TODAY: Songs of Protest at Brockley Max


Copyright Ben Mueller-Brown

 

Vocal Chords are reprising our Songs of Protest repertoire for Brockley MAX Festival today, Sunday 4th June at 3.30.

St Hilda’s Church, Courtrai Road
SE23 1PL

We are joined by Carrie Cohen & Silas Hawkins who will read poems from Arachne Press’ Liberty Tales anthology.

£7 on the door (proceeds to Wheels for Wellbeing)

Books Sales & refreshments available

Carrie Cohen

my first ever poem is about to be published


Well, that isn’t actually true. I’ve written loads of poems, but I’ve just had one accepted for publication for the first time ever.

Anyway its very short and a bit silly, but it works – it’s a ‘proper’ poem with a recognisable form. I love writing free poetry but there’s a different kind of satisfaction to be got from the structured stuff,  a bit like a fiendish puzzle, there’s an audible crunch when it fits together perfectly.

Encouraged by the strapline: It’s OK, you’re allowed to be funny I sent something off. So at some point in the next couple of months my tiny poem, The Thirty Second Mariner will be online at the delightfully named Spilling Cocoa Over Martin Amis site run by Jonathan Pinnock.

On a bit of a roll, I’ve also had a flash piece accepted by Spelk Fiction, and Rising Dawn will be on their site on 20th June.

readings this week


Busy week again, singing Monday (Vocal Chords mid-project ‘stop-over’ concert)  and Sunday (rehearsing Brundibar at Blackheath – more on this later), teaching Tuesday, reading Saturday.

So the readings are:

Saturday: Arachne Press event at Keats House – readings from The Other Side of Sleep, and discussion of Narrative Poetry. I’m not reading personally apart form a cheeky 30 second thing, but I am taking part in my role of editor of the book. Readings from Alwyn Marriage, Jennifer A McGowan, Bernie Howley, Sarah Lawson and  Math Jones.

 

The Historical Birthday-Tea Party March 1st


Aemelia (or her sister Angela) Bassano

A new month, but no birthday to celebrate. I’ll have run out of people whose dates I haven’t found soon and then where will I be?

Ok, never mind. Today we are composing birthday odes for Emilia Bassano Lanier aka Aemelia Lanyer 1569–1645

Emilia was  Jewish, the  illegitimate daughter of Venetian musician Baptista Bassano and Margaret Johnson, her father worked as a court musician to Henry VIII. She married Alphonso Larrier, another musician when she became pregnant by her lover Lord Hunsden. The portrait here (by Hilliard) is almost certainly of one of the Bassano sisters, and even if it isn’t Emilia, gives us some idea what she may have looked like.

Emilia was a feminist and a poet – the first woman in England to publish a book of original poetry, Salve Rex Deus Judaeorum; in it she works her way through just about every woman in the bible, pointing out how important they are to Judaism and Christianity.

She has been claimed as Shakespeare’s Dark Lady, (you know, – my mistress’s eyes are nothing like the sun? – that one) and even more delightfully and controversially to have written or collaborated on some of his work… Her family certainly knew people Shakespeare knew, and there is a reasonable likelihood that her brother-in-law and Shakespeare worked together at some point. It’s an attractive idea, but let’s stick to what is certain.

But surely Adam cannot be excused,
Her fault though great, yet he was the most to blame;
what weakness offered, strength might have refused,
Being lord of all the greater was his shame…
… If Eve did err, it was for knowledge sake,
No subtle serpents falsehood did betray him
If he would eat it, who had power to stay him?
Not Eve, whose fault was only too much love,
which made her give this present to her dear,
That what she tasted, he likewise might prove
Whereby his knowledge might become more clear…
…Then let us have our liberty again,
And challenge to your selves no Sovereignty;
You come not into the world without our pain,
Make that a bar against your cruelty;
Your fault being greater, why should you disdain
Our being your equals, free from tyranny?

Eve’s Apology.

[men…] Forgetting they were born of woman, nourished of women, and that if it were not by the means of women they would be quite extinguished out of the world, and a final end of them all, do like vipers deface the wombes wherein they were bred.

The Historical Birthday-Tea Party 22nd February


Vincent

Today’s birthday girl is

Edna St. Vincent Millay (February 22, 1892 – October 19, 1950)

also known as Nancy Boyd when writing prose, and who called herself ‘Vincent’.

Vincent was an American poet and playwright in 1923 she became the third woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry, her first poems were published when she was in her teens, and already a bit of a ladies woman.

She first came to attention when she was passed over for a prize, and (to their credit) the men who had ranked higher than her protested that her poems was better, in one case handing ver the prize money. Nothing like a little controversy to launch a girl’s career, and she needed help the family were living in abject penury, and one of the pluses of the fuss was that Vincent attracted a wealthy patron who paid for her to go to college.

Her poetry was feminist and pacifist (during WWI). She had affairs with both men and women,  notably Edith Wynne Matthison, a British actress.

Edith Wynne Matthison

Edith Wynne Matthison

letter to Edith Wynne Matthison

You wrote me a beautiful letter, – I wonder if you meant it to be as beautiful as it was. – I think you did; for somehow I know that

your feeling for me, however slight it is, is of the nature of love…When you tell me to come, I will come, by the next train, just as I am. This is not meekness, be assured; I do not come naturally by meekness; know that it is a proud surrender to You.

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
It gives a lovely light!

But you, you foolish girl, you have gone home to a leaky castle across the sea to lie awake in linen smelling of lavender, and hear the nightingale, and long for me

I do not think there is a woman in whom the roots of passion shoot deeper than in me

One things there’s no getting by,
I’ve been a wicked girl,
Says I…
But, if I can’t be sorry I might as well be glad !

I thought, as I wiped my eyes on the corner of my apron:
Penelope did this too.
And more than once: you can’t keep weaving all day
And undoing it all through the night;
Your arms get tired, and the back of your neck gets tight;
And along towards morning, when you think it will never be light,
And your husband has been gone, and you don’t know where, for years.
Suddenly you burst into tears;
There is simply nothing else to do.

And I thought, as I wiped my eyes on the corner of my apron:
This is an ancient gesture, authentic, antique,
In the very best tradition, classic, Greek;
Ulysses did this too.
But only as a gesture,—a gesture which implied
To the assembled throng that he was much too moved to speak.
He learned it from Penelope…
Penelope, who really cried

Sense, Sentences and Sensibility – building poems from scratch


I’m running a poetry workshop on Friday.  I keep quiet about poetry most of the time, but the opportunity came up (through Spread the Word), and I’ve been flexing my poetry muscles at the Poetry Cafe’s Poetry@3, Poetry at Mr Lawrence’s and the Towersey Festival recently, so here I go!

I’ll be exploring how poems work and finding your own voice through use of as many senses as possible (very possibly using props!)  Suitable for novice and more experienced writers of poetry.

Join me at

Donald Hope Library
Cavendish House, High Street, Colliers Wood, London SW19 2HR
Friday 21st February between 1-3pm. FREE!

The Historical Birthday-Tea Party 11th February


Karoline von Günderode 11 February 1780 – 26 July 1806  romantic poet, her works often had strong heroic women in the central role, and was critical of traditional gender attitudes.

I have to say she behaved a bit like an opera heroine, and this doesn’t strike me as entirely a good thing – Jane Austen would have had comments to make about sensibility.

I’ve often had the unfeminine desire to throw myself into the wild chaos of battle and die. Why didn’t I turn out to be a man! I have no feeling for feminine virtues, for a woman’s happiness. Only that which is wild, great, shining appeals to me. There is an unfortunate but unalterable imbalance in my soul; and it will and must remain so, since I am a woman and have desires like a man without a man’s strength.

Sounds good doesn’t it, but she had an affair with a married man Georg Friedrich Creuzer, who divorced his wife to be with her. Unfortunately, persuaded by his friends that Caroline was unsuitable, he left her. (Or depending on which version you go by,  he wouldn’t divorce his wife).  As a result of the stress he got ill, and Caroline, believing he was dying (or furious he wouldn’t divorce his wife…), killed herself… Georg survived the illness (if there was one).

Actually, not sure why I’m including her, I’m writing this and thinking, idiot! But there you go, idiots abound, and sometimes they can be fun to be around, briefly.

I think I would be delighted if she declined the invitation, I’d be having to keep an eye on her the whole time, and keep counting the knives: not restful.

 

The Historical Birthday-Tea Party 9th February


Amy Lowell

February 9, 1874 – May 12, 1925

the embodiment of the new liberated woman, … unlimited faith in her own capability

God made me a business woman, and I made myself a poet

Towards the end of her short life Amy had  a relationship with Ada Dwyer Russell, and wrote several poems for her.

The Temple
Between us leapt a gold and scarlet flame.
Into the hollow of the cupped, arched blue
Of Heaven it rose. Its flickering tongues up-drew
And vanished in the sunshine. How it came
We guessed not, nor what thing could be its name.
From each to each had sprung those sparks which flew
Together into fire. But we knew
The winds would slap and quench it in their game.
And so we graved and fashioned marble blocks
To treasure it, and placed them round about.
With pillared porticos we wreathed the whole,
And roofed it with bright bronze. Behind carved locks
Flowered the tall and sheltered flame. Without,
The baffled winds thrust at a column’s bole.
The Taxi
When I go away from you
The world beats dead
Like a slackened drum.
I call out for you against the jutted stars
And shout into the ridges of the wind.
Streets coming fast,
One after the other,
Wedge you away from me,
And the lamps of the city prick my eyes
So that I can no longer see your face.
Why should I leave you,
To wound myself upon the sharp edges of the night?
Anticipation
I HAVE been temperate always,
But I am like to be very drunk
With your coming.
There have been times
I feared to walk down the street
Lest I should reel with the wine of you,
And jerk against my neighbors
As they go by.
I am parched now, and my tongue is horrible in my mouth,
But my brain is noisy
With the clash and gurgle of filling wine-cups.

Ada  edited posthumous collections of Amy’s poem, including this:

Sappho would speak, I think, quite openly
And Mrs Browning guard a careful silence,
But Emily would set doors ajar and slam them
And love you for your speed of observation

What’s O’clock 1925: The Sisters st2

Tell me
Was Venus more beautiful
Than you are
When she topped
The crinkled waves
Drifting shoreward
On her plaited shell
Was Botticelli’s vision
Fairer than mine
And were the painted rosebuds
He tossed his lady
Of better worth
Than the words I blow about you
To cover your too great loveliness

Amy would be good company I think, full of brio and delight. She gets her invitation, Ada too, obviously.

Lewisham Library LGBT Lesbian takeover


We had a great night at Lewisham Library on Thursday. A substantial crowd, a relaxed atmosphere and some great writers. The first of  many events for LGBT History Month, it was a diverse and entertaining evening.

V.A Fearon read from her novel The Girl With the Treasure Chest, about gang negotiator Dani, and her first meeting with lover Marie;

Kate Foley read us some varied poems from several collections covering everything from bedroom tax to first smoochy dance at the Gateways*

Cherry Potts stuck up for Helen of Troy in her story Behind the Mask, from Mosaic of Air

and V.G. Lee‘s heroine struggled to be a proper card-carrying lesbian in the teeth of straight friend Deirdre’s best attempts to scupper her.

*Anyone under the age of thirty may be mystified by the Gateways. If you want to know more, come along to The Story Sessions on 19th February and listen to Clare Summerskill.