A Sad Day: Rest in Peace Reuben Woolley, your voice will never be silenced; link to Paul Brookes’ interview with Reuben

U.K Poet, Reuben Whoolley

U.K Poet, Reuben Woolley bares witness

December 2, 2019: In honor of a valued poet, a reblog of this 2017 post on Reuben and HERE is the link to Paul Brookes’ interview. 

Reuben Woolley’s poetry is minimalist, sinuous on the page – or sometimes scattered like landmines waiting to explode. I find his work addictive and his latest book UntitledSkins (Hesterglock Pess, 2016) is going to be a gift to myself next month. Proceeds from sales go to CalAid.

Reuben’s poems, while exquisitely trimmed of all excess, are still rich with imagery and emotion.

Stylistically, I’m reminded of e.e.cummings.

Yes! I like the way he writes. More importantly, I’m glad Reuben chose to use his deft pen and kind heart to bring more awareness to the darkness in humanity, hanging our dirty laundry out to be seen and not denied. He tells the hard truth. If you are not devastated then you have grown numb to the injustices of our world. This is why we need poets like Reuben, to sound the clarion call and to bare witness.


With Reuben’s permission, here are two poems and look for more of Reuben’s work in the January 15 issue of The BeZine.

lessons

this is the fear
of a first breath

start counting
now

this is laughter
through bleeding membranes

don’t hope
for wings

or terminal
stations

we walk the subway
mazes.the painted
maps & all their changes

…………drilling
skulls gives no answers
& death itself
is rarely clean


to this we came.not this

wrapping
a mind round wires
& razors
……………..cut

i’ll wear the given
shoes so well in these
white
streets

……………....it isn’t
the same
the running from metal

……………….the bombs
they make who give
the shoes but

still

they’re laughing at us
mother


THE FOURTH INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF POETRY, MARRAKESH

Reuben is invited to the Fourth International Festival of Poetry in Marrakech, Morroco in April. He plans to take poems from I am not a silent poet, his online magazine. The Festival covers hotel and catering costs but doesn’t pay anything towards transport. Like all of us who live off the proceeds of poetry, his purse is a little light. Reuben set-up a crowd funding page to raise the money for the airfare. That’s the main reason I wanted to introduce Reuben to you today. Here’s the invite. The “Mrs.” is a typo and festival organizers have promised to correct it. Reuben’s crowd-funding site is HERE.

marrakech-invitation


51m8en2wll-_sx329_bo1204203200_Reuben Woolley is published in various magazines including Tears in the Fence, The Lighthouse Literary Journal, The Interpreter’s House, Domestic Cherry, The Stare’s Nest and Ink Sweat and Tears. His collection, the king is dead was published in 2014 with Oneiros Books  and a chapbook, dying notes, in 2015 with Erbacce Press. Reuben was runner-up in the Overton Poetry Pamphlet competition and the Erbacce Prize in 2015. A new collection on the refugee crisis, skins, was published by Hesterglock Press, 2016:
Reubensays, he “pretends to be busy editing the online magazines: I am not a silent poet and The Curly Mind.”

I am not a silent poet is a zine dedicated to poetry and artwork of protest against abuse in all shapes and forms. Reuben’s motivation for founding the site: “I have seen such increased evidence of abuse recently that I felt it was time to do something. I am not a silent poet looks for poems about abuse in any of its forms, colour, gender, disability, the dismantlement of the care services, the privatisation of the NHS, the rape culture and, of course, war and its victims are just the examples that come to mind at the moment.”

© 2017, poems,and photograph, Reuben Whoolley; bookcover art by Sonjia Benskin Mesher

Interview With and Four Poems by Nancy Ndeke, Activist Poet and Associate Editor, Liberated Voices

“My advice is simple. Poetry has feeling. It must address its subject with depth and conviction. It must be unbiased and true to its feeling in order to touch another.” Nancy Ndeke



My introduction to Nancy Ndeke comes by way of a deepening connection with exiled Zimbabwean poet, Mbizo Chirasha, WOMAWORDS LITERARY PRESS *Literary Dope* Extra-Revolutionary*Creative Crazy* (Liberated Voices). I thank him for giving me another platform for having my say and for introducing me to Nancy and other African poets.  I’ve read quite a number of Nancy’s poems and writings. I’m impressed with her ethic and insights. I’m also pleased with this evolving African connection. We have been short on African representation and representation from those of the African Diaspora. Foundational to the work of The Poet by Day and The BeZine is to take advantage of what I think of as Global Living. This is a gift of the Internet. If we share art and stories across borders, it helps defy the often dehumanizing rhetoric of mainstream media and the always dehumanizing rhetoric of those who benefit from fomenting national, racial, and religious fear and bigotry, not for sake of the people but for sake of their own power and wealth.
*

“If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” Malcom X

– Jamie Dedes
*
INTERVIEW
*
JAMIE: Please tell us of the life experience that brought you to your activism?
*
NANCY: What brought me to activism is both personal and public. At the age of ten, I was involved in accident. I suffered seizures as a result, a most misunderstood illness especially in rural Africa in the seventies. I was traumatised and stigmatized by the mis/treatment that birthed in me a spirit of defending vulnerable persons in whatever situation.
*
Then, in the late nineties, I worked with an NGO in a civil war torn country in Africa. The inhumanity of humans was the most shocking. This again led to my writings exposing the vagaries of war and especially toward the weak.
*
JAMIE: What made you decide on poetry as a vehicle for activism?
*
NANCY: Poetry has always been the love of my life since it was introduced to me in junior high school. Its ability to borrow strongly from emotions and sentiments ensure feelings are conveyed as near accurately as possible in order to identify with the subject matter. Poetry, I also find, has its own freedom in expression, especially free verse, which is my preference.
*
JAMIE: We have some readers here who are just beginning to use poetry as their nonviolent weapon of choice in combatting injustice. What words of advice and encouragement can you give them?
*
NANCY: My advice is simple. Poetry has feeling. It must address its subject with depth and conviction. It must be unbiased and true to its feeling in order to touch another.
*

POEMS*

LAST TESTAMENT,
Is the un-gluing of ancient loves,
Is the dying songs of fairy tales,
Is the admonishment of lullabies ,
Is the scattering of kin bonds,
Last testament,
Is a leftist swing from right,
Is Maths without formulae, and
If there is,
The sum total of outcome is dearth
Knocking family hearth with rebellion
Un-commanding the commandments with mad commendations,
Topsy Turvy is the imbalance of status quo long overthrown
Alas!! In celebrating birth we forgot death
In chanting arrival,we forgot the end is the beginning,
Children of clay baying for the moon shine in shadow of truant machismo
Is there light except light?
How about love? Does it come with color?
Who knows the day before birth and the one after death?
We are quite a mouthful us who think we know for we know bias
Ask the wind, ask the tides, ask the fog and mist about the mysteries of life,
Humility is prayer,
Gratitude is song
We are poverty itself without the two.

WHEN THE BEDROOM,
Erupted on fire and milk coagulated,
The honey dried into an angry plastic.
Impenetrable and
Blatantly nasty
War is synonymous with death
Except from profiteers
Who grin with pomp and flair
At boosted arms deals
Heaven disagrees on principle
Earth receives the rogue principal
His mastery of greed as an incentive
The undoing of civilizations
Chanting empire slogans
Lads and lands are tagged
Boundaries defined and minions positioned
Henceforth learning starts
Of half truths and pure lies.
Gods multiply
God is ridiculed and sold as a fairy tale
Men lord it over the earth
Dimming thoughts of seekers
Till, darkness dot the irises of populations
Praying to rights of theorem
While wrong sips grape juice
At the heaps of gold and diamonds
Stacked close to crude barrels
Deliverables from the smoky ruins
Of recent massacres,
Of children of the Same God.
What became of men?

NARRATIVE.
Am a narrative of the road riding the wind
The shooting star in the sleepy eyes of earth
I speak the light on tree tops whispering ancient oaths of love
Am new on an old journey cheering pain on to an unknown end
Am the biased child of the moon holding secrets of lovers in tender arms
Am the invisible flow of emotions walking the isle of oaths
My foot leaves no footprints except the faith of chartered beginnings and ends
My song is the silent rays of the sun warming the bones of men at the edge
My dance is the sway of the palm tree laughing at the insulting tides
I am a narrative that is a chorus in the rapids of wild waters,
My father is the King of the words and my mother is the mysterious keeper of secrets
My siblings may be rogue but no less divine
Nuisance has embedded its parts on my narrative and now the road suffers hiccups
Potholes rival the narration soiling it with twisted beliefs of another
Now, my narrative stings with the fumes of borrowed ideology, am reduced to an uprooted stump
The agony so prevalent i have learnt to live the lie of the liar
My narrative has been hijacked by a puppeteer I tell ends before beginnings
Am embroiled with inner turmoil reducing my speech to a slur,
My narrative has been invaded by a strange tongue and I admit to being afraid
But woe unto you if you hazard my defeat
Am the child of the mugumo tree that fetches its water from the Indian ocean
And all your mutated lessons shall like a leaf in the fall, fall
And i shall rise with the wind of first light and tell it to the birds
Am not ashamed to have slipped over your slippery tongue
But damn me if I ever fall again
And this narrative of the skin on my bones shall forever thrive
A reminder that am here as no accident, so dear, deal with your lying tongue
Am a narrative of the road riding the wind,
My echo of joyful living is the screech of gravel on your ears,
You, denier of colors.

AM MANY THINGS,
As variant as the oceans’ emotions,
Spectacular like the sky and its unknown splendour,
Am the lone flower in the forest,
Differently the same with dead trees and bees hunting nectar
Am the fool chasing a speck of light in clouded breathes of conflict,
Am the song in the windpipe of a newborn
Am the voice of silence singing twilight dirges of animals on the path of extinction
Am the word in the phrase that refuses praise to common camouflage of peeling skins of graduates of ideology.
Am a son of the sun
Blemished with innuendos of a vagabond restrained from apostasy,
My home threw me out and replaced me with the after birth
Am the old gnarled tree with crooked roots and bent branches,
I sing of stars and realms of yesterdays that tomorrow shall witness,
Am the stone death to denial of the rights of the weak
Though my walk is feeble and my eyes rheumy,
I see life as more than breath and showmanship
And I roam the hostile home of my ancestry with the hymn of creation
As I wait for dust to welcome my tent,
And I shall flee to the beginning.

© 2019, Nancy Ndeke

RELATED:

NANCY NDEKE is the Associate Editor of Liberated Voices,  a Poet of international acclaim, and a reputable literary arts consultant. Her writings and her poetry are featured in several collections, anthologies and publications around the globe including the American magazine Wild Fire, Save Africa Anthology. World Federation of Poets in Mexico. Ndeke is a Resident Contributor of the Brave Voices Poetry Journal since mid-2018. African Contributor to the DIFFERENT TRUTHS, a publication that sensitizes the world on the plight of Autism edited by Aridham Roy. SAVE AFRCA ANTHOLOGY, edited by Prof. Dave Gretch of Canada and reviewed by Joseph Spence Jr., has featured her poetry and a paper on issues afflicting Africa and Africans.

Ndeke’s poetry and other literatures in WILD FIRE PUBLICATION in America published by Susan Joyner Stumpf and Susan Brooke Langdon. ARCS MAGAZINE in New York Edited by DR. Anwer Ghani. Her women Arts Presentation was recently published by WOMEN OF ART (WOA) in Cape Coast in Ghana. Soy Poesia, in Peru, Claudette V pg 11 featured her writings with great reception. AZAHAR from Mexico, with the initiative from Josep Juarez has also featured her poetry as has in WORLD FESTIVAL OF POTRY (WFP) from Mexico under the able editorial team comprising Luz Maria Lopez. She has been featured by INTERNATIONAL AFRICAN WRITERS from Nigeria, under the able hands of Munyal Markus Manunyi; Patricia Amundsen from Australia featured her poetry on this year’s international women’s day at Messenger of Love, Radio Station; and, esteemed poet Jolly Bhattacharjee featured Ndeke’s works on her greatly acclaimed awareness anthology for 2019, India.

Nancy’s Amazon Page is HERE.


Jamie Dedes. I’m a freelance writer, poet, content editor, and blogger. I also manage The BeZine and its associated activities and The Poet by Day jamiededes.com, an info hub for writers meant to encourage good but lesser-known poets, women and minority poets, outsider artists, and artists just finding their voices in maturity. The Poet by Day is dedicated to supporting freedom of artistic expression and human rights and encourages activist poetry.  Email thepoetbyday@gmail.com for permissions, commissions, or assignments.

About / Testimonials / Disclosure / Facebook / Medium

Recent and Upcoming in Digital Publications Poets Advocate for Peace, Justice, and Sustainability, G Jamie Dedes, Versifier of Truth, Woma Words Literary Press, November 19, How 100,000 Poets Are Fostering Peace, Justice, and Sustainability, YOPP! * The Damask Garden, In a Woman’s Voice, August 11, 2019 / This short story is dedicated to all refugees. That would be one in every 113 people. * Five poems, Spirit of Nature, Opa Anthology of Poetry, 2019 * From the Small Beginning, Entropy Magazine (Enclave, #Final Poems), July 2019 * Over His Morning Coffee, Front Porch Review, July 2019 * Three poems, Our Poetry Archive, September 2019


“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

“when voices detach themselves,” by gary lundy / review, interview, poems

“Poetry is at its basic level language at play. I try not to dictate the rules of that play.” gary lundy



gary’s style is an engaging cross between the spontaneity of artistic improvisation and a steady flow of interior monologue. His often fragmented word-play, draws us inescapably into his haunted world. His is singular voice that pulls us up by the heartstrings as he scrutinizes his life, his loves, and the ragged edges of longing. He is exquisitely open in his explorations of grief and vulnerability, facing the discordant notes head on. I think what impressed me most about gary’s writing is a virtuosity unpretentious and honest.  Recommended.

when voices detach themselves is the first of two chapbooks by gary lundy published by Is a Rose Press, which focuses on “poetry, experimental writing, hybrid, and more.”  when voices detach themselves was published in 2013 and the second, heartbreak elopes into a kind of forgiving was published in 2016. These are among several of gary’s published collections. The others are detailed in his bio, which closes this post.

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*****

when voices detach themselves, when I imagine
I am listenting to their speakers sudden impact of
invisibility, of having lost the way, even through
insistence attempts to sidestep a bouncing young
noise. can it be. that through thought i confirm
my being. yet does it too proceed the thought.
can it not outlast loss.

in another location two people unwind their
bodies from the previous nights encounter, move
to opposites sides of the room.

INTERVIEW

JAMIE: I’m sure you’ve had many questions from your students, readers, and interviewers over the years. Is there any question about poetry in general and/or your poetry specifically that  you wish someone would ask and what would be your answer to that question?

GARY: In my experience people don’t tend to ask questions about poetry. Certainly many want to tell me what poetry can and can’t be. From the admonition that this or that word is overused and should be avoided, to “we have a moral obligation to protect the world from bad poetry.” This last one came after I refused to talk about those poets who didn’t inspire or compel, etc. From a well known poet who we had gathered to meet and greet, if you will.

I love poetry, even those pieces or books that don’t generate for me interest. I love language and words equally. Poetry is at its basic level language at play. I try not to dictate the rules of that play.

JAMIE: Your style is certainly engaging and rather singular, improvisational and fragmented like the voices about which you write in when voices detach themselves. Did it arrive one day in a flash or is it something that evolved and is perhaps still evolving? 

GARY: Thank you. For this particular book I returned to poems I’d written a few years earlier and then left behind. When I reintroduced myself to them i realized that in their fragmented way they fit together. So I listened and then the book was reallized.

My writing practice is pretty consistent in that I usually write every day. But I don’t begin with a sense of where the writing is going to go. That is, I have little interest in dictating where the words lead. Rather, I’ll jot something down, a fragment or phrase and then what’s on the page begins to dictate direction.

Naturally, when I first began to explore writing poetry I followed those dictates of teachers and peers. I worked to write the poem expected, the poem of rules. I also wrote specifically out of or from my life experiences. It was a good practice to be sure.

However, eventually I began to understand that such writing, for me of course, was more a group writing than writing as it came to me. My life did not seem to fit easily into the formulas I’d been encouraged to use. Perhaps because I hadn’t really begun to recognize my queer identity, but my world was not constructed within easy narrative or linear structure. Rather, it was filled with false starts, disconcerting interruptions, and a sense of loss and failure. I began to listen to that rather than any central sense of self. Naturally this is an ongoing and delightful adventure in discovering where the writing wants to go. 

JAMIE: You write about the discordant notes in life, the fears, the jolts that come out of nowhere, the losses, and the distancing that seems to happen between lovers and friends, and the way expectations and outcomes don’t necessarily jive … all the aches and pains of life, the vulnerabilities. Is there healing for you in the writing, in the naming? Is your hope – expectation – that there might be some healing for the reader?

GARY: This is an intriguing question. When I write I have little expectation past the writing as it unfolds. Certainly, when I return to what has been written, especially after a few months or years, I suppose there is some kind of healing; although, I’d prefer insight. A few years ago I moved to Providence, Rhode Island, to be with a lover and friends. It was a good experience; however, it was also not so good. After I returned to Montana I reread my first full length collection, heartbreak elopes into a kind of forgiving. I was preparing to give a reading and hadn’t really thought very much about the poems. However, as i read through the pieces, all written before my move, there were warnings throughout. I could see that however it came, evidently I knew I shouldn’t make the move. The poems were written a couple years earlier. Curious to be sure. While I try to pay attention to such meanings in my poetry, unfortunately, for the most part I miss them consistently.

I have no expectation for my reader, nor of even having a reader. I am convinced that if there is a reader they will find their own sense of what’s going on in the poem as they listen to the poem. While writing certainly and clearly assumes a reader, I don’t. I write for the pleasure of writing, and, perhaps, to keep me in some way grounded.

JAMIE: I suspect you’ve been writing since high school and college and I know you have quite a body of published work.  What’s up next? 

GARY: Well, to get some few pieces published in magazines and journals; perhaps land another book or two. But foremost is simply to continue writing, and reading, to continue learning about those facets of my compound and complex sense of self and world.

POEMS

as i have to do i bring this to a more personal
level. certainly in my writing part of the task has
been to find a form that not only expresses what
i have lived. but the stories of what i can live. feel
certain that every marginalized person has this
task. or remains subordinate and enslaved. yet
as i struggle with the how of actualizing this. or
getting to the story not in unremarkable and
familiar narrative. i realize how troubling and
difficult it is.

i apologize for loading you down with images.
just excited to get closer to present. and maybe
a future.

****

as out of remarkable past
a slight look aside peripheral desire
another over written story lies
indeed it may only be overdue bills
envelopes stacked against the south wall
last years dishes long the growing mold

****

you came to me later after other women had
taught me their possibility and mine while men
kept warning their usual mantra it is a mans
world but it isn’t after all and a reality exists
outside even their peripheral gaze even outside
their understanding a desire full of exception and
expectation for a different kind of language a
different kind of life where ego shrinks to the size
of a pea and life become quite suddenly more
about more than usual

gary’s poetry is shared here with permission

© gary lundy

RELATED:

reading the signs can be terrifying, gary lundy, Cutbank, The Literary Journal of the University of Montana


gary lundy has published five chapbooks, the two most recent, and still in print, when voices detach themselves (Is A Rose Press, 2013), and at | with (Locofo Chaps, 2017), and has two book length collections, heartbreak elopes into a kind of forgiving (Is A Rose Press, 2016); and each room echoes absence (Foothills Publishing, 2018). He has published his writing throughout the US as well as in Canada, Czeck Republic, and Israel. Most recently his poems have appeared in Fence, Meta/Phor(e)/Play, Cutbank: Weekly Flash Prose & Prose Poetry, Setu: Western Voices Special Edition, and Alexandria Quarterly.

gary was raised in Denver, Colorado. He received his Ph.D. in Twentieth Century American Poetry from Binghamton University. He taught English at SUNY-Oswego, St. Paul’s College, and for twenty years at the University of Montana Western. gary, now retired, is queer and lives in Missoula, Montana.



ABOUT 

Jamie Dedes. I’m a Lebanese-American freelance writer, poet, content editor, blogger and the mother of a world-class actor and mother-in-law of a stellar writer/photographer. No grandchildren, but my grandkitty, Dahlia, rocks big time. I am hopelessly in love with nature and all her creatures. In another lifetime, I was a columnist, a publicist, and an associate editor to a regional employment publication. I’ve had to reinvent myself to accommodate scarred lungs, pulmonary hypertension, right-sided heart failure, connective tissue disease, and a rare managed but incurable blood cancer. The gift in this is time for my primary love: literature. I study/read/write from a comfy bed where I’ve carved out a busy life writing feature articles, short stories, and poetry and managing The BeZine and its associated activities and The Poet by Day jamiededes.com, an info hub for writers meant to encourage good but lesser-known poets, women and minority poets, outsider artists, and artists just finding their voices in maturity. The Poet by Day is dedicated to supporting freedom of artistic expression and human rights.  Email thepoetbyday@gmail.com for permissions, commissions, or assignments.

Testimonials / Disclosure / Facebook

Recent and Upcoming in Digital Publications * The Damask Garden, In a Woman’s Voice, August 11, 2019 / This short story is dedicated to all refugees. That would be one in every 113 people. * Five poems, Spirit of Nature, Opa Anthology of Poetry, 2019 * From the Small Beginning, Entropy Magazine (Enclave, #Final Poems), July 2019 * Over His Morning Coffee, Front Porch Review, July 2019 * Three poems, Our Poetry Archive, September 2019


“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

 

Through My Father’s Eyes, Collected Poems by Sheila Jacob / Review, Interview, Poems

” . . . Two months later
you were hurried to the hospital
and died within the week.

“I stuffed your letters in a drawer
and found your fountain pen,
the ink inside still wet.”

excerpt from Letters From Home in Though My Father’s Eyes



I am often hesitant to review and recommend self-published books. Sometimes it seems that however talented and well-intentioned the poet, their collection needed another eye, an editor. We all need one frankly. Having said that, I am pleased with Sheila Jacob’s book as I knew I would be. Sheila did invite feedback from an editor and other poets before finalizing this volume, which I have now read twice and with great pleasure. Such is our humanity and the power of poetry that we can touch hearts across 3,500 miles and the wide Atantic.

Sheila, whose father died when she was thirteen, and I couldn’t be closer in terms of time (I’m a bit older than she is), roots (working class), and parents born on the cusp of or not long after WW I. Our parents were the hard-worked people of the global Great Depression and WW II. They were people who who kept their pain private, lived in gray cities, walked hard streets to work in factories and knew how to squeeze a penny. These elements are one reason why Sheila’s poems spoke to me, but I also know that her poems – this collection – will speak to anyone who values fine poetry as well as their own roots and their own loves and who have had to come to terms with loss and grief. Who among us has not? This small volume is a victory over sorrow and confusion and it brings to life one father and his daughter in all their loveable complex humanity. Recommended. / J.D.

The Doctors said I was a goner. You know the rest,
duck, an Irish nurse slipped a Lourdes medal
under my pillow and hours later I woke up, found
I could breathe on my own and talk.

You used to love the story.

Ah, yes, I see, perhaps I did make a meal
of it, ignored how I felt living through
the Blitz and coming home on leave
to streets of rubble.

I was loaded with memories
you were too innocent
to share.

excerpt from War Record in Through My Father’s Eyes


The poems and excerpts from poems in Through My Father’s Eyes are published here today with Sheila’s permission.


INTERVIEW

JAMIE: Not to diminish the extraordinary quality of your work and how meaningful it will be to others who read it, but writing these poems must have been cathartic for you. Did you come away from the writing feeling healed?

SHEILA: Yes, I did feel healed. Putting words on paper and clarifying my thoughts helped me make sense of my dad’s death, my reaction to it and my overall relationship with him. It enabled me to continue the grieving process which didn’t really begin until I was an adult and had left home. My parents, aunts and uncles, were from the post-war stiff-upper-lip generation who refused to dwell on grief. After Dad’s funeral they carried on as before with very little show of outward emotion and I was encouraged to do the same. My mum had always been a reserved person; she retreated into herself and never spoke to me about Dad even in the most general terms. I was angry and bewildered at the time though now I understand that it was the only way she could cope. 

I suspect there are poems waiting to be written about my mum’s experience: written, hopefully, with the generosity of spirit I didn’t have as a teenager and young adult. And I’m still writing “Dad” poems. The past never stays still.

I also found it necessary- and therapeutic – to explore my dad’s boyhood, which seems to have been a happy one despite financial deprivations, his love of football, and his time in the army during WW II. This gave me a fresh sense of belonging to and being rooted in my Birmingham past.

JAMIE: I seem to remember that you mentioned having stopped writing poetry for years and then started again.  What triggered your reengagement with poetry?

SHEILA: This began in 2013 during an episode of depression. I consulted a clinical psychologist, a most remarkable man with whom I am still in touch. He’d encountered the work of Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath in his professional capacity. When he discovered I used to read and write poetry, he strongly encouraged me to start again. 

I remember how I‘d been seeing him for a few weeks and he suddenly said “Write a poem on the sessions so far.”

I cobbled something together for our next appointment and also dusted off my poetry library, mostly collections by Gillian Clarke, R.S.Thomas and T.S. Eliot.  I continued writing, for his eyes only at first. This gradually expanded. I read a lot about poetry as therapy and wrote a small piece about my own experience for Rachel Kelly’s Blog. Rachel is the author of Black Rainbow, an account of her long struggle against depression and the positive part reading poetry played in her recovery.

I found a website called Creative Writing Ink and took a beginner’s poetry course with a perceptive and experienced tutor, an Irish poet, Eileen Casey. Her feedback was invaluable. I began subscribing to various poetry magazines and, eventually, submitting.  

JAMIE:  In what ways has involvement with online poetry groups been productive for you?

SHEILA: They’ve helped greatly with the quality of my poems. I tend not to write one word when ten will do. I’ve learned/am learning to be more economical and precise with my use of words. My poems are still on the long side but I write in a narrative style that I think lends itself to the longer poem. I’m not a great lover of form but I’ve written sestinas, non-rhyming sonnets, tankas, cinquains and, of course, haiku which really concentrate the mind. I pay more attention to line breaks, line lengths and stanza lengths. I never used to edit my poems let alone re-edit them. Now, I often leave troublesome ones to cook for months before I return to them. 

It’s been enriching to discover the work of a wide variety of poets, living and deceased, and to explore different subject matter. I’ve done courses in ekphrastic poetry, poems of trauma, poems of protest, and poems of place. The most recent course I did was with Jonathan Edwards’ for The Poetry School where he asked us to “step into someone else’s shoes” and write from the point of view of an animal, a building, and an inanimate object, amongst others. I found this very enjoyable and liberating. 

The second benefit of poetry groups is the undoubtedly the fellowship. I’ve received valuable, constructive feedback, I’ve met poets from all over the globe, read styles of poetry I wouldn’t otherwise have engaged with and formed lasting, supportive friendships.

JAMIE: You chose to self-publish, which is something a lot of readers are contemplating.  Why did you do so and what was the experience like?

SHEILA: I would have preferred to publish my chapbook with an established poetry press but the ones I submitted to didn’t like my work well enough to take it on. I have no hard feelings about this. Maybe I should have tried more publishers and waited longer for submission openings but I’m almost sixty nine and didn’t feel that time was on my side.

There was also an emotional element involved. I wanted closure from this particular set of poems by sending them out into the world sooner rather than later. I’d worked hard on them over the years and felt there was a niche for them somewhere in the poetry world. 

I did a mentoring course with Wendy Pratt, a lovely lady and a very fine poet. I sent her a proposed collection to critique and she immediately suggested that I should focus solely on the poems about my Dad. Her encouragement gave me the confidence to self-publish. I also had a lot of support from a Facebook friend Jenni and a local poet friend David Subacchi who has self-published quite a few books and encouraged me to “just do it” without worrying that they weren’t “proper” poems or that it wasn’t a “proper” book.

Once I felt that the poems were as good as I could make them the actual publishing was very straightforward. I contacted a reputable local publisher, David Bentley, whose ideas on layout were useful. He suggested using a thicker, creamy paper to correspond with the memoir theme of the poems.

This wasn’t a cheap process but I had money saved for it and wanted to be in control of the proceedings on the ground rather than through a computer. If I self-publish again I may well take a different approach.


To purchase this little gem of a volume, contact Sheila directly at she1jac@yahoo.com


POEMS

 The Power of Flight    

 After you died                                 

 the echo of your cough                                          

 roamed the house.

 

When a dark shape 

filled your bedroom’s

open window

 

I ran to tell Mum, 

who ran next door,

both of us unnerved

 

by the bird’s frantic

tumble of feathers

and whirr of wings.

 

It’s just a young one

our neighbour laughed

and calmed it with a lift

 

of her hands,

steered it towards                           

the power of flight,

 

the possibility of song.

.

A Boy Called Anthony

Anthony would serve at Mass, ring the consecration bell.

Anthony would play 5-a-side football, win gold trophies.

Anthony would pass his 11-plus, go to St. Philip’s School.

 

When the midwife cried “It’s a girl” Dad searched

for new names, called me after his favourite sister, he sang

pat-a-cake and bake it in the oven for Sheila and me.

 

I couldn’t be an altar boy but knew the Latin responses,

couldn’t play football but watched with Dad at Villa Park,

passed my 11-plus, went to St. Paul’s where the nuns taught.

 

When end-of-term results grew worse, Dad grew angry.

I scowled, sulked- I’d tried my best, just didn’t like Maths.

You should have been a boy called Anthony, Dad snapped.

 

Anthony would have excelled in Maths, Physics and Science.

Anthony wouldn’t have answered back, chewed his nails,

muttered bloody hell, been sent to his room in disgrace.

 

Anthony, I realised then, would never fail or win, Anthony

couldn’t drink dandelion-and-burdock through a straw,

Anthony couldn’t laugh, skip, scrage his knee and bleed.

 

Anthony would never run to Dad, blurt out I’m very sorry,

I promise not to be rude again. He couldn’t hug Dad, weep

against Dad’s shoulder, smell the Brylcreem in Dad’s hair.

 

Don’t forget it’s nearly Father’s Day                                                 

 

As if I could forget how it fell

two days after they lowered

his coffin into the earth

 

though fifty-odd years ago

I was spared online adverts 

for Ben Sherman socks 

and flagons of Dior Savauge.

 

As I’d have offered such gifts

to a man whose socks 

were hand-knitted, darned

at the heel with love;

 

whose favourite cologne

was pure Welsh water 

splashed from the cold tap.

 

As if I wouldn’t make each day

a day to remember had he lived

He’d be a frail centenarian

 

I’d cosset with chunky scarves

and camphor oil; open the old

draughts board knowing 

he’d outplay me every time.

            

– Sheila Jacob


SHEILA JACOB was born and raised in Birmingham, England and lives with her husband in Wrexham, on the Welsh border. Her poetry has been published in several U.K. magazines and webzines. She recently self-published her short collection of poems that form a memoir to her father who died in 1965. Sheila finds her 1950s childhood and family background a source of inspiration for many of her poems. You can connect with Sheila by email: she1jac@yahoo.com


ABOUT

Recent in digital publications: 
* Four poemsI Am Not a Silent Poet
* Remembering Mom, HerStry
* From the Small Beginning, Entropy Magazine (Enclave, #Final Poems)(July 2019)
Upcoming in digital publications:
* Over His Morning Coffee, Front Porch Review (July 2019)
* The Damask Garden, In a Woman’s Voice (August 2019)

A busy though bed-bound poet, writer, former columnist and the former associate editor of a regional employment newspaper, my work has been featured widely in print and digital publications including: Levure littéraireRamingo’s Porch, Vita Brevis Literature, Connotation Press, The Bar None Group, Salamander CoveI Am Not a Silent Poet, Meta/ Phor(e) /Play, Woven Tale PressThe Compass Rose and California Woman. I run The Poet by Day, a curated info hub for poets and writers. I founded The Bardo Group/Beguines, a virtual literary community and publisher of The BeZine of which I am the founding and managing editor. I’ve been featured on The MethoBlog, on the Plumb Tree’s Wednesday Poet’s Corner, and several times as Second Light Live featured poet.

Email me at thepoetbyday@gmail.com for permissions, reprint rights, or comissions.


“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton