Osteochondritis Dissecans

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“desecrated spaces, the rivers
of me, these capillaries drying up
at their tips”

Last Wednesday, I ran the last workshop (of four) at M Shed museum, around their excellent Skeletons exhibition.

As well as spending time with loads of brilliant young writers, from three schools and those who’d come to the summer holiday workshop – I felt like I’d gotten to know those bones rather well.

Being as I like to model reading out writing I’ve just written, I did a lot of it before and during the sessions. We looked at Simon Armitage’s poem Ankylosing Spondilitis (which appears in the anthology Signs and Humours: The Poetry of Medicine) during the workshops – and I encouraged participants to find a term in the exhibition and write around it. This is what I came up with:

Osteochondritis Dissecans
– after Simon Armitage, Ankylosing Spondylitis
– for all the Skeletons.

Osteo – relating to the bones
chond – conned – chondritis – itis
which makes things inflammatory
and dissecans – like desiccated coconut
like desecrated spaces, the rivers

of me, these capillaries drying up
at their tips, ceasing to flow, ground
of my bones splintering, tilting up
sharp fragments of bark
into the soft skies of my muscles
which mutter a low moan of it,
swear, quietly, with every step.

Can you help me? I’m shattered,
shattering – an intricate vase
hitting the ground in slow-motion.
Maybe you can hit pause, press stop.
Maybe some day you’ll be the one
to find some new language, a spell
before I am too broken
for superglue, to tape up.

Please: find the words. Speak them, a titanium prayer.

A Recipe for Martian Happiness

marvin-the-martian

Marvin could do with a bit of this recipe, I reckon.

Last Thursday 27th July, I compered an event as part of at-Bristol’s Festival of What If-?

As part of the evening – with its excellent provocations on the theme of living on Mars – I crowd-sourced a poem: A Recipe for Martian Happiness. That poem is now disappeared forever (though someone might have been filming it on their phone, I think) – but I’ve used the components to generate another…

**NB contains a single, heroically-deployed swearword in first stanza**

A Recipe for Martian Happiness

Take:
3,004,437 kisses of rubies and warp-tunnel-bend them with a toolbelt.
3,279,491 metric fucktonnes of lipstick and propulse them with duct tape.
8,197,635 on the Kardashev Scale of roses; whizz with a lovely felt tip pen.

Add:
1,470,239 infinitesimally small bloods, which you’ll propel with a space-hopper pump.
4,724,435 centimetres of crochet, to asphyxiate with a defraction grate.
8,716,756 fathoms of macaws: endeavour these with
the machine on the shopping channel that slices the egg.

Continue with:
7,717,684 Angstroms of banjos and drip them with resilience.
3,508,683 planetfulls of strawberries to expand with a penknife.
3,094,126 semitones of folk dancing; smash with a molecular miner.

After that, locate:
6,680,979 planetoids of ferrets, so you can daydream them with a hairdryer.
4,813,550 voids of cold noses to hyperswim with a pen.
4,312,191 planet-hops of cat videos and accelerate them with a quantum discombobulator.

Pause a moment to fetch:
1,714,822 chunks of red lipstick, invented with a centrifuge.
9,705,975 baskets of fire, upthrusted with a whisk.
601,592 on the Beaufort Scale of sex, zoomed with a Mower Drill Toothbrush.

Finally, pop in:
3,498,057 furlongs of a Martian’s ruddy complexion, evaporated with a spiralizer.
4,550,125 glasses of Marslot, blinked with a sporknif.
Garnish with a run of compressors.
Method for generating this poem:

I asked those present at the What If We Lived on Mars? event to contribute to this poem – by writing:

  • Measurements of any kind (on yellow tags)
  • Ingredients – things that make you happy and/or are red (pink tags)
  • Verbs of any kind, spacey and non-spacey (green tags)
  • Tools of spacey and non-spacey kind (blue tags)

We then used this formula when performing the poem for the first and only time, in that iteration…

Take <random no. from phone app>
<measurement>
of <ingredient>
and <verb> it
with a <tool>
REPEAT UNTIL BORED/COMPLETE
Final sequence begins ‘Garnish with…’

Living On Mars

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Hopefully living on Mars wouldn’t be much like The Expanse

Next week, I’ll be compering an event as part of at-Bristol’s ‘Festival of What If…’ – this one being around the question ‘what if we lived on Mars?’ There are details about the event here.

I might add in some specks of Martian poetry, references to Ray Bradbury’s ‘Martian Chronicles’, possible allusions to The Expanse, or even some Vogon Poetry…and I’ll be crowd-sourcing a recipe for living well on Mars (though it might not be quite what you expect…).

See you there!

(Mis)Behaviour at Green Man

I'm So Angry I Made a Sign

I’ll be leading some witty, silly, Petty Protest at Green Man Einstein’s Garden this year, as part of their theme of (Mis)Behaviour.

We’re going to be drilling down into the most pedantic and peculiar pet-hates, forming instant campaign groups with the perfect acronyms, and equipping ourselves with some poetic & comedic tools to make the best placards possible – then heading out with out whistles to cause a bit of a commotion around the festival site…

Then you can go back out into this increasingly-parodic world, ready to turn your new-found protesting skills to something else.

Because let’s face it: there’s plenty that’s not petty to protest about.

BONES

A room with twelve skeletons; skulls all facing the same way. A bony choir: but what songs will they sing us? Songs from long ago – and songs of struggle, murder and conflict. Through poetry, flash fiction and discussion we’ll be inspired by craniums, tibias and mandibles, exploring what we feel in our bones. All skeletons have a tale to tell – what’s yours?Skeletons M Shed Workshop YP Info 2.8.17I’m running a young people’s workshop for young people aged 14-17 years at M Shed Bristol on 2nd August, exploring their Skeletons: Our Buried Bones exhibition…

It’ll be a rich & strange day, where I’ll be inviting the group to really get to know the bones on display and what they might think about all this, as well as thinking about our very own skeletons – we’ve all got one. Details above: please pass them on…

 

 

Poetry Please & Filmpoem

Helmie Stil Filmpoem.PNG

Two Good Things:

My National Poetry Competition second prize winner, ‘The Desktop Metaphor’ was featured on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Poetry Please’ on the theme of ‘Work’ last Sunday – you can listen here.

The poem was also turned into a splendid filmpoem by Helmie Stil (above!) and you can watch the filmpoem here.

It’s been great for the poem to have a bit of a media flurry – the different responses to and aspects of the piece readers have found. The filmpoem brings out a wonderful darkness and playfulness in it, which I’ve really enjoyed – and hope you do too.

The other filmpoems of the top ten National Poetry Competition entries will be being screened at a special event – am looking forward to seeing them all.

NaPoReMo #1: A little support for NaPoWriMo

Just catching up on these: the poems + commentary formula is a really useful way of discovering more about reading and writing poetry…

The Bell Jar: Jo Bell's blog

National Poetry Writing Month started in the US, but it belongs to us all now. Lots of you are having a go at writing a poem every day this month. Here once again is my own list of 30 brief prompts to give you a creative prod every day. Click here to see it and (I think) CTRL + click on each link within it, to see the poems I mention.

There’s one tool for writing good poetry that sometimes gets neglected during this month of frenetic writing. To write well, you have to read well. Read wide and deep, read things you don’t like as well as those you do, and ask each poem why it works – or doesn’t.

Every day this month, I’ll post a poem for you to read and think about. There will be classics and brand new poems, comic and tragic, complex and simple…

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National Poetry Competition 2nd Prize!

or, Putting on Your Proper Poet Hat

kunst

It’s with huge delight I can now celebrate that I was awarded second prize in The Poetry Society’s National Poetry Competition (NPC) 2016, with my poem The Desktop Metaphor.

Last Wednesday, we went to a prize-giving at the Savile Club in Mayfair – which was also the announcement for the Ted Hughes prize, which was originated and officiated by the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy – and won this year by the brilliant Holly McNish, for Nobody Told Me.

It’s wonderful to see my poems ‘out there’ this month, with another soon to be in March’s Rialto. (And, of course, there’s the small matter of the £2000 prize money for the NPC – which is definitely the biggest cash prize I’ve ever won – eek!).

I’ve known about the prize since the beginning of February – and enter competitions quite regularly – so have been sitting on this information for quite a while, but for a select few confidants. It’s been interesting to notice my Inner Imposter piping up at times: What do you mean, you’ve won second prize in the National? Are you sure? Did they make a mistake?

The poem I entered was something of an experiment – one I felt like there was ‘something to’ which was slightly mysterious to me as well. So I thought: why not? Chuck it in, see what happens. The pamphlet I entered to The Rialto was full of experiments, too: this was one of the aspects which was favourably commented on in the feedback.

It’s immensely gratifying for another experiment to have won a main prize in such a pretigious competition. It’s made me realise that it’s one of the aspects of my writing which is strongest: to experiment, innovate, play around and take risks with poetry. Not all experiments will work – but some will, so it’s worth persisting with them, and enjoying the process. (Indeed the Ted Hughes prize is all about innovation – so why not keep trying?)

So I’m telling my Inner Imposter to sod off, and celebrating. Because for every one thing you win, there are many you don’t – and it’s easy to get stuck in an Imposter habit, as some kind of ‘hard hat’ for resilience, in this tough process of submitting work to journals & competitions.

Time to put the Inner Imposter in its bunker and  put on my Proper Poet hat. (No, it’s not a real hat – but you can imagine one if you like.)

It’s NaPoWriMo, after all – so a great time to go forth, and experiment!

Bony Orbit – Videopoem

A videopoem I made, based on some 1940s footage of How The Eye Functions, is now up on Atticus Review here, and embedded directly from YouTube below.

The piece was started over a two-day poetry filmmaking workshop in Bristol towards the end of last year – I recommend going on workshops/courses like this, to give youself spacetime/timespace to tinker and start something (not always easy to find otherwise).

It’s my hope to create more videopoems in the coming year – there’s a whole wealth of archive out there, just waiting to be moulded…

I hope you enjoy Bony Orbit, as puzzling as (I still think) it is:

Wyldwood Write On Video

I’ve just finished facilitating four sessions, working with Wyldwood Arts  – a group of 18-25 year olds from the Bristol Old Vic young producers worked with residents of Monica Wills House writing around the themes of Earth, Water, Fire and Air.

There was a lot of laughter and some really beautiful, playful and moving pieces of writing – and Wyldwood have made a wonderful short film which captures some of this. Here it is!