A Poetry New Year Resolution

For my magic realism review blog I recently read and reviewed Larque On The Wing by Nancy Springer. In it a middle-aged woman is forced to confront her 10-year old self. The child reminds the woman of the early dreams and aspirations that she has abandoned. It made me think what that girl in the centre of the photo above would have thought of the adult me. That Zoe was confident in her ability as a poet with reason. By the time I was 13 I had been published and was getting noticed. I had no fear about what I wrote, no self doubts. I took the plaudits without embarrassment or question. When the Director of the Cheltenham Literature Festival told me that Philip Larkin, no less, had said I was the best young poet in Britain, I was pleased but not surprised. I didn’t realize what a big deal it was and made no effort to get that in writing. How many times have I regretted that since!

What happened? Well – life in many ways. My gift was too easy, too natural. It came and went without my being in control. I can go for years without writing a poem and trying to force it just doesn’t seem to work. I have intermittently written several major pieces of poetry in a flurry of white-hot words, sufficient to make a body of work, but there are long periods of non-production. These periods were filled with career, motherhood and all the other joyous demands on my attention. But shouldn’t I also be doing something about placing my poetry in the public domain?

Two years ago I had a serious and life-threatening health emergency. I had always thought that I had time to promote my work, but as I lay in the hospital bed hitched to a monitor it was pretty clear that that was a false assumption. I published one of my long poems for voices – Fool’s Paradise – as an ebook with Amazon and won the EPIC (Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition) award for best poetry book in 2013, but it isn’t getting to the readership I would like.

As a poet I am very aware that even the books of the most successful poets have limited print-runs, so effectively giving away my work doesn’t worry me.  But what must I do to reach out and make my audience aware of my presence? It means going public, of marketing, of pushing my work and that does not come easily. How I wish I had that young girl beside me, to give me the confidence and the necessary chutzpah I find I am so lacking now. Ironically it is not that I doubt the quality of what I have written, I have never lost that inner belief. It is the translation of that into some public action that is so difficult. So here is a New Year Resolution – I will get off my insecure butt and face this. I am not yet sure how, but I will do something.


Friday Poem – On Wounded Heads

English: Celyn y môr (Eryngium maritimum) Sea ...
English: Celyn y môr (Eryngium maritimum) Sea Holly (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Coming home between dewfall,
when time became conspicuous
and my forehead flowed in rivers
savagely staining my shirt,
I met a priest walking in the fields.
He carried sea-holly in his hand,
I could see its twisted purple
in a crown of thorns.
He told me “Kings only rule
that bear their crowns on wounded heads.”
Said he was making a hat for St Peter’s Day.
I offered him briony
knowing no other flower.
I offered him elder
though the scent reeled me.
I offered him dock
to calm his wounds.
And three times he denied me.
Over the fields, on the tower head,
the metal cockerel clanged
and shattered the sunlight.
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Friday Poem – Ultrasound

(To my unborn son)
Refracted by water
like a silver fish,
not pausing beneath sounds,
turning which way.
Through darkness,
through warm waters,
and the constant beat of my heart,
you flash fast.
“We’ve a wriggler here,”
she said,
seeking you out
like a shoal of cod.
The suddenly you are still
and stand clear
upon the screen 
– a small child
with head and flickering heart.
We measure the circumference
of your skull,
your femur and spine.
It is not time yet
to draw you in,
into this cold airbound world.

Poem – Punch II

Punch & Judy with Baby
Punch & Judy with Baby (Photo credit: giveawayboy)
Punch II
Punch sat at the window
watching the street below.
In the hot September night
he heard the sound
of windows breaking
and the crash of stones 
on riot shields.
A bottle landed beside him,
a waste if ever he saw one.
He decided to join the fun
and took up his long stick.
“If you can’t join ’em, 
beat ’em”
said Punch.

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My other blogs

It’s a while since I wrote about my other blogs. You might think one is enough and maybe I could have combined them in one large Zoe Brooks blog, but the content and approach is so diverse that it didn’t and still doesn’t make sense to me.

The first blog I ever created and which is still going is my blog Adventures in the Czech Republic.
It’s all about how I came to visit and fall in love with the Czech Republic, so much so that a few years ago I bought a house there/here. I now spend about half my life there/here. It is the place where I write all my books. The process of writing this blog in many ways brought me back to writing, I had virtually given up for about a decade. In fact I would recommend blogging as a quick, easy and not too demanding way of beginning to write. The secret is to create a blog on a subject you are passionate about. The blog allowed me to be lyrical and chatty, to write about my observations of this wonderful country and people and share those observations with others.

A more recent blog is my Magic Realism blog.
This I set up as a book blog in which I monitor my progress on my magic realism challenge. I am reading and reviewing one book a week for a year from a list of magic realism books which I have drawn together from various authoritative lists. The reviews all are on the blog as is the reading list. Part of the fun of this is trying to work out what is magic realism. So far I have decided that it isn’t actually a genre, but more of an approach to storytelling. This view will no doubt evolve as the challenge progresses. Why magic realism – well because I was told by several people that I wrote it and had no idea that I did so.

Then there is Women’s Fiction News.
This isn’t a blog as such, but it’s mine nevertheless. It’s a weekly newspaper in which I collect together links to some of the best articles on the internet on fiction by and/or for women. I try to make it as diverse as possible – with both literary and popular women’s fiction featured from as far afield as possible. It is inevitably idiosyncratic, but hey it’s my selection and I can do what I want. Why women’s ficton – because I am a woman writer and so far all my books have had strong female central characters. And because women’s fiction is under-represented in the major media.


Friday Poem – Punch I

In the beginning
when God rested from his labours
Adam took a knife and cut down a young elm.
This was his first act of destruction
and Adam smiled at the sap in it
and saw that it was good.
And Adam took again the knife
and carved in his own image 
a wife beater and a layabout,
a preserver of sausages
and a counter of bodies.
And as Adam sat outside 
the closed gates of Eden
just for the hell of it
he gave his creation
a stick to beat the Devil with.

Friday Poem – Whisper

There are generations whispering in the walls,
layer upon layer of proud farmers’ wives.
You can peel one off and find another there.
Here the whitewash is brown and abstract
and here a butterfly blinks on a flower.
Ten ages of busy women and I the latest.
I take my brush and turn the wall white.
In the morning I get the answer
the wall is brown again.
They are reaching through my whitewash.
“Listen,” they say…

A poem about decorating my Czech farmhouse.