Spirited Sound, Love and Life

I want to begin a while back, because this road has been a long journey. This year has been more challenging, but also finally a turning point – in my art, with Spirited Bodies, and in my love life. It all happens at once, yet in stages. I get challenged about why I am sharing the personal, in an art project which is supposedly more for the benefit of others, and I respond, because when I was a younger woman I missed an older female role model, who had the appropriate life experience. I struggled with that, until things gradually fell more into place. I wouldn’t have listened to anyone who purported to understand, and I’d know if they really did. Any more privileged woman who thought she knew best, definitely didn’t. Now of course, I may be the more privileged woman for many, but I am happy to share that it hasn’t always felt thus, and if in some way my message can reach distant others, that is what was in my heart all along.

In short since late May, this year has included several frustrated attempts at connections with venues and individuals with whom I seemingly failed to build a rapport. Trans activists (who were not actually trans themselves) with whom it was impossible to have a sensible discussion about trans issues and how they intersect with the needs of cis women rape survivors in some cases. Competitive women with similar projects to mine, who either viewed me with suspicion, or just thought they knew better. Community collectives who were not open enough to host Spirited Bodies! What could be more appropriate for a community…?

Earlier in the Summer I met Sarah Kent at Brockley Open Studios, in my neighbourhood. We got chatting in artist Gill Hickman’s studio, and something resonated. I attended Sarah’s soundbath and experienced the healing sounds on the floor of her living room. I felt at ease with her, as well as moved by the intense yet soothing vibes. She said expect changes in the next few days, and ideally make space for them.

What I hadn’t known was that my old friend Michael, had died that day or the day before… and I found out a few hours after the soundbath. Michael’s death, for me marked a turning point, a shift of focus. In the middle of Summer this news penetrated layers of the fabric of my being. It took me back to the late 90s when I knew him best, the times and the company we shared. Though I had not been so in touch with Michael in recent years, his strong uncompromising world view sank into me as I relooked at the world through his imagined eyes and the filtered lens of the girl I used to be. Somehow both introvert and extrovert, rebellious, even fearless. The power of youth! While most of us had mellowed, to be fair including Michael in his own minor way, really he had sustained a strikingly similar mentality to what we all remembered. I instantly felt tougher, unaffected by petty crises previously around me. For a while I was invincible! Untouchable. I thought of Michael a lot.

With Michael (centre) and friends at an anti-criminal justice bill demo, mid 90s

With Michael (centre) and friends at an anti-criminal justice bill demo, mid 90s

My erstwhile longterm relationship that had been faltering, now felt briefly healing again. My partner, connected to the old tribe including Michael, understood intimately my feelings, but the ending of our relationship was imminent. We had drifted apart, and I craved cohesion in my life. A nervous breakdown at one of my modelling jobs alerted me that something had to give. I could not visualise a future that felt fitting, under my current circumstances. The breakdown involved intense feelings of being violated by the artists sculpting me, when in fact I was also aware that neither they nor the tutor (who is one of my favourites) was responsible. The conditions of my life were so disadvantaging me, that I could not see light in my routine. To make a success of my art projects I needed all energies and people in my life to point decidedly the same way, otherwise it was dissipating. I needed freedom. We technically had an open relationship, so when I did find closeness with a new partner, it took me a little while to realise that I could not be so intimate with two men simultaneously. The new relationship rapidly came to mean so much more to me than I could have anticipated. So intense is this new connection that it felt prudent to break up with Aaron. Simple is better; and freshly blossoming love deserves the richest, most fertile ground in which to take root.

In my new partner I found a fellow life model and writer, as well as an enthusiast of all my projects, sharing much passion in nude art adventures, and travel, something I had missed in the past. I also found so much love I hadn’t dreamed of, expected, in one with apparently such different background. His openness, sensitivity, intelligence and understanding take my breath away. As the Autumn took hold, this new excitement grew, and grows. I am in love.

Spirited Bodies again feels in a good place. I have resolved some issues, and feel confident about the involvement of men modelling again. For Spirited Sound I didn’t take any chances with male models. I knew all of the chosen ones personally and felt 100% safe with them. With the help of my partner and other trusted male models, we are creating an exceedingly safe space for everyone. That’s not to exclude the trusted women models from this equation, or the artists, but it was mainly an issue with deceptively inappropriate male models, so feels apt to be solved first, by male models.

All artwork from Spirited Sound, 8/11/15

All artwork from Spirited Sound, 8/11/15, at the Bargehouse, Oxo Building, Southbank

The healing power of Spirited Bodies is very important to me. I have explored this a few ways; in more intimate workshops, through interviewing models (and artists) about their experience and playing their recorded voices during sessions. Now with Spirited Sound, a new, more direct, less personal but more universal model has been born. The sound instantly seemed to free up the format, necessarily instigating greater experimentation. Traditional life drawing standards according to the wants of some artists are thrown out. This is all about the Spirited Bodies, and this time we tried some movement poses which was a beautiful way to discover even greater harmony as a group. Three minutes of very slowly opening up from a closed posture into something more expansive, and five minutes of flickering gently together, moving as flames of a fire burning brighter and closer.

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The session was divided into 4 sections, each representing an element – Fire, Air, Water and Earth. Shorter and movement poses in the first 2 parts, then longer poses for Water and Earth. The models connected with each other when they felt drawn to, as they collectively expressed themselves elementally. Dynamic and expansive for Fire, including a slightly longer Scene from Hell – the fallen among the devils. Light and floaty for Air, as well as being blown together in a very strong gust of wind. Flowing waves for Water where the models lay variously in a row, some interconnecting; and pure grounded connection for Earth, each model occupying their own comfortable (I hope!) space. It was a big pleasure to work with the group of models, several I have gotten to know over time with Spirited Bodies, including professionals who enjoy the deepening experience a lot. They create a warm atmosphere for any newcomer.

5 minutes blowing in the wind

5 minutes blowing in the wind

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Spirited Sound happened because I had connected with Sarah, and she was interested and happy to bring her sound art to Spirited Bodies. It was her idea to work with the elements as a theme, and she created sounds to fit each mood, to accompany and inspire the models (and artists), and weave a layer of vibrational texture into the space. There were bells, singing bowls (including one large one containing water), large gongs, a rainstick, a jingly instrument which when shaken lightly produces an array of gently tingling bell sounds of different notes.

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Spirited Bodies becomes something more layered with the inclusion of sound art; another type of art is intersecting with the life modelling and drawing. A new relationship emerges between musician and models (and artists). Is the sound influencing the models, or vice versa? A bit of an exchange for sure. At one end of the room Sarah laid out her instruments, from where she could see all the action (and stillness) of the models. Had we been in the larger attic space as originally planned, she may have arranged herself in more spread out fashion around the room in order to move about and be among artists and models, so that sounds would emerge from different areas and directions, possibly moving too. Sarah and her instruments could have been linked to the visual aspect of the artists’ attention, perhaps appearing in the art, as positioned within the scenes of poses. The attic also had a particular atmosphere which would have lent itself well to the gravitas of gongs, however it turned out that heating and lighting that space was a task beyond the electricity supply. It was great as it was, but it would also have been fantastic for Sarah to have been slightly more integrated with artists and models. Nevertheless, her presence and sound creation were deeply felt and appreciated by all. This was a joyful collaboration which I hope we may explore again.

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I feel more comfortable with the trans inclusion (to women’s sessions) now. This is very delicate, but it’s important to be open. I sometimes feel that a separate group for women only – excluding non-transitioned trans women – will be helpful (particularly for cis women rape survivors, of whom there are probably more than the entire population of non-transitioned trans women). I will tread carefully. One thought is that, if women’s events are open to all trans women regardless of transition, that gesture is what is important. Possibly those trans women themselves are not interested to come along, and may well realise that their inclusion can be tricky; without wanting to be divisive, there are very different needs at play.

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The issue of competitive women is being resolved too. I am not taking this personally, but see it as symptomatic of us women, learning how to share our power. This might seem odd to be so gendered, but I do think we are not so familiar as men are, with having power in the first place, and often if we do, we are encouraged to beat off the competition. This doesn’t make sense when our projects are about liberation and empowerment, for all, not just some elite. These higher principles must filter through otherwise projects will die.

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Leaving you with a few more pictures of artwork from Spirited Sound. We were very fortunate to have a lovely photographer with us at the event too, so there will be photos of the group of models to follow at some stage. Also, I am just planning an event for December, so keep looking out! And a blog post about the women’s event at Bargehouse will also come soon.

Watery bodies

Watery bodies

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With much gratitude to all the models, artists, and Sarah, as well as Kathy, Angie and Jenny from the Southbank Festival of Creativity at the Bargehouse

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Coming back down to Transition Heathrow

My favourite grooove lingers and rolls, batting away the overgrowth in a cave, Dead Can Dance soaring through a number. It’s the call of the wild on a Tuesday evening, and then you know it’s coming. What is keeping this foggy relationship alive? It must be the noxious tentacles wrapping themselves around our limbs and entwining us from the edges of the floor boards. It’s all in the unravelling. Somehow I have a feeling that the past is also the future, well at least part of it.

If I had to stop living in a flat on my own and I wanted to be free to travel, I might appreciate a tent on a site occupied by eco-warriors. I might learn about the land and how to grow food. But how to let go of creature comforts of being coccooned in a dwelling in this society, my own income, my own time. Choice about how I use my space and time, some of which would go if one joined a commune. Yet I might be on a plane more frequently to far away outposts, learn to live with others again, and how to share more. Know that I was off-grid, making it work outside of housing benefit and at a remove from the big conglomorates controlling our direct debits. I don’t think I want it, but at some point I may need it, to shed a layer I don’t even know I can do without.

This year I am shunning bigger opportunities, but I am grabbing wholeheartedly what calls to my soul. As expressed at the beginning of the year (or end of last), I am called to let go of people with interests outside of my own. I am to return to the essence, whatever it takes. I love my autonomy, not being told what to do or fitting in. Then the magic can flourish with abandon when no one else is looking, except the others at the gathering.

As a teen I was drawn to Industrial music, because it encapsulated the horrific sense of being immersed in the grit. Thrown up, left crawling till you fight back. It deconstructed the bullshit with dancefloors pulsing instead of text books. Hormones and endorphines racing and a tribal pounding felt like a sort of initiation when I’d broken away from normality. I was rising in sublime fashion, not without falling first.

Each Spirited Bodies event is a meeting of new models with their inscribers, the people who see them and commit the memory to paper. We hear what drives those on both sides of the platform. Why is this activity so compelling? Being a witness to transformation in an intimate act, in a spiritual, non-judgmental fashion which makes no intrusion, just allows the naked expression to flow. We know this act is helping to unravel individuals from the tight bind they find themselves in. When it’s ready to let go of the knots then the journey is glorious, unblemished and bountiful, the unlocked doors to self-knowledge. I recommend a life time course to get the best results.

For the next Spirited Bodies event in Leytonstone September 18th, see here

Outside a climate camp, Grow Heathrow

Outside a climate camp, Grow Heathrow

Ursula leads the way to an out of the way spot protecting land from becoming another runway

Ursula leads the way to an out of the way spot protecting land from becoming another runway

Gypsy in Roehampton

Gypsy in Roehampton

series of quick poses I think in Sidcup

series of quick poses I think in Sidcup

A double pose at The Mall

A double pose at The Mall

with Alexandru

with Alexandru

Naomi Wolf & Women of the World festival, Southbank

Wolf got in trouble for revealing too much of herself in her latest book entitled ‘Vagina’. Controversy, talking about her own vagina. She says that word a lot, as well as describing its different quadrants, outer and inner labia, clitoris, G-spot and perineum. She learnt a lot about vaginas since she had a spinal injury which cost her sensation in that area, and also layers of consciousness she says. She felt sad and didn’t know why till the injury was diagnosed, then corrected and sensation returned. This made her aware of what she missed when normal use of her vagina was restricted. The incredible euphoria accompanying orgasm that added meaning, direction to her life. She got to researching vaginas and found some hidden material, which explained something of our sexist culture which loves to mock the vagina. About how there is a brain to vagina connection or relationship, and that the range of euphoria and energy that the vagina may release is immense. The clitoris and G-spot are opposite poles of an axis simultaneously capable of reaching each other. The suppression of this research speaks volumes.

It is well known and addressed that erectile dysfunction affects or is related to many areas of a man’s life, altering his performance. Naturally there is a similar relationship for women and their vaginas, but that is less discussed.

When a woman seeks out sexual pleasure and is supported by her culture in doing that, dopamine is released in her, she becomes more confident and her oxytocin levels rise. Creative hormones move her forward with positive energy. Dopamine makes a person less easy to push around, to subjugate. We have internalised the idea that women’s sexuality is ridiculous. In her book ‘Fire with Fire’  Wolf asserts that women are on the route to equality, and to achieve it they must stop being victims. During the ‘sexual revolution’ in the ’70s, a survey in which women self-reported, showed that 30% of women did not reach orgasm when they want to. It seems there has been a sort of plateau reached as this statistic has hardly changed in the last 40 years.

So the bottom line is female sexual pleasure makes a woman powerful, so information about how to maximise this is not popular with patriarchal systems like religion. Hence sexuality and also Love can be very subversive.

In the rape culture of war people are dehumanised, and women’s bodies respond negatively to rape reducing their chances of enjoying sex. The autonomic nervous system which leads to activation of good orgasms, is inhibited by anti-erotic impulses such as fear, stress and anger.

Wolf grew up in San Francisco around her lesbian Mum in the ’70s. She observed how her Mum’s friends became shining and integrated in a culture that supported their sexuality; she’d seen the same people previously more withdrawn, before they found their place. This was an environment which emphasized women’s fulfillment as an entitlement. It ought to be on the national curriculum!

What else did I take from Naomi Wolf’s talk at Women of the World festival on Saturday evening? That western feminists have a lot to learn from our sisters in developing countries because she reckons they are at the vanguard of feminism today, really pushing boundaries. That we ought to be kinder to each other – it’s not about judging others because they have had surgery or don’t wish to call themselves feminists. That women hold emotional trauma in at least one quadrant of the vagina and this can be released through sexual healing. None of us are heterosexual, we all respond to a variety of stimuli despite what we say (well I knew that anyway!) And finally women generally need to learn how to receive pleasure better, as this has been suppressed in favour of male sexuality for too long. I resonate strongly with this, finding it hard to really let go most of the time. On the few occasions when I have been least inhibited, either alcohol, drugs or sometimes the euphoria of love have facilitated it. But to reach that high on a more regular basis, I am still working on that.

Going to put up some recent pictures from classes I have modelled in. There is a lot more to say about the WOW festival Lucy and I were at last weekend, like how many celebrities Lucy failed to realise she was chatting up because we’d reached that point in the weekend where she could no longer recognise faces. And how everything worked out for the best despite several drop-outs, because we had so many Spirited Bodies models present to help at our stall so some were able to step in and model too. That when the plan to film the event collapsed this was a blessing because our models gave the most precious and powerful testimonials we could have imagined which might easily have been inhibited with the presence of a camera. Similarly when I asked the audience how many would like to try doing a pose there and then, about half of them put up their hands, no doubt encouraged by the models’ words. The artwork will be up soon.

I went to a workshop about body image by the ‘Endangered Bodies’ group which I also want to report on, and the last event – Alice Walker introducing her film – was the perfect finale, so moving and inspiring. We will be following up our WOW contacts for some time and learning from some of the advice suggested. Becoming a charity may be a good choice for us, but so too might a business which is a social enterprise. The atmosphere at WOW is electric with so many women on fire!

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a glimpse of vagina! I think these pastels are by Jo Parmenter from the session at Richmond Adult Community College

a glimpse of vagina! I think these pastels are by Jo Parmenter from the session at Richmond Adult Community College

quick poses

quick poses

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by model and tutor Hugh

by model and tutor Hugh

Queendom of the Goddess

Last year a life model came to see my performance, ‘Girl in Suitcase’, and on reading related blog posts told me she wanted to discuss some aspects of my past which interested her. Specifically domination. She said the felt an instinctive affinity with this fetish world of slaves and mistresses, but had not yet found an avenue by which to explore it. Life went by for over a year and then we connected again, and it happened this time that another friend was introducing me to a club called ‘Pedestal’.

Pedestal is a club for dominatrices and slaves, a club run by women, where women are worshipped. It is my kind of club and fast becoming my new favourite club. On arrival a house-slave presents each woman with a red rose. There is a whole team of house slaves to see to mistresses’ needs and offer canapes throughout the night. Men are allowed in the club as long as they are slaves, or at least agree to the club’s ethos that women are in charge. There is a room called the Goddess Room where men may only speak when spoken to (by a woman), otherwise they must wait their turn. My friends and I were treated to back massages by female masseuses in this room. As I lay having tension squeezed out of my lower back muscles so tight from poses putting pressure on the shapely curve in my lower spine, I watched women administering consented torture to men chained to racks, frames and other devices.

There is a theatrical element to this club as guests wear some extraordinary clothes, especially shoes and get up to some bizarre practices which are clearly meant to be watched. You do not feel wrong watching because that seems to be the point. One slave wore a harness and saddle and spent the night giving rides as a donkey to willing mistresses! In a fairly large cage men lie down in a row waiting to be trampled by the dominatrixes. They even queue up lying down at the entrance of the cage so that there is a run up. Once in the cage, ropes hanging from above offer support to the women usually in high heals, sometimes stilettoes as they set to trampling.

Here is an unflattering but action-filled picture of me having fun in the cage!

http://www.clubpedestal.com/viewImage.html?event=latest&image=7

My fellow life model’s first visit to Pedestal was a definite success. We had discussed her intention which related to an overwhelming dissatisfaction with the world and humanity at present. She said this frequently made her feel violent and made her worry for her sanity. A huge sense of injustice begotten by her Father having chosen money over her wellbeing gnaws at her. She feels disgust at men in particular, perhaps abetted by knowing of the extreme levels of corruption in her own country, led by powerful men.

She asked me what she could do in this club. I said you cannot just go and punch a man in the face, but you can engage with slaves who would like to be punished. Build up a rapport with them and they will willingly, gladly let you slap, spank and beat them amongst other activities. There need not be any sexual intent from the woman though the man is likely to get turned on even if he cannot act on it. If he upsets you then of course you may reprimand him and punish him.

So when slaves approached my friends and I and asked if someone would beat them, we handed them over to our curious new friend. Soon she had a queue of men to vent her frustrations on and she was smiling too. She was a natural with a whip and managed to break more than one spanking implement! As I left the club with her, men stopped her to compliment her trampling technique and suitably harsh beatings. One of the promoters wanted her to be on his guest list in future, and she would be very welcome in some other fetish clubs too.

This club is an ideal end to the working week. I found it hard to muster enthusiasm before going, being so tired – it had been such a busy week – except knowing I would be accompanying a potential dominatrix for her 1st time and hanging out with girlfriends in a special place. When I arrived however, the uplifting ambiance and general attention to my and other womens’ happiness completely transformed me and I got right into the mood of the night. I found the most amusing slave to entertain me and my friends; he proved good company, and his peculiar yet balanced moves hailed from some background in physical theatre, he was a bit of a jester. Every woman needs a good slave now and again!

Looking forward to more fun in the dominant woman’s playground that is Pedestal, in January.

Here are some images from a job this last week to which I was accompanied by James once more (http://spiritedbodies.com/2012/10/16/arts-for-all-all-about-the-man/). He had been ill for our event in October and an evening job precludes him from joining the workshop, so necessary preparation is derived by finding one of my jobs which is happy to have an extra trainee model to draw.

James and me for a half hour pose in Sidcup Adult Education College

James and me for a half hour pose in Sidcup Adult Education College

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from another angle we are closer together

from another angle we are closer together

I think this was a 15 minute pose

I think this was a 15 minute pose

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To Feel Human with You

Being with people naked with all different bodies, still and silent is liberating. Our bodies are ok, there is beauty in each, from the essence being allowed to be. Open and free allows, encourages each to flourish. That is a gift, that is magic, to share that is bliss.

To witness the unlocking of pain, but simply all I see is beauty. Individual expression, sometimes connection, the love of friends, couples, and the inclusion of all. The connections of the more confident and brave, the shapes of different bodies, sometimes balancing, sometimes relaxing, sometimes wanting to be looked at or not; to have all the variety is the magic of life.

At the begining of the morning session when I got on the platform, I found myself close to my friend Sylvie

As I was posing on the stage with everyone I noticed this wonderful feeling and it didn’t matter if we were being drawn or not, that was incidental. It was just being with everyone that mattered, and knowing we were all ok. I guess the artists do help though! That way you have a reason to stay still which helps. And impressions beyond photographs.

Thanks to all the models, and the artists at Spirited Bodies at the Drawing Theatre in Battersea Arts Centre last Saturday 20th October. Thanks also to Lucy, Steve and Denise for photographing art work. There is much more of it to be seen on our Facebook page; it may take a while to upload it all on here, so in the mean time: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.484653994890614.107239.320375434651805&type=1

Channelling my Inner German

The day my tyre exploded is the day I turned up to visit Mum

My magical Mum called me by telepathy

Caught her at her best hour, wide awake and lucid, before meds slow her down

She who has not travelled independently for years knew immediately which bike shop I must use

She looked distinguished in spectacles

Gave me a suede jacket to keep me from the cold

(“Better than rotting in my wardrobe”)

Mum came back from beyond!

Framed at Open Ealing by Lily who did many lovely drawings at Spirited Bodies in Ladbroke Grove at the end of July; http://spiritedbodies.com/2012/08/02/pretty-in-portobello/, http://spiritedbodies.com/2012/08/08/part-2-of-my-interview-with-a-new-model-more-images-from-notting-hill/

After spending time with Ursula, the driver changed, I got a bus.

We talked about disconnecting from family to live one’s own life. Letting go to be free

At Open Ealing I feel Ursula coming on – a German accent rises out of me

and I am instantly very happy and excitable

When I was small my Mother tried to teach me German

Ursula let go of all the damage and the broken, what an example!

When a woman is like a bear – Ursula!

Like I have seen better days

Double Exposure: Meeting my Match!

Stoke Nudington, Nude York or NuDelhi; this Summer is about stripping off.

Ursula had tried to contact me about modelling with Spirited Bodies – she is a life model, artist and performance poet. I had clearly been busy. Serendipity lined us up however as Ron double booked us yesterday and we got networking in the nude. The Portobello artists had a rare treat!

Carol finds the Henry Moore in us

getting comfy

A beautiful occasion we wanted to remember; a most auspicious meeting!

I found Ursula very relaxed and open, it was easy to feel cosy together straight away

We chatted a bit in pose, and got to planning some nude action!

It was wonderful to have some of that experience models at Spirited Bodies get through sudden yet somehow natural intimacy

The stillness and relative quiet sort of make up for what might otherwise feel unnatural, i.e. those conditions give you a chance to breathe and settle with the new company so close and nude

quick pose by Mike Down

Felt tip colour by Mike

Check out Ursula performing:

And here is one of her poems:

Poetry Extravaganza
Poetry Extravaganza
I write verse by verse
Stanza by stanza
I write to be free
I write to be me
Poetry for self-exploration
Words for my expression
Every letter
A part of the puzzle
That put the words together
Which make up the picture
Of what I want to say
Of what I feel
Deep down inside my soul
Of what I know by intuition
Of my work which comes to fruition
Poetry extravaganza
I write verse by verse
Stanza by stanza
Now what is my intention?
What is the purpose of my exploration?
To talk about some secrets of my soul
To communicate the depth within us
To make us remember our dreams
And what we wish for
What we desire, long and yearn for
And what we know
And how we can live in unity
How we can live happily and be free
Poetry extravaganza
Word for word
Sentence by sentence
Line by line
We write our liberation
With letters and punctuation
And recite them with intention
We sing
Verse by verse
Stanza by stanza
Poetry extra
Poetry extravaganza
Chapter and verse
Each chapter a verse
We write
Verse by verse
Stanza by stanza
Poetry
Extra-vaganza! © Ursula troche, 5. 2011