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!)

 

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?

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.

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.

What I’m Up To Wednesday: the BIPs

Oh, dear. Six months since I last blogged. What on earth have I been up to?

Well, since January, I have been writing full time for the first time ever. I haven’t booked any new appearances or visits since the beginning of 2018. I’ve even turned down my favourite, regular gigs (I miss you guys! Please ask me again next year!)  

So if I’ve been writing full time – why haven’t I been writing this blog?

What happened was that, after quite a bit of playing with ideas and sending things off and chatting to publishers at events like CRT,  three Big Important Projects (BIPs) came along at once, like buses. Most of the details of these are still cloaked in secrecy right now, (though if you follow this blog, I do intend to do a gradual reveal as each one gets closer to publication) but I can tell you that they consist of three books, two for children and one for adults, that none of them are due to appear until next year, and that one of them is nearly complete and has reached the headaches, coffee and editing stage.

At the same time as what I’ve started referring to as my ‘year of three books’, I’ve been doing smaller bits of writing too: I’ve penned a sonnet series to commemorate the centenary of the Armistice, which you’ll hear more about in the Autumn, I’ve done a few small bits and pieces for Area 52, and I’ve been busy editing the new ACW Christmas anthology, which will be appearing this summer. Oh, and I’ve entered two poetry competitions – fingers crossed!

I’ve told a few  people about my three BIPs (hey, that could also stand for Books In Process). The ones who were writers laughed at me (fair enough) and the others said, “I don’t know where you find the time!”

And I said, “If you saw my house, you’d understand”.  

Seriously, I’m not doing anything else. Not performance work, not housework, not reading if it doesn’t count as research, not having a social life (that’s nothing new) and not blogging. But I intend to rectify at least that last one.

So I’m sorry I’ve been a silent recluse, but stick with me, because things are about to get wild around here, and you don’t want to miss it.

Poetry Mondays: A Good Book

Last week has been full of Bible storytelling, which has included reading, writing, performing and watching some really creative takes on Bible stories.  On Saturday 7th, I was in London for an ACW event, hearing Glen Scrivener talking about telling God’s story; yesterday I had another opportunity to watch the great Bob Hartman at work; in between, I met up with other creatives working on retellings and resources for the lectionary in Area 52.  That’s why this poem has come to the front of my mind.  It’s a performance poem I often use at the end of a training event, just to remind everyone how full of great stories the Bible really is.  See how many stories you can count and recognise!

A Good Book

What other book has
Wise men, starlight,
Sheep, a baby,
A cruel king, a great escape?
Some books, maybe.

What other book has
A donkey’s jawbone
A cockerel’s crow
A lions’ den, and two she-bears?
No book I know.

What other book has
A finger writing,
Dry bones walking,
Bushes burning,
A donkey talking,
A cloudy pillar,
A river of blood,
A wrestling angel,
An epic flood,
A still, small voice,
A beauty queen
And – toilet humour?
No book I’ve seen.

What other book has
God among us
Death and sadness
Resurrection
Joy and gladness
A heavenly Father,
Risen glory,
Life for ever​​
All a true story?

It doesn’t matter how far you look –
There’s only one.
Now that’s a Good Book.

Poetry Mondays: Why doesn’t prayer work on sleepless children?

I think it’s time to bring one of my most-shared poems to a new home on this page.  I wrote it in 2012 when most of my nights consisted of pacing the floor with my baby son, punctuated by replacing my three year old in her bed.  With both of them, I often resorted to sitting on the floor next to them and singing hymns – the only songs for which my tired brain was able to dredge up all the words.  That’s probably when I came up with this.

Thankfully they both sleep a lot better now, but this modern mothers’ psalm seems to have struck a chord with lots of others.  For me, the very last line is still just as heartfelt.

Why doesn’t prayer work on sleepless children?

God, why doesn’t prayer work on sleepless children?
I mean, considering your flair with wine and water
your feeding of the five thousand
and the way you have raising the dead down to a T
I would have thought that settling this screaming baby would be relatively easy.

So why doesn’t prayer work on sleepless children?
Because it really, really doesn’t (I’ve tried over and over)
and although I’ve known prayer to work on sickness,
impossible tasks,
broken down vehicles
the weather
and lost property,
it never, never works on screaming sleepless babies.

Is it, Lord, because you were once a screaming, sleepless baby yourself?
Do you sympathise?
Do you remember what it’s like to need something,
and not know what it is,
and not have any words for it
only tears?

I suppose this baby is praying too,
crying out to you in the only way he knows,
and you have answered his prayer.
You have given him me.
And you have equipped me for the task:
you have given me a body that can nurture him,
arms that can hold and rock him
a voice to sing to him
a scent that comforts him
and a heart that loves him
even at 3am
even though he is screaming and snotty
and that teaches me about the way in which you love me
which, in turn, leads me to tell other people about the way in which you love them.

In fact, this baby is your evangelist
your teacher and preacher
your intercessor
for me, at 3am

which perhaps is why prayer doesn’t work on sleepless babies.
I suppose I should be thankful for that.

(But, God, if prayer can’t work on sleepless children,
Please could it work on laundry instead?)

Amen.