The Marketplace of Earth and Barricades

Today’s Strange Prompt took my mind into dystopian territories once again – I hope you enjoy this small prose-poem, and the following donated poems…

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Big thanks to Claire Trevien for this poem (Claire, I can’t find the correct accent for your ‘e’, or to say desolee!)

I leave the earth of sober antlers.

The red sky enters another red sky.

Paper gems and torn varnish.

The earth is abstract textiles.

There is a die that only listens to you,

I leave the ball of rope & its tape of warm hellos.

And another stunning gift from Ann Cuthbert, who has really got into these prompts!

You’re asking for the earth? This is the place –
you won’t find better prices anywhere.
And check out the variety we’ve got.
This planet? Will you look at all that blue!
And what a shape! A sphere. OK not quite.
I’ll knock a coupla quid off if you like.
Too big? Well what about this pedosphere?
That’s soil to you, love – skin of the earth I call it.
Loose or friable or packed or firm.
We’ve got the lot in sacks, buckets and barrows.
Something more stylish? Earthworks are so cool.
Everybody’s getting into these.
The ditch, the trench, the rampart, motte or fogou.
I’ll do you two for one, whaddya say?
Not interested? Well, not quite what you asked for –
But barricades are on the up-and-up.
Get your cement blocks here, sandbags, cobbles.
Defend your neighbourhood, block off your street.
Delay the movement of opposing forces.
Battle the isms and archys of oppression.
Go on, what’s there to lose? You won’t regret it.
We’ve got everything you need to make a stand.

 

More Precious Than Prattle

There’s something about this Strange Prompt that just begs for nonsense ditties, alliteration, and a tigger-like bounce to the scansion. Mine is pretty meaningless, but scroll down for a beautiful love poem from Susie McComb…

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Here is Susie’s far superior take on the prompt:

I know it’s mundane for the moon to wane

I know it’s routine for the stars to gleam
I know I’ll sound trite if I speak of the night
And the fire, and the fear and the far candlelight
But my head’s feeling tight, so I thought that I’d write
Though my gut’s feeling taut at the thought of our fight
And my poetry’s glib as the tinkle of nib
Against inkwell, and simple as baby’s first fib
I’d just like you to know, in the midst of our battle
You’re more lovely than cliché
More precious than prattle.

And here is the ever-wonderful Ann Cuthbert, who has bilingual grandchildren!

Lily speaks Espanglish

¡Oye Mammy! ¡Mira Grandad!
I Lily. Quiero cheese and pan.
I do it ¡síííí! Tú nooooo!
¡Mira! A espider. I escared.
¡Mala! I want chuches. Please.
Watch dibujos, Dora the Explorer.
¡Yá está!

Other Flowers

After a little hiatus while I caught my breath, I’m back with the next few Strange Prompts.

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Esther Bonner has donated a set of near-haikus to bring in the spring.

Springtime has arrived.
Daffodils dance, dash and dive.
Vibrant tulips thrive.

Fragrant sweet peas flower.
Marigolds outlast hot Summer days.
Bold hydrangeas bloom.

Autumnal colours flash.
Fiery pom-pom heads of dahlias dash.
Coppery-pink Mespilus splash.

Cyclamen brighten dull days.
Sturdy pansy faces Winter winds.
Crocus, snowdrop emerge.

I love this one from Katharine Goda, it tugs at my heart in gentle but persistent ways.

Tulips – red purple yellow –
a bubbled glass of blue sky.

Mummy? Why is
just this one dying?

Chance, bruised heart,
or just not strong enough.

She lifts it, waxy, sighing
beside bright brothers.

In the garden  
it might come alive?

The big world widens.
I plant her in my lap,

watch trapped light,
promise compost.

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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