Workshop for Humans

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“intelligent, odd, scary”

This afternoon, I went to a ‘Workshop for Humans’ with Alex Bailey & Krõõt Juurak – after they came in yesterday afternoon to give a private performance for Barney (our border terrier). The performance – with a local agency news photographer present (you can see the video here) – was really interesting for Barney’s Humans (us) – and he definitely enjoyed aspects of it (as well as being a bit unnerved by others!).

As someone who doesn’t ‘do’ movement work – I found the workshop today really interesting, in trying to get a ‘felt sense’ of our favourite animals, not through words, but through movement (the animals’ ‘language’). I particularly enjoyed the ‘imprinting’ activity of having one’s limbs manipulated by others, holding in mind particular animals – a curious experience, and oddly, rather nice not to be in charge of my own body, for a bit.

One of the activities during session was apparently an old ‘personality test’ – the results of which I thought I’d share here.

We were asked to name our three favourite animals, in order, then to list three qualities we like about each, next to them. For me, this list looked like:

  1. Giraffe: elegant; clumsy; amazing run.
  2. Octopus: intelligent; odd; scary
  3. Dogs: loyal; playful; expressive.

Then we were told that – according to this old test – the first represents what we want to be (elegant, clumsy, amazing run), the second how others see us (intelligent, odd, scary) and the third who we really are (loyal, playful, expressive).

I’m fairly sure I’m clumsy already, not sure how scary anyone finds me (but might be wrong) – but was quite happy to ‘really’ be those dog things…

 

 

NaPoWriMo 4.28: Ideas

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A zoo sign from Bristol Zoo – and a wonderful artistic intervention.

Something from today, for yesterday…I ran a group today and we worked on the theme of animals – involving writing kennings and also some information signs for The Great Zoo – inspired by Cuban poet Nicholas Guillen.

The idea is that you can put anything into an enclosure in the zoo – and I think this is a really helpful way of getting people to consider and externalise things about oneself, or things that you might find interesting about the world…

So here’s what I wrote (and there were a few different species of this written about by different group members!):

Ideas

In this enclosure, you’ll find Ideas.
They’re social creatures, living
in great communal burrows
in the mind. Sometimes,
you’ll see an Idea break off

from the hive and start
to grow, inflating to around
five times the size of the others.
This Idea will either go off
to start a new colony, or
the transition will be too much
and it will pop.

Ideas generally eat smaller creatures
such as Hunches or Notions, though
they have been known
to cannibalise.


And a bonus Kennings poem – see if you can guess what the animal is! We actually did this as a secretive riddle/quiz during the session, which made it more gamified and fun 🙂

I Am A

Weed-wafter
Seafloor-galloper
Coral-neigher
Tail-wrapper
Fragile-souvenir
Shallow-swimmer
Armoured-slender
Replica-maker
Pregnant-swapper
Eye-diverger
Colour-changer…

What Am I?

NaPoWriMo 2015.6: Allegiance

Folly Footbridge – as mentioned in my ‘aubade’ (morning poem). Image googled, from www.kennet-avon-canal.co.uk

NaPoWriMo catch-up…and wrote an ‘aubade’…

A particular remembrance of a winter morning, leaving the boat and heading to the car – which oddly seems more vivid in relation to this bright, summery day…

This exhibit has been removed for polishing…

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NaPoWriMo 2015.1: “Sat Like a Cormorant, Yet Not”

"Thence up he flew, and on the Tree of Life, The middle tree and highest there that grew,	         Sat like a Cormorant; yet not true life	 Thereby regained, but sat devising death	 To them who lived; nor on the virtue thought	 Of that life-giving plant, but only used	 For prospect what, well used, had been the pledge	         Of immortality. "

“Thence up he flew, and on the Tree of Life,
The middle tree and highest there that grew,
Sat like a Cormorant; yet not true life
Thereby regained, but sat devising death
To them who lived; nor on the virtue thought
Of that life-giving plant, but only used
For prospect what, well used, had been the pledge
Of immortality. “

It’s that time again: NaPoWriMo. When I pretend I won’t do all the prompts and, instead, write four poems a day if I get behind. (But it turns out, I really enjoy writing poems – so it’s fine. Don’t worry yourself.)

So to business: a poem of negation. I found myself (as I did at the start of NaPoWriMo the year before last, curiously) in Cardiff, at the Museum. Having thought I might write about their photography exhibition (and at some point, I will write something about the tornadoes that struck South Wales in 1913, which were depicted therein) I was walking past the Natural History Galleries and saw the chap above, wings outspread…and so…

“Sat Like a Cormorant; Yet Not”

I am not the ragged fabric
that hangs from pirate booms.
I am not the devil in any disguise;
why would these feathers be costume?

I am the portent of Nothing
but this gunmetal sea;
the harbinger of Nothing
and nobody’s prophecy.

I am no red-breasted festive
greeting to some lost friend.
My neck is not the elegant
waved S of the swan, my wings
a continent, an eon from
the wall-mounted mallard.

I will not look directly at you
nor deny the dark hook
of my eyes. I will not stand
for the cliff-wall epitaph,
for the black clouds
etched on your skies.

2.28: Big Deal

 

The Sloth: A Big Deal (for real)

Here’s my news story-based poem (using pretty much just words from the article itself).

The story was from the BBC Science & Environment site and you can read it here and concerns new discoveries about the energy-saving anatomy of sloths.

So I felt any sloth poem demanded to be quite short and minimal. And noticed the scientists had used the phrase ‘Big Deal’ twice. Which, for an animal so energy-conscious – many things must be…

 

Big Deal

 

There is not much left

in the tank. 7 to 13 %

is a big deal.

 

For energy saving experts

anchoring organs

is a big deal.

 

Their stomach, liver, kidneys

and even bowels:

a big deal.

 

Nothing they do is normal.

They are ‘off the wall’.

An extremely slow

and low

big deal.

Waterstone’s and Rats

On Tuesday, I’ll be reading alongside other LS13 Anthology writers at Waterstone’s in Leeds city centre, from 7pm. It would be lovely to see you there!

And in publication news: one of my Vermin poems – Vermin the Fifth: An Exact Science – is part of an anthology of work on the theme of ‘Otherworldly Mammals’.

You can read it at the following link:

http://mgversion2datura.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/mgv274-otherworldly-mammals-1013.html

More news soon…

Pesticide makes bees forget the scent for food, new study finds

http://m.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/mar/27/pesticide-bees-scent-food-neocotinoid Just after my piece about how bees see and smell – their ‘plastic’ sense of shapes becoming scents – I was sent this story. So perhaps pesticides are changing the shapes of scents to them: my film noir PI cross-cutting image may be more apt than I realised. It is a sad thought, a hives workers stumbling around drunkenly, seeking what they have for millions (or more?) of years, but unable to sense its real shape.

Little Shadows

How a bee might see a flower – except, not really, because they *smell shapes* (kind of).

I’m brewing a project – a series  of workshops and performances – around BEES (I always feel I have to capitalise it) for this summer, called BUZZ WORDS (I credit thanks to Mr Ian Billings for assistance with the title).

So, with that in mind I’ve been looking out for bee-related stories, inspiration and reading – and tweeting bee-related excerpts from poems too. (They should show up on my Twitter-widget, bottom right).

One such story was this – the amazing symbiosis and (literally) electrical relationship between flowers and bees: plants can ‘communicate’ with bees how much pollen they have ‘in stock’, by changing their electrical field (excuse my usual mangling of scientific language). But the weird thing is that, from other reading I’m doing, bees don’t see in the same way we do at all – and nor can we really understand their ‘plastic sense of smell’, where – get this – shapes have fragrances. All very synaesthetic, which lends itself hugely to poetry, I reckon…

There’s an inherent impossibility trying to perceive as another animal might – but for me, that’s part of poetry’s job. To enjoy the plasticity of language and our imaginative faculties – which are, to a large extent, uniquely human. So this poem was trying to point towards what ‘being a bee’ might be like, but on human terms. (We don’t have any others, do we?)

The title takes its name from a terribly courtly and gorgeous song by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (the acoustic version) – so do have a listen (after reading). Just as flowers and bees have a symbiotic relationship, so do bees and humans – but who ends up the ‘shadow’ is still unclear. Hence the conclusion of the poem, perhaps: certainty is always plastic, being is always relative.

 

Little Shadows

 

Imagine that montage moment in the film

noir, where the PI  ranges the city streets,

neon lights lurid and rain-streaked and longing:

thinking thinking thinking about

what it is he doesn’t

yet know.  See it?

 

Imagine that, but now see it POV

and at nine-thousand times multiplicity

and instead of a He, you’re a She and you’re

flying flying flying about

at roof height, just knowing

knowing. OK?

 

Imagine that cutaway shot of a sign

which in the film says

GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS

all luminous-pink curving

tonguelike, now says:

ASTER X FRIKARTII.

 

That louche flashing purple

PRIVATE SHOW, now reads: SALVIA

NEMEROSA CARADONNA. Yeah?

 

And that raunchy Latin text becomes

a shape that bypasses your eyes

nine-thousand times and becomes the aroma

of everything – literally everything –

you have every wanted

or known. Right?

 

Imagine those nine-thousand

cutaway shots above a bar

of endlessly-pouring holy beer

have become a pendulum, pulling

your entire being with the breeze

of its transcendental scent,

the gravity of its colour. Yes.

 

And imagine that there’s no mystery,

only endless little shadows of yourself shining,

weaving through every single city street,

drinking drinking drinking in

the plastic certainty

of being.

 

Vermin On The Rise

A couple of stories recently linked very directly to my Vermin Cycle of poems.

The first is the great news that the EU has now banned all new cosmetics with ingredients tested on animals – to me, this seems entirely reasonable. There is a big difference between clinical trails for, say, a cancer treatment and, say, a new waterproof eye-liner. If it came to a decision between a rat and a family member dying, I would choose the family member – but the decision between a rat and some runny make up…? I don’t think it can be argued that is totally necessary.

My Vermin poem ‘An Exact Science’ is in the voice of a rat, one being tested on, and explores the idea of vanity.

The other story was one about the mighty bed bug. Scientists researching these resilient little creatures have discovered various genes which make them resistant to pesticides, and generally seriously tough little bugs.

My favourite Vermin poem, ‘Let Us Bite’, gave voice to the New York bed bug and certainly – I hope – presented it as tough.

You can read these and the other Vermin Cycle poems here.

Vermin On The Ascent!

Wicked Words review

A review! Thanks Martin – glad you enjoyed the cockroach and its epic fishing-rod antennae: they were pound shop’s finest, sewn into a hoodie-hood 😛

Skylab in Full Flight indeed…

The write identity...

I was at Wicked Words’ quarterly Showcase Event this Wednesday, an evening that demonstrated what a rich tapestry the world of performance poetry can be. The entertainment kicked off with Jamie H Scrutton, an established Wicked Words poet whose pièce de resistance involves donning a bright pink wig and black Belvia bra (stuffed with what looked like tin-foil), whilst cavorting about the stage belting out poetry about the said bra’s magical powers of transformation in the wearer.

Jamie was swiftly followed by Skylab (aka Caleb Parkin) who had debuted at Wicked Words only the previous month. Nothing on that evening could possibly have hinted at the majesty of Skylab in full flight. Taking to the stage in a white decontamination suit, and with the aid of some ingenious headgear, Skylab took on variously the personae of rat, urban fox and – best of the lot in my opinion –…

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