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Poetry Mondays: See

While putting the finishing touches to my own 2019 Advent book, it has been a joy to pick up my copy of Malcolm Guite’s wonderful Waiting on the Word and begin again the daily readings of poetry, elucidated by the thoughts of a great poet.

The first few poems in the book have to do with looking; in particular George Herbert’s The Glance and Christina Rossetti’s beautiful Advent Sunday, with its chiastic structure full of reflected looks, mirrors and eyes.

This reminded me of the following poem that I wrote a few years ago (one from the Drawn From Words booklet) which seems especially appropriate, given that the working title of the book I’m completing at the moment is Image of the Invisible.

See

Now we see only
through a prism, and dimly:
one day, face to face.

Prisms fracture light.
One true beam is divided
into slits and stripes

diverse directions
turning and intersecting
broken in spectrum.

In this web of light
image of the hidden God
catch me in your truth.

Poetry Monday: Armistice Sonnets

All four of the sonnets I wrote for the centenary of the end of World War 1 have now been filmed, and here they are in order. They also exist as a single video on YouTube.

You are welcome to show the videos in churches and at any event commemorating the armistice. If you would like the full text to read yourself, you can get it by joining my mailing list by clicking here.

 

Armistice Sonnet I: Sacrifice

I know it isn’t Monday, but there’s a bit of poetry on the blog today because, as you may have noticed from the change of name, I’m doing a new thing. Do watch the video, but don’t forget to read on below!

We filmed this in Thorpe Morieux church, and I’m grateful to Steve Day for his beautiful photograph of the East window there which we used for the final shot.

Yes, the observant reader may have noticed that my blog URL has changed. We’re now at amyscottrobinson.com, no longer a fiddly WordPress address involving ‘AmyStoryteller’.

My new, grown-up author name, Amy Scott Robinson, brings together the three very different books I’ve been writing this year, my storytelling and performance background and my poetry too. There will be more about all of that on this blog, but also in a brand new shiny newsletter that will go out to my mailing list and will include otherwise-unseen pieces of writing, special offers when books start appearing, and a summary of news and my scribblings from wherever they’ve appeared online. I’ll be sending these updates no more than once a week. Let’s face it, it will probably be less than once a week.

Anyway, if you sign up this month, you will receive a PDF of four sonnets which I was asked to write for the centenary of the end of the first world war, 11th November 1918. These will be performed in one of our churches here (Hitcham) on the 11th, but I’m also going to be releasing videos of each sonnet over the month of October for others to use, if they wish, as part of their own events. The above video is the first one.

Signing up to the newsletter is different to following this blog by e-mail, which only updates you when I post here. If you’d like to sign up, click this link and put your details in. You’ll get an e-mail with the PDF of this and the other three sonnets.

 

Poetry Mondays: Golden Wedding

It’s the season of wedding anniversaries! Ours today, which we share with several friends, and many more to celebrate over the summer.

We’re only at Lace (13 years) and very grateful for every year. I love celebrating with people who have reached the Silver, Ruby, Gold and Diamond milestones. Here’s a poem I wrote as a gift for the golden wedding of a fellow writer and her husband; it’s a sonnet in the style of John Donne.

I see myself reflected in your eyes,
and in my gaze, I know you are reflected
and so with every glance, the image flies
from each to each, and thus we are connected.
In every look, our miniatures are given
in fair exchange, until we both possess
a thousand pictures, paired and interwoven,
shared and cherished for our happiness.
And if we ever should, one day, grow old –
absurd and far-off though that day may be –
well then, our images shall turn to gold
as Autumn’s smiling gaze transforms a tree.

(Forgive these strange conceits.  It’s sometimes fun
to go all metaphysical like Donne.)

 

(Postscript: apparently the appropriate gift for a 46th anniversary is poetry. I’ll be keeping my eye out for that one!)

 

What I’m Up To Wednesday: How do you defeat your dragons?

On Saturday I took a break from my intense writing schedule and visited Norton and then Caldecote with some new stories.

In Caldecote, the theme was  ‘How do you defeat your dragons?’ and the storytelling tent was set out with some fantastic talking points, story excerpts and even a seven-headed dragon chalkboard for people to add their real-life dragons and how they can be beaten.

Louisa Freya is becoming an old favourite now, but I was also able to tell Thakane for the first time. This tale of the Bosotho people features in the book of folktales I’ve been writing, and is great fun to tell with lots of repetition and a rhythmic song. Between Louisa Freya’s seven-headed dragon, Thakane’s glow-in-the-dark dragon and the monster Zoblak, we came up with all sorts of ways to defeat our toothy adversaries.

I also had the chance to read a couple of stories from the new book, and to sign some copies of The First King Of England.

Now it’s back to the desk to finish the first draft of Very Important Project number two in my year of three books, preferably before the children finish school for the summer. Will I make it? Keep following me here to find out!

Poetry Mondays: fun with first lines

As part of the writers’ retreat at Scargill, some of us got together to have a mini workshop, using lines from Brian Bilston’s very funny Index of First Lines to create our own poems.

This was my attempt. Why not click on the link above to see the original poem (and hilarious ensuing thread) on Twitter, and then have a go yourself?

Page 19 of a nonexistent book

Whither the hair tongs? I have seen them not,
and whence this irritating coffee pot
without its lid? Wherefore that single sock?
Wherewith this hand towel, whereunto this clock?
What has befallen this bedraggled blouse?
Why did we ever think of moving house?

What I’m Up To Wednesdays: Scargill House

I’m cutting it fine, but it’s still just about Wednesday, so time for a quick update! I spent the weekend on writers’ retreat at Scargill House in Yorkshire.

Retreat: (re-treat) to treat one’s self again. This was, I think, my fifth time at the ACW writers’ weekend – I’m losing count.

I tell a bedtime story to the group on both evenings of the weekend, but usually I get to relax for the rest of the programme. This time, however, Adrian Plass interviewed me about folktales as part of the Saturday morning sessions. It went by in a bit of a blur and I hope I said a few things that made sense: I do remember talking about the history of folktales, Cinderella in particular; whether or not there are only seven plots; and how I’ve chosen and retold the fifteen stories that are going into my new book.

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Storytelling at Scargill. Thanks for the photo, Lucy Mills!

The rest of the far-too-quick time was spent making new friends, talking to old ones, photographing owls, writing some bits and pieces for my book of Advent devotionals, making a small clay pot and enjoying the sunshine.

Now that I’m home, fighting Scargill withdrawal symptoms, it’s on with the Advent book – and fuelled by the weekend’s inspiration, I’m spending this week writing about God as creator and artist.

 

Poetry Monday: Path

I’m off to Scargill House in Yorkshire this week, for an annual writers’ retreat led by Adrian and Bridget Plass. This poem was written for them, and the metaphor in it is one they often use: a narrow path of grace between the mountains of law and the swamp of licence.

You can find this poem beautifully illustrated by Sharon Kulesa in Drawn From Words. Along with Mandy Baker Johnson, we put this little book together after a creative Lent challenge in 2016. You can see and buy the book here.

Path

On one side, the path of law, a trail
through thirsty rocks, where all who try shall fail
and lose their lives beneath the glowering eye
of desert sun. That way I surely die.

The other side’s inviting: not so harsh,
but leads to sinking sand and muddy marsh
and haunted castles, entered willingly,
then locked. Who takes that path is never free.

The night comes closer. I must make my choice.
But then, what blessed relief – the shepherd’s voice!
His torch is all that shows me to my place:
this narrow beam, the flickering path of grace.

What I’m Up To Wednesday: Fascinating facts

Welcome to another WIUTW! Yes, that’s two consecutive Wednesdays. Things are looking up.

This week I have mainly been editing my book of folktales about  adventuring girls, which I’m pleased to report has now been sent to the publisher. Of course, this doesn’t mean it’s finished – there will still be further edits, and reviewing illustrations, and proofreading to do – but the bulk of the writing itself is done.

It’s been a fascinating journey, researching not just the folktales themselves, but enough background culture and colour to retell each in an authentic and entertaining way. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve learned what Lent is like in Greece, why the Basotho people wear blankets, and how to joust if you’re smaller than your opponent. I’ve dipped into the volcanology of Java, the history of the Algonquin people and the Confucian ideal of filial piety.

The trouble with doing all that research is that barely any of the interesting facts and figures I discover actually make it into the text of the book. If you were looking for the results of my studies, you could spot them in the backdrop of the stories, but they’re not supposed to stand out. That’s why, at the end of writing this book, I’m a fount of completely useless knowledge, and the only place to deposit it all is in this blog.

For example, did you know that Ahasuerus and Xerxes are exactly the same name, transliterated from Persian into Latin and Greek? You didn’t, did you? And you didn’t particularly want to know that either, did you?

It’s far too easy to get distracted when you need to research and you have the internet, especially with the way that Wikipedia gives you helpful links to other articles. For example, writing a story set by the Nile, I wanted to have a kingfisher flitting into the water. ‘Are there kingfishers by the Nile?’ I wondered. I don’t know what a writer would have done about that before Google, but within a few moments I knew that there are kingfishers by the Nile, but unlike our kingfishers here, they are black and white. They’re called pied kingfishers. Pied_kingfisher_(Ceryle_rudis_leucomelanurus)_femaleIn fact there are 114 different species of kingfisher across the world, and did you know that the laughing kookaburra is a kind of kingfisher?

Ten minutes and a video of a laughing kookaburra later, I decided not to put a kingfisher in the story after all.

Now imagine doing that across fourteen different stories from all over the world, and you’ll have a grasp of the amazing array of fascinating factoids that are currently taking up all the space in my brain. Now would be the moment to claim me for a pub quiz team. On the other hand, if you have any allergies to trivia, you might want to stay away from me for the next few weeks until it all settles down…and I start researching the next book.

 

Poetry Monday: Trees

I’m not sure how this poem is not yet included in my blog, given that it has now appeared in several other places on the internet. Time to put that right.

The poem grew from a remark made by Malcolm Guite on one of his retreat days at Otley hall; I forget the context, but “Trees are a way of thinking” stuck in my mind and became the first line of a poem.

The poem was then found on Facebook by Chris Upton, who set it to music, and I was lucky enough to attend a concert at which it was performed by Seraphim, an excellent all-female ensemble choir. (You can hear it performed here and access the sheet music from this page)

It gained another claim to fame earlier this year when I sent a copy to Dame Judi Dench after watching her beautiful documentary My Passion for Trees. She sent a lovely thank you note in reply, and I’d like to think that she read it (preferably out loud in that famous voice!) and has tucked the sheet music away somewhere.

Here is the poem:

Trees are a way of thinking, for every tree is given
an appetite for earth with an ambition to reach heaven,
a fingerprinted bark to wrap up memories in rings
of a hundred winters fading, followed by a hundred springs.

Trees are a way of praying, for every tree’s a church:
the cathedral of the willow and the steeple of the birch,
the summoning of seasons in the sacrifice of leaves
and stained-glass window winter skies through criss-cross branching eaves.

Trees are a way of hearing, for those with ears to hear,
about the hope locked into seeds, the blessing of the year.
Happy is nature’s poet when he has an eye that sees
for parables of roots and fruits, you can rely on trees.