The Write Out Loud Poem of the Week is 'Once Upon a Time' by Laura Taylor
This weeks Poem of the Week is 'Once Upon a Time' by Laura Taylor, a piece written for NaPoWriMo from the prompt 'write something that involves a story or action that unfolds over an appreciable length of time'. A raucous battlecry of a poem, it strides out with a purpose and the unrelenting rhythm and pace makes you surge along with it. The subject matter is both dark and premonitory – with hints of revenge and violence – beware the unwary traveller.
Below Laura tackles our Q&A:
What got you into writing poetry?
I'd gone to see a mate's band in the Tudor pub in Wigan and bumped into a woman I'd met the weekend before, who I'd got on with like a house on fire. I asked her if she'd come to see the band, and she said no, she was a poet, and was one of the support acts, which knocked me for six. Anyway, I sat in the darkness, listening to and watching her, and by the end, was completely choked up with emotion. I left that gig thinking 'I've got things to say too". I checked out WOL because she'd mentioned it, found a writing exercise on the front page, and wrote my first poem, 'i-museum'. Blogged it, and it got tons of astonishing praise, to my utter surprise and delight. And then I just carried on because I had so much to keep saying!
How long have you been writing?
I wrote that first poem in September 2010. So eight and a half years. I always loved to write, was always obsessed with words and language, but it never occurred to me to write poetry, plus it just 'wasn't for the likes of me'. If I thought about it at all, I thought it was an elitist art form. I used to love writing stories, and then essays at university as a mature student, and must have started a dozen novels in my teens, but never poetry. Now it's my second skin.
Do you go to any open-mic nights?
Not any more, no, because I perform at gigs, festivals, fundraisers and the like these days, but a few weeks after I'd written that first poem, I decided to take the plunge and see if I could perform poems as well as write them. I went to a night run by Jeff Dawson in Bolton, and did my first ever open mic there. Although absolutely terrified, I was instantly bitten by the performance bug, so I went along to the Tudor pub again, where they had a monthly open mic. I went religiously for just over 2 years, and it was just fantastic. The atmosphere in there was totally anarchic and it used to get called the 'bear pit' of the open mic circuit. I thrived on it, and learned so much of what they call 'stage craft' there, as well as making new and lasting friendships with people who were different and odd, like me. I felt completely at home and happy there, after a lifetime spent feeling like the outsider, a total social misfit.
Your favourite poet/poem?
I'm a bit of an oddity in the poetry world, in that I never actually read any poetry, or had a favourite poet, before I started writing and performing my own. I still don't really have one favourite poet or poem to be honest. I love poetry by my peers, and there's way too many to mention here, I love how Milton describes Satan in Paradise lost, Ivor Cutler's unique genius, and Tony Harrison's 'V', but I don't have one favourite poet or poem.
You're cast away on a desert island. What's your luxury?
The biggest, fattest, newest version of the Oxford English Dictionary please. I have been reading various editions since I learned how to read, and it's been an endless source of information, amusement, knowledge, ideas, and surprises.
Once Upon a Time
by Laura Taylor
On Sliabh Mis mountain, Foley’s Glen,
the Widow Scotia lies in wait;
incantations meld with mist
and twist in curl and bloom of cloud,
avowed to wreak revenge
on Celtic kings.
Four hundred years before Our Lord,
the Pharaoh’s daughter drew her sword
for to avenge her husband dear.
Her stumble-steed, in error, fell,
and now she bides in Foley’s Glen.
And how she keens, how she moans,
the Widow Scotia, Pharaoh’s daughter;
all these years of grief and tears,
all this time alone.
Carving wrath in silt and stone,
she cuts her tongue on jagged banks.
Only Sister Silver sees
the green she spits upon the rocks
for wanderers to skid and crump
and feed her fierce hunger.
With ancient tongue, and hate within,
she conjures sinew, muscle, skin.
She seeks Dé Danann - stand aside!
She’ll jump upon your back astride
and with an awful curdle-cry,
she’ll ride your flesh to bone.
And how she bellows! How she crows!
The Widow Scotia, Pharaoh’s daughter;
all these years of bitter sorrow
feast upon today.
To those who deem her cruel and cold,
a spectral terror, heinous crone:
this desolate and broken soul
has lost her lover, children, home.
Cast not your one-eyed pious stone.
She’s trapped in Foley’s Glen,