I’m very pleased that a short story of mine has been included in the below anthology and I’m one of six readers selected to read our own stories to the audience at the launch. Microphone, lectern and lighting here we come. Slightly nervous but hey, time to stretch horizons again and just go for it. Speaking in public has never daunted me but I do find it is very different when it’s your own creativity and knowing the audience are all story enthusiasts. This kind of speaking makes me nervous. No pressure then! All part of the journey.
Just before having a very recent holiday in Madeira I attended a writing workshop at my local museum which was themed around their current exhibition on mapping. It was with this theme in mind that I wrote the following poem. One of the things I love to do is to write about things that are there in front of me when I can process what I am seeing, hearing and feeling in real-time to be polished later at my leisure. Not only is the poem now a great moment of my holiday, but it and two others I wrote are going to be published in an anthology to help raise funds for the museum. I love the idea of poetry in action. I hope you enjoy it.
FUNCHAL. by Neil William Holland
The first light declares itself like a land-based star,
one single point taking its place in a soon-to-be constellation
that is Funchal at night.
Others follow and I find my way by them.
The up-lit trees and jeweled homes
trespassing on ancient volcanic slopes.
A brighter white north-star of light marks the headland of the bay.
Lamps colour doors like chameleons morphing night from day.
I have walked their ways, the shops, the parks, the roads,
now they exchange their white globes
for a world of warmth and mysterious shadows.
The streets help me to navigate from my balcony, the tall hotels,
the churches, the malls, illuminate my memory as their lights
pulse in the hot night air. I make it a familiar place, standing there,
counting the nights left of our stay, my glass of wine in hand.
I’m tired from our Levada walk, and retiring to a different land.
At first light, our balcony rail silhouettes its shadow, creeps
around the fabric-folds and valleys of our net curtain.
To my right, in the old villa garden a cockerel crows
as Funchal begins to stir. To my left the feint murmur
of traffic grows, but the silence of the sea remains.
This compass of sound is a gentle wakening.
Deciding on a title for this post, the first of a few I hope to write on the subject, was a very difficult thing for me to determine. I could call it ‘How I Write Poetry’ really, or ‘My Poetry Journey’ perhaps.I would never be so pretentious as to say this is how to write a good poem or this is how to be a successful poet. I don’t really know myself. It’s a case of the more I know the more I don’t know so to speak, but I do know about my own poetry journey and I can very well recall how much I wanted to write better than I could when I started, when I first became interested and discovered that I too would like to create poems. Ever since that moment I have been looking for help while discovering things about writing poetry, and part of that process leads me to want to share my journey. Maybe, just maybe, I can help someone else just as others have helped me.
I’m very much still chasing the poetry-rainbow with an ambition to write just one really good poem, one perhaps that will live longer than me, something to be remembered by many others hopefully. Realistic? Perhaps not, but I am happy with the journey so far, after all I don’t set free my self-judged failures, so whatever I make public means something to me at least. Maybe the thrill is in the chase. By doing just that I am exploring myself creatively. It can only be a good thing to live life and engage with it as opposed to simply hoping life is something that happens to you, not through you. I once had a cancer diagnosis and came through that, and partly it is why I want to write at all. That sort of thing is a game-changer. You start to look at life more closely, yet we can all do just that without such a jolt. It’s a question of centering ourselves through choice.
Everything we write will not appeal to others, it’s the nature of personal taste, but to be honest I own five volumes of Wordsworth’s poetry from boy to older man, yet most people will likely just recall the one about daffodils, but what a poem that is. That is the pot of gold in a creative sense. At least, while heading in that direction as best as we can, towards the rainbow, I guarantee that we writers and poets will leave behind a valuable mark on the world for our loved ones, friends and descendants at the very least. Poems are time machines, you can bring somebody back to your time, your world, what it was like and how you saw it, how you felt it and engaged with it through your five senses.
What I know is that if you want to explore who you are, what you are about, then poetry is a very good way of doing just that. If you start writing and thinking in a poetic way then lots of what you write will incorporate some part of who you are, your place in this world and how you see the world around you. That latter perspective will always be unique to you, only you. Not even your spouse, siblings or parents will have your world because only you are at it’s very centre. You are quite simply a unique human being and you deserve to write poetry about your world. Others have their own.
All you need, in order to start or to continue your journey, is a pen and paper, or for many, a means to write using today’s technology. It’s that simple. The most important thing at this juncture, is to start writing, keep writing or to re-invigorate your writing journey. The important thing in progressing your poetry is always to take that next step, to actually take it. Doing just that is the start of your journey, or the start of the next stage of your journey. Don’t worry about, or fear failure or rejection, you are entitled to your unique poetic voice. In a future post on this subject, I’ll talk about the early pitfalls I found, the stumbling blocks, the poetry-world I encountered and some quite magical things too.
One of the ways I enjoy a holiday is to capture a memory of the essence of a moment. One could take a picture, or a video, or simply just enjoy it. But as a writer I must admit that converting all of these things into a poem affords me a richer quality of memory and observation. Writers are observers I think, and many folk are people-watchers. It’s how I came to think of street-observatories in the poem. I hope you like it. The bells are the actual bells of Dubrovnik, they were important to me, their resonance. The written poem has been included in an anthology ‘Connections’ ISBN 978-0-9573346-9-4, published by City Voices Writing group Stoke on Trent of which I am a member.
Poem by Neil William Holland
Twelve Noon in Dubrovnik
Beneath the toy monkey rising on a tour guide’s stick,
the Japanese numeral bobbing above bowing heads
and the stall holders selling their lavender,
sit the café-goers supping in their street observatories.
They assemble, in star-masses, uncountable and unaccountable.
Populating the roof-tops with their iridescent necks,
their nodding napes orange eyes and constant preening.
Cocking their heads downwards listening for signs.
The rumble of the bucket filling with feed.
We gather below, an infusion in the square
but there is no room there, people and stalls are everywhere.
Waiting, waiting, selfie sticks growing, cameras rising
and in this fusion of faces and feathers launches
a melody of cathedral bells at noon, the cruise-ships tune
as the man with the feed appears
and the clapping cloud of pigeons strum
an airborne chord; thrumming noise ricochets
off louvre-windowed buildings and marble streets.
They spiral down, a tumult, a grey cloud writhing at your feet.
Jousting and jostling until the frenzy is done
and every grain is gone, at twelve noon in Dubrovnik.
Some things in life just leave their mark on you, affect you. On our first holiday in Madeira we chanced upon a flower festival and I saw a lady selecting blooms from a display which people were allowed to do as it was ending. However, they were not for herself, she promptly walked up to my wife, a stranger to her, handed the bouquet to her and then walked off down the street. I watched her go, this small elegant elderly lady and I am sure she was just a member of the public in Funchal. What an act of kindness, a thought for someone else, a creator of memories. Isn’t it good to be human sometimes? How far does an act of kindness and selflessness reach? I’ve held on to this memory until finally I produced a poem from it which I like to think is my gift back to the lady, the island and its people. We had the flowers in our room for our whole two week stay. The actual flowers are in the vase below. My poem they led me to create is also below. Sometimes the world can be a truly wonderful place.