In the unusual circumstances posed by the corona virus, formal launches of Poetry have been cancelled – at least for now. So I would like to welcome you to the virtual launch of publications by Red Squirrel Press.
Plugged-in and tunes selected,
the electric minstrel fills the air
with a beat they will know
and a voice that must coax.
Some may glance her way
in the lull of conversations,
but she is the salt of the diners;
the liquid of the glass.
Her mother was a jukebox,
her father played the fiddle.
Long ago there was someone
playing a lute while people, as always,
shouted over the racket.
Her job is to entertain,
distract and take away the silence.
She is in every town, every encampment,
wherever people have knotted together.
She drives through the rain, as she always has,
down mud-spattered lanes
with carts or whatever could be carried
on groaning backs. And this road is no place
for the squeamish. Many have fallen; Buddy Holly,
Johnny Kidd, Eddie Cochran are just a few.
Yet she will battle above the rows,
the women who teeter towards a fight
and the drunken laughter. She
will get their attention.
Now someone is singing in the corner,
bodies unwittingly move to the beat.
They have learned to accept her voice
and there will be dancing.
I am the drip that wears the stone,
darkly I fill the upland wastes,
then trickle the hillside where I
crash and fall. I am the roar
at the valley’s heart where I sing
my song as I dash to be free.
I am the green upon the lawn,
the juice that feeds the forest pine,
each little sip the sparrow takes,
each cup of tea, each cask of wine.
Trapped underground, I have distilled
the years where I’ve been the maker
of caverns and spires. Caught out by
the cold at the roof of the world
or at the Earth’s poles where I turn
so solid I can crush the rocks.
Your great ships may cruise me, careless
you’ve abused me as you clutter
the oceans with pain. But I am
the one drop inside your collar
who’ll shudder a chill down your spine.
Tougher than Belfast steel, I am
heavier than the air you breathe;
I am the force that can sweep you
away. I will rise and fill up
these fields, drown your crops and livestock;
this planet has always been mine.
From the stiffness in the plant’s stem,
the liquid in the blood, I float
all the things you do and I am
the better part of you.
Offa’s Dyke Path: In Mist
The pace of life slows to a step
along each rugged or muddied
path. We slide in the wetness, feel
the fall of the earth beneath us.
All sense of place is muddled here
in the fog of the hills. Valleys
are lost, even the route ahead
is consumed by the fallen cloud.
Company is sparse. Huddled shapes
mist past: walkers, wild ponies, but
mostly sheep. Few words are spoken,
just the duplicitous skylark
singing us away from her nest.
Through faith we follow the way down,
markers mostly point the right way,
though some need interpretation.
Guidebooks and GPS all help.
We enter each new town the way
people have done throughout the years;
strange pilgrims in search of shelter.
Kemal Houghton lives on the Wirral. He is Chair of the Chester Poets, a co-presenter at First Thursday in Heswall and of Poetry Roundup on the internet station Vintage Radio. He is on the planning group for the Wirral Poetry Festival and has run numerous workshops for both the festival and other community groups. He has a diverse body of work which has appeared in Chester Poets’ Anthologies since 1981, Poetry Scotland, Poetry Cornwall, The Jabberwocky Green Book, and on-line on Three Drops of the Cauldron. A retired social worker, Kemal now chairs the charity and not for profit organisation, Wirral Independent Living & Learning who provide support to people with learning disabilities. In his ‘spare time’ he enjoys hill walking and completed the 189 miles from Chepstow to Prestatyn along the Offa’s Dyke Path in 2018.
This is Kemal’s first pamphlet on Red Squirrel Press and sets out with A Sense of Purpose to explore, not just people and places, but attitudes to and our relationship with the world we live in. Amongst the many ideas collected over the years, be assured ─ There Will Be Dancing.
“There is a reassuring solidity in these poems, which encompass themes of time passing, evanescence and journeying on foot. Yet conversely there is also a disconcerting sense of the poet observing life from a very distant vantage point. A worthy first collection.” Gill McEvoy
You can buy copies of this book from the Red Squirrel Press website, or signed copies from Kemal’s site when it goes live. And later this year, we hope to have live launches, with the usual wine and (potentially) squirrel cookies!