I’m featuring the work of Fokkina McDonnell this month. We’ve just finished a short partnership facilitated by the Poetry Business’ Writing School and what was so wonderful about it were the coincidences that kept occurring. For example, Fokkina emailed me with some poems inspired by her reading of Nina Cassian, just as I was half way through reading ‘Cheerleader for a Funeral’ by, you guessed it, Nina Cassian. Also, when commenting on some poems of mine, Fokkina picked up on what I’d left out, without seeing the earlier drafts (okay, I know this isn’t really coincidence, it’s excellent editing)! Anyway, it’s a pleasure to have her as a featured poet.
Fokkina was born in the Netherlands. She ran away to sea, working as an Assistant Purser on P&O ships where she met her late husband. She qualified as an Occupational Psychologist and for over 20 years has been a psychotherapist in private practice in Manchester. She got into writing poems through doing an O.U. course. She has a special interest in haiku and tanka and enjoys the collaborative process of creating linked sequences of haiku with other poets.
Fokkina’s poems have been broadcast and published in a range of magazines and anthologies. Poems have also been shortlisted, commended and placed in competitions, including the RedPage Sonnet Prize, Marple, Flamingofeather, Ware Poets and Ashbourne. The CD A baker’s dozen came out early 2015. Fokkina is working on a submission for her first collection and the deadline is getting closer! Recent poems have been published in Orbis, Mslexia and The North. Her poem My father as a coat stand was commended in the latest Magma competition.
These two poems were published in Orbis 170. Both were written in Sheffield on a writing day with Ann and Peter Sansom. Morning got a joint 3rd in the Readers’ Award.
Last year I got a Christmas card from Andrew Graham-Dixon
which he embroidered himself, or bought in Venice.
It is well-known that the card shops which went bust
were set up by Bill and Hilary to secure their pension.
Stravinsky kept a caged black bear in his music room.
These are the known facts: all of us keep
a black bear in a cage. Or black dogs on a lead.
Night follows day; a week has seven days.
But soon comes the week that will not end,
two black Sundays fighting it out.
Why does he still bother with birdsong, sunrise?
What makes him cling on?
Feeling his stubble, stroking the sheets.
The day shift pull on their uniform. Radiators creak;
freesias are stretching in their vase.
Statistics confirm his best chance is at 4 am;
the wolves’ hour. That black gap
between the platform and the train.