Thursday 31 July 2014

Port Eliot and the Poetry Army

Last Saturday was just a total GIFT.

A poetry friend from Brighton, (Roy Hutchins) sent out an email about something he was doing at Port Eliot Festival, and did anyone want to get involved?  I did, but thought I wouldn't be able to afford it. But after having such a positive afternoon performing at the Penzance Litfest the week before, Hubby encouraged me to just GO FOR IT.  So I did, and ended up getting a free ticket and a super cheap train. Woo hoo!

I hadn't really heard of Port Eliot before, but it was probably the nicest festival I've been to. Not that I've been to loads, but everything about it was so pleasing on the eye. Set in the grounds of a large stately home, there was a lake, and trees, and green, and bursts of colour and creativity around every corner, and down every winding path. AND it was hot, hot, hot. Nice.

There's a whole lot of history to the festival that I won't go in to, but I believe it started off as a small literary festival, and has since grown! The majority of things going on were literary based, but there was also music, fashion, art, food and more.

I took part in something called the Poetry Army.  12 of us, just gathered on the day, from all over the UK, performed a piece written by Heathcote Williams.  It combined excerpts of poetry from across the ages to demonstrate the power of poetry to bring about change. We performed in the 'Round Room' in the main house - a round room (yes, really) with crazy murals covering the walls, and books carved of wood, and a grand piano! Really cool, and great to hear a wide range of voices representing an even wider range of people who weren't afraid to speak (write) truth.

Words are POWERFUL.

So that was great, and the rest of the day was super lovely.  I hung out with some of the Poetry Army people, and listened to more great poems, like by Salena Godden, and took photographs, and heard beautiful music (like Luke Sital Singh singing stunning songs that filled the stained glass old church building), and felt peaceful and inspired. Like I said, a gift of a day.

Here's some more pics, and some of the parts of poems that were read:

Poetry is like the water that washes the shores
The wind that cleans us
The fire which joins us together
And it lives within us
To make us better people...

Victor Lidio Jara Martinez (not sure which poem this is from)

We are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams.
World-losers and world-forsakers,
Upon whom the pale moon gleams;
Yet we are the movers and shakers,
Of the world forever, it seems.
'We are the Music Makers' - Arthur O'Shaughnessy

I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise

I rise. 
From 'Still I Rise' - Maya Angelou

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Is honesty the best policy?

I've been aiming to write this blog post for about two weeks. But this week, and last week, has been crazy busy. I'm not complaining though. I was preparing for a poetry performance for Sunday mainly (I even managed to write two new poems for it - rather proud of myself!), and going to other Penzance Literature Festival events, and babysitting, and work was quite full on, and it was hubby's birthday yesterday and by the by I spent Saturday night walking across Dartmoor!! So lots of good stuff and I'm not sad I haven't been able to spend evenings in front of a lap top catching up on editing photos and pondering on here.

What I've been wanting to articulate relates to a poem I posted on soundcloud last week called "Picture perfect" which is about how we present ourselves, and the pressure to hide all the ugly messy bits.  And I realise, because I like pretty photos, and because I live in a beautiful place, and because I do get to do fun things, and I have some beautiful friends, that my blog/facebook/twitter/instagram may seem hypocritical in the light of that poem.

It's not my intention.

When I'm down, or lonely, or epilating my legs, I don't generally tell a load of people - and if I do it'll be afterwards.  I guess I don't want people to think of me as the sad/lonely/hairy one, even if that is fairly often the case!  At the same time I don't want people to think I'm happy all the time or living on the beach or floating around with flowers all day. Because that's not true either, or maybe sometimes both are true at once.

Like how last week we went to a beach on The Lizard with some friends who bought us a tasty takeaway curry. We sat in the evening sun and watched the waves and it was GOOD. But at the same time I was feeling totally detached and not myself in a depression-type-way I haven't for aaages.  I think it was a mixture of changes in medication and being overwhelmed by some stuff that friends are going through plus who-knows-what. It took all evening to settle and enjoy the moment.  Then we went to Studio Bar, and I joined hubby and brother-in-law on stage to sing a couple of songs which I managed to get a bit wrong. It was no big deal but I left in tears and went home alone to cry some more. That was just one evening, that I could post photos of and make sound brilliant. And it was, and I'm grateful for all of it, but at the same time, I was a little bit in pieces.

In writing this I realise once again that perhaps the main issue is second-guessing and then worrying about what people think of me and how I come across, etc. I'm still learning BIG TIME to try and get over that, and I'm realising it may be a life long journey.  Doh. Hopefully by the time I'm an old lady I really won't care what people think and I won't get offended and cry half so as easily as I do now!!

ANYHOW, I guess this is what I mean about being more honest and open—painting the whole picture and not just parts of it.  I'm still working out what that actually looks like, and wondering where and when and how we (I) actually do that—because there are definitely some occasions when it's better to just keep quiet or at least wait for a better time and place to 'reveal all'.

What is 'over-sharing'?
What is inappropriate?
What is too much?

I guess we'd all come down somewhere different on the answers to those questions.  Recently I've even thought about starting an anonymous blog just so i could be REALLY honest, and talk about things that people might get offended or embarrassed by (like sex and bodies and church and war, amongst other things!)  But then if it's anonymous does that kind of defeat the point?

Many thoughts, many questions.

So perhaps this post is a bit of a warning, that I'm attempting to be more real and more open here as well as in the rest of life.

Interspersed by pretty photos... because they bring me joy, and, because life is beauty and mess.

Sunday 13 July 2014

Three ballerinas upon a Sunday afternoon (beauty feeds the soul)

Today my heart, which often finds itself a little sad and a little lonely on a Sunday afternoon, found peace among the flowers.

And I remembered that this is what I love — to happen upon an unexpected oasis, in the sunshine, with my camera... and having the time to play with capturing and celebrating beauty.

Sunday 6 July 2014

Elisa and Ophelia

This year two of my greatest friends have had daughters, just a few weeks apart from each other. And in the last couple of month I've had the privilege of being able to spend a weekend with each of them, catching up and getting to know the newest additions to their families

I wrote this for them.

Elisa & Ophelia

Both new to the world this year
Only a handful of months in the knowing
Of sights and spaces beyond your mothers’ cocoon
So far
more time spent hidden than revealed

Two beautiful girls with beautiful names
“Promised of God” and “Help”
Significant from the start
I am excited to see where your paths take you

You, both, with your wide eyes looking upon the world around
Breaking into a smile now and then...
And the sun comes out
But right now
All that matters are those milky orbs, plenty of sleep, a clean nappy and being held

Being held
Can you feel how treasured you are?
The strength of love
In your mama and your papa’s arms
Can you hear it in their chest?
When they draw you close
Can you see in their eyes
That you are the apple, the moon and the stars?

Blood runs in your veins
From both sides of the Atlantic
The possibility of more than one passport
Lives that’ll include hours on planes to visit grandparents
A mix of cultures flavouring your tastes, your views, your words
What other seas will you cross? Where will you make your home(s)?
What will you embrace and what will you change?
Whichever roads you take, may you dance often and laugh long
And delight in life and know you are of unspeakable value

I wonder if you’ll be friends one day
Connected by the thread of friendship with your mothers
That I am honoured to hold
wrapped tightly around my heart
I have journeyed with both of them
For a little long while
Learning about life and love and loss and laughter
They are strong
The women that bore you
Determined in their desire to follow the One Above and in them
To love well
And to keep on keep on keep on
Big hearts and faithful friends
My sisters
And I can already see that strength in you

I am richer for knowing your mothers
And doubly blessed for having met you
Perhaps one day my daughter will gain two older sisters
And she’ll be all the richer, too.

Saturday 5 July 2014

If I met a cocoa farmer (I won a poetry competition!)

I entered the Divine chocolate and Christian Aid poetry competition right at the last minute.  OK so it's not the most renowned competition, but the subject was interesting (see post title), and I'm trying to get more proactive about writing, so this seemed like a good start.

And, total surprise, I WON! Am pretty chuffed. Plus I got lots of chocolate sent to me :-)

Here is the judge and children's writer, Philip Ardagh, reading my poem.  Words are underneath.


If our paths should cross one day
I’m not convinced
That my words wouldn’t melt away
We are worlds apart
Are there any bridges big enough?

If our hands should clasp
I wonder what I’d feel
Weathered fingers
Friends of the soil
Tips sensitive to the story of each leaf
And the lines on his wife’s cheek

If our eyes should meet
What dreams would I see
He dreams beans!
He laughs and the eyes crinkle
Like silver foil
A gaze full of intention
To see that today
Life continues to grow

If our voices were to combine
How would it taste?
He leaves the bitterness to the cocoa beans
(Whereas I am too quick to turn sour)
There is a depth of flavour to his words
A lifetime of reflection
Upon the rhythm of the seasons
Has aged him well

If one day
We might embrace
 I’d inhale sweat-scent
With the cycles of tending, fending, fermenting, gathering
And catch a glimpse of a strength
That only a farmer’s wife can truly know

If our paths should cross one day
Perhaps we could sit and share
That ridiculous treasure
That binds us together
And in that moment
When more than words
 are melting in our mouth

We’ll pause
And smile