Trying to Multi-Task; My Bench

I have a friend who is writing a novel, and he told me the other day that the way I’m going about things is all wrong. He just writes his novel, and he gets about 4 hours done a day. I’m trying to write short stories, I tell people, and poetry, and maybe soon, a novel or two. But at the same time, I’m trying to write comedy, to write stand up.

Now that he points it out, I see what he means. They are all different arts from one another. I have always held that the best stories are so well written that they contain bits that feel like poetry. I’ve always thought that the best novels have scenes that could be taken out and left on their own, as complete short stories (especially as so many short stories these days seem to start in the middle and finish somewhere later in the middle of events). I’ve even taken a scene from a short story I wrote and posted it on here as flash fiction, and since that time I’ve never felt inclined to post the whole story on here (mostly because it needs attention I haven’t given it). In this way, I could be said to be following a progression – from poetry to flash fiction to short stories to novels.

The comedy doesn’t fit into this. Partly because I’ve never really written comedy. I’ve written some comic scripts, once upon a time, but not for a long while. Stand up is still a new art for me, something I’ve only tried a handful of times, something I struggle to even start to write.

But the main reason that they don’t work together is that I draw on a different part of my brain when I write comedy. Whereas my fiction is inviting a reader to enter a world I create, comedy is about stepping into someone else’s world and making them laugh at the absurdities in it. They have similarities, in perception, in surrealism, in painting a picture… but they have more differences than similarities.

Writers often say you have to be in the right mood to write. I say that part of the great skill in writing is in training yourself to get into that mood, and the other part is bloody-minded persistence. I’m trying to get into lots of moods at the same time, and I’m not winning at the persistence – yet.

Anyway, I have two stand up comedy performances at the end of the month, so I need to spend a good bit of my writing time preparing for them. And maybe, after I’ve performed those gigs, I’ll have some more comedy in me, some more material, and I’ll write more and perform more. Including my old jokes (if I can find them), I’m probably nearly at the point of having three sets, which is wonderful.

But I miss the fiction, so for the rest of this month, I will try my darnedest to do two things – poetry and comedy. They may be totally different, but at least they are both about editting and cutting down and getting to the point as quickly as possible. And progression, and building on what went before. And over the summer, I’ll sit down and get some flash fiction and some big old short stories out of my brain.

Until then, some poetry!

My Bench

Come, sit. This is my bench.
I sit here, often,
staring out across the pond.
My stick rests just so.

Folks here know it’s mine.
I sat on it in the frozen cold
last year when my wife died,
stared out across the pond.

I sat here after I retired.
We moved here together,
all peaceful. She chose it.
I chose our bench.

I’ve had benches before, and others:
that ink-stained desk at school,
a bunk, a cabinet, a peg,
all mine once, all remembered,

all solid. Now they’ve all gone,
my memory stays… ’til my memory goes.
And this bench, too, you see?
But I’ve got a plan.

It’s not truly yours
’til it’s marked with your name.
So this bench is In My Memory.
Plaque’s made, missing a date.

Who knows where I’ll go next…
but I’ll be on this bench.

Too Much Poetry

I’m back, Blog.

And not just me. My computer’s back, and running smoothly once again. HUGE thanks and gratitude to Brenda and her lovely husband Damian.

What’s new?

Well, in brief summary:

  • I lost my camera while taking little Lily around Barcelona Zoo. Getting a new one…. sooner or later.
  • I’m planning a Road Trip straight after Easter, from Shropshire to Barcelona and back again, with my twin brother. I should be posting some of the photos from it here. Obviously, that’ll be after I get a new camera.
  • It’s starting to warm up in Barcelona. I can walk around without a jacket most days. Not today, though – it’s raining, an event that’s now so irregular, it actually affects my behaviour. If this continues, I’ll become truly Spanish and always stay home when it’s raining.
  • Stopped my Spanish classes, but still learning it a bit. Started teaching myself Japanese too. Feel my Spanish isn’t good enough, but want to get started on Japanese…. we’ll see how that goes.
  • Trying to come up with plans for after Japan, mid-August. Maybe I’ll come back to Barcelona?
  • Doing both Improvised Comedy and Stand Up Comedy. Hopefully performing as a warm up act for some professional comedians on the 12th of March.
  • Reading.

If you need more details on any of the above, well, you’ll have to email me or something.

I’m trying to get back into the flow of writing again, but it’s proving hard to kickstart myself. One of my eternal problems is self-censorship. If it’s of no standard at all, I don’t think it’s worth writing down. I need to train myself not to press the delete button for now, and to just type type type until I have enough to go back through.

Anyway, enough of that. Here’s a poem I was getting close to content with before my computer crashed… now lovingly restored.

Continue reading “Too Much Poetry”

Gravediggers

Woo new poem!

This one’s been knocking about since near the start of the holidays, when I decided it would be a good idea to get drunk and see if any poems appeared.

comedy tragedy masks

As you know if you’ve been reading this for a bit, I sometimes try my hand at stand-up comedy, as a Nose Flautist (if you don’t know, don’t ask). And for a while, I’ve been trying to write a poem about the experience of stand up. And it’s not easy. Still, I got a good start that drunken night (I should try that experiment again) and just today I’ve fixed most of the problems. I’m quite proud of it, which is nice, as it’s been a while since I’ve been proud of something I’ve produced. That said, it’s still a little obtuse, and I’m not sure if comics corpse. Actors do. I think comics do. Either way, here it is:

Gravediggers

He died on stage – corpsed.
The audience buried him,
then a short, uneasy mourning
at his passing. Next up.

Let’s say a few words.
He knew it back to front
but every night they’re different,
So smile, rush in and engage,

And to pause… for a laugh,
to let his torrent glide down
into an unrelenting silence.
For what? Hope of a response.

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.

Thrill-seeking, I suppose.
“So brave”, they say, “I could
never.” Which is why they don’t,
and he did. And it’s in that pause,

that long old drawn out
hold-your-breath-and-wait pause,
risking everything and yet
precisely nothing, that pause –

for effect – that he lived.

Tennant_and_Tchaikowsky_as_Hamlet_and_Yorick
Only half appropriate, but woo, David Tennant!

Riddle

Hello Loyal (and disloyal) Blog Readers!

It’s been a slow week. A lethargic week. A week, not coincidentally, where I put aside lots of time to write. Maybe I’m spending too much time waiting for inspiration in front of a computer screen, and not enough time travelling, or walking, with a notebook, waiting for ideas. I also think I need to go back to readng short stories.

Anyway, I needed to get more writing done this week, as I’m going to visit friends in Leeds and Scotland and pop on up to the Edinburgh Fringe this coming week. Ideally, I’d get well ahead with my writing and set up the blog so it releases the new posts on the days when they are due, therefore keeping up with the deadlines and giving myself a bit of time off to socialise at laugh at some comedies. Surely, that’s when I’ll get all my best ideas, right?

Okay, so I still owe this site one story or poem from my backlog of unwritten posts. However, I’d prefer not to put up anything too rusty or incomplete, so I shall keep that in an “IOU” box, and just give you the one for today:  another riddle poem. I’d like to get a lot more of these done, so I would really like suggestions on this – make them as silly or as sensible as you like. Preferably things not famously riddled before. I especially like the idea of giving something inanimate a human voice, emotions, and some kind of character. That way, while the solution is a “thing”, it’s also an aspect of human nature, or a moral, or message, or satire, or in some way, valuable on two levels. Riddle poems, of course, do make it very hard for me to stick up pictures…. Ah well, this poem shall go without one.

Riddle

Ice in first.
There till the end,
Pealing for attention.

Then, layer by layer,
I build, ever growing,
Ever changing, ever swirling,
Impression on impression
Onto rocks below.

I am formed by the saccharine,
The sour, the mundane,
And the unusual.

But if they ever stop mixing,
I will fuse and be one,
And the taste I leave on your lips
Will always be the same.

Haiku and “Save Point”

Hey all.

It’s the weekend, and I’m locking myself into what has become my “office”, where my desk is some big planks of wood across the snooker table in the room that has all our old games and books from childhood. Still, it works quite well – I have internet, but only JUST, so I can check my emails but any silly TV shows would take hours to load, so I mostly don’t bother.

While I’ve been more productive at my 1,500 piece jigsaw and trying to get my head around cryptic crosswords than I have writing, I have done a bit of work. However, most of it has been on as-yet unfinished works. First off on my catch-up day is a little riddle haiku I came up with in Bristol last weekend. It only works, unfortunately, if you pronounce “ordinary” “ord-en-ree”… you know, the ordenree pronunciation of ordenree (ordinarily). “ord-en-airy” messes the rhythm. Admittedly, I could choose a different word, but now I’ve typed all that, I won’t bother.

abig clue that I couldn't resist

Haiku

a

Searching ordinary art

for spatters of irony;

sneaky graffiti.

a

a

As before, answers in the comments. Not sure, but I think this one’s harder than the last, and I doubt American readers will get it…. but we’ll see.

a

Second up – computer games. This poem has gone through quite a lot of incarnations, and hopefully, it’ll go through a few more soon. Somehow, it’s managed to turn loosely into a sonnet today. Don’t know how that happened. Anyway, here it is:

aDungeon Siege

Save Point

Here, I retreat from real life (RL)
to realistic, from decisions to
return-to-last-save-point.
I swap chores for quests and
homework for spellbooks.
Here, the people are glad when I come.
They ask for help, I oblige;
I raise one point of Charisma.
It’s not quite happiness, not quite
an answer, but a stall for time –
life goes on hold as the game does,
a pause button for a sullen dinner,
then I escape into the fantastic
to gain valuable experience.

http://uk.gamespot.com/pc/rpg/dungeonsiege2/index.html?tag=result;title;0

a#I

If I do make up that final backdated post today – and there’s a reasonable chance of that, by the way – I think it would be better in a separate post. So it’s easier to find things when you’re going back through my old posts. See you soon, and feel free to comment.

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

Plans and Chickens

This is typical of me. I came home with grand ideas and plans. This is a chance to write, I thought. A writing holiday. A chance to prove to myself that, with a bit of dedication and perseverance, I’d come out with some good stuff.

Well, it’s blooming slow going at the start. I’m getting very easily distracted, and the few things I’ve tried to produce over the last few days have been abortive bilge. While this doesn’t bode well if I was hoping for a career in writing – something that takes more perseverance and persistence than I’ve so far exhibited – I’m not giving up. I’m going to tell my family when I’m locking myself in my new office, and that way I’m enforcing my own writing time. I’ve got out a 1500 piece jigsaw puzzle, which may seem counter productive, but as a thing to settle my mind down before I write, it’s so far doing ok. And that way I can’t get frustrated about doing absolutely nothing, staring at the keys. And I’m going to go on walks. And not just walks – drives. I’ll try and take myself to “inspirational” places and sit down and with nothing else to do, write. Let’s get this party started, as it were.

Here’s a poem a few of you have seen before. I brought it to my Creative Writing circle,

inside a shed
One's of my father's broiler sheds

thinking I wasn’t that fond of it, but found myself defending my decisions so vehemently that I figured I must have done a few things right. It’s about the huge chicken broiler sheds we have on my Dad’s farm. I’ve not been to see them since I got back, so I couldn’t even tell you how old the current “crop” are.  It’s something like 50,000 chickens per massive shed, although there are less per shed as they get bigger.  As I had to explain patiently to one friend, they are never old enough to lay eggs, and unlike the aforementioned friend, are presumably free of dirty sex thoughts. For him alone, this poem is called “Edenic Chickens!” to hammer the point home.

Chickens

a

The lights were dimmed –

chickens falling asleep in

seconds in the dark,

and this vast sea of white backs

stretches into obscurity.

a

So eager, flighty in the day,

there was something nearly as

cloying as the heat and smell in seeing

thirty thousand birds resting in peace.

a

Two birds lay touching, one

resting his head on the soft down

cushion of the other’s back.

a

They seemed happy.

I told myself.

Six weeks old.

* * * * *

That night I couldn’t sleep

tossing and turning at one in the morning.

a

When the rustle of bedsheets died down,

I heard the distant rumble of lorries over the road,

come to take them away.

Dispense

Good news. Week 2 is much easier than week 1. I’m less stressed, and I’m getting my planning done in no time, which leaves time for hill walks, trips to the beach, even a capoeira lesson from my friend Paulo. And of course, some writing.

Not me or Paulo
Not me or Paulo

All of this work has left me turning to coffee again. Today was a record-breaker – 3 and a half cups, and then a cup of tea 2 hours later. And I still went to sleep, another 2 hours after that. And missed lunch.

Truth is, I get addicted to things, very easily. It’s why I’ve never tried smoking. It’s connected to why I can’t read books out of order, why I lock myself in my room to churn through episodes of a TV series. Perhaps it’s why I’ve never watched “Lost”, because by all accounts, I would curl into a ball, starve, and forget how to communicate with humans.

So coffee is something that I avoid, unless I need it to sustain myself. But sometimes the world of teaching can be stressful, and more frequently, the world of teaching needs you to be totally mentally alert and full of enthusiasm that’s as genuine as can be, at the drop of a hat.

This poem was written when I first began teaching. When I first threw myself into teaching teenagers, and then straight from that class to another with adults. Something I’d cope with now, and have done, but something that at the time needed some intense planning, and some quick improvisation. And at the end of a long day. So this poem was born.coffee

The idea behind it is that the sounds run in total parallel to the rest of the poem. If I was ever to read it aloud, I would either need to tape myself making the noises, or get someone to perform it with me. Experimental? I hope so.

Anyway, I went back to it again this afternoon and made infintessimal changes. I know that bigger changes can and perhaps should be made, but I wanted all the sounds that the words make, to be made. Hmmm.

I’m mostly left with confusion about how exactly to structure it. Like two columns, parallel. A human eye can’t read both sides at once, and directly inserting them breaks the flow of the poem. But it’s a work of theory, not of perfection. I’m going to post it with imperfect editing – this poem was a bitch even in Notepad and Word, so making it look good on the blog is more fuss, and I’m hungry. Remind me to come back and neaten this up sometime.

Dispense

Click // Clink.
Set the cup and check for change. Jingle.
Half a euro.
Need this, five minutes,                   Clink. Thunk.
reading practice, page fifteen.           “Café con Leche”.
How quickly will they finish that? Click.
Too quickly. Whiiiiiiiirrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr
The brain runs a search to the whirr of the coffee grind,
a thick clot of caffeinated sludge, rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr
searching for something to sweeten it. Click.
kloussssssssssssssssssssssssh
The gush of the milk at pace with my gurgling thoughts.
A tumble of hard-pressed images rushing past,
Then slowing to a trickle…
Ding.
And it’s over, the break, the panic, the class,
The day, the week rushes past at the pace of a coffee,
Held in a thin plastic cup,
Disposed of lightly and then ready for the next.

Click // Clink.aaaa

Set the cup and check for change. aaaaaaaaaaaaaaa Jingle.

Half a euro.

Need this, five minutes,             aaaaaaaaaaaaaaa Clink. Thunk.

reading practice, page fifteen.          aaaaaaaaaaaaaaa “Café con Leche”.

How quickly will they finish that?aaaaaaaaaaaaaaa Click.

Too quickly. aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaWhiiiiiiiirrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

The brain runs a search to the whirr of the coffee grind,

a thick clot of caffeinated sludge, aaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

searching for something to sweeten it. aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaClick.

kloussssssssssssssssssssssssh

The gush of the milk at pace with my gurgling thoughts.

A tumble of hard-pressed images rushing past,

Then slowing to a trickle…

Ding.aaaaaaaa

And it’s over, the break, the panic, the class,

The day, the week rushes past at the pace of a coffee,

Held in a thin plastic cup,

Disposed of lightly and then ready for the next.

The Moment

Argh, blog, must I update you while I have so much work to do with exams and reports and planning the next month and a half of my life? Not to mention organising an Intercambio nights, some flights, and finding resources to teach to 16-year-olds who think they know English but don’t? That expression “not to mention” is odd, isn’t it? The act of using it means that you are about to mention…. I won’t tax myself on that too much now, though, I’m busy.

Yes, that serial short story will come. I know which one I’m writing now, and have tentatively divided it into three parts. But I spent so long faffing with the other two stories I’ve got practically nothing done on it.

Instead, like pork loins to chasing wolves, I shall throw a poem at you to save myself from your fangs.

It’s called “The Moment”, and rose out of a conversation with an old friend. I find the conversation part of the poem clunky, so I will gladly take suggestions on how to improve it, as when I took it to my Creative Writing meeting, I didn’t get many comments on that part.

The Moment

“But everyone gets the Moment!
The sticky time.” “Sticky?”
“Sticky eyes, something circling
in the stomach. a something-
could-happen Moment.”
“Something?” “Between us, or
whoever, depending. It happens.”

“And that was ours?” “It was.”
“I hardly remember it.”
“It didn’t happen, though.”
“What didn’t?” “Anything.”
For the greater good
of our relationship

on that hill, in the dark,
we looked at each other,
by that cemetery, the jokes,
our separate thoughts
separately twining, and hoping
they were twining in the
other’s thoughts. Our minds
beyond our conversation,
on each other’s cautious eyes.

And we walked on, after
the Moment, we walked on.

Heat is Hot. (“How Fire Licks”, “Avant-Garde”)

Heat is hot. Did you know this? And not in the sexy way. I’ve heard the expression “it sucks me dry”, and maybe it does some places, but Barcelona has a humid heat, much worse this year than last. I think here, I sweat all my energy out.

And then, this evening, I went to a comedy meeting, and tried to be funny for 3 and a half hours, which robbed me of what little energy I retained.

I had the grand old scheme of writing a short story in serial. In fact, I have 2 stories that could be candidates for this. Two stories that I’ve plotted out, and know what’s going to happen, so I’m just missing words on a page. And, now that I think about it, a third that sitting there, in need of a dustin’ and a postin’.

However, since none of these has more than 2 coherent consecutive paragraphs, that will have to wait, and today, I’ll dredge the old cupboards for something else. Pictures to follow when I’m more awake or not busy (i.e. not tonight or tomorrow)

I’ve dredged, and I’ve got two shorties for you.

How Fire Licks

How Fire Licks
How Fire Licks

a

The salamander’s tongue is

dry as it licks

at the blackened edges

that shrivel, shrinking

from its burning touch

a

like your thin tongue

licks your soft lips

– but can’t reach your

smouldering eyes.

a

a

a

And secondly, a little silly:

a

Avant-Garde

a

A poem aboutbook page stone
writing a poem?
It’s been done.

a
How about a
poem about
a poem about
writing a poem?
How novel.

A novel?
No.