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May 13, 2008

Weird Love

Last term PENCILfest ran a fund-raiser, with China Mieville and George Ttouli running a workshop on Weird love poetry. Mid-way through I had that old dilemma - knowing a lot about a creepy topic, do you stick your hand up and tell people? After all, if people hear what you know about Furries, what'll stop them thinking you are one? No-one wants to be mistaken for a Furry, except perhaps the Furries themselves.

That's irrelevent but I'm practising writing anecdotes. Anyway, there was a competition to produce the best Weird Love Poem and I managed to win. Frankly I think Rowan Rutter's (her blog is although the poem isn't up there) entry with prosthetic limb sex-scene was better. Still, I'm not sniffing at the teddy bear I won (I'm not a plushophile). Belatedly, here's the poem - 


Glancing out

The tree crab loses her grip,
falls suddenly
and splits
on the upright tip
of a coconut spike.
Her innards slop
downwards to meet
the sand;
while mango juice drips
from my mouth and teeth
to touch your feet
and you clutch the sheet
in one hand
and trace my skin
with your fingertips.

December 03, 2007

Belated aphoristic babblings

We were treated two weeks ago to the first half of the excellent Orphee by John Cocteau, and told upon hearing the strange gibberish transfered across the radio in death's limosine that that was that weeks mission. Well, here are the messages I've recorded from inside death's station wagon - a little less impressive perhaps, but equally impenetrable, I hope. Of all of this, I think the only thing with any going distance is "Wolf figurines" - it makes me think of the statue of Romulus and Remus suckling at a wolf's teat.

·                   First there is a mountain: then there is no mountain

·                   Wire bends without joints

·                   The bear has been skinned by the flies

·                   Philosophers make love on tables

·                   To watch a bicycle is to do very little

·                   Old Gods grow tired, speaking with the mouth of mouths

·                   The stars fell a long time ago

·                   My windowpane is cold: my counterpane is old and forgotten

·                   Wolf-figurines melt beneath me

·                   We desire the son of the sun

·                   Starshine underpenny

·                   Limes and bootwax, together

·                   The toast grenadier

·                   Jazz piano broke her teeth

·                   The lamp that burnt me is sorry - so sorry

·                   Watching a pianola, and fearing the radio

·                   A hard rain fell last night: we didn't care

·                   Say again? Oh, say again?

·                   CJD spins on the needlepoint

·                   Electric toothpaste

·                   Matchboxes hold suns

·                   Three point flash!

·                   Broken teeth are never regrown

·                   Superlungs and kryptohearts, breathe me please!

·                   Rainbows curl into discs - they want to print music

·                   An old man dancing ska is the absolute funk

·                   New worlds, old Gods

·                   Turn the door through the wall and smile

·                   Lipstick, oh lipstick, my lipstick!

·                   Blu-tack bubbles tie the world together

·                   Strung from one side of reality to the other

·                   String-tied hamster teeth

·                   A little wait and then-

·                   Tissue paper hearts lick lick lick the sky

·                   The teats of his mother dried up

·                   Skin the wolf, skin the bear, skin skin skin!

·                   Paper, ink, and a world dies

·                   Sheep-skin warms my back: wool won't be missed

·                   Ear-cushions are the next big thing: it is proven

·                   Big shrinks

·                   Little growths

·                   The teeth of cancer victims were treasured, once

·                   Say again? No. Forget me not

·                   Ulysses would rather be forgotten

·                   Acrylic paint sticks unforgettably

·                   Crispy chicken skin is paper

·                   Blue stones stare accusingly

·                   My thumbs are scared

·                   The animals will jump their cages, and burn down the petshop

·                   The boys are black in this town

·                   Walls compel amnesia, where love is concerned

·                   They are turning on the grave-point

·                   Poincarre, how beautiful you are

Oh, and also "limes and bootwax", I like that. Not sure if "bootwax" is a real thing, but never mind.

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.

October 30, 2007

Big things, Little things

So another of our delicious multitude of assignments this week was to write a poem about something really huge as if it was tiny, and something really tiny as if it was huge. I started writing "Very Little" first, under the title of "The Over-Human" - yes, that is a reference to Nietzsche. The idea of the Ubermensch in Nietzsche is (under some interpretations at least) of an entity with such an amazing force of moral will that they can reform reality to match its desire.

On the Nietzschean model, the fundamental substrate of reality is morality and will, so reshaping reality is a matter of getting people to accept your moral standard - the Ubermensch has the capacity to shatter the chains of moral law in which they are raised, and then reconstruct a new morality. The destruction is the act of the lion, the reconstruction is the act of the lamb. I thought, why not have a literal, physical ubermensch? 

Don't take "Very Little" as being an accurate representation of any Nietzschean thought - I just used the philosophy as a stepping stone.

In writing the poem, I came to the realisation that I was diminishing very large things by inflating the character of the speaker - by giving them a grotesquely huge ego, I was able to shrink enormous physical objects into diminuity. That helped me deal with the other poem of the pair, which I was struggling with at the time. I applied the reverse principle - give the speaker a tiny little voice. That was where "Big Thing" came from. I wanted to make it longer, but realised quite quickly that it had everything it needed. I like it a lot better than I like "Very Little" in fact.


Very Little

At the finish,
I will break Physics.
I will shake off the chains of her law
and stand a lion, a thousand lightyears tall: ignoring all
I will make the world mine.
I will hold it like an atom in my palm,
crush it like Gravity
will smash the final stars.
Her velvet glove will close on those specks
and make one last spatter of diamonds:
my fist will close on Earth and I will make coal.
I will breathe galaxies, look with contempt
on the works of Time, run Entropy to Death:
grind Ozymandias to dust, and Shelley.
I will trash everything.
There is no mercy in my heart;
its beat bursts suns and sends continents flying.
I am so grand,
and I ask not much:
to kill a universe is very little.

Big Thing

Oh big thing!
Oh, big big thing!
Scaly and rough, and
Barky and tough,
Oh, big thing!

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 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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