Old Letter

It’s funny how much difference having a good pen makes.

I don’t like writing directly onto the computer. This is mostly because my computer is full of so many wonderful distractions that I have to be in the exact right frame of mind before I can do it. Often this comes when I have a time limit – “I’m going out in an hour, so I can do a quick bit of writing before that.” If I have all day, I’ll watch bad (or good) American TV over the internet, and play games.

Continue reading “Old Letter”

Back to Japan; The Nothing Days

Hello! I’m back in Japan,

Osaka in the rain

and the place is much the same, only colder and a bit wetter. I’ve been told this rain is to get all the humidity out of the air at the end of the summer, and then autumn gets much nicer. It’s my first day at my new campus tomorrow, and any news you want on Japan can show up later.

I’m in a position where I’m behind. Now I’m always behind on the blog. But what’s great about this behind is that it’s the other way as well. I have a huge backlog of half written materials sitting in notebooks on buried on this computer that I need to find, write, re-write, edit, and post online. With a bit of perseverance, I can scrub this stuff down and get some interesting stories and poetry out of them.

Bizarrely, looking through my notebook, a lot of the stuff I wrote while working was a bit depressing, and almost entirely poetry. I’ve hesitated to fix it up and post it because I feel it looks like I’ve had a really sad time. Well, I haven’t – if I had, I wouldn’t be back here, you know? Then there’s the stuff I wrote on holiday, and a lot of it was story ideas and things that happened to me. Finally, near the end of the book, there’s some surreal fiction and poetry. Some of this could take months to get written.

Continue reading “Back to Japan; The Nothing Days”

(Things Left Unsaid)

I was running out of the house to work the other day, but couldn’t find my notebook. Turned out later, that I’d actually managed to leave it at work the day before, but at the time, I needed something to write on. If I don’t have paper, I’ll need it, so I try never to go out without some. Also, I can read back through my old stuff.

“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on a train.”

a

So I picked up one of my old notebooks, hoping for a blank page or two, and came across an old half-finished poem that I’ve attacked.

This one is inspired by two Young Learner teachers at my school. The style is like the notes that Claire makes on the language she aims to elicit from children – she makes the most ridiculously complete notes, which are useful when you want to steal ideas. And the idea and concept come from Kirsten, who hates to teach anything related to family, because for some children, herself included, talking too much about your family can reopen some painful wounds.

As you’ll see in a sec, it’s kind of an experimental style. I’ve actually written three or four more verses of dubious quality, so for now, they’re cut. Here’s the poem:

(Things Left Unsaid)

This is my (sister),
(her) name is (Claire)
(She) works as a (teacher)
with (long curly) hair.

“Are you good friends?”
“Yes we are.” / “No we’re not.”
(She) (always) wears (hats)
when the weather is (hot).

(She) likes (over-ripe) peaches,
(sweet ooze down her chin,
that she wipes with her finger
and sucks it back in)

(she) (laughs) when (she)’s happy,
and (hides) when (she)’s sad
(the truth from her family,
the troubles she’s had).

(She) hates (stormy nights),
that’s one of (her) fears
(though the lines on the window
are raindrops, not tears).

(She)’s (older) than me,
and her birthday is (missed,
when she once ran away
for a man she had kissed)

I love to (remember)
my (sister)’s (blue) eyes,
(the look that she) gives me
when (she rolls them and sighs).

(She) (died) last year,
and now (don’t you see),
now (she)’s (whoever)
I want (her) to be.

Tempting Bathos

Hello. Everywhere I go these days, I carry a little notebook with me. The current notebook has drawings of palm trees, random thoughts, story ideas, and at the back, reminders and notes on some stand up I still need to fix. Me writing funny things down in my notebook has led to some strange situations, where friends tell jokes and then look at me, as if to say, “What? Aren’t you writing it in your clever little intellectual notebook?”

Also, since my lovely old mini camera broke, I’ve been using to write down drunken musings – both my own and any I can get out of the people with whom I am drinking.  From these occasions, I came to the conclusion that I was more creative when drunk.

With this in mind, I dared myself to take part in a social experiment I devised. I would drink a bottle of wine, 1009525554_5121b39880alone, on a quiet night, and see what happened. If it was a success and it made my write in floods, I would become what Kipling once deemed irredeemable – a man who becomes an alcoholic quietly and in private, a drunk artist, sinking lower and lower until all self-esteem, credibility and hygeine were lost.

Half way through the bottle, I decided it would be more fun to watch a DVD than write, so I did. After the DVD and wine were finished, I thought, “Oh crap! I’d better write,” and in a spurt of very worrying creativity, I bashed out three medium length poems and a big part of a short story I’ve been stuck on. Resigned to my fate as a closet drunk, I toasted my success with the dregs, burped, and carted myself off for a mere 6 hours of sleep.

The good news, though, is that when I read my masterpieces this morning, I found, amongst other extracts, these bits:

1) We haven’t spoke in months.
Sure, Facebook, once or twice.
Does that count? Still, it’s
your voice, this time. Different.

(note the bad present perfect in the first line)

2) And for WHAT? That is the question,
It’s not to be or not, it’s Yorick,
the “comic” stopper in an otherwise
tragic tale. Gravediggers indeed.

and, from the short story:

3) Was this one of the “stolen” horses I’d heard abou?If so, how would Mitchell know?But then the light came on.

Hmm.

One lesson from this is, as I’m sure you all already know, is that when we’re drunk, we think we’re better than we are. And what we think is poignant and deep is actually a load of codswallop. Seriously, all 3 poems, while based on reasonable subjects, are just plain terrible. I can salvage about 5 halflines from 30 full ones in each poem.

HOWEVER, The short story stuff is actually quite good. Not just the material – there’s a great scene where the guy holds an imaginary conversation with an intimidating horse that I could never have written sober – but also that the brash confidence got me through a passage I was stuck on, and barged me through an extra thousand words.

SO I’ve decided to cut alcohol from my writing. Except as a sledgehammer to my writer’s blocks. And I’ll rely on you guys for an intervention if my drinking gets too heavy and solitary. Look after me!

My Favourite Philosophers
My Favourite Philosophers

Rain

Yes, Rain. In Spain. And before you even start, I’m not on the plain.

Torre de Hercules, La Coruna
Torre de Hercules, La Coruna

I’m in La Coruna, which is the North-west coast of Spain, in the lovely Celtic Galicia. They speak a variety of Spanish here called Gallego. I got a student in Barcelona to give me a few expression in my notebook, and I’ve tried using them in various situations, but I’ve just had bemused looks from the locals. Oh well.

My kids are doing their final exam, and I have kindly stuck on some music for them during it. Only two of them remain at this stage, but it’s all gone reasonably well. According to them, I am both the coolest and best teacher in camp, because I taught them to play poker (using pencil sharpeners as currency) and because, when one kid got out the guitar in front of the whole camp, I was the only one to stand up and join in with Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours.” I am now sick of this song. I loved it, even on repeat, for a good month, but this camp has just overdosed me. Strangely, these Spanish kids also love “Summercat”, by Billie Vision and the Dancers, which was my song of Summer ’07. This love had nothing to do with me, but it reminds me of old times.

Anyway, I’ve been given an honourable mention in the blog of my good friend Ted, who is on his way to being a professional comic book artist and writer. Pop on over, he’s got lots of lovely artwork, and he updates every day.

As I anticipate more people looking at my blog this week, I’d better whip out a good bit of poetry. And as it’s rained so much recently, I’ll go for something I’m actually pretty proud of. It has its faults, but in this particular case, I refuse to list them as I think its merits outweigh them. Almost the entire thing was written in one go, which is often a good sign. It’s only been tinkered with, since, and never massively rewritten.

Rain

Why, when often we shrink
from the cool chill down-the-back of the neck,
damp on the head, hunched up,
cold unbidden tears of our red cheeks,
soaked through to skin, shivering –rain night car

why, when driving through a dark-orange night,
a thick sheet of gliding water on glass,
the dancing pairs of will o’ the wisp lights
the beating crackle that feels as though it will
break through, a rush of terrible exposure –

in both, a sense of shelter. A longing, yearning,
cosy comfort, lost or maintained.
So why, one day with you, does the world spin?
When we shed our coats and dance,
our squelching feet laughing in celebration.