National Poetry Competition 2nd Prize!

or, Putting on Your Proper Poet Hat

kunst

It’s with huge delight I can now celebrate that I was awarded second prize in The Poetry Society’s National Poetry Competition (NPC) 2016, with my poem The Desktop Metaphor.

Last Wednesday, we went to a prize-giving at the Savile Club in Mayfair – which was also the announcement for the Ted Hughes prize, which was originated and officiated by the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy – and won this year by the brilliant Holly McNish, for Nobody Told Me.

It’s wonderful to see my poems ‘out there’ this month, with another soon to be in March’s Rialto. (And, of course, there’s the small matter of the £2000 prize money for the NPC – which is definitely the biggest cash prize I’ve ever won – eek!).

I’ve known about the prize since the beginning of February – and enter competitions quite regularly – so have been sitting on this information for quite a while, but for a select few confidants. It’s been interesting to notice my Inner Imposter piping up at times: What do you mean, you’ve won second prize in the National? Are you sure? Did they make a mistake?

The poem I entered was something of an experiment – one I felt like there was ‘something to’ which was slightly mysterious to me as well. So I thought: why not? Chuck it in, see what happens. The pamphlet I entered to The Rialto was full of experiments, too: this was one of the aspects which was favourably commented on in the feedback.

It’s immensely gratifying for another experiment to have won a main prize in such a pretigious competition. It’s made me realise that it’s one of the aspects of my writing which is strongest: to experiment, innovate, play around and take risks with poetry. Not all experiments will work – but some will, so it’s worth persisting with them, and enjoying the process. (Indeed the Ted Hughes prize is all about innovation – so why not keep trying?)

So I’m telling my Inner Imposter to sod off, and celebrating. Because for every one thing you win, there are many you don’t – and it’s easy to get stuck in an Imposter habit, as some kind of ‘hard hat’ for resilience, in this tough process of submitting work to journals & competitions.

Time to put the Inner Imposter in its bunker and  put on my Proper Poet hat. (No, it’s not a real hat – but you can imagine one if you like.)

It’s NaPoWriMo, after all – so a great time to go forth, and experiment!

The Pact

the-witch-poster-2015

One of the goaty references in my goaty piece…

I put a piece of writing into the View from the Pen event at Windmill Hill City Farm – which (alas) wasn’t selected for performance.

But that’s very much part of the process (and far more go in than ever get selected!) – so I thought I’d post it up here now, as I wrote it during NaPoWriMo but kept it offline until I heard back.

It was written – as I’m sure some really great pieces were – with the goats in mind…There are so many cultural associations for these animals – which I adore – and I’d been to see The Witch a couple of months before (see above), which might have fed into this…

The Pact

[As goats do, the actor is stood with two arms/’front legs’ up on the log, chewing, as goats do…He seems wise, if slightly menacing…]

To say I’m an omnivore – well, that’s underselling the breadth of my pallet. I’ll try anything once – or, most likely, more. I’ve nibbled on jackets and maps and nappies. I’ve chewed on chocolate and charm bracelets and Cheese Strings.

But really – and this why we’re here – I’m your go-to goat for anything you truly need eating. The preferred supplier for the disappearing of difficulties. If you want something gone, something incriminating – then I’m your man (if you will).

Look: often I just chance upon things I fancy trying – a baby’s blanket, an interesting earring – but all I’m saying is…If you were to turn up here with some suspicious paperwork, and the shredder just didn’t seem enough…Well if you were to scratch my back, just at that good spot, then – well, I’ll scratch yours. Figuratively speaking. Poof! No proof. Page vanished. Document not found.

I’m sure you’re used to one of those boring Powerpoint slideshows, but let’s face it: no-one needs another serving of those, and they just don’t work with hooves. So I’m avoiding the papertrail, telling what I’m selling: cheques mashed, letters ghosted, final notices frappéd.

You’ll have to imagine my logo up there [gestures with horns to wall of pen/shed]. I’m not a designer, but it might involve a goaty smile, maybe some horns, some A4-oblong irises – all in a…comforting font. You can imagine a brand-name if you like. I quite like Caprice. Or maybe Docu-goat. But let’s not write it down; we’ll just keep it between us.

You’ll find nobody as thorough, or as discrete. Through these slats, I meet councillors and coaches, journos and jobsworths, lawyers and losers, ministers and madams.

The most they’ll find after is the odd second-hand scrap in the paddock, perhaps a fragment of letterhead – on the most stubborn official documents. Paper is so telling. I really can taste the difference. It’s as many and varied as the words that muddy its flavour. Muddy the truth.

The ones I really savour are from law firms, good ones, and the kinds of accountants who don’t send many letters, stamped exotically, from somewhere [whispered] offshore. The richness of weave really is noticeable. Chewably so.

Often, my clients come with a family – that’s the cover – and while the others are keeping the mother and pushchairs bothered, masticating objects they want to keep, he’ll just push through the envelope and I’ll get to work before anyone notices a thing. Ping!

And I’m not saying it’s only men – far be it for me to be Nanny-ist or Billygoat-bigoted: just as many of your females avail themselves of my fourfold-digestion-and-deletion services. No redaction required. Not once that particular letter, that persistent piece of evidence, that pesky cheque you haven’t cashed yet – not once they’re filed under my paunch.

Amazing, really, in this Digital Age, how much can rest on a single page. So come on then: what brings you here? Pop it through the gate. No-one’s looking. We’ve all got something we’d rather wasn’t in writing…

NaPoWriMo 4.30 – Ate Night Moat

This is my day 30 (final one for the year) effort for National Poetry Writing Month.

It’s a homophonic translation (according to sound, not meaning – I don’t know Norwegian!) of this Norwegian poem by Jan Erik Vold.

And as a final flourish, I decided to have a go at an experimental ‘quick and dirty’ video poem (having recently bought a new laptop and some editing sofware).

The purposes of the exercise was mainly having a go at one of my own, using bits and pieces I happened to have filmed on my mobile phone, and to continue getting to grips with my editing sofware.(Also, I really enjoy homophonic translations for their nonsense quality!)

So it’s far from polished, nor does it really have a ‘concept’! But that’s NaPoWriMo sometimes…Hopefully there are some interesting juxtapositions – and it’s made me want to experiment more with poetry, video and sound together.

NaPoWriMo been a really enjoyable endeavour this year and I’ve written various things I’m certainly going to develop – so I’ll see you all in 2017 🙂

Here’s the original poem, followed by the text version of my homophonic translation, followed by the actual translation (which is not, as you might imagine, very similar):

ET NYTT MØTE
Et nytt møte – og all den
smerte

dét
innebærer. Likevel

gleder vi oss, likevel
trekker vi

i alle salighetens
spaker håndtak og hendler, jackpot

på jackpot!
mens myntene raser

ut, de er flere og kommer fortere
enn vi kan samle

dem opp – la gå
med det, la gå med det.

Å veksle
disse sjetongene inn, det er der

det virkelige
arbeidet ligger.

**My homophonic translation**

Ate Night Moat

Ate night moat, ogled
and smarter

debt
imbiber. Like evil

gladder vile, like evil
Trekkie vile

Eye all her Sally eaters
speaker handbag or handler, jackpot

pi jackpot!
Men’s minty razor

out, deer flair hog Frontera
envy can smelly

them up – lager
Med debt, lager Med debt.

A Vesper
disses shit on jeans in, debtor dear

debt twerker liger*
albeit liger.

* a liger actually is “the offspring of a male lion and a female tiger.”

**Real translation**
A New Meeting
A new meeting – and all
the pain

bound
to follow. Even so

we’re happy about it, pulling at
all the

handles, levers and sticks
of joy, jackpot

upon jackpot!
while the coins gush out

so fast
and so many that we cannot

collect them – never mind about
that, never mind.

Cashing in
these chips, that’s where

the real work
begins.

NaPoWriMo 2.29: The Bristol Queen

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The Bristol Queen…

I’ve been travelling to Weston-super-Mare the last couple of weeks to run a course – and have noticed a boat on blocks, in a car park near the train station…

It’s this one – The Bristol Queen…And there was something about it being there among all those cars that was so incongruous, I thought it deserved a sonnet.

So that’s what I’m writing today, though it’s one I’m going to keep back for potential polishing…

Just as The Queen herself seems to need quite a lot of polishing (having been taken out for refurbishment over two years ago!)

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 2.27: Tele

panasonictv120319_257_17n2i1g-17n2i1p

Very long lines was today’s prompt from NaPoWriMo – I’m not sure mine are quite long enough, but I don’t have much time today – and have written something…Here it is!

Tele

That ridiculous tele, the size of it, spreading at the edges
of the Panasonic black.; it got so big it wasn’t cinema
it was more than a window, a wall even. It spread out so far
it encompassed the whole of the town, even though
you couldn’t usually see it all from that house. It got so big
that it could see itself from space showing Ultra HD footage
of the Great Wall of China and the plastic islands of the Atlantic
and Pacific. When it showed nature doco’s the tele was so big
it made the Blue Whale seem like a minnow, the Sun
like an energy-saving lightbulb. But that tele was still
too small. It never showed enough. So we wait, wait, wait
for the upgrade.

NaPoWriMo 4.26: Views From the Pen

There was something I really wanted to write for a submission this week – so I duly have (and am treating it as my daily poem – though maybe I’ll write another later)…

It’s for the Show of Strength event ‘View from the Pen’ at Windmill Hill City Farm (just across the road from us here at BV Studios)…Where they’ll be choosing pieces of writing for actors to perform, in the animal’s pens – as the animals.

I’m not going to say which animal mine is, in case it gets selected, but if it doesn’t – then I’ll post it up here at a later date.

But fingers/claws/hooves/paws crossed it might end up coming to life in the City Farm, which would be tremendous fun.

 

NaPoWriMo 4.25: La Belle Dame…

dicksee1

La Belle Dame Sans Merci
by Frank Dicksee

And so I’m up to date, with two ekphrastic poems

This second one inspired by the above painting, itself inspired by this Keats poem of the same name, which means, ‘The Beautiful Lady Without Mercy’.

My poem is entitled The Beautiful Lady With or, Horrid Warning – and allows the lady without mercy her right to reply. She doesn’t mess about.

(I’m afraid I keeping this one too as it’s bawdy and fun, so should be sent out to appropriately-bawdy competitions/journals.)

NaPoWriMo 4.24: The Wild Beast Show

(c) Portland Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

The Wild Beast Show (1932) by Edward Seago

Having just been up to the Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery, I’ve written a couple of ekphrastic poems for today and yesterday…

For #24, I wrote something based on The Wild Beast Show by Edward Seago – which you can see (most of) above.

It’s caught my eye before and I wonder if it’s something to do with the bright composition, with all those yellows and greens, yet with the mass of caged tigers, climbing on top of one another, across the centre of the frame.

There’s a sense of their movement, their anger, and just how caged they are – while all these people stand and stare at them impassively. (Here’s the thing: this still goes on. Horrendous.)

Anyway – for some reason I was drawn to the idea of someone approaching the cage – which is what I wrote about. It’s quite dark – and something I’ll keep back, tweak and  think about appropriate submissions for…

NaPoWriMo 4.23: My Hitman

A quick and very-first-draft one today (which may remain so) – written in response to a prompt in Helena Nelson’s book How (not) To Get Your Poetry Published.

I won’t share what the (clever) prompt is, because you’ll have to buy the book too 😉

My Hitman

We meet somewhere outside, somewhere not-an-office and drink
fancy coffees. She (for they are unlikely to be ‘male’) will ask
difficult questions, smilingly – a disagreeable helper –
challenging my choices, to move the work on.

We will talk not only about the words, but also the style,
the paper, the print, it will be a complete
aesthetic consideration. There will be laughter, some
of it lewd, but the focus will always return.

She will be older than me, perhaps five to ten years,
able to say difficult things in a way I trust.
I will seek her advice, largely accept it,
until I find confidence in my own.