Writing 201: Poetry Potluck

As I mentioned, the weekend assignment for this course is to post a favourite piece of poetry.  I tend to have favourite poets/authors/directors/whatever rather than favourite pieces, which turned this into a challenge of selecting something that I felt best represented that person and why I enjoy their work (in this case Robert Burns), and that would be a good introduction for anyone not too familiar with them (outside of pieces like Auld Lang Syne or Address to a Haggis that many have heard of if not read or heard recited).

Burns is (or was) fairly local to where I grew up, although the biggest draw for me is the sense of humour and talent for satire that comes through in many of his works, a great example of which I’ll be presenting in a moment.  Since I grew up in the area, the language was never an issue, but many of his poems and songs use Lallans (Scots or a dialect of Scots depending on who you ask) words and phrases, which can be tricky for newcomers to decipher.  I’ve picked a poem that uses a minimum of the more obscure of these, but feel free to ask if you’re unsure.  Generally, pronunciation is as written.

With all that said, here is Holy Willie’s Prayer, which satirizes religious hypocrisy and self-righteousness, with particular regard to Calvinism and the doctrine of predestination, using people who Burns knew at the time.  It takes the form of a nightly prayer, spoken by someone Burns saw as a hypocrite for condemning others for sins he himself was guilty of.  It also uses a verse form Burns used a lot, the Habbie stanza, which has a aaabab rhyming scheme.  This can sometimes help with pronunciation.

O Thou, that in the heavens does dwell,
As it pleases best Thysel’,
Sends aen to Heaven an’ ten to Hell,
For Thy glory,
And no for onie guid or ill
They’ve done afore Thee!

I bless and praise Thy matchless might,
When thousands Thou hast left in night,
That I am here afore Thy sight,
For gifts an’ grace
A burning and a shining light
To a’ this place.

What was I, or my generation,
That I should get sic exaltation?
I wha deserv’d most just damnation
For broken laws,
Six thousand years ‘ere my creation,
Thro’ Adam’s cause.

When from my mither’s womb I fell,
Thou might hae plung’d me deep in hell,
To gnash my gums, and weep and wail,
In burnin lakes,
Where damned devils roar and yell,
Chain’d to their stakes.

Yet I am here a chosen sample,
To show thy grace is great and ample;
I’m here a pillar o’ Thy temple,
Strong as a rock,
A guide, a buckler, and example,
To a’ Thy flock.

O Lord, Thou kens what zeal I bear,
When drinkers drink, an’ swearers swear,
An’ singing here, an’ dancin there,
Wi’ great and sma’;
For I am keepit by Thy fear
Free frae them a’.

But yet, O Lord! confess I must,
At times I’m fash’d wi’ fleshly lust:
An’ sometimes, too, in worldly trust,
Vile self gets in;
But Thou remembers we are dust,
Defil’d wi’ sin.

O Lord! yestreen, Thou kens, wi’ Meg
Thy pardon I sincerely beg;
O may’t ne’er be a livin’ plague
To my dishonour,
An’ I’ll ne’er lift a lawless leg
Again upon her.

Besides, I farther maun avow,
Wi’ Leezie’s lass, three times I trow –
But Lord, that Friday I was fou,
When I cam near her;
Or else, Thou kens, Thy servant true
Wad never steer her.

Maybe Thou lets this fleshly thorn
Buffet Thy servant e’en and morn,
Lest he owre proud and high shou’d turn,
That he’s sae gifted:
If sae, Thy han’ maun e’en be borne,
Until Thou lift it.

Lord, bless Thy chosen in this place,
For here Thou has a chosen race!
But God confound there stuborn face,
An’ blast their name,
Wha brings Thy elders to disgrace
An’ open shame.

Lord, mind Gaw’n Hamilton’s deserts;
He drinks, an’ swears, an’ plays at cartes,
Yet has sae mony takin arts,
Wi’ great an’ sma’,
Frae God’s ain priest the people’s hearts
He steals awa’.

And when we chasten’d him therefore,
Thou kens how he bred sic a splore,
And set the world in a roar
O’ laughing at us;
Curse Thou his basket and his store,
Kail an’ potatoes.

Lord, hear my earnest cry and pray’r,
Against that Presbyt’ry o’ Ayr;
Thy strong right hand, Lord mak it bare
Upo’ their heads;
Lord visit them, an’ dinna spare,
For their misdeeds.

O Lord my God! that glib-tongu’d Aitken,
My vera heart an’ flesh are quakin,
To think how we stood sweatin, shakin,
An’ pish’d wi’ dread,
While he, wi’ hingin lip an’ snakin,
Held up his head.

Lord, in Thy day o’ vengeance try him,
Lord, visit them wha did employ him,
And pass not in Thy mercy by them,
Nor hear their pray’r,
But for Thy people’s sake destroy them,
An’ dinna spare.

But, Lord, remember me an’ mine
Wi’ mercies temporal and divine,
That I for grace an’ gear may shine,
Excell’d by nane,
And a’ the glory shall be Thine,
Amen, Amen!


Fitbit, pt. 6

Since my last update, I feel like I’ve done fairly well.  Aside from about half a week where depression hit and I didn’t get a lot done I’ve been mostly active, meeting or beating my daily goals for steps and distance travelled, and with only a couple of slips sticking fairly well to my fast diet.  Unfortunately all that’s translated to has been a loss of 0.5 kg.

I was expecting it to be low considering the spell of depression, but that’s barely anything, which is disappointing.  Mood can be a huge factor but I’m going to have to step things up – set higher daily activity goals, really look at what I’m eating in terms of food content, not just calories, and in general be a lot stricter with myself.  It doesn’t help that I’m still job hunting.  If I had regular work to go to, forcing me into much higher levels of daily activity it would help a lot.  Unfortunately I’m currently in a cycle of Look for job –> Rejection –> Depression –> Look for job that’s getting in the way of everything.  I’m sure I’ll break out of it at some point but until then, this resolution to lose weight might be slower going than I’d like.

See you all in a fortnight.

The Collector

Photograph courtesy of Barbara W. Beacham, (c) 2014

Little did they know when the photographer took their picture that they would find themselves trapped in a painting.  The day started like any other, the band setting themselves up at the pier to welcome passengers arriving on the morning steamboat from downriver.

“Mind if I capture this moment?” the photographer had asked, setting up his equipment across from them.

“Not at all,” Cornelius had replied, and told his friends which song to play next.

They’d been in daguerreotypes before.  The photographer’s camera looked different than usual.  Smaller, and shiny, like silver.  He was just holding it, too.  No tripod.  Cornelius stopped playing for a moment and called across to him.

“You want us to hold still a spell?  Make sure it comes out okay?”

“No need,” he’d replied, lifting the camera to his face.  There was a flash.

In an instant the band were gone.  The photographer packed up his equipment, then lifted a small black cube to his mouth.

“Target seventeen acquired.  Moving on.”


He vanished.

This piece of flash fiction was in response to a prompt from Mondays Finish the Story.  Check it out if you fancy trying something similar.mondays-finish-the-story

Writing 201: Fog

I worry that I might forget,

Or make them disappear;

Thoughts of loved ones, now passed away,

A fog, at times unclear.

Yet sometimes sun will pierce that fog,

Make sharp those moments dear;

A photograph, a time preserved,

Of joy and of good cheer.

A face perhaps, or even voice,

Still vivid with each year;

And smell of course: their aftershave,

Or their favourite beer.

These memories I hold too close,

Of losing them I fear;

That’s not how memories work though,

Important?  They’ll be near.

The final piece of my own poetry as I catch up with Writing 201 has the theme fog, the form elegy and the device metaphor.

Coming on the back of the direction I went down with my previous piece, means similar moods for my two pieces of poetry today.  And that piece, written in a more standard way, could fit the elegy form here.  A consequence of deliberately avoiding looking at the prompts for the assignments I wasn’t actively working on at the time.  If I’d looked ahead I might have posted things in a different order.

That said, I’m fairly happy with this.  It could apply to memories of any loved one, although at its heart it’s about my late father.  I considered freeform verse for this (and if I revisit it like the others I’ll probably use that, and make the first lines more obviously longer), since all but the haiku so far have incorporated rhyme, but I like the repeated rhyme that evolved as I was writing it.  It reminds me of a ship or lighthouse bell guiding others through a fog, which I think fits.

Writing 201: Animal

                           I          M
                          ISS        YOU
                         MYBES      TFRIE

Starting today’s poetry binge with the prompt animal, the form concrete poetry (visual or shape poetry) and the device enjambment (essentially when a sentence runs on to the next line of verse).  The verse itself was done quite quickly but fitting it into a shape took some time, even though it’s a fairly simple shape.  I don’t know if it works.  You have to read across the “ears” which is a bit awkward.  This is another one I’ll have to sit with for a bit before I can say one way or the other, but I’m reasonably happy with it.  Enough that I’m willing to post it at least.  I also don’t know how well I’ve been able to incorporate the device.  By the nature of the form, enjambment happens on its own to an extent, and there are words that run on to the next line never mind sentences.  I’m sure if I spent longer with it I could do it better, so come back in a few weeks for the revisiting.

One more of my own pieces coming up later, followed by the weekend task for Writing 201 which is to share a piece of our favourite poetry.  There are a few contenders running through my head just now so it’ll be interesting to see what comes out when it comes time to put up that post.

I said hey, what’s goin’ on?

There were a lot of posts today, a symptom of not having updated the blog in over a week.  Partly because of being semi-busy, partly because of some depression (mild thankfully, but enough to mean I didn’t have the impetus to update the blog).  Postings should be more regular again from now.  I’ll be back tomorrow with some more Writing 201 Poetry, an almost-too-late Mondays Finish the Story, and the latest update on my weight loss resolution (I wonder how this week’s depression will have affected that!).

Until tomorrow, happy reading.

Writing 201: Trust

Trusting others can be hard, when depression rears its head,

Rather trust is often marred, by words imagined, never said,

Understanding goes downhill, replaced with worry and fear,

Sunders empathy, goodwill, leaves nothing but a veneer,

Too often slights exaggerate, innocuous thoughts transformed,

Into dark ones full of weight, to fester, leave you misinformed,

Now these thoughts can pass I guess, and trust regained that was lost,

Go back and make some redress, but trusting now has a cost.

The third poetry prompt is trust, the from acrostic, and the device internal rhyme.  I’m not sure how I feel about the result.  I was able to meet the criteria, that wasn’t a problem, but I’m not sure if I was able to get across what I was hoping for form the verse.  This is a definite candidate for revisiting after a few weeks.  That said, I don’t think it’s bad.  Just a little off target.

This is likely the last piece of poetry for today, but I’ll be back tomorrow to finish catching up with the assignments.

Writing 201: Water

Night sea, black as pitch

What secrets do you conceal

Hidden from our sight?

I’m late getting started but I’m taking part in the Writing 201 course, which focuses on poetry (so expect a few poetical posts over the next couple of days as I try to catch up!).  The first theme was water, using the haiku form (something I’ve tried before on the blog) and incorporating a simile as an added device.  I managed to hit all the prompts and I think it’s mostly successful.  What about everyone else?

I’m thinking I might return to all of these in a few weeks and try them again after they’ve had a chance to roll around inside my head.  It could be interesting to see whether I can improve on them or whether these fresher ideas are better.

See everyone in a few hours for my attempt at the next prompt.