“Seashell Stories”

“Grandfather Sea has new eyes now”

The water is a mirror, I’m scared to break the surface,
but our boat just glides through the waves like it owns the place.
On the sea surrounded by sleepy gulls and my grandmother’s handwriting was not where I thought I’d spend my evening, but I’m glad I’m here.
My grandad is steering, like he always is.

Grandfather sea, the saltwater man.
I’ve written poems about him before, said he is like the ocean he grew up next to;
only now do I understand how right I was.

He’s not made of salt water so much as shaped of it,
unpredictable and stormy, wondrous and wild.

I look at how he grips the steering wheel, trained hands that know how to navigate rocks and isles and deep velvet oceans.
It is in his fingers, his eyes, his back,
like riding a bicycle is in my legs.

I used to compare him to the sea;

His heart forceful like the waves, voice quick like sea foam, all excitement and loud words and dark coffee spluttering in a coffee maker.
Now I see the ocean in him, in the pull of the currents towards his home.
I see the sea in how he glides through the ripples, I see the waves in his mind as tension in his hands.

He looks at old horizons with new eyes, navigates charted waters without her telling him where to go.

The water is a mirror, I’m scared I’ll break the surface,
but his surface is one i’m just starting to chip away at.

I went out for a little trip on the fjord with my grandad the other day, and had some time to reflect as we were … driving? We talked about stuff you can only talk about when there is water all around you, and we sat in comfortable silence, silence that felt like home. It all made me think of a poem I wrote about my grandad in my first year of uni, and how both my voice and his focus has changed a lot during the course of those three years, and especially this last year; a year filled with permanent changes that have affected all of us. All of this reflection resulted in this work-in-progress poem! I hope you like it!

Have a wonderful day,

-Andrea

Journal #8

Shakespeare wrote about a Midsummer night’s dream, and on June 23rd (in Norway, at least) we celebrate midsummer night’s eve. Not the longest day of the year as I’ve always believed, but one day past the sun turning; when the night is one minute longer than it was the day before. We celebrated yesterday the same way we’ve always done, and I spent the day pondering how traditions stay the same, how we appreciate the things we’ve always done; my own midsummer night’s dream.

I dream of what I’ve always seen on an evening like this, of bonfires and burnt popcorn, of dogs off their leads and children learning to swim. I dream of grey haired locals playing saxophone from the back of a truck and gulls swooping down to peck at waffle crumbs left on the ground. I dream of shoes put away to dip our feet in the water and the taste in your mouth of knowing that you have all of summer in front of you, endless possibilities for tan lines and sun burns and morning teas on the veranda. I dream of post cards sent and letters received, breakfasts with the ones I love and skype calls with the ones I miss. My midsummer night’s dream is of those nights that never end; when you bring blankets and lanterns and candle light out into the garden, to watch sun sets and sun rise, when you watch the bats soar and smell the jasmine flowers, when life is floating and there is nowhere you need to be.

Midsummer’s night is a night when you remind yourself of how strong nature’s forces are, that we’re all part of nature, and in later years, that we can’t control it no matter how hard we try. On midsummer night’s eve we gather our families and celebrate that we’re out of the cold winter months and that we’ve got all of summer ahead of us. We sing songs passed down to remember that those we have lost are always with us, in the wind and the trees and the stars.
It’s a day where you pick wildflowers and put them under your pillow and where you’re grateful for what you have, what you’ve lost and what you’ve yet to gain.

We are a family of four, and my favourite time of all, is all of us together around the table outside. Yesterday, we sat there for the better part of three hours. There was tea, there were blankets being shared, words floating through the air. There is nothing you can’t talk about when it’s past midnight and it’s warm enough to never go to bed.
My midsummer night’s dream is a wish for many more eternal light like this one.

-Andrea

Journal #7

Norwegian translation below the picture x 

The house is quiet. I let my eyes follow specks of dust dancing lazily in the sun and I’ve got my hands around an elephant mug filled to the brim with blueberry tea. The steam swirling out of the mug paints roses in the air. I’ve never liked waking up early, but I’ve always loved being awake, morning’s early hours; the silence before anyone else wakes up. It’s just my book and me and the soft and distant whirr of the world outside. I think about the people I miss as I let my fingers play with the steam. As the steam looks like dragon’s breath, I think about all the people I haven’t met yet, and I think about the places I want to go, the things I want to write, as the steam slowly settles down. I also think about how many different “me”s there are, and that since I rarely get up this early, this “me” isn’t one I get to explore a lot. It’s like the rest of the world isn’t existing yet, in my little hour of the morning. Soon there will be breakfast and chatter and the people I care about, and I can’t wait. But right now it’s just me. I’m just here. It’s gonna be a good day.

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Det er stille i huset. Jeg lar øynene følge støvet som danser i late solstråler, mens jeg har hendene rundt en kopp breddfull av blåbær-te. Dampen leker, maler roser i lufta. Jeg har aldri likt å stå opp  tidlig, men det å være våken tidlig, det setter jeg pris på. Jeg elsker morgentimene, stillheten før noen andre våkner. Det er bare boka mi og jeg nå, og den myke, men fjerne, lyden av verden utafor. Jeg tenker på de jeg savner mens jeg lar fingrene spille igjennom dampen. Mens dampen snor seg som varm pust i kuldegrader, tenker jeg på alle de jeg ikke har møtt enda og jeg tenker på alle steder jeg vil se, alt jeg vil skrive, når dampen endelig legger seg. Jeg tenker også på alle de forskjellige “meg”ene som finnes, og siden jeg sjelden er oppe så tidlig som dette, er dette en “meg” jeg ikke opplever særlig ofte. Det er som om verden ikke er til ennå, i denne lille timen jeg sitter her. Snart blir det frokost og småsnakk og de jeg bryr meg mest om i hele verden, og jeg gleder meg. Men akkurat nå er det bare meg. Jeg er bare her. Dette blir en god dag.

-Andrea

“I said there’s no getting rid of me now to which he replied I’ll hold you to that”

and when we’re fifty-three
we’ll have a house with a sea view and a stove top kettle.
There’ll be a cat called Steve
and you’ll put on red slippers to fetch the newspaper.
I don’t know where we’ll be,
Portreath, Marrakech, Porto,
all I know is that I’ll race you to the cupboard every morning
and you’ll hide my glasses every evening, we’ll make every day a game.

And when we’re sixty-two
we’ll sleep naked like starfish in the middle of the bed
and your heavy hands will follow my wrinkles,

trace the stories in my worn thin skin.
For the one million and thirteenth time,
I’ll stroke your balding head,
and go in for a kiss
but lick your nose
instead.

And when we’re seventy-four
I’ll smack your butt in the kitchen,
as you take out the turkey,
and our daughter of forty-three will sigh and tell us
get a room,
so we’ll sneak away to the pantry,
and steal kisses by the roast potatoes.

And when we’re eighty-one
I’ll ask you if you love me
and you’ll say
nah, you’re just handy to keep around,
so I’ll stick my tongue out at you,
and you’ll put your hand in mine,
that space that’s made
just for you.

(An edited version of an old poem, picture from Pixabay)

-Andrea

“Poem for the thighs”

Tea stain scars run down my thigh,
and the new skin growing
feels soft under my hands.
He has never touched this skin,
never let his fingers linger over it,
or kissed it with seafoam lips.
It’s like a teacup in my lap was what I needed,
to discard him,
grow out of him,
to make me see that the spot he used to rest his hands on,
isn’t there
anymore.

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This picture’s not mine, but it can be found here,
and for more poems, both text and video, click here!

-Andrea

 

“Mina”

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Yesterday, alumni and current students of the UoW’s Creative Writing programme gathered to celebrate the programme’s 10 year anniversary as an independent single-honours degree. It was a wonderful night, with speeches, music, quizzes about the lecturers, a “memory fireplace” (a fancy fireplace we stuck memories written down on post-it notes on) and lots and lots of readings. Stick about 50 writers together in a room, and you won’t believe how many great, weird, thought-provoking and heartbreaking pieces you can find. There was everything from poetry to short stories to song lyrics, and the red thread that wove itself through the night was just to celebrate this course and how much it gives its students, how much it shapes us as people. A feel-good night with wine and beautiful dresses, chill formal, with lots of applause and a warm atmosphere.

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At the same time, we also ” celebrated” the launch of the 2018 edition of Vortex. Vortex is the uni’s literary magazine, open to submissions from everyone (not just students). This year’s edition is a bit special, however, as it is the first issue that has been created by students, with third-year Creative and Professional Writing students forming the editorial board, marketing- and design team. I’ve wanted to submit work to Vortex since receiving a copy in the “welcome to uni”-pack in first-year, but it wasn’t until the end of second-year I managed to gather up the courage to actually send anything in. Now I’m so glad I did. The 2018 edition is an absolutely beautiful magazine, illustrated by Kat Beatson, and filled to the brim with great poems and short stories. It doesn’t have a specific theme, but to quote someone from the launch yesterday, it’s got a quiet vulnerability to it, at the same time as it’s fierce and weird. If you’re in Winchester, it’s definitely something to check out.

Andrea Wold Johansen, Vortex 1Andrea Wold Johansen, Vortex 3Andrea Wold Johansen, Vortex 2

I was also fortunate enough to be able to read the piece I submitted to the magazine at the launch, and if you want to read it, you can find it here!
It’s a piece I wrote in second-year, based on research done on children’s fiction as a platform to talk to children about difficult subjects. It’s also what started my dissertation, and it was weird to revisit and read it, now that it’s almost a year old.
I do like it and am quite proud of it, though.

Screen Shot 2018-04-13 at 16.19.04The proper pictures in this post are by Ben Coleman, you can find his work here.

And if you want to listen to it while reading, here’s a video!

(And sorry for all the links here, but if you wanna check out some of the short stories I’ve been lucky enough to get published or any poetry performances I’ve been a part of, then just click here or go to the “Pieces and Performances” page in the header bar!)

-Andrea

Poetry Platform @ the Railway Inn

Before I came to uni, poetry was one of those things I enjoyed reading and listening to, but never did myself. Even though I read the works – and listened to the words – of all these wonderful poets I found online and in the library, writing poetry still seemed like something angsty teenagers did alone in their rooms. Then I got to Winchester, and I attended my first ever Poetry Platform. The Poetry Platform is a great open mic night, where poets from all over Hampshire can come together for a monthly night of wordery (this is a word now). I loved it from the beginning. The vibe of “everything’s okay here”, the little stage that welcomed everyone, how there was always room for one more person.
The entirety of first year was spent watching everyone else perform, while I was trying to build up a portfolio of half-decent poems in the creative writing course’s mandatory poetry lessons. I started loving those lessons too. Seeing poetry so alive,  and workshopping other students’ lines, sentences I could only dream of writing one day, made me fall in love with poetry as a medium. It’s a love affair I hope will last a lifetime.

I don’t call myself a poet. There are way more talented people, those who can express everything they feel so elegantly, who’ve just got words flowing out of their brains in poetic sentences every minute of every day. However, I do love putting together simple, uncomplicated poems, poems that ponder on how we all more or less fumble through life. My poems are rarely very deep, they don’t often tackle very heavy subjects, but after a performance the other day, someone told me they thought my writing felt like “a hug in poem form”, something they felt they could relate to, and I loved that. That’s exactly what I want my “art” to be. Something to make people feel nice and warm and good.

Here’s a video of a poem I did on this month’s Poetry Platform. I’m still working on the title, but it felt like a fitting poem to do on my (most likely) last performance at the Railway.


(The song is “Har du Fyr” – Hekla Stålstrenga, a beautiful song about your home always being there waiting for you, no matter how far off you venture.)

It’s all a bit soppy, but my three-year England adventure is coming to an end, so I feel like I’m allowed to be.

(For more poetry, both page and stage, check out my Published Pieces and Performances page!)

-Andrea

“After Nils-Øivind Haagensen”

jeg skal holde deg til du sovner

she puts her hands on his face,
strokes dry skin and chapped lips

hva om jeg ikke sovner

354 days clean
nearly a year of no burning throats or broken nails
and clinging to porcelain life lines

jeg skal holde deg

“why today,” he thinks
but “don’t hold me,” he says
as he expects her to shove his shivers away
but she doesn’t

I`ll hold you till you fall asleep
What if I don`t fall asleep
I`ll hold you 

Andrea Wold Johansen 008

This is a poem from a creative portfolio I handed in for a second year poetry module. It’s always weird to look back at old writing, but I guess that’s a good thing; progress and learning and all that jazz.
The single stanzas in between the verses make up my all time favourite poem by Norwegian poet Nils-Øivind Haagensen. The last verse is the poem translated.
It  simply goes:

jeg skal holde deg til du sovner
hva om jeg ikke sovner?
jeg skal holde deg.

And that’s it. No title, no capital letters or any sense of who the characters speaking are, still it’s got such a strong story to tell. I love it.

-Andrea