I am writing a poem a day for April

Hello everyone,

April is National Poetry Month. Once again (for the third year in a row!) I am writing a poem a day for Tiferet Journal as part of their poemathon fundraiser.

*You might remember this and this from last year or this from my first year.*

A poem a day seems a lot, especially when you have a lot to do, but each time I commit I like the practice. I have found that a lot turns up in my writing by having to produce someone else will read at the end of day. It is also completely counter my tendency to write and then wait a long time to publish. It is a different rhythm and a good one. Things come up – both good and bad – then you can write about them.

This year I am enjoying writing about the changes in Yangon, as well as observing what comes up from my sub-concious. I hope to also explore some more performance poems, if I find the right inspiration.

You can read what I have been writing here and here I will also post poems to this site.

Also – very importantly – you can show your support to this creative month and give a few dollars to poetry by sponsoring me. Follow this link and click on the sponsor a poet button.

Lots of love,

Mandala

A lovely mandala which was shared as writing prompt. 

Advertisements

Lucky Dip (1)

Here goes with week 1 of recording something beautiful.

I am going to start with a man who served me in Dar El Salaam Wonder Workshop craft shop last week. My flipflop had finally broken after walking me what is probably the equivalent of hundreds of miles of Myanmar streets. I asked him for some tape to try and stick it together until I could buy a new pair. Instead he pulled out some plastic thread, expertly threaded a needle and sewed the show back together. I think now the shoe might be a good for another hundred miles…

It made me reflect on the fact that I am quite hopeless unable to fix things myself and would be more likely to throw something out rather than try and mend it. But fixing something is not just about cost, it also makes sense for the environment and makes you/me/everyone less of a slave to the corporate market. I am now more inspired to learn some useful practical skills.

Beautiful, practical and human.

Story: The Secrets of the White Desert

 “You must watch the night,” says the guide. It is all that there is left to see when we arrive. The day slips, dragging along the edge of the white rocks. We listen to Bedouin drums and make a cold camp under the many stars. See the dark masses of tall rocks, the bright eyes of a fox, imagine what layers and layers of sand could look like.

It is not until morning that we really see the desert: a lady in a light summer nightdress. The wind is fresh and clear, blowing lighting through her cotton. The tall rocks, sculptures of dancers, shaped by the wind.

Desert

Something unfurled, as we sleep. Each one of us awkwardly admit to discovering something. We try to remember, exactly the words of it, but whatever it was, escapes again, like a dream just gone. Holding on, does nothing to help. We grasp handfuls of sand, again and again, let it seep through our fingers.

The guide makes us scream, marking the sand with the wheels of the jeep, driving up steep dunes, driving down, we are all laughing. The desert picks up the lines we leave, reforming with us, around us. It lets our footprints lie for now. The next strong wind will carry them. The desert including us and excluding us in its way.

Story: Full Moon Day of Tazaungmone

On the night before full moon in November, the pagodas of Myanmar stay open all night to welcome visitors. People lie on rough blankets on the marble pagoda floor and set up small camps beside golden Buddhas and under golden awnings. People stop pray, pour water and light candles in honour of the symbol of the day of the week they were born.

Shwe Dagon Pagoda is a giant Buddhist temple built in the 6th century. In its golden tower, alongside diamonds and jewels are eight hairs from the head of the Lord Gautama Buddha. It is located in the centre of Yangon, at the top of long steeps flights of stairs. The central courtyard makes a wide circle, decorated with lines of shrines, fountains and candles on the inside. On the outside there are small houses with Buddha statutes in different forms shapes and sizes, with lanterns, fairy lights, marble and glistening golden walls.

Tazaungmone is the festival to make new robes for the Buddha statutes in the pagoda. Groups work on looms to weave new cloth in a bright golden yellow. Crowds cheer on as the competition to be the first group to finish gains momentum. The crowd watch on via video transmission into the central room of the Pagoda.

Weaving

Everyone smiles, stops, stares as I pass.

” Minglabar” they all say.

“Minglabar” I say back and they are delighted with my one word of Burmese, laughing and pointing

“Minglabar!” We communicate by signs, pointing to their children, or sweet smelling jasmine flowers. One little boy jumps in front of the camera, grins as I take a picture, then rushes forward to shake my hand piping:

“Nice to meet you.”

Nice to Meet You

Others are keen to practice English and they stop me to discuss religion, politics, my home country, my job and pop music. One monk and his friends ask about my taste in music.

“Do you like Justin Bieber? Do you like Katy Perry? Do you like nightclub? “

“Do you like Justin Bieber?” I ask

“No” the monk laughs back, “I am a monk, I cannot listen Justin Bieber!”

Others consider more philosophical questions. A young boy asks about the meaning of life.

“We have one life and it ends.” He announces. “So what will we do then?”his eyes wide and round, his mouth wide in a smile.

Prayer

As night goes on, more people prepare to sleep, it feels like Christmas and New Year all in one night. When the sun starts to come through the clouds it casts warm light onto the golden tower, people hand out sweet rolls and red juice, monks lay out their wooden bowls to collect donations. Some sitting humbly, other walking among the crowds, others moving in groups, descending on the generous and the tourists in groups of ten or twenty like children trick or treating at Halloween. Some seem delighted with their gifts. One young boy monk struggles to carrying his collection of gifts, his bowl and hands overflowing with bits of cake, some money, fruit, piles of noodles.

Dawn

As day hits the pagoda the temple loses some of its magic. People disperse into the city and everyday movement returns to the towers and statutes of the Pagoda. The full moon gives way to the sun and the monks move to eat a donated breakfast in another part of town, before getting on buses back to their monasteries, their bags of goodies tucked like a children’s presents under their robes.

Pagoda Morning

Story: Walking and Talking with Monks

“We are walking and talking,”he says abruptly from the crowd. A short monk, dressed in a dark red robe and carrying a wooden collection bowl. Thick tufts of grey hair grow directly from his ears.

“We are walking and talking, ” he repeats.

“OK.” I say.

So we begin to walk and talk, circling the giant golden pagoda tower, our bare feet moving over the morning marble floor. We move through crowds of people who watch us, some greeting the monk.

“My students,” he says.

He talks about UK politics, wonders about Tony Blair’s career after politics. He discusses the role of the USA in South Asian politics.

“Someone told me a story of a Scotsman who got a fly in his whiskey. He picked out the fly and continued to drink. They say the Scots are very miser,” he laughs, “is this true?” Quickly, he looks right.

“Chinese tourists” he says with a wink, rushing forward with his alms bowl for donations. The Chinese tourists give generously. He smiles at me, shutting the lid on his bowl.

He talks about his life in a monastery north of Yangon, and the bus he will take to return there later on in the day. We continue to walk around the pagoda tower.

“We find teashop, go for tea” he suggests.

A young monk is offers noodles by one of the grand entrances to the pagoda. The monk rushes forward again.

“Noodles, good with tea” he grins accepting a large spoonful of noodles into the bottom of his bowl.

We start to walk down stairs to look for the teashop. At the exit, people offer drinks to people for the festival day.

“Cold drink” he says, “very nice cold drink.” He takes a cup, swallowing it quickly.

“Teashop not this exit, back up.” he says, so we take an elevator back up to the pagoda, now hot and bright with day. We circle again looking for the teashop.

“What time is it?”

“I have a clock that talks” he says. “A talking clock.” He presses the talking clock, which says in American:

“It is eight o two o’clock.”

We circle the pagoda a few more times.

We do not find the teashop, it is already day. The monk starts walking towards the exit. “Eight o’clock. Free lunch near Phay Road in one hour for monk. Monk not eat afternoon.” He smiles, beckoning me to follow.

Story 6: The Orange Tree

There is a girl in Quito who is hoping to become a tree. Growing around her Mistress’s heavy roots.

She rises at six every morning. Peels oranges into a perfect circle of skin, places them in the sharp blades of the blender. Juice.

Her words are like light sips.  She watches others gulp, sees what taste could be. She stirs the spoon round and round, crunches the knife on the board, puts the rubbish into the street, chases the dog out the kitchen, for it to come in again. She wonders: when will my future un-peel like an orange in my hand?

She gets up in the morning to plait her hair in one long straight line down her back. She visits her brother every fourteenth day through the sharp streets of southern Quito, the hour tram journey, the return in the dark. Thirst.

She watches TV programmes on a tiny hand sized TV, with beautiful people and rancheros. She falls completely in love with the idea of falling in love. Arms open, eyes shut, jumping, falling, being caught.

Her footsteps fall like leaves, as she wonders, was Mistress listening? As she creeps away to her room at the bag, she realises she is learning to walk like a tree in the dark.

Solitary

These stories and photos from around the world, discuss and explore the theme of solitary.

Photo Story 1

It took about six hours to reach this point, the deserts of Western Egypt. This man stands alone, miles from everywhere and apart from the group, in solitude. But he is still connected. He looks at his phone, he reads a message. With new technology we become caught in a new web of solitary communication, a new way to be alone, but connected. Solitary but very much in company.

Photo Story 2

This shot is in Siwa, on the Egyptian border with Libya. It is a tourist place and it is crowded with people waiting to see the sunset. They order drinks, take pictures, chatter. This man has stepped away from the crowd, he is surrounded by other people, but somehow very much alone. He has created a solitary space in which to think, escape or perhaps communicate with an idea or something that the rest of us cannot see. He reaches to the horizon, Finds his connection there.

Photo Story 3

The patterns in which people congregate. A group forms. People join together, becomes something bigger, but one man walks behind. He holds himself apart, is left a little out of the group. The others are laughing and he looks down, thinking of something else. The others welcome him, but he is already a little apart.

Photo Story 4

In Nicaragua in a the Northern Mountains, in an area called Miraflor. People here have lives which are both solitary and communal by nature. They live in small communities, each house separated by the land they own, quite apart from their neighbours. They live in the solitude of the mountains, dirt tracks, cows for company, long walks to their fields.  Yet, families are large and many people squeeze into each house. Mothers, fathers, grandmothers, children and their children, squashed together in their homes, pulled together by community life, meetings, solidarity.  They struggle to keep secrets from neighbours while they rely on them for support.  This little girl represents that story. Sitting on a bench by the road, she watches other people pass by, two boys are talking and some cocks start to fight. She sits apart from the events, watching, connected to them, but not quite part of them.

Photo Story 5

 

One final picture. Back to Egypt where a dancer is performing. On stage the band plays, on the other side the audience watch. He spins in his robes between them, around and around and around. Caught in his long scarfs and his wide dresses, he turns. He is surrounded by people, but in his dance he is solitary. All eyes are on him as he performs, but there is no connection. Alone on stage he seems so distant, with his colours and his dance, he is in another place, and everyone else can only watch.

One thing which I notice, seeing these photos and these people together, in different places, in different countries, is that they all know what it means to be solitary. They are united even in their solitude. It is an inherently human emotion and even alone, we are connected to people we do not know, to a world which goes beyond us, which is bigger than us.