Tag Archives: Brian Johnstone

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 #13 Domestic Delights

The simple joys of home: a bunch of daffodils, a bowl of hyacinths, blue and white pottery, candlelight and starlight, all can lift the spirits without expense. Today I have chosen one of mine, previously unpublished, because it goes so well with this photo and Maureen’s hyacinths, and Brian Johnstone’s meditative poem rounds off beautifully.

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Photo Credit: Lucy Byrne

 

Midnight Robin

 

While the sky shimmers like shot silk,
chimney pots a toothy smile,
I count the pots, 1 2 3 4 5.

On my kitchen table, sheets and sheets
of screwed up poems,
I will flatten them tomorrow
for shopping lists.

While perfumed smells of hyacinths
bring memories of my mother:
‘they make lovely Christmas presents’
she would say, as she potted and tended …

The evening moves along
as evenings do…
The moon a half golden bracelet.
The sky cluttered with stars.

All is still, no cars, no trains.
And in this stillness
the midnight robin sings.

Maureen Weldon

First appeared in her pamphlet Midnight Robin, published by Poetry Space (2014)

 

January

This is the still time of year.
The snows have gone,
melting back into the atmosphere.
Not even snowdrops dare to break
the frosty earth. Indoors in their china bowl
paper-white narccissi sail like stars
against the window’s glossy black glass,
unnatural, forced from the bulb too soon.
The new year’s bombs lie undetonated.
Storms must be weathered.
This is the still time of night.
I am trying to unbury the past,
to find flowers still hidden in the bulb,
this time to nurture them.

Angela Topping

 

HERMITAGE
Mrs Baxter’s Lang Rig, St Andrews

The sense of habitation
this stone-built structure gives
has married three to one,

placed human souls
between the meat and wine,
with fire to warm and candlelight

to talk or dine by, here
where garden gives to orchard
and the walls protect.

This simple grasp of needs sets
pigeon boles in tiers to fill
the attic space with burbled song,

the while to raise
as fowl. The table waits below.
Beneath its feet the vaulted cellar

houses vintage upon vintage
labelled, racked, awaiting hands
to pair them to the meal,

to light the wick and kindle flame,
to feast on what this space
has stored against

the cold of winter, summer heat,
the fuss and bustle
of the house and its affairs

all left behind, deferred
to this retreat inhabited by ghosts
conversing, raising up a glass.

Brian Johnstone

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Hygge Feature #11:Promises of Spring

Today’s photo is by Sally Evans, of the first spring flowers in her garden in Scotland. It has inspired today’s aspect. In winter, while enjoying the warmth indoors, planning for spring, such as what vegetable seeds to plant for the allotment, and observing early spring flowers, leads us to gently anticipate the joys to come, while still living in the now. Likewise, as in one of these poems, memories of the previous summer keep us warm, and in some cases preserved in wine, jams and honey, keep us well fed too.

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Honeycomb

Around me the intense buzzing of the bee
busy on the yellow rue blossoms,
gathering future honey for the hive;

the sun high in the blue haze of sky
sending light and shadow
in patterns on the grey stone wall;

colours and fragrances
freshly manifest among the green –
purple lavender and sage,
vibrant lobelia blue, rose pink.

The young ash waves his leaves
greeting the crazily skimming swifts,
music seeps from the house next door
and the black cat rolls in rapture on the path.

Meanwhile I sit here,
busily gathering words
and storing summer’s sweetness
to spread on winter days.

Hilaire Wood

An invitation

Do you remember that first glass
of Vouvray? That tingle? A little bit of bite?
My garden’s like that today, everything
opening up. It smells of growth,
as warmth releases little puffs
of energy from every stretching stem.

We’ll walk along the narrow path
so you can feel the forms of leaf
and twig on either side. And then
the lawn, how your steps compress it.
It does no harm; it springs back
after we’ve gone.

Listen to the wind pushing through
the birch trees, moaning in the wires,
notice how the sun’s heat
switches on and off – cloud shutters.
Then we’ll sit, sheltered, and talk,
my cat in your lap or mine,
and we’ll try to make sense
of our separate worlds.

Colin Will

Eloquence
What is eloquent is the passing moment and the moment that will come after it.
Maurice Blanchot

This time, like all the other times, the sun
dips, darkens the face of the island, turns
the green of the cypresses black, the planes
this ill-defined grey. You’re taking time out

on the quayside, wondering what makes this
autumn, the light still cutting the water
to crystal, hazing the line of the hills.
When a ferry boat chugs from the mooring,

you follow its wake across to the shore
where you see it: there’s smoke in the forest;
men burning the branches they lopped, turning
the old growth to ash, this summer’s leavings

to powder and paste that the rains will sift
into the soil.  It’s then that you notice
the bells have something to say. Late and still
counting, they’re filing the season away.

Brian Johnstone

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Hygge Feature #4 Home Baking and Shared Meals

Today it’s all about food, and it won’t be the only one with that angle! Home-made food is all about being cosy, sharing, and being in the present moment.

Making Bread

 Pungent baking smells fill the house.
Three loaves cool on wire racks.
A sharp knife separates a half inch slice,
speckled with oval sunflower sections.
A happy sigh ; the family is home.

First, a warm kitchen,
Tough brown bags of organic, wholemeal,
Stone-ground grains ; wheat, barley, rye.
Warm water, salt crystals, pearls of yeast
(Using the simplest and best, only the best.)
My hands that fold the warm trembling flesh,
Pat flour off my apron’s belly, into my hair.
The oven clicks, starts its rise with the bread.

Blue poppy seeds, sesame and buckwheat shards
Stretch apart on the swelling surface.
A good rise comes from the heart,
warmth inside and out ; the family is home

Vivien Jones

STILL LIFE
When I compose the bread, the knives,
pewter, lemons, gherkins, glass,
a lamp shines faintly on the past,
on unrecorded lives.
The flagon with its coarse red wine
recalls those women who arranged
the cups and cloth. This hasn’t changed;
their acts, their thoughts are mine.
Today, the salmon glows deep red.
I stoop, protect the modest light.
The pickled cucumbers are brought
out, to placate the dead.
Merryn Williams

Photo by Vivien Jones.

IMG_0800 (1).JPG

A PARTY TRICK

we were doing
something dangerous
with fire
 
playing
with the flame
each match-head held
 
but could transmit
to tissue paper
loosely rolled
 
and in burning
heat the oxygen
enclosed
 
to rise above
our held out palms
then falter
 
dip and float down
something lighter
than a hair
 
a whisper
drifting slowly
through the air

Brian Johnstone

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Split Screen at Manchester Lit Fest

Brian and I reading our Dr Who poems.
Photo courtesy of Chris Keller-Jackson

Featuring: Brian Johnstone, Andrew Philip, Sally Evans, Jo Bell, Julie Boden, Carolyn Richardson, Charlie Jordan, Andrew McMillan and Angela Topping.

Having taken part in two Split Screen readings so far, one at Norwich with George Szirtes, Helen Ivory, Martin Figura and Andy Jackson, the editor, and one at Callander Poetry Festival with Andrew Philip, Carolyn  Richardson, Sheila Templeton, Sally Evans, who performed Yoda with props, in a never-to-be forgotten paper hat, and others, I was greatly looking forward to the Manchester event. Each one has been special in its own way, as different contributors have attended each time, and Andy gives us the chance to choose poems we enjoy reading in addition to our own, to make for a varied show.

The poems in the anthology, from Red Squirrel Press, are placed in juxtaposition, with, for example, Marilyn Monroe opposite Doris Day; Max Miller V Ken Dodd; Pete and Dud, Kirk and Picard. The Manchester launch was special to me because it was the first time my Dr Who poem on Jon Pertwee had been performed back to back with Brian Johnstone’s Tom Baker one. It’s been rare at performances that both of the poets are there.

Each event is chaired by Andy Jackson, the editor, who came up with the quirky idea in the first place and who puts together a workable running order and a slideshow of the relevant characters and shows. All this helps the show to be slick. Andy creates the illusion of an evening’s TV watching at some point in the past, with adverts in the middle and a poem about closedown and the white dot at the end. These poems have been performed at every launch, but at both Callander and Manchester, we were lucky enough to have both their authors, Sally Evans and Andrew Philip, there to read them. Ian Parks’ ‘Flake’ poem and Adam  Horovitz’ ‘Orange poem’ have been chosen at most of the launches, to be read by others. After the ‘9pm watershed’ the poems are more hard hitting, less ‘family’ than the ones before the ads. And the show ends with The National Anthem, which we all stand for with great solemnity, only to be treated to a surprise which I wouldn’t want to reveal here: its delight lies in the unexpected.

The poems are wide ranging. Some are hilarious, some moving, some reflective. The standard of performance has been top notch at every event.  This anthology reaches a wide audience as the programmes and films included are ones that transcend age and generation, and have in many cases become cult viewing. The poets offer new slants on familiar things and a second book is in the offing. I’ve been delighted and humbled to be involved in this project and there are more events to look forward to in the series. Glasgow, Newcastle and Pitlochry are coming up fast. If you can’t get to the show then at least you can read the poems, if you buy the book.

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