On dry lips.
Daniel has been contributing his poems and blog posts to the Wellbeing Web for two years, we recently spoke together about the many things he does that aid his wellbeing. Our informal chats revealed the intriguing blend of ancient and modern techniques, and pastimes which Daniel uses to keep positive.
The first of our chats took place during our trip to buy essential oils and joss sticks that might help our respective current mood. Among the blends we chose was myrrh, known from ancient times for its medicinal and spiritual healing properties. When we next met to conclude our discussion we burned the myrrh.
People have been orating and writing poetry from ancient times as their muse inspired. Daniel’s recent such musings, ‘Road of Joy’, was his latest blog post. Daniel combines poetry, the ancient means of expressing thought and feeling with the modern art of blogging. Previous discussions had us pondering how and in what way we considered thought and feeling.differed, hindered or helped us in our wellbeing. Lets see if of the things Daniel engages with give any hints if we reached a conclusion.
I like spending time with close friends, playing and listening to music, meditating, consulting the I Ching, reflecting on Zen,Tao and Buddhist philosophy. In addition I take part in a variety of skill based and healthy living courses at Inkwell and Swarthmore Education Centre, this last twelve months it has included; creative writing; short stories, poetry writing, web design, group Alexander Technique sessions, and art classes. Workshops at Leeds Mind have also helped me with my confidence and to work on relaxation techniques.
Knowing very little about consulting the I Ching, I asked Daniel to describe the practice and how he feels this helps him.
The I Ching is an ancient Chinese book which traditionally is consulted by use of either throwing coins or willow sticks to determine which of its 64 hexagrams to read. It is similar to the way some Christians use bibliomancy when seeking guidance. After opening the bible at random any text found there is taken as a guideline for resolving a particular issue that may be troubling the person.
I use coins when I consult the I Ching, I feel this works on the principle of synchronicity, enabling and revealing advice and information from the book in a way I find profound.
Daniels musical interests include his playing keyboard in the band Burning Skies Revolution
and he explained what about this is enjoyable, and how he deals with any ‘nerves’ when performing at gigs.
I find playing a musical instrument raises my spirits, which is cathartic. Socializing with other band members during the nine years we’ve been together is beneficial, and it’s helped me not to watch too much telly.
As a kid I liked listening to electronic music and had a keyboard bought as a present. Earlier this year it was highly enjoyable to see the band Icebreaker, who play electronic music, at Howard Assembly Rooms, and I reviewed it for the Wellbeing Web see here,
I can read music a bit but mostly play by ear. Jamming at our weekly rehearsals or on other occasions when me and my mates are just relaxing is fun.
Public performance isn’t something I ever envisaged the band doing, it only happened because we stood in at short notice for another band. Although I get nervous before a gig, my confidence is helped by both the social support of the other band members, and by keeping in mind that I’ve done it sucessfully on previous occasions.
Daniel acknowledged that like most of us keeping active and remaining positive are beneficial for our wellbeing, but that it’s not always easy to remain upbeat. I asked Daniel when the ‘going gets tough’ which of the things he lists is he best able to hang on to.
I’d say it’s the things I can easily access at home, or close to home that help me if I get down. Contact with my friends who live nearby, and the meditation on ancient philosophies and techniques which I can do at home are my mainstays. In recent years however access to modern technology via the internet and my smart phone have also helped.
Discussions with Daniel about wellbeing didn’t reveal a clear divide between thought and feeling, except perhaps that they are flip-sides of the same coin. We might sometimes find ourselves relying more on one side than the other but Daniels use of ancient and modern techniques shows he does much to keep them well balanced.
“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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
Hello. I wrote the original version of this to go to some music. I don’t think the recording will still be around and I can’t remember how the music went. Never mind! Here is the poem.
Sun rises over the earth
Life sprouts forth
Sun showers gifts to all.
Clouds give way
Blue skies of
Shiny globes of joy
Winking in golden haze.
By Daniel Tavet
For the next three days you can see members of Leeds Survivors Poetry featuring in last Sunday’s Songs of Praise.
In its 20 year history Leeds Survivor Poets haven’t made TV very often. There was the Poetry World Cup in 1998 which merited a mention on Calendar. (We were runners up and got the Poetry Saucer, after I couldn’t find a rhyme for ‘orange’ in a poetry shoot out). But last Sunday we got a whole 3 minutes on Beeb 1 as they had a special programme from Leeds. They featured various Leeds religious folk and the things they get up, including Leeds Carnival, hip-hop, photography, and they followed the lovely Sue Matthews, one of LSP’s regular members, as she came to one of our workshops at the Civic Hall.
Here’s Sue at a previous workshop, and (below) at one of the group’s readings in Kirkgate Market a couple of years ago.
LSP continues to meet every first and third Friday evening at the Civic Hall, 5.45 to 7.45, next meeting on Friday 5th September.
Our bit of the Songs of Praise programme comes after 24 mins 30 seconds.
A couple of months ago (had no internet for a few weeks due to a technical glitch) I did a very enjoyable workshop at Clarence House called Feeling Good With colour. It was about using colour to improve our mood. We did a visualisation where we imagined sitting under a giant flower and golden sunshine pouring on to us, discussed a poem about colour in nature, colour associations, discussed colour therapy, colour harmony, and how colours are used in different cultures. We also went into the garden and each wrote a poem about what were experiencing. This is the poem.
Sat in middle.
Circle of bird conversation.
Pats the back
Of golden heat
Calms the whirling
Like greeting hand.
(image from otherwisetrading.co.uk)