The Lift And Aspirations Of The Line

I have a confession to make. I’ve done something a bit creepy. (It wasn’t meant to be creepy).  Ages ago, I followed someone on Twitter. I don’t know them in real life, and I’ve never interacted with their account, but someone recommended them as being ‘wholesome’, and I needed some benign influences on my feed. So, they are benign, just Tweeting their everyday, BUT ALSO they have a natural iambic pentameter going on in their Tweets. It’s like little bits of poetry. Their throwaway posts have the lift and lilt that my poetic lines aspire to….so I nicked 14 of them and made a ‘found sonnet’. Creepy Twitter stalker sonnet. Sorry not sorry.

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Mercifully, I am not the only one who has gone all ‘found poetry’ on this prompt! (Interesting….?) Here’s a lush one from Ann Cuthbert.

Dull battleship grey or goldish ochre.
If cold, it can be tough to cut.
Placing it in sun softens it, makes cutting easier.
Blades give different styles of cut,
narrow and deep, broad and shallow.
An accidental slip, a nasty gouge.
How deep to cut? A Goldilocks moment.
Too shallow and it fills up, too deep, you risk a hole.
Sacrifice a piece to try the blades.
You’ll soon get a feel for what’s just right.
Deeper and shallower lines, straight and curved.
Short, long, little stabs, jerking sideways.
What’s been cut away and what remains?
You didn’t mean to cut that part away.

(phrases lifted from ‘Getting started with lino printing’ Marion Body Evans)

Paper Trail

We’re over half way through these Strange Prompts, and storming along! I absolutely LOVED today’s contribution, from Caroline Walling…

Scattered white across the floor,

rejected shapes,

massacred trees,

corners missing;

scarred from ill equipped fingers

snip, snip, snip.

Imagination confetti (discarded or arranged?)

spoke from the carpet

I’ve been busy.

She followed trials of rejects up the stairs

drawn by a gentle song about

snipping paper trees for Muuumyyy.

Losing the trail at the door

she leaned in.

A moment to observe:

cherub fingers busy

cheeks blown out

busy brow

buried under costume layers

snip, snip, snip;

paper snow,

paper rain,

paper dolls,

snip, snip, snip;

paper shapes,

paper lengths,

paper points.

That gaze outshines constellations

her smile launches a thousand ships.

Mummy, trees for you.

Thank you my darling

They are beautiful.

 

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And here’s my true tale, written in the chaos of January – the traditional, annual Tax Returns Panic!

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After Other Utopias Are Planted

I love this prompt! It’s brought some really gorgeous poems out of the woodwork; this one by Hannah Mackay…

after other utopias are planted

the seedbank must be replenished.

please bring the wing-flutter of a bluetit
on the verge of
flying into your living-room window;

the third eyelash from the edge
of your upper right eyelid;

or a similar item of your own choosing,
to be scrutinised,
and possibly adopted,

by our volunteers.

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…and this one by Ann Cuthbert.

There’s always been a problem finding it.

Nova Insula Utopia.

Ambrosius’s map is picturesque/grotesque,

Flags flutter on turrets, his ship of teeth grins white.

But accuracy never was his forte.

Plus, someone coughed over the co-ordinates – 

longitude and latitude drowned out in hacking,

directions written in a conlang we can’t crack,

invalid postcodes, GPS malfunctions,

misled by SatNav that sets you back-of-beyond,

no lifesigns except that craze-eyed sheep.

No wonder so few have ever made it.

Now they’re saying other utopias have been planted,

or at least their stories have – whether they’ll take

hold’s another matter. Truth or false news?

We’re still being duped, still kept in the dark.

You too could have a short micro-poem or flash fiction featured for one of the remaining prompts – just message me at imeldasays at gmail dot com with your creation!

Itinerant Line

I have been reading far too many books on poetic form by Penned In The Margins, and so have been forced to write a poem entirely made of anagrams of the prompt (except for the little joining words because I’m not completely brilliant/psychotic).

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Luckily, I also have more sensible poems here from Jules Clare

Travelling from place to place
Plane, train, automobile
A Climatic emergency disgrace
Turning down the emission dial

A line is easy to define
Especially if it’s mine
Locally from Newcastle to Scotland
The Lowlands to The Highlands sublime

How will I get on in life?
Will I be in a dream?
Will I proffer a knife ?
Personal challenges unclean

Purple visions and strife
Dressed to kill in Docs
Travelling between Lisbon and Fife
Observing European Goths

And from Jo Colley – thank you, both!

The line between acceptable and unacceptable
The line between here and there
The line between what is mine and what is yours
which shifts like the line of the tide, a salt stain
on the sand, watermarked silk
The line between now and then, ungraspable
like water, like the wings of a hummingbird
Yesterday, today and tomorrow with the light
growing and shrinking on the horizon, the sky
forever an endless bowl without a single line
where we will all fall upwards into infinity

For Love Of The Rebellious Traveller

As I write this blog, I am without contributors for the 14th prompt – for the first time since I started this project. Don’t let this happen again. go to the full list of strange prompts and send me something for #19, #20, #23, #25, #26, #28, #29 or #30?

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Hah! Fooled you! I put out a heartfelt cry on the Book of Faces, and the very splendid Ann Cuthbert took pity on me, sending in this piece – which is immeasurably better than mine!

For love of the rebellious traveller 

(Ynes Mexia 1870-1938)

In these photographs she frowns from makeshift jungle desk, inches across a chasm-spanning log, dangles her legs over Grand Canyon’s rim. 

Why did I love her? Nothing daunted her. 

So slight, so unassuming, my Ynes. But tough as the boots she bushwacked in – they told her women couldn’t, especially not old ones, so she thought she better had – for thirteen years, from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, canoeing the Amazon, camping in bogs, collecting her beloved specimens.

She didn’t really need me, preferred solitude, but I tagged along, braved earthquakes, sideways rain, unwashed hair, took photographs while she took measurements, made notes. 150,00 plants, 500 new species, 50 named after her.

‘I have a job now,’ she said. ‘I produce something real and lasting.’ This rebellious traveller I loved.

Then I received this lovely poem from Julie Easley

She left notes,
scribbles of self
scattered about.
She spoke of secrets,
symbols and strangers,
said so much more
than she should.
Its for love, she wrote,
for the wanderlust souls
to light their way
They became tokens,
her notes, for the rebellious
amongst us. Snippets
of sentences
that sent travellers
to tread ever deeper.
Step gently, she told them,
step further, but always gently.

The Peripatetic School

Welcome to the Peripatetic School! Are you paying attention, class? We will start with a flash fiction from Ann Cuthbert, to be read in your best Miss Jean Brodie voice:

Hello? Mrs Harris-Tottle, Chair of Governors, speaking.

Yes, it has gone walkabout again. Prime Mover knows where we’ll find it this time. At least it waited until everyone had left before it sauntered off. Well, I say everyone. Mr Temperance was in the boiler room – oh yes, that’s true – at least the heating will still be on – and Honor had stayed to put a display up.

Let’s hope it’s ambled over flattish ground. Remember when it tried to climb Roseberry Topping? ‘Seeking the moral high ground’ was its excuse, though how it could justify the mess I do not know. Classrooms tipped sideways, tech toppled, staffroom topsy-turvey, all the cups mixed up. If only it had some sense of balance.

No, I’ve given up asking ‘Why?’ Goes against the grain but there you have it.

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Mine is a dystopian acrostic (not something you hear every day!)

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And I leave you with a gentler invitation, from Caroline Walling:

Walk with me awhile so that we might talk.

Your mind is a riddle I would like to solve.

Let us answer the clues together so that we might know one another better

Perhaps along the way we might share an anecdote or two.

Shall we start with the theory or the facts?

If you’d like to know what we’re up to, or to join in with your own poems, check out all thirty prompts and learn how I made them up via convoluted means as part of my writing residency at Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art…

The Nature Of Things

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What a treat I have for you today! A longer lyrical prose piece by Hull writer Julie Corbett, which just blew me away when I read it. I so hope you enjoy it too.

Undated Memoir

Yesterday I met a man at the bus stop, exchanged pleasantries,

as we waited. His bus arrived before mine. I resumed thinking

about mud, not soil, although my mud is a mixture of top soil

and boulder clay. The man lived at the coast; a town protected

by sea defences, concrete, Norwegian larvikite and hard wood

groynes. He was taking some new curtains home, in my bag

more library books. He didn’t show me the photos on his phone,

prehistoric forest, black twisted limbs stretched out to salty air.

 

Today I go out to tea, to meet my friend, who gives me a book.

A poetry collection about sheds. My mind strays backwards,

back to mud and forks and trenches and worms. Amazing worms,

not clagged by stickiness of clay. I guess they have a dubbin-like

layer of special lubricating slime, effective in bone- dry compost

as well. My friend is recovering from serious illness, plans visits

to all the people, she didn’t get to last year.  We drink three pots

of tea, talk about choirs, turbans, sarcomas and hair growth rates.

 

Tomorrow will be its odd, slipping self, arriving as it becomes

today, slipping to the past as breath clears the lips. I worry

about weather, not climate change. I worry about the texture

of the land I dig to plant potatoes and herbaceous borders.

Sometimes I will ask my father for his opinion or for advice.

He is dying from a complex blend of life and love and work,

fused with asbestosis and removed tumours. I enjoy waking

before my alarm to car noises and birdsongs from the street.

 

By contrast, mine is a ridiculous piece of (strictly-speaking, inaccurate) doggerel about Roman poet Lucretius and his treatise on Epicurean philosophy, called ‘The Nature of Things’. Obviously.

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Ghost Crab

#11 Ghost Crab

Some splendid offerings for prompt number 11 of 30, which is very much a pair of ragged claws. Love this one from Charley Genever

A spiral of seaside under padlock;
patrolled itch, parted by transparent scuttle.
There’s no ignoring a haunting.
I don’t know which night’s ambush
is the patient with the pattern,
or which star is the blue-bollock to blame.
They’re all carriers of some kind of plague.
Pincers for the exorcist,
they speak like the police,
call the fucking mystery machine.
Try to wank it off.
Fail the phantom weight.
I am bound by plasma;
deep redded shame, melt the ghosts away.

… while Harry Gallagher comes at the prompt from a different angle with this ode to a friend with physical disabilities.

Crab
(im, Dean Wycherley, owner of Middlesbrough’s great Record Shop c.1980)

You were the chalk among cheese,
a crab amid speedwalkers,
a lonesome goalkeeper
in a world full of strikers.

Crutches thrown off like unwanted confetti
that never quite landed on your path.
No listener adoring your whistling vowels,
who knew the difference between a cry and a laugh.

No footsteps to echo through
the cathedral of your mind,
stacked with facts, top to toe,
colour coded, neatly filed.

All they saw were the signs
Keep Away From The Edge,
As if you led to some dangerous
contagion. Redfaced,

they stayed safe at
more than arm’s length;
away from incomprehension
and its attendant embarrassments.

Books and their covers
make uneasy bedfellows,
when laying straight
is more than a struggle.

Thanks for reading, if you’re enjoying these prompts then why not send me something of your own? Or follow to get a new batch of experimental writing every day. Tomorrow, we investigate The Nature Of Things.

OK, here’s my little offering, to finish up!

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An Indoor Heaven

The strange prompts and their wonderful donated responses go on! Thanks to Jules Clare for this poem

A poetic stage
at the Translucent Sage
A satisfying slam
Full of Doc glam

What about a cave?
Fingal is all the rave
Oh, come on Poets, behave
Recite your purple fave

Her indoors is listening
Beads of sweat are glistening
It’s time for the baby’s christening
Feel the congregation stiffening

An indoor haven
The audience cave in
A lady in purple raving
Human souls worth saving

Big thanks also to Mandy Maxwell, for this slice of domestic bliss!

An indoor heaven is a duvet
When it’s raining outside on a blue day
We’re Netflix n’ chill with a movie
Salsa, tortillas n’ doobie

An indoor heaven is a cuddle
Arms n’ legs in a muddle
When all the parts of the puzzle
Fit to create the bubble

An indoor heaven is laughter
It’s belly bustin’ banter
It’s finding the perfect partner
For the happy-ever-after

Mine went odd, predictably. I thought first about sleeping in a doorway, wishing to be inside. But that didn’t work. So I thought about how I always picture Heaven as being essentially a return to Eden, an outdoor space. I imagined an artificial, indoor Eden, and then that got me thinking about how the Biblical descriptions of Heaven are actually very urban and materialistic – cities and mansions of gold and jewels. And then this happened :

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If you’d like to have a poem or short story featured that you’ve written in response to any of the remaining prompts, please comment below!

 

The Art Of Delicate Resistances

Prompt 9 of 30 is a bit delicious, isn’t it? This is what Hannah McKay wrote in response to it, drawing on her expertise and experience as a shiatsu therapist and teacher:

Stretch to the edge of totality.

Hands holding, holding hands, legs, backs –

Instructively wait, listen –

Acing my own consistent muscularity

Touching Structures, the whole body

Understands breath at the edge of everything

My own response was a bit less wholesome…

#9 The art of delicate resistances2345

If you’d like to submit a response to any of the remaining prompts, comment below!