Monday, May 21, 2018


Today we are visiting one of our newer members, my friends. We are flying across the Pond to meet with Vivian Zems, who blogs at Smell the Coffee.  Vivian lives in North London. She is also a songwriter, and is sharing two of her songs with us, so let's pour a cup of Earl Grey tea, and dive right in.

Sherry: Vivian, as you are fairly new to Poets United, would you tell us a little about yourself?  Give us a little snapshot of your life on any given day, won't you?

Vivian: I’m so pleased to be able to share some of my life with you. I live in North London, United Kingdom. London is a vibrant, cosmopolitan city.  I liken it to a world stage; there’s always something going on.

I’m a dentist, and split my working life between dentistry and dental hygiene services….and of course, writing. As a mother of five ; four children and one German Shepherd (Zeus), I’m often asked how I find the time to write. My answer: if it’s your passion, you’ll HAVE to do it- it’s that simple.

My routine involves getting to work two hours early every day (it’s the only time I can write), then another half an hour writing/ blogging after work before heading home. I sort the kids out- somewhat (they’re quite big now), make sure Zeus been walked, watered and fed, then we have some family time before bed. At weekends, I’m invaded by teenagers.

Sherry: It sounds like a busy and happy life. You have a beautiful family, and Zeus is a sweetheart! In your  bio, I see you are a songwriter as well as a writer. Do you perform your music as well? Tell us a little about being a songwriter?

Vivian: Now this is a funny one.  I responded to an ad about converting poems to song by another blogger (Zoolon). And I had one poem ("Older and Wiser") that I really wanted converted. He was perfect and produced and sang the entire piece. For my second song (I’ve Found My Voice), I managed to hum the tune, and worked with another artist to produce it.

I’m completely new to songwriting, and I feel myself bumbling along….but I’m loving every minute of it. I’ve made youtube videos from these songs and hope to add a few more to my channel.

written and created by Vivian Zems

Sherry: Vivian, I am so impressed! You are a beginning songwriter, yet so accomplished. This is a very professional video. And isn't it wonderful how technology allows us a platform these days? I love that this song is about finding one's voice, as well as poetry! Let's look at another.

written and created by Vivian Zems

Sherry: How wonderful, Vivian! Bravo! There is a close connection between songwriting and poetry.  When did you begin writing poems? What do you love about it? What makes a poem sing for you?

Vivian: I wrote my first poem in February last year (2017). I don’t know where it came from- it just charged out. Coming from a science background, I’ve never been creative, but always harboured a desire to write fiction. So, it took my friends and family by complete surprise  when poetry made an appearance.

I write when I’m inspired. It may be another poem I’ve read, a sentence spoken - anything. It’s made me a better listener. With poetry, I’ve been able to speak from my spirit- unlike prose, where my mind is fully engaged.  When reading poetry, if it succeeds in transporting me, it’s accomplished its aim.

Sherry: I like that it makes us better listeners. A good observation. Is there someone in your life you feel had a significant influence on your becoming a writer/songwriter? Someone who encouraged your talent and your dreams?

Vivian: I’ve always been an obsessive reader. I have an insatiable appetite for fiction and, for years, have gone through countless audio books. I believe this has stretched the horizons of my imagination. My cheer leaders are my family and friends who encourage me constantly. Mind you, as this is all new to me, I feel like one who’s discovered buried treasure; I dig daily for inspiration and when I find it, stories and poems just roar out of me.

I’m grateful to God for this gift. Indeed it is a gift, considering that I never knew or enjoyed a line of poetry until last year.

Sherry: I enjoy your amazement. Smiles.  I see that you write prose as well. Do you have a different process for each?

Vivian: When I write prose, it’s to a movie that’s playing out in my head. I ‘watch’ the film, then I get to work. Poetry arrives by a different pathway. I call it my spirit - for want of a better word. I’ve really no idea. Mostly, it  begins as a burn on the inside, causing me to scramble for pen and paper or my phone...then out it pours. Other poems require some pondering; there doesn’t appear to be a pattern. My song- writing is simply a poem adjusted to fit music of a certain genre, tune and beat.

Available here

Available here

Sherry: I see you have three books out. Congratulations! The third is a book of poetry. So (this is a leading question, lol) which of the three books is your favourite and why?

Available here

Vivian: Haha! The poetry, of course!  With the first two - the Shoestring Budget series- I was sticking to facts  that I knew and decided to turn them into books. Shortly after, poetry arrived- and I discovered my passion. The poems in Waxing Lyrical were my first 50 poems after that first one in February they hold a special place in my heart.

Sherry: Three books and some songs is a wonderful body of work. Way to go! How long have you been blogging, and how has blogging impacted your work?

Vivian: I began blogging in January last year and haven’t looked back since. I believe that reading others’ work and having my writing critiqued has sharpened my skills. It’s also taught me that I’ve still got a long way to go.

Sherry: We all gain so much from sharing our love of words, don't we? Would you like to share three poems with us and tell us a little about each one?

Vivian: The three poems I’d like to share cover the topics of exultation ("Being Canny"), a warning ("Take Heed") and a hope ("Throes of Passion".)

Being Canny

It’s pure ecstasy
to run free within my mind
shutting out white noise
side-stepping anger’s pot-holes
steering my soul heaven-ward

"Being Canny" was born out of a feeling of exhilaration when I barely registered a recent storm of negativity. I’d lost interest fairly rapidly in whatever it was... and the words poured forth.

Take Heed

When your moral compass
goes astray
just about anything goes
-come what may
Jealousy and pride
become fast friends
anger and unforgiveness
pledge allegiance to the end
The road to destruction
seems paved with vengeance
while the fruits of life
lie rotting in decadence
‘Tis a sorry impasse
to lose one’s moral compass
Take heed and beware
lest you succumb to satan’s snare

"Take Heed" is a warning to myself and society, as a whole. Everyday we  face conflict; in our families, in our streets and in our schools, with devastating consequences. I felt the common thread was a loss of our moral compass.

Throes of Passion

If it doesn't whisper in your dreams
waking you up with a racing heart
it's not your passion
If it doesn't make you burn the midnight oil
creating more time out of the ether
it's not your passion
If it doesn't carry you through the air
as if riding a fire-breathing dragon
it's not your passion
If it doesn't resemble a form of madness
causing others to question your sanity
it's not your passion
If it doesn't consume or devour you
blinding you to all around
Do Something Else!
 it's not your passion

"Throes of Passion" hopefully speaks for itself. It gives a face to my passion. So if i sound crazy, hopefully you’ll understand.

Sherry: Not crazy at all. Truth. What other activities do you enjoy when you aren’t writing?

Vivian: Most things have paled in significance, but I still maintain my love for travel and exploring the world around me. Apart from being  an avid reader, I attend a regular poetry meetup where we share our poetry.

Sherry: It's wonderful to share our work with poetry groups in real time.  Is there anything else you’d like us to know that I don’t know you well enough to ask?

Vivian: Well, I’m working on my next book, a collection of short stories, and preparing the groundwork for a charity anthology for later this year - or early next year.

I’ve told my children, and now will tell the world; when I go to the great beyond, please make sure I’m buried with pen and some paper; for I’m certain I’ll see something I need to write about!

Sherry: Good idea! You are very prolific. It would be frustrating to find oneself without writing materials. Smiles. Is there anything you’d like to say to Poets United?

Vivian: I enjoy this platform and love being part of this collective. One day..soon...if someone asks me what I do…. I hope I’ll have the courage to say “Poet!”

Sherry: You are already there, Vivian. You write wonderful poems, which makes you a poet! Not to mention your wonderful music! Thank you so much for this visit, and for your participation at Poets United. We are happy you found us.

Wasn't this lovely, my friends? Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Poetry Pantry #404

Door County, Wisconsin, Fish Boil

One of the traditions of Door County is a fish boil.  Many
restaurants have them in the summer.  Here
one of the chefs is getting the fire started.

The tradition started in the old days when  they wanted
to find a way to feed workers, such as lumbermen,
in a hurry.  It is said to have Scandinavian roots.

Whitefish and potatoes are cooked in a pot over the fire.
Toward the end of the process the cook adds a bit
of kerosene to really flame the pot!

It really is an impressive sight to see!

Eventually after the flaming stops, the fish
and potatoes are really cooked.

They carry the pot of fish and potatoes
inside of the restaurant.....

.......where people line up to get a plateful of food. Here
you can see the cooked whitefish and potatoes.  At
the table there is also coleslaw & bread. For
dessert there is cherry pie & ice cream.

Greetings, Poets!  Another week has passed.  Where does time go?  Time again for Poetry Pantry.  I took the above photos last week when I was away for a "mini vacation."   I have known about these fish boils since childhood but never went to one until this past week.  If you ask me if I enjoyed it, I would say I enjoyed watching the fish being cooked.  But I did not enjoy the fish.  I do like fish, but this was a bit too 'rustic' for me.

Anyway, thanks to those of you who participate in the different features offered by Poets United.  Rosemary shared a poem by A.E. Houseman for her The Living Dead series this week.

Monday Sherry is featuring one of our newest poets.  It is always wonderful to learn about the poets who post among us, isn't it?

On Wednesday Sumana is prompting us to write a tribute poem to someone or something we wish to honor.  What a fascinating subject for Midweek Motif!!

And now with no further delay, let's share poetry.  Link your one poem below.  Say hello in comments.  And visit the poems of others who link.  Come back a few times to see who is new!  Smiles.

See you on the trail.  And than you again for all of you who participate here!

Friday, May 18, 2018

The Living Dead

~ Honouring our poetic ancestors ~

A Shropshire Lad 

From far, from eve and morning 

And yon twelve-winded sky, 
The stuff of life to knit me 
Blew hither: here am I. 

Now — for a breath I tarry 
Nor yet disperse apart — 
Take my hand quick and tell me, 
What have you in your heart. 

Speak now, and I will answer; 
How shall I help you, say; 
Ere to the wind's twelve quarters 
I take my endless way.

– A. E. Housman (1859-1936)

I featured Housman here a couple of years ago, and earlier here. He's one of my favourite poets, one of the few whose poems I sometimes get "on the brain" – an expression more usually applied to songs (before someone invented "earworm", that is). This poem is one that arrives in my mind now and then, during the many years since I first read it.

Some of the language, like "yon" and "hither", is old-fashioned now, but essentially it is simple, straightforward language, not a wasted word. The ballad form is also simple – with, in this case, perfect rhyme scheme, rhythmic pattern (rather than metre) and syllable count. The music is lovely; and the concepts are profound.  I think he's a great master.

He was at one time very well-known. Some of you may be familiar with his work; to others it might well be new.

In his life he was a noted classical scholar, and apparently rated his own poetry as secondary to that. Or perhaps he just regarded them as too different to compare: he is on record as declaring that poetry should appeal to the emotions, not the intellect. And the academic work was his bread-and-butter, after all. He was a Professor of Latin, first at University College London, and thereafter at Trinity College, Cambridge. 

Only two books of his poems were published in his lifetime, A Shropshire Lad and Last Poems. The first in particular, though a slow starter, became much loved, and has never entirely lost its popularity. A number of those poems have been set to music. Last Poems was an immediate success. After his death, his brother posthumously published More Poems, and later the Complete Poems. His works are still in print. I've just bought this illustrated Kindle edition from Amazon Australia (at a price I couldn't resist) after spotting it in my searches:

Material shared in 'The Living Dead' is presented for study and review. Poems, photos, and other writings and images remain the property of the copyright owners where applicable (older poems may be out of copyright).