Workshop for Humans


“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 4.15: The Turnspit


It’s very late and I have to work tomorrow, so this is a piece of Uncreative Writing, by turning this article content into a not-yet-very-good pantoum…

(The thing I liked the most about this rather hasty process was learning the word ‘lumpenproletariat’…)

The Turnspit

The downtrodden, lumpenproletariat, turnspit:
Small, low bodied, short crooked front legs
Darwin said, Look at that. That’s an example
Because they were useful as foot warmers.

Small, low bodied, short crooked front legs
They move faster if you throw in a coal
Because they were useful as foot warmers
They were allowed to come to church.

They move faster if you throw in a coal
Not too close to the fire or they faint
They were allowed to come to church
Kitchen Dog, Cooking Dog, Vernepator Cur.

The transition from small boys to dogs
Darwin said, Look at that. That’s an example
Cheap, mechanical spit turning machines
The downtrodden, lumpenproletariat, turnspit.

NaPoWriMo 4.4: Dogship


A delightful ‘Dogship’ from this website – I don’t know what they do (because I can’t read it), but presumably it relates to dog care, and that’s a Good Thing.

I’m largely eschewing prompts this year and thinking back to things I wanted to write, but didn’t get around to…

Today, a rather brazen take on Masefield’s very rhythmic, rhymy, formal and ever-popular ‘Sea Fever’ – this is a poem based on a trip a few months ago. As it deals with a sea-related experience, I thought I’d try out this famous seafaring form.

(A note on ‘dogship’: clearly as in the image and website above, it can appear to be about ocean-going vessels, but it really means “the condition or qualities of a dog”. Both of which are useful in this poem…)


Because he is not human, he is kept with the cars below decks,
A mechanical snake on the Channel, riding each crash, each apex.
Just twice we’re allowed to visit the alarm-filled bowel of this whale -
The stern open to the horizon: the bristling grey skin of a seal.

Because he is not human, he is alone with the grumbling sea
While our limbs seek purchase in the gift shop, for plastic solidity.
And we smile at how we flounder, how the corridors are slinking;
We chortle in pale-eyed disbelief, with the portholes blinking.

Because they are not human, the dogs stay down in the hull
With the white sky, the viridian sea and the dark decree of the gulls
And they don’t even know to ask if they are on the passenger list,
They can’t even count the hours, as the chains and the nations drift. 



NaPoWriMo 2.5: Talking Dogs


Borders need Boundaries…?

Off-prompt today as I’m doing day 5 and 6 today (was out and about yesterday) and this had started forming in my head already.

Something light, silly and sound-oriented, which occurred to me after a chat on the train yesterday – and the general number of talks you end up having when with a dog. I hope you enjoy it…


Talking Dogs


And on the train

she says,

That labradoodle

she got the blues

if she didn’t have shoes

while she snoozed.


And on the towpath

I say,

These Borders

they need boundaries

to be happy. To taste, to see

the limits of two countries:

the line between

Dog and Me.


And in the pub

he says,

Our mongrel –

his history’s unknown

but what kind of a home,

what breed of person,

could think to leave him

on his own?


And she says,

That labradoodle

she’d choose the shoes –

but she wouldn’t chew.

She knew whose

shoes were whose.

She’d place them,

neatly, at the foot

of your trews.


And none of us knew

 – that shoe-choosing labradoodle,

my Border and my boundaries,

his mongrel, left alone –

none of us knew

or needed

human names.

NaPoWriMo 1: Borrowed First Line

This was the most tasteful dead dog I could find. Or maybe it’s asleep – let’s just say it’s asleep.

Catching up 33% complete: here’s my first NaPoWriMo effort. High-speed poetry!

The prompt was to write a poem using the first line of another poem.

I used the Poetry Foundation app to find a random poem – which turned out to be ‘Time of Need’ by Allison Seay – which you can read here.

The first line is ‘In the road, a dog. Days dead…’ (As a dog lover, this was a sad one to get).

I only read the rest once I’d written my own (vastly inferior) effort – read the original after, it’s a wonderful short poem. Seay’s has much more redemption than mine!

And so on to April 2nd’s prompt…


Mail Order


In the road, a dog. Days dead,

halo’d in flies, its lolling head

still points towards a door

across the street: number 13.


In that house, a man. Weeks lost,

tangled in light, his right hand

still clutches the dusty remote,

a finger hovering toward the screen.


On that screen, a face. Months mute,

gasping for air, its orange jaw

still selling in goldfish memory-loop

this fabulous product, that mail-order dream.