F is for fu- Poetry?

So, this week was immeasurably better than the last. To my knowledge nothing was stolen from me and I even managed to have a few days off work. My mum and my brother came to visit, and while avoiding punching my brother in the face for being one of the most infuriatingly unbearable people I’ve ever known, I’m not in as bad a place as I was last Saturday.

Still no news on my laptop for those asking. Thanks for asking, but I’m sick of talking about it now.

Straight on to this weeks class, as you can probably tell from the (witty?) title.

This weeks class we had a guest poet come in and talk to us. You may sense a bit of impatience, as I’m not overly fond of poetry, but this week was actually really interesting. As I said last week, I am interested in studying it, if only to improve my prose. And that is where the slight impatience comes in, I’m hoping next week that we study some more prose, or even something along the lines of screenwriting or another form, just to break up what has been predominantly poetry so far.

The guest poet was the immensely interesting Clare Shaw, who also works as a mental health care worker (I believe that was the correct title, but I may be doing her a disservice!) She is incredibly approachable and for the first time I was able to join in quite pro-actively with the discussion. Despite my evident lack of poetical knowledge.

The first thing we looked at was the texture of poetry and even managed to compose a giant list of the elements that make up a poem.

After that we were asked to chose our favourite vowel and to write it large on a piece of paper. This was a hard choice, every vowel is precious to me. I use and abuse them all! But as we had been talking about the ‘sound’ of poetry I chose:

A

This is because most musical notes, sung properly, form the sound ‘ahhhhhhh’ and that was the first thing that came to mind. The other thing I like about it is its unique, singular connotations; A…

The next task, we were given a letter. We had to get to know the letter, look at it, roll it around our tongues. Then we had to write about that letter as i) a landscape, ii) a colour, iii) a weather, iv) an occupation, v) a time of day, vi) a food type, vii) a music. I edited a couple out because they were bad, but here is the rest:

F

F is a farm with lines of irrigation leading

to each other,

sectioning off

parts of land in a rectangle,

with a lower

case river

running

through it.

 

Fog is the weather that f would be

clogging up the landscape and

making it difficult to see.

Farmer f in its farm,

working hard from

the front,

the beginning.

Filling the land

with fruit.

 

F is the morning, when

the dew is on the ground

and an early sea mist is rising,

to block out the land and

slowly give way to day.

 

The music for F would be

folk,

living off the land, and

for the people.

Finally,

for all to

hear and

enjoy.

 

I found that quite difficult, and what happened in my head was basically a game of word association. The good thing about this is that it gets the writing ‘muscle’ working, which is a great thing. Hopefully my poetry will improve over time.

We were each given an object and asked to get to know it in the same way as the letter. The touch it, feel it and to taste it. You will see why, from the object I was given, that I refrained from tasting it. Here goes:

A Pound Coin

Polished smooth by the hands of time,

ridged in order to give form and purpose.

Round and round it goes,

always giving,

never taking.

Its two sides the same, but a choice.

The bridge of journey or the regal lines.

The metallic tang of manufacture.

A collection of senses,

smell like sweaty hands holding it

and considering its worth.

As it rolls along the table trying to escape,

a steady, controlled sound,

that clatters when control is lost.

The taste, forbidden,

of cold metal sticking to the tongue,

lingering, unforgiving,

like the taste of new fillings.

Shiny and used,

brought to a purity of style

and purpose.

Important,

the Queen’s head looks calm and authoritative,

but the sign of age, it tells us.

2005, the year.

No latin on the sides.

Pure lines.

I quite like that, I’m not sure why. Despite my usual distrust of poetry, it is quite satisfying when you write something readable. For me its the conscious effort to avoid the cliche, the pretentious and the overly abstract. Keep it plain, but poetic.

I talked to a couple of classmates about a poem I wrote in school, which always reminds me of Baldrick’s poem in Blackadder. so much so that it makes me cringe. But if you are lucky, I may share it with you. Once I get a copy off my mum.

once again, thanks for reading and making it this far.

Comments (and praise) are always welcome!

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Defining the Despicable

Well after quite a week it is finally time for me to sit down and to put into words what has happened and to reflect. Those of you that follow me on Twitter, Facebook and down darkened roads might know that I’ve had quite the week. I should probably cut to the chase and cut the hyperbole, which is actually what the majority of this post will be about.

On Wednesday, after delivering a class to around 45 student, I had my laptop stolen. It still hurts. Not only is this a horrible thing to happen, to have your possessions taken from you, but it also could (I stress the possibility, not the accusation.) have been one of the students I have just given my all to teach. That’s too close, too despicable to really describe how I felt. I forced myself to go in the day after and teach them, but the very thought made me sick and I have to say it is one of the worst lectures I have ever given.  But despite all that, there is the fact that that laptop was a core of my life, a pillar if you like. It is where I wrote everything. It was full of personal stuff, some of which I’m sure I can’t even remember, but at some point the sickening memory will arise and add to the pain of its loss. Since I started using Scrivener on 1 September, I had written at least 15,000 words, I believe, which I stupidly hadn’t backed up yet. (I wanted to organise the folder and back it up, I hate mess! More fool me) Now, that’s all gone. Unless by some miracle of police work or honesty the laptop works its way back to me.

There is plenty of other things I could talk about the situation of the theft, but I have talked enough and as I say: It still hurts.

I had planned to spend that afternoon, before my MA class, in the library writing and revising some work for that evening. Of course that was all scuppered. I refused to let it affect my uni work, so I went to the class regardless of my emotional state. Everything I wrote that night turned out very angry and I apologise in advance.

Wednesday night was about poetry. I hadn’t written poetry since I was in school, and despite my mother’s insistence to the contrary, I always thought I was pretty bad at it. Never the less, as I said in class when we were asked our opinions on poetry, I was determined to give it a go. I think that learning the pacing and style can help with prose writing. The teacher also managed to dispel the myth that poetry need be overly flowery or pretentious. It is just another style of writing, and can be as simple but as powerful as prose writing.

The first exercise was to write an overly complicated and descriptive piece, then a very basic piece. I wrote prose because I was finding it hard to concentrate and I think I missed the point. But here follows:

Part 1

The boy sat waiting, like a defendant awaiting his time in court. He calculated and planned, a thing so devious it would not be forgotten. When the man would leave, carefully placing his papers like a stack a time, and exit the room. He, the boy, with the whole of his devious experience and cunning would take from atop the desk, the computer of the man. He would never know that it was that boy and not any of the others that snuck away like a ghost in the night, no not he.

Part 2

The boy sat waiting in the classroom, planning the theft. He waited for the teacher to leave, after he stacked his papers. The he stood and quietly placed the teachers laptop in his bag and left. No one would know.

Part 3 (We were then asked to write a combination of both)

The boy sat waiting in the classroom, planning the theft. A thing so devious, so wrong it would not be forgotten. He would wait until the teacher left, stacking the pieces of paper like a timeline of the class edging back into the beginning, and exiting the room. Then he would sneak and place the computer in his bag. Like a ghost in the night. No one would know.

 

As you can see all three examples were pretty close to home that night. It was indeed the only thing I could think about. I must stress that I have no idea if this is what happened, this is just where my upset and hurt mind went.

After that we talked a lot more about poetry and looked at some good examples, which I will definitely be looking to read more of. We looked at poetry that sought to discuss large, abstract topics, but in a human way. I liked that idea. I’ve always hated overly abstract writing, sometimes you need to get to the point. But it is always about balance. The next exercise that night was to write a poem about an abstract idea, while keeping it balanced and honest. Naturally, I chose ‘Anger.’

 

Anger

 

Red is often the colour,

of anger, but

it is so much

more than that and

yet, much simpler.

Not something to

overelaborate.

Something pure, vengeful.

Something plan, an emotion

of our minds

in reaction to something

that upsets, something

wrong.

 

I must admit I have no idea about the line structure of poetry, but that to me was how it should be laid out. It gives some of the lines other meaning if read in a certain way.

After that we discussed how reported speech/dialogue can also be very powerful in poetry. It doesn’t just have to be flowery description or abstract ideas. So for a final exercise we were asked to write a piece with reported speech at either end, to bookend if you will. I wrote two pieces:

 

‘Did you see it?’ she said.

From the look that accompanied the question,

he should have.

But he didn’t know what it was.

He had his own questions.

Where should I be looking?

What are you talking about?

What kind of conversation starter is that?

‘See what?’ he said.

 

‘Today sucked,’ he looked sad

and angry. Gone, the familiar smile, the easy

demeanour. It wasn’t the same.

Today sucked.

‘Tomorrow will be worse,’ he said.

 

As always thank you for reading. I appreciate any comments you might have about my writing, but go easy on me at the moment!

Mike

 

Writer?

I have just changed my Twitter profile to read ‘writer’ rather than ‘aspiring writer.’ You may think this is a small, trivial thing and perhaps it is. But to me its a sign of confidence. In the first class of my masters, last week, we talked about finally having the courage to call yourself a writer. Because that’s what we are. By calling yourself a writer it doesn’t have to intrinsically apply that worrying prefix ‘professional-,’ but you are a writer if you write, right? I forgot to change it last week, but I’ve done it now and strangely it feels encouraging. The next step is to add that prefix. ‘Professional-writer’. The dream. 

 

I have just, also, finished the opening for a story I am submitting for an anthology that will hopefully be published next year. It’s a long way to go, but I intend to go the whole way this time. The editor wanted to see my first one and a half pages and that’s fine, I’m happy to provide so that he can check it and so that I can get advice as I carry on the journey of that particular story. I may tell you more about it soon.

 

This weeks class was firstly about idea generating and then openings. 

Ideas aren’t something I really struggle with. In fact I have a notepad full of stories I would like to write and an hourglass lacking in adequate sand…

But this was a nice exercise and I think it was actually very helpful for creating character conflict. We had three bags containing strips of paper with the following printed on them; one containing characters, one places and the last, actions. 

The task was to pick two characters, a place and an action and then write a very brief synopsis tying them all together in a story. The other task was not to worry about some of them being terrible stories. Which was great because some of mine were truly terrible (I think I wrote the word ‘Xfactor’ for one of them, eesh!) But I did come up with a couple of potentials. 

After that we talked about openings, how to grab your reader’s attention. It’s not something that I have thought about before, so it was nice to take a look at. I think a good way is with a startling revelation, but I would say that that could end up being overused. It needs to fit the story. I usually, I believe, start with character action, or description, which I must admit, isn’t always that grabbing. Something to think about when I write my next story. 

The homework was to chose one of the stories from the exercise and think about where you would open that story. When you start, beginning, middle or end determines what scenes and actions take place in that story and also how much the reader knows. We’re expected to write the opening and hand it in next week.

For mine I chose the story where I drew ‘My father’, which I took license with to be ‘the characters father;’ ‘The rival,’ ‘a disused cinema,’ and ‘the hand that feeds.’ With this I have come up with some kind of gangster story, don’t ask me why. I have already started writing it, but I may post what I submit next week.

Thanks for reading. 

Write, Write, Right?

So last week was a mad-busy week and this is the first real time I’ve had to sit down at the computer and sum it up. With a new intake at work, which the resultant fresher’s flu I am now harbouring attests to, being absolutely busy. It was the first time I have had to teach more than twentyfour students in one go. I believe I had fortyeight in our new lecture theatre at capacity? That was pretty nerve-wracking to start off with, but I think I’ve got the hang of it now. It’s different, much like the new campus that we have only this week started using. (At points this week, I was finishing a lecture in one building then hot-footing it up to the new building to start another.)

Another new thing this week is that I started my Master’s course in Writing. It’s something that, admittedly, I have only been looking forward to for a short time. When compared to some of the people on the course who applied for it months ago I came across by pure chance in late August, I believe it was. And I lucked out. This was the first postgraduate course that has really caught my eye and inspired me, so I was delighted when I was offered a place.

To be in postgraduate education is really fun. Perhaps studying another course might have been different, but this was incredibly laid back and informative. We started by enrolling and while we waited for our course leader to come over and get us a few of us introduced ourselves. The great thing about the course is that it seems to be a group of like-minded people. While we may not all have the same interests there seems to be something that links us all, even if that is the very art of writing. Once we had gathered (almost) everyone, the course effectively started in the Starbucks on the ground floor of the building. This was a much better icebreaker than the usual, stand up, hi, I’m Mike, I do this and that, introduction that I dread. Even as a lecturer public speaking doesn’t come easily to me. We then moved on to the room in which, I presume, we will be spending the rest of the course. The facilities at LJMU seem fantastic, and much more than we need, with boundary mics on every table and a spectacular view of the city (complete with balcony). Here Jim, the course leader, introduced what we would be doing this semester and with a host of guest speakers and writing workshops, I’m really looking forward to it.

The second half of the class was a writing workshop with Andrew McMillan, and is the main reason I’m writing this blog.

We were given one of a selection of pictures from a magazine as a writing prompt. Then in our own style, be it prose, poetry or screenwriting, we were to write for ten minutes on each of the following:

1. From the viewpoint of the main person in the photo.

2. From the viewpoint of a secondary person in the photo (perhaps someone on the sidelines looking in)

3. From the viewpoint of an inanimate object in the photo.

On the night I didn’t get time to read out one of my stories, partly due to me being too shy and nervous. I think that will improve with time when I have a chance to gauge the level and style of everyone else in the class. Those that did, held up their picture and then read aloud their story. What I wanted to do, ever being a fan of suspense, was to read my story and then hold up the picture. To see if anyone had grasped what it was i was talking about. So here we go (perhaps with slight, typed editing from the written version): Continue reading