Titles for imaginary poems – JANUARY SALE!

If you’ve been following my blog recently, you’ll know that I’m undertaking a self-directed writing residency at MIMA. I’m using documents from their archives to inspire some experiments, like these in stop-motion animation, micro-poetry and found poetry collage.

But when I moved on to the file for my next chosen artist, Brazilian photographer Brigida Baltar, I found very little to work with. The main document was her CV of art works, exhibitions and galleries where she has been shown. It was a VERY long list, and a lot of it was in Portuguese.

There is a poetry technique called ‘homophonic translation’ or ‘the arrogant translator’. In it, the poet creates a new work by (mis)translating a poem written in a language they can’t understand.

I did this with the Portuguese phrases, thinking I might write one piece incorporating some or all of them. Instead, I ended up with the titles for swarms of new poems, short stories and flash fictions, which have been plaguing my brain ever since!

In an attempt to halve my torment by sharing it, here are 30 of them issued as writing prompts via the slightly trash-sarcastic medium of pre-designed Instagram slides. Please send me anything that comes out of any of these prompts, and I promise I’ll share it here alongside my own efforts!

1111111#8 In search of the miraculous - Copy - Copy#9 The art of delicate resistances - Copy - Copy#10 An indoor heaven - Copy - Copy#11 Ghost Crab - Copy - Copy#12 The nature of things - Copy - Copy#13 The peripatetic school - Copy - Copy#14 For love of the rebellious traveller - Copy - Copy#15 Itinerant line - Copy - Copy#16 after other utopias are planted - Copy#17 Paper Trail - Copy#18 The lift and aspirations of the line - Copy#19 Other flowers - Copy#20 More precious than prattle - Copy#21 The marketplace of earth and barricades - Copy#22 From which precision, despite it all, we are sentient - Copy#23 The subtle vertigo of images - Copy#24 House of abasement - Copy#25 Sonorous passageways - Copy#26 Resplendent incisors - Copy#27 radical handy-arms - Copy#28 O! Son Of Trauma - Copy#29 the last house of the last passenger

#30 Get that balance

Better Ways To Fail

Does anyone actually enjoy failing? In my first blog about my writing residency at MIMA, I said I was going to experiment with a really wide range of techniques, and fail as interestingly as possible. But of course, I secretly hoped that everything I touched would turn to gold.

Readers, it did not.

I’ve shown you some of what I feel are the better pieces to come out of the residency so far – now here are a couple of bits I’ve binned.

The power of this African life, this free life, crosses history

I’m happy enough with the content of this blackout poem, but as an object it is ugly and dull- it actually looks much better in photographs than it does in real life, thanks to the miracle of editing tools.


I tried first to erase text using a stippling technique, then when that didn’t work I covered over text with masking tape.

That was a really revolting mess of a white-out, so I started painting the masking tape with black ink, hoping for a sort of stormy sea effect. It dried and took on a patchwork leather effect, which looks like a mistake on this crappy bit of cardboard. I used some of the blackout squares from a previous film to try to create more interest. Meh.

Can it be turned around? I think the only thing that might work is if I were to apply this technique to a human figure or silhouette. Then it might be possible to think in terms of the literal scars of slavery, or dreadful stories about the use of human hides. Then the leathery, bandaged surface might become something powerful and moving. Am I the right person to do this? I think not. But that is what the final texture of the piece brought to my mind. If I were to do this with an anonymous human form, it would be an exercise in objectification. Himid’s life-sized figure works because he is named, reclaimed, celebrated in all his individual glory.

This second piece is a more convention blackout poem, using felt-tip pen. I was experimenting with a non-linear, non-grammatical construction. Basically a sort of mind-map springing out of the central phrase “questions of migration”. It’s  too random a cloud of words, requiring too much interpretation by the reader to have much of an impact.


So – there you have it, I have managed to fail as promised, though maybe not as interestingly as I would like. Not yet, anyway! Onwards! The next phase of the residency is inspired by Brazilian artist Brigida Baltar, and I’m still working on the written aspect. I’ll be back once I have some visuals for you! Plus, watch out for some writing prompts coming your way…

Black Disruption / White Wash

Here’s my situation.

I’m a white woman, a nobody writer, an amateur at art. I’m writer-in-residence at mima, testing out some found poetry techniques on their archive documents.

Black-out. Erasure.

The artist whose file I’m currently working on is Lubaina Himid. A black woman, a lifelong activist for the empowerment of black artists specifically and black people universally, an internationally-acclaimed artist, a Turner Prize-winner.

I know for a fact that nothing I do will go down in history.

But I do not know for a fact that Himid’s magnificent achievements absolutely, positively will go down in history. They bloody should. Mima wants to be part of making sure they do. But history has a nasty tendency to white-wash. Might be something to do with who gets to write it…

The picture I’m responding to is all about the white-washing of history, and how it perpetuates systemic racism. The subject of the painting is Toussaint L’Ouverture, leader of the Haitian Revolution, who in his lifetime was as famous as Napoleon.

Any English person has at least heard of Napoleon, right?

Have you heard of L’Ouverture?

This wouldn't be news

I took Himid’s biography, and made a stop-motion erasure called Black Disruption/White Wash. It’s supposed to be a comment on the thoughts I’ve written above. I’m not sure it works, and if you want to comment then please do. But please, please, as well as reading this blog (thanks if you’ve got this far) it’s way more important that you have a look at Himid and her phenomenal career.

Next week I’ll post my final thoughts on this section of my residency, and show you the bits that went a bit Pete Tong…

Teeny Tiny Writing

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that one collaged found poem does not a writing residency make.

(To catch a hold of what I’m blethering on about, read how I am inventing my own residency, and have a neb at my first piece of work.)

Next steps, therefore, must be to produce more, more, more, MORE work. Dutifully, I turned my attention to the ‘treatment proposal’ document pertaining to Toussaint L’Ouverture by Lubaina Himid. I took that report, and I cut it into strips, and I shuffled it around, and I thought about how we should treat each other with the kind of loving attention that a conservator lavishes on an Old Master, and – well. Turns out either the language of art conservation is truly lacking in poetry, or I am much worse at this than I thought. Darnit.

I managed to glean two micro-poems, two tiny little ‘treatment proposals’. The first is a kind of instruction about treating your own self with patience.

Surface, glazed – a decision made

The second is more about treating others with compassion.

Whilst inherently unstable,
small tears can be repaired by
supporting

Then, because they were so teeny-tiny, I spent some time bigging them up via the application of Some Slightly Flashier Techniques, making one into a stop-motion film,

and the other into both a stop-motion and a collage.

Treatment Proposal 1 collage after Himid
The upshot is that I quite like the end products! The collage is on cardboard, something I’ve been meaning to try for ages, and which I felt duty-bound to do now because Himid’s work is on cardboard. It’s a fantastically accessible material, which I’m sure is a political statement on her part, and of course it’s a better environmental choice than buying art paper especially. I think I’ll keep on using cardboard in future projects.

The stop-motions are fairly crude, but I do love the process. I played around with filters for the first time, and liked the way a black-and-white resulted in great gashes of light appearing in the animation. It’s good to know that even if my lighting conditions at home are desperately amateur, I might still be able to salvage or even improve footage by using the right built-in cheats.

Next time, I combine erasure poetry with stop-motion, and try to pay homage to Himid’s politics. While I’m gone, here’s an automatic haiku generator for you to play with.

Lubaina Himid’s Sexy Slapdash Squares

I’m in the second-floor gallery at mima. I’m surrounded by an amazing array of art. I need to choose maybe half a dozen artworks as my focus. I’m a writer-in-residence. I’m going to use their archived records as source texts for erasure poems, but I have no idea what kind of documents are kept on file. What do I choose?

My first choice, without a moment’s hesitation, is Toussaint L’Ouverture by Lubaina Himid. It’s huge, bold, and contains loads of brilliant collage elements. I know that I want to use collage as an erasure technique in my found poems. Himid is definitely a good choice.

mima envelopeSkip forward a few weeks, and I’m at home when an enormous padded envelope arrives from the mima team. Inside is a ream of photocopied archive documents, including several about Himid’s work. There is an extensive biography, an acquisition statement, and a detailed condition report from a conservator. This last document includes a thorough treatment proposal, full of technical suggestions on how to repair and maintain the painting.

I start from waaaay inside my comfort zone – a tiny found poem spied in the condition report, simple and quite abstract. It’s all about colour, but not about race. I know I’ll have to work out how to respond to Himid with some shred of socio-political consciousness, but I haven’t thought it through yet. I just want to do some erasure using collage squares that are as exuberant as the ones that Himid has used to make the floor under Toussaint’s boots.

Himid collage squares

I ransack my stack of magazines for images featuring gold and yellow, cut them into rough squares, and set about it with a Pritt stick. Bliss.

“Gold has yellowed….yellowed…yellows”

Gold Yellows collage after Himid

Is this developing my creative practice? It’s not so far away from work I’ve made in the past, although I’ve never made a process video before. I love time lapse! OK, I will try to do more of these videos, and framed better, without so much of my belly-bulge showing. But first I have a hankering to do some stop-motion.

Tune in next week to find out what I manage to squeeze from a treatment proposal, and why I start regretting the whole endeavour…

Looking for Persephone in Hartlepool

You’ve heard this one, right? Once upon a time, there was a goddess called Demeter. Her power ripened corn, and brought the fruit to sweetness. But when her only daughter was abducted and taken to Hades, she went mad with grief. She wandered the world, searching for Persephone, and the world descended into perpetual winter.

Poets write based on Greek myths a lot. I have a poem in Under The Radar magazine issue 23 based on the Demeter/Persephone myth, and I thought I’d tell you how I came to write it – by doing to myself just what I did with Rose Condo in my last blog.

On a bitterly cold day in January 2015, I created a ‘Demeter body’. I asked myself –

DP1What if she wandered all the way to 2019?

What if she searched as far as Hartlepool?

What would she look like?

How would she move?

I imagined a muttering, distraught homeless woman, ingrained with grime, constantly scanning the gutter-edges of towns for a trace of her daughter, neck hunched forward, arms compulsively reaching out, quivering with painful hope at every child.

I got into character and went on a very long walk through the frozen streets. “Listen with your feet, the shadows are all ice”

DP2

I hunched myself, crunched my neck, and limped through some of the most neglected parts of Hartlepool Headland, down the walkway where “the old coal rail / is tarmacked and sequinned with broken fifths of scotch” and into town.

I walked through housing estates I’d never visited before. “Black dog on Vincent Street, slaver on its jowls”

I was astonished by the screams coming from playtime at the local schools. “Rosy little children / breathing out steam like rotting compost”

DP4

I even pushed through a damaged fence to search in the scrub near the railway, because by then the body was telling me that Demeter absolutely needed to check everywhere. Every dirty corner where the lost and trashed accumulate.

I lived, trusted and followed Demeter’s body for about four hours. When I came home, I was aching and exhausted, but I had a poem that seemed to have discovered a new voice.

DP3

The photographs featured here are composite images created from shots I took on my phone during my walk. They are my attempt to find a visual equivalent for the emotional atmosphere of the poem.

Impermanence by Kirsten Luckins — Celebrating Change

https://videopress.com/embed/AQByGcjZ?hd=0&autoPlay=0&permalink=0&loop=0

Celebrating Change grew in part out of a love for film-poetry. Although not everyone who takes part in the project ends up using a poem as the basis for their digital story, there is still something essentially poetic about putting pictures to words. We ask our film-makers to explore what happens when the pictures don’t […]

via Impermanence by Kirsten Luckins — Celebrating Change

Dinbych by Stella Wulf

Please click here for an audio recording of Stella’s wonderful poem.

IMG_0191

Stella Wulf hails from Wales but now lives in France with her husband and a menagerie of critters. She has spent her life restoring ruins and is yet to live in a house that’s finished. Her poems have appeared in Obsessed With Pipework, The High Window, Raum, Prole, Ink Sweat & Tears, Rat’s Ass Review, Sheila-Na-Gig, and many others. They have also been included in several anthologies: The Very Best of 52, three drops, Clear Poetry Anthology, and #MeToo. She has an MA in Creative Writing, from Lancaster University.

Wild Awake In Winter

2018 is, I hope, the year of TWO retreats. I spent the last week in January at Dhanakosa, marking my tenth annual retreat, enjoying snow, writing poems, and collecting footage for this filmpoem inspired by our discussions on environmental activism.

If you’re considering a retreat and would like to learn more about meditation or Buddhism, I really recommend Dhanakosa. They have wonderful week-long retreats throughout the year for beginners, and the meditation is always partnered with a sympathetic activity like yoga, writing, painting, photography or even hillwalking. Prices are also on a dana basis – you pay what you can. Go; you won’t regret it.

Speak up, larches.

Now the wind has gone

you have stopped your roaring song.

Instead, you watch the buzzard

trace gentle circles in the air.

And now you hold your arms out

to catch the chaffinches, and the rain.

Otters, gigs, pamphlets, gigs, projects

Hi all – quick round-up of what’s been keeping me away from blogging here – blogging HERE! Celebrating Change is a new Arts Council-funded project from me and my colleague Laura Degnan. We’re combining my writing experience with her filmmaking skills in order to run a year-long digital storytelling project for Middlesbrough residents. I’m also in charge of running the blog as a poetry/film/flash fiction online magazine, so please do check out the many poems I’ve been posting over the last few weeks.

Otters are through the first edit and getting their covers sorted, on track for publication in early October – you can still pre-order your copy, and even buy a print of my ‘Otters In A Bathtub’ illustration, or instruct me to draw an otter of your very own! You have until 10th October to get in on the deal, so do get clicking!

And finally, I will be one half of a brand-new pamphlet coming out in the Black Light Engine Room series. These are gorgeous little pocket-sized poetry gems, with a classy yellow cover, and only cost £4 a pop. I will be reading at the pamphlet launch at Python Gallery in Middlesbrough on Saturday 28th October, hope to see you there.

Lots of other gigs and readings lined up for autumn:

Autumn Gigs updated