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…

 

NaPoWriMo 23: A Triolet for Entropy

The Universe loves things to get more disordered. (So most of us fit right in – We Are Stardust!)

I’m running on a slightly altered NaPoWriMo timetable, or flexi-time, if you will: there’s a Welcome and a Blessing brewing for Sunday, from earlier prompts. But as I’ve slightly stumbled on these – and am going to return to them – I thought I’d try out a triolet from today’s NaPoWriMo prompt.

Looking around for some inspiration, I found this article about entropy and intelligence – which slightly blew my mind. In essence, this is about the idea that the Universe tends towards a more disordered state – and that by applying this idea to some models, they become analogous to what happens when ‘intelligent’ beings are involved. That we, as intelligent (supposedly) beings, are also inherently entropic. Apparently, even the evolution of walking may be relevant in this system. Roll on the bedlam!

I think that’s what it means, anyway. Although I suggest you read it yourself, as the reporter clearly knows what they’re talking about a lot more than this poet.

And to celebrate this un-knowledge of our inherent entropy, I wrote an orderly triolet…

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NaPoWriMo 15: Transaction on a Spring Day – A Pantum

The OWL (Observation Wheel Leeds) at night – which is the ‘great revolving wheel’ in the poem…

 

Today’s prompt: a Malay verse-form “of rhymed quatrains (abab), with 8-12 syllables per line. The first two lines of each quatrain aren’t meant to have a formal, logical link to the second two lines, although the two halves of each quatrain are supposed to have an imaginative or imagistic connection” (to quote the NaPoWriMo site).

I am not sure if it follows the rules fully – but I tried! Might put another one up later/tomorrow too…

AND (in the style of ANTI-BOTNET) I HAVE NOW CAUGHT-UP FROM BEING FOUR DAYS BEHIND!

 

Transaction on a Spring Day

 

I push the DVDs across the till,

Exchanging our feelings about the stories;

Above the skyline, a great revolving wheel

Magnifies the sky-screen’s bright-blue glories.

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?

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.

 

Can You Take a Moment to Rate This Whale? or, The Appening

A Whale App? But not one like the one in my poem-story, I hope.

It appears I’m once again interested in all things animal (as opposed to all things Cosmic) right now – so, from Tyrransauridae last week, to Cetacea this.

Last week, I read a story about the Boston Port Authorities encouraging ships’ captains to use an iPad app which locates the likely positions of whales off the coast and then enables them to chart a slightly different course – thus avoiding the whales. It sounds like a very successful and important initiative -and a great use of the technology. We’ve been making the seas increasingly-noisy for our Baleen cousins which – so research suggests – is making life very hard for them down there. Not only that, but sometimes ships (as per the horrible image on the news story above) even strike whales – causing them injuries and possibly death.

In fact, it’s not my first piece of writing about whales – there’s another piece I wrote, called Whale Fall, which you can read by clicking here on the site for Heads and Tales (a storytelling group with whom I was involved in Bristol). The image of ‘whale fall’ – when a whale dies and sinks to the bottom, creating a ‘feeding frenzy’ as its nutrients and body dissipate amongst the bottom-feeders of the abyss – is at the centre of the story.

But save that for later, until you’ve read today’s poem-story about – well, decide for yourself. Certainly, the idea stemmed from this feeling of intrusion (an Intrusion is the collective noun for cockroaches, by the way – about which there’s a poem-post here). What would it be like if there was something we were drawn to, but which hurt us? (Such things are plentiful, actually). And which kept filling our space until we couldn’t avoid it any more?  I think that was what my subconscious was getting at – how the whales must be with Sonar signals – but I really can’t speak on its behalf, or on whales’ behalf.

And, as someone quoted to me – and I don’t know who said it, or something like it, so this may be a misquote: “Structure the things that come to you”. So that’s what I’ve done. The chance to fuse the ever-more-pervasive app-culture and this news story in s lightly sci-fi way was too tempting . The intersection between nature and technology is of great interest to me: what is ‘natural’, what is ‘technological’, are they always and forever anathema?

The results, I admit, are…odd and perhaps unsettling. But imagine how the whales feel.

 

Can You Spare a Moment to Rate This Whale? or,

The Appening

 

It was not even a noise, to begin with:

hovering somewhere between

sound and sensation. Not quite

synaesthetic – more like a key

which accessed new depths formerly

inhuman, imperceptible.

 

That was at around

10,000+ downloads, but

with each it became

more abyssal.

 

Your lowest vertebra would chime,

softly, sending the feeling through

the tissues joining the spine

to the ribs, oscillating up the neck and

the inner-ear’s instruments –

boiling like a fumarole –

clanged.

 

At around

500,000+ downloads

you could not tell whether the object

you were looking at was itself shaking

or if the optic nerve was being played

as a myelin harp in your head.

 

By that point, on the large screens in cavernous

departure halls, edited-in

between rolling news, the image of a winning

Humpback would flash up, having supplanted

last week’s five-star Narwhal.

 

Then, the merchandise, mimicking

the rounded-off baleen icon: children

wore woolly-hat Rights (attesting

their allegiance to a species) with

a broad hair-toothed grin

on their foreheads, and fleecy-fins,

flopping down, at once

scarf and mittens.

 

But as the number became ever larger,

100,000,000+ downloads,

words began to be missed, then sentences.

Records were broken and now

graphs and arrows struggled

to find space on the screens

between fast-cut images

of flippers, flukes and spouts.

 

On one occasion, a dolphin was slipped in

to the slide-show – a test, perhaps – but

the tabloid headlines and message-boards

turned the air blue

as the Atlantic once was.

 

At some point, the written reviews

stopped – when download figures exceeded

the screen’s capabilities – and there were only

five-star ratings. The app store, mute,

silently swam in icons

of cetaceans.

 

And then the first trip to A&E,

the first fatality. But still the stars,

still the sensation.

Pick One Fleck – Apophis

There he is! Yes, the slightly-less blurry one with the big red arrow pointing to it. That isn’t actually there, of course.

As part of the new year’s Free-range Writer Plan, I’m going to try and write at least one or two poems each week, inspired by things I’ve picked up in the news or online (or perhaps from the Fortean Times, which I was lucky enough to receive a subscription to for Christmas).

Sometimes it’s useful to choose a subject and make yourself write a poem about it – so that’s what I’ve done with Apophis. Yet another threat to the Pale Blue Dot (as Carl Sagan called Earth) is passing us at the moment – the Apophis Asteroid, which will also pass within 22,364 miles of our planet in April 2029, giving it a 2.7% chance of whacking into us. Which would be annoying.

As ever with such astronomical phenomenon, I’m not sure how scared I should be. As scared as we should be of Nibiru/Planet X, the mysterious elliptical-orbit planet that was meant to run us off the solar-highway recently, perhaps? Well, this is real – so a dial up the Fear-o-Meter a little, certainly.

Curiously, I wrote the following poem and then looked up what else is 2.7% – and found that, “The house advantage in single zero roulette is 2.7% and for the double zero game it is 5.26%”. So there we are: my roulette ball image was not so off-the-cuff.

This is largely as it popped out of my brain, with some tweaks as I typed it out. I hope you enjoy it – and May The Odds Be Ever In Earth’s Favour.

 

Pick One Fleck

 

Just one, from the hole-

punched carbon sky and wonder

at its stats, its vital ballistics. Wonder

whether cosmic winds blow it

our way; whether Newton or some other

more modern, more menacing, model

may stack odds against Earth’s favour.

 

 

The roulette ball: Apophis

freewheels the not-so-clockwork model

above my head. No, not

above our heads: around them,

spinning like cartoon concussion,

a character impacted. The Micky Mouse

Milky-Way squeeze-and-stretches

the life-expectancy of this

billions-years-young billiard ball,

awaiting its gong for supper.

 

 

So that will be the next time:

twenty twenty-nine. Visions blurred,

screens thick with dust of fear. When

Hollywood Lears hover near

cinema seats, with light-shows projected

from our eyes and bouncing back into

the dinosaur-mind. When masses

collect on mountaintops, praying

through rehashed prisms of extra-

terrestrial life-guards and super-

natural knowledge of ancient civilisations long-

since ceased and of hyper-

sensory conspiracies of governments who

govern the stars (but who can barely keep their own

noses clean of the tar of smear).

 

When shots are littered each second

at worlds within our own, this speck of glitter in

the eye of space could make it blink

the ground into its own reflection, infinite bits,

out of being. But how lucky we would be

to see it, to be here: when there are more dead

than living than ever before. How lucky to be

the last crater-act,

the final flaming curtain,

the ones who saw

it happen.

 

And in case you have never read it, here’s Carl Sagan’s piece of writing about our Pale Blue Dot – which is a wonderful reminder of both our insignificance and, perhaps, the need for perspective when dealing with other Humans.

Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot – viewable larger at the original site