Category Archives: Hygge

Hygge Feature 33 # Against the Horror

When I started this feature my aim was to let poetry shine some light into the darkest time of year. 2016 was a very difficult year on the world stage. We are all aware of the results of two very important votes which rocked the fabric of society as we know it. The sense of hopelessness has been hard to cope with. Protests and anger have their place become exhausting. Like many people I personally am affected by cold, dark days both physically and mentally. I would like to thank the many poets who submitted poems for the feature, whether I used them or not. I was amazed and very grateful for the interest in this feature which some people have shown. It has been a lot of work to put it together but when people tell me it has helped them, that makes it all worthwhile.

I have been saving this poem by Sally Evans for the last day, because it expresses exactly what I was hoping to do. Sally was attending a Very Peculiar Burns Supper. organised by Ian Maxtone. Surrounded by friends, sharing poems, in difficult times – that is the notion of hygge I have been working with.

My own poem  shared below, is a fairly recent one, which was first published on I am not a Silent Poet. I too was sharing a meal with poetry friends, but it was a different kind of anniversary, one of war and death. It reflects on Brexit and Trump, and has no answers. Art provokes questions. And sometimes all we can do is hunker down with our tribe and practise a little kindness.

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Photo of Sally Evans by Sweet Pea photography

 

“I don’t want to read a poem”

I don’t want to read a poem
for the simple reason I don’t want to write one.
I want to sit quietly watching
this part of the world go by
because it is hygge and simpatico,
complex words I have collected
for a warm presence of people
in a room that does its best
against the winter, against the horror
we have mostly experienced
in the past weeks,
the political maelstrom
that all deplore except those
who run with it,
crying Amen to decisions
we cannot countenance.

I want to sit among cheerful friends
looking across the tables
at broken crackers and candles,
tumblers with orange juice,
and the rich coffee we have ordered
but has not yet come –
writing away in a notebook
someone has actually given me –
they are these sorts of friends –
writers and those who understand them,
protesters and analysts,
recorders and accepters,
while windows onto the darkened winter trees
are ranged round the room between paintings,
bold coloured, abstract posters,
brightening this troubled time,
consoling the old, encouraging the young
and holding its own, this room
in a world of fascism and illiberalism
out of tune with our writing,
a world neither the old nor young
expected or deserved.

I have written so many poems
and this is where it brought us
so I do not want to read a poem
but to sit here and be content.

 

Sally Evans

 

 

Remembrance Day 2016

The train manager requests two minutes silence
as benevolent morning sun touches
middle England’s fields with gilt
while across the Channel, the Somme’s
sweet rolling hills are healing over
despite zig-zag trenches and craters
where paper poppies decay and fall
like blood-stained confetti.

Leonard Cohen has sung his last gravelly elegy,
so long Marianne and all the rest of us.
Obama leaves the White House,
Britain turns its back on the EU.
What vultures are hovering we do not know.
Over Mexican food three poets
talk passionately of politics, uneasy isms.
The papers continue to report things we cannot stomach.

 

Angela Topping

 

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Hygge Feature #31 Ritual

There is comfort in a special way of doing things, even, or perhaps especially, a quotidian task like making tea. Both of these poems are about relationships with female family members and passing things on, whether objects or wisdom or memories.

 

Ritual

No silver spoon, Grandma Connelly dispenses
with a practised eye; upends a quarter pound of loose leaf,
stokes the teapot’s fire-cracked belly, silences the kettle,
scalds the dried black heap, then stirs.

Her tincture eddies, adds a further burnt sienna lining
to the elephantine Betty.  Left to mash in a hand-knit cosy,
brown spout raised, this worker signs our Sunday afternoon
in paisley swirls of aromatic steam

then genuflects to each in turn as Grandma pours
her benediction on the mismatched china. I serve
the bottled milk and sugar cubes, take up the offertory
in tea cards – my Brooke Bonds.

Super Strength, this stand-your-spoon-up-in-it brew
has muscles; vulgari-tea, my mother calls it.  Still, we sip
its tannin, bitter through the Tate & Lyle scree.
I swallow my displeasure at the unstrained leaves.

Tea cups drained, returned to their saucers, Grandma swoops,
swills the dregs, reserves the residue, peers
into our far futures.  As she ruminates
I wonder when she’ll teach me housewives’ runes.

Jayne Stanton

Previously published in pamphlet, Beyond the Tune (Soundswrite Press 2014)

 

TRACES OF TIME

The watch was old
it had counted the lives of three women

had seemed their cycles
of joy and sadness.

On my grandmother’s Edwardian ruffles
it timed tiny stitches

as she crafted her boy’s suits
her girl’s intricate dresses’s.

sitting by her husband by the open fire.

My mother, her orphaned daughter
wore it pinned to her suit

for a wartime wedding
in a strange country,

when hymns were conducted
by spiraling arcs of Spitfires,

given to me
I tied it to my wedding dress

the face turned  revealing a disk
of silver, tiny chiseled flowers,

links of gold string so small
only a caught hair reveals them.

Now it lies with its chain curled
like two bodies folded together

in my daughter’s white bag
that I hold for her

as she walks toward
the man who waits at the altar.

Carolyn O’Connell

First published in Timelines (Indigo Dreams )
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Photo by Angela Topping

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Hygge Feature #29 Grandparents lost

Following on from yesterday’s post about grandparents, here are two of my own poems about my maternal grandparents. I never met them because they both died of cancer long before I was born, nursed tenderly by my mum. But I was told many beautiful stories about them, and they lived for me through those stories. I even felt my grandmother wished me into being, because mum told me she was watching my big sister playing with the handles of the dressing table, pre-school age, and from her sick bed she said to my mum ‘have another little girl, because little girls are lovely’. My mum was an only child. Her parents longed for a houseful of kids, but they only had the one. This photo is of my mum as a little girl, with her parents. Her father was Peter Coyne, her mother Margaret (known by some as Annie, nee Lawler)

If your children never met your parents, as mine never did, at least give them stories and show them photographs. Thankfully, for me the cycle of loss is broken and I have my delightful granddaughter.

 

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Granny Coyne

My granny’s a whispering woman,
her stories follow me down the hall;
hang, half-told, in the corners of the kitchen
above a tut-tut of metal knitting pins.

My granny’s a soothing woman,
smoother of brows with a cool palm;
polisher of brasses; igniter of fires;
she picks up babies before they cry.

My granny’s a loving woman,
shoes clucking on tiles when I call.
her eyes laugh at me in photographs.
She’d have loved you, my mother says.

Little Dishwasher

You wanted a houseful of children,
sons. When your only daughter
made a polite appearance, you said
a little dishwasher. You didn’t mean
any disrespect; a boy would have
carried the family name, been a modest
pride for you. Through two world wars –
you serious in your uniform, did
the thought of her sustain you?

And when you lay dying, cancer
robbing you of all your fight,
you said to her as she washed you
how glad I am of my little dishwasher.
She who could shape a story
gave me this memory, a gift passed down
like a brassoed medal, to me,
your granddaughter, the one you never met.

Angela Topping

Both poems appeared in Letting Go (Mother’s Milk Books 2013)

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Hygge Feature #28: Grandparents

In 2016, I became a grandmother for the first time. My darling mum and dad didn’t live long enough to meet my children, nor did I ever meet my maternal grandparents, and only one of my paternal ones. I am so thankful that at 62, I am still young enough to relish being a grandma and that my gorgeous granddaughter not only has 4 doting grandparents, but three great-grandmothers as well. That relationship with grandparents is so important to a growing child. Grandparents are a physical embodiment of hygge, as we have already seen in this blog feature. Sarah Dixon shares her grandparents with us in these two recipe poems and a photograph.

How to build a Nanna

Take a lavender smile
laced with floral cachous.

Add Accolade cream,
a dusting of face powder.

Spray the wrists sparingly
with White Linen.

Add natural tights
and an excellent taste in scarves.

Stir in the promise
of banana and sugar sandwiches,

and the gentle threat
of no biscuit at tea-time.

How to build a Pop

Take a smile constructed
from cardboard TVs

Add hair as errant
as waves.

A stilton craving
as veined as thin skin.

The polished scent
of carpet boules.

Then oil with emotion
he will never show.

 
Sarah Dixon

 

hygge

 

 

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Hygge Feature #25 Pondering

When spending time in the hyggekrog, it’s easy to wander into a reverie. Today’s poems are gently philosophical, relaxing and meditative. Enjoy, then dream your own dreams, focus on the breath and let your mind drift. Here’s another beautiful photo haiku from Marion Clarke:

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Candle Breath

 

Who’d

have

thought

the

capillary

actions

in

my

lungs,

are

the

same

as

a

cord

loosely

woven

draws

up

fuel

to

flame

a

candlewick.

Johanna Boal

GIVEN
This branch to which I take
the running chain
 
is dead in that one sense
we cling to stubbornly,
 
believing stasis, dehydration
mark the loss of life;
 
dead the way no beech or ash
can ever be
 
set moving by the winds
that brought this limb to earth,
 
that aired it for a year
and made it ready for the saw
 
to section it,
the axe to split it into twins
 
whose life is kindled once again
in winter grates
 
that spark, spring into being,
wrest it back in flame,
 
and grow it, given
earth and ashes, given time.
.
Brian Johnstone
(First published on ‘Clear Poetry’ website)

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Hygge Feature #24 The Pleasures of Music

Making music together is an important part of Hygge, because it’s all about losing oneself in the music and become part of something bigger. This warm, cosy photo of poet Fred Johnston at a music session with friends sums it all up for me. The photo was taken by Mary Ellen Fean. Each musician is intent on their playing and everyday troubles can be forgotten for a moment. These three beautiful poems by Vivien Jones go so well with this photograph.

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A New Viol

 These days, used to instruments
swinging on the washing line,
the village approves our eccentricity.
‘The house with the instruments’
is what they call us.

The viols spin slowly in a sea breeze,
absorbing ultra violet light,
layers of skin thin varnish, hardening.

Today you brought another one.

How I love yew,
and laburnum
and ripple sycamore,
burnished,
not toffee glossy,
but satin-sheened like
the inside skin of your thighs.

You hand me a bow,
six stretched gut strings waiting.
What sound is like that ?
Near human, piercing the heart,
Wood, sheep’s gut and horse hair,
touching our souls.

               
                      
 
Hour Glass Rapture

She stands, little harpsichord hands round
a bundle of harpsichord books,
head slightly cocked,
eyes locked on a bow
coaxing sound from a string.
A five hundred year old tune
warms her body to syrup,
she pours herself onto a seat and sighs.

He squints at a 1960s screen,
(The Shads, swinging their stiff English hips,
the voice of a Fender, a thrill in the heart,
the shock of good vibrations)
an undersized schoolboy’s rapture
ignited in respectable surroundings,
in deep love forever.

‘May I…?’ She asks, reaching out,
‘Sorry for the shortness of my skirt’
Astride the viol, she plucks the strings,
whispering their tuning, unfamiliar.
He hands her a bow, underhand grip;
not knowing how, she makes her move ;
the gut string sings.

He trains to make, he teaches, he plays,
he grows and flows through folk and blues,
everyday music every day.
Sunday morning, 1970s,
two minutes of radio
carves out a cave in his repertoire.
David Munrow versus Little Feat
He cobbles a viol.

Tallis’ Canon ; one faltering finger
fighting a mind that knows Bach.
‘Again, again.’ She is hard on herself,
not forgiving a broken sequence.
Slowly, a sound comes that closes her eyes,
when the harmony starts, she weeps.
Mean tone, mean seduction.

Voicing a Viol

My woods are sycamore, laburnum and box.
My strings are sheep gut, plain or barley twist.
On my belly rises my curving bridge
over which my six strings stretch
My pegs pierce their tapered box like offset arrows.
The bow –
which is apart, is horse-tail and beech.

My neck nestles hers, my scroll examines her ear.
I fit snugly (as he does) between her legs –
I lie back on her shoulder ( as he does) :
In her embrace I am weightless (as he is).

Does she touch him, as she does me,
with infinite tenderness ?
Does he sing out too ?

 

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Hygge Feature #23 Promises of Spring

In January one can start planning outdoor projects with a sense of them becoming possible soon. Small signs of new growth delight us. There’s talk of what to grow in the allotment as we note bulbs pushing through, though there is still a chance of snow and frost.  We also fondly remember previous springs.

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Photo: Snowdrops in Daresbury, by Angela Topping

 

First Earlies

Cold metal freezes the fingers
grasping for the smooth
wooden handle’s safety.
Compost, nurtured and transformed
from last year’s waste,
trickles from the silver spade
into the trench bottom.

Potatoes sprutted, in the warmth
of the greenhouse, ready
for the burial routine of spring.

Carefully positioned,
spruts downward,
to aid their search for food.
A compost blanket,
delicately sprinkled on top
and a prayer, softly spoken,
for a prosperous harvest
in the sunshine of
summer days ahead.

 

 
Sharon Fishwick

 

 

Helmsley Silver Birch

Arboreal ballerina,

pirouetting confetti,

assumes first position

in an old English churchyard.

 

Harry Gallagher

 

KILLINS LANE 

High banks
along this very old lane.
Trees with ivied feet,
fingers just touching.

Oh that you would talk to me.
Yes a library has knowledge,
but it is the stars
that know your secrets.

Maureen Weldon

 

Published by Coffee House Poetry magazine

Included in her pamphlet Midnight Robin, published by Poetry Space Ltd.

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Hygge Feature #22 Pregnancy

What could be more appropriate to hygge than the womb? It’s surely the hyggekrog we all wish subliminally to return to, where we were warm and cosy, could dream our own dreams while hearing the sound of the world through a soft wall, with all our food delivered.

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Soon Song
for Ethan

I’m joy-struck, dumb,
not numb, wee bun.
I couldn’t be fonder of you,
wandering sun of her
humming circumference,
drumming the tum of her,
more than the sum
of her and him.

Wee dove, wee chicken,
wee bun in the oven,
they haven’t a clue,
in the world how you
will sing them a song
that they never knew,
that they never sang
till they sing it to you.

O, you’ll have the run
of them soon, wee bun,
soon, when they cling to you,
drink in the skin of you,
soon, when you come,
wee bun, come new to them,
come to them soon,
wee bun, new kin to them.

Linda Goulden

First published in Magma 58 March 2014

 

Describing to my daughter how it feels when her baby quickens

Over and over, you ask yourself if
that’s it, or that …?
a feather might’ve touched you
but perhaps it was a digestive juice…
It feels like your imagination at work
but maybe it’s an intelligence …
Is it something you’ve swallowed?
Or are you just feeling nervous?
From inside a finger is stroking you
or a toe is reaching out to you
filling its universe of your interior space –
already a future tense has begun,
so close to your heart
you know its beat is being heard  –
your insides, your bones and sinews
are containing a presence,
so closely enwrapped together
but not yet feeling like touch.

Rebecca Gethin

 

Ultrasound
We were spies on her world –
her safe house of skin. She
was etched in silver: moving, human.

She swam in a booming cave,
fathoms down. Heavy rope mooring her.
Round face, round eyes, ooh of mouth.

Gingerbread baby, currant eyes.
At home, I twist wool around needles,
craft garments, every stitch a wish.

Angela Topping

First published in Dandelions for Mothers’ Day (Stride 1988) and reprinted in Letting Go (Mother’s Milk Books)

 

A note on today’s artwork: The artist’s website is here: https://marijasmits.wordpress.com/

This picture is one of several made into cards and on sale at http://www.mothersmilkbooks.com/index.php/shop

The Mother’s Milk Books poetry and prose competition closes today (31st January 2017) and the entry fee is a purchase from the website.

 

 

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Hygge Feature #21 Responding to Art

Art in itself might not feel very hyggelig (the adjective for hygge, which is a noun), because it is often viewed in galleries, which are not homely. However, it is the way we respond to art, the emotions it can give us, when we look at it, that can give us that warm happy feeling. . These two poems express that notion very beautifully.

THE ART THIEF

Some night, when I’m marooned in Scarborough,
and dusk falls early, and the town
shows hardly any sign of life, because
the year is on the ebb, tourists long gone –
only chilled foam lashes the promenade,
only the sea, withdrawing, can be heard –
I’d go to one particular old house
whose door would magically open,
walk through the dim rooms with my torch,
ignore the hallmarked silver,
go to the fireplace, where it’s hung
for eighty years, and steal the Atkinson Grimshaw –
you won’t know him – the half-forgotten painter
of moonlight, clouds, dark water.
The view is complete.
A port, the moon, ships sunk in profound sleep.
This picture wouldn’t be wired; it would
come off the wall quite easily.
And then I’d hug it under
my coat, sneak home, leaving the north of England
without its greatest treasure.
In my dreams, the theft always ends quite happily.

Merryn Williams

 

 

 

 

On Looking at Monet’s Water Lilies

Fading sight bade him search
behind human vision
for impressions of changing time,
dawn and eve, noon and night. A diffusion
of green, blue and lilac in the air –
leafy pads in violet, viridian, blended soft
in madder lake. The endlessness of water,
sky, light, their reflections above
and beneath. No definition of where
a horizon should begin or end,
nor where you should stand to view it.
A capturing of shifting qualities,
A feeling of growth –
the permutation of elements
in front of, and behind
The mind’s eye.

 

Jane Burn

 

 

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Photo of a mixed media collage of a thrush, by Angela Topping

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Hygge Feature #20 Shared Meals

Food tastes better when it’s eaten with friends. A shared supper, where people bring contributions, always seems to result in a groaning table laden with goodies. Dinner parties are decidedly NOT hygge, because they are too formal and set up to impress. Hygge meals are different. When extra chairs have to be brought from other rooms, when crockery is mismatched, when it’s all about the company and there’s lots of laughter, when the food is simple: that’s when a meal is hygge.

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Photo by Joan Leotta

Around the Round Oak Table

 
Around the round oak table
Revolves our nightly show.
No matter how fast the daily grind
Over dinner, we take it slow.

No masks at this venue.
Entertainment for all.
Set the table,
Pour the water,
Serve the food
Pray
Let’s Eat!
Curtain’s up!
Dinnertime!

Equal billing to food and talk
Freely passed round the table

Pasta, salad, meat fill  plates as we
dish the day’s events,
hopes,  highs, lows.
a cacophony of topics–
Simpsons… Buffy…
Death penalty… test scores…
George Washington and golf!

By the time  plates are empty, hearts are full.
Long after the sweetness of dessert is a memory,
Words continue to be served up in hearty portions
Conversation’s everyone’s favorite course at the round oak table.

 
In Eliot’s rooms “ the women come and go
Talking of Michaelangleo”
Around the round oak table, love is spoken—loudly, and by all.

By Joan Leotta

Previously published: Fragrance, a British Journal , Spring 2014

Malawi Bling

Evening meal shared, sun bled beyond the horizon,
the stone threshold step draws you to the shuttered night.

One poor candle emits yellow light. The darkness soaks this up
leaves you sightless and as off balance as a one-year-old.

Several hands guide you. The air fills with giggles and hyena cackle.
Under Paul Simon’s African skies you squint as the space grows

falls into your whiteness, close enough to touch,
a blur of radiance, a liberation. You know not what is below your feet

above a banished moon, the inky black a backdrop
to silver fury and smoky glow. Flighty besom, stretch out forever

parallel to the heavens, counting stars, drawing constellations,
walking on your back drunken with possibilities. You long for a star bed

Maggie Mackay

 

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