Posts Tagged ‘poetry’

A fascinating poem by Leo Donnelly

August 20, 2015

When I went to an open mic session called ‘Fenspeak’ in Ely last Wednesday I heard this fantastic poem by Leo Donnelly. He very kindly agreed to let me post it here for you to enjoy. He recited the poem from memory!

(to be read aloud)

Poetry evades me in the same way

The stars dance from the grasps my arms fumble from a cliff face.

The chance of me imparting poetry upon a prim page

Is like

The spliff stains in my ribcage maintaining my body to old age;

Maybe my soul’s sustained.

And it might be the green that grows it,

But the tocking-ticks of age are telling my body I’ve already blown it.

And the game remains the same

And I’ll stay to play I know it,

But I wish these days ablaze man,

I wish I was a poet.

Then no more mundane Monday mornings would I wake to;

From the dawning boredom of the day I could escape to pave my way to

Pastures green, and clean, and blue;

Pastures past and pastures true.

But (alas!)

I work hard at nothing and thus I learn nothing new,


The sweat that squeezes through my pores,

Pours without pausing,

As my ambition, steadily tethered, is applauded.

But it’s scared, teeth bared, and it’s pawing, clawing at the door,

Beneath which,

A line of leaking light is sweeping through into the room,

Bewitching the world with its dance like you


Meter and

Grace and


Like feet that run, racing rhyme, through the space in-between beats

That pound upon the furrowed face of the ceiling

Set in place to separate us from Dust.

And it does keep us people all properly in place, disgraced

To the point our hearts break and we weep with restraint,

Ill-equipped to keep pace with the ways our forefathers lay before us,

Now they treat us as polished when truly we’re porous,

And if we raise our complaints they’ll politely ignore us,

And when our rage is ablaze they’ll douse it with boredom

And tour us

Across a blood soaked sea-less beach,

Scuttling over scalding sand that we struggle beneath,

Left suffocating and drowning on a ceaseless, breezeless heat, each

Spluttering cough carving deep scars that creep like stark veins through darkness

Across our shrieking tongues and teeth;

Bleeding gums shred to ribbons repeating the lies that they preach,

Catalysed by distain and pain-stained disbelief,



Our minds seek for firm ground,

With firm founded beliefs,

Where amber leaves crunch beneath trusting, thrusting feet;

Where the earthy purchase provided is enough to propel a guided mind skyward,

Towards truth,

No more defined by society’s confinements;

Where violence is despised and not disguised by the violent;

Where the air will set fire to our blindfolds and we’ll find ourselves blinded

By the world,

As it unfolds

Before us.

Enter ending.

Enter chorus.

Enter pumice stone,

Patient and porous.

But alas,

Poetry evades me in the same way

The stars dance from the grasps my arms fumble from a cliff-face.

The chance of me imparting poetry upon a prim page is like

The spliff-stains in my ribcage maintaining my body to old age;

Maybe my soul’s sustained,

And it might be the green that grows it,

But the tocking ticks of time are telling my body I’ve already blown it.

But the game remains the same,

And I’ll stay to play I know it,

But I wish these days ablaze


I wish

I was Leo Donnelly

A poet.

Leo Donnelly.


Review of the book by Maya Angelou ‘I know why the caged bird sings’

January 6, 2014

Review of the book by Maya Angelou ‘I know why the caged bird sings’

I was first entranced by this writer when I read her poem of the same name. She captured exactly the feelings that a trapped bird ( or person) might feel.

Thus, when I approached her first of six autobiographical novels I was looking forward to it. I was not disappointed. This writer knew how to engage the reader with smooth flowing, evocative text. Never did I stumble over awkward phrases, yet anyone who is a stickler for ‘correct grammar’ or literary language could easily have felt disappointed. It was obvious that the writer knew her grammar and vocabulary, so much so, that the vocabulary reflected perfectly the voice of the author as a child and the language was shaped to create the unique, expressive and almost breathless thoughts of an imaginative child. It was always easy to picture this young black girl growing up – a girl, like any other girl of any colour, would feel the same in the circumstances and colourful background she described. The characters lit up the page. I felt I really knew Momma who had so much to do with bringing up Maya, especially in the love she gave that child and in her pride and competence that helped so much to shape Maya’s early life and thinking – thinking that was not always in agreement. Maya’s allegiance and affection for her brother and her reaction to her negligent parents were vivid. She did not see her parents as ‘negligent’, they were who they were and she accepted them as such. Many bland descriptions of Maya’s background led me to expect a text full of terror, anger and horrific drama. However, although her experience of rape was dreadful indeed, her description was couched in words of puzzlement, guilt and the helplessness of immature feelings not fully understood. This text reinforced the notion that nothing is always clear cut. There are many aspects to a situation.

This book was not only a testament to the ill-treatment of the blacks by the whites, but there were often moments of joy, love and triumph that demonstrated the capability of Maya’s people. Her determination and success in becoming the first black worker on the San Francisco trams was symbolic.

This was a most enjoyable and moving book that I highly recommend.


A look at May Angelou’s style.

Looking at the first words of the novel, I realized why I enjoyed her style so much:


Two incomplete lines of a poem begin the text. Why? We are immediately curious. Then we are immersed suddenly into the complex thoughts of an intelligent little girl. She hadn’t so much ‘forgotten’ the poem as her mind had been overtaken with other, more ‘important’ things. This profound thought is reinforced by the following moving description:

‘The truth of the statement was like a wadded-up handkerchief, sopping wet in my fists’. We can picture her, empathize with her embarrassment and know that we are about to share the life of a child who reminds us of our own childhood and all the misconceptions, childish beliefs and embarrassing moments that crowded our own young lives.  

Instead of merely stating that all she could think of was her lovely new dress and how her hopes that everyone would be very impressed were no dashed, she says:

‘The dress I wore was lavender taffeta, and each time I breathed it rustled, and now that I was sucking in air to breathe out shame it sounded like crepe paper on the back of hearses.’

Her great dreams of admiration for her in her new dress are shattered because she has ruined her moment of fame and could not bring herself to say all the words of the poem she was supposed to.

This is a prime example of how much of Maya Angelou’s prose is sheer poetry. Here, in the opening of this book, the strong metaphor in ‘breathe out shame’ and the rather dramatic simile ‘sounded like crepe paper on the back of hearses’ fit exactly with the exaggerated immediacy of a child’s vivid imagination and heightened emotions.


I am certainly one big fan of this writer!  


A poem that seems to descibe what it is like to begin to suffer from dementia

January 4, 2014

I was astounded to find that my husband’s experience of succumbing to dementia was beautifully expressed by someone who lived in the same area where John was born – Peterborough and by all accounts, could have succumbed to the same disease. I looked at the poem by John Clare called ‘I am’ which I expected to be a poem that would comment on the enigmatic nature of existence.

While his poem did, indeed, do this, I couldn’t help feeling that he was expressing exactly the same emotions and thoughts my husband could tell me about before he became too seriously ill. I can still sense the chill I felt when my husband said that it felt like his brain was ‘scrambled’.

If you’ve the time and inclination, you might like to read my description of what I think the poet is saying. This is quite different to the usual analyses, I believe.

(You’ll find the poem at ( accessed 04/01/2013)

I believe John Clare may have been on the edge of his illness and says:

‘I exist. Yet, even though I know I am here, and I am part of the world and people know I exist, no one wants to know or cares that I am here.’

His friends have left him; he feels he cannot enjoy the friendship he once had with them. He uses a simile to liken the loss of his friends to a memory, something very distant that happened long ago and is lost to his and their consciousness. He could also be referring to his own condition in which he is starting to lose his memory. The memories of the times he once had with his close friends are now distant or even lost to him.

He is saying his troubles are self-contained, only within his own thoughts. Only he really knows what he is suffering. His problems ‘eat him up’ and no one else could really understand what it is like to experience his suffering.  

At times his problems greatly increase or disappear into the ether of existence where nothing is known, where they completely disappear into a place which is kept by a ‘Host’ or God who holds everything that is or has been known so that the poet’s distressed thoughts sink into ‘oblivion’; they are no longer a significant part of him or the whole scheme of things.

He uses a simile to liken the effect loss of his memories of previous heightened experiences (especially those of love) to mere shadows in the world and within in his own memory; these memories are doomed to come to inevitable finality in death, which brings about the loss and obliteration of a person and all that they have held dear.

He uses the conjunction ‘and’ and the word ‘yet’ to emphasize that even with all of these worries, he does exist, he knows he exists and thus it matters. He knows he is alive although living with dark memories that are thrown about within his troubled mind.

In his difficult life that has been full of the derision and fuss of others

In his life as it is, full of jumbled, disturbing thoughts he does not really feel alive or appreciates the joy he may have done once.

His hopes, desires and achievements have fallen to ‘wrack and ruin’ indicated by the metaphor ‘shipwreck’

Even the people who have been those he has loved the most,

even they seem different, not like they were, even more changed than everyone and everything else

He wishes he could go to places no one has ever been to before, where there is none of the noise and worry of that has come upon him.

He wants to be where he doesn’t have to feel or remember the impact of a woman and her emotions and the effect she has or had on his feelings.

He wants to finish it all, to go home and return to where he came from to be with God.

He is so tired, he wants to rest, to sleep as soundly as he did when only an innocent child.

He wants his worries to cease. He wants to be no trouble to anyone else, nor suffer from the unhappy anxiety that he is experiencing now. He wants to rest, and be still and unaffected by his problematic mind.

He wants to lie down on green fields or ‘grass’ leading us to imagine him finally at rest on the ‘green pastures’ from the 23rd psalm – pastures where he can metaphorically rest in the arms of a caring God. Such pastures are more important and on a higher plane than the sky itself. The ‘grass’ could also refer to his grave. He wishes to die and be free of all his difficulties.


What do you think?

Poetry Day October 2009

October 11, 2009

Poetry Day Oct 2009

What a wonderful idea! I doubt if I would have approached the subject of poetry had it not been for Poetry Day and an event advertised at the Babylon Gallery in Ely. I was having lunch in Ely with a friend so I arrived a little late but what a fruitful afternoon it was! I had several poets on hand helping me try to improve my attempts at poetry. They encouraged me to write anything at first – leaving a line between each of my efforts and then revising. It is the revising where it gets difficult. What makes a good poem? It seems one must avoid common phrases, adjectives and adverbs. The words, I believe, need to evoke a feeling and or an image in the reader. This image/feeling need not necessarily be the same as those expressed.  Each word has to be exactly the ‘right one’.

I am still working on the poem but here is a first attempt:

Screeching voice

Pierces oneness with Debussy

Wrinkled piano keys shake.

My fingers in black thirds, soothe.

My soul wretches: over-cooked cabbage

Fuses with rippling chords.

Putrid, slippery floors drown

In my moonlit dream.

 It is supposed to reflect my feelings as I played Debussy’s  Clalre de Lune on an old piano when I was at boarding school.  

One of the poets at the Poet’s Day event at the Babylon Gallery was John Lyons who has a book launch on 15th October 2009 at 7 p.m. in Ely library which you may wish to attend.  His book is called No apples in Eden and is about Caribbean life.