All entries for November 2007

November 20, 2007

A curse and a blessing

Right, so - here are the curse and the blessing for last week's assignment. Unchanged following the feed-back. The basic mission (for anyone interested) was to curse someone, and then translate the poem so produced by the antonymic method, that is to say by replacing each word with its opposite (or the nearest equivalent). We were then allowed to jigger the antonym around, and hopefully construct a decent enough blessing.

The curse was not well received. I can see why - the curse was supposed to be a "hammer of language", and this is very effette. I had another idea I didn't go with - the Curse of an A-Bomb (basically, what if an A-bomb effected its powers by magic?) but I got tied down talking about the bomb itself, so I went for this.

The blessing however got a good reception. I do enjoy the imagery it through up - the strange accumulations of language that the antonymic method produced really did create some beautiful images. I'm concerned that the poem doesn't have a coherent narrative or a consistent voice, though. Still, it's certainly something worth returning to.


The heartbreaker's curse

For you who have broken hearts,
or unthinkingly put yourself before others
in your every moment,
I curse you.
I curse you as you curse others –
With your choices, with your affections, and with your life.
Three times I curse you.

       

When you must choose,
you will be crushed with indecision
stifled either side of a choice:
although both paths are clear,
you will be choked by the big bad "if".

Your life will be lived in no place.
- your heart pulls this way
- your heart pulls that way
- your heart splits open and blood floats out
- it floats as if there is no gravity and it floats away from you
- you cannot clutch this fine spray of blood

It will take your love with it.
It will take your tenderness.
It will take your caring, and you will never have them back.
Without them, you are a husk.

You will never cry again;
your pains will be shallow and cheap.
- you watch at your window as the last people leave
- now you live alone
- your house is large and the corners are dark
- it is cold and grey
- it is very cold in here
- no-one is with you

No-body will warm you in the night,
and you will never feel a human touch.
You will be beautiful and unwanted,
and you will live like this until you kill yourself.


A lover’s blessing – direct antonymic translation

To me, when you’ve fixed bodies
and thoughtfully taken us away from ourselves
outside none of our eternities,
you bless me.
You bless me and I bless us –
Against our obligations, against our enemies, or against our death.
Three times you bless me.

If I cannot live freely,
I have been floated without choice,
promoted within by no indecision:
because neither forest cannot be dark,
I have been breathed into with a good little “despite”.

Our death has been died outside every place.
-        our bodies push that end
-        our bodies push this end
-        our bodies seal closed or veins shrivel in
-        this sinks unlike lacking weightlessness, or it sinks towards us
-        we can release it coarse cloak unmade of veins

This won’t leave our hate without this
This won’t leave our coarseness
This won’t leave our aloofness, or we won’t ever give this away.
With this, we aren’t the kernel.

We won’t ever roar before
Our pleasures have been deep or expensive
-        we’re blind from our walls before a first animal comes
-        then we died together
-        our ruin isn’t small or the vertices aren’t light
-        this isn’t hot and bright
-        this isn’t a little hot out there
-        every-one isn’t without us

Every soul has cooled us outside the day
Or we have always seen the animal sights.
We weren’t ugly or needed,
Or we died unlike it since we lived each other.


A lover’s blessing

To me, when you’ve mended my body,
taken me away from myself, with care,
though never damaging my own little world –
you’ve been a blessing.
You bless me, and I bless you as recompense.
Against my obligations, against my enemies, and against my death,
three times you’ve blessed me, so
I’ll repay the favour.

If we don’t seem to live free,
we’re moving without choice.
Pushed that way not by indecision but
because no path through life is light and carefree.
When bad futures loom,
We’ll take what good air there is –
and I’ll breathe bad air, so you can have the good.
But you shouldn’t fear the dark ways:

Our death has been died for us already,
outside any place we could walk:
-        our bodies strive at this end of life
-        our minds strive at the other
-        our bodies seal up, our veins shrivel in
-        the world closes down and sinks
but we are released; the cloak of veins cannot catch us.
We’ll be free, because we should be free.
I’ll come with you to make sure.

This spell won’t treat our hate;
this spell won’t treat our coarseness
this spell won’t treat our aloofness, won’t ever send them away.
But this spell will keep us from the core:
we weren’t the kernel of the bad things;
and now they can barely touch us.

I never roared before,
though our pleasure was deep and costly
-        I lived blind, behind walls, before we died together.
-        Our wreck wasn’t small:
-        it wasn’t hot and bright
-        but the universe was in it
I am sorry. I will take the universe out of the wreck,
and put it into us.

Every soul washed us, when we were outside time and life-
Or were these animal sights always with us?
No, they came then. I remember, then,
we weren’t ugly or needed. We had each other,
and I left that.
But since we died, you’ve lived just for me,
when we should live for each other.
Forgive me, and let me bless you.


November 14, 2007

Writing process (my goodness!)

I am mid-way through a writing "commission" for the MTW review, and I have suddenly noticed that I am working with a strange sense of "process" - on some bizarre level, I have become aware that I have approahced the project in a certain manner, that I am continuing in a certain other manner, and that by the end of it I will know exactly how I would do it if I ever had to do it again, and I would be able to do it better. Now, since ICW is at least half about "Process", it seems only fair that I should share that with you.

But allow me to rewind the tape a little. I jumped in at the start of this little ramble talking about "a writing commisssion for the MTW review". Some of you might now be hammering "WTF?" into your keyboard in surprise and derision. Allow me to explain. This year, the Music Theatre Warwick review show is being headed up by a pair of (clearly insane) visionaries; Genevieve Raghu and Natasha haven't-learnt-her-surname-yet-whoops. Their mission? To take what is traditionally a paper-thin excuse to produce a collection of unrelated songs from different musicals, and increase the thicknes of the paper. That's my job - I've got to get it up to cardboard strength.

I'm aware I sound quite off-hand there, but don't think I have anything other than absolute faith in the project. It's a good idea - a review is traditionally just a series of unrelated songs, and Jenny and Tash made the decision very early that by theming the songs around a location (in this case, a cabaret night-club), they could produce a show with considerably more substance - and established sense of place, world, identity and so on.

It happened that, one night in the art's centre, I bumped into Jenny. She attempted to court me into auditioning but, aware that I have the singing voice of a folk musician (somewhere between a broken violin and a bobcat), I declined. But I volunteered my services as a scrivener; I could create joining segments of dialogue that would tie the songs together. And just like that, I slipped into the gravity well of the show and was caught.

What does it consist of? At present, I'm doing just what I volunteered for, writing up the dialogue that stitches the scenes together. That's the easiest part so far (ignoring the deadline, of course - tomorow). But actually working out the interactions that need to happen between characters, and even the order of the songs, has been insanely difficult.

The songs contain pre-existing character relations and interactions. So, certain things have to happen. But, the songs must also be spaced out to maintain energy - five ballads in a row is not allowed, the big chorus numbers can only go start / middle / end of an act. Then there must be justifications for why certain people are in a certain relation to someone else, ie why he is singing a song to her about being not the right man for him. This little doozy is predicated by the actors chosen to sing the various songs, as their vocal limits and personas affect what it is they can sing...

Here's an attempt at a schema, showing all the different restrictions I found on potential character interactions;

  1. The singers voices. These affect who is singing which songs. The decisions have already been made by the directors. This sn't too much of a problem in most cases - singers are allowed to double up on characters. But, suppose a female lead is set up for a tearful goodbye at the end of one song, and then immediately has a minor (but named part) as someone utterly different in the next? Tricky.
  2. The type of song. This constricts which songs can go one after the other, and consequently which of the blocks of unchangeable narative can happen one after the other. So what if the ballad a) (he loves me) feeds brilliantly into ballad b) (I can't admit to loving her) and then into ballad c) (we must wave a tearful goodbye) - it doesn't matter if its the same singers, and the plot makes sene - thats three ballads in a row, and thats a no-no.
  3. The content of the songs. Lets call this weird phenomena "unchangeable block narrative". Imagine cutting out sections from twenty love novels - say, half a chapter from each. You can change character names (luckily, you can even have different characters), but they have to stay in the same setting. One set of characters is scuba diving and the other lot are ski-ing? Tough tomatoes, they're in the same setting.

Now, song order and the possible stories affect one another recursively - that is, ideas about possible stories affect song order, constrictions on song order affect possible stories, etc. And without knowing the songs, it is almost impossible to plan possible narative arcs. Before the song list was set, I had some "good ideas" (hah!) - but being presented with the songs was like coming to the table fresh.

So, there you go. That's what I've been up to and what I've been thinking about it. Turns out I didn't write anything about process at all, but rather about the constrictions placed upon me by writing for a certain sort of commission. Still, it was interesting to write it out and see what was actually going on inside my head. If you're very good, I'll tell you what it's like writing for a devised-horror-comedy-political commentary-physical theatre-puppet show-play.

Til next time!


November 04, 2007

Hours

And here's the same story again, second draft. The working title is "Hours"


Kristen pulled the hair out of her face, spat into a kidney-dish, and spat again. Hollow green light sickened her features and pulled her face out, already thin and sad from long, fruitless hours in the little laboratory. She went to the sink and pulled the tap on the boiler. Scalding water screeched out, and she whisked her hands through it. The pain brought her fingers back to life.

With a sigh she collapsed into the little chair at her desk and added another mark to the results notebook– “Negative”. The scrawl joined eight pages of brothers and sisters.

Long laboratory hours made you clammy. Her shirt, under the lab-coat, was stuck to her joints with sweat. Her underwear was rucked up uncomfortably and she smelt raw, thick and vile. There used to be something lively about the smell of piss and sweat – it was the cologne of a day, spent, worn out, ready for washing off and putting on again in the morning. Now she just felt dirty.

The screen-saver on her laptop was a spinning 3D image of the test molecule. It was the one with promise – of all its chemical siblings, this one seemed the most likely to come through the experiment alive and kicking. But every time it died very quietly at the third stage of interaction. It just didn't work.

She cleared her eyes with a handkerchief, a precaution against conjunctivitis, and looked unsteadily at the clock. 4 o’clock. Morning or afternoon?

She sank down very slowly onto her coat-sleeves and fell asleep.


* * *


Kristen woke up in bed. The sun was low in the sky, washing through the tree-line, and she couldn’t tell if it was going up or coming down. The shower was running in the en suite. She rolled over very slowly, feeling the softness of the sheets and the dirt in her hair and skin.

Mark came out of the shower, shining as he dripped water. When he saw that she was awake he gave her a tight smile and sat down on the bed, drying himself. She stumbled out and slipped into the shower cubicle.

The water was deliciously hot and heavy against her skin. She felt her own body up and down, stretching out all the muscles. Some of them were tight and bunched – others were weak. The muscles behind her eyes were sore, holding her gaze dead ahead. There was a little phantom pain in the old scar on her abdomen.

When she came back to the bedroom, Mark was stretched over the bed, still naked, reading a beaten paperback. She collapsed down onto the bed with him, rolling over and holding onto his broad chest, kissing him once, twice.

“I thought you’d gone out.” He said, not looking away from the book.

“Sorry.”

“Mmhm.”

“I thought I was on to something.”

“Mmhm. You need to get some distance from it. It's not good for you.”

“Sorry.”

“You don’t have to be sorry.”

She reached up, pulled the book from his hands and kissed him, and he kissed back gratefully. They made love, slowly, enjoying the soft feel of one another’s body, the hard press of the wooden bed-frame, the swallowing warmth of the sheets. Kristen still couldn't tell if the sun was coming up or going down. Afterwards they lay together in hazy warmth.

“Are you going to get some distance from it?” He asked.

“Yes.” She said, softly. “Okay.”

Sooner or later she was going to have to tell him.


November 01, 2007

A short story

Short-stories are what I'm all about. They're why I signed up to the ICW module (not to suggest that I don't enjoy poetry - far from it!) - I love writing short stories and I'm looking to improve. I find I can be vastly more expressive with them than I can with poetry - and I think I'm more adept at leaving things unsaid in short story format. This is a first draft, and untitled.


Kristen pulled the hair out of her face, spat into a kidney-dish, and spat again. Hollow green light sickened her features and pulled her face out, already made thin and sad by long, fruitless hours. She went to the sink and pulled the tap on the boiler. Scalding water screeched out, and she whisked her hands through it, teeth gritted.

The results-chart was already worked through to the eighth page. With a sigh she collapsed into the little chair at her desk and added another mark – “Negative”.

Long lab hours made you clammy. Her shirt, under the lab coat, was stuck to her joints with sweat. Her underwear was rucked up uncomfortably and she smelt raw, thick and vile. There used to be something lively about the smell of piss and sweat – a day spent, worn out, ready for washing off and putting on again tomorrow. Now it made her feel just dirty.

She toggled through the synthesis chart on the computer screen. The molecule should have got some result, but nothing. Inert, inert, inert, another dead chemical. One hundred twenty tests and not one positive.

She cleared her eyes – with a handkerchief, she didn’t need another bout of conjunctivitis just now – and looked unsteadily at the clock. 4 o’clock. Morning or afternoon?

She sank very slowly down onto her sleeves and fell asleep.

*         *         *

Kristen woke up in bed. The sun was low in the sky outside and she couldn’t tell if it was going up or coming down. The shower was running in the en suite. She rolled over very slowly, marvelling in the softness of the sheets and feeling the dirt in her hair and skin.

Mark came out of the shower, shining in the water, towelling himself off. When he saw that she was awake he gave her a tight smile and sat down on the bed. She slipped out and stumbled into the cubicle.

The water was deliciously hot and heavy against her skin. She felt her own body up and down, stretching out all the muscles. Some of them were tight and bunched – others were weak. The muscles behind her eyes were sore, holding her eyes dead ahead. There was a little phantom pain in the old scar on her abdomen.

She walked back into the bedroom. Mark was stretched over the bed, unclothed, reading a copy of some book. She collapsed down onto the bed with him, rolling over and holding onto his broad chest, kissing him once, twice.

“I thought you’d gone out.” He said, not looking away from the book.

“Sorry.”

“Mmmph.”

“I thought I was on to something.”

“You need to get some distance. I hardly see you.”

“Sorry.”

“You don’t have to be sorry.”

She reached up, pulled the book from his hands and kissed him. They made love then, slowly, enjoying the soft feel of each other’s body, the hard press of the wooden bed-frame, the swallowing warmth of the sheets. Afterwards they lay panting.

“Are you going to get some distance?” He asked.

“Yes.” She said, softly. “Okay.”

Sooner or later she was going to have to tell him.


The worst reason ever

A rather bizarre series of events (instigated by the zesty and lemon-fresh Sam Gayton) led me to being given advice on whether or not I should have an abortion. Given that I'm a male (a lad, a gentleman), it's dubious just how useful the advice is going to be, but one never knows . Possibly the best motivation I was given for abortion was this:

"Every human being has the capacity to kill. Do it now and you'll never have to worry about it again."

Genius.


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