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Writings and Witterings


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Echoes

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With acknowledgement to Alan Nicholls

Talking to Alan today in our writing group, we recalled this photo and the poem. It seems incredible that it first made it online in 2016.

Echoes

In the present, from the past,
a voice that echoes,
sayings that last.
Even when the body has gone
what was said will linger on.
‘My mum used to say…’
‘My grannie too…’
‘My dad would have something to say to you.’
In the present, from the past,
a voice that echoes,
echoes last.

Polly Stretton © 2016

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Iris

You are a rainbow, a gilded-winged messenger,
a fresh-faced goddess
refilling rain clouds with seawater.
Speed of the wind,
Zephyrus
by your side.

Plunge
into the ocean, dark underworld,
unhindered by the caduceus,
unchecked before sea serpents.

Harpy sister
bring to Zeus the great oath of gods,
Iris, take him your ewer
sweet syrup of nectar.
Swift-footed, sure, storm-like rage
of the messenger bent on your twin.
Your joy flowing from Arke’s wings on Achilles’ heels.

Harbinger of light in a gossamer gown:
ruby red;
organza orange;
yarrow yellow;
gecko green;
byzantine blue;
important indigo;
virtuous violet
—the realm of the rainbow is yours—
always beyond reach.

Growing Places, (Black Pear Press, 2021)


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Up the Bridle Path

On my walk today…
empty crushed cartons line the lane,
the wind brings them here to irritate,
drive residents insane.

Cold chip wrappings,
crumpled plastic bottles, soiled crisp bags,
coloured foil, grubby and flapping.
But further on, up the bridle path,
through the crooked gate away from the road,
here are newts, grass snakes, a toad.

Past the marsh bog a vixen appears,
over the mead, to the hedgerow she jogs.
And in the hedge, once the danger has gone,
a rabbit comes nibbling; lollops along.
Buzzards overhead, a pair, no three,
they look at the pheasant,
the rabbit, and me.

The pheasant croaks, cries, as if to warn
the rabbit, who runs through wet grass.

Escape!

A buzzard dives.

© Polly Stretton 2022


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Autumn

Winter comes stealthing…it’s 5am dark,
silent and chill; August hangs her red head.
A wet summer trails to an autumn, stark,
the seasons have become confused, misled.
In lightening sky, dark sunfree clouds leer,
the pensive garden, still, holds its slow breath
in blowsy brash overblown garb this year.
Scents of autumn waft a whispered caress,
as songbirds want to wake us earlier
the moon sets in the black night to stir us.
Morning dew drenches noble courtiers,
who with the sovereign sun will shake us.
Cool autumn day you stretch, yawn, sleepy grey,
and we must get up and join in the fray.

© Polly Stretton 2022
Girl’s Got Rhythm, (Black Pear Press, 2012)


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Haunting

A gothic tale from ‘The Alchemy of 42’

A Transylvanian melody chimes through the night.
The air is still and warm, there is no trace of light.
He haunts the forest glades and the castle where she lies,
she strains to hear his footsteps, her hopes can’t be disguised,
she knows he’s coming for her, yet no fear shows in her eyes.

She wants to keep this castle, comprehends he can’t resist,
knew it from All Hallows’ when he stole a hard-pressed kiss,
knew it by her father’s pale and trembling lips,
knew it from her mother’s stark forbidding hiss.

She enjoys his sense of style, his dark and brooding brow,
his high and sculpted cheekbones, his skin white-cold, ice-sallow;
in his cape of burnished black, he is the maniac
the villagers with their garlic fear and dread.
She smiles at the thought of the crosses they have wrought
to stop him ascending to her bed.

She discerns her soul will wince when she hears the chimes, since,
when discord climbs the stairs, he’ll try to claim her for his own.
The scent of juniper, aromatic, spiced, sincere,
is the harbinger she’s counted on; dreamt about for years.

A rap upon her door, her pulse races, her mind roars,
she plans to keep this castle and will do evermore.
He leans in close towards her, his cape as soft as zephyrs,
it sweeps her pure white nightgown as he slowly travels down;
his breath, a mist of insight, strokes her furrowed frown.
His teeth glint in the moonlight, from her, he’ll get no swift flight,
she arches, plunges in the knife…

He’ll not take the castle from her, not deny her of her home,
but of one thing she is certain, it won’t be far he’ll roam.
The haunting now commences and continues till the dawn,
she licks her lips: a killing, and legends to be spawned.

Shared with dVerse Poets (2015)

The Alchemy of 42, Black Pear Press (2020)


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Entanglement

This is the one song that everyone
would like to learn: the song 
that is irresistible’.
Margaret Attwood (1998) 

Threads of melodies tack through sultry air,
weave over waves, surge past the shore,
travel to a boat and see the split shot sinkers
he presses onto lines to give them weight.

His head tilts like a vertical bobbin,
shuttles back and forth to pick up the thread,
wonders where the sound originates,
ponders—perhaps it’s only in his head.

The sound’s in the shape of his lover
the woman he dreams of through the day
and then he sees his line is entangled,
he won’t make it back to her early this way.

He picks at the line and starts to unravel
yet siren threads drift closer, he hears
them become the soft tone
of his love’s sweet blandishments,

‘Promise you’ll be early
tonight, my dear?’
He shakes his head, the song enthralls.
Home calls, his wish: to kiss her soon.

Growing Places (Black Pear Press, 2021)

At a week-long workshop during lockdown, the theme was the sea. At that time, I was reading poetry by Margaret Attwood and enjoyed her ‘Siren Song’, I love Greek myths and am fascinated by fishermen – I remember as a child seeing one who was repairing nets on the harbour – such a solitary life, it seems to me. I acknowledge Margaret Attwood and quote the first stanza of ‘Siren Song’ in ‘Entanglement’.


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Lion’s Gate

Point your heart at Sirius,
a flower opens up,
star-group Sirius,
bright in the night skies
light in your eyes.

Essence of joy
tunes to an out-of-time state,
energy, rhythms of guitars,
the stars, auras of significance,
the Dog Star barks.

Point your heart at Sirius
brightest star in the night
lightest touch to your eye.
Dog days of sultry summer,
heavy and hot, hot, sultry, heavy, hot.

Thunderstorms bring fever,
blight the bark of trees,
parch us to our knees.
Drowse through summer
languid with heat,
scorched or sparkling.

Point your heart at Sirius,
Osiris[1],
God of life and more
Sirius[2] is yours.

Polly Stretton © 2020

The Lion’s Gate—the annual period of the heliacal rise of Sirius, brightest star in our sky and a great ‘Spiritual Sun’ of our Sun—is at its peak on the 8th day of the 8th month of the solar year. The first day of Sirius’s annual reappearance over the horizon at dawn, July 26th, was taken as the beginning point of the Ancient Egyptian calendar cycle, and was also the first day of the Mayan lunar calendar each year, in an intuitive unison of solar and lunar energetic patterns. The energy of the double infinity of the 8+8 within the circle of Creation is expressed in sacred geometry as the Rose Cross or Tetracross.

[1] Egyptian god of fertility, agriculture, the afterlife and the underworld, the dead, resurrection, life, and vegetation
[2] In ancient Egypt, the name Sirius signified its nature as scorching or sparkling. The star was associated with the Egyptian gods Osiris, Sopdet and other gods. Ancient Egyptians noted that Sirius rose just before the sun each year immediately prior to the annual flooding of the Nile River.


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Bats in the Forest

Flittermice weave over reeking moonshine
cross-eyed and woozy on rising fumes

chase paper-like moths through the dense night-time
jaws snap     away to roosts the moths to consume

a charge for the moth from a hot light bulb
a scorch     a burned bum     a lucky escape

but echolocation doesn’t see the bat dulled
dinner tonight is in his mouth draped

the reek of the moonshine the rise of vapour
has chemically altered the mammal’s ability

he weaves and he wavers     his wings act as tracers
but the dread-filled moth makes a dart of agility

another lucky escape

The Alchemy of 42 (Black Pear Press, 2020)


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Swifts

From the Malvern Hills section of Growing Places

Swifts

Silence and solitude unbroken drops
a sense of stillness, soundlessness flutters,
no soul to disturb the cool, calm hilltop,
Midsummer Hill smothers sighs, hushed, shuttered.
And then from the west come the saucy swifts,
swooping and singing, playing today, while
they wait to migrate, chase, drift, flit and lift,
wings skitter, dip and dance to the sundial.
What joy in aloneness, how glad the sight,
a ballet of darting, diving divas
so rare, a flock of sure swifts in full flight,
they plunge, lunge and soar in joie de vivre.
There’s none to disturb the cool, calm hilltop,
Midsummer Hill sighs in silence, shuttered.

Growing Places (Black Pear Press, 2021)


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Her Gift

Mary gave it to me in ’73,
Lauder’s parfum solidifié,
a cameo lid, carved and proud,
a Grecian face, raised, endowed
with curls and plaits
in ivory on terracotta.
Scent set in finely-etched gold.

Mary gave it to me.

Fast forward to 2013, a bad year,
when that thing happened
that all of us fear.
Mary, my friend,
she lost, failed, went.
I don’t forget her,
still use the same scent.

Polly Stretton © 2014


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‘Chatterton’ – Prologue

He learned to read from a black-letter Bible,
was thought a backward boy, no scholar.
Lonely, close and comely,
poor boy was deemed a dullard.

He forged his first letters
from illuminated capitals;
cutting consonants, reviewing verbs,
giving names to nouns.

Memory on memory make his story,
they talk of it still sighing their sorrows.
Merciless London, no crumb offered,
the baker rebuffed him for begging a loaf.

Chatterton (Black Pear Press, 2014)
Available as an eBook

Chatterton Front Cover–Stretton


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Cailleach Beare

The divine hag drops rocks for stepping-stones.
From Samhain to Beltane she’s the goddess of winter,
at Samhain she’s hideous, blue face, sharp teeth, rank haired bag of bones;
by winter’s end, she’s transformed to a block without splinter;
over time she grows ever younger
until by Beltane she’s a beautiful maiden.
First, her veil drapes, her magic staff turns green to grey,
she carries a hammer for shaping the hills and valleys,
makes a white bridge from Ireland to Scotland,
gathers firewood to last through the season.
Foul weather means she’s asleep.

Locals shelter her in the glens; the glens become fertile and prosperous.
When she leaves, she gives stones with a promise:
‘As long as the stones are put out over the glen at Beltane,
‘back into the shelter and secured for Samhain,
‘then the glen will continue, verdant, potent, plentiful.’

To honour her, wear blue,
cover your altar with a cloth yellow as the sun.
Place a blue candle and a bowl of snow in the centre.
The candle burns, wax shrinks, snows melt,
give way to warmth and light.
Pour water from the snow outside to rejoin the Goddess
and usher in the dark half of the year.

Polly Stretton © 2022

The Alchemy of 42 (Black Pear Press, 2020)

In Gaelic mythology, the Cailleach is a divine hag, an ancestor associated with the creation of the landscape and with the weather, especially storms and winter. She’s also known as Beira, Queen of Winter.


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Winter Solstice – The Year Turns

The turning point
Great Trilithon’s smooth flat face
looks
 to winter sun
slanted light becomes stronger
the days become longer
we celebrate rebirth
Yule

The sun stands
its shadow
 barely changes
sun dials seem static
at solstice
low in darkening skies
the darkest time
Black

Eat drink carouse
slaughter cattle
feast
quaff new-fermented wine
light candles
for the sun’s winter sleep
Sleep

Cleanse the house of evil spirits
look at Loki’s mistletoe
an arrow in the heart
tears become berries
symbols of love
life returns
every ending
leads to beginnings
New beginnings

Polly Stretton © 2021


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Frost at Christmas

Chilled window glass
frozen grass
glitter in the aftermath
a smatter of snowy crush
ice sparkle blossom blush
in the dawn a silver flush
of sequin stars on blades in yards
cobwebbed bushes on boulevards
listen to the birds.

Polly Stretton © 2021

frosty grass-deviantart.com

Acknowledgement to http://www.deviantart.com


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Boxing Hare

On a bleak November day, here’s an Englyn–a Welsh poetry form–from my very first collection of poetry Girls Got Rhythm to remind us that spring will come along soon…😄

Boxing, racy, hatted hare, mad in March,
much startled air. Take care!
Long ears and nostrils full flare,
strong limbs, swift, free, outrun scare.

Polly Stretton © (Girl's Got Rhythm, Black Pear Press, 2012)

Raku Hare PS

Just to clarify, for the purists out there, this is an Englyn unodl union. The straight one-rhymed englyn. This englyn form (there are at least eight different versions) consists of four lines of ten, six, seven and seven syllables. The seventh, eighth or ninth syllable of the first line introduces the rhyme and this is repeated on the last syllable of the other three lines. The last syllable of the first line is rhymed with a syllable early in the second.


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Letter Writing in the Moonlight 

For National Poetry Day 2021, a poem from my recent collection.

‘Letter Writing in the Moonlight’ was written for the Worcestershire Poet Laureate Nina Lewis’s 2017 project ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ in which Worcester UK poets were matched with Worcester USA poets and created ‘call and response’ poems.

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.

From Growing Places (Black Pear Press, 2021)


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Thank you, Carrie, and thank you, Beth

It’s always good to see a review from over the pond, and extra special when it’s a friend well met years ago when I first started posting my poetry online. This review for Growing Places is from Carrie Rubin, who’s just published the third in her Benjamin Oris series about a man of science who faces otherworldly situations, The Bone Elixir, read all three, they’re great reads.

So good to see other reviews of Growing Places coming through, the latest from “Mad Hatter Reviews” written by Beth O’Brien, you can see it below.

Reviewed in the United States on September 29, 2021

“As with all of Stretton’s poetry, one is immediately drawn into her evocative prose and the worlds she creates. The places of the poet’s past leap from the verses, as if the reader is visiting these rich landscapes of England themselves. Add to this the elements of nature, as well as the human characters Stretton brings to life, and the reader is easily transported away:
 
 
“Find the Persian pebble-edged river,
cross the candyfloss bridge
to pure graph paper.

 

“And:

“Rust green spires spring
over yellow tilted shades,
hear bombus choirs sing
above parasol parades.

“Delicious! And proof yet again of why Stretton is one of the few writers who can get a novel-fan like me to read poetry. Highly recommend.”


A Mad Hatter Review

Hot on the heels of Carrie’s review came another, this one from the fabulous Beth O’Brien for Mad Hatter Reviews. Here’s an extract from Beth’s review of Growing Places:

“From the child’s understanding of her parents, to the closeness of two sisters, the poems establish a firm ground of loyalty. ‘Her girls’ is one of my favourite poems of the collection, which opens with the lines ‘We do not share blood, / we share memories’. These memories are of an inseparable nature, of makeup experiments and the ‘hottest, burniest’ holidays. Stretton’s poetry seems to speak delight from the page, the short lines and rhymes making it a joy to read as well as feel.

“Of course, place is very important in this collection, which is divided into sections accordingly. As part one, ‘Malvern’ moves to part two, ‘Malvern Hills’ we escape into nature, silence, slopes, and echoes. The short poems in this section are like bursts of memory, contained like ‘Moonlight in Jars’, held up one by one to show off something else that is beautiful.” Read Beth’s full review here.


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Thank you and ‘Growing Places’ news

Many thanks to all who came along to the Zoom launch of Growing Places. It was a delightful afternoon with Tony Judge also launching his children’s book Lost.

Growing Places is finding its own place in the world and it’s been wonderful to receive comments and reviews. The latest to arrive is from Neil Leadbeater on behalf of Write Out Loud. 

Growing Places - front cover

As one with complete belief in life long learning, I’m thrilled to sixpence with Neil’s review, he read and understood the poems—total comprehension that is a joy to see. He says, “Stretton writes that this collection is a sequence of poems where she grew. Interestingly, she chooses to settle for “grew” rather than “grew up” because these are not only the places where she grew up but they are also turning points, places real or imaginary, where the process of growing never ends.” He concludes, “Reading this collection I was struck by Stretton’s lightness of touch, rhythmic vitality, sense of humour, and ability to make even the most domestic of scenes come to life. Her subjects are imbued with a magical quality—“faerie folk” catching “moonlight in jars”, goddesses like Amphitrite, the majesty of the Malverns and the wisdom of trees. This is a collection that really sings. Fully recommended.” The full review can be read here.

A huge thank you to Neil. I hope that you will read his review and get your own copy of Growing Places from Black Pear Press.