Thursday, 19 July 2018

Mask - why hide behind one?

09:43:00 Posted by Adele Robinson , , , , 1 comment
I have to admit that on the few occasions that I have worn a mask, I have felt a sense of freedom. Perhaps anonymity allows self-expression. I went to a Halloween party dressed as Cat Woman. It was quite a night.

I am reminded of the film version of the comic book mask, where the shy and awkward character played by Jim Carrey, finds a strange mask that completely changes his personality. He is suddenly larger than life, with incredible energy and embarks on all kinds of adventures.  So is that the secret of a mask. It allows you to be someone else for a while.

Of course there are other types of mask. I rarely wear much make up and am fairly conservative in my choice of clothing but when I danced professionally, I wore vivid colours, loads of bling and was very vivacious.  Even now, when I sing with Music Lirica, I love putting on the greasepaint, wearing an eccentric costume, (In the Magic Flute, I dressed as a punk), and performing centre stage.

Stage make up is an exception. Under such bright lights it would be foolish to perform bare-faced.  I may be getting old but I am often shocked by the amount of make up worn by this generation of young women. When I see an obviously pretty girl, covered in slap, I wonder why she might think it improves her looks, when usually the effect is exactly the opposite.

The Mask  

You’re facing the world today
Plastered in make up,
Layer on layer,  
Clogging your pores,
Erupting in acne
Slap on the concealer
You won’t be without it
When you’re out of doors.  

Do bright eyes still sparkle  
beneath the false lashes?
Are lips soft as roses
Beneath the veneer
Of stay put long lipstick,
Smothered in lip gloss?
No longer a smile –
Just a plastic smear.

Teeth that are whitened,
To brightness unnatural,
Hair over processed,
So brittle and dry.
Where are the curls that
Crowned you in childhood?
Straightened and singed -
How your mother must cry.

Where is the chestnut
That shone in the sunshine?
Long, thick and strong 
Now it's brassy like straw. 
Bleached to oblivion,
Pales your complexion.
Drains you of colour.
And makes you seem dour.

Why are you wearing
This sad mask of tragedy?
Is it disguising your shyness
Or fear?
While underneath
is your own special beauty.
Wash it away.
You are lovely my dear!

Thanks for reading.  Adele

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Mask - Take Them Away

Masks are scary. I don’t like them at all, not even when they are meant to be fun like the ones of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Gareth Southgate and more recently, Donald Trump. I just find them sinister and I expect it stems from my childhood.

My father’s brother worked in Nigeria for a few years, late 1940s and early 1950s. Our family had lots of African bits and pieces he had brought on visits. Most of it is lost now but my sister still has a pair of beautiful occasional tables. One of the items thankfully lost, is a large, wooden Nigerian mask which was a gift to my father. It was plain, just black with eye holes and no decoration.  My father hung it on the office wall of which ever pub we were living in, probably because my mother wouldn’t have it anywhere else. It was horrible and scared the living daylights out of me. There was another one, almost the same and just as frightening, on my uncle’s bedroom wall at my grandparent’s house. In Africa they have a purpose. Masks are worn, or were once worn in certain rituals and they had a meaning. They weren’t made for décor. Some are quite ornate and more fierce looking than others, depending on what spirits they were designed to fight off.

The ‘Scream’ mask terrified me when I saw the film, but not as much as the V for Vendetta which is too creepy. The worst, by far is Hannibal Lecter’s lower face mask in The Silence of the Lambs. Although it looks nothing like our Nigerian one, something fearful reminds me of it.

Hallowe’en usually brings a constant stream of small vampires, witches and ghosts to my door. Last October there was a new trend of scary clowns like Stephen King’s ‘It’, wearing masks of the character. Ugh!

And the nips and tucks on real faces, trusting a surgeon with an extra-fine, extra-sharp scalpel. So many face-lifts end up looking like a mask. Too much Botox gives a startled, unchangeable expression. Sometimes, when I glance in the mirror and see the reflection of a much older woman, it is more frightening than all of these horrid masks. I can’t possibly have earned so many facial creases, not yet. I’ll learn to embrace these ‘over 60s’ dips and folds. For me, surgery is for a life or death situation.

I found these two poems, Dylan Thomas, making me wish I had a mask to hide behind sometimes, and Sylvia Plath, another favourite.
O Make Me A Mask
by Dylan Thomas
 O make me a mask and a wall to shut from your spies
Of the sharp, enamelled eyes and the spectacled claws
Rape and rebellion in the nurseries of my face,
Gag of dumbstruck tree to block from bare enemies
The bayonet tongue in this undefended prayerpiece,
The present mouth, and the sweetly blown trumpet of lies,
Shaped in old armour and oak the countenance of a dunce
To shield the glistening brain and blunt the examiners,
And a tear-stained widower grief drooped from the lashes
To veil belladonna and let the dry eyes perceive
Others betray the lamenting lies of their losses
By the curve of the nude mouth or the laugh up the sleeve.
Face Lift
by Sylvia Plath
 You bring me good news from the clinic,
Whipping off your silk scarf, exhibiting the tight white
Mummy-cloths, smiling: I'm all right.

When I was nine, a lime-green anesthetist
Fed me banana-gas through a frog mask.
 The nauseous vault
Boomed with bad dreams and the Jovian voices of surgeons.

Then mother swam up, holding a tin basin.

O I was sick.

They've changed all that.
Nude as Cleopatra in my well-boiled hospital shift,
Fizzy with sedatives and unusually humorous,
I roll to an anteroom where a kind man
Fists my fingers for me.
 He makes me feel something precious
Is leaking from the finger-vents.
 At the count of two,
Darkness wipes me out like chalk on a blackboard.

I don't know a thing.

For five days I lie in secret,
Tapped like a cask, the years draining into my pillow.

Even my best friend thinks I'm in the country.

Skin doesn't have roots, it peels away easy as paper.

When I grin, the stitches tauten.
 I grow backward.
 I'm twenty,
Broody and in long skirts on my first husband's sofa, my fingers
Buried in the lambswool of the dead poodle;
I hadn't a cat yet.

Now she's done for, the dewlapped lady
I watched settle, line by line, in my mirror—
Old sock-face, sagged on a darning egg.

They've trapped her in some laboratory jar.

Let her die there, or wither incessantly for the next fifty years,
Nodding and rocking and fingering her thin hair.

Mother to myself, I wake swaddled in gauze,
Pink and smooth as a baby.
Thanks for reading, Pam x

Monday, 16 July 2018


I love masks, as strange as that may sound. I love their warped features and empty stares. I have two Venetian masks hanging on my bedroom wall - to me they are beautiful. As a theatre student and performer I really appreciate how wearing a mask can really transform you.  They not only make you look different but they make you feel different. To me It feels like another part of myself that has been locked away in the depths of my unconscious, has surfaced and is ready to prowl.

Mask work can help people to see the world from a different perspective and to grow in confidence. Trestle Theatre Company works with people of all walks of life; the elderly, children, depressives and even criminals to help them grow as individuals. All through the power of mask!

Now, how are masks relevant in the real world I hear you ask? I believe we all kind of wear masks - metaphorically speaking unless you’re in to that kind of thing! I believe we change who we are to suit our environment. We put on different faces so to speak.  The tricky thing is when we have to make the decision on how drastically do we need to change ourselves to fit in.  Stay true to you and follow your gut is my advice, if you have to put on a mask to please those around you… you’re not surrounding yourself with the right people.

A poem by moi!

A Room Full of Faces
I look everywhere
I see a sea of masks.
Each one concealing a hidden desire.
With all this fakery,
I want truth
I want fire.
You and I are stuck in a room full of faces.
Let’s leave,
Let’s explore new places.

Thanks for reading, Helena x

Saturday, 14 July 2018

On The Blink

It's been another superbly sunny day in the jewel of the north and your Saturday blogger has been flagging - just waiting on the cool of evening to get a bit of creativity stirring.

Who doesn't love a lighthouse? As structures they have proved themselves both beautiful and useful for centuries, though in this digital age of gps they are possibly becoming redundant - mostly to be preserved as museums, icons, tourist attractions.

I had a lot of fun scrolling through hundreds of photographs of lighthouses from around the world before I chose this one to illustrate the blog. I like it because in composition, colour and the effect of light, it seems to me to possess all the qualities of an Edward Hopper painting... not that surprising, given Hopper painted pictures of several of them, mostly around the New England coastline in the 1920s and 1930s.

If you're familiar with any of his work, you'll probably know that Hopper (1882-1967) is widely regarded as the pre-eminent realist painter of 20th century America. His spare compositions are taken to express, through their prevailing quality of emptiness, the isolation and loneliness (alienation might be a better term) residing at the heart of modern American life. Check out such classic paintings as Chair Car, Nighthawks, Four Lane Road, Cape Cod Evening or Solitude for typical effect.

When it came to writing today's poem, I pondered on the situational aspects of lighthouses and lighthouse life back in the mechanical age: remote, rugged, living on the edge, alone with the screech of wind and seabirds and the mind-altering properties of weevils (in the flour). It all gives a different meaning to brinkmanship and the gloomy preoccupations that isolation catalyses. See what you think.

On the blink.
On the brink.
Recurring dreams of being
ankle-deep in candle-grease,

of splintered timbers
steeped with the reek of seaweed
haunt your circular sleepwalking,
a-tangle with mermaids
and mangled mariners
whose every agonised look

...after forty stormy days and nights
who let the light go out?

Respite arrives
on waking with the dawn.

You climb once more unrested
to dogged duty
in the mirror room
from whose height
even the horizon looks curved,
to snuff the flames and polish
sooted lenses till they gleam.

After all these years
of living alone
in your tapering tower,
you can no longer swear
you are entirely sane.

On the blink.
On the brink.
You man a beacon of hope
and yet
a sense of darkness
follows you around.

People who live in lighthouses
can't help but throw shadows.

Okay, that's it for this one. Thanks for reading. Keep shining, stay safe, S ;-)

Friday, 13 July 2018

Beacons of Hope

I absolutely love lighthouses ! When I walk the back entrance to the North Euston Hotel in Fleetwood I always have to stop and admire the paintings on the walls of lighthouses in America .

Closer to home I enjoyed a climb up the Lower Lighthouse in Fleetwood during the heritage weekend in September. When  I lived in Buckie on fine, clear nights we could make out a faint flashing beacon away to the north no more ado than map out...It was the lighthouse at Tarbet Ness. So naturally this meant a trip to see it.

I think it stems back to when my Grandmother and I climbed to the top of Girdleness lighthouse at Aberdeen. Of course the views were stupendous ( and that's a good reason to love lighthouses ), but the strength of the structure fascinated me. I am always enthralled to think that men lived in wee huts on remote rocks in the Atlantic in an effort to construct a lighthouse ! Then the lighthouse keepers , must have been a special breed of men to spend months isolated from family and friends with little to no communication...and sometimes ( due to adverse weather conditions) not being relieved from their duties at the scheduled time. Such myths and legends surround lighthouses...the disappearance of the two men from a lonely outpost...lights being altered to confuse shipping .....brrrrr...

The smallest lighthouse overlooks the Firth of Forth , below the Forth rail bridge. It's light hasn't shown for many a year but it has been lovingly restored.

I visited a lighthouse museum in Fraserburgh and was amazed by the lenses used, so that a small oil lamp light can be magnified hundreds of times..fascinating! Why I even saw my own image transported across the room by the strange affect of the various lenses.

In my hobby of needlework I've twice done an embroidery of La Corbiere lighthouse ( one for a friend from Jersey and one for myself) . I've also done a few applique/ quilted pictures of lighthouses.

They are indeed a lasting feat of engineering, and although no longer manned there is a romanticism attached to living in or close by one, so that holidaying in a lighthouse is a popular break.

I noticed when I visited Mull of Galloway lighthouse that the fog horns are no longer required as seemingly nautical technology has progressed so far that a ship can navigate in bad visibility . It seems that some of our lighthouses may also face demise . I do hope not though as for sailors and land lubbers alike they are Beacons of Hope.

My poem this week was written in July 2014 after a workshop at the North Euston Hotel. In my notebook it is written within the beam of a lighthouse...however I'm not clever enough to replicate that on my lap top. I will however try and type it as though the words are captured within a beam..Read down each column..

     Beware                                             For
                                       Heed                                         Follow
    Treacherous                                      Optimum                                    Light
                                       Align                                        Guiding
    Shore                                                Safety

      How did I do ?

    Thanks for reading, Kath

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Lighthouse - La Corbiere

One good reason for having an airport in Blackpool was that we could fly to Jersey in just under an hour, collect our pre-booked hire car and arrive at our hotel in time for morning coffee. So sad that those times have gone, but glad that we made the most of it when we could.

At the extreme south-western point of Jersey in the Channel Islands, stands La Corbiere lighthouse, tall and majestic above the rocks. These rocks have been the downfall of many sailors over the centuries. The most recent casualty, in 1995, was the Saint Malo, a French catamaran, which is thought to have tried to take a short cut along the Jersey side of the lighthouse. It became stuck on rocks then beached when the tide went out. Everyone was rescued and the Saint Malo was eventually taken along the coast to St Helier harbour for repair.

The lighthouse is built on the highest of the rocks on that stretch of the Jersey coast and was the first in the British Isles to be constructed of concrete. It was lit for the first time in April, 1874. A causeway through the rocks links Corbiere to Jersey at low tide and is a walk offering great views in all directions. The area is popular with artists and photographers for the unspoilt, rugged coast and dramatic rough seas.

My first glimpse of Corbiere Lighthouse was breath-taking.  I was stunned by the beauty and the atmosphere. Just to sit quietly and watch the sea, listen to the birds and take it all in. We returned many times during different stays in Jersey. On one visit, a South Island Cruise gave us the opportunity to see the other side and witness how choppy the sea can be, even on a calm day. It is one of the best places ever to watch a sunset, simply spectacular, and I hope, sometime in the future, we’ll be there to watch it again.

I found this poem by Leah Renee
we sat and watched the sea slowly rise
relentlessly beat those weathered rocks
covering the coast before our eyes
as hands discover sandy pockets
radiant rays of red smear the sky
tint the white washed walls of Corbière
heat of the solstice sun sheds our shy
scent of midnight lilies fills the air
fingers dancing with one another
twirling and leaping without a sound
too close to breathe but never smothered
all the while still glued to the ground
still watching whitecaps roll through the sea
with my white washed lighthouse next to me
Leah Renee


Saturday, 7 July 2018

Beautiful Losers

Excitement and tension mount in equal measure in the traditional 'home' of football. It is going to be a nerve-shredding week! England may never have a better opportunity to reach a second  World Cup  final - and who knows...they might even bring the trophy home.

Russia 2018 has been a most unpredictable tournament so far, with many of the fancied sides and 'big hitters' falling early by the wayside, proof that the 'best' team doesn't always win!

The most telling illustration of that maxim must be the Netherlands (or Holland if you prefer). The 'Oranje' have contested three World Cup finals (1974, 1978 and 2010); they have played the most wonderful 'total football' at each event; they have created the most clear-cut chances to win each time and are supported in huge numbers by some of the game's most passionate fans. Despite all of those factors, they ended up on each occasion as beautiful losers - surely the best footballing nation never to lift the trophy. If VAR had been an option back in the day, the 'Oranje' would almost certainly have been back-to-back World Cup winners in 1974 and 1978. What's the story? (If you have no love of football, feel free to skip to the poem...but this is interesting!)

a spectacular sea of 'Oranje' football fans
That a country barely twice the size of Wales (our favourite comparator) and nearly half of it below sea-level came to transform the way the game was played in the 1970s - outshining Brazil and making football truly beautiful to watch - is extraordinary. The Dutch have always loved their football, their national football association has over a million members and there are over 30,000 games played at all levels every week, but for decades they had absolutely no standing in the international arena.

That all changed in the 1960s and strangely enough the seeds of the transformation were sowed by an Englishman, Jack Reynolds. He managed the Dutch club side Ajax for 25 years and after retiring lived on in Amsterdam for the rest of his days. English clubs weren't interested in his tactical approach to the game but the open-minded Dutch took his philosophy of free-flowing, forward-looking 'total football' and honed it via master tacticians Jany Van der Veen and Rinus Michels to produce a club side, Ajax, that dominated the Dutch domestic league and European football from the late 1960s onwards and became the basis for that prodigiously talented Netherlands team of the 1970s.

In essence 'total football' is simple; (achieving it is another matter). It starts with being able to do the basics well - pass accurately with either foot, trap and turn a ball without hesitation, dribble with either foot, vary balance while maintaining poise, read distances and positioning, pass with one touch if possible, shoot accurately. It believes in making the ball do the work, passing forward (not sideways or backwards), orchestrating the spaces into which to pass, pressing high when not in possession, winning the ball back quickly when possession is lost and using the full scope of the playing area. It also depends on having players as adept at attacking as defending, capable of 'seeing' a game two or three moves ahead, able to swap positions with fluidity as the game develops, talented individuals working as an intuitive group.

The Dutch at club and national level have brought on some remarkable individuals within that 'total football' philosophy; Johan Cruyff  principal among them (and European footballer of the century) but also Krol, Neeskens, Rensenbrink, Rep, Rijkaard, Suurbier and then Seedorf, Bergkamp, van Basten, Gullitt, Overmars, van Persie, Davids, Kluivert...(and on and on).

Various Dutch clubs have won European Cup and UEFA Cup-Winners trophy competitions on many occasions, so why didn't the 'Oranje' win those World Cup finals in 1974  or 1978?

Partly because of their own collective mind-set that believed the most important thing was to play the game in a creative and entertaining way and to do so was more important than winning; partly because of cynical opposition tactics (blatant German diving to win an unfair penalty in the Munich final, constant Argentine fouling and roughing-up in the Buenos Aires final), unsporting behaviour that the match officials didn't do enough to protect them from; maybe just because those final matches were played in Germany and Argentina! They were very unlucky. Nevertheless, the watching world knew who had really lit up those competitions and the players were welcomed home on each occasion as heroes by hundreds of thousands of fans decked out in orange.

Johan Cruyff (foreground) - European Footballer of the Century
The 'total football' philosophy which started with Ajax and the Netherlands spread to Barcelona when Cruyff became manager, instilling his passion for playing the game in a beautiful way to the Catalan club. There he passed his beliefs on to a young Pep Guardiola who in turn managed Barca (where that style of play is now part of the club's DNA). Guardiola in turn took it to Bayern Munich and now Manchester City who have just run away with the Premier League title playing in the manner that Reynolds, Michels and Cruyff first advocated and impressed upon the footballing world.

The Netherlands lost a third World Cup final, against Spain in South Africa in 2010; ironic really that the Spaniards were playing the sort of 'total football' (thanks to Cruyff and Guardiola at Barcelona) that the Dutch had once prided themselves on. Much to most people's dismay, the 'Oranje' chose to match Spain's creativity and sly cynicism in the final game with some brusque tactics of their own; the desire to finally win the competition edging out the commitment to keep playing beautifully. If they had won, which they almost did, it would have felt like a hollow and cynical triumph. After that, things rather fell apart at KNVB (the Royal Dutch Football Association). The Netherlands then lost on penalties to Argentina in the semi-final of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and haven't even qualified for Russia 2018. In a sense the rest of the world has caught up and Dutch football needs to refind its mojo, re-embrace the 'total football' philosophy and move it one step ahead again. I've missed the 'Oranje' at this current tournament.

If it is any compensation, for a liberal and egalitarian country where the game is enjoyed as much by women as by men, the fact that the Dutch national women's team won Euro 2017 in style was widely celebrated. Hup Holland!

Today's poem in praise of  the European Footballer of the Century takes its title from a provocative Swedish art house film of my youth, 'I Am Curious, Yellow' which unlikely though it sounds, featured footage of Martin Luther King visiting Stockholm and Olof Palme, later prime-minister of Sweden - both of whom died coincidentally by the assassin's bullet (King in Memphis in 1968, Palme in Stockholm in 1986). Cruyff, who had an abiding interest in numerology, would have been intrigued by the 68/86 component of the coincidence. He wore the number 14 shirt when playing for his country. I've just read his excellent autobiography - it has 14 chapters. By the by, just to complete the circle of coincidence, the very first head of state ever to be assassinated with a hand-gun was Willem van Oranje, Prince William of Orange (direct ancestor of the Dutch royal family), whose murder in 1584 spurred the rebellious Dutch on in their attempts to overthrow their Spanish oppressors in the Eighty Years War.

(I Am) Curious, Oranje
Give me a ball
and an acre of lawn
and I will move the world.
Archimedes would be proud.

I am curious, Oranje,
an ordinary son of Amsterdam
endowed with extraordinary gifts.

I have a mathematical mind
and a Beatle-powered soul,
find my freedom and fulfilment
in this beautiful game
and my goal
is to bring joy to you all.

Call me the fulcrum
of total football,
a long-haired polymath
by invisible pantograph
the irrepressible momentum
of ten oranje men,
all supremely athletic,
almost balletic;
plotting three moves ahead
in our synchronous dance
across grass
to outwit the defence
and maybe, maybe not,
fire into the net.

Your applause says it all.

Give me a ball
and an acre of lawn.
I will show you
what happiness is.
Johan Cruyff.

Thanks for reading and may England prove itself the best team standing, S ;-)

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

World Cup - Three Lions

A few World Cup memories.

I was there in sixty-six.  By ‘there’ I mean sat on the floor doing some artwork with my World Cup Willie colouring set, in front of a black and white television witnessing my mother go through every emotion. Eventually, someone on tv said, ‘They think it’s all over, it is now’ and my mother was ecstatic.  I must have inherited my love of football from her, and my maternal grandfather. We were in our upstairs sitting room in the pub on South Promenade. No big screens in pubs back in the sixties and no colour television for us at that time. Sport in pubs was limited to snooker and darts.

I didn’t follow the 1970 tournament. We were still in the same pub. I was sick of hearing ‘Back Home’ filtering upwards from the jukebox. My mother had passed away the year before. Life was hard and things were changing.

In 1978, my most significant World Cup memory is Archie Gemmill’s brilliant goal for Scotland against Holland. It was breath-taking and is still up there with my favourite goals of all time.

The 1990 World Cup didn’t have my full attention. It was there in the background while I sat at the sewing machine making wedding outfits for my page-boys and a tiny bridesmaid dress for yes, a tiny bridesmaid, my baby niece. There was cheering, beer cans being snapped open and I found myself singing Nessun Dorma a lot. England had fourth place. Now it was time to concentrate on our wedding.

I can still feel the sorrow from 1998. David Beckham and that petulant kick at Diego Simeone – I still can’t believe he was red carded, as he was fouled by Simeone in the first place and I can hardly type it, twenty years later. Football is such a passionate game. I was so upset that England lost out to Argentina on penalties and the first World Cup that our son was old enough to take an interest in ended for England the way it did.

Fast forward to 2014 and as always in our house, we have a chart up on the wall, flags flying from the windows and cars, England shirts at the ready and a Panini sticker album. It was a non-event, for us anyway. My husband was ill in hospital, though well enough to don an England shirt and watch a couple of matches in the day-room. By the time he was recovered enough to come home, the World Cup was all over for England.

So, here goes for World Cup 2018. In a few hours it might be all over again, but hopefully not. I’d like to see Gareth Southgate do well and I’d like to see this young, talented team progress. I’ll go and have a word with the three lions on my shirt.
I’m With These 2018 Heroes
The kitchen floor needs mopping
And the beds are left unmade
But I’m not doing housework
While there’s matches being played.
Look at the perfect pitches,
Neatly mowed and lush and green,
Ready for the world’s finest
To give us the best we’ve seen.
So bring it on, DeBruyne,
Ronaldo and Messi, too.
Fellaini and Suarez
I’ll be watching all of you.
A huge shout out for England,
For Harry Kane and the boys,
I’ve taught my grandkids to cheer
And to fill my house with noise.
Fav’rites Rashford and Lingard,
And my ‘Broadway’ Danny Rose,
I’m loving every moment
With these 2018 heroes.
It isn’t just the World Cup,
There’s tennis going on, too.
I’m sharing the time wisely,
It’s the only thing to do.
So, come on Kyle Edmund
What an impressive young man!
Wimbledon and I salute you.
Keep giving the best you can.
Pamela Winning 2018.
Thanks for reading, Pam x 


Saturday, 30 June 2018

Malay Pantoum

Crikey, the pantoum! Another prescriptively structured verse form to bend our creative efforts to.

This one has its origins in the scripted pantun berkait of 15th century Malaya, though its roots lie in the earlier oral folklore of the Malay peninsula. The pantoum was first popularised in Europe by French poets exposed to the 'oriental' tradition of that region: Baudelaire, Fouinet and Leconte de Lisle among them.

At its simplest, it is a series of quatrains (the exact number is a matter of choice and creative stamina), with an abab / bcbc / cdcd  etc. rhyme-scheme, where the second and fourth lines of one quatrain become the first and third lines of the following stanza. By convention the first and third lines of the poem appear inverted in the final quatrain as the second and last lines. However, there are many variations on the schema.

This progressively rolling, repetitive structure makes the pantoum somewhat similar to our friend the villanelle; and with its incantatory rhyming form, it is easy to see how its origins lay in the sung or declaimed folk verses of Malaya.

The pantoum still exists in modern-day Malaysia and is particularly popular in rhymes for children (per the illustration below).

That was the easy bit. The challenge this week was to write a pantoum, a poem that both conforms to the metrical rules and makes some kind of sense. This is a first, but here I go, dredging through sludge at the bottom of the imaginarium...

Picture an ex-pat existence in 1950s Penang, for instance - the colonial formality, the stifling humidity and a world about to fall apart one morning:

'Dear Joan'
The plain fact is, she never saw it coming.
His note explained he had a mistress.
She'd always thought her husband kind and loving.
He wrote he didn't mean to cause distress.

His note explained. He had a mistress,
a younger, prettier model she surmised.
He wrote! He didn't mean to cause distress
to himself, she shouldn't be surprised!

A younger, prettier model she surmised,
someone who'd enjoy being devoted
To himself. She shouldn't be surprised,
he wrote, although she hardly noted.

Someone who'd enjoy being devoted...
scant thanks indeed for all she'd sacrificed.
He wrote, although she hardly noted,
the reason why his leaving her was justified.

Scant thanks indeed for all she'd sacrificed!
She ran with blinding tears out through the gate.
The reason why his leaving her was justified?
A lorry swerved but braked too late.

She ran with blinding tears out through the gate,
she'd always thought her husband kind and loving;
a lorry swerved but braked too late.
The plain fact is, she never saw it coming.

Thanks for reading, S ;-)

Thursday, 28 June 2018


I have never written a pantoum but have to rise to the challenge because it keeps the little grey cells working.  I had to scout around the net - Stephen Fry says nothing about this particular poetic form. I gather from my research that this type of poem has its roots in Malasyia but was adopted by French writers. It has a set pattern but doesn't need to rhyme - however if it does rhyme, that also has a set pattern.

OK. It sounds really complicated and I have a busy day ahead so here goes...

Dorothy’s Ninety  Eighth

Her ashes sprinkled on a blooming rose
She would be ninety eight years old today
Today we meet to honour her repose
And toast her in our long established way

She would be ninety eight years old today
And every year the family would convene
And toast her in our long established way
Our loving mother and our queen

And every year the family would convene
From far flung places they all came this way 
Our loving mother and our queen
So happy that we came to share her day

From far flung places they all came this way
Today we meet to honour her repose
So happy that we came to share her day
Her ashes sprinkled on a blooming rose.

Short and sweet - just like Mum. Thanks for reading. Adele