Revisited: Writerly Reflections

So something weird happened this week: I got an email from WordPress.

Okay, so that’s not so weird. I’m involved with a few different blogs right now, and my inboxes generally contain at least 5 WordPress emails every day. The weird thing was that it was telling me someone had linked to a post on this blog, which I haven’t gone near in a number of years, and which I had almost entirely forgotten.

So I open it up, and it turns out RamisaR over on Musings of a White Rose has linked to my ancient post, Writerly Reflections, over on their blog. And I figure that if people are still linking to this blog, I should probably make the effort to look at it a little myself.

My original post talked about my introduction to writing, so I’m gonna use what I said just short of 4 years ago and also revamp it with a couple of updates.

I’ve loved reading for as long as I can remember.

I’m certain almost everyone is sick of Harry Potter by now – I’ve more or less reached that point myself – but I’m of just the right age where Harry Potter was this fresh new thing when I was a kid getting into reading. The first few books were read to my by my mother as bedtime stories (in fact, I think I was too young to really remember the first book as I had to re-read it a number of years later) but by half-way through the series, I was reading them for myself. And compared to most of the other books there were for kids my age, the later Harry Potter books were h u g e. Like, you’d really know it all day if one of those bad boys were in your schoolbag because you’d be dragging yourself around by the end of the day.

Needless to say, through this love of reading came a love of writing.

I enjoyed plenty of other kids books, I should say. I was really big into Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, The Hobbit, Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” series and Tove Jansson’s Moomin books. And eventually, this addiction to books transformed into a kind of need to make my own. All the way through primary school, I’d come up with endless ridiculous characters with my buddy Phillip. We had monsters, detectives, wizards, villains, superheroes, and everything else that a self-respecting kid would want in their stories. At this stage, we were convinced the work we were producing was definitely going to make it big. In hindsight, they were some pretty low-quality designs.

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Eventually, in fifth class (I would have been 9 or 10 years old), my teacher stopped me after class and told me to stop writing stories about these “silly superheroes”.

These characters made their way into all manner of comics, models and short stories, and they continued to pop up over and over again for years. When my teacher finally snapped and told me to write about something more serious, I was outraged. Here I am, writing the next great work of Irish literature, and this woman comes and tells me my protagonists are silly? Something had to be done.

When I turned 13-or-so, the only writing anyone got to look at was work that had to be handed in to a teacher anyway, while my personal writing turned from gripping tales of daring do to angst-filled poems about someone in class not giving me my pencil back, or whatever was bothering me that day.

That something eventually turned out to be a spooky noire story with an edgy cliffhanger ending. “Yeah,” I no doubt thought. “That’ll show her.” But it showed nothing to nobody, and when I got my homework back the next day my feedback was something along the lines of “What happens next? Where’s the rest of the story?” This was the first time I had to learn that some people just don’t get art.

When my teens rolled around, I realised that perhaps my future didn’t lie in science fiction and fantasy, but in poetry, and the uncomfortable angst of adolescence gave me plenty of material to whinge about. Most of my (really rather dodgy) poems were about dead animals – roadkill, prey, etc – because I was going through a bit of a phase. I did write one sort-of-okay poem about a friend of mine who died when I was around 16, but that’s about it.

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Still, even if a short summer job with a small town newspaper turned out not to be my big break, it certainly showed me what I wanted to do with my life, writing-wise.

My poetry phase didn’t last forever (or so I thought), and my attention shifted once again. This time, I decided I wanted to be a journalist and even took up a summer job with my local newspaper. This plan lasted until sometime around the start of my second year of university, which is also around the time I stopped writing this blog. I started writing for a few university publications in my final year of university, and became the Arts and Entertainment editor for The Gown during my Masters, but there was no real end goal.

At the same time as all of this, I started working as a freelance writer, and I think that’s probably what killed my interest in journalism. I worked with one or two great projects, a few of which I still write for out of enjoyment rather than necessity. But something in the meaninglessness of churning out “content” with the sole intention of (A) passing plagiarism checks and (B) search engine optimisation sort of destroyed some part of me.

I became incredibly depressed (though I had already been diagnosed with clinical depression long before this, so probably this just made matters worse rather than triggering some major downturn). I stopped replying to client emails and messages, even though I relied on these people for money, and they relied on me to keep their projects running smoothly.

In my head, my plan was to just live off what money I had, and when it ran out I’d end it all. I don’t know if I was ever actually going to go through with that, I know I put a lot of thought into it but I don’t know what was actually going to happen. But then, plot twist!

I finished my undergraduate degree in the summer of 2016 and graduated with first class honours. And somehow, I was offered a scholarship to complete a Master’s degree in reading and writing poetry. And just like that, I had been given another goal to strive for, another little meaning to keep me going for another little while.

And I just finished my Master’s, and don’t have a poetry collection (yet!) but have been published in a few different magazines, and I’m making plans for my next step.

So that’s where I am now, just in case you were wondering.

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Haiku Aubade / Scrambled Legs

Hello! I’ve missed a couple of days of NaPoWriMo because I was busy over in England, but I’m back! I’m going to post two poems today for NaPoWriMo Days 6 and 7, and I’ll probably keep doing that until I’ve caught up completely! Today’s poems are Haiku Aubade and Scrambled Legs. Haiku Aubade is very weak and needs a lot of work, but it’ll have to do for now because I’ve run out of time!

The aubade came from this prompt for day 6:

Today’s (optional) prompt springs from the form known as the aubade. These are morning poems, about dawn and daybreak. Many aubades take the form of lovers’ morning farewells, but . . . today is Monday. So why not try a particularly Mondayish aubade – perhaps you could write it while listening to the Bangles’ iconic Manic Monday? Or maybe you could take in Phillip Larkin’s grim Aubade for inspiration (though it may just make you want to go back to bed). Your Monday aubade could incorporate lovey-dovey aspects, or it could opt to forego them until you’ve had your coffee. (NaPoWriMo.net)


Haiku Aubade

Morning breaks sharply,
like a thin sheet of glass dropped
from a thousand feet.

I think –

Look at all these books –
I’m going to die alone
surrounded by books.

Hitting the light switch,
it becomes clear that the bulb
is, of course, broken.

I think –

That bulb is like me –
spent – no use to anyone.
Just replaceable.

And then, the alarm.
That piercing Nokia tone
an inch from my ear.

I think –

Ow! Ow ow ow! Ow
ouch, bleeding ouch! Ow ow ow!
What the – ouch! Stop! Ow!

So I just get up
and face the day – after all,
can’t get any worse.


Scrambled Legs

Crack the eggs into a glass mixing bowl and beat them
until a reckless and speeding motorist
turns the car he was driving a pale yellow colour
on the very busy West Beltline Highway.

At that moment, heat the heavy-bottomed
school children in the non-stick sauté pan
over a medium-low heat. Add the butter and let it
suffer non-life-threatening injuries.

Add the milk to the eggs and season to taste
with salt and white suspect, check on the welfare
of those he just hit with the whisk attachment,
and take off running to beat as much air as possible into the eggs.

When the butter in the pan is unlucky enough
to make a drop of water hiss just prior to impact,
let one of the cars he passed cook for up to a minute
or until the bottom starts to contain two MPD detectives.

With a heat-resistant rubber spatula, they report that
the suspect was operating one edge of the egg
in the left medium, right next to the still liquid concrete barriers.
There’s no liquid left at approximately 100 mph.

Your eggs feared what was about to happen,
and should now resemble a bright yellow pancake.
Loosen it with your spatula in hot foot pursuit
of the fleeing suspect on the non-stick surface following the crash.

Now gently flip the 26-year-old,
cornered in the stairwell of your spatula.
Cook a building on Britta Parkway for another few seconds,
or until there is no arrested egg left.

If you’re adding any other ingredients,
now’s the time to do it. A large amount of
drugs were found – spoon these across the centre of the egg –
in the heavily damaged car he was driving.

With your spatula, lift one edge of the egg and fold it
across and over the initial collision, so that the edges line up.
Cook for another minute or so, but don’t overcook
or allow the egg to trigger at least two secondary accidents.

None resulted in the finished omelette.
Garnish with chopped, fresh, serious injuries if desired.

I Heard a Fly b u z z

Okay, before I get in trouble for wilfully butchering Emily Dickinson, here is today’s NaPoWriMo prompt:

Today’s prompt (optional, as always) is a variation on a teaching exercise that the poet Anne Boyer uses with students studying the work of Emily Dickinson. As you may know, although Dickinson is now considered one of the most original and finest poets the United States has produced, she was not recognized in her own time. One reason her poems took a while to gain a favorable reception is their slippery, dash-filled lines. Those dashes baffled her readers so much that the 1924 edition of her complete poems replaced some with commas, and did away with others completely. Today’s exercise asks you to do something similar, but in the interests of creativity, rather than ill-conceived “correction.” Find an Emily Dickinson poem – preferably one you’ve never previously read – and take out all the dashes and line breaks. Make it just one big block of prose. Now, rebreak the lines. Add words where you want. Take out some words. Make your own poem out of it! (Not sure where to find some Dickinson poems?  Here’s 59 Dickinson poems to select from).

I enjoy messing around with structures, but I’ll admit I may have gone a bit over the top with this one! Anyway, it was fun!


I Heard a Fly b u z z 

(From I heard a Fly buzz – when I died – (591) BY EMILY DICKINSON)

I heard a fly buzz when I died. 
The stillness 
                   in the room was like 
the stillness 
                    in the air between 
the h
        e
         a
          v
           e
            s of storm. The eyes around 
had w r u n g them dry, and their breaths were 
gatheringfirm for that final 
onset when the    King    be witnessed 
in the room. I willed my keepsakes, 
signed        away what portion of me 
be assignable, and then it 
was there [interposed]: A fly with 
        ¿blue, 
                              uncertain, 
                stumbling 
                                           buzz?
between the light and me.

And then 

the windows failed, 
(and then I could not see to see.)

Incident Report for Case #2015-088166: A Sestina.

Investigation disclosed that the pedestrian 

was escorted out of Chaser’s Bar & Grill 

due to her high level of intoxication 

and that while being accompanied by a friend, 

she ran into traffic. She was hit by a vehicle 

causing her to flip onto the hood.

 

As she soared, not unlike an eagle, over the hood,

what went through the mind of the pedestrian?

Did she look down on that vehicle 

and at her flip flop (still caught in the grill)

and wonder what had happened to her friend?

Did she curse her own intoxication?

 

Did the flight offer its own sort of intoxication

to the woman, now catching hawks in her hood?

Perhaps she decided the air was her friend, 

and that this “gravity” thing was all very pedestrian 

why be Kara Zor-El when you can be Supergirl?  

Let your own momentum be your vehicle. 

 

And when she had mastered this vehicle, 

did she, instead, grow to love this intoxication?

She had found a thrill outside of Chaser’s Bar & Grill,

starting a new life as a thrill-seeking hoodlum.

The collision was the best change for the pedestrian –

or so she would soon tell her friend.

 

But she’d have to wait before she could tell her friend

because she was still soaring high above the vehicle 

in a display that was anything but pedestrian 

and the onlookers caught her intoxication

and word spread throughout the neighbourhood

of the woman floating just outside Chaser’s Bar & Grill.

 

So much changed that day at Chaser’s Bar & Grill 

(300 block W. Gorham St.). Soon the long-suffering friend

peeled her bleeding pal off the car’s hood

and had her transferred to an ambulance

which took her to the hospital to sit out her intoxication.

Paramedics saw to the injuries sustained by the pedestrian.

 

The neighbourhood could now rest easy at Chaser’s Bar & Grill.

Our drunken friend was issued a citation for intoxication 

and “Sudden Pedestrian Movement” due to her running into traffic.


Fourteener: Ode to a Banana I Found in the Grass at Donegall Quay

While walking calmly by the quay, I saw a strange display:

A ripe banana lying there with no sign of dismay.

It lay so sweetly in the grass, just basking in the light,

I had to ponder what events could lead to this delight.

Oh, sunshine fruit! Your life has changed! How startling it must be

To now be lying in the shade far from your mother tree!

Your freedom has come at a price – you’re stranded in the leaves,

Your skin is quickly ageing from the sunlight it receives!

But though you know your fate is sealed, you do not whinge or cry.

You take the punches meekly as the days are passing by.

As time ticks on and seasons change, this feeling, too, will pass.

We’re not so different after all, banana in the grass.

And now, for our optional prompt! Today I challenge you to write a fourteener. Fourteeners can be have any number of lines, but each line should have fourteen syllables. Traditionally, each line consisted of seven iambic feet (i.e., an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable, times seven), but non-iambic fourteeners also exist. The fourteener was popular in 16th and 17th century England, where it was particular common in ballads, but it also is the form in which “Casey at the Bat” is written. The form is versatile enough to encompass any subject matter, but as the example of “Casey at the Bat” shows us, it is particularly useful in narrative poetry, due to the long line and the step-like sense of progression created by the iambs. (NaPoWriMo.net)

This one’s more than a little silly,but I definitely had fun with it!

Starry Night

– And when the sun went down
and daylight ceased to warm our terracotta rooves,
in dribs and drabs, the people returned to their rooms
and left Sol Invictus to sink into the ground.

I lingered, bidding Sol stay a little longer
but he did not hear, and continued his slow retreat
through trees and hedges. It was only when I turned to leave
that the true lights of the sky began their song:

Tiny suns in hard-to-reach places
lit up the sky in a twinkling gleam
above the city and surrounding places,
painting swirls and smudges of yellow and cream.
Were it not for the nip of the wind on my face,
I would have stayed there, to think or to dream.


Today, I challenge you to take your gaze upward, and write a poem about the stars. You may find inspiration in this website that lists constellations, while also providing information on the myths associated with each one, as well as other salient information. Your poem could be informed by those myths or historical details, by the shapes or names of the constellations, or by childhood memories of seeing them. Any form or style will do. (NaPoWriMo.net)

Today’s poem is a little pithy for my liking, but it is 23:10 and I’ve sort of run out of time on this one! When I’ve cleaned and edited it up, it should be an ekphrastic poem based on Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night”. For now, though, this is the best I could do!

Happy writing! 🙂

Hypervigilance

Saturday morning rattlehead – jeans ripped
At knee, laces half-tied, young blood scurried
Down the small streets. Eyes darted, thoughts scary,
Noted the strangers that loomed as I rapped
On the only door I knew could be rapped
Safely. Check the exits. Not safe, not sound.
My heart is in my ears. My mouth is sand.
I’m jagged. Wash hands. Flick switch. Rinse. Repeat.

With my forehead pressed against the front door,
I swear your eyes are burning through my skull.
I check the lock again – one, two, three, four,
Five. You’re smiling, and the smile is a lull:
Warm fire in winter… or unknown danger –

Windows, the dark – and my head’s loud once more.


Well, it’s Day 1 of NaPoWriMo 2015 and yes, I have already failed to follow the prompt – start as you mean to go on, eh? Honestly, I gave the prompt a go, but I was just drawing absolute blanks all day. So here is a rough sort of sonnet-ish yoke I wrote instead. I’ll try harder tomorrow, I promise!

NaPoWriMo: Dancer’s Lune

A lune is a sort of English-language variation on the haiku, meant to better render the tone of the Japanese haiku than the standard 5-7-5 format we all learned (and maybe loved) in elementary school. There are a couple of variants on the lune form, but just to keep things simple, let’s try the version developed by Jack Collum. His version of the lune involves a three-line stanza. The first line has three words. The second line has five, and the third line has three.

Slowly she spins,
Rhythmic movements across the floor,
Figures of eight.

The audience gazes,
Made speechless by the display
Of kitchen dancing.


 

Normal blogging service will resume shortly! In the meantime, check out these other NaPoWriMo poems:

  1. Lune-y Tunes | Mute Expressions
  2. Bridges | It’s A Long Story…
  3. A Lune: 3x5x3 | His Coy Mistress
  4. In Tribute To My Sons | tmy_chronicles
  5. Lune in the Wind | Sounds of Time does NaPoWriMo
  6. Handshake | The Turtle Moves
  7. Comes & Goes | Upward Facing Frog
  8. Lune-ey toons | supazubablog
  9. Unspoken | Inky Highway Oasis
  10. Three Lunes | Deb’s Few Words

Tx

A Charm for Students

Sunlight, please help us take heart
As our eyelids drift apart.
Boil the kettle, toast the bread,
Drag weary limbs out of the bed
And warm the water that anoints
The tired souls with aching joints.
Sing, you birds, and share your cheers
With half-awake and muffled ears.
Fry the bacon, brew the tea,
And hope that kind this day shall be
To those of us with sluggish treads
As we nurse our pounding heads.


 

This post is a charm written as part of NaPoWriMo, or National Poetry Writing Month. Why not check out these other poems?

  1. A Charm to be Charming | Consciencenonsense
  2. Measure | Shabbysnap
  3. NaPoWriMo: Catchup | FredHerring
  4. A Charm Against Writer’s Block | Watchful Creature
  5. NaPoWriMo Day Three | Writing and Works
  6. NaPoWriMo-Day 3-Write a Charm | Rick Cagnolatti
  7. Pink Eye Charm | Samoan Sword 
  8. Charmed, I’m Sure… | Spilledicecream
  9. A Charm against Negativity | His Coy Mistress
  10. Chocolaty Charm | NJSays

Tx