Tag Archives: poems

How to Unpeel a Monster

I’ve finally got How to Unpeel a Monster up as a print version in case anyone wants a hard copy.

I gave away a fair few ecopies of this poetry collection earlier in the year. It is available for kindle should you prefer to buy it, but I’m always happy to send out free ebooks. Leave a comment if you want one of those, and I’ll pick up your email address from there.

Amazon.co.uk – https://www.amazon.co.uk/How-Unpeel-Monster-Nimue-Brown/dp/B08DBZDDBL

Amazon.com – https://www.amazon.com/How-Unpeel-Monster-Nimue-Brown-ebook/dp/B08D6RX7Z7


A very hobbit birthday

Dear readers, it is my birthday today and I thought I would take a hobbit approach to that – namely by offering gifts to everyone else!

I have a new poetry collection called How to Unpeel A Monster.

The cover is based on a photo of me and a Pre-Raphaelite painting. Tom Brown drew me a version of it, and I coloured it using oil pastels. For the photo, I had a small skull duct-taped to my nipple – don’t try this at home! But it pretty well sums up the project – a bit dark, a bit twisted, a bit painful, somewhat preposterous and also quite funny in places.

If you would like a copy, leave a comment – wordpress shows me your email address when you comment, so I can easily email you a pdf. I’ll start sending them out on the 15th of June.

 


Stroud Poets: Rick Vick – a review

Yew Tree Press is a Stroud publisher putting out small poetry booklets featuring local poets. Often these take poets in sets of three, but Rick Vick has a collection to himself. His recent death is no doubt the main reason for this.

I first came into contact with Rick Vick through the Stroud Short Stories competition. Rick was a frequent participant and I edited his work for the first Stroud Short Stories anthology. I can’t say I ever knew him well, but he was someone who would acknowledge me in the street. He was clearly an interesting chap who had lived fully and with passion and who thought about things a lot. It came through in both his prose and his poetry.

The poems in this collection are all short, intense pieces. I really like the clear, everyday language – I don’t enjoy poetry that you have to figure out like some kind of cryptic puzzle. Rick Vick demonstrates beautifully that simple language has immense poetic power. He has a knack for picking out details that evoke, and suggest. The work is often emotional, poignant without falling into sentimentality. It’s rich with observation and understanding and a great deal is communicated in a very small space. These poems are human, accessible and well worth your time.

Find out more on the website – https://www.yewtreepress.co.uk/


Poetry with Adam Horovitz

Adam Horovitz is one of my favourite poets. Some biases may have been created because I get to hear him read his work and I get to hang out with him, so I also know what a lovely human being he is. But even so, he’s a man with some incredible word-crafting skills. He can do things with language that leave me feeling like I’ve been buttered, or as though a stream has flowed over me, or that I have been transported to some other place and time. In terms of landscape writing, I’ve never seen anything else quite like his work for evoking place, and empathy with place.

You can read my review of Adam’s The Soil Never Sleeps here – https://druidlife.wordpress.com/2018/01/14/the-soil-never-sleeps-a-review/

And here’s Adam reading a poem from that collection

This kind of work does not happen quickly. It’s something I’ve become deeply aware of around my own creativity (and lack thereof) in recent years. The best writing takes time both to imagine and craft, and it is difficult to throw yourself heart and soul into creativity when you’re worrying about how to stay warm through the winter, or how to afford food. And if you’re doing other work to pay the bills, the headspace for the deep work is harder to find. Exhaustion and preoccupation does not make for good writing. Most creative people are struggling, and in that struggle we all lose the beauty that could have been. We lose opportunities for wonder and we limit creativity to those who are financially supported in other ways – for those who have the most privilege.

Adam has started a Patreon account, and if it works, it will mean more poetry videos like the one above. It will buy him time for the deeper levels of thinking and engagement that make this kind of poetry possible. A few dollars here and there will make a great deal of difference – because they always do. You can support Adam here – https://www.patreon.com/AdamHorovitz/posts

If you love what someone does, supporting them on any platform makes worlds of difference. The sums of money floating about may seem (to anyone on a normal wage) so small as to be irrelevant. Fifty dollars a month can be the difference between eating and eating well. I know creators who depend on patreon to pay key bills and who are able to create because of that. People who put a great deal of joy and beauty and worth into the world – much of it moving around online for free.

We tend to assume that quality leads to money and that money is a fair measure of a creator’s worth. According the UK’s Society of Authors, the average full time professional author earns about ten thousand pounds a year. That’s what success looks like in this industry. It looks exactly like poverty.

I also have a Patreon account and for me it has made the difference between giving up, and keeping going. https://www.patreon.com/NimueB


Poetry for healing

Many people turn to poetry for catharsis. While that doesn’t always lead to poems that are meaningful to anyone else, it definitely does work as a cathartic process. Part of this is simply being able to vent. Part of it, however, has everything to do with how you can use language when writing poetry.

The English language doesn’t have a lot of words for describing emotions. To talk about emotions in any detail, we are obliged to say what they are like, or to demonstrate how they play out by using metaphors. If I tell you I am suffering from depression, that will give you a limited idea of what I’m going through. If I tell you that my body is full of lead, and my heart has become a stone, that I am walking through a blasted wasteland where nothing lives or grows and desperately trying to find a way to leave, and afraid there is no way to leave – then you might have some idea.

Poetry gives us permission to put down grammar norms, give up on regular sentence structure, and put words together in ways that work for this specific instance. Poetry structures are very different from normal writing structures, so even if you do decide not to cough up your heart in free verse, it is still different from writing prose. Poetry structures focus on the rhythms and sounds words make, not the logic of how the content is expressed. That in turn allows a person to think different, which can be helpful when you’re struggling to process something.

Afterwards, when you have bled onto the page, there is time to reflect on whether the catharsis poem also functions as a regular poem. Sometimes there’s enough in it that someone else might find it helpful. Often a cathartic poem reads back like a hearty wallow in the deeply personal. To share it, may require editing. One of the most effective ways of taking a catharsis poem and turning it into something shareable, is to make it funny. Going that bit further, and playing misery for laughs can be effective when taking your work to an audience. When we can collectively laugh at pain, it can become collectively cathartic.

Some poems are better used in other ways. Perhaps a ritual burning to help you release those feelings. Physically tearing up paper can be productive as well. Letting them go, and letting what was in them go can be a good thing. Sometimes the answer is to vent and move on. Sometimes, the process of healing with poetry requires us to dig in and go deeper – it’s a very personal choice. However you handle it, bear in mind that a good cathartic healing poem is not necessarily a good poem in any other sense, and that equally, a good poem that people will enjoy is not necessarily going to help you much as a healing process.


Mapping the Contours, a reading

This is me reading Mapping the Contours, a poem from a poetry collection of the same name.

This is a collection I’ve written over a number of years – and not in an especially deliberate way. The poems are the consequence, most usually, of walks I’ve been on. Landscape dominates, but there’s also some politics (in the broader sense) and some Goddess material. Those of you who follow my work will know I’m not much good at belief, so I must add that this is me exploring ideas around Goddess, rather than having had some kind of dramatic perspective shift.

Hard copies of the book are available on etsy – https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/641871660/mapping-the-contours-poetry

PDFs can be sourced by supporting me on Patreon. If you dive in you can be there for a month and access everything I’ve done at the virtual levels. If you stay more than a month as a glass heron, I’ll also post you something. If you sign up and keep staying, I’ll keep making you stuff. I’ve found Patreon really motivating, and I’m at the kind of level financially where a few extra pounds in the month makes a real difference.

Mapping the Contours is the kind of project that has become more feasible for me because of Patreon. If you were thinking about supporting a creator this way, I can promise you, it makes a really big difference.


Ghosting for Beginners – a review

Ghosting for Beginners is a poetry collection by Anna Saunders. I first encountered Anna about a month ago when she read at Piranha Poetry in Stroud. So I put up a hand to review her new anthology.

There’s great delicacy and precision in Anna’s writing. I very much like that about her work. If she talks about a walk, a day, a bird, it doesn’t seem like a generic one conjured up to make a point, but something specific and individual. She writes a lot about encounters between humans and nature, or humans in the context of nature.

There are a lot of ghosts in the collection. The title of the anthology comes from a poem of the same name about the modern oddity that is ghosting – when people disappear out of other people’s social media lives, usually in a dating context. It’s not the bravest way of breaking up with someone. Many of the other ghosts are more traditional hauntings. These, set alongside poems about extinction and climate change meant that for me, the collection had threads of loss and grief all the way through it. I read it as a deeply haunted piece of work – and I think the title of the collection is an invitation to do just that.

There’s also just a whisper of humour running through these poems. A ghost of a smile, if you will. A feeling that this is an author who can laugh at themselves and who has a keen sense of the absurdity in many situations.

If you hop over to the publisher’s website – http://www.indigodreams.co.uk/anna-saunders-gfb/4594255832 – you can read a selection of poems from the collection. What’s here is a good representation of the book as a whole, and if it speaks to you, you can dive right in and buy a copy. Which I can certainly recommend you consider doing.


Polishing poetry

For many people, poetry hits the page in a rush of emotion and/or inspiration. Developing it beyond that point can feel a tad sacrilegious, and I remember it took me quite some time both to learn how to do it, and to be willing to do it. I’ve tried writing the kind of poetry that is tinkered out in a calmer and more intellectual way and I can’t honestly say I like the results. As writing poetry is something I do for myself, I don’t have to be workish about it, I can wait for the lightning bolt to strike.

My usual method (other methods no doubt exist and are just as valid) is to write in the heat of the moment, and then put the piece aside for a day or two. When I come back, I’ll read through and see how I feel about it. I then get in there line by line, and look hard at what I’ve created to see if it has any flaws that need fixing, or if it’s going in a direction and needs developing. I am rather prone to accidentally writing things that are almost sonnets, which may become actual sonnets on the second draft.

I look for word repetitions, and either swap new words in, or decide to take the repetition and make a feature of it. I check the line length and I take out any words that don’t need to be there, and I change any words that disrupt the flow of reading. If I’ve settled on a structure, I rework so that the poem fits the structure. I make sure that the rhythms don’t make it sound clunky and obvious. I look for opportunities to play with alliteration, and rhymes that aren’t at the ends of lines. I try and make sure it makes sense, not only to me, but to someone who has no idea what I was thinking and feeling when I wrote it.

I’ll look for clichés, mixed metaphors, weak similes. I’ll look at the tone and my language choices to make sure they align fairly well. That’s a particularly subjective process, I think. The mood of an individual word and the mood created by a set of words doesn’t always come across as you intend. I’ve found this repeatedly with a poet friend of mine whose heartfelt anger always reads like cool cynicism to me.

I may read it out loud, because this is a really good way of spotting anything that doesn’t have a good ring to it. I may read it to someone else to test it for sense and impact. I’ll look at the layout on the page and consider whether that supports the mood, readability, coherence, and I’ll move things round to try and help that. My final sweep is usually to sort out the punctuation, which I put down as a guide to how I want it read out loud.

Writing a poem is only ever half of a process, and the other half happens when you share it. No matter what you do to try and control the impact of the poem, there will always be ways people can interpret it that you didn’t intend. Even if you avoid metaphors and similes and try for the clearest communication you can, people understand different words in different ways. For me, this is part of the joy of the thing. What I mean, and what someone else hears will never perfectly align, because language is an imperfect form of communication. I’m aiming for the closest alignment I can get, relaxed about the inevitability of people hearing things, or reading things, I did not intend them to find.


Accessible Poetry

I don’t know the figures, but it’s pretty obvious that far more people don’t read poetry by choice, than do read it. People obliged to read it for school can’t be counted in this. By and large, the people writing poetry are people who read poetry. After all, no one does poetry for the fame and glamour, the only realistic motivations involve love or catharsis, or both. Often (but not always) people who write poetry seem to assume that they are writing only for the small number of people who habitually read poetry, and this tends to make poetry less accessible.

I read a collection recently that had a lot of classical references in it. Now, it’s one thing if you’re a Hellenic Pagan writing about Greek Gods for fellow Pagans – this is not about you! Pagans aside, access to ‘classics’ tends to come with a certain kind of education – grammar school, or private. Anyone under forty will probably not have studied Latin at state school. Anyone who went to a secondary modern, or even a regular comprehensive won’t have done much on classical writing. There is a definite class aspect to this, and as most of us are working class, most of us are excluded from any poetry that assumes the reader has had a certain kind of education. I know people whose poetic education was about verse – rhyme and beat, which means everything of the twentieth century ‘classics’ is unfamiliar to them.

Yes, we can self-educate and many of us do. Yes, we can read around, and read widely, and as voraciously as the local library and time will allow. But, if you read alone and for the love of it, you probably won’t find your way to all the literary poets other poets may be inclined to reference. You may well be totally put off long before that happens.

Now, if your poetry includes waves to ancient Rome, or T.S. Eliot, but makes perfect sense to someone who doesn’t know about those things, you’re golden. Those who know can enjoy it, those who don’t know can enjoy it and you may even help someone find their way into other things they hadn’t read before. However, if the sense of the poem depends on knowing who Eurydice was, or being able to recognise what God said to Noah without the context, or something of that ilk, it becomes a locked box for which many readers will never have the keys, and that’s just annoying.

When a poem assumes knowledge the reader does not have, the poet is saying ‘this is not for you.’ I don’t think poetry should be a largely inaccessible thing written by and for a particular kind of educated elite. I think poetry should be for everyone.


What is poetry?

Quite some time ago, I was asked for an explanation as to what poetry is, from a man who had been taught at school that poetry means rhythm and rhyme. Being a big fan of free verse, I knew that couldn’t be it, but it’s a hard question to answer. I know when I’ve encountered it (and I feel much the same way about Druidry!) but that’s not a useful thing to offer a person. A long car journey with writer, publisher and creative writing teacher Anthony Nanson gave me chance to kick the question about and take advantage of his much cleverer mind.

Anthony suggested that rhyme and meter give you verse, but not necessarily poetry. It’s possible to say bland, empty, dull and tedious things with verse, after all.

I can see a little dog

Picking up a mouldy log

Running with it to a bog

Took its photo for my blog…

Poetry is more than this. If something is poetic, it is more than the sum of its parts. Something in the writing will create possibilities, moods, impressions that do more than the individual words were capable of.

“anyone lived in a pretty how town” – a bit of ee cummings, which I think makes the point. Everyday words, but not an everyday effect.There’s space in poetry where the reader/audience can bring something for themselves – in fact often must make this engagement for the writing to make full sense to them. The need to find your own meaning, to make something out of the juxtapositions and impressions can be very much part of the poetic experience.At a poetry book launch of Jay Ramsay’s several years ago, Jay said that poetry calls upon different parts of the brain to prose. It requires us to think differently to step out of our normal relationship with the world. It’s hard to pin this down as an experience – but that is part of what makes it itself. We are touched and changed in ways that are uniquely personal to each of us. Something gets in. Something is not the same.Granted, a beautiful piece of prose can have that effect to, but if it does, we tend to call the writing ‘poetic’ anyway.The conclusion I’ve come to, is that poetry is a little bit of enchantment.