Varder ‘er at Chelt Lit Fest

Polari Writing with the Palones of Chelt Lit Fest

Polari Writing with the Palones of Chelt Lit Crawl

A busy couple of weeks with Cheltenham Literature Festival workshops, amongst other things…

Last Saturday, I hosted What If You Couldn’t Polari ‘I Love You’? at the Lit Crawl event, a fun & poignant session

We started looking at Polari – a quick intro – a bijou clipette of literary-infused Julian and Sandy, got a bit of conversational chat, mixed it in with the special ‘lingos’ from our lives, then created a group poem of what we do or say, instead of those things we can’t say.

Here’s the resulting poem – shared with the group’s permission, and anonymised anyhow. It’s an activity I’ll try again and know that the ‘deflections’ or alternatives to what we can’t say will be so different every time:

Because I Can’t Say It

I say I’d love to! and I will do that right now!
I get extremely fucking polite. So cold it burns.
I smile and nod in sympathy.
I resort to social niceties.
I say would you like a cup of tea?
I nod my head, grit my teeth, and think of Australia.
I say to other people what I would say to them. Download!
I look at my mate, who I know is thinking the same thing,
we both hold our gaze for just long enough to acknowledge
each other, but not long.
I scowl.
I make up nicknames for them.
I say I will do it!
I sing out loud in the shower.
I say Thank you.
I say I’m sorry.
I say It’s fine (when it’s not).
I give him a book or a poem that says it for me.
I say Oooh…what do you think?
I bring him a coffee, a kiss and a smile.
I crack self-deprecating jokes.
I make puns that say it unnoticed.
I smile and say You’re welcome.
I say Does it make a difference?
I scream into my pillow.

I only wish I’d remembered the marvellous poem Oral English by Sheenagh Pugh – which is the most elegant treatment of Polari, Julian & Sandy, and the wider implications of it all – in one poem. You can find that in Double Bill: Poems Inspired by Popular Culture.

**

Today, I hosted a morning session entitled Red Wheelbarrow Beat Club, where we looked at some ‘Buddhish’ and Buddhist poems, especially relating to objects, pointing-out and the Beat poet, Allen Ginsberg.

We wrote our own versions of pointing-out poems such as The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams, had a go at Ginsberg’s American Sentences (and invented British Sentences), and explored other poems by Buddhist Lama (teacher) Chogyam Trungpa and contemporary Buddhist (amazing) poet, Chase Twichell.

Here are some of my efforts from the session:

Something Chogyam Trungpa-inspired…

A printer is always frustrated

A printer is always frustrated because it stutters.
Paper clips are chipper and grippy.
A laptop is busy going to sleep.
A poet wallows in ink.

A window without frame or glass
And a house without walls or roof
Are inviting in the autumn wind
The ink which the sky provides

Something Wheelbarrow inspired…

The Peg

so much depends
upon

the wooden clothes
peg

nestled with its
siblings

along our washing
line.

A Ginsberg-style 17-syllable non-haiku American Sentence…

Sign reads: 24 HOURS A DAY, 7 DAYS A WEEK. And then: CLOSED.

What was lovely about these poems is how kids could engage with them, too – a session I’ll run again in future.

**

I’m also looking forward to starting work as this year’s writer-facilitator, on the Beyond Words project with the Literature Festival soon, too – and will aim to write some updates about our writing excursions and incursions, into inspiring locations…

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NaPoWriMo 7: The Pies of Awareness

The Pies of Awareness may or may not come from Gregg’s (who feature, by the way, as a Classical Allusion in another poem of mine by a pigeon)

Quickfire blog entries!

The prompt for NaPoWriMo Day 7 was to write a poem consisting solely of a series of declarative statements, with one question at the end.

So, based on some conversations I’ve had recently, here it is – the explanation is kind of involved, so I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

(By the way, days 8 and 9 – the eight-line verse form and the noir-inspired poem – will both be coming tomorrow! But  recently wrote a piece – Little Shadows – which uses a noir-inspired image to explore how bees see…So that can keep you going for now!)

You can listen to me reading The Pies of Awareness on SoundCloud, too, which may (or may not) add something to it:

 

The Pies of Awareness

or, I Don’t Know Anything

 

This is my shop and these are my pies.

Each has a price and some have a filling.

Don’t ask me what’s in them; I’ll tell you no lies.

Some cost a fortune and some cost a shilling.

 

This is my shop and these are my pies.

Many are deadly, but they all look the same:

Be advised that most are just space in disguise.

Enjoy it: the guessing is part of the game.

 

This is my shop and this is your pie.

I’ve taken the time to bake death in the crust.

You can’t have a receipt. You can’t leave in disgust.

For 20p I’ll heat it up, if you’re sure you’d like to try?

Postmodern Spiritual Pie-Chart

Last week, I attended the BioVision World Life Sciences Forum, in Lyon (France (obviously)), as a journalist – or something a little bit like one.

Alongside carrying out interviews – which I now sadly have the lengthy task of transcribing – with some very interesting and pleasant people, I also met various other excellent people in a more ‘casual’ or (I shudder at the word) ‘networking’ capacity. At the Monday evening ‘Networking Soiree’ (I placed more emphasis on the latter part), I ended up cavorting with a selection of young scientists on the event’s ‘young researcher’ scheme and talking some people in the business (not that I am, necessarily) of science communication. One such person, with whom I have remained in most convivial email contact, I had conversations about feminism Vs gender equality, Vermin (as in my Vermin poetry) and postmodern religiosity. (I later had a lengthy conversation with a very interesting (and distractingly-handsome) German science reporter on whether we could, or should, ever ‘cure’ gayness. I think we’re alright, personally – aren’t there enough of us already, without ‘curing’ anyone into making more of us to ‘cure’? Back to ‘Vermin’ ideas there…)

Through the former conversation, I was reminded of the Postmodern Spiritual Pie-Chart. Up to this point, this has merely been a metaphysical graph (yes, you can have one) – but she suggested that it should become real. Perhaps more things that are spoken of should become so. In that spirit, here is my Postmodern Spiritual Pie-Chart…It’s as a download, as no Excel-to-blog solution was immediately obvious and I must now go out! (All transcription and no fresh air, make Caleb somethingsomething).

Spiritual Pie Chart

Science seems to find the visualising of data a most useful exercise, so why not this? I’ve no doubt, if you’re reading this, you have your own Spiritual Pie-chart waiting to take form. Perhaps it is just one big slice of something, 360 degrees of one system, or one big slice of ‘nothing’ – but either way, it’s worth thinking about, eh?