Saturday, 26 May 2018

The Dancing Girl of Mohenjo-daro

The Dancing Girl is a prehistoric bronze sculpture made around 3000 BCE in the Indus Valley Civilisation city of Mohenjo-daro, which was one of the earliest of the world's cities. The statue led to two important discoveries about the civilisation: first that they knew metal blending, the lost-wax casting technique, and other sophisticated methods, and secondly that entertainment, especially dance, was part of the culture.

This amazing cultural artefact is 4.1 inches tall, and is of a naked girl wearing a number of bangles, similar to a Banjara lady, and a necklace. She appears to have been holding something in her left hand. According to an archaeologist at Mohenjo-daro, depicts "a young girl, her hand on her hip in a half-impudent posture, and legs slightly forward as she beats time to the music with her legs and feet." Another archaeologist described her as, "the most captivating piece of art from an Indus site," and qualified the description of her as a dancer by stating that, "We may not be certain that she was a dancer, but she was good at what she did and she knew it."

Sonnet for a dancing girl


We know not who she was, this glimpse
of ancient days, of whom I dream. She sings,
her rhythmic dancing steps in tune with rings
that bounce in Dhamar Taal on arms of nymph.
O what silence in percussive air!
Outside encircling sounds of shuffling feet
and tabla drums that fill my head, Ti, Ti, Ka, Ti,
a thunderous stillness finds its heir.
Her bronzed and swaying body shapes a spell,
enchanting all, in Mohenjodaro’s hall
where night's dark canopy is all the more defined
by torches’ spluttering light from pillared citadel.
I fancy I would answer if she'd call,
this graceful, semi-naked Bronze Age doll.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

First they went

First they went


First they went for the Afghans, and we did not stop them – 
because we believed their lies.
Then they went for the Iraqis, and we did not stop them –
despite their lies.
Then they went for the Libyans, and we did not stop them –
because they were deaf to reason.
Now they have bombed the Syrians – and nothing is left of morals and justice.


Sunday, 25 March 2018

Of a type...


Of a type...




He wrote of Smiley in some books
on spies and moles and Soviet spooks
and all his Cold War Communists,
unlike the outlaws stetsoned black,
wore shadow-grey and belted macs
and ran their double-agent lists.

He showed us villains in his plots
and spawned a genre sparse of shots
and running fights, for his Berlin
was black and white beneath the fog,
had cobbles wet with rain, not blood,
had nothing of a type developed in...

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Portrait of the Artist after Death



Portrait of the Artist after Death




He wrote of startled birth and death's benign front door
And told us we must rage, rage for all we're worth
Against the porter’s hail, well met and fading at an age
When wanton whorls of worthy words should not fail
To guide and stir, be read aloud and make ears dirl.

He brought us under Milk Wood’s tract, to Rosie and Dai Bread
And bought a one-way ticket for a train that never slacked,
That was franked by Evans Death in his role as acting picket
(Ah, the undertaker baits with his shrouded coffin breath,
Under vows to veil the truth, feigning pity while he waits).

He was drowned by eggings-on, but in poems performed from youth
Until good night, there shines a master's gift. His dominion
Conquered death in bronze and brass and boundless books, in lines
And stanzas writ un-spancelled by the down-draught in his glass,
’Til the masthead on the floor was lowered, coughing, cancelled. 



Image attribution: By Ham - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35336372 

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Question Time

This poem was inspired by two things: a wonderful poem called Glasgow Empire by Keith Hutson; and a rather jaundiced view of the eponymous BBC programme. I'm afraid it draws heavily on Keith's excellent poem, in term of form and structure, and pales in comparison. Any resemblance to persons living or dead having made an appearance on the programme is purely coincidental.

Question Time


Sure, it's the programme where a non-partisan
audience posed questions
and challenged the panellists,

where the Minister's ego briefly shone
then flickered down to fragment when
Dicky Dimble said, I'll ask you once again!

Where else would Jeremy Khunt
be forced to admit a lie, Pierced Organ
have to recant forced opinion?

That time Daffy Davies collapsed
on a point of principle, the crowd's
mocking derision lasted a full five minutes.

Even in Maydenhead, inquisition
reigned and railed, accusing and sharp.
Nah! It's the programme where variety choked

and died in temporary seats
full of voters tuned to their script,
unaware of the revolution.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Out of the EU endlessly flailing

No doubt many will recognise the form used in this poem. Its structure is derived from the first sentence (and the first 22 lines) of Out of the cradle endlessly rocking, by Walt Whitman, the entirety of which you can find here. Needless to say, my poor effort in no way matches the grace and depth of Whitman's seminal piece. However, there's no denying the suitability of the form of Whitman's first verse for making a statement. I think so at least, but feel free to disagree. Comments are free.

Out of the EU endlessly flailing


Out of a vote that was seriously flawed,
Out of a barrage of lies, the Brexiteer shuffle,
Out of the UKIP play-book,
Done to the splendid sounds of a blatant campaign, where the truth was left to suffer as mute, castrated, unsexed,
Down to the spurious claims,
Down to the shysters' tales of a threat, dreamed up, asserted and looped on repeat,
Out of the mouths of both Tories and Labour,
From the faith of the faithful who chanted belief,
From a misplaced view of the island superior, from The Road to Mandalay and resisting the Blitz, 
From under the gaze of the slumbering supposers who lately have shown us their tears,
From a lack of conviction and supine resistance by those who got lost in the gist,
From a promise once made to appease the sceptics and stave off revolt,
From the viewpoint of fools who thought they would lose,
From the personal ambition of those who were shocked they had won,
From a lack of respect for the lambs in the flock,
From scant regard for the fate of our sons' and daughters' offspring,
Born of the need to exhibit cojones and go it alone without a plan,
These huffers and puffers have a pious intent
To scuttle the ship and wall off the quay,
As I, of the marginal minority and believer in the lack of mandate,
Taking Article 50 and all that has followed on board,
Cry out – Betrayal.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

The Odyssey

This poem was inspired by W. H. Auden's Night Mail. Written in 1936 to accompany the documentary film of the same title, Auden's poem concerned a London, Midland, and Scottish Railway (LMS) mail train traveling from London to Scotland. The poem was set to music by Benjamin Britten and was read toward the end of the film.

The rhythm of Auden's poem matches that of the train on the track, and a reader can certainly get the feel of the train chugging along (don't forget, it would've been a steam train), especially in the first part, made up of eight rhymed, four-beat couplets. There are elements of personification in Auden's poem as the train is identified as 'she' and 'her' and said to be snorting noisily.

My poem follows, closely and respectfully, the meter and rhyme scheme of Auden's poem, which also lends itself to the rhythm of cycling. In the case of my poem, the only person involved is me, albeit I too have been known to snort noisily as I climb the hills (nothing as grand as Beattock Summit down here I have to admit) around Bedfordshire. Enjoy!

The Odyssey

I
This is the bike that I'm riding the Shire,
cycling the roads and the pathways on tyres.

Riding on the bike, riding where I choose,
north and go south, either side of the Ouse.

Sharpenhoe Clappers, a helluva climb,
the gradient's steep, but I'll make it this time.

From Streatley on down to Barton-Le-Clay,
huffing and puffing up Pulloxhill brae.

Greenfield, Flitton, Wardhedges by dark,
on towards Silsoe, nearby Wrest Park.

The blast of a horn as it overtakes,
I swear at the car, pull hard on the brakes.

A dog in the street, a nuisance to meet,
a dog on a lead, I stay in my seat.

In the towns that I pass, no-one cares
and few people see my Facebook shares.

II
Protein bars and gels consumed,
back on the bike, I'm off again,
onwards, on and on and on, riding down the miles,
riding down the roads and lanes, past mills and rustic stiles,
past sights and sounds, urban, rural, quaint pastoral.
All Bedfordshire is there to see:
from high on Downs through basined vale
o'er longest Ouse.

III
Pedals and cranks, cambers and banks.
Lycra for shorts, stripes on your flanks.
Helmet on head, with no hesitation.
Wear fingerless gloves for the worst situation.
With energy drinks for dehydration,
a litre an hour for preservation,
summer fruits flavour; expectoration.
Togged out practical, riding tactical.
Cycling with hands on the handlebar drops,
cycling with eyes on the fields and the crops,
cycling through villages, hamlets and towns,
cycling from home to Dunstable Downs,
cycling past coppices, warrens and parks,
riding too far on our countryside roads,
wary of lorries and heavier loads,
on tarmac, on gravel, on concrete, or cobbles,
the threat of the latter, the menace of wobbles,
asphalt, metalled, tar and chip,
the speed of your progress depends on the grip.

IV
We are thousands alike,
traversing the roads around Bedford,
on evenings in groups or alone on a weekend or sunny day:

Riding a Boardman got cheaply from Halfords,
riding a Raleigh from the GoOutdoors chain,
or a road bike in carbon from Evans again,
to carry the dream of the Tour and the Giro,
clinging on tight to the Peloton's heels,
pumping piston-like knees on the Pyrenees,
between Clophill and Haynes in the teeth of a breeze.