Community Appreciation Day: Three Commended Poems

Following our submissions call for short poems exploring themes of appreciation, gratitude and thankfulness, and the publication of the communal cento (or quilt) poem earlier this week, we’re pleased to be sharing three of the poems that we felt really communicated the ethos of Appreciation Day as well as capturing some of the tender moments that have shaped experiences over the past year or so.

The first poem we’d like to share is ‘On my list’ by Wendy Allen. We love the sensory detail and tactility of this poem, its meditation on touch, its almost palpable sense of longing, of desire…

‘On my list’

ruby jewelled lipstick the colour of Mooncup,

29.3ml of sediment red which remains defiantly matte

when we kiss passionately on the Southbank.

Red Riding Hood lips against you against the yellow

façade of The Hayward Gallery, I want you.

An old cardigan pulled tight becomes a life vest, I want

your face traced between my thighs like cashmere.

My eyeliner is perfect, I take a photo. I want you to see.

I’m grateful you know me. The postcard I send to you is empty

but as always, says too much. I want to say too much.

Wendy Allen is an unpublished poet. She has been writing poetry since April 2020 and has spent the last 20 years as cabin crew.


The second poem we’d like to share is Samantha Ley’s entry which feels very much like a celebration of the exuberance and joy of girlhood and the immersivity of imaginative play…

The girls dance and shriek, trailing rainbow-colored kites
through the yard.

They are five. They find everything to do, and still need more:

A pretend tea party, a water table,

Chalk, soccer, toy rockets landing on the roof.

They need us to retrieve the trapped

Toy rockets. Ravenous, as always, they need

Food. Otherwise, they

Don’t need us. They are five. They exist

In this moment, to laugh with one another.

Samantha Ley lives near Albany, New York, where she works as a freelance writer and editor. Her fiction has appeared in a number of online publications. She can be reached at samjley AT gmail.com and @SaminBingo on Twitter.


And finally, we’re sharing ‘Irregular Jackdaw’ by Brunel alumna Anneka Hess. Gardens and public green spaces have been of increasing importance to many of us this past year, and a number of the entries took the form of odes to nature, the seasons, our fur-babies and feathered friends. What we love about this poem in particular is the way it beautifully centres the relationship between the human and non-human. We were also struck by how the work conveys a cautious optimism and sense of affirming resilience…

‘Irregular Jackdaw’

And as the blossom arrives again

So do you

Furious chatter against the cottage chimney

Feathers-inked and scissor-beaked

Ravenous for seed

And we meet in the awakening garden

Both more crumpled than last year

Both more relieved to be here

For one more spring

Anneka Hess spends too much of her time in a pile of books and cats, and too little writing. https://twitter.com/Inkybloomers

We would like to thank everyone who sent us submissions and shared what they are grateful for. Keep an eye out on our social media (@BrunelWriter) where we will post the commended entries so you can share them and spread the sentiment of appreciation, gratidute and thankfulness.

Appreciation Day Communal Poem

When Brunel Volunteers mentioned they were hosting an Appreciation Day on 11th May, the poetic form called the cento came to mind. This form was created as a way of celebrating the work of another poet that you appreciate by taking one-hundred individual lines from a variety of their poems and collaging them into a new poem – a bit like making a quilt.

We thought it would be great to invite people to write and send in short poems of appreciation, thankfulness and gratitude, from which we could compile a little communal celebratory cento – a  mutual ode of appreciation.

We received poems from Brunel students, staff, alumni, locals and from further afield including the USA and India. Looking through the poems, we were struck by the common themes that emerged, although perhaps these are not surprising given the year we’ve had. There were odes to nature, lots about bodies and touch, about longing and loneliness, about all the little things that have made all this bearable – a friendly text, a kind gesture, as well as portraits of family and friends, children playing, robins singing.

We then chose poignant, resonant, and striking lines or phrases from each of the entries and stitched them together into loosely themed stanzas to make the communal appreciation poem, which you can read below – enjoy!

Survival: A Cento

1.

For months we have gestated here,

our home a roomy womb, a cushioned nest.

An old cardigan pulled tight becomes a life vest.

Wrapped in warmth, a morning text,

a supportive word, chases pessimism away.

2.

Relax into a still, quiet focus – magic

or maybe scientific hypnosis:

the drip drip drip and hazelnutty hit

of freshly brewed coffee, the soft frivolity

of a brightly-coloured velvet scrunchie.

3.

The girls dance and shriek, trailing rainbow-coloured kites

through the yard. They are five. They exist

in this moment to laugh with one another.

At story time, five kisses. Brace yourself,

tiny creatures and grow a little more.

4.

I love you like our Hammersmith sky.

I much appreciate your sassy style,

eyes lit with remnants of cucumber peel.

I’m grateful you know me.

The postcard I send to you is empty.

5.

And we meet in the awakening garden,

both more crumpled than last year,

both more relieved to be here.

The whispers of the trees,

clear skies that never end…

6.

A red-breasted robin rests chest aflame.

Desolation snapped, vitality restored.

Notice this hug with shaky arms

around your oxbow curves –

you’re here, with me, for now.

Finally a big thank-you to everyone who sent in their poems to be a part of this project – we’ll be featuring commended entries on this blog and on social media via @BrunelWriter and @poetrycoterie soon, so keep your eyes peeled and do like and repost so we can share some appreciation, gratitude and thankfulness.

Contributors:

Anneka Hess | Emily Horton | Emma Filtness | Emma Mitchell | Fathima M | Hafsa | Kathryn Gynn | Keith Sterrow | Linda Hodgkinson | Marie-Teresa Hanna | Peter Eldrid | Ruth Sharma | Samantha Ley | Tania Bavarz | Wendy Allen | Wendy Rashed