There but for Fortune … and a Rucksack

The Rucksack Project Banner
The Rucksack Project Banner

Fortune seems to be the word of the moment for me; it keeps recycling itself and coming back to haunt me! On the one hand I’m not surprised, because I feel I’ve had my fare share of it. I was born into a middle class family, privately educated, for the most part and afforded the grants to enable me to attain undergraduate as well as postgraduate degrees. As a result of this start in my life, my career path has enabled me to get jobs in disciplines that require scientific, engineering and management skills, which later led to positions outside my original education and training, including giving me sufficient wit to own and manage my own company for a while.

Recently, I become involved, through the initiative and actions of Peter Wilkin, a Poet friend and co-author of the anthology, “Petrichor Rising”, which we published in July this year, in a charitable project, which is an early rising star of the social networks, called the Rucksack Project.

The Rucksack Project is relatively little known charitable concern, set up within the last two years by one man, Matthew White. It is not a registered charity because it does not accept donations. Instead, it empowers people physically to contribute their time along with the resources of local charity shops to make up a rucksack containing several essential material items aimed at helping to sustain homeless people against the cold Winter weather.

Whilst in the process of preparation for this rucksack ‘drop’, which is planned to take place in Bradford, UK, on 21st December, I was recently told a story by a fellow chorister of his meeting with a homeless person. In brief he had passed the gentleman of the road on his way to a well-known fast food restaurant for a quick bite. Because my friend didn’t have any change, instead, whilst getting his own meal, he bought and extra meal and a cup of hot coffee. On his way back to where they were performing, he explained why he hadn’t stopped before and gave the homeless person the meal and coffee he’d just purchased and carried on his way.

Within a few paces, he felt the meal, still in its bag, fly past his left ear; clearly, it wasn’t wanted by its homeless recipient. My friend uttered his displeasure to us with the swift judgement of one who maybe hasn’t experienced at first hand, the kind of issues that drives people to become homeless, which include alcoholism and drug addiction; which in turn can be caused by pre-existing mental health issues, neglect or abuse, particularly as children. Or perhaps my friend had just not thought about it long enough to come to a more humane conclusion.

I would say to anyone who has not been touched in some way by a mental health issue, in a family member or a friend, or who has not come across a child or teenager, who has been abused – either physically or mentally – and consequently disenfranchised from family life; tossed into the precarious position of depending on the largesse of others or the state; they are not work shy wasters! Instead of throwing charity at them and running, try sitting down beside them, talk to them and find out what is their story … and listen. If they have become an agitated addict, this won’t be easy, but do try, because you may be surprised how much it means to them to be treated like a fellow human being, like equals. It behoves us to remember how lucky we are. There but for fortune go we.

– John Anstie

© 2013, essay,  John Anstie, All rights reserved
Photo credit ~ LHC -CHERN Cocument Server licensed under CC A-SA 3.0 Unported License

John_in_Pose_Half_Face351w-rH34dTL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British poet and writer, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer. John participates in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. John is also an active member of The Poetry Society (UK).

product_thumbnail-3.phpJohn has been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

* Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.

“Petrichor Rising” and how the Twitterverse birthed friendships that in turn birthed a poetry collection

This collaboration by the Grass Roots Poetry Group is a wonderful example of how social networking can work at its very best. This feature is the companion piece to John Anstie’s Bardo post on Monday, “To Edit, Perchance to Publish …” and includes an interesting interview with John as well as a brief review of the book. Several take-away lessons from the GRPG collaboration. Enjoy! Jamie

THE POET BY DAY

product_thumbnail-3.php“I always had this notion that you earned your living and that poetry was a grace.” Seamus Heaney (1939-2013), Irish, poet, playwright, translator, educator and Nobel Prize winner

I’m sure my friend, John Anstie, poet and renaissance man, The Bardo Group core team member, and editor of and contributor to Petrichor Rising (eBook and paperback), a 2013 poetry collection of The Grass Roots Poetry Group (GRPG), would prefer that I focused on the poems and the collection. The former feature-writer in me still loves a good story though. (Forgive me, John!) The coming together of this group and the publication of their collection is as good a story as any and better than most … and hence, I break my usual self-imposed word limit on posts. Read on … You may recognize yourself in some of this …

“I do accounting. I am a writer.” an…

View original post 1,772 more words

Earth Prayer

[I cannot remember what it was that inspired this poem, but, when all is said and done, I think it and the photo from Max Mitrofanov speak for themselves]

Picture credit: Max Mitrofanov (via triumph.dev1antart.com)
Photo: Max Mitrofanov (via triumph.dev1antart.com)

Dear Earth,
mother of us all,
solar sister,
child of the Universe,
our common blood
was carbon, nitrogen,
oxygen and hydrogen,
in concert with the stars.

Astronomical forces
great voids imploding
then exploding in light
with dust and smell
of a thousand million
godless bombs
driven to extinction
by unlimited energy.

Facing the hideousness
of death at day’s end,
the weight of this life
seems so much lighter,
in the brightness
of our knowledge,
portending reunion
of the atoms we are.

Dear Earth,
mother of us all,
in your patience and
your tolerance of us,
breath a huge sigh
and remind us
who we are and
whence we came.

© 2013 John Anstie

Picture credit: Max Mitrofanov (via tr1umph.deviantart.com)

John_in_Pose_Half_Face351w-rH34dTL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British poet and writer, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer. John participates in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. John is also an active member of The Poetry Society (cover1UK).

John has been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

* Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.

Hearts of Oak

poppy-fieldThis is primarily for Remembrance Day, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the Armistice. It speaks not just, as used to be so often the case, those who gave up their lives in war, but for all those countless others, from civilian and service life, who suffered as a result of war, their lives damaged in so many different ways.  It begs the question: “what is the point of war?”

In all that’s written of this day
I will say only this:
for every single life that’s lost
hereafter may be bliss,
but not the kind of bliss that you
can feel of heavenly truth,
those dreamy summer days that lost
the innocence of youth.

It isn’t here that rapture’s found
nor magic hearts of oak.
Instead, to free the body’s hurt
and love of life that broke,
in time, the route from suffering,
when they could fight no more,
was caring for their brotherhood,
and yielding life to war.

How soon forgot the agony,
the torture of their ends
and freeing them from all the tears
that tragedy portends.
By all the loved ones left behind
a lasting price is paid.
For they must live with pain of loss,
their own release delayed.

By all the soldiers left behind
another price is paid.
For they must live with damaged soul
a mind forever frayed.
So on remembrance day be sure,
when you recall the lost,
remember too the broken soul,
their bliss a greater cost.

– John Anstie

© 2013, poem, John Anstie, All rights reserved
Photo credit ~ Martin Birkin, Public Domain Pictures.net

John_in_Pose_Half_Face351w-rH34dTL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British poet and writer, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer.  John participates in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. John is also an active member of The Poetry Society (cover1UK).

John has been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.

Battle Horse

Lonely_by_Sylwiaa
[I’ve heard Ekphrasis* described as one of the ugliest words in the English language. In writing this poem, I would like to try and make it ironic]

In this, another war poem, at the same time I both celebrate and mourn the destiny of millions of horses in the front lines on World War 1. Here, I may talk about a strong stallion with great heritage from the same lines as pure bread battle horses that served knights of old before war became so mechanised.  The first world war was the turning point between the old and new ages of war, in which the military cavalry masters of the old order clashed with the new; and the result was an unmitigated armageddon, an unprecedented tragedy of slaughter in blood and mud … there is no undue irony in this great stallion’s story, insofar as it’s consequences, though its life is spared, its mental health is not, like so many human members of the armed forces who serve on or near to the front lines, who physically survive but who are consumed, through trauma, by some degree of mental illness.

Her gentle hand enwrapped his nose
and pulled it to her face.
Behind his nostril, where there is
the very softest place,
she kissed him tenderly and smelt
the scent of peerless blood
that coursed his veins and caused his mane
to tremble with a power
that came from generations of
highbred aristocracy.
This kind of power was visible,
it rippled like a lake
that caught a sudden gust of wind,
and shimmered, glistening.

He’d knightly strength for greater things
and so it proved to be.
A friend of friends, an officer,
had visited to see
and beamed at his magnificence
there was no doubt for him
that this beast was set to ride
for glorious history…

…until his inglorious return,
a sight that broke her heart.

His eyes had depth of understanding
she knew too well. Their look,
injected as they were with fear,
but not the normal kind
– the kind that came from healthy gallops
over his favourite fell.

No. This fear, its source was made …
(what she saw then choked her eyes)
… made from inner visions of
an unspeakable kind of hell;
mud-filled craters’ stench of death,
through endless shock of shell, but
unshakeable loyalty to his charge
despite his spirit’s knell.

In time the empty frame that stood
motionless in the field,
with timeless care she tended him,
though never fully healed
the scars that stiffened weary spirit
that caused him so much pain,
but filled with love and trust once more
the noble steed regained
a hint of what he used to feel:
excitement for the day,
security in his domain,
where once he held full sway;
desire that burned in his dark eyes
to lead her in his way
back to the stable where he’d sink
his nose in soft sweet hay.

– John Anstie

© 2012,2013 introduction and poem, John Anstie, All rights reserved
Illustration ~ Lonely by SylwiaS Digital Art / Photomanipulation / Surreal©2009-2013 SylwiaS

Ekphrasis or ecphrasis, from the Greek description of a work of art, possibly imaginary, produced as a rhetorical exercise, and is a graphic, often dramatic, description of a visual work of art.

John_in_Pose_Half_Face351bhS0cThKL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British poet and writer, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer.  John participates in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. John is also an active member of The Poetry Society (UK).

product_thumbnail-2.phpJohn has been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.

Devotion

William Blake
William Blake

The first and only time, in my life so far, that a piece of music has inspired me to write a poem directly about it, was when I heard a piece of music, composed by Sir John Tavener in 1982 and performed by Harry Christophers’ The Sixteen, whose eighteen members produce the most sublime choral sound I’ve ever heard. It was only by listening to the music, not particularly paying much attention to the words, that I was inspired to write this piece, which is a Haiku Triplet. It wasn’t until a little time after completing the poem, which was originally intended as a devotion to my wife, that I discovered an interesting connection between the music and a famous poet, who inspired Tavener to compose it in the first place. Only when I listened to the words, did I discover that Tavener had based his composition on William Blake‘s poem The Lamb, part of Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience, published in 1789. A full circle had thus turned, from poem to music and back again. I find it quite stirring that William Blake’s poem inspired John Tavener to write music to it and, in turn, Tavener’s music alone, my own poem, whose theme turns back to Blake’s original, perhaps because I think the wording of my poem can also be interpreted as devotional in a religious sense. My original title was in fact The Lamb, because that is the title of Tavener’s composition.

John Tavener
John Tavener

The most significant feature of this composition, which had the greatest impact on my poetic inspiration, is the way that the music cycles alternately between a seemingly discordant, if not quite atonal, series of musical passages and delicious, heart melting harmonies. It had the most striking effect on me. I should confess that I didn’t particularly like the piece at first, but now, every time I listen to it, I am transfixed and cannot help myself tearing up and choking at its beauty. It seems simply to mirror the cycles of life’s experience – from its hardest and most difficult periods to its happiest and most joyous moments and, with it, our responsibility to stay strong, particularly for those we love, through good times and bad, from the discordant times to the harmonious ones.

I cannot find a YouTube recording of The Sixteen singing this piece, but because of its brevity and simplicity, it is important to hear it with the purity and perfection of the best voices, in order to capture its depth and spirit, and the Tenebrae Choir, founded by Nigel Short of the famous King’s Singers, here provide the nearest thing I can find to this quality:

I think I’ve captured the essence of the Japanese poetic form of haiku, which is the seventeen-syllable 5-7-5 three-line verse structure with a requirement to contain “season words,” or Kigo. The choice of this poetic form was very deliberate, not least because it is, by its very nature, capable of distilling the essence of its subject and because Tavener’s composition is also brief, at only three and a half minutes.

Notwithstanding the background, the fascinating influences, coincidences and connections, this poem was and is dedicated to my wife, with whom I have shared a few highs and lows during our nearly forty years together.

This may seem an odd thing to suggest you do, but, in spite of the fact that the choir is singing Blake’s words, I do like to read my poem (contemplatively), whilst listening to the music at the same time …

I leave it to you.

Devotion

(aka “The Lamb”)

From the coldest snow
To the warmest sun you go
And I go with you

From blossom of spring
To golden leaves of autumn
I bathe in your light

From the beginning
To ending of the seasons
I am ever yours.

– John Anstie

© 2011, essay and, poem (edited 2013), John Anstie, All rights reserved

[The poem was also published on the Marriott Love Poems Competition website in March 2011; it didn’t win any prizes, but gave me a bit of a buzz for a short while].

Photo credits ~ Blake sketch by by John Flaxman circa 1804 and in the U.S. public domain; Tavener by Clestur via Wikipedia and under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license
You Tube video uploaded by shawshank4u

John_in_Pose_Half_Face3JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British poet and writer, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Oc casional Musician, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer.  John participates in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. John is also an active member of The Poetry Society (UK).

product_thumbnail.php51w-rH34dTL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_

John has been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

* Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.

Enduring Ancient Wisdom

Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Balkhī (1207-1273), Iranian poet, jurist and theologian, and Sufi mystic
Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad  Rumi (1207-1273), Persian poet, jurist and theologian, and Sufi mystic

I’m trying to follow the theme of an essay, which I wrote for Into the Bardo, “Fortes Fortuna Adiuvat (Fortune Favours The Bold)”, which was published here at the beginning of August. It was a deeply thoughtful piece that probably comes from my own anxieties at the state of the world. In consequence, it became an overly long and involved treatise, in which I tried to encapsulate my understanding of what needs to happen to rescue the human race from itself.

An impossible dream, you might say, and you could be right. However, a couple of weeks after publishing it, I stumbled upon something that struck me between the eyes! It was an eight hundred year old poem, which felt as if it were a personal message from somewhere unknown! Also, another article that was posted here on Into The Bardo, last Saturday, A Biassed Mind Cannot Grasp Reality: A Message from the Dalai Lama, (Excerpts from His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s address to the inter-faith seminar organised by the International Association for Religious Freedom, Ladakh Group, in Leh on 25 August), spoke of how human ‘agitation’ was the cause of many of our woes. This was a particularly enlightening read; I recommend it to you highly.

The first three verses of this poem, appeared from Rumi’s Facebook page and struck me in a number of ways, not least of all because it represents a special milestone in the recognition of so much that I believe about the human condition, which is to recognise our own individuality, our own convictions and that, I would argue, we should take responsibility for our own actions. I had, therefore to seek out its source and find the rest of the poem, written by that much revered Thirteenth Century Persian poet, jurist, theologian and Sufi mystic, Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī.

“Everything you see has its roots in the unseen world” – isn’t this the space between our ears?

“Why do you weep? The source is within you” – ditto

I have, for a long time, recognised that, whilst we may cover ourselves with a veneer of sophistication, we cannot hide from the frailty of our very human condition. The Industrial Revolution, the engineering and technology, which has resulted over the following two hundred and fifty years, may have produced some remarkable examples of our ingenuity, but the problems of the world that remain, which are, for the most part, of our own making, are the same in essence as they were when this poem was written nearly eight hundred years ago, when humans were still humans, but without the technology. It seems a strange irony that this could be a sign that our resultant wealth, which is far more widely distributed than it was eight hundred years ago, has blurred our vision of life’s purpose, whilst at the same time (certainly in the case of this post) aided it, with computer technology.

When we’ve learned this lesson, when we’ve learned, not just how to recognise this fact, but how to respond to it, to imbue the young minds of future generations with the knowledge that they need to discover how they are going to embrace all cultures, all religions and all manner of human personalities (because we adults have not made a great job of it so far and are clearly not entirely capable of teaching them) then, and only then, will we be truly able to move on as a race … and awaken to that much vaunted new dawn, that enlightenment.

I give you the words of one, who probably knew much more and was more qualified than most of us living today to understand the human condition …

A Garden Beyond Paradise

Everything you see has its roots
in the unseen world.
The forms may change,
yet the essence remains the same.
Every wondrous sight will vanish,
every sweet word will fade.
But do not be disheartened,
The Source they come from is eternal—
growing, branching out,
giving new life and new joy.
Why do you weep?—
That Source is within you,
and this whole world
is springing up from it.
The Source is full,
its waters are ever-flowing;
Do not grieve,
drink your fill!
Don’t think it will ever run dry—
This is the endless Ocean!
From the moment you came into this world,
a ladder was placed in front of you
that you might transcend it.
From earth, you became plant,
from plant you became animal.
Afterwards you became a human being,
endowed with knowledge, intellect and faith.
Behold the body, born of dust—
how perfect it has become!
Why should you fear its end?
When were you ever made less by dying?
When you pass beyond this human form,
no doubt you will become an angel
and soar through the heavens!
But don’t stop there.
Even heavenly bodies grow old.
Pass again from the heavenly realm
and plunge into the ocean of Consciousness.
Let the drop of water that is you
become a hundred mighty seas.
But do not think that the drop alone
becomes the Ocean—
the Ocean, too, becomes the drop!

– Jelaluddin Rumi

A Garden Beyond Paradise: The Mystical Poetry of Rumi
(translated by Jonathan Star), Bantam Books, NY, 1992, pp. 148-149
Edited by Peter Y. Chou, WisdomPortal.com

© 2013, essay and portrait below, John Anstie, All rights reserved

John_in_Pose_Half_Face3JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British poet and writer, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Oc casional Musician, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer.  John participates in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. John is also an active member of The Poetry Society (UK).

product_thumbnail.php51w-rH34dTL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_

John has been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.

A Ballad for Stabat Mater (Mothering Day)

Archetypal Gothic Lady of Sorrows from a triptych by the Master of the Stauffenberg Altarpiece, Alsace c. 1455
Archetypal Gothic Lady of Sorrows from a triptych by the Master of the Stauffenberg Altarpiece, Alsace c. 1455

I had written a poem for Mothering Sunday, or Mother’s Day as it is commercially known, which was a few months ago, now. However, I somehow felt it an appropriate story to raise here on Into The Bardo. This is because of the meaning I understand the word ‘Bardo’ has; that is to say a ‘transitional state’ that the Stabat Mater must have entered whilst having to process the extreme emotions provoked by such a harrowing experience, perhaps not the transitional state intended by Buddhist groups, who conceived of this condition, but a transitional state that will, more likely, have provided a protective blanket to help her through the pain.

The poem A Ballad for Stabat Mater struck me on several levels. I had already previously written a poem for my son’s thirtieth birthday (The Fourth Age of Man), basing it on William Shakespeare’s Seven Ages of Man (a monologue, which he wrote to open his play, “As You Like It”). Incidentally, I found it particularly poignant to note that my son had almost reached the same age as Jesus Christ was alleged to be, when his own mortal life ended. So, the latter never had the chance to taste the next three ages; or, perhaps, he lived all seven in that short span of life?

This poem, written in the form of a ballad, was, once again, influenced by Shakespeare’s “Seven Ages of Man”, but this time includes all seven ages. Also, it was, perhaps not surprisingly, heavily influenced by the Stabat Mater, that unforgettable and extraordinarily moving image of this religious icon, Mary, the mother of all mothers, as she stood and watched her own son die, painfully. Stabat mater dolorosa, meaning the sorrowful mother stood, is a masterful understatement. How many mothers could submit themselves to such unbelievable pain! And yet all mothers do, albeit mostly to a lesser extreme, for as long as they live.

I salute all mothers, however good or bad a mother you may think you are, you have still had to suffer for your children.

I hope you enjoy the poem.

A Ballad for Stabat Mater

Do you remember radiance
of one who’s always there
the taste of swollen mamilla,
the scent of her sweet hair.

Whose kiss and gentle healing touch
was cooling with a balm
that soothed your painful childish graze
and injured pride becalmed.

Who taught you that a healing touch
and kiss could lead to more;
whilst she embraced competing love,
you found what love is for.

She stood as you went off to war,
to fight life’s bitter battles.
She taught you all you need to know
to rise above mere chattels.

As wisdoms, many, come to you,
from battles won or lost,
a mother’s love transcends it all
and never counts the cost.

In your old age you may well see
your children bear their own,
revealing then the seeds of love
that Stabat Mater’s sown.

When dotage dims your consciousness,
confusion blurs your view,
expect a revelation that
her love has seen you through.

– John Anstie

© 2012 John Anstie, poem and portrait below, All rights reserved
Photo credit ~ Mater Delorosa by Alsace, Haut-Rhin, Colmar Unterlinden Museum via Wikipedia under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

John_in_Pose_Half_Face3JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British poet and writer, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Oc casional Musician, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer.  John participates in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. John is also an active member of The Poetry Society (UK).

product_thumbnail.php51w-rH34dTL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_

John has been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.

The Secrets of Life … Of Family, Friends, Community and More

“Ha-ha!” I might hear you say, on seeing this headline, “I must read this… the secrets of life” or, more likely, “not another promise of everlasting joy, health and happiness… I don’t believe it!”

Well, maybe you should, but don’t get too excited, at least until I’ve told you what it’s about!

So, if I were to tell you that it takes some lessons from classical Greek mythology, a legendary Italian Poet, Dante Alighieri, who is, some say, the father of the Italian language; a knock on the door of our own Poet and Playwright, Mr William Shakespeare, by reference to that famous soliloquy in ‘Hamlet’, as well as from a little known South African, Eugene N Marais, who did some fascinating and revealing research on the social life of ants; and that it is a poem called… The Secrets of Life then will you have a different reaction? Or will you think it’s a bit overly preachy?

I hope not and trust you will give it a read and tell me what you think about it and, perhaps, give me your alternative views.

What it does come down to for me is the need for some contentment, a reduction in the stress induced in all of us by, on the one hand a fundamental, genetic and unconscious driving force and, on the other, a conscious material greed; one which can help us survive, the other can cause us to fail to find happiness. There is a balance, somewhere.

I’d like to invite you to read the poem that follows, and tell me where you think that balance is, for you.

Thank you for reading.

The Secrets of Life

The riptide pulled and weighed us down,
swimming in our shoals.
It bent us in our will to win,
oh weary, sorry souls.

Oh tiresome, terrifying days
when scholars moved to preach
that all of Christendom was ours,
but always out of reach.

Oh weary, sorry souls, I cried
for all of us, who’re driven,
wherein unconscious mind, so tuned,
lays bare the ego given.

Always, it seems, beyond our reach,
genetics never fail
to teach us how we must survive,
not how to trim the sail.

Ego’s given winds may blow,
but odysseys must end.
For quests beyond our human bounds,
Inferno may portend.

Just when this sea of troubles weighed
too much on mortal coil,
the magic of encircling arms
became the perfect foil.

So I reset the sails for home,
embracing Vesta’s heart;
discovered Marais’ secret strength:
in concert, ne’er apart.

– John Anstie

© 2013, essay, poem, and portrait (below),  John Anstie, All rights reserved

John_in_Pose_Half_Face3JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British poet and writer, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Oc casional Musician, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer.  John participates in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. John is also an active member of The Poetry Society (UK).

product_thumbnail.php51w-rH34dTL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_

John has been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.

Fortes Fortuna Adiuvat (Fortune Favours the Bold)

[This piece was started some months ago, before I wrote the poem Fortune, featured here on the Into The Bardo a few weeks ago. That poem and this piece focus on a common theme, which is, perhaps more than any other in my writing life, a constant thread of philosophical thought for me. This is that, however much we may be short on fortune, there is never cause to give up on our hopes and dreams, or more realistically, our ‘visualisation’ of what we want from this life.]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Picture, via Google Images and courtesy Canvas Art (www.the-canvas-art-shop.co.uk)
Picture, via Google Images and courtesy Canvas Art
(www.the-canvas-art-shop.co.uk)

Oh what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive!
(Sir Walter Scott, Marmion, Canto vi. Stanza 17.
Scottish author and novelist: 1771 to 1832).

Some days are better than others . . . 

The better ones allow me to indulge myself in my passions. I could have walked the dog and come back feeling refreshed, or have attended a rehearsal with the Waldershelf Singers and feel utterly uplifted, or complete a piece of prose or, better, a poem and feel a sense of release. On other days, I feel disillusioned, cynical, angry, like throttling public figures (politicians) to within an inch of telling them what a bunch of useless, self-interested, lying, cheating ne’er-do-wells they are! … which they are, almost to a man (and woman) …

Why is it that, once human beings attach themselves to an organisation, an establishment, a business, a company, a corporation, a religion, or they declare their political affiliations, somehow, they lose the ability to tell the truth, assuming their integrity would allow them to differentiate between the truth and a lie, in the first place. They become overly deferential, assume the organisation’s rules are right and, worst of all, become somewhat apathetic and are inclined to assume the ‘elders’, senior leaders of the organisation are right and therefore entitled to our undying respect.

This subjugation of self, a denial of the person that was borne into this world, through that infinitely variable process, driven at its lowest level by chemistry and physics, in turn determined by the relevant genetic ‘pool’ and nurtured by the geographic, economic, demographic, societal and political environments it is our fortune, or misfortune, to have grown up in, is undeniable. This denial of the uniquely wired ‘self’ and its particular talents and aptitudes, opinions and attitudes, and the ability to discern right from wrong, truth from the lie, and I mean the real truth, the kind that only you yourself will know deep inside, is almost guaranteed.

Does it have to be this way?

I think that I’ve come to hold this position rather late in life. Questioning authority is the stuff of rebellious youth, isn’t it? When we didn’t know any better, few had any time for the opinions of young people, anyway!

Is it so, because we are too shallow? … I don’t think so, not for everyone, anyway.

Is it because we are too lazy or unable to think for ourselves … almost certainly for some.

Is it because we have to earn a living? … inevitably a contributory factor.

Is it due to the fact that, as human beings, in spite of our incredible capacity for ingenuity, we are still very insecure; none of us are ever entirely in control of our lives and I mean NONE of us, given the uncertainties of our own health and particularly of the natural world and what Mother Earth herself can throw at us!  We therefore have to enwrap ourselves with a protective external blanket, woven by someone else’s dreams or designs, at one extreme by the premeditated manipulation of tyrannical leadership or, at another, simply by the desire to ensure the annual bonus, a generous pension, public honours, a knighthood … or simply the reassurance of knowing from where our next meal will come?

Is it because we are all limited in our capacity to take on too much information, store all the factors affecting any number of problems that face us each day; wrapped up in life’s complexity that sometimes threatens to overwhelm us, wouldn’t we prefer to take an easier option and permit others to make decisions for us, which acts as a perverse kind of freedom? Herein lies a major truth. But it’s not easy for managers and leaders either.

Contrary to the impression we might receive from those in stations so elevated, it may act as some comfort to those who aren’t to know that the higher up the ladder of success we go, in whatever field of human endeavour, the more insecure we get. Why, you ask? It is because we have our limits, all of us, and some of us are more limited than others; that is our birthright, given the variable abilities, with which we are endowed, the tactics and strategies we have learned and been taught to cope; it is the way we are wired. The higher up the ladder of success all this leads us, the stronger becomes our inclination, consciously and unconsciously, to hang on to whatever we’ve got; the more inclined we become to develop further selfish strategies to aid this survival process. That’s what it is to be human, well, at least to be an animal. Being human does, nevertheless, endow us with an extra ability: high intellect and, with it, a great responsibility and, yet, this tendency, this seemingly irresistible force, does inevitably lead to greed.

So what happens!

We get our heads down and graft, manoeuvre, wheel and deal, whatever it takes to gain influence, fame, attention, success, with whatever vanity or hope or need that has the greatest hold on our hearts, minds … and stomachs.

At some future moment in time, we then find ourselves, well, what’s the best word to describe it … trapped, yes trapped by our ambitions, needs, material greed, more than by hopes and dreams.

I should say something about dreams. Before you think I’m about to crush them, I’m not. As one who writes poetry and pieces of prose like this, I find dreams are just as important as the ambitions of a professional footballer I know, who learned, early on in his journey through that precarious profession, that visualising your goals (figuratively as well as literally in his case), that is imagining yourself scoring the goal, over and over again, is a truly powerful and effective way of motivating yourself to feel better about your abilities and potential. This is, for me, an unexpected way in which to feed the creative imagination; such is the process that leads to the products of human ingenuity as well as understanding and success. But, a word of warning about dreams! They can also be manipulative! They can be induced and ‘used’ by others to manipulate control over lives – take advertising, particularly on the television, as one example!  We need to learn how to distinguish good from bad dreams, your own from other people’s dreams, just as we should be able to tell the difference between good and evil.

Now, I’m not necessarily talking about conspiracy theories here, about demons and evil people, who sit in back rooms and scheme to overthrow regimes or gain control of whole populations. No, I’m talking, for the moment at least, about the demons inside our heads; the ones that lead us to the point of paranoia, the fear of not being ‘successful’, wearing the right ‘fashion’, living in the right district, driving the right car, appearing in all the right ‘places’, doing what’s apparently ‘right’ in society … tricky concept this, but I’ll try to explain my thinking.

If you were to ask a child of five or six to tell you their dreams of how to make the world a better place, wouldn’t they give you magical answers, which involve the charm of fairy tale characters and imaginative, not to say unusual (and, sadly, unlikely) conclusions to their stories?

If you were to pose that same question to a child in their mid ‘teens, wouldn’t their answer be tainted with a little more realism, perhaps even a touch of hopeless, hormonal cynicism, whilst still retaining some of that childhood naiveté, a lack of what we grown-ups would call wisdom?

If you were to ask a grown up poet or a philosopher, I think their answer would come out in one of several subtle ways, but one thing is for sure, any poet, with integrity, that I know, would try to address all of the issues that confront us head on, in an honest way. This is perhaps because they rarely make a living from their writings and, therefore have no vested (financial) interest in it, other than for the integrity of their material and perhaps for a bit of recognition!

Even Poets …

Yes, even poets and philosophers have to live and pay their ‘rent’. So, somewhere along the path of life, we have to align ourselves with an organisation or two, toe the line and obey the rules. We most certainly should obey the law and, if we don’t agree with it, don’t break it, lobby to change it! There is nothing wrong with toeing the line, provided there is a fair share of integrity within the organisation; provided that we don’t lose sight of our own personal integrity, justice, beliefs, values and, above all else, what we know, deep down inside, makes each of us unique individuals, our identity.

For those, who are born with a genetic code that, given the right environment, encouragement and education, predestines them to a life of leadership and possibly even greatness, let us not forget that for those of us, who remain, whilst we may not have had the good fortune of the same faculties and opportunities, we do nevertheless represent the vast majority of the population of the world. So, if we do still have a vote in what can reasonably be described as a democracy, then we must use it or lose it! If we have the ability to write, we should do it! We must make our mark upon the paper, make our feelings, our values and beliefs known. Whilst we still have the freedom to do so, we have the ability to depose those in power who do conspire to deceive us, who have been corrupted by their privilege and who would continue to weald the power they have from such privilege for self interest. Otherwise we get what we deserve. If that happens to be a comfortable life that we’ve achieved by subordinating our own integrity, it is our choice, but, from where I am now in my life, I know that I would sooner follow and trust someone who refused to allow themselves to be trapped by the material rewards of compromising complicity, than one who, in the fullness of time, would be racked with regret, that they didn’t follow their conscience and their dream of a better life … a better world.

It would be wrong of me, however, to leave you with my totally cynical outlook, without mentioning that, thank God, there are some remarkable people in this world, who, at and on all sorts of levels, do remarkable work on behalf of their fellow human beings. Whether they be local community charity workers and volunteers, international aid workers or the likes of the inspired Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s Missionaries of Charity foundation, they are all driven, by some degree of selflessness, to improve the lot of the less fortunate and I have nothing but admiration for them.

If there is a moral to my tale, this long and rambling piece of prose, it is that I believe life can become much less complex, when we stop trying to satisfy someone else, when we discover the very best in ourselves. However unfair, unjust or unreasonably difficult life seems to be sometimes, we should never allow ourselves to give in to the pessimism that results from a state of despair at the world, to roll over on our backs with our legs in the air! We must never believe that someone else, whether it be a single person or a large faceless organisation, either has control over us or is beyond control by the voting, lobbying, plural us. For writers and poets in particular, as long as we can breath and weald a pen, we can do something, however small, and collectively we are able to make a difference, even if we don’t feel we can hop on the next flight to Africa, we musn’t allow ourselves to believe that we can’t still bring something to the table from our own unique armoury of intellectual skills. We can, above all, in our own way, be winners. It takes courage to step out of the crowd, but courage comes in many colours, one of which is being true to your innermost convictions. Fortune really can favour the bold.

[If you don’t already read it, you could do worse than by starting to read poetry now. Good poetry should open the eyes that are shut, elevate the spirit that is depressed and enrich the soul that is impoverished. Good poetry is the highest form of literature, which should tell us the way it is and feed us with deep insights that we would otherwise not experience; and I mean insights and creative thought that will enable change, not only in your own life, but also others.]

– John Anstie

© 2013, essay and (below) portrait and cover art, John Anstie, All rights reserved

John_in_Pose_Half_Face3JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British poet and writer, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, Engineer and general all-round good egg.” This he tells us with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Add grace and humor to the list.

John participates in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union. He’s been blogging since 2011. John is also an active member of The Poetry Society (UK). He says of his work, “Much of my writing and my poetry focuses on the future and the important part that our children, and the way we treat them, play in this. It also spans a diversity of life’s experiences, some moving war poetry and particularly observations of life for a modern generation.

product_thumbnail.phpAlso a member of Grass Roots Poetry Group John steered their anthology,  Petrichor* Rising,  into publication. It is now in print and available for purchase.  “Petrichor Rising takes you on a journey that exposes you to the full spectrum of emotions, from barely concealed despair to hope, from love to sorrow, with a clear appreciation of nature’s value and humanity’s shortcomings. It rides a roller-coaster that moves you to consider many of life’s challenges from a different perspective, as all good poetry should. It is at once haunting, yet shocking, with aching nostalgia alongside enchanting stories of dragons. It gives you optimism and hope tinged with shadows of doubt. It writes about places never seen and humanity’s uncaring nature, in prosodic social commentaries and observations of the minutest details of life, mood, atmosphere and romance. It contains clever writing that brings you close to the edge of society, still capable of moving you, but not pulling any punches. It has poetry with a universal appeal covering subjects as varied as the loss of a cat or a harrowing account of the 7/7 London bombings, poetry that focuses on the roots of all that makes us respond to life and long for something better.”

* Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.

Welcome John Anstie and Victoria C. Slotto to Bardo’s Core Team

John_in_Pose_Half_Face3JOHN ANSTIE  (My Poetry Library and Forty Two) ~ As near as we can determine, John’s been blogging since early 2011.

For twenty years, he was a Rugby Union player with an ‘eight-pack’, which was helped in the early days by a school run on the same lines as Gordonstoun as well as by farming and working as a leather factory packer and security guard. The ‘eight pack’ was not helped, John admits, by becoming an ice cream seller. He’s also earned his keep as metallurgical engineer, marketing manager, export sales manager, and managing director of his own company. He’s a poet and blogger, a would-be musician with a piano and a forty-year-old Yamaha FG140 acoustic guitar. He is a singer in and chairman of a local amateur choir. He is also a would-be photographer with drawers full of his own history. John’s an occasional but lapsed ‘film’ maker. In his other life, he doubles as a husband, father, grandfather, uncle, cousin, friend and family man. In sort, it would seem John leads a well-rounded life and a rich one in terms of both arts and family. We’re wanting to call him a renaissance man, of which we have several in residence here along with a fine group of renaissance women.

John’s prose and poetry tells us everything else we need to know about him … or at least all that he’s currently prepared to tell us. He has just completed an anthology of the poetry of nine poets who met two years ago on Twitter. He produced and steered the book entitled  “Petrichor Rising.”  It’s publication will be announced shortly by Aquillrelle. The story of this project’s evolution and naming is interesting and enlightening. You can read it HERE. Among other things, it’s another thumbs-up for connecting to like-minded folks through social media.

Victoria and Dave Slotto
Victoria and Dave Slotto

VICTORIA SLOTTO (Victoria C. Slotto, Author)had her first novel – 2940013445222_p0_v1_s260x420Winter is Past – published last year. Her second novel is in progress as is a poetry chapbook. Victoria is a gifted writer and poet, and we are proud and delighted to feature her here. It is gratifying to see how well Victoria incorporates important insights and ideals into the narrative flow of her novel, her flash fiction, and her poetry. If you have occasion to read her novel, you will not soon forget the spirit of her major protagonist, Claire.

Victoria attributes her writing influences to her spirituality, her dealings with grief and loss, and nature. Victoria spent twenty-eight years as a nun. When she left the convent, she continued to work as a nurse in the fields of death and dying and she has seen and experienced much. Because of her experience, Victoria is able to connect with her readers on an intimate level.

Victoria resides in Reno, Nevada, with her husband and two dogs and spends several months of the year in Palm Desert, California. Winter is Past, her first novel, was published by Lucky Bat Books. Victoria is also an accomplished blogger, sharing her fine poetry with us HERE and participating in a leadership role on d’Verse Poets Pub.

SOMETHING NEW AT INTO THE BARDO:  As part of her participation here, Victoria will be bring something quite new to Bardo, a reader-participation post once a month. The ETA to be announced. This participation will be in the form of a writing challenge. We’re doing this in acknowledgement of the many, many talented writers who are so kind and supportive, reading here, “liking,” and often commenting. Readers will be able to participate by entering their post link through MisterLinky, which most of you have used but further explanation will be forthcoming for newbies. Victoria and Jamie look forward to reading your entries and hope that you will also read one another’s work.

Fortune

the work of John Anstie

They see our hard earned fortune there,
in marbled city suites,
floating on a silky sail,
the nap of leather seats.

We had the opportunity,
the pool of genes in code,
a secret reservation for
a public school and Spode.

We had the opportunity
to own the reason why,
that predicates no chance for those
unable to comply.

Our felony, was founded on
a life of common good,
to serve as flotsam in the sea
of guns and power and food.

Consuming guns and power and food,
an irony indeed
that helps the cause of those, who crave
a hope of being freed?

It’s more because they need the work
to feed their flesh and blood;
prevent starvation, declining health
and keep them from the flood.

But threats to blood will ensure
their easy motivation.
So much to recommend the source
of limitless privation.

They have much more, by way of help:
attention of the press;
the poets and the playwrights too,
but nothing of redress.

It’s irony to say ’twas fuelled,
on rapid growth by debt
who is to benefit thereby,
who is to win and, yet …

who is to say what fortune means
if nothing else but luck?
Should we condemn all those who have,
who wouldn’t give a buck

for those whose sad congenital crime,
their birthright, is to blame,
for them, their lot, their plight, their fight,
but who should feel the shame..?

– John Anstie

© 2013, poem and portrait (below), John Anstie, All rights reserved

John_in_Pose_Half_Face3JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British poet and writer. We are happy to share this poem by way of a preliminary introduction to John and his work. John is joining us as part of the core team and will post under his own name.

Meanwhile, this multi-talented gentleman is self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, Engineer and general all-round good egg.” This he tells us with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Add grace and humor to the list.

John participates in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a primary player in New World Creative Union. He’s been blogging since 2009. John is also an active member of The Poetry Society (UK). He says of his work, “Much of my writing and my poetry focuses on the future and the important part that our children, and the way we treat them, play in this. It also spans a diversity of life’s experiences, some moving war poetry and particularly observations of life for a modern generation. I am in the process of steering a collaboration of grass roots poets to publication.” John’s poetry collection is about to hit the bookstores. More on that another day. Jamie Dedes