Happy Birthday to me! Garyswordz is a year old in April and it seems opportune to both look forwards, and look back. When I started this I had no master plan about what Garyswordz was going to be, or idea as to what durability it would have. It was simply a self indulgent box in which to put things which were important to me . Since then, it has taken on a life of its own.
To date I have had 8,376 views. Looking at the monthly graph, it is fascinating to watch the growth. In April 2011, the first full month, it had 465 views, by August the 500 barrier had been broken with 593. September grew to 756 ,and January 2012 was the first month to break 1000 views, since when the numbers have continued to grow. In March, the views were 1175, tantalisingly short of the next milestone, 1,250.
Since 25th February, 2012 I have had 909 views from the UK, 350 from the USA, 71 from Australia and 20 from Canada . Those proportions from those (English speaking) countries remain constant. Beyond that there are some intriguing curiosities. Over the same period, citizens from 59 different countries have viewed including Burkina Faso, Paraguay, Iceland, Japan and Italy, from where I have been averaging a view a day. I have resolved to learn more of places which have not received the writing commitment from me which they clearly deserve! That is a commitment from me for year two of Garyswordz.
A fellow blogger whom I enjoy reading and spending time with is Poet Polymath Mal Dewhirst, who blogs under Polysworda. For the remainder of this piece I shall shamelessly plagiarise his format too.
What has annoyed me this week?:Sainsbury increasing the price of a small fruit/salad bowl by 50%.
What is DELIGHTING me this week?:The prospect of my poem about Pooley Hall being on permanent display on the Polesworth Poetry Trail.
Having a 1500 word article being accepted by Insidefutbol, the international online football magazine with a formidable roster of writers.
Listening to: Lynyrd Skynyrd in their pre-plane crash incarnation, specifically, “One More from the Road” and Street Survivors”.
Things I have been doing
Cheltenham Poetry Festival: On Saturday the 21st April I make my first appearance at this festival. Although previously I have slammed and read at Much Wenlock and Ledbury Festivals this feels like the biggest one so far. I am appearing with the wonderful Amy Rainbow in a double act as one half of the “Imperfect Pair” as part of the show “Pulp Diction”.
I see a lot of poetry, and continue to give much thought as to how it may best be presented. I enjoy good performance poetry; polemic , satiric and comic, yet in a single dose it has a relatively short currency in live performance. Page poetry too can be powerful, beautiful and mesmerising. But again like a rich cake, it can only be consumed, and appreciated, in small chunks.
What Amy and I are trying to achieve is a fusion of poetic and performance ingredients. The male female contrast offers an immediate contrast and counterpoint, as well as the benefit of two voices. But furthermore we seek to add conflict, different gender perspectives, humour and a narrative to the proceedings. Performed previously it has worked well. This time we are stretching it out with new material.
So I have been fine tuning and getting to grips with the material, having at last selected what we are going to do together. I hope it works!
The bill for the evening includes the fantastic Catherine Crosswell , Barnaby Eaton- Jones, Dan Parker and Mathew Vogwell, I hope to see many of you there.
Poetry Alight: After the success of the first open mic poetry evening at the Spark cafe, Tamworth St, Lichfield, I am now preparing for the next one on Tuesday 15th May. The problems are all positive. The standard, and attendance, at the launch event set a benchmark which will be tough to emulate. On the one hand there is a fairly defined list of things which will help make a poetry evening successful, on the other unique, or at the vet least distinctive, characteristics define the event. So I am aiming to reassure poets and audience alike with an appealing format, whilst at the same time trying to make the event special.
My strategy is clear. I aim to offer sufficient open mic slots to ensure that plenty of local poets can perform. I aim to ensure that serious page poetry has slightly the edge over performance poetry numerically (though not necessarily in impact), and I aim to introduce the local audience to poets whom they have not heard before (but I have, and whose quality I am confident of), and out of town poets to audiences who have not heard them.
Do join me on the 15th, admission is free, parking outside is free, the cafe is close to the railways station and is licensed.
Forgotten Poets: This is a dangerous category. Those who have never heard of poets with this soubriquet may not be interested, and those who have will not regard them as lost! So, with trepidation, I commend Christina Rossetti (1830-94).
Rossetti was an English poet who wrote a variety of romantic, devotional, and children’s poems. She is best known for her long poem Goblin Market, and her love poem Remember.
Although Goblin Market is ostensibly about two sisters’ misadventures with goblins, it may also be seen as an allegory about temptation and salvation; a commentary on Victorian gender roles and female agency; and a work about erotic desire and social redemption. Rossetti was a volunteer worker from 1859 to 1870 at the St. Mary Magdalene “house of charity” in Highgate, a refuge for former prostitutes and it is suggested Goblin Market may have been inspired by the “fallen women” she came to know. Very socially and politically aware, her father used to entertain Italian revolutionaries at their home, and sShe was opposed to slavery (in the American South), cruelty to animals and the expoiitation of girls in under-age prostitution.
Despite her low profile now as a poet, one piece of her writing will be known to millions across the English speaking world, by anyone who has ever attended a Christmas Carol concert – she wrote the poem “In the Bleak Midwinter”, first set to music by Gustav Holst and then by Harold Darke. It is one of the best known and loved Christmas lyrics opening:
“In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.”
She could write serious and popular pieces, she could also write with humour about her own mortality as she faced death with declining health in one of my favourite poems from her:
When I am dead, my dearest
When I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady cypress tree:
Be the green grass above me
With showers and dewdrops wet;
And if thou wilt, remember,
And if thou wilt, forget.
I shall not see the shadows,
I shall not feel the rain;
I shall not hear the nightingale
Sing on, as if in pain:
And dreaming through the twilight
That doth not rise nor set,
Haply I may remember,
And haply may forget.
And to my reader in Burkina Faso, and you all, I say in Mandinka, “Foo Watido” – farewell.