Now I've got some new notebooks, I've been making jottings on the bus. I haven't been feeling very inspired this week, and haven't had much time, so nothing very fully-formed has arisen. But here are my notes, such as they are.
(By the way, I am writing every day, on the actual day, at the moment, but writing by hand in a note pad. That's the reason behind the delay in getting stuff onto my blog. I bet you were all wondering, weren't you?)
The ghost you were
You, a ghost, a tint of life
Puckers in molten face
The variants we make of vice
The flowers huddle in conspiracy
Whispers, petals cupped to hear neighbours
Treason among the roots as verminous worms
Cast the blame around
Religious hatred, the need for respect does not incur agreement
A balmy day. A bus shudders in wild
effusive arcs, cracks hard against a tree.
In a dream I came upon the forgotten city. It was once known as Watten Etta; before that, Town X. All I knew...
Like carrying a piano into a room up a flight of stairs.
My love is like a tired old man who hefts
Pianos up the stairs. Always alone.
I bought Stephen Fry's book The Ode Less Travelled yesterday, as it gives a thorough but approachable introduction to prosody ("the art of versification"). It contains technical descriptions and exercises to introduce the various elements of poetry: so far, I've been learning about metre, feet, iambs, iambic pentameter, enjambment and caesura. Some of this stuff I covered in my English A Level, but surprisingly little: I think it had gone out of fashion at the time I was studying English. Even in my English Literature degree, I didn't cover the technicalities in any great detail. It's certainly interesting, and I'm hoping it will help me make more informed analyses of other people's poetry, and make me appreciate the benefits of using traditional poetic forms and approaches.
So my creative output today was in response to the first exercise in the book: writing 20 lines or pairs of lines in iambic pentameter (ten syllable lines with a ti-tum ti-tum ti-tum ti-tum ti-tum rhythm, i.e. a stress on every even-numbered syllable). I managed 15, some of which match the requirements, but not all (I always found detection of stresses difficult). It's surprisingly hard to write like this, as it forces you to make certain choices about the first word on a line (it can't have a stressed first syllable). Here are my attempts:
A cough, a sneeze, before we wake for food.
The written word so rarely read this well.
I'm pretty sure the second line is wrong.
The broken record turns about itself.
My mother drinks a glass of bitter beer.
Before the dawn was brighter than we thought.
Perhaps gorillas wander to and fro.
We watch their shiny bottoms come and go.
The crazy cops are seeking someone bad.
A shot, a shout, a scattered crowd of folk
Derides the nonsense spouted by a priest.
The telly always offers us its crap.
Consider if you will the elephant.
More adverts disappear us as we stare.
Aghast, he saw his picture on the floor.
He fell upon them, crying out in fear.
A picture frame is seldom red, it seems.
They borrow chairs to fill the empty hall.
This is a rewrite of a poem I wrote a long time ago. I submitted it to Urbis, and got a couple of comments, and thought I'd take a crack at taking them on-board. Most of the comments centred around it being too verbose, with too many irrelevant details, so I pulled it to pieces for about 30 minutes, and still wasn't happy at the end. I thought it might be interesting to show the two pieces together, which perhaps gives some idea of the process I went through. The new version isn't finished (that's why I'm struggling), but I am happier with it than the original.
With a pad of paper against her knee
(The writing smudged) she looks at the camera.
He inhabited this room for three months
With American footballers on the curtains
(Although he was 21).
She visited twice, once bringing shepherd's pie
He upset her perhaps this day
By not walking her to her car.
She is looking at the camera, seated on the bed,
With him taking the picture in black and white:
Her smile is almost goofy
Above a hint of double chin;
One eye slightly askew, just to the left.
No one saw this but him.
The time spent with her is extrapolated from here,
Her blonde light grey hair untidy,
Her blue green dark grey eyes like wounds,
Her white teeth like half a melon skin.
With these tools, he tries to make rooms
She isn't in.
He captures an image
of her on the bed.
won't walk her
to the door.
sheaves of straw-blonde
wounds of blue-green
This is actually a rewrite of an ancient (1991?) poem. Me, rewriting? I hardly ever used to do this, but am finding that time is giving me objectivity about some of my older stuff, which I can use to make improvements. Hopefully.
the sea is in bed
the sky its sheet
the beach tautens
the sea touches the horizon
like a touched thigh
we ache for the place
Pastoralia is a fantastic short story book I finished this morning. Highly recommended - one of the funniest things I've ever read. His writing style really captures the hesistancy, mistakes, bad thoughts that everyone (well, me, anyway) experiences but never articulates. The characters are vibrant, unhinged, but realistic, the ideas slightly off-the-wall but always familiar, the humour black and satirical.
I wrote this on the back of a magazine on the bus this morning. Nothing fully-formed, but a few ideas and images.
By the way, I managed a whole month (31 days) of writing something (nearly) every day. It's been a great experience for me so far, and has really started perking up my creativity. Some of the stuff I produced was even half-decent.
A woman and man about to cross a Pelican crossing, the woman grasping the man as if to say, "Don't leave me, don't ever leave me, I need you."
Girl in herringbone-patterned coat reads a novel. In the margin of one page, she or someone else has written, in capitals the length of the page, "L AND G DREAM".
I had to take out the rubbish. It was about 3 miles to the dustbins, up-hill, along a path with a wire fence running its entire length. In a moonlit playground a child described hesitant white arcs with the swing. When I got to the dustbins, they were overflowing.
A stern woman in long black coat with glasses and purple-grey hair.
The bus driver's son sometimes gets onto the bus when I do. He barely acknowledges his dad. Sometimes his dad will remind him to be home on time, or to ring when football practice finishes, and the boy merely grunts and inclines his head, away from his father.
A story about a cobbler, or someone who works in a computer hardware shop. These are things I know about.
The birds have made shoddy nests, gingerly cradled in the white arms of a birch.
A man like an untidy heap of box files waits for a bus.
Update: I've toned this down and made it as objective as possible, as I felt I was unfair and perhaps intolerant in the original version.
I remember watching a documentary a few years ago on Scientology, where they attempted to show it up as a money-making scam, and made some convincing arguments, backed-up by evidence. I've never been able to understand its popularity, as L. Ron Hubbard (its originator) was a second-rate science fiction writer at best. I remember reading some critique of his ficion (maybe in Trillion Year Spree by Brian Aldiss?) which pointed out that Mr. Hubbard was an old school sf writer, who got paid by the line: therefore he wrote lots of very short sentences. Bad ones, at that. (By the way, I have attempted reading some of his stuff, and it was so truly awful I gave up.)
Today, I was browsing wikipedia to find out about juche, which Nicola mentioned and we'd never heard of (it's not a religion, as such, but the state ideology of North Korea). While I was there, I looked up Scientology, which Nicola also mentioned. I found a few things which further confirmed my views of Scientology:
Looking objectively at it, maybe few of these ideas are any crazier than Christianity, those of Jehovah's Witnesses, etc.. I also feel uncomfortable criticising other people's beliefs: it would be nice to be better informed about Scientology. However, it's difficult to get at the core texts as they are copyrighted and actively protected; to get at the meat of their ideas you have to pay money; and I don't have the time or the inclination to visit one of their churches, as the ideas seem unbelievable to me (in the same way that those of Christianity, Islam, Judaism etc., in fact any organised religion, do). As Hubbard himself stated in a 1952 lecture: he's "trying to tell you a fairytale" (5203C04B, 1952 Phoenix lecture 2101).
I should qualify all this by saying that, while I am not religious, I defend the rights of anyone else to practice any religion they choose. The thing I'm struggling with at the moment is how far the rights of any religion should be supported when they start to infringe on the freedom of others. I think there is a strong case, supportable by evidence from ex-Scientologists, to show that Scientology (in general, and at its heart) goes too far in terms of extremism, exploitation and intolerance. (Having said that, see the comments for a response from a practicing Scientologist who is actually fairly reasonable.)
How could I get to the age of 36 and never have heard Silver Apples? They are surely marvellous. The lead singer is called Simeon, and he plays an instrument with the same name. Get their first and second LPs on a single CD, it's brilliant stuff.
How come I've been using Linux all this time and never got round to using F-Spot? It's already crashed on me once, but the red-eye reduction tool alone makes it worth using.
A long time ago I posted to Slashdot about The 8 Bit Construction Set distributing software on vinyl. Their music is great and programmed in assembler: you can buy a 12" of their stuff (God knows where) or download it from The Beige Website.
I only mention it because I was listening to their music today. I remember at the time I posted to Slashdot their website fell over for a long time (presumably "slashdotted"). I felt very guilty and wondered whether I had maybe caused them enormous bandwidth bills. Would I be the cause of Beige Records going bankrupt? I looked again today and was relieved to see they survived (arrogant of me to think they wouldn't). I also noticed the 8 Bit Construction Set had added a response to the Slashdot story. They acknowledge they probably weren't the first to do it. Funny, I haven't looked at Slashdot for ages.
birch stencils the moon
an oak pins the horizon
bricks block spaces
where ladders climb light
shadows ribboned by bars
mask limbs lapping limbs
eyes lost in waves
curl around the night