The world is a mess and a scary place right now. There are no words. Stay safe, stay home. Look after each other.
The world is a mess and a scary place right now. There are no words. Stay safe, stay home. Look after each other.
What a joyous, absurd and utterly glorious poem! I laughed out loud when I read this poem👇🏾 and fell In love with how easily and well it displays the utter absurdity that prayer can sometimes be. I love the absurdity of prayer. The strangeness of it, the hope in it, the comfort of it.
I believe wholeheartedly in the power of prayer to bring peace, and solace and give your heart a chance to heal. I love its ability to give to the one engaging with it at so many different levels. I love most that prayer gives one room to feel and to care enough about how they are feeling that they must do something about it — even if that is to meditate and lean their worries on a greater being.
But I often find it absurd–even as I engage in it! There is so much joy and humour to be found in the things we choose to pray about; but isn’t that the wonder of it all?
And this particular poem has everything I absolutely love about the funny, humorous and wonderful parts of prayer.
My evangelical brethren have let me know,
via the quarterly fundraising letter,
that they can’t get the gospel around
because their van has given up the ghost.
God in the machine, help them.
I lift up their carburettor and their
Bless them with meshed gears and a
greased cam shaft.
Free their lifters. Deliver their differential
and anoint their valves and their pistons.
Unblock their engine block and give them
deep treaded tires.
Their brakes cry out to You.
Hear them, O Lord.
Drive out the demons from their steering
column and come in to the transmission
that they may know the peace of passing.
Minister even unto the turn indicator.
Creator Spirit, Holy Maker of the Universe,
give them gas.
*When Poets Pray by Marilyn McEntyre is a close look at how poets from George Herbert to Lucille Clifton have used poetry to explore spirituality and how poetry and prayer continues to be closely related, oftentimes giving language to things we cannot easily express and thereby making the simple act of reading poetry an act of meditation, silent contemplation and yes, even prayer. It is published by William B Eerdmans Publishing, and is available to order now.*
I’m in the midst of a seismic change in my life and it has thrown me for a loop! Between figuring out how to be independent but still connected enough to the people that matter to me so that I am not totally isolated, it’s a balancing act.
But a new year deserves a new effort.
It’s been a while (I often seem to begin my posts in this way!). A lot has happened over the last month and a bit. Let’s see…I went home to Nairobi for my sister’s wedding and a desperately needed break, came back and moved to a new city for a new job, and picked up a writing project that I had put down because I was in an awful place mentally and had nothing creative to give. Whilst I was away, I was drafting my thoughts in bits and pieces and so here are some of those thoughts…
My God how I needed this trip. To be reminded that my world is not so small. That it contains the absolute beauty of my nephews laughing; the joy and miracle of knowing they are living in the same world I am in. The trust when they look at me and say “hug” or the confidence that I will play with them whenever they want to. In my world, I am an auntie.
My world is not so broken. This year has been filled with pressing weight and anxiety, panic attacks and weeks spent hiding under the covers but still, it is not so broken. I am not so broken. This trip has reminded me that in my house, I am the peaceful one. The one that’s goofy and silly and happy to be childish. That my mother leans on me for strength. And my older brother enjoys my silly humour. That my younger brother turns to me as a confidant, and my older sister loves me despite how often we rub each other wrong, and my sister-in-law enjoys my company. I am many things to the people who love me and know me and those things are worthy.
Moving is terrifying. Doing something for just me is terrifying. It’s ironic that I have spent the past six years dealing with some pretty heavy health-related things both personally and with a dear and close family member but this move away from home and alone again makes me feel more scared than I have been in a very long time. Perhaps because I got used to the situation I was in, it wasn’t setting off the alarms in my mind quite so much, but right now, I’m spending a lot of time telling myself to breath easy.
Megan Married Herself
She arrived at the country mansion in a silver limousine.
She’d sent out invitations and everything:
her name written twice with “&” in the middle,
the calligraphy of coupling.
She strode down the aisle to “At Last” by Etta James,
faced the celebrant like a keen soldier reporting for duty,
her voice shaky yet sure. I do. I do.
“You may now kiss the mirror.” Applause. Confetti.
Every single one of the hundred and forty guests
deemed the service “unimprovable.”
Especially the vows. So “from the heart.”
Her wedding gown was ivory; pointedly off-white,
“After all, we’ve shared a bed for thirty-two years,”
she quipped in her first speech,
“I’m hardly virginal if you know what I mean.”
(No one knew exactly what she meant.)
Not a soul questioned their devotion.
You only had to look at them. Hand cupped in hand.
Smiling out of the same eyes. You could sense
their secret language, bone-deep, blended blood.
Toasts were frequent, tearful. One guest
eyed his wife — hovering harmlessly at the bar — and
imagined what his life might’ve been if
he’d responded, years ago, to that offer in his head:
“I’m the only one who will ever truly understand you.
Marry me, Derek. I love you. Marry me.”
At the time, he hadn’t taken his proposal seriously.
He recharged his champagne flute, watched
the newlywed cut her five-tiered cake, both hands
on the knife. “Is it too late for us to try?” Derek whispered
to no one, as the bride glided herself onto the dance floor,
taking turns first to lead then follow.
Hey poetical friends! This is a brief little note to share some exciting news! I’m thrilled to say that one of my poems has been chosen by bath magg for their first issue! bath magg is an online poetry magazine that is looking to promote new voices in poetry and celebrate the many established poets and writers already in existence in the UK.
Considering my last post, I can tell you this is joyous news and I’m particularly pleased about this. But isn’t that just like life? To be as equally good as it is terrible sometimes? That’s the way of things but I’m appreciative of this opportunity. It has lit a fire in me to submit to more things, try more things and just go for it.
After all, first this excellent online magazine and then…the bookshelves of the world! Right?
Check out A Lending, Not a Giving here.
Hello! Another long few months of silence but never fear, I yet live! I’ve had the intention to post at least once a month over the last few months but alas, the best laid plans of mice and men and all that… it has not quite worked out that way. Life has been tough and kicking my butt quite a bit over the last two months but still…we persevere.
I think a lot of the experiences we go through, however difficult, at the very least give us the chance to learn something about ourselves and how we go through the world. Whilst thinking of this over the last two months, I realised I have a habit of holding on too hard and too long to things I should let go of. And this inspired the following…
Sometimes let go. Sometimes leave.
Sometimes take the option with the least amount of pain.
Sometimes run. Far and fast and with everything
you can salvage after the war you’ve been fighting.
Sometimes let go. Leap and dive into the unknown
Because what you’re leaving behind is worse than
What you might meet on your way.
So let go.
There are times when taking care of you, your mental health, and your peace means walking away, even when you don’t want to. And that’s okay.
I am made of the things doubt is made of :
Questions in the night
Shadows gathered together as the light dims
Blurred lines and late-night musings
Confessions after the certainty wears off.
The things I refuse to touch;
the knowledge that I don’t know
but make my home in the place
of hope anyway.
That edge between assurance and doubt
that lets me fall either way on any given day
And my best is a balancing act on a wire.
If you want to know where I am,
You can find me there
placing one foot in front of the other
arms outstretched for balance
hope in one hand, doubt in the other
head aimed at the end of the line.
© Rehema Njambi
Hello and happy new month, friends! The start of this month has been better. I’m a little less overwhelmed (even a little goes a long way), one of my favourite poets has released a full length novel — AND I HAVE IT!– and it’s that one sunny week we get in England so really, I am wonderful!
This is just a roundup of the things I’ll be reading this month, what is on my wish-list for later and a little about what I’ve been writing!
To start with…can we just appreciate the fact Ocean Vuong has a novel out?! If you’ve been following my Instagram (sly promo), you’ll know I’m a massive Ocean Vuong stan. And now I get more Vuong? Yes. Yes, please! He writes his prose like it’s poetry and I cannot rate it highly enough. And to top that off, you can get the book on audible where Vuong is narrating! Worthy of all your coin, I sincerely promise you!*
On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous is on everyone’s radar…and the hype is to be believed! Highly recommended.
Okay, so another poetry author I will automatically buy from, no questions asked! Jericho Brown has a new collection out! Well…it has been out for a few months. The Tradition is my wish-list title for this month. I can’t wait to get it since I already love Brown’s writing, style and poetic voice. I absolutely loved The New Testament (go get it!!). It continues to be one of those collections I go back to again and again and I can’t explain how much I love it.
I came across it at a really low point in my life and it spoke to me in so many ways. So I sing Jericho Brown praises to one and all…and can’t wait to get The Tradition (it’s on its way!).
It’s been a tricky few months with the writing. Since I’ve been super drained and the writer’s block has been real, I was finding it hard to pick up the pen. However, I do have actual deadlines for something I’m submitting to so I have been taking myself off to different cafes around Oxford — yes, it’s an excuse for cake– and have since begun chipping away at the block.
It feels like it’s going to be a good month. If only because I’ve got such good things to read! Let me know what’s on your radar, what you’re reading, what I should have an eye out for.
Talk soon! Till then stay awesome and read books.
Hello! It has been so long. Over a month in fact. I hope you’re all good. I won’t lie, the last month and a bit has been quite overwhelming between work and home and living. I’m sat in the office finalizing several things for a conference and it’s late. It’s been raining all day and both my mood and anxiety are ticking over towards a kind of doom and gloom that matches the torrential rain and grey skies outside.
For whatever reason, my mind has decided that today is not A Good Day. But that’s okay. I’ve spent most of my day at my desk attempting to breathe easy and although it doesn’t feel so great, I’m reminded of a phrase I wrote a while back in an old poem. It is about goodness, about gratefulness and about those moments like today when you’re fighting to breath easy.
Remember the good. Remember strength.
Remember that hope does not diminish
even when it feels absent.
This is currently my creed. I’m hoping for a better, easier month than the one I’ve had. And in case these words might resonate with you, I offer them up for the moment. Be kind to yourself this month.
Sharing something a little different today! So, a writing group I’m part of has been working on an audio project for the past few months and finally…we’ve gone live! Being part of a collective of like-minded people is such a brilliant opportunity to learn, grow, and stretch yourself as a creative. And my fellow writers and creatives in the Oqique Collective are excellent at providing exactly the kind of environment in which you can grow, learn and stretch yourself.
The Readings, our first project of this year, is a collection of short audio stories. And they are now available across all platforms!
Check out my story ‘Memory’ here on spotify and listen in to the other stories available from Oqique Collective!
Hello! I hope your NaPoWriMo is going wonderfully so far! Between work, several ‘secret’ projects, and attempting to be a normal, functioning adult, I have to say my writing has been a little hit and miss over the past week or so. I did however, come across an old thing I wrote a while back and so…here! Old but gold?*
*Not really, but I did enjoy writing it! It was part of an old challenge from my writing group. Feel free to try your own hand at a poem or free write with the prompt below!
You look like you’ve never
braved this road before;
the fear hammering your chest seeps through and I see it,
in the tremor of your hands and the quiver
in your voice when you ask, “Here?”
Not every path is made for
your feet to tread
is what you mean to say with your “Here?”
But yes. Here. This is where all knowing of self begins.
So for love’s sake, mean it when you take your first step…here.
Let no one explain to you how it is done.
They will only sing about their escapades and really,
what good is a troubadour when your path
might just break the legs right out from under you?
No, this is one you stumble through– mostly alone.
Head high so the doubt is only visible to those
who place worth enough on your struggle to look you in the eye.
Head up because the ones pointing at your shaking legs
and faltering feet will never earn the right to your gaze.
Head up. Walk. Someday, ages and ages from now
when you brave yet another unbroken road,
this journey will make all the difference.
Thank you for taking the time to read! Good luck with your writing for the rest of the month, poetically minded friends!
NaPoWriMo anyone? It’s national poetry writing month and I can’t say how excited I am for this! A month where we celebrate poetry, write poetry, live poetry, breath poetry?!
Okay, so maybe that’s a little excessive but seriously, this month is a great opportunity to dive into a collection, pick up a pen or maybe drop in on a poetry reading or spoken word night. However you want to go about it, try and have a little bit more of it in your life this month.
I’m definitely trying. I’ve actually spent the past month or so finding some new podcasts and I came across this particular podcast in my searches. And what a treat it is! The Poet Salon is a podcast where poets talk over drinks prepared especially for them. It’s insightful, funny, and completely engrossing — and gives you the chance to get to know more about some of the best up and coming poets out there right now!
It’s also an incredible learning tool. The first few minutes of the podcast feature a quick Q&A where the hosts answer questions from their listeners and many of these questions are around how to navigate getting your work published, advice on writing, structure, form, etc. It’s wonderful! I have to say though, since I’ve listened to all of the episodes they have up so far, the Rick Barot episode has a fantastic amount of advice, information, and is really a must-listen!
So, as you go through this month, I’d like to gently point you in the direction of The Poet Salon. Listen for entertainment but also for an excellent learning tool and for encouragement with your writing. For my part, I’ll be talking part in a month-long writing circle with a few poetically minded friends. We’ll be sharing prompts every day in a bid to write something new each day for the whole month (gulp!). So…if some of it is good, you may see it. Heck, even if it’s bad…you may see it here!
Happy #NaPoWriMo my poetically minded friends!
Hello! It’s been such a long while since I was here. Almost three months…phew. The end and start of the year is always a tough one for me, so I tend to disappear into a blanket fort with books and chocolate aplenty close to hand. For that reason, things have been quiet –although the buying of books, and the reading of poetry has not diminished!
It’s the start of another month and this one brings with it something old and something new to dive into. I’m looking forward to reading some new collections I have bought and been gifted with over the last few months! Especially this glorious collection by one of my favourite poets and performers! Nafeesa Hamid’s Besharam. is out now and available to order! Highly recommended…
So, friends…I might be a little late to the party (this is nothing new, I’m *always* late!) but I’m eager to see what this year brings. What words will have me scrabbling for my stickynotes so I can pin them to the wall; what new and amazing poets and poems will come my way. And more importantly, how many more of you I get to talk to and with about my love of this wonderful art form!
A couple of weeks ago, the world of poetry lost one of its heroes. Ntozake Shange, an American playwright and poet who addressed issues relating to race and feminism and a voice that will forever be unforgettable, gave us one of the most visceral and heart-wrenching collections of poetry I’ve ever read. For Colored Girls (who have considered suicide /when the rainbow is enuf ) has in turn inspired countless other writers, particularly of colour, and set the bar for what you can do with this art form.
I was first introduced to her work through the highly-acclaimed (and somewhat unexpected?) Tyler Perry film (For Colored Girls) by a dear friend and it is still, to date, one of the most disturbing but necessary films I have ever watched; and a sincerely loved collection which now sits at the top of my TBR pile once again.
For Colored Girls was Ntozake Shange’s first work and she premiered it to high acclaim as a theater piece, though it has now been widely shown both on stage and on the screen.
A bold, heart-breaking, humorous, and thoroughly human and unapologetic exploration of black womanhood and feminism in general, there is not a single part of this collection that doesn’t touch you in some way. I still to this day have moments where I flash back to that scene in the film (seriously, watch the film!), smile at my favourite line (I found God in myself/ and I loved her fiercely–read the collection!) and laugh when I remember the dancing in the play (if you ever get a chance to see it staged! DO!).
All this to say, Ntozake Shange changed the game for many and her presence will surely continue to be felt. Rest in peace, Ms. Ntozake Shange. You articulated so much that had been unsaid for so many and we can only thank you for your words.
It’s Black History Month in the UK! A month to celebrate, educate, uphold and cheer on the fact that black lives and black history matters. This whole month, many are celebrating all things about black history and I couldn’t let the chance pass me by to share some of my favourite poems from black men and women! This particular poem by Lucille Clifton felt, to me, like a wonderful place to start.
Won’t you celebrate with me
what i have shaped
into a kind of life?
I had no model.
Born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
I made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding
tight my other hand;
come celebrate with me
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.
As a black woman in the UK and a black immigrant, this poem is one of my favourites to reach for again and again. It is a declaration. A celebration. An acknowledgement that despite of everything black men and women face in their lives every day, they are living and thriving and we should absolutely shout to the rooftops for that.
Happy #BlackHistoryMonth, friends.
Today is World Suicide Prevention Day and a day to raise awareness on this issue. Whilst there are many poets and poems that have addressed this issue, I came across Derek Walcott’s Love After Love and was struck by how much hope it spoke — at least to me. The message and idea that this too shall or may pass, that somewhere down the line, it is possible to reach a place where one can see life with a better lens.
This aside, mental health and well-being is so, so important. If you feel you are not in a good place and aren’t coping, please reach out to someone or if you can’t talk to anyone in your life, please contact the NHS, or Samaritan helpline, or the national suicide prevention line for free 24/7 confidential support and help. You are loved, and are wanted. You matter and are important.
The time will come when,
with elation you will greet yourself
arriving at your own door,
in your own mirror and each will smile
at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger
who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread.
Give back your heart to itself,
to the stranger who has loved you
All your life…
Who knows you by heart.*
*NB: I have shortened the poem and made slight edits as this is how I read it. To read the poem in full, please check it out on Poem Hunter here, and you can listen to a reading by Tom Hiddleston here.
Several months ago, a lovely collection came through the post for me. I wasn’t sure what to expect — although it goes without saying that the T. S. Elliot prizewinning poet is more than just talented at this word thing. But as I’ve revisited this collection over and over again in the past few months, I cannot express how much it has spoken to and reached places in me that I wasn’t expecting.
Vuong’s Night Sky With Exit Wounds has been reviewed far and wide by far more qualified people than me so I really feel there’s little I could add to what has been said, other than to say…
This collection of poetry grips the heart with a firm grasp and leads you, with a gentleness that’s all the more noticeable because of the skill employed, into a place where all of your heart is invested. I also highly recommend listening to the author read some of his poetry. It is worth every penny and more besides (buy one for a friend!) and it’s truly something special.
Night Sky With Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong is out now and available to order. Find out more about the poet here.