Sunflowers and Mountains
Fields of happy faces,
each turning to the sun:
flowers bid us welcome
and our holiday’s begun.
From sunflowers’ yellow loveliness
(and even more surprising),
I lift my eyes to deep blue mountains
lining the horizon.
I know I’m miles and miles away,
which tells me it must be
quite marvellous and magnificent,
that mountain range I see.
But now a line of poetry
returns to haunt and please,
as what was just a name before
is real: The Pyrenees!
I can’t reach out and touch them
or climb the mountains’ height,
but if they’re full of fleas that tease,
it won’t be me they bite!
poem © Celia Warren 2014
I’m back from a wonderful family holiday in the south of France where we stayed in a gite (a rented holiday home). We were in the middle of the countryside a few miles north of Carcassonne.
To my delight, in the far distance – well beyond Carcassonne – lay an amazing mountain range. If I looked south to the horizon all I could see were mountains – however far to the left my eye scanned, or however far to the right – more and more mountains. It was a mountain range whose name I knew, but I had never set eyes on it before – not even from a distance: these mountains were the Pyrenees. And each time they caught my gaze, through my head ran a line from Hilaire Belloc’s poem Tarantella … “And fleas that tease in the High Pyrenees …”
Have you read the poem? It’s one that I chose to include in my anthology A Time to Speak and A Time to Listen (Schofield and Sims) – in the Time to Dance section. If you have a copy, you’ll find it’s poem number 40. If you don’t have a copy, ask your school or library to order one.
Holidays are a time for making memories. In a couple of months’ time, on Thursday 2 October, it will be National Poetry Day when this year’s theme is Remember.
I’m very proud to have contributed some poetry writing workshop ideas to this year’s celebrations, on behalf of publisher Schofield and Sims. These will soon appear on the National Poetry Society website. Meanwhile, have a look at a host of inspiring ideas for writing poetry on the Forward Poetry Site. There’s a workshop for each letter of the word ‘REMEMBER’. You can find my workshop – again, written on behalf of Schofield and Sims – if you scroll down to the middle E of R.E.M.E.M.B.E.R (E for Epitaph).
We’re breaking up today!
You mean you’ve got a bad signal on your phone?
You mean we can’t be best friends any more?
You mean we’re falling apart, like weather-worn rocks?
We’re breaking up today – and
before you say another word – no, don’t speak! –
we’re finishing school for the summer:
for six whole weeks!
You mean we’re going to be bored?
I’m going to
tidy my room
ride my bike
read a book
do what I like
bake a cake
build a den
paint a picture
plan a picnic
go for a walk
play with friends
enjoy a talk
play some footie
visit a mate
rent a film
stay up late
go for a swim
and, if I remember,
go back to school
in early September!
© Celia Warren 2014
What are you going to do when you break up? Whatever it is, stay safe and have fun!
So, England is out of the World Cup! We didn’t put our stamp on football this time, but when I was a nipper, we put football on a stamp. That was in 1966 when England hosted the event. Here’s a sonnet that I wrote, remembering my excitement when England won … but for rather a strange reason! (PS I don’t collect stamps any more. The excitement proved too much for me!)
SONNET FOR ’66
From Bobby Moore to hat-trick star, Geoff Hurst,
Quite soon I knew each England player’s name:
The World Cup nineteen-sixty-six – my first.
On black-and-white TV we watched each game.
Then, in that gentle stamp collecting age,
With England acting as the World Cup host,
A Special Issue stamp hit centre stage
Commemorating all we loved the most.
And then we won! – The few remaining stamps
Were overprinted, blackly: ENGLAND WINNERS.
We flew on bikes to buy some – we were Champs.
That stamp, to me, was worth a hundred dinners!
No postage-stamp since then remotely licks
The ENGLAND WINNERS stamp of ’sixty-six.
poem © Celia Warren 2014
May is such a flowery month that I thought I would share some of my seasonal flowery limericks:
A popular purple delight,
Whose blooms are occasionally white,
The foxglove can kill
Or, at least, make you ill,
Yet disease digitalis may fight.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
The ubiquitous dandelion spreads
Its delicate seeds to new beds.
At first yellow and bright,
It turns white overnight,
Then goes bald, with the smallest of heads.
Plantain (Plantago major)
Once part of a young children’s game,
From a distance it seems rather tame,
But look closely — you’ll see
Frail, white stamens, so wee:
Pretty plantain, to shoot it’s a shame. All poems & pictures © Celia Warren 2014
When we were children we would pick plantain, twist and squeeze the stem around itself, pull sharply, and fire off the flower-head like a bullet from a gun. It was only a weed; we didn’t think twice. Now that I look closely at that delicate mist of stamens around the flower head, it seems like sacrilege to spoil this little flower and turn it into ammunition.
Today my thoughts rest upon the talented poet, Gerard Benson, whose funeral takes place today. My thoughts, too, are with his widow, also a gifted poet, Catherine Benson. Gerard was not only an excellent writer and speaker, but a lovely, gentle and generous-hearted man. He had a mischievous sense of humour and, a member of the Society of Friends (or Quakers), was also a spiritual, Christian man.
He has left the world a lasting legacy through his wonderful words. It was a blessing to have known him and I feel proud and honoured that, when I was collecting poems for my recent anthology, A Time to Speak and a Time to Listen, Gerard was among a handful of poets who wrote a new poem especially for this book. Thank you, dear Gerard, for Shirts for Us Kids, and for all you shared with those whose paths you crossed.
If you never knew Gerard, or have never met his poems, I exhort you to look through the index of poetry anthologies and seek him out. Let me introduce you to his work, so that you can meet him through his own words. If you would like to read the poem that Gerard penned especially for my anthology, it appears on page 77 or, for a taste of the poet’s whimsical wit, read Whoo-ooo-ooo-ooooo! on page 89.
Gerard Benson, rest in peace.
Apparently lots of people do! At least, a good number of people share names with Wonderful Worms in my brand new book of poems, called Don’t Poke a Worm till it Wriggles. A fair few more could identify with the anonymous worm in my alphabetic poem: A secretive worm is X.
Woolly Worm (acknowledged as the real author of the book) and I (the scribe) had a wonderful time at the Blackawton International Worm Charming Festival held on the Sunday of Bank Holiday weekend. The South Devon village was alive with the little wrigglers. A rousing chorus of Nobody Loves me, Everybody Hates me, I’m going in the garden to eat worms … set the mood for a procession through the village. Led by maypole and morris dancers, they finally reached the competitive worm charming event.
There are many methods of charming worms – stamping, sprinkling water, playing music and, OF COURSE, reading them lyrical poems. One team was disqualified for digging – tut tut! Then again, the event always supports an official cheat – and a junior cheat. (I did notice the junior cheat looked a couple of inches taller than last year. “Yes, I am,” she said.)
So … do you share your name with a worm?
Anna Worm is acrobatic,
Bertie Worm is brave,
Charlie Worm is cheerful,
a daring worm is …
It’s no good: you’ll have to get hold of a copy of my book to find out!