Tag Archives: Angela Topping

Whitby Folk Week Summers

The first time I ever went to Whitby Folk Week, in 2003, the very first artist I ever heard perform was Gordon Tyrrall, in the 3pm concert at the Metropole Ballroom. I was very excited to hear he had set John Clare poems to music. And then he sang this, entitled Song, by Clare, but known by its opening line, Sweet the Pleasures I do Find. The song is to be found in A Midsummer Cushion. It remains one of my favourite songs ever.

Last year I wrote this poem using some of the phrases from it as hooks. Whitby is now a regular feature on my calendar, and I now run the poetry workshops (and have for about 8 years). Being a very small thread in such a rich festival feels wonderful. Already looking forward to seeing the friends I’ve made and welcoming people to my writing poetry sessions. And of course, hearing Gordon Tyrrall again. I wrote a book about John Clare, which is available from Greenwich Exchange publishers.

 

Whitby Folk Week Summers

after John Clare

Sweet the pleasures

Turkish delight ice-cream

Gin and tonic on the balcony

Scented pink roses in damp gardens

 

When every green is fresh with flowers

                        Spice of earth after summer rain

Cut grass on evening air

Walking back from concerts

 

And linnets sing to cheer me

                        Seagulls screaming

Sailing ships in the bay

Fish and chips in Royal Fisheries

 

Heaven to be near thee

                        First sight of the sea from the moor road

Golden hours with special friends

The heather song on the closing night

 

Banished to some barren isle

                        Warm afternoons of sea swimming

The last sweet notes of every concert

Bunch of heather drying on the window sill

 

 

Angela Topping

 

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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 #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 #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 #19 Love Tokens

Following on from yesterday’s post, here are some more precious objects, but this time very personal love tokens, which take on a special significance to the receiver and become  small treasures which bring comfort in dark times of loss and fear.

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There is Only One Now

He’d fashioned two love tokens
and placed them by the bed before he left.
I saw the gleam reflected in those fireballs
as I turned to the morning light, four
tiny globes on the table. I stretched out
to stroke the mercurial forms suspended
on silver lace bobbins, lifting the finials
to my tongue, rotating them gently
in my mouth, lips encasing, caressing
their compressed Jurassic warmth.
Then held the crook, letting them swing,
their slight comforting, consoling.
The combined weight was a gentle pull
on my lobes, the swing reassuring.
I noticed the inky refractions
whenever I lay them in my palms.
In summer the globes swung untrammelled
on their finialled shafts. In cold weather
and muffled against the numbing cold
of a rural parish church concert
I left with shoulders hunched, shuffling
through the congregation to the welcome
night crunch of gravel and smell of privet.
Unmuffling later I searched in vain
for the slight my one lobe missed.

 

Years later I roll the one remaining jet
in my hand and let my lips close again
over dark warmth and cool silver before
once more replacing it in the typesetter’s
shelves alongside other singles.

Faye Joy

 

Jet Heart

He chose me in secret
hoping to please;
To sit in the hollow of her throat,
warm black against the pearl.

When he is not near
her fingers stray
caressing me, drawing comfort
from the smoothness of my skin.

Once a chunk of Whitby jet –
I’ve become her amulet.

Angela Topping

first published in Dandelions for Mothers’ Day (Stride 1988)

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Hygge Feature #16 hyggekrog

A hyggekrog is a small nook where one can feel safe. Maybe a window seat or a cosy reading corner, an inglenook fireplace or a small room. My study at home, for example, is quite a small, book-lined room with a real fire and a sofa to snuggle up on. It’s a burrow for humans, and may go back as an instinct to our cave-dwelling days where ancient humans were safe from wild beasts. Small children, and I was one such, love to make tents from blankets indoors, or play under the table, hide under the bed.

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Photo by Angela Topping, of the wonderful lounge at Gladstone’s Library. There is a window seat in the bay to the right, and a bookcase full of books to the left, and in the winter, they light the fire. I loved this room when I was Writer-in-Residence in 2013. Cosy up with these poems:

Places to Run Away to Without Leaving Home
 
Leave Sunday-afternoon homework,
stealthily climb the stairs.
Snug into the linen cupboard, pull the door to.
Leave just a crack of light to pierce the cosy nest.
Daydream in muted light of burrows and bunnies,
hedgehogs and birds, under pillows and quilts
like warm snow, become a forest creature.
Snuggle in and doze.
 
Steal into your big brother’s room.
Sit in silence, touch hands-off things:
Delve into that realm so different from your own.
Gain clues from LP’s. Aftershave, big shoes.
Make roars through a black -rocket clarinet
Become a jazz man in a sleazy dive.
Read his diary, gather ammunition
for when blackmail might be a good idea.
 
Lean back against a fence, under a hedge,
where fairies flit and their mushroom tables
rise from dark soil beneath.
Catch flickers of sky from leather –shiny leaves,
spin dreams of adventures to come.
Smell sunshine on your tucked-up knees.
Let a caterpillar walk your finger.
Ignore Mum’s call, stay quiet and hidden.
                                                                                                                                                                               .
 
 MIki Byrne
 .
POEM FOR LYDIA
Lydia heard the wind outside.
It roared too loud; she woke and cried.
The great ash rocked, the clouds raced by;
how dark, the February sky.
Night and north wind rage around.
Sleep tight, Lydia, warm and sound.
No wind shall ever breach this wall.
The bough won’t break, your cot won’t fall.
.
Merryn Williams
 .

My Own Address

This oak roof comforts me whenever
Mother drives the hoover monster close;
I see its snarling metal teeth. The house is
my own address, my damask walls.

Under this table, I have kissed feet:
they are gone now, these people I love.
It‘s just me and my doll, and she
is no company at all. Her eyes are empty.

When my mother’s house is full again
I will emerge, be given sweets. My daddy,
home from work, will invite me
to sit in my other place, the house he makes

between his back and his chair’s back.
I do not know why hiding is needed
or why when I‘m sad I go under the bed
where balls of grey dust scut like rabbits.

.

Angela Topping

.

from The Five Petals of Elderflower (Red Squirrel Press 2016)

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Hygge Feature #15: The Goodness of Fruit

Today’s photograph is of a painting by Gloria Jeffries, used with permission from the artist. It made me think about the goodness of fruit. It’s simple food, often used as a winter treat, and so has cosy connotations. 16252022_10158125653360274_7108546111645859513_o

Oranges

There were never oranges
like the one you peeled for me
that first night, paring the rind,
removing with a surgeon’s skill
every trace of white.

Zest filled the air.
You watched me sink my teeth in,
laughed as I posted a segment
into your mouth. Afterwards
you lit one of your father’s cigarettes.

I closed my eyes and breathed in
smoke, the scent of oranges, you.

Carole Bromley

 

Poem with a Satsuma in it

There is no sunset can rival
the particular shade of its skin

no sunrise the pimpled texture
no noon-glow the zing.

There can never be too many
satsumas in poems,

each segment a stanza,
every metaphor a pip.

I open a book of them
and my mouth waters

even before I’ve tasted
the opening line.

My grand-daughter
can’t say the word,

just points
more, more, more

 Carole Bromley

first published in The Stonegate Devil (Smith/Doorstop)

 

Pomegranate

For Jan Dean 

Five pointed star, my pentacle,
how I would lift your jewels
from their case, one by one
on the pin’s point, before
I found a better way.

Now I bite into your leather
with greedy teeth, devouring
your firmaments, your rubies.
Time’s a thief and so am I,
seizing everything I can.

Time enough for picking out
your treasures one by one
when days begin to bleed
one into another like washed
watercolour sunsets.

Even Persephone could not resist
your glowing fairy-lights.
I garner your seeds for my journey,
draw on clean parchment
my pentacle five pointed star.

Angela Topping

First published in Paper Patterns (Lapwing 2012)

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