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Homemaking

Gosh, I see it’s been over a month since my last post, ‘Sub-Zero’! Maureen and I have been offline for most of this time but our computers are now connected at our new home and we’re trying to catch up on our huge backlog of emails.

So much has happened in the interim. I’ve turned 70.  Maureen and I have done another joint guest spot on Vintage Radio’s Poetry Roundup.  Maureen, a former professional dancer with Irish Theatre Ballet under the legendary Joan Denise Moriarty, has also given a brilliant talk on ‘Ballet in Ireland’ at a major Wirral poetry venue, First Thursday at Linghams booksellers, Heswall.  And my son has got married, a very happy family occasion.

So now I’ll pick up where I left off with ‘Sub-Zero’ on 11th April.  Below is the second of my poems published on Angela Topping’s blog, in her Hygge poetry Feature Number 26, titled ‘Homemaking’ like my poem…

 

HOMEMAKING

 

Gulls tumble screeching

in the raw estuary blow

as we pop the radio on.

 

There are those who frown still

but here on our windy Welsh hill

we’re making a home together.

 

She bends to the curtains

as I open a flatpack

resinous wood-tang wafting.

 

Berlioz, Mahler, Miles Davis:

hours fly in the sheer joy

of making,

 

her needle and thread

my screwdriver and mallet

in harmony.

 

On the fence outside

a robin sings

his winter song.

 

We’re done:

her beautiful curtains hung

my chest of drawers looking good.

 

Come the spring

we’ll plant our small garden

and maybe fresh smiles will bloom.

 

Paul Beech

 

Copyright © Paul Beech 2017

 

Sub-Zero

Some weeks ago, in January through to mid-February, Angela Topping the poet ran a series of daily Hygge features on her blog. In her Call for Submissions, she explained that Hygge is “the Dutch term for cosiness, intimacy and taking pleasure from simple things.”  However the poems didn’t have to be all sweetness and light.  “I am interested in the darkness and how poetry can shine a light in dark corners,” she wrote.

Each feature focussed on a different aspect of hygge and presented poems that complimented each other with a great introduction and photograph. The series illustrated how variously hygge may be found and the wealth of work within the genre, comprising in effect a fascinating online anthology.  Thank you, Angela.

Maureen and I had two poems each published in the series. My first was a newly written haibun included in Hygge Feature Number 8, Outdoor/Indoors, and was based on observations walking beside the Shropshire Union Canal (“The Shroppie”) seven years earlier, on Boxing Day 2010…

SUB-ZERO

It’s Boxing Day, noon. And down “The Shroppie”, a mile below Bunbury, a solitary narrowboat lies trapped against the bank in ice and snow.  The boatman, a cheery soul, chops logs.  Only the fragrant woodsmoke from his boat’s stove mars the dazzling white.

Now a large hare scurries, skidding, over the frozen canal with a buzzard in pursuit. They vanish from view but a thin cry will plague our snuggling boatman until taken by a good malt, curtains drawn.

in the golden glow

of a log fire

jugged hare is served, amen

Paul Beech

~~~~~~

Dear Readers, please note that I will be offline shortly for a little while whilst our computers are being installed in our new home. I will reply to any comments when back online again.

My very best to you all,

Paul

~~~~~~

 

Copyright © Paul Beech 2017

Bluecoat and Front Row

Gosh, how wonderful it was, last Wednesday, for Maureen and I to take an evening off from the gruelling business of moving house. We headed over to Liverpool, a favourite place of ours with its zestful vibe and friendly cosmopolitan air. Radio 4’s Front Row programme (which follows The Archers) was to be produced and broadcast live from the Bluecoat arts centre to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the publication of The Mersey Sound: Penguin Modern Poets 10 from Adrian Henri, Roger McGough and Brian Patten. We’d booked tickets for the show.

Before going in, we bought crêpes (pancakes) from a van – crêpes with sugar and lemon – and enjoyed them hugely sitting in the cobbled side-street with hopeful pigeons and gulls gathering at our feet.

The Mersey Sound ushered in a new type of poetry – punchy, provocative, socially relevant and widely accessible – bringing the trio fame as “The Liverpool Poets” during that heady period, “The Swinging Sixties”, when The Beatles sprang from the city’s Cavern Club to take the musical world by storm.

Presented by John Wilson, Front Row was simply brilliant, with Roger McGough and Brian Patten present to discuss and read poems from their ground-breaking anthology. Adrian Henri, a painter and musician as well as a poet, died in 2000 but his partner, now his literary and artistic executor, Catherine Marcangeli, spoke about his “total art” vision and introduced a series of exhibitions and events called Tonight At Noon (after a Henri poem) celebrating The Mersey Sound’s half-century.

Lizzie Nunnery, a playwright and singer-songwriter, performed with musical accompaniment, an extract from Horny Handed Tons of Soil, her new work inspired by The Mersey Sound and Adrian Henri. Andrew McMillan, the award-winning poet, premiered his new poem, written in response to The Mersey Sound.

The Bluecoat, built in 1717, is Liverpool city centre’s oldest building, a charity school for nearly 200 years before becoming the UK’s first arts centre in 1907. And Bryan Biggs, artistic director of its 300th anniversary programme, spoke very interestingly about the centre’s role in supporting contemporary artists.

It was altogether a most enjoyable evening which Maureen and I will long remember.

Paul Beech

Copyright © Paul Beech 2017

Somonka

I’d never heard of Somonka until Kemal Houghton, our Chair at Chester Poets, invited members to submit Somonka poems for reading on Poetry Roundup, his show on Vintage Radio (Birkenhead) on Wednesday last week.

The Somonka is an ancient Japanese verse form, each poem comprising a pair of tanka on the theme of love (romantic or some other type), the first a statement, the second in response. Usually the first tanka is written by one poet, the second by another, but a Somonka may be written by a single poet assuming two personas.

Maureen and I gave it a go of course, and we had many a laugh over it. I wrote a solo Somonka first, about my much loved infants’ school teacher back in ’53, when I was knee-high to a grasshopper. Then we did one together, the first tanka (the statement) by Maureen, the second (the response) by me. And we were delighted when both poems were included in the programme, Kemal reading the male verses, his co-presenter Linda Bradley reading the female, as they did so brilliantly with the other Somonkas too.

Below is my solo effort. We’ll reserve our joint-Somonka (quite a funny one) for publication elsewhere.

MISS T

floral smock chalky
mistress of the scout hut school
she gave of her love
calmed this little boy’s fear
and let him sit with the girls

Coronation year
my sweetheart lost in the war
I gave of my love
to his brave comrades’ children
beneath a Union Jack

Paul Beech

Copyright © Paul Beech 2017

Spring in the air

I popped out for milk this morning, just as the sun was coming over the chimneypots. And a lovely morning it was too, nippy definitely but with a hint of spring in the air, our feathered friends in fine voice and the first snowdrops out.  Drawing deeply on the fresh estuary air, I thought the following two poems from my collection Twin Dakotas: poetry and prose might be nice ones to post today.  Hope you like them.

 

SCALLYWAGS

 

Nice morning, soft blue,

cheeky beaks at my window;

the sparrows are back.

 

Chirpy scallywags

gossiping in the laurel;

quick wings beat the air.

 

Nice morning, soft blue,

I feel like a boy again.

Aye, the sparrows are back.

 

Paul Beech

 

~

 

SPRINGTIME

 

Tangled toads at water’s edge

male mallards vie for a female –

a girl and her granny laugh.

 

Paul Beech

 

~

 

Copyright © Paul Beech 2017

Twin Dakotas: poetry and prose published by Cestrian Press, 2016

‘Scallywags’ first published in Reflections, Issue 96

Ruby

On Remembrance Sunday last November, as in 2015, Maureen and I stood to attention during the two-minute silence, before candle-lit photographs of our dear brave dads, both of whom served in the Second World War, hers in the Army, mine the RAF. Both thankfully survived but are no longer with us now.  We concluded our private ceremony as before, with proud salutes.

Of course we remembered all those wonderful men and women we owe so much to. One woman in particular came into my mind, the following haibun resulting…

RUBY

The thump of the big gun rolls away, the two-minute silence begun. Just a gull or two calling distantly.  And there she is, waiting in memory: a woman never quite met, face never quite glimpsed, only her withered, liver-spotted hand, like a claw.  I never knew her name but thought of her as Ruby.  I knew only this: that she was one of those brave British agents dropped into occupied France to work with the Marquis in the run-up to D-Day.  Her room in the nursing home was always dark, door ajar, music most sombre on low.  Occasionally I’d hear her cough.  The big gun sounds again: it’s over.

between bugle calls

they live again

our lads, our girls

Paul Beech

Copyright © Paul Beech 2017

The Old Majolica Bowl

Here’s another poem from my debut collection Twin Dakotas: poetry and prose, published by Cestrian Press last August. The poem subsequently appeared, along with six of my others, in Unheard, our Chester Poets anthology 2016, also from Cestrian Press, the central theme of which was dispossession, alienation and homelessness.

The poem is about an orphaned refugee girl, and I tell her story as if to one of my younger granddaughters…

 

THE OLD MAJOLICA BOWL

.

She’s just a little girl, my love.

She cannot speak nor even cry,

so terrible have been

the things she’s seen

in her faraway ravaged land,

the land she has fled in fear.

But she’s just a little girl like you.

.

No mummy, daddy or granny anymore

because of the war,

she lives in a muddy camp across the Channel.

.

All she has left is an old Italian bowl,

the gloriously coloured majolica bowl

that always stood in a shaft of light,

lemons, limes and apples piled bright.

It’s a miracle it wasn’t destroyed by the bomb.

Pity anyone who’d steal it now

for this little girl can be fierce.

.

She paints like you, my love,

but uses more red than blue,

much more red than you.

She cannot speak but paints in red.

.

In her cold camp bed

she clutches her bowl,

the old majolica fruit bowl.

Miracles do happen,

and cross the Channel she will someday

to a happy life in our country.

Kind people to care for her

and a little girl who will be her friend,

a friend who’ll help her find her voice again.

So she believes.

.

A little girl like you, my love.

.

Paul Beech

.

Copyright (c) Paul Beech 2017