Poetry Performance at the Dugdale Arts Centre, Enfield 2/11/2019

Anna Meryt and Jack Cooper of Highgate Poets were the featured poets tonight, by invitation of Enfield Poets.

Some Highlights

Anna Meryt @ the Dugdale Centre - Staying Clean When You're Homeless

The Parable of the Burning House

There's a buddhist story, from the Lotus Sutra  about a beautiful house where a wealthy man lived with his many children.  The children were all absorbed in their games and playing.

From the outside, the house looks idyllic, but in the corners, the walls are crumbling and small tongues of fire are creeping  along the walls.  The wealthy man suddenly sees that this is happening and runs outside the burning house to escape and shouts to his children telling them to flee.  But the children are too absorbed with their games and pay him no heed. Meanwhile the flames are growing higher and before long the house will be consumed by fire.

Then the wealthy man thinks of  a plan to lure the children out of the house.  He calls to them, telling them that outside the gate there are 3 carts full of toys, pulled by a goat, a deer and an oxen  - he calls out  'Come and see, come and see, you can play with the toys?'

The children run out of the burning house and the father takes them quickly across the courtyard, through the gates. However instead of 3 carts, they see a carriage  draped in satins covered with precious stones and pulled by a team of white bullocks.  The children are safe at last from the burning house.

This is a parable in which the father represents the Buddha and the children are all sentient beings. The fires represent the fires of old age, sickness and death. The cart pulled by white bullocks represents The Lotus Sutra and the path to enlightenment.

This story reminds me of Greta Thurnberg, Extinction Rebellion  and all the Climate Change protesters.  The burning house is the earth - the extinction of species after species on a daily basis; the destruction of animal habitats in Africa and the dwindling of the the wildlife populations due to encroachment of humans and poaching: of course the obvious analogy is the burning of the Amazon rainforests;  The tears of the father calling to his children  are the tears of Gaia, the Earth.

The children in the house are all of us,  so absorbed in our own lives, trying to survive, maintaining life-styles, making more and more money. We either carry on ignoring reality or denying it as we don't want to make the huge changes necessary to save the planet.  One of the children has escaped - Greta and is calling to the other children left in the house -

' Come on, it's your last chance to save yourselves and the world', and as she calls tears stream down her face, because people are complaining and making excuses and criticising what she and other protesters are doing to try and make us all aware of.  

All they can say is

'nose-ring wearing crusties, living in hemp-smelling bivouacs,' (Boris)

'Why can't they demonstrate somewhere else where they won't be disrupting traffic?'

' … smug, irritating and disruptive.' (Boris again).

Well Boris, the dark cloud of Climate Change hangs over all of us and the activists who you like to make a joke of and insult with your clever words are actually trying to draw us out of the burning house. 

I'm so grateful for all of the Climate Change activists - the school children, the college students, the people of all ages who are trying to make a difference, trying to bring us out of the burning house and out to safety. 

I wrote a poem in a vague attempt to even brush past all the issues around Climate Change  that worry me, anger me, enrage me, make me feel hopeless on a daily basis..... they range from tiny to massive and they make me feel ….. helpless.

Turn and Face Medusa

Rhino horns
Elephant tusks
Lion hunts

a red mist descends
a hopeless paralysis

Plastic plastic everywhere     
Bags on the street
Bags in the sea
Microplastic we drink, fish swallow, we eat
Shrink-wrapped cucumber
Plastic bottles – oceans of them
Recycling, biodegrading, burning
Dumping our recyclable waste far away
   to pollute distant lands, out of sight, not our problem.

Water, water – drying out
climate catastrophe.
Extinction rebellion

 I go into overwhelm
and switch off, 
pull the duvet over my head
close down, turn away, block my ears

More plastic bottles
coffee cups with plastic lids.
Where to put my cat food pouches?
Searching for biodegradable bin bags?
Eco-footprints, carbon footprints
Air travel, Diesel engines


Open your minds, open your eyes
Open your hearts.  Face the truth

Turn, turn, turn to face Medusa

Medusa from Greek mythology  - Gorgon Medusa. The mythological Greek hero Perseus performed a service to mankind by ridding the world of her fearsome power. He cut off her head, with the help of gifts from Hades


Written July 2019 

Inspired by a talk by Joanna Macey (Active Hope) Environmentalist.

Words words words ...

I've been struggling with a poem about the sounds that trees make and they're effect on me this summer. I've realised that there is very few alliterative words that really reflect the sound of a breeze rustling the leaves of trees high above us.  That sound is quite trance inducing - I noticed this recently on a visit to Keats House, Hampstead, 

where a group of us sat in the beautiful gardens, beneath the trees on the lawn, on a warm summer's day, listening to a talk about Keats and analysing his lovely poem - 

Ode to a Nightingale

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
'Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
But being too happy in thy happiness,---
That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees,
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.

O for a draught of vintage, that hath been
Cooled a long age in the deep-delved earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country green,
Dance, and Provencal song, and sun-burnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South,
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
And purple-stained mouth;
That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
And with thee fade away into the forest dim:

Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
What thou among the leaves hast never known,
The weariness, the fever, and the fret
Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs,
Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
And leaden-eyed despairs;
Where beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
Or new love pine at them beyond tomorrow.

Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:
Already with thee! tender is the night,
And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,
Clustered around by all her starry fays;
But here there is no light,
Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.

I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet
Wherewith the seasonable month endows
The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;
White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;
Fast-fading violets covered up in leaves;
And mid-May's eldest child,
The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.

Darkling I listen; and for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Called him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
In such an ecstasy!
Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain---
To thy high requiem become a sod

Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
The same that oft-times hath
Charmed magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.

Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
To toll me back from thee to my sole self!
Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well
As she is famed to do, deceiving elf.
Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades
Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
Up the hill-side; and now 'tis buried deep
In the next valley-glades:
Was it a vision, or a waking dream?

Fled is that music:---do I wake or sleep? 
Part of the magic of reading and studying his poem that day was that the gardens in which we sat were where he would have walked and stopped and sat down, while writing the poem and where he may have written it after hearing the nightingale's song on a walk around nearby Hampstead Heath. It was quite shocking to realise that he had died at the very young age of 25. The poem flirts with the idea of death as TB or 'consumption' carried away so many people of those times.


I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Called him soft names in many a mused rhyme.

Keats I'm sure, like all poets, wrestled with the English language to find the right words to express what he wanted to say.

Many years ago, I did write a poem about that struggle, the striving that we all have to communicate - although I'm not putting myself or my simple poem in the same league as Keats' genius. 

Here's my poem, perhaps it does manage to convey the gap between the words we say and what we're trying to express....


Sometimes words gallop
from my mouth in a disordered rush
and people’s eyes glaze over
under the barrage.

Sometimes, when its warmth that I feel,
cold razor words fall from my lips
and the distance to bridge
becomes a glacial chasm.

Sometimes words are so futile and grey
for painting passions that could explode
in a rainbow of numberless colours
that I despair.

Sometimes a chord sounds
when I look in someone’s eyes
and a note of harmony hums between us.
These moments, though rare keep me in tune.

… so how do we convey grief or sadness or depression?  This is why poets so often use metaphor, because there's no other way to convey what we really want to say.  My poetry writing is generally easy to understand and accessible but sometimes metaphor(or simile) is the only way …

Walking on ice

I’m walking on ice, thin, brittle,
sliding one foot forward,
then another, then another.

My legs tremble,
the ice crackles and squeaks.

I put out my balancing arms,
step one, two, three,

and look across,
holding steady.

But the other side
is hazy and blurred.

It must be the mist …
in my eyes.

Maybe it's the job of a poet to find the words that you want to say but can't and speak them out for you?  Is that it dear reader?  I'll end this with Keats and the nightingale - as I began this musing. ..

Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades
Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
Up the hill-side; and now 'tis buried deep
In the next valley-glades:
Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
Fled is that music:---do I wake or sleep?