Sunday, 25 November 2012

Sunday Mornings: Coffee, Reflections and Music

I’ve noticed lately that a lot of my new readers and fellow bloggers are either poets or are heavily into poetry. Blogging is one of those phenomena where there’s a lot of serendipity. It’s not strange to find oneself hopping from one virtual space to another and enjoying lashes of good art along the way; and poetry (as an art form in my humble opinion) features prominently in these cyber-houses. Sometimes I imagine blog-land like a massive Spanish tapas bar where you have a wide variety of dishes on offer: gambas gabardina  (king prawns dipped in butter) here, mushrooms sautéed in garlic over there and Andalusia-style crispy squid served with homemade paprika at the far end. Hmmm… I see you licking your lips. That’s how I feel after I’ve visited the blogs of those who write poems or post poems written by other authors.

That’s why I want to open up my blog once more and turn it into a live platform where we can all share our love for poetry. I’ve done this before but never with poetry. A couple of years ago I organised an online debate on feminism right here on this very space. Click here, here and here to read the opinions of the five (female) contributors. That was followed by another forum on the gender divide in November 2010. You can read the original article here and the follow-up here.

This time around, though, what I would like to do is share with you a little hobby that some friends of mine and I used to indulge in when we were in uni. On those typically warm and humid Cuban afternoons, once lectures were over and I was done with my teaching (I was a teacher-student in those days) we would all repair to the famous, long, pink wall across from our faculty. When we were all seated and comfortable, someone would produce a book of poems from his or her bag and our game started.

“I open (book title0 on page X and read the first poem on the right handside”. That was the only abracadabra needed to unlock the treasure chest containing metaphors, similes and prosopopœias. That was our entertainment. I’m sure we’d seen it in a movie, probably a romantic one, but for the life of me I can’t remember which one. Or maybe it was a pastime someone else had come up with before and it’d been handed down from group to group over the years. The origin was not as important as the fun it brought. My friends and I were poetry enthusiasts at that time (especially after the success of the Argentinian film “El Lado Oscuro del Corazón”/The Dark Side of the Heart. I’ve already mentioned that movie on this blog a few times. Check it out on IMDB to find out why it was so essential to us, Cuban youngsters in the early 90s) so playing this game was a healthy way of reviving the art of reading poetry in public. Even if it was just to four or five other amigos.

Here’s the idea. Go to your bookshelf, reading room, local library, wherever you want to go, it doesn’t matter. Take a book of poems and let it open on your lap randomly on any page and just say to yourself: I open (book title) on page X and read the first poem on (you choose which side). Where a poem has already started and you’ve caught it halfway through, you can go back to the beginning of it and post it in its entirety. Next, e-mail me the poem at, with your blog name (I know some of you use your real name online. That will be honoured, too), blog address and if you happen to be an artist (you might be a published author, or potter, or painter, or photographer), please, send relevant links to your work. I will post everything on my blog next Sunday at 10am.

The beauty of this game and it hasn’t really changed since I played it all those years ago is the surprise element. I trust that we’re all acquainted with Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18: “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day” line but probably less with others that might be equally enchanting. If you are a poet who has had her/his work published, then, of course, you can grab your own book and let it open on any page and pick a poem at random (maybe with your eyes closed?)

I tell you what, my lovely readers and fellow bloggers. You can eve riff off on the theme I’ve just given you. Say, you send me an e-mail that starts thus: “Yo, Cuban man, guess what? I was walking down the road with (book title) in hand and suddenly, out comes from this pub (name of the poem) tumbling around like a drunken sailor. Or, how about this: “Hey, you, past-being-Cuban-almost-a-Londoner, I was waiting on the queue in the supermarket the other day to pay for my weekly shopping, I was holding (book title) in my hand and when it was my turn to cough up, all of a sudden the cashier began to read (name of the poem).

Above all, this game relies on randomness. After all, many of us find good literature that way. So, let’s crack on, shall we. The length of the poem doesn’t matter, however, taking into account that we live in an age where attention span is shrinking rapidly, I would avoid any Coleridge collection. Imagine finding yourself halfway through the The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. If need be, I will post all contributions over two Sundays.

So, what are you waiting for, poets and poetry lovers? Get writing. I look forward to your submissions. In the meantime I'll leave you in the company of one of my recent musical "dicoveries". Doesn't French sound beautiful, especially on an autumn Sunday morning?


Next post: “Food, Music, Food, Music, Food, Music… Ad Infinitum”, to be published on Wednesday 28th November at 11:59pm (GMT)


Gloria said...

What lovely post dear!! Have a nice sunday!

Brian Miller said...

ha fun goes...

balances by nikki giovanni

in life
one is always

like we juggle our mothers
against our fathers

or one teacher
against another
(only to balance our grade average)

3 grains of salt
to one ounce truth

our sweet black essence
or the funky honkies down the street

and lately i've begun wondering
if you're trying to tell me something

we used to talk all night
and do things alone together

and i've begun

(as a reaction to a feeling)
to balance
the pleasure of loneliness
against the pain
of loving you

Brian Miller said...

hope you have a great sunday as well

Lisa said...

I love tapas! And I love game and prompts, more like I need them to blog. I like your challenge, I have a library but I can guarantee that there is no book on poetry. I never wrote a poetry until dverse by Brian. And yes the poets on the net are beautiful and they are beautiful people too. I will bump myself onto a poetry and will submit to you.

A Cuban In London said...

Nice one, Brian! You took the lead, my man. I will be posting that one next week for sure. It will be the first one.

And I love Nikki Giovanni.

My contribution will be posted next Sunday. I look forward to your e-mails.

Greetings from London.

Mary said...

What a great idea! I will submit something later today.

Dominic Rivron said...

Good game. Email sent. I found the poem (which turned out to be one I didn't know) in The New English Book of English Verse.

Dave King said...

Excellent idea. I love the thought of blogland being like a tapas bar. Will email you anon.

Rachel Fox said...

likewise... email sent.

Gloria said...

sorry but Im not a poet I only love to read poems;(

SaraV said...

Oh, this sounds very fun! I'll be emailing you soon :-)

Claudia said...

hey...i think it's an excellent idea...don't wanna spoil the fun but i would be careful with copyrights though if you post more modern poetry of well-known writers on your blog...just a thought...
recently i stood in a bookshop in ashbury haights in san francisco and i just did this..opened loads of poetry and art books just on random pages and sucked up the treasures...honestly...i could've spend all day in there...smiles..

A Cuban In London said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you to all those who have already submitted their poems. I'm enjoying the poems as much as I am the stories behind them. Seriously, guys, my next Sunday post will be a hundred thousand words long because I don't want to leave anything out.

And I've just had an idea for a future post, maybe March or April next year, springtime. :-)

Greetings from London.

Gloria said...

ok! Ok! I love poesy but Im soooo timid:( anyway is something of Neruda will be in english.only few people talk spanish....still thanks:)

Emille said...

Glad to see your blogname back - on another blog - compared to painting, I "dabble" in poetry... You may know me as Jeannette StG, but I temporarily stopped posting on there, and started another as Emille since May.

Daydreamertoo said...

Great idea for a prompt Cuban man.
I'll think about this and see if I can come up with anything, feel sure though that you won't be stuck for participants :)

ladyfi said...

Sounds like you had a lot of fun and inspiration.

That French song does sound beautiful.

The Summer Kitchen Girls said...

What a cool idea :) if we get a moment we will join in the fun!!

Pat Hatt said...

Wow Brian went all out, not sure I have much though as not a book on poetry does show, just me being a rhyming nut haha

manicddaily said...

I also think a great idea. Truly, the first book that came to hand (stained on a coffee table) was my poetry book, "Going on Somewhere" by Karin Gustafson


All I can say is that
it's a good thing we have museums
hanging Courbets,
the occasional Italian,
with their depictions of swelling bellies,
dimples gathered around spines, flesh rippling
like Aphrodite's birth foam,
the creep of pubic hair juxtaposed by coy hands
whose curved digits
pudge, slightly sunken cheeks (above, below),
spidery blood vessels
rooting beneath the patina.
All I can say, as I catch
my face in the glass,
glance down at my folio
of torso, is that
it's a good thing.

Ygraine said...

Can't wait to give it a go!
I am going to email you now...

Sarah Laurence said...

My eyes just started going funny too. One trick online is to magnify a blog in your browser, but the problem with yours is it’s so wide that it becomes hard to read. This is why newspapers are written in columns and even books are not that wide. Can you make the template narrower or go back to the smart stretch template?

Tyger was beautiful. It was interesting how she combined French and English but the music was definitely French.

I love that you used to play with poetry at university. It sounds like a most whimsical game and I can see why you’d want to recreate this on your blog. I’ll go find my Frost. Lazy suggestion: do the book trick and then google the poem online so you only need to copy and paste.

A Cuban In London said...

Thanks for your comments and your contributions. Keep them coming! :-)

Sarah, I hear and will act on your suggestions. Thanks a lot.

Greetings from London.

Paula Scott said...

What a great idea! We do spend our time much more productively when we don't waste it watching TV and playing 873 allocowsvideo games, etc.


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