Sunday Poem – Maitreyabandhu

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Evening folks.  It looks like I’m back into my old bad habits of posting very late on Sunday night!  This week has been so wonderfully full of poetry, I feel like I might burst at the minute.  On Tuesday I headed over to Grasmere to the Wordsworth Trust to see Michael Schmidt and Peter Sansom read.  I must admit, I was mainly going to support Peter – who is my lovely editor and as well as being a really great guy, is also a brilliant reader and performer of his work – he is funny, droll, relaxed – he engages with the audience and clearly enjoys reading.  He was clearly on form on Tuesday and had the whole room eating out of the palm of his hand.  But what was suprising about Tuesday was that Michael Schmidt was also a really good performer of his work – and I really enjoyed his reading, so much so that I bought his book.  It was actually one of my favourite readings of the season I think.

On Tuesday I also sold a pamphlet through the blog which is always exciting, especially as I now have ten different colours of tissue paper that I can choose from to wrap each pamphlet up – little things and all that!  On Wednesday we had a planning meeting for Poem and A Pint and I now have the list of poets that I really need to get cracking on with inviting for 2014 – so I’ll probably do that towards the end of the week.

On Thursday I drove over to Cockermouth to do a reading at Castlegate House Gallery, organised by Solways Arts.   It is a beautiful art gallery which has a really exciting exhibition being shown at the minute.  The gallery website is http://www.castlegatehouse.co.uk/ and there is a retrospective of the work of Michael Bennett – Steve Swallow, the gallery owner, did a short tour around the gallery and a talk about Michael Bennett’s work, which I found really interesting, as I know nothing about art and it did provide a way in to the paintings – I think hearing somebody talk about something with enthusiasm and passion will always do this.  There was a musician as well who I am ashamed to say I can’t remember the name of – maybe it will come back to me before the end of this post!  Anyway, he played guitar and I was impressed with the variety of different styles – from flamenco to jazz and all sorts.  I really wish I could remember his name to tell you all to look out for him! It was a shame that there was only a small audience, because it was a really wonderful event.  I hope they have another poetry/music/art event there.

On Friday was a real highlight of the week – over the summer ten local poets were asked by Andrew Forster on behalf of the Wordsworth Trust to write a poem about St Oswalds Church in Grasmere.  A group of local artists  – the Lakes Collective would then respond to our poems by creating some art.  It was the preview night of the resulting exhibition ‘Holy Detritus’ on Friday night and we all read our poems and heard the artists talk about the work that they had created.  The poems and art work are spread around the church – it feels like a bit of a treasure hunt looking for them all.  I was really touched to think that someone had created something real in response to my poem – that sounds cheesy, but I found it really moving.  The exhibition is on till the 8th October – so if you can get to Grasmere, do go and check it out.  There is a website with more information here: http://lakescollective.blogspot.co.uk/p/poetry-and-place-event.html

Straight after the reading me and the hubby were driving down to Leicester – we got to my parents house at 1a.m.  On Saturday afternoon we went to my best-friend-from music college’s wedding – I read a poem, which I’ve been trying to finish off for the last two weeks and finally finished at about 4pm on the Saturday.  I think the bride and groom liked it.  Then it was off to a marquee for the reception with lots of food and alcohol and a hired photo booth with hats and stuff to dress up in, which was a stroke of genius.

It was lovely at the wedding to see some very old friends from my time in Leeds – I used to play in a band called the Yorkshire Volunteers and three members of the band were at the wedding.  I haven’t seen them for about ten years and it was lovely to catch up – and it left me feeling sad about the way we all lose touch with people.  I loved playing in the band and if I lived nearby I would love to play with them again.

In between all this, on Thursday actually, at the reading in Cockermouth, I found out I’d been awarded runner up, or second place in the Buzzwords competition, judged by David Morley.  This is tremendously exciting and I was rather pleased to find I’d won £300 which is definitely better than a poke in the eye.  There were quite a few names on the list of commended that I know from Facebook etc and the winning poet is Angela Topping.  You can read all the winning poems here http://buzzwordspoetry.blogspot.co.uk/p/2013-poetry-competition.html

I decided to buy myself a pair of Irregular Choice shoes whilst I was down in Leicester with my winnings which will be getting an outing to a poetry reading near you at some point!

Today’s Sunday Poem is by Maitreyabandhu – after his wonderful reading last weekend at Poem and A Pint.  I am very pleased to get one of my favourite poems of all time on the blog from Maitreyabandhu’s new collection from Bloodaxe ‘The Crumb Road’.  You can order the book from http://www.bloodaxebooks.com

Maitreyabandhu has won the Keats Shelley Prize, the Basil Bunting Award and the Ledbury Festival Poetry Competition.  His first pamphlet ‘The Bond’ won the Poetry Business Book and Pamphlet Competition in 2010 and was shortlisted for the Michael Marks Award.  ‘Vita Brevis’ his second pamphlet was a winner of the Iota Shots Award and was a Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice and was published by Templar in 2013.  You can order ‘The Bond’ fromhttp://www.poetrybusiness.co.uk/shop/598/the-bond-maitreyabandhu and ‘Vita Brevis’ from http://templarpoetry.com/collections/maitreyabandhu/products/vita-brevis-by-maitreyabandhu

Maitreyabandhu was ordained into the Triratna Buddhist Order in 1990.

The poem I’ve chosen is ‘Visitation’ which was first published in Poetry Review.  It then won the Geoffrey Dearmer Prize, awarded to a poem by a poet without a full collection.  It seems to start in mid-thought, and continues to be perfectly poised and balanced – the line breaks seem so sure footed.  I love in Stanza 2 when we read ‘the tree outside my window/doesn’t wait, nor the ocean-wedge’.  And I love in Stanza 4 the line ‘a diagonal of pure Bodmin Moor’.

I think this poem also encapsulates a lot of what the Crumb Road is about – it is a ‘Visitation’ of a memory, or a ghost – it also seems to be a meditation,which the book is full of.  It is full of uncertainty, the back and forth searching of memory trying to make sense of things.  It ends in fact, in uncertainty ‘Call it ‘dust’ then, or the bloom/of leaf-smoke from an autumn fire’.  It is also the precursor to a powerfully moving sequence called ‘Stephen’ about a relationship between two boys which ends tragically when Stephen is killed in a car accident.  The sequence is full of the quest for a ‘true’ memory and by the end we realise there is no such thing.

There was a comment on Facebook today that ‘Forgiveness is giving up all sense of looking for a better past’ which I found strangely moving and jumped into my head when re-reading this poem, and the Stephen sequence – maybe the sequence is trying to find ‘a better past’ that doesn’t exist – maybe this is what gives the sequence its power and energy and poignancy – we slowly come to understand how unreliable memory is, and that a ‘better’ past will not exist, not even if we make sense of it…

Here is the poem!

Visitation – by Maitreyabandhu

Strange that you should come
like that, without any form at all,
carrying no symbolic implements,
without smile or frown
or any commotion,
as if you had been there all the time,
like a pair of gloves left in a pocket.

As if I had been looking that way,
into the wide blue yonder, and you were
beside me, enduring my hard luck stories
with infinite patience.  Not even waiting –
the tree outside my window
doesn’t wait, nor the ocean-wedge
with its new, precise horizon – just there
like the shadow of a church

or a quiet brother.
And how I saw you, in the mess of things,
was as a slant of grey,
the perfect grey of house dust,
an absolute neutral, with no weaving,
no shimmer of cobalt
and light-years away from Byzantium.

Grey.  And I want to add, like light,
as if a skylight opened in my skull,
and into the darkness fell
a diagonal of pure Bodmin Moor.
But even that’s too bright,
too world-we’re-busy-in.
Call it ‘dust’ then, or the bloom
of leaf-smoke from an autumn fire.

Anyway, before I go any more philosophical – I’m going to sign off!

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