A Very Weird Night – part one

The other night was very strange indeed. It didn’t start off strange, it start off fairly normally, if a little dull. (Twenty minute bus journeys with only the company of your iPod, and a severe lack of interesting conversations to eavesdrop on, leads to very dull bus journeys.)

The weirdness grew over the night. I felt rather out of place, walking through Bath at half seven at night, on my way to a poetry reading at the ‘Royal Literary and Scientific Institute.’ The dress I had chosen to wear seem to have shrunk overnight, the skirt seemed significantly shorter than when I had last worn it a few days previously and my heels wanted to explore every crack and nook possible.

I arrived half an hour early, with no broken ankles fortunately, though I did have the wonderful moment of standing in the middle of a road as a guy showed me directions from his map. No cars came, and I did not end up as one with the road surface. All was well in the world.

Anyway, back to being thirty minutes early, sat in the foyer of the ‘Royal Literary and Scientific Institute’ (in Bath). As it turns out, first years turning up to the poetry events we are supposed to write reviews on, is a rare and unusual occurrence. There is nothing quite like bemusing second and third years with my desire to pass the first year of my course, especially since I’m paying nine grand a year to study it.

When the poetry reading did start, it was fifteen minutes late, in a first floor room where most of the audience had already finished at least one glass of wine and were part way through a second. It was mentioned to me by a second year, that this had something to do with the organisers believing that wine improves the poetry that you’re hearing. That worried me. It worried me quite a bit.

The poets themselves, in all honestly, were very good. Olivia McCannon was first up, with her new collection ‘Exactly My Own Length’. Isn’t that such a fantastic title. I love the connotation it holds to poetry and writing. The title is from one of the poems, and according to what I could hear, had something to do with someone she knows walking in the countryside one day and finding a coffin shaped hole dug out of rock. So this person did as any reasonable person would do. Lay down, found it was exactly his own length, (coffin-wise), and fell asleep.

This was one of the few explanations she gave about the poetry. The second half of the book were poems written as coping mechanisms during his mother’s illness and death. Her mother died in 2008, and the poems were never written with the intention of falling into public consumption. Though I felt her interaction with the audience was a little dry, and she simply read us the work instead of engaging in quite the same way as Sasha Dugdale would do later on, her manner was understandable.

There were points where I felt that she was genuinely about to burst into tears, her voice was strained and thick, and she stumbled over words as she gave the brief snatched of explanation that she did give.  It was clear that her work is very emotionally based, and holds a lot of power because of that. However, Sasha Dugdale had to be my favourite of the night.

Sasha Dugdale’s collection ‘The Red House’, fed into my own interests and loves far more than Olivia McCannon’s had. Olivia’s poems were incredibly personal, while Sasha’s were based more in stories, histories and ideas.

Fantastic lines such as:

How they sing: as if each had pecked up a smouldering coal
Their throats singed and swollen with song”

This, from “Dawn Chorus” stuck with me, the imagery so utterly brilliant that I couldn’t get the idea of these beautiful small birds, their songs so full and rich that it is as if there is fire and flames burning in the notes. Their throats barely able to contain the sound as they sing away.

I am also a huge fan of tying history and tradition into poetry, such as with her one poem (apologies for any misspelling) ‘Michael Bian’. We were entertained with a quick fill in on how the shepherds on the downs were buried with a piece of sheep’s wool attached to their clothes, as evidence to God, to show why they had not been in church.

This alone had me hook, line, and sinker. Shepards! Wool as evidence to God! Research had gone into her writing, an effort that I admire hugely, alongside the variation within the poems. I love poets who can write from any angle within the spectrum and Sasha Dugdale proved to be one of these poets.

At half nine the poetry reading ended, though the next bus back to campus wasn’t until half ten. This meant one thing for myself and the other first year who would also be catching the bus. We were going to McDonalds, partly for food, and mostly for the fact that they have central heating.

This was the point where the night decided to take a nose dive off random cliff, and land me in some of the strangest situations I have ever been witness to, one after the other. But all that is a post for another day.

If Looks Could Kill

Poetry is supposedly akin to song-writing. If I’m honest, that idea is a complete crock. Ask me to write a poem and I’ll be able to bury you under sheets of random scribbles, limericks, sonnets, haikus! You ask for it, I’ll write it.

I have never been able to write a song, at least not successfully, or to any sort of standard.

One of my new flatmates however, is exceptionally brilliant at song-writing. Food and entertainment all in one, (since she is also the best cook out of the lot of us).

So you can all see how utterly wonderful she is, I have decided I should share the link to her most recent YouTube video, containing the song she wrote, and plays regularly when we’re sat up in the kitchen.

I will say now, I’m bias, I love the song! To me it is the greatest thing since sliced bread, or perhaps since bread itself! But you can decide that for yourself when you go and check out her channel.

Without any further ado, here is my lovely friend Miss Maddie, and here equally lovely song “If Looks Could Kill”.

 

Halloween Haiku

Closeup of a human skull.

No.1

I will take my seat,
To watch the skeletons dance,
While you carve my name.

No.2

Crack down to marrow,
Beneath the glitter of blood,
And the ragged flesh.

Written for the ‘Horrid Haiku’ prompt currently running at ‘Morbid-Poets’ on Deviantart.

Writers’ Feature

The DeviantArt group ‘Writers Art Heart’ has brought to a close it’s ‘Frustration’ prompt contest, and the winners have been announced. 

writers-at-heart

In first place:

NemoX7

Frustration

Verse I
Hear me screaming as I’m bleeding,
Seeping crimson from the corners of a white ceiling.
There’s no skin or substance to my bones,
When here I lie with tears falling all alone,
But you just stand by with a stare of stone.
Chorus
I don’t want to see you no more,
I don’t want you around anymore,
I don’t want to look at you no longer.
Just to see you once more this time,
Only makes my hatred for you stronger.
Verse II
See me writhing as I’m dying,
Leaking scarlet from the sounds of a black sighing.
There’s no meat or meaning to my nerves,
When here I cry with eyes drowning in love,
But you just vandalise me with a voice of verve.
Chorus
I don’t want to see you no more,
I don’t want you around anymore,
I don’t want to look at you no longer.
Just to see you once more this time,
Only makes my hatred for you stronger.
Verse III
Feel me hurting as I’m groaning,
Pulsating red from the roars of a gray roaming.
There’s no life or lunacy to my lies,
When here I die with minds gliding in skies,
But you just watch me with a wink of why.
Chorus
I don’t want to see you no more,
I don’t want you around anymore,
I don’t want to look at you no longer.
Just to see you once more this time,
Only makes my hatred for you stronger.
Chorus Outro
I don’t want to see you before me crying,
I don’t want you around dying,
I don’t want to look at you in death.
Just to see you once more this time,
Only makes my heart for you breathe.

In second place:

Frostbyter

Insomnia

Consciousness is such a burden,
When it is oblivion I seek,
The body begs for mercy,
But the mind is cruel,
Refusing me rest,
That simplest of pleasures,
I wish for a dream,
Even if it be a nightmare,
Like a vampire, I fear the sunrise,
Though the reasons are not the same,
Light in my window condemning me,
To lose another night,
My treacherous eyes betray me,
Seeking out the light,
My very bones scream out for respite,
And my innards have lost all hope,
I feel my strength fail me,
And pray my body won’t fade away.

 

 

In third place:

PearlsCat

Frustration

There are too many things to write about.
There are romantic tragedies,
With damsels in distress.
There are tall tales of heroes,
Whose bravery saves the day, once again.
There are underdogs,
To root for ’til the end.
There are villains,
With maniacal cackles.
There are heroines,
With supernatural powers,
And artists,
With talent and wit.
There are dragons,
And demons,
Ghosts,
And angels.
There are so many ways to start,
So many words to chose,
Endless decisions to make,
Infinite ways to begin,
And to end.
I have so many ideas,
On what to write about.
Yet I’ll never understand,
Why this page before me,
Always seems to remain blank.

 

Congratulations to the winners!

Listening to the writer

I am loving my creative writing course at university! I have encountered a few problems when it comes to having ideas mid-lecture. My laptop being a ten minute walk and an awkward lecture-room shuffle through the seats away. This means that the ideas must be pinned down by mental ninjas that live in my brain, their job: ‘To keep ideas inside the mind long enough that the writer can- “Oh shiny thing!” – what was the idea again?’ This can get a little infuriating at times but for the most part my writing is doing better than ever.

My absolute favourite part of the creative writing course comes every other Thursday, under the title of a plenary session. The lecturers have used it to bring in published writers, allowing them to hurl their writing at us and for us to hurl questions back at them. Such fun has never been seen.

Tonight’s lecture was graced with the presence of the wonderful Tania Hershman who wrote ‘The White Road and Other Stories’ and ‘My Mother Was An Upright Piano’. The reading she gave were from ‘My Mother Was An Upright Piano’ and were absolutely fantastic, not only for the imagery she employs but the power and misdirection conveyed in such short pieces of writing.

She was a prepared speaker, and she wasn’t about to let us sit in the audience and fall asleep due to the after five slump. (Her reference to the complete lack of energy that accompanies later lectures.)

We played word cricket.

Confused?

I was. I’m not now, but I was.

Word cricket, as it turns out, is a writing exercise where you are given the first sentence of a story.

“No one realised it till afterwards…”

And then you have to start writing for ten minutes, without stopping.

However! Here is the bit that turns it into ‘word cricket’. During the rest of those ten minutes we had a word thrown at us, and we had to catch it. So really it turned into word catch more than word cricket…

“Balloon…change…madness…teapot…flying…green…oxygen…pickled…scream…”  

So you have your starting sentence and then nine words to catch and bat into your story. Oh look, I did make it into cricket!

Her main piece of advice was to let go of making any sense, and once we started reading them out it became clear, they did make sense, they were just wonderfully weird.

We have cats eating pickled eggs, which turned into rats, we had werewolves in the pantry who tore off heads when searching for a midnight snack among the teabags! That does all make sense doesn’t it?

Anyway, the exercise was only a small part of the evening’s lecture and I’m sure the rest will have more appeal that the random ramblings of my writing class.

As a writer of short-stories we were told that she rarely knows where he longer stories will end up, she doesn’t revise how you’re ‘supposed’ to, and everyone she’s spoken to has a different technique about re-working their writing.

One of her first pieces, ‘The White Road’, was condemned by her writer’s workshop, and a tutor at an American writer’s workshop told her that no-one would read past the first paragraph. She didn’t aim to writer for any sort of length, she’s published flash fiction, for her there are no rules to writing, only what she feels is right.

She has freedom in her writing.

I came out of the lecture rather distracted. All at once my own writing seemed so much more achievable, and the problems with my collection of short stories had resolved themselves as I sat their trying to listen and ignore the character hammering against the inside of my skull.

My inspiration has dreadful manners.

Overall I was deeply impressed, and my copy of her collection, ‘My Mother Was An Upright Piano’ is now on order. The point was crystal clear, write how you believe you should write, and while listening to the advice of others bear in mind that they could be wrong. No one can really ever be an expert in writing.