Sunday Poem – Mona Arshi

It feels strange to be back blogging again after my slightly unplanned month off.  True to form, I have left it until the last minute, and I doubt very much whether this will be up before midnight, as it is nearly 11.30pm now.  This week has been great because it has been busy, but just a normal level of busy, not a ridiculous, if one thing goes wrong it will push me over the edge kind of busy.

On Monday we had a meeting with the website designer for Kendal Poetry Festival.  We now have a logo and a design for the website, which is being finished off as I write and we have written all of the content that is going on the website.  It should go live either next week or the week after, but if you’d like to have a look at the logo, we now have a Twitter account @KendalPoetry and a Facebook account.  Please follow us on Twitter or ‘like’ our page on Facebook if you haven’t done so already.

I went to South Shields on Friday, to do my first Read Regional event for a writing group at South Shields library.  I sold four books, which is nice, and they were a lovely group.  I then drove back over to Cumbria and hung arond Carlisle for a bit, as I was performing at the Picture the Poet exhibition, alongside Dove Cottage Young Poets and various other poets, including Ian McMillan.

The young poets were fantastic – I knew they would be good, but they were even better than I thought they would be, if that makes sense.  Ian McMillan made me laugh so much that my face started to ache.

On Saturday I ran my monthly Barrow Poetry Workshop.  It was a lovely group that took part, a few new faces, but lots of people returning.  The next workshop is April 2nd at Ormsgill Primary School, if anybody is interested!

Today I went for a 12k run in the morning.  In the afternoon, I edited a poem and then entered two other poems into the Basil Bunting competition, trying to think of it as being like a lottery.  In the evening, I had a band call or rehearsal for a show that I’m playing in next week.  I enjoyed the rehearsal – I haven’t played in a show for so long and I’ve forgotten how much I used to love it.

I’ve done a bit of writing this week as well, which always makes me happy!

Today’s Sunday Poem is by Mona Arshi, winner of the Forward Prize for Best First Collection.  I’ve been meaning to ask Mona for a poem for the blog for ages, ever since I met her last year at the prize giving for the Forwards in London.  The poem comes from her first collection Small Hands, published by Pavilion Poetry.

I love the mix of humour, desperation and darkness in this.  I like that it is slightly surreal and completely dramatic.  It reminds me of Kathryn Maris’s poem ‘Darling Would You Please Pick Up Those Books‘ which is one of my favourite poems, and luckily for you if you don’t have her latest book from Seren called: God Loves You the poem was a Guardian ‘Poem of the Week’ back in 2008.  Maybe because of the use of the word darling, but there is also something about the tone, as if they are singing in the same key.  Thematically of course, both address an absent partner who has no idea of the life of his wife.

There are some great lines in this poem – ‘the triplets need constant feeding/ they are like little fires’ is probably one of my favourites.  I also like the other more minor characters in this poem  are drawn  sharply into focus by the detailed description of their actions or the way they look.  The more I read this poem, the more I become convinced that it is really quite dark and upsetting because the speaker of the poem (‘I’) seems to be on the edge of some sort of meltdown.  The speaker of the poem actually seems desperately unhappy with her life and on the third or fourth run through, it doesn’t seem that funny anymore.

The poem does have a slightly surreal edge to it and we are never quite sure who has the power in the poem. At first glance it seems like the speaker is in charge and has all the power, as they continue to list a litany of complaints.  The ‘Darling’ who is addressed in the poem, does not get to speak, which I think is interesting in itself.

Mona Arshi was born to Punjab Sikh parents in West London, where she still lives.  She initially trained as a lawyer and worked for Liberty, the UK human rights organisation, for several years, undertaking test case litigation under the Human Rights Act.  She began writing poetry in 2008 and received an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia.  She won the inaugral Magma Poetry Competition in 2011 and was on the Complete Works Programme, a scheme founded by the Arts Council.

There is lots more I could say about this poem, but I’m falling asleep again, as I’m typing and when ever that happens, I write all kinds of strange things.

If you would like to buy Mona’s book, please head over to Pavilion Poetry or you can get more information about Mona from her website here

Bad Day in the Office – Mona Arshi

Darling, I know you’ve had a bad day in the office
and you need some comfort
but I burned the breakfast again this morning
and the triplets need constant feeding –
they are like little fires.  And the rabbit ….
the rabbit topped himself but not before
eating the babies and the mother stared at me
as if I was the one who did it!
Everywhere there is the stink of babies and it’s a good job
I can’t smell my fingers as they’ve been wrapped
in those marigolds for weeks.
The mother-in-law has been.  She didn’t stay,
just placed a tulsi plant on the doorstop,
with a nose saying she had high hopes of it
warding off those poisonous insects.
That estate agent arrived for the purposes of the valuation.
He dandled the babies on his lap and placed his index finger
on my bottom lip.  There’s some paperwork somewhere.
As for dinner, well that’s ruined.  Those chillies you sent for
from Manipur? The juice from the curry bored a hole
in the kitchen tiles and I’ve had to move the pot to the stump
at the bottom of the garden, next to the dock-leaves;
it was a short trip but it was good to get some air.
We need to keep reminding ourselves that when it rains
it is not catastrophic it is just raining.
The lady radio anouncer has addressed me on several occasions,
– did you know orangutans are running out of habitat
and we don’t have much time?
I’ve become quite adept at handling the eccentric oranges,
those root vegetables need sweating out . . . but it’s difficult
to concentrate when that sodding bunny blames me
though how could I have done it when all morning
I’ve been next to the stove stirring the damn pot.
The salsify is eye-balling me, it’s lying on top
of that magazine  article – Bored with the same old winter veg?
Give salsify  a go.  We promise you’ll never look back. 

2 comments on “Sunday Poem – Mona Arshi

  1. Wow, thanks Kim. That poem is one of those that wakes you up, gives you permission to do your own thing, makes you read it over and over to enjoy and learn. And I’m enjoying your blog of course, thank you.

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