31 December, 2012

Favourite Sites: The Poetry Archive

I thought I would do a series of blog posts over the next months describing some of my favourite sites and how their content enriches my life.

The first site I would like to mention is The Poetry Archive.  The site started out as a archive where you could hear poets read their works and has expanded over time into something quiet remarkable.

Initially, I went to the site with the vague hope of rediscovering the innocent pleasure I experienced listening to poems as a child. My school days did a fair job of making sure I thought reading poetry a highbrow, but torturous activity. Something best left to scholars. I hoped to change this perception.

What I discovered was, if I can read the poem while listening to the poet speaks it, I understand the musicality, the magical nuances of the words in surprising ways. Poetry is no longer inaccessible, but tangible and fantastical all at the same time.

What started out as just a happenstance visit to the site developed into a true friendship. I go there to heal myself from the miseries of my overly busy life, to study the works of my favourite poets, or just to randomly explore the poems depending on my mood of the moment. It is possible to find poems by themes (such as belief, eden, islands, neighbours, or shipwreck) or forms (haiku, short, songs). Sometimes, on a whimsy, I just put in any old word that mind in the search window and the archive usually comes up with a poem for me to listen to.

It is through the search window that I discovered Jackie Kay talking in Old Tongue about the yearning she feels to go back to her young self, her authentic self. She dreams about speaking the same language she spoke as a child, before she grew up and away from her home and neighbourhood in Glasgow.

I fell in love with her poems. She speaks with a voice that mirrors so many of the unspoken words in my heart.

It is also possible to listen to an interview with Ms. Kay. Her advice about how to create an environment and structure to encourage your writing to go well, is particularly insightful.

There are separate pages on the site for teachers, students, children, historical recordings, and guided tours. The guided tours are guides put together by poets or famous people who are poetry lovers and want to share their favourite poems.

As one of my favourite poets of my childhood A.A. Milne once said,

No one can tell me,
Nobody knows,
Where the wind comes from,
Where the wind goes.

It's flying from somewhere
As fast as it can,
I couldn't keep up with it,
Not if I ran.

But if i stopped holding
The string of my kite
It would blow with the wind
For a day and a night.

And then when I found it,
Wherever it blew,
I should know that the wind
Had been going there too.

So then I could tell them
Where the wind goes...
But where the wind comes from
Nobody knows.

A. A. Milne, Now We Are Six

So, let your kites fly with The Poetry Archive and discover where the wind goes...

30 December, 2012

New Year's Eve in Grenada

winter fairy lights

End of year, sitting on the terrace
Alone. Happy in my solitude
Looking over the oceanscape,
The Atlantic side, not the Caribbean
Warm seabreeze, tropical birdsong
Filling every cell in my body
Delicious pleasure. A blessing. Joy.

My mind drifts back into the cold
Snow-covered woodlands with the
Crunch, snap, whip of frozen winds
Shivering thrill of discovery.
Fairy lights, falling dusk,
Abandoned home. A suspended bridge 
Leading no where, for no one.

Thanks to Lady Fi for allowing me to use her photo in this collage.

28 December, 2012

Tar Barrel in Dale

I've been listening to the Northumberland band the Unthanks sing the song Tar Barrel in Dale every morning for days now whenever I turn on my computer. Please take the time and listen as well and think of me sending good cheer your way, to you my "friends and good company".

If you wish to sing along, here are the lyrics:

Tar Barrel in Dale(George Unthank)

  Tar barrel in Dale
  Fire in snow
  Toast the New Year
  Bid farewell to the old

The old year out,
The New Year in,
Please won't you let
The lucky bird in.
With bottle in hand
And a piece of black coal,
A stranger's a friend
When first-footing you go.


At midnight's approach
The band you can hear,
The fiery procession
Of guisers draws near.
With friends and good company,
With voices so clear,
Singing in harmony,
Bringing in the New Year.


Off the heads of the guisers
The blazing barrels are hurled
On to the bonfire;
Smoke, sparks and flames swell.
Amidst cheers and rejoicing,
The rites of Old Father Time,
We'll link arms together
Sing Auld Lang Syne


Throughout the year
When we sing this song
Old friends and new friends
Sing along.
May good fortune be with you,
From all sorrows refrain
Till that happy time
When we all meet again.


Source: Rachel Unthank and the Winterset

There is much to be thankful for this year. Most central is the continued health and happiness of my loved ones. Their love feeds my inner fire.

Work-wise, there were many lessons learned. Many roads explored. I survived (financially) my second year of self-employment. I thrived running after every interesting opportunity I could find. It has taken all my craft and creativity to slowly build up my business.

My dream (not goal) is to come back to blogging and making collages. I've missed writing and .... photoshoping (?)... whatever it is I do to make the collages.

23 December, 2012

Money Can Buy Happiness

Anyone who volunteers their time, effort, or money towards helping others will probably admit that they receive more in return than they feel they have given. It is an odd phenomena. Some cynics say most volunteers are self-serving, sanctimonious: for the true motive behind our work is so we can feel good about ourselves. Michael Norton has carried out some experiments that present another view on this matter.

A long time ago, I read somewhere the etymological root of the word happiness is "doing good". Mr. Norton's argument substantiates this.