Tag Archives: poetry

Poetry and education

A blog post by Raphaëlle Goyeau, a student volunteer in Special Collections. Raphaëlle is a native French speaker who used poetry to help her learn English.

On 21 March, we are once more celebrating World Poetry Day. It happens that it is also, since 2016, Education Freedom day – an observance in honour of all free knowledge and educational software online. To celebrate both, let us introduce Bill Griffiths and share some of his legacy by learning a bit of Old English through his poetry translations.

The Battle of Maldon, and its beautifully bound version, tell us of the real 991 battle between Anglo-Saxon and Vikings – which does not end well for the Saxons. A large part of the poem has been lost, but what remains is now available in Modern English. Below, the original version next to Griffith’s one.

Het þa hyssa hwæne hors forlætan,   He-bade then warrior’s each horse to abandon

feor afysan, and forð gangan,             Far-away to drive  and forward to-march,

hicgan to handum and to hige godum.       To-think on hands  and on mind worthy,

Þa þæt Offan mæg  ærest onfunde,             When it Offa’s kinsman  first discovered

þæt se eorl nolde yrhðo geþolian,             That the earl would-not lack of spirit tolerate

he let him þa of handon  leofne fleogan    He allowed then from his wrists cherished to-fly

hafoc wið þæs holtes,  and to þære hilde stop;

Hawk towards the woods, And to the  battle advanced;

As you can see, several words can be used to identify where in the poem we are when looking at the translation. Other words can probably be translated through the context. Can you see what “gangan” means? What about “leofne” or “hilde”?

Phoenix

The Phoenix, on the other hand, was itself a translation when Griffiths made the Old English version into a modern alliterating text. It would be an adaptation of the Latin poem De Ave Phoenice, which tells us of the mythical Phoenix, resident of the Garden of Eden whose life cycle never ends. As in  Greek Mythology, the bird grows old, dies, but rises again from the ashes.  It appears first in the first verses at the beginning of the part two, here in Old English:

ðone wudu weardaþ                                           wundrum fæger

fugel feþrum strong,                                           se is fenix haten.

þær se anhaga                                                     eard bihealdeþ,

deormod drohtað;                                               næfre him deaþ sceþeð

on þam willwonge,                                              þenden woruld stondeþ.

And here, by Mr. Griffiths:
This is the FOREST GUARDED by a GLORIOUS BIRD
BEAUTIFUL, and brave of FEATHER “PHOENIX” is CALLED
It KEEPS its HOME HERE, in SOLITUDE
SWEETLY DWELLING; for DEATH never TOUCHES,
While TIME ENDURES that DELIGHTFUL SPOT

Some words can be more or less easily identified. For example, it seems logical that the Old English “Fenix” would have given us the modern “Phoenix”, and the modern “death” can be guessed by the shape of “deaþ”. Others, such as “anhaga”, can reaquire a dictionary, which would tell you that it means “solitary”, or “recluse”.
Having both texts in hand, could you guess the meaning of “haten”, “wudu” or “woruld”? Answers below!
From Battle of Maldon
Gangan: to go, here “to-march”
Leofne: dear, beloved, here “cherished”
Hilde: war, battle, here “battle”
From The Phoenix
Wudu – Wood, tree, here “forest”
Haten – named, here “called”
Woruld – cycle, eternity, long period of time, here simply “time”

You can find these texts and much more in our Bill Griffiths Archives

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Freedom poems inspired by the collections to celebrate National Poetry Day 2017

Today we’re celebrating National Poetry Day by being part of a range of events. Emma Filtness, Lecturer in Creative Writing, teamed up with Special Collections at Brunel to encourage the writing and sharing of new, original poems on this year’s National Poetry Day theme, “Freedom”.

Items from the collections that resonated with the theme were offered as inspiration for participating poets. The featured items were:

Have a read of the selected entries below – enjoy!

A Woman’s Guide to Travel

by Simi Abe

Woman, you are origami first and foremost; born as cold pressed stars, water-shy boats, and flightless cranes. Age taught you how to undo your form, now you can be everything and anything. You were made to accommodate and occupy small spaces. This comprehensive guide will show you how to do so when in transit.

How to Sit on the Train

Next to a man made up of wide angles

Alter your shape to mimic his outline. Fold your knees to one side then crease your ankles against the train floor.

Between two men with sharp intrusive corners

Make unassuming angles of your violent, womanly curves. Gather your legs onto your seat; keep your knees pressed against your chest and arms neatly tucked in.

When a man fails to acknowledge your form

 If a man ever sits on you by mistake, collapse your ribs to accommodate the brute force of his spine. Compress your organs for the betterment of his comfort.

If you’re caught next to the precipice of his knee

Learn to invert your body. Hook a leg over your shoulder and scrunch the other beneath you. Press an arm behind your back and drape the second one over your head.

Simi Abe is currently studying Creative Writing in London. She uses her unique perspective on the world to examine the female experience and identity within her work. She draws inspiration from the playfulness in surreal art and beautiful film cinematography which help her create strong visual images. She especially enjoys experimenting with surrealism because it is an excellent way of pushing creative boundaries.

19:52 to Paddington

by Kirsty Capes

The sea seems far gone now, the tide tugged away
by a cancer-moon and
I am placing narrow feet into high-heeled shoes on
the station platform. Smells brittle,
like industry, like metal in blood,
something aged but nascent. Something
emerging from the womb.

When the train arrives, there is a
you are far too pretty to be travelling alone and then:
bile. Stinging the throat, the mouth, the back of the nose.
The guard says thank you,

thank you ever so much.

There is no time to read. Someone in the
next carriage is chain smoking;
face obscured. I imagine
the thing inside me growing stronger.

The imprint of a puckered mouth, coated with
chili-coloured lipstick,
smeared on the windowpane.
Outside, dusk is the yolk of an egg,
spooned out and split.

We are sorry to announce
the Circle Line is closed for engineering works.

Kirsty Capes is a postgraduate research student and teaching assistant on the Creative Writing programme at Brunel University London. Her poems have previously been published in Rising, Roulade and Astronaut magazines. She writes at femalefriendshipinfiction.wordpress.com and tweets at @kirstycapes

 

In the air

by Marina Cicionesi Jansson

encapsulated in the airplane,
out of reach of coming down
she´s resting in the blue seats,
a calming blue she has come to know
in the middle of going and coming,
from home to home through terminals
once, London was new;
a thousand red buses dissed her in the roundabout
the first time she came up from the underground
a vibrancy of the unknown shook her into being new
who do you become when always being in the in-between?
in one landscape you come to play a role,
in another you´re not the same
she learnt to leave, leave and leave
as each day is a chance of re-awaking
each time a take off she lets go
of her old self in the known
waving to the past,
to who she knew her self to be
each landing is a new start,
opening the eyes seeing blue
yet she´s lingering, in this comfortable encapsulated blue
unwilling to leave the non-gravity moment,
its transparent air, this above-perspective
revealing all her directions simultaneously
a looking glass of a make believe,
awakening those limitless capacities
shaking her like turbulence,
this eagerness!
arising like watered sprouts to the sun  
if I only could bring this certainty to the ground!
she will remember it in things that are blue
once, in the unknown coming,
she´ll blossom in blue

Marina Cicionesi Jansson is currently studying an English with Creative Writing BA at Brunel University London and moved to London in early 2015 from Sweden. As she is still living between the countries, and travelling when not studying, the feeling of being in the “in-between” strongly influences her writing. She also works as a photographer and art director with the focus on social and environmental challenges: http://marinacj.se

A Cautionary Tale

by Emma Filtness

I am the girl with hair the shade of Mother’s copper pot / the girl with freckles that develop over time like rusting iron / with eyes the colours oak leaves turn in autumn / the girl who wears a hooded cloak steeped in madder root / who carries a basket of dark rye bread and heady honey-wine / the girl lured by the sweet rot of the after-harvest / who snatched up the last of summer’s flowers / stems snapping and paper-leaves rifling / the girl who looked with longing into the dark of the under-canopy / whose pulse throbbed hot at the first grey glimpse of pelt / the girl who sighed as she met the amber gaze of wolf / the girl who did not listen to her mother

Emma Filtness lectures in Creative Writing and English at Brunel University London as well as leading community Creative Writing sessions. Her poetry, short fiction, reviews and articles have appeared in magazines and journals such as Popshot and Writing in Education. Find out more: https://emmafiltness.wordpress.com/

Victoria, Siempre

by Jonathan Pizarro

In the eastern breeze you navigate
Your mother’s veins,
That ran through roads unexplored
By her mother’s mothers.

Transcendent,
And keeping with the pump of
Lungs
That drew breath
On different words.

In knots measured
A challenge,
Sails full for those lands
Bombed by yonder enemy,
Yet feeling the magnificence

Of possibility,
While a city burns around you.

The guilt,
It turns with each passing bus,
It hangs on the sleeves
Of the nuns who give you
The taste of gasping
Knowledge.

What a fountain
What a rebirth,
What a beautiful sensation
Of paper turned and ignorance
Forgotten.

And then to return,
To silent revelry.
To the turning of
Beads
Until you get to the
Cross,
Decades again repeated.

But never wanting,
Never tied.
Always those sweet breaths
Of memory,
The black and white film
Of when you ran
Free.

Jonathan Pizarro is a mild-mannered English Literature/Creative Writing student and writer. In particular, he explores horror and speculative fiction in relation to his hometown, Gibraltar. Follow Jonathan on Twitter @pizarrofiction and check out his blog.

To read more “Freedom poems” check out the National Poetry Day website.

We are delighted to announce that the winner of our creative writing competition is Simi Abe, for her poem A woman’s guide to travel. Congratulations Simi! Your prize is a library bookbag, Waterstones gift card and some writing-related goodies. We’ll be in touch to get them to you.