Pirates

Image

Last Saturday, I went on a workshop with the Canal Laureate, Jo Bell, about whom you can read more here.

We spent some time talking about detail – using specific canal-furniture names (boats, bridges, places) in writing – and then moved on to ‘becoming’ various combinations of watery figures. Myself and another writer became a poet and a jogger – both of whom were horrible people. But hey – they’re often more fun to write as (maybe).

Another boat-related idea had been flitting around in my head, which I’ve just had another go at. Having not been sure how to approach the topic, I epiphed (all over the place) on the way home. 

It was some speed-writing (thanks Natalie Goldberg, for the encouragement – from a book nearly as old as me – ‘Writing Down the Bones’) generated an image – so I went with it…

 

Pirates

 

My friend, like so many,

fears them intensely,

so when she asks me,

a glimmer of hope:

“Are you safe from them

on boats?” I’m obliged to say

No.

 

For never before have I existed

so closely alongside them. Shipmates.

Brushing my teeth in the morning, in the

lower-right corner of the window,

in one swings with a toothless grin –

its rope dewed with the white

frothy grog that is splashed

from my chin.

 

Attracted by the dusky glint

of our black-gold chimneys,

they hoist ragged sails there which –

gaping in the trading winds –

display the body-parts of victims.

 

At night, they are not as sociable as

popular images would have us think.

Don’t gather together to eat or drink

their pillaged bounty; engage in a customary

YARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR. Instead,

they loiter under gunwhales,

bristle between the welds of steel,

biding their dark-clad time. (Though

on the vacant ship next-moor

they’ve moved in – squatting – on a riot

of their crystalline rigging.)

 

So my friend says, “Oh Gina G!

I had thought you might be safe at sea.”

But no, for ours is the realm of the

Pirate: their map and their maws;

their plots and their prey;

their own many-cutlassed laws.

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NaPoWriMo 29: Excerpts from a Report on the New Poem Aquarium

An empty aquarium – shall we fill it with poems? Shall we?

So yes, it being the end of NaPoWriMo, I’m going quite deranged and using increasing amounts (and oddities) of Found or – in this instance what I’m calling ‘Poached Poetry’. (Poached in the sense of hunted and stolen, or I guess it could be poached in the egg-sense.)

This has reached new and ridiculous heights (or depths) today: I have just watched a news report about a new Chinese visitor attraction and written bits of it out as a poem, giving the attraction a new title.

To retain the (very tiny amount of) enigma, I will only post the link to the original news report at a later time…

What do you think the report was actually about?

Don’t throw a wobbly trying to figure it out.

 

A Poached Poem

or, Excerpts from a Report on the New Poem Aquarium

 

…Psychedelic, otherworldly, primordial:

visitors can now get up-close and personal

with the creatures, albeit from a safe

distance. Even the more dangerous species

are a sight to behold…

 

…Some have quite long tentacles and,

as a result, they look quite graceful

when swimming…

 

…More than 3000 are on show,

dozens of species

in eleven tanks

some weigh more than

twenty tonnes…

 

…The museum says it is not easy

to keep the deep-sea dwellers

in captivity. They’re poor swimmers –

a special circulatory system

is required, just to keep them

afloat….

NaPoWriMo 11: Double-Duvet Mecca

A pair of washers at a washeteria

Day 11’s prompt was to write a Tanka (five-line stanzas with 5-7-5-7-7 syllables) – so I’ve used the form to bring an autobiographical poem into being.

I had this idea a little while ago: as my partner and I live on a narrowboat, we don’t have a full-size washing machine and either use a little twin-tub (which can be labour-intensive) – or visit a laundrette. On our travels up here to Leeds from Bristol via the inland waterways (see Inland Odyssey posts!), we used various laundrettes  (including my favourite, the ‘Washeteria’ (a delightfully old-school term), which was still pleasingly 1950s/1960s in its layout and appliances, but worked perfectly).

Laundrettes, or Washeterias, can be a really pleasant experience I think – the urban equivalent of gathering at the water’s edge to wash clothes in the river: there’s something connective about it – human, cleansing.

So this poem is about the laundrette (the place and the person) we use in Leeds – and about connecting across difference, in this ‘urban riverside’.

 

Double-Duvet Mecca

or, Paired Socks

 

We fold its cover

together: a courtly dance.

I go to give thanks,

but behind his warm machines

the laundrette prays to Mecca.

 

A service wash bought:

I call you ‘the other one’,

dodging a term. But

he smiles, his warmth bestowing

a Universe of paired socks.

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.