Monday, 16 May 2016

The Love Between: A poetry post

There's something so special about gifting something hand-crafted to someone. It's created with (lots of) time, love, and consideration, and is something that they can always keep which will remind them of you.

When the nights are long, the wind is wild, and the weather's awful, I'm a big fan of crocheting, and in the last year I've made a couple of blankets. You can read about the first one here (an Attic 24 Ripple), and the second one (pictured above), here (that's an Attic 24 Cosy Blanket). The first lives on the sofa, and is shared by everbody, but the second was made specifically for my boy. It was that one that I was thinking of when I wrote this sonnet for this week's Prompt (in between).

The love between

Between each stitch resides a point in time:
the programme watched, the laughter shared, the love,
the cat's keen eye on dwindling ball of twine:
swift catching claw is greeted with a shove.
Between each shift in colour goes some thought:
what would you like? What colour goes with which?
And in between my work the cat is caught
in sneaky slumber on the loosened stitch.
Between us now this gift of love has passed:
my moments fade, new memories appear.
The cat still loves the stitches of my craft,
and when you touch it you feel I am near.
   Between the stitches bides my loving care.
   And I can still hold you when I'm not there.

© Cara L McKee 16/5/16


Friday, 13 May 2016

loving Jackie Kay: five of my favourites

So I'm a bit late to this party, but Jackie Kay was named as the new Makar (the Scottish Poet Laureate) back in March, there's a lovely interview with her on Woman's Hour, talking about getting the phone call from Nicola Sturgeon (the Scottish First Minister). It's early on in the programme here. So I thought I'd share five of my favourites of her poems.

First up is 'Her', a haunting poem which brings up more questions than it answers, and has a lovely rhythm to it. You can hear Jackie read it here. On the same site you can hear her read Things Fall Apart, which is a fascinating slice of an important moment in Jackie's life. I was drawn to it for the title, reminding me of Chinua Achebe's novel of the same name, taken from the line in Yeats' poem, The Second Coming: "things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;". I love the way Kay focuses in on her father and then out to the context, finally lighting on the connection between them when she says: "I think he had my hands: my father."

The first poem of Kay's that I recall reading was Lucozade, whose sad chrysanthemums draw us in to the frightening, sad, and so quiet world of the hospital. I think Lucozade is a popular poem to have as a set text for Scottish school students, which is why I'd read it in the first place. My heroine in the story I'm working on right now has troubles with those sad chrysanthemums. For future reference, I'd like a generous gin.

I adore Baggage. It has a fascinating rhyme scheme which I'm aching to try out, and I absolutely love a 'This - ' It stops you in your tracks. It's like one of those outlined things on Dora the Explorer. Stop what you're doing and pay attention because something is worth focusing in on. Glorious. I tried to use such a this in my poem 'I am not yours' (which I'm dead proud of, and you can find published online here (it's the first one), but I didn't manage the screeching to a halt, wrap your head around this fella that Kay has in Baggage. I will stop talking now because it's just going to get embarrassing.

My last choice (and it's an arbitrary one - there are so many but I'm keeping it to five) is Castletown, Isle of Man, because I used to live there. In one of those narrow cobbled streets (they cobbled them after I arrived), shopping in the Market Square, and walking those medieval castle grounds.

Do you have any favourites yourself? Did you study Lucozade?

I picked my summery FF5 picture because of the gorgeous weather we've been having (if chuffing windy) this week. How's it been with you?

Monday, 9 May 2016

Life to Death: A poetry post

In my last round up of my favourite podcasts of the moment (here), I mentioned The History of English, which, at that point, I was binge listening to. Sadly I've caught up on it now, and am having to cope with a drip feed of podcasts instead! Anyway, there is lots of inspirational stuff in that podcast. And one aspect led to my writing this poem.

English, as you'll know, is a smashing language for poetry, because we have so very many words, giving us lots of nuances of meaning. However, it was not always thus. When the Angles and their chums first invaded Britain, and settled here, there were not enough words to have good enough rhyming poems, and yet, before writing, stories were remembered and recited, so instead of rhyming poets would use alliteration. They would take the dominant sounds at the end of a line of a poem to use in the beginning of the next. This (like rhyming), is a good mnemonic device for the person reciting. 

Nowadays, of course, alliteration is great - I used it lots in my poem about tattoos (here), and also a bit in my poem about a friend's death (here), but we have lots of words too, so rhyming can be fun. So I've put together the idea of keeping the sound at the beginning of the next line and rhyming for this poem. It's about death (again) because I'm a raging goth!

Life to Death

Says Life to Death: "I will rail;
"I will wail, I will scream, I will fight.
"My right is to battle and strive,
"stay alive, though time be ungentle."

Says Death to Life: "It's not you.
"You do what you must to feel free.
"It's me that would sever the line,
"end the time that I've walked by your side."

"You must bide!" Life insists. "I'm not done."
"I have won." Death admits. "I decide."

© Cara L McKee 9/5/16

This gorgeous gravestone is from Alloway Auld Kirk (famously featured in the tale of Tam O'Shanter) near Ayr. I shall be down that way at Burns' Cottage on Friday night reading my poems if you're in the area. More details on the night can be found here.

I'm sharing this on the Prose for Thought linky, and on the What I'm Writing linky, which is currently vacationing at Nicky Young Writes. Check them out for lots more gems.

What I'm supposed to be doing is working on my Rose book, but I'm finding lots of really important things to do instead... Like planting marigolds, and having a sore shoulder that's really getting me down!

Prose for Thought  Writing Bubble

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

watching Game of Thrones (spoilers for Season 6, ep 2)

Have you managed to watch Game of Thrones, S6 E2 yet? If you have, pull up a chair, if not, look away now.

I am pretty chuffed that my prediction last week about Ramsey's behaviour came true - although I was shocked when it happened! I must admit I'd not expected him to go so far, but thinking about it he had to, to ensure he kept his title (for a while), although perhaps he could have let Walda go?

Let's have a quick look at what happened this week.

Lord Harald Karstark
I reckon he's a
treacherous soul.

Harald Karstark, upset that Robb beheaded his father (who murdered a child lest we forget), has switched sides and is now supporting the Bolton claim to the north, which is a terrible claim based on murder and treachery. As if that wasn't enough, it's clear that Karstark's fealty lies with the ex-bastard, Ramsey, because him killing his Dad is just fine.

Harald is clearly a messed up character. However, in A Dance with Dragons, Arnolf Karstark declared for Stannis, which was a trick. He was intending to turn against him once Stannis reached Winterfell. Harald isn't in the books (although Lord Harrion is), so I'm wondering if they've merged Harrion and Arnolf into Harald, and he's declaring for Bolton only to turn on him in future. Wouldn't that be fun?

Meanwhile, there's a pink letter to be written.

Kings Landing

It was a shame that Cersei couldn't get to Myrcella's funeral, but Tommen had good reasons for keeping her away, and it did allow for a bit of father-son bonding, plus some threats of revolution from the High Sparrow.

Tommen and Jaime mourning Myrcella
Don't get me wrong, I'm no fan of the Lannisters (well, maybe I am a bit, it's George's fault), but I wish someone would bring down the Faith Militant. A couple of dragons could maybe do it?

Tommen remains fairly innofensive as a King. If he could get some good advisors he might even be good. Gold shall be his shroud, but maybe not yet, after all Myrcella never got a golden crown.

The Wall

About time!!!

I loved the way it looked for a moment like it hadn't worked, and also the way that it didn't work until Ghost woke up... Perhaps John's consciousness was in Ghost so that he didn't lose too much of himself while he was away... We have yet to see how the experience of death will have affected him, if his watch is now ended, and if he'll even be able to get through the magical wards of the wall.

If Jon is still the Lord Commander though he'll have to find a way to unite the Watch with the Wildlings (and Dolourous Ed has made a great start on that) to fight the Others. Also, it would be good if Dany could turn up at some point to lend a hand!

Aeron Greyjoy (the
Happy happy.
The iron islands

Theon, it turns out, is not heading to the wall to take the black (although he should, he really should). Instead he is returning to the iron islands, where Balon Greyjoy has FINALLY been killed. I was a bit disappointed that it wasn't a faceless man, and that Theon didn't get a shot, but I suspect that the Crowseye paid the faceless man who does the deed in the book anyway, so I suppose it makes sense for TV to make that more obvious. I am also assuming that he's going to make himself scarce for a bit to disassociate himself with it.

It was nice to see some more characters in the iron islands, all of them looking slightly more miserable than the last. Honestly, who would live there? I liked what we saw of Aeron Damphair and I'm looking forward to the Kingsmoot. I was interested to see that on TV the Kingsmoot is taken as read, whereas it's a recreation of ancient tradition in the books. I'm looking forward to the Kingsmoot, and wondering what role Theon will play.


Thank goodness Jaqen H'gar has turned up and taken Arya off to do something more interesting. Any chance of getting him doing something more interesting too? Like heading to Oldtown for instance?

North of the Wall

Nice to see Bran, Meera and Hodor/Willas back. I like the way the TV has let Bran wander around in his visions, it is a great device for showing us old stuff, and how nice to see Lyanna in the first flashback vision.

Meera Reed - bored
(possibly Jon's Dark Sister?)

Meera is bored silly. Perhaps the three eyed raven (nicely played, but I was hoping for a birthmark) might have a useful sword for her? Dark Sister could help to keep Bran safe while he battles to end winter. Also, I suspect she might have Targaryen blood, so she could prove important...

So my favourite plotlines this week were Ramsay Fucking Bolton and of course, Jon Snow. The weakest in my view was Arya's again.

What I want to know is:

  • who's ruling Dorne?
  • when will Dany's dragons turn up? And
  • will the North rebel against the new Lord Bolton now, or wait until they're distracted by the Others?

What did you think, and what's going to happen next?

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

making choices: a poetry post

The prompt this week from Mum Turned Mom is 'choice', and I'm choosing to take part with a poem about the difficulty in choosing, and Scottish politics. Politics! Sex and religion will follow (and have gone before).

The Scottish election is coming up on Thursday, and I'm looking forward to voting. I know what I'm planning on putting on my polling forms, but I'll try not to put any subliminal advertising into this post (I won't change the colour of the background to influence you either). I know that my vote is a drop in the ocean, and I'm happy that that's the case in Scotland. I really like the Scottish Parliament, I think it works brilliantly, if you're wondering about the difference between that and the Westminster Parliament, just compare the Westminster PMQs with the Scottish FMQs (you'll find them on YouTube).

Anyway, enough wittering, on with the poem. I was trying for a sonnet, but I ended up with a different rhyme scheme. It's just what the poem wanted to do!

Making Choices

It's said that choice can cause us stress.

Too much to like: This coat. That dress.
And every choice must then be lived.
A Hobson's Choice* might be a gift!
Or throw the choices on the fire
and dance around in night attired...

But sometimes choices must be made:

Which politician makes the grade?
The yellow? Red? The green? Or blue?
You choose within the polling booth.
I know my choices: sun and grass,
but can't predict how it will pass.

For everybody has a say

(let's hope we don't go England's way).
In bonnie Scotland I've no fear:
the leaders are good people here.
I will be glad to see them stay
Yes, even Ruth could make my day!

Yet overshadowed is this poll:

'Vote Brexit!' Cries the floppy fool.
If that on the horizon be, 
Scotland will face Indyref III.
We'll put the Union to the test
joining our voices to shout 'YES'.

© Cara L McKee 3/5/16

Prose for Thought

*if, like me, you're unsure as to what a Hobson's choice is - it's the choice between what's available or nothing at all.