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…

Playing with form

Recently I’ve been reading Asteronymes by Claire Trevien, a collection of poems that has repeatedly and deservedly been called ‘playful’. Lots of the poems muck about with wordplay, redaction, and poetic form. There’s a form in there that Claire has invented, where she splits four-letter words down the middle and uses them to start the first word of a line, and end the last word. This is most evident in the poem ‘Goatfell’, whose first two lines read thusly (emphasis my own)

GOthic scrabble of rocks, we chAT

FEy and murder: how this chap feLL

I rather like this game, so I had a go at it myself. I found it tricky but interesting, as it forced out a strange little poem quite unlike what I would usually write. The inspiration for the subject matter was a conversation I had with Husband as we sauntered through a churchyard. Husband says he’d like to be buried with a video camera in the coffin, so people could watch some kind of live stream decomposition. Grim, but funny, and potentially a spiritual act – it reminded me of a set of Buddhist watercolours I saw in the touring ‘Flesh’ exhibition, which portray stages of decomposition as an aid to meditation on impermanence.

What I really wanted to do was create a version of the poem where lines would fade, or decompose. I’ve seen similar things online, and had hoimagesped it would be something I could do via Twine – but alas, no, it needs properly coding and I am ignorant of this arcane magic. So instead I have rendered it as a Powerpoint presentation with slides that fade into each other! Neat! If you’d like to read it, please click on the link below to download it.

Underground, his face and body disintegrate