Lyrical beauty, decomposing poets and butterflies

The New Mills Poetry Trail Open Mic Event – The Butterfly House at The Torrs, New Mills, by Nicola Hulme

As the setting sun filled the evening sky with a spectacular orange glow, I drove through the Derbyshire lanes to a small town nestled against the dramatic backdrop of the Peak District. I was on my way to celebrate the New Mills Poetry Trail with an evening of open mic poetry.

The residents of New Mills extended a warm welcome to the “outsiders” from Stockport’s Write Out Loud group; they even extended their arms to a poet from who hailed from the far reaches of Glossop, such a friendly bunch.

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Held in the beautifully ornate Butterfly House at the Torrs Hotel, poets spilled out into neighbouring rooms such was the amazing turn out. It was heart-warming to see so many people of varying ages and backgrounds coming together to share in their passion, to hear and be heard. Remarkably, for such a large gathering, the atmosphere still remained intimate, reminiscent of stories told around the fireplace.
Published poets, new poets, experienced performers and those, like I, who still shake inwardly when approaching the mic, came together in a shared appreciation of the spoken word. Topics conveyed ranged from the pastoral pleasures of a slow canal walk, the heartaches of unrequited love, through to the surprise of eight family members surviving their first holiday together without anyone’s demise! For our delight we were told how Wordsworth’s decomposing body made fine fertiliser for the daffodils and allotment gardeners cried out for insect genocide, namely the extinction of the Cabbage White. The strength of Manchester was praised in a salute to the bees and conversations overheard at Costa were mulled over between drinks.

It was interesting to observe how we write as introverts, cocooned individually honing our craft, yet, on nights such as these, when we share our lines a new beauty emerges. Like a butterfly spreading its wings for the first time verbalising our humanity, vulnerabilities, passions and fears we create something new and more captivating together. We create a place of trust, empathy and support where smiles, nods and applause say “Yes, we understand, we have experienced the same and can relate to you.”

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IPhones, technology and social media may play a huge part in our daily life but it’s reassuring to know the poetry scene is very much alive and well, uniting communities. On this night the people of New Mills and the surrounding areas turned their backs on box set binging and X-Factor warbling, preferring to spend time with friends in a lyrical wonderland.

I’d like to say thank you to Randy Horton and his team of volunteers for organising the Poetry Trail and the open mic evening. Thanks also to the shopkeepers who supported the event by allowing poems to be displayed in their windows and of course to the people of New Mills for coming together and making it a night to remember. I hope we can do it all again next year.

Review is about New Mills Festival Poetry Trail Round Robin on 26 Sep 2018 (event)

Visit @writeoutloud for details of your local poetry groups.

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Poetry is for sharing; The Washing Line

It’s my very strong belief that poetry and prose is for sharing. Once written, it should be shared so others can take pleasure in it or perhaps receive a degree of relief in knowing others have felt the same emotions or had the same experiences. This sudden declaration comes after receiving an email from a friend, asking permission to read my poem out loud to her mother who suffers from dementia. She believes this poem would make her smile.

Concerned about copyright, she sought permission and asked if she could also read the poem out loud for another group she attends, who have members of retirement age.

This made me think. To protect our rights to “maybe one day” be published, we cling to copyrights and legal protection – but surely this is all going too far? What happened to sharing tales around the fireside for pure enjoyment? I’m saddened to think we have moved that far away from those days…. here is the poem requested, feel free to read / delete / critique to your heart’s content.

The Washing Line

 

Down dark cobbled back streets, clothes lines stretched

across cohorts of back yards, on Washing Day.

Regiments of white bed sheets hoisted high

flapping like flags,  in threatening skies

supported by proud,

immoveable clothes props.

Garments not daring to fly loose,

straddled by dolly pegs

forced down hard.

 

Above boiling bleach buckets,

malevolent steam swirled, silently seething,

polluting the air with pungent peroxide.

The back door was wedged open, windows wide,

but still its clammy fingers clung to high corners.

 

Seized shirts submerged in the twin tub

were dragged out of the simmering broth

by oversized wooden tongs, grinning

toothless crocodiles.

 

A solitary circular spinner flipped its lid

with brutal force, revealing a gaping hole

that gobbled up garments,

before firing it’s jet engine

at the press of an oversized button.

A bright warning label spelled danger but,

I was more afraid of grandma.

So I did as I was bid

and stayed two full steps back,

watching a steady stream of captives

being fed into the rollers of the mangle,

pulled out prostrate, straight jacketed,

lobotomised on the other side.

 

Winched up on a maiden, by rope and pulley

squealing like a stuck pig, screaming in protest;

corsets and bloomers were discreetly dried.

Ponderous drops dripped

onto the oilcloth floor beneath

missing expectant open mouthed buckets.

 

Hugging the gas fire, a burdened clothes horse

promised more than it could deliver.

A metal mesh fireguard, kept long after toddler years,

lent its flat roof to dry despondent socks.

 

From picture rail gallows, lifeless forms hung

closing in on the living,

One by one they were gathered,

folded and locked away in the airing cupboard

guarded by a gurgling old boiler in his

pillar-box red padded jacket.

 

Paroled for ironing; creases were pressed out

and forcibly pressed in.

Under a hellish red hot iron

wet handkerchiefs hissed and spat.

The board creaked and groaned,

along with grandma as she held her back.

 

Finally, the ordeal was over.

Clothes were locked into looming tall boys

with the turn of a tiny brass key.

 

The line stretches through time

from dolly tub to auto scrub.

My laundry is gently taken

from a silent washer,

that soaks and spins on demand,

conditioned smooth and wrinkle free

without need of an army of machines,

lightly clipped by brightly coloured pegs.

Still, I discreetly throw my underwear

into the dryer and smile

“What would the neighbours say?”

 

Mine is an easy load.  My line marks the ages

of my babies as their clothes grow.

Our tired old favourite t-shirts

out of shape and faded,

hang comfortably together, blowing in the wind.

Billowing white sheets release

their bouquet of jasmine and lily.

The sun warms my face,

the breeze caresses my skin

like the palm of a hand against my cheek,

or a kiss on the forehead from grandma.

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We interrupt this blog to give you…. #Napowrimo 2018 #1 Threadbare

I’m falling behind rapidly on Napowrimo 2018… which may be a small mercy to my blog readers… however, onwards and upwards… here we go on the catch up…

My first poem of April was inspired by Write Out Loud Stockport’s prompt “Threads”. Although completely unrelated to #napowrimo’s prompts, it’s a chance to get something down on paper and make a start;

Threadbare

biscuit tin photos

Each family member spins a yarn.

Tales told over years are

embellished with brass buttons and ribbon strands.

Sepia memories kept in a Jubilee biscuit tin

are brought out and closely studied

with moist eyes.

 

buttons and ribbons

Though charity shop clothes were worn

until the cuffs frayed,

troubles were patched at the elbows

and spare buttons found, amongst the treasure

in the old treacle tin,

which sat next to bundled knitting needles

best china

 

and china cups, saved for best ”

in case the Queen should come”.

 

 

 

grandma sewing

 

A thimble was all that was needed to protect

the seamstress, until the day she laid down

her work and found rest;

leaving her children and theirs, to pick up

the thread and embroider their own stories,

to pick up the shears and cut their own cloth,

each stitch a priceless and unique addition.

 

 

 

 

The Sycamore Prince

Slender branches silhouette

beneath his golden crown.

Sparks thrown out by the silver sun

ignite his flaming hues.

The autumnal prince towers above

ethereal mists, caught between earth and sky.

In a final flourish, passionate embers

of saffron and copper smoulder.

Only to cool as the light fades

and chill winds blow.

Each yellow fingered leaf, I mourn

as it falls and returns to it’s roots.

I will his warming glow to remain

to comfort my spirits during

November’s nip and winters depths.

Knowing my protests cannot halt

ruthless frosts from calling “time”.

November 2017

The Best of Times

Written with an aching heart, here is my response to Napowrimo’s challenge for Day 10.

The Prompt: Write a poem that is a portrait of someone important to you. It doesn’t need to focus so much on what a person looks (or looked) like, as what they are or were.

My response:

The Best Of Times

We talked for hours by the fireside

of Keats and poetic greats.

We waxed lyrical of literary works,

swapped recommendations, compared texts.

You lent me dusty old books,

from your bowing bookshelves.

They smelt of aged paper, slightly musty and damp.

Some had prices pencilled on the inside cover

or dedications marking occasions.

They were charity shop treasures you’d unearthed.

We shared sadness as we wondered how works of art and genius

could be so casually tossed aside to charity bags.

We laughed until tears rolled, when the actor who played leading role

in a beloved film escaped us.

“It was errrr… now then… blast it… I know this…

he was also in… no, no, no…

the one with the actress, who was married to…” and it went on.

These conversations were more frequent

as your memory faded,

but we laughed all the same until we recalled the names.

We agreed on Wuthering Heights and Olivier

being best cast in the role

but disagreed on your love of Laurel and Hardy,

It amazed me how you belly laughed

as you watched their slapstick humour.

You bought me a box set of Doris Day

though your pension funds were running out.

No-one else in the world knew or understood

my passion for her voice

Our talks were exclusive.

We’d be enrapt until it went dark outside and I had to leave.

They were the greatest times.

Who would have thought whilst generations apart,

we could have been best friends and soul mates?

Now all I have is a box of your books,

which were handed to me when you died.

I cried because they had been hastily thrown together

without any conscious choice.

Just a random after thought, of “She may like some.”

There are some old poetry collections.

Opening them, I found notes made on strips of paper,

which bookmarked the pages

and an old lottery ticket.

Some poems were starred and I knew before looking,

I’d find stars next to The Highwayman and The Oxen.

I hope you have found new friends to discuss with,

Until we meet again.

Fortuitous Festive Feast

When does prose become prose poetry or vice versa? Where is the line drawn between prose poetry and free verse? Does any of this matter? Perhaps the poets out there can enlighten me?

I’m classing my response to today’s Napowrimo challenge as an artistic expression, free from limitations, simply so I can complete the challenge on a day where I’m over-stretched…sorry!

Day 7: Write a poem on luck or fortuitousness

My response:

Fortuitous Festive Feast

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We saw it at the same time.

Halted our march through the grimy slush.

Our toes pinched with cold.

Mum stooped down,

Quickly picking up

the bunched and crumpled papers.

We stood to one side,

letting the throng of shoppers pass.

We waited. We watched.

Time ticked by. Busy bodies bustled by;

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a constant stream of upturned collars,

chins tucked in, heads down,

red noses glowing in the fading light.

Clouds of breath rose in the icy air.

Confident no-one was looking

for a lost bundle, we slid

into a small side street.

Huddled together, mum drew out

the tightly wrapped notes.

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Ghostly white, trembling fingers

unfolded the green notes, one by one.

It was Christmas Eve,

The cupboards at home bare.

Now we held enough money

To buy Christmas dinner, pudding

and still have some left over.

Mum stifled a laugh.

The Christmas lights swaying

in the bitter wind,

looked brighter, prettier

but not as pretty as

mum’s tear filled eyes.

She looked up to the sky,

said a silent prayer

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then grabbed my hand

dragging me, running, skipping

back to the market to buy

our fortuitous festive feast.

 

Fireside Tales and Folklore

Yesterday, I spent the day in heaven. I was surrounded by nature. I was in the company of creative writers with a passion for the written word. I was  taught by a master of the craft.

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Joy Winkler, the former Cheshire Poet Laureate, ran a masterclass in re-writing myths and legends with a modern twist, from the grounds of a beautiful National Trust Park. 

 

From the minute I entered the gates of Tatton Park, I was inspired. The tree-lined driveway leads past reindeer, quietly grazing in the morning haze. It continues on to the impressive architecture of the old hall, then on through farmland. I actually stopped the car on the drive to have a “moment” with an adult deer, which stopped eating, looked up and made eye contact, gently tipping his head to one side as he did. By the time I got to the car park, I was peaceful, relaxed and ready for a day’s writing.

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To add to my bliss, there is a very short walk through a tree canopied pathway, which is one of my favourite spots in the park.

As I turned onto the path, I was greeted by crowds of golden daffodils, with heads swaying in the breeze.

blog112.jpgPink and white blossom trees shed their petals as the wind rocked their branches. They fell like wedding confetti as I walked by.

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Turning in to the stable courtyard, deep purples and violets burst from the filled planters, vibrant crimson crept up the exterior walls of the kitchen gardens.

What a welcome.

Reluctant to leave the fresh air and sunshine but excited to join the writers; I entered the classroom, which for today was a converted barn. A few people had arrived. There was a lovely atmosphere as everyone greeted each other and settled themselves down with cups of tea and coffee. Joy is a wonderfully personable lady, who has the comforting presence of an old friend, from the first moment you meet her.

spell writing

She began her lesson in re-writing old myths and legends. She introduced the topic of our own family stories which had been handed down the generations, told and re-told perhaps by the fireside, perhaps as bedtime stories. Changing the time period, slowing the pace, embellishing with detailed descriptions were techniques discussed.

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Following a writing exercise the group read out their work. I always enjoy hearing how others have interpreted the prompt. Their personalities are revealed by glimpses of their passions and fears, it’s fascinating to hear and observe.

I very quickly realised I was in the midst of very accomplished writers, people who loved their craft and were passionate lovers of literacy. I learnt more than expected from the lively conversation as we shared our experiences and knowledge. It was a dream to spend the day with book lovers and creative minds.

After lunch, a walk around the gardens, more writing, readings, and discussions, the day came to a close. Everyone was reluctant to leave. It was a perfect day, in the most wonderful surroundings, with the best company.

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I’m very grateful to have been part of the magic and will treasure the memory – perhaps I may tell the tale to my children and grandchildren in years to come… with an added elf, monster, wizard and princess, of course.