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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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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In Search of the Miraculous

Welcome back to the second week-long block of daily experimental writings in response to these strange prompts. As ever, I’d love to featured something from you, no matter how small or weird, just comment or message me and I’ll get it sorted.

#8 In search of the miraculous2

Here’s a lovely poem from Bernadette McAloon, full of rhythm and song.

No Fatima, no Lourdes
no tubercular girls
no fevered rosaries
no swine,  no pearls
no multiplied fish
no unlikely streams
no swarm of Marys
no wayside scenes
no bathing for cures
no housemaid’s knee
no canonised psychotics
no parting the sea
no blue genuflections
no Magdalene hair
no combustible bush
no wing, no prayer

Big thanks to Jo Colley for submitting this poignant prose poem. Be sure to watch out for her new pamphlet, How To Break A Horse, out now via indie press Blueprint. You can also buy her full collections from Smokestack, including brand new collection Sleeper, which launches at Newcastle Lit & Phil on 9 March.

Once I was in touch with the ineffable, believing miracles were only a breath away. If I prayed, Jesus would come and dry my tears. If I prayed, Jesus would sort out the misery of home. So I prayed, fervently, on my knees, desperately, fingers entwined so tightly, eyes squeezed together so hard, that it hurt. And once I think I saw Jesus, standing in my bedroom in a white nightie, looking holy and beautiful and sad. I think he came to tell me that it doesn’t work like that. Miracles cannot be ordered or begged for, and they don’t necessarily go to people who deserve them. Because who doesn’t? Suffering is par for the course in a human’s life and you may as well learn that early on. No, miracles are not a response to a child’s prayer, they are not about justice or about putting the world right. They are like flowers that grow through the cracks of the rubble of a bombed building. They are the sound of a woman sweeping up broken glass in a Sunday morning kitchen. They are found in the unexpected irrepressible laughter of children who have had everything taken away. A kind word from the check out boy at the supermarket when your heart is trying to carry bad news. 

From Rachel Burns, author of Girl In A Blue Dress from Vane Women press:

Tabernacle
After Dean Browne

The tabernacle flame in my church was always lit,
my childhood spent wishing something would happen
praying for a dark wind to come and blow the doors open
hoping the glass would crack and the flame blow out
but no that never happened. God, I was bored
listening to Father Lowry stammer through the Amens,
the Our Fathers, the Christs, the Lords
my knees sore from kneeling in a pew.

I’d never make the leap between religion and sex
in a tent, as you did. I had no such awakening.
That’s not strictly true. I do recall a camping trip
the flame of the Tilley lamp dwindling,
the smell of paraffin the tent plunged into darkness, my grip
tightening, the gasp for breath, the sudden climax.

It Appeared Around The Corner

Now, I don’t really write stories. But I do like prose poems, and I’m getting into flash fiction. So maybe it’s not so surprising that one of these random thirty prompts finally made me get a bit narrative

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I’d love to feature something you’ve written in response to the prompts – fancy sending me something? Comment below! Here’s another little bit sent in by my friend Lisette Auton

sneaking creeping,
not real not real not real
imagination
dead, gone.

Bernadette McAloon offers us this unsettling ditty

a blot on the vision
an apparition to the left
a doll like creature
a peg in a dress
a pestle in a tutu
a giant toe in tulle
a doubling, a trebling
the muse of a fool
an ocular aura
a tiny ghost in net
a premonition of pain
a commotion in the head

And Rob Walton‘s got in on the act too, with this

It appeared out of the corner
A right bloody angle
Must have been ninety degrees
If it was a minute
I tried suggesting it had been a bit obtuse
That drunken night at the geometry ball
But it was having none of it

Palavers And Outrages, Signs Of Sutti

For my response to prompt number 4 of 30, I decided to write a golden shovel. This means that each of these words are used in turn as the last word of each line of my poem. It’s a wonderful brain-bending exercise that I recommend to anyone wanting to push their creative brain out of its ruts.

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It seems I’m not alone in thinking about pavlovas – here’s a snippet from Lisette Auton.

I read this as pavlovas and wondered what meringue had to do with anything and then remembered meringues with homemade ice-cream in a kitchen warm with love and from a stomping beach walk. Meringues have everything to do with everything.

 

Body Nostalgia

Prompt 3 of 30, and I’m offering an alliterative brain-blurt, which was the best I could manage. In fact, I also very nearly managed to finish a short story for this prompt, but as prose is not my metier I ended up bogged down and paralysed. So – bouncing out with a bit of babble was my way to get back on track.

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And the ever-game Lisette Auton sent me one for number three as well – I can relate…

I mourn the lost body. I berate the folds and jiggles. Yet when I see a photo from before I think I looked beautiful then. Why can’t I think I look beautiful now?

Big thanks to Bernie McAloon for this snippet.

She considers this from another angle
until thoughts that escape from dresses
are suspended in stockings hanging
from the breast of a mantel.

Plus get a load of this flash-y beaut from Denise Sparrowhawk!

“Oh wow! Vintage! Can I try them?”  She watches covertly, as her daughter slides easily into the faded 501s and twirls for effect, hands on slim hips. “Perfect! Can I keep them?”. Without looking her mother nods, pushing away unwelcome thoughts of blue jeans days and the memory of thinner thighs.

Mary’s Flour

Time for reactions to prompt number two. Remember, you can still join in and send me something, we have 28 more prompts to feature 🙂

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Here’s a lovely response from Julie Easley:

They dissed Mary’s flour
said it tainted the fancies
but Mary didn’t care
for their sour responses
She flavoured her flour
with the decadent essence
of feminist spice mixed
with a pinch of opportunity.
Some choked on the power
of Mary’s floury produce
their taste buds unable
to swallow and savour
the equalising strength
of her sweet sisterly ingredients.
Plus a small, fierce statement from Lisette Auton, nut allergy sufferer

Mary’s flour does not say categorically whether it is made with gluten nor if it contains nuts.

Mary needs to work on her labelling.

 

And here’s a tiny little poem from me!
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Pleas be sure to go and see the photograph by Brigida Baltar currently on exhibit from the Middlesbrough Collection at MIMA, until the end of March.

Air From Other Planets

Just over a week ago I published a list of bizarre creative writing prompts that arose from some experiments made as part of my writing residency at MIMA. I asked people if they’d like to send me their poems and flash in response. To my delight, several brave souls have done!

So, here is the first of 30 posts where I will share my response to the prompt (in Instagram slides), and also a bunch of stuff by other people. Here’s the first prompt:

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I was reading ‘Changing Planes’ by Ursula le Guin when I started working on this, so I was influenced by her format of multiple very short stories all presented as travel guides to other planets/dimensions. My short writings came out as advertising blurbs.

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Here’s another approach from Lisette Auton

Is mars air coloured red?

Will it glaze my lungs in flames?

One way to find out…

And here’s another two pieces from me! If you’d like to have your flash, poem or micro-poem included in the next blogs, take a look at the prompts and email me something to imeldasays at gmail dot com. Cheers!

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And I almost forgot to add this fun piece from Rob Walton!

I was pure shocked to read in the paper about the big mountain of bloated bird corpses in Kent.
I said to Ken, I said, I said,
“Can it, can it, can it really be that there’s a mountain of dead gannets
grossly rotting on a beach on the Isle of Thanet?”
“Aye, well, you know what it is,” said Kenneth.
“They’d had enough of the poor air quality down there, so one of them – I think it was Little Jeffrey – went online and bought air from other planets. Turns out it was a bad batch. Cut with something or other.”
“Oh, that’s, I mean, that’s terrible. That’s such a shame. A crying shame.”
“Aye,” said Kenny. “Mind, they’re only gannets.”