Sunday, 21 April 2013


Review: The Other Side Of The Bridge by Geraldine Green

The Other Side of the Bridge by Geraldine Green. Published by Indigo Dreams, July 2012. ISBN 978-1-907401-86-2. £7.99. Click here>> to buy.

by Djelloul Marbrook

Profane recollections and sacred epiphany

The Beloit Poetry, one of America’s most venerable, famously reads submissions aloud. If they read Geraldine Green’s poems aloud they will think inevitably of e e cummings’ regard for punctuation as impediment. Her very first poem, ‘Me and Janine’, is full of information and yet it tells its story — sings it — without punctuation simply because Green’s mind possesses unerring musicality.

legs swinging and us licking ice creams

on the submarine dock our platform shoes

cool and wonderful and the men whistling

and shouting hey love, gi’e us a lick!

She thinks musically whereas some poets translate their thoughts into music. The difference shows up again and again in this remarkable, stylistically diverse collection, The Other Side Of The Bridge.

Place and placement play a major role in her poetry. Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria is where it begins, at the Vickers shipyards. That’s one of her places, placement being a term of art.

There is in Green’s manuscript a tension between belonging and unbelonging, and perhaps between longing to belong and a quiet celebration of the edge that unbelonging provides our observations. This tension gives her work a currency, an immediacy that casts into sharp relief one of the central issues of our time — the clash of immigrants with nativism, the quest of newcomers for identity, and the embittered and embittering insistence of some that the culture belongs to them and only them.

It is the predicament of the Irish in England, the Arabs in France, the Turks in Germany, the Hispanics in the United States. But it is also the far more subtle predicament of the person, native or not, whatever that means, who insists on seeing the elephant in the room, the person who cannot bring himself to play the consensual game. In this light, we are all immigrants making our various adjustments, and ultimately the beauty of Green’s book rests on the reader’s recognition that the business of belonging makes outsiders and is therefore a deadly business.

When we get to ‘Over There Was Grandma’s House’ we begin to settle down for the voyage, not away from Cumbria but into the interiority of placeness. It’s a handsome, elegiac poem; not meant to be rushed by. There is a reason the French poet René Char was dead set against setting poetry to music; poetry has its own logic, its own wind and leaves in the wind. Setting it to music is like pouring tomato sauce on an exquisite dish. Each poet’s breath and heartbeat has a different sound, and this particular poem strikes me as coming from one who has closely observed and admires the sea, its long strophes, its chop, its changes. I think perhaps Green even emulates the sea.

Each summer evening she’d watch coal boats leave for Ireland,

watch trawlers bringing in their catch of mullet, mackerel, herrings.

Boats with names: Maggie Ann, Skibbereen, Star of the Sea.

She’d sit, scarf around her head, hair pulled back tight in a bun

topping and tailing blackcurrants, peeling and coring apples,

giving kids a stick of rhubarb, green, pink its taste of mown hay.

Some poems we admire for their pristine virtues, even their Spartan meanness, and while Green’s more lyrical poems are often lean and spare, they never push one away; I have often been pushed away from a poem I admire.

Green’s is the poetry of rootedness, and yet there is a hint of the young girl who keeps glancing in store windows to make sure that she’s still there, that she looks as she thought she looks and is where she thought she was. I suspect everything she writes henceforth will rest on these pillars, these recognitions, these profane recollections shot through with sacred epiphany.

Djelloul Marbrook blogs at and is the author of two books of poetry (Far from Algiers, Kent State; Brushstrokes and glances, Deerbrook Editions) and three novellas (Artemisia’s Wolf, Saraceno, and Alice Miller’s Room). A retired newspaper editor, he lives in the mid-Hudson Valley and Manhattan.

Friday, 19 April 2013


APRIL17TH  AND A WONDERFUL DAY AT THE ART WORKERS GUILD Queen Square, Bloomsbury, London, running a creative writing workshop for The Society of Medical Writers – you can find info on who they are here:

The website says:

Membership of the Society of Medical Writers is open to any healthcare practitioner, student or journalist who publishes or aspires to publish his or her written work of whatever nature – fact or fiction, prose or poetry. Membership of the Society is intended to be enjoyable, stimulating and educational, so that writing from (and about) medical practice is improved and encouraged.”

From my experience as competition judge and having run two creative writing workshops for them I find what they do to be exciting and reassuring. Exciting because of the energy, enthusiasm, humour and compassion I’ve experienced from the members and their writing and reassuring, because in these days we’re living through when medical workers, and the NHS in particular, take such a battering from the current government, it's refreshing to discover such passion and humanity.

To read the competition entries of this group, non-fiction and poems, demonstrates to me that there are ‘good people’ working in the medical profession dedicated to their work, capable of empathizing with their patients and, most importantly, put us, their patients, first.

I like their Aims:

"To encourage members to widen and improve their standards of writing, including the preparation, presentation and submission of material for publication in both scientific and creative genres.
To provide regular meetings and workshops for members for the exchange of views, skills and ideas, with opportunities to learn from the experience of other healthcare / writing professionals.
To encourage members to enter for the society’s Writing Competitions and   Awards and to submit items for publication in the Society’s twice-yearly journal ‘The Writer’."

I enjoyed the ride into London with my niece, her husband and twin girls – it was their fourth birthday, so a lively start to my day! Stepping off the tube at Russell Square and faced with a scrum of people crowding round the lift doors… I headed for the stairs. A sign said: “There are 175 steps, please ask if you need assistance” So, ignoring the advice, lugging my small case and heavy workbag, I headed off up the white tiled, Victorian stairs… almost spiral, I was left a tad panting at the top, and daylight!


Virginia Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, E.M. Forster. The Bloomsbury Set, whose ideas on Time and Free Will I discussed in the Introduction to my PhD Thesis:

“The lingering significance of childhood experiences is intimately related to the ways in which we imaginatively recapture these ‘singular revelatory moments’. My understanding of such moments has been given an additional dimension by reading about the Bergsonian idea of la durée. Natalyia Gudz observes, “Reality, as viewed by Virginia Woolf, includes the whole expanse of space and time. … The present moment is never isolated, because it is filled with every preceding moment, and is constantly in the process of change. Time flows with the stream, having neither beginning nor end. Reality is actually timeless and spaceless, because it contains all space and all time(Gudz 2005: 2).

The present moment can have an impact on psychological time which is different to that of historical time. “Bergson, In ‘Time and Free Will’ (1888) had dealt with two different concepts of time.  Historical time, which is external and linear, was measured in terms of the spatial distance travelled by a pendulum or the hands of a clock. And psychological time, which is internal and subjective, was measured by the relative emotional intensity of a moment” (Gudz 2005: 3).

And here was I out of breath and on the bright daylight street outside the Tube… which way? I headed off and found Brunswick Square, after asking a couple of people I went through an alleyway and into a refreshing oasis, calm after the panting stairs-climb and busyness of the streets of London… Queen Square was delightful, looking at the map I saw that Great Ormond Street Hospital was close by and on the Square itself were two hospitals: the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery (NHNN), and University College London.


The SOMW conference was held inside The Art Workers Guild, whose portals hung above me in black and gold lettering and a fanlight of windows… elegant and welcoming door… buzzer pressed, door opened, up the stairs and a seat just off the main conference room, I sat surrounded by old books and new on arts, crafts, design, a room permeated by the ideas of its members:

        “ … artists, craftsmen and designers with a common interest in the interaction, development and distribution of creative skills. It represents a variety of views on design and stands for authenticity (irrespective of political and stylistic ideology) in a world increasingly uncertain about what is real.”

After lunch and chats I ran the creative writing workshop, emphasizing the need to play, the natural instinct of the human animal and how, in the busyness of being adult, we sometimes forget this vital function. I caught the end of the last speaker’s talk on Sherlock Holmes and how observant he was of everyday people, their stories, actions, desires, hopes and worries.

So I threaded into my intro the idea that, like scientists and naturalists, poets, too, must be observant, aware of nuances, attentive to what’s going on, writing in response to human stories, their settings. But besides noting human animals we might like to consider other life forms, animate and non-animate with whom we share our earth-home.

The workshop consisted of a series of prompts and stimuli, starting with a simple warm-up exercise, “Today in this room I hear/smell/see/taste/touch/feel”, to get the group in touch with their physical bodies, reminding them that we’re not this nine pound head bobbling about on the stalk of our necks, consisting only of the intellect, but we are physical, we’re animals, too!

The group, all twenty one of them, responded wholeheartedly, producing delightful, sensitive, funny, earthy pieces of writing in a short space of time. Other exercises were writing in response to ‘Art Cards’; describing an object in the room without saying what the object was – and we all had to guess – ending with asking someone to read out ‘The Door’ by Miroslav Holub, then writing in response either by describing a door they knew, perhaps as a child, or describing an imaginary door, one they’d like to see, to open and step through… and what they'd like to find there...

This last exercise linked, coincidentally, with a talk on dementia by a previous guest who had produced a book called ‘Open the Door.’ Synchronicity is alive and well!

Whilst the group were writing I looked out of the window, onto Queen Square, the small oblong park in the centre, its iron railings, decorative gates, people in shorts, t-shirts, sprawled on the grass in the warm spring sun. Pigeons cooing and strutting their stuff, beckoning the females on… a man opening his car door, getting out his two small dogs. A youngish man with a walking stick and dogs on extending leads. His car black and shiny A taxi pulling up outside the hospital. Workers standing around puffing on ciggies… a private ambulance – don’t see many around here – pulled up outside the hospital door… I turn and say “a couple of more minutes” turn back to the window, gaze on the peaceful scene of grass growing its green self into the light.


I’m looking forward to judging the next poetry and non-fiction competition for the Society of Medical Writers, and presenting the prizes at the SOMW Autumn Conference and Writing Workshop, Friday 11th – Sunday 13th October at the Valley Hotel, Coalbrookdale, Ironbridge Gorge, Shropshire. 

The theme of the Conference is: “History and Natural History.”

Guest speakers (as well as myself) include: 
Paul Evans, nature writer for the Guardian and BBC Wildlife magazine, 
Jo Cannon author of ‘Insignificant Gestures’, 
Andrew Peters, Shropshire poet and member of ‘Wrekin Writers’ and 
Writing Workshops with Geraldine Green. 

The Door

Go and open the door.
   Maybe outside there's
   a tree, or a wood,
   a garden,
   or a magic city.

Go and open the door.
   Maybe a dog's running.
   Maybe you'll see a face,
or an eye
or the picture
               of a picture.

Go and open the door.
   If there's a fog
   it will clear.

Go and open the door.
   Even if there's only
   the darkness ticking,
   even if there's only
   the hollow wind,
   even if
               is there,
go and open the door.

At least 
there'll be 
a draught.

- by Miroslav Holub
trans. by Ian Milner and George Theiner

Geraldine Green 19.4.2013

Thursday, 18 April 2013



when my hair was aluminium shavings and each strand was a follicle
of skyscrapers, each curve and kink and bend was the willowed wing of a bird

when smoke rising from chimneys crooked and blue was the curl
of your fingered dawn struggling into its first shift

when salt crystal beads and prayer in days of shaven heads were hands 
and beards crazed in bayous and you told me your years had been swallowed

by a great white whale

i knew then that nothing can protect the greenblue plankton 
nothing can prevent heaven's empty belly from rumbling

nothing can prevent deserts from their low and melodious humming, and
nothing nothing nothing can prevent the bees from swarming

Monday, 15 April 2013



we all are poets.
we each sing our own tune...
comes up through the blood,
pulses in the soles of our feet,
shimmies up our arms and limbs,
spangles along the byways of our arteries,
we all are poets, if we let ourselves be so,
we all sing, each to our own and all tune and tunes,
we all sing songs each day, the spine tingles we sing
earlobes prickle, we are saxophones tin drums xylophones
and trombones we are guitars strum and headlong rush
of blood into the beating of the wood brush fog
we each taste and choose and lick and ponder
we all are poets - we all wonder.