October Musings by Sue Wallace-Shaddad
National Poetry Day is of course an annual feature in the poetry calendar. I am delighted that Ink, Sweat and Tears have published a Q & A session by myself with artist Sula Rubens on the theme of ‘Refuge’ on their website as part of their ongoing marking of the Day. You can also read my poem ‘Rising’ from ‘Sleeping Under Clouds’ under the ‘Word and Image’ feature. There are many brilliant poems about refuge on the site.
To celebrate National Poetry Day, members of Suffolk Poetry Society gather each year on Aldeburgh Beach by the South Look Out (see photo), with the kind permission of Caroline Wiseman, a modern and contemporary art dealer (and a patron on of the Society). Quite often, we climb up the cast iron spiral staircase to declaim to the wind and sea, although this year most poets chose to read from the shingle.
Where do we think our words go? It is lovely to think that the sound might carry further than we think and that it leaves an imprint in the atmosphere. How many words have been cast to the wind on that very shore? Maggi Hambling’s sculpture ‘The Scallop’ has words from Benjamin Britten’s opera Peter Grimes carved into its steel surface, letting the air run through the words: ‘I hear those voices that will not be drowned.’
There can be a lot of discussion about ‘poetic voice’ when you are starting out writing poetry. Does the poet have to discover their voice? Is their voice recognisable? Can they have different voices? After several years of writing and two publications, I feel I have a particular style which is recognisable. My poems can be very visual in nature. I write short lines in usually short poems, often in tercets, couplets or quatrains. I like the symmetry of stanzas and the white space between stanzas. Sometimes though, I write single stanza poems and try my hand at other forms such as specular poems and sonnets.
However, the form of the poem is not the ‘voice’. There are many features of my life to write about: my international career, my family history of painters, relationships past, present and future as well as my experiences of Sudan. I am working on poems to do with all of those aspects. So, what do I bring to those poems from myself that is recognisable? I feel it is something about how I see and interpret the world about me, in a way that only I can do. The writing is informed and coloured by my life experiences and by my own responses to them. I wonder how any poet reading this blog would answer the same question.
On a lighter note, summer warmth has been lingering longer than usual. I still have strawberries and tomatoes ripening in the garden, which must be a record. Autumn is often a time that stimulates poetic contemplation. John Clare (1793-1864) wrote about autumn, focusing on the sounds of autumn, in his poem ‘Pleasant Sounds’. If you are interested in his poetry, The John Clare Society exists to promote a deeper knowledge of Clare’s work.
I will end on a descriptive autumn poem of my own.
Sutton Hoo in September
Blue sky. Burial mounds. The murmur of a plane.
Rooks settle on a field, cawing as they scavenge for worms.
The breeze is gentle; early autumn sun still warms the ground.
Dandelion clocks with ghostly fluff dance their magic
where a longboat lay buried. Stars will watch over the tumuli
as spirits with stories to tell roam beneath the harvest moon.
The river Deben laps at the foot of ancient woodland.
National Trust visitors soak up potted history, walk trails,
eat cream teas. A riot of red berries augurs a cold winter.
If you would like to contact me to comment or follow up, please send me an email via the contact box on my website . You can also contact me to buy a signed copy my books
Sleeping Under Clouds (Clayhanger Press) and A City Waking Up (Dempsey and Windle).