Thursday, 2 November 2017

November 2017: What's in a Name?

Image result for cyprus postcards
Past Life

Typical conversation:

Person: You're not foreign!
Me: Well I don't have a accent and I was born and raised here, but my family is Cypriot.
Person: You mean fully Cypriot? Isn't that in Greece?
Me: No and both my parents were born there.
Person: Oh, so why are you a Taylor?

Good question. When I started sending out poetry at the end of 2009 I was faced with a dilemma. Should I send out under my maiden name or go for Taylor? Would it matter? After all, if people read the actual poetry then they might figure out there was a different culture influencing some of the poems. Plus my maiden surname was a total mouthful, the question 'how do you spell that?' had followed me around all my life. Plus to complicate things further, I had two maiden surnames, because my dad got things a bit mixed up. Maria Dimiti on the birth certificate and Maria Orthodoxou on the passport. The solicitors dealt with it eventually. At one point I wondered if I existed at all. I thought about it and sent off as Taylor. People could spell Taylor (most of the time). Job done.

I kind of half regret that now. Along the way I've had a few people assuming that I'm a 'nice' middle-class English lady who probably went to a 'nice' school. (LOL as they say). I once had a chat with an editor (no-one I actually worked with directly) who said I should make my ethnicity part of my mission statement as a poet, but I never did.

Recently I've been in contact with the poet Anthony Anaxagorou as he's interested in putting together a book on British Cypriot identity. Thinking I might have the odd idea to share I realised I couldn't shut up on the phone. I wondered why I hadn't written more poetry about my background - to be fair I've written a few. Then I thought, bloody hell I need to get some of this out of my system. I should also speak to family members who remember Cyprus pre-1960, when British Colonial rule ended. My father came to England in 1961. In the late fifties he peeled vegetables (reluctantly) for British squaddies in Dhekelia, which still is a Sovereign base to this day. My maternal Grandma was a performance poet in her day. Seriously. Despite being a widow who should have kept her head down, she was popular at wedding parties for her spontaneous rhyming powers. It's part of a tradition called 'Chattista,' - of getting up and making up rhyming couplets on the spot. I don't know if  any of this is a poetry thing or a personal thing, but this project has meant it's something I'm going to finally explore.

I'll leave you with this excellent interview with George Tardios by Starvros Karayianni. George helped to set up Arvon with Ted Hughes. He came over as a kid in the 50s which was a pivotal time in Cypriot-British relations. Was very tickled by the fact his yiayia ran a brothel! Very contrary to the stereotype of the good, god-fearing Cypriot woman who does her cross 300 times a day - stereotypes, huh?

Sunday, 20 August 2017

August 2017: It's Not You, It's Me...

This is our new pet, Snibby. She sleeps a lot. I am finally a cat lady.  #catsofinstagram
Maria Taylor and her new owner, Snibby.
Commonplace Blog: What's going on? You never write or call anymore?
Maria Taylor: Oh, but you know how I feel about you...
CB: That's not good enough. What have you been up to?
MT: Stuff.
CB: I don't want to hear about the other stuff, just poetry stuff.
MT: Well. I had a few outings on other blogs.
CB: You mean you've been seeing other blogs and didn't even bother with me!! *sheds tears*
MT: Yes. You can read these posts on Kim Moore's blog and an interview I did with Maria Isakova Bennett on The Honest Ulsterman. And there was John Foggin's blog post a while back.
CB: I see. *Sighs and composes self* So what else. Have you actually been writing anything?
MT: A bit.
CB: Have you sent anything out, like normal poets are meant to do?
MT: One or two things. I have a poem in an anthology about pubs coming out in the autumn, edited by Helen Mort and Stuart Maconie.I have a few poems about to be published in 'Poetry Salzburg' and a poem featuring a certain Donny Trump back in '67 meeting an unimpressed flowerchild on 'New Boots and Pantisocracies'.
CB: Oh, now you tell me! *Huffs*
MT: Yes and I've also got a sub on a 'maybe' pile somewhere. So I'm bracing myself for a possible rejection.
CB: Well now you know how I feel.
MT: I never wanted to hurt your feelings.
CB: *sniffs* Well have you done any readings lately like other poets do?
MT: A few. None coming up as yet. There was one back in June at Five Leaves Bookshop in Nottingham.
CB: That could have been a whole freakin' post! Why didn't you tell me.
MT: Sorry.
CB: Have you been seeing other social networks? Break it to me, I'll cope. Somehow.
MT: I'll be honest with you. I've spent a lot of time with Instagram.
CB: *Furious* Oh I see. You trade me in for a younger, flashier model! What's so wrong about an old fashioned, RELIABLE blog post!
MT: Ok, I'll try and see you more often.
MT: Yeah I know. Look. I'm working on a review of two pamphlets and a collection.
CB: That's better. Proper poetry stuff. How's the pamphlet going?
MT: It's actually going to be taught on an Bath Spa Uni course led by Carrie Etter next year which was a pleasant surprise. There have been a few reviews since the one on Matthew Stewart's blog. A really lovely one in Orbis. Plus some equally lovely ones on the OPOI site and one by Tim Love, on his Lit Refs site. There's one coming up in 'The North' in the next issue. I think I've told you some of this.
CB: Whatever. You don't seem to remember what you've told me these days.
MT: And I'll be hosting the September Shindig in Leicester on the 25th. We're very excited to have Rebecca Bird and Matthew Stewart reading.
CB: Glad to hear it. I don't expect you'll be telling me.
MT: I'll do my best.
CB: Can you write another poem now, like NORMAL poets do. Instead of Instagramming everything in sight. You're a poet, not an amateur photographer!
MT: I think you can do all sorts of things alongside poetry.  I was commissioned to write a monologue based on Adrian Mole in April by the University of Leicester. I loved it. Did I tell you I wrote a short story recently?
CB. You. Wrote. A. Short. Story. PROSE! You wrote PROSE. I don't know who you are anymore.
MT: Yes and...hello. Are you there?
MT: Hello? Hello?

Friday, 21 April 2017

April 2017 - 'Believe me. Stories are real.' - John Foggin and NaPoWriMo

All of the above...

I am not procrastinating. I am living. I am trying to survive! Nearly five months since my last blog entry and here I am. I am doing NaPoWriMo, where you're meant to write a poem everyday in April, and apart from a few blips have managed most days. Some are bad, some have legs and may run somewhere. Hopefully not into a wall. The photo above depicts one of my doodling daydreaming moments in which I cover all four of my feelings on writing poetry at the moment.

I'm going to break my blogging silence with a poem by John Foggin. John is a friend. He is very dapper. He smokes roll-ups and makes his own books. He seems to be in a constant state of exploration; travelling across challenging terrain, going on residentials, writing poems, standing back and contemplating the view. I know him from my jaunts to Writing Days in Sheffield. He won last year’s Smith/Doorstop pamphlet collection and, they thought, no let’s have a book not a pamphlet! That's how great he is. Here's a poem from that collection, Much Possessed, which I loved. It's painful. It’s about a parent hearing the news of an adult child’s suicide.

It was a morning like this

a Sunday morning. The sun shone.
It was July. It was a morning like this,
your ex-wife at the back door,
and why would she tell you
your son was dead, or had died,
or had been in an accident
on a morning like this still
not fully woken, a morning of sun
to drive into Chapeltown to drive
to a police station that’s called
The Old Police Station now, that’s
a bijou gastropub but then was just
a police station full of Sunday morning
sadness, and a morning something
like this and two young coppers
who thought we’d need somewhere
quiet at the back which turned out
to smell of smoke, that had a pool table
and coffee rings, and no-one knew
how to start or what to ask but
it was a morning much like this
they asked if we knew a tower block
behind the Merrion Centre or if
we had a connection to a tower block
and a ring with a skull and a brown
leather case and did we know if
our son had friends in a tower block
behind the Merrion Centre and
we might as well have been asked
about tree rings or chaos theory
or fractals on a July morning and
one young copper saying that
he didn’t think it made sense
for cannabis to be illegal and
what harm did it do really and
how it wasted everybody’s time
and I don’t know why I’d remember
that except it was a morning like this
I learned what waste might mean.

A month or so ago, I asked John Foggin for this poem to share on my blog. I keep going back to it. Maybe because I actually experience the sensations within the poem; it seems to capture a terrible, dizzying moment when life is turned over. The ending is perhaps the only firm sensation to be experienced, you 'come-to' as a reader here. It's a painful realisation though. Elsewhere, I feel a sense of disorientation whenever I read the poem. Skillfull as well as a 'spontaneous overflow' of feeling. This poem deals with the exact moment when something terrible is conveyed. It’s not a poem of reflection, it’s about being plunged straight into the moment. This is ironic as the poet is reflecting. The words create a sense of being in a maelstrom.

To me this poem captures  a physical sensation of suddenly losing your balance and needing to hold onto something, whatever you’ve got. I find the mention of those concrete places, like the repeated Merrion Centre, like driftwood. But they’re not permanent or indeed supportive, places change:

The Old Police Station now, that’s
a bijou gastropub but then was just
a police station full of Sunday morning

Notice how the building is wiped out as soon as it’s mentioned, ‘The Old Police Station now’ that ‘now’ is the ‘now’ of the past. We’re time-travelling in two directions at once.You can do that in a poem. What's real is no longer tangible. The tenses also convey that sense of disorientation, ‘your son was dead, or had died,’ things are always shifting.

It’s been said John is a landscape poet. He doesn’t often ‘do’ urban places. To me this is a terrific landscape poem, not just for the urban references, but for the sense of personal landscape, the inner map if you like, being challenged and altered forever. Thank you John, for allowing me to share this fabulous poem.


In other news...I am behind in coming up-to-date with my own poetic dealings. I appreciate this is mainly of some importance to me and not the world. My aim is to use the blog as a cross between scrapbook and poetic journal. Poetry is a place I go to in my head right now, as I haven’t been to as many readings as I could have done. That does not mean I won’t be back. I have quite a few readings of my own coming up soon! I am going to aim to write in little bites rather than cover the lot.
Stay tuned.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

January 2017 - Resolutions and Reviews.

 Benoit Delhomme on Instgram

A short post. 2016 is over. 2016 was a strange year and perhaps we'll know what it all meant someday. I've decided to write some new year resolutions as a way of getting myself back on the poetic horse. I haven't sent out any poems to magazines since July. My writing needs some focus. So without any further ado here we go...

1. Give myself permission to write even if it's not very good. Eventually I might hit on something. Write at different times of the day and in different places and locations.
2. Not abandon drafts or have very long breaks on individuals poems, so as not to lose momentum.
3. Keep bloody well reading. Contemporary poetry. Not contemporary poetry. Not poetry. Prose. Non-fiction. Poetry magazines even. (That's a joke of course, I know that's important).
4. Less bloody social networking. Facebook is the kiss of death. A great may of my favourite poets post little or aren't on any networks. Go figure. Robin Houghton says it best on her blog.
5. Actually send out poems. Why? Because in order to send out you have to have poems completed to the best of your ability. It's not about being published, it's about discipline and keeping going. At least once every couple of months if not more. Be productive!
6. Be interested in things! Enthusiasm is the kiss of life! Lots of !!!
7. Go out more, (not pub or shops). Go out more where there's rocks, green things, sky. Breathe in and ponder.
8. Go out to more readings. Listen. Learn. Love. Or not love, but have an opinion.
9. Continue to share poems and poets I love. Ok, this doesn't contradict number 4. I share things I like on Twitter anyway. It's the difference between using the networks to share poems and using them to watch a 3 minute film clip of a Polar bear jogging around an ice floe wearing a party hat or something.
10. There should be a 10 after all, it's a nice round number. Poetry is my friend. Things are confusing at best, poetry is a good place to hang out and it's a satisfying and productive place to be. Always be thinking of the next poem.

I hope these resolutions are useful for you too. Also, if anyone felt like adding some decent ones of their own that would be good.

The other day I came across two very encouraging reviews of my pamphlet. This one by Charlotte Gann  and one by Tim Love on his Litrefs Reviews site. Tim wrote things about my poems that I hadn't noticed myself. This is good motivation.

Let's get going.