When they say blood…

When they say blood means
anything other than life
I say it is all that remains.
This liquid legacy haunts
arteries and veins. They say
it’s thicker but I don’t feel it.
If I could transfuse it gone
I would do it. Like how I soften
the crease in the middle of my brow.
How I still hide the shape of my chin
when I smile. Even that temper,
like a fury, which would render me
silent barely bares a hint of resemblance
when it burns wild in the pit of my belly.
There’s no bond bound here. My blood
only runs cold in remembrance of you.
Let light split wide open any darkness
remaining. When I bleed now you would
not recognise it as anything but love—
you, a stranger.

~The H Word~

Where Do The Days Go?

So, here we are. Day 16 of NaPoWriMo and I got a little lost around Day 7. It happens and I’m trying not to stress about it (which means I am stressing about it). But I’m back and I’m sharing a list poem that I wrote back before I wandered down the path of Netflix and Vikings and not being able to do any writing! I hope you’ve had a wonderful weekend and that Sunday is slow and easy for us all.

Tips for the Perfect Day

Weather: Does not have to be sunny with its show-off shine, can be low-sky half-light with its saggy grey cloud, so long as it shows promise. Promise of what? You’ll see.

Action: Can be one or many, does not have to be fancy. Can be following a trail through some strange or familiar forest. Can be visiting a shop with no intention of buying. Can be sitting stock-still looking out and admiring. Just do something, anything, or nothing at all.

Company: Choose this one wisely. You want someone who is happy to be in your orbit. Do you know who they are? I hope you do. As the world is a lonely place without them. (NB: This person can also be yourself).

Laughter: This is essential. Can be giggle or chuckle or rip-roaring cackle. Let it start from your belly and then feel its release. If there’s tears you are winning on this perfect day but if not, do not worry, they will come soon enough.

Story: We all tell them, even if we are not aware. Each time you remember, or forget, it has story at its heart. Try to remind one another of memories you’ve shared and in the making of new ones remember one day these will also be retold.

Direction: Forward is not the only way. Often backwards can be rewarding if you know how to do it. Or detours sideways can also have joyous results. And sometimes stationary is best for revealing which direction is right.

Destination: I don’t mean where you are going. I mean how will you know when you get there. Remember aimless and clueless are two different things. You want to understand so you’ll know when you’ve arrived. Because you never know, you could be there already.

~The H Word~

Better late than never…

Well, Day 5 came and went and while I did try and write for myself (with very little success) I didn’t manage to post. So this is for yesterday and maybe even today too if I struggle with a second post. But it happens, and the key is not to give up! So, if you’ve missed a day, skipped a day then know you’re not alone.

Tonight I want to share a couple of poems by the poetically brilliant, Caroline Bird. I hope you enjoy!

‘Passing the Time’ by Caroline Bird

Thirty paperclip statues on every table in the house
and things are slightly boring without you.
I’ve knitted a multi-coloured jacket for every woodlouse
in the park. But what can you do?

I’ve given all the cracks in the pavement pet names
and taken snapshots of individual specks of dust,
I’m not a trainspotter and deny all those claims
but have developed an interest in rust.

The budgies in the pet shop now speak fluent French
and I have made friends with a golf commentator.
I was restless one evening so dug a fifty-foot trench
then filled it in ten seconds later.

I drank ninety cups of tea in one afternoon
and filled the kettle by collecting drops of dew.
Gardeners’ Question Time is on really soon
and things are slightly boring without you.

Featured in Rookie: Selected Poems (2022) published by Carcanet from the collection ‘Looking The Letterboxes’ (2002).

‘Bow Your Head and Cry’ by Caroline Bird

When the ambulance finally rocked up,
its bouncy wheels rolling merrily over the cobbles,
our love was barely breathing.
I had been blowing into its mouth
but I must have blown too hard.
Our love had swallowed its tongue. The poor dear.
All the little old ladies, looking out from their teashops,
were muttering, ‘What a shame’
and ‘It was so young’.
Shut up, I said, and slapped one of them.
It’s not dead yet. Look. Its legs are still moving.
Just then, its legs stopped moving.
The paramedics put on their duffel coats
because it had started to drizzle.
‘Shall we get out the stretcher,’ they asked,
‘or would that be a bit pointless?’
I lay down beside our love
and held its teeny hand.
You weren’t even there to witness the passing.

Featured in Rookie: Selected Poems (2022) published by Carcanet from the collection ‘Watering Can’ (2009)

~The H Word~

Day 4 – Sharing is Caring

Hey poets and poetry lovers! Hope Day 4 of NaPoWriMo has gone well for you all. I’m sharing work by two different poets this evening and hope you enjoy my selections.

First of all, I am sharing a poem by Russell Edson, who was an American poet, novelist, writer and illustrator who sadly passed away in 2014. He has been called the “godfather of the prose poem in America” and his “work is populated with strange and intriguing figures” (Poetry Foundation online).

I was first introduced to Edson’s work whilst studying my degree and have to admit I fell in love with his peculiar style and content which can bamboozle the reader yet also tell a very human tale.

‘Clouds’ by Russell Edson

A husband and wife climbed to the roof of their house, and each at the
extremes of the ridge stood facing the other the while that the clouds
took to form and reform.
The husband said, shall we do backward dives, and into windows float-
ing come kissing in a central room?
I am standing on the bottom of an overturned boat, said the wife.
The husband said, shall I somersault along the ridge of the roof and up
your legs and through your dress out of the neck of your dress to kiss
I am a roof statue on a temple in an archaeologist’s dream, said the
The husband said, let us go down now and do what it is to make
another come into the world.
Look, said the wife, the eternal clouds.

(From The Tunnel: Selected Poems (1994), The Very Thing That Happens Pg 15 published by Oberlin College Press)

The second poet I am sharing is Edwin Morgan, who was Scotland’s first modern Makar, and one of our “country’s most inventive and curious poets” (Scotland: Selected Poem 2020). Morgan sadly passed away in 2010. I am sharing two poems from The Edwin Morgan Twenties boxset which contains five themed booklets of selected works to celebrate the poet with introductions from the likes of Jackie Kay, Liz Lochhead, Ali Smith and Michael Rosen.

One poem is from Scotland and the second is from Take Heart. I hope you enjoy them.

‘Rockall Invernessshire June 1972’ by Edwin Morgan

A megagrampus in granite,
a snout surfacing for air and frozen for ever
in the blasts of the Atlantic,
the rock gets a ring in its muzzle,
it is man’s.
But only just: for in this picture
a midnight gale too wild for work
even in the simmer-dim
has triggered off an eerie blink
from the unfinished beacon on the summit
and warns men before
men warn men.

(From Scotland: Selected Poems (2020) Pg 24 published by Polygon, an imprint of Birlinn Ltd, in association with Carcanet Press Ltd)

‘Blind’ by Edwin Morgan

Almost unconscionably sweet
Is that voice in the city street.
Her fingers skim the leaves of braille,
She sings as if she could not fail
To activate each sullen mind
And make the country of the blind
Unroll among the traffic fumes
With its white stick and lonely rooms.
Even if she had had no words,
Unsentimental as a bird’s
Her song would rise in spirals through
The dust and gloom to make it true
That when we see such fortitude,
Though she cannot, the day is good.

(From Take Heart: Selected Poems (2020) Pg 3 published by Polygon, an imprint of Birlinn Ltd, in association with Carcanet Press Ltd)

~The H Word~

What’s in a name?

Happy Day 3 of NaPoWriMo! I’m enjoying getting back into my nightly writing routine. I’ve never been someone who was most productive early in the day and since I went back to work full-time, being creative in the evenings has proved challenging! I now have to be asleep before 10pm if I want to be a fully functioning human in the mornings, pah! But this week I’m on holiday, so I’m hoping that 7 glorious days of writing time in the evenings will help me get back on track long-term.

I hope you’ve all enjoyed your Monday, it was a beautiful sunny day here in the Highlands and it gives you hope that the darkness has gone for its winter sleep and it’s now the light’s turn to shine.

My poem this evening is about… well, I think I’ll leave that up to you, the reader. If you know you know. It’s a fun time approaching fifty with all the wonders that come with that! Hah! But seriously, through all the horror and losing of ones mind, I truly am having the time of my life…

‘What’s in a name’ by Hazel Urquhart

Some call it the change
and I get it. I mean, sure
it’s basic, gives nothing
away but hints enough
transformation will be
at play. Her time of life
is another well-used phrase
though I can’t help but sing
that well-known song,
you know the one: Dirty
Dancing springs to mind.
And I am, like it says,
having the time of my life
in some weird, messed up
way. I can’t quite explain it.
Maybe Bill and Jennifer
did it better because I truly
have never felt this way
before. Yes, it’s true,
it really is all because
of you: time of my life.

~The H Word~

After Sickness & In Health

It’s Day 2 of NaPoWriMo and having just recovered from the dreaded Covid, today is the first day I finally feel well again. So it makes sense I would have to write a poem about it. Hope everyone has had a great Sunday and managed to get words on the page or in the mind.

After Sickness & In Health by Hazel Urquhart

The morning is like a rebirth.
Weak as a sapling you stretch
out from the womb of your duvet.
Gasping. The comfort no longer
a comfort — more jail cell than haven.
You crave atmosphere. The first
inhale is shocking, breathes life
into lungs: existence. And you are
grateful. So grateful to be alive.

~The H Word~

It’s NaNoWriMo 2023!!!!

Phew, I’m cutting it fine (nothing much new there then), and whilst I’ve been buzzing for April to arrive to spend the month immersed in all things poetry, I’ve only gone and almost missed day one!

I hope everyone taking part has had an inspiring and poetically productive first day. I’m planning on spending the month sharing a mix of my own writing and the work of poets who inspire me. I will be aiming to also write a poem of my own EVERY day (hah! did I just jinx it and set myself up to fail? Probably…).

So, before I go and tappy-tap and try and create some magic, here are a couple of poems from Angela Cleland’s new collection, Real Cute Danger, published by Broken Sleep Books. I was lucky to attend the local launch of the collection in February this year. Real Cute Danger is Angela’s third collection, and it explores the experience of giving birth and becoming a parent “through the prism of horror and science fiction”. Intrigued? You should be and you can buy a copy of the collection here https://www.brokensleepbooks.com/product-page/angela-cleland-real-cute-danger .

‘At two weeks past conception’ by Angela Cleland

you are already building your eyes – I panic –
what do I know about eyes? The picture
is upside-down when it hits your retina;
women see better in the dark than men;
a flash of their whites is as good as a rabbit’s tail
to send us scampering for our burrows.

But to build one, never mind a pair, from –
what have you got? I don’t even know
the ingredients – proteins? amino acids?
I place a hand on my belly and focus
on your behalf. At each division
we could flunk this: I’m back at school.

All I can do is slide you my jotter
and whisper – I have eyescopy mine.

‘The Snugness’ by Angela Cleland

She has kept all her old skins.
Sentimental, for a snake.

Each seemed outmoded when she sloughed it off,
but now – look at them! – parchment perfection.

Days like today, when she feels small,
she lays them out, sucks it all in

and eases her long way, nudging and nosing,
into the likeliest looking void.

Now, her breaths are whispered scraps –
this is never the good idea it seems.

Has anyone ever died like this? she wonders,
resting, just resting, half out, half in,

eaten whole by a past self,
suffocated by the tightness of their own skin.

~The H Word~

Poems by Raymond Carver

It’s a Carver kind of Sunday morning…

‘Rain’ by Raymond Carver

Woke up this morning with
a terrific urge to lie in bed all day
and read. Fought against it for a minute.

Then looked out the window at the rain.
And gave over. Put myself entirely
in the keep of this rainy morning.

Would I live my life over again?
Make the same unforgivable mistakes?
Yes, given half a chance. Yes

‘Grief’ by Raymond Carver

Woke up early this morning and from my bed
looked far across the Strait to see
a small boat moving through the choppy water,
a single running light on. Remembered
my friend who used to shout
his dead wife’s name from hilltops
around Perugia. Who set a plate
for her at his simple table long after
she was gone. And opened the windows
so she could have fresh air. Such display
I found embarrassing. So did his other
friends. I couldn’t see it.
Not until this morning.

‘Late Fragment’ by Raymond Carver

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

These poems are from All Of Us: The Collected Poems (2003) by Raymond Carver published by the Harvill Press.

~The H Word~

‘A place to stand, a lever’ by Ankh Spice

And it wouldn’t be World Poetry Day without travelling to the other side of the world, and sharing one of my favourite poets, Ankh Spice who lives in New Zealand. You can check out more about Ankh via on their website here https://www.ankhspice-seagoatscreamspoetry.com/.

The poem I am sharing is from Ankh’s first full-length collection, The Water Engine published by Femme Salve Books in 2021. As written in the many wonderful reviews of the collection, Alan Parry writes “The Water Engine is a stunning collection of poems that perhaps does not appreciate its own power. It is brimming with naturalistic beauty, with humility, with raw emotion, and with exquisite skill”.

I hope you enjoy the poem I have picked to share tonight (I was very much spoiled for choice).

A place to stand, a lever

On the beach, three children have conjured
a world. The castle survived an afternoon

century of siege, and is ancient now, shadow
longing toward the water. A fence of feathers

is still flying a boundary between his necessary
graveyard, her garden. Careful seashell tombstones

and careful seashell pathways, from this angle
shine the same — white bone, broken patterns.

The youngest child, banished for the chaos he carried
so loosely, terraformed the badlands at the edge

of the tide. That far country is dangerous, tunnel
and collapse, channel and mountain. But the three

are safe in the tearooms, powers combined to manifest
ice-cream. It does not matter to them now

that the great flood they surely knew was coming,
is coming. The driftwood has sailed too long

and is heavy, and who can ever carry enough
for a buttress, and who could ever dam away

a whole sea, but one long piece it leaps to the hand
like a wand. And I do believe that I too,

I too was once a strong magic spell
just barely contained inside a skin.

~The H Word~

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