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More guest poets

I am delighted to be able to share the work of guest poets Kathy Gee http://www.wordstring.co.uk/and Jenny Hope http://www.poetrymaker.co.uk, both of whom live in Worcestershire. Their poems appear below. On the Your Stories page you will also find “Sounds of the Fifties” by Eric Harvey which came via Facebook (many thanks, Eric) and there is now a new page dedicated to poems written by the young people who have attended my workshops. Many thanks to Kidderminster and District Youth Trust for supporting the young people.

Kathy came to two of my workshops. Her first three poems here were written in response to Museum events designed to inspire us – Reel Stories (a film) and Meet Melvyn (a talk by Melvyn Thompson which I described in my last blog).

Midlands Terracotta

A tripod stills the picture,
little girls in pinafores and lace,
their brothers cocky, each
in orange segment cap.
It must be Sunday, Ma and Pa
not working at our gate.

Around our terraced doorways,
maidens twine acanthus leaves,
their flowing hair in ribbons.
Terracotta bays are framed
by olive branches, swags
of persimmons and sunflowers.

He asked us if we would.
Of course, we said, we’d pose
for him. We’ve never been
to Umbria, know nothing
of Renaissance art, but we
are just as proud as them.

© Kathy Gee, 2013

The Tying of Knots

The complicated twists
of finger and of thumb
made perfect knots:
those non slip weavers knots
of Persian ingenuity.

The wood and metal
French machines would
prove as slow as twenty
women’s fingers, didn’t
prove a money spinner,
didn’t last for long.

And all the while,
back in the mountain
pastures of Irak,
the children, sisters, wives
kept knotting wool
in thirteen colours,
using nomad patterns
that were all they knew.

© Kathy Gee, 2013

Repeat Motif

We choose our pattern,
thread our paths together
tie the knot

until unbidden ‘nots’
come creeping: knots
of boredom in the stomach,
not as close as we should be,
the knotted and unknotted
legs and folded arms
of gathered tension.

Tongues un-tied, our nots
repeat, reply, become
those non-slip knots that slip
where yes is no,
a may, may not. We tie,
hitch, twist, lash, tangle,
snarl: can we, cannot?

We chose our pattern,
knotting and weaving,
untying and leaving.

© Kathy Gee, 2013

We discussed my poem “Persian Design” (see blog 21st May) at one of the workshops and it reminded Kathy of a poem she wrote a few years ago and which appears below together with a description of how she came to write it.

“Like many poems this one is invented from several sources. I bargained for the Dosemealti rug in eastern Turkey in c1990. The merchant told me the story of how they went up into the mountains every Spring to buy from the nomadic tribes who laid their wares out in the fields. He also explained the symbolism of the nomadic life – the leaf, camel’s footprint, the five prayers of Islam and the scorpion that saved Mohammed’s life. The woman who died was another story – I found her, and will always remember her slippers. And the poem was a workshop exercise asking us to create a narrative out of something in our living room.”


Turkish Carpet

I find you on the Dosemealti,
crimson slippers parallel
and flat behind your slender feet.
I reach to touch your hand, so cold
upon the knotted rug. Remember

that you climbed a mountain pass
with handsome men from Istanbul,
how flowers speared the melting snow
where tapestries of tribal rugs
were spread for sale on alpine pasture.

You stretched your fingers as you told
of nomad women’s callused hands,
of watching from a low stone wall
as girls explained the mountain’s symbols.
Old men haggled in the shade.

Their spiders did not catch your fall,
the scorpion that saved Mohammed
never stretched your hands to safety.
Rest upon the camel’s footprint,
journey over. Turkish red.

© Kathy Gee

Kathy also mentioned a poem by Jenny Hope when we got onto the subject of dyeing. I’m grateful to both Kathy and Jenny for letting me share their work. Finally, here is Jenny’s poem and her description of how she came to write it.

“I came to write the Merchant’s House as part of a Worcestershire Poetry Stanza collaborative project in conjunction with Avoncroft Museum, and organised by Kathy Gee.

I’ve always been drawn to the Merchant’s House, it’s my favourite building at the museum and the collaborative project gave me the perfect reason to both find out more about it, and to write a poem inspired by the building.  I did a little research and discovered it probably was the house of a dyeing/fabric merchant, this was actually quite difficult to research, and I could find very little information on the history of the house. http://rushtonspencer.wordpress.com/category/research/page/2/

Once I found it was possibly the home of a dyeing merchant, I then researched Medieval dyeing methods and found the following which although relates to leather as opposed to actual fabric, some of the colours would have worked on fabric.  I have dyed fabrics with onion skins (brown) and nettles (green).  http://www.personal.utulsa.edu/~marc-carlson/leather/ld.html

It was the Medieval wording of the actual methods which did much to inspire the poem and I wanted to write the poem from a female point of view, a young girl servant in the home of the Merchant who both has a fascination for her master and his work, and yet still sees him for what he is, and uses the colours to her own way, and how despite his use of her, is still unbroken.”

The Merchant’s House

My Master’s house holds colour.
Within winter’s flaxen skies

the sun hidden, he bids me
touch those sudden bolts of red,

subdued at first, then spilt.
At night the Sleep of Plants

protect their budded young.
There are many faces to green

though each is weak in light.
Ripened men take buckthorn

shade anointed flesh.  Lush.
And the sap damp to the ears.

Washed and washed again,
Walwort’s stolen blue fabric

seethed in water, left out to dry.
My firmament unstitched.

I watch for the seam of light
beneath wood.  My Master comes

with my sky-skinned elder-black,
starred where the dye’s uncaught.

© Jenny Hope
Worcestershire Stanza

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