A place for the Arts

A man clad in garments of obviously polythremian origin steps in front of the crowd.

&quotFriends, fellow writers and poets, spectators and of course Mister Pages, who provided this location we use for this gathering, welcome to Poetry Night!
Here we can read our newest works to impress the public and upstage our rivals. Here we shall exchange ART!&quot

His eyes get a mad look when he says the last word and his clothing begins to rustle excitedly, but soon he and his wardrobe have calmed down, and he continues.

&quotBefore we begin, I would like to remind you that a warning is needed before reciting works including Correspondence sigils. I doubt anyone here would want to see them, let alone hear their spoken form. Everything else is fair game, though. I shall begin.&quot

With this, the man pulls a scroll out of his pocket, unrolls it and begins to declaim.

[i]&quotThe Duel

On rooftops high, in streets below
A pair of duelists fights,
With blackest ribbons in their tow
They find truest delights.
Exchange their blows, are caught within
A martial, deadly dance,
One yearns for death, one for the win,
Both strive for dominance.

She hails from east, her eyes are slant,
Her hair of darkest black.
It’s unknown why she left her land
Or why she won’t go back.
He is not native to the Neath
But came from surface bright.
He died, so he shall never leave
To once more see the light.

Their blades, they cross, their wills, they clash,
Their speed increases fast.
They run and strike, evade and dash,
But this can never last.
For while he’s quick and strong and smart
He’s more than even matched.
So deep inside his cunning heart
A desperate plan is hatched.

While her next strike his earlobe clips
His swipe goes far amiss.
Instead he plants upon her lips
A long, passionate kiss.
But while he planned to kill her dead
While she’s distracted still
He realizes with rising dread
He won’t go for the kill.

And for a moment, all is well.
They do not move an inch
And when she stabs him in the heart
He does not even flinch.
He dies, he falls, she waits, then flees
Later he wakes, still sore
But what the true conundrum is
Who does regret it more?&quot

He takes a deep breath while the audience applauds.
&quotWell&quot, he says, &quotWho’s next?&quot

edited by Curious Foreigner on 11/10/2013

Sherman clapped with the crowd, and then stepped forward. &quotI have no illusions that I can upstage that, but I shall provide a short poem of my own.&quot

&quotClickity-clickity clack
Sorrow-spiders up the back
Feel the bite, chest gets tight
Chess with the Boatman for the rest of the night.&quot
edited by Sherman Jones on 11/26/2013

After the applause has set, the opening speaker steps forward again. He carries another scroll, which is slightly dripping.

[i]&quotThank you for the delightful poem. It puts a situation in words that we all know all too well, I think. Let me add to that with a poem inspired by my time in Flute Street.&quot

&quotSonnet on the mentality of Flukes

[/i]The Flukes regard mankind / and its technology
Our language and our art, / the way we think and dream
(but more so the machine / propelled by heat and steam)
With admiration and / a sense of childlike glee.

They wish to emulate, / to copy our success
To build and to improve / their kingdom deep and damp
To let their amber be / civilisation’s lamp.
So envoys they create, / and up above they press.

But visionary Flukes / still lack important things
Like voices, hands and thoughts / they cannot hope to grasp,
Concepts like hate and pain / and stones upon a face.

Yet patient they just take / what rubbery-kind brings.
And when the cities fall / with one great, final gasp,
Their time will come, and they / will inherit our place.&quot

After the last verse ends, he bows to the spectators, and makes room for the next artist.

Poetry Masters
Five cities, seven total
London: just one beat?[li]
edited by Riley37 on 12/30/2013[/li][li]
edited by Riley37 on 12/30/2013

Narciso steps up with a grin and a flourish. &quotOh, I’ve just the thing. A verse for every walk of London life – it’s better sung, of course, over a pint or six of mushroom ale, but I can manage a recital –

&quotShe was only a Rat-Catcher’s daughter
And I met her on Watchmaker’s Hill
When I saw her I squeaked and I scurried
She went straight in for the kill
She tackled me by the toadstools
Where the moonish light was pale
She was only a Rat-Catcher’s daughter
But soon she had me by the tail

&quotShe was only a Conjurer’s daughter
And we met at Mahogany Hall
We kissed behind the curtains
Sharing secrets that would appall
She brought out the scarves, then the handcuffs
And employed them without one mistake
She was only a Conjurer’s daughter
But she sure could charm a man’s snake

&quotShe was only a Correspondent’s daughter
I found her in the Quarter forgot
She showed me the sigil for willing flesh
And the price of a city long bought
When she spoke of orbiting bodies
Her meaning was plain to discern
She was only a Correspondent’s daughter
But she knew how to make a lad burn.&quot

A poem compiled by the poet, playwright and all-around demagogue known, loved and despised as The Black-Shirted Radical in the aftermath of a riot he started at the Wolfstack Docks.

&quotWhen first I cam down to London
In the year of eighteen ninety three
The city was quite wonderful
And the enterprise quite free
But the Neddies got suspicious
And they soon gave me the knock
I was beaten for talking to a fellow
Down at the Wolfstack Docks

Well next day by the Spider Pits
I raised up quite a stir
My Populists got busy
And called Mr Fires a cur
Well he purred &quotWhy have you come here
to throw a spanner in my machine?&quot
I replied&quotYour worker should be getting
A lot more of the green!&quot

The Master murmurs to myself
&quotI shall not acquiesce!
To undermine your movement
I will spurn every break and rest!
Eighty hours a week is the new law
And they better well comply
Or the moss between the cobblestones
Will have blood as its dye&quot

I would not accept this insult
To the people of the land
And for the Master’s part
He rejected me out of hand
And so an impasse soon developed
My Populists grew rather bored
And so implied a Neddie’s mother
Was a woman who often whored.

Then a fistfight soon developed
And the talks came to a close
What my followers accomplished
Is ill-suited to my prose
I shall instead note quite politely
We gave the Neddies an awful shock
And we flung them into the water
Of the greasy Wolfstack docks!

&quotMy dears, if you would be so kind, may I please go next? I have a villanelle to share: one that has not been published yet. I wrote it just last night, after having a small bit of honey. When I made it back to my bedroom, I felt peculiarly guilty… Well, in any case…&quot

&quotThey claim that London’s darkness does oppress
Those shade-burnt souls who crave the light of day.
Yet still, the people find their happiness

Among the bustling, hustling, human mess
That churns like blood upon the Elder Bay.
They claim that London’s darkness does oppress

That lady of the night. Undress her dress
That screams as seams and fingers tear and fray!
Yet still, the people find their happiness.

A Rubbery Man, who squelches for redress,
Whose voice costs much. Still, amber’s cheap today!
They claim that London’s darkness does oppress

The servant-- Clay. He watches them play chess.
Their &quotThank You&quots are more orders flung his way,
Yet, still, his people find their happiness

Because of how a friend’s distress can bless
Those people who ignore the price they pay.
They claim that London’s darkness does oppress,
Yet, still, her people find, there, happiness…&quot

&quotThank you.&quot

She looks down at the floorboards, uncharacteristically quiet, and descends from the stage gingerly without waiting to see the audience’s reaction. Peculiar…
edited by Sestina Valdis on 10/5/2015; adjusted punctuation and line breaks
edited by Sestina Valdis on 10/5/2015; adjusted word choice (I edit too much. I am fussy…)
edited by Sestina Valdis on 10/5/2015

I’d considered starting a haiku thread, but perhaps a small addition to this one would serve the same purpose, although I dread to intrude in the presence of such scribes as ye be.

Lantern wrapped in mist
A dog howls in the gaslight
London autumn night

– Mal

Vera cleared her throat with a wide grin. &quotExcellent poems darlings! But now for mine to debut, and keep in mind this is a song!&quot

&quotTonight it’s a full moon,
tomorrow will be waning.
Watch as the moon pearl change.

Tonight it’s a half moon,
tomorrow will be a crescent.
Watch all of the moon pearls change.

We wish to see the true moon, and the stars as well,
but down here in the deep dark Neath, we will just have to make do.&quot

A woman walks up to the stage, her posture stiff and her skin pale. She bows grandly and starts her poem.

"When I was just a little child,
I heard that wishes do come true.
That love means just as much,
as who you are and what you do.
I heard that money doesn’t matter,
It’s the person that we are
and goodness is the only thing,
that makes a shooting star.
Yes, now I am much older
but I am very young still.
I cannot sit around at home,
I have no time to mill.
I learned, now that I’m older,
that stars aren’t made of purest light.
I’ve learnt that passion true
is not what guides most people’s sight.

My mother, she died early,
that’s when I realized that stars
are not made from goodness,
but from space rock just like Mars.
I came down to the Neath
because I was scared of my old life,
I wanted to be 2 again,
when my mother was a wife.
I want to be a child again,
to see the world from different eyes,
from one who doesn’t realize
that most grow, and live, and die.
From one who never fears
what lurks beneath, what lurks below.
from one whom which goodness
was all they knew, is what they know."

Inspired by my new-found friend in Fallen London, the perfect revenge:

&quotOn the Sestina&quot

It need not rhyme, I’m told
Which takes a load off my mind!
Though I can scribe a cunning verse
When need calls. Still, I favor freedom
The chains of structure are troublous to me
No doubt because I strive to be too clever.

But I shall put that from my mind
Though it may seem to wit I am averse;
And think, instead, how I may find freedom
Within constraints that challenge me.
Although a &quotmoon&quot or &quotJune&quot would be more clever
I’ll struggle on until the tale of Six is told.

I’ll cheat as needed, for no universe
Is quite complete without the sweets of freedom.
As another, greater poet said, no chains can bind me
Although in durance hurled for being too clever.
And though this form is daunting, as is told
I’ll seek to give a glimpse into my mind.

This I may do with freedom,
For indeed, I care not what you make of me.
Although the crowd may think me dim or clever
I pay no heed to what I have been told:
Laugh as you list, I surely will not mind.
Although a plaint about the form must seem perverse.

One might observe it ill-becomes me
And is in fact the opposite of clever
To criticize the form in which is told
The struggle carried on within the mind
In search of what should be a pretty verse.
'Tis arrogance which I confuse with freedom.

Who says this proves himself too clever
For my retort, for truth be told
My wit lies solely in my mind.
And though I may indite a little verse
Because the art of Poesy is of freedom
A drunken Clayman in a test would best me.

So, I would crave you pay no mind to me
Or celebrate the freedom of this verse.
It may be clever, it may be bold, but whatever it is, it has been told.

– Mal

Drownie Song

Depths are dark, but not so cold–
Winter ice bites more.
(do you remember it?)

It hurts at first, the lacking air–
Failing life is bitter.
(lungs remember breathing)

Water rushes in, a final breath
(all loves undone are remembered)

Until pain on pain compounding
Burns any remembering


Death, but not dying
Life, but not living
(I cannot remember smiling)

Numbness, always a dull ache,
Enfolds me
(I cannot remember laughing)

Unshed tears are not unfelt–
Existence is not worthwhile

Because I can remember loving

A gazetteer of London’s starting areas, in haiku:

On Watchmaker’s Hill
Claymen labour, fly men hunt
The Cheery Man waits.

The rooftops of Spite
Fisher-Kings toss out their lines
&quot’Ere, Mate, where’s your 'at?&quot

Actors and authors
Honey and debauchery
Veils in the Garden.

Copper walks his beat
Curate scribes sermon at night
Ladybones tattoo.

– Mal
edited by malthaussen on 10/13/2015

&quotIntimations of Mortality&quot

&quotI’m different,&quot you say, and Somebody laughs.
Are we not all different to ourselves?
We are fleshy dice to be rolled in the cup
Of a whimsical god.

No power over others can possibly match
The power Fate holds over us.
It will take all that we value
And shatter it into dust.

In the blink of an eye, oh &quotdifferent&quot one,
It will cripple, or maim, or kill.
It will laugh at your love,
Sneer at your tears,
And make a mockery of your will.

Want to see &quotfear in a handful of dust?&quot
Then look in a mirror, my child.
For we are all a handful of dust
And fear is our birthright.

[i]Titter inside your Darkness, children:
You’ll find real darkness soon enough.

– [/i]Mal

At the risk of hijacking this thread to be my own personal chapbook, I offer another haiku, inspired as I was taking a muddy splash through the Row:

I laugh when it rains
And my grey mare takes the reins.
Mother Nature reigns.

– Mal

As the final words of the haiku die, the procession of poetry is disturbed by the approach of an oblivious cluster of Hallowmas carolers. Many in the crowd send blistering glares at the intruders for interrupting their artistry, but they are quite absorbed in their show of Hallowmas spirit, and continue their clamorous walk.

[i]Thrice for the eldest one,
thrice for the rats -
thrice for the Masters’ share,
whispered to the bats;
thrice for the Rubb’ry Man,
knocking at your door,
thrice for the dead and gone,
at their work once more.


[/i]As the procession weaves into the silent distance, the disgruntled poetry enthusiasts make a show of clearing their throats and checking their pocket-watches, before resuming as though nothing had happened.

A petite young lady with long black hair steps up to the podium. She clears her throat nervously, and recites:

&quotA Thought for Mr Khayyam&quot

The poet Omar wanted only
Wine, a loaf, and thou
To satisfy his hungers
Amidst the endless Now.

But he’s a guy, and
Maybe love is not enough for him.
Perhaps he needs distractions
Before he can begin.

But I will lay me down with you
Wherever we may be.
And drink intoxication from
The everlasting We.

She smiles pertly at the audience and steps aside to make way for the next poet.

And drink intoxication from
The everlasting We.[/quote]

The poem is good, but I think these closing lines in particular are fantastic. Bravo!

My own feeble offering for 11/11

&quotOver the Top&quot

On snowy fields my comrades lie
Sodden scarlet where they fall.
So proud to heed their country’s call!
And prouder still to die.

Through shot and shell with hearty cry
My brothers pressed their breasts.
To die beneath machine-gun nests
As drumfire lit the Winter sky.

Their debt is paid, those brave young men
Who came so far to die.
To serve some politician’s lie
To charge, and fall, and charge again.

They fought and died, and cared not why:
To them, we owe a debt.
We cannot pay, at least not yet
But someday we may try.

– Mal
edited by malthaussen on 11/11/2015

Bravo, Mal! That was riveting, raw and, for once, not raucous! Powerful war poetry suits you, I think. Bravo!

I wrote this one recently… I do not usually favour free verse, as a rule, but the lines almost seem as if they came to me in a dream… ((That was me speaking in-character, of course… Uh, it’s difficult to rationalise this in FL’s universe, since a lot of the concepts don’t exist yet…))

Poetry Makes Nothing Happen
Poetry makes nothing
It simply happens
That there are no
Words that flow in clear rivers of metaphor.
Verse will not cloud our children’s
Minds, figuratively, with sediment.
In-verse-ly, words are simply on the line.
Yes, words are on the line.

There is no 3D imagery to be had on paper.
Words are just
Two-dimensional, with
Length and breadth but no literal depth.
These words are not trains of thought
Chugging along the margins of society.
Words are not vessels to be filled
With the riches of meaning.
They are just empty chests
With air winding in and out.
But, no! They do not travel.
That’s just de-meaning:
Unto word, violence.

Words are markings on the page,
But not, I mean, of the territorial sort.
They are not scent in an envelope,
Nor an aftertaste that lingers in the air
Like a gray, cloudy haze.
Let me try again.
I see words as black and white
Scratchings on the page; no.
Words are not…
Let me try again.
The words are words. Yes.
Words are just
When they just are.

Poetry does not move.
So, I hope that you will take a hike—
I mean, literally.
This is not figurative:
I hope that you will not get lost
In metaphor, but literally
Get lost in a disorienting death sentence
That you have written into
The lines on your own palm,
And while you are writing this wrong,
Pumping out an inkling of meaning,
(Your pen is
Leaking) come hither,
Don’t wither
Or look blank like the page.
Tell me, simply,
That your words are just

((The title is a line from W.H. Auden’s &quotIn Memory of W.B. Yeats.&quot Auden hasn’t been born yet in FL’s universe, but oh well. Uh. Retcon? Heh.))
edited by Sestina Valdis on 11/11/2015
edited by Sestina Valdis on 11/11/2015