NaPoWriMo 28: Painting Friends’ Palettes

A lovely iridescent bubble

Yesterday’s NaPoWriMo prompt was to write about a colour. So – as it’s nearing the end of the month and I (as I’m sure many others participating in NaPoWriMo!) am lacking a bit of original chutzpah, I ‘outsourced’ some of the legwork…

This morning, I asked (via Facebook) what my friends’ favourite colour was and why. Then this evening, once some fine folk had commented, I used the colours and imagery they provided to write a poem: to ‘paint’ each stanza using their colour and some of the images they offered, so it reads a bit like a paint-chart of pictures.

Thanks to those who commented and I hope you like what I’ve painted with your colours 🙂

 

Painting Friends’ Palettes

or, Imagine These Colours

 

Since shiny is your favourite distraction, imagine:

a peacock waltzes with a mackerel

whirling in a beetle-shell ship

within a bubble made of

iridescent micro-chips.

 

Then, a silvery-grey wish:

a graphite bike-chain of granite

powers a sleek silverfish

made of satin, its eyes

burnished baubles

of copper.

 

See the bright spring green

of the grass of the garden

at work. Passionate petrichor*

of plant’s breath. What eyes are for.

The opposite of death. The endless

easy elegant obviousness

of each leaf.

 

In a home by the

duck-egg Dorset sea,

the colours of raw plaster

ripple intently across rooms;

their walls flowing gently

into the shapes and shades

of the waves.

 

And turquoise bright writes

cheerful

in summer seas and skies,

where a deep purple kite flies

in your spirit, tethers you

with a line of light

from the eyes.

 

 

*’petrichor’ is an old/disused word for “The pleasant smell that accompanies the first rain after a dry spell.” I like to think of it as the plants breathing a sigh of relief…

NaPoWriMo 22: Generic Blessings

Temple Newsam House, with its blessing around the roof-line

Temple Newsam House, with its blessing around the roof-line

Catching up with some NaPoWriMo prompts: determined to have at least 30 by the end of the month – TOMORROW!

So here’s one from earlier in the month – there might be more of it to come, but thought I’d put it up as work in progress.

This one’s based on the blessing which runs around the top of Temple Newsam House, just outside Leeds. The idea was to create some ‘Genre Blessings’ (hence the title) for the Hyde Park Picture House event on Sunday – as an alternative blessing – but I couldn’t come up with more than two!

So the poem is the original blessing from the top of the house, with two other genres represented: horror and period drama. Perhaps I’ll add a sci-fi and western at some point…Perhaps…

 

ALL GLORY

or, Generic Blessings

 

ALL GLORY BE GIVEN

TO GOD, THE FATHER, HIS SON

AND THE HOLY GHOST ON HIGH.

PEACE ON EARTH, GOOD WILL TOWARDS MEN.

HONOUR TRUE ALLEGIENCE TO OUR GRACIOUS KING.

LOVING AFFECTION AMONGST HIS SUBJECTS.

HEALTH AND PLENTY WITHIN THIS HOUSE.

 

ALL GORY BE RIVEN

BY GHOULS, THE FANGED, ROSEMARY’S BABY

AND THE GHOSTS IN THE CORNER OF YOUR EYE.

FEAR ON EARTH AND GOOD KILLS AMONG MEN.

HONOUR GRIM ALLEGIENCE TO STEPHEN KING.

ROVING STARVATION AMONGST ZOMBIES.

STEALTHY DEPRAVITY IN EACH DESERTED SHACK.

 

ALL CORSETS BE FASTENED

BY GIRLS, STRICT FATHERS, THEIR SONS

AND THE GHOST OF THE ONES THEY SHOULD MARRY.

GENTLE MIRTH AND GOOD SUITS UPON MEN.

HONOUR THE NOVEL BUT ADD SOME THINGS IN.

STIFLED AFFECTION: AS LEWD AS IT GETS.

EMBROIDERY AND MOANING, IN EACH STATELY HOME.

NaPoWriMo 17: Google Search Suggestions on the Day of Thatcher’s Funeral

Indeed she is not. At least we all have death in common though, eh?

Off-prompt today, but will be writing a Blessing (after Jo Bell’s prompt) and a Welcome Poem (from NaPoWriMo’s prompt) for a thing I’m doing at Hyde Park Picture House next Sunday. Neither seemed quite right today…

For there was a little funeral, as you may have noticed or heard about (I did not want to bless Thatcher’s life or passing, nor welcome the funeral, really – I’m saving those for something else).

So I asked Google to write me a poem about it – taking the list of phrases it suggested after the beginnings of statements I put in, then giving it a title (well, two – like I always do). A kind of found techno-list poem. And the following is what Google wrote (with little or no editing – go do it yourself and check!)…

It’s no secret I’m not a fan of the late-Iron Lady’s politics, but I really didn’t edit this very much – but did ‘curate’ it – so of course I wouldn’t have gone for things that sounded too celebratory. There is little that is ‘neutral’. But I guess the title and search phrases (a bit e e cummings?) were just an experiment in seeing what kind of liturgy the internet would turn up.

Actually, I was pleased it ended on our commonality in death. As a Buddhist teacher friend of mine says about, well, many things: “She who has the most __________ [insert anything here], still dies.”

 

 

Google Search Suggestions on the Day of Thatcher’s Funeral

or, How Much / She Brought / What Were / Now / Tomorrow

 

How much

How much does a funeral cost

How much is my car worth

How much is child benefit

 

She brought

She brought me food

She brought the house down

She bought it

 

What were

What were the crusades

What were the jim crow laws

What were the nuremberg laws

What were the symptoms of the black death

What were they like

 

Now

Now we

Now we are free

Now we know

Now we comply

 

Tomorrow

Tomorrow we

Tomorrow we sail

Tomorrow we ride

Tomorrow we work

Tomorrow we die

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?

NaPoWriMo 5: Unprompted Art Poetry

 

Paul Jenkins’ ‘Phenomena Secret Cargo’ – but not as we saw it in the gallery…Which is right?

Day 6 of NaPoWriMo – I’m still brewing a cinquain from yesterday (which are HARD!) but here is a non-prompt piece inspired by a visit to the gallery in Cardiff (Wales, where I am today). I’m writing overlooking the Wales Millennium Centre (with its Gwyneth Lewis quote writ large on the front: IN THESE STONES HORIZONS SING) from a lovely cafe called Kemi’s in Cardiff Bay.

So my NaPoWriMo efforts might come a bit out of sequence (I am one behind!) – and that fits rather well with today’s atemporal slightly-experimental back-to-front work. (I’m not sure it does ‘work’ yet – but in the spirit of keeping on keeping on for NaPoWriMo, here it is anyway…)

A brief explanation: a friend and I (hello Rachel if you are reading!) went to this exhibition at the Wales National Museum Gallery and both really enjoyed the picture (above, kind of). But when we Googled it, it was upside down. Or the one in the gallery was. And really, really different because of it – not the same painting at all.

So I wrote an upside-down art poem about the incident. Here it is:

 

After seeing Phenomena Secret Cargo by Paul Jenkins

or, Up Way Which?

 

We part ways

and on my screen,

a satellite-line paints itself,

writes itself, unseen

blue, through the city

to this bay.

 

So we go to the desk

to ask a lady beneath an i

if she knew why

the Internet said

it should go up

the other way?

 

Drinking tea, we talk about writing

and find the picture, Googling on

gravity-sensing devices. But the

thumbnails show it upside-down:

Cargo Secret Phenomena.

 

In the top gallery, we talk about

Yves Klein Blue and layers

of paint in original Rothko. Then

Phenomena Secret Cargo

by Paul Jenkins. It looks like wings,

we say, like butterflies, like feathers.

How the brush sweeps up:

like it could fly.

 

One artist had refracted the stairs

in kaleidoscopic photographs –

(‘to make us question public space’)

curving up the walls.

 

Back through time,

we take pictures of

Mammoths, in panoramic mode

(which I just showed you how to use)

then make our way to the gallery,

strolling through Geology.

 

 

NaPoWriMo 3: A Sea Shanty for Failed Urban Development

Prompt no. 3 of NaPoWriMo was to write a sea shanty. This pleased me greatly as I’m a part of (when I can make it!) the Ocean Loiners – a sea shanty singing group in Leeds (hence the name: Leeds folk are known as ‘Loiners’)…

Here’s a video of us belting out ‘Three Jolly Fishermen’ at the Theatre By the Lake in Bradford in October last year. (I am the lanky one in the blue t-shirt in case you’re wondering!)

I’ve turned my attention to the place where I live as the subject for my shanty – as I live on a floating home (a narrowboat), so shanties feel like (spuriously) part of my sailor heritage. This is a song about how places like the one on which I live don’t always pan out as hoped for! Technically, I suppose this should be an Inland Waterway Shanty…

And, as an experiment, I made up an extremely derivative tune and then SANG it, into my phone via SoundCloud – shanties are meant to be sung! Hopefully you can listen to the whole thing above and not be turned deaf / mad / made to unsubscribe from the blog in disgust…

So you can sing along, if you like:

 

A Sea Shanty for Failed Urban Development

 

In the Early Noughties, ‘pon the booming swell,

It was BUY BUY BUY, it was SELL SELL SELL:

So they built above the water of Clarence Dock

Luxury apartments and fancy shops.

 

(CHORUS)

Oh the Dock, she be in a right old mess,

With her Pizza Express and her Tesco Express

And her – yes – her Holiday-Inn Express:

They’re the only things fast enough to float,

Except for curry houses and narrow boats.

 

And they built a special section with its own jetty

Where the fancy floating restaurants would be:

Now the only thing a-moored around the butts of fags

Are the blue-striped plastic carrier bags.

 

Sometimes in the night you can hear the hullaballoo

Of some merry-making drunks (who are only passing through).

But the only voices bouncing off the moored ships’ hulls

Are the quacking ducks’ and the screeching gulls’.

 

Now in an empty window of an old high-fashion store

There’s a hopeful artist’s image of what could have come before.

And like the ocean’s waves, there’s one thing that you can trust:

Is that after there’s a boom, there will always be a bust.

 

 

NaPoWriMo 2: Lies, All Lies

Eliot – who never had twin daughters…Or did he? (No, he didn’t).

 

Onward with NaPoWriMo catch-up – now at 66.66% catch-up. We’re entering warp-drive composition speed, here: I’ve got to go and perform some work at Wicked Words (a spoken word night in Leeds) tonight, so best be off soon!

Yesterday’s prompt was to write a poem which was all lies, or led up to one big lie.

In a quick web-sweep, I found this story about a woman who claimed to be BOTH of T S Eliot’s twin daughters in order to commit various forms of financial and tax-related fraud. It’s a pretty bombastic fib: Eliot didn’t have any children, as any quick bit of research will tell you. Inevitably, they- sorry, she (there was only one woman, pretending to be twins by using make-up and costume) – got caught.

So here’s a poem by, or on behalf of, that fraudster – almost an ode, I suppose, as it’s a pretty amazing lie to maintain…

And it has a liberal sprinkling of some of the most-obvious Eliot quotes that a speed-re-reading provided. (Don’t get your knickers in a twist, academics: this is not meant to be a critique of Eliot as man or as poet – it’s a bit of fun!)

 

The Hollow Children

or, Eliot’s Twins

 

She had it right, you know, that Plath:

we’re through, too. You have no idea

what having a Daddy poet was like. And yeah,

especially one so lofty, so lauded. So

full of it. Full of everything

but love for us.

 

So we started to get our own back

for all that time he spent in

The Wasteland. You can call it genius

if you like, we called it abuse. HURRY UP DAD

IT’S TIME WE WENT OUTSIDE, we’d say. But

he’d just look the other way.

 

Hollow children, that’s what we were,

invisible at the study door. Daring not

to meet his eyes, not even

in our dreams. But we decided: Not

with a whimper, with a

BLOODY BIG BANG.

 

So we decided, she and I: use the name

we could have – should have – had.

Play him at his own game. Get

some notoriety: get practical

swindling, McAvity bad.

 

(I’ve no idea where all that stuff

about cats came from, though:

he hated our poor old Tabby Gumbie

and made sure he let her know.)

 

But we were hardly Napoleonettes of Crime

and in time, as the costume and stories

got more and more…Hippo –

we knew it was only a matter of time.

 

So here we go, then, she and I –

just I, in fact, she was part of the lie –

pinned and wriggling

in the courtroom’s eye.

 

Because I’m not his twins

and he never had none.

But if he had of had ‘em,

this is what they should have done.

 

 

 

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.

Falcons ‘rapidly evolved hunter skill’

Falcons ‘rapidly evolved hunter skill’ http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/21885659

I love raptors – wrote a poem last year about meeting a falconer (and discussing the falcons’ sometimes-deadly speed) at Warwick Castle, you can read it here.

It turns out that missile skull of theirs, as well as other of their hunting perfection, evolved in a relatively-short period of time, in relative terms. They hurtle through evolution, as well as through the air, it seems…

One day I shall don the gauntlet myself and train a falcon…one day…

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.