Valentines Day Poetry

Valentines Day… a saint’s day now universally enjoyed and celebrated is just around the corner… and so, I am very happy to say, is my hardback limited edition, signed and numbered poetry book, Ever Truly Yours – ‘Reflections on love.’

It comes with a free CD of readings by Tobias Menzies, so send yourself off into a dream…

Always available online via

For two weeks, sitting comfortably in the window of a specialist and independent bookshop, in the super-seaside town of Old Hastings in East Sussex, my book is uniquely featured.

An old town much inspired by writers, artists and those buzzing to create and explore their talents. The magic of the sea, its closeness and its distance means you are never trapped.

The book is a selection of original love poetry inspired by the old masters of thought and feeling, The Romantics. Something new, but something in-keeping with the works we return to year after year to recite, to recall to memory and to really recapture a mood and a time. In few words poetry captures a huge world.

Feel and give love again and lift up this book to be uplifted through the years… ‘you are in every line I have ever read’

End of the Year! #NewYear #AuldLangSyne #celebration #song #remembrance #poem #midnight #kindness

Wherever you wake up today and wherever you end your night, be it Sea, City or country dwelling… be safe and be thoughtful.

It is customary, in English speaking countries, to end the year, at the strike of midnight to a delightful (if struggling) rendition of the Poem ‘Auld Lang Syne’ by Scotsman, Robert Burns, written in 1788 (with slight variations to the original) and sung to a traditional folk tune.

The translation of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ is ‘Days Gone By,’ or ‘For the sake of old times.’ That we might think of long-standing friendships, old acquaintances – they should not be forgotten – and days passed, memories made; reflection and contemplation and remembrance.

If ever there was a time of year to consider what has been and gone it is now, before we busy ourselves with what’s next.

So here’s to looking back fondly and moving forward faithfully.

Start the new year with a cup of kindness.

Should old acquaintance be forgot

And never brought to mind?

Should old acquaintance be forgot

And old lang syne…

For auld lang syne, my dear

For auld lang syne,

We’ll take a cup of kindness yet

For (the sake of) auld lang syne…

COMING UP in 2018, a new novel: ‘A Worldly Tale Told Of Mothy Chambers’

by K.G.V. Barnwell

Hare & Hawthorn have it! #books #bookshops #poetry #story #Hastings #local #AleisterStratton #EastSussex #history #hare

It is with great pleasure I now happily announce that my two poetry books, Poems & Lyrics, and Ever Truly Yours and my short story novella: The Case of Aleister Stratton (special, signed pre-release copies) are now available to buy in a lovely, local bookshop and bindery in Hastings Old Town, ‘Hare & Hawthorn.’ A unique little shop with beautifully bound new and old classic books, illustrated paper, mugs and pens all chosen and selected to the owner’s taste. This special, individual shop is found down one of the many twisted alleyways in one of the oldest towns in Great Britain.

Hastings of East Sussex, known as the 1066 county, celebrates its 950th anniversary in October, 2016. It is wonderful to be part of its fabric of history.

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Check out… ‘The Case of Aleister Stratton’

Rhymes and Reasons #nursery-rhymes #theatre #Easter #moral #happy

‘Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall

All the Kings horses and all the Kings men

Couldn’t put Humpty together again…’

This sweet little nursery rhyme actually has a more sinister overtone. Often you find that when you dig a little deeper into the origins and meanings of nursery rhymes, they are not the innocent, dainty tales we enjoy humming and reciting.

Let’s look (photo below) at this Humpty – one too many glasses of wine will tip him over the edge of the wall, on which he precariously balances; in turn his ‘Easter egg’ head will crack open and no matter what help can be provided, no one will be able to mend him.  

Moral: watch your drinking.

But let’s not be sour on a day like today, Easter Monday: the sweetest and stickiest day of the year. The days are getting longer, the gardens are getting brighter, and I am seeing a play tonight called ‘Reasons To Be Happy’ at London’s Hampstead Theatre … start counting your reasons.

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7 days till the 1st day of Christmas #Christmas #poetry 

Christmas Day, 25th of December, is officially the 1st Day of Christmas and only one week away (from today). So after all the carolling you’ve been doing, you’ll soon have the chance to be counting the days of Christmas, from the 25th to epiphany on the 6th of January, plus humming and singing to the well-known, usual tune.

Starting with ‘a partridge in a pear tree’ 

I do hope everyone’s enjoying the festive windows which are truly ‘winter wonderful,’ and preparing a very happy ‘holiday season’ without too much chaos. Maybe hide away with a book of poetry and a bit of port; the only drink that can be made out of the word poetry –

 P O E T R Y – before the real Christmas days arrive…

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Scarves, coats, gloves, hats, Sea Fever and Lines for Winter  #December #poetry #poets #Winter #sea

Welcome to December.  

If you are living on Earth, in the northern hemisphere of a temperate climate disposition then this is most definitely a Winter month.

And the wind, rain, grey, dull temperatures, and lack of light confirms it…. 

Sunrise 07:38 Sunset 15:55

‘Tell yourself 

as it gets cold and grey falls from the air

that you will go on

walking, hearing

the same tune no matter where 

you find yourself – 

inside the dome of dark

or under the cracking white

of the moon’s gaze in a valley of snow…’

From ‘Lines for Winter’ by Mark Strand (US Poet Laureate from 1990-91)

Poetry, in many forms, can bring a lot of light into your ‘darkened’ world.

A source of comfort and pleasure, on your own or openly with friends and family…start choosing a ‘party piece’ to share this Christmas.

In other news…

Leigh Hunt’s ‘Young Poets’ published 1st December 1816, named John Keats as one of three “young aspirants … who promise to revive Nature and put a new spirit of youth into everything.”

On 1st December 1902, the poet John Masefield was not hopeful the book, ‘Salt Water Ballads,’ which features his most popular poem ‘Sea Fever’, would sell.

He wrote: “they are a rough and tumble lot of ballads dealing with life at sea and drunken sailors…not much romance about them.”

The 500 copies were sold out by the end of the year (ie. a month later).  

Find your Winter Spirit and Keep Warm!

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Silence please #remembrance #OnThisDay #VeteransDay #Poppy

2 minutes of silent remembrance is held today 11.11.2015.
On 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month, it is customary to take a short, respectful, commemorative moment to remember those who sacrificed the gift of life for freedom, all unknown and known warriors and heroes, during the Great War, the Second World War and all global wars and conflicts.

‘At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them…’

From ‘For The Fallen’ written in 1914 by Laurence Binyon (1869-1943)

This is the Pride of the Poppy; the symbol of ‘the few’

A simple, yet profound statement: “this is my thanks, I remember you.”
A picture paints a thousand words…a picture speaks volumes…picturing this field at the Tower of London in November 2014 was extremely moving…888,246 ceramic red poppies. 
Two weeks later, there was a knock at the door, a postal delivery for me, and then a tear of joy and a tear of sadness at the realisation of the gravity of the moment, for One of these beautiful Poppies is now mine.

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London Poppy Day  #RoyalBritishLegion #remembrance #poppy

Today is LONDON POPPY DAY, 29th October 2015.

‘By wearing a Royal British Legion poppy, you are helping provide support to thousands of veterans, Service men and women.’

The photo below was one of the very many striking images from last year’s (2014) 100 year anniversary of the commemoration of the outbreak of The Great War 1914-1918.

The bronze statue depicts a valiant, yet humble, ordinary War soldier, with hat and rifle. He is coated in red paper poppies, floating all around him, in his arms and at his feet. The monument itself was placed in Trafalgar Square, where during the war rallying speeches were delivered and after the war, joyful celebrations took place.  

He faces the direction of Westminster Abbey, where the tomb of the unknown warrior lies, and towards St Stephens Tower: Big Ben, whose powerful chimes of 11 bells at 11 o’clock on the 11th November, 1918 marked the end of The Great War.

In the background is the glorious St Martin-in-the-Fields church, and behind him lies the National Gallery, home to an incredible collection of paintings.  

He is immortalised and He is home.

I am so in awe of this incredible city.

Do I feel proud of my capital? Absolutely!

The generosity of the British for charitable work is unsurpassable. The ability of people to raise money for so many worthwhile causes is commendable and the kindness shown and the astonishing amounts saved and donated is amazing.
With one Poppy pinned with pride to your coat, you say so much…

You remember all those who have fought for freedom and kept our country safe.

In your honour, London salutes you.

‘When you part from me, and depart our earth,

Your scarlet poppy will grow to bow in a breeze,

Their trembling wave of ‘cheerio, goodbye!’

Makes desert red; while silence bleeds into a distant cry.’

K.B. – 2015

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Enchanted Castles #castles #poetry #travel

Fairytales may well be exaggerated and magical distortions of the sensible and practical truth but…

Knights of the realm, fair maidens, damsels in distress, valiant heroes, brave warriors, honourable citizens, villainous invaders, victorious intruders, are all part of the rich history of life, in all its many forms; figures from the past merge into the people of today.

Here, on a forested valley, sits a perfectly peaceful castle, steeped in mystery, and inquisitive questioning, and full of many possible and impossible imaginations…

Far, far away, then reachable; pungently powerful in the daylight, then disappearing at night; soft and mellow like a child’s sandcastle then fortified, strong and sharp like a gentleman’s brandy; sometimes imperious, foreboding and stern then vulnerable, touchable and tame; teetering on the edge, ready to crumble to dust, or basking in the might of centuries of vigorous invincibility.

How encouraging to be conquering the adventurous journey of the world’s road with a little fairy magic

“Some enchanted evening, you may see a stranger,
You may see a stranger, across a crowded room.”

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I happened upon an apple and it led to many things… #poem #autumn #apples #NewYork #remembrance

‘The russet, crab and cottage red
Burn to the sun’s hot brass
Then drop like sweat from every branch
And bubble in the grass…’

second verse of Apples by Laurie Lee

‘How sweet the flesh and blemished skin
Crisp crunch the ripened bite
A thirsty juice of crimson dew
Bulging beauties of delight…’

one verse of Apples by Kate Barnwell
(Written on an Apple Ipad)

Create your own luscious verse to celebrate the picking of ‘new season’ apples.

With respect and remembrance for those who passed away and for those who were badly scarred by attacks on September the 11th 2001 in New York (The Big Apple).

Whilst on the subject of firstly apples and then the tragedy of 9/11 further extraordinary connections and coincidences can be made.
That day the towers fell poet Robin Robertson was in France and had just completed his second book, the concluding poem of which was ‘Fall‘ (written after the German poet, Rilke’s work ‘Herbst‘ meaning Autumn). Rilke had composed his poem soon after arriving in Paris in 1902, on September 11th. Extraordinary!
The first verse of Robertson’s poem, read one month after the attack to an audience at New York University is below…

‘The leaves are falling, falling from the trees
in dying gardens far above us; as if their slow
free-fall was the sky declining.’

And finally…
Poet and Writer D.H.Lawrence was born on 11th September 1885 (130 years ago).
I have picked out this particularly appropriate last line from his poem ‘Piano

Down in the flood of remembrance, I weep like a child for the past.’

Lots to think about today.

Captivated by Roses #roses #poetry #love #YouTube

The dear ROSE: no other flower features more often in poetry than ‘the symbol of a high romance and a loved one.’ Its colour, its fragrance, its long blooming summer season, its flamboyant eccentricities, its wrapped and curled baby bud, then open in full costume with loose petticoat petals and soft underbelly and complimented by it’s slender, tender, thorny (look, but don’t touch) stem and fine, pretty leaves. Here you have a ROSE.
So many splendid varieties, but we all have a special favourite.

‘Nothing is gained by not gathering roses.’ Asking for Roses by Robert Frost.

‘O my Luve’s like a red, red rose.’ A red, red rose by Robert Burns.

‘I went to my pretty rose tree
To tend her by day and by night.’ My Pretty Rose Tree by William Blake.

‘Gather ye rose buds while ye may
Old time is still a-flying…’ To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time by Robert Herrick.

‘It was a little budding rose
Round like a fairy globe…
Sweet was the slight and spicy smell.’ A Little Budding Rose by Emily Bronte

‘I dream of a red rose tree
And which of its roses three
Is the dearest rose to me.’ Women and Roses by Robert Browning

George Eliot’s poem Roses speaks almost childishly but so honestly about the joy of roses, you feel she may have quoted this carefree passage as you walked around the rose gardens together…

‘You love the roses – so do I. I wish
The sky would rain down roses, as they rain
From off the shaken bush. Why will it not?
Then all the valley would be pink and white
And soft to tread on. They would fall as light
As feathers, smelling sweet; and it would be
Like sleeping and waking, all at once.’

If you would like to hear my poem ‘In Fields’ read by actor, Tobias Menzies, with a YouTube video featuring roses, follow the link and fall in love…

Doing the plumbing #rhymes #fruit #tradition #poetry

The Victoria plum: a classic English autumn fruit, turns from a raw, sour green to a plump, luscious, beautifully blemished pinky-purple plum palette with a sweet, juicy, light-yellow flesh circling a slim pointed stone.

This is the plumbing work of the garden… No spanners, no pumps, no overflows, no leaks (only plums!) just a slender hand is required to reach through the leafy branches and gently twist and pluck the meaty morsels from their stems.Now what to do? Perfect as they are, whole or sliced, try compotes, jams and preserves – preserving means a happy surprise at Christmas to find an autumn plum amongst your feast – adventurous pies and crumbles, add cinnamon and warm it up!

Little Jack Horner
‘Little Jack Horner
Sat in the corner
Eating a Christmas pie;
He put in his thumb,
And pulled out a plum,
And said “What a good boy am I”‘

An English language nursery rhyme; the earliest reference to the verse was in ‘Namby Pamby,’ a ballad by Henry Carey, published 1725.
These are the common modern lyrics.

‘Earth has not anything to show more fair’ #London #poetry #quotes #art

On the 3rd September 1802 William Wordsworth, aged 32 years, completed his sonnet ‘Composed upon Westminster Bridge.’

The double meaning of composed is particularly poignant.
Composed as a verb means to make up, to put together, to form and to construct…
Wordsworth has ‘fashioned’ this poem upon Westminster Bridge.
Composed the adjective means serene, relaxed, poised, tranquil and sedate…
Wordsworth is ‘calm’ upon Westminster Bridge.

It’s an incredibly evocative poem, deep, beautiful, fulfilling, tender and expansive…capturing emotion, sensation, imagery and creative description.

‘Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty…’ WW

Let us also not forget Dorothy, the diary-keeping sister of Wordsworth, who wrote a very vivid journal (The Grasmere Journal) and from which he would have found an extra source of stimulation. She scribbled these notes as the Dover coach pulled out at Charing Cross…

“The houses were not overhung by their cloud of smoke and they were spread out endlessly, yet the sun shone so brightly with such pure light that there was even something like the purity of one of nature’s own good spectacles.” DW

The last three lines of the sonnet read:

‘The river glideth at its own sweet will:
Dear God! The very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!’

Picture: The Thames below Westminster, 1871 by Claude Monet

Reasons to cry#MichaelJackson #lyrics #poetry

Today, 29th August is the late, great Michael Jackson‘s birthday (born 1958, died June 2009). What an incredibly talented, dedicated artist, singer, song-writer and amazing performer. Whenever you feel emotion (any sort) building up inside you, the best place to return to is a classic Michael Jackson song.

A perfect song to get those tear glands going is ‘She’s Out Of My Life’ (from Off The Wall) – warning… listen with tissues.

It’s sung with such tenderness and vulnerability; he’s sharing a private, deep pain with you and the music supports his delicate, tearful almost fractious voice.

You’ll cry, you’ll feel his honesty, his upset, his distress and he’ll pass a message to you, the best way MJ can do, by singing out his soul.  

Take care to listen well…

‘So I’ve learnt, that love’s not a possession

And I’ve learnt that love won’t wait

Now I’ve learnt that love needs expression

But I’ve learnt too late…and she’s out of my life…’
Michael Jackson (29th August 1958 – 25th June 2009)

Young love #poetry #W.B.Yeats #love #gardens

Down by the Salley Gardens from The Wanderings of Oisin & Other Poems, 1889
By W.B Yeats (1865-1939)

‘Down by the salley gardens my love and I did meet;

She passed the salley gardens with little snow white feet.

She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree;

But I, being young and foolish, with her would not agree.’

Q. What is a salley?

Ans. A sallow tree, closely related to a Irish saileach: a willow tree.
Q. What happened next Mr Yeats?
‘In a field by the river my love and I did stand,

And on my leaning shoulder she laid her snow white hand.

She bid me take life easy, as the grass grows on the weirs;

But I was young and foolish, and now am full of tears.’

Ans. You should have listened to her! But don’t cry, try to woo her back, read her wonderful poems, under a salley tree, walk in fields, don’t make life complicated…cry tears of happiness at finding (in this huge, wide world) someone to call my love.  This is time well spent.

The Shore-sign Contemplation #art #beach #poetry

Ideas for Poetry can pop up in all sorts of places: promenading along the beach, caught in a crowded city, cruising the countryside, stuck on the underground, rambling in summer pastures, travelling to foreign lands, and at any time, from early morning to late at night. 

Inspiration continues to be an unusual and unpredictable sensation …whatever your tool (painting, writing, acting, baking, singing, composing…) you feel compelled to make the best use of it, to interpret it into something distinctive, unique…
Some signs wash up on the shore…!

Letter-writing – what’s that? #JohnKeats #poetry #letters

John Keats (1795-1821) a man of many words, poetical of course, but also a keen, enthusiastic letter-writer. An honest letter or postcard holds more personality and truth of my mind than a practised or rehearsed verse or set of lyrics; it speaks spontaneously from the heart and remains forever a private, intimate, immediate gift from one to another.
However many texts, Facebook friends, likes or comments, tweets or followers – a unique and original offering and an everlasting token remains: the old-fashioned handwritten note…it says more than it reads…it says ‘I’ve been thinking of YOU, and now you’re not with me, I hold a little something of you and until I see you again, I send this as a little something of me.’

‘poetry should be a great and unobtrusive, a thing which enters into one’s soul.’
From a letter by John Keats

‘My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains My sense.’
John Keats Poetry (it must be love, love, love)

Marvelling at Mr Marvell

Andrew Marvell (31st March 1621- 16th August 1678), writing in the 17th century contemplates a garden of delights, enjoying its fruitful bounty (the traditional like the apple, and the exotic like the peach) in as excited a fashion as we would today. A simple rhyming scheme & exact syllables per line make this a jolly, bouncy poem…
Blooming Marvellous!

‘What wondrous life is this I lead!
Ripe apples drop about my head;
The luscious clusters of the vine
Upon my mouth do crush their wine;
The nectarine and curious peach
Into my hands themselves do reach;
Stumbling on melons, as I pass,
Ensnared with flowers, I fall on grass…’

From Thoughts in a Garden

William Blake (28th November 1757-12th August 1827) #poems #songs #London #onthisday

Devout Londoner, poet & artist William Blake died on the 12th August 1827, missing his 70th birthday by 3 months. He was a mystical, artistic poet and an experienced engraver. He exercised his craftsmanship with great delicacy in his books Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, illustrating his works in the supernatural sense. His wife Catherine assisted in hand painting and binding the books.
Blake’s poetry was creative, energetic and evocative, perhaps infused and inspired by his vision of God, when aged four, and his communications with other religious figures throughout his life. A metaphysical nature is not always an easy one to grasp on first reading; there is the strong use of metaphors and conceits, elaborate images or far-fetched comparisons.
On dying he was extremely happy, singing loudly and ecstatically “Hallelujahs & songs of Joy & Triumph.”
It is said that in Vincent Van Gogh’s painting of The Sunflowers, each flower represents a different stage of life…
In Blake’s poem Ah! Sunflower, we also feel the passage of time and age…

‘Ah! sunflower, weary of time,
Who contest the steps of the sun,
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
Where the traveller’s journey is done…’
From Songs of Experience

The joke’s on me: Robert Graves #poets #onthisday

Check out my blog of 24th July 2015: Dead or Alive? Rescued by poetry.

In brief it states that on Robert Graves‘ 21st birthday (24th July 1895) he opened The Times newspaper only to read his own obituary.  

He had been pierced through the chest and groin by shrapnel at the Somme in July 1916 and was written off by the battalion doctor has having “no chance.”

However it was on this day, 5th August 1916 (12 days later) The Times made good their mistake, announcing Graves had actually survived.

Thankfully, out of this ‘grave’ incident (pardon the pun!) he claimed, “the joke contributed greatly to my recovery. The people with whom I had been on the worst terms (with) during my life wrote the most enthusiastic condolences to my parents.”

Sometimes we may forget that previous generations also had a sense of humour as well as being both adored by some and despised by others. That’s life.

Here’s Graves’ poetry whilst in buoyant spirits…

‘Why have such scores of lovely, gifted girls

Married impossible men?

Simple self-sacrifice may be ruled out, 

And missionary endeavour, nine times out of ten.’

Has God’s supply of tolerable husbands 

Fallen, in fact, so low?

Or do I always over-value woman

At the expense of man?

Do I?

It might be so.’
from ‘A Slice of Wedding Cake’