Thanks to Stuart Watkins for including my poem ‘The Sound of Human Kindness’ in this anthology. Available on Amazon now.
Sometimes it is lovely to write a special poem for a friend to mark a significant event. Here are three I’ve written. If you’d like to use them please feel free – I only ask for credit and a donation to www.saidiacc.org. If you’d like me to make them more personal just email me at email@example.com and we can work on it together.
FOR A FRIEND’S 60TH BIRTHDAY
LIVING FEARLESSLY by Briony Bax
Through all the years of families and work,
of travels, husbands, sisters, pets and home.
Lovers, divorces and the demons we cannot shirk –
our patchwork ways of living – see what we’ve sewn.
And through the years our friendship stays strong,
though distance weaves her inevitable spell.
Now dear friend let all self-doubt be gone,
your intelligence and strength will serve you well.
What adventures will we have from here?
How will we use this precious time?
Grab the future – let us ditch our fear.
Just do the things you want. Don’t toe the line.
So, raise a glass to courage and heed the rallying call.
To living fearlessly, the muse that conquers all.
FOR A RUBY WEDDING
LONG LOVE by Briony Bax
It began many moons ago with that heady kiss
The memory makes us tingle and yearn to reminisce.
The blushing bride now a wise and elegant granny
The groom confident and patient – far from that nervous laddie.
But what of long love and how does it endure?
In these days of high divorce rates is there a cure?
We can’t pretend that all married life is blissful
Sometimes we trip up and err on the sinful.
Sex becomes akin to Victoria sponge cakes
Nibbled at weekends and enjoyed after wakes.
After a skinful one sometimes gets frisky
Men, for peak performance stay well off the whisky.
Our bodies change and develop strange bulges
We try hatha yoga and green smoothy indulges.
Doctor’s surgeries are places we now frequent
On-line bridge keeps us all quite content.
Our children grow-up and decide to multiply
We tend our gardens and grapple greenfly.
But just what is the secret to keeping a spouse?
It’s cheaper to stay married – you won’t lose the house.
But for reference, I suggest that we examine our hosts
While not perfect, they try their upmost.
I say be thankful and follow their lead.
Practice respect, kindness, and anticipating need.
So, raise a glass to a miracle and the lasting of things.
And drink to long love and the joy that it brings.
WEDDING POEM by Briony Bax
Within the ancient walls of this historic church
Whose paths so many in our wake have trod.
Where roses tumble and branches dance,
We gather in soft afternoon light to witness the age-old ceremony,
Of two lovers pledging their lives to one another.
Our wishes for them could not be simpler:
Hold each other tightly but not so you cannot breathe.
Wallow in your love but never to the exclusion of others.
Be honest with each other but chose your words wisely.
Debate your opinions with passion
and open your minds to big ideas and adventures.
Save for your future by being thrifty but
Be generous in times of good fortune.
During the bad times be patient and hopeful.
During the good times be humble and grateful.
Your love will shift with the seasons and change
through the years. Treat it with care.
Give it the attention it deserves – even in busy times.
Love is the most precious thing you have – cherish it.
Be kind to your elders – they may not be here for long.
And always, always respect your parents.
So, within these well-worn walls,
Where history walks beside the present,
Where roses tumble and branches dance,
Let’s celebrate the joy of today.
In this marriage let your two hearts blend
and may your enduring love inspire us all.
It was my pleasure to participate in this talk at the Poetry in Aldeburgh Festival in 2021 with Andre McMillan, Rachel Lewis and Louisa Campbell. Mental health is a tough subject but all the poets approached it with such empathy and honesty. Be warned there are triggers and my own work deals with schizophrenia, incarceration and evaluations. You can listen to the podcast here https://anchor.fm/poetry-in-aldeburgh/episodes/Poetry-on-Mental-Health-e1c0pd7
For the last eight years I have edited 30 editions of Ambit Magazine and it has been such a pleasure to see so many people grace its pages and work with such lovely colleagues. However, since turning 60 I’ve decided to spend more time on my own work and studies. I’m delighted to hand the reins over to Kirsty Allison who has been managing editor for the last year and a half. In this recent podcast Kirsty talks with me about my pamphlet Lament and all things Ambit. Enjoy.
Here is my poem that was inspired by the stories of acts of kindness as submitted to the Museum of Kindness and the exhibition at The Wells Maltings in Norfolk organised by the artist Kazz Morohashi as part of the Museum of Kindness.
The Sound of Human Kindness
Dedicated to the community of Wells-next-the-Sea
This town sits nestled on the North Norfolk Coast.
Its quay bristling with lobster pots.
See plastic catch trays stacked along the sea wall,
The fishing fleet, salt marsh beyond,
The endless beach, wind farm harbour,
and generations of lifeboat crew.
A town with butchers and bakers,
Well used pubs and tea-rooms,
fish and chip takeaways with a ’99 flake,
ancient walkways used by smugglers,
higgledy houses with priest holes and
brightly painted beach huts, legs buried in sand.
Covid-19 struck Norfolk early that Spring.
Doors were locked, public meetings cancelled.
Only essential shops stayed open.
Fear tore down Two Furlong Hill, up Burnt Lane
Through Jolly Sailor Yard
And whistled around Northfields.
Wells became a ghost town.
Gone were the tourists, the crabbers,
The day trippers and the beach combers.
Furtive shoppers slid quietly between
Howells, Nisa and Jaggers. Shopped quickly,
Anxious to get back to the safety of their homes.
Outsiders were banished.
Police received complaints from suspicious neighbours.
They knocked on doors, sent rule-breakers home.
Masks were worn, the two-metre rule enforced.
Church communion was suspended.
Kissing, hugging and singing, all were banned.
But while the town was in the silent fog of fear,
Skeins of hope wound through the streets.
Like shafts of sun on sea after a storm.
People looked outward and offered their help.
Children of essential workers went back to school.
The Carnival Committee entertained on-line.
A schoolgirl wrote poems for nurse’s funds.
Flowers decked graves for absent loved ones.
Lifeboat teams volunteered at vaccine clinics.
Roasts were delivered to NHS workers.
The theatre streamed at-home offerings.
The god of Zoom became the saviour of connection.
The self-isolating and shielding were supported.
A widow found friends she hadn’t know.
A gluten free loaf was baked for a paramedic.
Small and personal tasks would be completed unasked,
Not for fanfare, money or fame,
But the simple goodness of the thing.
A new heart was heard beating,
In the clinking of masts on a quiet creek.
The tap, tap, tap of East wind at keyholes.
Footsteps on cobbles, a sea shanty beat,
Sweeter than a high tide in summer.
Human kindness reverberated throughout the town.
By Briony Bax
I’m delighted to be featured poet in the exhibition ‘Wells of Human Kindness’ organised by artist Kazz Morohashi in July 2021 at the Wells Matings. We will be asking people to send us their stories of kindness and then poet Sally Festing and I will be weaving them into a poems commissioned for this exhibition.
As part of this I’ll be hosting two workshops at Alderman Peel High School, one on writing about kindness and one on performance and then we’ll have a public reading at the Wells Matings and a prize giving.
Community projects like this are a joy to work on. They involve listening, researching, creating, collaboration – all of my favourite things. I can’t wait to share my poem with you.
Even though all in person events surrounding the launch of my booklet Lament were cancelled, we did manage to do a socially distanced event at the SeaFever Festival at the Wells Maltings. Here is a recording of my interview and reading with the wonderful Vicky Rangely-Wilson. Watch it here
Here is a reading which was part of the Rough Trade Books Launch on May 7th 2020. The book is available for purchase from http://roughtradebooks.com/editions/lament/ and all profits I receive will be donated to MIND.