Note Number… 75…Help! — I’ve Got Sonnetitis…

Shakespeare

Shakespeare…(in case you didn’t know)

I’ve just finished my first term at Exeter University, studying for an MA in Creative Writing. It’s been brilliant. Last week I had to submit my first assignment —  250 lines of poetry and a supporting self-reflexive essay…and before you say anything the word is ‘self-reflexive’ a subtle difference from ‘self-reflective’.  The latter meaning looking back on what you have learnt and how it has shaped your work; the former meaning, how your learning will influence your future work, i.e. how you will go forward. Not sure I actually followed the premise exactly, but I gave it a go. (I did a bit of reflecting and reflexing I think…it was hard to avoid).

images copy

But, to get to the title of this blog. One of the last taught seminars of the term for the poetry module, was all about sonnets. It was an eye-opener for me I can assure you. I had always tried to stick rigidly to the rules of a sonnet. That is to say, fourteen lines, iambic pentameter, and the Shakesperean or Petrachen style (or other if you’re so inclined). If you want to know more about these look here. Sonnet. There are many other sources on the Internet if you want to read more, but I’ve just given you a Wikipedia link.

The thing is…the modern sonnet has opened up a much looser interpretation. In the seminar, we were told to experiment with the form, to the point that, as long as there are fourteen lines in the poem it was pretty much a sonnet. The rhyming dosen’t matter so much, you can be lax with the ten-syllable rule etc., Well, you can imagine, this opened up a whole new world of poetry writing for me — a whole new world of writing in fact, because once I started on the sonnet, I couldn’t stop. Now EVERYTHING I write comes out as a sonnet — even flash fiction! It won’t last though. Next term I’m taking two prose writing modules so that should soon cure the Sonnetitis.

I thought, I would share one of my sonnets with you here, it’s from a selection I’ve written about Cornish holidays in the 1950s. Enjoy.

Rock Pooling

Tee-shirt and shorts, old sandals bite my toes

Bucket in one hand, net in the other

I challenge rocky boulders in the cove

excited to see what I’ll discover.

Pools of water sit like tiny mountain lakes

I hunker down beside one, examine

what hides inside the miniature world,

weeds, empty shells and a broken toy.

I move cat-like, searching for an hour,

 

enthusiasm waning, I spy a lurking crab

I slip, stumble over the belligerent rocks,

and lurch to seize a skeletal leg.

Balance lost, I fall and graze my knee

but watch, content, as the crab scuttles free

 

Rock Pool

 

 

Note Number 71. . .Seamus Heaney Home Place. . .

Me outside

Last Monday The Man and I were in Northern Ireland, and we took the opportunity to visit Seamus Heaney Home Place. It was the most inspirational few hours that I have spent in a long time. What a prodigious man. Not just a great poet but one prepared to mete out his knowledge to everyone. By coincidence, there was an article about Seamus Heaney,  in the Royal Society of Literature Review, waiting for me on my return from Ireland.  I was interested to read this quote, about his engagement with his thousands of correspondents,

‘. . . I have a feeling of responsibility towards those who want contact with poets or poetry.’

He replied to everyone who wrote to him.

He was, I think, an approachable man, someone who would easily chat to a person like me. Unfortunately, I will never get that chance. Seamus Heaney died in August 2013 at the age of 74. But, I did have the opportunity to visit the museum, in his birthplace of Bellaghy. I was able to listen to his voice reading his beautiful words. I was truly inspired. Sometimes, reading the work of a literary genius can just make you feel defeated, in the knowledge that you could never be that good but somehow, his voice, his infinite words, urged me on, to try and create some good poetry in my own voice.

Words

Dialect words used in Seamus Heaney Poetry — Witney, one of the guides at Home Place, printed out a glossary for me of over 100 words. I doubt I’ll be able to use any of them (I could try) but they make fascinating reading.

 

I’ve got the notebook, pencil, mug and a few anthologies. Time to put them to good use . .

Note Number 52…Waiting…

 

 

Here is a little poem I put together while I was walking the dog and waiting for her to finish looking into the distance at. . . nothing. It made me think about how much of my life I spend waiting for someone or something. When you’ve read this you can add your own ‘waiting for…’ in the comments.

 

I’m always waiting
waiting for the dog
waiting for the kettle to boil
for the washing machine to finish, for a cake to bake
how much time do I spend waiting?
waiting for the bathroom to be free
waiting for my money to get to the bank
I’ve always waited for that, first birthday gifts, then salary, now pension
I’ve never waited at the altar
even though I’ve been married three times
I’ve waited in the courtroom for a divorce

waiting at the cemetery to watch a burial
waiting to spread the ashes of a loved one
stood, waiting in line to buy a stamp
waited for people to come through the barrier
at the airport or the station
waited for a taxi to come along

Waiting, always waiting
I’m always waiting for my turn,
at the shops, at the doctor’s, at the poetry evening,
at a dance competition when I was younger
for my husband to come back from a bike ride now
I’ve waited to be served, with tea, coffee, cold drink
wine, water, snacks, food
waiting for a letter to come
waiting for an email to tell me good news
waiting for my next birthday
waiting at a junction

waiting for a baby to be born, waiting for a relative to die
we’re born waiting.
pausing, postponing, lingering, hanging around, marking time,
killing time when we should be living time
but
we’re waiting

waiting. . .

always waiting

 

 

Ninette Hartley © February 2018

waiting for computer

This is The Man…every day! 

 

 

Note Number 47. . .How I remember Christmas. . .1955-1960 (approx)

family

Family Songs Around the Piano

It’s easy to become nostalgic at this time of the year. . .it was all so different when I was a kid, but is that because I was a kid? Or were things really different? Less commercial I’m sure and our expectations were way lower. . . Whatever it’s all good fun. This poem is for my brother Tony, who was often away at Christmas because he was at a choir School and had to sing on Christmas day. Also for my sister Jean,  her birthday is on the 23rd December (the day I’m uploading this). I’ve always felt sorry for her having her birthday so close to Christmas as I’m sure people used to give her a joint present. I think she should celebrate in the summertime and have an official birthday too. I’m sure I know at least one person who does that . . .

As ever, press the play button to listen or scroll on down to read. . .

When I was a kid there was much less fuss
No starting in September to beat the Christmas rush
We never got excited before the twenty-fourth
Any early preparations were of the culinary sort

Mother made a pudding and we all gave it a stirchristmasput
She’d put a sixpence in it, and a spoonful of liqueur
Nowadays the sixpence is outlawed in every pud
As you might choke, or break a tooth and that would not be good

Father carved the turkey, mother drank the sherry
Brother played the piano and we sang, all warm and merry
Sister talked about her boyfriend, though I think she told me fibs
And I laughed out loud and ate so much until it hurt my ribs

Crackers and silly hats were the order of the day
You read the joke aloud before you threw it straight away
Mother kept all the bits of tinsel and crepe paper
She always said she would find a use for it, sooner or later

On Boxing day, we ventured up the M1 in our Ford
The journey took ages, as long as going abroad
We’d visit Auntie Florence in her big house with an Aga
Tea and cakes in the dining room – it was a huge palaver

The table was enormous, full-size for playing snooker
With mahogany cover, and fancy cloth – it was quite a looker
Heaving with meringues, coconut pyramids and scones
My aunt never had a problem keeping up with the Jones

Other aunts and cousins were all gathered with us there
The kids all liked each other, we didn’t really have a care
The grown ups used to send us in the garden for a run
‘Go and see the rabbits’ they’d say, ‘it will be so much fun’

The journey home to Ruislip was done well after dark
My dad driving recklessly, thinking it would be a lark
I vowed one day I’d have an Aga so that I could make and bake
Those mouth-watering meringues and other sumptuous cake

Ninette Hartley © December 2017

christmas tree

 

As an adult, I did manage to have an Aga for a while and it made the most wonderful meringues. . . meringue

 

Note Number 45…Christmas is Coming…

I decided back in September to write enough Christmas Poems to fill a small book…ho ho ho, ha ha ha, I didn’t manage it. But I did write a few, so I’ll post them here over the next couple of weeks both written and recorded. Herewith is Rudolph’s Rebellion. First performed in public at Apothecary Words in Bridport on the 13th December 2017.

Rudolf’s Rebellion

reindeer-clip-art-41 copy

You can hear me read the poem if you click on the link below – otherwise read on…

Rudolf’s had enough
he’s fed up, he’s resigned
he doesn’t want to pull that sleigh
another bloody mile

he’s over it
he’s done his bit
round the world and back
every year, forever, with Santa and his sack

now he’s sat down on his haunches
he’s refused to budge an inch
FC shouted, spat and stamped
the other reindeer flinched

Rudolf was having none of itRudolf Text
he’d worked without a break
time to retire! Go out to grass
his pension he would take

I’ve had to raise the limit
of retirement for my lads
I must inform you of your rights
or lack of them, I should add

if you were born before the 50’s
you would have been okay
but sorry to tell you Rudolf
you missed it by a day.

you’ll have to draw your horns in
work longer for your money
what? splattered Rudolf
if that’s a joke it isn’t funny!

I know that you’ve worked long and hard,
I understand you are upset
and frankly with your bright red nose
you’re more than just a pet

but times are hard, the money’s short
austerity means there’s less
you’ll have to give me one more year
and then we’ll re-assess

I’m getting old, my bones all ache
my flat feet all have corns
I get out of breath when in the clouds
and my antlers are all shorn

well, what do you think it’s like for me?
climbing chimneys and the like
delivering toys, of every kind,
every other one a bike

Dasher and Dancer looked forlorn
Vixen and Comet distraught
Cupid, Dunder and Donner were drunk
they’d finished last year’s port

don’t worry, I can sort it out
said Santa to the rest
I’ll talk to Rudolf, make him see
remaining with us is the best

Rudolf sighed, there seemed no choice,
but he wanted to leave while able
just talking about it made no sense
with no offers on the table

the leaders canvassed long and hard
should Rudolph leave or remain?
everyone had to take a vote
no-one could abstain

the outcome wasn’t decisive
with a split of fifty-fifty
vote rigging was suggested
the tellers all looked shifty

after one more round of talks –
more like shouting verbal abuse
no further progress could be made –
not in time for the evening news

they agreed to defer any action
until after this Christmas was done
but with his eye fixed securely on Rudolph
father Christmas began cleaning his gun. . .

santa-with-gun copy

HO HO HO….

Ninette Hartley© December 2017

Note Number 35…The Bunny Birthday Cake…

cakeathome

The Bunny Cake in Dorset before Transportation and a Few Final Additions..

The Bunny Birthday Cake

I said I’d make the birthday cake, how foolhardy am I?
‘A number one or a bunny?’ I had to give it a try.
I chose the bunny and forged ahead, feeling quite inspired…
Number one, would’ve been, a piece of cake…’scuse the pun, I’m tired.

Four sponges I made altogether, two chocolate, and two quite plain
The sizes seemed to be slightly off, though the baking tins were the same
I cut them down and shaped them, being careful as I went
And fixed them together with icing and jam, hoping that would act as cement

It sat in the fridge ‘til morning, when the next phase could begin
I needed a layer of icing, should it be think or should it be thin?
The shop bought fondant was perfect, it was quite therapeutic to play
Rolling and shaping, cutting and making – the highlight of my day

I wanted to make some carrots for the dear little bunny to nibble
But no orange colouring could be found…not even a tiny dribble
I mixed the pink and yellow, but that was awfully pale
Perhaps this bunny could be eating a healthy piece of kale

The bunny’s hind feet didn’t look right – fat and rather heavy
They could belong to a monster, or a mini sized, white-haired yeti…
An attempt to shape the lop ears, was an impossible task I found
Except for his tail, I should have put, the whole bunny, right under the ground!

In the end the cake was presentable, you could say a bit of a winner
The one-year old really loved it – and the four-year-old ate it for dinner
From the front he looked delightful, with two orange carrots to boot
From behind, he was giving two fingers up…so perhaps not quite so cute!

Ninette Hartley July 2017 ©

In the Making 

 

They did love it honestly

They did love it honestly… 🙂 (Note the orange carrots) 

from behind2

The Bunny Didn’t Care Either Way!  ha ha ha

Note Number 34…When our Granddaughter Came to Stay…

kite1Evie Flying the Kite at West Bay (you can just see her on the right hand side, almost out of sight behind the fence)  

Our four-year-old granddaughter came to stay from last Friday until Sunday afternoon. It was lovely but exhausting. Grandchildren are a delight, especially, as when you’ve finished with them…you can give them back!

I penned a little poem for the occasion…

Collected and home in time for brunch
Or maybe, it could have been an early lunch
‘A cheese sandwich please.’ The request for food
So I made it with love…I thought it was good
But the cheese was apparently far too strong
Trust Nonna and Popsie to get it all wrong

When staying with you – they get away with a lot
Because parenting is definitely one thing we’re not
Ice cream and crisps, TV and games, and buying them all
The toys that they want – though most things are small
A rubber snail she called Albert, a hopper, a kite
Popsie said, ‘there’s no wind’ but for it’s maiden flight
She and I went to West Bay and found enough breeze
Upwards it floated with the greatest of ease…
(I’m sure I’ve nicked that line from somewhere)

We went to the beach, we walked in the sand
And played in the rock pools hand in hand
We came home exhausted – us more than she
And Nonna needed something stronger than tea
She stayed just a few days, it was all good fun
Although none of the usual jobs could be done
Waking up at six-thirty is not to our taste
So this week we’re sleeping ‘til ever so late
(and even in the afternoon!)

The cottage has been left with remnants galore
Teddies, toys and books, all over the floor
The bathroom’s invaded with ducks, fish and boats
And a little girl’s wellies are stashed under our coats
But, who would have it any other way?
It’s great when the grandchildren come to stay

Ninette Hartley © July 2017

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