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#Poetryreadathon – meet blogger and poet Christy Birmingham

Poetry readathon

Today, I have the pleasure of welcoming Christy Birmingham to Robbie’s Inspiration. Christy is a prolific blogger and shares articles and posts that are packed with advice on how to approach difficult circumstances in your life, ideas on childcare and coping with working and parenting and many other fascinating topics. You can find and follow Christy’s blog here: https://whenwomeninspire.com/

Thank you Christy, for participating in my Poetry Readathon and telling us about your most meaningful poem and how you came to write it.

Over to Christy

Christy Birmingham

Dear Robbie, thank you for inviting me to be a part of the Poetry Readathon Series, which was so successful last year. I have no doubt it will have similar acclaim this year.

The poem I select for inclusion is “The Night We Entered the Earth” from my second book “Versions of the Self.” This poem has taken on a new significance for me from when I first published it.

When I first wrote the lines, I was still dealing with the after effects of an unhealthy relationship and was discovering myself again. The poem is a part of a collection that is about exploring relationships with oneself and others, including romantic, family, and spiritual.

When I wrote “The Night We Entered the Earth,” I was getting to know myself better and thinking of what it would feel like to be in a heartfelt relationship one day. At the time, I was not in a space where a serious relationship was one that I wanted to be in or was emotionally equipped to be in either.

While the poem is one of fantasy at first glance, given the images of “beds of soil” and exploring beneath the ground, its true meaning is of loving and being understood at one’s core. When I look back to when I wrote it, I ached for that type of love but was by no means in a position mentally to give or receive such affection.

When I read that same poem from “Versions of the Self” again now, I am struck by the support and love that surrounds me. Today I am married to an endlessly caring man who encourages my writing career, makes me laugh, and gives me hugs whenever I need or ask for them.

He meets me every day at the “core of my Earth” and I am at his core too. What this statement means to me is that our love runs at a deep level and we understand one another. That is not to say that we don’t have tough days or difficult conversations but instead that we are respectful and have confidence that we will get through what comes our way together.

And as I dream of creamy brie, I know he is eating the food alongside me.

The Night We Entered the Earth, from Versions of the Self

I had a dream that we entered an

Inner layer of the Earth.

We slept in beds of soil that were

Lined with comfort and

Pillowed vegetable seedlings;

I believe there were hopeful tomatoes.

 

I believe we were hopeful spirits.

I dreamt that my knapsack filled with

Creamy brie and buckets of water that

Somehow never spilled, even when

The Earth shook its fists at our arrival.

 

You fed me the savory cheese,

From fingers you lined with compassion,

Rather than guilt, and

It was there, at that moment, I realized

We are at the core of my Earth and

We are all I need to be happy.

About Christy Birmingham

Christy Birmingham is a freelance writer in Victoria, BC, who has a BA in Psychology and has taken professional writing courses at the University of Victoria. She is the author of Pathways to Illumination (Redmund Productions, 2013), her first poetry book. Her work also appears in the Poetry Institute of Canada’s From the Cerulean Sea: An Anthology of Verse (2013) and the literary journals The Claremont Review and Tipton Poetry Journal.

Versions of the self

What Amazon says

Imagine a shift to the way you see the world that arises through poetic narration.

Imagine the world, at its base level, is a collection of selves. These selves collide, disperse, intermingle, and share themselves in lines of free verse. Such is the premise of Versions of the Self, poetry that assumes multiple types of selves exist and relate in ways that alter them. Each of the eight chapters looks at a different type of self, including the singular “I” and romantic interactions. These unique 80 poems definitely color themselves outside of the lines.

My review

Versions of the self is quite an extraordinary book of poetry. The poet, Christy Birmingham, has a very unique style of writing which I found very intriguing. I also thought this style worked exceptionally well for the content of this book which is all about different versions of self. It imitates the flow of thought but in an easy to read and fascinating way.

I felt I would like to get to know the poet as I read her poems. While she does write about a mixture of various emotions, there is a thread of sadness or melancholy that runs through many of them and I felt that the writer had suffered pain in her past relationships. The poems become lighter and happier as you move through the book and I found myself hoping that this is a reflection of Christy’s life.

These are a few of the verses I found the most compelling in this beautiful book:

“You direct me forward but

I want to go back,

Back to when we were wrapped in

Clean sheets, before the

Lies melted on your tongue.”

From Lack of Direction

***

“You were once a masterpiece

Now, your colors run down the fabric of

My past,

Shades of yellow and orange that have

Grown thick in consistency,

As the price of fine art rises with inflation.”

From You, Colors, and Realization

***

“You came to see me at a pillow rich with creativity,

Where I had hope beyond reason for tugging at my heartstrings.

You know exactly which strings to play on your

keys to keep me smiling.

From You, Unique.

Purchase Versions of the Self

#Poetryreadathon – Meet author, poet and blogger Victoria Zigler

Poetry readathon

Today I am delighted to introduce you to author, poet and blogger, Victoria Zigler. Victoria, known as Tori to her friends, is an author of a number of lovely children’s books, some of which I have read and really enjoyed. She has also published some lovely poetry books.

Over to Tori

I was excited to be a part of Robbie’s poetry readathon.  But this presented me with a bit of a conundrum.

You see, picking a favourite of my poems is hard for me.  Actually, I’m not very good at picking favourites of things in general, but I find it even more difficult with my own work, because each piece is special to me in some way.  So I made it a little easier on myself by focussing on one particular poetry collection: Mr. Pumpkin-Head And Other Poems.

“Why that one particular collection?” I hear you ask.

Well, it’s quite simple.  You see, Mr. Pumpkin-Head And Other Poems was not only the first poetry book I published, but the first book I published.  It was the book I used to dip my toe in to the turbulent waters of the sea of authors, and was made up of my favourites of the poems I’d written – and still had copies of – at the time.  It was a hard task choosing the poems for the book, and all my other poems did get their turn to be published afterwards.  But that book – and by extension, the poems in it – will always be especially special to me, purely for being my first publication.

Additionally, the photo on the cover is of my very own Mr. Pumpkin-Head; the pumpkin featured on the cover of the book is a jack-o-lantern I carved myself.  Not only the first one I’d done solo, but also the first one after I lost the last of my sight.  Which is why I’ll never change the cover, even now I know more about the importance of good quality covers.  Just like with the covers of my stories featuring some of my pets, where their own photos were used on the covers.

Given my fondness of the book, and the photo featured on its cover, it seems only fitting I pick the title poem – written about the pumpkin in the photo, almost four years before the collection was published – as my favourite poem.  So, with that in mind, I present my poem entitled “Mr. Pumpkin-Head” for your reading pleasure.

Mr. Pumpkin-Head

© 2008 ~ Victoria “Tori” Zigler

In a pumpkin patch

Near a big red barn

Looking out over the fields

Of a very big farm

Lived Mr Pumpkin-Head

 

All day he’d sit in the pumpkin patch

Wishing he could do something good

“If only,” he said to himself one night

“Pumpkins could be more than just food.”

 

Then one day, when the air was chilly

And the trees were almost bare

Someone came to the pumpkin patch

Who’d never before been seen there

 

She was just a child – no more than six

With hair the colour of gold

Wearing a pretty little pink coat

To protect herself from the cold

 

She looked at Mr Pumpkin-Head

And all his friends in the ground

Then knelt beside Mr Pumpkin-Head

Making hardly a sound

 

She put her hand upon him

And smiling said, “You’ll do!

You’re coming home with me, you are.

I’ll make a jack-o-lantern out of you!”

 

And now…

 

In the window sill

Of a little house

Looking out of the window

Beside an ornamental mouse

Sits Mr Pumpkin-Head

 

His smile may be carved on

But inside he’s grinning too

For he thinks a Jack-O-Lantern is

A great job for a pumpkin to do

 

That’s why you’ll never see a pumpkin smile

As wide as Mr Pumpkin-Head

 

***~~~***

Biography

Victoria Zigler is a blind vegan poet and children’s author who was born and raised in the Black Mountains of Wales, UK, and is now living on the South-East coast of England, UK, with her hubby and furkids.  Victoria – or Tori, if you prefer – has been writing since she knew how, and describes herself as a combination of Hermione Granger and Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter books: Hermione’s thirst for knowledge and love of books, combined with Luna’s wandering mind and alternative way of looking at the world.  She has a wide variety of interests, designed to exercise both the creative and logical sides of her brain, and dabbles in them at random depending on what she feels like doing at any given time.

To date, Tori has published nine poetry books and more than 40 children’s books, with more planned for the future.  She makes her books available in multiple eBook formats, as well as in both paperback and audio.  She’s also contributed a story to the sci-fi and fantasy anthology Wyrd Worlds II, which is available in eBook only.

Contact Victoria Zigler

Website: http://www.zigler.co.uk

Blog: https://ziglernews.blogspot.co.uk

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/toriz

Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Victoria-Zigler/424999294215717

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/victoriazigler

Find Victoria Zigler’s books on…

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/toriz

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Victoria-Zigler/e/B00BHS9DQ6/

…Along with a variety of other online retailers.

My review of Mr Pumpkin-Head And Other Poems

I did not know until after I finished reading this book that Mr Pumpkin-Head and Other Poems was the first book published by Victoria Zigler and that it contained her favourite and first poems. On reflection, this makes perfect sense to me because the wonderful variety of thoughts, ideas and reflections.

The poems in this collection touch on delightful concepts like Jack Frost, family relationships, nature, animals, witches, fairies and leaf monster. There are some revelations of intense emotion and feeling such as in the poem Embracing The Darkness and The Day which is about coming to accept challenges and difficulties in life. The poet also gives some insight into her thoughts on commercialism and freedom of spirit.

Some of my favourite extracts from the poems in this collection are as follows:

“Before settling down to sleep for the night

The sounds of nature still filled her head

As she snuggled up in her bed

This was the way she like it to be

It made her feel alive and free.”

from Traveler

“I wished for something to release me

From the world which I could not see

But no place to hide or release came

And the days kept passing just the same

 

Until the day when – by a stroke of luck

An idea was planted in my mind … and stuck!”

from Embracing The Darkness And The Day

“Jack Frost ran his frozen fingers gently over the ground

Covering everything with glittering frost without making a sound

A playful smile played across his blue lips

As he stroked everything with his fingertips”

from The Robin And Jack Frost

Purchase Mr Pumpkin-Head And Other Poems

#SundayStills – Chills

Terri from Second Wind Leisure Perspectives has given chills as her prompt for her Sunday Still prompt this week.

These are my chilly contributions:

IMG_5233

My Jack Frost winter landscape cake

IMG_5114

Here is Jack Frost with his tools

IMG_5195

Father Christmas and his Christmas Elf dispensing books

IMG_5415

Here is my double story gingerbread house in a snow storm

Thank you, Terri, for the fun prompt!

You can join in here: https://secondwindleisure.com/2019/12/01/sunday-stills-december-chill-is-in-the-air/

#Poetryreadathon – An introduction to Frank Prem and his WW1 poetry initiative

Poetry readathon

Frank Prem is an Australian poet who has three lovely poetry books available. His books are fairly unique as they all comprise a story told through the forum of poems which are all linked by a common thread and carefully composed to contribute to the definitive book form structure.

Over to Frank

Hello Robbie, and readers. Thanks for me having me as a small adjunct to your marvellous Poetry Readathon.

In thinking about what poem to select that readers might be interested in hearing a little bit about I was drawn to my current obsession, which involves using World War 1 photographs drawn from the Western Front, generally, and particularly the Somme Battlefield. I was struck by a couple of thoughts that I thought might be worth elaborating a little.

A little background to my writing.

I am a writer of free verse poetry, but I really fancy myself as a story-teller, first and foremost. I believe the poetry form I use lends itself to storytelling and that it belongs in the mainstream of reading. Not the poetic periphery.

With that in mind, it is my wish to present work that is written to identifiable themes and with a story arc and progression contained within the text, ready to sweep the reader along as seamlessly as I can manage it from a clear beginning to each poem and to the story as a whole. So, a memoir should run from a beginning in childhood through to an end point at some stage of life, or at a clear narrative conclusion.

It is very convenient that I have adopted this approach as a right and fitting way to write because it suits my obsessive approach to the writing of ideas perfectly, and I am self-aware enough to know that I’m unlikely to be able to change that, even if I wished to.

What do I mean? Well, when I get an idea to write, I often that a subsequent idea will present and be worth writing. Followed by another. For example, a while back I encountered a number of sticks. The existence of the sticks is another story, but suffice to say that I decided one of these sticks looked like it might be the face of a man. Next thing, I was seeing faces in all of them. Needless to say, they subsequently all found voice in a series of poems. One of them is here: https://wp.me/p7yTr8-5PA .

This approach, I find, lends itself to the creation of collections for publication in books, but more importantly explains the way I approach a subject. I simply don’t let it go until I have wrung all I can from it (or from myself – sometimes I become exhausted and have to let the thing go).

This leads me to the poem that I have chosen to discuss today (two in fact), but you can sense, I’m sure, that this will be a little long winded. I hope you don’t mind.

World War 1 and its photographs.

My current obsession with these old photographs started with a picture I first saw used as the cover for an Australian Author’s history of World War 1 (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4751125-the-great-war). The book is about 9cm thick, and I’ve read it from cover to cover several times, but the picture caught my attention and held it.

The photograph showed the charnel of the Somme as an unspeakable, almost featureless swamp of mud and blood and bones with just one overbright highlight – a pure white cross to mark the grave of Captain Ivor Margitts, who hailed from Tasmania.

photo 1 Ivor Margetts Grave

https://trove.nla.gov.au/work/229318748?q=ivor+Margetts+Grave+1916&c=picture&versionId=252089559.

The sheer lonely beauty and the horror contained within that image stayed with me for a long time, until I was inspired to look for more photographs at the national archive site. I found myself wanting to join with the photographs I found. To channel a story from the photograph and on to my page.

I had the idea that these pictures and stories might make a wonderful book, perhaps two or three volumes of picture and poem. Sadly, high definition copies of the photos cost a lot and my examination of funding possibilities has come to naught, so far, but I have ended up with around 120 poems and pictures.

What to do?

Some readers will be aware, perhaps, that I enjoy reading to live audiences, and that I don’t mind dabbling in simple audio recording – largely simply myself reading into my telephone device, without any ‘finishing’. This is what I decided to do with this project and for a little while now I have been recording my own reading of the poems associated with each picture and posting them on my Author page (which has the capacity to host audio).

I’m going to chat briefly and provide links to two of these audio/pic poems, that speak especially loudly and clearly to me.

Glutton

The first poem, I have called ‘glutton’ (https://wp.me/saAqWh-glutton )

This photograph is taken looking down at a group of German soldiers and shows their accommodation – essentially holes in the ground, bits of tarpaulin, stray wood and sheets of tin. There is nothing, really to tell us how miserable these men must be living in these conditions for weeks and months on end. Yet . .

And yet I felt I could see inside these man-made caves and holes in the ground, to the mud and the lice and the unspeakable.

The New Asylum: a memoir of psychiatry

My review

This is the third book of poetry I have read by the talented Frank Prem over the past year and that sends a strong message about the quality of his writing.

Each of Frank’s books has been a story told in poetry, with a distinctive beginning, middle and ending. It is a unique and interesting way of approaching poetry writing and it really does work for the subject matters and themes of Frank’s collections.

This third book depicts Frank’s career as a psychiatric nurse for over forty years. The book is divided into sections or chapters, namely, Prologue, Asylum town, student daze, managing: acute observations, hostel life and epilogue. As you can see from these sections, the poetry does read in the same way as a story, albeit, one based on fact.

Frank’s poems are moving and intense and his ability to share deep insight into the specific situations and circumstances of each patient and event features as a poem, is quite amazing. Frank’s parents both worked for the same asylum and so his poetic experiences go right back to when he was a boy, seeing life at this institution through the eyes of his mother and father.

Some short extracts of poems that I found particularly impactful are as follows:

“except for a teardrop
that forms in her eye
when the little boy
with a small voice asks

mama
when I grow up
if I can earn
a hundred dollars a week
do you think my wife
can stay at home
and not have to work every day”
From a hundred dollars every week

“a woman
talking back to voices
preoccupied and distant
reaches across
takes my colleague’s hair
in one hand
and drives her head
into the solid wall”
From birdies at mealtime

“and the nurse who cut her down
had already lived this
once

this was her second one
the same all over again”
From from long black shoelaces

Purchase The New Asylum: a memoir of psychiatry

#Poetryreadathon – Along the Way by Daniel Kemp

Poetry readathon

Daniel (Danny) Kemp is a talented author of a number of books. He also writes lovely poetry which he shares on his blog here: https://theauthordannykemp.com/

The poem I have shared below is one of Danny’s first attempts at poetry and I think it is rather extraordinary.

Along The Way

“I am heavy, I am tired,” said the old man to the child.
“My life is drawing to an end.
It is not what I have done to life that has brought me here today, but what life has done to me along the way.

I was strong, I was fierce, I took no-one to my side, simply brushing them aside with no need for them.
Now I find that I’m alone, but don’t pity nor disown 

Those memories that I’ve sown, along the way.

My path was never straight, sometimes narrow, sometimes wide but along it I did stride to find you here.
Stand you tall, never cry, have no tear in any eye

As you hear what I have done along the way.

I have reached that final bend, the one that leads me to my end,

And now I leave you here to make your own way through this life.
Tread your path with care but always be aware

There is no such thing in life, as a mistake.”

© 2012, Daniel Kemp All rights reserved

About Daniel Kemp

Daniel Kemp’s introduction to the world of espionage and mystery happened at an early age when his father was employed by the War Office in Whitehall, London, at the end of WWII. However, it wasn’t until after his father died that he showed any interest in anything other than himself!

On leaving academia he took on many roles in his working life: a London police officer, mini-cab business owner, pub tenant and licensed London taxi driver, but never did he plan to become a writer. Nevertheless, after a road traffic accident left him suffering from PTSD and effectively–out of paid work for four years, he wrote and self-published his first novel –The Desolate Garden. Within three months of publication, that book was under a paid option to become a $30 million film. The option lasted for five years until distribution became an insurmountable problem for the production company.

All seven of his novels are now published by Creativia with the seventh–The Widow’s Son, completing a three book series alongside: What Happened In Vienna, Jack? and Once I Was A Soldier. Under the Creativia publishing banner, The Desolate Garden went on to become a bestselling novel in World and Russian Literature in 2017. The following year, in May 2018, his book What Happened In Vienna, Jack? was a number one bestseller on four separate Amazon sites: America, UK, Canada, and Australia.

Although it’s true to say that he mainly concentrates on what he knows most about; murders laced by the mystery involving spies, his diverse experience of life shows in the short stories he writes, namely: Why? A Complicated Love, and the intriguing story titled The Story That Had No Beginning.

He is the recipient of rave reviews from a prestigious Manhattan publication and described as–the new Graham Green–by a highly placed employee of Waterstones Books, for whom he did a countrywide tour of book signing events. He has also appeared on ‘live’ television in the UK publicising that first novel of his.

He continues to write novels, poetry and the occasional quote; this one is taken from the beginning of Once I Was A Soldier
There is no morality to be found in evil. But to recognise that which is truly evil one must forget the rules of morality.

You can contact Mr. Kemp via twitter..https://twitter.com/danielkemp6
Via FaceBook… https://www.facebook.com/dannyandpatkemp
You can also see all of his books here on Creativia… https://www.creativia.org/daniel-kemp-mystery-thriller-author.html

A selection of books by Daniel Kemp

A recent review of The Desolate Garden

5 Star Amazon review

This is a well-written but exceedingly complex book. Set in the world of espionage, international intrigue, and political manipulations, it follows an investigation by Harry Patterson into the murders of his father and brother. Judith Meadows has been assigned to aid him, and the two of them make quite a pair. Their testy relationship adds some flavor to an otherwise cerebral read.

What do I mean by that? Between sections of expertly written dialog, the book is expository, relaying multiple family histories and the political machinations of individuals and countries on the world stage, primarily the espionage between England and the Soviet Union.

The research is impressive. I can’t say that enough. So is the tangled plot and eventual reveal. There are a lot of secrets. There are also a lot of characters, and it’s important to keep them straight. Pay attention as it’s easy to get lost.

For readers interested in fast-paced James Bond- style action, this book may not be for you since there is no action at all. For readers who love realistic espionage, historical fiction, or a deep dive into 20th-century English-Soviet behind-the-scenes manipulations, this book may be the perfect read.