Author Archives: Kim Moore

16 Days of Action #day16

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There are only two poems in a ‘traditional’ form in my first collection, and both are in the sequence.  The first is this one, a sestina.  I read somewhere that for a sestina to truly work, it must be about something that obsesses you, that you cannot stop thinking of, that goes round and round in your head.  As soon as I read this, I knew I could try and write one.

The words at the end of each line repeat in a set pattern, and then all six words must be used in the last three lines in a specific order.  To me then, those words then, are like the key in a piece of music.  They set the atmosphere or the tone of the poem.  The words I chose, stone, bird, moon, dark are important and recurring images in the sequence.  But so is ‘it’ the idea of something that is nameless, that cannot be spoken, and so is the concept of asking, and the idea of questioning which is maybe the energy that drives this sequence.  Stone means stone, but it also means danger.  It also means the part of you that gives up, the part of you that hardens, the part of you that cannot speak.  The part of you that is a victim but also the part that fights back, that becomes stone instead of nothing.  And bird means bird, but it also means being transformed, being acted upon.  But it also means flight and freedom.  And dark means dark, but it also means danger, it also means hiding, it also means not seeing.  And the moon is the moon but it also means the things that carry on anyway, it means indifference, it means listening but it also means witness.

I started this poem in Clare’s workshop as well, although the first draft of it had no intention of being a sestina.  The next week, I was running a workshop session on form with my young writers, and after talking about why you would want to write a sestina (something that obsesses you, something you can’t stop thinking about) I had a go at writing one along with them.  It felt like following a thread of language, with the words squatting at the end of the line, unchangeable and insistent.

I’m writing this whilst tutoring on a residential course, the Poetry Carousel in Grange-Over-Sands.  Finishing off these blog posts during this weekend has made me realise how much my teaching is bound up with my writing.  I wrote many of these poems during workshops on residentials, writing along with the participants, who over the course of time have become friends, colleagues, even a large, dysfunctional and a geographically distant family.

I read from the sequence as a sequence for the first time on a residential course, and had to run into the sea afterwards to get rid of the tension that was running through me.

It has been cathartic, thought-provoking, sad, anger-inducing process to revisit some of these poems as part of the 16 Days of Action.   I also feel proud, of how far I’ve moved from them and beyond them, that the pain I was writing about is no longer the same pain.  Time, and poetry really does make things better.

The last poem in the sequence is a sonnet, but I won’t be posting it here.  I wanted to write that poem as a sonnet, because it is the most closed, most self-contained form.  The way a sonnet functions like a box, the way it snaps shut at the end made me hopeful that if I finished the sequence with it, it would stop the poems continuing.  I could stop writing about it, stop thinking about it.  That was possibly naïve however.  The ‘you’ at the beginning of the sestina is Clare Shaw, the speech taken from a conversation we had about writing about trauma.  She didn’t  meant it in the way I heard it back then.  In fact this is a mishearing, a misremembering of what Clare said.  Luckily she is a generous enough person not to mind.  I misheard what I needed to hear, which was permission to write about it.

The writing I’m doing now are looking at what makes it possible for things like domestic violence to take place, what are the conditions in our society that mean some men become perpetrators and some women become victims/survivors/resisters or just lucky (if they don’t experience it)

If you would like to read the last poem in the sequence, you can buy a copy of The Art of Falling here

Thank you all for your reading, and your supportive comments, and messages.  I really appreciate them all.

 

How I Abandoned My Body To His Keeping

What happened sits in my heart like a stone.
You told me I’d be writing about it
all my life, when I asked
how to stop saying these things to the moon.
I told you how writing it makes the dark
lift and then settle again like a flock of birds.

You said that thinking of the past like birds
who circle each year will make the stone
in my chest heavy, that the dark
that settles inside me will pass. You say it
is over, you say that even the moon
can’t know all of what happened that to ask

to forget is to miss the point. I should ask
to remember.  I should open myself to the birds
who sing for their lives.  I should tell the moon
how his skin was like smoke, his hand a stone
that fell from a great height.  It
was not what I deserved.  The year was dark

because he was there and my eyes were dark
and I fell to not speaking.  If I asked
him to leave he would smile.  Nothing in it
was sacred.  And I didn’t look up.  The birds
could have fallen from the sky like stones
and I wouldn’t have noticed.  The moon

was there that night in the snow.  The moon
was waiting the day the dark
crept into my mouth and left me stone
silent, stone dumb, when all I could ask
was for him to stop, please stop.  The birds
fled to the trees and stayed there.  It

wasn’t their fault.  It was nobody’s fault.  It
happened because I was still.  The moon
sung something he couldn’t hear.  The bird
in my heart silent for a year in the dark.
This is the way it is now, asking
for nothing but to forget his name, a stone

that I carry.  It cools in my mouth in the dark
and the moon sails on overhead.  You ask
about birds, but all I can talk of is stones.

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16 Days of Action #day15

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The cliché advice when we go for job interviews or doing a performance is to think of the audience or the interviewers with no clothes on, or think of them on the toilet.

Someone once said to me that another technique is to imagine the person smaller.

This poem is about that really – the fallacy that size or lack of it can make someone less frightening.

But also about power, and who has it and who doesn’t.  How sometimes power that looks like power can be not-power, can be something else.   The power to make someone smaller, to diminish them, to make them a character of black/white, good/evil, to make something simple, sometimes isn’t power at all.

In Ovid’s version of the story of Thetis, who is a shape-shifter, a goddess of the waves who can become any animal or bird that she chooses, is promised in marriage to Peleus, against her will.  Peleus catches her in a sea-cave and binds her, waiting while she changes into hundreds of different shapes before she eventually gives in and submits to him.

Sometimes the power to change is no power at all either.

The World’s Smallest Man

Today I make you into the world’s smallest man.
You are so small I open my hand and you dance
on the great landscape of my palm.

You are a thin stick of a man.  When you stretch out
along my life line, your feet touch my wrist
and your head rests below my index finger.

You are a small man, but like a small dog
you are unaware of your size.  Sometimes
you go missing for days then jump out

and shout surprise! But you do not mean surprise.
I decided to make you even smaller, the size
of an insect.  Now you can walk upside down.

I think of all the places I could leave you
now you are smaller than the lightest
water boatman, but you keep shrinking

till you are less than a grain of salt,
so small you are living on my skin.
And, once I breathe, I breathe you in.

16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence #day14

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16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence #day14

Translated by violence – that witnessing violence, or carrying it out, or being the victim of it changes you in a fundamental way.  It sounds obvious written out like that, but there are lots of ways of knowing something without truly knowing it.

The many violences inflicted on women in Ovid’s Metamorphosis.  Echo and her stolen voice, Medusa with snakes in her hair, transformed by revengeful Athena because she was raped by Poseidon, the Theban women and Io’s maids transformed into seabirds, and Europa carried away by Jupiter in the shape of a bull and raped…and the one that twisted my heart, Daphne, transformed into a laurel tree to escape the attentions of Apollo, who then still touches her, even though she is a tree

Transformation of the self by another – maybe it is the most violent thing that can happen

It is not as easily undone

And afterwards, the knowledge that the self can be transformed, and what to do with that self, now it has changed, and whether it is a self at all, or something else, something not-self

This is one of the few poems in the book that directly address other women.  When I say ‘us’ I mean women, women who have been translated by violence, women who have been transformed by it.

 

Translation

Don’t we all have a little Echo in us, our voices stolen,
only able to repeat what has already been said:
you made me do it he says and we call back do it, do it.

Wouldn’t any of us, if pushed, sit on the riverbank
and comb snakes from our hair, or think that in our grief
we could become a sea bird, our outstretched bodies

like a cross nailed to the wind? Who amongst us
hasn’t sat astride a man more bull than man
as he knelt in the dirt, for no good reason we can think of?

There was a time when I was translated by violence,
there were times I prayed to be turned into a flower
or a tree, something he wouldn’t recognise as me.

16 Days of Action #day13 #16days

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16 Days of Action #day13 #16days

16 Days of Action – Day 13

This is the other poem in the sequence that I don’t usually read out loud.

I wrote this at Treloyhan Manor Hotel, in St Ives.  I was tutoring a residential there with the poet Clare Shaw.  She led a kind of visualisation exercise, and I wrote this poem.

It was one of two poems that I wrote in her workshop – along with the course participants – the other one is the title poem of the sequence, and will appear here in three days time.

I’ve said thank you to Clare before, but I won’t get tired of it.  She was one of the first people I showed these poems to as a whole sequence and I honestly don’t think I would have published them without her support.

I’d already sent the ‘final’ version of the manuscript to Amy Wack, my editor at Seren, but I sent her this poem, and the other poem, because I knew they belonged with the others.

Part of trauma theory talks about part of you remaining in the time and place where the trauma took place.  I hadn’t read anything around trauma theory when I wrote this poem though.

Poetry can go back to that place and put a fence and a border around it, can contain it a little, so it isn’t just leaking out into and onto everything else.

All of these poems did this for me.  I often describe them as my shields that I put between myself and the world.

I said in an earlier post (I think) that there is a lot of knowing in these poems.

They are also a reaching towards knowing and a figuring out.

I Know

I know this bus stop, the green and flaking paint of it.
I know this road I have to cross, I know the traffic
rushing past.  I know these seven steps.  I know
this door, its weight, its tone as it speaks in anger.
I know this hallway, the hexagon tiles, red and black
and red and black.  I know this second door.
I know what it is for the body to open one door
then the other while the heart stays silent.
I know these floorboards.  I know what it is
to lie here, the body like a boat, caught by its heels
in a harbour. I know what it is to kneel here
as if in prayer, if prayers were ever full of tears.
Ten years on, it’s almost heady to look back,
see myself kneeling on the floor, watching
the hysterical skittering of the phone.
His voice, trapped and low: pick up the phone. 
You’d better pick up the fucking phone.
I know the top of my head, I know my shoulders,
can see how everything I knew is scattered
across the floor, like love and all the weight of it.
I know this room.  I know that sofa, the orange of it,
this patient waiting.  I know how it feels to walk
backwards into it.  I know this place.  I leave my self
down there, kneeling, still alone.

16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence #Day12 #16days

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16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence #Day12 #16days

The Oxford Dictionary defines a “doppelganger” as ‘An apparition or double of a living person’.  There’s an interesting article on the BBC here

I also found this rather strange website where you can register your details and find your very own ‘twin stranger’.

I have my very own twin who I’m often mistaken for, so it’s not that I long for a doppelganger.

But I’ve been fascinated by them since I heard a story from a friend about visiting a concentration camp, looking at the pictures on the wall of the victims who were murdered, and seeing a photo of a student that my friend taught.  My friend said it wasn’t a lookalike, it was his student, staring out from many years ago, from a horrific time in history.

And there are other names for doppelgangers – a ‘spirit double’, a ‘fetch’, a ‘firstcomer’.

So this is my doppelganger poem, my own private haunting, and one of the first poems I wrote in the sequence, examining an experience which led to me finally being forced to think about something I hadn’t thought about for ten years, something I hadn’t told anyone about for ten years, a ‘fetch’ that dragged me back to the past.

Encounter

It was you, the set of your shoulders, your way
of standing, your arms folded across your chest,

your belly a small hill, it was you, it was you,
your hair dark and shaved, your skin brown

from the sun.  I turned on my heel and went
back into the classroom and sank to my knees

behind the door and I prayed you away,
to a God I’d never spoken to before,

I wished you away like a child.  I looked again
and again through the darkened glass,

it was you, but it was not you.  Your soul
had entered this man, his eyes and his hands

were yours, it was you, I could swear it
on anything you named, if I stopped looking

it would always be you.  So I looked
and I looked till my eyes burned from

not blinking and I watched him walk away.
Your soul left his body as if it had

never been there and all that was left
of you was a taste of smoke in the air.

16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence #Day11

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EDIT *Apologies – for some reason this post didn’t publish automatically yesterday.  Instead it went to my draft folder and sat there!*

Day 11

I wrote this in a temper, in a rush, in one go.

I think this is the angriest poem in the book.

they tried to make me say your name

Who is ‘they’? I cannot say.

I still cannot say the name.

Naming things is one of the ways we make sense of the world.  A name is a pact between ourselves, that we are talking about the same thing, that we mean the same thing.

Across cultures and religions, the act of naming the universe is a common genesis story.  Adam named the animals to gain dominion over them.

Jo Bell’s poem ‘Crates’ takes a slightly different approach to the act of naming.  It starts ‘Observe when I speak of crates/your mind supplies one straight away’ and then goes on to outline the different types of crates that the reader might be thinking of.

I remember when I first heard this poem.  The last three lines, the trick, the turn, the surprise of the poem, felt like the neatest fitting lid on a box.  After pointing out that merely speaking the word ‘crates’ conjures one into existence, the poem concludes

‘Now, let us speak of love.’

This poem is the first poem in Jo’s collection Kith, which is available from Nine Arches Press.  If you haven’t already got a copy, I would recommend it.

When I read this poem, it helped me understand my strange reaction, my strange rule/law around speaking/not speaking a name.  If speaking a name doesn’t give you power over something, but instead conjures it into existence…

 

Your Name

Because they tried to make me say your name,
the shame and blame and frame of it,
the dirty little game of it, the dark and distant
heart of it, the cannot be a part of it,
the bringing back the taste of it till I was changed
inside the flame of it, the cut and slap and shut
of it, the rut and fuck and muck of it,
the not-forgotten hurt of it, they syllable
stop-dead of it, the starting at the throat of it,
the ending at the teeth of it.

16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence #Day10

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Day 10

Much of the information for this poem comes from https://medicalnewstoday.com and www.lenstore.co.uk

When I was writing this poem, I googled ‘black eye’ and ‘what causes a black eye’ and ‘facts about eyes’.

I knew what caused a black eye, but the internet did not give me that answer.

In the book ‘Wilful Blindness’ Margaret Keffernan examines the concept of Wilful Blindness, which is what happens when people choose, sometimes consciously but mostly not, to not ‘see’ in situations where ‘we could know, and should know, but don’t know because it makes us feel better not to know.’

For domestic violence to take place, wilful blindness has to take place.

On the part of the victim i.e ‘How could I have been so blind?’.  It’s common for a victim not to recognise that what is happening is domestic abuse.

But also on the part of society.

Domestic violence is happening under our noses/in front of our faces/

and we/you/I are wilfully blind.

 

On Eyes

That we are not born with tears
but learn them in the passing of a month.
That a black eye can be caused by a tennis ball,
a fist or a door.  That blue-eyed people
share a common ancestor with every
other blue-eyed person in the world.
That there are microscopic creatures
living in our eyelashes.  That these
will not speak up for us.  That a black
eye fades from dark-blue to violet
to yellow-green.  That dolphins sleep
with one eye open.  That on seeing
danger the eye will close.  That we
do not enter this world with colour.
That it takes only a few days for
a black eye to heal.  That the eye
is the fastest moving part of the body
but not the fastest healing for that
is the tongue.  That to avoid a black eye
make sure rugs and carpets are well placed
and there are no wrinkles in your floor.
Scorpions have twelve eyes.
Worms have no eyes at all.
To avoid a black eye, always wear
protective gear, such as a helmet or goggles.

16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence #Day9

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Day 9

Over half way through 16 days of action.  It’s been both harder and easier than I thought.

Now I am returning, I’m interested in how the mode of address in the sequence changes – that there are more and more poems addressed to a ‘you’ as it progresses.

It’s like walking in a place I’ve been to before, but seeing it from horseback instead of from the ground.

Or like I’m on a boat, and the place where I used to walk is flooded, but with the clearest water, and I can see straight down to the path, straight through my own face reflected back at me.

I have an aversion to poems with the word ‘memory’ in them.  I decide I don’t like them.  Although I love the word ‘remember’.  It is the vagueness of ‘memory’ I don’t like. Whereas ‘remember’ feels like a physical thing.

And then I find this poem called ‘Memory’ by Lawson Fusao Inada and it is full of memory and I realise I don’t dislike this word at all, that I have made up a rule to keep myself safe from poetry in some way, and that my rule was arbitrary and stupid, because I love this poem.

Memory is an old Mexican woman
sweeping her yard with a broom

 

Your Hands

I can’t remember your fingernails
but I remember the quick movement

of your hands, how you rolled each
cigarette, your tongue licking the paper.

For months I found brown twists
of tobacco in the creases of clothes,

filters in their plastic sleeves
or delicate papers spread like wings.

I can’t remember a single thing we said
to one another but I remember your

black leather jacket, your one pair
of good black trousers.  I remember

arguing all night, but not what about.
I remember sleep was something

that did not belong to me.  I swear
I remember nothing, just your outline

at the foot of the bed, you are shouting
as if calling me from some distant shore,

but there’s no such thing as sound,
no such thing as shore.

 

 

 

Guest Poets for the 2017 Poetry Carousel

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Another brief interruption of the ’16 Days of Action’ posts.

With less than a week to go before the 2017 Poetry Carousel, I thought I’d reveal the mystery guest poets for this year’s course, and the dates and guest tutors for 2018.

I’m really excited that  Polly Atkin and Ian Seed will be heading to the Carousel to read for participants.  In the tradition of the Carousel, they are two very different poets – Mark Ford writes that Ian Seed is “our most brilliant exponent of that most unBritish of genres, the prose poem. Hilarious and unsettling, his beautifully controlled micro-narratives genially induct us into a world that soon turns out to be as dangerous as it is magical. His work should really come with some kind of health warning, for these poems are not only intoxicating—they are addictive.”  Polly Atkin’s poetry explores the boundaries of landscape and the body.  The Poetry Book Society said that “The remarkable poems in Basic Nest Architecture are a testament to the persistence and artistry of Polly Atkin. As well as being profoundly personal, they reach out to the modern world in all it’s complexity and diversity.”  You can find out more about Polly and Ian at the bottom of this post.

It’s going to be a brilliant weekend with a real variety of approaches to poetry explored.

On the last night of the course, we will also have some music from The Demix.

And for those of you who couldn’t get on to this year’s Poetry Carousel, I have the dates for the 2018 course, which will be taking place from the 7th-10th December 2018.   I don’t have the price yet for this weekend, but you can provisionally book a place by contacting Abbot Hall Hotel on 01539532896

I’m also really excited about the line up of guest tutors – joining me on the 2018 Poetry Carousel will be Sean O’Brien, Fiona Sampson and Andrew McMillan.  I’m expecting the 2018 Carousel to sell out pretty fast so do get in touch with the hotel if you’re interested in coming!

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Polly Atkin lives in Grasmere. Her first collection, Basic Nest Architecture, was published by Seren in February 2017. An extract from this was awarded New Writing North’s Andrew Waterhouse Prize in 2014 for ‘reflect[ing] a strong sense of place or the natural environment’. Her first pamphlet bone song (Aussteiger, 2008) was shortlisted for the Michael Marks Pamphlet Award, 2009, and second, Shadow Dispatches (Seren, 2013), won the Mslexia Pamphlet Prize, 2012. She has taught English and Creative Writing at Lancaster University, and the Universities of Strathclyde and Cumbria. She is interested in where poetry might intersect with Disability Studies and in writing about the body, in poetry and prose.

Ian Seed’s most recent publications include Identity Papers (Shearsman, 2016), The Thief of Talant (Wakefield, 2016) (the first translation into English of Pierre Reverdy’s little-known long poem, Le Voleur de Talan), and Makers of Empty Dreams (Shearsman, 2014). Identity Papers was featured by Ian McMillan on BBC Radio 3’s The Verb in 2016. Makers of Empty Dreams has been translated into Italian by Iris Hajdari and is due for publication in 2018. Ian’s work is represented in a number of anthologies, such as The Best Small Fictions 2017 (Braddock Avenue Books), The Forward Book of Poetry 2017 (Faber&Faber) and The Best British Poetry 2014 (Salt). Ian’s book of prose poems and small fictions, New York Hotel, will be published by Shearsman in 2018. The late John Ashbery commented: ‘The mystery and sadness of empty rooms, chance encounters in the street, trains traveling through a landscape of snow become magical in Ian Seed’s poems’.

16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence #Day8

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Trauma is not stored as a narrative with an orderly beginning, middle and end.  Memories return….as flashbacks that contain fragments of the experience, isolated images, sounds and bodily sensations that initially have no context other than fear and panic
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The Body Keeps The Score
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This is not a narrative with an orderly beginning, middle and end.

This might be a narrative with an orderly beginning, middle and end.

This is a flashback

This isn’t a flashback

This contains fragments of the experience

This doesn’t contain fragments or experience.

These are isolated images

These are not isolated image, these are not sounds

This is a bodily sensation with no context

There is context, and this is a bodily sensation

This is fear and panic

There is nothing to fear and panic here

When Someone is Singing

When someone is singing the old carols –
the earth hard as iron, snow on snow,
when cold brings the world to silence,
when the name of the city we lived in is spoken,
when lorries are parked in lines at service stations,
when making a decision, when another year ends,
when a coach ticks to itself in the heat,
when I see a couple arguing in public,
when I hear someone shouting or swearing,
when I see boats or think of the sea,
when I remember I know how someone can break,
if somebody spits on the pavement, if somebody spits,
when I stand at a bus stop, when I visit the doctors,
when I get in a car with someone else driving,
when I see bouncers in nightclub doorways,
with the taking and giving of pain, when I’m afraid,
it’s only then I think of him, or remember his name.