Speak No Evil – A #Poem By Carol J Forrester

Temper your tongue with candyfloss static.

Electric
the bite is enough to ward off words,
stop them before the starting gates
in the narrow space 
between crowded molars. 

Use teeth to smile
around calorie free pleasantries. 

Taste patience becoming poison.
Every syllable sharp.
Bitter.  

I’ve started recoding some of my poems and posting them to Tick-Tock. (@caroljforrester) Short and sweet work best, so I’m looking to a lot of my quadrilles as a starting point, and trying very hard not to self-sabotage with worries over how awful I feel I sound in recordings.

#WeekendCoffeeShare – Poetry Acceptances, Redrafts and More Writing

In all honesty, I’ve written very little in the past week. I spent it in the Lake District with friends, so writing was replaced with hiking. On Wednesday we climbed the Pikes, and reached the top of Harrison Stickle; an achievement my knees are still complaining about. When we weren’t somewhere on the side of a hill, I was nose deep in a book, specifically ‘A History of the Universe in 21 Stars (and 3 Imposters)’ by Giles Sparrow. If you have any interest in stars, or the universe, then may I recommend picking up a copy. There are parts that sail right over my head, but it is a very entertaining read all the same. 

So, if I haven’t been writing this week, why have I decided to jump on WordPress and write a #CoffeeShareWeekend post? 

Simple. Procrastination. The deadline for the Bristol Short Story Prize is approaching (04/05/2022) and I have managed the great sum total of one sentence. I like that sentence quite a lot, but a short story it does not make. So, instead of adding a second, or perhaps even a third sentence to make some headway with the problem, I decided to do something else. 

Plus, I’ve also been procrastinating when it comes to writing a blog post. So, let me offer you a coffee, a seat in this imaginary receiving room furnished with regency style furniture, and I will tell you what has happened so far this year. 

First up, (though not really), is a poetry acceptance from Ink Sweat & Tears. On May 13th, they will be publishing one of my poems on their site, and I’m fizzing with joy. 2022 had started to look like the year of rejections, with the red ink of my poetry submissions spreadsheet steadily spreading down the page. Getting a poem picked up was a much needed break from the monotony of ‘not this time, thank yous’ that I seemed to be slogging my way through. I now feel a little less delusional when it comes to redrafting and sending out the rest of my unpublished poems. Ink Sweat & Tears also published my poem ‘Newborn’ in 2019, so the acceptance feels like even more of a reaffirmation. 

In poetry performance news, there has been a significant up-tick in the number of in-person events that I’ve been able to get to. In March I read at Coppenhall Open Mic (Crewe) and The Button Warehouse (Macclesfield). This month I’ve returned to the Coppenhall Open Mic and attended a poetry evening at Queens Park (Crewe again). On Thursday I’m going along to Treacle Coffee Shop poetry night (Newcastle-under-Lyme) featuring Nick Deg to hopefully join the open mic section, then on Saturday I’ll be competing in the Hereford Poetry Slam. There is a smattering of things for May, June time as well. 

With the acceptance of one poem by Ink Sweat & Tears, and a slew of rejections, I’ve got plenty of poems to redraft. The work of the next few weeks will be to try and get these sent out again.

#NaPoWriMo2022 – Day One & Fifteen

I Could Not Care Less About The Light Switch - NaPoWriMo Day Fifteen Prompt

intermediate, mediate, or whatever,
I do not need its technical portrait 
imprinted on my retinas.
As if you scored those wires on my eyelids
instead of crumpled fists of paper
our bedroom littered, yes, yes, our bedroom
where I am so desperate to be sleeping,
duvet to forehead, clawed over the ears,
this unbidden seminar of light switch electronics
threatening to blow a fuse in our marriage--
I DO NOT CARE!
I do not need to know why 
the switches won't match when the lights are out.
And we have tried every combination
every puzzle box of on and off
to make them fall in to a uniformed march. 
It was never a why question, but a general annoyance
of a thing seeming out of place,
like unmatched salt and pepper pots!
Not purposeful, but one being oh-so-slightly shorter?
Thinner? More rounded on the corners?
Not a, "this is salt, and this is pepper difference"
just difference you can't quite pin down
or turn off,
like the bloody light switches 
you won't stop explaining,
or drawing 
at two a.m. 
when I mistakenly say 
'I'm still not getting it?'
Which I admit was really my fault
so I'll take the next round of circuitry analysis in stride
but gods above, will someone smite me,
and while you're at it, 
hit the lights.  
With The Other Mums In The Park - NaPoWriMo Day One Prompt

discussing our bodies, like sharp beaked harpies
picking clean the carcass 
of what was once a woman we recognised in mirrors.
In the reflective surfaces of car doors, and shop windows
with a matching stride, strut, stance, shape. 
We all have new shapes we do not know how to fit
or dress,
so we press ourselves into old clothes and old ways,
pretend the chafing is our imagination
or temporary discomfort,
like the first run back, after a week on the beach
we are picking sand out of our hair
and baby vomit from our clothes. 
It is all fine we say, and it is all not,
the taste of carrion on our tongues like an iron bit
we gnash between our teeth
when anyone suggests we are not already beyond
anything we thought we could manage. 

I’ve veered away from the optional prompt with my Day One poem. I took the ‘body’ idea and ran with that, so I might have to circle back to writing a prose poem. I did have some debate about posting my NaPoWriMo responses online, as it means I can’t submit them to various journals who only accept entirely unpublished work, but since I’m currently wading through rejections from those journals I decided to go ahead and just post. I’m probably going to tweak and polish the day fifteen poem for the Ledbury Poetry Slam at the end of the month, and I’m really quite fond of my Day One poem. Thoughts and feedback are also welcome in the comments, so if you enjoyed either poem I would love to hear from you. Otherwise it can feel a little like shouting into the void.

“Hello void, how very nice to chat with you again. How’s the wife?”

#NaPoWriMo2022 – Early Bird Prompt & Day Fourteen

The absence of the Witch does not / Invalidate the spell 
After Emily Dickinson

We counted all the none-witches. The waterlogged women 
parcelled in their tiny, tidy, Christian graves.

Stone-tongued
their muted markers, talked of mother, daughter, sister, wife 
found innocent by the drowning of their sins
and a rope hauled shoreward too late in search of certainty. 

Within the magic of madness, they too may have thought
there was spell work in their prayers.

Wove a cursing hope into their repentance,
believed power in their charms, in their unheard voices 
and clung to those last drifting thoughts
before the current snatched those too. 

There Once Was A Beginning, But This Is Not It 

We're picking typos out of the script, staking them up like billboards. 
Huge things. 
Obvious in retrospect, 
through another set of eyes, in a spotlight of memory. 

Actors are improvising, ignoring, pretending 
there is no mistake, it's intentional, purposeful, a work of brilliance  

The opening fuck-up spray-painted in neon, is a fall-in-love moment. 
A heart-break, ice-cream binge disaster. Inevitable. 
We make it the centrepiece, then leave it on the cutting room floor,
find it again when the story no-longer makes sense

it is pivotal 

at least in part, like a cog clicking into place 
the movie machine does not run without it

we return 
to this start point that did not sound like action
or look like a clapperboard,
that we passed by, slogged through, and shook off
then could not find the thread of. 

In post, we admit that it was not perhaps the moment it all began
and there was a second before it
when the clock started ticking. 

We cannot think what was,
but we know it
in our marrow
when we lie awake at night
the ceiling a screen that it plays out on
before dawn burns the negative
and we draw an echo of it in the ash. 

There once was a beginning, but this is not it. 

I’m late to the party, I know. I started April with the best of intentions, but instead of writing a poem each day, I’ve been focussed my entries for the Bath Short Story Award, and the Bristol Short Story Prize. With one out of the way, I decided I might as well have a go at writing some poems for NaPoWriMo and posting them here since I’ve been a little remiss in writing much for the blog.

Since I’m playing catch-up I’m doing both today’s prompt, and the early-bird prompt.

Ten Years Learning How To Be A Poet – Part Five: How To Write About Real Life In Poetry

Writers often take inspiration from real life. A lot of my poetry draws on points, and people from history, as well as members of my own family. Some of those poems can be incredibly personal, not only the ones specifically about myself. I’ve written about my mother shaving her legs, the death of certain family members, friendships breaking down, and assault. I’m very lucky when it comes to those close to me, as they don’t take issue with me mining my life (and in turn their own) for inspiration. However, it still raises the question of how personal is too personal, and at what point (if at any point) does a poet cross the line about what they should or shouldn’t write about?

There’s a piece of writing advice, “write what you know”, which has been taken further in recent years to ‘don’t write outside your own lived experience’. There are (of course) exceptions when it comes to fiction, fantasy being a clear example. Writing what you know becomes redundant in the sense that none of us knows how magic works, or what goes on in a world carried about by a great, cosmic turtle. Fantasy, and pushing the boundaries of the known go hand in hand, but there is a difference between creating a detailed, anatomical description for the new race of gnomes you’ve invented, and writing a novel from the perspective of a person who has lived a life utterly removed from your own. For the sake of this post, I will not be going into my thoughts on the issues regarding writing in the voice of a different race/genre/class, that isn’t the post I set out to write. What I want to talk about is weighing up how to use your own experiences in poetry, and how there is room to stretch a bit beyond those experiences when the poem calls for it.

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