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October 30, 2007

First attempt at a poem about a big little thing

So, two assignments this week, and this was my first attempt at writing a poem about something small seen so close up as to be huge. Whilst looking at a tree branch in extreme close-up, I was struck by the amazing resemblance to the gorgeous, overwrought fantasy enviroments from things like Labyrinth, Lord of the Rings, El Labirinto del Fauno and similar - so I thought, why not make a fantasy adventure? Sadly, it didn't come through, and I'm now of the opinion that it wasn't the right way to go about the premise.

The structure I was going for here was an attempt to constrain myself, but I don't think its particularly interesting or worthwhile. The basic premise is that the word that ends the first line and the third of each stanza should also end the sixth and the fourth, respectively. That happened just by accident after I'd written the first stanza (which of the three, I'm most happy with), and I tried to apply it to the rest of the poem.

Consider this as being unfinished.

The Little Person

One thousand nights I've climbed this tower
this stretching tower,
that tickles the sky.
One thousand suns I've seen in the sky,
touching the top
of the tower.

This crooked tower that dreams of the sun
is mottled and green
and hard like stone.
Valleys are gouged through her skin of stone -
cut by hard rivers
or burnt by the sun.

Forests sleep in those dark valleys,
watching me climb,
waiting for rain.
When Spring calls in her tides of rain,
we'll drink and we'll play
in the valleys.


So, one of our multitude of assignments this week was to write some Haikus. My God but they're fun. I'd never used the form before but its blissful - the constraints it places upon both subject matter and structure are challenging but not onerous. Here's the full set of rules, as far as I can remember-

3 Lines 

Syllabels - 5, 7, 5

Imagery - Two images, one short and the other enduring. Must be very vivid and visual. They must be linked, but how they are linked is up to the reader to decipher.

Subject matter - Any, but should convey a spiritual revelation onto the reader

Seasonal and nature imagery is popular

I've split up what I've written into traditional Haikus, and short poems with the same syllabic structure but which aren't Haikus

More traditional

Motorway black ice -
The warm family car lulls
   The driver to sleep.

Summer strawberries,
Frost on the bedroom window,
   And the wine gets spilt

The wind catches dead leaves;
A red child's bicycle stands
   By the car, unused.

The television
Blares static and health-food ads:
   Outside flowers grow

The park bench is cold:
Two old men sit down and watch
   Children chase pigeons

A single lily
Wilts on the wood, very white.
   Loamy red earth waits.

A straight edged razor
Rests on a coffee table,
   Yet flowers still grow

The funeral band pass,
Slowly - my son reaches out.
   Spring is almost here

The king walks alone,
Down to the sea. He stands -
   And then he goes home

A curled up body
With a tiny heart - waiting?
   A stone waits also.

Less traditional

Stiletto heels, whips,
And chains - the sun is setting -
   And Sian plays games

Black silk slips away,
Showing fair hair and white skin.
   Warmth grows against flesh

We sit, two old priests,
A Rabbhi, and a rapist,
   Waiting for the joke

My mother lies, dead,
Waiting for something: it's there,
   Written on her face.

My father cries, cries.
I don't cry. I never cry.
   Never, ever cry.

Little, pluck guitar,
Just pluck guitar, little, just
   Pluck guitar, just pluck

October 24, 2007

A ballad

This week's assignment was to produce a poem exploring "Blodigkeit" - the state of the idiot, the wonderful apprehension of the world that is enjoyed by the perfectly ignorant. In addition to this, we had to write in ballad format. That's a bit of a departure for me - I'm not used to writing extended, narrative poetry. I think it shows. But I think there are some enjoyable elements in here, and it was certainly a learning exercise.

Families Through Adoption

On the side of some London buses,
You'll find a government ad -
Asking: could you give a foster home
To children without mum or dad?

There's a man in the ad, and a woman:
Their bodies are colourful stalks.
They're supposed to have been drawn by children
And one day they got up and walked.

They peeled themselves off the picture,
For they wanted to talk to the world:
They waved at the lampposts and streetlamps,
And the stars, who were shining like pearls.

The moon in the sky was half-lidded,
And he smiled like a wide crust of ice.
He told them: who they ought not trust,
Who was friendly, and where was nice

To stroll when the wind was glittering
Or the air smelt gently of red
And where was the gentlest pile of leaves
A body could take for her bed.

He said they should go see the river,
For her skin was impossibly smooth:
But warned that tho' she was beautiful,
She was angry and long in the tooth.

So the child-painted man and woman
Took to idly rambling the streets
With the wind blowing through their purple hair
And their green arms flapping like sheets.

The unknowing pair were followed
By the metropolitan police
Who had a dozen cars tailing them
And another lot clearing the streets.

So, although they spoke to the buildings,
And swapped fashion advice with the trees,
And told Big Ben to wash his face,
The people they never did see.

The river was humming quite cheerfully
When they found her (doing her hair)
And the paper woman was jealous
When her husband started to stare.

For the river wound so sinuously
With a super-inhuman grace
Around the buildings and banks and walls
And with such a smile on her face

That the paper woman was certain
That the river was queen of the town;
And she, being made of paper,
Could never live up to that Crown.

(The paper man was actually
Just watching a small clump of mud
That was singing a wonderful chorus from Brahms
And was washed along by the flood)

So, in a voice like spilt sandwiches
The woman said "I don't approve
Of your interest in this river!"
And that's when the cops made their move.

They had the duo surrounded.
The advance was called with a shout.
As the paper man said to his wife "I’m sorry,
What are you gabbling about?"

The pair of them went down fighting
(Though they never noticed the cops)
Yelling about beef, and Milton, and cheese,
And the paper man's mutton chops

As a corporal shot off the man's arm,
He cried out " Wash up the plates!"
And the woman replied "Do the iroing!"
As a sergeant tore off her face.

In a moment the pair were confetti
Floating up into the air
And the police stood around, embarassed
And made pretend nothing was there.

Out of this sad tale, there's a happy one
For the whole thing was caught on the news
And experts were called in and talked to,
And scientists quizzed for their views.

And the original advert was broadcast
At nine o'clock on TV;
The advert for foster parents,
And millions of people could see.
And a few dozen called up the number
And got the forms to fill in;
And by the end of the week the new parents were ready:
And the real adventure could begin.

October 23, 2007

Word deconstruction

The asssignment this week - take one word, and chop finely into constituent letters. Sprinkle lightly with garlic salt and leave to simmer. Serve with a side garnish of brains. To show you how easy this recipe is, here's one I made earlier -

A prayer                                                                                           

Dear God;

God is doG spelt backwards,
which I find unsatisfactory.
I know it takes a certain
empty-headed sort of person
to see this mild discovery as
a shaking revelation,
Consider -

hidden within "within"
we find a little crown of letters,
two eyes nesting "t" and "h" -
the hearth
that hurries the harried
traveller home; the hen

who broods between the sentinels,

why not.
To continue the metaphor, her name would be "th".

God has a certain plainness;
the "o" rolls down and off the d, breaking up
the backwards "B"
that would have been, inverted.
In this way you split
Great Britain, backwards.

"Britain", that's a noble word:
contracted "Britannia",
who crashed on the rocks of her water home,
dashed and rearranged in cataracts. She lost
"n" "a" - so Britain is Britannia, regal, grand and damp,
except for those parts which are Not Applicable.
Delete as you feel appropriate -
though I doubt she would appreciate another flood.
It rains most always.

God is insufficient -
I've heard it said (and often)
that "God is Dead",
but it's not within the word, no forgone conclusion.
The idea is assailable –
the word is God.

So God,
I you beseech.
Change your name by deed poll,


October 20, 2007

A little poem console

Heh - I didn't give this in for assessment but, given Peter's comments on long poetry, I'm regretting that I didn't. Please - enjoy.


Two "i"s, side by side:
Each one a lonely "me".
But when they play together,
they make a happy "we!"

October 07, 2007

Fugit Form Poetry

The Fugit Form

The "fugit" form (or to give it its full name, the Po'Realian Tempus Fugitive form) will first be penned in the year 3012, an obscure poetic structure used solely by the tiny alien civilization known as the Po'real. Noted for their unique biology, the Po'real do not perceive time linearly, circularly, backwards or indeed sideways, as is usual for most sentient species. This has naturally had rather peculiar effects on their poetry, to the extent that particularly fine examples of it are capable of projecting themselves backwards in time.

The first recorded (and, some experts maintain, the last to be penned) piece of Po'real poetry materialised out of the future somewhere around May 2010 and continued to slide backwards in time until it became lodged firmly in October, 2007. Once the radiation around it had subsided to an acceptable level, poets and other lackadaisicals were inspired to decipher its nigh impenetrable structure, to see if it would be possible to replicate the incredible temporal effects it was subject to. Leading physicists were quick to point out that if this were possible, they would already know about it and would be seeing the fruits of their labours before they had written them, to which the poets replied "ya boo sucks".

The form is curiously free - the main stipulation being that the number of syllables used in a line decrease, as the time-frame of the subject matter of each line progresses. Contemporaneous lines can have the same syllable count. So for example, in the short (and scintillatingly ironic) poem:

What follows from yesterday

Today, falling into


We have a relatively simple progression, from yesterday through to tomorrow, with the syllables in each line decreasing from 7 to 6 and then to 3.

For topics which cannot fit into any time scheme (for example, a purely descriptive passage of an abstract concept), poets are required to write the line to any length they desire, scribble it out and then start again with a temporal referent (an implied temporal referent is allowed). Lines referring to infinity are required to be infinitely short, and therefore non-existent.

A fugit form poem must have a number of lines (including title) equal to a prime number - the shortest possible being just two lines long, and the longest recorded weighing in at 232582657-1 (“Things that will happen” by Fan’Po. The piece is so large that, if written down on conventional paper format, it would cover the earth three times over).

These may be split into stanzas, but there must be a prime number of stanzas, each containing a prime number of lines and summing to a prime total (the title is included in the total line count, but not for figuring the number of stanzas.) Possible stanza combinations are:

Title, 11 lines, 5 lines,

Title, 2 lines, 13 lines, 7 lines.

Title, 5 lines, 5 lines

It is traditional for fugit form poetry to be written on rye-bread, but this is considered to be in bad taste by some poets.

The following is an imitation Fugit Form poem, penned by the late scholar Sir Laudley Wifebeater. Known for his intermittent spells of melancholia and mania, Laudley was a devotee of Po’realian poetry, and worked long and hard to emulate the time-jumping properties of its finest examples. He was spectacularly unsuccessful.

The passage of superheroes

A procession of supermen

led the carnival under my

window box of mud and nothing,

sent for the city’s jubilee.

I saw Captain Khan, remembered

His arrival on earth unwilling. He had travelled so far:

He landed angelic in a cornfield, touching the earth with

The stardust afterbirth of planets, Ulysses lost, who had seen the birth of suns.

Across the glass fields of his home, his name went unspoken by mortal tongues,

but when it fell to earth with him we crushed it to just “Khan”.

When the army asked what he wanted, he said “To help”,

so we told him to fix things and left him to it.

The mayor gave a speech that morning, talking

of gratitude and service beyond the call. 

Then they strolled beneath my window:

The day after they were gone.

October 05, 2007

The first of many

Well, here goes the first of what may one day become many poems. It's been a while since I've written poesy, and although it's the first poem I think I've ever created dealing with human relationship (at least, of the sexual, make-believe-adult kind that people mean when they chain down the word "relationship"), it's also the first I would call entirely fantastic. In that sense I mean that it's a fiction - it isn't derived from experience, except perhaps on some lizard level at the bottom of my animal hind-brain.

My usual topic is science and other such gibberish, spun out to the extent that the subject matter is completely lost. I hope that when it comes to poking through the damp toilet paper of this offering, it'll be a little easier to see what was the object I wished to convey, lurking beneath the surface. The restrictive structure placed upon the poem has squished my brain, hard, and thus forced it to concentrate on exactly what it was I wanted to communicate. You can judge my success.

The hardest part of this particular jaunt was the arbitrary words. Each line of the poem was required to contain one word from a stream of randomly generated text used to inflate internet spam. Taking this into consideration, numerous lines that I had been marvellously happy with crumbled into uselessness. But once replaced, refigured, face-lifted and generally butchered, the new lines were often far more interesting than their forbears, if a little more opaque. I cannot say that there is one change that I resent. It has also had the effect of foreshortening the poem - there is only so much internet spam you can use without changing diction.

For reference, the other rules were –

1. Each line must be 10 syllables long

2. Each line, except for the last, must begin with "I", "You", "He", "She", "We", or "They"

I'd like to thank Jimmy for making me write this little journey through my process. Not because he told me to, but because I felt damn embarrassed looking at his mighty journal entry and not even considering adding anything to mine. 

With that, here's the poem, unnamed (largely because I don't know if the rules apply to the title as well as to the body of the poem).  If you wanted to give it a title, you might call it "English Summer".

We met in combat one English Summer

I lost beyond the iron-hard coastal shelf.

You were destiny under sheets and waves.

I fed you porcupine pork; the blowfish

You dealt me a snowy convulsive spark

I dreamt for. It boiled my soul to coffee.

We pushed off cautious into the salt-sea.

I was lost in your wave-curl dress, hoping

You would find met at your altar, praying

Deep beneath the salt and car crash ocean.

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