1.12.09

Millie Dougan on the wisdom and spirit of the Moon-Blood




That space…

I love being a woman, and strange as it may seem to some of my sisters,

I actually enjoy the ebb and flow of our sacred moon cycle as I like to call it.

Are you with me or do I have to put it more bluntly?

Well okay then, ‘Periods’ I don’t like that word; it doesn’t do it justice,

It doesn’t sing out, life, nature, sacred space, earth, water, moon-blood.

Period just gives you that slot in time, it doesn’t embrace and encapsulate that feeling of

Loss, sorrow, pain, anger, joy, light, and being at one with nature its self.

To me that’s what being a woman is all about, being at one and peace with your cycle,

Embracing that feeling you get every month that makes you feel alive.

Going deep into your self and honouring ‘That Space’.


                                                              )O(


   THAT SPACE 

                                                                                       

I’m in that space again. You know the one?
When the Moon rises, big and full
And men run from the sharpened tongue
When the air is so thick you could taste it.


I would rather,
Swim the swirling seas
Find that beacon on the distant shore,
Climb the highest mountain
With just the shirt upon my back.


I would rather,
Turn belly right side out.
Sing the blues and wash the
Blood, so sacred, from my skin.


Be held by the man I love,
And cry into the night.

Stand naked:
Howl at the Moon and her power!

I would rather Run with the wolves,
And find my self again!

26.11.09

'The Valley' Part Three by Tim Carrette

Here's the final part of Tim's wonderful poem.  Enjoy!


Love is a beast
of which we all want a piece
It cannot be stolen
It cannot be grasped

For it can slip away so very fast

A stranded ship without a mast
Upon whose waters we all set sail

Love boats are so very frail

Only the ocean stands the test
For it knows the rhythms beyond
worst and best

It knows that ebb and flow
still dance
both sides of this sacred romance

Love lost and found
is just a veil
upon which oceans we set sail

No wonder we live
No wonder we die
No wonder there is you
No wonder for I
No wonder
No wonder
no wonder.


    

The universe is far stronger
than idle wishes

She weaves
Serenity fabrics
soul to soul

She weaves
heart connections
that take us home

Why then do we persist with idle chatter?

Why then act as if
your tiny particle life view
even matters?



Why?



Because each tiny particle is but a stitch
that holds wholeness together
and through which love rides
forever

Forever cascading
through the immortal halls
of innocent wishes

  

If as they say
it is through pain we grow

Why then so little do we know?

Why are we not masters of bliss?

Who touch equanimity
when blessed with a young child’s kiss

Why?

Because then the ceaseless game of hide and seek
would be over
and the Divine masters
would roar with laughter
forever and ever
Namaste

21.11.09

'The Valley' Part Two by Tim Carrette


The second part of Tim's epic poem below.  Enjoy!


Is it you who dances so freely in the moonlight?
Is it your hands that caress my naked truth?
Is it our hearts that split amidst simple reason?
Is it our child we hold above the emotional precipice of calamity?

And who will catch us in our fall?
Who will hold us tight to earthen breast?
Whilst we cry the tears of the madness clowns
The ones who laugh at love
and who destroy the safety balms
whilst the hell fires roar
and we gaze upon
the needlessly slaughtered lamb
of our petrified innocence.
This is the stream
that carries the water of life
and these are the winds that blow soft love
through fearful hearts

And this is the earth
upon which I lay

As we stoked the fires
of creation play

As yours is the womb
of our unborn child
When tomorrow reveals its chaotic rhymes

And so where is the path that takes us home?
Where is the valley
where pure truth stands alone?

And how will we know it when we arrive?
And which journey is to become my sacred bride?

Upon whose breath shall I pour my wine?

When the unknown lives
beyond all time

20.11.09

Beautiful Poem by Tim Carrette

Tim will be posting here from time to time and I really look forward to his work.  Tim is a dear and longstanding friend and an authentic and original thinker.  'The Valley' is a lovely poem and will be published in four parts over the next few days.  Enjoy.

About Tim:


Vj.Tim Carrette:

 is a  Psychotherapist, Poet, Musician
 and Writer.
Also trained in Shamanism and Tantra.
He is a currently writing and researching in
Non Duality and Psychotherapy.
He lives in Nottingham , England
with his three children.




THE VALLEY  Part 1       By Tim Carrette

So let the winds blow through me
may such subtle instruments of Divinity
play my tune

I know no such place as the still calm waters of my soul
For all that I am is a breath of God
Heralded by mixed illusion

Seen clearly by the hills,
the sheep,
and the rich majesty of natures perfection

Perfect only in its absolution of all things

Deaths dance carries mission highways
soul descendants of lost times

Creative impulses
stolen from memories
of a destiny yet untold

Hallowed be the name of the Gods
Be they grass or stone
seen or held

Tis the light I follow
tis the dreams that guide
tis this blessed journey
and its milestones of truth realisation


That is why Iam here
to carefully turn each page
To sing softly into each open heart
To touch all beings
with the immensity of Love
To love all beings thoroughly Divine.

           


10.11.09

AND IT IS BEAUTIFUL! A prose poem.

AND IT IS BEAUTIFUL!




Hewn from granite, I was inlaid with copper and silver and gold. Lapis Lazuli my eyes, and burnished well, till shining in the morning sun, I glowed and hummed. A mystery wind blowing through a conch shell. A sound like gathering or redemption. A sound more like ‘blown’ than ‘moan.’ Something running through. Something bidding life. Like the bloods headlong rush or the river folding itself to a conclusion after much slow, flowing thought. I’ve seen the Eden do this with my own eyes! The blowing heightened once or twice, as when I held my sons, naked and smeared with their mother’s blood shivering in the immensity of their new life. For a moment it seemed eternity pulled up her skirts and said:



‘Man, in this second you are alive for once! Feel the power of NOW! See through/ over/ into. See the truth of the child. Feel the miracle in your fingernails. Feel it brush against your skin!’ And then you...You took me to the deepest well and I cast a bucket for a crock of gold, and you said:



‘Look! Look how deep the heart goes! It is limitless really!’



And in the moment of falling, of letting go, I was gathered up. And in the moment of trusting, I was loved so much. And in the moment of saying:



‘Yes! I’ll take this life. This one! Its birth, its struggle, its countless breaths. Its footsteps. Its becoming and befriending. Its shrinking from the light. Its tears and weight, of so much fear. Its heartbreak and its love.’



In that moment of NOW, a life is stretched from these small boundaried cairns. Stretched against the canopy of infinity. It is made to see it is not one thing but the many brought to one. A radiant point of NOW that sings:



‘THIS IS ALL! THIS IS IT! THIS IS EVERYTHING!



AND IT IS BEAUTIFUL!

5.11.09

'On the Road' Part Two by Lou Mansfield

…the whole truth, apple and peach, is rarely placed into your hand and is never, most days, nights.. . within reach. fate ties a blindfold, delicate, close, with it's cold and distant fingertips, for a summer, a winter, tight.. . every now and again you catch a falling thought from somebody you wish had driven past and tossed that apple, core, out of the window before you.. . Catch your breath because life knocks it out of your lungs so much, for so long, you never know, all that you feel, do.. . is, gone. replaced by a different kind of peach. below the fireplace something different kindles and you lose your eyes in the shape of the flames that unfurl and fold and billow, smoke and sail out of sight, out of being, out of reach.. . some days you're the fast moving car, windows rolled down, arms over the edge, lining the road with gems, rose petals and sparks of apples, cores.. . Other days you're the suitcase on the edge of the bed, waiting to be taken, left behind, or undone.. . the whole truth, apple, peach or pear rarely lands on your pillowcase, like some kind of fallen angel out a sky that knows, holds on, keeps it all out of reach.. . out of the blue, sky, for you to know, before the day is over. before the day is absent, before the day is gone.. .


when you spend all of your time outside of being, away from every carousel, car. you lie across the white line in the middle of the road. the line that separates, that spark.. . about direction, about motion, about travel, about the world.. . you lie across the fragments, across the fall.. and you're staring out to sea, up at the sky line, the fiery heavens above you, the shore.. . all blood-red crimson sometimes, sometimes summer's tears fall.. . And you stay there, waiting, eyes closed heart undone. You taste the shadows of the clouds as they pass by, as they swell, they fall. You make sense out of every comet trail that scores, the sky, your eyelids, your thoughts. All of your dreams are pieces of the picture, the whole, the new.. everything you dream about and remember and write about, down, comes true..

you'll never know how much you were meant to be, you'll never know how much of you to be, that you are, is true.. For you keep your skies beneath pillowcases, you keep every break in the clouds above you, in your home back pockets.. you keep every dream that you're written down secret.. you never know how much you've missed, because

you'll never know the whole, the truth. of it all. ..

Your life is a fable, in the fireplace, of fate. a myth.

do you stand on tip toes?

or do you.. . tap the tension of adventure, desire every unknown, lust for not knowing ever. or taste

having every exit

mapped..

but the steely horizon betrays the blue with the silhouette of something strange, something dark. Something that binds and ties your heart into deep, lead, heavy knots. by knot. amnesia creeps into your lungs and you can't remember how to breathe, you lose all sense of time. a knife cuts deep beneath your collarbones, cheeks, it could be kitchen, bread or slaughter. and air like ice pierces you back into the room, like Elvis. dead.

All that you can remember about the first foot you set upon the road, is that your only desire in life. the only thing that you can ever think about, cold, hot. shallow, deep or adrift along a road of bones to nowhere.. . is that heavy, lead feeling of fear and dread. that knocks your heart out cold, sometimes. and leaves you feeling like Priscilla, in the wake, in the aftermath, all around the eyes. .

All that you've ever wanted is Elvis. And all that lies, at the end of the road, like a fallen down crucifix, arms open. eyes like parcels waiting to be untied, undone, open.. . There is no place in the world, this one or the next, like home. And all that you have left to live for, whereabouts unknown.. . is desk.

31.10.09

HALLOWEEN POEM Happy Samhain!



HALLOWEEN 
The village store has, just this minute, closed.

It’s drawbridge has gone up-portcullis down.
An aproned granny smirks behind the door
And labours the cruel bolt into its case.
My eyes weak pleading falls on stony ground.

I curse her and her brood under my breadless breath,
And curse ‘life in the country,' milkless on halloween.
A youth observes this frieze of unmet needs
In the dark hunching of Milnthorpe Square.

Just then, Death walks past, blood on his shining scythe.
‘You’re the one that I’ve been looking for
these past two years and more!’ I shout
and push him in the back of my old van,
pleased he’s at my shoulder once again.

Then a little witch walks past with a broom,
a-hubble and a-bubble, lovely little witch.
Suddenly I feel so sad for me.
No kids or pumpkins or those vampire masks.



Just me, and all my dry and dusty books.
Writing down the bones.



25.10.09

QUESTION TIME AND NICK GRIFFIN



QUESTION TIME AND OLD NICK                By Tony Dougan


No doubt it was an event. The leader of Albion’s closest thing to a fascist party appeared on a mainstream TV show and was given a platform. I sat with notebook in hand to give a highly factual account of what might just be history in the making. Ten minutes in I threw the notebook to the ground and sat back to watch a pompous, clearly nervous, shuffling bigot who is obviously not the sharpest pencil in the packet, be publicly eviscerated. Is this what it used to be like when the good folk took their children and a picnic to the public disembowelling at the weekend gallows-fest?

Our media, ever watchful of our freedoms, agonised. The good folk and their wise leadership were split. The Nays declared that giving such a fascist a media platform was tantamount to helping them with a recruitment drive and would sow discord and ruin throughout the fair land. The Yays countered that democracy was at stake and that democratic integrity meant that you must sometimes listen to views you despise and detest. The management of B&Q decided that they must declare for the Yay camp and so it was that Nick appeared on ‘Question Time’ sandwiched between David Dimbleby and the divine Bonnie Greer like a limp slab of cheese betwixt two halves of a rustic handmade bun, or even more visually provocative-an ugly little school bully with his beautiful and popular parents outside the Headmaster’s office.

I am reluctant to call attention to the ‘looks’ of politicians or celebrities. I am an unrepentant Platonist and consider the good and the true more essential than, and even essential to, the beautiful. But Nick, I’m afraid, is an ugly man, in charge of a party of very ugly people. It is as if the internal condition of hate and intolerance scours the outside and moulds the very features into a grimace and an evasive scowl. When Nick laughed his face appeared creased into a contradiction. It did not look right.

There was little that was unexpected. Nick attempted to wrap himself in the flag and sought Churchill as a BNP bedfellow. He spoke of criminal scum and sending ‘them’ back. He justified his previously recorded racist and inflammatory remarks and described one of his Ku Klux Klan mates as non-violent. He denied he was a holocaust denier by saying he’d never been nicked for it. He described Islam as oppressive to women. He referred to Jack Straw’s dad having been in prison during WW2 for refusing the draft and compared his own dad who kebabbed the Hun on his bayonet with apparently heroic aplomb. It was all very predictable.

Dimblebly kicked off the public humiliation with gusto, lashing Nick with his own hate-quotes. It was Jovian, with Dimbers hurling thunderbolts from Olympian heights onto a cringing bug. Jack Straw weighed in with equally august mien barely able to contain his disgust and fury at this…this…minion of evil. (Just as an aside I’ve never really forgiven Straw for letting the old murderer Pinochet get away and he was also responsible for arranging the most beneficial pension scheme on the planet for our noble and self-sacrificing MPs. Mr Straw, you are not coming to dinner at my house!)

Chris Huhne of the Liberal Democrats is the living embodiment of that party’s ongoing existential dilemma. Fundamentally decent, clearly and logically reasoned, but sexless, terminally boring and instantly forgettable. I cannot remember what he said.

But what did strike me about this circus act Question Time episode was the quality of stillness, alert engagement and beauty of the two female members of the panel-Playwright Bonnie Greer and the Tory Sayeeda Warsi.

I am coming to my own extreme view that it just might be time to get rid of men entirely from the planet. I think they may be a bad lot with all their back-slapping, shirt-tugging, school playground high jinks. I shall of course remain behind to provide some gender balance.

Oh, the highlight of the evening? Definitely the joke by one of the audience (male) to poor benighted Nick.

“You’d be surprised how many people would have a whip-round to buy you a ticket…to go to the South Pole. That’s a colourless landscape, it would suit you fine.”

I’d happily bung a fiver in. Poor, poor, poor Nick.

22.10.09

FIRST GUEST BLOG ON HEART OF BALANCE 'On the Road' by Lou Mansfield


"on the road.. .

There are no desks. or bookcases. or boxes of photographs, keepsakes, angel pins, postcards. mistakes. They’re all in an attic waiting somewhere safe. Being on the road, in the less than Kerouac sense of Bukowski’s middle name, is a hard place to beat. Because you tell yourself that you need a desk. a heavy desk.. . some kind of antique coffee-haloed, dark, foreboding, menacingly difficult to drag alongside with you, kind of desk. Piled high, like Dr Caligari’s desk, along with an endless stream of consciousness, caffeine.. . alchemy. are all of the books you’ve ever fallen in love with. all of the books you never dared or even dreamed to fall in love with. all of the books that seduced you. all of the books that made your world fall apart, undone. all of the books you’ve ever wished you’d written. all of the books that stole your ideas, thoughts, feelings, without you ever really knowing. all of the books that you’ve ever read. all piled high across a desk. a heavy desk. all or nothing in the desk sense of being, you are. all that you can think about. all that you think you know. all that your thoughts hinge, pin and hang from. is this. like a labyrinth, taps against the train window pane you’re staring out of. touching the fold down tray, with your absent hand, like this could ever be, some kind of desk that you dream about, want. to hold. in your hands. like a lover. and never let go.. .

All of your thoughts are shoe less, lined up, waiting to be invited into this, desk. this world of salacious ink stains, words. All of your thoughts are blindfolded, hands tied behind their backs. quiet. patient. waiting. for what? a desk. And without gravity we have no real ideas. about being. they go like the clappers, out of our minds, like kites, I imagine. I fear. would happen, instead. of a life, on the road. without gravity, without a hand to hold, without a bookcase, or an angel pin. without old collections of photographs. without a bed to fall out of. that you can call home. without meaning. without sense. without reason. without a decent hat stand. without a desk. How can a writer, write. so far away. so far removed. from everything. all or nothing, in the fictional sense of being all midnight around the eyes, without a light in the dark. How suffocating it can be, to be on the road. sometimes.." .

21.10.09

GUEST BLOGGERS COMING TO HEART OF BALANCE!

Hi Folks,
Ok I admit it I'm running out of puff sometimes on the hills.  My endurance isn't what it used to be and my timing is sometimes right off.  Add to that the fact that I am lazy to the bone and the time seems right to call in the cavalry-said troopers being the best, mostly unpublished writers, I know, to start contributing to this blog and hopefully to expand and develop it into one of the hottest blogs on the internet for great new and original writing in a variety of genres.  This is really exciting for me.  Our first guest bloggers will be Lou Mansfield and Tim Carrette and I'm going to be posting their stuff here over the next few weeks.  I'm also hoping for some art work from Chris Beaton of Gaia Graphics and really looking forward to that.  So please do look out for it all, enjoy and let us know your thoughts.
Success to your work.

Tony.

15.10.09

A SESTINA FOR A DAMP THURSDAY!

Arnaut Daniel


The Sestina, a lovely name for a lovely, if somewhat tortuous poetic form.  Invented by the French thirteenth century poet Arnaut Daniel and developed by Dante and Petrarch.  The classic sestina has six stanzas of six lines followed by an envoi of three lines.  The last words of each line are repeated in a strict order in the next verse and the final envoi repeats all six key words in a concise summation, normally all written in iambic pentameter.  My own view is that these wonderful forms are as relevant today as they ever were.  Form and metre give the poet a ground against which to push and, interestingly they can open the drawers of the mind in sometimes unexpected ways.  The poet reads the completed poem with a certain apprehension as the dark side of her soul is sometimes nakedly revealed.
I know this dark nymph well but upon this matter I shall mysteriously say no more.

Enjoy, and success to your work.

SESTINA OF THE DARK NYMPH




One day she climbs the steep green hill and looks;

takes in the various boundaries of her world.

That crack-toothed snarl of distant flailing peaks;

beside the purple seed, an ocean dreams.

Some days she’s down so deep it catches at her breath,

on others, light laughter skips within her bones.



She walks like a ghost in fields of whitened bones,

And there’s no doubt she has impressive looks.

But what is it that hastens on her breath?

What quickening clench welds her to her world?

Naked beneath the shivering trees she dreams

of poems whispered from the distant peaks.



She knows one day she’ll climb those distant peaks,

and read those runes carved into the bones.

Perhaps she’ll find the means to feed her dreams-

Those mystic keys for which she roots and looks.

The world of men is yet another world,

the idea nails her-makes her hold her breath.



Her eyes are autumn’s crushed leaves; her breath

catches in the singing troughs and peaks,

and in the pearling of the far-flung world.

She knows the random code of scattered bones

Reveals the name and place for which she looks.

But for now she only digs her dreams.



Her myth will spawn from that womb of dreams.

Within the hurling of its gale-a breath.

That sentinel upon his stone just looks

emotionless upon her sphinx-like peaks.

His eyes, the skinny nails that pierce her bones.

Her refuge? Just this unrelenting world.



This nymph has been a traveller in my world.

I thought her beauty just a passing dream,

but she’s become the marrow in my bones.

The mother of my brood. My blood. My breath.

Together we will scale the dreaming peaks,

and from their heights see how it really looks.



Those looks of sorrow and the brooding bones.

The dreams of distant, lost and lonely peaks.

One sweet breath becomes a world entire.

28.9.09

POEM-ANGER RITUAL IN THE FIELD OF DREAMS




ANGER RITUAL IN THE FIELD OF DREAMS

I say: ‘Let’s get this out into the World!’
And you; a little scared, ask how it’s done.
And, with a wild war-cry I charge the bales!
A glinting sword cleaves the morning air!
Massed ranks of demons fall apart and flee
 into the  woods while I, grimly pursue,
slashing back and forth and widow-making
in the hay, and screaming all the while.
Your face breaks into smiles to see man’s rage
revealed without some covering cloak of shame.
And then you shout and charge...yourself in turn!
A swirling sword flailing in your hand,
like a true warrior my son!  The day
we slew our foes upon the Field of Dreams.

25.9.09

REVIEW OF 'THE SECRET'

This is the kind of drivel that makes my blood boil. Why? Why can't I just shake my head and pass on by? Because this Law of Attraction crap is endemic. It's everywhere! It takes the gullible for a ride and gives a platform to dangerous fools. Dangerous because they encourage regression back to some ignorant childish state where the sun rises just for you and where anything will happen just because you want it to.
And here we have some dimple cheeked workshop leaders telling us we can have all that money-squillions! We can have that fancy sports car. We can feed all those insecurities with wish-fulfillment. We too can have sexual partners hurl themselves at our feet and ride into New York on a donkey to the sound of ringing hosannas.
This string of dodgy looking gurus bedeck themselves with titles like Prof this or Dr that. I'd guess there's hardly an o'level between the lot of them. And what also galls is the sheer poverty of their message. That material wealth will somehow make you feel better about yourself.  That 'feelings' are what it's all about.
I'll tell you a secret-for nothing-it's true!  You can do just about anything if you put your mind to it but get this-shit happens!  Of course you can change and grow but get this too-it takes work, damned hard work and discipline and study and maybe even a seasoning of good old luck.  Just sitting there's not going to do it.  Nope!  Sorry!
The Integral Living Program devised by Integral Institute is based on ideas and facts from the very latest research in Developmental Psychology and some of the best brains around.  Go have a look at Integral Institute's website.  But don't expect any secrets.  Nobody is going to give you any secrets!  You've got to get off your lardy backside and work!
The Secret is a manual for narcissists who are not the sharpest knives in the drawer.
This is brain gloop.  This is chicken-shit for the Soul.  Avoid like the plague!  Unclean!  Unclean!

18.9.09

A love sonnet for a friday

I love sonnets; little balls of poetic gold they are. And they are quite ancient forms too, first created by Petrarch around 1235 or so, and then developed and evolved by poets ever since. Sonetto is the italian for 'room' or 'small song' or 'little sound' and that's a good description of this form with its endless possibilities for interior design!  In English the rhyme scheme was adapted and evolved, most notably by Shakespeare with his three quatrains and rhyming end couplet.  Lately the form has taken off yet again and Seamus Heaney's sonnets are glorious as are those by Edna St Vincent Millay, Kavanagh and Frost-check out his, 'Acquainted with the Night'. As Edward Hirsch and the divine Eavan Bolan write in their definitive book 'The Making of a Sonnet'-'Each poet individually comes up against the massive determinants of the form.'  These determinants of form are the ground where the muse is provoked out of her normal register/provoked into sometimes bringing down the fire from the heavens and manifesting some awful or wondrous truth.  Isn't that one of the things that poetry is for?  Elsewhere Hirsch alludes to the sonnet as 'a small vessel capable of plunging tremendous depths' and most beautifully as 'one of the enabling forms of human inwardness.'
This little song doesn't have any of those pretensions.  It was written as a bit of fun for my beloved; and that's also what poetry's for.

Here I've kept to a fourteen lined iambic pentameter, folded the piece into a quatrain, a middle couplet (where I've tried to stash the notorious sonnetic turn) and a concluding octet with an emphatic closing final two lines. Naturally this sonnet was written for my beloved Millie, to be recited by me, clad in tights and strumming a melancholy chord upon my lute in the lower garden (God!  What a thought!) while she attends to her toilette at her balcony. I hope you enjoy it.
Success to your work!



MILLIE

You’re more to me than earth and moon and all
the fancy treasures; pearls and solid gold
stashed in sparkling piles in vaulted halls.
Beside your beauty they’re just old and cold!

As rivers run their channels to the sea,
so time marches with a jaunty swing.

How hot the day was you turned thirty-three!
And, as a gift, I wrote this little thing.
It may not last like diamonds or gold;
It will not bring the critics to their knees!
Nor alter much the flowing of your day.
And what I truly feel cannot be told.
Like the wind that breathes on forest trees,
my love breathes in the spaces of your soul.

8.9.09

THE SEVEN HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE

Stephen Covey published his book in 1989 and it's been a bestseller ever since. I wrote these habits down several years ago and kept them on my wall to remind me what constitutes effectiveness as a human being. I don't think we can hear about these too often and I am saddened that so few leaders in the world today appear to possess these habits. It aint rocket science and they work.

BE PROACTIVE
BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND
PUT FIRST THINGS FIRST
THINK WIN/WIN
SEEK FIRST TO UNDERSTAND,THEN TO BE UNDERSTOOD
SYNERGISE
SHARPEN THE SAW



This mindmap is by Serge de Gheldere and is taken from Gideon King's Novamind Connect site.  Novamind offers an excellent piece of mindmapping software for macs.  See more at http://www.novamind.com/connect/nm_documents/269

1.9.09

THE ORGANISED WRITER

I promised some time ago to write a short piece about how I personally organise my writing and my projects. I'm by no means suggesting this as an example of ultimate organisational skill but only as possibly giving a wee bit of advice and ideas that may be useful.

I don't separate my writing and professional and personal life into silos-that doesn't work for me. So this is, I guess, how I organise my whole life, in terms of trying to achieve my goals with the minimum amount of fuss and stress.
The major reason I make a big study out of this is because I am, at heart and by nature, a complete airhead!

The uber-template for my work is provided by David Allen's Getting Things Done or GTD as its known. His best-selling book by the same name is available everywhere. Allen begins his strategy for organising information into CAPTURE. If useful info flows past you and into the big sea, there's loads of good stuff you're going to miss-ideas, research, creative solutions, inspirational thoughts and deadline dates as well as opportunities. So capture it all and consign it like a great steaming pool of potential into the IN-TRAY.
Then on a daily basis you dive into this pool and bottom out the whole thing. Letters/emails/ideas on post-it notes/bills/unfinished poems/doctors appointments/execution warrants etc,
Each item is subjected to a formula-Can it be dumped? So bin it! Can it be done in less than three minutes? Then do it? Does it need to be deferred? So put it in a place where you'll pick it up again such as a @PROJECTS FILE. Is this item dependent on someone else? So slap it in a @WAITING ON file that you'll follow up appropriately
when the time is right. Create the files that work for you-we're all very different. But don't have too many action files.
The classic GTD process looks like this:



David Allen's website offers a range of GTD tools which are well made though a little pricey. Crafty folk can make their own. I would strongly advise getting a TICKLER FILE which is simply 43 folders labelled 1 through to 31 and 12 folders with the names of each month. You can place stuff in here that will ensure you come across it at the right date. A good labeller is also an essential tool for labelling your various folders or even your children-so you don't forget their names! A stapler that you can whack is also highly recommended. I also use a metal stacking desk-top system to store my current folders and my tickler file upright where they're all at hand.
I think the great thing about David's system is that, once you 'get it' and trust it then you can let go of remembering all that stuff which is a great stress releaser and I think a real aid for creatives.

For WRITING I carry a MOLESKINE notebook everywhere-they're just about the best I've used. At some point I transfer my writing to a hard backed and divided A4 notebook, again by hand- I use an Oxford FLINGBOOK. I use MINDMAPS to write my poems in this book and though somewhat arduous to do all this by hand I regard this step as an essential re-write. The completed poem or piece of writing is then ripped out and filed in a loose leaf file with a small sticky label with the name of piece written on. This eventually becomes a hand-written manuscript and it is this file that is typed into my computer as I hurl my quill pen to the floor and enter the digitised age. I use a 24 inch Mac Intel and write nearly everything in SCRIVENER-far and away my favourite writing program. Later they'll be exported to WORD but I rarely use that to actually write. If I'm on a PC I use PAGEFOUR which is similar to SCRIVENER but not, I feel, quite as good. I also use a Mac Laptop but mine recently blew its logic board so I'm unhappily using a Dell. I also use a dictaphone to record my work and read it back to myself. Currently I use tape but I'm considering some method of getting them onto cd's-I can't recommend enough listening to your own poems while you're cooking or taking a dump-Poetry is oral. Sometimes a poem won't reveal/expose itself until it's heard.
I write anachronistically with a Silver Parker filled with real ink. I keep a load of little supplies like sticky labels, index cards, scissors, pencils and highlighters and a very important RED PEN in a robust little zippered pouch. I always keep a couple of index cards in the back of whatever book I'm reading to keep a note of particular references or quotes.  I keep a range of 'Tombo' coloured pens for my hand drawn mindmaps near at hand. Like many writers I am almost sexually aroused by stationery supplies and am often to be found in such places gently fingering materials from the top shelf! (Enough of that! This is not a confessional piece!)

I have a Shorter Oxford DICTIONARY and a Roget's THESAURUS for reference. I'm not keen on any style instructors or grammar manuals like Fowler's or Strunk and White. (They've become a publishing opportunity for those people who enjoy wagging fingers and shouting such as Lynn Truss and John Humphreys. Language is alive and moves like a big dirty river-something these guys don't seem to realise. If you want to read something from someone who knows and loves language-try Bill Bryson's 'Mother Tongue' or Guy Deutscher's book or anything by Stephen Fry.)

On the computer I use EVERNOTE and YOJIMBO for capturing info like snippets of quotes or websites or visual info that I can sort through at leisure. I also use NOTEBOOK from CIRCUS PONIES SOFTWARE which is a digitised MOLESKINE and a lovely little program. The best mindmapping programs are MINDMANAGER and NOVAMIND and are easily available on the web.

I always use Mindmaps if I'm at a meeting or lecture and want to record information or actions.

If I'm writing all day, I do it in bed by the way, surrounded by my papers and tools and wearing my pyjamas. I only discovered them recently when I had to go to hospital-but honestly, pyjamas seem to be a uniform of the subconscious allowing a stream of creativity to flow through. Once you're dressed you're back in the Real World. For females I'm presuming long flowing nightdresses with fluffy collars would have the same effect. Or you could write naked I suppose? Whatever floats your boat! Me I'm sold on pyjamas-with buttoned shorts. (Not trousers with white cords-that would be 'Carry on Poet!' Don't do it!)

So there it is. I hope there was something there that was useful. Do let me have your comments and success to your work!

Tony.

30.8.09

A poem from the dark-side

Some poems dip toes into little pools of darkness. Others just dive in, to rivers of shit. As Jung memorably said- we do not grow by turning always into the light but by making the darkness visible. Though this is one of the darkest poems I've ever written, I hope you enjoy it. The image of relationships ending in acrimony and hatred or betrayal, that always comes to my mind, is of bloody and cruel trench warfare. Of slaughter. As family mediation is one of the strings on my bow of being, I am witness to a lot of this. I suppose, to continue the analogy, I'm one of the stretcher bearers running round gathering up the bits. I once had a powerful dream of separated parents as medieval knights jousting, using their children as lances-'splintering against their shields of hate.' Of course it's not always like that. Many people, probably most, end their relationships with quiet dignity even heroism. But that doesn't make for the best dark poetry!
And yes...For a while I was a soldier there myself-bewildered and trench-footed.
This is an inverted sonnet-that is, with octet and sestet changed round and without punctuation of any kind, apart from the bracketed (to us), and the paltry comma after 'you, and me' to create a sense of separation, topsy-turviness and confining loss.
This is from my nearly completed collection 'The Book of Three Rings.' For which I am currently seeking a publisher!


LIVING WOUNDS

Kindness is a language that is dead (to us)
A gag that swells within our strictured throats
We’ve laid the concrete over our green fields
And cut down all the trees and crucified
It all upon a cross of hate and pain
Hammered in with poisonous nails

Our insides spilled out in a bloody trench
Beneath the clouds of deadly gas-the stench
rises from the corpses of the family friends
Lying half-buried in the sodden mud
Beyond them by a blackly blasted tree
Lies something that once was you, and me
It lies now in a desecrated tomb
For we've been born again-as living wounds

14.8.09

From a 1994 Notebook

I felt a frozen thought fall from the book shelves. Morning light danced on the carpet as it crawled across the floor and wound its way upstairs and under the bedroom door.

Onions/Carrots/Potatoes/Celery/Cauliflower/Green-Red Pepper/1 small cooking apple/Tomatoes

...I am amazed that such an attractive woman should do such a job. We are in the lakes, somewhere, in some kind of park. She becomes cold and although I dearly want to fuck her, I go running round her. Run miles to find the car and bring it to her. Running like a little boy trying to please the headmistress when all I really want to do is come all over her. She is best described as willowy...reed-like...as if glimpsed through gauze.

Yet again of Sharon. She ends up sharing my bed with some other guy but I fuck her anyway. It's good.....................(water damage has removed words)...I am sure that she knows. In fact the radical fact is that she doesn't, but something profound had changed. Some atmosphere of trust has dissolved. But by God, it was good fucking her.

There was this awful time at the bedside. Holding that hand that the fucking demon arthritis had swollen then withered into a claw. I felt a surge of something deep in my body, something cold entered my heart and i knew with unshakeable certainty I was feeling death on me. I knew she was going to die. My head began to swim. A chair scraping on the floor sounded like a car crash. A toilet flushing sounded like a great river breaking its banks.
'Tell me' I demanded suddenly fiercely, urgently...'Do you love me?'

Flowers from her grave.

'Even the darkest night has an end. Even the brightest stars must ultimately be extinguished. Even the all-conquering mountains must collapse into their own bony entrails. There is no forever-that's just blind faith. There is only the knowledge of now and some unreasoning certainty about tomorrow.
More than that is too dreadful to contemplate. What the early Church did not realise is that one moment in hell is for all eternity. The experience of hell never leaves...never leaves.'
'You've put a foot in hell then?' smiled the newspaperman.
'I-have-been-there-yes...I should say that.' He spoke the words with such intensity that the smile drained from the newspaperman's face like air from a child's balloon.

Pancakes/Spinach/Ricotta1/4/ Gorgonzola 1/4/Parmesan1/4/Spring Onions/Mozzarella1/4/Double Cream/Butter/Milk

A contagious silence billowed and eddied around the house, peopling it with ghosts-stairs creaked, slithering hands rubbed wet windows in the rain. Floorboards groaned like restless sleepers and with the last ebb of the sun it became a dormitory of tiny noises.

TVP/Chunks and Mince/Turmeric/Mung beans

12.8.09

INTO THE BONES OF A POEM

I wrote recently that I would unpack a poem from my impending collection to indicate a bit about how it emerges from the chrysalis of thought into the form, meter and rhyme of a whole, complete poem.

Here's the original poem in all its uncut glory. When I wrote it I thought it was a finished thing; when I returned to it, it seemed so unfinished as to be hardly started.

FORCEPS DELIVERY-POET'S BLOCK

Contractions have ceased
for two weeks.
There has been silence.
No little kicks or movements.

But now I birth this
being back to life.
Push out this new sound.
It is a pub-delivery.

A message from the omnipotent stars?
Postcards from the Pleiades?
No-just these small words
Like tiny fists, opening and closing
in the gloaming.

Well,it's an experience just writing that out without interfering! The poem was about a fallow period in the middle of a creative frenzy of some nine months when most of 'The Book of Three Rings' was written. A period when I had given up work to concentrate on writing and other stuff-real work!

I experienced this period as some kind of pregnancy and that's what got me thinking about this metaphor. Poems were dropping like daily babies on the floor and the first word 'contractions' came in to my head.
But the rhythm in those first two lines is unhappy-making. A first line of four syllables and two stresses and a second line of three syllables with two stresses. Why not join the line up to make four clear stresses-tract/ceased/two/weeks?

Contractions have ceased for two whole weeks

It's certainly a lot clearer with a regular four beat line(tetrameter)though there's no getting away from the ugliness of 'contractions'-not a nice word! Maybe I should have put 'Contractions they have ceased for two whole weeks' but the 'they' seemed to contrive the line into pentameter in a very artificial way. It seemed to take away some truth, and all and everything,even the laws of prosody must bow their heads to truth. Non?

'There has been silence' seems a bit obvious and lacking the fear that went with the lack of creative juice-would it ever return? So it became:

An all pervading silence surrounds me.


This is much better with it's sense of that almost palpably oppressive type of silence and my comfort zone-the iambic pentameter. Ti-Tum Ti-Tum Ti-Tum Ti-Tum Ti-Tum.

No little kicks or movements with its terribly clumsy beat becomes:


No swimming in the limpid sac-no kicks


Of course I'm in danger of doing my metaphors to death here but really there's no going back so the author just dives in with a clear and colloquial declaration:

So now I'll birth this bugger back to life:
PUB DELIVERY! THE FORCEPS OF PURE WILL!


This starting to be a bit of a piss-take with the capitals signifying a shouted line. We must not take ourselves too seriously hence:

(medicated with the sacred hop)

I decide to keep the next couplet pretty much as it is but change 'stars' to 'gods'.

A message from the omnipotent gods?
A one-off postcard from the pleiades?


The poet is confronted with his own hyperbole and confesses his sins pentametrically:

No way! Just fucking words and words and words.

But like a good poetic sneak just can't resist returning to his clever metaphor and giving the ending a gloss as if the closing door has had a makeover. In poetry this showiness is generally a fault. The poet is seduced by his ever more outlandish metaphors and similes. Like a drug-addicted lover who we just can't leave. Ah, that old seducing mind!

So we have:

Like tiny fists on waving stalks.
Like dumb mouths opening/closing, in their sleep.

So the re-written poem is:

POET'S BLOCK

Contractions have ceased for two whole weeks.
An all-pervading silence surrounds me.
No swimming in the limpid sac-no kicks.
So now I'll birth this bugger back to life:
PUB DELIVERY! THE FORCEPS OF PURE WILL!
(medicated with the sacred hop.)
A message from the omnipotent gods?
A one-off postcard from the pleiades?
No way! Just fucking words and words and words.
Like tiny little fists on waving stalks;
like dumb mouths opening/closing,in their sleep.


I think it's lots better but I hate to see my hubris so nakedly displayed!

Success to your work!

3.8.09

Jen Hadfield wins 2009 T S Eliot Prize!




Jen Hadfield is the youngest poet ever to win the T S Eliot Prize. She is prodigiously gifted as a poet, and has a voice that melts the legs and caused a mild palpation in this elderly gentleman's chest! Hear her read on the magnificent Poetry Archive-(Very well done indeed Andrew Motion). 'Nigh-No-Place,' her second collection reeks of the harbour-smells of Scottish islands-those God-droppings set in sapphire. There is a lilting thread that gently weaves a skein through all the poems. Language used like brushes of gentle light to articulate the moods of weather, the blashy-wadder, the inner moods. Here sheep and cats and dogs are characters. There is a refreshing sincerity in Jen's poems (when I went back to my own work I was appalled by my poetry's gravitas, its metropolitan disdain or pehaps the frown it wears as it looks around for victims...Ahem.) Jen's poems have none of that-they are indeed fresh, open and young. I wish her well in what promises to be a very fruitful career.
Buy the book and read it slowly rolling the words inside your skull as you would a good wine in your mouth. There's iodine from the seaweed gathering in your nostrils as you read this verse. Sit with it and carry the poems around for a few days. There's a waft of Lagavulin here. These poems take you back to what really matters-they mind you what your poetry's for.

31.7.09

Various Musings

Mmmm...Well two weeks ago I had Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction. This was my first experience of surgery and though a fairly routine operation, I was not looking forward to it-a full anaesthetic being required and me not being keen on such things for a variety of reasons, such as being much less tolerant of pain than normal folk!
One consequence is that I have six weeks to recover and have spent my first week stumbling round on crutches.

Something bad did happen in hospital and I want to write about it in the blog but I'm going to just sit a bit longer with it before I go fully into print. It is around nurse-vampyres chattering like gaggles of fruit bats and spearing we poor patients on the dripping, poisonous trivia of their meaningless gabble. God was I ever glad to get out of there!

My Book of Poetry-The Book of Three Rings which I have now been working on for seven years is nearly finished and I'm on the final draft. PARDON ME! WHAT'S THAT YOU SAID? IS IT ANY GOOD? GODDAMN YOU TO THE SEVENTH CIRCLE OF HELL YOU HAIR SCUTTLING BUG!! AHEM! OF COURSE IT'S GOOD!

Many of the poems featured in this blog are drawn from this collection. I'm really looking forward now to getting into a new project and already have some ideas. The Book of Three Rings is the story of a relationship cycle triaded into three rings-Despair/Spirit and Healing and finally Transformation. It sounds heavy as unrelenting debt and it is in parts but... I'm pleased to have honoured it with so much sweat and tears. The final story is that out of tragedy we can be moulded for greatness or smallness and it is the capacity to rise above the anger of broken-heartedness and to find forgiveness that allows us to grow, heal and move on...Obvious really!
I expect to be finished by end August and it just so happens I'm signed off work until then because of my knee!


In the next few days I'll publish some more poems from the collection, say a bit about how I write and organise my projects and show how poems transform and change under the re-write, with particular note to meter and form. (It may not sound interesting dude but in fact the meter and the form are the priming mechanisms for the poetic hit!)

Success to your work!

26.7.09

Freya Hoffmeister-Conqueror of New Zealand South Island!



Now this, my friends, is what heroes are made of. Freya is the first woman to solo kayak around New Zealand South Island-an incredible feat of skill and endurance. Congratulations and honour to you Freya.

22.7.09

Song of the Siren-A Poem!

Song of the Siren

Let me sing you a siren song,
a song that flows from the heart of me.
From the lush valleys
crazed with wild poppies
to the edge of the silvered sea.

Let me be the voice of the wind,
the soul-song of the mystery.
Let me be well carved
as from ebony
to the grain of infinity.

I saw a thousand serpents snaking.
I saw herds of great beasts grazing.
I saw hordes of armies feasting.
In the land of the lotus-eaters.

The dark ship-shapes made landfall there
in the harbour of the harpies.
The land where brave souls
are sold for gold,
the land of all that scares me.

Let me sing you a sea shanty,
a song of a ship on a wine dark sea.
A ship in full sail,
on course for true North.
Seeks Ygsdrassill the wisdom tree.

Are these the harbingers of doom?
The cold of the night; the dark of the dream?

Phosphorescence of burning stars
then the dark of the hunter’s moon.
Trust flows from the dark.
Trust is dammed too soon.
Trust in the rose that’s lost its bloom.

I felt the white sail billowing
like a white stallion whinnying.
A cold fear lingering;
in the land of the lotus-eaters.

I saw ten thousand women weeping
while away the men were creeping.
I heard the fiddle; saw the burning.
In the land of the lotus-eaters.

7.7.09

I COULD'VE BEEN BILL GATES!

It was many moons ago in the wrong half of the seventies and I was working as a programmer in the Department of Health and Social Security in Blackpool. We programmed in Cobol and I still get shivers when I think of those little binary digits. The department was made up of about twenty programmers and three systems analysts under the leadership of Geoff, a tall, thoughtful, lean man in his early fifties. Apart from having a strategically placed desk where I could glimpse the knickers of the sixth-form girls at the secondary school next door playing netball, the job had little to recommend it. The printers spewed out vast rolls of graphed paper which were checked endlessly. The computers were vast boxes with spinning tapes occupying football pitch-sized halls.
I decided, after several months, this was beyond a joke and determined to hitchhike around Europe with my guitar for a couple of years in the time-honoured manner of troubadours and poets over the centuries. This was, needless to say, viewed as a poor career option by my already-old geeky colleagues .
But you could have knocked me down with a wet fish when, upon hearing of my plans, our somewhat distant leader Geoff invited me out to a restaurant as he wished to put a serious proposal to me. I can’t remember what we ate, Chinese I think it was but I was intrigued and just a little suspicious that his designs might be of a sexual nature.
We bantered a bit and then Geoff leaned forward with a serious expression and said ‘ you know Tony, my wife and I have never had children, though we dearly wanted them.’
I nodded while hovering up some Chop Suey. That’s a shame’ I empathised.
‘Yes but what I really wanted Tony was a son. I wonder if you could be that son?’
I stopped eating and stared awkwardly at Geoff and then the table. There was a pathetic kind of pleading in his voice that made me resist my first impulse which was to laugh. It was if he had just told me he had fallen in love with me. In fact he had. He wanted to be my daddy…and frankly that position had been openly available for some time and was now one that I considered a tad redundant.
‘Er…Er…’ I took a deep swig of beer.
‘Well I don’t know what to say Geoff…I mean..’I trailed off.
‘You see’ he continued as if I’d said nothing and he appeared to be growing in excitement, his eyes began to twinkle.
‘Computers are the future Tony. Oh I know it’s hard to believe now but they will get smaller and smaller till one day they’ll be the size of a wristwatch with holographic projections, perhaps even beyond that. But you see, when they get the size of a television say, then people will buy them for their houses, and very soon there will be a computer in every home in the country. People will talk to each other with them, they’ll play games on them, put photos on them, write letters on them. There will even be small computers for carrying in a briefcase. In 20 years time it would be as strange not to have a computer as…well…a car!’
His voice had taken on a quivering quality as if he were truly aroused by the vision he had just painted.
‘And I intend to be there’ he continued…’All these computers will need programmes, will need software, they’ll need operating systems…Just happens to be my speciality, and I want you to be part of it. I want you to come into the business with me. I want you to take it over when I’ve…when I er…mmmm’ He trailed off, lost in a sea of primogeniturial complications and just looked at me expectantly.
In hindsight it is strange to admit that Geoff’s predictions seemed less mind-blowing and truly prescient than they did twenty years later when everything came to pass just as he said it would.
‘But I’m going hitch-hiking in Europe.’ I said somewhat lamely. Geoff’s eyes clouded with disappointment and possibly a hint of disbelief. He had offered me the riches of Croesus and I was going hitch-hiking? It made little sense.
I did go hitch-hiking round Europe and must have sung ‘Strawberry Fields’ a thousand times. I got back several months later and got a job in the Cleansing Department as a road-sweeper. One of my ‘roads’ was the one outside the Computer Department and my ex-colleagues would view my fallen status with a strange mix of compassion and outright glee.
Me? I thought-alright you bastards, you may be laughing now but I could’ve been Bill Gates! The richest man in the world!




4.7.09

John Gray is not God!

True but he has written a great book. I strongly advise you to read, study, ponder, and digest.

Oh the lives of the Idle Rich!



I want this boat. So what if I don't know how to sail? So what if sailing upon the deep I shall be superficial and shallow? I want it...NOW!!! NOW I SAY!!!

Black-eyed Blair

Tony Blair, the infamous war criminal, who is anything but in hiding, received a medal yesterday presented by his mate-the now quite dotty Lord Mandeltoon of LaLa Land. Blair sported a black eye. Perhaps received from an angry Iraqi mother? The medal was rumoured to be for services to India while PM but others say it is for the 200 thousandth Iraqi child death milestone recently passes in a drone attack. Very well done Tony. Congratulations on your...er...medal.