Four In a Forest: A Bedtime Story

Earlier in September, I was invited by Knowle West Media Centre to write a ‘bedtime story for an artists’ at their Artist Hotel sleepover.

I borrowed guided relaxation techniques from solution-focused hypnotherapy (thanks, Emma Edwards / Shine for tips on doing so safely), animal creation myths, and lovely rhyming bedtime stories: a bit of A A Milne lyricism, a splash of Dr Seuss sass, with some Channel 4 reality formats thrown in…

The story used the animal characters and dreamy rhyme to invite the artists present (and now you) to become relaxed, and explore ideas of home, hospitality – to picture a scenario where we invite everyone in, to a perfect home, for a perfect soiree.

So I recorded the script as I read it, here – so find yourself somewhere comfy for a sit down and to relax with it – ideally before bed. And especially if you’re hosting, or going to be hosting, any kind of soiree, workshop, or event.

I hope that the story generates some interesting images in your unconscious of perfect hospitality – and feel free to comment below with any experiences and reflections about these themes.

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Green Man Gripes & Shambling

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Shambling at Shambala 2017

It’s been a busy couple of festival weeks! And I’m just starting to return to the so-called ‘Real World’…

The weekend before last, I was running my Petty Protest workshops at Einstein’s Garden, Green Man Festival. Some excellent, witty griping went on – here’s some pictures:

I now have a MEGAPHONE and will be planning some projects in which I can use it again…

And then this weekend, I went to Shambala for the first time. It’s a really wonderful festival, full of generosity, creativity, appreciation, energy, and downright silliness.

It’s a very free and friendly event – some of my highlights being Power Ballad Yoga and Oh My God, It’s The Church! My quick description of the festival was ‘The 1960s fed through Google DeepDream’…So to document my first time there, I wrote a poem gathering some of the moments that stay with me – here it is.

NB: This is a poem for adults! Contains psychedelic imagery and reference to specific body-parts!

Shambling
(v.) – To attend Shambhala Festival (2017)

When the floor is your wardrobe.
When the sky roars from 30,000 eyes.
When you knock on your neighbour’s tent
of rainbow hair.
When your toes are doused in dahl.
When the urinals branch and billow.
When there’s sexy sequin soup between the pods.
When you meet bacon roving the woods, but nowhere else.
When Sexy Jesus reaches up yo’ ass all the way to yo’ heart.
When the flamingos form a Union.
When you’re at the urinal, blowing bubbles.
When you realise being Upside Down and Inside Out
might not be a nice thing, Diana?
When bacon sees you’re holding a spatula.
When the lipstick misses your mouth so far
you think it’s a scar under your chest hair.
When sauna chat rehydrates tardigrades.
When there’s glitter under your foreskin.
When you’ve no idea how you’re going to get out
of this outfit, but it’s entirely worth it.
When you meet a family of fellow gold-winged
beings and they give you a medal.
When you discuss seriously the toilets with which
you’ve formed an inappropriate bond.
When you grasp the spiritual plectrum and, when ready, expel.
When Jimmy Big-Top becomes real.
When Ship Out becomes his catchphrase.
When Shidney the Slow Loris Pirate finger-puppet becomes his sidekick.
When you convince the first person of all of this.
When the pyrotechnics make your eyes overflow.
When everyone sits down.
When I was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar.
When you were working as a waitress in a cocktail bar.
When it was Dad’s Night tonight but Mum’s Night tomorrow.
When I wasn’t born a vegetarian! I want a burger!
When you can just come and put me on the helter-skelter,
but you don’t have to watch.

When the Snow Queen grew like a luminous shroom.
When we laughed so much we let out a little bit of neon.
When we found Helen on my hat.
When there’s an injury, then ice in every crevice.
When the Cuckoo Clock strikes two glittery boobs.
When a squatter in the corner of the Herris Fencing says in broad Northern
Irish, Solidarity with women! I’m just trying to understand their experiences.
When you blow your nose and Annie Lennox’s face comes out.
When you shout to a friend, but she’s a cloud and floats away.
When the trees are bioluminescent and living for their gig.
When Glitter Largesse gives it all away.
When you become Dispatula.
When you realise it’s got lights in too.
When you meet the stuffed dog in the cone of shame
and hear its backstory and stroke its nose, because it likes it.
When you adopt the beautiful unicorn people on the dancefloor.
When the woods flutter Spanish poetry from its million Monarch wings.
When you leave the womb as Red, Red Wine.
When you grow bright yellow tail plumage and shake it, shake it, shake it.
When all bodies are beautiful.
When queues are quilted & sawdust scented with sharing.
When play is a not a privilege but an Element.
When you receive free hugs and a free shrug.
When the security van rumbles through a sunrise sweet
as a perfect grapefruit, meep-meeping: You, sir, look *fabulous*.
When the Segway Grannies grind on their trundle buggies.
When movement is in everything and the trees
are punching the air and look: the infinite
tundra of our soles.

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

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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…’

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

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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.

National Poetry Competition 2nd Prize!

or, Putting on Your Proper Poet Hat

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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!

Rialto Pamphlet Competition – Shorlisted!

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Some exciting news: I’ve been shortlisted in The Rialto pamphlet competition 2017!

It’s their first pamphlet competition and a really exciting honour to be included in the final ten poets. It also means I’ll have a poem from the pamphlet in their next issue – very exciting.

A word about resilience and writing: last year I submitted a lot of work, to a lot of different publications and competitions. They very rarely ‘land’. And it can – and does – become very disheartening at times. (Indeed, I had just declared a ‘break’ from submitting when I heard about this one.) I think it’s really important we acknowledge times we’re feeling vulnerable, or somewhat defeated – we all experience these, and they’re normal.

But for me there’s something about the practice of poetry, as a way of seeing the world, that keeps me reading and writing it, even when it becomes infuriating. Once you have a real relationship with poetry, it’s something you commit to – and that means even when you have a rough patch and your peculiarities get on each other’s nerves…

So it’s wonderful when poems, or groups of poems, find a readership in judges, or editors – but to me, it’s an affirmation of that relationship and way of seeing and finding a way through the world.

I heard the quote above a while back and it really did ring true: reading and writing really is and must be its own reward. ‘Amateur’, by the way, means ‘lover’.

As Rialto Editor Fiona Moore says in her blog post about the process: “Read to write and write to read. Read to make it new.”

It’s about poetry, and finding a community of poets and – hopefully – some readers. (Poetry definitely ain’t about the money, eh?)

So (a wise woman once said): Keep Going.