Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Dear friend,

It's spring 2018 and time to move forwards. Much has changed since my last post and now it is time to concentrate on writing. The decks are cleared and I'm ready to go. As I look out of the window I can see the early signs of spring. A few small flowers have appeared, the birds are singing again after the long winter months and the first buds are beginning to unfurl. The winter wasn't wasted and although time was a very limited commodity I took the opportunity to revisit and improve old poems and prepare for a new season.

A little time spent writing each day pays dividends in the end. If you think of a good line write it down and it will be there for you later. Springtime is a simile for new beginnings, for new life. I've been fortunate to find a new poetry group - Poetry Plus - and am making new connections.  I've been able to resume regular performances. Now it is time for new material drawing on those lines I saved when life was too crowded with other more urgent things that had to take priority.

Are you looking for a new stimulus to writing? Do you need to make new connections or revisit old work with a fresh perspective? Have you banked up lines and ideas to draw on going forwards? Are there new directions you can take your writing? Now is the time to get going on those ideas you set aside. Your perspective is unique, write about your life, how you see things. I'm am positive the greater the investment the greater the return. I sincerely wish you every success in 2018!


Kernel


Fluttering against the glass

Still he beats his wings

After long and fallow years

On the outside looking in



A lonely, frightened mocking bird

With gold dust on his tongue

Carrying the burden

Of an imagined Midas touch



So much to say, so little time

He would sing for you

Bring precious stones, a holly wreath

Things borrowed, old and blue



It’s cold out on the margins

The brittle edge of time

In deepest dark the brightest stars

Gleam in solitude divine



Within this darkest hour

A kernel only night can bring

He awaits the cusp of sunrise

When he’ll catch your eye and sing



Decades
 

I saw you playing

In the forest

Amid sunbeams and flowers

Dancing shafts of light



I tried to touch you

Reach out and touch you

But you faded away

Into memories.


I heard you laughing

Somewhere amongst the trees

And tried to catch your words

As they passed on the breeze



I tried to listen to you

Really listen to you

But you faded away

Into silence.



I watched the seasons turn

Leaves redden and fall

Like myriad lips

Kissing the soil



I gleaned the bones

Of the forest by night

Searching for footprints

Amid moonbeams.



When spring returns

To the sleeping trees

Bringing birdsong and flowers

Dancing shafts of light



I’ll try to find you

Reach out and touch you

Fill the years that remain

With new life.



Schwere Arbeit


Time passes slowly in this place

Minutes are not of the same duration

The enjoyable ones fly by more quickly.



I stare at the clock and the hands distort

Slowly, Dali like, it loses form

Slipping down the wall leaving a snail like trail.



Trial by time and torture by telephone

With its umbilical cord

Waiting to give birth to some new complaint;

“I’ve been given your number to call when someone dies”.



Machinery whirs, faintly humming

An electronic ode to the passing day.

I insulate myself like an electrical cable

Mustn’t make the mistake of listening to the



Interminable tap-tap-taping of the lesser-spotted keyboard

Clicking like crickets in the long grass

Clickety-clack, clickety-clack


One mating board calls to another

Marking out territories on veneered desks.

You don’t fool me!

No tree has a grain so symmetrical.



Grains falling through the ether like

Sand falling through an egg timer

The egg a symbol of life

Especially at this time of year
 

Pregnant with promise as

The trees outside celebrate in the sunshine.

Spring arrives in a vivid burst of fragrance and colour

Which the dark little mushrooms in here can see but cannot feel.
 

 
Japan

In a different way of looking at things, it is the moment of sublime perfection

 
When beauty stretches its fragile fingers as cherry blossom fronds.

 
That instant is the one to die, the passing in itself a supreme majesty.


 
Nothing is permanent and they know this, with their ancient wisdom.

 
They celebrate the moment that the blossoms fall, fluttering down

 
To settle on the water, thin pink droplets like fragrant tears.


I shed myself the same for you. Lay upon your still waters for a moment

 
Passing a torrent of myself, like blossom, through a needle gate.

 
That instant is the one to die, the passing in itself a supreme majesty.
 
 

 
Exquisite Seam
 
I am told these scriptures come from beyond the self
That the ebb and flow of productive thought must end
That one cannot continue to delve into the self ad infinitum.
Yet I find the deeper I dig the richer the vein becomes, until I hit pure gold.
Pure gold is your smile and every thought I have of your exquisite beauty.

 
 
Au printemps à la salle d'attente

Spring spreads its wings
Outside the waiting room
Icicles dissolve
People thaw out
And unfurl their arms
Remembering what it’s like
To live and love.

The sky clears its throat
And coughs out clouds
Daffodils erupt
Through broken soil
As trains ply to and fro
Spitting out passengers
Engulfing waifs and strays.

Spring illuminates the fields
Empty minutes pass
The hour glass
Re-fills itself with sand.
Sunlight pierces the realm
Of battered dreams
And promises warmth
A train, a life to catch.
 




                                                                                                      







Saturday, 18 February 2017

Dear friend,

Since my last blog update a lot has been happening in life in general and poetical terms.

I must begin by paying tribute to the late Leonard Cohen, simply the most important male poet in my personal pantheon of greatness. Amongst his many works Cohen's "Book of Longing" has probably inspired me more than any other piece.
I cannot overstate its importance to me.

Closer to home I'm nearing the end of my degree course and will be able to turn my full attention to creative writing after June 6th. Its been six long years to get to this point and I feel a mix of excitement and tiredness, the last lap seems to be the hardest one! Despite the inevitable demands on my free time (I'm doing the degree on top of a full time job), I have been able to finally complete Jackalope, a project of ninety poems, dealing with transition and change, appropriate as we are in the early part of 2017 a time of transition and unease for many.  There is also another idea for a project in the pipeline but it's early days yet, more will follow as the year unfolds!

The best thing I can do at this point, rather than wittering on, is to share a few pieces from Jackalope. As ever, I hope you enjoy them.

Precious Memories

I know I will forget your face
Although fighting

The thief called time
Every inch of the way.

Binding precious memories
With cords around my heart

I’ll treasure them happily
Until the passing years betray

And you drift just out of reach
Becoming a beautiful dream
Warm, fuzzy, indistinct...


Maple Leaves

She loosened the band and her hair fell
Like a red waterfall
Like fire tumbling over her shoulders


And in that moment my heart ran free
Through ancient forests
Through carpets of fallen leaves

She loosened the band and her hair fell
Unfettered across the curve of her neck

And she flicked her head
Her fiery hair describing an arc
Like an autumnal goddess

Her hair, red as a maple leaf
Promising the open skies of the wilderness
Her eyes as deep as the forest

She loosened the band and her hair fell
Wild and untamed
And I raised my head and howled to the moon


Kernel

Fluttering against the glass
Still he beats his wings
After long and fallow years...
On the outside looking in


A lonely, frightened mocking bird
With gold dust on his tongue
Carrying the burden
Of an imagined Midas touch

So much to say, so little time
He would sing for you
Bring precious stones, a holly wreath
Things borrowed, old and blue

It’s cold out on the margins
The brittle edge of time
In deepest dark the brightest stars
Gleam in solitude divine

Within this darkest hour
A kernel only night can bring
He awaits the cusp of sunrise
When he’ll catch your eye and sing


Celestial Fall

I wished upon a shooting star
In its celestial fall
Hoped my love would unlock you...
Prayers provide the key


My heart burned in solitude
As it arced across your sky
Although worn upon these sleeves of mine
You never batted eye

Love burned brightly for a season
Now darkness has returned
Silence blankets everything
All trace of where we were.


All the Things

All the things I’d written for you
A final touch, a careless stroke
And everything is lost


A screen full of emptiness remains
Lilly white, like my coward’s heart
Pierced on a crown of words.

Irretrievable sentiments
Brimming with all the things
I never had the strength to say.


Au printemps à la salle d'attente

Spring spreads its wings
Outside the waiting room
Icicles dissolve...
People thaw out
And unfurl their arms
Remembering what it’s like
To live and love.


The sky clears its throat
And coughs out clouds
Daffodils erupt
Through broken soil
As trains ply to and fro
Spitting out passengers
Engulfing waifs and strays.

Spring illuminates the fields
Empty minutes pass
The hour glass
Re-fills itself with sand.
Sunlight pierces the realm
Of battered dreams
And promises warmth
A train, a life to catch.


Flight of a Swallow

Same place, different season
Times unchanging flow
A bitter wind...
Investigates our weakness.


From right to left
The grey sky cracks
Across this frozen place
The land that time forgot.

People perch
On battered stools
Perfectly preserved
Recovering
From peace on earth
And mercy mild.

Who would think
A swallow flying up
From deepest Africa
Could make its home here
Beneath the eaves
A few short months from now?


Cities of Glass

A silent flash
Announces the fall
Of a star to earth


The power of the sun
Boils rivers dry
Sucks life into the void

Possesses souls
Fuses thoughts to glass
Leaves only shadows on the walls


The Beating Heart Metaphor

Here I spoke ...
Heartfelt words
A brief confession
How I wished things could be.


Here I gazed
At a foreign shore
And a distant smile
Through rose tinted hours.

Here I unfurled myself
And tried to fill
An empty space
On an inner sea.

Here surf broke
Over expectation
As I battled the tide
And dared to dream.

Here ozone scents
Mixed with rain
As hope departed
In lamentation.

Here a seagull mourns
As sunlight fades
And footprints concede
To callous waves


Drink Dissection

The body curio
Tilts its head
And swallows...
Wondering how

The sectioned muscles
Would appear
In an exhibition
Or a glass jar
For all to see.

The pen moves faster
Ink unravels
Scaring the page
With spider trails
And amputations.


Mark Harris has asserted his right under

Section 77 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988

To be identified as the author of this work.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Summer update - July 2016

When I wrote my spring update last year I had no idea how busy a time would intervene or that there would be no new material to share until now. The hiatus was entirely unplanned and uncharacteristic. The academic year 2015 - 16 was particularly tough. Coupled with umpteen other things its seen writing take a back seat for the first time since I took up my pen and wrote in 2010. Time flies and I can hardly believe we're into the second half of 2016 already. The intervening period saw some success before everything got buried under an avalanche of mandatory reading and essays...

Getting into print for the first time in last August's edition of Writer's Forum magazine was undoubtedly the highlight and proof that hard work and persistence can pay off. It is worth exposing yourself to constructive criticism. I'd been sending in poems for several months prior, taking the optional critique along the way. I learned a lot about what makes a poem work versus common pitfalls and the dangerous lure of cliché. (Needless to say I've sailed close to these rocks on occasion).
 
I believe my work will be better from here on as a result of taking some risks. For what it's worth, my advice; don't be afraid of sticking your head above the parapet. You'll get some knockbacks along the way but nothing ventured, nothing gained. It will all be worth it in the end if you marry belief with being prepared to listen to what others have to say about your work. My long term goal is have a published collection. I'm not going to waver from that course and I believe it will happen. The steps I'm taking now will be the foundations on which I will achieve my goal. 

There has been only very limited time for performing poetry. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Southwold festival in Suffolk last summer. A lot of varied performances from music to poetry were to be had and it was well worth the journey. Also I got to perform at the Light Bulb Festival, Colchester, alongside Leanne Moden and Martin Newell which made for a great evening. I am one of these types that enjoy performing but it isn't the primary goal of writing for me. My favourite thing is to sit down with a poem I enjoy, read it through several times and just think about what the speaker is saying. There are collections I will return to time and again simply for the reading experience. Particular favourites are Leonard Cohen's  "Book of Longing", Pasquale Petit's "What the Water Gave Me", The collected works of Freda Downie, Kapka Kassabova's "Someone Else's Life" and of course Emily Dickinson. That's the goal.

These poets allow the reader to return again and again and still find something fresh. Push me to name a favourite and I'll say Dickinson but am acutely aware all arts are subjective and you most likely don't share my opinion. Isn't that what it's all about though? Cordial disagreement is an increasingly rare commodity. A final thought before some short poems regarding the subject of subjectivity. I'd rather be what we Brits call a "marmite poet". Marmite is a peculiar yeast extract that people either love or loathe in equal measure. There seems to be no middle ground. Surely the worst thing is for the reader or listener to sit on the fence with an uncommitted shrug of the shoulders when you've given them your best shot!

Enough rambling already, poems...


Junk Mail

I waited for the fall of your card upon the doormat

Ached to hear a sound that said you cared

Strained my ears for the fall of envelope on carpet

A hope of thoughts you might have kindly spared.


I waited through a cold grey winter morning

For those words to light me, like your smile

Daydreamed in colour of our door step conversation

When your toes playfully gripped the carpet pile.


I waited for hours slowly turning into days

Sat forgotten under a covering of dust

Motionless as spiders weaved their webs around me

Warmed only by false memories of “us”.


Do you know the pain your omission brought me?

Emotionally I’ve turned into a ghost

Silence only broken by the shattering of hope

No love, just junk mail through the post.

 
 
 
Junk Mail is the poem that made print. Its dedicated to the moment the speaker realises the "magical other" is not going to send them a birthday card.

I referred earlier to Leonard Cohen's "Book of Longing". It had a tremendous influence on me. I'll leave you for now with some short pieces I wrote in the wake of that book, trying to reach the shore. Until next time...
 
 
Sea of Longing

Today is a day of longing
 
In a week of longing
In a year of longing
Sailing on the sea of longing.
 
There's no land in sight
 
No other ships in sight.
None pass in long nights
Spent on the sea of longing.
 
 
 
Tigress as Sexual Predator
I saw a tigress in my dream
Representing female power
Sexuality with a hint of aggression.

She was a seductress
Hiding under stripped fur
When I stroked her she purred.

Coming to the surface
She was a repressed feeling
An erotic fantasy coiled to strike

And we knew
As she opened like a flower
She could eat me at any moment.

We also knew
The secret of the jungle
It was a feast we both wanted.
 
 
 
Monk’s Eye View

In penitence I will shave my head
Clad myself in sunset’s orange robes
And sit in the crook of a crescent moon
Painting love across the canvass of your sky.
 

 
 
Dead Line

It was all a pointless exercise

Trying to mend broken thoughts

Repair hopes which died long ago

Sat waiting, by a silent phone.
 
 
 
I Neutrino
 

Falling through the earth
Streaming through your eyes
Hollow, disembodied

I pass right through you
A massless ghost particle
You do not interact with me at all.
 

 
Three Phases of the Moon

"Three Phases of the Moon" is a three part poem about longing for the “magical other” expressed as the moon. The speaker begins by losing their identity in the “magical other”, becoming indivisible from them. When they try to join with the other in any meaningful sense the object of their affections is as elusive as the moon in water. When they try to reach out and touch the other it proves impossible to connect. The final phase sees the speaker trapped by their own desire.

 
Possessing the Moon
I was over the moon in my dreams
Ready to enter the sea of tranquillity.
Raw desire threatened to drown me
Until I became the man in the moon.

 
 
Reflections of the Moon
Looking at the moon is akin to longing
I yearn to lasso the silver disk, tie it to a stick,
Wander around basking in its glow

I’ve seen its likeness in many different faces
Seen it mirrored in many different eyes
Heard its echo in many different voices

You are the source of the moon
Waves of you bridge the gulf between us
Cut though my heart with the speed of sound

It reminds me of fishing for your favour
Elusive, like a reflection in a puddle
I tried to connect, you dissolved at my touch

Still you stubbornly coalesce 
Flooding me with an intangible smile.
 
How many more times must I return?
How many more times try to lasso the moon?
 
 

 
Under the Moon

 
You’re still there, shining above me
I realised as much in twenty seconds
Spent longing over a doorstep.
The moon I worship will never change.
 
_______________________________
 
 
Well, that's it for this time. I hope you enjoy the update and I promise not to leave it quite so long again, God willing!

Kind regards
Mark
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 








Monday, 23 March 2015

Spring update - 2015

Hello and Welcome to the first update of 2015! 

It's been a funny old year so far and I've certainly had all the writing time one could wish for as I convalesce from surgery. After eight weeks laid up I'm well and truly on the mend. The plus side being all that time to make use of (and another six weeks yet by the looks of things)! 


So what have I been up to? 


Firstly I've had time to thoroughly revise the whole back catalogue, right back to the first work from 2010. A little judicious pruning here and there, getting rid of that word I was never quite happy with and more drastic revisions of poems where I had a sound idea but it really needed more work. 


I've also been updating the individual pages for each poetry "collection" to give some explanation at to what each is about starting with Minutiae. 

End result: 


Reasonably happy with everything going forwards and determined to do something with this writing bug in the future. I'll try to push the work "out there" much more in 2015 and we'll see what happens. It won't push itself, so I need to be prepared to take a few knocks and be brave! 


Meanwhile as I psyche myself up for the "great out there" how about a few poems to be going on with?


Firstly here's where it all began, where the writing journey started. I didn't have the words to say what I needed to convey to a family that lost a full term baby on the day of his birth and wrote this, April 2010. 

I removed the dedication as I never sent it to the intended recipient, circumstances and a more appropriate consolation won the day (and beat me to it). But I realised the power of words, how they can express and heal, articulating what would otherwise remain trapped within. The floodgates opened and the rest as they say...

From Minutiae  


The Mayfly Baby

And love held so loosely in the arms
As life it fades and shades of darkness dawn
Who shall know the fresh born babe
And where shall rejoice his form forlorn?
Ascend on wings of innocence
Fresh skin with bitter tears adorn
Of such loss a struggled sense to make 
A mother’s beating heart remains…
With pain it breaks 


Interestingly this poem also represents my first rejection (2010) from a group that welcomed input from all comers for their web site. The words were something like:

"Thank you for submitting The Mayfly Baby, it is obviously a very heartfelt and emotional poem. We are sorry not to be using it"


Secondly three updates from The Body Curio;



Anima


She inhales a swirling flock of words
From the soiled roost of the past
That rises, circling far above us
Before alighting in startling patterns

Her eyes roll back in their sockets
Until only their whites show
As she rescues reality from chaos 
Lassoing prophesy from black holes

Slowly she exhales filling the future
With vapours from the Kerna spring
Birthing herself from a crack in time
Poems breaking over her lips.  


Many Summer's Past


If I have ten thousand lovers
You’ll always be the first

The fragrance of youth
Framed by fading memories

I try to recapture the moment
Experience the elusive perfume

See you reflected in someone else
Always failing to connect

You fall across my thoughts
Like passing summer rain

Unfolding yourself
Like the petals of a flower

Genie in a Bottle


Spin the bottle; see what personality emerges
What kind of character climbs out of its neck? 

As the snow falls and the hands numb
As the sun shines and the flowers grow

The “bon viveur”, the maudlin bore
The fool, the cheat, the whining boy

Spin the bottle; see what personality emerges
What kind of character climbs out of its neck? 

As days become months and years
As dice roll and words flow

As the spider spins its habit web
As deceit becomes our daily bread

Spin the bottle; see what personality emerges
What kind of character climbs out of its neck? 

Until I can look you in the eye
Pleading honesty, telling lies



A couple of updates from Venus Veins;



Gone

I’m skating on blades again, sharp steel blades, gliding over ice

Like glass, a window pane, a droplet like a tear, shed when friendship dies

Running slowly down the liquid in suspension, fired mind and crystal

Walking on blades of grass, a green baize called lawn, it’s raining hard

This late summer’s day, the droplets cold, run down my cheeks

The back of my neck, I’m shivering now, I think of you, as if you were here

Hugging your black cardigan, damp, it clinging to your fragile frame

Your soft pink toes, sinking in the grass, mown cuttings on your soles.

I nuzzle the scene, imagine your taste, your smell, the tang of salt

Is just rain mixing with my tears, near silence, the swifts have gone. 


Singularity 

I was happily dreaming, when you interrupted me, shooting words into my ear

You pulled me to the event horizon, where everything, even time slowed

I looked over a shoulder and saw life bustling in the cosmos

I looked before me and remembered your smile

I watched your mouth rhythmically opening

As you engulfed me, crushing me

Into a dense cube of matter

Reducing me to a

Singularity 


And newbies in the preparatory phase for a project I call "Jackelope"

Jackelope

Rot ridden flesh stitch-sown
Festering at the seams
Odd ears and tail
My legs like springs

Speak to me
To the ears in my chest
The mouth in my groin
Cross fertilising

My hermaphrodite bones
That rattle in your dreams
Head held low
Stooping down

As I fill you with fear
Garlanded with the stench
Of taxidermy
My formaldehyde eyes

Occasionally I pause
Savouring you
On the barb of my tongue
For the sheer thrill of it

Yolk

Blood-red heart exposed
I fall before her
Clasping her knees 
In supplication
Praying she will 
Part herself for me
But it is she that eats
Cracking me open
Greedily lapping up the yolk


Kingdom of the Saguaro

When you have finished your sojourn
In the distant lands of summer rain

I will be here waiting, an ageing sentinel
Presiding over a thorn strewn kingdom

When you eventually decide to return
Use the old familiar opening in my chest

Lodge in the space where sap once rose
In the deepest emptiness of my being

I will be here with my arms outstretched
Myriad spines clawing at the desert air

Uncertain roots grasping at shifting sand
That slips between them as once you did

Whenever you need a safe haven
I will always welcome you home

I am become an echo chamber for love
You are become an unslakabe thirst

Parody of the Self


The monster in the mirror
Leaking anger
That old thing staring back
Glass eyed and hollow
A war of words raging
Inside a ransacked skull
Slack jawed with excess
Both sides of the argument
Struggle, die, re-birthing
Every empty morning
Looking for a rope to climb
And leave this face
On the outside looking in
While the foolish heart
Paints a picture of itself
I christen “parody”

Utrecht in a Suitcase


An origami week
Folded into neat
Regular shapes

Dreams replaced by
Mundane considerations
Sadness still

Bubbles inside
As summer fragrances
Fill my lungs

Barren years removed
From a musty memory
That lingers in my mind

I still wait patiently
For your exquisite finger
To press the rotting doorbell


Without Hope

I honey the hemlock chalice
Drink a bitter distilment
That numbs my feet
Climbs the ladder of my spine

Completing the work
Capturing on canvas
The raiment of my pain
Brush-bristle rough

I smear bright pigments
Into a raw retablo
Whilst the Sybil sings
Days of future past

Driftwood Crowns
A bell tolls, a seagull cries
For an audience of one
Grey and melancholic clouds
Roll down to restless seas

Summer has long flown his nest
I've no flowers left to bring
Our golden beach is empty now
Wearing driftwood crowns

If moments could be lived again
What different paths we’d take
The sun has set on Shangrila
Across your cold and empty bed


That's enough to be going on with for now. An important lesson I've learned is not to worry too much about writing, about acceptance from others. It is a personal journey we make and if we enjoy the process and it heals us, putting things that might otherwise remain internalised, contextualises them, giving them a relatable form, the work is done. If it helps anyone else, if others like it, that, for me, is a bonus. 

Writing can touch us in a unique way. It seems appropriate to leave off with one final poem written as a tribute to someone who's writing and story touched me. 

Daughter of the Beat


At first, like everyone we ever see, she’s an image, an assumption
Gazing from the page at me, from a time before I’d even heard
Her name, let alone stood on the cusp of these innermost thoughts
Lain bare as words for all to read.

I know my walk in this garden of candid prose will be unique
Seeking more than others seek, I'm following a path only
Mine to find, revelations from between the lines leading to
Appreciation.

On the day the photograph was taken, if I’m not wrong, her eyes
Reflected more than a cameras lens. An energy reaching out
Decades on – a fragile being, aware of her mortality
Knowing she’ll soon be gone.

Smiling, I'm enjoying alternating shades of light and dark
Finding depth beyond a perfect face, colour beyond
Black and white, happy knowing words can endure death
Making more than fitting epitaphs – they tell a story.

It’s through her words the beat goes on, she herself
Has gone but if eyes are indeed the gateway to a soul
I wasn’t wrong.  Turning the final page I also offer words
Hoping she’s found the peace that she deserved.


Until next time

Kind regards
Mark

   
Mark Harris has asserted his right under
Section 77 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988
To be identified as the author of this work.