Posting this here because it’s one of my rant-y pomes, and therefore not really the kind I’d submit anywhere!
(c) Nin Harris 2012-2013
I smooth warpaint on
my features as a mark of
war, not of seduction.
It is a reminder that the inner face
remains for the intrinsic me.
The warpaint is read as
an invitation for conquest.
There is no happy ending
for this tale; no rant
against being objectified
will be effective.
I have elected to be
a woman and by being a woman,
I mean painting my features
not hiding my curves
and letting my hair flow
like a war-general
rather than a seductress
Naturally this means
I cannot be a feminist
because I have not
decided to be gender-neutral
because I have not decided
to obliterate everything
that is womanly about me.
I have had a lifetime
of having a boy-cut hairstyle;
dressed in little girl clothes
chosen by an abuser
aimed at suffocating
any sign of sensuality
I choose beauty not so I
can be prey or victim.
I choose beauty as an
act of aggression.
I choose love,
not because I like being vulnerable
I choose love because there
is nothing more empowering
or as humbling
as true knowing
I choose love — and this is a
fine distinction. I choose it.
Poets have written about
love being an animal
that chases you down
but the truth is that in love
as in war, there is always choice,
There are many loves,
and one does not need to be
the recipient of a love given
grudgingly, against the
better nature and inclination
of its giver.
If love is not to be war then
love must be given freely
or not given at all.
If beauty is not to be war
then we should be allowed to wear
all of our colors boldly without
anyone insisting that
we remain weak and vulnerable
for them alone
Love is not the fetishising
of unnatural and imbalanced
Love is not of imposed
choices by those who do
not know the strength
of our individual hearts.
If Love is not to be war
then let us choose to
be powerful and glorious
in all of our unions.
by (c) Nin Harris 2013
This is a poem that is not meant to be taken seriously. It’s a tongue-in-cheek piece of Austenite gender-roles-bending geekery. Because not all #mythicfolk poems are serious ones.
White shirt, green lake;
an image etched in the vision
of many would-be Lizzies enthralled by
dark curls and introspective eyes that
flash across your screen, accompanying tea at 5pm
followed by a dinner of asam pedas and rice.
Wet plastered against white cotton
and on powerpoint slides in lecture halls;
inducting a new crop to the creed
of genteel and governed love.
I smile over clenched teeth
and tell them over tea and tapioca cakes that I am like Darcy
because my good opinion, once lost is lost forever.
Perhaps I will be punished by
a Lizzie Bennet in a man’s form.
Perhaps, I will treat him to an awkward proposal
that despite my better judgement…
…which he will then spurn with heaving chest
and moral indignation at not being
marked a superior and highly amiable species,
like Keira Knightley in a tropical downpour
wailing his wounded anguish to the overcast skies.
This is before he is wooed by
bounteous estates, and massive tracts of land.
My worldly possessions
and tasteful collections will merit praise
moreso than my lordly demeanour,
introverted arrogance , and mordant wit.
He will fall in love with the lustrous green
of moneyed gardens and the white sheen
of Grecian artefacts.
Of course, quite naturally,
a wet white shirt will clinch the deal.
Portrait of Heinrich von Morungen from the Codex Manesse*
Heinrich von Morungen or Henry of Morungen was a German courtly poet or more accurately a Minnesinger. Minnesang was the tradition of writing lyrics and songs about themes of love, and was prevalent between 12th and14th century. Henry was a native of Thuringia, and belonged to the class of minor knights. These Knights originated from the castle of Morungen near Sangerhause and Henry in paticular spent much of his later life in the service of Duke Dietrich of Meissen. When he retired, he received from Duke Dietrich a pension for his ‘high personal merits’. In 1217 he retired at the Monastry of St. Thomas in Leipzig. According to 16th century sources he died here after a journey to India in 1222.
Henry writes in middle high German and 35 poems of his survive today. These contain about 115 verses and 104 of them are found in the great collection of the Codex Manesse. This was a medieval song book known in German as the Große Heidelberger Liederhandschrift.It was written in Zurich for the Manesse family and thus derives its name. It is the single most comprehensive source of Middle High German Minnesang poetry and it was almost entirely written and illustrated in 1304 with a last bit added in 1340.
Scholars have called it ‘the most beautifully illumined German manuscript in centuries’. The Codex Manesse contains the works of about 135 Minnesingers of the 12th – 14th century. Each poet is represented by a beautifully drawn portrait followed by the text of their works. The entries are ordered according to the social standing of the poet starting with the Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI, Kinds Conradin and Wenceslaus II, followed by the Dukes, Counts, Knights and finally the Commoners.
It is hard to get a sense of how beautiful these lyrics are because firstly they are written in middle high German and that sounds very different from current German. Secondly they were never meant to be eye-read but sung with musical accompaniments. Henry composed melodies to all his texts and sung the songs himself accompanied by early type of violins. Unfortunately none of the melodies of these lyrical poems have been preserved.
Still we can get a sense of how beautiful his songs might have been from his lyrics which even on their own are hauntingly evocative; he seems to write in picture-words, conjuring enchanting images of the sun, moon, evening star, gold, jewels and mirrors which he often compares favourably with his lady love. But there is always an undercurrent of the the anguish and intensity of loving so deeply. In many cases love seems to have taken on a personification of demonic proportions, and has even become a chief tormentor. Love in Henry’s songs is then experienced as a magical and bewitching fatal power as and given the same depth of experience as would a mystical or religious experience.
His poems have been sung and re-interpreted by modern German musicians, and although it is not quite the same, you can still get some sense of how these poems were meant to be sung and some of the interpretations are quite beautifully in themselves. Helium Vola uses the lyrics from Henry’s song 4 in a stunning melodic rendition called ‘In so hoher swebender wunne’ The song describes how he feels in the presence of an exquisitely beautiful lady. He is so overwhelmed by her that he seems to have forgotten how to speak and express himself.
Song 5 has been interpreted by two German music artists, both very different explorations but equally enthralling. Entitled Von Den Elben by Qntal and Faun, this tells the story of a man bewitched by the faeries or in German Elves. In 32 lines Henry takes you on a journey, exploring the inner working of the mind of a man completely besotted by his mistress who does not return his intensity of passion.
Here is song V by Heinrich von Morungen in its original language- Middle High German
Von den elben wirt entsehen vil manic man,
sô bin ich von grôzer liebe entsên
von der besten, die ie dehein man ze vriunt
gewan. wil aber sî dar umbe mich vên
Und ze unstaten stên,
mac si danne rechen sich und tuo,
des ich si bite. sô vreut si sô sêre mich,
daz mîn lîp vor wunnen muoz zergên.
Sî gebiutet und ist in dem herzen mîn
vrowe und hêrer, danne ich selbe sî.
hei wan muoste ich ir alsô gewaltic sîn,
daz si mir mit triuwen waere bî
Ganzer tage drî unde eteslîche naht!
sô verlür ich niht den lîp und al die maht.
jâ ist sie leider vor mir alze vrî.
Mich enzündet ir vil liehter ougen schîn,
same daz viur den durren zunder tuot,
und ir vremeden krenket mir daz herze mîn
same daz wazzer die vil heize gluot.
Und ir hôher muot
und ir schoene und ir werdecheit
und daz wunder, daz man von ir tugenden seit,
daz wirt mir vil übel – oder lîhte guot?
Swenne ir liehten ougen sô verkêrent sich,
daz si mir aldur mîn herze sên,
swer dâ enzwischen danne gêt und irret mich,
dem muoze al sîn wunne gar zergên!
Ich muoz vor ir stên
unde warten der vröiden mîn
rehte alsô des tages diu kleinen vogellîn.
wenne sol mir iemer liep geschên? Resources
(c) 2012 TAB
it’s another Monday
it’s just another Monday
it won’t ever be this Monday again
(c) Nin Harris 2012
When I was a some-teen, I dreamed
about a soulmate sitting on
a chair facing me in a room
filled with empty seats that
had no relevance.
There was only me and
the man who sat on the other chair.
It could have been a classroom, a conference,
a panel, a course, a strange cult meeting
in a sterile environment, or a room in
A chair has never been just a chair
for most of my life
And then, I started
disregarding and forgetting dreams;
a chair became just another chair.
It could have been a public lecture
in the 25th century on a space ship
as they recollected how humans first
settled on the moons of Saturn.
It could have been in a service hall
somewhere in Moscow in the 1960s.
Or, it could have been an asylum
all along, and I am still asleep
avoiding the moment
when I awaken to gaze
at white walls, to be brought
into the next room
where you await me
on the other chair
with a syringe and a kidney dish.
And then I started forgetting and
disregarding dreams; and every
chair lost its meaning and mystery.
My paranoias fed upon different sources,
and when they ran away,
so did my soulmates.
Instead I feed on soulmates that exist
on pages, in ASCII: words and numbers
that make mockery of meaning, defying it with multiplicity.
In this universe of consonants and vowels,
ambiguity between the signifier and the signified
a chair becomes whatever you say it is
and I become whoever you want me to be.
I am not Magritte’s Pipe
but you are not Magritte.
I am the Beloved, seated on the other chair
and you may paint me or smoke me or dream of me
because paranoia loves company.
(c) Nin Harris 2012
Do you know me so well
I have bared my neuroses
in symbolic colours
and contours like Plath.
My love is an open sore
that weeps copiously
like a troubadour’s
at the disappearance
of a mistress.
And will that be all
if you can judge me
lacking like Prufrock
or childishly diabolical
like the man who
had just consumed
his Last Duchess
on the mahogany dining table?
Do you know me yet
if I have symbolically bared my breasts
like an Amazon in the woods?
Do you know if I have
been naked at all
or if I have been fully
clothed the entire time?
(c) TAB 2012
spin, spin like cotton candy
blooming garish pink ephemeral from glass
among gleaming chrome machine parts
where windows encase the fusion chamber
of the only engine that runs better with sugar
and fuels syrupy-speedy dreams in small fast hearts
by (c) Nin Harris 2012
Cadence, she said.
Cadence and rhythm
and meter; timed glottal stops
for some and an almost
child-like singsong for others.
Sitting at the back in poetry readings
listening to other poets express
their words through the music of their own
voices, I am struck silence.
I do not write poetry for a year.
Cadence, she said.
Solitude births poesy;
I exhale when I read, then I inhale –
gulp and let cadence envelope me.
A one-woman poetry reading in a messy bedroom.
This is how my words are birthed.
Note: This is a sister-poem to Shame, both are about attending open-mic readings.
(c) Nin Harris 2012
Rapid words escape lips
and I both fume and exalt
at the fury and the cadence and the rhythm
of another’s innermost everything.
I have not had that freedom –
my words are etched in
the silent dark to sometimes
be spread out to others;
I imagine me at open mic;
shy, rotund, stammering,
the south east asian
accent interfering with diction
my double chins merging
into themselves and into
the apprehension of cruel wit.
I imagine the immediacy of
my words disappearing off
the parchment and ricocheting
against the cold malice
of a microphone;
the shame of my
Note: This poem is the ghost of a memory of attending my first open-mic event and does not represent me as I am now. It is left intentionally raw.
(c) 2012 Nin Harris
I used to fear unicorns would run away from me,
because I had lost the innocence of sunrise-tinted meadows,
the first blush of dawn reflected on billowing white gowns.
Now, I roam the marshes, sometimes in watermaiden green;
others in tunics of the deepest, most tragic purple.
Some days I dance for them, in swirling red;
jangling bronze coins around my hips and ankles.
They said unicorns would forsake me.
But they come, through wind, through earth, through water.
Narwhals with their liquid song, draconic solo-hornlings from
the archipelagoes, sparkling lilac gazelles with spiralling ivory,
the dark, stolid obsidian pony from the depths of the Himalayas,
and the dappled mare from the Steppes.
When I curl upon my nest of words, they shed me of every hue
and I am left in billowing white, often tinted with the colour
of my sometime-equine companions, elected to protect
the innocence of my dreams.