Joy, Death & Second Editions – starting a poetry zine in Shanghai

The second edition usually cements the first. With the initial impetus, there’s a lot of excitement, a lot of ideas and a lot of learning. By the time the paper dust has cleared, you are a few months down the line and planning a second one. There’s a feeling like, ‘so we’re doing this.’ By the time you are running edition two, you realise you have started a publication rather than a one-off.

This edition emerged out of tragedy. Two days after the fantastic launch of the first one, my co-host at the event messaged our group:

“Guys”

“My beloved girlfriend just died this afternoon in front of my eyes.”

At first you think he’s joking, and then the shock hits you and it seems so unreal. You realise he’s not and you have no idea what to say. It seems like such a strange thing – two days before, you were celebrating and then suddenly everything has changed.

I didn’t know him well before this and I never met his girlfriend. When I saw him a few days later, he hugged me and held onto me for a long time. He was all out of tears, he said, but he wanted to make something she would be proud of, he wanted to carry on her work in martial arts and meditation. And he hoped she could inspire the zine.

Her name was Joy and it seemed obvious what the next title should be.

Over the months since, we have spent more time together and I’ve got to know him as a friend, and have heard more about the amazing person Joy was. As far as I can tell, without having met her, her name suited her perfectly.

And so, the months have carried on. With bereavement I imagine it feels like the world shouldn’t keep moving, but it does and we’ve reached February. The submissions are in, and the chosen poems are in there ready to be read and assembled.

The topic was a tricky one, not one we would have normally chosen. How do you express joy in a poem? How do you capture something so fleeting and rare? Few poets knew the circumstances behind it, though some are likely to take an opposite stance. Others might create a way in through metaphor or by distancing the narrative. I’ve no idea of the response as I haven’t read them yet. It’s certain, though, to be exciting and challenging. We’re hoping for a rich variety of work and a fitting tribute to Joy herself.

If you’d like to keep up with IHOP zine and receive a copy in the post or by email, message me here or follow me on Twitter at @marshalldavi and ask me to follow you back.

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Citizenship and Standing up to Trump

Being British allows me to live and work in China, my passport gives me access unhindered to many countries in the world and the ease of visas to many others.

However, the simple chance of birth should not breed entitlement in me or a sense of my freedoms being any different to the rights of humans everywhere. I am aware of the millions around the globe who have no such rights and no such access. The closing down of borders to those who are fleeing war, deprivation and persecution in their own lands is deeply troubling.

The president of the United States has rumbled through a week with boorish and terrible power signing executive order after executive order. And now this; a ban which discriminates against people by their race, religion and country, one which has caused many to be held at airports unable to get home or reach their families.

America, it is up to you to decide what to do about your president. He is, literally, not my president. I had neither the power to vote him in, neither do I have the power to vote him out. As a human being though, I stand for the rights and freedoms of all those around the world. My British nationality does not restrict me to fight only for my country (something the British PM only barely seems to be doing herself). I oppose everything about this man, what he is doing and what he stands for. And it seems to be entirely counter to the freedoms fought for in the War of Independence.  Amidst all that has been going on this week, I took heart from re-reading The Declaration of Independence, which states:

A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

He has, in recent days been titled ‘autocrat’ and ‘demagogue’ by people of various countries and political standpoints.  With the usurper’s skill and lack of shame, he has taken on the unofficial title ‘leader of the free world’. And he seems bent on using his executive power to silence opposition and force through change without consultation.

In the face of this, I can do little except write and protest. And even my power to protest is limited by living abroad. However, there is one thing I am sure of; as a British citizen I do not want this man to have the right to visit my country. I have signed a petition (already at 1.6 million signatures) to prevent him from making a state visit to the UK. Back home, many people have come out onto the streets to protest against my government’s lack of response to his actions and oppose a visit to the UK.

So although I do not see my citizenship as a restriction on compassion and support for the rest of the world’s citizens, I can use it to fight against a power which is becoming more autocratic and dictatorial by the day.

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/171928

Titles

What’s in a title? That was the question I put to my Year 6 class last week at the end of a three-week unit on creative writing, which had ended in them writing a story based on the theme of ‘Home’ for a competition.

We’d put a lot of work into playing with language and ideas, worked on planning and redrafting. All of them had written stories that were variously amusing, entertaining or tragic and there was a positive feeling from the class about the results.

However, there was just one thing wrong; all the stories were titled ‘Home’.

Of course they were – one of the things child writers rarely pay attention to (and many adult writers as well) is titles. It seems like such a trivial thing, an afterthought. Something that can be added on at the end, if there’s time.

So I decided to run a lesson on titles. Ok, not just because it would help them develop their writing but also because I was being observed by a colleague and wanted something neat and discrete to teach.

In planning this lesson I had 3 objectives:

  • get them thinking about titles which link/reflect/add depth to stories
  • allow them to share their knowledge and ideas
  • everyone to generate a better title for their story (not hard).

The heart of the lesson would focus on them examining some famous titles and reflecting on why they had been chosen. All I had so far was an article I had read a few years ago about famous books which had had different working titles. A lot of Yahooing later (no Google in China without a VPN) I came up with a worksheet. Like Catch 22 was originally going to be called ‘Catch 11’ or ‘Catch 18’. Interesting, even if they hadn’t heard of the novel (they hadn’t).

There was a problem though – I was spending more time on planning than the students would in the lesson. Alarm bells were ringing in my teacher brain. If this lesson took me ages to plan and caused me to put other work (marking!) aside, what use was it to my colleague?

So I stopped planning, did some marking & went home.

The morning of the observation, I still had only half a lesson. How to complete it? I wanted to put more onus on the students to do thinking. I also needed to create some space in the lesson for me to talk for about 10-20 minutes. By chance, I had an old Kagen book in my classroom. I had a quick scan and picked out two structures: ‘stand up, hands up’ (sometimes called ‘sticky high five’) and ’round robin’.* These two would book-end the lesson as starter and plenary and with this the lesson fell into place:

Starter: Ask class, “how many book titles can you name?” Use ‘stand up, hands up’ to share titles then 2 min to write them all down on individual whiteboards.

Introduction: go through titles they have come up with. Questioning:

  • Do you like the title?
  • Does the title reflect what happens in the book?
  • Does/did it make you want to read on?
  • Can you think of an alternative title?

Drawing out lots of discussion about why the title may have been chosen.

Main:

Segue into the famous titles before and after. More chat, especially now can look at things like choice of article. E.g. definite article are more common for titles – ask class why. Can use as an opportunity to drop some cool grammar words in there. Also a chance to talk to the whole class about why titles are important.

Plenary:

The pièce de résistance. ‘Round robin’ (carousel) all their stories & their cleaned whiteboards on group tables. They read each other’s stories & write suggested titles on the whiteboards. As we were running short on time, I set a stopwatch & beeper for this. If there had been more time, we would have spent longer discussing the ideas in groups. As it was, I got them to scribble down the suggested titles and they had to come back the next day with a finished title on their work.

The results? Amazing. We ended up with 21 stories all with different, engaging titles. Some of my favourites speak for themselves almost independently of the stories. In all cases, they made you want to read on. And, of course, every single one was better than the dullity of ‘Home’!

  • Story of Riley
  • Machine House
  • The Boy Noticing How To Be Nice
  • The Drowned Spirit World
  • Falling into the Book

Feel free to steal this lesson. Message me if you want any of the materials or details about Kagen etc. I’m on a break for Chinese New Year so Happy Year of the Rooster!

*If you are unfamiliar with Kagen, I’d highly recommend checking it out. The structures can be incredibly effective in developing specific group work. Ignore the stuff in the book about learning styles, which is now outdated and generally discredited.

IHOP ZINE

Processed with MOLDIV

Hi everyone, we’re now accepting submissions for the first IHOP zine! We’d love you to send us up to 3 of your best poems on the theme of ‘Crossings’ / ‘路口’ by 30th September 2016.

Details:

*Send poems to ihop_zine@outlook.com

*Entrants should be China based

*Poems can be written & submitted in Chinese or English

*Please send poems in Word format or in the body of the email

*The zine will be printed in late October & we will host a launch shortly after. More details to follow

*IHOP – International House of Poets, based in Shanghai.

What We Know About Love

What we know about love

is that it doesn’t always come calling

when we want or expect.

 

What we know about love

is that when you are crouching

in the bathroom at 2am and know

 

you are going to die, you text your mother.

You text your mother because you’re going to die

and want to tell her you love her.

 

What we know about love is

that it comes to us when we least expect it.

What we know

 

is that love is a battlefield

where our hearts are the hills and ridges,

our minds are the forces

 

that fight over them. And no matter

what guns they bring against us,

what we know is that love

 

will defeat them. What we know

is that what they know who hate

is not worth knowing.

 

We know that love comes thick and fast

and when we least expect to be alive,

we are suddenly and viciously alive

 

even if it is only for a moment and

in that moment we can say

‘I love you’ to whoever

 

we want. Even those who have no

way to text or call will be calling out

the names of loved ones.

 

And when the beloved is called,

they always know to answer.

So I know what you are thinking.

 

What your vicious mind tells you.

I know you, and who you are.

Who you, poisoned, are.

 

And I do not accept you. I will not

lie down and be trampled by your lies.

I will not love like you love.

 

That is to say, not to love.

And though I hate you, I will not

let that hate fester or take hold.

 

I will love if necessary, I will love

if possible, I will love or not at all

be loved or expect love in return.

 

Because what I know about love

is that it lasts. And I will continue to try

love until I am tried in return,

 

until the fires of hate are gone. I will love

because what I know about love

is that all we can know is love.

 

13th June 2016

at 1.35am

the evening
is a gift
or
a puzzle
we try to figure out
by tickling the cat
writing love letters
to the sun
the morning
has gone stale
in a beer can
the cat
sleeps on the bed
no concern for
the living room
curtains
all the light
will have gone
by december
only the generators
have enough
to keep
till midsummer
it is nearly
autumn
i bathe in
falling leaves
marking each one
with
a stitch
the surface
is too brittle
a thread
crumples
with the needle
half-way
i draw
in the air instead
hoping the light
catches my fingers
like a sparkler
traces your name
indelibly

Poetry found in leaflet on Carston Höller’s ‘Decision’, Hayward Gallery, June 2015

When we look jointly

we see a mirror lens to invert his vision,
the impression of presence,
the passage of time.
Another timepiece.

At moments within these dark corridors,
moments of rupture,
it meanders, the decisive moment,
like a pair of restless, insomniac twins.
They can no longer be sure
the length of time in which it is possible
to disrupt
two apparently twinned entrances.

Dreams are a short-cut
with holes for children to climb in an out of
while others look on.
It’s a bit like I’m using other people’s kids,
more than 600 billion offspring,
face-to-face.

Morlette Lindsay & David Marshall (editors)

Aus Einem April by Frank O’Hara

We dust the walls.
And of course we are weeping larks
falling all over the heavens with our shoulders clasped
in someone’s armpits, so tightly! and our throats are full.
Haven’t you ever fallen down at Christmas
and didn’t it move everyone who saw you?
isn’t that what the tree means? the pure pleasure
of making weep those whom you cannot move by your flights!
It’s enough to drive one to suicide.
And the rooftops are falling apart like the applause

of rough, long-nailed, intimate, roughened-by-kisses, hands.
Fingers more breathless than a tongue laid upon the lips
in the hour of sunlight, early morning, before the mist rolls
in from the sea; and out there everything is turbulent and green.

Having a Coke with You by Frank O’Hara

Having a Coke with You

is even more fun than going to San Sebastian, Irún, Hendaye, Biarritz, Bayonne
or being sick to my stomach on the Travesera de Gracia in Barcelona
partly because in your orange shirt you look like a better happier St. Sebastian
partly because of my love for you, partly because of your love for yoghurt
partly because of the fluorescent orange tulips around the birches
partly because of the secrecy our smiles take on before people and statuary
it is hard to believe when I’m with you that there can be anything as still
as solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary when right in front of it
in the warm New York 4 o’clock light we are drifting back and forth
between each other like a tree breathing through its spectacles

and the portrait show seems to have no faces in it at all, just paint
you suddenly wonder why in the world anyone ever did them

I look
at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits in the world
except possibly for the Polish Rider occasionally and anyway it’s in the Frick
which thank heavens you haven’t gone to yet so we can go together the first time
and the fact that you move so beautifully more or less takes care of Futurism
just as at home I never think of the Nude Descending a Staircase or
at a rehearsal a single drawing of Leonardo or Michelangelo that used to wow me
and what good does all the research of the Impressionists do them
when they never got the right person to stand near the tree when the sun sank
or for that matter Marino Marini when he didn’t pick the rider as carefully
as the horse

it seems they were all cheated of some marvelous experience
which is not going to go wasted on me which is why I am telling you about it

by Frank O’Hara

10 Hour Day

Breakfast egg, half-lopped & scalped,
the morning gold of yolk on white.

Early sun on eastern walls,
dancing crystal golden light.

Dusty-gold of patient books,
unread on shelves, leaning or straight.

In dusk, apartment faces gleam –
windows high on winter’s night.

Yellow cat’s eyes glitter late –
curious slits of golden sight.