Midweek Poetry: Letters to Other Mothers by daintydora

I'm reading a moving anthology at the moment by Bashabi Fraser titled Letters to My Mother and Other Mothers. In the first section of the book Bashabi's poems describe memories and conversations with her mother as 'a conversation that would have flowed', from the time before her mother had a series of strokes and subsequently died.

In the second book the poems take on different voices, 'a natural stream that flows in the same strain.'

Her words are careful and evocative and you can feel and taste all the vivid sensations of love, pain, hope, distress and wonder at this magical being that is 'ma'.

I find human relationships infinitely interesting, and as a daughter myself, I can relate to her words (not least because my own mother experienced a sudden and debilitating condition a few years ago).

I know what it is to have thoughts that flow in a stream of conversation; blossoming in that unique and intimate manner between a mother a daughter.

White Flower
White Flower

There is a reference to 'Sheuli' (a single petal white flower with an orange stem, which blooms in autumn), in the poem 'She was my mother':

She was the Sheuli in my wonderlandDiscreetly tender, fragrantly appealing.

I love this melding of language and culture as Indian and Scots influences pepper the work.

These lines from 'I am your daughter' are particularly striking when considering the cultural expectations of what it means to be 'a good Indian mother':

You invested thousandsto make that one journeyto clear the pathfor your dreamt-of son.

The poem that has particular resonance for me (so far) is called 'Urban Gothic: London during World War II'.

Here's an extract of my favourite lines:

...In this stone forest of silhouettesthe wan moon swoons in pirouettes...And girls from factories' smart retreatsWill click red shoes in rhythmic styleA ghost army marching in, to a soundless Doric tuneWill partner each dancing dream, unfolding beneath the moon.

I'm delighted I discovered this beautiful collection.

(And it seems a bit 'serendipity' that while writing this post I had an alert about a local photography exhibition titled 'Girls and their Mothers'.)

Friday Diary: Spoken Word Poetry at Jupiter Artland by daintydora

I didn't post a poem on Wednesday of this week because I knew all my thoughts of poetry would be centred around reading my poem Set in Stone at Jupiter Artland last night, as part of their Inspired to Write competition.

When I found out I'd been shortlisted and invited to read my poem, I felt very honoured, if a little nervous. (A lot nervous...)

The event was held in the ballroom of Bonnington House, which is not usually open to visitors of the art park, but was made available by the owner, Nicky Wilson, who was also a judge in the competition alongside current Poet in Residence, Marjorie Lofti Gill.

Jupiter Artland Inspired to Write Competition

Marjorie read some of the poems for shortlisted entrants who were unable to attend (some entries came from as far away as Egypt, Bolivia and America!), while refreshments of chocolate brownies and hot, spiced mulled wine were the perfect accompaniment to the evening.

My poem didn't 'win', but that in no way detracted from my excitement and enjoyment of the evening. In fact, some of the other poems that I heard really resonated with me and moved me and would have been deserving winners in my opinion, ahead of my own poem.

The named winners were Jonathan Bay, Rafael Torrubia and Jean Taylor.

As Marjorie suggested last night, poetry is a very personal, intimate medium in which to convey thoughts, ideas and visions, and so we all left with our own 'winner', or few, in mind.

My poem was inspired by Laura Ford's Weeping Girls,which inspired a number of other entries too. Their haunting lair under the trees is just so evocative.

Weeping Girls at Jupiter Artland

I particularly enjoyed seeing Nathan Coley's installation 'You Imagine What You Desire' lit up at night, which was in full view from the ballroom during the event.

I tried to get a photograph but only had my phone camera to work with so the illumination of all the bulbs resulted in a flood-lit blur against the black sky. It was just magical to enjoy it while I was there.

Nicky suggested some of the poems would be added to the Jupiter Artland website next to the images and descriptions of the works, and the recording of the evening is apparently going to be broadcast on Australian radio - how fabulous!

With it being a permanent art collection, the different tangents and interpretations of each piece that inspired a story or a poem have created a whole new buzz, and I can't wait to return and experience the wonder of it all again once it reopens in the Spring.

 

Midweek Poetry: The Raven by daintydora

An attempt today at a poem in Triolet form, where the eight lines follow the repetition ABaAabAB. I like repetition in a poem because it serves to emphasise particular words and create a rhythm. I think the Triolet would usually feature iambic tetrameter too, but one step at a time...

I chose the raven as the subject of the poem because I always feel birds are so intuitive and carry messages through the skies. Ravens particularly are also harbingers of fate (doom?), destiny and magic.

January feels like a somewhat fateful, dark and brooding month.

The Raven

The Raven
The raven came for you today
He stayed a while, then flew away.
(You wouldn't wish him to stay?)
THE RAVEN CAME FOR YOU TODAY;
dreich  silhouette above the city's decay
strutting back and forth in my window bay.
The raven came for you today -
He stayed a while then flew away.

Let your life be a poem by daintydora

Wednesday slipped by without a poem, yet it's OK, because, you know, life. It wasn't so much that there was nothing to share, more that the holidays have jangled up days and dates and routines.

Yesterday I saw this beautiful quote and I thought it was a good vibe to start the year on:

When I say be creative, I don’t mean you should all go and become great painters and great poets. I simply mean let your life be a painting, let your life be a poem. —Osho

Let your life be a poem. I just LOVE it.

Those few words feel magical. Simple, but magical.

A distillation of thoughts into a single focus of flow. Just let your life be a poem, and see where it takes you on a sea of simile, metaphor, imagery...

I'm currently reading The Siege by Helen Dunmore (Leningrad is surrounded and food rations are dwindling. I've had this book for over a year but I've never been able to get by the first few pages - because the right time to read it was not then, but now).

'Let your life be a poem', Osho

This short extract from page 143 is the protagonist's father recalling poetic verse from Puskin's Eugene Onegin:

...Tatyana is lost in her dream. The plains, the fir trees, the ghostly light and the creak of her footsteps in the snow: all these come to me so powerfully that it's as if I'd never really read about them or thought about them before. I almost say aloud that I'm sorry I didn't understand until now. My eyes fill with tears, and I don't know why. But I know that it's by these things, and nothing else, that we survive. Poetry doesn't exist to make life beautiful. Poetry is life itself."

I can almost hear 'the creak of her footsteps in the snow', and that indeed is poetry.

 

Midweek Poetry: A Sonnet of Tweets by daintydora

Using the site Poetweet, my final poem of the year is an amalgamation of my year in tweets in sonnet form. Clever and fun, it's such a great way to remember the things I tweeted about (with a smattering of smiley faces to boot!)

Poetweet: Wood Sticks

 

The path… by Rebecca HJ

Loving this season of adventure! :) Inseparable from my knitted hat...) Perpetual beauty in nature Thanks - will try that ;)

So much for the shout-out! :) A festive stock-take: December 2015 Late!) I love how this turned out! Poetry: One night in November

Collage Club: What is beautiful? Great topic & discussion :) Colourful & delightful!

Void of your head:/inconsolable." The Autumn Pages Matcha makes mornings manageable!

I've never composed a sonnet before, and I think this one is a perfect insight to my Twitter feed and the exclamation mark of excitement that is often my internal world. The final stanza is my favourite.

May your 'path' for 2016 be paved with happiness, good fortune and gold. Happy New Year :)

Midweek Poetry: A Festive Haiku by daintydora

I love the nostalgia of Christmas, and particularly the memories of Christmas past, however rose-tinted they may be. Christmas tree street scene

Last year I posted my thoughts on the increasing commercialisation of Christmas, and I still feel sad that a festive holiday has become associated with over-spending on electronic gadgets. (And that some people - not just children - are confused about the purpose of Advent as it has become so tangled up with chocolate calendars...)

But instead, I'd like to focus on my happy, nostalgic memories of Christmas:

Huge fairy-light lanterns in bright colours
The cat eating the tinsel
The smell of pine needles from the tree (especially in the early morning darkness)
The anticipation of waiting for 'Father Christmas' to visit on Christmas Eve
Hanging my stocking each year as a child
Making snowflakes from sheets of white paper
The magic of snow falling on Christmas Eve/Day

I always wrote a huge list asking for all sorts of wild and wonderful gifts, like any child, but it was never just about the presents.

A festive haiku of baubles

For my penultimate poem of the year, I've chosen to revert back to the beautifully simple structure that recalls the heady Spring/Summer days earlier in the year of my 100 day project, with a *festive* haiku:

Red lips and mince pies
sing of icy winter skies:
magical Christmas.

Merry Christmas to one and all!

 

Midweek Poetry: Broken Boughs by daintydora

I know it's nearly Christmas and everyone is doing happy, festive, fun things. But last week while in Krakow I had the opportunity to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of the Nazi concentration and extermination camps built in the isolated suburbs of Southern Poland.

Auschwitz Concentration Camp, Poland

I already knew a lot about what happened there: from history lessons at school, from books and from films, but seeing the physical spaces that bore witness to the shocking crimes against humanity, and hearing the gruesome details of the tortures while standing in those same spaces, numbed me as I tried to process it in my mind.

There was a guide who pointed out key buildings and locations - she was Polish and her own Grandparents had been arrested and deported to Auschwitz.

I wondered how she could cope with going there every day (her job for almost 17 years), but then I realised I already knew the answer: everyone must know; we must never forget.

I didn't cry while I was there despite the deep sadness I felt. It is only with the luxury of time and distance (which the people who were killed there were so cruelly denied), that I can reflect back on my experience. It's haunted me ever since.

Trees at Auschwitz Concentration Camp, Poland

The trees outside the camp were stark and barren and I wondered if they were old enough to have been there when the camp was occupied? Perhaps some of them.

Trees at Auschwitz Concentration Camp, Poland

I love trees and the language of branches. They were beautiful despite their barren state and the location. I saw birds though I didn't hear their call.

 

Broken Boughs

A broken bough, twisted in pain
weeping cold tears
salty in the cracks
and it hurts, it stings.
Limbs stretched apart, to breaking point
split in two. An irreparable split.
Leaves, branches, twigs, thorns
falling down and
the net cast wide
but it won't catch us side by side -
not now there's a split in the bough
on a battleground of lies.
"Bend not break."
But how?
Then, us, now: a different sound
beating from a bitter drum.
Hope is gone
though it leaves a mark, a stain
that could never be washed away.
There is no sound.

I was still reading Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky while I was in Krakow, and although I knew she had died at Auschwitz (in August 1942), I hadn't realised that the book was never finished. It made the whole experience that much more poignant and sad because it was like a personal, intimate link with her having read her evocative words.

The image below is near the Market Square in the Old Town of Krakow; a tree-lined park/walkway on the way to the Wawel Royal Castle.

Tree-lined walkway, Krakow, Poland

The dark branches personify the trees giving them an energy that was lacking in the previous images.

The line of the path symbolises journeys and the journey of life, the transience of life.

There is no way to ever lighten the darkness that is the spectre of Auschwitz.

 

A festive stock-take: December 2015 by daintydora

With Christmas around the corner and a festive mood in the air, it feels like a great time to 'take stock' of what I'm doing, seeing, thinking and feeling right now. Christmas Robin

Here goes:

Making: a mess with magazine cuttings and to-do lists and wrapping paper. Cooking: Broccoli risotto (is that even a thing? It is now!) Drinking: a warming bottle of Sake. Yum! Reading: Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky. Wanting: Peace, love and happiness for all. I wonder if that will ever be possible? Looking: forward to my trip to Krakow in the morning. Playing: a game of catch up with myself, trying to get everything done, sorted, ticked off my list... Deciding: what to take and what to leave out of my suitcase - 10 kilos does not go far. Wishing: there was more time - for everything. Is it just a matter of priorities? Enjoying: a weekend spent at home. Waiting: for no man, ever. Liking: the sense of achievement at the end of a productive week. Wondering: what the robin I saw this afternoon was thinking as it plucked a worm from the ground? Loving: the idea of a cashmere dressing gown...but Pondering: how I would cope if I was homeless? All that wind and rain. Considering: where to hang the pictures I've finally managed to frame. Buying: festive knits. Watching: Elf - for the first time - I can't believe it's taken me so long! Hoping: the windy weather we've been experiencing stays away. Marvelling: at the strength of the human spirit. Cringing: as the wind batters our little slate roof - we've already had a leak this winter :( Needing: a massage. And a new memory card for my camera. Questioning: the premise of love. Smelling: the warming, festive scents of spicy orange and amber. Wearing: layers. Noticing: the bare branches outside. The seasons change so quickly. Knowing: I need to do a big declutter in the New Year. Thinking: about my plans for 2016. Admiring: the organised people who have Christmas all wrapped up. Sorting: socks. Getting: hungry. Coveting: a minimalist house/existence. Disliking: the carpet in the spare room - it has to go. Opening: my first Christmas card. Giggling: mmm, not really because I'm Feeling: a bit emotional...and Snacking: on ready salted crisps and brazil nuts...while Hearing: Elvis and Bing Crosby crooning out the Christmas tunes - they're all you need to feel that cosy, Christmas nostalgia!

Next stop: Krakow.

What are you doing right now? Do you like to 'Take Stock' to remember a point in time, or take each day as it comes?

I'm feeling a bit guilty that I haven't written in my Shining Year Goddess Journal as often as I should have. 'Taking Stock' will need to do!

 

Midweek Moon-Love in honour of the Full Moon by daintydora

A full moon is a magical time and in September I wrote a poem as an Ode to the Super (Blood) Moon. Moon, Scotland, Supermoon

Since then I've been saving images on Pinterest of the beautiful luna phenomenon that we share wherever we are in the world.

Follow Rebecca Johnstone (Dainty Dora)'s board The Moon on Pinterest.

I love that the moon - like the sun - can be a guiding light for many, and features in so many creative messages and imagery such as art, illustrations, stories, poems and songs.

Full MoonSuper Blood Moon, September 2015Moon, Scotland, Supermoon

I've used it myself in a very simple collage and I follow its progress through the month via a Moon Phase app. Yesterday I downloaded a beautiful font called simply: Moon.

The next full moon will be on Christmas Day, 25th December, and of course, who can forget the scene in It's a Wonderful Life when 'George lassos the moon'?

Or the breathy rendition of 'Moon River' by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's:

So beautiful. So dreamy.

Do you love the moon? Do you find things going crazy 'when the moon is fat'? (Beware the Judderman my dear...)

I hope today's (tonight's) full moon shines bright on you, wherever you are.

 

Friday Diary: To Paris with Love by daintydora

I'm lucky to have visited Paris three times, and each time has revealed a new layer of beauty, culture and inspiration. A week on from the attacks in Paris, I wanted to revisit my favourite Parisian places and the memories of it that I cherish: to (and for) Paris with love.

Art Deco Metro

Bubbles outside the Centre Pompidou

Wandering around Paris, even in the finger-numbing biting cold of February in the snow, is an inspiration. For me and so many people, Paris is the perfect place to visit at any time:

For romance, for writing, reading, life, living, being in love, thinking about love, dreaming of love, experiencing everything in exaggerated technicolour (tricolore). The sting of cold cheeks and the emotion of the city, absorbing it all: faces, places, spaces, the dark streets laced with wet streaks of rain and snow, freezing, freezing into the ground and preserving memories in footsteps and in photographs. The Seine and the lights of the Eiffel Tower and a wander through the Jardin des Tuileries.

Le Notre Dame

Odette Patisserie

Street Art at the Place Stravinsky

I remember wandering around and every few steps I had to stop and take another photograph to capture the moment; so elusive yet vivid, and filtered through my own romantic perceptions.

On my third visit in 2013 I wanted to experience my own version of 'literary Paris', following in the footsteps of greats such as Hemingway, Joyce, Scott, Camus and Oscar Wilde.

Paris 13 118

Paris 13 110

Paris 13 101

On my 32nd birthday I had lunch in Les Deux Magots. While I was there I thought of Hemingway and wondered whether he would still pop in to write if he was alive today?

Paris 13 390

Paris 13 393

I hadn't thought to look up the address of the Shakespeare & Company bookshop until the morning I was leaving Paris, but it turned out to be just round the corner from my hotel. I think I could have seen it from one of the windows in my room if I looked hard enough. I should have looked.

Instead, I had maybe half an hour to browse the literary gems in what I consider now as my favourite bookshop.

20130227_094827

I knew that one of my friends had hidden a little note in one of the books at the back of the shop, but I didn't look for it; it wasn't for me to find after all. Instead I snapped a few pictures of the poetry section using my phone, knowing it was forbidden but unable to resist (I bought the book about the bookshop, so that helped to salve my conscience).

Upstairs I adored the teeny writing cupboard complete with typewriter, and the children's books and the reading areas and the old creaky floorboards where the famed writers of yore walked before me. Windows opened out onto a literary reading nook, complete with plastic dinosaurs and all sorts of funny objects adding to the aura of magic.

I had brought George Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London to read while I was in Paris, but in Shakespeare & Co I wanted to read everything.

I bought postcards and left change in the 'well' for starving writers. Everything about the place was wondrous.

20130227_095227

And then there was Gertrude Stein - 'A rose, is a rose, is a rose.'

And the plaque commemorating her and Alice B Toklas above the entrance-way to number 27, rue de Fleurus:

Paris 13 406

Not far away, in the Cimetière du Montparnasse, I searched for Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre.

The graveyard was serene and beautiful, unlike Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, which I had visited previously to see the graves of Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison, (and to satisfy myself that I had been to all the places referenced in Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind).

It was a place I would have liked to spend a bit more time.

Paris 13 411

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And then there were the after-dark shots.

The streets were slick with rain which caught the lens of my camera resulting in this, my favourite Paris photograph:

Amber, red - romantic

I think it is one of my favourites because it reminds me of the glamour of this City of Light, even in the rain. And the unexpected moments of wonder that happen when you aren't really looking for them.

Notre Dame (artistic)

A distorted blur of Notre Dame, the magic caught in that second that I pressed the button and moved, because I couldn't stay still - spinning, spinning - with happiness and shivering from the cold and the champagne and being right there; midnight in Paris.

Paris will always be a multicultural montage; a cosmopolitan city, fizzy with adventure.

I look forward to returning for a fourth visit (and a fifth, and a sixth...) and delving further into this wonderful city that will not be cowed into submission, into fear, into anything other than showcasing its magic, wonder and strength in the shining bright white of the Champs-Élysées and the proud tricolore of the French flag, echoed around the world.

Midweek Poetry: I am the apple by daintydora

Something a bit different this week, moving on from last week's haunting stone statues to the temptations in the Garden of Eden. (Eve had a lot to contend with, what with all that 'forbidden fruit' just going to waste...surely one bite would be OK?)

I am the apple

 

I am the apple
shiny and red
consuming your thoughts,
filling your head.
One bite is tempting
a temptation too far;
unpredictable, dangerous
the start of a fire.
Just one bite: I dare you -
taste me on your lips;
I come with no warning
just a promise of bliss.
(My bliss is the truth
but truth is a liar)
fanning the flames
of a latent desire.

 

Quite spicy for a Wednesday!

In fact I love spiced apple...

 

Midweek Poetry: Set in Stone at Jupiter Artland by daintydora

Weeping-Girls-at-Jupiter-Artland2.jpg

This week's poem comes via the Jupiter Artland website, where my poem (amidst a selection of other entries) is published as part of the 'Inspired to Write' competition. Weeping Girls at Jupiter Artland

I first visited Jupiter Artland last Spring, attending a guided talk by Nathan Coley on the various art works he has created especially for Jupiter, both permanent and temporary. (Here's what I wrote.)

The competition asked for poetry or prose inspired by one of the installations at the park, and I couldn't ignore the lure of Laura Ford's 'Weeping Girls'.

It was mid-afternoon by the time I saw them; a collection of stone statues of little girls with long hair and a certain kind of inherent malevolence like they were attempting to lure people into danger, beguiling sirens...

What made the experience even more surreal and memorable was that a young girl visiting with her family was interacting with the weeping girls, standing in front of each statue as if they were real girls.

This girl looked to be a similar age, was the same height and had long, wavy hair. It felt like part of the installation to experience this interaction, and in the shady setting under towering trees, it made for a strangely haunting experience.

Weeping Girls at Jupiter Artland2

When I heard about this competition (thanks Vikki!), I couldn't wait to enter. When it came to it, I was so busy focusing on my novel, I didn't really leave myself much time.

Reading over my poem again with a few weeks of distance (read: objectivity), although I still like it, there are a few elements of the punctuation I would change that would make the rhythm read better, but I'm still really glad I entered.

"Perfect is the enemy of done"

And not everything can be as 'perfect' as we would wish. (I'm struggling to find who to attribute that quote to; I want to say Ann Lamott, so I will.)

Here's an extract of my poem 'Set in Stone':

Your smile set in stone lichen-lined, sly smirk to the sun wild with echoes dancing, roaming, singing manifesting moss-stitched lies a sundial glowering in the gloam or a wind-chime girl with a high-pitched scream

Read the full poem.

Jupiter Artland is now closed for the winter, but reopens again in the spring.

Weeping Girl against a tree, Jupiter Artland

Midweek Poetry: (Gwenno) Pregnant with Sound by daintydora

This poem was inspired by a gig I went to a month or so ago in Glasgow: Gwenno playing at Hug & A Pint on Great Western Road. https://soundcloud.com/heavenlyrecordings/not-real-gwenno-remix-of-stealing-sheep

I loved the experience of an intimate, basement gig and wrote this poem the next day.

I just re-discovered it and my own words took me right back to that night, the experience of music reverberating, echoing, pulsing all around me.

(It reminded me of how I felt when I saw Future Islands play.)

The lovely Gwenno was rather pregnant at the time (likely due around now), hence the title.

Her dress was sparkly and amazing and reminded me of a beautiful helium balloon that I had once as a child.

The balloon was in the shape of a fish with metallic scales of emerald and sapphire, and my parents had taken me to the London Palladium for my birthday. I don't remember what we saw but I treasured that balloon long after it fell from my bedroom ceiling to loll on the floor.

Anyway...

Colours inspire me and music inspires me and man I wish I'd bought Gwenno on vinyl!

 

Pregnant with Sound

 

Pulse-synth
projection
on brick,
shiny reflections
under ultra-violet lights
and sounds richochet-
ing from walls
standing, hanging
in threads -
long chords
repeating their beats
on a delay pedal
and the key turns
again, again
in mid-air
unlocking secret
alternative beats
vocals cresting
from deep inside
the sparkly dress;
a bright sculpted bump
concealing everything
but the key on the wall
in a basement
pregnant
with sound.

All Saints' Day: An Italian Prayer from Bergamo by daintydora

I have to say it: Halloween isn't really my thing. I find it a little scary and manic and horror films really freak me out. I don't like anything to do with ghosts, the supernatural, the devil, slasher movies or violent crime. It's all a bit too much for me with my already over-active imagination. And I'm scared of the dark.

So it seems like a much nicer thing to celebrate today - All Saints' Day, with a nod to tomorrow and All Souls' Day (also the day my Great Grandmother died).

It's exactly 10 weeks since I visited Bergamo near the Italian Lakes, and in particular Piazza Duomo, home to both the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore and the Cattedrale di Bergamo.

Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, Bergamo, ItalyInside the Cattedrale di Bergamo, Italy

As my Mother and I entered the sacred space of the Cathedral, Sunday Mass had just finished and the procession were filing out to the street. The sound of the bells made me stop in my tracks. It was so beautiful and felt very special to witness such a scene.

Sunday Mass, Cattedrale di Bergamo

I'm not Catholic, nor particularly religious, but the interior opulence and the sense of being in a place dedicated to worship; holy and good and steeped in history, was a very emotional experience. My Mother is Catholic and we both lit a candle and said a prayer.

Then I saw this prayer card and picked it up:

All Saints Day - An Italian Prayer

Preghiera a Sant'Alessandro (Prayer to Saint Alexander)*
Martyr Alexander witness of the word that is Jesus up to entrust to it your whole life, pray for us, because faith in the Lord Jesus, crucified and risen, tempers our heart, sustains our existence, orients our life choices, decisive or daily.
Pray for us, because the love that the Lord Jesus lived in fullness in the gift of himself to the Father on the cross, becomes the form of our life, the style of our relations.
Pray for those who suffer in body and spirit, for young people, for families, for those who are on the edge of society for many different reasons.
Make generous the hearts of young people in response to priestly vocation and special consecration.
Let your gaze contemplate the proclamation of mercy that saves. Amen.
Cattedrale di Bergamo, ItalyPiazza Duomo, Bergamo, Italy

So happy All Saints' Day.

I find churches and cathedrals so fascinating, and I don't think you need to be religious to appreciate their glory. Or maybe I'm wrong? I always thought I was a closet Catholic...

I did also wonder about the moral issue of taking photographs in a place so sacred, but everyone was doing so. Although that doesn't make it 'right', it was obviously 'allowed' and therefore I am grateful I got to preserve these images of my experience.

*NB. I don't speak Italian so it's more than likely this translation isn't an exact rendition of the Italian words.

PLUGGED V UNPLUGGED: a conversation by daintydora

Sometimes it's hard for me to remember a time without social media, the internet, a mobile phone; that sense of being 'connected' all the time to...everything. To remember a time when I wasn't ruled like one of Pavlov's dogs by the relentless ping! and beep! of notifications and messages via multiple interactive platforms.

Plugged V Unplugged

Digital communication is great and it's not.

It makes life quicker and it makes life slower.

It makes me feel part of something and it makes me feel isolated.

It gives me a buzz and it zaps my energy.

I can't live without my phone; am constantly picking it up, checking my favourite social media sites (Pinterest, Instagram), and waking up to notifications stacked on top of each other in a never-ending list.

It feels like I can never reach the end.

My inbox is cluttered with newsletters that I want to read, but if I read them all I'd do nothing else. So instead they linger, colour-coded, filed, forgotten, starred in a hierarchy, gnawing at my consciousness.

I've unsubscribed from things.

I've turned off notifications from online groups.

I've got multiple folders and folders within folders.

I have rules.

But, but, the need to consume, to read, to absorb and then deal with each email in turn is so completely addictive I have to ration myself.

Just another 5 minutes...OK 15...

'If I get to the end of X task, I'll 'treat' myself to reading that long newsletter that I always enjoy...'

Really? Is that what life has become, a battle to get through the omnipresent intangible chatter of words and images on a screen?

I've read about people who have taken the final step: removed themselves from social media, do not own (have never owned?) email accounts, or even more rebelliously, have hit 'delete' on their entire inbox.

Wow. I want to be able to do that, I really do, but...I can't.

Because I might miss out on something important, something I really need to know. FOMO strikes again.

If you divide the volume of communications 'in' by the hours available in the day, the equation becomes impossible, the idea of 'catching up' ridiculous. So what to do?

Plugged V Unplugged - wires

A lot of the time I choose to remain oblivious to the news, to my Facebook feed, to the latest joke or link that I've been sent; not because I don't care, but because I can no longer deal with the amount of information that comes at me each day. I have to censor it and by that I mean censor myself.

I ration my exposure to the plugged-in-always-on-world like I'm an addict, and to do that I've found myself deploying my phone's 'Do Not Disturb' function during the day as well as at night.

It's not that I don't like keeping in touch, it's just...sometimes it's nice to take a step back and reclaim my time, make time to process my own thoughts for a while. But then I add to it too through my own links when I choose to share them, through the words I share on this blog, through the act of living and interacting where the lines between reality and online become blurred.

The fast pace of the (digital) world is eroding concentration spans too, making us all less patient, and I've noticed those things in myself.

If a page doesn't load in a second or two, I don't have time to wait, and if the internet goes down for any reason - it's unthinkable really because how can you live your life effectively in the western world without the internet these days? I know people do, but when it happens to me and those around me it's like the end of the world, creating stress and prompting rage. This is the price of being plugged into technology, yet it's also given us so much.

So far I've resisted buying a Kindle in favour of a real book, and recently I've been investing in my vinyl collection rather than stream or purchase music digitally.

There is nothing wrong with those methods, and I'm not slating them, but I like the sense of ownership, the tangible reality, the feel and smell of a book or record in my hands. And I like to take back control and 'unplug', sometimes for a whole weekend; I always feel the better for it.

For people who don't use the internet (like my Mum!), it's harder to get good deals for everyday things or even buy from or communicate with a company at all, and I think that's a bit sad. It's like forcing people to 'plug into' something that they don't want to.

So for me the plugged v unplugged debate is about finding my own balance, something I can be happy with and that suits my lifestyle.

Japanese teapot, The Magpie Diaries

That means some days completely plugged in, writing away on my laptop, researching online, instagramming teapots and sunsets, while other days are spent completely unplugged while I scrapbook or draw or read or bake or wander the streets of my city feeling inspired, seeing things IRL.

It's not exactly the dream of living the 'slow movement' that I aspire to, but it's something, it's my way, and I'm clinging to it.

(Interestingly, the novel I'm writing is set in a time not so long ago when the internet wasn't a 'thing' and most people didn't own a mobile phone. Crazy eh?)

Maybe one day I'll be brave enough to hit 'delete' on the whole plugged-in world.

Maybe I won't want to.

This post is part of a group project inspired by Erin who blogs at Design for Mankind and a link-up hosted by the incredible Pip Lincolne of Meet Me at Mikes.

Join the Plugged V Unplugged conversation.

What do you think? Which do you prefer? Can you remember what your life was like before you 'plugged in'?

 

Midweek Poetry: Ode on a Grecian Urn featured in debut novel 'Follow Me' by daintydora

I wasn't familiar with 'Ode on a Grecian Urn' by John Keats before I read the debut novel 'Follow Me' by Victoria Gemmell. Follow Me by Victoria Gemmell

An extract of the poem appears three-quarters of the way through the book and fits the story perfectly; a story centred around the deadly allure of the 'Barn' which re-imagines Andy Warhol's Factory in the fictional Scottish town of Eddison.

These lines particularly haunted me:

Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
...Who are these coming to the sacrifice? To what green altar, O mysterious priest...

The story starts in the aftermath of Abby's apparent suicide - the fifth in the small town within a year - and which her twin sister Kat struggles to believe can be the truth behind her death.

As we step further into the 'deadly allure' of the Barn, into the underground art world constructed by both Michael and Rob, the dialogue pops from every page, rooting the story in action and drawing us deeper into the secrets of Eddison woods until the final twist.

I know I would have loved going to the Barn as a teenager, immersing into a more adult world, the heady creativity of the art scene: poetry, music, the smell of paint fresh on a canvas and of mysterious college boys playing in a band, a dark layer of mystery in their eyes.

Oh I wish I was a teenager again! OK, maybe not...but I definitely loved being drawn into this gripping Young Adult story.

I was even able to meet Ida, the designer behind the cover art for Follow Me at the book launch in Waterstones, and get a signed 'first edition' of the novel which feels very special.

Holding a book in your hands, a real book, and having it signed by the author is a tangible modern-day magic in today's digital world.

Follow Me Book Launch - Famous for Fifteen MinutesFollow Me Book Launch Night Napkin

The idea of being 'famous for fifteen minutes' (or even fifteen seconds) is very alluring for many of us, turning the spotlight on today's celebrity-obsessed society. Would you have been lured to the Barn, or stayed away?

Read a Q&A interview with Victoria and get an insight into her inspirations and writing process.

Buy Follow Me (#followmetothebarn...)

Follow Me Cupcakes

NB: I know Victoria personally and am delighted to promote her debut novel on this blog. This is not a sponsored post.

 

Midweek Poetry: Chop, chop, peel & an 'astronaut' carrot by daintydora

Today I woke with the urge to cook and bake and prepare food. I've been away from home for a few days so perhaps the break inspired this bout of kitchen domesticity?

I started with a pot of soup, scrubbing the carrots I harvested from my own garden. I bashed the earth from the roots, sliced the greenery from the top and scrubbed the bent-up carrots I planted too-close-together feeling an immediate sense of nourishment and gratitude in the pungent carrot-y smell.

It took longer than I thought - to sort the gnarled twists into clean, peeled fodder for my meal. But it was satisfying.

Here's my 'astronaut carrot'; half-eaten by a slug or something else (worse?), all tangled strands incestuous and squirming:

Chop, chop, peel: Carrot Astronaut

I didn't have much else to work with, but...

I had onions and herbs, a clove of smokey garlic, oil and butter and sundried tomatoes and a few potatoes that I added to the mix.

I had flour in the cupboard and porridge oats and oatmeal and a few scoops of light brown sugar and so while the soup was bubbling away on the hob, I measured the ingredients for bread and for oatcakes and the morning was cold, frosty with a dampness in the air, yet my little kitchen was hot and steamy with the creation of lovely autumn comfort foods, made with the scarcest of ingredients.

When the bread and the oatcakes were in the oven I melted more butter and squeezed out a tablespoon of golden syrup and greased a baking tray for the flapjacks.

I don't like to use as much sugar as the recipe suggests (an idea I got from the lovely Lila), so I swapped 75g of sugar for 50g of toasted almonds, and it felt a bit like alchemy because I like to switch things up but I have no jurisdiction in the kitchen; no knowledge of what might happen or go wrong like I do when I'm sewing or writing. And I know that baking is a precise science.

I kept the radio on and chopped and kneaded and rolled, listening to the Stereophonics and Muse and Moby and others I can't remember because I was lost in the flow, and by the time I was finished the sun was coming out and it was time for a cup of tea and I'd made a little feast that filled the house with a cosy warm breath of happiness.

Everything turned out OK, well, better than expected or perhaps just as expected if I'd paused to consider what that might be?

I used a heart-shaped cookie cutter for the oatcakes, and I had the soup for lunch with a hunk of fresh bread and I was going to take a photo but I was too hungry to care.

Here's a poem inspired by the baking and making:

Chop, chop, peel

Smoked garlic and simmered
onions spitting lizards
from the pot,
squeezed through silver pinholes
oiled in neon with seaweed-
salt, sun-dried
tomatoes and mixed herbs
for the stock.

 

Orange skins
trailing roots piled up by the sink:
chop, chop, peel -
and dirt caught in the plughole
scrubbed black indents
leaving traces in the bark.

 

Then a circus swirling free
in a sauna of steel
left quietly resting
until the kneaded seeds
are floured, pulled
steaming golden from below.

 

And how does it feel:
chop, chop, peel -
as the knife cuts through?
Resistance brief
then exposed raw slices
screaming inside.

 

How could I know?

 

An(other) occasion to ponder the question of love... by daintydora

Today in particular I feel my thoughts turn to the question of love. This is what I wrote about it last year. And here's love in a perfect pattern repeat. And here's a love poem: 'Verdant Love Thieves'.

LOVE in reverse

In all honesty, I don't think I'm ever not thinking about love - in one of its many forms.

Recently I attended a workshop on Karma, and it inspired me to consider all that the heart is capable of, all the different kinds of love, and how Love/Heart become transferable words:

Kind Love, Flexible Love, Passionate Love, Hidden Love, Invisible Love, Unrequited Love, Past Love, Future Love, Possible Love, Free Love, Manifest Love, Distant Love, Familial Love, Romantic Love, Complex Love, Loving Love, Unconditional Love, Cruel Love, Conscious Love, Unconscious Love, Karmic Love, Tantric Love, Precious Love, Material Love, Jealous Love, Cupboard Love..."

And how many other kinds of love are there?

So many. So many words that could describe the concept of love. As many as you could think of. A dictionary full. And a Thesaurus. And endless fictional and self-help books that describe this elusive puzzle, so crucial to joy in life.

But still. What is it? Just a concept or a feeling?

I think it's different to each of us, as unique as we are. And each different type of love, every version of love means something different in itself and to each person. And that's OK. Because it is so personal, so intimate. No-one can tell you to be in love, to fall in love, to stay in love, diagnose love, prescribe love. It comes from inside, deep inside, inside your heart and your head.

Chemicals and visions and thoughts and electric pulses conspire to create a set of circumstances where you fall under that devastating spell and perhaps you'll be lucky enough to never emerge. Or perhaps we all need to experience the many nuances of love and the opposite of love, to really know it?

It's my/our wedding anniversary today, and so as I ponder the question of love, I give thanks for it - signed, sealed, delivered - 7 years ago today and every day since. And for all the other kinds of love that I experience around me and carry in my heart.

 

'Echoes' from William Ernest Henley for National Poetry Day by daintydora

In celebration of National Poetry Day 2015, I've chosen to feature a poem from a beautiful old book I discovered last week in one of my favourite charity shops in Glasgow. The collection is titled 'London Voluntaries' by William Ernest Henley, and the paper is satisfyingly thick and creamy with that lovely whiff of rich literary history...

Book of Poems by William Ernest Henley

Echoes

x

 

THE sea is full of wandering foam,
The sky a driving cloud;
My restless thoughts among them roam...
The night is dark and loud.

 

Where are the hours that came to me
So beautiful and bright?
A wild wind shakes the wilder sea...
O, dark and loud's the night!

These words speak to me as much now as they might have done when they were first written in 1876.

Poetry has no use-by date. Words live on.

The sage and gold copy I have was published in London in 1907, but the first edition was published in January 1898.  Something I particularly love about books - old and second-hand books -  is finding a hand-written inscription, like this one:

Book of Poems by William Ernest Henley

A Kindle can't ever hope to convey this kind of personalised message; the fading, often illegible script of someone taking the time to inscribe good wishes or friendship or love, and write the date, marking that moment forever in time.

For me, there is a beautiful poetry to that simple act, all in itself.

Henley also made a dedication to his wife, itself a poem.

Reading these words more than a hundred years later does nothing to strip them of their intimacy and intent, which leaps from the page as if the ink were still wet or the words being spoken by Henley himself, right now.

William Ernest Henley 'Poems' inscription to his wife

So I suppose, this post is a celebration of both poetry and books. Words handwritten or printed on carefully chosen paper.

Works of art, words of art, undiminished by the passing of time.

Thanks to National Poetry Day for reminding us to celebrate the poems of our time and the poems of the past, while nurturing the poets of our future.

On that note, why not dedicate a poem to someone you love?

Or revisit this beautiful ode to the lakeside solitude of Cadenabbia, Italy by Henry Wordsworth Longfellow.

Or my own ode to the Supermoon.

Poetry is the salve of the soul, capturing meaning and emotions, and deciphering the puzzle of life.

 

Midweek (Blackout) Poetry: Perfectly Spent by daintydora

It's the 'Season of Words' with Get Messy Art Journal, and I usually post my journal pages here. WORDS are my passion of course, especially on this blog, so I'm posting my latest attempt at blackout poetry, inspired by the work of Austin Kleon.

I 'found' it on a random page of an altered book.

Blackout Poetry - Perfectly Spent

The book is a hardback edition of 'Elegance' by Kathleen Tessaro, which I've reworked into 'The Elegance of Words' for my own #getmessy purposes.

I turned the first few pages, scouring for attractive adjectives, nouns, adverbs.

And then I tapped the page with a retractable pencil, eyeing up the inspiration until I was ready to scratch out superfluous words with a gold Sharpie.

Last night. In the living room. By the glow of a paper IKEA lamp.

Perfectly Spent: A blackout poem

 

Sophisticated rows
of photographs,
silvery
aloof gazes
waving
animated, silent, dazzling.
Spots:
waves turning
sideways,
cigarettes pass
wonderful,
abundant in a chignon -
prominent
eyes feline;
perfectly spent.

Blackout poetry is SO much fun - it's amazing what you can find inside the words of others, the hidden poems waiting to be discovered, especially from the kind of text you might not usually read.

Check out my other experiments with found/blackout poetry using an article from a fashion glossy,  Linux magazineTolstoy's Anna Karenina, Tarot-etry and the amazing fun of Paint Chip Poetry.