[Arnside Viaduct, between Lancashire and Cumbria – picture from Author’s collection]

Bridges provide links. One place to another across places you would find difficult to cross. They provide means for two or more methods of transport to occupy the same space. In music, the bridge links the first part of the song to the second, sometimes allowing a key change too. Bridges can change you, open up new vistas, ease your path. This blog looks at bridges in a few different ways. Gary Soto brings back memories of his childhood in Saturday at the Canal. Reading the poem reminds me of the Bryan Adams song: Summer of ’69.  I grew up by an industrial river rather than a canal but the memories are very similar. We had bridges for trains and bridges over the rail tracks. We would delight in standing on the footbridge near the station as the train went by underneath.

Saturday at the Canal

I was hoping to be happy by seventeen.
School was a sharp check mark in the roll book,
An obnoxious tuba playing at noon because our team
Was going to win at night.
The teachers were
Too close to dying to understand.
The hallways
Stank of poor grades and unwashed hair.
A friend and I sat watching the water on Saturday,
Neither of us talking much, just warming ourselves
By hurling large rocks at the dusty ground
And feeling awful because San Francisco was a postcard
On a bedroom wall.
We wanted to go there, 
Hitchhike under the last migrating birds
And be with people who knew more than three chords
On a guitar.
We didn’t drink or smoke,
But our hair was shoulder length, wild when
The wind picked up and the shadows of
This loneliness gripped loose dirt.
By bus or car,
By the sway of train over a long bridge,
We wanted to get out.
The years froze
As we sat on the bank.
Our eyes followed the water,
White-tipped but dark underneath, racing out of town.

Gary Soto, 1952 – 


[Canal lock gates at Marsden, Yorkshire – picture from Author’s collection]

My own piece came about on a train journey into Manchester. The rail line crosses a few bridges on its way into the city. A modern one over the motorway and more ancient ones as you approach the town centre. There is a distinctive look to Victorian ironwork, the rivets, the ornamentation, even on industrial constructions. The years of thick paint peel in places to show the colours beneath, rust streaks run down from bolts. So much new building is taking place across the city centre, it makes a stark contrast with these old structures. The old is comforting somehow, as if somethings don’t change even in the middle of modernisation.

Middle Bridge

Layers of flaking, rusty, worn out iron.
Peeling apart, like puff pastry on a vanilla slice.
Not so tasty, no icing, no custard.
Grey paint, huge rivets, decaying,
ageing ungracefully, groaning and muttering.

The old train fits, clickerty-clacking across.
Thumping and grinding, screeching and binding
on the rails, across the bridge,
of forgotten old iron losing its paint.
Above a byroad, leading nowhere, with potholes.

I sing in my head, ‘The morning Sun,
when it’s on your rails, really shows your age.’
Any old iron, any old iron, 
chunky, clunky, peeling, yielding, old iron.
Staying the other side of the tracks,
from the blinding glass and concrete
of a shiny new city, 
hiding its ageing relatives.

G Proctor

With apologies for not including a read version of my poem in the last entry. Here’s ‘Middle Bridge’ spoken by me!



[Bridges leading into Manchester Victoria Station – from: ]

We’ll finish with a poem by A E Houseman extolling the Thames valley. The poem follows the river from English countryside to capital city to wide estuary. He mentions the many bridges over the river. A lot more now than in the days of his writing this. Enjoy the journey as you drift down the lazy water. 

In Valleys of Springs and Rivers

“Clunton and Clunbury,
Clungunford and Clun,
Are the quietest places
Under the sun.”

In valleys of springs and rivers,
By Ony and Teme and Clun,
The country for easy livers,
The quietest under the sun,

We still had sorrows to lighten,
One could not be always glad,
And lads knew trouble at Knighton
When I was a Knighton lad.

By bridges that Thames runs under,
In London, the town built ill,
‘Tis sure small matter for wonder
If sorrow is with one still.

And if as a lad grows older
The troubles he bears are more,
He carries his griefs on a shoulder
That handselled them long before.

Where shall one halt to deliver
This luggage I’d lief set down?
Not Thames, not Teme is the river,
Nor London nor Knighton the town:

‘Tis a long way further than Knighton,
A quieter place than Clun,
Where doomsday may thunder and lighten
And little ’twill matter to one.

A E Houseman, 1859 – 1936


{Goring-on-Thames – picture from: ]


Legends and myths


[The Hippogryph by Magnus Norén – found at: ]

I love stories in general but old stories, full of magic and derring-do, are especially enthralling for me. I remember at Junior school, listening to tales from the Greek myths, Later in life, I was introduced to the delight that is Celtic myth and legend. The Viking sagas are also hugely enjoyable. This blog looks at some of the poetry based around legend, legendary deeds, people, beings, animals. There’s a rich and fertile landscape in myths for those who would tell stories, in prose or verse. We’ll start with a poem from the land of legend, Ireland, by one of its most distinguished and celebrated poets, William Butler Yeats. I love Yeats poetry and this early work has a more whimsical feel than his later writing:

The Stolen Child

Where dips the rocky highland
Of Sleuth Wood in the lake,
There lies a leafy island
Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water rats;
There we’ve hid our faery vats,
Full of berries
And of reddest stolen cherries.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

Where the wave of moonlight glosses
The dim grey sands with light,
Far off by furthest Rosses
We foot it all the night,
Weaving olden dances
Mingling hands and mingling glances
Till the moon has taken flight;
To and fro we leap
And chase the frothy bubbles,
While the world is full of troubles
And anxious in its sleep.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glen-Car,
In pools among the rushes
That scarce could bathe a star,
We seek for slumbering trout
And whispering in their ears
Give them unquiet dreams;
Leaning softly out
From ferns that drop their tears
Over the young streams.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

W.B. Yeats, 1865 – 1935


[The Fairy Raid – Sir Noel Paton – from ]

My own piece this time comes with a story. I belong to a group centered around books. We got talking one day about poems with our names in. One friend made the comment that she didn’t know of any poem about her first name, Astrid. I take such things as a challenge. Astrid means ‘beloved of the gods’ so that gave me my theme. I was also at the time looking at the saga form of poetry after reading Tolkien’s ‘Sigurd and Gudrun’, Tolkien’s version of the Elder Edda saga (you  may know the story from Wagner’s Ring cycle). I decided she should have a Norse saga form poem and this is the result:


Astrid, beloved of gods, wreathed in gold
Gifted to Valhalla, glad heart, strong soul
Astrid, set in the sky, sailing high
Believe in the World, sing your sigh

Why no tale, to tell your deeds? where the bard who leads?
Why no minstrel with song, who demands he cedes?
To her place in the hall, her shield on the wall
Let saga tell, her story shall call

To all who love beauty, love life, love song
To rest in love, to join, to belong,
To that creed, of music, of musing
On the beauty of Earth, of the memories we are losing

The lute shall sing, the horn shall bring
All to the hall, to ring
With the sound of her name, her fame
And the bravest, the strongest, the best they came

and found her, beloved of gods

Glen Proctor


[Idun and Brage, Nils Blommér – found at: ]

To finish with, a poem about the old Norse gods from a poet new to me. I suspect I’ll be seeking more of her work. Very much in the heroic saga vein, It concerns the Frost Giant Ymir, defeated by Odin. I enjoyed this piece immensely. 

The Frost Myth

Out of Frost and Fire sprang Ymir,
Type of Chaos, long ago;
Mighty Odin slew the giant,
As the Norsemen know.

From the rushing blood the ocean
In swift thunderous torrents whirled;
From the ponderous carcass Odin
Carved the Mitgard world,–

Of his hair made waving forests,
Of his skull the vaulted sky,
Moulded from his bones the mountains
Which around us lie.

Lo, today, upon my window
Odin carves on every pane,
(To rebuke my skeptic smiling),
A new world again.

Mountain, forest, plain and river,
Flash upon my raptured sight;
Here is Summer’s perfect joyance,
And Spring’s dear delight.

Ferny cliff, cascade and grotto,
Glitter on the frosty pane–
Miracle the Norsemen chanted
Here is wrought again.

Who shall say the gods have left us,
Or that Odin’s power is lost,
When new Mitgards rise before us
Out of Fire and Frost?

Alice Williams Brotherton, 1848 – 1930


[Ymir – by Milivoj Ceran – found at: ]


Art? Architecture? Architecture! Art!


[Masonry work from the Palace of Westminster removed as part of renovation, seen at Clitheroe Castle – Picture from the Author’s collection.]

This month’s blog post was inspired by viewing a piece of art that happened to be attached to a cathedral. It prompted the question: what is art? When does architecture cross over to art? There are some very beautiful buildings all over the world. The leaping fish above is a wonderful representation but might have been placed on the building in a position where hardly anyone would notice it. On the other hand, many pieces of art are placed in unmissable locations, where the public pass by every day. Statues in streets spring to mind. The boundary between public art and architecture is a very blurred one and hopefully, this blog can inspire readers to look again at what is around them. We’ll start with another favourite poet of mine, Robert Burns. This is his paean to the city of Edinburgh, one of my favourite cities. Full of beautiful people and architecture. 

Address to Edinburgh, 1786

Edina! Scotia’s darling seat!
All hail thy palaces and tow’rs,
Where once beneath a Monarch’s feet,
Sat Legislation’s sov’reign pow’rs!
From marking wildly-scatt’red flow’rs,
As on the banks of Ayr I stray’d,
And singing, lone, the ling’ring hours,
I shelter in thy honour’d shade.

Here Wealth still swells the golden tide,
As busy Trade his labours plies;
There Architecture’s noble pride
Bids elegance and splendour rise:
Here Justice, from her native skies,
High wields her balance and her rod;
There Learning, with his eagle eyes,
Seeks Science in her coy abode.

Thy sons, Edina, social, kind,
With open arms the stranger hail;
Their views enlarg’d, their lib’ral mind,
Above the narrow, rural vale:
Attentive still to Sorrow’s wail,
Or modest Merit’s silent claim;
And never may their sources fail!
And never envy blot their name!

Thy daughters bright thy walks adorn,
Gay as the gilded summer sky,
Sweet as the dewy, milk-white thorn,
Dear as the raptur’d thrill of joy!
Fair Burnet strikes th’ adoring eye,
Heav’n’s beauties on my fancy shine;
I see the Sire of Love on high,
And own His work indeed divine!

There, watching high the least alarms,
Thy rough, rude fortress gleams afar;
Like some bold vet’ran, grey in arms,
And mark’d with many a seamy scar:
The pond’rous wall and massy bar,
Grim-rising o’er the rugged rock,
Have oft withstood assailing war,
And oft repell’d th’ Invader’s shock.

With awe-struck thought, and pitying tears,
I view that noble, stately Dome,
Where Scotia’s kings of other years,
Fam’d heroes! had their royal home:
Alas, how chang’d the times to come!
Their royal name low in the dust!
Their hapless race wild-wand’ring roam!
Tho’ rigid Law cries out ’twas just!

Wild-beats my heart to trace your steps,
Whose ancestors, in days of yore,
Thro’ hostile ranks and ruin’d gaps
Old Scotia’s bloody lion bore:
Ev’n I who sing in rustic lore,
Haply my Sires have left their shed,
And fac’d grim Danger’s loudest roar,
Bold – following where your fathers led!

Edina! Scotia’s darling seat!
All hail thy palaces and tow’rs,
Where once, beneath a Monarch’s feet,
Sat Legislation’s sov’reign pow’rs:
From marking wildly-scatt’red flow’rs,
As on the banks of Ayr I stray’d,
And singing, lone, the ling’ring hours,
I shelter in thy honor’d shade.

Robert Burns, 1759 – 1796


[The Procession of King George IV Entering Princes Street, Edinburgh, August, 1822 by William Turner (1789–1862) – from: ]

My own piece this time concerns a monument built on a hill top. There are many such constructions in the UK. Usually built to commemorate a significant historical event. Sometimes though, they were built just to demonstrate the owner’s wealth (known as follies). There are no roads to most of them and they are normally constructed of large stone blocks. In pre-internal combustion times, they were a very significant undertaking. They are visible for many miles around and some have a space at the top for a beacon fire to be lit at times of celebration.

Land marked

There is a tower, on a mountain, good
Yorkshire stone. Tall and proud,
above the town, on the edge
of the hill. Built to remind
the people about other people,
who fought and died, in distant
lands. Who never returned 
from war and strife.

You can trace the letters, cut into
the stone: ‘glorious’, ‘brave’, ‘noble’,
‘victorious’, ‘loyal’, ‘praised’.
No mention of the families, torn and
bereft. No words for the widows, 
the orphans, the brothers or sisters,
the mothers and the fathers, left alone.
Waiting for a child, a sibling, a parent,
a lover, never to come home.

So they built this tower, on the high hill,
to celebrate while they cried,
salt tears into the stone.
Built it to show the ‘victory’ 
against the Frenchies. Just need 
to look at the stone, not the words, 
to see what it’s built of.

Glen Proctor  

Audio reading of Land Marked



[Memorial obelisk on Alderman’s Hill above Greenfield, Lancashire – picture from the  Author’s collection]

We’ll finish this time with a Russian poet. First time Russia has featured in the blog as far as I remember. Russian literature often has a darkness to it but also huge love and humour sometimes.  This piece really shows what the creation of huge monuments is really about!


I built myself a monument, eternal and miraculous,
It’s higher than the Pyramids, than metal it is harder;
Swift winds and thunder cannot knock it down
The flight of time cannot demolish it.

Thus I won’t really die! The part of me that’s largest
Will baffle death, and will escape decay,
My fame will grow, and never wither,
As long as Slavs are honored in this world.

And word of me shall spread from the White Sea to the Black,
Where Volga, Don, Neva and Ural rivers flow,
Each member of the countless tribes will know 
How from obscurity I found my way to fame,

By daring first in lively Russian speech
To celebrate the virtues of Felitsa,
To talk of God with intimate simplicity,
And with a smile announce the truth to kings.

O Muse! take pride in your well-earned rewards,
Disdain all those who show disdain for you,
And with an easy and unhurried hand,
With dawn eternal crown your brow. 

Gavrila Romanovich Derzhavin, 1743 – 1816


[Obelisk War Memorial on Alderman’s Hill near Greenfield, Lancashire – picture from the Author’s collection]

Losing it


[Henry Moore, Large Upright Internal/ External Form, 1981-83 from: Body and Void at The Henry Moore Foundation – ]

Music to accompany the idea by the author:


This blog entry is going to be about loss. Losing things, losing ‘it’, losing thoughts, memories, emotions, mental capacity, your heart. Any kind of loss. It’s a bit of a dark subject but I hope I can find some works and pictures to inspire. I have found that creativity is a strong answer to negative things in the past. Allowing your brain to get your feelings out in some way can often help a lot. Doesn’t matter whether it’s via music, art, writing, sport, achievements. Creativity can act as kind of a safety valve to let out some of the pressure, ease the heart, unburden the soul. Techniques such as art therapy, writing therapy and music therapy have a proven record of helping people in great distress. We’ll begin with a poem by Emily Dickenson, not one of her most famous works and somewhat cryptic. Try to just feel what she’s saying rather than striving for understanding on a logical level. This piece is about emotions rather than logic:

A loss of something ever felt I

A loss of something ever felt I —
The first that I could recollect
Bereft I was — of what I knew not
Too young that any should suspect

A Mourner walked among the children
I notwithstanding went about
As one bemoaning a Dominion
Itself the only Prince cast out —

Elder, Today, a session wiser
And fainter, too, as Wiseness is —
I find myself still softly searching
For my Delinquent Palaces —

And a Suspicion, like a Finger
Touches my Forehead now and then
That I am looking oppositely
For the site of the Kingdom of Heaven —

Emily Dickinson, 1830 – 1886


[Emily Dickinson in a daguerreotype by William C. North, between December 10, 1846 and late March 1847. (Public domain via Wikimedia Commons) – found at: ]

My own piece this time was part inspired by reading ‘Depression and Other Magic Tricks’ by the wonderful Sabrina Benaim. Sabrina writes so movingly and well on dealing (or nor) with loss. Please do read the poems and try to catch one her performance readings! @badass_sab:

The hole

at the end of the sentence, glares at me.
Taunts and flaunts, mocks with the absence of words.
As if it had the power to suck out inspiration,
rhyme, music, pictures I wanted to paint.
Can’t think what dug the hole, 
maybe the girl with the platinum hair? 
the clumsy fingers missing a note?
the loss? work? depression? Maybe just,
the never ending unwell-ness, the ‘where’s the point’ – edness, 
of life, in my fantasy world. Maybe, just maybe, 
if I could hire a guide, find a map,
see the signpost of thoughts and hopes, it would work out?
A drain cover’s worth of value, a plank of self worth.
To allow me to continue, over the hole,
at the end of…

Glen Proctor

Audio reading by the author:


Yamal Hole 1.jpg

[Hole in the Siberian permafrost, from: ]

William Butler Yeats is one of my favourite poets. Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, champion of a free Ireland and an inspiration to millions. This is one of his shorter pieces, unrequited love, dreams turned to ash, so much emotion in just seven lines:

The Lover Mourns For The Loss Of Love

Pale brows, still hands and dim hair,
I had a beautiful friend
And dreamed that the old despair
Would end in love in the end:
She looked in my heart one day
And saw your image was there;
She has gone weeping away.

William Butler Yeats, 1865 – 1939


[Hope by Nirdesha Munasinghe – from: ]

I am an optimist by nature and they say that hope springs eternal. I’d therefore like to leave you with a song of hope, a lovely piece to lighten the dark. If you don’t know Maya Angelou, run, don’t walk to her biography and her words! We need Maya’s wisdom more and more as time goes on:

Still I rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise

Maya Angelou, 1928 – 2014


[Twixt Hope and Fear – Frederic Lord Leighton, P. R. A. (1830-1896) – from: ]



[View from my kitchen in heavy rain, image from the Author’s collection]

This month’s theme was prompted by the very changeable weather here in the UK. Late June has been more like March and April as a succession of weather fronts with their accompanying storms swept across us. At least the grass is very green and the fruit trees have had a good watering. Looking forward to the plum season in late summer/early autumn! I find rain provokes a thoughtful mood. When the days are hot and muggy, it is wonderful to sit by an open window and listen to the rain lashing down, if we’re lucky, maybe some thunder and lightening to add to the drama. The feeling as the humidity drops and the air freshens is just wonderful. Ironically, as I write this, the Sun has returned from its travels and it’s a lovely day. We’ll start with a poem by Elizabeth Bishop, a famous US poet. This piece is longer than I usually start with but it’s so evocative, I couldn’t resist. Everything I love about rain is contained here:

Song For The Rainy Season

Hidden, oh hidden 
in the high fog 
the house we live in, 
beneath the magnetic rock, 
rain-, rainbow-ridden, 
where blood-black 
bromelias, lichens, 
owls, and the lint 
of the waterfalls cling, 
familiar, unbidden. 

In a dim age 
of water 
the brook sings loud 
from a rib cage 
of giant fern; vapor 
climbs up the thick growth 
effortlessly, turns back, 
holding them both, 
house and rock, 
in a private cloud. 

At night, on the roof, 
blind drops crawl 
and the ordinary brown 
owl gives us proof 
he can count: 
five times–always five– 
he stamps and takes off 
after the fat frogs that, 
shrilling for love, 
clamber and mount. 

House, open house 
to the white dew 
and the milk-white sunrise 
kind to the eyes, 
to membership 
of silver fish, mouse, 
big moths; with a wall 
for the mildew’s 
ignorant map; 

darkened and tarnished 
by the warm touch 
of the warm breath, 
maculate, cherished; 
rejoice! For a later 
era will differ. 
(O difference that kills 
or intimidates, much 
of all our small shadowy 
life!) Without water 

the great rock will stare 
unmagnetized, bare, 
no longer wearing 
rainbows or rain, 
the forgiving air 
and the high fog gone; 
the owls will move on 
and the several 
waterfalls shrivel 
in the steady sun.

Elizabeth Bishop 1911 – 1979


[Part of the Neustadt Kunsthofpassage in Dresden, a house that plays music when it rains, image from: ]

My own piece is a detail description of the huge relief when a hot, humid, oppressive day finally breaks with a wonderful storm. I’ve always loved the thunder and lightening. The sheer relief as the humidity plummets and the land cools is beyond belief. I love too, the smell when rain hits the ground after a hot day. Like the smell of fresh cut grass, it’s a smell of childhood, a smell of Summer and a smell of happy memory.


Sky the colour of storm
hot, wet, humid heat;
driving headaches and
a wakeful night, quiltless.
Watching and waiting with
wide open windows for
the gathering blow.

Welcome to the show,
the night show, the light show
as thunder rolls in, the intro
from the Northern quarter.
Clouds building, an oppressive,
impressive, aggressive sight.

The heat rising, to unbearable levels
as a world girdling flash
marks curtain up. The drum roll
of the first number and it begins,
rain, a few, heavy drops
but the rest join in and the torrent starts
such a simple phrase to describe,

Thor’s bathtub, overturned on us,
mere mortals beneath the flood.
Rain now lashing down to bounce back up
almost to the cloudbase as pools
and rivers form before my eyes.
Heat leeched away to the earth
blessed relief, sound and light
played by a colossal hand.

Vision obscured by the sheer volume.
Thunder, marking the beat to the
rain’s rhythm guitar, lash, splash,
crash, washing the world clean.
Beautiful spray on my face,
soothing, cooling, mending the mood
and a final ‘kaboom!’ as the band
moves on. Bringing their gift to
other places. Songs of relief
cast large, in the sea of rain.

Glen Proctor

Audio version:




{MIT study, how raindrops clean the atmosphere, from: ]

I make no apology for including another wonderful piece by Tu Fu (also known as Du Fu) as the last poem this time. Writing during the Tang dynasty in ancient China, he captures the sheer joy of rainfall so well. This is an excellent translation too, translating poetry must be one of the hardest tasks anyone can face. How do you keep the pace, the rhythm, the form and still translate the words honestly?

Morning Rain

A slight rain comes, bathed in dawn light.
I hear it among treetop leaves before mist
Arrives. Soon it sprinkles the soil and,
Windblown, follows clouds away. Deepened

Colors grace thatch homes for a moment.
Flocks and herds of things wild glisten
Faintly. Then the scent of musk opens across
Half a mountain — and lingers on past noon. 

Tu Fu 712 – 770 ce


[Early Morning Rain by Phil Chadwick, from: ]

I’ve leave you with part of a tune related to the subject of the blog, name that tune!




[Chiang Lee – Going to church in the rain, Wasdale Head (1937), from:! ]



[George Harrison at Abbey Road studio – Picture from:–acoustic.html ]

My love affair with the guitar began in the early 1970’s, picking out tunes on my Dad’s Hofner. There were only three strings left on it, but that was enough to learn the notes to Sylvia by Focus! A few years on and a temporary Summer job enabled me to buy my first own guitar, a cheap Gibson Les Paul copy. Plugged into a small, cheap solid-state guitar amp with a separate speaker, I played solo, with others, in pubs and clubs, at school and at friends’ houses. So began a relationship that still thrives today. I’ve moved on to Fender, PRS and Vox but the desire is still the same. The feeling for making music is still there. To create music must be one of the finest gifts humans have received. Sharing that creation with others is even better. As I’ve already talked about my Dad’s old guitar, it’s appropriate to begin with this lovely piece from the american poet and author, James Whitcomb Riley. The thing about old instruments is, they often get better and better with age. I follow this with an audio file of what learning a tune on three strings might sound like!

The Old Guitar

Neglected now is the old guitar
And moldering into decay;
Fretted with many a rift and scar
That the dull dust hides away,
While the spider spins a silver star
In its silent lips to-day.

The keys hold only nerveless strings–
The sinews of brave old airs
Are pulseless now; and the scarf that clings
So closely here declares
A sad regret in its ravelings
And the faded hue it wears.

But the old guitar, with a lenient grace,
Has cherished a smile for me;
And its features hint of a fairer face
That comes with a memory
Of a flower-and-perfume-haunted place
And a moonlit balcony.

Music sweeter than words confess,
Or the minstrel’s powers invent,
Thrilled here once at the light caress
Of the fairy hands that lent
This excuse for the kiss I press
On the dear old instrument.

The rose of pearl with the jeweled stem
Still blooms; and the tiny sets
In the circle all are here; the gem
In the keys, and the silver frets;
But the dainty fingers that danced o’er them–
Alas for the heart’s regrets!–

Alas for the loosened strings to-day,
And the wounds of rift and scar
On a worn old heart, with its roundelay
Enthralled with a stronger bar
That Fate weaves on, through a dull decay
Like that of the old guitar!

James Whitcomb Riley 1849 – 1916





[Hofner Senator Guitar, 1958 model, previously owned by John Lennon – picture from: ]

My own piece this time arose from using online lessons to improve my skills. I think if YouTube and the like had been around when I was young, I would be a much better guitarist now! Then again, I may have been too lazy and impatient to take advantage of the wealth of learning available now. I’m learning to understand the music theory underlying the things I play that ‘sound right’. Why certain chords and notes work and why some don’t. This poem came after a video lesson by the inestimable Peter Honore, guitarist par excellence and a fine teacher. It’s followed by an audio file of me reading the poem with a background of me trying to play the song Peter was teaching.

Learning from the master

Watch the Master, so very effortless, but he warns:
“This part’s hard, a real stretch. A pain in the hand.”
So I note the dots, build the boxes, 
number the frets, name the shape.
Take up guitar, pause, poised and I know, 
I’ve already forgotten the rhythm, the beat of the song, 
but still, nice chord, rings clear and bright, 
add a bass note, all good still.
Then, my fingers revolt, fail to stretch, a simple barre.
A7 as E, no trouble there, but 
needs another note, far up the neck.
Surely no hand can make that stretch?
Five frets up, fingers don’t move that way, pain.
like an inquisitor’s question, pull the sinew, bend the joint.
Worst of all, a muddy sound, 
finger ends not properly down.
That point where, times past, 
I gave up the trial, played another tune.
An easy one, the one I know, 
the one that doesn’t bend or crack,
these old hands, the resisting wrist, the lazy joints.
No more of that, watch the Master, 
learn his way, listen to his advice and wisdom. 
He knows the pain, he feels it for you:
“Try each day, the joints adjust, 
you need to do this, seeker of harmony.”
I will reach it, five frets away, 
I will hear it, from my own hands.
The Master said so.

Glen Proctor


[Fender Stratocaster neck plate and jack socket – picture from the author’s collection]


I’ll finish with a long piece from the master, Percy Bysshe Shelley. Incomparable poet, social reformer and creative genius. This piece reminded me of the use of the guitar, and it’s cousins the mandolin and lute, for love. So many love songs played on their strings, so many players sending sweet music to the love of their life. Lothario in the garden under their love’s window.

To a Lady, with a Guitar

Ariel to Miranda: — Take
This slave of music, for the sake
Of him who is the slave of thee;
And teach it all the harmony
In which thou canst, and only thou,
Make the delighted spirit glow,
Till joy denies itself again
And, too intense, is turned to pain.
For by permission and command
Of thine own Prince Ferdinand,
Poor Ariel sends this silent token
Of more than ever can be spoken;
Your guardian spirit, Ariel, who
From life to life must still pursue
Your happiness, for thus alone
Can Ariel ever find his own.
From Prospero’s enchanted cell,
As the mighty verses tell,
To the throne of Naples he
Lit you o’er the trackless sea,
Flitting on, your prow before,
Like a living meteor.
When you die, the silent Moon
In her interlunar swoon
Is not sadder in her cell
Than deserted Ariel.
When you live again on earth,
Like an unseen Star of birth
Ariel guides you o’er the sea
Of life from your nativity.
Many changes have been run
Since Ferdinand and you begun
Your course of love, and Ariel still
Has tracked your steps and served your will.
Now in humbler, happier lot,
This is all remembered not;
And now, alas! the poor sprite is
Imprisoned for some fault of his
In a body like a grave — 
From you he only dares to crave,
For his service and his sorrow,
A smile today, a song tomorrow.

The artist who this idol wrought
To echo all harmonious thought,
Felled a tree, while on the steep
The woods were in their winter sleep,
Rocked in that repose divine
On the wind-swept Apennine;
And dreaming, some of Autumn past,
And some of Spring approaching fast,
And some of April buds and showers,
And some of songs in July bowers,
And all of love; and so this tree, — 
O that such our death may be! — 
Died in sleep, and felt no pain,
To live in happier form again:
From which, beneath Heaven’s fairest star,
The artist wrought this loved Guitar;
And taught it justly to reply
To all who question skilfully
In language gentle as thine own;
Whispering in enamoured tone
Sweet oracles of woods and dells,
And summer winds in sylvan cells;
— For it had learnt all harmonies
Of the plains and of the skies,
Of the forests and the mountains,
And the many-voiced fountains;
The clearest echoes of the hills,
The softest notes of falling rills,
The melodies of birds and bees,
The murmuring of summer seas,
And pattering rain, and breathing dew,
And airs of evening; and it knew
That seldom-heard mysterious sound
Which, driven on its diurnal round,
As it floats through boundless day,
Our world enkindles on its way:
— All this it knows, but will not tell
To those who cannot question well
The Spirit that inhabits it;
It talks according to the wit
Of its companions; and no more
Is heard than has been felt before
By those who tempt it to betray
These secrets of an elder day.
But, sweetly as its answers will
Flatter hands of perfect skill,
It keeps its highest holiest tone
For one beloved Friend alone.

Percy Bysshe Shelley 1792 – 1822


[Young Spanish Woman with a Guitar – Renoir, from: ]

A final musical piece by myself, just noodling around which is how I end each practice session:



[Fender guitar cable – picture from the author’s collection]

Blossom(ing) and bloom(ing)


[Picture of Lilac blossom – image from: ]

The subject this time is blossom and bloom. April is the month when Spring really takes hold in Great Britain. Cherry, Apple and Plum trees are in full flower, grassy areas bloom with Dandelion, Buttercup and Daisy, the air is full of scents and the evenings are light (and often warm!). The cricket season has begun, barbecues have been dusted off and the Winter drifts into memory. I love all seasons but I think Spring maybe my favourite time. This period of renewal is very special. The birds can often be seen with fur, hair, grass and feathers in their beaks as they rush to build nests. I’m expecting young birds at the window bird feeder anytime now. Green is covering the landscape once more and cardigans are being hung up for next Winter. Spring seems to inspire poets too. We’ll open with the ‘People’s Poet’ par excellence, Robert Burns. He uses flower imagery quite often, look up ‘A Red, Red Rose’ for one of the best examples. Here’s a piece comparing his love to lilac:

I were my love yon Lilac fair

O were my love yon Lilac fair, 
Wi’ purple blossoms to the Spring, 
And I, a bird to shelter there, 
When wearied on my little wing! 
How I wad mourn when it was torn 
By Autumn wild, and Winter rude! 
But I wad sing on wanton wing, 
When youthfu’ May its bloom renew’d. 

O gin my love were yon red rose, 
That grows upon the castle wa’; 
And I myself a drap o’ dew, 
Into her bonie breast to fa’! 
O there, beyond expression blest, 
I’d feast on beauty a’ the night; 
Seal’d on her silk-saft faulds to rest, 
Till fley’d awa by Phoebus’ light!

Robert Burns 1759 – 1796


[Blossom at Templenewsham, near Leeds – picture from the author’s collection]

My own poem was written after I had sat with the windows wide open on a warm evening. The light breeze brought in the scent of evening flowers after the heat of the day. I love warm evenings after a hot day, windows open and a light breeze cooling things down just enough. The scents of nature seem stronger then too. Not sure if this is scientifically provable but perception certainly is of enhanced sense of smell.

Blooming evening

On the night breeze.
Scents carried, to here.
Hint of smoke, some perfume
of flower, gently blown
into a room, on a whim.

Like incense, in a temple
to the Green Mother.
Calming, soothing, 
atavistic, ageless. 

Sending Father Winter,
back to his sleep.
Painting the trees,
with white, with pink.
The grass with purple and gold.

Daughter Spring,
promising much,
in the evening 
as she wakes.

Glen Proctor


[Tulips and Fuchsia in a garden – picture from the Author’s collection]

I’ll finish with a lovely, evocative poem by Rabindranath Tagore. Also known as Gurudev, Kabiguru, and Biswakabi, Tagore was a brilliant Bengali writer, poet, dramatist, artist and musician. A strong campaigner for Indian independence from Britain, he also worked tirelessly to revitalise Bengali literature, music and art. This poem is so gentle and loving, a definite warm and fuzzy moment when you read it. The style is almost prose poem but carries his own unique form. Enjoy as I did the genius of this gentle man:

The Chanpa Flower

Supposing I became a chanpa flower, just for fun, and grew on a
branch high up that tree, and shook in the wind with laughter and
danced upon the newly budded leaves, would you know me, mother?
You would call, “Baby, where are you?” and I should laugh to
myself and keep quite quiet.

I should slyly open my petals and watch you at your work.
When after your bath, with wet hair spread on your shoulders,
you walked through the shadow of the champ tree to the little court
where you say your prayers, you would notice the scent of the
flower, but not know that it cane from me.

When after the midday meal you sat at the window reading
Ramayana, and the tree’s shadow fell over your hair and your lap,
I should fling my wee little shadow on to the page of your book,
just where you were reading.

But would you guess that it was the tiny shadow of your
little child?

When in the evening you went to the cow shed with the lighted
lamp in your hand I should suddenly drop on to the earth again and
be your own baby once more, and beg you to tell me a story.
“Where have you been, you naughty child?”
“I won’t tell you, mother.” That’s what you and I would say

Rabindranath Tagore 1861 – 1941


[Champa flower painting (untitled) by Arathi Dharani – image from: ]

PS Apologies that there is no audio this time. Still pulling round from a light chest infection. It will return!




IMG_0185 2.jpeg

[Azure sky over Winter Hill – picture from the author’s collection]

For this entry, the subject is light. Not light as in humorous or trivial, not light as in the opposite to heavy, light as in energy, colour, illumination. This was prompted by being awake for the sunrise, a particularly colourful dawn during the recent spell of fine weather. Early Spring/late Winter means I wake in time to see the Sun come up. Soon, I will be waking to full daylight again, unless I stay up all night, not unknown! We’ll begin with a poet I’ve championed before, the wonderful Du Fu who writes so beautifully of that shower in the dawn and then of the smell of early rain.

Morning Rain

A slight rain comes, bathed in dawn light.
I hear it among treetop leaves before mist
Arrives. Soon it sprinkles the soil and,
Windblown, follows clouds away. Deepened

Colours grace thatch homes for a moment.
Flocks and herds of things wild glisten
Faintly. Then the scent of musk opens across
Half a mountain — and lingers on past noon.

Du Fu 712 – 770


[Sunrise, Bolton – picture from the author’s collection]

For my own piece, I wanted to present three contrasting skies. Sunrise, afternoon sun and the sunset shining on a storm. Not often I write longer poems so please excuse any mistakes! I included this poem before I remembered I am including audio reading now too, so I now need to read it through without errors! For those who missed out, kaylie is a kind of multi-coloured sherbet sold in sweet shops. I well remember the large glass jars full of this glorious powder and the keen anticipation as the shopkeeper poured it into a paper bag!

Sky Kaylie

Dark yellow, ochre? like a sandstorm on the horizon.
Brightening, heating, building to orange 
as the dawn works the bellows.
The light claws and heaves itself, 
over the rooftops, up and up.
Touch of crimson now, burst of scarlet, as it wakes.
Nearer and nearer to the moment when
the giant climbs into the sky.
Ascending red, yellow, finally blue.
Until the shining one spreads azure over all.

Light on the curtains as my eyes come back to life.
Morning, afternoon? no clues in the sleep dulled brain
All quiet, no noise, no birdsong but the windows are shut.
The clock is no help, 4:00? four what? am, pm?
There’s a shadow dance on the curtain,
as sunlight plays with the tree branches 
waving at, who knows what?
Finally, the brain wakes enough to know, 
bedroom window, looking West
Afternoon light, on curtains

Steel gray wall, rising over the town.
Lit by the low Sun, towering, like the
side of a battleship, moored at the house.
Rolling, roiling cloud, building its fury.
Feeding on the dying light,
using the Sun, to power the fury.
As it raises the hammer, for Thor’s spark
and the crash, shaking the walls,
in the opening of the storm concerto.
The hail released, rattles roof and window
and the cloud rushes to overtake, the dying Sun.

Glen Proctor




[Sunset during a storm over Winter Hill, picture from the author’s collection]

A poem about light from Dylan Thomas now. One of my poetical heroes. Chock full of Celtic lyricism and emotion. His qualities shine with every word. This one is more mystical than most, almost like listening to the wind as you stand where the druids stood, understanding the universe and yourself.

Light Breaks Where No Sun Shines

Light breaks where no sun shines;
Where no sea runs, the waters of the heart
Push in their tides;
And, broken ghosts with glowworms in their heads,
The things of light
File through the flesh where no flesh decks the bones.

A candle in the thighs
Warms youth and seed and burns the seeds of age;
Where no seed stirs,
The fruit of man unwrinkles in the stars,
Bright as a fig;
Where no wax is, the candle shows its hairs.

Dawn breaks behind the eyes;
From poles of skull and toe the windy blood
Slides like a sea;
Nor fenced, nor staked, the gushers of the sky
Spout to the rod
Divining in a smile the oil of tears.

Night in the sockets rounds,
Like some pitch moon, the limit of the globes;
Day lights the bone;
Where no cold is, the skinning gales unpin
The winter’s robes;
The film of spring is hanging from the lids.

Light breaks on secret lots,
On tips of thought where thoughts smell in the rain;
When logics die,
The secret of the soil grows through the eye,
And blood jumps in the sun;
Above the waste allotments the dawn halts.

Dylan Thomas 1914 – 1953


[The Brecon Beacons, close to Dylan Thomas’ hometown, Swansea – picture from ]

I’ll finish this entry with James Joyce. Better known for his classic stories, Joyce was also a lyrical poet with a fine touch. His words are even better read aloud, a lovely rhythm to them and excellent word choice, as you’d expect from one of the all time great novelists.

My Love Is In A Light Attire

My love is in a light attire 
Among the apple-trees, 
Where the gay winds do most desire 
To run in companies. 

There, where the gay winds stay to woo 
The young leaves as they pass, 
My love goes slowly, bending to 
Her shadow on the grass; 

And where the sky’s a pale blue cup 
Over the laughing land, 
My love goes lightly, holding up 
Her dress with dainty hand. 

James Joyce 1882 – 1941


[ Charles Courtney Curran, Woman in a White Dress in a Garden – picture from: ]


Looking for Snowdrops


[Snowdrops from the BBC News magazine – Snowdrop fanciers and their mania ]

This blog entry is partly inspired by my annual quest to see the first snowdrop of spring, partly by Wendy Cope’s wonderful piece. The idea that the first snowdrop has its own song is something that inspires me. Someday, I’ll write that song. For now though, here are poems about the snow and about nature in winter. As with the last entry, I’ve included a Soundcloud link to my reading of my own poem. Unusually, both ‘classic’ poems this time are from living authors. Please respect their work and copyright. We’ll start with the poem that prompted this entry, the wonderful prose poem ‘Exchange of letters’ by Wendy Cope.

Exchange of Letters

‘Man who is a serious novel would like to hear from a woman who is a poem’ 
(classified advertisement, New York Review of Books)

Dear Serious Novel,

I am a terse assured lyric with impeccable rhythmic flow, some apt and original metaphors, and a music that is all my own. Some people sayI am beautiful.
My vital statistics are eighteen lines, divided into three-line stanzas, with an average of four words per line.
My first husband was a cheap romance; the second was Wisden’s Cricketers’ Almanac. Most of the men I meet nowadays are autobiographies, but a substantial minority are books about photography or trains.
I have always hoped for a relationship with an upmarket work of fiction. Please write and tell me more about yourself.

Yours intensely,
Song of the First Snowdrop

Dear Song of the First Snowdrop,

Many thanks for your letter. You sound like just the kind of poem I am hoping to find. I’ve always preferred short, lyrical women to the kind who go on for page after page.
I am an important 150,000 word comment on the dreams and dilemmas of twentieth-century Man. It took six years to attain my present weight and stature but all the twenty-seven publishers I have so far approached have failed to understand me. I have my share of sex and violence and a very good joke in chapter nine, but to no avail. I am sustained by the belief that I am ahead of my time.
Let’s meet as soon as possible. I am longing for you to read me from cover to cover and get to know my every word.

Yours impatiently,
Death of the Zeitgeist

Wendy Cope 1945 – 

[found at: This poem is published in the collection ‘Serious Concerns, Faber & Faber: © Wendy Cope and Faber & Faber ]


[Snowdrop, image from” ]

I finally found a lovely display of snowdrops, in the grounds of an old parish church a couple of miles away. I’ve heard before that churchyards, graveyards are havens for nature. Things lie undisturbed for years. 

My own piece was also inspired by nature in winter, this time trees. Trees have always called to me. They’re reassuring, beautiful and sturdy. Covered with frost, frozen stiff, they will wake again in a couple of months. Leaves will bud, blossom will appear and life comes again. Other parts of nature also manage as they can. I feed the local birds, lots of Sparrows and Starlings here, the Magpies and Wood Pigeons call now and again too, a few Blue Tits. They all seem to appreciate the help.

Cold snap

Trees frozen in a game of statues,
as the noise stops and everything stills.
Grey above, white below, frozen time.
Sparrows socialising on the feeder, 
sharing for once, not squabbling, not pushing. 
Dog prints, an excited puppy, 
loving the white carpet, perfect for exploring.
People, looking out, deciding they don’t need 
any shopping today, staying in the warm.
Life slows as the snow comes down,
quieter times in Britain in the cold.
“Blizzard horror!!” screams the news, 
at two inches of snow, at soft, white flakes.
The dogs and me know the real story though, 
a white carpet covers ugliness for a while
The falling flakes delight children, 
stop the hustle, calm the town
In a while, the snow people appear, stone eyes, 
carrot noses maybe, if they didn’t go in the stew
Snowfall makes all quiet and right,
and cold.

Glen Proctor

Audio link:



{Frozen tree, Image from: ]

We’ll finish with a poet that I’ve not come across before, I’m going to be seeking out more of her work though, after reading this wonderful piece. The Snow Goose seems to inspire people to create, A beautiful sight as they fly in huge formations overhead. I know of at least two famous musical compositions and a novel inspired by these wonderful birds. From Cleveland, Ohio, Mary writes often of nature with a beautiful, lyrical style.

Snow Geese

Oh, to love what is lovely, and will not last! 
What a task
to ask 
of anything, or anyone, 
yet it is ours, 
and not by the century or the year, but by the hours. 
One fall day I heard
above me, and above the sting of the wind, a sound
I did not know, and my look shot upward; it was 
a flock of snow geese, winging it
faster than the ones we usually see, 
and, being the color of snow, catching the sun 
so they were, in part at least, golden. I 
held my breath
as we do
to stop time
when something wonderful
has touched us 
as with a match, 
which is lit, and bright, 
but does not hurt
in the common way, 
but delightfully, 
as if delight
were the most serious thing
you ever felt. 
The geese
flew on, 
I have never seen them again. 
Maybe I will, someday, somewhere.
Maybe I won’t.
It doesn’t matter.
What matters
is that, when I saw them, 
I saw them
as through the veil, secretly, joyfully, clearly.

Mary Oliver 1935 – 

[Found on: © Mary Oliver]


[Snow Geese, image from: ]

In with the old


[‘Westward’ gatepost in Bolton. Picture from the author’s collection }

[Audio introduction]

As you can see above, I’m branching into audio! The script for the audio file is listed at the end of this post, just in case you can’t play the file or you prefer to read!

Memories seem to be strong at this time of year. Maybe it’s meeting relatives from distant places again? Maybe a small collection of old photographs sent to my Mum? It could just be the long nights, more time to ponder, more time to read about other days. Still, it gives me a perfect opportunity to present one of my all time favourite classic poems. I may have included this before but it’s such a good lesson for the vainglorious, seems right to get people reading it again. Shelley had a talent for spotting interesting subjects for poetry. He was also an expert at the kind of poetry that makes you pause and think: 


I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Percy Bysshe Shelley 1792 – 1822


[Broken Statue of Rameses – image from: ]

My own poem this time is a recent piece, yet another poem written on a train. In this case, arriving into the city of Manchester, the transition from the outlying area into the centre. Town and city planning is a black art to me but the contrast between areas where money is spent and those left to decay is stark. Almost a physical border. Like Shelley, it’s a reflection on what has gone before, what we choose to change, what we leave alone.  Must be hard to make decisions such as what to replace, what to restore and what to leave to time. See what you think and maybe look out for boundaries between old and new yourself:

Middle Bridge

Layers of flaking, rusty, worn out iron.
Peeling apart, like puff pastry on a vanilla slice.
Not so tasty, no icing, no custard.
Grey paint, huge rivets, decaying,
ageing ungracefully, groaning and muttering.

The old train fits, clickerty-clacking across
Thumping and grinding, screeching and binding
on the rails, across the bridge,
of forgotten old iron losing its paint.
Above a byroad, leading nowhere, with potholes.

I sing in my head, ‘The morning Sun, 
when it’s on your rails, really shows your age.’
Any old iron, any old iron,
chunky, clunky, peeling, yielding, old iron.
Staying the other side of the tracks,
from the blinding glass and concrete
of a shiny new city
hiding its ageing relatives.

Glen Proctor

[The line ‘The morning sun… inspired by a line from the song Maggie May, written: Rod Stewart, Martin Quittenton, from the album: Every Picture Tells a Story (Mercury/Universal) ]




[Iron bridge near Deansgate Station, Manchester – picture from: ]

We’ll finish this post with a Shakespeare Sonnet. One of the four about the ages humans pass through. William presents a hopeful view about our own ageing and admonishes us to keep tight hold of the things we love in old age. Don’t ever let go of hopes, dreams, fancies. They are what make us special:

Sonnet 73: That time of year thou mayst in me behold

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed, whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well, which thou must leave ere long.

William Shakespeare, 1564 – 1616


{Old things on a barn bench – image from: ]


[Audioscript for the introduction – 

Hello and welcome to this special blog post for the Poet Shrub. A short time ago, my lovely friend, Thivashni, was talking to me about audiobooks and how people are turning more and more to the spoken word for learning, pleasure, instruction, all kinds of things. This chimed with a thought I’ve had for a while to include music in blog posts. This entry is the start. 

One word before we begin though, I won’t be posting readings for the classic poems I include. This is mainly because there are already some excellent audio versions of famous poems out there. Try the superb Poetry Society and Poetry Foundation websites as a starting point. Youtube is also a good source. You’ll find readings of thousands of poems by people who speak for a living, actors, raconteurs and the like. They do a much better job than I could! 

For now, Poet Shrub will be readings of my own writing and maybe some short passages of music. Enjoy and thank you for visiting!]