Poems of marching to war

The Last Full Measure

Towards the field of bloody battle
We march the long straight road
To answer the sabres metallic rattle
Of a godless foe who would goad
Peaceful nations to stand and fight
And sacrifice our blood and treasure
For honour, freedom, peace and right
We will give our last full measure

Pastoral Heaven

Capricious clouds, cherubic white
Gaze through the gossamer light
From the vaulted pale blue sky
Swallows fly high on zephyr’s sigh
As we march ‘tween Gallic leas
Amidst the tall and slender trees
That stand in line, a guard of honour
As pale cattle of content demeanour
In lush and verdant pasture graze.
I look upon all this and dream of days
Of peace that are, God willing nigh
And we will walk this path, you and I

***

Two more poems for my epistolary project. The theme is marching towards the front line . My soldier character has yet to experience the reality of warfare.

Twilight star

Dogs converse in the dimming light.
A blackbird embroiders the dusk
with song, to the background thrum
of sluggardly traffic homeward bound.
A bee on its last shift of the day
flits amongst the flowers as petals fold.
A star takes shape in the horizons haze.
A pulse of light that has travelled
through space for three millennia.

In the twilight I watch and wonder.
When the starlight began its voyage
did Pharaohs walk in the shadows
of the columns of Luxor, while slaves
laboured to build their tombs.

Three thousand years from now
will there be a twilight watcher?
Wondering what triumphs and tragedies
unfolded here on this small planet
when the starlight began its voyage.

 

Birth of a book

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It must be a year now since our book ‘The Pulse of Everything’ was conceived. After a meeting of our writing group I stood in the freezing cold outside the Otley Courthouse Art Centre with a fellow group member, Martin Fuller. We were talking about what to do with the stuff we were writing; how to get it out ‘there’. The suggestion that a group blog should be set up had not proved popular with the members who submitted their work to competitions; works previously published on the internet are not normally accepted by competition organisers. On that cold winter morning, I’m not sure which of us suggested publishing a book, but as a retired designer the idea stirred me; learning about the process of publishing would extend the knowledge of the group beyond just writing.

Once the idea of independently publishing a book was agreed, our group mentor, poet James Nash, set up an editorial team of four: Glenda Brown and Chris Moran, both published poets, John Ellis, a retired English teacher who brought obvious professional skills to the process and me, with no obvious formal qualifications.

The group members were invited to submit the pieces they would like included to the editorial team, a process that took some time; those who worked in longhand had to have their pieces transposed into Microsoft Word. Then, during several afternoon sessions, we sat around Glenda’s dining table and sifted though a pile of poems, fictional works and memoirs. We had to decide what pieces to include and how many to allow each author. We had already decided to give each group member an individual section prefaced with a short biography.

Eventually, we agreed the position of each author in the book and the sequence of their works within each individual’s section. Now we were ready to publish, but we still needed a book title. Numerous ideas were floated and rejected until Chris Moran spotted a phrase in a sonnet by James Nash: The Pulse of Everything.

We considered a number of ‘Indie Publishing’ options. CreateSpace, an Amazon company, seemed the best; it was free and seemed simple to upload the book onto their system. And it is simple, but like anything in life there is a learning curve. For me, it was a steep curve!

One of our group, Alex Williams had experience of publishing children’s books on CreateSpace and so a training session was arranged at Alex’s home; for me to learn how publish the group book and also my own boyhood memoir ‘Memory Spill’ and to help John Ellis publish his crime novel ‘The Mystery of Jingling Pot’.

Enlighten, enthusiastic and slightly apprehensive I started the publishing process. Once I noticed the problem, I changed the laptop settings from metric to imperial measurements (CreateSpace is American), set up a Word document to the recommended margins for a book then started to set out the book. It all looked neat. Very neat. Until I loaded the document onto CreateSpace.

The process is this: You load the Word document then wait while the system converts it into a PDF, a wait that can last 7 or 8 minutes. A clever virtual reality picture of your book appears that you can leaf through to check the alignment of the words on each page. The first time you do this it’s an exciting moment. You start flicking through the pages; page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4 – bugger! The top line has slipped down the page. Back to the Word document where I push the piece up into the page above the reload the document onto CreateSpace, wait 7 or 8 minutes for the virtual reality book to reappear. I flick through the pages. Page 4 is now okay. Flick, flick, flick; page 7 is out of line. Bugger, bugger, bugger. And so I proceeded, laptop on lap, watching TV between endless loading, editing, flicking and blaspheming. An amateur publisher with Tourette’s. My wife, Val was relieved when it was done.

I have since discovered, when loading my memoir onto CreateSpace, that it is a lot easier loading one continuous document. But, I was dealing with multiple pieces of writing of different lengths, and separating the book into individual sections. I also wanted the author’s biographies to face the reader as they progressed through the book, not hidden. I felt also that if a poem ran onto a second page both pages should face each other, that the reader should not have to turn a page unnecessarily. Small design points, but the cause of added complications.

We needed a book cover design. James Nash suggested using images by an artist friend of his, Kevin Hickson. From a number of images we chose a stunning photograph with an upward view through silver birch tree branches. Luckily, my son-in-law Andy Driver, is a graphic and website designer and through his input we have a stunning and exceptionally professional book cover design.

With the cover loaded and the book approved by CreateSpace we were then able to order proofing copies. John Ellis, with his experience as an English teacher, took on the responsibility for proof reading. Quite a few grammatical errors resulted in more loading, editing, flick and swearing while watching X Factor and football matches.

John did more than editing; he had been thinking. At one of our group meetings at Wetherspoons in Otley John leaned across the table.
“I’ve been thinking.”
“Yes?”
“Y’know the blank pages? The blank pages that face the bio pages.”
“What about them?” I said.
“Illustrations.” John said. “Illustrations would look good.”
“Yeah, right.” I said, thinking, bollocks! More evenings of loading, editing and flicking. But, the designer in me liked the idea. I knew John was right.

To fill the pages I invited everyone to email their favourite literary quotes, then looked for royalty free illustrations and images to combine with the quotes. Filling the blank pages was worth the effort and has enhanced the book.

To complete our publishing journey we have a launch evening planned for the 10th March when all the contributing authors will read a selection of works from their section of our book ‘The Pulse of Everything’.

The book is now available from Amazon here.

Beautiful dance of death

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The sun, a pale orb, looks down
as chill winds careen and caper
through the tracery of branches
Thrumming timeless hymns
Nature’s long forgotten songs

Perching on swaying boughs
Funereal crows in mourning clothes
Flap wings black and feathery
trapeze artistes seeking balance
As they cry their discordant chorus

Leaves lose their tenuous grip
And fall, cascade to the ground
To join the multicoloured cavalcade
of prancing harlequins dancing
Across slick grass and uneven slab

I stand silent, listen and watch
This wintry beautiful dance of death

***

Where the ground lies still

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Inside the
thin carapace
of our heads
In our mind’s
dark landscape
Tectonic plates
Our thoughts
Our dreams
Constantly
Shift and move
Colliding
Crushing
the bones
of our souls
Creating
unassailable
cold mountains
Of angst
Of pain
Creating
fault lines full with
the sediment
Of regret
Of sorrow

Is heaven
a place where
the ground
lies still
Where forever
we will
walk in peace

Winter’s last battle

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I am winter
bringer of darkness
and death
Like Bonaparte
I have laid waste
to your lands
Chilled you to
your very souls

You, Spring
bringer of light
and life
Foolishly
you thought I had left
Retreated in defeat
from this never ending
battle of the seasons

You, Spring
began to celebrate
Rolled out floral carpets
to colour the land
Began to unfurl leaves
banners to joyfully wave
Birds sang songs
of victory

I, Winter
have returned
To drain your world
of all colour
Smother your lands
with pale snow
and silence the birds
This is my Waterloo

The caress of Spring

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Spring arrives
The tantalising
slow caress
of a lovers hand
on my body
as I awake from
deep sleep
dark dreams

Spring arrives
The disinterred
dormant plants
seek life
thrust through
winter’s ruins
dead leaves
brittle twigs

Spring arrives
The released
leaves unfurl
blossom
spills colour
to welcome
the warmth
the Sun

Spring arrives
The sunlight
dances on
my face
colour fills
my eyes
birdsong
my ears

As the arc of time passes

 

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As the arc of time passes my given span
And turns relentlessly to the moment
Now I too must soon pay the ferryman

Will I need a holy tome, a Bible or Koran
Or a book of good deeds and sins I repent
As the arc of time passes my given span

Will you meet me, your son, now a man
Recognise me, this time worn remanent
Now I too must soon pay the ferryman

Will we talk of our life shared if you can
Before you were taken, your time spent
As the arc of time passes my given span

Will you ask me how went my life’s plan
Does my book of days tell of joy or lament
Now I too must soon pay the ferryman

Will I tell you that life perdured as it began
Days of light, and shadow, without relent
As the arc of time passes my given span
Now I too must soon pay the ferryman

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++

My writing group project this week is to write a Villanelle. I have never taken much interest in poetry. I had heard of sonnets and blank verse in a general knowledge sort of way, but not a Villanelle. Six months ago, before joining the writing group, I would thought a Villanelle was an ice cream dessert. How my literary world has grown……..