How I Write A Poem

Research has formed an integral part of my poetry writing process for as long as I can remember. One of my first poems was written after watching a documentary with my Nanna about wolves in Yellowstone Park – I was under double figures. The older I get, the more madly curious I become, and the bigger the role research plays in my creative works.

Too many people I’ve met over the years have been afraid of writing poetry. Any potential passion sabotaged by overly strict English teachers, who’d long forgotten that joy can be found in the poetic word.

I’ve held workshops with people – youngsters and adults – who’d never dreamed of attempting to create their own poem. Primarily because of their horribly negative experiences at school. Many of them also thought poetry to be ‘fucking boring,’ ‘for posh people’ or ‘just too bloody difficult.’

Hearing my students openly express their disdain made me all the more determined to show them that penning poetry can be a life-enhancing experience, one that can enable you to not only better understand the world, but develop a greater ability to reap the joy in living.

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I Start With Looking For Inspiration

I have been, for the past few months, using Google Alerts for gathering poetry inspiration. I signed up to receive emails from Google and whenever stories of interest are published, they’re sent straight to my email inbox. For example, I ask for all blog posts/news items on Witchcraft, The Arctic and The Moon, to name but a few.

I didn’t know that today I was going to be writing a poem about witchcraft. You see what I do is I’ll go through my mails, from newest to oldest, and jot down anything that claws at my interest.

It was after I’d read an article about the Black Moon, and a piece about a woman who called herself a Hearth Witch, and described the term in great detail, that everything started to fall into place and I knew what I was going to write about.

There was something that she wrote, about becoming more family orientated, which had me thinking about what it would be like for a Hearth Witch give birth…we’re trying for a baby at the moment, so motherhood is often on my mind!

Then I’ll Do My Research

For this poem, I did a little bit more reading into the Black Moon via The Old Farmer’s Almanac and re-read the piece I mentioned earlier. (I note everything down in the notebook I’m currently using. I don’t care about it being neat so long as I can read it. The most important thing is getting the stuff down.)

I use Random Word for almost every single poem I write, and for this poem I jotted down at least 4 pages of random words which I felt could be weaved in. It’s inevitable that new ideas are formed at the sight of particular words too…

The Writing Begins When I Feel I’ve Gathered Enough Research Material And Odd Words

Once I have some form of scruffy draft in my notebook – more often than not it’s just the first two stanzas – I open  up Microsoft Word, put everything down and start spinning the piece together.

I usually spend an hour on a first draft, then half an hour to an hour altering and adapting. It’s very rare that I’ll leave a poem unfinished to work on the day after.

It’s usually the last stanza which I have trouble with in a poem, and Hearth Witch is no exception.

Then Comes The Posting

I’m working on a new poetry collection at the moment, but I like to gauge the reaction from people about the pieces I’m creating, so I’ll post my ‘final’ draft on Facebook and A Living Witch.

It’s when I do this that grammar and spelling mistakes, as well as shitty words and placements glare up at me…I feel momentarily humiliated – there are countless poets on Facebook whom I respect and I want to give my readers only the best of my words –  but it’s worth this momentary shock to the system, as I can shuffle what needs to be shuffled and re-imagine what must be re-imagined.

Below is the finished result of today’s workings. I feel really strongly that I’m going to return to this one…that there is still more to say.

Hearth Witch (Before Facebook)

There was a black moon rising

the night you were born to me,

 

the night I came in from the forest

where I’d skinned seven rabbits.

 

Their eyes became cold as glass,

while my waters gathered around

my thistle scratched ankles,

nettle stung toes.

 

I still had their blood under my nails

when you slid out from between my legs

in front of the fire made with the wood

chopped by your father the day before he left.

 

I wrapped you in three pelts, quickly sewn

together with thread of cow eyelashes,

and pressed you against my leaking breast,

while I wrapped our placenta in brown paper,

and put it on ice to fry the following morning.

 

Suddenly, my mixing spoon became as powerful

as my broom.

 

In time, when you were old enough

to come from the breast,

 

I combined foraged mushrooms

with my milk, fed you from my

second and fore fingers.

 

I taught you to capture the sun,

as if can give you untold strength for days.

 

I taught you that it was good to always

come back with something from the forest

a broken sparrows egg, a rabbit skull, owl pellets

to pull apart and examine and taste.

 

When you started to bleed,

I told you to send your questions

to the moon, and to listen for her reply

coming down through the trees.

 

Hearth Witch (After Facebook)

 

There was a black moon rising

the night you were born to me,

 

the night I came in from the forest

where I’d skinned seven rabbits.

 

Their eyes became cold as glass,

while my waters gathered around

my thistle scratched ankles,

nettle stung toes.

 

I still had their blood under my nails

when you slid out between my legs

in front of the fire made with wood

chopped by your father the day before he left.

 

I wrapped you in three pelts, quickly sewn

together with thread of cow eyelashes,

and pressed you against my leaking breast,

while I placed our placenta in brown paper,

and put it on ice to fry the following morning.

 

Suddenly, my mixing spoon became as powerful

as my broom.

 

In time, when you were old enough

to come from the breast,

I combined foraged mushrooms

with my milk, fed you using my

second and fore fingers.

 

I taught you to capture the sun,

as if can give you untold strength for days.

 

I taught you that it was good to always

come back with something from the forest

a broken sparrows egg, a rabbit skull, owl pellets

to pull apart and examine and taste.

 

When you started to bleed,

I told you to give your questions

to the moon, and to listen for her reply

coming down through the trees.

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New Poem : Death Rattle

Death Rattle

 
Years before my womb became a home,
I was told stories of the death rattle,
that it sounds like air blown through a straw
at the bottom of a glass of water.
Now, when my 9 year old
becomes hungry for air,
 
I wish I’d never been told.
 
In a little while she’ll know only night.
There will be no more mornings.
 
My 9 year old is sick right to the bone.
 
We talk about the donation of her eyes,
the only part not crossed out.
 
She isn’t scared of not having eyes.
She is scared of fire.
 
She leaves us in November,
when the frost first lingers beyond morning.
 
There was no rattle,
only the smallest, slightest sigh,
 
like when I used to catch her reading
when she should have been sleeping.
 
They take the eyes of my first born,
quietly, without fuss.
 
We keep her for a week,
turn off the heating, leave all the windows open.
 
I stroke the weak cage of her ribs,
the orb of her head, kiss her moon pale mouth,
her lavender face.
 
I talk about how she had to fight to be here,
how she left my womb already a warrior.
 
It takes several men to break the earth
in the woodland, it takes one bird
to sing her home.

A Witch Working Out With Karrimor Running Shoes

When it comes to working out, I usually keep the same pair of trainers until the soles are practically transparent. Bad habit? Probably. But I can’t bring myself to replace a pair until they’re so worn out my socks are making contact with the trail I’m bounding along.

I was brought up to use my shoes until they were A: too small (in which case they’d be passed on to the next in line otherwise known as my younger sister) or B: literally falling to pieces.

While I wear a thrifted vest top and a pair of £2.50 leggings from Primark to work out in, I know the importance of a good pair of running shoes. But I also know that you don’t have to spend a small fortunate on getting a pair…if you look in the right places.

A few weeks back I was in the motherland (England) and had come to the realization that my Reebok trainers of two and a half years were done. They’d run their last mile. I had always struggled to get decent, all black trainers that were in my price range (£15 – £30), so my Reeboks, and the Reeboks before, had been red and white.

Now, while they’d been supremely light, amazingly comfortable and all round epic to run in, I hadn’t felt entirely comfortable wearing them. And I never put them on to do anything other than workout in. Which is kind of sad, really.

I went to Sports Direct, having already accepted that I’d probably be leaving with another predominantly red pair of trainers…but lo and behold, I practically walked into a podium of Karrimor Running Shoes, the majority of which were actually black. Needless to say, I said a quiet ‘thank you’ to the universe.

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I picked out a pair of entirely black Duma Running Shoes. Perfectly, beautifully, satisfyingly black from lace to sole. (Apparently they’re men’s…but pfff. Really don’t care. Anyway, I have wider feet than most women, so they fit me much more comfortably than the narrow princess sized women trainers on offer. ) Apparently my feet are junior size (Euro 38) so I managed to nab my pair for the very sweet price of £25. I have had Karrimor before – a pair of walking boots – and the quality had always been ex-ce-llent.

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The first time we went out running together, I felt so freaking confident that I felt like gaily skipping my way around the trail. I was also so mesmerized by how good they looked they I almost went arse over tit several times.

The fact they allow air to circulate around my feet means that over heating, sweaty skin wasn’t something I needed to worry about. They were light too. Oh my word, they were light. There’s nothing worse than heavy trainers. They make the experience of running more of a chore than anything else. With the Duma Running Shoes I enjoyed my run and actually smiled through the burn.

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The Pros

  • The colour – I feel like me when I’m out running, not like I’ve just nabbed someone else’s running shoes. Also because they’re black I can wear them to do stuff other than workout, which I’ve never been able to do before with my running shoes. They liberate me.
  • The fit – The fit couldn’t be better, and the padded and shaped ankle collar makes them supremely comfortable.
  • The weight – I can fly in these they’re so light.
  • The breathability – The breathable mesh upper covering the top of the shoe is thin (but immensely durable…I’ve tested it by hiking off the trail in the Swedish forest) allowing air to circulate to my feet meaning I don’t overheat and finish my run in a pool of sweat water.
  • The price – My previous running shoes (both Reebok) have set me back £15 a piece on sale…but I was more than happy to shell out £25 for these.

The Cons

  • I’m struggling to find any!

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I’ve yet to test these out in wet and muddy conditions, but I might do a second review a few down the line to let you know how they are faring!

 

 

 

I Was The Winner Of A Raintower Giveaway

I have been crazy crazy crazy passionate about the mystical world of Swedish artist and designer Naomi Nowak for years now, and have, with a great deal of respect in my heart, watched her Stockholm based sustainable business Raintower take shape and grow wildly, beautifully towards the stars.

I’ve been a painter, graphic novelist and illustrator my whole life…Raintower clothes and jewels often begin in the same place my paintings or drawings do – by wishing a vision in my mind existed in the material world. I experiment with fabric textures, colours and dyes and many of my garment designs come about organically just like a piece of art. – Naomi Nowak

So, when Naomi did a giveaway on Instagram of any three prints, I leapt at the opportunity like a hungry she-wolf into the back of a bison. Our walls at home are starved of art and I have been yearning to fill them up.

The giveaway took a matter of minutes. All I needed to do was share my favourite piece of art by Naomi and put down the appropriate hashtags. I’ve taken part in countless giveaways before, but lady luck has never put her hand on my head before…

However, a week or so later, the news came that it had been my name that was plucked out of the hat. I endured a few moments of hyperventilation, before springing over to her Etsy Shop to choose my three prints. It wasn’t an easy choice by any stretch of the imagination…but here are the three I selected.

*Interested in buying these? Click on the titles to do so.

Mountain Flowers

Ulf

Baba Yaga’s Garden

Thank you Naomi, for your generosity, for your visions, for your being here and magicking more beauty into this trembling, fragile world. xx

 

 

 

A Swedish Midsummer

This weekend just gone was my second Midsummer in Sweden. And, like every celebration ought to be, it was deeply, gloriously, refreshingly magical.

Midsummer in Sweden is a big deal. At this time of the year – the VERY FUCKING HOT time – in northern Sweden, the sun always remains above the horizon. In the South, it only sets for a few hours. This can prove to be a pain in the arse if you don’t have yourself a pair of black out curtains, as I have come to realise.

Swedes are so massively enthusiastic about Midsummer, you could almost say they become manic in the approaching days. It’s sort of crucial to just go with it, else you’ll be seen as a kill joy. As well as being an ancient pagan festival, Midsummer is the launch of the LONG summer break, which the majority of Scandinavia enjoys.

Everyone is flitting around trying to get things done, before the nights start to get longer, and the cold months start to creep back. This includes tanning the shit out of themselves.

Midsummer celebrates fertility and in gardens across this northern land you’ll find a phallic looking Midsommarstång (Midsummer Pole) erected.  A Midsummer Pole is a beautiful thing, decorated with foliage, masses of summer flowers that have been harvested from the fields and the forests and patriotic yellow and blue ribbons.

Food is central to the celebrations…namely potatoes in various forms. If you celebrate Midsummer, it’s inevitable that you will, at some point during the festivities, fall into a potato coma. It’s so worth it.

This year, like the last, we made the four hour journey to Middle Sweden to spend the weekend with the man’s family in Hagfors, AKA the small town in the woods…woods that are populated with moose, bears and wolves, as I relish pointing out at any given opportunity.

I had been dreaming about Midsummer for weeks, though predominantly  the potato and anchovies dish Jansson’s frestelse (Jansson’s Temptation) and Jordgubbstårta (strawberry cake.)

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The journey to Hagfors is through miles of farmland and thick forest. I always say a little prayer to the universe before we set off, asking if we can have the privilege of having a glimpse of the forest king – the moose.

The universe clearly doesn’t like me that much at the moment though, because I’ve yet to see a moose to gasp at.

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The style of the Swedish home is something really special, especially Sebastian’s family home. It had an air of tranquility about it that I  haven’t felt anywhere else. It’s virtually impossible to be pissed off when you’re being washed with light.

Woman of the house Pia has exceptional style, and I appreciate it that she appreciates   Swedish author and illustrator Elsa Beskow. Every month this frame receives a new interpretation by Beskow.

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Sebastian took on the task of creating the Midsummer Pole this year…I helped by snipping some greenery off a few bushes. The pole never did get it flowers though, turned out we were too busy inhaling potatoes…

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…and stopping the latest member of the family  – a Maltese puppy called Ozzy – taking off our fingers with his adorable needle teeth.

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I’m not much of a drinker, so preferred to just look at my glass of strawberry cider.

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Midsummer is very much about the Strawberry Cake.

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With Sebastian’s dad living in the woods, when we visit we’re regularly reminded of the fragile line between life and death. Even on a blissful weekend like midsummer.

We always pass this ancient moose skull at the end of his road, and there is usually something recently dead when we arrive. In this instance it was a lizard that had met its fate at the teeth of the lawn mower. We also stumbled across a newly shed snake skin among the flowers.

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On the way home, enticed by a sign offering a view of a rune stone, we pulled off the main highway and ventured through the narrow country roads.

When we finally found it, it turned out that it was no ordinary rune stone, it was, in fact, the Järsberg Runestone, one of four in the region of Värmland and one of the best known stones in all of Scandinavia. Discovered in 1862, it dates way back to the 6th Century. Needless to say, I was pretty psyched.

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The road home.

NOTE: If you’re interested, you can read about my first Midsummer here on my archived blog The Girl With Cold Hands.

A Thrifty Witch Haul : Little Witch On The Prarie

As a young un of about seven, I used to pretend that I was Laura Ingalls Wilder. We had The Little House On The Prairie series read to us in school and I was besotted. I mean, if I happened to miss one story time for whatever reason, I’d cry. Literally. It was the best part of going to school and was always the last thing we did before the day came to a close.

We had four channels on the TV and when we quit for school at noon, I’d go home and eat my lunch – usually beans on toast – while watching The Little House on the Prairie adaptation. I loved, and still do love, the wholesomeness of the show, but even at the tender age of seven, I was infatuated with the fashion, and felt I needed one of those floral pioneer dresses to make my life complete. I never did end up with one, until the other day.

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I have only just started to feel comfortable with wearing floral stuff. When I was deep into Goth, the overuse of roses in Gothic fashion made me feel nauseous. So I turned by back on pretty much every floral decoration I encountered.

But yesterday, while out thrifting in Erikshjälpen in Borås, I found this staggeringly gorgeous pioneer dress for 65 krona or just under £6. Needless to say I flung myself into the nearest changing room.

While I was admiring the little blue buttons and the fluted collar, the full sleeves and the sweet floral design, a little voice took a swipe at my joy, saying ‘really Katie? What the hell do you think you’re doing with this, are you crazy? Look at how not black it is?’ But I didn’t listen. I bought the dress and was finally able to fulfill my pioneer dream…now I just need to find a field to run though.

I Have Been Wearing The Same Boots Since 2010

I say the same boots, what I really mean is the same style. I’ve gone through 3 pairs of black French Military Ranger boots in 7 years, wearing them almost constantly.

I always keep my boots until the soles are so thin they let in water, and the leather is cracked enough that pieces of my socks end up peeking out through the cracks.  I’m not one of these women who will wear a pair of shoes and get bored of them within a few weeks.

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If I buy shoes, boots, whatever – I need to love the shit out of them. I need to love them forever. I don’t like to buy needlessly. Anyway, I stuck with these boots because they became a big part of my character. Plus, they’re outrageously comfortable when they’ve been worn in.

My current boots are getting to the point where they’re going to need to be replaced, and I’ve been wondering when I should put in an order for them, but then something happened…

A little pair of red shoes from Office came along my way for free. Slipping them on…well, you’d have thought I was fucking Cinderella. There was very little of that self pitying whine of ‘oh, but they’re not black.’ I got over that pretty bloody quickly. I love this Oxford Style too much to be depressed about the fact they’re oxblood not black. I haven’t worn them outside yet, but when I will, I’ll be a proud woman walking.

 

Today’s Poem : When I Am With Child

When I Am With Child

When I am with child,
there’s a chance I’ll suckle icicles,
binge on beach combed glass,
chew the ends of my hair.

My uterus will wax from
the size of a snowball to a pumpkin.

The egg my child will form from
will be the same size as what sits
in a rabbit’s or a whale’s body
at the beginning.

I may lactate
if I hear the rattling sound
of a baby crying.

By the 20th week
my body will be warm
with 50% more blood
than before conception.

My heart will swell
to accommodate
the increase.

I will not be burned at the stake
if I ask for pain relief.

I will not be told
I need to feel the pain
for Eve’s actions
in the Garden of Eden.

When I deliver,
my pelvic bone will part
in the middle
and the cartilage
will never really go back together.

Witch Toast

For someone who eat, sleeps, breathes black, I shouldn’t have, in theory, fallen madly, deeply in love with Mermaid Toast . But I did. The Insta-toast-artisans captured what looked like the Aurora Borealis in cream cheese. Of course I was going to be impressed.

But naturally, I needed to go against the grain, and I thought to myself ‘Witch Toast. Make some black as sin Witch Toast. It’ll be fucking brilliant. People will love it.’

While nobody has made said ‘Witch Toast’ before, somebody did make  Troll Toast. Peeved was I? Only slightly. It looked perfectly grim. My thunder had been dampened, but I went ahead and made my Witch Toast anyway.

The fantastical toasts I’d been enviously examining had all been crafted with natural colourants, and an ideal world I would love to have used charcoal like they did with the Troll Toast, but sadly today was not that day and I had to go with your basic food dye.

While I was expecting my cream cheese to go a glorious matte black – as the dye had promised – I ended up with a misanthropic looking storm cloud on one slice of toast and a choppy sea mid winter on the other.  Not all too terrible a result then.

Unlike the people who made the Mermaid Toast, I did eat mine. Philadelphia Cream Cheese isn’t cheap. It was bloody delicious and, interestingly, the first grey foodstuff I’ve ever consumed before.

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If you want to give this a go…

Ingredients

  • About half a 200g tub of Philadelphia, maybe a bit more (I went for the Light version.)
  • Black food dye. I got it in a little tube. Probably about 5 grams. I used it all.
  • 2 slices of wholemeal bread. The thicker the better.

Directions

  • Toast your bread. Let it cool. Spread a thickish layer of Philadelphia on each slice as your base.
  • Divide the rest of the Philadelphia up into two bowls.
  • Use your best judgement as to how much dye to use. Be creative. I used a lot for the misanthropic storm cloud toast, and was more sparing with the choppy sea.
  • Apply your dyed cheese in dollops and smear it around as artistically as you can.
  • Photograph the shit out of your toast and spread the images like the plague. With any luck they’ll go viral.
  • Don’t forget to eat the stuff. There’s enough food waste in the world as it is.