Moving Beyond the Clichés

What is Love?                   

smells of linden-trees in bloom and girls in flower

the colour of the sky when you wear tinted sunglasses

taste of sweet-n-sour sauce at two in the morning

feels like repeated blows to your chest, strong-armed into breathless

sounds like the background buzz taking over the ear of the matter

What is Anger?                       

Sets in when love meets the acrid smell of hotel-room encounters

you bring back the scorched branding of cattle irons on my skin

the colour of migraine-inducing flashes of scarlet and indigo

sounds like hostile parrots trapped in a cage that’s far too small

feels like dim flickers of lightning about to flash from every pore

tastes of gravel mixed with ashes

What is Defeat?

semolina-pudding grey of school lunches

tastes like sand grains in your picnic

smells like clothes you’ve rolled into bed with for a day, a night, a day, a night

feels like pushing kettle-bells through mud

even the lampposts have been trained to catcall and taunt you

I’ll be away this evening, so am linking a bit early to Open Link Night at dVerse Poets Pub, where we are celebrating Diwali and you can enjoy many other poets’ offerings.

Angery by Kristin Elmquist, from fineartamerica.com
Angery by Kristin Elmquist, from fineartamerica.com

Mixed Metaphors, Clichés and Proverbs

Warning

 

A leopard cannot change while the sun shines

/it is clear/

all that glitters in its spots will cross the bridge

before the swine//

so desist from putting your cart ahead to skin a cat!

 

There’s more than one way to lose one’s best friend,

/believe me/

don’t cast your pearls far from the tree.

Heed my advice//               good things come to those

who hang him.

Make your hay and spare my rod.

One man’s meat is not gold and an apple

never falls

to catch the worm.

If one man’s dog is another man’s poison, why does the early bird not bite

the hand

that waits?

/and is not heard/

 

This is in partial (and inadequate) response to a prompt by Bjorn over at dVerse Poets. He invites us to mix our metaphors, but I’ve chosen some proverbs and sayings, which produced some unusual insights when jiggled and matched anew. The formatting isn’t quite right – it just doesn’t work on the screen/online as it does on my notebook. Here’s to the superior power of the printed page!

 

All About that Bass: ‘Feminist’ Songs and Crime Fiction?

Over the past few weeks, there’s been no avoiding the infectious, 50s inspired (musically speaking) song ‘I’m All About that Bass’, sung by the talented singer/songwriter Meghan Trainor. She has made chart history in the UK by being the first act to make the Top 40 based on her internet streaming presence alone. [Just as an aside: this twenty year old has been writing music since she was 11 and has released two albums already, plus worked as a songwriter and producer for others.] I love the witty anti-Barbie doll video and ‘any body is OK’ rhetoric, but it has given rise to some controversy, with some saying that the singer is either ‘thinny bashing’ or that she does not go far enough in her feminism. Anyway, here is the song itself, make up your own mind (but be warned, it is quite addictive, so you may find yourself singing it all day).

The song did get me wondering about whether there is such a thing as ‘feminist crime fiction’. This is a trend which perhaps dates back to Modesty Blaise and the first VI Warshawski novel, and was then continued with characters such as Kinsey Millhone, Lisbeth Salander and Zoe Sharp’s Charlie Fox. Most of these heroines are what is known in American circles as ‘kick-ass’, i.e. they usually pack a revolver and have advanced knowledge of at least one or two martial arts.

But what about those who are more ‘everywoman’ than ‘superwoman’? I’m thinking of women who excel at their jobs (policewomen, forensic pathologists, psychologists, whatever they are) but are also ordinary and vulnerable, one of us, in short: Kay Scarpetta, Ruth Galloway, Jane Rizzoli, Lacey Flint, Geraldine Steel, Kate Daniels. I’m sure you can think of many more from TV series. Has it almost become a cliché to feature the ‘strong female detective’ (or investigator with some links to the police) with a commitment problem and demons from the past constantly haunting her?

Two recently read books highlighted this similarity – and it goes beyond the English-speaking world. Kati Hiekkapelto’s The Hummingbird introduces Anna Fekete, member of the Hungarian minority in former Yugoslavia, whose family came as refugees to Finland when she was a child. She is embarking on her first non-uniform criminal investigation position in the north of Finland and has to contend not just with a violent and seemingly unsolvable case of serial killings, but also sexism, racism and tense relationships with members of her family. Meanwhile, back in London, Kate Rhodes introduces Alice Quentin, psychologist who sometimes works with the Metropolitan police, who has escaped an unhappy and abusive childhood and now seems to have a knack for stumbling upon murder victims. Both women receive threatening messages, both find release in running and both seem somewhat oblivious to personal danger.

I am always excited to encounter a new female investigator, and can even cope with the clichés of lonely single life, damaged childhoods and obsession with the job or case in hand. After all, some of us non-investigators are cat owners who come home to empty fridges on occasion. But it would be a shame if this became the ‘shorthand’ for strong women and, implicitly, of feminist crime fiction. Because these women are not strong – they are still vulnerable, even though they are resilient and have overcome their past (to a certain extent). Strength is also about being content, being happy, having nothing ‘missing’, but ‘all the right junk in all the right places’ and celebrating that! Which is why I am currently in love with Cathy Ace’s middle-aged gourmand no-nonsense Welsh heroine Cait Morgan.

Absurdist Poetry for a Summer Day

How to cheer yourself up on a day when you are listless, fluey and bed-ridden? Especially when it is lovely and sunny outside and you can’t take advantage of it? Why, with a cat picture and some absurdist poetry, of course…

What My Cat Thinks

P1020292

Birds of a feather flock on the lawn for my benefit.

The early bird catches my eye but it takes two to tango.

I personally always look before I leap,

But I don’t look them in the mouth.

Given the choice, I prefer chicken before the eggs, even if they’re all in one basket.

Count the chicks? Not likely – any number will do.