Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Dear Theresa: a poetry post

My Instagram feed is full of protest marches I'm not on, and I feel like I'm letting the side down. Truth be told, I don't want Theresa May to cancel Donald Trump's visit to Britain, and I don't see why the Queen would be embarrassed, she's kind of used to dealing with powerful bigots. However, I hope that Theresa is challenging Donald's policies, I hope she considers them when she is in trade negotiations. I hope Boris was right when he said that Britain would not quail from voicing differences, even if they are voicing them in private.

Anyway, with Trump sticking by his hateful policies and getting up to who knows what else while we're all reeling from that, with hate crime in Quebec, and with Peter Capaldi leaving the TARDIS, I was feeling pretty hopeless last night, so I wrote a note to dear Theresa:

Dear Theresa

I know it's hard when your friends disappoint,

and you want to keep what you had,
but Theresa, he's not the same.
He's not the man he used to be.
I know that you've changed too
and the friends you have left are few, but be careful
who you hold on to.

If your closest friend decides that there's
no room
at his table for those that need to eat
then think twice before inviting him for tea.

Perhaps you are right not to drop

to his level, refusing hospitality
Perhaps you want to throw a party
inviting those he's cast out

to share the board?

Theresa, you are brave, but you should know
if you do not challenge his cruelty to others
you prepare for his cruelty to you,

and worse, if you appease
you risk the guilt of complicity.

Ⓒ Cara L McKee 31/1/17


Thursday, 26 January 2017

Advice to corporate ladies: a poetry post

I've been listening to talk about dress codes and sexual discrimination on Woman's Hour. It's taken me back to the years when I worked in offices. I tried to dress 'appropriately' but was constantly getting in trouble about my appearance. My hair was the wrong colour, my shoes were the wrong height, I wasn't allowed to wear trousers in court, I needed a tailored jacket, and so on and so on and so on. I once had a workplace appraisal (joy) wherein my line manager told me that I was scruffy and wouldn't be taken seriously. She was wearing a waistcoat so I chose to ignore her sartorial advice. It's incredibly difficult to find clothes that are deemed suitable for an office and which also fit chubby bodies... I suspect that it's actually the bodies that are deemed suspect. 

Anyway, according to recent research discussed on Woman's Hour women, espeically young women are still being required to dress for other people's gaze, to wear high heels, with no regard for health and safety, and to undo another button.

This is no surprise. Stuck in a queue recently I scanned the magazines in the rack, there were some men, talking about the things they had achieved in their careers, and there were lots and lots and lots of women, talking about how much weight they'd lost, how they'd come to terms with their problem bodies, how they learned to dress slimmer, on and on and on.

Women get criticised for being interested in our appearance, but it is required of us, and drummed home all the time, that what we are worth depends on what we look like. It's chuffing ridiculous, it's internalised, it's everywhere.

The Prompt this week at Mum Turned Mom is 'Pride' and having all this stuff on my mind, while looking in the mirror and feeling that I actually look rough as badgers at the moment made me think of the old adage that one should take pride in one's appearance. Well, I'm pretty chuffed that I don't currently have ink stained fingers, and that the mark on my jumper isn't as apparent as it was earlier, so that will have to do.

Advice for corporate ladies

Take pride in your appearance,
dress for your age, keep young
and beautiful. That's what you're for.
You girls, you're obsessed with looks.

Wear a shorter skirt next time.
Wear those nice heels so you look smart.
a happy customer is
a repeat customer.

Don't dye your hair, it looks weird.
Don't go grey, you look old.
For Pete's sake don't cover it,
you look like a terrorist. 

Why not unbutton a button?
Look at you in those heels!
I don't know how you walk!
You young girls, obsessed with your looks.

You're putting on the beef
I'm not sure that you fit in,
that we can cram you in,
to our corporate world -

- our little grey box of
little grey boxes where
you should be little and
wear a little grey.  

Ⓒ Cara L McKee 26/1/17

mumturnedmomProse for Thought

Friday, 20 January 2017

five poems that have caught my attention lately

I haven't shared a fabulous five recently, but it seemed the time for one, considering the other things happening in the world today, so here are five poems that have stopped me in my tracks lately, caught my attention, burrowed into my imagination, all that stuff.

First up is a poem by Mandy Sutter, a poet who won the New Welsh Writing Award last year, I've got her pamplet, Old Blue Car, which you can buy on Amazon here, and from which this poem is taken. Many thanks to Mandy for letting me reproduce it here.

The day - by Mandy Sutter

you hitched home from Woolley Edge
in a van of evangelists going South
saying I won't kiss you to stop me smoking
hiding my lighter inside your shirt
saying small isn't it, Leeds - one bedroom,
one pub - having time for one last coffee
because of the lighter evenings
making me pay because you'd brought me
a bottle of red - what more did I want -
and I was half relieved you were leaving

I didn't know I'd be meeting your parents
at Lewes station, buying red, expensive roses
that would die in the frost but still be worth it,
your dad with dahlias in a pot,
saying there's no roots, just blooms cut off
and shoved in soil and after, we'd order
lunch in a pub and sitting together
in the enormity of it all, smoking, I'd wish
I'd kept all your letter, not just the nice ones,
because only these small things are any help.

I love this poem. I love the stream-of-consciousness of it, I love the intimacy, and the many different ways it can have meaning, and all the meanings it can take, when there is of course only the truths of the ones involved, truths that we can't know. I love the amount of character conveyed in the vignettes given, especially the dahlias. I really like the use of punctuation and lack of a starting capital - we're brought straight in.

A long time ago I destroyed the diaries I had kept for years. Someone had criticised me for holding on to the past, and I had remembered the few times when doing that had caused me hurt, and so had thrown them away. Now all I have is my remoulded memories, I miss the muddiness of the then, everything I remember has a narrative arc. I had letters too, which I got rid of. I wish I hadn't.

For Reading Addicts shared a whole load of little poems by Shel Silverstein, an American poet who is famous for his children's poems. There's this one that really caught my imagination, and also 'Listen to the Mustn'ts, Child' which I really love.

I was looking through some old notes and saw a mention of the poem 'A Poison Tree' by William Blake, which I've recently revisited and been bowled over by. Check it out! It is so pertinent to the division which Britain and America are experiencing at the moment. However, it is an old poem, as you can tell upon reading it, and old poems have the problem that what they say can get lost in the way that it's said. This poem is probably a little too regular and rhymey (although I do love rhyming) to have the impact it ought to have today, it just sounds a little too twee.  So I thought I'd have a go at hacking it to pieces and putting it together again. It is still regular and rhymey, but I've added the element of pantoumishness (a pantoum is a kind of poem which uses rhyming and four line stanzas, and repetition, and which I'm currently obsessed with) to make it go round and round on itself and hopefully bring out the meaning that speaks to me most:

Cut up Poison

I was angry with my friend,
I was angry with my foe,
when I spoke my wrath did end,
when I spake not it did grow.

I was angry with my foe
and I nourished it with fears.
but spoke it not, and it did grow,
nightly watered by my tears.

Yes, I nourished it with fears
and it grew both day and night,
and I watered it with tears,
till it bore an apple bright.

Yes, it grew both day and night
and my foe beheld it shine,
and it bore an apple bright,
and he knew that it was mine.

For he had beheld it shine
came into the garden he,
though he knew that it was mine
and the night did veil the tree.

So into the garden he,
and by morningtime I saw
that the night had veiled the tree
and my foe did breathe no more.

And by morningtime I saw
had I but spoke my wrath would end.
Now a man did breathe no more.
I’d been angry with my friend.

Re-worked by Cara L McKee from the original Blake 24/11/16

Coming back up to date, this poem by Natalie Shapero is absolutely amazing. I am puzzled about the line breaks, although they work, and I keep re-reading it to see if I could possibly unpick it and rebuild it, although I wouldn't, because I'm too busy wondering who it is she's talking about, and what they did, or might have done, or might do from the grave. She doesn't/didn't quite trust them, but she'd name a child after them, so surely it's a relative, but who? And what potential did they have? It's brilliant.

And last up is a song. Songs and poetry, it's all a bit controversial where the divide is, just ask Bob Dylan, but it's the poetic aspects of this song that amaze me (well that, and the overlapping lyrics at the end). I love the amount of character conveyed with the word 'yai' (that's how I'm spelling it), and the huge range of emotion conveyed in the simple repetition at the end. It's an amazing song, well worth considering as a poem:

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Coffee: a poetry post


The prompt over at Mum Turned Mom is History, which immediately makes me think of Herstory, and how History is written by the victors, and there are many stories to explain the same event, and even one person's story changes over time, and memory is malleable and all that stuff.

I wasn't going to do it, because I didn't want it to be too big and too heavy, and I've had so much fun working on a short story I'm submitting to a competition, which is weird because I usually hate writing short stories, but this was perfect, so I celebrated that story with a cup of coffee, in a cup my sister gave me which she didn't realise would match my new wallpaper/curtains - I can't remember, I was pretty sure it was wallpaper, but have no memory of wallpapering, although I am still pretty sure there was wallpaper, particularly on the wall with cupboards and a fireplace, because that was a total pain to do. There must have been wallpaper, but there were definitely curtains, three of them, because we still had those when we moved here.

Anyway, all this thought made me think that there's history in all the objects, significant or not, and so I wrote a poem about the history/herstory/mystory I've attached to this coffee cup.


With two blue clicks
and a memory of wallpaper
I am awakened.
And then wonder
if I have a recollection
of wallpapering.
Was it curtains?

How temperamental our memories.
Temporarily mental.
Take out, remoulded.
Wallpaper is better.
But walls and curtains are gone
and the gift remains.

The cup from my sister
holding warm brown
sweetened wakefulness.

Ⓒ Cara L McKee 17/1/17

Prose for Thoughtmumturnedmom

Monday, 9 January 2017

Tories are Wrong: a poetry post

Did you know that I have actually had proper jobs? Not that this writing biz isn't a proper job, but I mean something that people actually expected to pay me for, where I was employed because I was clever and had certificates to prove it. Where people in suits (and people in uniforms) listened to my advice (I'm not saying that they acted on it, or listened particularly attentively, but they were quiet while I was talking, sometimes).

Poems like this are basically me saying "you're alright, Civil Service, I don't really want to come back." (to which the Civil Service would probably say, "and you are?"). I still feel like I shouldn't say it, and I'm not going to argue poetic beauty for this one, it's just something that I had to say, so I wrote it down in my notebook and then realised that even though I'd not written it as a poem, it was one anyway!

So here you go (written as a poem this time):

Tories are Wrong

The Tories were wrong in the '80s
the Tories are just as wrong now.
They gorge themselves on victim blaming
and drink from the capitalist cow.

And I fucking hate the Tories.
I don't see what there is to like
unless you're the kind of person
deciding between them and Third Reich.

I don't care for Theresa's trousers,
they're a statement like Billy Hague's shoes.
Whatever she wears she's a Tory
so giving our country the Blues.

So next time, let's vote out the Tories
let's give other partes a go.
Could they be as wrong as the Tories?
The answer has got to be NO!

© Cara L McKee  8/1/17