Featured poet

Susan Waters

I was fortunate to have Secondary School teachers who helped me appreciate poetry, and I then had the opportunity to study English Literature at Cardiff University. As far as creative writing was concerned, I was so overwhelmed by the power of everyone else’s work I couldn’t make a start myself.

Life also became busy raising my children, working as an Adult Education tutor and latterly as a Library Assistant for the Northamptonshire Library Service. I joined a poetry appreciation group at Little Gidding and more recently the FPAA poetry group at The Shed. This allowed me to relax into the pleasure of listening to poetry read out loud.

In 2013, Tony Roberts and Peter Phelps encouraged the poetry group to explore the Haiku form creatively - and for me, it was like a light being switched on. As we just had to write one line at a time as the group built the poems, it was a manageable challenge.

My first poem was written in July 2014, so the following seven poems on the website are very much a first effort. I feel I have found my particular voice, even though I sometimes reference other writers. This recent quieter phase of my life will thankfully allow for further writing.

For St Edmund, King of the East Angles

I wrote the following for the FPAA Fellowship Celebration Service to mark the Feast Day of St Edmund the Martyr. The Service was held on November 20th 2015 at The Heritage Church in Rushden. It is intended to become an annual event.

St Edmund, the Anglo-Saxon King (841 – 869AD) was martyred for his Christian faith after a defeat by an army of Danish invaders. He was tied to a tree and shot with arrows. After he was beheaded, legend has it that a wolf guarded his head. When Edmund’s followers came to find his body, the wolf cried out Hic, Hic, Hic (Here, Here, Here) so they could locate him. St Edmund was Patron Saint of England from 869 – 1350AD, and his flag flies above The Shed as the FPAA Patron.

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For Marina

Marina Cantacuzino is the founder of The Forgiveness Project – a non-religious, apolitical UK based charity (www.theforgivenessproject.com). It works with individual personal narratives to examine how concepts of conflict resolution can be used positively to break the cycle of harm and violence. I wrote the poem in gratitude that my story is included in the discourse.

In her recent book The Forgiveness Project: stories for a vengeful age, she writes: “If forgiveness was a colour, for me it would be grey, the colour of compromise and conciliation, and because it sits between the two extremes of black and white. Apparently the human eye can distinguish not 50 but 500 shades of grey, and fittingly the artist Odilon Redon called it ‘the soul of colour’.”

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The word Vipassana is from the Buddhist tradition of self purification and means 'to see things as they really are'. The practice is to observe the breath in silent meditation and recognize each bodily sensation. Over time, this calms and uncoils the mind, giving space for memories to emerge. Whether these are recollections of pleasant or dark experiences, the aim is to remain impartial.

What surprised me most on the retreat in 2015 at Hereford Dhamma Dipa Meditation Centre (www.dipa.dhamma.org) was that I had lived for so long ignoring the rhythms of my breath.

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Registering Your Death

The impulse to write poetry really began when my Mother died in February 2015. I found it was a way to still talk to her, as I went through the rituals and requirements of bereavement.

The friend who drove me to Wellingborough Register Office explained that he had bought his sports car after his son died in a road traffic accident. For him it was a way to celebrate his son’s zest for life. Similarly, despite the poem’s subject, it affirms the circle of life.

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Life After Life

After collecting my Mother Constance’s ashes from the undertakers, I decided I wanted to scatter them in places significant to her life. Some stayed in my garden’s earth and some I took to Stanwick Lakes under a solar eclipse. We used to sit out on the balcony over the water, taking tea and pretending we were actually on a cruise.

As she was born in London, I chose the top of Primrose Hill, where there is a panoramic view over the city. Once there with my children, we noticed a Tolkein-like circle of trees, where I threw ash into the air.

There is a memorial bench at Stanwick Lakes with a quote from my favourite poem, The Windhover by Gerard Manley Hopkins: "Sheer plod makes plough down sillion shine"

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This poem was written in the relief of completing Executor duties, which included locating an estranged relative. The last line references the poem The Windhover by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

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The Cats

I finally gave in to my daughter’s persuasion to have cats, when she told me the story of these two rescue cats' discovery. They were initially frightened of light, after they had spent – Goodness knows how long – in a filthy, dark bedroom. It took many months of care by Pat from Cats Protection, before they came home to me. As they were found at Christmas time, Pat called them Sugar and Spice. Sara and I decided on different names, after the Goddesses Vesta and Isis.

The cats' ordeal made me consider those imprisoned against their will and their certain need for hope.

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