Mabel’s on a mission,
she’s tugging at her lead,
a tiny Yorkshire Terrier,
who has no time to heed
her besotted owner calling her,
saying ‘Come’ or ‘Here,’
she’s on a special mission
and is keen to disappear.

She’s a naughty little pickle,
an invader of my life,
she will not eat her dinner
—that’s caused a bit of strife—
she cocks her head from side to side
when looking for a treat,
and if her walk dares to be late,
she yips and leaps and peeps.

She doesn’t like a shower,
and a bath she likes much less,
she jumps about and drenches me
the wretched little pest.
She goes to training classes,
no, I do not jest,
but I might as well, she thinks it’s swell…
to ignore every test.

Mabel’s on a mission,
each and every day
to get another walk,
and yet another play,
You may have gathered, through this poem,
that Mabel can be wilful,
that melting look to get her way
is truly somewhat skilful.

Now Mabel has a little friend,
Tilly is her name,
She’s driving me around the bend,
well on the way to fame.
‘Let’s go and walk,’ four sparky,
berry bright eyes say,
I cannot disappointment them
so we go out twice a day.

Polly Stretton © 2018

Munchkins–New Year 2018


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An Orchestra Of Orchids

Stand in awe
—look at orchids—
Hampton Court Show shows
orchestras of orchids,
a fanfare of maidenhair fern frames a backdrop
—handbags and gladrags—
vessels to hold plants.

Polly Stretton © 2018

orchids and maidenhair fern http- www.fleuropean.com theres-no-denying-destiny

A beautiful picture of orchids and maidenhair fern – with thanks to: http://www.fleuropean.com/theres-no-denying-destiny/


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Pale Horse

Dead Man's Penny–with thanks to Jean Lee

With thanks to Jean Lee

The Next of Kin Memorial Plaque is a bronze plaque known as the dead man’s penny. They were issued to the next of kin of those who died serving in WWI, nearly a million individuals. 600 plaques were issued to women who died. You will probably recognise the allusion to the Pale Horse and his rider.

Pale Horse

Heels down. Head up. Look
where you’re going.
Go to a place
where you can hear your heart;
listen to the beat,
forget the drub of a thousand pale hooves
and the horsemen of the apocalypse.
We rise and fall together.

Grandma had a penny to remember you,
a bronze memory she Brassoed weekly,
cast in physical prowess, spiritual power,
in devotion to the triumph of good,
Britannia faces left, holds a laurel wreath,
there’s a box beneath, holding your name in raised relief,
and you, a man of miracles.
We rise and fall together.

A circular coin made whole, inscribed:
‘He died for freedom and honour’.
You are a man who has gone,
yet nonetheless lives.
Your Penelope still waits.
Put the littered marshy slew behind you,
put it behind you.
We will start again.

Go to a place
where you can hear your heart;
listen to the beat.
No pale horse snickers,
no harbinger rides quicker,
no more horseshoes, trench fever, heat.
We sleep.
We rise and fall together.

Polly Stretton © 2018

Written for and first published in the Worcestershire Poet Laureate Nina Lewis’s project: A Tale Of Two Cities, Contour eZine issue 3. With thanks to my collaborator, Beth Sweeney, who responded with a poem of her own, which you can see in the publication.


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Living Library 2018

What a privilege to be asked by Linda Bromyard, the Librarian at Blessed Edward Oldcorne Catholic College, to be part of the Living Library again this year. Pupils spend ten minutes with authors to find out more about writing and the writing process. They always have interesting questions. After their ten minutes they move on to the next author. For me, it is a chance to talk with the youngsters not only about my own writing, but also about what they like to read, their favourite authors / genres etc. Discussions about Tolkien and Shire Ditch, what sort of fantasy creatures / beings they like best, all answered with such enthusiasm. One of the lads, who claimed not to read, was wonderfully caught out when we got onto David Williams! There were lots of questions about what inspires / how much time is spent writing / when one started writing / what time of day one prefers to write, and so on.  It transpires that there are many young writers of poetry as well as short stories. I feel this bodes well for the future.

Linda herself is an inspiration, the organisation that goes on behind the scenes, the thoughfulness to not only the pupils but also to the authors, such things never go unnoticed. Thank you, Linda.

Here is a photo of me enjoying a giggle with the pupils at the Living Library. We cannot share photos of the youngsters, but I want to thank them for their interest and also for the delightful thank you notes that Linda forwarded to me on their behalf.

PS Living Library 2018.jpg

 


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Letter Writing In The Moonlight

Beneath the apple tree
all is still.
Night, as dark as her lover,
veils the lush grass;
bramble and thistle
scratch, inscribe the ground.

A mist hovers,
loathe to leave the river,
low down in the depths of the garden
where mud oozes
and the odour of damp
settles.

The bench is warm,
as graffitied as her heart.
Love holds her
like the mist—all pervasive—
toads and crickets mock,
‘Write’.

A moonbeam strikes
through cloud.
Clouds steal onwards
and soon the lawn
is shown in a puddle of silver light.
She puts pen to paper.

Polly Stretton © 2018

Written for and first published in the Worcestershire Poet Laureate Nina Lewis’s project: A Tale Of Two Cities, Contour eZine issue 3   With thanks to my collaborator, Beth Sweeney, who responded with a poem of her own, which you can see in the publication.


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No Creosote

In the potting shed
the scent of ancient creosote
wafts in heavy summer heat.
Years of grandpa, pipe in mouth,
leaning against the wall
as grandma wielded the black
brush and yelled,

‘Get back you
kids,’ followed by her gap-tooth grin.

She lives in the still-
standing walls…
no creosote now.

Polly Stretton © 2018

First published on this blog in 2014, this is a revised version – last week’s heat put me in mind of it.

Potting shed


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Poetry Stew

A little bit of Ars Poetica 🙂 First published on this website in 2012, lightly edited today.

Walt Whitman's use of free verse became apprec...

Walt Whitman’s use of free verse became appreciated by composers seeking a more fluid approach to setting text. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Poetry Stew

A little bit of this
and a little bit of that,
all mixed together in a poetry hat,
pull out nubile wordles
bash them all around,
organise the way they look,
smell and sound.
Stir ‘em into shape,
shake ‘em through and through,
let them have their say,
they’ll tell you what to do.
When the stew is finished,
finalised and done
then make some bread to go with it,
knead it just for fun.
Bread has connotations, solid,
formed it rises,
if the yeast is left out
there are no surprises.
Method is important
from limerick to sonnet,
free verse gives to poetry
yeast
to place upon it.

Polly Stretton © 2018


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January’s Super Blue Blood Moon

Tomorrow the moon is in Taurus,
First Quarter,
a young lunar grows,
never to falter;
tomorrow waxes gibbous
moves to Gemini,
slight sliver of disk
sexy in night skies.
Oxygen, silicon,
other traces…
we speculate, appreciate,
as phases pass faces.

But tonight…
the full moon,
a lunar eclipse,
a blue moon,
and a supermoon
all happening
at once.

Polly Stretton © 2018

With acknowledgement to www.sanhujinka.org

With acknowledgement to http://www.sanhujinka.org


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Good News For A Squirrel!

Worcestershire Poet Laureate Nina Lewis has blogged about the event at Hanbury Hall at which I was asked to read my poem ‘Curves’. ‘Curves’ was selected by Peter Hawkins of Droitwich Arts Network (DAN) to be read at the close of the art exhibition. If you’d like to see the painting that inspired it, click here.

There will be readings from the Hanbury Hall poets at Park’s Cafe, 4 Victoria Square, Droitwich WR9 8DS on Tuesday 14th November 7.30 to 8.15pm – come along if you can 🙂

Curves

She owns it:
the branch.
She’s ready for summer
in a lighter coat.
Her curves tell
of coppery kittens
to be born later today,
two, three, or four will arrive
to inhabit the drey.

The painter’s sable brush,
pure,
soft as a blush
to define the narrow
smart face in a tuft-eared embrace.
A picture to enhance the repeated romance
of a cheeky red squirrel
in Norfolk.

The artist describes,
in faint, refined strokes,
sharp arced claws
curved in applause,
and a tail, balanced to guide
a talent that tints
the nut connoisseur,
against the bark
and spiky cones of the conifer.

Polly Stretton © 2017


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Beyond The Veil

Handkerchiefs, white twisted prayer,
sobs breach and break the mourning air,
death takes, will not be second-guessed,
a shroud beneath the lychgate rests.

The shelter with its angled roof
hears clattering of horses’ hooves,
covers the dear departed, blessed;
her shroud beneath the lychgate rests.

The bearers seated by the corpse
know flesh, bones, come to nothing, naught
to ponder, but in time accept,
a shroud beneath the lychgate rests.

From lych to church seems overlong,
they pause, they pray, they chant their song,
to see her pass this way – none guessed
a shroud around the lych would rest.

A hot ague shook her life away,
the children sobbed, begged her to stay,
but death took life, it sucked her breath,
a shroud beneath the lychgate rests.

Yet that was then and this is now,
time changes, untracked: marriage vow,
photo backdrop, bride with guests,
a shroud beneath the lychgate rests.

Spectres, spirits of the passed,
plague actors in the wedding cast,
this shady place does it oppress
if shrouds beneath the lychgate rest?

‘Death is the only deathless one’,[1]
time lingers brief, they’ve just begun,
this is for life, no trial or test,
a shroud beneath the lychgate rests.

Fading out the nuptial glitter,
shadows cast by bygone sitters,
carnation wilts upon his breast,
and shrouds beneath the lychgate rest.

The charm of years, a pretty place,
he gazes down on her sweet face,
craves togetherness, wedded, yes,
a shroud beneath the lychgate rests.

Polly Stretton © 2017


[1] John Payne (1842-1916)


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My Brother’s Coming Home

Nurse, mother with baby
and big brother,
stand outside bleak,
utilitarian Ronkswood hospital.
Big little boy, excited; it’s time
to take his brother home.

‘Look at his tiny hand, Mum.
‘Why’s he wrapped like that?
‘When will he start talking?
‘Does he cry a lot?
‘Dad says he’ll be sleeping
‘and won’t want me playing trains.
‘Is that right, Mum? Can I, can I
‘play with trains again?’

‘He won’t be playing trains with you
‘for quite a long while yet,
‘but he will need his big brother,
‘and look, see what he’s got?
‘There’s a little shiny gift
‘that he’s brought along for you.
‘Can you see what it is?
‘An engine, royal blue.’

Polly Stretton © 2017
Written for the George Marshall Medical Museum, Worcester Royal Hospital

This poem was part of a project organised by Charley Barnes for the Curator of the George Marshall Medical Museum Louise Price. Follow this link to see fellow poet on the project and Worcestershire Poet Laureate Nina Lewis’s description—find out more!

 


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Take A Look At This…

A good friend of mine, Heather, whom I haven’t seen in far too long, says ‘I have performed this piece so many times now! Getting on for 40 this year alone. Here is the original recorded version by request. The live performance has developed and I take more time over it now – CRT commissioned a 6-minute piece and it turned out to be exactly that length without me having to edit it. It’s good to hear the real Emma and Nancy, and the lovely engines I recorded, and see photos of some of the ‘Idle Women’. The next time I perform it will be at the Barley Mow, Newbold on Monday. See www.alarumtheatre.co.uk for the remaining tour dates.’

Watch this YouTube of the poem, it’s amazing!


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not sorry yet

Some of the children attending the Living Library at a local school asked me for my favourite poem. I asked ‘by another poet, or my own?’ They wanted to know about my own.
not sorry yet holds a special place in my heart, so I’m sharing it again today to celebrate children who not only ask interesting questions but read poetry as well as fiction. Also to thank Librarian Linda Bromyard for organising the event.
And, btw (thanks for asking!) my favourite poem by another poet is A Subaltern’s Love Song by John Betjeman 🙂

Meadow Run Away

four-year-old legs pumping running away
ma shouts after me ‘come back’ sister wails
ma is livid i pushed the bowl downstairs
this is how she sees it it is my fault
a tall ten-pint goldfish bowl three goldfish
i run down the meadow behind our house
it is hay-making time yellow grass scent
and dust tickle my nose and make me sneeze
sneeze stops me for long enough she catches
me i have glanced behind in my run and
seen her struggling with my little sister
but ma is grim-faced and determined that
i will be caught and punished it was an
accident i tripped knocked into the bowl
which bounced down each stair fish flying water
arcing the finest mirrored droplets splash
the sound of breaking glass tinkles downwards
she comes out of the kitchen babe on hip
and roars ‘nooooo’ i flee out the open door
my legs pump i feel my heart i hear my
breath coming jagged i smell the hay i
sneeze she catches me she screams thrashes me
and at each step thrashes me again all
up the meadow back into the house she
is crying hot angry tears me howling
mortified indignant rebellious
an accident i sob my jaw jutting
i am but four-years-old not sorry yet

Polly Stretton © 2012

not sorry yet was first published in my debut collection Girl’s Got Rhythm, available from Black Pear Press at £7.00 +P&P


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Open Door

Keeper of Keys – Brooke Shaden

Keeper of Keys – Brooke Shaden

The keeper of the keys
to worlds we wish to live in,
where secrets float
and the impossible becomes possible.
We have a story to tell,
something on our mind.
There’s a light
to show the way,
a seaweed dress
against the lamp’s sway,
on the bleak bare shore.

Polly Stretton © 2014

Written to dVerse poets prompt by Grace, who features the photography of Brooke Shaden


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William’s Footprint

William’s Footprint is a poem about William Dean, who arrived at Croome in about 1796 and was Head Gardener to the 6th and 7th Earls of Coventry for nearly 40 years looking after the walled kitchen garden and the park. He wrote a book about Croome and indexed every plant and tree. This poem was written as part of the Soul-to-Sole project and is shown on the sole of William’s shoe in the shoe rack in the basement.

William’s Footprint

If soles could talk
what tales they’d tell
of statues – alive! –
hot walls and wishing wells;
of a serpentine river
and a man-made lake,
of Quercus ilex
and poison Mandrake.

If soles could talk
what tales they’d tell,
of the walled kitchen garden
and glass cloche bells,
of boys of seven
who stoke the heated wall,
while the dipping pond
is their longed for call.

If soles could talk
what tales they’d tell,
of the Druid and Sabrina’s
trysts in the dell;
of mischievous Pan
piping high and sweet,
the goat-god spies on them
in the grotto where they meet.

If soles could talk
what tales they’d tell,
of the nymphs at Croome
and wooded islands where they dwell.
Here’s head gardener Will
wielding spade and pruning hook;
he is grounded and ready
to write his book.

Polly Stretton © 2014