Sunday, 25 September 2016

Should Poetry Deal With Difficult Issues?

While I was studying creative writing last year I came across a phrase that stuck in my mind ‘happiness writes white’ a phrase attributed to Henri de Montherlant. I duly wrote it in my writers' notebook and thinking that I’d write a poem resulting from it at some point. I started several but each time they took on a life of their own and went in new directions – apparently, artists like Harvey Danger and Edward Hirsch had better luck focusing.

My attitude was that happiness doesn’t write white; in fact, my attitude is to find some black paper (metaphorical or otherwise) to pen your white poetry or prose on but… what of the black? What of the dark? I recently went to a ‘comedy night’ poetry reading where Luke Wright, Mike Garry and the fantastic Dr John Cooper-Clarke were many different shades of white through grey to darkest black and poetry, even jokes, definitely felt the right place for that mixture of emotional tones.

So what of myself? Do I write with a breadth of tones or do I slip into the dark and bring it with me to write blackly on my white page? Yes and no. I do feel that poetry is a place to bring my concerns – I can’t imagine myself as a ‘nice’ writer dealing with safe issues alone.

Luckily there are sites and zines where the editors feel the same. There are the nice, safe, comfortable places where the supposedly white ink can pen supposedly white reams of joy and light yet there are those who are brave enough to welcome a spectrum.

Perhaps this is why 'Thank You For Swallowing' has just published what I imagine might be a difficult subject for some readers – the rape of children by UN soldiers. The poem ‘New Hues of Blue’ may be difficult but surely needs to be exposed by diverse means?

A friend commented that poems of mine published by I Am Not A Silent Poet concerning breast-ironing fall into the same category and perhaps I am a dark writer. Perhaps. However, I don’t feel like one. I feel like a multitude of inks – a rainbow you might say – and in many gradations of colours too. I also think that poetry has always, and will always be a good home for these colours.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Matryoshka Poetry Volume One

Over the past few weeks, I've been finalising the first Matryoshka poetry magazine and now that it is finished and sitting pretty on web page I'm going to add a link here.... just because I'm so proud of all those who contributed.


Your rattle,
   a porcupine prickle
    transformed  to  sound,
     sends the world a warning to be-
      ware. You caress the ground, secretly
           stealing colour and earthy patina to polish 
               your scales. Unsuspecting travellers find spec-
                        tral skin you slough pinned to sharp stuff,
                       like serpent husks or discarded clothing left
                     out, drying. It is a sneaky snake, conceit,
              that makes even reasonable people a n g r y.
         One night, a mustachioed explorer in a natty
        pith helmet approached while you slept,
      bringing a bomb of condensed hatred.
     It exploded, ripping you apart
    to fall like sherbet bits
   that f i z z  e d
  as they
h  i   t
the ground.
Cursed by God and man
  to fashion deserts and shorelines,
    you slither at night, or when receding
       tides give traction, in an endless task that
          lasts even after death - ghost snakes taking
         up the action. The spectral serpents slither on
         beaches, when the muddied boundaries between
         wet and dry form rivulets and r u n n e l s   of
       serpentine creations, and casts.
    Unrecognized by crafts-
 men you rise on the
breeze, glimpsed
briefly l e v -
i t a t i n g
inches above
  your handiwork.
   Hardy beachcombers, who
    deny your snaky interventions,
       daring to say it’s a phenomenon of wave
         action, are coiled about on breezes salted
             with snake tears, their skin chaffed with 
                bitter disdain and calling-cards of sloughed
                   scales and sand particles.    You leave
                      yourself embedded in human skin,
                          a temporary reminder of hom-
                            inid stupidity and your
                                   obvious, sinuous


                                   Karen Barton

first published in Matryoshka Poetry Vol. 1

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Text Poem

Pump up the volume, pump up the volume!

Pump up the jam, surely? 
Or, maybe, with sideways thinking, pump up the ham? 
Perhaps that was the impetus for TESCO to inject its meat with water.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Kintsugi Poetry

Before I get all excited about a poem that has been published by PoetryWTF - yes, the third one - I want to pose two questions:

  • When can a person who writes poetry call themselves a poet?
  • Why do I continually feel a flash of pride upon publication only to have that replaced by debilitating imposter syndrome?

But before the aforementioned syndrome snaps in I'll scream WOOOOOO-HOOOO! and celebrate the publication of one of my TMA entries that is a kintsugi poem (yes, I did just make that form up) looking at female gender roles and the breaking of historical links, lore, freedoms.... promise it isn't all tub-thumping and groan-making. I hope it is as beautiful as a kintsugi vessel.

Now, back to those two questions...

  • Question one: 

If anyone I know posed the same question to me I would say that if they wrote they were a writer. Why can't I, therefore, be as broadminded towards myself? Why do I need to have acceptance or the next step up from whatever step I think I'm on to even begin to consider myself a writer? Grrrrr!

  • Question two:

I guess this is linked to question one insomuch as I don't accept myself as a writer or doubt my ability to grow as a writer to fully occupy the space of a writer. Sigh!

Oh well, onwards and upwards and.... even being paid as a writer - yes, I have been paid (minor miracle!) - even that hasn't altered my own conceptions. I shall have to instigate a new mantra of trust in myself a little bit more perhaps.

Monday, 5 September 2016

Mandragora's Daughter + the Wicked Witch of the West

My poem Mandragora's Daughter has been published by Three Drops From A Cauldron, in issue two:

Many thanks to Kate for this opportunity!

In a tiny twist of fate, I ended up eating in Bristol at a new restaurant called… The Cauldron! How funny is that? After that, I went to the Massive Attack open air gig to continue celebrating.

It’s a good thing that this ‘witch’ isn’t like the Wicked Witch of the West as it bucketed down and I was literally letting rain water run out of my coat, wringing my dress out and have leg tattoos from the dye that ran out of my boots for 8 hours.  

Friday, 2 September 2016

Poem Published on Poetry WTF!

On a week when I have had more good news than I can cope with I’m delighted to be celebrating with:
a big bag of cobnuts, 
wine for later and 
smiling at my tiny found poem that is currently lifting Fridays at Poetry What the Fuck!