Sunday, 18 November 2018

Memory is held by water

Getting poems ‘out there’ into poetry magazines and onto the ever-growing number of well produced websites can be hard work. It’s a competitive market for today’s poets.  Consequently I am always delighted when I hear from a journal that they have accepted a poem of mine, or even two poems, for publication. I was especially pleased this Autumn to have two poems published by the wonderful Algebra of Owls webzine. And I was double-delighted when this poem went on the win the Editor’s choice award.

Memory is held by water

They sit on the wall of the old town bridge,
                that place of endless departures,
below the high castle walls.

Usually men, mostly at night,
                they are silent, unseen.
This one is young.

His white face looks down between
                black boots as his legs dangle.
He will enter me soon, or walk away.

When he slips in I will hold him close
                but I will not interfere
as he sinks into my depths

I will feel him among my green weeds
                and in my vortices
carry him in undercurrents

with migrating salmon
                over the silt and mud of my bed
to the sea and out on the full tide,

as all the other lads before him
                over countless centuries.
I never know why they choose me.

Maybe because I am dark and very cold
                there is certainty in my currents and eddies,
no chance for a change of mind.

Bitter as brine
                I am always here,
yet I flow forever, east to west,

tidal, so they are sure
                I will carry their cargo out,
take all their weight.

This is what Algebra of Owls guest Editor Clare Shaw said about her top choice for September/October: “This was no easy task – a wonderful bunch of poems with many strong contenders …
“In the end, I chose ‘Memory is held by Water’ with its painful, chilling insights and its stunning restraint. This takes the story of one man in one place, and through the voice of the river, offers us something universal – as disturbing and heartbreaking as the subject demands. In its strangely calm and impersonal sense of compulsion, completion and comfort, it speaks for the people it depicts – with tenderness and respect. A great poem. Wow, thanks!

Algebra of Owls is a great place to read a range of top quality contemporary poetry. They aim to publish ‘engaging, accessible poetry from around the world’. Read more here:

Friday, 21 September 2018

Memorial stones

I wrote this poem after a recent walk with a local writing group around St Dogmaels, a lovely riverside village not far from where I live. I was struck by the stones around the village, on the banks of the river, at the mill, in the graveyard, and the Abbey ruins -- all of them part of the lives of all who live, or have ever lived there. For me, these stones that we live with daily are as much a part of remembrance as the village war memorial.
All the names in the poem are recorded on that memorial for the years 1914-1918.

Memorial stones

Did they play together as boys,

diving and dipping in fantasy  battles

among headstones in the churchyard,

sniping with make-believe rifles.

Bang bang. Who died first?

Craig, Davies, Dunstan or Evans

Did they spin flat pebbles over rippling water

there by the Degwel stream

where the Teifi bends wide towards the sea.

Who scored most hits?

Gibbons, Green, Griffiths, Harper

Did they race along muddy banks,

boots sucked into silt

(who got stuck, who pulled him out?)

Isaac, James, Jenkins, John

At the Blessing Stone did they stand atop

to play the shouting game,

hear the magic echo come straight back

across brown water. Whose cry was loudest?

Jones, Ladd, Lloyd, McFadden

Did they help each other clamber over

crumbling Abbey walls

to play their throwing games,

chucking  ancient rocks to the ground.

Who hit most targets?

Morris, Owen, Niles, Phillips

Did they shoot pebbles from catapults

at rats running for the drains.

Who bagged most tails?

Pope, Protheroe, Rees, Richards

As they leant against the old millstones

in the setting sun

feeling the furrows and lands

rough against their palms,

their too-soft hands,

did they idly wonder about war,

predict possible postings.

Roberts, Thomas, Williams

Did they walk with their girls

on their last nights at home,

hide behind ruined walls,

make heartfelt  trysts,

promises of sweet futures

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

I am made of stone/I am water

The poem below is the result of an exercise rather boldly called 'coupling' in poetry workshopping circles!
I have taken a poem, which is one of my favourites written by my Rockhopper poetry performance colleague Mel Perry, and I have used it to create a new piece of work.
Mel's poem 'I am made of stone', which appears in her collection Rum Dark Nights, always makes the hairs on my neck stand to attention when I read it, especially so when I read it aloud.
When The Poetry School suggested 'coupling' as an exercise as part of this year's Write a Poem a Day for a Month project,  #NaPoWriMo, I chose 'I am Made of Stone' as my starting point.
You take a favourite piece of work -- poetry or prose -- and intertwine it with new lines of your own to make a new poem.
More info about this technique can be found in
 the links below.
Here's the result of that first experiment:

I am made of stone/I am water

A coupling after ‘I am made of stone’, by Mel Perry (from Rum Dark Nights)

I am made of stone.
                I am water.
Blue dolerite with feldspar
                aquamarine with hammered pewter
shards from Pembrokeshire hills,
                rushing from Plynlimon
indigo slate from Conwy quarries,
                streaming shingle in Cilgerran gorge
black anthracite, hand-hewn.
                coursing over granite in Cwm Gwesyn

I am made of stone.
                I am water.
Burren limestone, its grikes
                holding drops of rain
harbouring jewel plants,
                magnified in pools
letting water seep, cry
                weeping from the inner core
tears through fissures
                squeezing through fractures
that drip, drip, stalactiting
                forming bead by bead
down, catching minerals
                in moisture of air
like letters, that flavour
                fluid carvings
words on the page
                reflected on rock
colour poems in the dark.

                I am water.
I am made of stone.
                flowing, fluent
Not to be rolled, not cold
                not to be impeded
part of the Fennoscandian shield
                perpetual, unbroken
crystalline, metamorphosed.
©Mel Perry and Jackie Biggs 2018

Rum Dark Nights, by Mel Perry, is published by Three Throated Press:
The original prompt for this piece of work came from the Poetry School’s 2018 #NaPoWriMo prompts:
... which referenced this helpful article:

 Photos: ©JackieBiggs2018