Odds and Sods Behind the Lounge

The last week of the school term is fast approaching, extending to two weeks out of the classroom. In theory, this is free time. In reality, it’s marking, preparation for lessons, planning and sharpening pencils.

What it means for my writing is hopefully a little more time to work on a couple of projects. I have in mind the completion of new drafts for 2 short stories, tidying up a couple of poems, and the completion of the first draft of my verse novel.

It is very ambitious and I’ll be disappointed if I can’t get some of these projects up to speed. Must stay focused and on task. No distractions.

Speaking of distractions, on a whim the other night I opened my iPad, found a picture of my daughter (Miss #2) and attempted to draw it on a tiny Post It Note (the pencil gives you an idea of the scale).

This was the result.

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But, what ever you do for one child, you must reciprocate for the other. My attempt at drawing Miss #1 was not as good (it’s the eyes; they’re not right).

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Side by side for comparison; Miss #2 on the left, Miss #1 on the right.

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Unperturbed, I took my pencil and pen to band practice and sketched one of the guitarists during set up and sound check. The proportion is wrong, but it’s not bad.

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Side note: faces are SUCKY to draw. I can never get eyes and noses and lips in the right places.

Learning Experiences (nothing spoils fun like finding out it builds character – Bart Simpson): I am not very good at art but I don’t care.
It’s practice; the development of a skill.
It’s another way of being creative, unlocking the unconscious parts of the brain while it’s distracted learning a new skill like drawing.
I embrace the suckiness and enjoy the process.
And I’m not ashamed to post my early attempts here.

Creativity is about fun and play, and messing about with boats. Hang on, that was Rat. Never mind, move on. Nothing to see here.

Don’t forget to play with your food from time to time and learn Roman numerals. I’m off to draw.

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Hopes and Fears – A Poem and Deconstruction

As I am wont to do, I write poetry on twitter to explore, experiment and elucidate. 

This is today’s poem

Hopes and Fears

we are scared of our dreams;
not that our worst fears
will come to life
but the fulfilment of our hopes
will be the end of who we are

But I also have a good group of writing friends who are happy to pile on critique and feedback. Rob C suggested this: “This is great: simple-yet-complex, hugely poignant, heavily true. If you’ll allow a suggestion – ‘afraid’ instead of ‘scared’, for the softer sound, the more thoughtful intonation to match the philosophical backbone of the poem, and to match the ‘f’ sounds that run throughout.”

My response was this: It’s a little more philosophical than I am used to writing; there is no concrete imagery to ground the idea (my writing modus operandi), relying more on the intellectual to make it function.

Rob felt he may have overstepped the mark. He hadn’t. I said to him, “Nope; I like the feedback. Helps to see new things. It was written on the spur of the moment, as is most of my twitter poetry so refinement is not a part of the process. Some editing is involved but without depth. Comments help refine and edit, with the hope of putting it into an anthology in the near future.”

Writing is never a solitary act; it’s collaborative. I may write in isolation but my writing tribe helps me refine and improve my work. 

So a simple suggestion, the replacement of a single word, has made the poem stronger. 

we are afraid of our dreams;
not that our worst fears
will come to life
but the fulfilment of our hopes
will be the end of who we are

Finally, there is the reader who is involved in the construction of meaning. That’s you. What meaning do you make?

Things To Throw Away – A Poem And Its Deconstruction

This started as a poem on twitter and I thought I wanted to expand on the idea a little as a practice exercise.

Things to Throw Away:
the shaggy toothbrush
the unworn shirt
the leftovers
the poetry I wrote as a child
the fear I cannot do this

When I came to expand it, I saw the completeness of it; adding to it would be padding out the original idea, hastily written as it was.

Instead, let me explain why I chose the images and the final line. As an English teacher, this is what I get my students to do: deconstruct a text to see how the components fit together. Therefore it behoves me to do it to my own work, to understand what I am doing and why; to make conscious the unconscious.

I chose the images as concrete ones, specific items the reader would recognise, an item they could visualise in their own house. Each item contains the principle that they have been held on to for too long, or has outlived its usefulness.

I am known to hang on to toothbrushes for longer than is recommended, and it’s not a big effort to get a new one, but there’s a comfort in what is known. I could replace the shaggy toothbrush image with that of holey underpants for more of a giggle.

The image of the unworn shirt suggests an item that we hold on to because it was a gift, or it was something we want to fit into, but it’s another delusion of ourselves.

Leftovers in my fridge are either consumed immediately or linger like a lost soul, discovered when there is a culture of organisms breeding. Why do we do it? Neglect? Forgetfulness? Apathy? 

Bad emo poetry; we all have to start somewhere as writers. I still have notebooks I wrote in as a teenager and I recognise the child that I was. Nostalgia holds very tightly onto objects of significance and is afraid to relinquish them.

The final line was always designed to be a twist, a shift from the concrete to the metaphysical and emotional. For me, a poem about emotions needs to be grounded in physical objects, a concrete image. It can also be done with clever similes or metaphors but I prefer physical descriptions (perhaps a weakness to strengthen – to think more poetically).

It’s about letting go, releasing yourself and being free of objects, memories or emotions that restrict your development. Would it help you to know it’s autobiographical?

There you have it. A poem and its deconstruction. If you disagree, have at it in the comments.

Thanks for reading.

Creative Boundaries

A comment made on one of my recent posts made me consider how I consider the idea of boundaries.

The theme of boundaries has been pushing my creative buttons… I have been thinking about all kinds of boundaries and barriers from the physical to the psychological and emotional. Are they a challenge to be met and breached, or a restriction to prevent us from moving on?

How do people define boundaries? The common thinking is, I believe, that boundaries are restrictive and a construction to keep people held in certain behaviours or status. In the words of Talking Heads, “Don’t fence me in.” Hence the need to express freedom, to rebel, to become an individual. Which makes me think of Monty Python.

“You’re all individuals,” says Brian.

“Yes, we’re all individuals,” parrots the crowd.

“I’m not,” says one intelligent individual.

Or in the epitome of 1950s rebellious expression, “Rebel Without A Cause.”

“What are you rebelling against?”

“What have you got?” says James Dean.

In regards to boundaries I’ve never thought of them as an either/or proposition. For me they are both a restriction and as a challenge to be met.

Boundaries act as a restriction, a defining marker point. Think of the fence that delineates your property from the neighbour’s. Therefore boundaries in this sense serve as a means of knowing the limitations and confinements of who we are. They provide a definition, a discipline, providing a sense of safety and comfort.

Boundaries also act as a challenge to be met. Once we understand why the boundaries are put in place, and how we operate within them, can we transgress or expand them. We can push the limits, positively and negatively, to expand on our own sense of self.

The creative person needs both sets of boundaries.

Boundaries are the ways we learn, learning and knowing the rules, history and traditions of our chosen creative field. Only then can the boundaries be transgressed, challenged and extended. 

The boundaries imposed upon us (physical, psychological, emotional, mental, spiritual) and the boundaries we impose upon ourselves are the topic for another post.

Boundaries define who we are, what characteristics we want to keep as permanent territorial markers in our lives and ones we want to challenge and extend.

In the words or Inigo Montoya, “Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.”

1. Boundaries give us defined parameters when we first learn a creative art.

2. Those boundaries are a means of helping us learn and define our craft, to begin to excel at it, to find our voice.

3. When we are comfortable we can begin to push and extend the boundaries, comfortable in our sense of self and our art.

What are your thoughts? Are boundaries a help or a hindrance to your developing creativity?

A Little Prompting #17

Welcome to another week of A Little Prompting.

I didn’t quite manage to reach the deadline of the comp I wanted to sub to. Not a problem as there will be another opportunity later in the year. It will give me a chance to work over my idea thoroughly and address the issues my beta reader gave me to mull over.

THEME Games
RANDOM LINE PROMPT The discreet theft of the letter “Q” was the precipitation for divorce.
PHOTOGRAPH  Monopoly-Vintage
SONG/MUSIC VIDEO Peter Gabriel – Games Without Frontiers

SENSORY SUGGESTION The stale stench of cigarettes and body odour in the pinball parlour.
QUOTE “Time is a game played beautifully by children.” – Heraclitus

Have a creative weekend. 

Absence – A Poem

It’s been a week of rediscovering micropoetry, using the boundaries and confines of 140 characters on Twitter.

This poem was inspired by a comment from Australian author, James Bradley, on depression. His comment also inspired an idea for a short story I have written down and filed away for further development. Right now it’s on the compost heap, fed with scraps of thought until I see what sprouts.

Absence

Absence grows like a shadow
lengthening with the sun
and turns light to darkness
to fill the space
retreating at its turn
never disappearing

On reflection on the type of poetry I write, focused on the little things of the everyday, I resist the urge to use simile. Metaphor, or sustained metaphor, feels less jarring than the input of a simile. However for this one the imagery required the simile to set up the remainder of the poem and the final line. 

Looking at it now, I could replace the first line with a metaphor, “Absence is a shadow,” and I feel it works better, making the link to the imagery cleaner and less like a teacher demonstration. 

The other issue is the use of “its” (line 5) as it is unclear what is the subject of the preposition. I know “its” refers to the sun but that may be unclear to the reader and you want the imagery and lines to stand for itself, not require the reader to unpack the grammar to find out what is truly meant.

So, an edited version.

Absence is a shadow
lengthening with the sun
turns light to darkness
to fill the space
retreating at the turn
never disappearing

Slogans for Poetry – A Poem

This excerpt was the inspiration for another twitter poem. 

Tomorrowland, directed by Brad Bird, was a box office disappointment and has been poorly received by critics. It has a 49% on Rotten Tomatoes. A. O. Scott of the New York Times wrote that the film, “searching for incitements to dream, finds slogans and mistakes them for poetry.”
The full article is here on Buzzfeed.

our poetic voice
of heart’s passion
mind’s emotion
is reduced to
soundbite
slogan
sycophancy
slowing the heart
until the pulse
peters
out

To be honest, I’m not happy with the result because A. O. Scott says it so much better. There’s such poetry in his statement that my attempt to remix his words into something new seems feeble.

It’s a sentiment I like and one I will return to after it has composted in my head for a while longer.

What do you think of it? In the words of Count Rugen, “Remember, this is for posterity, so please, be honest.”