Monday, 25 August 2014

Tuesday Poem: In That Year, by Kim Moore

In That Year

by Kim Moore

And in that year my body was a pillar of smoke
and even his hands could not hold me.

And in that year my mind was an empty table
and he laid his thoughts down like dishes of plenty.

And in that year my heart was the old monument,
the folly, and no use could be found for it.

And in that year my tongue spoke the language
of insects and not even my father knew me.

And in that year I waited for the horses
but they only shifted their feet in the darkness.

And in that year I imagined a vain thing;
I believed that the world would come for me.

And in that year I gave up on all the things
I was promised and left myself to sadness.

And then that year lay down like a path
and I walked it, I walked it, I walk it.

Copyright Kim Moore
First Published in Poetry News
from The Art of Falling
to be published by Seren in 2015

There are some poems you read and feel a moment of recognition because there's a kind of visceral crunch as they connect with your own experience.  This is one of those poems. I particularly love the final couplet which has been true for me.  I'm still walking it.

Kim Moore is an award-winning poet living in Cumbria in the north of England where she is a brass music teacher. Her first pamphlet, If We Could Speak Like Wolves,  was chosen by Carole Ann Duffy for the Poetry Business award in 2012 and also selected as one of The Independent's books of the year.   Kim blogs here.

About 'In That Year' - Kim Moore comments: "This poem is from a sequence of poems exploring domestic violence.  The sequence will be in my first full length collection "The Art of Falling" which will be published by Seren in 2015."

If We Could Speak Like Wolves is published by Smith/Doorstop and is available both in paperback and in e-book format from the publisher and from Amazon.

You can find Kim and more of her poetry on Wordpress at

The Tuesday Poets post great poetry from all over the world every Tuesday.  If you would like to see what other Tuesday Poets are posting today, please hop over to the Tuesday Poem Blog and check it out! 

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Tolstoy's Letters to Gandhi

Leo Tolstoy:  Letters to a Hindu

"Tolstoy's letters issue a clarion call for nonviolent resistance – he admonishes against false ideologies, both religious and pseudo-scientific, that promote violence, an act he sees as unnatural for the human spirit, and advocates for a return to our most natural, basic state, which is the law of love. Evil, Tolstoy argues with passionate conviction, is restrained not with violence but with love – something Maya Angelou would come to echo beautifully decades later."

I hadn't realised that Tolstoy and Gandhi had had such an extensive correspondence. But it made me sad to read these letters from an age where someone could write "Love is the only way to rescue humanity from all ills" and have some hope that it could be achieved.  We live in an age where violence has become the standard reaction to difficult situations, internationally and in our own communities.

I agree with the author of this article, Maria Popova, that Tolstoy's   "words bear extraordinary prescience today, as we face a swelling tide of political unrest, ethnic violence, and global conflict."

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

A writer's holiday

This blog has been on holiday for the last couple of weeks, mainly because I haven't had the energy at the end of the day to post anything at all.  It's been a blistering few weeks, jetting backwards and forwards between Italy and the UK, trying to keep the UK house from crumbling into the river bank, seeing the Offspring, and attempting to sell a few books.  What I need is a holiday!  But that got me thinking. . .

Don't look now - I'm writing!

Everyone's heard the expression 'a busman's holiday', ie not really being on holiday at all - but what about writers?  'A writer's holiday' would be a more appropriate saying, because writers have no holidays at all.  We are continually on the receiving end of 'input' even if we can switch off 'output'.

See that bikini clad woman lying on the beach towel, eyes closed behind the shades?  She's eavesdropping a conversation between two people having an argument under a nearby umbrella.  Notice the notebook strategically placed next to the iced drink and the sun tan lotion.

'Spot the Writer' is a good game.  Sometimes they pretend to be listening to music on their i-pods but this is just a ruse to prevent people talking to them - a vain attempt to shut off 'input'.  I've tried everything, but whenever I travel the people next to me, the taxi drivers, the cabin crew, all seem to want to tell me the stories of their lives.  I've got the material for shelves and shelves of novels I will never write.

Then there's the sunsets, the 3am Cosmic Questions, the way the light falls on the sea, a bird at just the right angle above the mountain, the man with the gleaming teeth who appears in the bar every evening with a different woman, the girl selling bracelets on the street outside, a  mysterious note delivered to your cubby hole in the hotel . . .  They all need to be written down by the crazy addict desperate for another fix of Words.

These days, i-pads are making it difficult to spot the scribblers.  They might look as though they're simply texting or updating Facebook, while sneakily editing the Great Novel.  You might even be in it - your appearance and conversation recorded for posterity.  That's what writers do - they steal other people's lives and put them between glossy covers and they are never, never off-duty!

Now I'm off again, this time to take charge of grandchildren who don't want to go on holiday with their parents - and daughter and tiny ones are back from Cuba, so there's going to be a houseful. Probably won't have the energy to blog again until September - but you never know!

Monday, 4 August 2014

Tuesday Poem: 'I sing because I sing', Mahmoud Darwish and Yehuda Amichai

This week I'm posting a powerful poem by one of the great Palestinian poets, the voice of exile, Mahmoud Darwish, and another by one of the greatest Israeli poets, Yehuda Amichai, writing about the loneliness of exile and the need for homeland. 

Earth Poem

A dull evening in a run-down village
Eyes half asleep
I recall thirty years
And five wars
I swear the future keeps
My ear of corn
And the singer croons
About a fire and some strangers
And the evening is just another evening
And the singer croons

And they asked him:
Why do you sing?
And he answered:
I sing because I sing . . .

And they searched his chest
But could only find his heart
And they searched his heart
But could only find his people
And they searched his voice
But could only find his grief
And they searched his grief
But could only find his prison
And they searched his prison
But could only see themselves in chains.

©  Mahmoud Darwish

Half the People in the World

Half the people in the world love the
other half, half the people hate the
other half . Must I, because of those
and the others, go and wander and
endlessly change, like rain in its cycle,
and sleep among rocks, and be rugged
like the trunks of olive trees, and hear
the moon bark at me and camouflage
my love with worries, and grow like the
timorous grass in between railway
tracks, and live in the ground like a
mole, and be with roots and not with
branches, and not rest my cheek upon
the cheeks of angels, and make love in
the first cave, and marry my wife under
the canopy of beams which support the
earth, and act out my death, always to
the last breath and the last words,
without ever understanding, and put
flagpoles on top of my house and a
shelter at the bottom. And set forth on
the roads made only for returning, and
go through all the terrifying stations -
cat, stick, fire, water, butcher, - between
the kid and the angel of death?

© Yehuda Amichai

Yehuda Amichai was born in Germany to an Orthodox Jewish family who emigrated to Palestine in 1935.  He fought in World War II and began writing poetry in 1946 while stationed with the British Army in Egypt. Amichai later fought in the Israeli War of Independence, the 1956  Sinai War, and then in the Yom Kippur War of 1973. His experiences led to a complete change of heart. He became an advocate of peace and reconciliation in the region, working with Arab writers.  One of his poems, "God has pity on kindergarten children", was read at the Nobel Peace Prize presentation in 1994.  He died from cancer in 2000.

Mahmoud Darwish was born in Palestine in 1941 and is regarded as the Palestinian national poet. In his work, Palestine became a metaphor for the loss of Eden, birth and resurrection, and the anguish of dispossession and exile.  One of his last collections was called ‘Unfortunately it was Paradise’. His voice, more than any other, articulates the suffering of the Palestinian people.  It was written from personal experience.  His family were farmers, but their village near Galilee was invaded by Israeli forces in 1948 and razed to the ground to prevent the inhabitants from returning. Darwish spent some time living in Haifa where he fell in love with a Jewish woman - a relationship that could not be allowed.  He left Israel to study in 1970.  Darwish spent most of his life in exile, being allowed to return to live in Ramallah in 1995. He was an outspoken critic of the rivalry between Fatah and Hamas, as well as the Israeli state.  One of his most famous poems is  "A Soldier Dreams of White Lilies", featured in the film ‘Id-the identity of the soul’. He died from heart failure in 2008.

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