Poetry


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Fourteen³

In October 2015, I began to think it might be fun to write fourteen sonnets every month for fourteen months, starting in the following November. I called the project Fourteen³ - (fourteen lines per sonnet) x (fourteen sonnets per month) x (fourteen months) = 2,744 lines of poetry!

Part of the project was to change the style of sonnet each month, using each style twice. Below are examples of heroic couplet, chiastic (which I invented!), terza rima and Shakespearean sonnets. I also experimented with Petrachans, Spencerians, and Onegin Stanzas, the last of which were used to create a pair of short stories at the heart of the whole sequence.

The themes and styles of the sequence also varied wildly - from the secular to the religious, and the serious to the ridiculous - but fundamentally, the series is about a year (and a bit) in my life in which I went from dabbling in doggerel to taking poetry more seriously, and during which I became a father.

The completed project currently resides here with, hopefully, some books to hit Amazon in the not too distant future. Read 'em while they're free!

Below are some examples from the Fourteen³ series.

SONNET CXXIV - ON GRASS SEED

I scatter seed upon the barren earth,
I cannot now divine which ones have worth,

I simply sow enough that some might grow,
And send some unseen root to depths below,

That some brave shoot might stretch toward the sun,
And at its head an ear of grain be spun,

So when it is by random winds withdrawn
It might take root in someone else’s lawn.

Each month I write myself in fourteen forms,
Distill my idle, sunny days, and storms,

And send them out for random winds to find,
In hope they’ll land in someone else’s mind.

I wonder if some fragment of my art,
Will chance to root in someone else’s heart.

SONNET CXXVII - ON THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS

I lived to see them bleed as they were stoned,
My zealous hate consumed me like a flame,
And by the priests my hatred was condoned:
I went to silence those who bore His name.

But on the road I saw His awesome might,
     I heard His voice and fell upon my face.
          He struck me blind so I might come to see
          The glory of the one who died for me.
     And when His servant came to show me grace,
My sight returned so I could see the light.

So now I’ll walk the road to spread His fame,
For by the great high priest I’ve been atoned.
To all the Earth, I’ll zealously proclaim,
And live to see the God who died enthroned.

SONNET CLXII - ON A MOUSE, WHO IS HAVING A BAD DAY

With apologies to Robert Burns

My best laid mousie plans gang aft agley,
The wee and tim’rous baby beastie screams,
The hopes I had are all in disarray,

For who has any time for future schemes,
When up to here with noise and infant wee?
The past and future are but distant dreams,

And now the present only toucheth me.
The life I thole’s not fit for man or mouse,
With only daimen icker for my tea.

And though I never like to moan and grouse,
As if that weren’t enough to wreck my day,
Some berk just drove his plough right through my house.

          My lovely, sleekit coat is turning grey,
          My best laid mousie plans gang aft agley.

SONNET CLXXXIV - ON THE THINGS NO ONE TELLS YOU ABOUT HAVING A BABY

A year ago, I knew I didn’t know
A thousand things which I would come to learn,
But no one said how fast I’d have to grow,
How totally my life would overturn.

I knew that there’d be times when it was tough,
And how important marriage vows would be,
But no one said, when all was not enough,
How much I’d lean on her, and she on me.

I knew that love for him would fill my heart,
That greater love than this is hard to find,
But no one said that it’s a thing apart:
It’s not just more, it’s of a different kind.

          Perhaps they did, but ‘til I lived this year,
          I did not have the state of mind to hear.


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In Other Words...

In Other Words... is an ongoing project which sprang from a series of poetry displays I created for the school library where I work.

Behind the site on which the school is built, is a little knot of about twenty streets which are all named after poets, so I wanted to create some displays which would explain who these people were, including an example of their poetry. The list of names, however, included poets like Chaucer, Milton and Spenser andI realised that I needed to find a way to enable the children access some of the more difficult language. The solution I came up with was to create 'translations' of these classic poems, not as a replacement but as a road map. My hope is that in reading my versions as 'primers', the originals might be rendered more accessible.

Incidentally, I have found in writing them that I have gained a greater understanding of these poems and how the great poets used poetic techniques, and I highly recommend creating your own 'In Other Words...' poems if you are a student of poetry.

Click here to read the archive of In Other Words... poems.


KINGDOM FOOTPRINTS

I originally wrote this piece for our Arctic Explorers holiday club. The Scripture Union notes introduced the concept of 'kingdom footprints', but we were struggling to communicate this idea to our younger children.

I came up with the first verse as something we could make into a poster to put into team bases and then the rest of the poem just flowed out of that.

 

In every place I put my feet,
With all the people that I meet,
When I show Jesus’ love and care,
I leave a kingdom footprint there.

I leave one when I feed the poor,
Or help the sick to find a cure,
To help me know where I should be,
I use my kingdom eyes to see.

And when I do, I see His face,
In every person, every place,
And when I see it, I can start,
To love them with a kingdom heart.

To love the strong, to love the weak,
Love rich and poor and bold and meek.
When I give all an equal worth,
I’ll see God’s Kingdom come to Earth.

So Jesus make me now complete,
With kingdom heart and eyes and feet,
And lead me now and every day,
Within your kingdom prints, I pray.


The Library

This is a poem I wrote while working in a school library. It is partly aspirational and partly didactic: a combination of what a library ought to be and how library users ought to behave. If you work in a school library, have it with my blessing - you're doing God's work.

 

This is a library.

This is a library where we stop and we look,
This is a library where we choose a book.

Where we can stop to take time to ourselves,
To look at the treasure that’s there on the shelves:
Books which are fat, books which are thin,
Books which can have the whole universe in.

This is a library.

This is a library where magic is true,
This is a library where the old can turn new.

Where there’s knowledge to know and feelings to feel,
And dreams and illusions and things which are real:
You can change who you are, your age or your face,
You can travel through time and explore every place.

This is a library.

This is a library where ideas can run riot,
This is a library where voices are quiet.

Where we’re quiet to think and to wander about,
And wonder about all of the things we find out:
It isn’t a place where we play or make noise,
It’s where our tongues stop, and thoughts are our toys.

This is a library.

This is a library where we help and we share,
This is a library where we’re kind and we care.

Where everyone’s looking for ways they can start
To make things work better, where each plays their part;
We all make a difference, be it big or quite small,
To this wonderful library which belongs to us all.

This is our library.


The Lord's Prayer

This was written for our 2018 holiday club at church, although I'd been looking for a reason to do a poem of the Lord's Prayer for a while. The version presented here as an extra introductory couplet which we didn't use as part of the club. For more information on the Safari Sparks holiday club, click here.

 

When Jesus taught us how we ought to pray,
He gave these special words for us to say:

Our father God, in heaven that's above,
Your holy name we set apart to love;
So build your kingdom here, that we might know
And see your will be done on Earth below;
We pray you'd give us everything we need,
From holy word to bread on which we feed;
Forgive the ways we've sinned, in act or thought,
As we forgive all others, as you taught;
And let us not be led in wicked ways,
But keep us safe from evil all our days;
For your eternal kingdom reigns secure,
Your power and glory last forevermore.


THE MONARCH OF THE HUNT

I follow the brilliant @microSFF account on Twitter which publishes tweet length Sci-Fi and Fantasy stories. One time they posted this...

...and because my brain is particularly wired into such things, I noticed that the first sentence formed two lines of iambic tetrameter (assuming you pronounce the 'ed' in 'gloved' as a separate syllable). Using this as a springboard, I set the rest of the tweet into the same meter and the result was a pretty satisfying twelve lines of poetry.

 

The knights and ladies rode to hunt,
Their cats astride their glovèd hands,
They were released to seek their prey,
Across the golden hunting lands.

Then one returned with rat or mouse,
Another with a newt or frog,
While others simply curled and slept,
In shady spots upon a log.

Whichever cat seemed most content,
On cushioned seat was borne in front;
And so, their owner was declared,
The noble monarch of the hunt.


Short Children's Poetry

A Poem For Jack

I wrote this one day while working in a primary school library. A boy named Jack was writing a train poem and so I wrote one too, a) For solidarity; b) To amuse him; c) Because I obviously didn't have much else I either needed or wanted to do.

 

Click clack,
Click clack,
The train is rolling
Down the track.

Hiss hiss,
Hiss hiss,
Going so fast
It’s easy to miss.

Woo woo
Woo woo
The driver blows
The whistle at you.

“Train departing
Platform one...”
The doors are closing,
Then it’s gone.

LUNCH

This disgusting piece of nonsense came to me while I was trying to get to sleep one night and wouldn't go away until I wrote it down. I had to suffer with it; now you have to as well!

 

A thing I'd really rather not:
To drink a pint of slimy snot.

A thing I do not want to do:
To eat a sandwich packed with poo.

A thing that I'd not like to see:
My teapot filled with week-old wee.

A thing that I'd not like to lick:
A lolly made from frozen sick.

And here's the thing: I have a hunch
This poem's put me off my lunch.

Try, Try Again

The Premier League, of all institutions, has a campaign to improve literacy in schools. Part of this was a poetry competition based on the a poem called 'Try, Try Again' which challenged children to write a poem based on the titular phrase. One of the classes at school was taking part, so I decided to have a go.

 

Today, I fell:
Run down, defeated, discouraged and dismayed,
Yet unbroken, unafraid.

Tomorrow, I shall take my feet:
Rejecting all ‘You Can’t’s as lies;
Yearningly, I’ll stretch toward the skies.

And ever more, I rise and rise again:
Gaining height, I strive towards the sun.
All my setbacks give me strength:
I shall rejoice in my failures. They are
Nourishment for each success I’ve won.

Nursery Rhymes

These short verses were all things I wrote just after my son was born. They were mostly improvised little songs I made up to sing him, but I imagine that's how most of the traditional nursery rhymes were written too.

Fly Away Home

Fly away, fly away, fly away home,
No matter how far or how fast you may roam,
Carry love with you so you’re not alone.
And fly away, fly away, fly away home.

Baby, Baby, What Do You See?

Baby, baby,
What do you see?
What do you see
   when you're looking at me?

Do you see I love you so?
And that I'll never let you go?

Baby, baby,
What do you see?
What do you see
   when you're looking at me?

Standing Man

Standing man,
Standing tall,
Standing high above it all.

Standing man,
Standing strong,
See your shadow stretch out long.

Standing man,
Standing proud,
Raise your voice and shout out loud.

Standing man,
Standing tall,
Standing high above it all.

Baby's Hat

Mummy‘s got a hat, Daddy’s got a hat,
Baby's got a hat but he won't wear that!
Baby won't wear his new blue hat,
Baby's got a hat but he won't wear that!

Sun shines brightly in baby's eyes,
Baby doesn't like that so baby cries,
But Baby won't wear his new blue hat,
Baby's got a hat but he won't wear that!