Here I am in Japan. It’s a crazy old place, and fits so many of my images of the place, as well as throwing up so many exciting twists and changes.
I’ve been finding it difficult to get round to writing things here, and I think that’s because there’s just so much to say alongside absolutely no new writing. So I’ve decided to take a stab at getting some of the thoughts down, and hopefully the creative writing will show up soon…
Now for my first short list of things that surprise (or surprised) me here:
I’d forgotten the levels of stress that accompany teaching kids. I work in the mornings, and find various ways to relax in the afternoons, and then plan for the next day in the evenings, then sleep. Luckily, my kids are (quite) well-behaved), and seem to enjoy learning new things. It has been a while since I last taught kids on any kind of scale. Certainly not 15 at once. So it’s all good practice, and now I know them better, week 2 should be easier.
That’s the explanation for the absence of a Midweek post, and I recommend you anticipate the same thing happening this coming week as well. And then the one after that. And then I’ll be more talkative again.
I’m going to through up a poem now that’s gone through…. a lot…. of drafts. It was originally three separate half-poems that I’ve stuck together for having a common theme – hope you can’t see the joins. I’ve looked at it again this week, and while it remains imperfect, compared to it’s earlier versions, it’s looking pretty good. Still, I reckon what it needs is a little more condensing, and for me to be less flowing with the adjectives. Tell me what you think.
It’s based on swimming in the River Glaslyn, a place we used to go on family holidays, a place I’ve actually managed to find a picture of. It was an hour drive there, and nearly an hour walk to the spot in question, but we loved it, and I expect I’ll return there someday.
Diving into the Glaslyn
The smooth rock glistened with foot-pats,
breeze brisk, sun bright, water clean,
so clear and fresh we can see the bottom.
Running up for another dive,
you press down upon the rock’s edge for just a second
…heel raised, coiled like a spring,
your whole weight compressed upon
the fore part of the feet against the rock
…before you launch, arms forward.
Time rushes into the splash, the cold fingers of the river
parting for you, embracing you,
making you gasp, the water chaste and untouched,
and you disappear in an eruption of glistening light
sunk into bold white froth.
Soon you surface through the youthful torrent,
shaking your head,
hair wet and laughing like a seal,
then we kick down for some choice pebbles,
into the translucent world of dappled shadow below.
Behind the cries and noises of play,
your mark remains upon the rock, unnoticed,
your human imprint upon the solid stone,
until the sun’s lazy heat washes it dry,
one by one, the toe marks fade, vanish,
and the world returns to how it was before.
Just discovered something new about me and writing – I do it more when I’m cold!
It’s hot here in Barcelona at the moment, so I may try and do more of my writing on the balcony on breezy days and in the shade, rather than in my room. because even with the window full on open, I get too hot to think and go all dopey. Considering this is early May, this doesn’t bode well for July…. last year, I lived in a cool marble palace, so I survived the summer. This year…. not so much.
Anyway, the task I set myself last time was to take a long and heavy Sestina poem about a river, and make it something shorter and snappier. I considered doing a Sestina myself, but one of the inherent difficulties with the form is that it means the poem has to be six and a half verses long. It lends itself to a story progression, rather than a series of dialogues on the same theme, which this river poem was. The writer’s choice of the word “current” to end lines was a particularly troublesome one. Look at these, taken from different verses:
“Wildlife from all worlds visit my current”
“Another day, another hour just me and my current.”
“Photos capture my good and bad current”.
“The banks contain my stronger more powerful current”
“My temper can flare and exaggerate my current.”
Maybe in the not too distant future I’ll write a poem in which I try to redeem the poetic value of the word “current”. Wish me luck.
What I actually have for you tonight is a poem I wrote this evening on the theme of rivers. But rather than restrict myself to following the style of the first one, I’ve taken it off in a different direction. I wrote a second one that is like the original, but in a different voice. Just re-read it, and it’s a pile of steaming bilge, so I’ll hold on to that one for now.
This one is a first draft – I’ve not slept on it yet, so I’m sure it’s packed full of flaws. Enjoy.
“A giant visits the river source”
A giant visits the river source
once a year, walking in the hills,
and when he cries, the water swells
and when he laughs, he scatters flowers –
big bright flowers with no name
that gracefully dance downstream.
I wait for happy years with reverence,
my shore solemnity meets his joy.
In sad years, I swim in the murk
and dip my feet to the bottom.
Come back this weekend for a finished short story!
As a gift from a flatmate, I got this magazine called “First Edition”, with 18 amateur Short Stories, and some poems too. While some of the stories were awful in their own individual ways, it’s a real treat to read through something imperfect and see the flaws, and learn from them. That said, I have found one short story that totally surprised me (called “Time Line” by Peter Marshall), so I shouldn’t go into reading these stories with an automatic superior sneer.
I also found a poem that shall remain nameless, for fear of Google Searches. It was a poem about a river, and here is a sample verse:
Down I trickle softly and gently
Rippling and darting during my flow
On cold dark days I travel fast and wild
Shadows of trees cast by the glistening sun
In summer and spring stillness affects my current
Cold winds brush against my surface water.
I may as well mention that the whole poem is 6 verses of the same and similar, and that there’s no rhyme scheme, but it’s designed so the final word of each line, “gently, flow, wild, sun, current, water” is repeated in each verse in a different order. No wonder it sounded repetitive.
This actually brings out what I consider one of my biggest weaknesses – piling adjective upon adjective (upon descriptive noun). Even in that extract I posted Mid-Week, the line I considered powerful was “your slow, tedious ascent” – two adjectives together, and the “slow” is pretty well explained in the “tedious” anyway.
So why do I do it? Partly so it fits some kind of internal rhythm known only to me. And partly because I believe that sometimes a piling up of adjectives is more powerful. In spoken conversation, it would be like thrnking of an adjective, then thinking of a better one, which multiplies the first. Which is usually how I come up with them.
Anyway, my writing task for my Midweek post is to take the complete and unwieldy poem above and trim it to something better.
In the meantime, here’s another river-related poem – and one of the first poems I wrote.
The stream rolled on regardless
Bending, burbling on
Under the shelter of the bare sycamore.
It ran, full to the grassy banks
Glistening in the dying blush of day.
Even with that little light
You can still see cool pebbles at the bottom,
And the shadows dancing over them.
A score of yards upstream, its path is stark
And wedged tight by tall concrete pillars
Over which the motorway runs.
There, constant carbon wilts the brookside flower,