The Festival

In a field somewhere, full of stars,
enchantment you could almost hug,
cupped in hands, with sparkle and dust,
you can carry it off in your pocket.
It’s magic, so catch some you must.

Catch a glimpse of follies too
enormous knitted daisies,
bluebells from yon Brobdingnag
bring you down to earth, coax a smile,
a tear in a song’s moving tag.

Nearby a winch wheel’s silhouette
casts shadows rumbling dark as night.
Here food to spare and racing sheep
yield a home grown breakfast, fresh
as the air that feeds its fare.

Amid the throng, unmannered crowds,
by day an unrelenting sun
glints from beads of sweat
that pour from a steward’s brow,
to sounds of string on fret.

A veil of purple haze on moors
a crown on green and rolling hills
dragonflies and butterflies greet
pink spotted sheep not far away
warmed by the simmering heat.

In a field somewhere, the sound of music,
here the family and other folk sing.
Cambridge beware of your conceit
size matters not to connoisseurs
here is where you’ll find their feet.

Under witch’s hats, the stage is set,
powered by love of music’s brew,
but here, no trouble; nothing jars,
here, the sun shines all day long
and Underneath the Stars.

© 2014 John Anstie
All rights reserved

(This was written five years ago, in response to a particularly special experience at the very first Underneath The Stars festival, in 2014. Originally a festival of folk and roots music it is now much more than that. It features two stages, one of them as big as any you’ll find, anywhere on the festival circuit; the second for standing or sitting on the grass, smaller and intimate, both under cover. The performances on both alternate between them. Still small, clean, intimate and very family friendly and special, this festival has so much culture to offer, including street theatre, workshops, the very best food and beer! And as a measure of all that it has to offer, they sold out of tickets over two months ago!

In less than two weeks, we will be attending for the sixth consecutive year, as volunteer stewards. Also a measure of how it draws us in every time and how great a job the Rusby family have done to make this little festival such a success.

Their website is here: Underneath The Stars festival)

Posted in Culture, Folk, Free Verse, Music, Pleasure, poem, poetry, recreation, Roots | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Last Year

(Same River, New Waters …)

Last year passed me the golden glove
You know, the one with a fist of iron.
She wanted no more of it.    Nor I.
Those glossy, glittering, glistening,
shining products of a golden age
had lost their sheen and the age of
growth and worshipping at the alter, 
where God Demands Profit*, is so last year.

Meanwhile, in the town, at Star Books,
We were reading over a tax-free coffee,
batting ideas on who could pay the bill
and how you make your money work,
if only we had some.

No longer bleeding from the lungs
but from now emptying wallets
consumption was her daily bread
and the disease that strangled
generations, who died of terminal debt,
the improper death of innocents.

Where is our misplaced virtue,
should we be held to account?
Maybe no more, and yet we must
pay due heed and plant a seed of hope,
to fight for nourishment forgone.

It might have been the will of the people,
but, for folk who step in the same river
ever newer waters flow …

© 2019 John Anstie
All rights reserved

[The core of this poem was influenced by the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, who lived around the 5th century BCE and was well know for his thesis about ever-present change, that “no man ever steps in the same river twice”, which, in modern parlance, suggests that you can ‘reinvent’ the wheel. It is a subtle but, for me, a very compelling philosophical perspective.

It was first published in the The Bardo Group Beguine on 22nd April 2019]

* … GDP or ‘Gross Domestic Product’ is the standard statistic by which economic growth is measured.

Posted in poetry | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Pine Cone

In the midst of turmoil,
our Mother Earth besieged
by bloody conflict,
in a world beleaguered
by well healed negligence,
humanity is laced
with one great flaw.

Children are dying
We are dying with you.
I am crying for you.

Yet, whilst this goes on,
you walk the woods,
harvest your pine cones,
put them in a wishing well,
your unconscious prayer
for a better world,
for love, for life,
that sow the seeds
of perfect purity
in heart and mind,
that will not fade with time.
This is the magnificence,
the magic of your spirit
that is untouched
by a tainted world.

Then, in one gesture,
one single act of generosity,
of utterly moving faith,
you beckoned me
come close to you.
You looked me in the eyes;
and I was hypnotised.
Then, you gave it to me,
one single piece of magic,
a piece of nature’s bounty,
and bade me keep its secret
as covert as a spy.

Each time I hold your gift,
when we are far apart,
I’ll think of you and
remember this moment,
by which you have renewed
my faith in all our futures.

You could melt the heart,
like chocolate on a Summer’s day.
You could soften steel
in hardened minds.
You and your magic
are our future.

© 2013 John Anstie
All rights reserved

[Five years ago, my then 4-year old granddaughter gave me a pine cone. She had found it as we walked in the woods and called me to her, very secretively, and put it in my hand, confiding in me that it was magic secret and that I should tell no one. She bade me keep the secret, which I have done for five full years. Today, 29th September, is the annual celebration of the campaign that calls itself “100,000 Poets for Change” (100TPC), one of whose initiatives for 2018 is to read a poem to a child … finally I feel today is the day that I should share that magic moment with the world for the sake of the mission of Michael Rothenberg and Terri Carrion, who established the 100TPC and its mission of peace and sustainability; and for the BeZine and its founder and Chief Editor, Jamie Dedes, whose mission is to promote peace, sustainability and social justice. Let us appreciate, value and respect our children and grandchildren, for the sake of  future generations of young minds, whose task it will be to care for this precious Earth … 

… thank you Jessica.]

Posted in 100TPC, children, Free Verse, Hope, Love, poem, poetry, Wonder | 5 Comments



Photo: Andreas Trepte Available under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 2.5 license.

Your gold-rimmed, mystic, all-seeing eye
that asks of us the question …
why you’re first to rise, not we
in time to hear your cry.

A share of this full Earth is how,
you feed your Spring-time pride.
An earthworm meal is all you ever
ask it to provide.

In months of drought, we do forget
enslaving you to sink …
your beak in water anywhere
but n’er a drop to drink.

And yet you gift your song’s duet,
its echo beguiles, but we,
by our neglect, ignore your need;
forget to think of thee.

© 2018 John Anstie
All rights reserved

Posted in animals, Ballad, conservation, Global Warming, green, nature, poem, poetry | Tagged | 1 Comment

Eva Joy

Mother Earth expected your arrival
her hills and mountains tumbled into plains,
but fault-lines held for your survival.

She is made of you and you of her,
atoms and molecules indistinguishable
inside the organic life you share

now the planets, just like wise men of old
align to honour you, look down on you
and from the star-filled skies behold

their will, it is foretold, to bring us rain
to wet your head and yield a flowering
of joy that sings a sweet refrain.

You are as welcome as any life could be
the seed from which you grow will never die
and flourish for eternity.

© 2018 John Anstie
All rights reserved

[This poem was written for my seventh grandchild, and third granddaughter. The first poem I wrote, in this phase of my life, just over nine years ago, was inspired by the first of my grandchildren, “Jessica Tenth of May]

Posted in poetry | 3 Comments

The Great Divide

Crossing the great divide
between the dark age
and a brave new world,
sailing from the safety
of knowing your place
into uncharted waters.
In a deep and sickly swell,
an ocean of uncertainty,
struggling to recall
the purpose of the mission
for control of life, of lives,
and death by ownership.

From a certain time when
the have-nots had not
to one in which they have
a chance to trade their life
for aspiration, for riches,
for stuff and things,
for dukes and knights,
for castles and kings,
in suits that shine
with lights and bling,
for queens and knaves,
who didn’t know that they
would be just money slaves
but didn’t see the price
they’d have to pay.

Rivers flow with mighty force,
and carry away the memory
in a flood of whys, for what
and where will this all end?
Where are we now,
where will we be …

… may be Utopia, the place of dreams
to while away our wild ambitious schemes?

We fail, as long as we can feel the pain
of having less than someone else’s gain.

Or we, by virtue of the coin’s toss,
have more by far … of someone else’s loss.
© 2018 John Anstie
All rights reserved


A slightly different edit of this poem, along with an associated essay, was first published in the BeZine on 15th June 2018. The essay is also published in Forty-Two.

Posted in poetry | 1 Comment

One of A Kind

(for Myrra)

Is she the last of a generation,
who lived through two centuries
of cataclysmic events and change;
a century that felt the consequence
of moving territories and boundaries.
From crowns to oligarchical republics,
from rags to riches beyond counting,
technological revolution, the benefits
of science, engineering and medicine,
a system of healthcare and welfare that,
despite the imposed failings of ideology,
looked after her so well … until she left.

Is she the last of a generation,
of whom we’ll be able to say:
“She’s the last of her generation”,
who fought childhood infection
by their own in-built immunity
– no pharmaceutical intervention
to compromise nature’s ways –
who fought for their country
with hope, fear and courage
as their constant companions
without leave for counsel or therapy
to help them through their days.

Malevolent, engineered conflict,
driven by and driving the revolution,
through deeply rooted anxiety
that keeps us at war with others,
with each other, with ourselves …
a continuum of change, so rapid
that we had no time to reflect on
its merits (or not) leading headlong,
steadily, insidiously, irreversibly..?
to a virtual, digital, designer world,
addicted to things that loosen our grip
on a life that once was, not so long ago.

A life more in touch with nature
in which they could roam free;
step out and walk wild for the day
in casual clothes and wellies, with a tin,
a packed lunch, made by their mums;
play games, whose names we forgot.
Walk shoulder to shoulder with a friend,
make daisy chains, mud pies and fish
with a stick in streams and wild rivers,
but virtual games carry young lives away,
so our smart phones all too often convey
in a digest of news, twenty four hours a day.

Is she the last of her generation,
gifted with ‘freedom’ from the toxic
stale air of hyperventilating media
or will we one day be able to say
in the eternity of time and space:
we are all unique, each one of us
was born of a time, from a special
exotic recipe of genes and place,
bringing our gift to the world by
the pull of the moon and the stars,
the physics and chemistry of life
that mould us into what we are …

… one of a kind.

© March 2018 John Anstie
All rights reserved

[In her own words: “Born in Yorkshire in March 1919, Myrra Robb Anstie was educated at Southport Girls’ High School. She then won a scholarship for three years at Southport School of Art. She worked as a draughts-woman until the outbreak of WW2, when she enlisted to serve in the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service (A.T.S.). She lived, from the early 1960’s, in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, where she worked as a teacher of Art, exhibited and sold her work. She returned to the U.K. in 1986, spending a few years teaching portraiture and oil painting for Adult Education in Leicestershire, before settling in Devon in 1991. She was then a member of the Exmouth Art Group. Her hobbies are golf, bridge, computers and sewing. Her favourite subject in art is portraiture.”

My words: Myrra was my step-mother, ‘mum’, and part of my life for nearly fifty years. She married my Father in 1963. I first met her in 1971. Born only a year after the end of WW1, she died in February just three weeks short of her 99th Birthday. She was a woman with a strength of character and opinion that made her a force of nature. She cites her hobbies as including golf. To say it was a hobby is a slight understatement. She was a very competitive golfer, in fact she was competitive at almost everything she did. She shared her passion for the game with my father for the 42 years they were married. Both of them had played from a very young age. She was also competitive as a Bridge player. Her mainstay, her profession, throughout her life was that she established herself as a talented artist, specialising in portraiture. She was a teacher as well as a practitioner of her art. My children and grandchildren benefitted from her teaching. She became a particularly major part of our lives after my Father died in 2005. She will be missed.

A few years ago, I wrote a poem for her that she was very rude about and told me never to write another one about her! I was offended, but, with hindsight, I confess and concede that particular poem was not my best work. To be kind, I guess she was applying her own high standards to my art, as she applied to her own. To honour her wishes, this poem is not about her; it’s about the age through which she lived. It is, nevertheless, dedicated to her.]

Posted in Art, Death, Elegy, family, Free Verse, poem, poetry | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Moon Child

Once in a while you exceed yourself.
Are you blue, because we thought no more of you
as the driving force for life on Earth
or potency behind the waves of bitches and whelps
giving us thrilling moments or contemplative
of a thriving, muddy, salty, riverine universe of life
waiting for you to draw the tidal covers
repeatedly over the fruits of our sustenance.

A force of nature, fully formed
yet so much smaller than the mother of your birth,
you hold sway, in countless ways
you touch our lives and drive us through our days.
Humble, unassuming, even unnoticed
by those who hurtle, mindlessly, and make no time
for the wisdom of our insignificance
or feel the difference between our age and yours.

As necessity tramples over truth
most days, we hide in fear of the darkening,
of the madness that ensues.
Does not the hunter choose your waning dark
to spike the nervous memory,
remind us of the feral wolf pack?
We may not ever tame you, but
your mother is dying a slow and painful death.

Oh super blood blue moon,
does not your God and our God sing the same tune?

© 2018 John Anstie
All rights reserved

Posted in conservation, conversation, environment, Free Verse, nature, poem, poetry | 1 Comment

International Holocaust Rememberence Day – 27th January

No shortage of stories that tug heavily at the heart strings; the conscience of those who can stop to think for a moment; that nag at the literary minds of those who continue to write and remind us of the continuing inhumanity by the few toward their fellow human beings …

via I Never Saw Another Butterfly, a poem written by the child, Pavel Freidman (short bio included), before he was murdered at Theresienstadt Concentration Camp

Thanks to Jamie Dedes for posting this on her The Poet By Day site.

Posted in poetry | 1 Comment


Walking home from church.

Like seeing the sun rise
over the week ahead,
mind full of penitence,
a righteous child, wrapped
in reverential warmth and
a sense of duty fulfilled.

That place of comfort,
as short lived as chocolate,
such pleasure lies in this;
some selfless, priceless
kind of self-indulgence
in your own kind of God.

Who can resist that path
to an easier peace where,
one day a week, the ad-man
cannot get to you; where
you miss nothing; where
those urges play no part.

Where has Sunday gone?

© 2018 John Anstie
All rights reserved

Posted in Culture, Free Verse, Hope, nostalgia, poem, poetry, Preachy, Religious, Shopaholism, Uncategorized | 5 Comments