Medieval Marginalia

Napowrimo Challenge Day 24

I initially struggled with this prompt, but once I’d found an angle, it became much easier to write.

The Prompt: 

Write a poem of ekphrasis — that is, a poem inspired by a work of art…base your poem on a very particular kind of art – the marginalia of medieval manuscripts. Here you’ll find some characteristic images of rabbits hunting wolves, people sitting on nests of eggs, dogs studiously reading books, and birds wearing snail shells. What can I say? It must have gotten quite boring copying out manuscripts all day, so the monks made their own fun. Hopefully, the detritus of their daydreams will inspire you as well!

My Response:

 

Hollow

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A young boy, bent and twisted

over a dimly lit desk, peers at the page.

The candle flickers.

Stiff with cold, his bones ache

from long diligent hours, transcribing reverent texts.

His repetitive days pass in silent gloom.

His quill scratches hairy parchment with thin ink.

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Original thoughts are not required,

Nor dreams or ambition.

Bound by his vow of celibacy,

he will never know the passion of young love.

Hunger and starvation pains his body, pains his soul.

Neglect and lack of sustenance drive him

to the point of defacing the page

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with subversive medieval marginalia.

Supressed dreams, desires and anger merge

revealing his inner torment.

Offensive images of vulgarity spill out onto the page.

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He longs to run away from the sordid squalor,

from the dark, cold and damp monastery.

To stretch his legs, straighten his back,

feel sun on his face as he runs into the arms

of one who smiles and cares.

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The monastic life drives him away

rather than draws him nearer to God.

 Are the words he pens so hollow?

 

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Rainbow Child

Napowrimo Day 19

The Prompt:

Write a poem that recounts a creation myth. It doesn’t have to be an existing creation myth, or even recount how all of creation came to be. It could be, for example, your own take on the creation of ball-point pens, or the discovery of knitting. Your myth can be as big or small as you would like, as serious or silly as you make it.

My Response:

Rainbow Child

 

sunbeams in misty forest

In leafy forest glade,

amongst meadow flowers fair,

heady floral fragrance

hung heavily in the air.

Still, she sat in zenful peace,

as daydreams drifted by.

A breeze blew the tallest leaves

and whispered softest sighs.

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With eyes closed, she observed

a world of scents and sounds.

Then she pushed each thought out

until silent mind was found.

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Maiden so serene and soft,

in state of inner calm,

exhaled long, stretched aloft

her slender ivory arms.

With slight move, turned her face

to the golden orb on high.

Reaching with delicate grace

plucked insight from the sky.

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Again she reached, caught more;

glints of wisdom and of truth.

Pulled each near her fairy form,

where they glowed, brightest hues.

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Nimble fingers worked thereon,

wove gems into ribbon tails.

Multitudes of colours shone

as fluttering bright yacht sails.

Her fingers worked into night.

Ribbons stretched to the stars.

Weaving kindness, peace and grace

into finest work of art.

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The Gods saw the modesty

of this gifted fairy child,

whose work simple honesty,

from a soul so meek and mild.

They raised her up to heaven.

Forever she will remain.

Her ribbons stretch across the sky

when sunlight meets the rain.

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Soft Slumber

Napowrimo Day 16

The Prompt: 

Write a nocturne. In music, a nocturne is a composition meant to be played at night, usually for piano, and with a tender and melancholy sort of sound. Your nocturne should aim to translate this sensibility into poetic form!

My Response:

Soft Slumber

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Night lead me by the hand

as we climb a twinkling staircase of stars.

Darkness cover me. Tuck me in.

Place a goodnight kiss on my forehead.

Shadows close my heavy eyes.

Guide me into sleep.

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Dreams waltz with me

across an endless sky of velvet black.

Stillness soothe my mind.

Sing me a lullaby of moonlit melody.

Softness sway my soul.

Rock me gently with your sympathetic lilt.

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Peacefulness rise and fall

with every breath, as I slip deeper

into restful slumber.

 

Blood, blood everywhere!

With a slightly gothic twist, here is my response to the Napowrimo challenge on Day 11

The Prompt: the Bop. The invention of poet Afaa Michael Weaver, the Bop is a kind of combination sonnet + song. Like a Shakespearan sonnet, it introduces, discusses, and then solves (or fails to solve) a problem. Like a song, it relies on refrains and repetition. In the basic Bop poem, a six-line stanza introduces the problem, and is followed by a one-line refrain. The next, eight-line stanza discusses and develops the problem, and is again followed by the one-line refrain. Then, another six-line stanza resolves or concludes the problem, and is again followed by the refrain.

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Midday Feast

It’s 11 am and I can’t sleep.

I’ve tossed and turned for hours.

My stomach growls, gurgles, groans.

It pleads with me, begs me to feed the need.

I’m coffin bound, I can’t roam around.

In this light how do I find my next victim?

Blood, Blood everywhere and not a drop to drink.

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I could bang on the wood, yell for help,

In the hope the prey comes to me.

As they enter the gloom, a quick puncture wound

I can almost taste them now.

Perhaps I can find a cover, to shield my skin

venture out in the midday sun?

Sneak up from behind, grab a quick bite.

Oh for a pint or two! Right now a kitten would do!

Blood, Blood everywhere and not a drop to drink.

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But I have no cover, nothing I can use

So I lie prostrate in this box.

Its 2017, you would think I would learn

To prepare for this eventuality.

But I am a man. I don’t have a plan.

I shall just have to wither away, until dark marks the end of day.

Blood, Blood everywhere and not a drop to drink.

 

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.

 

Ten Ways of Looking at the Ocean

With stinging eyes and a tired mind, I attempt Day 6 of Napowrimo. Sandwiched between  work and nursing my five year old through chicken pox, I defiantly put pen to paper, adamant I will complete this challenge.

Today’s prompt; write a poem that looks at the same thing from various points of view. The most famous poem of this type is probably Wallace Stevens’ “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”.

My response:

Ten Ways of Looking at the Ocean

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I

Woeful secrets held

in Davy Jones’ locker,

present themselves to wretched plunderers.

 

II

Beneath the surface

a deadened eye

scans its domain.

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III

Nature’s wrath visits those

Who challenge the swell

and crash of her might

IV

The eerie calm on a windless sea

Stirs superstitious tendencies

unnerving the restless voyager

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V

Spilled on golden sands

remnants of shipwrecked lives

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VI

Moon and earth waltz

providing predictable tides

which wash clean

bloodstained hands

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VII

Driven discoverers dreaming of new lands

chase an ever-retreating horizon                       

VIII

Soft sighs soothe.

Rolling waves rock. Hush.

Sleep comes easily in salted air.

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IX

Seen from the stars

your unique azure

illuminates life support

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X

My soul is drawn to sapphire depths.

My eyes rest on clear azure.

I’m humbled to consider your  vastness emanates from the purest drop.

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.

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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.