Back Catalogue #1 The Kitchen Garden (1989)

Since I am planning to return to the British Isles in the near future after 25 years living in Brazil, I have been reflecting on the past and, in particular, the 32 years that  I have been writing poetry with some degree of seriousness.

In view of this, over the next few weeks, I shall be posting 32 of my stand-alone poems in roughly chronological order. Some of these poems may already have been published online but not on this blog.

Photo by Marcus Spiske on Unsplash

#1 The Kitchen Garden (1989)

[The first of these poems were written in Oxford between 1989 and 1991. As I embarked on adult life, I looked back with affection and nostalgia on the simpler existence of my childhood. Many of the poems, like this one, are about suburban landscapes, plants and gardens.]

Half way down the garden, beyond a creosoted lattice fence, began a vegetable world; where the grass and flowers gave way to cabbages and Brussels sprouts and thick, decent, wet, substantial clods of earth. To move from the realm of turf and lilac, privet, laurel, and roses to this kitchen garden, hemmed in by wire not shrubs, was to enter a world at once wilder and more practical. I remember playing on the crazy paving between the two wings of fertile earth, my clenched hands not much larger than the clumps of uberous Brussels sprouts, hanging proudly from their sturdy stalks. Admiring on equal terms the large lushly veined cabbage leaves, groaning open with goodness, a bit nibbled round the edges by caterpillars but no more imperfect than is lace, engendering white butterflies from their huge dark green crinkled nests; as they might then have admired me amongst them; not much more than a plant then; long before writing or walking. Being able to sit upon almost equal terms in the parliament of these vegetables is the proudest honor I can remember. Democracy is for the young.  The speechless infant. Spoilt even by the crawl of toddlers or of snails.

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Care

[I tend to avoid writing about my own experiences on this blog or in my poetry in general. However, I have recently felt obliged to post occasionally about my adventures in the Brazilian national health system. Here is a short poem I wrote during my latest two-month stay in hospital, much of it—conscious or comatose—in intensive care.]

 Care

A susurration of muzak, monitors,

hushed nurses’ voices

suffuses the silent ward.

*

Patients lined up as if

effigies-to-be breathe noiselessly

out into the nebulized air.

Finding Everyday Inspiration 19 & 20 (Feedback)

I’ll use both the 19th and the 20th Finding Everyday Inspiration assignments to provide some feedback on the course in a single post.

First I would like to thank all those involved as creators or participants. I am well aware that it is a labor largely of love and greatly appreciate the time and effort that all have put in.

I always find this kind of series of tasks to be a very useful spur to thinking, creating and blogging and a way of reaching out to others in the community. To my mind, it doesn’t matter if the prompts are somewhat banal, since this provides greater leeway for interpretation and experimentation, without daunting less experienced writers.

I found it difficult to complete Task 19, since I could find no area on the Blogging University site where participants are invited to register and post links to their responses, as has been the case with previous such courses I have taken part in. As a result, I only read the posts written by bloggers I already follow regularly and, so far as I am aware, only they read mine. Another criticism is that I did not receive the prompts in the stream on the blog site but only by way of email. I am aware, however, that both of these issues may have more to do with my lack of computer skills than with any inherent deficiency in the course. Still, I think it would be helpful, in the interest of greater social inclusion, if the course were made as easy as possible for those with poor computer skills to navigate, thus ensuring more interaction with other participants.

This did not, however, stop me, as always, from deriving immense enjoyment and inspiration from participating in the course and it has, therefore, provided me with a number of what I suppose could be described as ‘aha moments.’

As is usually the case, the course prompted me to publish some writings that lie outside of my comfort zone. I had originally intended this blog to be a forum for largely academic-style writings and postings about language teaching. As I mentioned in my last post, I first got the idea of using it as a way of publishing some of the large body of poetry I have produced over the years, from a course. This time I have, for the first time, published a short story and a part of a novel. If my past record is anything to go by, I will now continue to do so. Once I have been coaxed out of my comfort zone, I tend to find myself intrigued by moving out of it more often.

I also find it very useful when the prompts provide some technical guidance. As I noted above, I find the bureaucratic IT aspect of blogging especially challenging. But I am a fast learner and a simple prompt put in simple terms is usually enough to get me using tools that I was previously unaware of. This time, I learnt how to use the block quotes, for example. I would very much like more of this kind of orientation.

I don’t make plans for the future for myself personally; nor have I ever done so. I know that they will always be frustrated. I prefer just to wait and see what happens and am usually pleasantly surprised. Still less—at my age and in my state of health—am I willing to make plans for a future five, ten or twenty years hence. So I will pass over the questions relating to this. I will, however, end with some remarks as to the future of the blogging community as a collective whole.

I never cease to be impressed by the way that all the fellow bloggers I have encountered in this community (without a single exception) have always been kind, civil and supportive, despite the growingly savage polarized and intolerant virtual and real world in which we now live. It is especially impressive that this has been achieved, not by creating and policing some artificial ‘safe space,’ but simply out of the goodness of heart of the people who collectively choose to come together in this way. I think we should all congratulate one another on this and perhaps think collectively about ways in which we can spread this ethos out into the wider world.