Wall/Flower - a group poem for National Poetry Day

I thought it would be a great idea if we could celebrate UK's National Poetry Day together so emailed some of my favourite poets and asked them if they would like to take part in a group poem. The guidelines were as follows and we emailed back and forth throughout the day coming up with the lovely poem 'Wall/Flower" below.

1. You can post as many or as little times as you like but to ensure that everyone gets a go ONLY POST TWO LINES AT A TIME

2. Once you have added to the the poem allow a couple of other people (at least) to add to the poem before you post again.

The poets who took part were: Katrina Naomi, Heather Taylor, Nev'l Lewis, Paul Ross, Miriam Nash, Kamaria Muntu, Sean Thomas Dougherty, Jacqueline Saphra, Mahogany L. Browne, Nena Black, Sabrina Mahfouz, Warsan Shire, Den Rele and Naomi Woddis


Should I tell you that I'd reached for you, reached for your city, punched through that stupid wall.

Or should I curl my hand in to an embryo, a sleeping bud yearning for the light ?

A faint bulb beats in me I cast its flame as wide as I can, a fishing rod.

A sea that pulsed once with shoals of silver is viscous now. The bait waits on the hook,

a streak flashing across the murky Thames swallowed in the morning gloom,

I had wanted to call you, I held the empty phone to my ear as they fished the suited woman out of the river,

I was left with the echoes of my breath your warm voice nowhere near my heart.

And then the distance begins, the sky slate, and the chalk dust of our hands.

Scanned ticket prices, hotel deals are reminders Of days before highway exit signs claimed you

a lazy wave laps at the mucky shore, reaches towards the blank silent bank walls

On a lay-by, I see weeds growing through cracked tarmac, their gaudy flowers shimmering like jewels

I tear at their string bodies, pulverize buds under nails. My fingers are wet with their slush.

a reminder that I am enamoured by the slick glimmer of chance, where carnations bloom in your mouth

But I have only descended in body, decaying now upon the shore And my soul now waits beside you, just out of reach for you to see

Can you catch me, I'm the wisp that covers the moon it's silvering eye freezing you with my glare.

call me dear moon, as our footprints stretch across the sky and i scratch your name into the clouds,

That I am now in white moon of cul de sac A house spun away from it's rooms

a spine for your welcome mouth, a hollow doorway anticipating your wretched smile. breath me like water

For I was the energy of the bird in flite and before that The sunflower propped up against a old Roman Wall

And now I am the vastness of poppies and plains wide open like a hungry woman's legs

Moving forward, forever forward till the climax of my soul

clings back and decides that this is all too much a touch, just a touch, is enough

yet held -- motionless, suspended -- with all the impetus of the four winds, sans the sun that moves them

Your light so bright, it worms my soul But the veil I stand behind, God I can not let go

Take just that one step to stand with me my love So we can walk within the puddles of eternity

All I wanted was a conch But you've stolen the sound of the sea.

I think about her again, drowned amongst weeds, the siren call she did not hear.

her face pale mottled like sharkskin her perfect ears wet and glistening like seashells

With her face calm, eyes closed, at peace now As the rope around her neck gently moves in the tides breath

you pick up, a coarse hello, my tongue knots itself among molars the lover beside you coughs, pulls you closer, i swallow your dial tone.

I am drowning, falling in to the moss green water your voice is the hand to save me, I grab your finger tips.

And swallow. My ribs aching with a kick, The sight of you my lift from blindness to light

4 ever more you were more than your my soul, my light & my dark. You were the air that I breathed,

the song in my head, the dance in my feet.

The Turner Plays - a review

Red on Black's Turner Plays takes five Turner paintings and makes short and memorable theatre. Rain, Steam and Speed by Annalisa D'Inella and directed by Lotte Wakeman sees a newly wed couple are on their way to London by stream train. "It can't be good for the body to travel at 44 miles per hour" bemoans the anxious Rose. Herbert by contrast is enthusiastic and overjoyed "Extraordinary - breakfast in Slough and dinner in London" he beams. The couple's conflict is a sturdy metaphor for a much more contemporary discussion. That of the need for rural spaces in a age of advancing and unstoppable industrialisation. Finally the simple act of opening the window as the train travels at speed illustrates how it's possible to welcome in the new even if one feels scared and a little unprepared.

A River Seen from Richmond Hill by Mark Lindow and directed by Catherine Paskell is a pocket sized absurdist drama. One and Two are a pair of eager adminstrative busy bodies who ultimately are shown to be powerless in the face of outside forces.

Fisherman at Sea by Sally Horan and directed by Russ Hope is set in a panic stricken fishing village in Ireland. Bridie is a brittle widow waiting for fishing boat to come in with her two sons on board. With her are her daughter and daughter in law. Bridie has already lost one son, Seamus and, as the women wait, old wounds are brought to the surface. "Stop all this lying' Bridie is told "this poison before it chokes you". This short and intense piece deftly conveys the truth about lack of forgiveness. Bridie's closing words ring a hollow truth that is hard to forget "I'm so alone. I can't forgive him for that. I hope it's little Seanie in the life boat." bitterly adding "Happy now?"

Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying by Heather Taylor and directed by Kaitlin Argeaux charts the complexities in a relationship between two women. Ever changing it's impossible to find solid ground in Heather Taylor's sharply written drama. Spiralling realities compete for narrative attention. A and B were lovers once and retell the story of their past intimacy in this revealing and compelling piece. It is a complex and destructive relationship which neither women seems capable of leaving. "Some times you have to let them go, the dead weight, they'll sink you" is repeated like a self-defeating mantra. The characters undress revealing more of their essence and the stark contrast of black and white, light and shadow. This is a tight and perceptive play about multiple attempts to let go and the repeated psychological torture of a relationship that will not end.

Sea Monsters and Vessels at Sunset by Sam Hall and directed by Arlene Vazquez revisits a viking myth about slaying a sea monster. Helga listens cynically to the Olaf's telling of Sigurd's story. She is both mocking and disbelieving and recounts how she lost a father and a brother "fifty brave warriors sailed in to a bloody sunset and you weren't one of them". In this perceptive and dry-witted drama who killed the monster is unimportant, the story is passed from generation to generation cleverly reminding us about the myths in our own lives and the seductive wonder of story telling.

Human Moments in Time - an interview with Heather Taylor

This interview first appeared on Metaroar. One sunny afternoon on the South Bank over coffee and cake I spoke to poet, writer, performer and playwright Heather Taylor about her three new pieces Hostage : Bleach : Burn.

Can you tell me a little about how these new plays came in to being?

I wrote "Hostage" first. A friend suggested an actor whom she thought I should meet. When I met him he said to me 'I hear you are political, I'm not political' and that idea, that someone who did not have strong a political identity would end up in this situation, was the initial inspiration for the play.

The play is set in an unknown and unnamed place. It could be anywhere because it's about being held as a mental hostage. It was written at the time when Ken Bigley was killed and there were many questions coming up. The character describes his need to get away from his home country by saying "I'm not here for the money, I'm here to escape". There is a sense of other characters there but the audience does not see them. There were three prose sections in the play originally but they were removed and are now part of a collection called 'Horizon and Back', a collection of my poetry.

"Bleach" was inspired by a friend who was living in a small town in western Canada whose uncle died of AIDS. There was little acceptance of this in the community and I realised that the subject matter also brought to light other issues like adoption rights and gay marriage.

I wrote 'Burn' to conclude the trilogy. The play is about secrecy and was inspired by an incident where Pierre Laporte, a French Canadian, was taken hostage and killed. My main character is called Pierre Laporte Morell who believes that his mother has had an affair with the original Pierre Laporte.

People have asked why I am not performing the pieces myself but I feel that having an actor and director to work with gives a new dimension to the work.

Are there any themes that tie Hostage, Bleach and Burn together?

All the plays are about people who are trapped. It was a real revelation for me to work with a designer. The set appears to be sinking like the characters themselves. Also each piece has a ghost in it, a dead son, uncle and a dead father.

'Hostage' has an English protagonist, 'Bleach' is set in Western Canada and 'Burn' in Montreal - how relevant is a national and linguistic identity to these works?

I wanted to explore the prejudices of small town western Canada in 'Bleach', in 'Hostage' there seemed to be a lot of British people who were being held at the time and I wanted to look at this, and 'Burn' I specifically chose something that would include something in French. There is both French and English spoken in Montreal and I wanted to examine that divide. Some of the play is in French but it is not important that the audience know the language. In fact I got some of the dialogue translated for me.

What influence has poetry had on your dramatic writing ?

The stuff I write is very naturalistic. I choose my words very carefully, and I have poetic moments. Some people say that I should have more but I like naturalism. Although I am now playing with different styles.

I try and tell a story in my poetry, I look for a story in a word. I like to be very subtle and that comes from poetry. I trained as an actor and actors feedback that my work very much written with the performer in mind. I deliberately write without stage directions as I want the director to come in and say 'What can I do with this?'

The characters in these three new plays are in very difficult places in their lives where they have no choice - can you tell me more about this ?

I have always thought about the idea that 'where you are from is what makes you'. The only time your metal shows is in crisis, and what happens when you become broken.

Finally, what motivates you to write?

I think this is the story I want to tell, how should I do it? I try and tell those human moments in time.