Saturday

Year End

I like to take moments in the torrid whirl of my life to be still and quiet with God. It's not easy. This is one day in the year when I look for such a moment and also to take stock on a year gone by. I find that this poem helps, capturing the moment perfectly.

May I take this moment to wish you a blessed and happy new year. Call by and catch up once in a while.

Peace Dave.

The Darkling Thrush

I leant upon a coppice gate,
When Frost was spectre-gray,
And Winter's dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled vine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.

The land's sharp features seemed to me
The Century's corpse outleant,
Its crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind its death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
Seemed fervorless as I.

At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead,
In a full-throated evensong Of joy illimited.
An ancient thrush, frail, gaunt and small,
With blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew,
And I was unaware.

Thomas Hardy

Last Day

Tomorrow is the last day of the year 2006, it is the last day of the Christian festival of Christmas (officially)but even more than that it is the last day of the incumbency of our parish Priest. Tomorrow sees the end of fourteen years of his work within our parish. It will be a strange thing to worship without him.
The gift I prepared for him is ready, as polished as ever it can be and also with a surprise addition that sort of grew out of the editing process and refused to go away. A bit like Franken Freezer my undead freezer that is now living in my garage and humming contentedly, it just would not be turned off. At one point it was going to be a stanza and later it could have been an addition providing a contrasting theme. Neither of these were to be, it was a poem of it's own right and made sure that I knew it. I have reproduced it below, enjoy.
Before that though I had some news today that friends in Sudan have had a baby boy, yesterday. This is really great news as they have had a very bad year as with many people in Sudan. As I pointed out to them in my congratulation message, God brings great joys in small bundles, that's Christmas.

Lead Me

Lead me in the simple way,
That trails behind your tread.
Hold my hand and guide me,
Through the darkness laid ahead.

On steep narrow rocky paths,
Teach me courage to carry on.
Show me how to balance Lord,
What is right and what is wrong.

Through the noise and smoke of life,
Guide me please along the way.
Through all the uncertainties of night,
To the bright dawning light of day.

When at last we reach the place,
Where spirits shine like chrome.
Hug me like your long lost child
And I'll know that I've come home.

Peace Dave

Friday

Freezer Promise

In a way this post relates to yesterdays post in that I have picked up something really quite general in something really specific. If you've been reading my posts you'll know that my freezer was due to be taken off life support today. To catch up please connect with this link to the relevant post.
The bottom line is that when we purchased the freezer the cheerful salesman told us that it would be delivered on Friday. It may be in the morning but it was likely to be in the afternoon. He then winced and told us that it would be in the morning if it could be but not to assume that it would be. Patter. Salesman talk. How many times have you bought something, cars are a good example, where the salesman has smothered you talk that in the end proved to be no more real than a moon made of cheese. Having been about a bit I accept this as standard and think nothing much of it. What I heard in this conversation was that the freezer would arrive in the afternoon.
Imagine my surprise when opening my door to a fresh faced deliveryman this morning still wearing my night clothes and wiping the sleep from my eyes. Then it hit me, while I was apologising and clearing the way, how often are we like the salesman hedging our bets and never really intending to keep any of the promises we make. How often are we like deliverymen filing a quota and getting things done on time by the sweat of our brow and making sacrifices. Again how often are we like unprepared customers, not ready, having to apologise to people who have worked hard for us, embarrassed by our own actions. What an impact my new freezer has made and with a new year approaching are these really cool thoughts ?
The old freezer is still going, my wife seems to have brought it to life and living things are precious. So FrankenFreezer will live on in the garage.

Peace Dave.

simple install

A bit more life, it's what holidays are about. This is core business, it affects my computer. For ages we have had the computer and all it's associated stuff locked up in a large cabinet. It served a purpose keeping Little hands far away from damaging sensitive equipment. Recently I learned how out of date that thinking was when my daughter asked me how to download an animation about combustion engines for her interactive slide show on how vehicle engines have evolved. This was homework for a thirteen year old.
We have in the last few weeks and also through giving at Christmas received several goodies for our (my) computer. Included in this are a wireless mouse and keyboard, printer scanner and flat screen monitor. So may task today was remove the cupboard, disconnect the computer and exchange the old parts for new ones. This involved a shelf and and making a short trolley/shelf unit for the main computer parts. The shelf and trolley took about three hours to make and were a pleasure to create. I love to create it's just the engineer in me. Flat bits of wood or steel become things, anything whatever is needed, that's really the joy of it. Especially if I'm doing it for someone else - but that's another story.
It's the next bit that gets to me. I installed a printer, scanner, mouse, keyboard, modem and router in less than two hours. I remember life before Windows, before plug and play. I remember a time when today's task would literally have taken all day. Software has really improved. The question for me here is have we improved, have I improved. Another whole year has passed and am I any better for it, did it improve my software. Can I integrate better, can I do more tasks, can I do what I do better. Am I any closer to the God I love, do I display that to the people I meet and to the people I love? Odd how doing things makes you think.

Peace Dave

Wednesday

Material Issues


Today was to be the first real break day in our Christmas holidays. The first day when we could lay up ignore the world and just chill. Maybe watch TV a bit, maybe play with some of our presents or just simply hang around. Sorry not to be. Our freezer which has been a good friend for several years, probably over six, has died. It has exhibited signs of illness for a while, frosting up and triggering it's alarm light. Always recovering and life carrying on. Sadly though through the last couple of days it has become unwell and today a decision had to be taken, it has to be replaced.

My wife and I had a conference and she decided that it would not do to be caught out with a freezer load of food that was no longer as frozen as it should be. Of course as with all things there are ramifications, purchasing freezers is not like buying a small TV or radio. First there is the cost, anything from a week's wage to a month's and delivery is extra. Even the best Internet sales included a huge delivery charge. But even more than cost form and function have to be considered. My wife (as with most wives I imagine) has very fixed views on what she expects from a freezer manufacturer. So we have to go and actually look at freezers. Which means leaving the house, abandoning my day of ease (and my wife's) and going to the shops. Not the most comfortable situation.

However after a busy day rooting around bargains and claimed bargains we managed to locate a display freezer with a shop discount and an extra 10% off because of the sales. This means that we will have a freezer worth several weeks pay for about one and a half. Not really good but a good result all the same.

The new freezer comes on Friday and then our old freezer which is currently on life support will be switch off.


Peace Dave

Tuesday

My Parents



I always smirk when I read the great poem by Philip Larkin - This be the Verse, the opening line which I will not repeat here is a sweeping truth. However the individualism that parenting can impart is not always a bad thing. I am who I am because of who they are. My daughter often comments that I am becoming more like my Dad, great I say I like my Dad.


Christmas is a time for relatives and travel. For months we subsist on phone calls and flying visits but at this time of year we can ease back and spend real time with people who know us as well as we do. It's either Heaven or Purgatory. For me today is heaven, the pressure is off all the jobs are done and I am chilling with my parents - please see the pictures. There are no great expectations just relaxation and fun. We eat, drink and play games - all in the safety of knowing that everyone knows everyone else intimately. We laugh at the slightest excuse and all pretensions to formality dissolve as the house door opens. There is no rush and no real need for politeness, although courtesy flows as easily as the laughter.


Time passes as it should, without being seen heard or really noticed. I imagine that if ever I should get to heaven that it would feel like this, warm, easy and usual - like home.




Peace Dave.

Monday

Christmas Day

There are two days of the year that exist outside the normal rules of general life and Christmas day is one of them. Advent is a season of preparation and this is what we have prepared for. If you have children it starts early, always early, less than five hours sleep in this case. Wonderful! I love the stumbling struggling start with children's excitement screaming like hyperactive bees all about. It just reminds me that this day is special.
Breakfast, darkness outside a couple of presents, still no drop in excitement. Church is at ten and this is one of the two days in the years when I must be in a church if I can. But this is not boring stiff regular Sunday worship, this is a birthday celebration, all be it a Church of England party. All the rules bend and all the faces smile because this is a triumphant day. Handshakes are common currency coupled with "Merry Christmas". It lasts but a moment in reality and is more of a family gathering than an official service.
Relatives. Christmas is nothing if you don't share it with someone. My wife prepares a feast of sumptuous food which is a delight to devour. My wife is a clever cook and always excels at Christmas. Feeling full and grateful for it, with sweets and drinks it is great to relax and exchange chat. This is the moment, the moment when we climb into the elemental Christmas experience of coming together abandoning barriers. We are just people together enjoying one anther's' company in mutual love.
Love is what this day is all about. A love that transcends barriers and complex relations to display the love that a creative all embracing God has for all and any. Merry Christmas.

Peace Dave.

Sunday

Christingle Sucess

This afternoon at 4pm we put on our parish Christingle crib service. We have been practicing this and today the moment came. The Church was full to bursting with young families with kids of all ages and the young at heart. Every thing went very well and I think was well received. The service began with two Roman soldiers attempting to hold a census, Gluteous Maximus and Gratuitous Ugliness. Then a young newly wed couple arrived and asked for lodgings, which of course there were none. Our priest played the part of the Inn Keeper and did a very good job beating off the Inn Keeper's Wife insistence that he should give the couple a room. Eventually they were allowed to stay in the cattle shed (vestry) which was declared as not fit for animals! We also had children tending large cardboard sheep who were disturbed by the sudden appearance of an Angel who proclaimed the birth of a special baby.
We actually held a census and had two young volunteers helping to count heads. Literally people were counted by the Romans. As this took place Joseph suddenly raced into the church ashen faced asking for towels and disrupting the counting. Four times he dashed in each time more frantic and manic than the last causing hoots of laughter from the congregation. The census naturally failed in the face of this event - a baby had been born.
This was the moment when in a hushed church Mary brought in the baby Jesus and laid him in a crib. The crib was put before a Nativity scene made with twelve inch models, essentially framing the moment. Result.
Part of the service was dedicated to Christingles and a load were handed out in exchange for donations to the work of the Children's society. A fair bit was raised which will do a lot of good. So we all had fun, taught the Nativity story once again and raised funds for a charity. I would call that a success.

Peace Dave.

Saturday

Poetry Group

Dark news. I spoke just yesterday to the librarian who was until recently leading our local poetry group. He has been moved/promoted to another town and can no longer meet his commitment to our little group. We meet once a month on the first Tuesday of the month in Trowbridge town library - all poetry lovers welcome. The remaining librarians will assist with tea, coffee and book lending but not actually running the group. This is bad news for me as I am the natural successor to Pete our librarian. Bad news because I really don't have the time to commit to this task. Bad news because I also cannot walk away from the group that has supported me so much and encouraged me so well then see it fail.
So on the afternoon of January second after a twelve hour night shift I shall chair the first meeting of the Trowbridge Library Poetry Group in 2007. My other concern, perhaps less obvious is the impact of leading on my poetry. I am very sensitive to this and worry about anything that may cause me to stop writing.
I will pray about this and ask for guidance. If guidance does not come I will then pray for strength and help. The bottom line is that I will do what I can while I can and look for a replacement to do what I do as well as Pete did. The show must go on.

Peace Dave.

Friday

Christmas Poem

This is a poem from my book - which can be had on line from Lulu.com. There is a link for that on the right just above my archive listings. It's a bit of a Christmas freebie - enjoy and obviously if you like it.....


Meeting.

He looked up slowly, scared,
Fear drawing his sinews tight.
Staring into soft angelic eyes,
That seemed to fill with light.
The camp fire danced orange nearby,
Cracking quietly two feet to his right.
While the stars that shone so brightly,
Seemed to retreat, into the night.

A sudden shocked inward breath,
A stumbling step toward the fire.
Toward warmth and security,
His friends and the glowing pyre.
But a new warmth overtook him,
Penetrating deep into his bones.
Born of sweet singing voices
And gently lulled loving tones.

A broad brightness filled him,
Lowering his hands raised in fear.
Stretching them out wide in welcome
To the warmth brought so near.
His rude form standing engulfed
In golden light precious and dear.
Darkening the grass behind in shadow,
Making a ghostly cross appear.

He glanced down resting disbelieving eyes,
Silence fell and darkness came.
Blinking up again swiftly looking about,
But the night was no longer the same.
Urgency filled his startled soul, then
Without so much as a backward look,
He scrambled running like a mad man
Leaving the hillside clutching lamb and crook.

Peace Dave

Thursday

Rushing Around

This blog is about two main subjects my poetry and my life. This is an aspect of my life that I don't much like, rushing. Western life is crammed full of pressure and things that must be done and paid for every minute of the day. I realised this most when visiting Tunisia a few years ago. In their life there is space for other things such as just sitting and contemplation. People meet and exchange pleasantries until there are no more pleasantries left, unlike us who gabble a few words and worry about the next thing to do.
A good example of this is a couple that my wife and I met on holiday in Tunisia a while ago. Excellent people that we got on with really well. We kept contact after the holiday but it fizzled out. Recently they went to Tunisia again and sent a post card to us. I have their e-mail address but failed to reply. I was going to write but couldn't find their address. All the time there were other things needing to be done that laid pressure against me. Having forgotten about them completely, again they sent us a Christmas card - they really are good people. Now I feel even more sad that I have not replied to them. But even as I write this I have a massive list of to dos that must be done by this time and that before I go to work tonight. I am making a mental note that I must e-mail them and try to make amends. But first I have some rushing around top do and that is what I do not like. I rush around for a living which is fine because I get paid for it but I have no desire to do it in my free time. Advent is a time of preparedness both physical and spiritual but I don't feel the spiritual side at all at the moment just the rushing around like a headless chicken. These words from William Henry Davies say it all for me:


Leisure

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this is if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Try to remember, just as I must try to remember, there is more to life than just getting things done. Christmas is an excellent example of that if nothing else.

Peace Dave.

Wednesday

Job Done !

I've done it, I really think I've done it. There only comes an end to the polishing process once I feel warm and happy inside about what I have created. If your are puzzled by this opening comment please click on the words polishing process and they Will take you to a previous post which will help explain.
I was really beginning to think I might not get there, especially after my sneaky mega session in the hospital the other day got me off to a good start. But that was then and this is now and I am like a puppy with two tails - that is very happy. Below is the finished article for you to preview.

A Testament to Spatial Awareness.


Lord lead us not with synoptic gaze,
to look upon your myriad ways.


Above all it’s a journey,
Often made with strangers,
Along labyrinthine ways.
A presence that you kept,
In all ways and always in
Parochial prayer and praise.

Spokes spinning up Frome road,
A cheery handshake and smile,
Treating a wicked world with grace.
Trinity fingers tracing out a cross,
A kingdom held out in your hands,
Christ smiling through your face.

Firm footing and foundation,
Cornerstone and underpinning,
Mortar, cement and more.
Yet transient like a blown leaf,
Temporary as a pilgrims tread,
Placed gently on a sandy floor.

Bitter sweet the journey calls,
Both provoking and comforting,
Lurking hidden within the day.
Proximity itself becomes the key,
Shifting wards fast and deep,
As you unlock your way.

Drenched pew and stonework show,
Even stained within the glass,
The residue of your ministry find;
In fragrant scents of the spirit,
That cheerfully came with you
And you deliberately left behind.

Peace Dave.

Tuesday

Spin Off

I some times find that in writing one poem another pops up without warning. I usually scribble a few notes about it and file it in a folder of ideas. This time it happened and a nearly complete poem slipped out. It's very simple and almost ditty like in quality but that in it self can be endearing. I fiddled with it for twenty minutes today and here it is. I have no title for it yet but I may just call it Lead Me. If you can think of a better title comment on the blog below and let me know.

Lead me in the simple way,
That trails behind your tread.
Hold my hand and guide me,
Through the darkness laid ahead.

On steep narrow rocky paths,
Teach me courage to carry on.
Show me how to balance Lord,
What is right and what is wrong.

Through the noise and smoke of life,
Guide me please along the way.
Through all the uncertainties of night,
To the bright dawning light of day.

When at last we reach the place,
Where spirits shine like chrome.
Hug me like your long lost child
And I'll know that I've come home.

Peace Dave

Second Rough

OK here later than expected is a second rough draft (click the title to see the first) hopefully more polished than the last. I am really undecided about my proposed sixth stanza so I have not yet added one. Please comment on this post if you have any ideas or thoughts - feedback is always good.

A Testament to Spatial Awareness.


Lord lead us not with synoptic gaze,
to look upon your myriad ways.


Above all it’s a journey,
Often made with strangers,
Through labyrinthine ways.
A presence that you kept,
In all ways and always too,
By parochial prayer and praise.

Spokes spinning up Frome road,
A cheery handshake and smile,
Treating the world to some grace.
Trinity fingers tracing out a cross,
Kingdom drawn out in your hands,
Christ smiling through your face.

Firm footing and foundation,
Cornerstone and underpinning,
Mortar, cement and more.
Yet transient like a blown leaf,
Temporary as a pilgrims tread,
Placed lightly on a sandy floor.

Bitter sweet the journey calls,
Both provoking and comforting,
Lurking hidden within the day.
Proximity itself becomes the key,
Shifting wards fast and deep,
As you unlock your way.

Drenched pew and stonework show,
Even stained within the glass,
Easily possible to find;
Fragrant scents of the spirit,
That cheerfully came with you
And you deliberately left behind.

Peace Dave

Sunday

Nine Lessons

Tonight was the night of our church Nine Lessons and Carols service. This is an annual event always done just before Christmas. If you don't go to church the service comprises nine bible readings that tell the story of the birth of Jesus from Genesis forward interspersed with appropriate carols.
What struck me tonight was the poetry in the lyrics of the carols that we sang and how well they chimed with the rhythm of the tunes. Some of them actually suggest the tune when you read them as poetry. It's also quite surprising how succinct they are in the story that they tell. When I compare that with the work I create and the struggle it sometimes is to achieve I look upon these hymns with new wonder.
Of course these hymns probably went through several revisions and took a good while to actually write. I take a lot of comfort from poets that tell me they revise their work several times and take ages to create a piece, that's me, I do that. I'm not particularly clever or superhuman, but I do have poems within to get out. Knowing that we are all roughly the same makes me feel normal, part of a group. Where I come from poetry is not normal, so I seek unity. A bit like Christians gathered in a Church worshipping together singing carols, unity is good. It produces positive results and cuts through any isolation from the secular world. Tonight I stood in a full church, felt good, enjoyed the lyrics and sang my heart out.

Peace Dave.

Saturday

Christingle Creation.

This evening saw the first practice of our Church Christingle play. If you missed the beginning of this thread click the title to go to an earlier post. Chaos, absolute chaos. I think personally that's great and I'll tell you why.
All too often we roll up at Church say a liturgy that was written by people far smarter than us and switch off to the actual stories within the words. It's like eddy currents in a river they all have a part to play in the overall flow. There are loads of stories in the bible that teach us about God and what God wants from us and how much God loves us. We seldom get the chance to explore any of this, we simply recite words that we have learned.
However tonight a group of eight people or so were animatedly discussing the Nativity story and arguing over aspects of the story that they had never thought about before. Having to act the story and somehow make it fit within the confines of our church forced them to consider the story in a new light. It was interesting to see the revelations of insight wash over people and hear them say "I had never though about it that way before".
Chaos is just a starting point and from almost scratch we had constructed a Nativity play that was suitable for young kids and families inside two hours. It contains humour and hymns, tells the story of the birth of Jesus and why that birth is such an important thing. A strong link has been made to Christingles and all this was done between church members that rarely even speak - Praise be to God. Our next practice is on Chrstmas Eve at 2pm, can't wait.

Peace Dave.

Friday

Heading up

I'm working nights and haven't had a lot of time to work on my poem or do anything else for that matter, but I did wake with something on my mind. I was thinking about titles. What was in my mind was what part of a poem is the title. Sounds a bit daft but in my thinking every part of a poem has a part to play.
Hymns I notice usually have the first line as the title and use it for nothing more than that. It's handy if you haven't found the hymn when the singing starts but as far as I can see there is no more meaning to it than that. Some titles, a bit like hymns, seem like a reference point to identify a poem in a filing system rather than anything else. I prefer the kind of title that acts like a key for the poem. In this I mean that a certain tone is set by it or a piece of information is disclosed that is vital to the understanding of a poem. Some poems on first reading would make little sense without their titles. I particularly enjoy titles with a slight cryptic twist in this vein, that's the sadistic wordaholic in me.
Short titles for me are better than long ones and that's just a personal preference. I like to get into a poem quickly and so rambling titles annoy me. The title that I picked for my latest poem is about as long as I would ever want and I have weighed every word I assure you. It's meant to convey the key to the poem, which is being aware of your place in things(IE. the world, life, ministry, parish) to the point where you can appreciate and anticipate the effects of your actions. The poem is deliberately written so that the title adds this sense to it, I hope.
How do you use titles? what do you think of titles and how long are your titles.
I hope over the weekend to get another edition out with a new stanza, if I can find time.

Peace Dave.

Thursday

Sixth Stanza

I have a nagging doubt about my poem for the leaving parish priest. Things are going well and the polishing process is starting to bring the shine I want. But I feel that an element is missing. I want the poem to reflect real life and in particular his life here.
Last night I was delivering some of my poetry books that had been ordered by people that can't go online. Please follow this link to see my book - great Christmas present! Inevitably I stop for a chat and on one occasion I heard the story of a lady who has a very sick mum that she cares for. Recently her father, who was also very sick died in hospital. Our priest rushed to the hospital to try and be there when he died. Sadly neither him or his family arrived in time. As I heard this story I realised that there was no element of my poem that reflected this portion of the ministry of our priest. This was a part of his life that he seldom shared but always provided. The more I thought about it the more I think I need to include something that picks up this facet of his services. I think that I will have to add another stanza as I do not want to remove any of the content.
I'm annoyed that I appear to have missed out an area of his work but also glad that I have had this pointed out, it will make the poem more real for him and give it more meaning, which was always the goal. So thinking caps on for another stanza.

Peace Dave

Wednesday

Waiting Room


For reasons largely beyond my control I find myself sitting in the waiting room of a specialist at Bath Royal United Hospital. If you have never experienced the National Health Service and don't live in the U.K. you may find this strange. The NHS is a fantastic facility which does wonderful things for many people that they could never afford privately. But as with any nationalised institution there is usually a heavy demand for waiting. In fact you can expect to spend a lot of your time with the NHS simply waiting. If you haven't planned for this it can be very irritating, fortunately I have been there before and when I saw on the notice board that the average waiting time was 55 to 65 minutes I was actually quite relieved.

Because while everyone else was huffing, puffing and fidgeting through old magazines I was quietly polishing my poem. I don't embarrass easily so I had no problem sitting in this large waiting room with the poem balanced on an old copy of Country Life. The man sat to my right was nosing over my shoulder which did become annoying after a while. In the end I asked him for his thoughts on the second line of stanza three at which point he turned red and wouldn't look at me any more. As I said I don't embarrass easily.

My wait proved nearly as therapeutic as my consultation which believe it or not involves another three months wait. I got a lot done and I'm really pleased so far, I wasn't just in the zone today I had time to walk about a bit and even redecorate it. Perhaps waiting is good for you after all.


Peace Dave.

Tuesday

Rough Draft

Ok, listed below is a rough draft which is my first skim of polishing. I'm blogging it to see what you think. If you want to comment please do, I would relish the feed back.

A Testament to Spatial Awareness

Above all it’s a journey,
Often made with strangers,
Through labyrinthine ways.
Always and in all ways,
A presence that you kept,
In parochial prayer and praise.

Spokes spinning up Frome road,
Schools, baptisms visits, services,
Evangelist blood red in your pace
Trinity fingers tracing out a cross,
Kingdom drawn in your hands,
Christ smiling through your face,

Firm Foundation and cornerstone,
Core, capstone and underpinning,
Concrete, cement and more.
Yet transient like a blown leaf,
Temporary as a wanderer’s footprint,
Placed on a sandy shore.

Bitter sweet the journey calls,
Both provoking and comforting,
Lurking hidden in the day.
Proximity itself becomes the key,
Shifting wards stuck in time,
As you unlock your way.

Drenched pew and stonework show,
Even stained into the glass,
It is still easily possible to find.
Fragrant scents of the spirit,
That cheerfully came with you
And you deliberately left behind.

Monday

Polishing Process


Today saw the real beginning of the process that I usually refer to as polishing. (Please click the title to see the last relevant post.) What I mean by this is the fine tinkering with words and grammar to shape the finished poem to the exact way I want it. I like to call it polishing as it really is a finishing procedure. My poem has been created in the way I want it but before it is truly complete it must shine.

I like to read and re read the poem, tedious as this can become. What I am looking for is the way the poem scans and the ease with which it is read. The rhythm is checked and the stresses in the end rhymes. What I want is to make the poem almost glide on the reader's tongue. I really like poems that I've read almost without noticing the words. A well polished poem is easy to read if not easy to understand. Understanding is something the reader can do later. First they have to read.

I find myself adding plurals or replacing single words, moving words around and tinkering with the grammar. It's strange how small changes have a slow mutating effect that can really bring a poem out of it's shell. I'm fascinated by this process, much the same as I am fascinated to see metal becoming brighter and brighter as it is buffed. As I said I really only began today and this is a process that can take weeks. I don't have all that much time though as my deadline is the end of the year - best get polishing !


Peace Dave.





Sunday

Thomas Tonight

It's Sunday and it's one of the ones that I have to work. I usually worship at the 10 am service but being at work means that I can't. I cannot go off site to go to Church. No matter, there is a very good evening service at a church called St Thomas and so after work I go there. The style of worship there is very cheerful and loaded with praise. For a person having just completed twelve hours work it's just the thing to fire me up again. The people there are most friendly as is the priest, who tonight was wearing a green shirt.
This is all supplementary as tonight I met another poet, a Christian poet. As I entered the Church the man in front of me was welcomed and introduced himself an artist. He then started to talk about his writing and how he'd had poems published in a magazine. Tonight was his first time at St Thomas. He was looking for a new Church and had come to try St Thomas out. A bit stunned I introduced myself and we quickly got chatting. The gent, no names sorry, also has a community radio program and is a part time volunteer worker for a charity.
This was a real shocker for me and quite the last thing I had expected. God however does continue to do the most unexpected things. We have swapped contact details and will definitely be in touch to exchange poems. My new friend had a very good time in the service and will definitely be back. Result all round. It amazes that these things happen; perhaps I shouldn't be such a doubting Thomas.

Peace Dave.

Saturday

Manchester Offer

I very rarely enter competitions, mainly because of the cost. But last year I made an exception to enter the Manchester Cathedral International Religious Poetry Competition. Not only was this a religious poetry competition but it was reasonably priced. Naturally I did not win, but it did feel good to take part.

Manchester Cathedral are extending invites once again for their 2007 competition. Details about this competition can be down loaded from their website please follow the link in blue. This will take you to the home page where you will need to click on the word "community" and select "poetry competition" from the drop down menu. From here you can download details. The competition is not limited to UK entries which is one reason for me to be putting it on my blog but also and perhaps more surprisingly not restricted to Christian poetry. Any poem of a spiritual nature can be entered. Check it out and perhaps give it a go. If you decide to let me know, I will be entering, but first I need to write something worthy and that won't happen until after Christmas. The deadline is Monday July 2nd so there is plenty of time yet.
Sorry no news about the poem I really could not get on it today things were very busy at work.
Peace Dave.

Friday

Emontional Connection.

Having got as far as I have with the new poem I discussed it with my wife (yes all the good ones are married !) today. If you have missed out on this thread clicking the title will take you back a day and there are four days held on my page. Basically I want to write a poem for my priest who is leaving the parish at the end of the month. Unusually for me I have deviated from the usual way I write. Instead of building on a inspired idea and developing it I attempted to create on a theme building a frame work to guide me. Check my previous posts for more details. The bottom line is that the framework idea failed and inspiration walked in like a prodigal son looking for a fatted calf sandwich. This set up a few questions for me which bubbled up with my wife today.
One thing that became apparent was that I had no emotional link to my framework style poem. It's not something I have considered in depth before but as usual my wife has hit upon a core truth. As humans we build an emotional bond with all sorts of things, cars are a good example as are pets and music. The same emotional bonds that form families and links together friends allows such bonds to form. Unconsciously I bond with my poems and the ones that I don't bond with are never written. This may seem like an odd concept and it took me a bit of time to accept it.
We need to have emotional bonds it's a part of being human and as a poet communication of the emotions that we use to bond with is a part of what I do. People will not like a poem that they have no emotional bond with no matter how grammatically perfect it is or how thoughtfully constructed. For me that bond cannot be passed on in a poem if I have not first made it myself. This all make some sense to me but you may have other ideas. If you do I would like to hear them, let me know.

Peace Dave.

Radical Rethink

Last night I tinkered again with my poem at work in my tea breaks and as time went by I became less and less happy with it. The more and more I tried to flesh out the skeleton that I laid down the more it seemed that I was playing some odd word puzzle and not creating a poem. The stanza lines seemed stifled and as I most feared cut to fit and not part of an overall whole. The work was getting very long and myself very frustrated. It was while I was aggressively scribbling and rubbing out that I decided to lengthen the first line and came to a new opening.
It's like magic, hey presto, I'm off like a racehorse mixing in previously written lines with all new creation and seeing much of it fall straight on to the page as if it was glad to be back. Within two minutes I had deposited five six line stanzas, rhyming on the end word of the third and sixth line.
I'm not pretending that the job's done, this creation still needs plenty of work and I may still include elements of the old skeleton. The bottom line is that I am much more happy with this creation than the skeleton idea. What can I read into this, what does this mean. Perhaps I'm just better off attempting to stimulate myself by writing anything and revising it. Perhaps if I persisted with the skeleton idea I could have done a good job after all. All in all I have learned that my opinions about my poetry count for really very little and that people have surprisingly varied expectations and opinions. Usually my bench mark is: am I happy with the poem, but as this one is expressly for some one else I am more concerned that I do a good job - the best I can. This work is still rough and needs polishing but at least I feel like polishing it, cant be all bad.

Peace Dave.

Wednesday

Archbishop Speaks

I received a message from the Diocese today which a Christmas message from Archbishop Rowan Williams. Too good a chance to miss I am blogging it as his words are far finer than mine. Enjoy.

Peace Dave.


December Thoughts: This year for the first time ever I’ve had the opportunity of travelling to Bethlehem for a short visit, just before Christmas. It’s made think me think about the whole business of travelling, travelling towards something as we get ready for Christmas which isn’t something we think about all that often. ‘Christmas is coming’ we say, as if it were moving towards us, but are we moving at all?Mary and Joseph travelled to Bethlehem, a tough journey in bad weather, in the middle of the sort of frustrated impatient crowds who always find when people are being herded together for administrative business. The shepherds travelled from their fields, not a long journey you might think, but these were people regarded as disreputable, one of the lowest sorts of worker in ancient Israel, so they wouldn’t have felt very comfortable asking around in town where the baby was to be found.And of course the wise men travelled from far off trying to work out their journey from the stars, learning to stammer a few phrases in another language, completely out of their depths with the situation they found themselves in the middle of, all the wisdom of their native country counting for nothing. It seems as though when we approach Christmas one of the things the Bible story reminds us of is that we’ve got to get out of our comfort zone if we’re God in all this, it’s as if you have leave behind the sort of people that you’re comfortable with, the picture of yourself that you’re comfortable with, and be ready to find yourself among this strange crowd of folk journeying towards the truth, journeying towards the miracle of God’s love.You’ll meet that love and let it into your life, only when you’ve left behind all that protects you from other people, from the risks and suffering of ordinary life, all that keeps you safe with your own preferences and your own ideas. Christmas is about God overturning all our ideas about ourselves and about him, his love is the most surprising thing there could be, this really is the beginning of a new world, and we need to change if we’re going to take it in, we need to travel.

Tuesday

Skeleton Form

I worked nights last night and in my tea breaks I was able to work a little on my poem. I have taken quite a radical change from the way I normally write and I was thinking about breaking down the theme of spatial awareness into stanzas so that every stanza had something to say about it. I have decided to also not actually define in words what the poem is about so that the reader will have to work it out from the content, so this means that I will need to use language and phrases that will do that. The actual it that am attempting to define in the poem is the task of being a priest in a parish, which is a very varied task that has few set boundaries. So I have laid out a selection of stanzas that each portray a fragment or facet of this. For instance the opening line to the first of these stanzas is : It is a journey.

The stanzas are eight lines long (at the moment) and I have actually roughed one out completely. The others have a facet assigned, such as song, prayer, life etc but need to be properly populated with words. This is a bit exiting for me now as I can actually see something coming . The danger I think is making the words fit the pattern and not using the best or most suitable words because they they don't fit exactly. After all said and done only the best I can do will be good enough. I have a skeleton for this poem now I need to get some flesh on the bones, reminds me of Ezekiel in the Vally of the dry bones.

Peace Dave

Monday

Book Sales

I'd like to say that sales of my recently produced book of poetry are rocketing but it would be fairer to say that they had doubled - from one to two. This is not a comment born of bitterness or a rant it's just reality sinking in a bit. I never expected record sales and really the book was more about getting myself in print than making any money but a few sales would be nice, it would just make it feel that the stress involved was worthwhile.
You can access my book at http://www.lulu.com/content/470819 it's very reasonably priced and is a collection of Christian poems. I will when I can figure it out but a button on this blog to make it available.
Lulu the operators of the website that made this all possible offer marketing material but most of it only applies in the US so I am a bit alone in this. I have made a press release and issued it about so maybe something will come from that. I can only hope.
I am going onto night shifts tonight and hope to spend a little time working on the poem for my parish priest. It would be nice if I can scrape a little free time to get thinking and writing again. This is the time when most alive and most free, it is good to be creative.

Peace Dave.

Sunday

Prayer List

In my spare time I give time to the Diocese of Salisbury (UK) as an officer on a committee. The committee seeks to uphold a link of fellowship with the Sudanese Episcopal Church. Sudan is a big, big place stretching down from the bottom of Egypt to the top of Uganda, Darfur, so well known recently for violence is just a province of Western Sudan and on it's own is the size of France.
The Episcopal Church in Sudan has been suffering for years and life is not getting any easier. We regularly pray for Sudan and pass prayers via e-mail around the diocese so that the whole diocese can have an opportunity to pray for Sudan. The prayers are not our creation but represent real needs communicated from Sudan. The prayer request is sent out at the start of every month, beginning a wave of prayer for Sudan.
One of my tasks is to administer the prayer list which became more complex as two deanery co ordinators dropped out today. Please help me by praying for two replacements to come forward. I would really appreciate your support and if you would also like to recieve our prayer requests please let me know, I'll add you to the list.

Peace Dave.

Saturday

Opening Line

Things are going well for the poem I am creating for my priest. You may recall that he is leaving the parish at the end of the year and this is my parting gift, hopefully. (Click the title to go to a previous post.)
I think that whatever the content I will use either separatly styled opening and closing stanzas or opening and closing quotes. My thinking here is to give a serious edge to a poem that really will be fairly light hearted. I always like the style of poem that attempts to define a surreal or sujective topic as if it were fact. Today I scribbled this line which in some form may be an opening line.

How close you are becomes what's key,
You cannot lead and still be free.

This sets a serious tone and steps for me neatly into the theme of spatial awareness in a purely abstract way which I can define later. I'm not happy with the scan at the moment and these lines will have to change before they are used. But this is a start, I have started to write and so things are underway. I have my deadline which is December 31st and all I have to do is create a suitable, iconic poem that he will enjoy reading - no problem. A few prayers needed I think.

Peace Dave.

Friday

World AIDS Day


I support Oxfam by giving them several pounds a month because I believe in their work.It's not much but it is something. By return they send me news and information about their work. If you don't know about Oxfam check out their website they do good things. Last week they sent me a red bow for World Aids Day, which is today.
The idea is that you wear it to show support for the event and help highlight the day so that more people become aware of AIDS generally. With the ribbon came a little book with case studies of real people and real situations. I decided to wear the ribbon at work today pinned to my overalls. Some people asked me about it and that did give me the opportunity to tell them that today was World AIDS Day but mainly I found that the ribbon had a greater effect on me. Every time I looked down it was in my vision and being red stood out prominently against my dark overalls. Having a constant reminder kept the stories in the booklet fresh in my mind and me thinking about the plight of so many unfortunate people. Much of the time like many I unconsciously accept things and carry on with my life. I'm busy and there are many demands placed on me daily, this is not an acceptable excuse. I cannot be a missionary or voluntary worker but that also does not free me from not doing what I can. As I was forced to remember today some people have things forced on them that I can barely imagine. If you don't do anything for a charity, think about it and just do what you can.

Peace Dave

Thursday

Tiowa Diarra


The title of today's blog is a person's name. Tiowa is a priest working for an organisation called Tent makers International. He is the national representative for Mali in Africa and he is also the coordinator for all of Africa - important job or what. I came to know Tiowa as I intercepted a message from him to a Sudanese friend. Tent Makers seek to bring Christ to people at a grass roots level in their communities often working where there is no church at all.
Tiowa like all good leaders is restless in pursuit of his goals and as you will see from the web link above, if you scan the homepage, hosting an all African conference. At the moment he is preparing for a trip to a place called Brazzaville in Congo to set up more Tent makers groups. The photo shows the members of a training session held in Mali last year. Click on it to see it full size.
As usual Tiowa wants me to pray for him and his needs, it's my pleasure to do this. His other need is for partners in mission which is one area I cannot help him much beyond encouragement. There are practical things that Tiowa needs such as air fare or a van for the conference. If you feel that you can help Tiowa or would like to know more about his work with Tent Makers check out his website at this link . Even a few prayers of your own would be of great value to him.

Peace Dave

Wednesday

Spatial Awareness



If you have ever seen one of those fake snow novelty gifts which works by shaking it to simulate snowing that's how poems come to me. My life is a hectic blur of activity which is constantly swirling all around me obscuring the poems that lie hidden within. Sometimes things clear a little and I can make out an image or a thought and that's just enough. It's enough to get me going and enough to remind me that it's time I got writing again. It's the writing part that I really love. Once I have an idea I can tease out a phrase or word or two and start building. I'm a bit like a manic builder using words like bricks to form things into shape and build structure. That's when I look for rhyme and make decisions like size of stanza or length of line. I'm a bit like a cow chewing cud, thing go up and down, digest a bit, chew a bit, digest a bit, chew a bit. I used to try and count beats on the syllables of the words but now I find it easier to read my lines out loud and see how they flow. I don't really have any rules for this, it's right when it's right.
You may recall that I wanted to write a poem for my priest who will soon be leaving our parish for another. I really wanted to write something iconic as I have known him for twelve years.
Right, back to the fake snow bit, I have published my book, I did my reading, I had a report for the Diocesan committee I attend - done, print work for our church - done, it's my day off, I'm at a loose end. Suddenly I'm walking my dog (check out the picture, Smudge is a good boy) and the phrase spatial awareness is in my mind. It's the usual trick my subconscious has clambered into my frontal lobe and scrawled graffiti inside my head.
Literally spatial awareness is the perception of yourself in relation to your environment and the ability to predictably adapt to it's change. As he will be changing environments and both he and those left behind will have to adapt this seems like a good theme. I've been chewing it over this afternoon and I think the angle to approach this from is the parallel of being present when you are gone by the impact you have when you were there. Something like a saint or a celebrity. All I need now is a really good opening line and a few words to get me going and I'm in business. If this gives you any ideas please contact me via the comments and let me know, I'd be interested to hear.
Peace Dave.

Tuesday

Success Story

I'm still glowing a bit from yesterday, it did go a lot better than I thought. I want to gloat but the reality of the situation is that I entertained some pensioners for an afternoon in a church hall not the Albert Hall. I know that several times I stuttered and had to repeat my self - not at all professional. But for me psychologically I was performing. What I noticed was the encouragement I got from applause. It was amazing to get applause. I've read things in Church before and when you finish there is never any acknowledgement. I realise that applause would be inappropriate in most services but the difference between the two situations was very apparent. It was a peculiar situation because these people had no need to be polite about their feelings. I will definitely look for another venue to read at and may even try to use it to raise funds for a charity. Probably the best thing for me was that for once I was able to get my poems out and actually share them rather than just letting them sit quietly on a shelf gathering dust.

Peace Dave.

Monday

Honeypot Result.

All too often in my life I am rushing from one thing to another. I realised with fear that today the day of my reading at the Honeypot day care centre that I was on nights and had volunteered to cover another night shift tonight. So I woke, went to the day care centre, read and went back to work. Almost just like that.
The thing is that the rushing quelled my butterflies and made me just get on with it. The result was a really good afternoon with people that appreciated being entertained and for the first time people listened to my poetry and clapped afterwards. The feeling of elation that this brings is hard to describe, suffice it to say that I am still smiling. This was a risk when I agreed to it and it was a risk that for me paid off. I have had a really good time and I will definitely be doing this again.
Don't let your poems go mouldy or dusty, find some one to hear them and share them out with the vigour that you wrote them with. You'll love it and so will they.

Peace Dave.

Sunday

Rhyme Find

When I can find a quiet moment I try to follow a daily office called Common Prayer. I find it very good and the language spot on. Last night I was reading through a section of the evening prayer for Saturdays and I came across an odd rhyme scheme. The passage is called A Song of the Light and is only ten lines long. It's divided into three stanzas and in the first the it's the first and last line that rhyme. Then the second line of the first stanza rhymes with the first line of the second stanza. The last two lines of the second stanza rhyme. The last stanza has four lines which rhyme on the first and second line and the third and fourth. It was the last stanza that actually picked out the rhyme for me. I've probably read this dozens of times recently and it suddenly struck me, hey there's a rhyme here. Check it out:

Hail, gladdening Light, of his pure glory poured,
Who is the immortal, Father, heavenly, blest,
Holiest of holies, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Now we are come to the Sun's hour of rest,
The lights of evening round us shine;
We hymn the Father, Son and Holy Spirit divine.

Worthy are you at all times to be sung
With undefiled tongue,
Son of our God, giver of life, alone;
Therefore in all the world your glories, Lord, they own.

Have you ever found hidden rhymes ? let me know.

Peace Dave.

Saturday

My Arrival


I gazed with wonder today at my proof copy of my first ever book. This was me in print, not in a "church magazine" or "buy your way in anthology" but a whole book. I'm a bit chuffed. Lulu the company that printed the book did a good job but true to their word they printed exactly what I created. This is reason they insist on a proof copy and really it's a good idea. There were several errors, all of my own creation, which I have now put to bed. This means that my poetry book, called Pilgrimage is now available to buy. If you think you might like a copy it can be found at www.lulu.com/content/470819
As you might expect this is quite an exciting thing for me, it's a bit of dream come true, I'm published and I feel that now in some sense I have finally arrived as a poet. Go on buy a copy.
Peace Dave.

Friday

Jane's Poem

I am working on a good way to post my poems but here as I mentioned is Jane's Poem.

Reader.

He in me and I in him.

His word
Dances in me,
Day and night.

I am his voice,
When I stand to speak
He wanders in
Around my words,
Speaking out.

When I shine,
His light fills the air;
His spirit creeps about
Grinning in the glow,
Reaching out.

I am his hug.
His joy leaps through my every embrace;
Breaking down barriers,
Tearing away formality,
Spilling fun everywhere.

I am his angel.
Clasped in rapture
I am his annunciation.
Loudspeaker of love,
Broadcaster of good news.

I am his worker
My every breath is his.
Each syllable his gift,
Even should I fade, opaque
They linger on crisp.

Like gently planted seeds,
That we sowed together,
My Lord and I;
Words rise up stretching,
Seeking out the light.

Shaking with life
His words dance on,
Day and night.
He in me and I in them.

Priestly Issue

Our church is fast approaching interregnum, that is to say that the priest that has led,guided and counselled us for fourteen years is moving on. By December 31st he will be gone. As you may expect people are starting to gather parting gifts to give him when he goes. I would like to think that I could write a poem for him to take with him that might express some of the times that we spent together. As I have stated before I'm not a plan ahead type poet and seldom write to order. Having said that I did manage it for Jane our reader when she left. Jane really stuck a few chords, in fact she was a bit of a string quartet, but that's good. Always being in your comfort zone is not a really good thing. One of the things I like about the type of Christian that knocks on your door is the sense of challenge they present. How much do they embarrass me and can I stand up to their questioning and out smart them in biblical knowledge. The Sudanese have an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the bible and I would love to see one go head to head on my door step.
That's another issue and I have digressed. The bottom line is can I write a poem to order and if so what form should it take. These are fairly big issues for me as I don't usually address them prior to beginning a poem. I would like to present our priest with a poem, one that he would enjoy receiving - he's not really an affictionardo. A priestly issue, can I do it?

Peace Dave.

Thursday

Rhyming On

If you write poetry and you like rhymes how do you employ them? Do you always finish every other line with a word that rhymes? How far do takes your rhymes are you always looking for an exact match? When I began writing poetry this was me and to be honest done properly there's nothing at all wrong with that. If you've read my blogs you will know that I have an issue with repetition and this led me to experiment with rhymes. First it was not having exact matches for rhymes, using words that sounded roughly similar but were spelt differently such as "sun" and "come". Then I tried moving the rhymes so that you had to go an extra line to get the rhyme. Care has to be taken here to keep the flow of the poem alive. I tinkered with alliteration and even wrote a whole piece utilising this technique with each line having a different defining letter and no rhyme at all. The key to this poem is it's rhythm; it's about Jesus in the boat on lake Galilee calming the storm ( see Luke in the New Testament chapter 8 verse 22) so there is an obvious crescendo to follow.
I tried repeating rhymes at the end of three line stanzas and using groups of words to make rhymes such as "load me" with "mould me". In the poem these two rhymes are all that appears on their lines so I'm trying to control the way you say the words to enhance the rhyming effect. What I have discovered is that there is an endless variation of ways to employ rhyme and that poems often benefit from this variation. At the end of the day poetry is a form of communication where words are sculpted to achieve a goal. Tinker, play and experiment and let me know how you get on.

Peace Dave.

Excellent Service

Mooching around as I often do I came across a neat little poem finder in a website run by the Poetry Foundation, a US society I think. I was so impressed by this service that I have added a link to it on my site. I used it to find a poem that I could only remember the first line of, although there are several other ways to hunt a poem down. It turns out that it was a Longfellow poem called The Arrow and the Song; I was able to print it off there and then. I could also have-mailed it to my friends. Talking of e-mail I have now managed to syndicate my blog as a news feed and offer it as an e-mail update. I hope this makes it easier to receive and get out to the world. Here's the poem that I looked for and have been looking for these last two years or so.

Peace Dave
The Arrow and the Song
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I shot an arrow into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For, so swiftly it flew, the sight
Could not follow it in its flight.
I breathed a song into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For who has sight so keen and strong,
That it can follow the flight of song?
Long, long afterward, in an oak
I found the arrow, still unbroke;
And the song, from beginning to end,
I found again in the heart of a friend

Wednesday

Newspaper Issue

How do you make people who come church once want to come back. That's a question which I think many church groups work on, agonise over and wish there were easy answers for. The youth work in our church is struggling with chronic low numbers and we would desperately like to see more children in our church. The catch is that kids don't come alone, they have to be brought by parents; parents that probably don't want to get up on a Sunday.
We are hosting a children's club event at our church on the Saturday afternoon before Christmas (click the title for a reminder from an earlier post) and the likelihood is that we will have a full attendance at the club and similarly a full church at the children's Christmas Eve Crib service. Naturally we will bend over backwards to display the love of Christ in our lives and church fellowship to try and make people feel welcomed and wanted. But at the end of both events how can we keep contact with these people and hope to entice them back without making them feel targeted? Obviously some will firmly intend not to come back and we can only pray for them in their absence.
Others may be impressed with what they've seen and heard from their children. They may only want a reason to come. This hope is the basis for a silly little activity that I am planning at the moment. I am creating a fake newspaper - a four page spread to be handed out at the end of both the Children's event and the Crib service. The content will lightheartedly reflect the subject of the club and service, i.e. the nativity story. It will also feature all the contact details for our church and youth group with a list of future activities. I'm calling the paper the Bethlehem Evening Star and headlines may well include: Angels Spotted, Shocked Shepherd Speaks and Health Service Crisis, Baby Born in Cattle Shed. The printing cost of this venture will be tiny (black and white only) and hopefully they will make enough of an impression to stick in the mind before they are recycled. My hope is to cheerfully and gently build a link with the recipient through this paper and firmly invite them back through it. You've got to try.

Peace Dave.

Tuesday

Honeypot Dilemma

On the 27th of this month I will have my second ever public reading of my poems at the Honeypot day care centre. If you don't remember this subject check this link (Honeypot). It's not the Hollywood Rose Bowl or the Albert Hall but that still doesn't mean that I'm comfortable with it. I am the entertainment and it will lie with me to fill the afternoon for them. I am beginning to select the poems that I will take with me and I find it interesting to see the psychological process behind this. Consciously I am picking poems that I feel will be popular rather than poems that I necessarily feel are my best. Being a member of a poetry group has taught me that what I may think is a good poem others would be dissatisfied with and vice versa.
I have never tried to write what I think people will want to read but what I feel I like as poems. I set demanding standards of myself, I don't like badly written poetry so I try not to create it. I do sometimes try to mimic the style of others, I once wrote in the style of Craig Raine, but usually I remain individual. If something you write pleases you that's fine but believe me if it pleases others that's really gratifying. Here's the nub of the issue, it would be all too easy to read a load of poems, pleasing myself and experience other people's politeness. Remember, I am the entertainment and so I am there to please them first. This is my dilemma and I really need to resolve it soon or I will simply stand up and make a fool of myself on Monday. I don't want that.

Peace Dave.

Monday

Lighting Up

Christmas is coming, no doubt about that. The shops are filling up with toys that bleep and flash and images of Winter are everywhere. Advent has not yet begun and already planning has started for the Christmas Eve Crib service. This is a special service that we lay on every year especially for families with young children. The key theme of the service is to tell the story of the nativity. If you're not familiar with this story you can find it in any Bible in the New Testament section in the Book of Luke, chapter 2.
As part of the service we fill a display crib scene with figurines. This display actually changes as Christmas passes to Epiphany and stays in the church until Candlemas is February. It's a sort of visual memory device.
We try to put on a very visual and interactive service that is both fun and different. This year we are hosting a kid's club on the day before just to make life interesting. Our thinking is to replicate elements of the kid's club in the crib service. Our plan is to teach the nativity in a way that will provide for the people who are looking for a traditional Christmas but also in a way that will stick in the mind. For many Christmas will have ended as soon as the presents are opened this is far from true.
So the plan is Census, Caesar decreed a census and so a census will take place both at the kids club and also at the service. We're talking Roman soldiers, innkeepers and everyone having a card to be stamped. At both events a couple will arrive late and struggle to get lodging. They will have come far and be tired, one will be heavily pregnant. They will be pushed to a poor animal shelter where a baby will be born. Angels will come singing and shepherds will come looking, clutching a lamb.
Our other motive is to raise funds for the Children's Society by handing out Christingles. The word Christingle means Christ Light and many Crib services are associated with Christingles as Jesus is symbolically regarded as a light in spiritual darkness. Check out the Children's Society Christngle website. Christmas hasn't started, but the planning has !

Peace Dave.

Sunday

Rhyming Timing

I have a dislike for repetition. If I have to do things repeatedly I get fed up and annoyed. I could never do a job that involved a lot of repetition and I admire those who can switch off and just do a job repeatedly for hours on end. I can't help it that's just the way I am. I find this attitude creeping into my poetry; I very seldom repeat a rhyme scheme exactly. In fact I some times get bored with rhyme all together. For some this is sacrilege. I know a poet that only ever writes four line stanzas that rhyme second and fourth line end words. Nothing wrong with that, except for me there's a sort of Status Quo feel about things so that you know what's coming next. It's a form of repetition.
Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against rhyme and I am a frequent user of it but I try to create my poems for their overall impact and construct them with that as my guiding principle. A lot can be done with the flow of reading scan or length of lines or alliteration without pairing up a single end word. But care must be taken to stay within the remit I set myself or otherwise I end up writing structured prose. The poetry that I like best often can be read so easily that you slide along the words and get to the end almost before you realise. I like my poems to have this quality and even deliberately disturb this polish to make point or catch the reader's attention. It's a bit like a stream flowing over a rock.
When to rhyme and when not to is a discussion that rages still and for me it's a personal choice about the poem. Often at the start of writing a poem I will not know whether the end product will have a defined rhyme scheme, but at some point I will stop myself and make choices about how I want the poem to be. Quite a few poems of mine have been stripped down and re written half way through. When you write do you plan first or during ? do you adhere to a rhyme structure or look for a style that fits the work. I would value your thoughts.

Peace Dave

Saturday

Ayok Letter

Part of my involvement with the Church of England is to be an officer on a diocesan committee. I am an officer with the Salisbury Diocese Sudan - Link Committee. It may sound like a posh title but really it's just a name for a person in a group of people to get things done. The diocese of Salisbury has had a link of fellowship with the province of Sudan for over thirty years. It's a pleasure to interact with and support Christians who are so active and trusting in their faith.
An example are Joseph and Karin Ayok who were CMS missionaries and also have worked in the Diocese of Salisbury. There are many needs in Sudan, please visit any Sudan orientated blog or news site and you will see. Education is probably the highest priority next to peace and food. Along with many other people Joseph and Karin are trying to bring education to South Sudan where currently there is none. This is no small task and I admire them for doing this.
I recently received a news letter from them out of the blue which jolted my memory. In case you are interested I have added a link to their website and the Dioceses website to my links. Joseph and Karin's organisation is called Under Tree Schools. Please take a moment to check both out and if you have a spare moment pray for Joseph, Karin and the people of Sudan generally.

Peace Dave

Friday

One Door

I had an odd conversation with my neighbour yesterday. They have been trying to sell their house and move for some time. In the UK this can be a very fraught and drawn out process. My neighbour told me that she had received serious interest from a retired priest and it was as likely as not that he would be the next owner.
The odd thing about this is that our own parish priest will be leaving his post at the end of December. We only have the one priest so this means that our parish will have an interregnum, that is waiting period before a new priest is appointed. This can be a good time for a Church community to let it grow in faith as it takes on some of the tasks that the priest just did as routine. It Can also be a time when people opt out of a church community and go elsewhere. For Sunday services priests are begged, borrowed and stolen from anywhere that can be found. It would be really nice to have a local retired priest that could fill in and provide some support. In my experience priests never really retire, they slow down. Having said that it would be wrong to drag the poor sod in and hand him the church. Just a little support and the comfort of having a person with a collar about could make a lot of difference to a Church struggling ( as ours will) with a suddenly absent priest.
It may be that the priest never buys the house or if he does never comes to our church and I am being careful not to count my chickens but God does have a wonderful way of providing and as one door closes often another opens, it's a case of seeing it happen.

Peace Dave.

Thursday

Strange Day

Today or rather tonight I will be working nights. So today all the usual rules of living will be suspended as I prepare for working from 6pm to 6am. For instance I have deliberately laid in bed very late to compensate for not sleeping. I have deliberately avoided strenuous tasks to save my energies. I've tidied and organised and picked up small tasks that I usually leave until later. The result is that the day takes on a strange feeling of listlessness and lack of purpose. There seems to be a vacuum of action in my usually busy life. It's at times like this I feel inclined to write or pick up a part finished poem and complete it.
I get this feeling when waiting for things like a dentist appointment or a MOT test on the car. Not every occasion brings a poem just the feeling that one could come. Does any one else get this? When do you feel most like writing. When do you get most done ? This harks back to a post several days ago about regimentation and creativity. Do you get most out of doing things regularly. I have started using Common Prayer at work. This is an authorised worship patten from the Diocese of Salisbury. The snag is that my job changes from day shifts to night shifts and also has no structure itself. I mend thing that fail in a production environment and this is unpredictable in nature. So there are no structured meal or tea breaks. You stop when nothing has broken down. All of this has become highlighted even more now that I want to do something regularly. Do you follow a regular pattern of worship other than Sundays and how do you cope with organised chaos?

Peace Dave.

Wednesday

St Teilo's Other Miricle

This August I visited the Museum of Welsh History just outside Cardiff and was thoroughly impressed. It has a huge outside area with restored buildings from every part of Welsh history. It's very interactive and I can highly recommend it for a good day out. The thing that struck me though was a particular church that was being rebuilt. This was still in process and was literally rising out of the rubble all clean and new like a phoenix from it's ashes.
Resurrection or what ! The image hit me like a steam train and I felt compelled to write a poem. I had several lines and a structure before I left the museum. The church is named after St Teilo a local Welsh saint who was once Bishop of Llandaff. The thing I thought was what a miracle for a saint to perform rebuilding a long disused church in a place where people will always come to see it and wonder at it. Believe me when the work is done people will stare in wonder. The church is being restored to an age when ornamentation and colour were prominent in all churches. I saw the rood screen being painted and that was spectacular.
So I wrote a poem and called it St Teilo's Last Miracle. To end it I wanted to finish with a Welsh greeting and so while shopping in Cardiff I popped into the church by the market and met the Reverend Keith Kimber who obliged me with a translation for "welcome in Christ" even though he was already very busy. Naturally I sent him a copy and to my surprise one of his churches is a St Teilos and my poem has wound up in their magazine. Rev Keith e-mailed me tonight to say that he is sending me a copy - I'm really chuffed, hence the title to this post.

Croeso yng Nghrist. Dave

Tuesday

LuLu Anticipation.

A few months ago I found a website called Lulu.com . Lulu provides an online publishing service for all kinds of writers that would otherwise be ignored and overlooked. Their publishing is by demand only so there are no set up costs. They are very helpful with simple instructions and plenty of tutorials. It's a bit like EBay for writers. The bottom line is that it's all down to you. If you decide to publish badly written rubbish and not advertise it well it won't sell and no one will make anything out of it. If on the other hand you put some effort and thinking into your project and support it well it may well sell and that's good for everyone.
For me the exiting part is that my poetry will be in print properly not through some vanity press or compilation that I can buy at a pound discount. I'm never going to be a professional poet, I accept that but that does not mean that poems aren't good enough to be in print. At the end of the day it's the customer that will decide and that's how lulu works. It's worthwhile having a mooch on the Lulu site even if you never want to be in print. Before going for general release I have to read an approval copy of my work which should arrive soon. If that's OK then the book will be made available through Lulu's website and there will be an advert on my blog, believe it.
I told my friend Pat about this and her reaction was "ooh that's exiting, I have a copy please".
Wow, I thought, I already sold a copy!

Monday

Kids Program

Playing on the television just now was a kids cartoon program. One of the central characters was a writer of poetry and had been selected to write for his school. He was assigned to work with another child that was very organised and applied his strict regimentation to the poet child. There was a strong play about creativity verses production target. I won't tell you how it worked out because that's not the point of this. I struggle with regimentation and being organised with my poetry. I cannot produce poetry on demand and find that there are an ever increasing set of distractions that interfere. How do you cope?
The reason I attend a poetry group is to have a reason to write regularly; morally I am accountable to the group so I blackmail myself a bit. Do you write simply when you want or do you need your creative juices stirring in some way. What sets you off ? how do you start? where do your ideas come from? Does being organised work for you ? do you trade off creativity against being organised or does one feed the other? It amazes me that I spontaneously create poetry. It usually needs a lot of editing, but the original idea, the first few lines are usually very spontaneous. It bothers me a bit that being organised may eat into this creativity and kill the very thing I want most to make use of. How about you.

Sunday

Evensong Thinking

Evensong for those of you who don't know is the traditional Church of England Sunday evening service and can be found in the book of common prayer. It was devised in the sixteen hundreds by a leading cleric of the time. It's a service written in a language of great beauty but sadly is often lost to very boring services that do not do the words justice. I can count on one hand the number of evensong services that I have not detested.
In case you're wondering why I attended services I did not like it is because I often have to work on a Sunday and evening services are all I can make on these days. I have recently discovered a church that hosts a very different style of service that has a feel which is far from boring. The liturgy is still Church of England, Common Worship this time though. The difference for me is really in the delivery and the emphasis on praise in an openly joyful way. I actually feel good about this worship. Tonight I attended this service and I am really grateful for the talents that God gives people.
This stirs in me the question of presentation and the ever nearing Honeypot day care centre reading. I want my listeners to feel good when I've finished and even happy. If you attend church services how do you feel when the service ends and what effect does it have on you ?

Peace Dave

Saturday

Honeypot

In a recent post I mentioned having to read at a day care centre. The centre is called the Honeypot and on a Monday it provides a good lunch for the elderly and infirm. Lunch is at midday and there is entertainment all afternoon (with tea and cakes) until four. On November 27th the entertainment will be me.
It's a bit spooky as I was a volunteer for this organisation once, managing their transport needs in my spare time. Some of the people there will be old friends and others will be total strangers. It's not my first time, that really was scary, but I still feel some concern. The thing is I want this to go well. I want the people there to enjoy themselves and I want them to enjoy themselves with my poetry. Catch is they might not.
What this means to me is that I must spend time choosing and preparing, getting ready so that I can feel relaxed about what I am doing. All too easily things can go wrong and you end up like the stripper that trips up over her own nickers. I'm not a natural performer and the last thing I want of all is to get flustered and choke. If you have tips to share I would appreciate them, let me know.

Peace Dave.

Friday

Technorati Task

Technorati Profile

Do You Communicate

I was walking my dog today and while he, Smudge, was sniffing about my thoughts turned to communication in poetry. I have spent a while recently soaking up information on textual graphic representation. Sounds impressive but really it's just about how you layout the things you want people to read so that they will definitely read them and you get what you want out of them. It's about use of font, space and association. This line of study is mainly aimed at adverts and newsletters but it strikes me that the very way a poem is laid out on paper can communicate to the reader. Some poems I realize are shaped to represent an image but I am referring to far more subtle manipulation and also the placing of words to generate interest in much the same way as a newspaper headline. What I am literally suggesting is using a poem itself to advertise itself to the reader. Naturally a great deal of thought would need to go into this and no small measure of planning. Is this an original thought or has some one already done this?
I have not yet thought how to apply this idea to an actual poem, maybe I need to walk the dog again.

Peace Dave.

Wednesday

Past Blast

I have to do a show for a day care centre soon, more on that later. So I have been looking at my poems to pick out some that are suitable. The old folks that come to the centre, despite their age and ailments want to be entertained and have a laugh, so I've been looking out more humorous and interactive poems. In doing this I came across a poem that I wrote when I was thirteen about digging a garden. Thirteen is a long time ago and it was spooky to see how I wrote then. I'm not pretending that the poem was a masterpiece as it wasn't, but it' didn't take much editing for me to feel ok about reading it out. Going over this piece evoked all sorts of strange feelings and memories. Thirteen is a long way back and predates most of the stuff that is in my life at the moment. At that time I had no agenda and no message in my work I just wrote.
Hopefully my editing has done some good to this piece and I can use it to provide a good afternoon for some people that could do with a laugh. If I can do that then my poetry is worth something. As regards old poems, keep them, look at them and edit them when you are ready because after all they are your creation. As regards new poems, just write them and let them be come old poems.

Peace Dave.

Tuesday

Poetry Day.

This is the one ! Today is poetry day. It's a bit sad really but I look forward to meeting up at the library with the poetry group. Today I was in charge, so's to speak, but really just guiding discussions a bit. That's it really for me, discussion. I love to read out my own poetry to the group but it's the discussion with others about poetry and all manner of related subjects (you wouldn't believe what topics we cover. This for me breathes life into my interest which all the rest of the time is a fairly solitary one to be honest.
The group today was as it usually is small, lively and well away form the boring image that many would easy expect. We shared and discussed poems from the poetry international 2006 initiative and that lead to general trouncing of publication method which was aimed at young trendy people. We have our issues and the fact that the librarian that has lead the group is leaving makes life more complex (or interesting) , but that aside we all feel that the group is as necessary as oxygen and must continue.
Apologies for the brevity of this message but my wife is serving tea even as I speak and the other thing that I need nearly as much as oxygen is my wife's lovely cooking.

Peace Dave.

Monday

New Challenge

My job means that I must work a continental shift pattern. This means that I sometimes start early for work and sometimes start late and work all night. This week I am working nights. Tomorrow afternoon I will be attending my local poetry group in the afternoon, although it will feel a lot like morning for me ! The group is run in the local library with one of the librarians running it. The problem is - and in life there is always a problem somewhere - the librarian is being moved to another library and has asked if I will run the group. The answer is no, as I really don't have time but at the moment but I don't think that there is any one else that would. The library being short on staff now also are not keen.
That aside I will run tomorrow's group as there really is no one else tomorrow. We are discussing the presiding spirits pack which has been issued through the Poetry Society from the Poetry International 2006. This comes from the South Bank Centre, London - High brow stuff. If all of this is strange to you check out my link to the Poetry Society as all the details are there to be had. In the mean time lets hope for a quiet night and wish me luck for tomorrow.

Peace Dave.

Sunday

Fireworks in Church

On the first Sunday of every month there is an all age worship service at our church. It's intended to appeal to people of all ages but infact it's real purpose is to encourage younger people to start coming to church. It's more of a welcoming and please come back service. I cannot recall a time when this service fell on November fifth before so I was wondering how the firework theme could be preached on.

If you're not familiar with the British calendar I should tell you that November fifth is the day when the whole country remembers the foiling of the Gunpowder Plot with Guy Fawkes. Fawkes would have blown up the entire parliament and the king if he had got away with it. Please follow this link to Wikipedia if you would like to learn more, the whole story is there. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gunpowder_Plot
The bottom line is that on the evening of November fifth when it's really dark and cold early in the evening the whole country has bonfires and lets off fireworks. So culturally this is a very prominent and common experience - a great platform for a sermon.

This Sunday in the Church of England is also all saints day and I was surprised to hear our priest telling us that saints were like fireworks. He began by holding a sparkler, which is a little steel rod that fizzes and sparkles when lit. He then challenged us to call our the names of fireworks, Catherine wheel, banger, rocket, Roman candle and of course sparkler. Then he ran through the list comparing the saintly behavior of saints with different fireworks. Some saints like rockets traveled far and brought sudden action of great energy, some saints like roman candles performed exactly where they stood and brought the light of God to their area in the beauty of their deeds. Some saints like bangers made sudden loud noise frightening and challenging us. Catherine wheels whirling were likened to saints that worked tirelessly to bring the word of God to people. Lastly we were challenged about ourselves and reminded that we are all saints in our own way and that just like a sparkler we have a light to share. Despite the fact that we may only feel like it is a little in a great darkness to the beholder that little is very precious.
Of course a firework is an inert object until it is lit by a flame and this was the core theme that for us to behave like a saint or a firework we need to be touched by a flame and in that he meant the holy flame evident at Pentecost. I thought that this was an excellent sermon and I might add that the delivery was very good too. I really like the theme and may even try to generate a poem from it one day.

The question is what kind of firework are you and have you been lit yet ?

Peace Dave.

Saturday

Saturday

I read a little Craig Raine today. He is most famous for his "Martian sends a post card home"poem. It surprised me how he was able to use such similar styles for other poems to such a powerful effect. I find that I very rarely use a particular style twice. This is not to try and say that I am particularly clever, because I know that I am not. But I find myself searchinf for something different all the time. Is this a curse or a blessing. Let me know, tell me ho w you feel.

Peace Dave.

Bonfire Evening

Tonight about half seven I attended our church youth group bonfire do. I attend a small Church of England church and our priest hosts a smal but fun fireworks event every year. The kids love it and I get to play with a bonfire. His wife lays on hot soup and hotdogs which also makes things a bit more sociable. Tonight in my part of the world the night sky was gin clear and the air temp was about 2 celceius. We had a reasonably large fire which burned bright orange and spewed sparks high into the air. Looking up this was a magical sight to see bright orange cinders flying up high through the leaves of the surrounding trees glowing against the dark blue night sky. I found myself just staring for ages. It reminds me of the poem about rushing around that starts - what is this life if full of care we have no time to stop and stare. I think this is a really beautiful piece of poetry that speaks logically straight to the heart of our being and never gives up one shred of meter or composure to do it.
There is so much beauty in this world that we often ignore for lack of time or never respond to and acknowledge. For me poetry is often about communicating something I have seen or felt or an idea that I have grasped. Communicating that well, so well that another person may enjoy remembering it is a real challenge for me, one that I don't always rise to. It is gratifying though when someone says to me " I really enjoyed that, read it again". Job done.

Peace Dave.