findingtimetowrite

Thinking, writing, thinking about writing…

Archive for the month “November, 2012”

Erasure Poetry Experiment

Over at dVerse Poets Pub the poetic form for experimenting with today is erasure poetry. Here is what Anna Montgomery has to say about it:

Erasure poetry is a form of found poetry created by erasing words from an existing text in prose or verse and framing the result on the page as a poem. The results can be allowed to stand in situ or they can be arranged into lines and/or stanzas.

So here is my attempt at it, based on a poem I recently wrote about my name and how it looks on paper. Just about half of the words have been erased and I am amazed by how much tighter my poem now feels.  Maybe that’s the way to go!

I hated my name as a child.

I craved glamour – Esmeralda was my weapon of choice.

Not this    unruly.

A name dully     mushroomed to earth.

Sinuous paths circled     upholstered the cushions

the public face    gentled

yet snake-sliver too     less savoury worlds.

Is there a letter missing?

No

no jagged lines to cut flab

just something     scattered

fields far from home.

The Cynic

Something wicked this way comes

and no pricking to forebode it:

half-life of worry to presage,

beating of the foreign drums.

 

It’s all counting, it’s all trade,

beauty envied but not looked at.

Stuff back, shot-like, into boxes,

all the pretty dreams we made.

 

Hurting now, distance shattered,

we’re too close to feed our vision.

We lunge, retreat, fall out, regroup,

as if anything mattered…

Finding Myself

Who enters the day with tongue too curious?

What enters the mind in bewilderment’s sway?

Head-first the plunge

into waters unplumbed:

do I know myself? No more!

No more

I say.

Thin peel by thin

I unwrap the onion

of my soul too shivery

of a layer too deep.

I choose to believe

I will it to be

the rawness

making me cry.

And what would you say,

what would you whisper,

what would you shout

if you could?

If you woke each day in love

without fear

in a cocoon some call home.

 

Not sure I am doing this properly, but I am trying to link this to the OpenLinkNight at virtual pub dVersePoets, a rather amazing website and initiative which enables me to read poems by some of the most interesting voices that the online world has to offer.

 

What I Never Was

I never was my mother          except

when I distort the truth and tell

strange tales that no one else can fit

in nor recognise nor believe.

I never will be my mother

but when I feel that vice is gripping              whispering

‘bereft of friends’

I wonder: is that an echo of her whingeing?

No reflection of my mother              except

grey-peppered hair, turgid jaw,

or does my voice harshen when I offer

praises lethally counterpointed with ‘but’?

We are strangers on drifting shores

each other’s greatest disappointment.

Yet darkness floods us both alike.

If we could mention it

there might be hope.

When I Won the Booker Prize

OK, I admit: ever so slightly misleading title, but I couldn’t resist the pun!  No, it’s not the Booker Prize I am talking about, but a blogging award that the criminally wonderful Pat Wood kindly bequeathed to me. Please visit Pat’s funny blog – you will find something there to love, of that I’m sure!

So this Booker is for those who refuse to live in the real world. Says it all, really.  But alas, these past few months I’ve had to live for far too long in the real world.

The guidelines are simple, if reductionist: I have to pick my five favourite books of all time and then say what I am currently reading.  I always struggle with picking ‘favourites’ – it’s like having to say which of my children I love most.  But here’s an attempt:

1) The Great Gatsby (and I wax on about it at length here)

2) Jane Austen’s Persuasion – it even managed to convert Savidge Reads

3) Shakespeare: ‘The Tempest’ – does that count?  Well, if it doesn’t, I would publish it in a separate volume with ‘Twelfth Night’, ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and ‘Macbeth’, entitling it ‘Must Read Shakespeare’.  But ‘The Tempest’ is my favourite.

4) Mishima Yukio: The Temple of the Golden Pavilion – what not to do when beauty and perfection eludes you

5) I.L. Caragiale: Plays and Sketches – virtually unknown outside Romania, he is one of the funniest and freshest voices of the 19th century

What am I reading now?  Well, just in case you thought the above choices were a bit too ambitious, you will be relieved to hear that the book I am going to share my bedtime with is… another installment from Lemony Snicket‘s brilliant Series of Unfortunate Events.  I first discovered the series a few years ago when I was selecting a present for a young niece.  The niece has moved on to other literature since, but I still treat myself to these tongue-in-cheek adventure stories.  I am hoping that my children will share my affection for them too (although so far their response to Famous Five and Secret Seven has been somewhat disappointing, to say the least).

But enough nattering!  Who are my nominees for this worthy (and clearly wordy) award?

The all-singing, all-writing wonder Nicky Wells from Romance that Rocks Your World!

Sensitive writer and translator Michelle Bailat Jones

Translator, poet, philosopher of the everyday, the wonderful Quirina at The Mind’s Sky

Natalia Sylvester, for being so sweetly herself !

And, just in case you think I am neglecting men, I also invite Sisyphus47 to join in

The truth is, of course, I am just really nosey, curious to see what they choose as their favourite books!

 

 

Two Versions of a Poem

And, in the spirit of full disclosure, let me share another poetic experiment with you.  This was a poem I wrote as an answer to the question I posed in the previous post: Who lingers when all done is said?  Version 1 is my first attempt: wordier, spelling out meaning.  Version 2 is trying to take all of the superfluous padding out.  Is there enough left there to convey the meaning?  I’m not sure.  Probably a mix of the two will be my final version.

Cobwebs on bushes

Photo: Nigel Clifford, Rowl Images.

Version 1

The afterchime

The aftermath

The silence when the noise subsides.

They come to haunt,

Some: happy ghosts,

Some long-faced, gaunt.

They parade, unfold, start pacing.

But some stick fast

Like cobwebs on bushes

After the rain.

Version 2

The afterchime…

They come to haunt,

Some ghosts.

Stick fast

Like cobwebs on the bushes

After the rain.

Poetry Workshop: Ideas and Results

Aracelis Girmay

This past weekend I had the rare pleasure and luxury of thinking of nothing else but words, writing and poetry.  I attended a poetry workshop organised by the indefatigable Geneva Writers’ Group and our guest instructor was the vibrant, beautiful poet Aracelis Girmay.  She invited us to play and experiment, to explore bewilderment and mysteries, to climb down the ladder of writing head-first.

It was the first full-length poetry workshop that I ever attended and, boy, did I need it!  Poetry is an old love that I have only recently come back to, after many years of neglect.  I am still struggling to shed the adolescent overcoat that lies over it (yes, it is that long ago since I wrote poetry).  I have been writing a lot of it this year, but is it all therapeutical outpourings of infuriating sentimentality? I needed to push myself. I needed to learn to play, watch words appear and disappear. So here is an interesting experiment we conducted.  Based on Bhanu Kapil‘s thought-provoking questions from her book ‘The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers’, we were asked to create our own questions about a subject that preoccupied us.  I picked ‘Identity and Belonging’, and here are my questions (it’s not really a poem, more like a prompt to spark thinking):

Where do you come from?

Who helped make you what you are?

If not here, where?

How will you know when you get there?

What are you trying to prove?

When will you know and tell?

If not now, when?

What else are you?

What has not been mentioned before?

Why do you need to make the fragments whole?

Who lingers when all is said and done?

But then – and this is where it gets interesting – we had to reshape our questions, leave gaps and rearrange syntax.  We were Isis finding all of the fragments of Osiris and trying to put them back together.  And I was startled to find a much more powerful way of thinking hiding under my initial, conventional questions.  Here is the outcome:

Where do you come from? Who helped make you?

What? You are? What else you are?

When you get there, will you know?

Will you know what you are trying?

When will you know and prove?

If not here, where from? If not now, how will you know?

Who lingers when all is said and done,

Who lingers when all done is said?

What do you think?  Which version do you prefer?  Is this an experiment that might be useful to your own writing?  Can we change our way of thinking by changing the structure of our sentences?  What does the lack of information, that frightening gap, tell us about ourselves?

The Death of Poetry

I’m poet-ed out.

 

My words, once so deft

at finding me,

now stand chastened

like moon-faced schoolboys

caught truant once again.

They’ve let me down,

skived off when most needed.

They’ve left in a scramble of deafening noise.

 

I tripple, weary, through mock-landscapes of meaning,

I gush and jargon with the best,

as, achingly, I long for sparseness,

hard-won meander, richness to digress.

Ideal conduct of desire,

harbinger of eloquence,

I snatch at shadows

flitting just outside my vision.

 

There is no rhyme

there is just reason

in my life and on my page.

 

 

Does Your Message Get Across?

No, don’t worry, I am not going to go all day-job on you and subject you to one of my training courses.  But, while I was doing a lot of training and no writing last week, one thing struck me quite forcibly.

How many times I explained an exercise or a concept with what seemed to me limpid clarity… only to have the participants ask questions which made it equally clear that my message had been misunderstood.  At least in a training room, you usually get immediate feedback and can rephrase, reformulate, explain.  Even mime your message, if all else fails.

What can you do in writing, however?  It got me thinking about all the times I had written a story or a poem, and it became obvious from people’s reactions to it that I had not managed to convey what was in my head and heart. Luckily, when you post a poem online, you get a few valuable comments from readers, which show you what has been understood, how things are perceived, what bits are most impactful.  The Like button is sweet stroking for the ego, but not quite as helpful in this regard (and yes, I admit, I use it myself when I am pressed for time, but want to show that I have read the poem or story).

Perhaps that doesn’t matter in a poem, which is the original onion amongst the writing genres anyway.

Most of the time, however, in traditional publishing, you do not get an immediate reaction.  You hear from an agent or an editor or a critic – from the professionals, very seldom from the readers who are neither friends nor family. Does this have an impact on your writing?  Should it have an impact? Should you test out your ‘new material’ in a writing group, for instance?  Or should you just ignore what people say and go ahead and write regardless?

I am not quite sure I have cracked the answer to this one for myself.  I would love to hear your thoughts on it.  What I do know is that famous George Bernard Shaw quote: ‘The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.’

And, in case you are wondering what my message is in all of this, it’s that I love, love, love your comments and that I welcome your criticism, because it helps me to improve my writing.

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