For many years I have been an avid reader of Maria Popova’s learned articles. She is a gifted writer and created Brain Pickings in 2006 to cover such diverse topics as literature, philosophy, science and art. Since 2012 Brain Pickings has had the honour of being included in the Library of Congress permanent web archive.
In one recent article readers were introduced to the wonderful poet Marie Howe and her poem ‘Singularity’. Inspired by Stephen Hawking’s work, the poem was written to a short deadline; a daunting undertaking for someone whose creations are often years in the making.
The incredible and striking poem would not leave me and I hope you find it equally as thought-provoking. Below the poem is a video with an explanation and reading of ‘Singularity’.
by Marie Howe
(after Stephen Hawking)
Do you sometimes want to wake up to the singularity we once were?
so compact nobody needed a bed, or food or money —
nobody hiding in the school bathroom or home alone
pulling open the drawer where the pills are kept. For every atom belonging to me as good Belongs to you. Remember?
There was no Nature. No them. No tests
to determine if the elephant grieves her calf or if
the coral reef feels pain. Trashed oceans don’t speak English or Farsi or French;
would that we could wake up to what we were — when we were ocean and before that
to when sky was earth, and animal was energy, and rock was liquid and stars were space and space was not
at all — nothing
before we came to believe humans were so important before this awful loneliness.
Can molecules recall it? what once was? before anything happened?
No I, no We, no one. No was No verb no noun only a tiny tiny dot brimming with
is is is is is
All everything home
Finally, I want to thank everyone for the beautiful and thoughtful comments on my previous post. Owing to a viral infection morphing into a nasty and debilitating chest infection I, along with the whole family, are unfortunately ill. I will reply when possible and return fully to blogging when better.
It only takes one event to change a life. What is that action, decision, occurrence? Whose life is affected? Changed forever?
In this eclectic mix of 21 short stories, flash fiction and poetry the pendulum swings between first love and murder, from soul-destroying grief to reconciliation. The tales veer from the sweet satisfaction of revenge to new beginnings, from heart-breaking miscarriages of justice to heart-warming Christmas misadventure.
One common thread binds them all; the belief that there is no such thing as an ordinary life; they’re all extraordinary.
Open your hearts and minds as The Storyteller Speaks.
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To purchaseThe Storyteller Speaks
The Storyteller Speaksis availabe as ebook or paperback on the following Amazon links.
‘The Storyteller Speaks’ by Annika Perry brilliantly illustrates how short stories can capture your heart, transport you to the scene of action and submerge you in the emotional journey of the characters. Her stories are a little above your expectations…a lot has to be discerned, which she leaves unsaid and therein lies their magic. Only few can create it.
The symbolism of Chillies in my Handbag is chilling, the agony that the words hide slowly spills out as Perry writes in the style of dual timeline, lending a touch of realism to the story, keeping a firm grip on the reader’s attention, actually hinting at profound matters of domestic strife. Carl’s loss too unravels itself gently as you keep wondering where is he heading in snow and who is constantly whispering “keep safe” in his ear. It is the style and the exquisite language that raises this book above an average storybook.
My heart missed a beat when Jake and Ellie got lost in the shroud of mist and snow and it sank with each shout for them. Such is the effect of Annika’s style of writing! It is difficult to pick up a favorite one from this collection of stories because all of them strike some chord somewhere as they are based on varied themes, each one connects us with the complexities of life, giving a subtle message that we are mere puppets or mute spectators in many situations that we wish to control.
by Balroop Singh
Perry’s debut book is a beautiful read. The twenty-one selections in The Storyteller Speaks are primarily short stories, with a smattering of flash fiction and poems. The author states in the afterword that the thread binding the work together is “the belief that there is no such thing as an ordinary life,” and this insight is clearly borne out in her book. It’s what captivated me as I read.
The stories are all quite different, some dark and some lighthearted, though most are filled with the deep emotions of ordinary people as they navigate disappointment, loss, redemption, healing, and love. These are feelings that will strike a chord with most people, even if the circumstances aren’t quite the same. Most of the tales felt “quiet” to me, personal, as if I was looking beneath the outer appearances of a person into the rich pathos of their inner lives.
I tried to pick favorites as I read, but had to give up; there were too many. I recommend this book to anyone who loves short stories and wants to feel moved by the strength and courage of the human spirit.
by Diana P.
Writers may exaggerate the negative and write dystopian fiction. They may exaggerate the positive and write utopian fiction. In this fascinating collection of short stories, the positive being brought into greater relief is our ability to choose integrity and kindness rather than degenerative and uncaring mindsets and actions. Each story is a core sample of a human moral issue, a history of resiliency and loss, exposed to the light.
In most of the stories the characters are challenged by a tragic or potentially damaging event outside their control; in a moment, their lives are changed drastically, forever. Some of the characters have caused their own dilemma. They go on in a fog or struggle with painful memories and swings of emotion before they reach the tipping point: how will they respond? And it is to their credit they reach this tipping point, because it is done through conscious moral effort. But whether tragedy has come to them or they have made their own mistakes, they eventually recognize the situation through a severe exercise in honesty. This honesty springs from valuing the best sense of who they can be and become. They often draw on enriching relationships with other people and humanizing traditions. Then they go beyond: they make amends. By taking this action, they rise to a new level of moral and ethical consciousness. This is portrayed in clear-eyed fashion, showing how difficult it is to do, and yet liberating.
It is more than interesting for stories like these to be told; it may be necessary for our adaptability and survival, for our thriving as a species. The same could be said for the negative. In fact, these stories blend both in a new and perceptive way.
The flaws in her writing and story composition are small quibbles. For instance, just when I thought the stories would all be similar samples, there was a radical change. It is my hope Annika Perry will continue to hone her craft as a writer. She may yet give us an iconic work.
by Mary Clark
The Storyteller Speaks is a collection of short stories, and a couple of poems too, about life, love and death. This is the debut book of Annika Perry and she has certainly managed to write a lovely selection of very different stories.
Chillies in my handbag is a story of a woman’s gradual disillusionment with love, her married life and even her child. The Mother’s inability to protect her only son from entering the traditional boarding school attended by her husband and his father before him, sets him on the road to becoming everything she has come to dislike in her husband. The son’s gradual reshaping of himself, a round peg, to fit into the traditional square hole is interesting. Will the Mother finally rebel against the dictates of her husband and if she does where will it all end?
The man on the flying trapeze is a rather interesting poem about a trapeze artist who finds himself in an accident situation. The format of the poem was rather unique with each stanza reading almost like a limerick. I did enjoy this very much.
Smouldering Shame was another tale than fascinated me with its very likelihood in the set of circumstances. A tale of a woman whose life suddenly comes unraveled because of the secret activities of her husband. He is a man who cannot see the blessings in his life and, as many older men do, seeks more excitement in his retirement than is on offer in his home with rather disastrous consequences.
A couple of the stories could definitely have continuations. I think the author may have quite a bit more to tell us about these characters. I really enjoyed this book. I think Annika Perry has a lot of potential as a writer.
by Robbie Cheadle
My heart and mind were opened as the author promised in her “About the Book” section at the end of this marvelous collection of short stories. I’m generally not a reader of short stories, because I like the longer process of getting to know a character for an entire novel. But Perry gives full stories in a short story format that touch the reader while allowing the reader to imagine the before and after of the characters’ lives. The stories aren’t all happiness and light, some are edgier and sad. But they all give out a light through the expressive language used by the author. Also, each narrator is different in these stories, and the point of view can be first person or third; Perry switches it up. I took my time reading this collection, because each story is unique, and I liked spending some time with each one after I’d finished reading it. Well done, Annika Perry!
by P. Wight
The Storyteller Speaks is a wonderful collection of short stories, flash fiction and poems that depict a wide range of events, characters and viewpoints. At the centre of each is human relationships and the effect that a single event can often have on the course of a life. A full gamut of emotions is here, including love, grief, anger and redemption. The stories are moving, uplifting, sometimes dark, sometimes amusing. My favourites include: The Whiteout Years which is a heart-breaking and touching depiction of grief and hope; and Loss of a Patriarch, a moving story about saying goodbye to the author’s grandfather. I also enjoyed the influences of the author’s Swedish heritage. This is a collection to savour and a book that fulfils its promise to win your heart.
This is not about the war between lovers of dogs or cats. It’s about Annika Perry, a talented writer who works like a cat.
A dog is all blubbery love smeared across your cheeks, a loyal paladin stationed stalwart by your side. Tongue lollygagging out of its jaw, tail flailing around like a pig in a muddy pit – you’re gonna be drowning in slobbery canine love in about five seconds. Or maybe a fangy foreign agent hired to attack: a German shepherd or English pit bull. Teeth bared and muzzle lowered –you better run. You always know where you stand with Rover.
But a cat – you can’t tell anything by looking at a cat. There it sits on the windowsill, licking its paw, indifferent to all things human – the tasty treats, the dangling mouse toy, the arms ready to cuddle it. Suddenly it pounces, its claws deep in your bicep leaving parallel bloody tracks or a snip of your skin flapping loosely as it samples your nose. And then sashays back to the windowsill to await its next victim. Go ahead, stick around, it could be you again, if you dare to get close enough. Silly you, thinking Puss loves ya.
I mention this because Annika Perry writes like a cat. There she sits at the window, chewing on the end of her pencil, watching the world go by. And if you are anywhere near her line of sight, she’s probably watching you. Observing you and all your little peccadilloes. Like the way you hold a letter that might seal your future, or how you sip wine while your mind is loitering elsewhere. How the March wind drives rain upwards, making an umbrella useless. How a bouquet of vibrant flowers devastates you with memories and also lights up your world. You didn’t know she was looking that closely, did you? That’s a cat for you – indifferent but all knowing.
At first glance, The Storyteller Speaks appears to be gentle family fare, tales written by a sweet faced, blue eyed lady who spends her time between Great Britain and Sweden, bearing candles and roses, taking photos, penning notes.
It’s how she entices you to her book. I’ve read The Storyteller Speaks twice, the first time in order of presentation, the second in a meandering stroll through her poems and short stories.
If I attempt to review each of the twenty-one entries, I’ll over-report and do the book no justice. So I’m going to focus on a few tales that blew me away, as if driven by a sirocco out of the Sahara. This is important to remember, because like a cat, Perry sneaks up on you to lunge for your emotional jugular while you’re unaware she’s even in the room. She’s a keen observer of people, absorbing cultural details and body language.
Sofia! is about a little girl and her stuffed toy whose uncle takes her to visit the local zoo. It’s told through eyewitness accounts of zoo visitors and officials who answer Inspector Nunn’s questions. Apparently the child, Sofia, has been kidnapped or gotten lost as the focus of each interrogation appears to be what has happened to the child. Perry escalates suspense as we wait to find out if Sofia is safe or remains lost or even perhaps is dead, our suspicion and concern for the little girl mounting with each witness. The final person interviewed is Marija, Sofia’s mother, to whom Nunn relates the awful conclusion of the story. A shred of flesh hangs from Perry’s claws.
At a Loose End is a sweet story, about the time of life when you want to make significant changes to accommodate a different economic reality and new opportunities. Some decisions need only a small alteration, an act not possible a few years earlier. But family wedges into the narrow spaces and – I won’t ruin the story for you. But I bet you’ll agree. It’s a rather sweet story, proving sometimes the cat just wants to sun herself on the sill.
Lasting Sanctuary is a shorter story but one that packs a twist worthy of Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot. To encompass so much in a wisp of a tale, just a brief iteration of this cat’s nine lives, is brilliant.
My favorite story is The Whiteout Years, and I’ve read it four times. Out of the gate, it captivated me with passages as lyrical as this one when Carl is driving through a winter storm, remembering his wife, Karin:
‘A moment of total silence. With the windows down he sat and listened. He never failed to be awed by the silence, the odd rustle of snow falling gently to the ground from the laden fir trees. The odd animalistic sound deep in the forest, feral and prehistoric.’
While this scene describes the landscape surrounding Carl, it also describes his isolation from the world. Lost in the snowdrift of his grief over his wife’s death, he is blinded by silence and whiteness and can’t move on with his life. The threat of Carl’s possible death looms throughout the story.
Annika Perry is a writer in tune with our deepest responses to the human condition, capturing the nuances of our psyche. Like an alert cat, she assesses carefully, knowing what to absorb for future use, how to convey realistic dialogue, which details will reveal more than the sum of their parts, and how to wind an unpredictable plot out of simple fare.
Unlike cats, Perry is respectful of people and all their foibles.
Sharon L. Pratt
The sub-title of this book is no overstatement. “Powerful Stories to Win Your Heart” is entirely apposite. I found the majority of the short stories fascinating and moving.
Annika writes succinctly, engaging the reader from the outset. She’s quick to paint a scene and I immediately felt I was “right there” with the characters. Scenes include a kitchen, a bedroom, a classroom, the inside of a car, even a prison cell. And she soon pulled me into each story with a turn of phrase that quite often injected a bit of suspense into the plot.
Topics cover the whole gamut of human experiences. Gambling debt. Redundancy. A fatal accident. A loveless marriage. A petty argument with long-lasting consequences. Injustice. Theft. Suicide. And much more. Likewise, be prepared to experience a range of emotions. Regret, joy, fear, horror, relief, shock, happiness …
I’ve been a fan of Annika’s blog voice for many years and particularly her ability to say so much with so few words in the short stories she often shares. Annika has a way of saying just enough to engage readers without giving too much away. She dribbles out clues. I hang on every word, wondering how it will unfold. I want to know–but not too fast because I’m enjoying the verbal journey. I need to saver every paragraph, every parsed thought, every surprise conclusion.
In Storyteller Speaks, Annika provides an eclectic mix of short stories, flash fiction, and poetry. All of these are character-driven explorations into the raw feelings so often part of everyday events and yet, through Annika, I see them in a different light.
by Jacqui Murray (Vine Voice)
The stories and poems in Annika Perry’s debut book are indeed compelling. Each one evokes various emotions from everyday life. I’ve followed Annika’s blog for awhile now, so I wasn’t surprised at how wonderful the final outcome turned out to be. The cover alone is stunning! She has her magical way of playing with words to pull the reader in, but keep one hanging on until the end. However, not all of her writing in this book is lighthearted; some is pretty dark. There were times when I smiled, moments when I was horrified, and occasions for tears. The beauty is that with each turn of the page to a new story or poem, the reader is pleasantly surprised. With this being said, it was difficult to choose favorites, but I managed to pull out a few: Chillies in My Handbag, Bouquet of White, A Rare Passion, Stars of Wonder, and Loss of a Patriarch, which personally resonated with me because of my father’s passing last fall. Another bonus to this creative compilation was the About the Stories section at the back of the book. I really enjoyed reading how each story was born. Overall, anyone who chooses to read this wonderful collection of short stories and poems will not be disappointed. This was a wonderful start to Annika Perry’s writing journey, and I’m sure I’m not alone in anticipating new publications from this amazing author.
by Lauren Scott
This is a brilliant collection of stories and poems. Each one offers a poignant message, sometimes uplifting, sometimes heartbreaking. What is consistent throughout is the command of the language, the eloquent turn of phrase, and the obvious passion behind each tale. There truly is something for everyone in this collection. I was particularly drawn to two stories: the last one, as it reminded me of my own grandfather, and the handbag story, which broke my heart (no mother should have to live through that). The author information at the end of the book was a lovely addition to the piece. I’m looking forward to more from this author.
A really well composed collection. Varied too, with no common theme – a bit like a box of chocolates. Several beautifully-written scenes based on the author’s own life – ‘The Whiteout Years’ and Loss of a Patriarch’ are examples. A heart-breaking story about miscarriage of justice – ‘The Green Cage’. An oddity based on an unsolved crime – ‘A Rare Passion’. The author writes with skill and emotion, not afraid to experiment with her writing by throwing in the odd limerick-type poem (‘The Flying Trapeze’) to tell a story.
I enjoyed this collection from beginning to end.
by Roy McC
This abundant collection of stories is well-written and an affecting read. The stories of everyday life go straight to the heart; some nostalgic, some reflective, some uplifting, and some heartwarming. I enjoyed reading this book, and the notes at the end about what inspired some of the stories.
by Khaya R
Annika Perry is a natural storyteller, a wordsmith of great talent. She writes at times with the language of a poet, at other times with the sharp and daring strokes of Picasso.
Sheer light infuse her pages;
Darkness where the soul cries.
Annika’s Anthology consists of stories filled with depth and entertainment. Joy and grief. Romance and thriller. They all share a deep care and love for their characters. The pace is unhurried, yet entirely without superfluous words. You are left totally absorbed in the events and settings.
How does she do it?
All I can say is … Annika, keep on writing.
I am hungry for more.
A wonderful book filled with meaningful stories. It would make a great gift.
by bernadette laganella
The appeal of short fiction is that it offers a glimpse of a character’s life, a problem, a twist and a quick finish. Annika Perry’s debut collection, The Storyteller Speaks, makes good on this promise in her newly published book of fiction and poetry.
Perry gives the reader twenty-one distinct stories about the daily challenges of marriage, children, friendship, family and loss. Her characters are knowable and likable, even the ones who find themselves on the bad end of a decision. Many of her stories depict the author’s upbringing in Sweden and the United Kingdom, yet show a universal understanding of family and relationships. And even though the stories are separate, the reader begins to develop a sense of community, as it seems as if some of the author’s characters might know each other.
Several standout stories will stick in the reader’s mind because of memorable characters and conflicts. In “The Whiteout Years,” a young widower wonders how he can let go of the heavy burden of guilt. Likewise, a young mother faces a very different future in “Sophia!” after a bizarre and tragic series of events. In one, there is a sign of hope. In the other, an unknown challenge.
Other stories finish with a warm feeling of love and friendship. In “Friends Forever,” Perry’s characters overcome a long and painful break and in “Role-Playing,” happiness is a given when old friends reunite.
But Perry isn’t afraid of exploring difficult or dark subjects. In “The Game,” children playing a seemingly harmless game discover the frightening power of their diversion. And in “Smouldering Shame,” Perry’s characters confront betrayal and a sorrowful tragedy. In “A Rare Passion,” a young man acts on impulse and immediately sees the folly of his decision. Can he fix his mistake in time?
Despite difficult subjects in many stories, Perry offers a strong overlying message of hope, love and family, as shown in her final story, “Loss of a Patriarch” in which a family finds peace and comfort after a beloved father and grandfather dies.
The Storyteller Speaks is a touching look at the challenges of life and relationships, an excellent debut. I look forward to reading more from this promising author.
by Book Club Mom
Having been a follower of Perry’s blog for a number of years, I was thrilled when she announced she was releasing a collection of her short stories. I knew anything she published would not disappoint. The Storyteller Speaks is a mix of poetry, flash fiction and short stories. Each piece is brilliantly written in a way that only Perry can do. She’s a beautiful writer who knows how to draw the reader into a story. I’ll look forward to more work in the future from this talented author.
by Jill Weahterholt
I think this book is a good read. Annika Perry is a perceptive observer of the human condition, and has a gift of harnessing the humdrum minutiae of everyday existence and bringing it to life in short, concise, well told stories. She also includes the occasional entertaining poem and limerick to further demonstrate her talents and add to the variety. As a bonus, Ms Perry includes notes at the end of the anthology, explaining her motivation for writing the stories, many of which, directly or indirectly, are borne out of her own experiences.
by Mark Charlton
Wonderful really wonderful. Beautiful stories that are moments of pure escapism. The characters make you want to know more and the simple but beautifully written stories are both moving and engaging. Thank you.
by Hayley Smith
Perry’s 21 stories are reflections on grief, love, murder and the extraordinary details of ordinary life. Her descriptions shine. Perry’s voice is one that sticks with you long after the stories have been read. They are emotional pieces. Moving. Honest. Filled with love and imagination.
Enjoyable and thought-provoking.
By Carol Balawyder
I am a big fan of Annika’s blog and “The Storyteller Speaks” does not disappoint. It is a well written and eclectic mix of stories from different genres that will indeed “win your heart.”
“The Whiteout Years” is poignant and beautifully written and “The Game” is both short and spooky. I particularly enjoyed “Kew a Rare Passion” based on a true story, and “Loss of a Patriach,” on the loss of Annika’s dear grandfather known as Morfar.
I believe both Morfar and Mormor will be incredibly proud of their grand daughter.
by Brigid P. Gallagher
The Storyteller Speaks is an electric collection of 21 short stories, flash fiction and poetry that makes for an entertaining read. These stories cover a wide range of situations such as love, murder, revenge, misadventures, injustices and grief.
The author bares her soul and grief over the loss of her Morfar and Mormor in the story, “Loss of a Patriarch.” She keeps the readers on edge and guessing until the end of some of the stories as in “Sofia.” She has an innate ability to use her words sparingly and dribble out little clues to keep the reader hanging on her every word until the end of the stories.
At the back of the book the author shares her inspiration for each story. It’s evident that she uses daily experiences in her life to create intriguing and fascinating tales.
This is a commendable beginning book for this talented author who will be one to watch for future books.
This is a wonderful collection of short stories. The author does such an excellent job of bringing her characters to life, it’s like pulling back a veil and stepping into their worlds. The flow of the writing is beautiful, the descriptions especially vivid. I rode emotional highs and lows along with the characters, swept up in their tales. Some are simple, some complex, all engaging. There are many gems in this collection, but I believe the first and the last are my personal favorites. The back matter in the book–which explains how many of the stories came to be–made the tales all the richer. I look forward to more work from this talented new writer!
by Mae Clair
A compelling collection of short fiction. Each story engages right from the start, and keeps delivering surprises as the character is developed and the action unfolds. Every piece is powerful in its own way. My favourite is Chillies in my Handbag, and I don’t want to give the plot away, but enough to say this: it’s a perfect illustration of Annika Perry’s talent and skill in capturing the deepest moments of the heart. From hope and loss to a joyful decision. From ambition and small joys to quiet desperation, then a calm and certain decision to change one’s life. Highly recommended.
by Cynthia Reyes
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Annika Perry has also written a novel, Island Girl which is in its final editing stages as well as two, as yet unpublished, books for younger children.
Rules and boundaries have a certain appeal to me and when I was recently challenged to try my hand at the unusual Etheree poetry format I accepted quickly!
Etheree follows a syllable count up (or down) by one syllable at a time. In other words, in the pattern of 1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8/9/10 syllables. It does neither need to rhyme nor to hold to a particular metre.
My first poem follows the trauma of a recent flood, just days before a big birthday party. With the distance of time it’s been comforting to write about it here!
The following fictional poem takes up the eternal encompassing trauma of the breakdown of marriages witnessed around us on a daily basis.
Many thanks to Dr. Mary Ann Niemczura for asking to read my Etheree poems. She is a wonderful and supportive friend I made here on WordPress and it is always a delight to read her poetry. I encourage you to take a look at her blog by clicking here.
Like the birds on the cover of ‘Seasons Defined’ my soul has taken flight this summer, and with various twists, turns, swoops and sweeps my inner consciousness has been on a mysterious journey. It is an intangible experience, an inexplicable sensation without one specific cause.
Along the way two creative art pieces have become my friends; both affecting me deeply and I’ve returned to them often.
The first is a unique poetry book which I won in a Giveaway by Khaya Ronkainen. This chapbook * travelled from Scandinavia, leaving Finland early summer, only to return with me to Sweden where I savoured it in peace and serenity.
Beautifully bound with golden ribbon and tag, I unwrapped ‘Seasons Defined’ with reverential care and with sweet expectation dipped into the book. Within are sixteen exquisite poems capturing the magic of the seasons in Finland; there follows an exploration of the wilderness, the landscapes, the weather, the wildlife.
‘Hoppers chirp Bees hum
Fostering species Flowers bloom
Cotton clouds Blot the sky’ (From ‘This is Country’)
Furthermore the poems become an exploration of oneself and ultimately love! This collection is a moving tribute to a country Khaya embraced as her own, as well as recognising her roots, and some poems tenderly capture the loving couple of Khaya and her husband.
‘we quench our thirst from a well of love and agree, love is a beautiful thing
we dine outdoors with birds singing and agree, it’s time to dance’ (From ‘Wilderness, My Friend’)
Life in all its facets is celebrated throughout!
As Khaya wrote in a personal handwritten inscription to me, I did indeed recognise a little, or rather a lot, of Sweden and its wilderness within the poems. I related directly to the natural world she so eloquently and vividly describes and through her words I saw the wonderful nature anew.
Whilst depicting the enchanting and bewitching seasons, Khaya’s work struck a deeper chord with me as she spoke of the solitude of the wilderness. Not to be confused with loneliness; this is an enriching, rewarding solitude that brings deeper understanding of the world and oneself.
Photo by Khaya Ronkainen
Photo by Khaya Ronkainen
‘I embrace silence.’ (From ‘At the Crack of Dawn’)
‘Deep in the wilderness, I stumble The track under a canopy of spruce Draped in snow leads to paradise
Only imagination stands between man and reality, for in dreamland Solitude is tangible.’ ( From ‘Winter Dream’)
The very solitude that enveloped me in its soothing arms during the summer and one which is not yet ready to release its clasp.
Photo by Irina Kolomijets
Throughout the poems, Khaya’s sense of wonder and joy at the nature of Finland is captured with awe and exhilaration. Her unique insight and approach is explained by the fact that Khaya is originally from South Africa. The variances of the Finnish seasons is a world away from ones experienced in the southern hemisphere. Furthermore, her poetry is influenced to a certain degree by the strong tradition of oral storytelling of the Xhosa people. I feel that within the beats of the poems there is a song to be heard, the pulse of the phrases take on a life of their own as they become all-encompassing, over-arching each other. This becomes more evident with each reading, when hidden depths are slowly unfurled.
I cannot thank Khaya enough for this precious Giveaway of both her first poetry chapbook and also of the highly unusual broadside ** of the poem ‘Summer’ with original artwork.
To read more about Khaya & her poetry as well as to buy the print version of ‘Seasons Defined’ click here to go to her website.
* If like me, you’ve never come across the word Chapbook before, this is an expression from North America and refers to a small paper-covered booklet, typically containing poetry or fiction.
** Broadside were traditionally posters, announcing events or proclamations, commentary in the form of ballads, or simply advertisements.
Finally just as Khaya’s poetry moves me so does the instrumental composition below. Just as the poetry embedded itself within me, so did the music of ‘Awakening’.
From the initial crackle of an old vinyl, the quiet haunting tones of the first bars rise to a hypnotising melody that never fails to lift my heart and mood. The musical ‘Awakening’ mirrors a shift and rekindling of my conscious self.
One comment on youtube writes of ‘Awakening’:
‘Absolutely beautiful, both music and cover. The title is so apt as the shining melody, gently and persistently get brighter. The darker background fights but loses. Five stars Sammy.’
Titles are so important and this is true for poetry books as well. As soon as I saw the cover for Balroop Singh’s latest book I felt myself floating on its ethereal image and title – ‘Timeless Echoes’.
All through our lives we leave traces … echoes … of ourselves, our thoughts, emotions. In this poetry collection, her third book of poems, Balroop explores the ones that we cannot express, share openly with others.
‘Some secrets have to remain buried because they are ours
We do share them but only with the stars
The tears that guarded them were as precious as flowers
Soothing like balm on festering scars.’
The book description eloquently captures the premise for the collection as seen from this blurb extract:
‘Certain desires and thoughts remain within our heart, we can’t express them, we wait for the right time, which never comes till they make inroads out of our most guarded fortresses to spill on to the pages of our choice. Thiscollectionisanechoofthatlove,whichremainedobscure,thoseyearningsthatweresuppressed,theregretsthatwerefusetoacknowledge.’
A glowing Editor’s Review by Mahesh Nair describes Balroop’s book as ‘…a steadfast repudiation of those ills that we painfully hide under the covers of our flesh to present the polished exterior as truth. Thismagneticcollectionofpoemshighlightsourprecioushumanliveswithalltheirvariedemotionsandimposingrelations: the lives often blinded by the strictures of the self-made duplicity, an excessively common phenomenon. ‘Listen to your heart, my friend. It knows you well,’ she writes.’’
Balroop, I am listening to my heart … and to you. I am sure these poems, these thoughts and emotions will resonate with many of us.
No poetry book post would be complete without a poem and I am delighted to include an excerpt from one of Balroop’s poems found in ‘Timeless Echo’.
It’s less than a week since I arrived back from Sweden and the transition to everyday life has been harder than ever. The break was perfect on all levels and once home I realised that my body made it across the North Sea whilst my soul was still residing in the summer house, wandering blissfully on the land, clambering on the rocks.
Senetti with Petunias and Flowering Chives
To aid the unification of body and soul I set out to do what often helps in these circumstances. When I was younger that would have meant a splurge at a bookstore after hours of browsing. As an adult and keen gardener I headed to the local garden centre and spurred on by the rare warm sunshine the temperamental trolley was soon filled to the brim. Muttering at the trolley under my breath I steered the plants to the car and kept my fingers crossed for a sunny Sunday.
Senetti with Petunias
Today I woke to fair weather and keen to get started I left the housework and headed out to the garden. Quickly a new solace took hold of me, gently pulling or cutting the plants from the tight pots and planting with joy. Childlike glee swept over me as soil spilt onto the grass, the patio; little granules of compost sneaking their way into my shoes. One old and tired plant needed to be replaced and proved particularly stubborn on being pulled out. I tried digging it out with a trowel. No luck. Then it was time for the fork and with satisfaction I attacked the rock hard roots, hacking away! At last, I managed to replace it with a beautiful new flower. I could feel my spirits lift.
A few hours later everything was in place…happily including my soul!
Nemesia ‘Wisley Vanilla’
That is when the idea for this post struck me…another book-style post is partially written but just didn’t feel right at the moment and I had initially left comments on my last post on Bert Håge Häverö but turned them off at the last moment as I was dazed and exhausted upon my return to the UK, feeling overwhelmed to respond.
Thank you all for being patient; I’m slowly catching up on your blogs and look forward to easing into normality in the coming week. Meanwhile, I want to finish with one poem featured on Brainpickings this morning. Maria Popova is a gifted writer and her articles are always a treat and consist of interesting, informative and thought-provoking essays on writers/artists/philosophers and it was:
‘Founded in 2006 as a weekly email that went out to seven friends and eventually brought online, the site was included in the Library of Congress permanent web archive in 2012.’ *
Today’s feature on poet Jane Hirshfield is particularly relevant as it was Earth Day yesterday. Enjoy.
ON THE FIFTH DAY by Jane Hirshfield
On the fifth day the scientists who studied the rivers were forbidden to speak or to study the rivers.
The scientists who studied the air were told not to speak of the air, and the ones who worked for the farmers were silenced, and the ones who worked for the bees.
Someone, from deep in the Badlands, began posting facts.
The facts were told not to speak and were taken away. The facts, surprised to be taken, were silent.
Now it was only the rivers that spoke of the rivers, and only the wind that spoke of its bees,
while the unpausing factual buds of the fruit trees continued to move toward their fruit.
The silence spoke loudly of silence, and the rivers kept speaking, of rivers, of boulders and air.
In gravity, earless and tongueless, the untested rivers kept speaking.
This is the second of three posts on Bert Håge Häverö (Swedish artist 1932-2014) paintings which I will feature during my holiday break this Easter. These delightful photographs were taken from our company calendar which we gave out to customers many years ago. Never having the heart to throw our copy away I came across this recently and wanted to share the beauty he saw of the Swedish landscape and people. Accompanying the paintings will be various quotations /sayings/poems that have inspired me or touched my spirit. Comments have been turned off for this post.
‘I am lying on a hammock, on the terrace of my room at the Hotel Mirador, the diary open on my knees, the sun shining on the diary, and I have no desire to write. The sun, the leaves, the shade, the warmth, are so alive that they lull the senses, calm the imagination. This is perfection. There is no need to portray, to preserve. It is eternal, it overwhelms you, it is complete.’ Anaïs Nin
‘It is a silver morning like any other. I am at my desk. Then the phone rings, or someone raps at the door. I am deep in the machinery of my wits. Reluctantly I rise, I answer the phone or I open the door. And the thought which I had in hand, or almost in hand, is gone. Creative work needs solitude. It needs concentration, without interruptions. It needs the whole sky to fly in, and no eye watching until it comes to that certainty which it aspires to, but does not necessarily have at once. Privacy, then. A place apart — to pace, to chew pencils, to scribble and erase and scribble again.
But just as often, if not more often, the interruption comes not from another but from the self itself, or some other self within the self, that whistles and pounds upon the door panels and tosses itself, splashing, into the pond of meditation. And what does it have to say? That you must phone the dentist, that you are out of mustard, that your uncle Stanley’s birthday is two weeks hence. You react, of course. Then you return to your work, only to find that the imps of idea have fled back into the mist.’ Mary Oliver
Thank you to Lana, a wonderful, gifted and creative writer, for inspiring / challenging me to attempt this unusual form of poetry.
According to Lana, a Blitz Poem ‘is a run-on of phrases and words, a rush with rapid repetition.’ Having been an avid fan of stream of consciousness writing since childhood I couldn’t wait to give this poetic version a try…here is my first work, entitled ‘Dirt’.
At the beginning of October I wrote a post entitled THE GOOD-MORROW #NATIONALPOETRYDAY to link in with the National Poetry Day here in the UK. At the same time I asked for your comments about your favourite poem or poems, which one(s) had inspired you over the years. The response was overwhelming!
A huge heartfelt thank you to everyone for commenting – through you I reconnected with some old favourite poems as well as welcoming new ones into my heart.
As the responses kept coming the idea of collating all the suggestions grew on me and I am happy to include the link to a PDF document here. Precious Lives, Precious Poems includes the poems mentioned as well as the people suggesting them. Where possible I have included links to the bloggers websites. Please do take the time to visit them – a rewarding read at each and every one and all lovely people to boot!
I apologise in advance for any mistakes – they will all be mine!
Enjoy and thank you once again. Connecting, sharing, learning is the true joy of this blogging journey.
By the way it is possible to import this document into iBooks, Kindles etc to save it and read at your leisure.