A Time To Create Or, If You Prefer, Put Those Winter Woolies Away

We are not out of the woods yet. Though we are in the tail end of March there is still talk of cold weather to come, with possible snow for Easter being mooted.

But still, there’s always signs, hints of the season to follow. Winter is fighting it’s last rearguard action, and the end will be merciful. Easter does indeed bring a resurrection.

The longer days, the warmer weather and emerging wildlife always seem to bring a creative boon, and now is no different. I am tweaking the manuscript for a second poetry collection: In Brigantia, before returning to the second draft of the novel Seasons On The Hill that I’m writing. Beyond this I have ideas for a semi-fictional take on family stories handed down to me, provisionsally entitled In Times Of War, and also a collection of short stories called The Night Spills In.

I’ve also agreed this week to proofread a translated work for a fellow poet, so things are starting to move.I’ve got a tentative plan about the order of things.

But first a coffee, I think, and see what tomorrow’s weather brings.

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At This Time

From my poetry blog. Soon be Christmas.

Coronets For Ghosts

At This Time


A virginal shroud settles upon our abodes.
Fairy lights flicker in the long night.
Inside, all manner of songs and odes
are offered to acclaim our rite.
Those of us not overtly religious
indulge themselves out of tradition.
Those of us not openly pious
offer tacit prayers without petition.
But all desire to feel the joy
that shines forth from every child's eyes.
An augury, in innocence's employ,
that lifts the soul amongst the winter skies.
Though we partake in the gathered feast,
and survive the night imbibing wine,
we recognise, when all has ceased,
that part of man inherently divine.




©Andrew James Murray

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To Read And To Write; The Creative Life

I spent the morning finishing The Innocents by Ian McEwan.

I felt a great sadness when reading a letter contained within it, suggestive of other lives and other alternatives.

Literature, art, has the power to do this.

I find myself more and more subsumed into the creative life.

I’m currently on the second draft of a novel. I’m not a very disciplined writer. I don’t put aside set times to write. I just decide to go over a chapter when I have a window in time. Although this may seem a quite casual approach, from crude, rudimentary beginnings the book is beginning to take shape.

And yet, amidst this deliberate foray into fiction, poetry is beginning to call to me again. I have long had an eye on a second collection. Not one to multitask, I intended to turn to this after the completion of my novel. But words are beginning to nudge their way in, filter through. Single words, combinations of words, predatory lines demanding attention.

Inspiration doesn’t pay respect to timeframes and schedules.

I have a few new poems written: Judas Kiss, Boathouse, My Father As Child, In Brigantia and others. I’ve not posted much poetry recently on City Jackdaw as I’m holding them back for a possible next collection.

At the moment I’m still deliberating the order of my creative endeavours. My procrastination was given a nudge recently  when I received a letter in the post from a great writer and poet that I gave a name check to in the foreword of my debut collection Heading North. Now in his 81st year and still as creative as ever, he wished me luck on my own foray on this open and crafted path.

This path of conjured words, and alternative worlds, that exist long after the demise of their creator.

Songs Of The North

These three books constitute the (current) Songs Of The North poetry series, of which my book Heading North is a part.

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These words are from my editor Michael Kobernus:

‘I am proud of every book we put out, at Nordland Publishing. However, these are special. While they may not be everyone’s cup of tea, they elevate the written word into art, and that is amazing.’

My book, Heading North, is available here:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Heading-North-2-Songs/dp/8283310097/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1491035913&sr=1-1&keywords=heading+north

All three different takes on the inspirational north can be discovered here on Nordland Publishing’s website:

http://www.nordlandpublishing.com/titles/songs-of-the-north/

Isn’t it time you journeyed North? ūüôā

On Poetry:Inspiration

For me, my poems serve as a diary. When I look at them I can remember where I was when I got the idea for each one, and what it was that acted as the initial inspiration. The opening poem in my book, Heading North, is called Midnight, July.

The title indicates the when, but not the where and why.

The words for this one came when I was sat in the back garden with a coffee. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and I was looking up at the stars and wondering whether we could be alone or was there life somewhere out there?

We writhe 

with a rage to know 

the unknowable,


blind to great masses

that dance in dark orbits. 

And a soft, summer wind 

on a night beneath stars 

is no balm.

While I was sat there, neck craned in the quiet of the night, the stillness was broken by the sound of somebody passing by the front of the house, their presence announced by their whistle as they went.

From somewhere a whistle

casts a line,



a fragile camaraderie 

in a world

fell silent,



where white moth-wing

is riotous



and a spider's touch 

carnal.

That faceless person, whoever it was, initiated the close of this poem. Sometimes we go about life oblivious of the effect we have on others, positive or otherwise. And writers can be voyeuristic vampires, stealing in secret what they need from those around them.

I had half of another poem entitled Old Town.  When writing it I had the idea of an American-type run down town in the middle of the desert, with people eking out a life in a place where unknown others lived long before them.

As is their wont,

the ancestors speak of nothing,



just leave their handprints

on rock, drying in shadow.



In sterile dust

we kick

careless trails,



tracks opening up

in animal minds.



In towns

we lay our markers down,



watering holes

within arid charms.



The rats have our number,

wait us out,



sandstorms filling our lungs

like egg timers.

 

I wanted to add a second part to the poem.

Regular readers of City Jackdaw will no doubt know of my love for old photographs. There is one in particular that has featured on my blog a few times before.  It bears the  legend Mary and her Grandfather Jasper. Around 1900. In many cases we never know who the people are in photographs such as this one, but with this we know enough to give it a personal dimension.

I wanted to somehow include this in my book, and so for the second part of this poem I envisaged somebody using it as a bookmark, reading a Truman Capote book (I had¬†The Grass Harp in mind) while, in contrast to the whole ‘heading north’ theme, thinking of the south where the author came from and set his stories.

image

On the porch 

she reads Capote.

Turns her face to the south.



Her bookmark is an old photograph

of an old man; a girl; a dog:

'Mary and her grandfather Jasper, around 1900.'

He: sat, stern and saturnine, wearing the dust. 

She: stood, hand lightly on his shoulder,

glaring at the camera,

facing down posterity:

Not yet. Not yet.




The dog is unnamed.

The birdcage in the window, empty.

In the book there are voices on the wind.

Here, just the parched whisper

of turned vellum.

 

Just weeks before¬†Heading North was to be published I went to stay for a few days in Sweden. It being the furthest north I’d ever been I thought it an ideal opportunity to write something as a last minute addition to my collection of poems.

And thus was born Three Poems In Stockholm. 

The first poem came about when I was staying on a boat that served as a hostel and I was woken early by the sound of a foghorn. On looking out of the cabin window I was greeted by the unexpected sight of a Stockholm blanketed by thick fog.

Anchored mists hold down 

the grey waters

of Saltsjön.



The mournful baritone

of a foghorn

splinters the hull,

grinds the bones,

raises us up

from our slumbering 

wooden berth,



to climb high above

the city's fitful dreams.

 

I got dressed and went for a walk. Wandering around there was hardly anyone else around: it was a Sunday morning and the shops were still closed, even in this capital city.

I found myself on an empty street, myopic in the cataract effect of the fog. Suddenly a girl came into sight. Perhaps in her twenties, she wore a bright chequered dress, and beneath her arm she carried around half a dozen sunflowers.

The contrast between her and her surroundings struck me, and I immediately knew that this encounter would feature in the poem I was writing.

In Södermalm,

shining in a multicoloured,

chequered dress,

a girl breezes along with an armful

of sunflowers,

creating a fissure of brightness

in the milky gloom,

ploughing a passage of light

right through to 

the warm facades of Gamla Stan.

Blind to all else,

we follow her down.





 

Although another two Stockholm based poems followed, this is the one that reminds most of my time there. It was that image I can still see now: within a fog-bound scene a flame-haired girl in a bright dress, clutching yellow sunflowers. A centre of colour in a colourless landscape. It was like a painting.

Of course if I’d have approached her and said I was going to write a poem about her I could have been hit with a restraining order or something much more painful.

So somewhere out there, probably still in Stockholm, there is a girl who inspired a poet and is immortalised in a poem that featured in a book.

And she will never know.

I don’t know about you guys, but I think that’s kinda sad.

 

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https://www.amazon.co.uk/Heading-North-2-Songs/dp/8283310097/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1486389824&sr=8-1&keywords=heading+north

Check This Out: Mythos

Here is an interview I gave to highlight the publication of Mythos, an anthology in which I have two stories featuring. Many thanks to Linda for allowing me to appear on her great blog.

El Space--The Blog of L. Marie

With me on the blog today is the awesome Andy Murray. If you’re a follower of his blog, City Jackdaw, you know that he’s a poet who released a collection of poems called Heading North, published by Nordland in December 2015. We talked about that here on the blog. Now, Andy is here to talk about the short stories he contributed to Mythos, the second volume in the Northlore series, published by Nordland in December 2016. (By the way, Andy contributed a short story and a poem to Folklore, the first volume of the series.) Stick around after the interview to learn how you can get your hands on Mythos.

coverreveal Andy Photo

El Space: Four quick facts about yourself?
Andy: 1. I’m at least six-generation Mancunian. 2. I knew my wife for twenty-six years before we got together. I play the long game. 3. I’m vegetarian. 4…

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