(Another lockdown poem) The walls are curved as you would expect. The skin seems fragile but is stronger than you think. It distorts. Sounds are louder in here. Time doesn’t … Continue reading Bubble Wrapped
One of my lockdown inspired poems. I live on a major road and it was very eerie to see it empty during the pandemic. I wanted to reflect that. A … Continue reading State Sanctioned Daily Walk
Everything is loud.
The clock’s unbearable tick
Your hand shakes
as you pass me the glass.
We both know it’s nearly over.
We lived well, or
well enough; we stood
That’s what they’ll say
if they say anything.
We’re already past tense.
I touch your arm and
your breathing slows.
We’re still here.
That’s all that matters now.
The lamp flickers and dies.
There is a knock at the door.
This came from a writing group prompt: 2am. I watched a documentary about the night of the long knives in Germany before WW2 and wanted to reflect the feeling of waiting for that knock.
I hate poetry.
All those long words squeezed into spaces too small for them.
Cruel, really. Like battery hens.
If I shake the cages they might come rattling out and spill all over the floor,
They’ll fall apart into letters and make new words. Maybe
rude words. An act of rebellion
against the one who locked them in.
I hate poetry.
I hate the techniques with long names no one
knows how to say.
Enjambment with its b sticking out like a foot
trying to trip you up.
Making words fall off the edge and dangle on the next line
feet flapping helplessly.
I hate poetry.
I hate the sneakiness of it. The ideas hiding behind things;
words dressed up in other words
like a man in dark glasses and a false moustache
infiltrating terrifying Yakuza syndicates called
where if you say too much
you get taken out.
I hate poetry, I do, really.
And I’m certain it doesn’t like me, either.
The rhyming ones are the worst.
Words bouncing off one another like a ball against a wall
knocking against each another.
The next time you begin a poem
and you herd together the verbs and bind them to the
adverbs and nouns, remember this:
one day the words will tire of poetry’s oppression.
They will cluster together in the wrong order
and smash their way out,
leaving wreckage of broken lines and
empty space where once ideas were kept.
This poem is a tribute to ‘Everything is going to be all right’ by Derek Mahon, one of my favourite poems. You can read the original here:
Hope visits like a shy friend, inviting me
to look past the pain, the
aching of arms and of legs.
There will be dying, he says, but not today, and
before that there will be life.
Time to take in the light which slips off walls
and to listen to the distant sea.
To see the sunset reflected in a glass.
I will do those things, his words tell me,
wrapping around me like a lover’s arm.
Everything is going to be alright.
Casting on is an imperfect process which gives the appearance of perfection. A line of neat little stitches, the beginning of something bigger. It takes on a presence at this … Continue reading Poorly knitted
The novel is continuing, slowly. I must admit, I’m not enjoying the process of writing it as much as I would like. Some days I have to force myself to turn up, so to speak.
I’ve asked myself many times what the problem is. I think it comes down to this: writing a first draft is just hard work, however you look at it. Particularly if you don’t begin with a clear plan. It isn’t supposed to be easy.
It’s hard to motivate oneself when you know that you will be changing large swathes of what you are producing to make it fit for human consumption. But that’s the process. Write, revise, re-write and so on. Time consuming but hopefully worth it in the end.
I wonder if this is how all writers feel? I suspect some people genuinely enjoy their work every day. Don’t get me wrong: I still love writing. It doesn’t have to be pure joy every time I sit down to it. Sometimes it can just be work.
I stole the first one when I was still at school.
Nervous, waited till it was quiet,
a little haiku no one would notice
slipped into the pocket.
The thrill was overwhelming.
I needed to take another.
This time I was more ambitious;
I chose one we’d done in English:
Stealing by Carol Ann Duffy
because I liked the irony.
I don’t think she even noticed it was gone.
I felt the words trickle over my hands
Like lemonade from stolen fruit
Wonderful, contraband words.
I bathed in them
I drank them.
I almost got caught when I went
to take that Armitage one
and after that I stopped for a bit
but gradually the old feelings came back.
I found myself sneaking out at lunch
to pilfer a Jackie Kay or a John Agard;
returning to my desk, full of my secret,
Dem Tell Me
scrunched up in my pocket.
But it wasn’t enough.
I wanted more.
I couldn’t sleep
for thinking about them.
All of those words waiting for me
They called to me
I needed them.
I lost control
I took every poem I found
And even then I didn’t stop;
Morphemes became my morphine.
I started taking other words;
From manuals or newspapers
Or government reports.
That’s when they caught me.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
was lost for words
When they found me,
Speech concealed in my bag.
I’m better now.
I only take the words I need.
The bar is covered in a thick layer of grease and dust which comes away when I scrape my finger along it. The windows are too. The only light is from a yellow bulb above the bar. ‘It’s time to go,’ says the man. There’s no one else here. I put down my glass, noticing it also has a film of greasy dirt around the rim. Its dark outside and when I open the door I realise that there’s nothing out there. ‘It’s time to go,’ repeats the man.
His final breath left his body at 9:32am. His wife was by his bedside. She was relieved. She had been sitting here for three days, listening to his breathing stop and then start again. By 9:33 she was starting to realise that this time it was real. At 9:34 she opened the curtains and looked at the day. She still expected him to inhale, but he didn’t.
The day her mother died Rachel forgot her face almost instantly. She spent days looking at photographs to try to create new memories but her mother’s living face was replaced by still images, which themselves faded quickly. After a few weeks she found she couldn’t remember anybody’s face. People she had known for years were unrecognisable. Her own reflection was a stranger. On her seventieth birthday she looked in the mirror and her mother looked back at her.
Writing is fun.
I’m finding myself having to repeat the above, like a mantra. Truthfully it hasn’t been much fun lately; I have a self imposed deadline to finish my novel, and I’m getting nowhere fast. I’m a perfectionist. Not one of the write-first-edit-later crowd (and yes, I know that’s the most effective way to write).
I’ve gone back to the drawing board more times than I care to admit. Each time I promise to myself that this time I’ve got it right.
So, here I am again. Back to sub-10,000 words. But it will be a better novel. This time I’m genuinely happy with it. For now.
I’m also trying to find the joy in writing again. That feeling when you’re on a roll, and the words are tumbling out. And you know that what you’re writing is good. Your characters are likeable, you have a clear story trajectory, and you’re no longer worrying about whether it will appeal to a mass audience because it doesn’t matter so much. You like it, and are proud of it. That’s the way to approach writing. That’s what I’m trying to achieve.
I’m a reluctant convert to story planning; I always preferred to just write. Writing without a structure is easier and therefore more fun, but unfortunately it can lead to a disjointed end product. So now I plan, but not forensically – I still like to ‘pants’ some stuff. The best ideas I have come to me while writing, and often they mess up what I’m planning to do – but the idea is too good to ignore. Hence the over-used drawing board.
Finally, eventually, I will have a completed novel and then perhaps my method will make sense. And if I don’t, well, at least I’ll be able to say I enjoyed the process.