Tag Archives: Myra Schneider

Sunday Poem – Myra Schneider

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Sunday Poem – Myra Schneider

No view today apart from the dark, and my own reflection in the window, and through the gaps of the houses opposite, I can see a few streetlights, and one window in the house opposite has a light on.  It’s only 10.30pm now, but it feels more like 2am, everything is so quiet.  When we first moved here two years ago, I couldn’t sleep because it was so quiet.  Our first house in Barrow was in a street where you could hear the seagulls all the time, so it took me a while to get used to not hearing them.  Now, of course, it’s quite nice not to be divebombed by seagulls between the front door and the car.

Today I went to Lancaster with lots of people from the Walney Wind Cheetahs and took part in the Lancaster Castle 10k, which actually turned into the Lancaster Castle 10.6k, as apparently some directional arrows were turned the wrong way, there were no marshals and lots of people ran the wrong way and got lost.  I was a bit gutted because I think I would have got a PB, but I suppose these things can’t be helped.  We had a nice day anyway, and I was 6th woman back which I’ve never been before so that was quite exciting!

Getting lost seems to be a theme this week actually, as I also went on a 10 mile run which turned into a 12 mile run on Wednesday with my friend Ian and forgot to turn left at a crucial junction, which meant we had to run an extra two miles and climb up a huge hill again, which nearly finished us off!

Apart from running and getting lost, I’ve also had an Induction Day at Manchester Met this week to prepare for the teaching that I’ll be doing there.  I don’t think anything can really prepare you for teaching apart from just getting stuck into it, I guess.

I’ve been working with Pauline Yarwood, the co-director of Kendal Poetry Festival on plans for next year’s festival.  We’ve already confirmed some poets (top secret, sorry, can’t tell you who they are) and are waiting to hear back from the remaining few.  Pauline’s been working hard on an application to a local charity and we’ve already sent that in.  This was the first charity we applied to last year, and when we were awarded the money, it really gave us a boost of confidence to apply for the rest of the amount to the Arts Council. I’m hoping this happens again this year!

Last night it was A Poem and a Pint with the fabulous Hollie McNish.  I’ve seen Hollie read a few times now – most recently (before last night) at Aldeburgh Poetry Festival.  At Aldeburgh she read a poem about class and accents and fitting in which made me cry, which I didn’t expect.  To cry, I mean.  She is a great performer of her work, not just the poems, but when she introduces them, she is very warm, very open.  It is a cliche but she really does feel like a breath of fresh air.  She is also a sharp and witty observer of life, or the kind of absurdities of life.  She writes poems that flag up things in life that we probably all pretend we don’t notice.    Anyway, last night at Poem and a Pint she was brilliant – the audience loved her.  I was the MC and kept forgetting to get up and introduce the next item, which is pretty standard for my MCing style!

The other thing I’ve been doing this weekend is painting the downstairs ‘middle room’ as we call it.  Do you remember that scene in Adrian Mole’s diary when he decides to paint the walls of his bedroom black to cover up the Noddy wallpaper, and the bells just keep showing through, no matter how many layers of paint he slaps on? Well in my more dramatic moments, this is how I feel about the middle room, except it is white paint, and it is patches, rather than bells.  Anyway, Chris has promised that one more coat should do it, so hopefully by this time next weekend, I won’t have to look at another tin of white paint for a while.

Next week there is lots going on.  My good friend Jennifer Copley is launching her latest pamphlet Vinegar and Brown Paper, published by Like This Press.  The launch will take place at Natterjacks in Ulverston at 7.30 – you can find more information here.  Members of Barrow Writers will also be reading and The Demix will be providing some music so it will be a great night!

I’m off to Manchester again on Thursday to have a meeting with one of my supervisors on the PhD.  On Thursday evening I’m reading at Black Cat Poets in Manchester, alongside the marvellous Emma McGordon, who was one of the first poets I ever saw read, so I’m quite excited about that! There is also an open mic for anybody that wants to come down and has a couple of poems knocking about that they fancy reading…

I’ve got Dove Cottage Young Poets session on Friday and then a Soul Band gig on Saturday and then rehearsals for The Wizard of Oz start on Sunday.  You will be happy to know that I’m not acting, singing or dancing in The Wizard of Oz, only playing the trumpet, which is probably a mercy for us all.

So this week’s Sunday Poem is by Myra Scheider, who has featured on the blog quite a few times in the past.  The poem I’ve chosen comes from her latest book Persephone in Finsbury Park,  published by Second Light Publications.

Rebecca, the poem I’ve chosen is very representative of Myra’s work.  I often come away from Myra’s work knowing a little more than when I arrived – I didn’t for instance know that a pogrom is ‘an organized massacre of a particular ethnic group, in particular that of Jews in Russia or eastern Europe.’

This word sits in the poem like an undetonated bomb.  There is nothing else said about the pogroms, yet that word shadows everything that follows and precedes it.  The idealistic rural life filled with cows that Rebecca ‘knew by heart’ contrasts with the new life in Stepney.  By the end of the second stanza, there is another story that is mentioned and then never returned to in the poem – the ‘six-year old Judith’ who is ‘scalded to death tipping water from a boiling kettle.’

I wonder if these stories will be developed in later collections or poems.  There is certainly a wealth of material here – although of course the story of Judith is alluded to with the story of ‘Isaac’ who wasn’t allowed to play indoors in case he comes to harm – presumably in the same way that Judith did.  Although ironically, of course, he suffers the touch of extreme cold, the opposite of what Judith suffered.

The lovely thing about this poem is the surprise that Rebecca is the grandmother of the speaker, and the realisation that this is family history that is being shared.

If you would like to buy a copy of Persephone in Finsbury Park, you can order one from Myra by emailing her at  myraRschneider@gmail.com.  This is Myra’s 14th poetry collection – previous collections include The Door to Colour, published by Enitharmon in 2014, and Circling the Core in 2008.  She also writes prose and edits anthologies and runs creative writing courses .

Thanks to Myra for letting me use her poem this week – if you’d like to find out more about Myra, you can have a look at her website here

 

Rebecca  – Myra Schneider

Somewhere inside me: snippets from her life,
that village a dozen miles from Vitebsk, the cows
she knew by heart, the grocery shop and pogroms

left behind for a cramped existence in Stepney:
families living elbow to elbow, her six-year old Judith
scalded to death tipping water from a boiling kettle.

These scraps and others are in a bundle much smaller
than the bundle of linens she heaved through years
of unpaved streets after her husband died,

selling on the never-never.  There’s little Isaac
who couldn’t keep still for a moment, never allowed
indoors on his own – such harm might he come to –

playing outside till her day’s slog was over, in winter
at the mercy of frost which sank its teeth so deep
into his legs the bite was still raw ninety years later.

There’s the tale of how she dug her needle wit
into the boy for fooling in his new secondary school,
being placed twenty-ninth, then of how proud she was

when he became, not the rabbi she’d dreamed of
in the tiny bedroom they shared for years,
but such a scholar he was paid to go to university.

Rebecca, grandmother I never knew, your son
always called you mother – I didn’t learn your name
until seven years after he died – I’m proud of you.

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Sunday Poem – Myra Schneider

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Evening all – I’m writing this feeling very sorry for myself.  I started writing it about 5.30 in a burst of enthusiasm and determination not to be up till all hours finishing it off, but I went upstairs to get something, sat down on the spare bed and the next thing I knew it was 7.30 and I woke up with a sore throat and feeling that special kind of rough that happens when you fall asleep during the day.

It is my own fault I fell asleep for two hours – yesterday we had Poem and a Pint with guest poet Zaffar Kunial and instead of going straight home afterwards and sorting my life out I went to the pub and talked non-stop for an hour.  In fact maybe that is why my throat is sore.

Zaff is currently Poet in Residence at the Wordsworth Trust – it was great to hear him read his poetry from his new Faber pamphlet as well as some new work that he has written during his time at the Trust.

When I got back from the pub I realised that I hadn’t sorted out the band folders and had visions of the 38 children in the band rifling through the folders on stage, pages blowing away in the breeze and decided to put the music in order.  It might seem like a simple thing to leave the children to find their own music, but if you think that, you obviously haven’t met my wonderful band, who have many strengths but the ability to find their music quickly is not one of them.  Sorting the folders out took me till about 2.30am and then I couldn’t get to sleep afterwards, the set list for the concert kept running through my mind and then when I did sleep I kept waking up, thinking I’d over slept.

The band played really well, especially considering that half the band was on the stage and half the band was in front of it which meant they were really spread out.  The half of the band on the stage told me afterwards they couldn’t really hear the other half and were just following the drummer and my amazing conducting skills.  Ok, I may have added in that last adjective.  Before the junior band, I played trumpet with the South Lakes Brass Ensemble which went great too.

Here is a picture of the junior band.

ban

Saturday was a bit manic – as well as Poem and a Pint I did park run in the morning and beat my last time of 23.36 – this time I got 23.09 so I was very happy.  I don’t think that is an adequate description of the dancing, star-jumping and general bragging that the poor husband had to put up with when my official time came through.  I was also third woman which I’ve never been before.  I have been fourth a couple of times and I suspect that there were a few women missing which explains my elevated position.  Not that I’m obsessing about it or anything.

Afterwards, I went second hand furniture shopping, after discovering that the type of writing desk that I would really like that will enable me to write amazing poems and never be distracted by Facebook again costs about £400.  I found a ‘double pedestal’ writing desk, that apparently used to live in a school and bought it for £60.  I’ve bought some paint and handles as well – have never painted furniture before but have decided the desk should be purple…I might even put some before and after photos up.  Unless I completely ruin the desk in which case I will never mention it again and don’t ask about it…

On Friday I did a session with the Dove Cottage Young Poets.  I decided what the group needed in their life was a sestina and I took along Kathryn Maris’s wonderful sestina ‘Darling Would You Please Pick up Those Books’ which you can read here.

I’ve never tried to write a sestina before.  In fact, I will admit to a dislike of them, apart from Kathryn’s which I think is fabulous.  I hate it when someone tells me before they read a poem that it is a sestina – I don’t really want to know – it either sounds like you’re apologising for the repeating words or showing off that you’ve written one.  Anyway, I had a go and I think it could work!  If it does work, it fits in with the sequence I’ve been working on and should really go in the collection, but if that’s going to happen, then I need to work on it quickly.

On Monday I had Soul Survivor rehearsal straight after junior band and then Tuesday I had a lovely chat with Sasha Dugdale about a project I’m working on to ‘translate’ poems by a female Burmese poet, Moon Thueain. I say ‘translate’ in inverted commas, because of course, I can’t speak, write or read Burmese.  I’ve been working from a literal translation and have been sending various emails back and forward asking questions of both the poet and the translator.  It is a really fascinating thing to do, and I’m really grateful to Sasha for giving me the opportunity. Sasha is the editor of Modern Poetry in Translation and if you have a spare five minutes, have a look at the MPT website.  It’s one of my favourite websites because they have a page where you can have a go at posting your own version of a poem from a literal translation.  As well as the literal version of the poem, there is a short essay from the translator which is always really interesting.

On Wednesday I had meetings straight after school in my new role as Music Service Liason Teacher.  I met quite a few teachers from various Barrow schools who were responsible for music.  Some of them I already knew and worked with, but some I hadn’t met before.  I was heartened by the enthusiasm for music that the teachers showed and disheartened by the same concerns that are always voiced which are how schools can afford to pay for quality music provision.

Last week I said in the balance scales of music and poetry, music was definitely winning.  This week I would say it’s an even draw, mainly because I was able to have the whole of Thursday to sit and read some poetry, as well as catching up with some admin like emails and invoices.  I had a really lovely day and spent most of it in my pyjamas.  I read two collections for the second time – I won’t tell you what one was, because I’m featuring a poem from it next Sunday, but the other was ‘The Door to Colour’ by Myra Schneider.

Myra has been featured on the blog before but I thought it was worth celebrating the publication of her tenth collection, ‘The Door to Colour’ published by Enitharmon.  You can order ‘The Door to Colour’ directly from Enitharmon or email Myra at myrarschneider@gmail.com if youw would like to buy a copy directly from her.

The collection, as you may have guessed by the title, is full of colour.  I’ve picked a poem that I hope shows this, but one that also demonstrates another preoccupation in the collection, which is the object poem.  Object poems are so often done badly, being the stock exercise that is trotted out in workshops, but Myra is a genius at them.  Her object poems are often held together by a thread of free association.  The poem is not really about the object – the object is merely the doorway or the path to a deeper concern.

Elsewhere in the collection we have ‘The Black Glove’ which conjures up a childhood memory of a mother lugging coal.  In the poem ‘Spoon’ we read ‘How easy to Thumbelina my body/into this bowl smooth as butter – the fit/is perfect’.  The poem carries on imagining shrinking to be small enough to fit into a spoon.  This impulse to explore the life of things is explored further by a short sequence called ‘Seeing into Things’ which I think is a great title.

There are also lots of poems about music – both Mahler and Beethoven feature but perhaps my favourite part of the book was a long sequence at the end called ‘The Minotaur’ which explores an alternative view of the Minotaur and Theseus, the Greek hero who comes to kill him.

I thought this sequence was as readable and as action packed as a novel – obviously not as long, but it had that same forward momentum and drive.  I would have loved to have posted the sequence up but it is quite long, so if you are interested I would recommend buying the collection.

The poem I’ve chosen, another one of my favourites is called ‘The Throw’.  I liked this one for many reasons – the careful details in the second stanza of the ‘minute gold elephants’ which ‘walk in perfect lines’ along ‘the embroidered roads of the fabric’.

I like that I was suprised by the ending, that last line ‘where I wish pain, all pain to vanish’.  Until this point, I thought the poem was just a really beautifully written poem about a gift from a son to a mother.  The last line, which brings in pain took me by suprise, but when I went back to the beginning of the poem again, I realised there was a shadow of this pain in the very first stanza, when the throw ‘becomes and extra skin/ one that’s kind to my uncomfortable body.’

This quiet phrase slipped by me on first reading, but now I find it quite shocking.  Or maybe shocking is the wrong word.  It makes me realise that I’m lucky, to not be uncomfortable in my body, to not have ongoing pain.  Despite this dark shadow in the poem, I think it is overall a very positive poem – full of colour and imagination and life – the mind in this poem continues to free associate and think and dream, even whilst the body creeps into bed.

Myra has her own website if you would like to look up more of her work which you can find here.   As well as ‘The Door to Colour’ Myra’s five collections with Enitharmon include ‘Exits’ in 1994, ‘The Panic Bird’ in 1998, ‘Insisting the Yellow’ in 2000, ‘Multiplying the Moon’ in 2004 and ‘Circling the Core’ in 2008.  Her poem ‘Goulash’ was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for the Best Single Poem in 2007.  Myra is a generous and enthusiastic teacher and currently tutors for the wonderful Poetry School.  Myra has recently co-edited an anthology of contemporary women’s poetry called ‘Her Wings of Glass’ with the fabulous poets Penelope Shuttle and Dilys Wood. The anthology is published by Second Light Publications.  You can find out more about the anthology here and get a special introductory rate if you would like to buy it.  The Second Light network is well worth checking out -they also publish a magazine for women’s poetry called Artemis, edited by Dilys Wood

I hope you enjoy the poem – looking forward as always to reading your comments.

The Throw – Myra Schneider

my son brought me from Thailand is magenta,
a royal marriage of violet and pink.
When I lay it on my bed over the quilt
from India it becomes an extra skin,
one that’s kind to my uncomfortable body.

How I love its minute gold elephants, each
the size of the top segment of my little finger.
They walk in perfect lines, head to tail,
along the embroidered roads of the fabric
and when I stroke one an elephant god appears,

becomes the memory of riding in a high place
on a huge blur of animal, becomes the elephants
living in Mimi’s flat.  My son has elaborated
on the heat in Thailand but here winter is trying
to sneak into the house and steal its warmth.

I creep into bed, invite the elephants to tiptoe
across my body’s pathways.  When snowflakes
begin to float whitely down I close my eyes
and they melt into the soft purplish mystery
of nothing where I wish pain, all pain to vanish.