this is not a poem and i am not a poet by anthony anaxagorou

I read this yesterday, wonderful writing by Anthony Anaxagorou, and thought I’d share it with you here. It’s exquisitely profound and if you’re like me, the words will stay with you for a  while.  Not all the words of course but one or two stanzas may linger on in your soul for a little longer than usual. Anthony’s web address is provided at the end if you wanted to sample more of his work.


This is not a poem
and I am not a poet
when I’m unable to find a better way of saying that in 2012
48 people in Great Britain were killed by guns
and 120 women killed by the hands of their beloved partners.
I am not a poet
when I can’t find a more beautiful way to say
that no nation in the world imprisons as many members of its population
as America does
that more Black men in the U.S are incarcerated today
than what they were during the peak of South Africa’s apartheid
I am not a poet
when I can’t find clever words to illustrate the fact
that before 2008 Nelson Mandela had been on America’s list
of most dangerous terrorists for over 60 years
that Cameron is a liar, that Cameron was a key member
of the Federation of Conservative Students in 89’
that hoped to hang Mandela
forgive me
because today I am not a poet
and this is not a poem
when eloquent words fail me and I can’t capture
the struggle of the poor through the metaphysics of language
that by the time Margaret Thatcher left office in 1990
the annual incomes of the richest 0.01% of British society
had climbed to 70 times the national mean
and I don’t know how I feel about the fact
that key policy makers and leading
civil servants have never had a job outside of their politics
the same men who set the minimum wage,
with only 4% ever having worked in manual trades,
of which 68% went to private schools
that is why this is not a poem
and I am not a poet
because everything I’ve ever written suffers the weight
of its own futility when another mother comes to a workshop
with a fresh black eye
when there’s another empty seat in the place that James sat in
last week and when I ask the group where he is their young eyes open wet
as if his coffin in that moment was being lowered into them
but you see
I can understand all this more when they cut funding to schemes
that are aimed at inspiring people previously inspired by crime
and the insufferable dross of mainstream culture
private prison systems and prisons for profit
when young women are given more options than just
be someone’s girl, be someone’s mother be someone’s silence,
but you see, I’ve done it again
I’ve crossed themes
I’ve not followed traditional poetic form
and so
 I’m a terrible poet
because how do I speak words in prison
then tell a young black person
that they were once kings and queens of lands whose names fall dead on their tongue?
How do I return their history?
How do I mention The Marriott Excavation?
Cheikh Anta Diop and the skin-cell sampling of three hundred mummies?
How do I show them pictures of skyscrapers before skyscrapers even existed?
How do I do all this and then have them ask what part of the world I’m from
and why don’t I write poetry about 1974, EOKA and Kissinger
until I tell them
that I am not a poet
and nothing I can write will help dismantle this idea of race
that we’ve become so attached to.
Nothing I can write will include the importance of mitochondrial DNA
and the 99.99% of us that is identical
that a BNP member most probably has more Asian and Arab in them
than the mosque they conspire to blow up
that immigration isn’t a choice,
that people don’t come to the UK for great weather,
hospitality and quality of life
how do I explain all this and still retain artistic merit?
I spent days looking for a metaphor to put the Palestinian Nakba in
until I found a home that once stood beautiful and prim
and I opened the door
and saw its contents ransacked
its family massacred
and its garden on fire
from that day I abounded any hope of metaphor
and accepted that I could not write poetry about this
that everything I tried to imagine had already slit its own stomach
like the afternoon I spent with a woman who had been raped
and I asked her to capture it in verse, I asked her to use simile and alliteration,
until she looked at me and said I don’t know what those things mean
but I can tell you in a few simple words
what it feels like to live with the Satan of your own heart
isn’t for me
it’s for people who can use words like odoriferous
while putting red wine to the lips of their white skin
and applaud the technical endeavour of a poem,
its wit, its ingenuity, its meter and form
not its helping, not the ambulance siren
that screeches from the height of its title,
that is why
this is not a poem
and I am not a poet
because I cried reading Douglas Dunn, Arun Kolatkar, Borges and Neruda.
I cried when I went looking for female poets and found few.
I cried when I asked how many black poets Penguin had ever published and was told two
when my English teacher told me that language wasn’t my strength
that my anger crushed my intelligence,
that I should think about going and learning a trade
and I cried then too
when I spoke to a group of young men about what it was to be a man,
how we inherit this cancerous culture, how we inherit misogyny, objectification and the glory of violence while silently suppressing the sensual,
were all the hardest things to write about, to talk about and to live with
that is why I keep saying
that this is not a poem
and I am not a poet
because all of the above digress and ignore the rules set by the establishment,
but all that doesn’t matter
because it’s done now,
you’ve come this far in listening
endings are always the hardest things to write because the author knows
that’s the last impression the reader will be left with
so I chose the following wisely
we are made up of all the things that broke us
just to keep us alive
maybe I could have said just that
but I didn’t
because like I said
this is not a poem
and I am not a poet.

keeping quiet



by Pablo Neruda

Now we will count to twelve

and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth,

let’s not speak in any language;

let’s stop for one second,

and not move our arms so much.
It would be an exotic moment

without rush, without engines;

we would all be together

in a sudden strangeness.

Fisherman in the cold sea

would not harm whales

and the man gathering salt

would look at his hurt hands.
Those who prepare green wars,

wars with gas, wars with fire,

victories with no survivors,

would put on clean clothes

and walk about with their brothers

in the shade, doing nothing.
What I want should not be confused

with total inactivity.

Life is what it is about;

I want no truck with death.
If we were not so single-minded

about keeping our lives moving,

and for once could do nothing,

perhaps a huge silence

might interrupt this sadness

of never understanding ourselves

and of threatening ourselves with death.

Perhaps the earth can teach us

as when everything seems dead

and later proves to be alive.
Now I’ll count up to twelve

and you keep quiet and I will go


Every single poem in Extravagaria is rewarding beyond words, beyond time. Pablo seems to be saying that it would be a different feeling, or a different experience to see the world come to a halt, where everything stops, and everyone comes together in strangeness, a sudden moment of inactivity, which the world has not often seen.

I like that — for everything to stop, to stay still, to be quiet, to slow down.

And to think.

About Life.

About Death.

And the bit that happens in-between.

of poems and palindromes: lost generation

I came across this yesterday at a training session and found the video absolutely amazing.  It gave me goose-bumps!  The word ‘palindrome’ means that it reads the same forwards and backwards, for example “level”. When applied to a long form composition it is a writing whose lines are read in one sequence one time, then the lines are read in reverse sequence the next. Notice how the meaning changes, though the lines are the same.

This is the text of the Lost Generation poem:

Lost Generation

I am part of the lost generation
and I refuse to believe
that I can change the world
I realize this may be a shock but
Happiness comes from within
is a lie, and
Money will make me happy.
So in 30 years I will tell my children
They are not the most important thing in my life
My employer will know that
I have my priorities straight because
is more important than
I tell you this
Once upon a time
Families stayed together
but this will not be true in my era
This is a quick fix society;
Experts tell me
30 years from now I will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of my divorce
I do not concede that
I will live in the country of my own making
In the future
Environmental destruction will be the norm
No longer can it be said that
My peers and I care about this earth
It will be evident that
My generation is apathetic and lethargic
It is foolish to presume that
There is hope

Google it and you’ll see many videos on youtube.  I’d recommend watching it.

You see when you change your perspective and reverse the poem by reading it from the end to the beginning, the meaning itself changes to something positive.

This is what I mean:

And all of this will come true unless we choose to reverse it.

There is hope
It is foolish to presume that
My generation is apathetic and lethargic
It will be evident that
My peers and I care about this earth
No longer can it be said that
Experts tell me
Environmental destruction will be the norm
In the future
I will live in the country of my own making
I do not concede that
30 years from now I will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of my divorce
Experts tell me
This is a quick fix society;
but this will not be true in my era
Families stayed together
Once upon a time
I tell you this
is more important than
I have my priorities straight because
My employer will know that
They are not the most important thing in my life
So in 30 years I will tell my children
Money will make me happy
is a lie, and
Happiness comes from within
I realize this may be a shock but
I can change the world
and I refuse to believe
I am part of the lost generation

Triumph of the Spirit


Jonathan Reed, a twenty-something Atlanta native and a student at Columbia College in Chicago, wrote this palindrome poem, “Lost Generation,” about the future waiting for him and his peers. Reading it from the top down is disheartening; reading it from the

View original post 1,268 more words

a friend, is someone like you


I read this wonderful children’s poem a while back and had forgotten it. It is heartwarming and enchanting, like all poems for children (and bigger children) should be sometimes.

It talks about friendships not just with people or our pets but also with objects like a maple 🍁 tree, the wind, the leaves, a gurgling brook, a rock even. I love the word ‘brook’.

We form attachments not just to people but to these objects in our environment for a reason — some explainable but most remain unexplainable yet mysteriously special for a reason only you know.

Here is Joan’s poem:

A friend is someone who likes you.

It can be a boy…

It can be a girl…

Or a cat…

Or a dog…

Or even a white mouse.

A tree can be a different kind of a friend.


It doesn’t talk to you, but you know it likes you, because it gives you apples….

Or pears….

Or cherries….

Or sometimes a place to swing.

A brook can be a friend in a special way. It talks to you with splashy gurgles.

It cools your toes and lets you sit quietly beside it when you don’t feel like speaking.

The wind can be a friend too.
It sings soft songs to you at night
when you are sleepy and feeling lonely.

Sometimes it calls you to play.
It pushes you from behind
as you walk and makes
the leaves dance for you.

It is always with you

wherever you go,

and that’s how you know

it likes you.

A Friend is Someone Who Likes You,

~ Joan Walsh Angulnd, 1958


seizures of happiness


Mary Oliver, a favourite poet of mine, captures the fleeting moments of Happiness; seizures as such, perfectly, in her usual elusive yet expressive style.
Today, I too, was described to be both elusive and expressive by a friend and that really resonated with me. So, here I share with you (and a reminder to me) Oliver’s words:

On the windless days, when the maples have put forth their deep canopies, and the sky is wearing its new blue immensities, and the wind has dusted itself not an hour ago in some spicy field and hardly touches us as it passes by, what is it we do? We lie down and rest upon the generous earth. Very likely we fall asleep.

Once, years ago, I emerged from the woods in the early morning at the end of a walk and — it was the most casual of moments — as I stepped from under the trees into the mild, pouring-down sunlight I experienced a sudden impact, a seizure of happiness. It was not the drowning sort of happiness, rather the floating sort. I made no struggle toward it; it was given.

Time seemed to vanish. Urgency vanished. Any important difference between myself and all other things vanished. I knew that I belonged to the world, and felt comfortably my own containment in the totality. I did not feel that I understood any mystery, not at all; rather that I could be happy and feel blessed within the perplexity — the summer morning, its gentleness, the sense of the great work being done though the grass where I stood scarcely trembled. As I say, it was the most casual of moments, not mystical as the word is usually meant, for there was no vision, or anything extraordinary at all, but only a sudden awareness of the citizenry of all things within one world: leaves, dust, thrushes and finches, men and women. And yet it was a moment I have never forgotten, and upon which I have based many decisions in the years since.

a goodnight poem, to you



Trying to recall the plot
And characters we dreamed,
What life was like
Before the morning came,
We are seldom satisfied,
And even then
There is no way of knowing
If what we know is true.
Something nameless
Hums us into sleep,
Withdraws, and leaves us in
A place that seems
Always vaguely familiar.
Perhaps it is because
We take the props
And fixtures of our days
With us into the dark,
Assuring ourselves
We are still alive. And yet
Nothing here is certain;
Landscapes merge
With one another, houses
Are never where they should be,
Doors and windows
Sometimes open out
To other doors and windows,
Even the person
Who seems most like ourselves
Cannot be counted on,
For there have been
Too many times when he,
Like everything else, has done
The unexpected.
And as the night wears on,
The dim allegory of ourselves
Unfolds, and we
Feel dreamed by someone else,
A sleeping counterpart,
Who gathers in
The darkness of his person
Shades of the real world.
Nothing is clear;
We are not ever sure
If the life we live there
Belongs to us.
Each night it is the same;
Just when we’re on the verge
Of catching on,
A sense of our remoteness
Closes in, and the world
So lately seen
Gradually fades from sight.
We wake to find the sleeper
Is ourselves
And the dreamt-of is someone who did
Something we can’t quite put
Our finger on,
But which involved a life
We are always, we feel,
About to discover.

Goodnight, sweet dreams.


love, after love and i guess, self-love


A great quote from poet, Donte Collins. 

It has been insightful writing about the various shades of Love in February – thank you for sharing the journey with me with your thoughtful comments.  I have no doubt that I will continue to talk about Love in the days that lie before me but for now, and to conclude the theme for this month’s blog posts, I have chosen this piece by Derek Walcott, Love after Love.

I’ve chosen it because it speaks to me about self-Love, one of the most important (and difficult) aspects of Love. It is certainly something that’s taking me a while to learn.  It’s easy, sometimes, to love another, more than yourself.  If you think of the ways you’ve treated yourself over the years, put yourself through, you will see that you’ve been unkind in gestures you would never have dreamt of doing to another. Yet you’ve tolerated this harshness to your Self over the years, over and over again. Beaten yourself up black and blue.

I received Walcott’s poem in the dark, quiet, early morning hours by email. I like that time of the day when things are still and silent around me. At first I thought of that song by Cher but then realised this was quite different. His poem reminded me of all the ways and areas of my life that I am trying to understand. To me, his words are about a deeper sense of meaning; a coming back to yourself, a return to self as such.


Walcott gently reminds me of my slow lessons when it comes to learning about “stillness”; and to just be with what it is. To stop do-ing. To let go. To have faith. To trust. To let life happen to me. As Rilke once said “Believe me: life is in the right in any case”.

But there’s something else.

It also brings up the notion of ‘waiting’.

Carrie Hilgert, as some of you may know, is one of my favourite bloggers.  She not only writes, but paints beautifully:


She recently said this about waiting which I feel is so apt, so right, and so true:

“Waiting is the hardest thing for me. Waiting for the sadness to pass, waiting for something exciting to happen, waiting for results of my hard work. I have a friend who says that waiting might be one of the hardest things we face as humans.”

And so in this process of just be-ing, in my waiting, I’m trying to love the not-quite-a-stranger within myself.  She has been with me all my life — my 3-year old, my 6, my 10, my 13, my 16, my 18, my 21, my 30, and so on, and I am accepting all of her (even the ones I’ve not met yet, thanks Chris from More than Enough) quietly, lovingly, gently, as if for the first time. She (or he) is after all the stranger who has loved you, all your life. Derek Walcott describes this process of self-recognition and acceptance so well, so powerfully. I hope you feel it too.

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

If you like to know, here’s further research on the man who wrote the poem as mentioned and written in the uncarved blog by Ken Chawkin:

Derek Walcott is an amazing man, an artist, poet, professor and playwright. Acknowledged as the greatest living poet in the English language, he won the Nobel prize for Literature in 1992. He taught at Boston University for 20 years. Turns out he also taught in Canada. In 2009, Walcott began a three-year distinguished scholar-in-residence position at the University of Alberta. In 2010, he became Professor of Poetry at the University of Essex.

Born in Saint Lucia, Derek Walcott was influenced by his mixed racial and cultural heritage. He married a Trinidadian, raised a family there, and built the Trinidad Theatre Workshop. For someone who was in search of his own identity, both as a person and an artist, this poem represents a coming back to one’s essential self. It resonates deeply with the thousands who have read it. It was first published in Sea Grapes, and later in Derek Walcott, Collected Poems, 1948-1984, and The Poetry of Derek Walcott 1948-2013.

Listen to this excellent July 13, 2014 BBC Radio 4 interview where Nobel Laureate poet Derek Walcott talks about his life and work at home on St Lucia: Derek Walcott: A Fortunate Traveller (28 mins).

A Blessing of Solitude by John O’Donohue, from Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom, profoundly complements this theme by Derek Walcott.


Be kind to yourselves and let your weekend be kind to you.

i am not i


I Am Not I
Juan Ramon Jimenez
translated by Robert Bly

I am not I.
I am this one
Walking beside me whom I do not see
Whom at times I manage to visit,
And whom at other times I forget;
The one who remains silent when I talk,
The one who forgives, sweet, when I hate,
The one who takes a walk where I am not,
The one who will remain standing when I die.

I was sent this poem a week ago and have been thinking about it quite a bit.

Juan Ramon Jimenez, in just a few sentences, captures the idea of our deeper identity, the ‘I’ that is always present and in the shadow of the person we normally take ourselves to be.

We are not who we think we are, his poem tells us; we are in the silences between our words, and in a place far deeper than just the present moment.

The poem asks that we remember this our true identity, our true Self.  It certainly isn’t the one we present to the world or to ourselves for that matter.

I wrote a post on my 3-year old Self a few days ago and this brings me to a question – if all our many Selves are co-existing simultaneously, then who or what, is the real Self?

Who am I?

Who are You?

fourth sign of the zodiac


While “Wild Geese” remains a favorite, I was especially taken with a four-part poem titled “The Fourth Sign of the Zodiac,” found in Oliver’s sublime 2014 collection Blue Horses: Poems (public library). It is partly a bow to her recent triumph over cancer, and partly a score to the larger tango of life and death which we all, wittingly or not, are summoned to dance daily.

Like so much of her work, it is an uncommonly direct yet beguiling love letter to vitality itself, poured from the soul of someone utterly besotted with this world which we too are invited to embrace.


I know, you never intended to be in this world.
But you’re in it all the same.

So why not get started immediately.

I mean, belonging to it.
There is so much to admire, to weep over.

And to write music or poems about.

Bless the feet that take you to and fro.
Bless the eyes and the listening ears.
Bless the tongue, the marvel of taste.
Bless touching.

You could live a hundred years, it’s happened.
Or not.
I am speaking from the fortunate platform
of many years,
none of which, I think, I ever wasted.
Do you need a prod?
Do you need a little darkness to get you going?
Let me be as urgent as a knife, then,
and remind you of Keats,
so single of purpose and thinking, for a while,
he had a lifetime.


How many roads did St. Augustine follow before he became St. Augustine?

People are more apt to remember a poem and therefore feel they own it. And can speak it to themselves, as you might a prayer.

Mary Oliver