2017: A Joyride…

A Joyride

I have recently re-connected with one of my oldest friends, an ex-boyfriend, someone who was one of the most important people in my life and who I lost touch with 27 years ago. Through the wonders of the internet – we re-connected in March this year. We have now embarked on – as he calls it – ‘a unique social experiment’ of getting to know each other all over again. Noticing how people change – or don’t change – over the decades has got me thinking about the core of what makes a person. My friend is completely recognisable to me, so familiar and yet with a lifetime of life changes experiences that I must get to know all over again. The same goes for me. Once upon a time we were so similar, just kids, and now?

Below is a picture of me aged 20- it’s all a blur!

IMG_3374

Poem and Song

 When my friend and I first lived together in 1989, when we were just starting out on the full catastrophe of adult life, I was a budding poet and he was starting off as musician and rock star. I spoiled it all by getting a full time job and going to night school. Ah well. I gave up poetry dreams for science and education. It took up all my years. Meanwhile – on another planet, he was having his own adventures. Only four years ago I picked up the muse and the pen again and found poetry. Since then I have been published. To him, meeting me after 27 years, it was obvious I would be a poet as that was pretty much where we both left off. On the other hand, he had almost 30 years of song writing knowledge, surpassing me by miles and it’s been amazing to see the expertise in action. I sat mesmerised in my sitting room as he sang me a song he wrote about me – that I hadn’t heard for almost 30 years. It got me thinking about who we think we are and who we become.

Debut Collection: Darshan  http://www.culturedllama.co.uk

March of this year gave me my friend re-united, that was a blessing because it was a welcome disruption from writing two years’ worth of poems about my childhood and my mother and the experience of growing up with wounded parents. The realisation that wounds can be blessings – if you let them. March of 2017 also got me signed to funky publishers Cultured Llama, for my debut collection: Darshan. It builds on my 2016 pamphlet “The Swell” and will be published in March 2018.

‘Darshan’ by Jessica Mookherjee will be published by Cultured Llama in March 2018.

New Pamphlet : Joyride  https://theblacklightengineroom.wordpress.com

One of the great things about meeting my old friend was re-uniting with a person who I could share artistic ideas with. He was very kind about my poems but suggested ways I could think and write differently. In his memory I was influenced by music and lyrics and he reminded me that once I was 20-year-old music fan. The recklessness of youth can ebb and flow, there are times in our lives when we put the breaks on and other times when we accelerate wildly, occasionally jumping the lights. A good metaphore for art, I thought. So I teamed up with another old friend, Morbid, the Black Light Engine Driver from the Middlesbrough press, Black Light Engine Room – Incidentals series, to create a new pamphlet I called “Joyride”. This collection was written quickly in an exciting and frenetic pace and tells of lost loves and tragedy, of moving on, rediscovery and becoming. It is unashamedly inspired by my friend. It will be published and launched in November 2017.

‘Joyride’ by Jessica Mookherjee will be published by Black Light Engine Room: Incidentals in November 2017. Launches in Tunbridge Wells and Middlesbrough.

Art : Fractals

I was quite mesmerised this year about the patterns our lives make. However hard and insane life can get, when looked at with enough distance, the patterns are beautiful. This year myself and wonderful group of poets, photographers and artists put on a fabulous art exhibition and poetry reading, called Fractals. The idea was Ekphrasis, art inspiring art, and we did it. It was held in the Summer at Trinity Arts Centre Gallery and had brilliant feed back.

Fractals: Art and Poetry. https://fractalsproject.co.uk/about/

Forward Momentum

To be nominated once for best single poem in the National Forward Prize was something – but twice? I was so honoured and frankly chuffed to be put forward by The South Magazine for “Chagall’s Drowned Girl” and by the wonderful The Journal Magazine (ed. Sam Smith) for “Ursa Minor”. I then thought no more of it until I got a wonderful email from Sam saying that I was ‘highly commended’ for best single poem by Forward Prize Judges. So I’m in the 2018 Forward Prize book with some of my poetry heroes. I simply could not believe it.

On the Road

This year I have had the pleasure to read at great events, from local readings in Tunbridge Wells Library, Tunbridge Wells Unfest, to the South Downs Poetry Festival and taking part in the Poetry Café ‘s Poem-a thon.

The Elbow Room : Issue 18 Launch @ The Harrison in Kings Cross, with doors opening at 7.30 and readings starting at 8pm.

Agenda Magazine’s Poetry Festival @ 6th October 2017 in Mayfield Girl’s School, Mayfield. http://www.mayfieldgirls.org/Agenda-Poetry-Festival

 Swindon Poetry Festival @Sunday 8th October:13:30 to 14:30 READINGS, RJ Museum Tent-Palace with Jessica Mookherjee, Rishi Dastidar & Camilla Nelson http://www.poetryswindon.org/festival

Loose Muse@ Monday 9th October 2017 Winchester Discovery Centre 7.30pm

https://loose-muse.com/home-2/
Continue reading “2017: A Joyride…”

Darshan (a Blessing)

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Impossible Things…

I was really pleased to get my poem Darshan published in The North (Issue 57) -January 2017 edition. It was a wonderful start to the year.

A few people have asked me how I find time to write and hold down my demanding job and get submissions out to magazines. I answer – I often forfeit sleep. I should really forfeit binge-watching Netflix but sadly it is usually – sleep.

Nevertheless, last year was a busy burst for me – after a poetic hiatus of some 20 years. I’m making up for lost time and ultimately it is an enormous pleasure. I was selected to be in an Eyewear Anthology called “Best of British and Irish Poets of 2017”, I love that title! I was very pleased to selected to be in ‘Three Drops in The Cauldron’ web poetry zine. I admire this magazine because it transports me to a place I spent a great deal of my childhood in- a sort of half-way world that is sometimes much more real than this one. Ink,Sweat and Tears selected one of my poems ‘Stranger’ to appear on International Woman’s Day 2017. That poem is about a witch.

Back to Darshan …

I was looking for a big poem to end my forthcoming collection. I had already written poems about shape-shifting, psychotic god hallunications, I had tackled poems about suffering and soul loss. I had written poems about science and belief. I wanted to write about coping. I wanted to write something about more then that – experience of the edge, the edge of coping and not not coping, the brink of madness and the feeling of  transcendence.

Who is the great being at the top of the stairs and do we dare to climb up to meet them and what do we do- when we get to the top – and there is no one but our own breathlessness of the climb?

Thinking Two Things At The Same Time…

“Alice laughed. ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said. ‘One can’t believe impossible things.’

I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. There goes the shawl again!” – Lewis Caroll 

The story behind the poem starts with my name Jessica. This is from the Hebrew Jesse or Yska which means ‘He Beholds’ or ‘God is looking’. I always wondered what I might ask god if I were to meet them eye to eye. I always imagine  their  advice to be very sage and practical like “read a good book, take a walk every day and  get good sleep” and “all you need is love” – stuff like that.

Bless

The concept of Darshan comes from the sanskrit term for ‘blessing’ or ‘visitation from god’ – the power of the ‘communion’ between spirit and flesh. In Hinduism it takes the form of profound experience where you take in the presence of god (power)  and this becomes a blessing and a healing.

Then there is also – of course – the fact that we are essentially alone. We evolved from small rodent like mammals and evolved the high anxiety hormones of a prey species and the aggression  of social predators. We descended from trees into savage savannah, in small family groups. We are primates – our canine teeth shrank into our own brains – which became our biggest weapon. We were shaped by desert, climate, disease, desire – and fear. We huddled together, hugged and groomed each other – and made shapes in fire, in trees and made gods to help us through the night.

Wendy through the Looking Glass

I met the woman in my poem – Wendy, on a plane from Delhi to Heathrow. I had visited temples in India, been jostled and ripped off and overwhelmed. I learned from a priest in a temple in Kolkata that there was no such thing as Hinduism. That was the British word for the thousands of mini-religions that inhabited  India. He told me that the correct term was Sanatana – which means eternity or infinity (that which goes on and on and on).

Wendy and I talked on the plane home, she described a series of losses, a taking off of each layer of attachment to the material world – until even her own life was to be lost. In utter despair – this woman – a pragmatic materialist- asked for help from …? She wasn’t sure what from… but it appeared in resplendent light and gave her Darshan.

My father told me later that it was important for the body to find meaning in order to live, and he doubted the objective truth of a benevolent god.

I don’t think it matters – after all…

Read a good book, take a walk every day and  get good sleep,  and all you need is love – stuff like that.

My Poem ‘Darshan’ is in the North (issue 57) and is the current Working Title of my forthcoming full collection. 

 

 

As It Is Happening

The Launch

This last few months have seen the The Swell (Telltale Press) published and launched in Tunbridge Wells. I enjoyed it hugely – and my co-readers were Mara Bergman, Sarah Barnsley, Robin Houghton and Abegail Morely. As one poetry wag at my launch chipped “these were certainly no ugly bridesmaids – quite the reverse”. LOL – er… thanks. But it was true really. I have always attempted to surround myself with the better looking in case their shine rubs off on me. The other great thing about the Launch was having all my poetry community in one place, my Kent and Sussex Stanza friends, my old Tunbridge Wells Writers buddies, my Word Up mukkas, my Fractal friends, and good loyal allies that have cheered me on from the beginning. It made me think how important we are to each other, and that may sound sentimental, but I mean this organically and viscerally.

Robin Houghton Poetry

https://abegailmorley.wordpress.com

http://www.gold.ac.uk/ecl/staff/s-barnsley/

Home

The Milk of Kindness

One of my poems is about “the things that make us” – that which nurtures us. It is often mainly our parents. But we can forget sometimes that when our own nurturing can fall short – sometimes those kindnesses from strangers can fill us up. These kindnesses are spelled out in my poem “Milk” (published in Tears In the Fence). This poem is about how acutely I felt the loss of grand parents and aunts and uncles when I was a child. My parents – immigrants from what was then ‘East Pakistan’ (or as my father still called it – British India), had no one. So I went about collecting grannies. I loved the old welsh ladies who told me what Swansea was like before the war, stories of Dylan Thomas’ Wales. They took me to all the churches and chapels in mumbles– hundreds off them – and they all believed something slightly different. Very baffling to a little indian girl who had a mother who believed in lots of gods and a scientist for a father. My take home message – was kindness. In all my childhood I only ever met one mean old lady – who called me “chocolate drop”. She was a silly cow. Everyone else was my grand-mother, my grandfather, uncles, aunts and they didn’t even know it!

https://tearsinthefence.com

http://www.welsh-costume.co.uk                       I had to wear this.

News

It has been a good and busy poetry time for me. The wonderful Carrie Etter for Bath Spa University selected The Swell to be one of her pamphlet study texts. I was selected for the Eyewear Anthology and the Templar Anthology. I was asked back to Word Up! Slam – to do a 10 min slot and Invited to read at the Derwent Festival – (where the wonderful Mara Bergman is launching her pamphlet). Telltale had a wonderful and packed Telltale and Friends event at the Lewes Arms – with Judy Brown (!!) and Michaela Ridgewell (!!). Then I got poems selected for The North and Three Drops In the Cauldron. So onwards an upwards.

I will be reading at

Derwent Festival – Derbyshire November 4th/5th, Black Light Engine Room – Middlesborough -November 19th, Word Up! Tunbridge Wells December 7th, and I’ve been tentatively asked to read some poems at our village Christmas lights event too. Now theres lovely – as they say in Wales.

https://theblacklightengineroom.wordpress.com/2014/05/11/the-black-light-engine-room-press/

http://www.twforum.co.uk/word-up-holly-mcnish/           this event has passed – but is was v good !

 

 

 

 

Swollen

It is September. I’m in that ‘doing too much, not doing enough’ frame of mind.

It’s been a lovely poetry year so far though. I went on a pretty fantastic poetry holiday to Allmersera Vella near Allicante, where I learned all sorts of amazing things from the great Mimi Khalvati. I can seriously say that I have never simultaneously both taken poetry as seriously and not seriously. I’m not even sure that last sentence makes sense – but I did laugh and cry.

http://www.oldolivepress.com

My pamphlet “The Swell” came to see me fully formed from the printers. It looks beautiful. The cover is just wonderful. The Telltale Press cover designer is Hannah Clare – she is super talented. The Pamphlet is edited by Robin Houghton and Sarah Barnsley from Telltale Press – big thanks to them. The Launch is going to be in Tunbridge Wells on October 5th. Let me know if you’d like to come.

A new kind of poetry publisher…

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I had poems published in High Window, Tears in the Fence and Obsessed with Pipework and one just accepted in the South. I’m really pleased that my poem about the Tudely Church near Five Oak Green (near Tonbridge) got accepted. It is one of my earlier poems and I liked it at the time then lost faith – thinking it too narrative and possibly  sentimental. It is about the young woman, Sarah, depicted in Chagall’s windows in All Saint’s Church. It is also about Sarah’s mother – and grief.

http://www.tudeley.org/chagallwindows.htm

I have also won my first poetry competition. The Paragrammer Paradox poetry prize! The judge was Claire Dyer – must have been a tough job, and I’m really pleased she picked my poem “Beast” from a strong field of poems.

Paragram Paradox Prize – The Winners

I’m also going to be at the Free Verse London Poetry Book Fair on the 17th September. I’m going with Seig Babar, Sarah Barnsley and Peter Kenny – The Telltale Poetry Book Cru. We are also going to be reading in the evening – so come watch us.

I’m also putting the final touches together to my first full collection – working title is “Darshan”. More of this – later!

Meanwhile… I’m hanging out with my poetry chums as well as progressing a very exciting Ekphrastic artist/photographer/poet collaboration with some rather groovy people. More of this – Later!

So now we are properly back to school!

Hectic Subculture

Hectic

What does it all mean? I think it means consumptive, the agitation felt by illness. We think it means busy or active. The word is flushed with a persistent fever.

I have been hectic. Britain has been hectic. We have become disordered. We have Brexit-ed.

Broken it.

Leave or Remain? There could never be a nuanced argument over yes or no. Normal distributions – the standard deviations on the normal curve – that take into account the maths of the middle, have been chopped. We are chopped down the middle.

https://www.mathsisfun.com/data/standard-normal-distribution.html

Have you been forcibly radicalised by a Brefferendum? I’m not surprised we felt ill, hectic and unable to function. As people posted – get over it, it’s done now, triumphalism and fear all poured out. I looked for people with union jack flags on their face book profiles. I wanted to know why they felt so strongly about something I barely noticed.

“Do you really hate ALL muslims?” I asked one man – as he posted me a picture of him and a pretty young black woman “see I’m no racist” he told me. I never said he was. Bruv.

As I slid through twelve emotions a day and felt hectic and on high alert, I watched the ‘Roman Empire’ crumble. I learned an Indian company owns Jaguar/ Range Rover – did you know that? I considered moving to Canada.

As the thunder, lightning and rain poured down that night I felt strangely exhilarated. I felt I was in the middle of history. I called a friend and suggested we go and listen to Slavoj Zizek talk at the South Bank and catch the end of the “Stay” March.

Radical Subculture

Zizek talks about masks. We all know everyone is corrupt – we are never surprised they are lying to us. That a big red bus went round telling us £350 million would be pumped from Europe to the NHS, we shrug – well – what do you expect? And we shrug and say – that’s reality. So we buy into that being democracy – because it keeps the electricity on and trains running. And when the mask comes off? When people stop being polite? Perhaps then we can talk. Should we have a proper fight about some raw emotions and explode a few taboos?

I have never thought the death penalty was the way to go. If we had a referendum on it I wonder what would happen. I have only ever once considered the death penalty as an option – and then only for a few hours. It was in 2007 when a young gothic emo girl called Sophie Lancaster was brutally murdered by some thick kids, kicked to death just for dressing differently.

This feeling affected me so deeply –  as for a few hours I was radicalised and I wanted the killers dead. When I returned to a more ‘reasonable’ state of mind – I was deeply troubled by myself. I knew hate was no answer or no justice. Clearly Poet – Simon Armitage was able to dissect my feelings – in his beautiful play and book “Black Roses: Killing of Sophie Lancaster”.

http://www.sophielancasterfoundation.com

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/tv-and-radio-reviews/11922900/Black-Roses-the-Killing-of-Sophie-Lancaster-review.html

That is why we need Poets in these hectic times. 

Being OK

 

Bloody Yoda

I have a PGCE, a teacher training qualification. It was unexpectedly really hard. I scraped through though. It was a couple of years ago now but I won’t forget my tutor, he was Canadian, a buddhist doctor and told me

“you could be very good, but do you really need to be?”

What did he mean by THAT? He was known for his Yoda like pronouncements. He also said I was “All spicy meat but no rice” … EXCUSE ME?

Suddenly the trippy-ness of learning to teach revealed itself to me, delighted I said to him,

“its like I’m learning to get what is in your head into my head so I can get it into someone else’s head” (maaan)

He looked at me sagely, “you got it sister… now tell everyone”.

Thinking back the conversation sounds like a couple of pot head students at a party, but I assure you it was quite a revelation.

You can just tell people things, but do they take it in? Have I been seduced by the spice and sparkle but failed to receive the staple to feel really satisfied?

I’m thinking about that today. I had a conversation with some poet friends about whether poetry should be easy to access or was it OK for it to be difficult? The conversation with my Yoda Teacher came to mind. However spicy or meaty, put some rice, potatoes or bread with it. Don’t let your poetry float off into the ether. Also – don’t serve stodge, however comforting it is… too much is not good for you. And then I thought back to his words…

“you could be very good, but do you really need to be?” In fact – his sentence finished …

“perhaps just being OK is … OK?” and he looked me right in the eyes as he said that.

Hmmm bloody Yoda. Anyway … I scraped a pass… that showed him!

Here Is a Useful Link:

This is Prac Crit. It is an excellent Blog Site to learn to sharpen your close reading skills.

Edition Six

and here is a poem… about being OK.

Astrology

 

Jupiter has undone me
with his love of chaos,
horologists will decapitate, rip up clocks
into a conjunction of tatters.
I stood with my blood at the meridian,
watching light bounce from Thames to tea clipper.
At the last transit a leaf fell
into my hand, in a tight spiral.
On that spot I watched it twist
in night gusts
yearning for soil.
Have I turned this life
after the chaos? I moved from post-code to
post-code, my make up too heavy
like Jupiter.  I bulldozed
everything out of my path,
before resting to colder
positions, paying tax, taking more baths,
learning to drive, taking out Insurance.
 

Jessica Mookherjee: My Poetry Blog

Jessica Mookherjee: My Poetry Blog

Snapshot: Jessica Mookherjee

There is photographic evidence 
of the exact time she shifted her gaze,
when her eyes went out of focus.
The pictures show me growing bigger,
in pigtails, often alone,
a snap of a girl with her hand on her mother’s
shoulder, like a Victorian husband.
I passed on my birthright to all those unborn
boys, soothed her worried forehead,
cut out coupons in newspapers for amulets,
put them in father’s hand- so he could keep
us safe. Stood behind my mother as she prayed
at the front door, led her to the kitchen,
made sure she looked at the babies
there is evidence of her holding them,
keeping them close, 
there is no photograph of me
climbing stairs two at a time, 
no evidence that I tried not
to slip and break my neck.

Where to Start?

And the best place is the beginning. Take a deep breath and put some words down on some white space. Go on. Breathe and go on.

I started… I started in faltering steps when I was 19 years old- crazed and full of muse, I sent off a whole book of terrible ramble to Jonathan Cape, who wrote back kindly and gave me advice I never followed.

Somehow I stopped writing, but never – thank Sappho – stopped reading. I started performing poetry at local spoken word SLAMs and twenty five years after my first attempt  got my first poem  published, and then another and then another.

I started working with Susan Wicks, who taught me bravery and discipline, I was selected for a  masterclass with Gillian Clarke and Carol Ann Duffy at Ty Newyedd, I looked for teachers like Ros Barbar and Mimi Khalvati. I bothered poets for their love… gave it, they returned it.

Where Now?

I was shortlisted for the FairAcre first pamphlet  competition this year – in 2016. Close but no cigar. The winner was extraordinary.

I was lucky,  in April I was asked to join TellTale Poet’s Collective. I had eyed TellTale Press hungrily for a year, hoping to attract their attention. They are my kind of people. A poet’s collective, as advocated by Carol Ann Duffy herself. “do it yourself,” she told me, “the indie press, it’s punk, it’s rock and roll and it’s the future”. Well why not? The poets are shining, talented and respected and finally – they asked me to dance. So happy.

Happy to be a TellTale Poet, and a pamphlet – “The Swell” out in October.

A new kind of poetry publisher…

Where can you find me?

Agenda, Interpreter’s House, Ink Sweat and Tears, Obsessed With Pipework, Brittle Star, Lampeter Review, Prole, Paper Swans Anthology: Chronicles of Eve, The Journal, Lunar, Gold Dust, Clear Poetry, The Poetry Shed, Black Light Engine Room, Antiphon, Amaryllis.

http://www.amaryllispoetry.co.uk/2016/01/a-poem-by-jessica-mookherjee.html

https://clearpoetry.wordpress.com/2016/04/18/jess-mookherjee-three-poems/

http://www.inksweatandtears.co.uk/pages/?p=9424

http://lampeter-review.com/issue-13/

More poems!

What Helps?

To understand modern poetry – 

This is quite good: http://www.modernpoetry.org.uk

To know where to look for magazines and competitions – 

Try this: http://www.poetrykit.org

And I am…

A poet from Kent. I lived in London for 25 years. My childhood was spent in Mumbles, Wales and the place still exerts a pull on me. My heritage is Bengali. I have a background in Biological Anthropology and currently work in Public Health.

Too extraverted to be a poet…

Look for stanza groups… I’m in the Kent and Sussex Poetry society, I’ve been in various writing groups, always strive to be around people who you think are better poets than you (they might not really be – but it helps if you think so). Find good teachers – they are out there. Read and start or join a poetry reading group. I have helped out in two local arts and literature festivals and that is great fun. I have started and been part of a number of local collaborative projects.