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Archive for October, 2020

Just to let you all know, I’m starting a new poetry project. Every monday morning, at 11am UK time, I’m going to be uploading a mini-workshop and a new poetry exercise to my youtube channel. During the first lockdown I was very grateful to makers of how-to videos I watched with my kids like Draw with Rob and #Communityclaytime, and I know a lot of people have enjoyed the routine of regular online workouts, singing classes or yoga sessions. My mum and her friend Sheena, under restrictions in the North at the moment, have started writing a poem every week and sharing them over facetime, and it occurred to me – as we’re staring at months of rolling lockdowns – that it would be great for someone to do a free, regular poetry class on youtube.

This is a BEGINNERS class, I’ll just be going through basics week-by-week like line-breaks and metaphors – it’s not about becoming a professional poet, but for people who are locked down, shielding, under-employed, isolated or just bored of 2020 and want to have a go at a new hobby, express themselves and get inspired. I hope some of you will join me – do subscribe to my channel, share your poems at #clarespoetrycircle and also tell anyone you know who might get some pleasure out of it. (I’m not on facebook so if you could spread the word there would be great). Hopefully we can create a sense of community and have some fun over what is going to be a tough autumn…

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Cassandra in Mycenae

It’s National Poetry Day, but as it’s also 2020 I have none of the usual excitements lined up: no school to visit; nowhere to drink beer with poetry friends. I thought I’d mark the day by posting a poem though, on this year’s theme of ‘vision’. This is an old poem from Changeling, but it’s one that means a lot to me and I think about often. These last few years I’m sure I’m not the only one to have identified with Cassandra – cursed to perpetually warn of approaching tides of surveillance capitalism, fascism and climate chaos to people who don’t want to listen. And I hardly blame them: ‘Darkness is sweeter than vision’.

Cassandra in Mycenae

So Agamemnon tugs a spluttering flap
in his daughter’s throat,
and home is a trap.

In malignant Greek sun the Scops owl hoots,
and a wife will axe
at her husband’s guts,

slop a slick maze in dust, children plot, things fall,
squalls of blood
flood the land…

And you don’t believe me, of course –
the alternative’s worse.
So go on, cover your ears –

you know what? I’m glad you don’t hear.
It’s gobbledegook, I’m a freak,
I lie I say this is only the start,

that emperors will make death sport,
people cast the first stone,
men invent thumbscrews, the Rack,

a chair you can dunk women in,
‘Honour’ killings and Pogroms,
Original Sin.

You find this depressing?
Dismiss me,
but the future will happen the same:

an Iroquois babe boil
with bubbling smallpox,
a whip flay a back to a sugarcane field,

a signwriter scribe: Arbeit macht frei,
faces melt in Japan,
child soldiers carry Kalashnikovs, coke-cans.

O every night Eric and Dylan
enter the school cafeteria –
towers fall – hysteria –

Yo lo vi. Yo esto también.
The Long March crawls
through my nightsweats, my mares,

then the Berlin Wall,
the gulags where men chew a maggot-laced horse,
lynchings, napalm, the S21,

Zodiac, Dahmer, the Wests,
the atomic bomb –
icebergs slouch into the sea…

The Snake licked my ears
and they spat in my mouth
when they gave me this curse,

and the earth is cursed,
so you’re right to naysay.
Go on, raise an eyebrow, shrug it away –

buy raspberries in March,
the villa in Pompeii.
In my head it’s rolling news,

and after a while being perfectly useless,
your face has to dry.
Your heart goes onto standby.

For all stories end with death,
those that don’t are the teller looking away,
and I don’t get that luxury.

See, now evening’s come:
turtles cover their eggs on the beach,
mountain-top beacons burn.

The amethyst tapestry’s spread on the floor,
Agamemnon’s hand’s on the door –
don’t watch! Don’t listen!

Darkness is sweeter than vision.
Bury your face in a rose, pour some wine, feel the in
and the out of your breath.

Ignore me, please. Ignore me and Death.

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