We were in philosophical mood at The Leopard on Tuesday 23rd September. Malcolm McMinn presented a ballad on ‘Somethingness’ to balance the ‘Nothingness’ of the sonnet he brought last month – and with a poetic pay-off. Bill Harper was on song with a very controlled poem about ‘Birthstones’, Mary King was talking with aliens and Chris Phillips read a romantic poem addressed to his wife. Dorothy Pickering had questions on the ‘unfairness’ of life.
You can muse philosophically on their poems below – and why not bring your own to the next Stoke Stanza meeting at The Leopard pub in Burslem on Tuesday 14th October at 7.30pm?
Ballad of Somethingness | Malcolm McMinn
Rene Descartes got some things right
With his deep philosophy
‘There’s something in this somethingness;
Is it God or sophistry?’
Some things are easy to explain,
Others self evident,
But somethingness, now that’s a pain.
I think I see what Descartes meant.
Defining somethingness was quite
A bind; prose just would not do.
It seemed inadequate and trite,
Rene thought, ‘I’ve not a clue.’
He mused ‘Perhaps I’ll have more luck
If I try again in verse.
If I succeed I’ll be dumbstruck.
Things really can’t get much worse!’
He tried with sonnets and with odes,
Driving Rene quite reclusive,
Haiku and pantoums spread the load,
But somethingness remained elusive.
At last it came, it rang a bell
(Should you give or care a damn)
‘This somethingness I now can tell
Is … I think therefore iamb.’
Bill Harper set himself the task of writing three line stanzas consisting of lines of eight, five and three syllables.
Birthstone | Bill Harper
In snowdropped white February
I came into this world –
Fairness inspired with high ideals
worn by ringed bishops
Valentine’s favoured jewel
cupid’s arrowed gift
Egyptian goldsmiths bound me
fast in desert gold
Mycenaean’s princess adored
enthroned in silver
Victorian brooch set with pearls
for courts and dancing
Birthstone – pale lilac dark purple
beauty lies embalmed
at life’s end
How to talk to an Alien | Mary King
At first, be silent. Listening is the thing.
It’s hard. Curiosity at finding one
so unlike you – so strange, makes the heart
leap onto the tongue. You must bite back.
Don’t stand too close because
you are sure to have the wrong smell,
even if the alien doesn’t seem to have a nose.
And don’t stare. Brief glances only.
If, in this creature’s world, reticence
is understood as prequel to attack,
it’ll have your head off easily,
but you’ll have to chance it.
It starts to make sounds. After a while
some of the sounds make sense.
You move your head in rhythm with the noise;
find the other aping your small shifts.
Lifting your hand you point to yourself;
speak your own name. A dappled flush
ripples across muscular tentacles. Then sinuously,
out of an organ you had taken for an ear,
a long, brown tongue flicks across
the wide gap between you two,
landing what feels just like a gentle kiss
on the very tip of your nose.
Where the Winds Gather C J Phillips
Where the winds gather
The old men ferry to die
And children soon forget.
I though, am a ranting preacher
Thumping dogma dry
Of doubt, high upon pulpits.
Winsome, the wilder breeze
She swells the moonsails
Of man’s tackless ship.
Love’s slight hand eases
Over me to ring-o-bells
Beneath whose peals I stoop.
I strode her fires and her floods
And reached to clench the lodestar
That made me the man-alive.
From her table I coveted food
To satisfy the shouting belly-fire
Which hoped a love to prove.
Yet, when the drumfire
Of the beating core refrains
And all debts repaid with her coin,
Dead-man’s love it will not tire,
Though the marrow’s eaten
And the gorse is gone of bloom.
When we lie, post-cold, alike,
In bleached and sallow gowns
Our song shall shrill its highest pitch
To raise and rattle and to shake
The rooftops of the slated towns
So each will say, ‘I married to my match.’
Life Isn’t Fair | Dorothy Pickering
Hurray, hurray, I’d just won the Lottery,
Millions and millions, they announced today,
I couldn’t believe it, how amazing,
A cheque with real money to use for play.
There’d be five million each for husband,
Sons, daughters, brothers and sisters alive,
Two each for grandchildren, one for cousins,
One each for friends and good causes to thrive.
Such a struggle to list my relatives,
Hope I’d managed to remember them all,
That left quite fourteen million, just for me,
Soon I’d spend every penny, such a ball.
What an awesome task to work it fairly,
Unbelievable the hours it had taken,
But life isn’t fair and we learn to know,
That dreams too are unfair when we waken.
Dorothy has collaborated with poet Anna Longshaw on painting and textile artworks for an art trail to accompany this year’s Goosfest. You can see Dorothy’s artwork and Anna’s poems at the Hollins Farm conference centre, Twemlow Lane near Goostrey on 4th and 5th October from 11am -4pm.