Unusual forms of narrative this weekend: instructions, examination questions, a harangue addressed to a bird (why are we attracting so many good bird poems to Keep Poems Alive?) and a Gardeners Question Time question that gets out of hand. In Ira Lightman’s work, however, narrative could be said to mean something entirely different. You tell me. We’ll start with Ira’s poem, for which we have used a pdf. But please don’t all rush in with pdfs, this is an exception.

Again we are well represented internationally with poems from America and Canada as well as England and Scotland. Thanks to Robert Klein Engler, James Bell, Glen Sorestad, Vivien Jones and Ira Lightman. If you want to know more about our poets, look them up.

To send, see the first post in our August archive.


         Ira Lightman


First published in Loving Phase Transitions, Sound & Language Press, Lowestoft, 1993

KPA best exams

Robert Klein Engler
Final Exam

Essay Question

Compare the touch of a lover’s hand on your shoulder to a red leaf falling on the grass. Are the weight of these gestures enough to break a heart? Make sure your answer includes a note of frost.

Multiple Choice:

a) To live without your lover is a waste of the body.
b) To live with one you don’t love is a waste of the spirit.
c) The body and the spirit are like the moon above a black lake.
d) All of the above.

True or False:

Nothing is whole that has not first been broken.

Fill in the Blank:

I had a drink with a man I knew in college years ago. He confessed he sleptwith the one I could never have. That night I dreamed I had a sore on mythigh. I squeezed it, and gold puss oozed out.

Extra Credit: Find the Metaphor-


First published in pif magazine, October 1st, 1997

07 Ian Loch Venachar

James Bell
fishing for beginners

it is usual to have a line
           either actual or one that
is carried in the head –
success does depend on this

it is better to be as close
to water as you can – preferably
                           with a little depth – though
fish are not known for their intellect

it is good to practise not to sing
or chatter for this is serious
business and depends on
concentration from both the fish and you

it is customary to throw the fish
              the line – include bait at one end
                          hold the other – if nothing happens
be assured the fish has not drowned

it will take lots of time as all serious
fishing does – may never fini
the scale of the task is so huge –
remember you are preparing to invade another world

it is said that if you catch a fish
              and let it go the fish will soon forget
only you will remember –
good to know if continuing to fish

First published in Shearsman Magazine, 2009 and then as the title poem of the author’s collection from tall-lighthouse, 2010

KPAsnowy o wl

Glen Sorestad
Snowy Owl Snarls Traffic in Saskatoon

Where did you come from, splendid winged one?
Just passing through enroute to fields teeming
with mice and voles, nocturnal vittles?

What a strange perch, this asphalt patch of road
to alight, the mayhem of motorists, here
in the driveway entrance to a shopping mall.

Look around, snowy star! You’ve managed
what even traffic lights rarely can with certainty —
backed traffic to a standstill with your presence.

Rare sight on any road at any time,
your sudden presence has changed the tenor
of the day, slowed the rush, brought the police

to direct traffic and ensure your safety, summone
wildlife officials to attend your needs. This small
respite from the usual urban ennui, a news item,

a driver’s anecdote, a curiosity, quickly forgotten.
Still, perhaps there’s a smidgeon of comfort we
can glean from your visit: despite our failures,

our seeming lack of will to do what’s right,
this day suggests that hope manifests itself
in unexpected places, in wee but wondrous ways.  

First published on the website, Your Daily Poem, January 2012. It subsequently appeared in South African poet Louis Esterhuizen’s blog on the Afrikaaner website Versindaba

path to Polmaddy image by Ann Cook

Vivien Jones
‘Gardeners’ Question Time’ at Polmaddy *

‘Maisie Barbour farmhand and herbalist’

‘So, what can you recommend for a raw Galloway hillside
upon which an abandoned settlement sinks in its own echoes ?
A whaleback horizon, black at dusk, guiding soft constant rainfall
onto earth pocked with rocks and fibrous grasses tough enough
to capture soil in plaited roots, our own shit for manure.
We plant in rigs, sharing the sweet west lie, only the toughest
crops will throw themselves skywards, defying the slashing wind,
onions, small as marbles, cooked whole, make pungent soup.
I gather the healing plants, for bitter gruels and poultices,
called to wounds and vomitings, my wealth in my apron folds,
I keep them from the earth with the fruit of the earth.
The children dig granite stones, stacked in cairns with which
we build an inn, we stop the pilgrims in their path to Whithorn,
faith makes them thirsty, we are rich, we have many buildings.
No more, one summer they brought the sheep and we, like sheep,
were herded away to the barren towns.
Will you make a garden here where once the stripe of the rigs told
where the fruitful earth lay ?’

* Polmaddy is the site of an 18th century ‘ferme-toun’ almost lost among the tough grasses of the Galloway countryside.

First published in ‘About Time, Too’ , Indigo Dreams, 2010