#AtoZChallenge ‘Q’ #NationalPoetryMonth ‘The Queen of Hearts’ #amwriting #poem #Nonsense Nursery Rhymes

This year to celebrate National Poetry Month and to take part in the April A-Z Blogging Challenge, I’ll be posting two poems a day, one written by me and another poem written by one of my favourite poets. The title or first word of both poems will begin with the corresponding letter in the Blogging Challenge.

Today a lighthearted post, which is a relief after the last few intense days. I offer you The Queen of Hearts, an anonymous rhyme, whose main character was made famous by Lewis Carroll in Alice’s adventures in Wonderland.

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The Queen of Hearts

The Queen of Hearts

She made some tarts,

    All on a summer’s day;

The Knave of Hearts

He stole those tarts,

    And took them clean away.

The King of Hearts

Called for the tarts,

    And beat the knave full sore;

The Knave of Hearts

Brought back the tarts,

    And vowed he’d steal no more.

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The Queen of Hearts is an English poem and nursery rhyme based on a character in playing cards. The Queen of hearts is also part of the plot of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

The Queens of Hearts is a type of light verse, mainly for children, including imaginative characters in funny or fantastic situations. It’s also called nonsense verse , because it includes absurd or meaningless situations and even made-up words. It originated in the nineteenth century. The roots of these rhymes are attributed to Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll. Although the poems defy common sense and seem illogical and simplistic, they are inherently complex and often contain more meaning that is apparent, however, I wouldn’t dare to guess at the hidden meaning of the Queen of Hearts, would you?

“The Queen of Hearts” from a 1901 edition of Mother Goose.

Here’s my nonsense rhyme.

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The Queen of Hearts

The fairy grandmother said,

‘One more tale and then off to bed.’

The children clapped with glee,

While granny sipped her tea

And started.

According to the Queen of Hearts

In a lighthouse we must start.

A lighthouse in the daylight,

Is useful in its own right,’

Said Rapunzel

As she cast her hair,

For her prince so fair.

But Jack climbed up to talk,

Looking for his beanstalk.

What about the little pigs?

The wolf, he can go eat some figs.

Cinderella found a fella,

Saving damsels with an umbrella.

The lighthouse was so overcrowded,

The ugly sisters were dumbfounded.

They called a witch to cast a spell,

She sent them all down the well,

Where they learnt to row their boat,

Round and round the castle moat.

Then said the King of the castle,

‘Go away you dirty rascals!’

‘What happened next?’ asked Matilda,

Right after the fire killed her.

‘I’m afraid I’m now a ghost.’

Alice said, ‘to that I’ll toast!’

She found a lamp, the Queen of hearts,

While Aladdin tried to eat her tarts.

Thinking it was a clock, the blind mouse

Carried the Queen up to the lighthouse,

And so my little friends, 

This is where this story ends.

And now you better go to bed,

And forget everything I said. 

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That was fun!

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#AtoZChallenge ‘P’ #NationalPoetryMonth ‘Mirror’ by Sylvia Plath #amwriting #poetry #poem

This year to celebrate National Poetry Month and to take part in the April A-Z Blogging Challenge, I’ll be posting two poems a day, one written by me and another poem written by one of my favourite poets. The title or first word of both poems will begin with the corresponding letter in the Blogging Challenge.

Today I offer you Mirror by Sylvia Plath and Mirror, Mirror by Luccia Gray

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Mirror by Sylvia Plath

I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.

Whatever I see I swallow immediately

Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.

I am not cruel, only truthful ‚

The eye of a little god, four-cornered.

Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.

It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long

I think it is part of my heart. But it flickers.

Faces and darkness separate us over and over.

*

Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,

Searching my reaches for what she really is.

Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.

I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.

She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.

I am important to her. She comes and goes.

Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.

In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman

Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.

 More about Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) 

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Sylvia Plath in 1963

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Sylvia Plath was another great yet troubled postwar poet of the 20th century. Her verse exposed despair, violent emotion, and an obsession with death and suicide. Her poems were intensely autobiographical exploring her own mental anguish. She suffered symptoms of severe depression and bipolar disorder from an early age. Her first suicide attempt occurred at the age of 19, as a result of which she received electro-shock therapy. After recovering, Plath took a degree in the US and earned a Fulbright grant to study at Cambridge University in England, and it was there that she met and later married the poet Ted Hughes.

In this poem, the mirror is the narrator. It is observing and judging the woman who looks inside with fear and agitation. The mirror is honest and cruel. It watches the passing of time and how the young woman who looks at herself gradually becomes old. But the mirror which watches the woman also needs this woman, because when she’s not there looking at herself, there is nothing, the mirror is immersed in darkness. The woman and the mirror need each other, they are two sides of the same coin. They do not exist without each other, yet they cannot help each other when they are together, because they are never really together, it is only an illusion. They can never meet, like parallel lines. I venture to guess it’s something like being bipolar.

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My mirror poem, also portrays a woman who is talking to her mirror which holds her other half, trying to become whole, which can only happen when the mirror invades her body with its shards. It is a dramatic poem, and although I am not now feeling any of the desperation that Sylvia Plath felt, I can fully understand, and may have glimpsed at the abyss myself, and watched people who were close to me overtaken by similar sensations of darkness and desperation.

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Mirror, Mirror by Luccia Gray.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, tell me what you see.

Can you help me to recall, the reason I must flee?

Mirror, mirror on the wall, can you see my soul?

Tell me once and for all, why I’m no longer whole.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, why’ve I lost my precious throne?

Where has my life gone? Where have my hopes flown?

Mirror, mirror on the wall, let me in, I’m lonely.

Slip off your shawl and open your arms to me only.

Mirror , mirror on the wall, tell me what I need to do,

Who can I call, if I you won’t let me stay with you?

Mirror, mirror on the wall, why are you so cruel?

You drown me in your waterfall, You challenge me to a duel.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, I don’t trust you any more.

You drew me in and let me fall, you make me sick to my very core.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, it’s over. I win, you lose.

Your shards pierce me as I fall, I’m covered in your tattoos.

Mirror, mirror now you’re in my heart,

So we shall never part.

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#AtoZChallenge ‘O’ #NationalPoetryMonth ‘One Perfect Rose’ by Dorothy Parker #NPM17 #CarrotRanch

This year to celebrate National Poetry Month and to take part in the April A-Z Blogging Challenge, I’ll be posting two poems a day, one written by me and another poem written by one of my favourite poets. The title or first word of both poems will begin with the corresponding letter in the Blogging Challenge.

Today I offer you One Perfect Rose by Dorothy Parker and One Perfect Rose by Luccia Gray.

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One Perfect Rose

A single flow’r he sent me, since we met.
All tenderly his messenger he chose;
Deep-hearted, pure, with scented dew still wet –
One perfect rose.

I knew the language of the floweret;
‘My fragile leaves,’ it said, ‘his heart enclose.’
Love long has taken for his amulet
One perfect rose.

Why is it no one ever sent me yet
One perfect limousine, do you suppose?
Ah no, it’s always just my luck to get
One perfect rose. 

Dorothy Parker (1893-1967)

This poem is taken from her first book of poetry, Enough Rope (1926).

Although this poem is on a much lighter note than Anne Sexton’s, Dorothy Parker, who was known for her sharp, scathing wit, was also plagued by depression and suicide attempts.  

One Perfect Rose is both humorous and sad. Perhaps the narrator is a materialistic woman, or perhaps she just expects more. What’s wrong with a rose? There’s nothing wrong with a rose, unless you’re expecting something else, which is what is more clearly stated in my poem below. Perhaps the narrator would like more commitment from her boyfriend, or a less of a traditional approach perhaps to their relationship.

In my poem, what the girl would like is a ring, not because it’s more expensive or fancy, although that too, but because it shows there’s a commitment. A rose is ephemeral. It’s pretty but it dies in a few days, and there’ll be nothing left. It’s not a symbol of permanence or stability like a ring, for example.

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Today I’ve also added a third challenge, Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch, weekly Flash Fiction Challenge based on a 99 word prompt. This weeks’ prompt is write about ‘a ring’, which is the subject of my poem today, although it’s called ‘One Perfect Rose’

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One Perfect Rose (After Dorothy Parker) by Luccia Gray

‘I found a perfect gift,’ he said.

He gave me a pretty card, which read,

‘This gift is almost as lovely as you.’

I still didn’t have a clue.

I wondered what he had in mind,

Although I knew my love was blind,

I was hoping for a ring at last,

My happiness, it was so vast!

I’d wear it on my finger proudly.

I extended my hand slowly,

And he showed me one perfect rose.

I sighed and looked down to my toes.

‘Don’t you like the rose?’ he asked.

‘It’s not what I had in mind,’ I barked.

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#AtoZChallenge ‘N’ #NationalPoetryMonth ‘Noon Walk on the Asylum Lawn’ by Anne Sexton #MondayBlogs

This year to celebrate National Poetry Month and to take part in the April A-Z Blogging Challenge, I’ll be posting two poems a day, one written by me and another poem written by one of my favourite poets. The title or first word of both poems will begin with the corresponding letter in the Blogging Challenge.

Today I offer you two poems on desperation, depression and death. Noon Walk On The Asylum Lawn by Anne Sexton and No Safe Place, by Luccia Gray.

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Noon Walk On The Asylum Lawn – Poem by Anne Sexton

The summer sun ray
shifts through a suspicious tree.
though I walk through the valley of the shadow
It sucks the air
and looks around for me.

The grass speaks.
I hear green chanting all day.
I will fear no evil, fear no evil
The blades extend
and reach my way.

The sky breaks.
It sags and breathes upon my face.
In the presence of mine enemies, mine enemies
The world is full of enemies.
There is no safe place. 

From to Bedlam and partway back by Anne Sexton published in 1960. It was the first book of poetry she published.

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Anne Sexton by Elsa Dorfman

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The poet is o the lawn at the asylum. She’s looking for comfort in doctors, in medicine, in nature, and in religion, but there’s no hope. None of them can help her leave the land of shadows in which she’s immersed. She cannot see the light.

Emotionally the poet is in the valley of the shadow of death, and ‘it’, death, is chasing her, by using everything in his power to do so. The trees take up the air choking her, the chant of the grass which becomes long blades, likes knives attacking her, the clouds, causing the shadows, are also her enemy.

This poem is a description of her lonely and desperate emotional situation. It’s all the more desperate because it’s not even a cry for help. She knows there will be no escape, because there is no safe place.

In this sense, it’s also an existentialist reflection on the human condition. We are all born, live, and die; all three events are inevitable, and in between we’re not even happy. As Camus’ tells us the reason for Caligula’s unhappiness: “Men die and they are not happy.

If this poem were a painting, it would be Munch’s The Scream.

The Scream by Eduard Munch (1893)

Her situation is hopeless. Everything and everyone is against her. She can’t escape. No one and nothing can save her.

But the poem is even more devastating, because it is not only a personal reflection, we have all been there, and we all go back there on occasions, until death finally wins the battle, because there is no escape from death. It will creep up on us all.

Lines 3, 8, and 13 are taken from Psalm 23, which is famous for being most commonly used at funerals or to comfort those approaching death. The message is that believers should not fear death because God’s presence and strength will guide them to the next world.

More about Anne Sexton here links

I’ve also found these fabulous videos on you tube of Anne reading her own poems. Check them out.

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Now for my own poem.

This is one of the hardest poems I’ve written this month. I’ve had my low moments of depression, and who hasn’t after almost six decades of life? Nevertheless I try to be an optimistic person, who encourages students, colleagues, friends, family and anyone who’s listening or reading!

The poem about my sister’s death, for example, There’s Still Joy, was hard, and yet I didn’t feel desperate or depressed when I’d written it. In fact I felt relief in writing the poem.

As T. S, Eliot said, ‘The purpose of literature is to turn blood into ink.’ In that case, it should have had a therapeutic and liberating effect, shouldn’t it? That was initially Anne Sexton’s aim in writing poetry, as therapy, and yet, her poem has no hope, just a description of desperation.

Anne Sexton’s poem has pushed me way out of my comfort zone today.

Here’s my own desperate plea.

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No Safe Place (After Anne Sexton) by Luccia Gray

The shadow stalks me,

Seeping through the trees.

The leaves, they whisper,

‘We’ve come to take her.’

‘Fear no evil,’ they repeat,

But I can hear the devil’s feet.

The grass is screaming,

The clouds are crashing,

The Lord is waiting.

I’m at their mercy.

They’ve called back my enemy.

It’s time now, he’s come for me.

He’s breathing in my face.

There is no safe place.

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#NationalPoetryMonth ‘Let it Flow’ #inspiration #amwriting #poem

Today I offer you a poem I’ve written for one of my best friends, artist Anna Overbury Sujar. We were recently sitting by the beach, chatting about inspiration and the process of creating a picture or a poem.

When I returned home, I wrote this poem for her, for me, for you, for everyone who creates art.

I hope you enjoy it!

Anna Overbury Sujar, in her studio.

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Let it Flow by Luccia Gray.

Push away your fear,

Ignore your doubts,

Let it flow.

Loosen your arms,

Relax your hand,

Let it flow.

Capture the moment

You saw the light,

Let it flow.

Feel the grandeur,

Bathed in gratitude,

Let it flow.

Channel your magic,

Connect with the awe,

Let it flow.

Pick up your brush,

Awaken the fairy,

Let it flow.

Let the brush slide,

Over your canvas,

Let it flow.

Blend the colours into sound,

Melt the music into movement,

Let it flow.

For Anna Overbury Sujar.

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Anna Overbury Sujar at home with one of her beautiful mosaics.

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#AtoZChallenge ‘M’ #NationalPoetryMonth ‘My Mistress’ Eyes’ #NPM17 #amwriting #Sonnet #Poetry #Shakespeare

This year to celebrate National Poetry Month and to take part in the April A-Z Blogging Challenge, I’ll be posting two poems a day, one written by me and another poem written by one of my favourite poets. The title or first word of both poems will begin with the corresponding letter in the Blogging Challenge.

Today I offer you one of Shakespeare’s most irreverent sonnets, My Mistress’ Eyes are Nothing Like the Sun (Sonnet 130) and another irreverent sonnet by Luccia Gray, My Master’s Eyes Are Nothing Like the Sun.

I hope you enjoy!

 

My Mistress’ Eyes Are Nothing Like The Sun (Sonnet 130) by William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616).

 

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;

Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;

If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;

If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.

I have seen roses damasked, red and white,

But no such roses see I in her cheeks;

And in some perfumes is there more delight

Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.

I love to hear her speak, yet well I know

That music hath a far more pleasing sound;

I grant I never saw a goddess go;

My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.

And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare

As any she belied with false compare.

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I love this sonnet. It’s one of my favourites for two reasons. Firstly, I admire Shakespeare’s lack of conventionalism or snobbery, and his use of typical metaphors against themselves. In this case, he parodies conventional love sonnets made popular by Petrarch, and written by his contemporaries, such as Sidney, which idealised their love interest.

Secondly, I love the way he presents a flawed and imperfect woman as his mistress. He says, ‘you’re not perfect, you’re not a goddess, but who cares, I love you because you’re real and in spite of your imperfections.’ Well said!

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My sonnet also presents an imperfect lover, although in this case he’s male.

It also has a light and mocking tone, poking fun at celebrities and those who imitate them.

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My Master’s Eyes

 

My master’s eyes are nothing like the sun,

They’re black as coal, deep and often wary.

If hairs be messy, then he has almost none,

If skin be soft and smooth, his is hairy.

I’ve seen George Clooney dressed up in a tux,

Brad Pitt prefers Channel scents, it would seem,

But he smells like showers and a touch of musk,

And he looks his best in navy blue jeans.

I love to watch his lips while he’s talking,

Although his voice is gruff and sometimes raw.

I never saw David Beckham walking,

But my master, when he walks, treads on the floor,

And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare,

As any superstar you can compare.

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#AtoZChallenge ‘L’ #NationalPoetryMonth ‘The Lightest Touch’ #NPM17 #amwriting #poem #inspiration

This year to celebrate National Poetry Month and to take part in the April A-Z Blogging Challenge, I’ll be posting two poems a day, one written by me and another poem written by one of my favourite poets. The title or first word of both poems will begin with the corresponding letter in the Blogging Challenge.

Today I offer you two poems about poetic inspiration. The Lightest Touch by David Whyte, which has in turn inspired me to write a poem with the same name about the same subject, The Lightest Touch by Luccia Gray

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 THE LIGHTEST TOUCH by David Whyte

Good poetry begins with

the lightest touch,

a breeze arriving from nowhere,

a whispered healing arrival,

a word in your ear,

a settling into things,

then, like a hand in the dark,

it arrests the whole body,

steeling you for revelation.

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In the silence that follows

a great line,

you can feel Lazarus,

deep inside

even the laziest, most deathly afraid

part of you,

lift up his hands and walk toward the light.

– from EVERYTHING IS WAITING FOR YOU and RIVER FLOW

David Whyte in 2009 by Eugene Kim

David Whyte, of Anglo-Irish origins, was born and brought up in the UK. He was a marine zoologist, before he started writing poetry.

The lightest Touch is a beautiful poem which aims to identify the fleeting and magical moment of inspiration or revelation, before a poem is written.

More about David and his poetry here.

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I’ve used the same title in my poem and tied to identify the same moment.

The Lightest Touch by Luccia Gray (inspired by David Whyte)

A whisper in my dream,

A fading ripple in the sea,

A breeze when your eyes open,

A trembling leaf just fallen.

A bolt of lightning,

A shadow sliding

Over the waning sun.

The lightest touch,

Like a distant hum

Has finally come.

A sudden surge of light,

Which starts so slight,

Yet grows and grows

‘Till it explodes,

Into words and lines

And other signs,

Later a poem,

Just for them.

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