The Rules of Twister or, Meaning of Whirl

One of the recent, unusual, French funnels.

Recently, there have been tornadoes in both the USA and in France (!), where they are much less common an occurrence and, mercifully for the French, much less powerful.

So in a bid to capture something of their violence and swirling destruction, I put to use the Lazarus Corporation Text Mixing Desk in conjunction with Google Translate, the internet, and my brain.

Essentially, I put the rules of Twister and definitions of tornadoes through the Mixing Desk (I’m really not sure how it works, apart from removing expletives, or swear words, and generally cutting up the text you put in).

I then alternated (ish) a line from each (the rules and the definition) and – in honour of the recent French ‘tornades’ – put this through Google Translate from English, to French, to (one of their former colonies and because it’s a symbol language), Vietnamese – then back and forth until the language got confused.

At each point, I saved the intermediary translation, then chose the ones I liked at the end and tinkered with it (to give it something of a vortex-form, too – dot dot dot…).

Sometimes when the ideas aren’t a-flowing, you’ve got to prime them. It’s a fun experiment – and perhaps captures something of a whirl of meaning and confusion in the language, as twisters/tornadoes/tornades/cơn lốc xoáy (that’s the Vietnamese) actually cause in real life…

I also like that ‘the Referee’ came up as a figure with the agency: whether that’s the Weather itself, or a God (if you’re so inclined), or Chance, is up to you…

 

The Rules of Twister

or, Meaning of Whirl

 

…the Referee can call, may, may call out:

appearance, emergence of a funnel-shaped cloud.

The colouring arrow – pointing, advancing

large progress. Great examples

power the steering wheel. Then

the Referee spins the spinner, then…

 

…someone or something turns violent

or mobile: devastating, devastating spiral

calls out to the part of the body

of winds turned violent, rotating

with action and passion. Then

the Referee must turn again

a different colour, then…

 

Advertisements

Going Viral: The Edge of Life

Coronavirus – which probably doesn’t infect textiles, like the virus in my poem

I’ve been having a bit of a recovery period post-NaPoWriMo. Well, I did write 31 poems during April; so a little pause is not unreasonable…

Just spotted this story about the new and potentially-pandemical (it’s a word now), coronavirus. The name sounds quite pretty – like a crown, or the corona of the sun. But sadly its symptoms – possible respiratory and kidney failure – are far from pretty. Here’s hoping it does not become any more than the threat of a pandemic.

And while we wait to see if this lurgy heralds the apocalypse-proper: here’s a piece I wrote some time ago about a (possibly) more benign viral pandemic, the source of which is a fusty academic (hey – that rhymed)…

 

The Edge of Life

 

Though to others it seemed

he had been quarantined

for some years now

in his collegiate room,

his conjectural womb

and perma-furrowed brow:

something had been transmitted.

 

He noted it first

with the patches

he had fitted

to his elbows,

the latches

of the arms

to his seat;

the spine

turning pages

a day

at a week

at a year

at a time.

 

They relapsed

from leather

to tweed,

and then so

did his seat.

In one dark-bound tome

spreading up the walls

he sought acute definition,

(an unambiguous home

in his first edition)

for the current

and developing

condition.

 

It stated:

A virus

is an infectious agent

which replicates within a host,

composed of RNA or DNA,

a protein coat,

an organism

at the edge of life.

 

But not, it seemed now,

at the edge of fashion;

not an agent

in exclusive ration.

An organism

with ample hosts,

in trousers, shirts,

blouses and coats,

a coarse-woollen contagion

of replicant ghosts.

 

Although no-one could don

this material as he could

they unwittingly would

as the symptoms upon

their attire began.

 

No fabric was immune:

polyester perished,

silk succumbed,

denim died, and

cotton went to meet

its Tailor.

 

He saw the pandemic

progress across campus

and county and country

from his leather-patch window;

the edge of life,

the tattered hem,

the volume’s fraying sheets.

NaPoWriMo 30: Here, Roots Are Not Joined

You fear, you fear her return.

 

IT IS THE END OF NAPOWRIMO. And it really has been marvellous.

I’ve just one poem (apart from that below) I would like to finish today and will have produced over 30 poems throughout April. It’s been a very positive experience: keeping poetry with me all the time; being exposed to new forms and stimuli; and discovering many talented creative-cousins out there.

So, the final piece was to create a poem of ‘inversion’: to find a poem you like and then to invert each word until you end with an interesting mirror-image of the original piece.

See if you can guess the original, from this sinister/sad-sounding one…I really did go as literally opposite as possible, although some words (and ideas) are pesky in not being binary (or not appearing so) and having an opposite. So there’s a bit of flex in my ‘opposites’.

The only clue I’ll give is that ‘here’ in my poem, was ‘there’ in the original…And the title is not literally an inversion, but an inversion of the original meaning (in a native language) of the original’s title!

Confused? Read on…

 

Here, Roots Are Not Joined

 

Tomorrow morn, beneath this floor

You shunned this woman, she who is here –

She is here tomorrow, once again:

You fear, you fear her return.

 

If you go, at nine in the morn, tomorrow

This woman will be left, by you, here.

So, if you are blind, beneath this stair

You could imagine her here.

Come here, come here, I will leave ever more.

Come here, come here, but open the door (whoosh!).

 

Tomorrow morn, I will feel beneath this floor

That the giant woman is here.

She is here tomorrow, once again:

Ah, why do you fear her coming?

NaPoWriMo 26: Stories and/or Plans and/or Ideas

This became the nickname for my Mum, so my step-dad made her an actual Mothership logo - AWESOIME.

This became the nickname for my Mum, so my step-dad made her an actual Mothership logo – AWESOIME.

 

Here’s my Day 26 offering, from Jo Bell’s lovely prompt to write a sonnet (or something sonnet-like) about your parents, distributing the lines across your Mum (ABABCD on Sandy, then), then your Dad (CDEFEF on Jeremy, then) and finally, you – for the last couplet (GG on me, then).

It was a fairly quick effort – been a busy day at work! But I managed to keep to the structure – and I hope made it a positive and celebratory piece, to contrast with yesterday’s Picnic Ballad.

I hope you enjoy it and get some insight into both of my parents – and consequently, about me. (And if either of them is reading this, I hope none of it seems unjust or unkind 😉 )

 

Stories and/or Ideas and/or Plans

 

The Mothership: an endless story told

like growing hair heroic silver-grey

and given to the air. She does enfold

each waif and stray; narrates each passing day

 

in technicolour. Even through dark acts

her voice can send out parcels to lost hands.

And he, a voice of malleable facts,

whose mind is full of ideas and/or plans

 

or more the first, or half of the latter.

So given to the earth, so given to

burying in objects and a smatter-

ing of  blushed-untolds, or prides never-knew.

 

And I: am I story, plan, or idea?

I am all three: part told, unfurling, here.

NaPoWriMo 25: Picnic Ballad

Here is your hamper…

…have a lovely time

Sometimes, you’ve just got to let it all out. But, so a long-standing motto of mine goes: Make Your Pain Entertaining.

It’s not been a great day, so when the prompt of a Ballad came through, I wrote the following ‘picnic ballad’. Don’t worry, it won’t be anything as chintzy as you first imagine.

The idea came from working with a student today, on Tennyson’s ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade‘, which features the lines ‘All in the valley of Death/ Rode the six hundred’.

And the student asked, ‘Why have I written there’s no hope of them coming back as a note underneath it?’ 

To which I responded, ‘Well, if I said I was going for a picnic in the Forest of Despair, would you think it was going to be a nice picnic?’

And so when I got in, I wrote this, about that very forest. It just sort of…popped out.

Probably best to read it either if you’ve had a really good day, or a really bad one.

I might get it set to music.

 

Picnic Ballad

or, As I Wrote This My Pencil Snapped and As I Typed It Up My Computer Shut Down

 

[CHORUS]

The city’s full of scorpions,

There’s locusts in the air:

We’re going for a picnic in

The Forest of Despair.

 

The wrought-iron gothic entrance gates

Say we should turn around;

But we have flesh and knives and plates

And Gingham for the ground.

 

[CHORUS]

 

Among the leaves, the birds do sing

Ballads of woe and fear;

But we shall thwart their whispering

With bread stuffed in our ears.

 

[CHORUS]

 

The squirrels bury in the ground

All hopes of picnics past

And six feet down, they can’t be found –

The tree-rats dig too fast.

 

[CHORUS]

 

Up in the balmy, cloudless sky

The Sun’s great furnace fumes.

His black baseball-cap upon high

Which reads: “I OWN YOUR DOOMS”.

 

[CHORUS]

 

We’ll leave there with our bellies full

Of Emptiness and Pain

And – gored by the resident bull –

Plan when we’ll come again.

 

[CHORUS]

 

Around these tangled roots of lines

The bindweed-mind writes QUIT:

Its gobby trumpets blare and whine

That life can be a chit*.

 

[FINAL CHORUS,

REPEAT AD INFINITUM UNTIL

YOU CAN NO LONGER BREATHE:]

 

The city’s full of scorpions,

There’s locusts in the air:

So join us for a picnic in

The Forest of Despair.

 

*Be careful not to misread this rhyme as something rude: a ‘chit’ is, in fact, ‘a signed note for money owed for food, drink, etc.’ or ‘any receipt, voucher, or similar document, especially of an informal nature’. Thus, life is merely a receipt or short note – perhaps just a poem, like this one. Cheerful, eh?

(ADDENDUM: if you enjoyed this one, then why not try my other NaPoWriMo musical efforts: A Sea Shanty for Failed Urban Development and The Pies of Awareness – which feels like a sister piece to this one. Sometimes I write happily; sometimes I write grumpily; usually I write with energy. Such is life!)

NaPoWriMo 24: Dust Across the Beam

Hyde Park Picture House: 100 in 2014!

As you may have noticed, things have been a bit cinematic on my blog during NaPoWriMo.

I’m reading a few poems (including my poem about the Invisible Cinema walking tour, from earlier in the month) on Sunday morning at an event to mark the centenary of Hyde Park Picture House. And here is a piece I wrote based on an earlier prompt from Canal Laureate Jo Bell, which was to write a poem of Welcome.

So, to celebrate the Picture House’s centenary, I wrote a welcome for its next 100 years – and here it is:

 

Twenty-One Thirteen

or, Dust Across the Beam

 

Welcome, twenty-one thirteen:

may your bright skies usher in

the twenty-first century’s pigeons –

their future-coos upon the roof’s tiles

(not nesting in seats, feathering aisles).

 

Welcome, twenty-one thirteen:

the elaborate plaster flowers which grow

from the walls are the germinating magic bean

of all the cinemas to which we can no longer go.

A furrow of many bulbs (and most no longer glow).

 

Welcome, twenty-one thirteen:

may the red curtains of each romance

open and close, close and open

on the clumsy ill-fated dance

of faltering fake yawns

and thousands of missed chances.

 

Welcome, twenty-one thirteen:

may never the popcorn of cinema dreams

be trodden under giant flat-screen feet

confining chorus gasp, behind-you screams

to closed-curtain houses on sparse streets.

 

Welcome, twenty-one thirteen

and all the seconds in between:

may the 26-flicker of each second’s cell

combine with the terabytes of files, to tell

stories as many as dust across the beam.

For stories are light and light is the spell.

 

So welcome, twenty-one thirteen:

may all your future screens,

even in desperate certificate eighteens

times contain only some scenes

of the mildest peril.

NaPoWriMo 21: White Violin or, Lord Raby’s Massive Silver Wine Cooler

Lord Raby’s Massive Silver Wine Cooler – as so described on the signs in Temple Newsam House!

Filling in an earlier gap from NaPoWriMo: I started writing this a while back based on a trip to Temple Newsam House, just outside Leeds. It’s an amazing house – no doubt about it – and it’s great that it’s now in public ownership, with gorgeous grounds to walk or cycle round.

While I was there, there was a concert of Early Music – a series of concerts, in fact – and I sat down to listen to some violin music and then got chatting with the musician (Gina Le Faux, about whom you can find out more here) about her violin (which you can hear in the SoundCloud widget above!).

And that conversation informed the following poem, which I’ve only just finished – and still needs tinkering. But the central idea was this: what do we preserve and what do we dispose of? And, more vitally, who do we preserve and who do we forget?

While it’s a great thing that the house is in public ownership, it also made me wonder why we are still so fixated on the aristocracy of old: I wonder what the people of future centuries will look upon as ‘worth preserving’ – for that preservation starts now.

Oh and ‘Lord Raby’s Massive Silver Wine Cooler’ (pictured above) was called just that on the signs in the House. There was something undeniably impressive about it. And a little bit ridiculous. And more than a little smug. (Oh – we own it now, too, by the way).

Anyway, here’s the poem:

 

White Violin

or, Lord Raby’s Massive Silver Wine Cooler (at Temple Newsam House)

 

Sat, courtly, beneath the gleaming shadow of

Lord Raby’s Massive Silver Wine Cooler

the early music begins: notes overflow

from a Thomas Tilley (Real) violin.

 

(To me, just a violin, but

as I chat with the musician

about the instrument she’d played

we strip away its ancestry,

how this violin was made:

 

Picked up from a dealer, who noted

that it actually dates back to 1776;

an uncouth previous owner had coated

it in Vegas-white emulsion Dulux.)

 

In each room, a day-tripper to aristocracy,

I strip back the varnished gentility. Imagine

what the laminated guide would be for

mine, or any other family. What would we

retain of our ignoble genealogy? Will our IKEA

wallpaper, our B&Q garden furniture,

draw in paying crowds to see?

 

The centrepiece of my 70s-built living room

was the Orange Plastic Pernod Ice Bucket.

That, Lord Raby, was our bulbous,

spirited, pop-heirloom; or

as close to one as we’d get.

 

The historic wallpaper’s birds may be pretty

but their songs – territorial, shrill – are rotten:

silver families are laminated, remembered;

Dulux families are all but forgotten.

NaPoWriMo 20: Rising Suns

Piss-en-lit! Taraxacum!

Yesterday’s NaPoWriMo prompt was to use a prescribed list of words and include 5 or more in a poem. Jo Bell’s prompt was to write about something that was growing. So I did both: PROMPT-JAM. Yeah.

As I walked near where I live yesterday, I noticed a patch of grass with lots of dandelions on it – and I was thinking about John Donne and his poem Sun Rising. There was an Afternoon Drama about him on last week – The Flea (which was  wonderful: a great rendering of some of the poems and a great dramatisation of that moment where he met his young wife – you can listen to it here for the next couple of days and I recommend you to!).

So this poem’s a response to Sun Rising with a slightly different cosmology in mind – using that wonderful line ‘nothing else is’ as a starting point.

And, of course, sneaking in lots of those pesky words from the NaPoWriMo list*.

 

Rising Suns

or, What About Everything Else?

 

If nothing else is, then what is this? Oh

bilious soil, gerrymandering generator

of dunderheaded dandelions. Lying

on this lawn’s gutter

trying to be stars.

 

Piss-en-lit! Taraxacum!

You are the cowbird’s feed –

no more than seaweed

on this ocean green.

 

Do they not know the Sun

is non-pareil? Cyclops Sky,

look the other way from

earth’s rodomontade! Its

jagged leaf-curls, its petal-sways

firing a gaudy artillery

of interstellar rays.

 

For there is no centre,

not in you, not in me:

only endless circles,

miraculous spheres;

svelte self-similarity,

and ego’s ghostly tears.

 

*Words included (some slightly altered in form! Is that allowed?) from NaPoWriMo’s prompt:


generator
miraculous
dunderhead
cyclops
seaweed
gutter
non-pareil (having no equal)
artillery
curl
ego
rodomontade
twice
ghost
cowbird
svelte

NaPoWriMo 18: Me or Him, Even

Even?

A really quick one today, from both Jo Bell’s prompt (write about something you feel guilty for) and the NaPoWriMo prompt, to start with the same word as you finish with.

So I’ve done both – about a time at school which stays with me, when I pushed someone (after an embarrassing incident) who then fell off a table, on to a chair, tipped back and got concussion.

To this day, I still don’t know if I meant that to happen, or just to get them to shut up. Either way, the outcome was the same.

I was also thinking about third-person and about balancing one’s idea of self now and then, I guess. So here’s a poem of guilt (and/or embarrassment, and/or shame) about that incident – which starts and finishes with the word ‘Even’:

 

Me or Him, Even

or, Exchange Rate

 

Even now, he sees himself, in poet-first

third-person, pushing another

off a desk. Then the word

Concussion. The phrase

Get a teacher.

 

Did he mean it? He still doesn’t know.

Or where the memory should go.

There are several places –

guilt, embarrassment, shame –

three different addresses on the same

street: a whole neighbourhood

of doubt.

 

The victim sits on a table, pointing, laughing

at my basketball-bruised red face

(from his moments-ago powerful throw).

Then the shut-up-shove and there he goes,

dropping into a chair. It pivots – over-

balances, like teachers (like me) warn they will –

out-of-control, back, against the wall.

He was surely culpable, vengeful.

 

Then the changing rooms chants

when he was off school. Being named

Murderer.  He was surely shamed.

 

But what’s the difference

what box I put it in? Even now

I do not know what makes

intention and action,

me and him,

even.

NaPoWriMo 13: Windowless Walls

Bagel Nash, which was once the News Theatre, by Leeds Station

Bagel Nash, which was once the News Theatre, by Leeds Station

 

I continue to run at a poetical-deficit, but will catch up soon (12 and 14 to follow today)…

Here’s my poem based on going for a walk: on Sunday, I went on a walking tour of some of the forgotten/disused cinemas around Leeds city centre – which is part of the celebration of 100 years of Hyde Park Picture House – and was organised by these fine folk (Conway and Young). I put up some more pictures of this walk yesterday

So I wrote this piece from jottings and thoughts while looking around these forgotten cinemas:

 

Windowless Walls

or, Cut (A Tour of Cinemas Past in Leeds)

 

At the News Theatre (where the only

fresh news is today’s bagels), we cut

open bags of popcorn and sniff

it like posies – warding something off –

and say how its aroma

is better than its taste.

 

Lyric, Lyceum, Olympia: we cut

a queue of ancient voices

through gusts of decades. Cinema

at the centre of the block-

buster’s vortex. The jump-

cuts in the waveforms of lives.

 

The Merrion Centre’s lights

and mirrors hold prisoner

a 1970s Odeon: the orange-brown

Autumnal kernel of

future past.

 

On a windowless wall, words over words

(of what was The Tower) meekly whisper how

there is Always a Good Programme. A frame

half-covering it booms Demand Everything! Now!

listing superstar DJ-names and Gatecrasher-choons.

 

3-D digi-HD smell-o-feel-o-vision gimmickry,

in this most flammable and malleable of media:

memory. Bricks begin to flicker.

 

Dust in the lens, my eyes

water: a strong wind, cut

full of particulate matter.

We, the City’s Editors –

its planners and punters –

razor-blades poised to cut

between CGI-progress

and/or

celluloid-preservation.

Look Up: Primark was once a cinema, too.

Look Up: Primark was once a cinema, too.