Introduced by Mary Walsh
Jenny Grant; September 1966 – May 2021
I am both honoured and deeply saddened to introduce Jenny Grant as our writer of the month. Jenny passed away suddenly in May, leaving her husband Jon and her daughter Amber.
Jenny was a great friend to me and to all at Pen to Print and will be sadly missed. In 2016, she founded the Barking Foxes Poetry Stanza, and ran it until 2018, when I took over. She was an inspiration and friend to many an emerging poet; encouraging them with her enthusiasm for poetry. She was also a ferocious knitter and loved to crochet, spending her entire life writing poetry and making creative things. She herself was inspired by the poetry of Li Po and Pablo Neruda.
She loved the scent of orange blossom and the colours gold and blue brought her joy. She believed the house she lived in was inhabited by the spirits of her grandparents. When not writing, she adored the garden and looking after the many stray cats that visited, as well as her own kitten horde. She loved the history of the ancient Greeks, Egyptians and Scythians and the works of Frida Kahlo and Rothko.
Jenny’s poetry spanned many different forms, and it was under her guidance that the anthology Strict Forms was produced, penned by the Barking Foxes.
“Jenny was hugely enthusiastic about poetry and a delight to chat to when she contacted me as Membership Manager to set up the Barking Stanza. I could tell she had bags of energy and self-determination to be a Stanza rep.” Paul McGrane, Poetry Society Stanza Membership Manager
“When you meet a regular customer in the library, you find a human story. Jenny was a great supporter of her local libraries. As soon as the knitting books came through, they were reserved for her. She’d come along to collect them and tell you about her week, her family, what she was drawing, what she was knitting and much more. She was such a character and had a cheeky sense of humour, too! She was a stalwart in our poetry community and will be missed by staff and friends, especially within the Barking Foxes.” The Pen to Print Team.
“Jon and I are very thankful for the kind words and support shown to us at this time. We will always love and miss her.” Amber Grant
My Father, my Family
The stony red earth under my feet is my Mother.
She pushed me out one barren day
and made of good clay, I became fired and hard
under the heat of the sun above.
I bow my head and keep going
Even if the harsh light glares into my watery eyes.
I keep moving because I do not have a home
I rest when I find someplace safe to shelter.
The sky above is my Father. Infinite, impenetrable, distant.
He watches over the universe
He pays no attention to little me.
He cares not for me and takes no time to seek me out.
Yet with the warmth of the sun
And the support of the path beneath my feet
I flourish and grow strong.
I learn that I am capable and willing to do well.
The air I breathe is God. He is all around me
above me, inside me. He fills my lungs and fuels my blood.
My heart pumps stronger, my head thinks clearly.
I burst with dreams and hopes, I’m singing.
Everywhere I am surrounded by God.
He sustains me when I am empty and desolate.
He gave me life, I honour him.
He touches me gently with his Holy Spirit.
On rainy days he hangs a jewelled rainbow
from a tall cloud to remind me of the Covenant between us.
The Winter Queen
The snow rolls its white carpet out as the Winter Queen arrives.
She sends flurries in her wake, and the smell of pine and mahogany fills the air but it’s too sharp to breathe such cold stuff unless your swathed in fur, like She is.
Neglected in the corners, where it’s slightly warmer, the snow withers and the white blossom frosts die, becoming grey glass as the night draws in, long icicles dripping like blood from the huntresses fangs as she tears out summer’s throat.
At daybreak, huge puffs of snowflakes flutter down, dancing, defiant of gravity, gently forming a steady curtain covering the garden, hiding the treasures formed in darkness, rose gold frost lit by the dawn and the raging sun, hidden by clouds.
Hard snow, like rain mixed with lead, pocks deep holes in the grey blanket so you can see the frozen grass beneath and the spring flowers rebelling beneath the dirt, refusing to be cowed by the cold and the never ending darkness of your icy reign.
Animal tracks form a path, birds feet hop in pairs to make patterns, covered over like tippex erasing mistakes by more snow, covering all the patterns, fixing the holes and the grey melting slush into a greetings card, glittering, a snow globe.
My window is framed with frost and my breath mists the condensation where I’ve idly drawn shapes with my fingers. The fire roars. The cats are asleep and waiting for longer days and shorter nights, waiting for Spring to banish the Queen again.
Here is a cento Jenny wrote from poems of Li Po, born 701 a.d:
Ten Thousand Miles Of Farewell
Ten thousand miles of farewell on this boat
and no-one knows where you’ve gone; still
I sit silent. All bottomless clarity.
Here, the world’s dust rinsed from my face
I set my hair loose among pine winds
But we’re not made with such ancestral chi
so how long can we wander with it here?
I sit, heart stricken, at the bloom of youth
in my old face. Return to clear water
and a blossoming moon bares our delusions
A restless woman cries out in half-sleep
A lit path of white stretches between us
Ocean clouds leave the eyes farewell
Western light follows water away. Once gone,
gone without a trace.
Those who could hear a song this deeply
Vanished long ago.
The Origin Of Love
So where does love come from?
It begins with an all-consuming loneliness
a lost hope, a broken heart.
Love begins by staring into an empty glass
and going back to the bar for another gin.
Love in a vacuum does not flourish.
Love is a blank slate, a fatalism, a dark bruise.
It begins in disappointment and sadness
and emerges surprisingly with a game
Here is my worthy opponent, who is proud
who will find me even if I hide away against the world
forgives me if I’m unkind, never gives up.
My love is a horse-whisperer
who frees the Fire Horse, the Hinoema
Being free and independent, my love needs space
It was a surprise to find love here
Love waits patiently to be welcomed in
rushes not to enter until invited. Love bides its time.
Love comes from nowhere, unexpected
as a gift a smile, a promise, it holds my hope
my true love appears like buds on a bare tree
It is a spectacular sunrise after a long dark night
Love dances in, such pleasure to behold.
It holds hands, feet nested on feet in sleep, dreams combined.
Love is here, it is here, it is welcome here.
Blossom falls like snow
Spring wears flowers in her hair
White cat sits by shed
Ghazal For Amber
What was the world before you were born?
A small, lonely place, my daughter
You are the sun and you fill me with light
I am better for you, my daughter
Your eyes are gentle, full of trust and hope
Your smile is all the stars, my daughter
Proud of your truthful soul, my heart lifts with joy
You made me complete, my daughter
Wherever you go is my home
I am with you forever, my daughter
The quiet moments with you, alone in my arms
Bring precious contentment, my daughter
You bring me glory, as you speak up for the world’s children
My fierce lion cub, my daughter
Jennifer’s truest friend, I would give you my life
My song is for you, my daughter
Jenny loved her kitten horde. Here is a sonnet about one of her cats:
Sonnet To A Spotted Cat
Little cat, you with the quizzical brow
How your long legs whiz down the garden path
Bring me a dying starling and miaow
Chase it round as I watch you from the bath
Your fur is white, and once it was quite clean
But you like rolling in a patch of dirt
Your paws are pink and black, your eyes are green
Leave grey footprints on my clean white shirt
You have stolen my heart you little beast
I can’t sleep unless you are by my feet
I long for your love but you love me least
You have conquered me, I admit defeat
Dear Spottie, independent, wild and free
If I keep feeding you, will you love me?
And finally, this poem about Eleanor Marx is for Lucy Kaufman:
Tussy Blue – The Memories Of Eleanor Marx
There’s nothing quite so dark as now where I am
Anyone can shine a light on me and that’s the truth
Life is but a stage and there’s a doll’s house in my dream
Something’s very wrong with the man that I love
Nobody doubt my foolishness, to be learned isn’t wise
So I blindly wish for more from him, as ever
Come bring me kind smiles, one kiss will right me forever
Today my face is blue, for sad and gloomy I am
I know I shouldn’t have gone along with you, it was unwise
And bitter aloes sour my mouth and that’s the truth
But I’m not ashamed to be a fool, a fool for love
It’s all a play, the lines are rehearsed, it’s just a dream
So wake me darling, in my white dress, from this dream
Turn me round and hold me in your arms forever
I could never wish for more than your love
Happiness is next to you, any place that I am
Oh shut the door and open me to your dark truth
Kissing you’s the only thing I’ve done that’s wise
Looking outside at the rain, I regret I couldn’t be more wise
So much longing poured forth as I reached out for my dream
In fact nothing could have turned out farther from the truth
And I am just as much alone with you as ever
Reflecting on how far I’ve fallen, and everything I am
I can’t regret the stupid things I did for love
And yet, as I suffer for my agonising love
And wishing bitterly that I had been more wise
Longing for you to see me truly as I am
Realising I have conquered nothing in my dream
Knowing I will love you in my heart forever
Above every lesson given I have learned my truth
But what does anyone know about the truth?
And surely we are all blind fools for love
Love is but a flame that burns too hot to last forever
And fire burns a foolish person the same as the wise
Life’s so brief, so fill me with love’s hot fires in my dream
And make me patient to be the loving fool that I am
And knowing ever I lived to seek the truth
Reckless lover, I am ever seeking love
No-one wise would ever follow my dream.
I hope you have enjoyed reading some of Jenny Grant’s wonderful poems.
My heart flows like a river, like all good friends, you are gone too soon
Out of reach. Only your spirit remains lighting the darkness. Mary LWalsh
In memory of Jenny Grant; September 1966 - May 2021