Poetry Readings, a consideration.

“I wandered lonely as a cloud” (Wordsworth)
“I do not like green eggs and ham” (Dr Suess)
“They sent me a salwar kameez” (Alvi)

In January or February of this year I participated in my second ever poetry reading. I wanted to be involved in this, because I enjoy hearing others read their poems. I also feel a sense of achievement from reading my work to groups as well. It was a surprise on the night of the recital, at least to myself, that I was not moving around awkwardly in my seat in the 10 minutes before meeting the audience. I had feared that I would succumb to nerves which would affect my ability to recite what I’d practiced reading, the whole week before the recital. Thankfully these nerves, never, came. And so it was that with light shoulders, and clear mind, I read three of my poems: Truth, Driver’s Bed Time, and Patch.

Women's voices ring out 2

I believe now that the reason my confidence was heightened at this second recital, was three-fold. Firstly, I actually knew many of the people in my audience. This was handy as these recognisable faces gave me something to focus on, when I suddenly realised it was my voice that was the sole sound in that room full of people. A second thing that put me at ease was that I was not first to read. Indeed there were other readers before me, which gave me time to compose my thoughts. Despite this, I still hit a cliched ‘sticky patch’. My printer broke down when I was about to print my work! My decision to take photos of my poems with my phone so I could read them, worked! Until I was on stage and my phone took ages to switch on. Thirdly I was more relaxed as I arrived in good time for the start of this event, unlike my first time at a reading when I had been unavoidably detained for the first hour and a half. That time, I had created a movement within an audience who were like chemical particles. This second time however, I took my seat before the event even started, and actually had time to talk to those people I knew.

When it comes to what you hear at poetry readings, it’s true that one is in danger of being seriously inspired and experiencing inspiration overload. One particularly energetic school teacher at my first reading passionately used his physical and vocal presence as a way of engaging the audience. At the second event, we also sat stone still as a woman read a poem whose vivid imagery and detail meant it could only have been about one topic; the Second World War. Another person used one of their poems to tell us about their appreciation for one part of Britain.

Women's Voices Ring Out - reading - 18.5.2015

Since the above was written I have read at my third event. This was Women’s Voices Ring Out in Wakefield. I had an amazing evening at this event too since I was on the same bill as about 10 highly talented writers, and once I’d read I was part of the audience that was treated to their array of topics. As was equally true at other readings I’ve been involved in, each poem that the writers showcased at Women’s Voices Ring Out was an inspirational piece of work that had the ability to explore real human feeling and emotion. As before, there also was a mountain of literary treasures: from the works of the writer who reflected on the thoughts of various people in society, to a moving poem about motherhood, to the other beautifully written examples of poetry and song in between.

In conclusion poetry readings are a nice way to be involved in your community and to meet people – whether you’d like to read, or simply listen. Granted not everyone eagerly jumps up at the chance to do public speaking. The great thing about poetry events is that the choice of involvement is wholly personal, and someone can have any level of participation they chose. If you’d like to be a part of poetry readings then you’re sure to take something positive from what you hear, and to grow in confidence if you do share something. Poetry readings are then in my view, ultimately a brilliant use of anyone’s evening. It’s for this reason that I am due to read at my fourth.

Long may creative spirits reign!

By Amanda Lynsdale

Photo source:
Photos by one of the Women’s Voices Ring Out event organisers, Hamila Mayat.

1.Poetry reading “Women’s Voices Ring Out” 18.5.2015 – https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=826499440771133&set=pcb.826500717437672&type=1&theater – accessed 25.5.2015
2. Poetry reading “Women’s Voices Ring Out” 18.5.2015 – https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=826499174104493&set=pcb.826500717437672&type=1&theater – accessed 25.5.2015

 

Navel gazing

'Buddha' Niki De Saint Phalle Photo:Sue Margaret

‘Buddha’ Niki De Saint Phalle
Photo:Sue Margaret

Are you sitting comfortably?…then I’ll begin!

Long, long ago, in the days of yore, I was able to sit half lotus just like the magnificent personage here depicted. Some people say sitting lotus style & navel gazing are good for your health!

This sitting pretty, bright and cheery sculpture is an installation, at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, close to West Bretton. Yorkshire Sculpture Park was formerly known as Bretton Park, and was the estate of Bretton Hall. There is an interesting twist in the story of the inheritance and horticultural development of this former stately home. Dianna Beaumont, an illegitimate daughter of one of it’s male owners, inherited the pile in 1792 . In that era property was rarely inherited by female offspring even if they were legitimate, they were overlooked in preference for any, often distance male relative. Diana was

 a keen horticulturalist, commissioned a giant domed conservatory, the largest of its kind in the world, which is said to have been the prototype for the Crystal Palace in London. ¹

Another interesting, possibly useless fact, (though it impressed me as a teenager) is THAT wrestling scene between Oliver Reed and Alan Bates, from the film Women in Love, ground breaking in 1969, was filmed at the hall. My short shortsightedness meant that the possibly interesting bits in the scene were blurry and therefore lost on me! Oh, and Henry V111 is thought to have spent three days there, the oak bed he is said to have slept in is now at Temple Newsam. That’s probably not useful information either.

As a young child I considered my family visits to Bretton Park and West Bretton village as far flung in time and space, despite them being only a short distance from our home in Wakefield. West Bretton to this day has neither shop, post office or pub, but its bowling and cricket green make it the quintessential English village.
Too young on my early visits to know what romance was, Bretton Hall’s Camelia House, did strike me as the perfect setting for sitting pretty, tete a tetes. The Yorkshire Sculpture Parks planned re-creation of ‘tea with Diana Beaumont’, (by all accounts a sassy diva) this summer, might provide such an opportunity. The purpose of the event is to highlight the importance of her contribution to the parks horticultural splendor, and to raise funds for Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

camelias
By the time I was a teenager I had more idea about romance. Chamber music recitals on the terrace, performances of Shakespeare and Wakefield Mystery plays held in the atmospheric stable block courtyard, all served to inspire and expand my interior and exterior worlds.
Bretton Hall at that time was an Arts teacher training college, later acquired by the University of Leeds Arts Department. Trainee or newly qualified teachers were assigned to the secondary school I attended. The teachers personal interest in we disadvantaged youths, both in school and informally opened our eyes to more culturally diverse lives.
I was encouraged to, and dreamed of one day being a student there. I didn’t so much want to be a teacher, or have a career in the Dramatic Arts but was keen to live on campus and lounge about looking the part! Kohl eyed, patchouli doused, sitting under some tree late into the night discussing all manner of things. My interest in yoga, sitting lotus style and contemplating navel came a few years later, I never found it easy. Nowadays my own style navel gazing might best be described as,…..a trance like slouch on the couch, except when I bethink myself!

When I re-visited Bretton Hall estate after many years absence, it had become Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and my heart sank. Very large abstract sculptures dominated its landscape, I thought they were unsympathetic to it’s natural beauty. However I’ve since learned to appreciate and be more sympathetic to them.

Wakefield, and Bretton Park, as it will always remain to me, still occupy a special place in my heart and memory. I’m a Manygates babe! I now live in, and love Leeds, and have the privilege to be a Lifelong Learner at the University of Leeds, Faculty of Performance, Visual Arts and Communications. and get to lounge on their chaise lounges. I still don’t have a career or educational goal, (I’m ‘retired’), and I no longer aspire to ‘look the part’. Some of the text books still have the fly leaf of Bretton Hall College, that gives me a buzz. In a very roundabout way I’ve come to be that lounging student at Bretton Hall. My ‘study’ involves a lot of sitting, contemplating, and procrastinating about deadlines. Life lessons have taught me much of what is discussed formally, but it’s reassuring to have academia, at least Cultural Studies, confirm that my long term ill ease with main stream thought is a valid response, that’s been good for my wellbeing.
As each year passes past and present moments mingle, these are the things that remain. I try to live without regret or ‘what ifs’, ‘navel gazing’ helps me remain buoyant in the oft choppy waters that mental distress, its residual effects, diagnostic labeling and its treatments stir.

Sue Margaret
¹ http://www.theblacketts.com/articles/82-bretton-hall

camelia house image http://www.bretton-hall.com/recent-images/01-page-1/

Cooking conquests

Not so long ago a “ping” filled the nation’s kitchens,
and with it came a slight end to those pastries filled with ‘mum’s special ingredients’.

In life you see, the fact is that time flies.
We simply feel too tired to cook at the end of the day.

No you may not be called “Ramsey”, “Berry”, “Oliver”, or “Lawson”.
But you might be inspired by them to experiment with la comida*.

It starts with the £3.00 spent on veg.
It starts with the chop on the board.
It starts with the sound of the fridge door.

2015-03-11 21.54.36

There’s so much to learn from
Parsnips boiling,
Potatoes peeling,
or things sizzling.

Not least, you learn more about yourself as a cook.
– Are you someone who moves at a pace, as ingredients come together like drops of water to form a splash of a feast?
– Maybe having a recipe down to perfection means you slam a book shut in celebration, so flour cascades towards the worktop?
– or possibly you go so far from the recipes that they ought to be written in symbols, yet the very entity that is your culinary masterpiece has you grinning like a Cheshire cat?
‘Only I know what the secret ingredient is’.

Whatever the kind of cook, the therapeutic
dicing of tomatoes, or whisking of that egg
is universal.

Unpacking and arranging ingredients, with the
warm crinkling of the packets.
Mysterious aromas of garlic and onions,
and others which never quite taste how you’d expect.
Promises to yourself and others
‘next time I’ll not put so much of this in’.
– All these serve to add to the fun.

2015-04-08 19.59.01

Above all else is the pride as you think observe the food-tastic output.
‘Just look at what I did’.

Until tomorrow, when you clean.
The non-stick pan gets ‘stickier’.
The rice-maker becomes ‘inconvenient’.
The spoon is ‘damaged’ by sauce.

After that Captain Scott like expedition,
You decide to tidy along to the radio.
After all, it’ll make the time go much faster.

By Amanda Lynsdale

Notes:- Comida,the Spanish word for food.

Massage therapy and Qi Gong

If you want to keep well and creative, I suggest a massive list of positive whole good things to do daily…so, along with gardening, meditation, relaxation, being grateful to everyone for their ‘small’ acts of everyday kindness, I have Massage Therapy from John Mackie.

I fell down the stairs 3.5 years ago, and as someone who values his fitness for gardening, self-defence, in a rough area – the roughest in Leeds – Holbeck, not Chapeltown! – it was a traumatic loss. Traumatic in both senses of severe damage: physical and mental trauma means not just psychological. The pains of tendinitis: heavy dragging sensation on foot, sharp shooting dull pains, in calf muscle, quadriceps, gluteus maximus/buttock muscle, dull, numb (which can indicate formation of scar tissue) tingling were indescribable.

I tried to get referrals to the physiotherapy care of my GP, but they didn’t do it – healthcare eh?! There was probably some stigmatization of me. It is well documented that mental health service users die younger on average, from severe physical disease and get less better heath treatment, because doctors believe they are making it up. Anyway, that’s only an aside.

I asked 3 GPs in my practice for a referral to a physiotherapist, several times but no joy. I plumbed for holistic massage therapy with John Mackie – he is trained in a wide variety of medicines. he knows and is practised in physiotherapy Chi Gong, Tai Chi, Reichian (body massage psycho) therapy. My whole system was suffering, and the bio-mechanics of my left leg, from the impact of 100s of pounds worth of pressure, as I rocketed down the stars. Somebody said, cruelly, ”Was I drunk?” ,”It was Monday morning”, I said and I drink a 10th less now down to 1 or 2 pints mild beer weekly. I asserted myself. People can be cruel. He shut up. Be assertive folks. 

I asserted my need for therapy despite the mentalist system, asserted my truth of health ‘gainst the fool with the cruel comment. Be kind to yourselves.  Deep down we are ALL OK, OK? Out of this practice of this wholesome idea I have been having massage therapy and Chi Gong, with John, since November 2014. although it’s fortnightly it really has helped.

I have had about 8 sessions, and I have noticed the muscle strength has returned almost entirely, however my balance is not quite right and I can fall over if not careful. I have to be mindful of my balance and take over, for now, this short-term conscious mind over body matter. (Normally, the unconscious, autonomous nervous system co-ordinates a healthy body without the need for conscious thinking).

The reason why I promote John Mackie are several:  He offers concessions; out of wholesome karma-choice I promote him spontaneously.. He is not a big commercial company; he is a holistic practitioner who is struggling to make money in the recession, as everyone is cutting back spends. He is a good listener/ diagnoser, and is clear in answering questions honestly, is open to feedback, attends Mind’s Peer Support Meditations with Steve Hart, e.g. Tuesdays from 5pm to 7pm, see other articles on Inkwell in this blog. Please see http://www.leedsmind.org.uk

John Mackie is a thriver not mere grim survivor. He is a good man indeed.

Milan Buddha Ghosh

Poetry slam

Winter nights sees me pretty much grounded for their duration, and with each year that passes the need to get active after them, becomes ever more apparent. Getting out and about keeps me physically and emotionally better, and attending the Headingley Literature Festival each March is often one of my first Spring evening jaunts.

LS6 always seems to buzz but the festival gives it that extra vibe. The programme of events is always extensive and varied, many events are free, of those that aren’t, they’re reasonably priced. This year’s theme was ‘Something Else’, and concludes on April 2nd  with, ‘Own Your Words’ …advertised as a poetry slam, see details here.

So far I’ve only managed to attend one of this year’s events, this too was also billed as a poetry slam, and named, ’One City – Many Voices’. For an entrance fee of £4 we were entertained by the internationally renowned poet, Lemn Sissay.Lemn Sissay

I’m not sure when the slang use of the word ‘cool’ became so commonplace. I don’t recall it being used in ‘my day’, and don’t feel comfortable saying it, BUT writing it occasionally seems expressive?,,,,Lemn and his performance were….. cool!

The word slam in ‘poetry slam’ is also slang, but this too I find expressive. It was used initially to describe a competitive poetry event, and was coined by Bob Holman. ‘a poetry activist and…slammaster’ who called the movement “the democratization of verse”…..he also said

The spoken word revolution is led a lot by women and by poets of color. It gives a depth to the nation’s dialogue that you don’t hear on the floor of Congress

The ‘One City – Many Voices’ poetry slam wasn’t competitive, but those who performed alongside Lemn were a group of talented wordsmiths from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. They were pupils of Leeds City Academy and Ralph Thoresby High School.  The flair and conviction of their words was astoundingly good. The young people had been coached by local writer and poet Michelle Scally Clarke.

Michelle told us how when younger, she’d struggled academically because of her troubled life, but she liked writing poetry and after sending some to Lemn, he’d encouraged her to continue. Ms Scally Clarkes’s performance, and presence were impressive. The Academy’s, Head of English, was an equally animated and motivational speaker, he spoke of the personal hurdles he’d overcome to be so. The teacher told us of his difficulties with a speech impairment and shyness when young, and then when older in a southern University, he’d faced ‘teasing’ for his Northern accent. I’m sure his and Michelle’s commitment and mentoring skills were a huge factor in the pupils finding their words and voice.

Most of the young performers displayed a confidence, beyond their years, they recited forthrightly, the young compere was dynamic and as an introduction demonstrated his moonwalking. The focus of the students poetry topics revealed many difficulties in their personal lives, they were angry at injustices they’d faced, but this seemed to spark the passion to expose it.

Though I like performance poetry, my preferred way of ‘hearing’ poetry is to read it silently to myself. Poets performing their own work however are most likely best able to add the nuance, or inflection which conveys their intended message. Lemn is a charismatic performer and he described writing poetry as ‘playing with the spirits’, that point alone inspired me to write about the poetry slam. Hopefully we who only listen to or read it, get to commune with them too.

Of the poems Lemn read, the following one stayed with me, as it spoke of the rejection he’d suffered. The poem also illustrates how when we’re a child, what it’s like to live in the land of ‘giants’ who sometimes get perplexingly angry. It was clear Lemn wrote the poem from experience but it wasn’t until after the event I found out just how difficult his childhood was. I also discovered that he’s an MBE, and whereas I claim letters before or after someone’s name mean little to me, I might have felt a little shyer inviting him to a World Poetry event elsewhere, or about his fee! Lemn, as the cliche goes, appeared to have ‘no edge’ and graciously, whilst not exactly accepting the invite, managed to appear not to rule it out.

Though childhood rejection wasn’t an obvious contributory factor in my angsty youth, it’s something many experience at some time, either as children or adults. Making it easy perhaps to identify with the boy in the poem who was misunderstood, and imputed with wrong motives.  It is only as an adult, and lately, that I’ve come to recognise the insidious ways certain groups are marginalised. If we find ourselves amongst them, choosing to re-frame the experience, see it as an advantageous place from which to act, gives the freedom to draw up inspiration from ‘that wellspring of creativity’.¹

Suitcases and Muddy Parks by Lemn Sissay

You say I am a lying child I say I’m not you say there you go again

You say I am a rebellious child I say no I’m not you say there you go again

Quite frankly mum I’ve never seen a rebellious child before and when my mates said jump in that puddle and race you through the park (y’know, the muddy one) I didn’t think about the mud.

When you said why you are dirty! I could feel the anger in your voice I still don’t know why. I said I raced my mates through the park. You said it was deliberate. I said I didn’t I mean I did but it wasn’t. You said I was lying, I said no I am not. You said there you go again.

Later in the dawn of adolescence it was time for my leave

I with my suitcase, social worker,

you with your husband, walked our sliced ways.

Sometimes I run back to you like a child through a muddy park, adult achievements tucked under each arm, I explain them with a child-like twinkle, thinking any mother would be proud…

Your eyes, desperately trying hard to be wise and unrevealing, reveal all.

Still you fall back into the heart of the same rocking chair saying

There you go again.

And I did.

And I have.

,Sue Margaret

1. Bob Dylan in interview.

Silence at Ampleforth Monastery – doing something out of the ordinary!

I recently did something quite out of the ordinary. I packed my bags and went off to stay in a Monastery to experience two days of silence!  It was a weekend of Mindful Meditation at Ampleforth Monastery in North Yorkshire.

‘Two days of silence, why would you want to do that..?’ some of my friends asked me, quite bemused at the idea.   ‘…because i can feel my head going on overdrive!’

A few year ago I took up Mindfulness Meditation in an attempt to be more present in my life, less anxious, to come out of auto-pilot and have more control over how I respond and react to things and basically to help manage my depression at the time.  It helped. However my practice had since lapsed, and like many of us who have learnt to spot the early warning signs of a dip, I knew it was time to do something about this.  The retreat came at a time when I needed it.   It provided a chance for a change of scenery, a break from my usual routine, an adventure and some meditation – hopefully these things would help give me the lift I was looking for.

When I arrived I was taken aback at the beauty of the Monastery and its surrounding grounds. The monastery filled me with awe as it has such presence. It grandly overlooks a  valley, which contains rugby grounds, trees, nice walks and green hills in the distance. Rumour has it that  ‘Hogwarts,’ the castle in Harry Potter was inspired by Ampleforth, which is also a public school as well as a monastery.  After having a quick look around  I felt absolutely giddy with excitement that this would be my home for the next few days.

Ampleforth

The retreat was both relaxing and challenging. My mind wandered to places I really didn’t want it to!  But hey, that’s what minds do – right?  Part of the practice involves noticing this and bringing the attention back to the focus of the meditation.   I tried to allow thoughts and feelings to come and go, observing them without getting too attached to them, like clouds passing through the sky.  The theory is that this then becomes easier in daily life, and it does help me.

I experienced some beautiful moments whilst at the retreat. In the evening I would look up at the sky and see so many stars twinkling back down at me.  I marvelled at the constellation of Orion, which I rarely see from my home in Leeds. The starry sky was so clear and bright and reminded me of stargazing in India which I had done many years previously when I felt much more carefree. It was a nice reminder.

The monks were very hospitable and welcomed us to drop into their worship, which is open to members of the public and I highly recommend!   Their singing is enchanting, mesmerizing and moving. It was like being on the front row of a free concert!

…and while I was there I felt time stand still just for a little while…a pause

Anyone can visit Ampleforth Monastery (As long as it’s not a special day.)  Members of the public can eat at the tearooms, stroll around the grounds, observe and take part in the worship (you don’t have to be religious – I’m not! ) and buy nice gifts at the shop  – it’s a beautiful place to go!