Sometimes I think that we’ve lost the humanity that defines us as Humans. We’ve lost our way in the grand scheme of things…if a grand scheme ever existed. We’ve adopted systems that don’t work for everyone. Systems that divide and conquer and build wealth for the few. That value material wealth over the wellbeing of our lives and of our planet. We’ve been fed the lie that we are more intelligent than other species and therefore ride rough shod over them, and nature as a whole. How can we be more intelligent when we are on the brink of destroying everything, including ourselves? I was sitting here, this morning pondering the mess that we’ve allowed to happen and wondering to myself “where do we go from here?” This poem just kind of flowed out as I sat and wondered if the future brings hope or despair.
I guess it’s not simply by chance that I enjoy reading the poems of Robert Frost. Not only do we have the same family name (Frost) but also share a love of the outdoors, of nature. Many of Frost’s poems are set in the natural world – in woods and fields.
Frost was born in San Francisco in 1874, but after the death of his father – when Robert was just 11 years old – lived much of his life out east, first in Massachusetts and then, after attending Harvard university (where he dropped out after 2 years due to health issues), in New Hampshire. Here, surrounded by nature, his writing really took off although it was not well received by publishers and rejection letters became the common reply to his submissions.
In 1912 at the age of 38 Frost moved his family to England and within a few months had found a publisher for his works. All of a sudden his poems were popular and sought after by publishers on both sides of the Atlantic. During his time in England he met Ezra Pound and Edward Thomas who both gave positive reviews of his work, boosting Frost’s popularity. One of Frost’s most popular poems, The Road not Taken, was written as a kind of joke about Edward Thomas’s lack of ability to make choices and then second guessing himself, although at the time many readers (Thomas included) failed to get the joke and took the poem at face value.
His 2 years of living in England were extremely good for his writing, but in 1914 at the outbreak of The Great War (world war one) he was forced to return to the USA, settling again in New Hampshire. Here he met up with publisher Henry Holt who would be his publisher for the rest of Frost’s life. Many of the publications that had turned down his poems before he left for England were now begging to publish. He sent them the same poems that they had earlier rejected and this time they all found their way into print. I guess this is a message for all writers, not just poets, to never give up, never lose faith in your writing.
Getting back to the whole point of this post….what started me off on this post about Frost’s poetry was….I’d been reading his poem Mending Wall…..(excerpt below)
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it, And spills the upper boulders in the sun; And makes gaps even two can pass abreast. The work of hunters is another thing: I have come after them and made repair Where they have left not one stone on a stone, But they would have the rabbit out of hiding, To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean, No one has seen them made or heard them made, But at spring mending-time we find them there…….
It goes on about how he and his neighbour go about rebuilding the wall, stone by stone and how he needs to know what, or who, is being either kept in, or kept out, by the wall, where as his neighbour simply likes it as a boundary between his property and theirs. “Good fences make good neighbours” is the neighbour’s mantra.
All of this reminded me of my grandfather George Arthur Frost, who was a builder by trade – mainly of houses – but who also used to build dry stone walls around the farmers fields in our village. We lived in what was the west riding of Yorkshire but is now classified as South Yorkshire, where there are very few wooden or wire fences and most are dry stone walls. These walls are put together by careful selection of rocks and stones, cleared initially from the fields, and stacking them in a way that requires no cement or mortar of any kind. All the pieces are self supporting and lock together. It’s an art form really. And a way of life, a skill, that is slowly disappearing.
Usually because of the length of the walls being built and the need for speed, most walls around fields are built with rocks and stones found close by, which are used in their natural form….not chiseled into shape. BUT walls built as garden walls (as in the second picture above) are taken more care with. Some of the stone would be reclaimed from previously built houses, extra stones are shaped more or less rectangular by the builder as he goes along, taking his time, building a wall that will last for centuries.
I felt it only fitting to follow in another Frost’s footsteps and pen my own poem to dry stone walls and the men who build them. So, inspired by Robert Frost, this is for my grandfather George Frost, from me Malcolm Frost.
George built walls straight and true From stones found here and there A firm foundation slowly grew He stacked layer upon layer. He worked hard through rain and sun Through stillness and wind blow Stepping back to see what he’d begun And how far he had to go. The rough stone made his fingers bleed But George didn’t seem to mind Sweat on his brow began to bead As he got the wall aligned. His wall will last a hundred years And then some way beyond This poem’s for George and all his peers And stone walls of which I’m fond.
“Vernazza village – Cinque Terre’s crown Pastel houses cling to cliff tops Steep streets take us down Into the winding narrows, of Vernazza’s heart And from this place of beauty You will never want to part.“
Vernazza is a sight to behold. It’s a photographer’s dream and also a photographer’s nightmare. It’s such a lovely place, scenic, colourful – that it’s almost a sin if, as a photographer, you take a bad picture of it. Not even a bad picture….just a picture that doesn’t reflect the full beauty of the place. It’s so difficult to capture…my photos don’t do it justice (in reality the colours are so bright they “ping”)…you must go and visit yourself.
Sure it’s a little shabby in places. Some of the buildings have paint peeling from their facades but it’s a kind of shabby beauty….beauty with age maybe. I loved it here. I spent so long wandering the streets, in and out of alleys and buildings, that I missed out on the final 2 of the Cinque Terre’s villages. But it was worth it.
From the train station you can either wander straight down to the little harbour – the heart and soul of Vernazza – from which everything else radiates, OR do as we did and climb upwards instead. Up the steep stone stairways and narrow paths that bring you out on the hilltop above the village, with spectacular views over the church steeple and down to the harbour of this gorgeous little fishing village. It was exhausting but well worth the climb to the top. Only after drinking in the beauty of the place from this vantage point did we venture down into Vernazza proper.
When in a catholic country like Italy you can’t help but notice the churches and religious icons – especially in these small villages – dotted here and there in quiet corners. A chance to pass on your thanks to the powers that be…..if that’s what your beliefs are….or just enjoy the moments solitude away from the tourist throngs.
Of all 5 villages of Cinque Terre, Vernazza is the only one with a natural port. It has no car traffic either which, if you can get there early and beat the other eager tourists, adds a special tranquility to the place.
Anyone who writes, whether they call themselves a “Writer” or not has probably experienced this. Last night I hardly got any sleep at all because I had lots and lots of ideas for blog posts or other articles swimming around in my head….demanding my attention…rather than allowing me the bliss of sleep. Eventually around dawn I dozed off with several pieces already written…in my head anyway. Only to awaken, unrested, unrefreshed and very grumpy to find that all those brilliant ideas had evaporated into the ether and I sit frustrated in front of a blank screen. The great writers…..many of them alcoholics…..would use this enforced pause in their ability to write as an excuse to have a little drink…or two. But for me, as perverse as it may seem, I turned to poetry to break my writers block. Please forgive me…..I know not what I do. I am tired after all.
I toss and turn all night in bed,
Amid rumpled sheets all damp with sweat,
Ideas for writing swarm my head,
But morning comes and I forget ……..everything.
I sit before my keyboard,
My first coffee growing cold,
As I try to recall a single word,
Of great ideas once bold ………disappeared.
I’m angry, grumpy, tired,
If I could one idea recall,
My mind once sharp now mired,
Writers block – bricks in a wall…….inaccessible
The screens bright light taunting,
Fingers poised above the keys,
Illusive lines are haunting…. me,
Half remembered thoughts just tease…..like dreams
Ideas so clear last night,
No need to write them down,
This morning not a single bite,
I feel like such a clown……….ridiculous.
But I refuse to let it get me down,
To wallow in self pity,
So I’ll turn that frown upside down,
And jot down this little ditty.………..poetry
Or if you prefer poems that don’t rhyme (free verse)……as the words that aren’t in bold above read….
Hi all. I am really enjoying my blogging experience, both from a writing perspective and also from reading other writers posts. As 2018 comes into it’s final days, it almost brings to an end my first 3 months of blogging.
It’s been difficult as a beginner to know what to write about. What do people want to read about? – was my first thought. Then I threw caution to the wind and I simply wrote about anything that came to mind, relating to my passions of writing, books, writers….anything book-ish or book related…travel and photography. Also there was a question of how often I should write? Should I write every day, or once a week – how often is too much and how often is not enough? That question sort of solved its self as I have other things to fit in between my writing….like living. It’s been an interesting first 3 months and this being my 33rd blog post means that I am averaging 11 posts per month or around 2.5 posts per week – which, due to other commitments is about as much as I can manage at this point, although I would love to dedicate more time to writing.
I probably need to rearrange my life to allow more writing time. Not only for my blog, but also for other writing and photography projects – present and future.
I started to write a book about how it was to be a child of the 1960’s, growing up in a Yorkshire village – with my younger brother and about some of the scrapes we used to get ourselves in. After school or in the school holidays we’d spend most of our time with our friends playing in the local woods. This was of course before child molesting became a national sport and the “stranger, danger” programme convinced most parents that the world is no longer a safe place for kids to play unsupervised. That, combined with the internet and virtual reality/on-line gaming is going to rob most kids in the future of the fun of playing in the woods and getting dirty, bruised and scratched – building tree houses, rope swings and just being out in the fresh air.
I had intended it to be more of a family history type book so my children and their children (if and when they have them) have some idea of where their ancestors came from, since we now live on the other side of the planet. BUT once I started writing and the words started to flow it soon became a more anecdotal collection of amusing (I like to think) stories of some of the crazy things we did and lived through as kids.
I hit the 40,000 word mark just before starting my WordPress blog in early October and the book has been put on the back burner for now. My New Year resolution will be to get back to it and finally get it finished.
Another project languishing on the back burner is a photo book of a six month backpacking trip around the UK and Europe undertaken during 2016. I was meant to be getting right onto it as soon as we returned home. Almost 2 years later…..it seems I am still the king of procrastination.
Yet another project is to combine some of my photographs with poetry. Again, this is something that is partly under way with about a dozen poems under my belt so far.
BUT the main purpose of this post was to look at which of my posts have been best received from readers/followers so far – in order to guide me in the direction that my blog needs to take in the future. It would appear that you folks tend to like my travel related posts the best. Of the posts to attract “likes” reaching into the double digits, my posts about Paris and Barcelona scored the highest, followed by a review of Richard Laymon books, closely followed by a piece about beat writer William S Burroughs and another piece about Christmas. The next best liked was a couple of attempts at poetry. So I guess that gives me some guidance of what I should concentrate on in the future.
I’d love to hear about your writing projects destined for 2019. Please feel free to comment below.
Whilst I agree that some poetry of old was as corny as a Hallmark greeting card. I do lament the passing – or apparent passing of the rhyme. And although I am sure that a lot of thought and agonising goes into more “modern poetry” – to an onlooker who knows little about poetry or poems (namely me), some of what these days goes under the guise of poetry can seem to be random thoughts jotted down in broken prose….to shorten the lines to make it look like a poem on the page……without the rhyming couplets etc.
I do however realise that there is merit in, and room for, all kinds of poetry and poets. I mean no offense. So….dipping my quill into the inkpot……here’s my Eulogy for the Poets.
When I was a child all poetry rhymed
But poetry like everything changes with time
Rhyming words on the end of lines gone, I suppose
Poems have been hacked and become chopped up prose
The mad poet swings the axe
Attacks the words once fluid
Now abrubt and angry rampage
Across the page, undisciplined rage
Against established system
Rebelious writers turn their backs
No more Ballads, No more Sonnets
Mindless acts, thoughtless hacks
Gone Wordsworth, Shelley, Tennyson, Keats
Trampled under heavy boots, pounding feet
Great poets and poems crushed
Tradition down the toilet flushed.
And in view of my earlier statements above….by hypocritical contrast……here is, (in chopped up prose), an homage to Shakespeare & Company bookstore in Paris.