On Writing Long Lines

As you may know, I’m currently getting to grips with a Masters in Creative Writing with the Open University.  As an exercise we were asked to look at lines in poetry and experiment with using different lengths.  This is the lyric essay that I wrote as a result:

On Writing Long Lines

Well, I’ve never written a line this long

before, I’ve always gone the short route, yes

shorter even than this which seems to me to be

rather overlong, rather, you know, unnecessarily

wordy. It’s true, I’m not saying much, not capturing

your interest. See, I’m not fluent in this kind of thing, not

experienced in these long poetic pieces that successfully play

with language. Those lines that are musical, that live on in the ear

like a snapshot of a really good memory from years ago when you went

to the beach and laid prostrate for eight hours reading your favourite novel

of all time. Or that time when you danced until three under a full tropical moon

and, after the hangover wore off, you hummed the tunes for days on end never wanting

to lose that feeling of abandonment. But as you know, we all have to knuckle down and when

we’re asked to write in different lines, being creatures that need approval, we do as we are

told, even though its alien, it makes us feel weird inside, it makes our voices shake

and tremble towards the end as our breaths run out and our brains just can’t

take anymore. And so I’ve done it. I’ve written lines that maybe are not

poetry. Maybe they are. Who is to say?  All I know is that in future

I’ll stick to my own little way and I’ll speak loud and clear

and in tiny lines of just three feet, no more than that,

and I doubt I’ll ever pen a poem using long lines

such as these, ever, no never, again.

 

 

 

 

A Simple bit of Nostalgia

Still struggling with time management here, not least because I spend half of it procrastinating, but hey ho.  It’s made much worse this week because we are having a new kitchen fitted very soon.  In fact they are coming to gut the current one on Friday, so I’ve had to start emptying it out and packing up.

I find it quite incredible how much kitchen related stuff we have accumulated over the years.  Like everyone else, we have umpteen used-just-the-once gadgets tucked at the back of cupboards – a potato peeler, a spiralizer, a waffle maker… you know the sort of thing, the sort that seemed a good idea at the time.  I’ve also got bowls and pots my mother gave me when she was clearing out, and which I can’t believe I have some sort of sentimental feelings over – for goodness sake, they’re just stuff!  But I did find a glass dishy type thing (I have no idea what to call it) which was used to display cucumber slices at Sunday tea-time when I was a kid.  Gosh it did bring back some memories!

Our Sunday teas were sit down at the table affairs, and most weeks would consist of sea food and salad.  Dad would have picked up the sea food from the stall outside the pub when he went for his Sunday lunchtime beer(s). There were always prawns, winkles, cockles and sometimes fresh scampi, which I have never seen since those days. The salads were different then too. Not the mixed up colourful affairs of today, oh nooo.  The cucumber had its own dish, the celery would be standing sentry like in a vase, the lettuce would be in one bowl, the tomatoes in another, and we’d pile our plates with the individual bits and pieces, and no, of course there was no fancy dressings just a splosh of salad cream if we were feeling fancy.

While we were eating ‘Sing Something Simple’ would be on the radio (I should point out this was the year of the Beatles White Album which my sister and I would have much preferred to have been listening to (actually I lie, I would have preferred to be listening to the Monkees :/))Of course, when I recalled that I just had to look it up on youtube (what can’t you find on youtube??)  So now you can grab yourself a boring salad, find a pin to winkle out your winkles (if you don’t know what I mean I expect you can find that on youtube too) settle down, relax, and join me listening to some old tunes from 1968!  There’s no meaningless chatting, no ads, no callers, just a bit of harmonising… quite soothing in the current mad climate!  Enjoy 🙂

To think or not to think?

Ah well, I’ve just started the new year of my course, and I’ve seen the course materials and the assessment requirements, so anxiety is setting in big time.  I decided to change my primary genre this year from fiction to poetry, ‘cos basically I like writing poetry more. Besides, it takes me ages to think of plots for stories but I can write a poem on practically anything you throw at me (it might not be a good poem, but it’ll be a poem – I give you ‘ode to my knickers‘…)

I do have the odd existential crisis around poetry though. I wonder what its for. Am I just writing it to show how jolly clever I am?  To share a mood, an emotion? How my brain works in weird ways? (Certainly that last one is apparent in much of my work!)

I am thrown by some of the comments at my writers group too. I am one of only a few poets there, and some of the aspiring writers just don’t get poetry – ‘if it doesn’t rhyme it’s not a poem and you are not a poet’ was one memorable comment.  And yes, I know, much as I love ’em all, they are heathens…. 😉

Of course, I can’t agree with that at all, I know it’s not correct. I read a lot of poetry both modern and classic and enjoy the free-verse and rhymes equally, as long as they connect with me in some way –  make me think, bring a tear, make me laugh. And I love layers to unpeel, deeper meanings to uncover, thought provoking ideas, and beautiful use of language.

However, I have to agree, that for many people a quick ditty that doesn’t require analysis is the only poetry they understand and therefore, enjoy.  For instance, who doesn’t like Pam Ayres and her ‘I wish I’d looked after me teeth!’, a poem many of us can identify with I’m sure.

On any creative writing course I doubt very much that this would be described as ‘good’ poetry, and I imagine I wouldn’t get a particularly high mark if I chose to submit something along those lines as part of an assessment. But hey, it makes us laugh, we understand it and empathise, and with it’s tumpty-tumbness, it’s memorable.  Shouldn’t we appreciate that just as much?

But as I said, this was a brief crisis which has now been sat on.  I work hard to write poems that require some reading between the lines.  I like to find rhythm where there was none, and to play with words, spending hours finding the one that’s just right in that particular line making it delicious and dripping with meaning. I don’t often get that right of course, and some might say it’s not worth the effort, but I enjoy the process.  And yes, I’m quietly pleased with myself when the whole thing comes together.

Last week I read an allegoric poem at the writers group which I was really pleased with, and the best they could say was ‘it’s good’ and ‘to the point’. I really wished they had had the time to check it out a bit further, given it just a little more thought. But in this world of rush and instant gratification perhaps allegory and metaphor are too time consuming and are a bit too much like hard work, so I’ll take the approval, albeit for what I consider to be, the wrong reasons. Of course, it might just be that the allegory is all in my head. At what point does it become clear to everyone I wonder? Its ok to have a blanket of layers but I guess it doesn’t need a whole bloomin’ duvet!

Oh dear, I fear all this studying is turning me into a bit of a thinker! I’ll keep on doing what I’m doing and work towards improving and expanding my writing and my thoughtiness… (and perhaps, my vocabulary!)  🙂