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!)  🙂

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Missing you

Hmmm…. just looking at me little blogs stats and realised that it’s been a dry year so far. Mainly, as I explained in an earlier blog (you remember… I’m sure you do…), that I can’t post any of my writing because of publishing restrictions on the course I’m doing (an MA on Creative Writing with the Open University since you ask). I actually daren’t post any just in case they’re half reasonable and I can fish them out when I’m in dire need halfway through next years module. But anyways…

Looking back I can see that actually when I first started this ‘journey’ I wasn’t posting that much creative writing stuff, more a mishmash of things I like, moany posts about life in general, and some photographs. The most activity was around the events hosted by wordpress, such as photo101 and writing101 which encouraged me to post every day. They were most excellent at keeping me on track and a lovely way to meet new online friends and get more followers. They were my most productive times on the site.

Oh I know I shouldn’t need that push and shove, but you know what it’s like, life gets in the way and there’s all sorts of excuses I could use – for instance, I have to take the dog to the vets in a mo’ and I’m busy bracing myself – it’s fair to say she doesn’t like it much! Anyone who’s met my dog knows she is a nervous sort and that’s enhanced a 100 fold on a trip to the you know where’s. It’s emotionally draining. No, not for her.. for me…

Anyhoo, I digress. One of the other reasons I haven’t been around here much lately is because I’ve taken on a couple of other sites (suttonartgroup and retwords) so have been busy making them look all pretty and alive whilst letting my poor flower die off a bit. This needs to be redressed methinks.

Therefore, I hereby promise to prattle on and post more frequently despite the limitations, and one day, when I eventually finish this darn course, I’ll be able to share that mountain of poetry and prose that is building up on my laptop.

Hope it’s worth the wait….

A bit of Christmas flash fiction

img_0791I was lucky enough to receive this exciting looking box for Christmas.  As you know, I love to write but, like most others, often have days when my mind can’t come up with anything worth writing.  Nonetheless, looking through some of the ‘tools’ in my ‘toolbox’ I admit I was a bit sniffy.  Their are sticks with random sentences, wheels with different protagonists, settings, obstacles etc, and ‘sixth sense cards’ which just seemed to have random ideas on.  In fact, my daughters and I had an hilarious half-hour trying to string these together into some sort of story.  It was rubbish of course, but fun.

However, once the Christmas festivities were over, and I was in a bit of a slump, I looked properly at the ‘instructions’.  Basically I should pick out three or four cards put them face down, turn over the first one and write about it for three minutes using the timer supplied, then the next and so on.  Not unlike some of the exercises we did on my creative writing course so ok, I’ll give it a go, I thought.

The cards I picked were:

I was dressed in a completely inappropriate shade of pink

Sticky raspberry yogurt

Yoga girls toenails

the sound of a garden hose

I honestly followed the rules, and amazingly I was quite pleased with the result.  So pleased in fact, I’m sharing it with you here.  Enjoy!

No Lady

I was dressed in a completely inappropriate shade of pink.  For my age that is.  Fifty year old women shouldn’t wear pink, or so my father used to say.  He’d know of course.  Women’s fashion was his thing.  He’d been a hairdresser in the 60’s, and met Mary Quant, or so he said.  She let him help design some of her collections, so he said.  He had an eye for fashion that’s for sure, especially the skimpy sort.

Apparently, some of his clientele was sure he was gay because of his good looks and nice manners, at least that what he said. Though it was probably because of his delicate fastidiousness in all things, which may have been appealing in the fancy salon, but drove us all mad at home.

I remember the day I spilt sticky raspberry yogurt on the carpet in the living room.  He was livid. Pinker than the yogurt with rage.  Made me scrub at it for ages until any hint of spillage had been eradicated completely.  I was only six. I had sore hands when I finished and dad wouldn’t let mum put any cream on them or anything. I think she was sorry for that.  I think she was sorry for a lot of things.  Including marrying my dad.

She was a model in a department store.  Modelling the clothes for other, richer, people to buy. She was pretty in a fairly conventional way but had to work to keep the slim figure that Twiggy was promoting around that time.  Dad even cut her hair the same as Twiggy’s.  He really liked that boyish look.

She used to practice yoga. It was the only time she seemed at peace.  Sitting cross-legged on her mat on the bedroom floor, quiet, closed eyes.  Once I painted all her toenails bright red while she was busy meditating and she didn’t even seem to notice.

My brother and I must have been a handful for her, but she never really complained, just meditated and smoked her funny cigarettes to ‘keep her calm’.  Dad would’ve been furious if he’d have caught her smoking, and we were sworn to secrecy.  No dirty ashtrays in our house, no dirty anything. Except dad.

Once I remember my brother and I messing about in the garden after it had been raining.  It’s fair to say that we got a bit carried away and were making mud pies and throwing them at each other, and at everything else in the garden too. It ended up like the Somme.  When dad found us, he turned the hose on full blast and made us stand naked under its powerful spray for a full ten minutes.  We were frozen stiff by the end of it.  The sound of a garden hose still makes me shiver.

Anyway, I digress. Yes, I’m wearing an outrageous long and tight flamingo frock, complete with feathers and sequins.  I’m wearing a wig of shoulder length silky blonde hair, and I’ve made sure my make-up is impeccable.  My entire torso is squeezed into spanx, giving me the curves my mother would have had if it weren’t for dad denying her chocolate and pies for years. Despite dads opinion, I look fabulous, even though I do say so myself.

I’m neat, and clean. Dad would be proud.

Or maybe not.

I’m not sure that he thought the way he treated me (us, my brother suffered just as I did), that he’d turn me into a full blown queer old drag queen.  Shame he didn’t see it, I would’ve enjoyed that.

I squish my stub under my stiletto, hitch up my boobs, and head out to face the rowdy crowd in the grubby nightclub. Easy money.

 

 

 

What do I do?

Writing 101, Day 9 – What do you do when your not writing?

You ask what do I do
when I’m not sitting side-by-side
with a sharpener
scrawling in my ridiculous
childlike script on
blank sheets of sepia paper
or staring at a screen
where fought for phrases
turn to text

You ask what do I do
when rhythm is erratic
and rhymes
don’t.
When alliteration alters
instead of enhancing
when allegory is elusive
metaphor meaningless
and similes absurd

You ask what do I do
when words don’t spill
and I have no story to tell
how I pass the time
in that hollow void
when secrets attempt escape
to compensate
for lack of imagination
and skill

You ask what do I do
I live.

All I want is a room somewhere…

Writing 101 day 6 – Where do you write?

Generally I reserve time in the morning to write.  A couple of hours dedicated tapping on my laptop. I could of course, spend all day, but that ends with my having a guilt trip about not getting the housework done or the dinner ready, so I try and limit my absorption.

Of course, some days my mind is a blank.  There is nothing, nothing, to write about. My life is dull, my imagination run dry.  I think it is with these days in mind that I choose to sit on the sofa in our sitting room when I’m writing (yeah we have a study, but who uses one of those for goodness sake! I’d have to climb over the mountains of paper an’ everything).

We are very lucky to have two comfy rooms with sofas.  One, which I tend to call the living room, is where we sit in the evening and watch TV, or loll about and read the newspapers on a Sunday morning.  It has a bay window overhung by our very old oak tree at one end, and French windows looking out across the garden at the other.  I treated myself to a chaise longue when we decorated and that is in front of the French windows.  It’s where I drape myself to catch winter rays or watch the rain in summer, it is most definitely not made for working from. The sofa in here is facing the fireplace not the window.  And there’s the rub.

So… it would appear that I write sitting on the sofa in the sitting room because the sofa faces the large picture window which gives me a view of the garden (this is news to me too… I’ve never really thought about it before!).  We have a pear tree just in front of the window, which is where I hang the bird feeders.  All manner of birds come to get their share of nuts, seeds, insects (yuck, those dried ones…) and fat balls.  In fact, I have my own little viewing gallery right there.  The room is always bright and cheery, and in the finer weather I can open the door onto the patio and hear the birds bickering while warm breezes circulate.

However, lovely and entertaining as the view is, there are I think, other subliminal reasons why I use this room.

In the sitting room I’m surrounded by memories.  I have cushions scattered about that I have made from tee-shirts bought as reminders of holidays but never worn (right now I’m leaning against a huge gold picture of Mickey Mouse bought as a tee-shirt at Disney in Florida nearly 20 years ago) Photo’s and souvenirs from trips to distant places, a selection of LPs from my youth which we can’t play ‘cos we don’t have a turntable, plants that are growing way too big, in fact just about everything ‘wot I like’.

This room is also the room where we play board games at Christmas, huddled around the coffee table, snacks and drinks on the floor, yelling at each other with frustration or glee when we win or lose or get totally outmanoeuvred (to be truthful its usually only me that that happens to). Where we sit quietly in our ‘oingy boingy’ chairs from Ikea and get stuck in a novel, or where we work out whether or not we can afford that next holiday.  It’s a room for parties – push back the chairs and there’s a good space for a boogie, and for yoga practice – its got a perfect wall for practicing handstands against.

I never thought a room could be inspiring, but with my selection of oddments and memories right here with me, and my wild garden only a glance away, I doubt I’ll ever completely run out of things to say!

Just in case I do though….

We’ve been asked by the wordpress fairies to ask our readers for suggestions on what to write.  I don’t know any more than that at the moment, but if you’ve got any ideas just let me know by commenting below, for now… I’ll think about a contact page later 😉

Have a good day!

So what does it mean?

Posted in response the Daily Post weekly photo challenge.  This week’s theme ‘Inspiration’

Strangely, I’ve found this a toughie.  When I’m stuck on these challenges, my first thought is ‘well, what does that actually mean’?  Of course, I kinda know, but what is the actual definition?  On these occasions, I don’t go for the usual quick internet dictionary, I go to the study and dig out my big ol’ Oxford English jobbie.  You know, an old fashioned, proper big book of words.  It’s a fat tome, with fine paper pages that rustle when you turn them, a red ribbon page marker, and finger hole marker thingys so that you can find the right initial letter easier. Apparently, it contains over 240,000 words, and I’m guessing that I will never use at least three quarters of them.

Whenever I look up a word, I always, always, find others around it that I’ve never heard of (did you know an Inselberg is an isolated hill rising abruptly from a plain, or Inspissate means to thicken or congeal? Me neither…), so I usually end up distracted from what I was doing (like now).

So back to what inspires me.  Well, the definition in my dictionary is ‘The process or quality of being inspired’ errmmm… yeah….. ok, use it properly….to inspire is to ‘fill with the urge or ability to do or feel something; create a feeling in a person.’

So my dictionary itself inspires me to think about words, enjoy them, and learn.  I’ve taken some pictures of it for you (below). Dull isn’t it. The thing with books is that you have to hold them and hear the pages, feel the heft (Ok, I admit it, I even smell my books) to appreciate them.

So what else inspires me? Well, everything and anything.  The sunshine, my dog, the flowers – hey even looking at my baggy belly inspires me to go to the gym – (don’t worry, I won’t be posting a picture of that!)

The thing that’s been inspiring me recently though is a lovely idea for cheering up chronically sick children, PostPals. All you have to do is send a letter, or email to one of the ‘Pals’ to give them a smile.  How brilliant is that? The children themselves are inspiring in their bravery (especial love to my friend Lewis who suffers from a form of the devastating Batten’s Disease). If you are interested please visit the PostPals website by clicking here.

Inspiring me today:

What’s it mean? Wednesday

Magniloquentspeaking or expressed in a lofty or grandiose style; pompous; bombastic; boastful.*

What a great yummy word!

Say it out loud – it starts with that hard ‘g’ at the back of your throat, then a roll of the tongue, and ‘oh’ and then softens off at the end with a gentle ‘t’.

Mind you, you’d probably be guilty of that very thing if you threw it into a conversation or bit of writing.  I must say, I hope I’m not magniloquent.  I like to think that anything I write is fairly simple, readable, and concise, and I do tend to use pretty basic language (let’s be honest here, I’m not actually sure I could use anything but simple words even if I wanted to).  Sadly though, even simple words can easily be misenterpreted, or not interpreted at all, and as bloggers, of course, we should be very considerate of that.

I often write verses the meaning of which is perfectly clear to me. Yes, of course I use metaphors and similies and all that stuff, but I always think they’re obvious not just to me, but to any other readers too. Clearly they are not. Well, not to everyone.  Our minds work in different ways.

For instance, I changed the name of a recent poem I posted.  The original name was ‘Suicide Son’ which is kinda what came to mind as I was writing it, but I thought it was a bit of a horrible title, both shocking and unpleasant, so I changed it to ‘Why?’ (you can read it here).  From the comments I’ve had both on the blog and from family and friends, it is obvious that this has several completely different interpretations to the one in my head when I wrote it.

Not that I mind. Perhaps the original title would have made the intention clearer, but I think poetry should be open to interpretation, and it’s just as well that not everyone has a macabre mind like mine. And after all, I can console myself with the fact that I find even the most famous poets work pretty mystifyi ng sometimes.

Anyhow, I guess making things a bit ambiguous isn’t quite the same as being magniloquent, so I’ll just keep on keeping on for now.

Toodle-ooo!  🙂

*definition courtesy of Dictionary.com