Poets Are From Earth, Haiku Go To Mars

23 Sep

So NASA emailed me to say my haiku had arrived on Mars…

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There’s a sentence you don’t read (or write) every day.  And what’s great is, it’s true!

Truth is relative, of course.  NASA did email, as they do every day; I’m subscribed to their website.

I did write a haiku, however, and it did go to Mars…along with thousands of others submitted to their competition.  NASA put all of the entries on to a DVD in case the Little Green Men like Japanese poetry.

According to the website:

NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft successfully entered Mars’ orbit at 10:24 p.m. EDT Sunday, Sept. 21, where it now will prepare to study the Red Planet’s upper atmosphere as never done before. MAVEN is the first spacecraft dedicated to exploring the tenuous upper atmosphere of Mars.

It doesn’t say anything about my haiku but I guess they’re kind of busy with all the, like, sciency stuff and that.  Go figure.

But hey – I can say with absolute truth: my writing is out of this world :)

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So, anyway…

19 Sep

The Laughing Housewife:

I have read this collection several times, from cover to cover. DEFINITELY recommended.

Originally posted on beeblu blog:

nlbtw

not looking back to wave‘, my first poetry collection, is available in eBook format atiTunes and in  soft-cover, PDF and other eBook formats here (US) and here (AUS).

Many thanks to the following Bloggerati, whose blurb contributions are featured somewhere in the book. ;-)

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I’m All Poemed Out

17 Sep

What a weekend I’ve just had!

Stockport Writers Do It In Church

On Saturday, it was my church’s Fun Day.  We invite local community groups to come and share their info with the local community.  It’s free and always popular.  I represented Stockport Writers.

You may recall that last year I offered free poetry workshops and not one person came.  This year, I offered to write poems for people.  I asked for their name, age and five random facts, and then wrote something in the style of the birthday poems I have written for you, my readers.

For the first takers I said, Come back in ten minutes.  More people signed up; I told them to come back at the end of the day to collect their poem.  Eventually it was, I’ll email it to you tomorrow.  And finally, You’ll have it by the end of next week, I promise.

Photo © Pam Robinson

Photo © Pam Robinson

Forty people wanted poems about themselves!  I’m still busy typing them up and emailing them out.

At the same time as writing the poems, I invited people – at my friend Pam’s suggestion – to write a community poem: the theme for the day was joy, so I asked people to name three things that brought them happiness; and why.  Roughly forty people (not the same forty people) completed that form, resulting in a poem three pages long, in fifteen five-line stanzas. I’ll post it at the bottom, in case you’re interested.

I cut out the answers and sorted them into themes and voilà!  One community poem!  It was a fun activity and easy enough to coordinate; you should try it.

Photo © Pam Robinson

Photo © Pam Robinson

Sunday, I chaired the monthly meeting of Stockport Writers at the Hatworks.

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Spud & Mum Do World War One

On Monday night, Spud and I read poems for an hour, to an audience of nineteen. Not a bad turn out for a Monday night poetry reading.  It was a commemorative event for the start of the war.  I had intended to read poems written only in 1914, but there aren’t that many; I suppose because the war was only a couple of months old in that year.

I chose poems written about the period, and ordered them roughly chronologically in terms of event.  I began with an Andrew Motion poem about Archduke Ferdinand between assassination attempts; moved on to jingoistic poems and songs intended to encourage enlistment; followed by first time events e.g. going over the top; and concluded with poems about the effects of the war.  I used War Poets, modern poets, and female poets.  Spud complained that to listen to poetry for too long was tedious, so I introduced each poem with pertinent information, which also helped the chronological flow.  It seemed to go down well.

Spud and I read for thirty minutes and then there was a break for tea – very English.  In the second half, we read three of my own poems, to prove to the audience I am a poet (I hope); and then he read poems by Wilfred Owen and I read poems by Siegfried Sassoon, taking turns.  We finished with Spud reading two in succession: Anthem For Doomed Youth (my favourite) and Dulce Et Decorum Est (Spud’s favourite).  I wanted to close with the war still ongoing, as it was, 100 years ago to the date we read.

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Boast Post

Spud was good.  When he shouts, Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! it sends shivers down your spine.  When his voice breaks on we were young at the end of Houseman’s Here Dead We Lie, you get a lump in your throat.  His plaintive Why don’t they come? at the end of Owen’s Disabled is pathetic in the best sense of the word.  To paraphrase I’ll Make A Man Of You, it makes me oh so proud to be a mother.

Almost a quarter of the audience was made up of Spud’s friends, and I was under strict instructions not to say anything embarrassing.  That’s usually a forlorn hope – at the award ceremony when he won the Drama prize, I managed to confuse his First Year tutor with a rugby player we know, asked about his wife (he’s not married),  and compounded the problem by explaining my confusion was because he had ‘a rugby face’ i.e. broken nose.

This time, however, I was good; though he did tell me off for roping two of the girls into Stockport Writers and suggesting they friend me on Facebook.

I think Spud’s poetry performance was helped by appearing in The Tree of War. You may recall that he was amazing in that. Not that I’m biased or anything, but his a cappella singing of Pack Up Your Troubles was a moment when, according to X Factor thinking, he made the song his own.  Not bad for a song that’s a century old.  He played drunk pretty good, too; and I fervently hope that’s not based on experience.  But it was the moment he was huddled at the bottom of the trench, terrified, crying, that made me realise he had something special.

Thinking about his character Bert, he imagined what it would be like at eighteen – his age now – to go blithely off to war; and then to learn of its horrors and sacrifices.  Some of that informed his poetry reading.  For someone who dislikes poetry, he did an incredible job; although not according to one critic, who told him, ‘You murdered that Ivor Gurney poem, didn’t you?’  

Those who can’t, critique those who can, is my motherly response.

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Hot Stuff

Spud and I dressed in vaguely period costume to enhance the mood; and I wondered how women managed on summer evenings in long skirts and hats. The church was warm and I felt a hot flush come on.  I thought I was going to faint at one point, particularly when the poetry folder on the music stand in front of me began to recede.  Then I realised that it wasn’t the menopause so much as a not-screwed-tightly-enough bolt: I was merely glowing but the stand was slowly lowering.  I had to bite my lip to stop myself giggling during Spud’s moving rendition of A Dead Boche.

Honestly, I don’t know why he finds me embarrassing.

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St Matthew’s Community Poem:

 

Happiness is a Serious Business

 

The smile of a child when they find something funny.

Seeing other people smile.

Seeing people smile when I’ve baked them a cake.

Cuddles and tickling.

A good laugh with anybody.

 

Miles of sandy beaches.  The smell of the sea.

Looking out over Kent Estuary and Lakes –

mountains meeting the sea.  Going on holiday.

Sunshine, because you can go out with friends.

A sunny day.  Sunshine.

 

Being in the garden.

Growing my own veg in the garden

(shared with many, many slugs).

Being outdoors in the fresh air.

Getting caught in the rain.  The seasons.

 

Bus rides on the top deck of a double-decker.

Going to Cornwall to see Nana.

Spending time with Grace (granddaughter).

Running around after my daughter.

Happy daughters playing together.  Daughter.

 

To see my Sarah smiling and full

of energy all the time –

my greatest gift from the Almighty!

My greatest blessing!

Sons – utter happiness, contentment.

 

My sisters and my brother make me feel

really warm inside.  Children.

My beautiful children.  Kids.  Family –

people I am close to.  Spending time with my family

makes me feel happy because I feel loved.

 

Auntie Alison!  Mummy.  Memories about the bond

I shared with my Dad – love for my family.

Seeing my Mum and Dad happy makes me feel

very happy. My two parents make me feel calm

and loving.  My family.  Smartie the cat; she plays with me.

 

My two teddies are my only best buddies

and they make me feel less alone inside me.

Sweets, sleepovers and playing with friends.

Seeing my friends.  Having good friends.

Big network of lovely friends.

 

Facebook – you can keep in contact with people

you normally couldn’t.  Christmas, when we see everyone.

Church.  Reading in church makes me feel I utilise a gift,

a talent God has given me – makes me fruitful.

Having time with my church family.

 

Jesus – joy, peace, fulfilment.

Four hundred voices singing a song

they really love, in collective worship.

Singing – the joy of it.  Singing.

Singing: it puts nice pictures in my head.

 

Music.  Music cheers you up.

Finishing a fantastic book.

Walking the dog.  Knitting.  Walking –

I like to ‘breathe’ in the hills.

Riding my bike in the sunshine.

 

Driving – I’m in charge.  Painting – I’m good at it.

A day in my sewing room.

Baking cookies…and eating them.

Eating real food (especially love green smoothies!

With avocado, coriander, spinach and berries).

 

Chinese Buffet in Stockport – I always go for comfort food.

Cricket: it’s fun.  Alex Park.

Clouds of pink blossom on cherry trees in Edgeley Park.

Rainbows.  Rainbows make me happy:

I love the colours.

 

New York.  The Statue of Liberty.

Minecraft.  Chocolate.  Football.

Friends.  Friends.  Friends.

When all around me are settled and content.

Kindness to others.

 

Sharing.  Random acts of kindness.

Being positive.

Life.

Dogs.

Love.

 

 

Review: ‘The Tree of War’

9 Sep

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Music & Lyrics by Oliver Mills.  Book & Lyrics by Rachel Mann

On Saturday afternoon, I saw the second-ever performance of The Tree of War.  I mention this because – well, have you ever been in at the start of something big, and known it was the start of something big?  That’s where I was at on Saturday afternoon.

The Tree of War is a musical about life in the trenches in WWI.  Written, scored and directed by a poet priest and a twenty-year-old music student, it was a community theatre project at St Nicholas’ Church in Burnage, funded by Manchester City Council.  A précis: Grandpa Bert tells his granddaughter the story of his time in the trenches.  That’s it; that’s the whole story.  And what a marvellous, rousing, moving story it was.

I had better declare an interest here: my son, Alex Cosgriff, played Young Bert – ladies’ man; loyal son; good friend; cannon fodder.  He played him well: his singing was wonderful; he really can act; I burst with pride.  But he wasn’t the whole play – a strong community choir and a good amateur cast was headed by Mike Law as Grandpa Bert: he was warm and cosy, sad and regretful.  Sam Gilliatt as Bert’s friend Greville has a voice with the sweetest tone, and his duet with Alex was a thing of beauty.  Jamie Rahman played Dougie McBride as a dour Scot; with a gorgeous voice, his solo sent shivers down many a spine.

The exploration of life in the trenches was well conceived – boredom, fear, letters to and from home; and the drinking…ah! the drinking!  The best number among a raft of great numbers was The Lads’ Drinking Song: bawdy, irreverent, rousing and huge fun.

The staging was excellent.  The tree of the title was out in the foyer, and that’s where the action began.  The audience stood to watch until directed to move into the trench area, which was set almost completely in the round.  We were in the trenches with the lads and shared their laughter and tears; their hopes and fears.  We could see their sweat and almost smell their breath.

In any play about the Great War, of course, the lads inevitably go over the top.  They disappeared to the sounds of mortar shells, through smoke and noise; and when it was finished and Young Bert lay huddled, terrified, guilty, sobbing, he had the whole audience riveted.  Tears for all of those boys flowed like their blood, and didn’t stop until after the final, whole ensemble’s rendition, specially arranged by Oliver, of Jerusalem.  As I fruitlessly wiped my own tears I heard a woman behind me say to her friend, ‘I can’t stop crying!’

If I have a criticism of The Tree of War, it is that it needs another twenty minutes and at least one more song – possibly a ballad for Young Bert – because it will have trouble getting to the West End otherwise.  And believe me, this is a play that deserves a wide audience.  If Oliver and Rachel don’t take it to Edinburgh next year, they’re mad.  They could take it at this length and then extend it when it gets picked up.  Look out for Oliver Mills because he is a massive talent.  To write such music and direct with such flair at his age…words fail me. 

After the show, I went up to congratulate Oliver.  I think I frightened him a little because I wanted to throw my arms around him and hug him to death; I settled for grabbing both of his hands and refusing to let them go while I raved about what I’d just witnessed.  I understand the impulse of the woman who clutched Alex’s arm and said, ‘I don’t usually grab strangers but I want to be able to say I touched you before you were famous.’

I want to be able to say I reviewed Rachel Mann’s and Oliver Mills’ premiere production of The Tree of War before it was a massive worldwide hit. 

You read it here first.

 

 

 

 

Dumb Mum & Funny Boys

7 Sep

Two daft moments from yesterday

A Serious Talk

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I woke up at three in the morning last night and saw the hall lamp was on which meant that Spud was still out and hadn’t let me know he’d be back so late.

My text: Where are you?!!

Spud’s reply: In Tory Boy’s room.

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From lookimadethat.com

Tory Boy was asking me about Holy Communion and I told him about the time I influenced a vicar.

She always used a piece of bread from her latest open loaf at home for the communion bread and, discussing it one day, I mentioned that I loved it when she used the occasional bun because of the symbolism of its wholeness/completeness/the actual breaking of bread, and so on.  She didn’t say anything but she must have liked the idea because after that, she always used a bun at communion.

Tory Boy: So what you’re saying is, your vicar thought the bun was the best thing since sliced bread?

 

That Was The Week That Was (III)

3 Sep

<b>The Tree of  War</b> - A Musical to Commemorate WW1The story so far:  Tory Boy’s guts are about to explode.

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Sunday 17 August

The Hub’s scapula was badly bruised but not broken, but he found it difficult to drive.  Tory Boy was taken into hospital on Saturday evening; I was on the first train next morning to Lancaster.  Which means I caught the bus because they were doing maintenance work on the tracks.  Didn’t they know I was in a hurry?

Tory Girl was making her way up to Lancaster from Darn Sarf, booking in at a Lancaster Travel Lodge on the way (hooray for wifi).  The train took five hours but it was worth the wait – she brought him a dinosaur sticker book, a Ninja Turtles notebook, a Spiderman pencil set and the Sunday Telegraph.  She knows him well.  She promised, if he was good and didn’t complain about the nurses’ needles, that she would buy him some Lego next day.  She made good on her promise, and threw in a dinosaur teddy for good measure.

The expression of love

The expression of love

Tory Boy had been admitted to hospital on the Saturday evening but it was Monday afternoon before he had his appendectomy – car accidents and other emergencies kept bumping him down the list.  I didn’t mind that, but I didn’t like that he wasn’t fed for 48 hours.  I suppose it helps the NHS catering budget to starve the patients.  They wouldn’t feed him because they believed he’d be next to be operated upon; but people kept crashing their cars.  It didn’t help that Tory Boy wasn’t in dreadful pain.  If it wasn’t for his rising temperature and pulse rate, you’d never have known he was one internal explosion away from writhing on the ground in agony.

I didn’t starve, of course: I had a surprisingly tasty lasagne in the inappropriately named Skylight Restaurant; which was in the basement.

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Monday 18 August

The surgeon finally whipped out TB’s appendix around 2:30pm.  He said it was full of pus, septic, gangrenous and as close to bursting as he’d ever seen without actually bursting.  How Tory Boy hadn’t been screaming for 24 hours was beyond his understanding.  My boy, the medical conundrum.  Typical of a child who failed the HEAF test because he had the tuberculosis antibodies already, despite never having been inoculated.  His brother is the same – he also failed the HEAF test for the same reason; plus had his appendix out at eleven.  Spud is currently winning the battle of the freaks, however, because he had Shingles at age nine.

Weirdly, neither of them have ever broken any bones.

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Tuesday 19 August

While all of this was going on, Spud was preparing to leave for the Leeds music festival.  The five day trip was his main gift from us for his 18th birthday (back in January).  There was a lot of last minute shopping for camping equipment, etc.  I helped him pack on Tuesday evening; which is to say, I packed his bag on Tuesday evening: the child was prepared to survive on one packet of biscuits and ten litres of alcohol for almost a week, yet couldn’t pack a towel without his mother’s help.

The expression of dopey

The expression of dopey

Tory Boy was supposed to have been at a job interview Darn Sarf in the afternoon, but he had to cancel, for obvious reasons.

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Wednesday 20 August

Tory Boy was released, after a flurry of texts and calls to say, I’m coming out – I’m not coming out – I’m allowed home today – No I’m not….  There was some dispute; but they must have needed the bed because they let him go.  I was on the train – a real train this time – as soon as he texted, I’ve got the drugs.

I brought him back by train (the Hub’s shoulder is going to take some time to heal – I hurt mine in January and it finally stopped aching around the beginning of August).  He went straight to bed as soon as we got in.  He lives in Lancaster but he needed his mother to look after him during his recuperation.

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Friday 22 August

Tory Girl came for the weekend.  Tory Boy began to feel better.

Tory Boy no longer needed his mother.  Sigh.

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Monday 25 August

Exactly one week since his operation, Tory Boy was on the train with Tory Girl, travelling five hours Darn Sarf and five hours back (without her), for the rescheduled job interview. 

Spud came home, starving and stinking; not too drunk, but full of stories which can’t be repeated in a family blog.  Come visit us, however, and I’ll happily allow him to share.

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Tuesday 23 August

Tory Boy got the job!

The expression of tolerance for a doting, blogging mother

The expression of tolerance for a doting, blogging mother

So that’s been my week (or two).  We are still busy, however, because Spud is rehearsing for The Tree of War, a play funded by the council and written by a poet vicar and a music student.  Details here.  Spud plays young Bert.

He is also packing up for university.  Or he would be, if he wasn’t spending all of his time rehearsing.  It’s going to be a last minute job; I know it.

Tory Boy went up to Lancaster at the end of last week to pack up his lodgings, came back to Stockport and went straight to hospital because he had some complications after his op.  I didn’t need a medical degree to know that they were caused by over-exertion.  They didn’t keep him in but he is on strict instructions to rest this week.  Apart from a  couple of excursions to the shops, he is resting.  He needs to leave here next week to start his new job and move in with Tory Girl – as soon as they find a flat.  What it is to be young and heedless.

Apart from this weekend’s performances, Spud is also doing a poetry reading with me in 12 days.  We’ll start rehearsing that next week.  Then we dump him and his stuff at Sheffield University at the end of the month – and I can start breathing again.

 

 

 

 

That Was The Week That Was (II)

22 Aug
The Hub in pre-rabbit days

The Hub before he was brutally savaged by a rabbit

The story so far: one broken husband and one disdainful rabbit combine to make one weary of constant Ow-ow-ows from the Hub.

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Monday 11 August

My monthly visit to Write Out Loud at the art gallery, an open mic poetry night.

The Hub refused to go to A&E.

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Tuesday 12 August

Tea and toast with Friend Pam at Olive Café in Edgeley, a joint-church venture which is doing remarkable well.

The Hub refused to go to A&E between his groans.  I began to feel a tad irritated.

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Wednesday 13 August

The Hub refused to at least visit the doctor but had me feel up his swollen shoulder.  I began to plot ways of making his suffering even worse.

Spud went out to a pre-results party with his friends so they could all be nervous together instead of in their separate homes.

DSCF1367The Hub and I went to church. 

Yes, you did that read that right – the arch-atheist Hub and I went to church.  New Chapel in Denton where, the Hub had discovered via the magic that is the internet, his great-uncle John Ellor, who died in Egypt in 1918, had his name on the Sunday School Roll of Honour for those who died during the Great War.

A wonderful couple – she works as the church secretary – called Christine and Barry pulled out all of the old records and we found lots of relatives from the Hub’s father’s side – and his grandparents’ 1927 marriage certificate.  To actually touch their signatures was emotional even for me, who has no blood connection.  It’s the first time the Hub has had a good time in church since he married me 29 years ago.

Ah!  Just realised why he’s never been back…

2:15 a.m.

I woke up to hear the Hub creeping downstairs…on his way to A&E to get his swelling checked out.  He was in agony and unable to sleep.  It was worth going in the middle of the night to avoid the I-told-you-sos, and because it took less than an hour for the Hub to be checked over, x-rayed and told that his scapula might be broken but he was so badly bruised that it was impossible to tell.  Take ibuprofen and try not to be too smug in your wife’s face or you might end up back here with  a definite broken scapula.

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Thursday 14 August

Morning

Made with love

Made with love

Results day.  Spud arrived home exhausted but too excited to sleep; and starving.  He had a breakfast of 2 eggs and 3 toast followed by 6 lots of cheese and crackers.

Spud slept all day.

Evening

Spud’s friends arrived for drinks-before-the-real-boozing-starts-in-town (Manchester) celebration.  We have known most of the boys for the last seven years and they are a lovely lot, so we cracked open a bottle of champagne with them, drinking from paper cups because Spud insisted.  Then we went off to bed and they went out about ten p.m.

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Pre-drinks before the real drinks

Pre-drinks before the real drinks

Friday 15 August

6:05 a.m.

Spud crept in.  Spud slept all day.

9:15 a.m.  I went out for the day to Llandudno, on the church charabanc. 

I went on a boat!  A three-year old girl loved it; her older brother screamed the whole time. 

I went on the beach as the tide came in.  So I wasn’t on the beach for long.

A beautiful Welsh beach

A beautiful Welsh beach

I went on the country’s longest pier – a mile and a half, I think. 

I went on the tuppeny slots, just like I did on Welsh holidays as a child. 

I discovered you can’t slice a scone without a knife but it tastes just as good when buttered, creamed and jammed with a spoon. 

I got home at six-thirty and I was in bed thirty minutes later.*

If I'd had the money, I would have bought the boys - all three of them - one each of these onesies

If I’d had the money, I would have bought the boys – all three of them – one each of these onesies

Saturday 16 August

Tory Boy phoned: I’m at the hospital with suspected appendicitis.

*

Come back soon for the final, exciting instalment – is Tory Boy fit to burst?

 

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