Join our film-poetry renga

Friends, I am delighted to invite you to contribute to a new digital project while we are all in lockdown, and hopefully beyond.

I have been asked by the wonderful poet Jo Colley to work with her on some activities to launch her fourth collection, Sleeper from Smokestack Books. It’s a glorious book full of double lives, Cold War spies, masked relationships, and emotional distances.

While we can’t bring you a physical launch (yet), we would very much like you to take part in a film renga. A renga is a long poem of linked verses that are created by several poets in collaboration,  under the guidance of a renga master. The renga master directs the flow of the chain, and will select each verse in turn from the selection put forward by the poets.

In our renga, we are providing you with a weekly prompt, which is a short verse from a long poem in the Sleeper collection. We are asking for a 20 second video clip that complements the text rather than directly illustrating it, and which also responds to the images already accrued. Each time we release a new prompt, we will also show you the film so far.

Here is your first prompt:

the table in your house
dim light on a glass of brandy
incoherent babble, justifications

And here are the instructions:

  1. Read the prompt
  2. Watch the film so far (applicable from week 2 onwards)
  3. Take a 20 second piece of footage (to allow for editing)
  4. Your video should contain images that complement the text, but not necessarily be a direct illustration of the images in the text
  5. Your video should be responsive to the feel of the composite film so far
  6. Please hold your device in landscape orientation when filming (like a TV screen)
  7. Please email your video to sleeperpoems@gmail.com
  8. Prompts and the film so far will be released every Monday for 11 weeks, and deadline for each week’s submission is 5pm every Friday

 

Get That Balance

We’ve reached the last Strange Prompt! Thirty whole new pieces of writing from me, with multiple contributions from 24 other poets and flash-fiction writers. It’s been a very satisfying outcome from my writing residency, and not at all what I expected. I’ve played with some fun techniques and poetic forms. I’ve written more flash fiction prose than I would ever normally do. I’ve been delighted by the quality of the shared writing, and very much enjoyed seeing some writers become slightly addicted to the prompts (Ann Cuthbert, I’m looking at you!). So thank you to everyone who has contributed, read, shared, commented and enjoyed this little project – I’ll see if I can come up with something great to follow.

Here’s my last one – just a little mesostic

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Thanks to Esther Bonner for this meditation on time…

Time passes..
Tick tock.
Seconds, minutes, hours.
Tick tock.
Birthdays, anniversaries,
work, pleasure.
Life never stops.
Tick tock.

The beating heart, like a clock.
Tick tock.
Life slips away.
So STOP!

Grab a moment to lift your face to the sun, let its warmth caress you.
Blow on a pearly white feather, watch it float idly on.
Rest your weary eyes.
Listen to the wind sigh on an Autumn breeze.
Trail your hand though a cool, fresh mountain stream.
Let your senses be cossetted and renewed by life.

Time passes..
Tick tock

Julie Easley has a great take on the subject, fierce and feminist as usual!

 

she was adorned with bruises

ornaments of torture bejewelled about her body

but it was her poise that goaded him

her sealed room approaches

 

The doll, she said,

won’t dress herself, won’t sit to attention,

the doll won’t respond

if you tell her she’s miserable

 

 

Infinite gratitude to Tony Gadd, martial art guru and spoken word powerhouse, who sends us this wisdom from the depths of his own current, very serious, health struggles…

Walking the tightrope of an ECG

An emotional and bodily state

Balance in life

Like balancing stones

A lifetimes work

Practice the key

Physical and mental equilibrium

Unsettled by other

Forces and influences

Rebalance essential

Eyes closed, breathe and just be…

 

O! Son Of Trauma

The mental image that inspired my poem for this prompt is a photograph taken at Bhopal, after the catastrophic chemical plant explosion. (The image I mean is number 7 in this article, but please be warned it is an image of a dead child and very upsetting, don’t go there if you don’t want that in your mind).

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I’m extremely happy to be joined today by two more excellent poems. This one is by the wonderful Finola Scott:

He arrived late, but smelt so sweet
and forty years later he does it again
My bold boy, the Prodigal, I joke
to his sister. Her and I smile & sigh.

Today we high-wind hurtle city to city
across Scotland’s belted waist. He says
The Icelandic Symphony Orchestra play
capitally. As musician after musician
crowds the stage we giggle, so many tails.
Honey brass gleams, chestnut cellos wait
for sap-rise. He nudges, points at the timpani.

Then it soars, I’m swept into fiords, ice
melts, sea eagles swoop, glaciers calve.
Side by side we voyage out of ourselves
into each other.

And this one is donated by the equally wonderful Harry Gallagher:

The Sea

Today I almost gave my glasses to the sea
but the sea said no,
it could see where things were headed
and the ebb and the flow
hadn’t lost my address
it had just looked the other way
for a moment.

Today I tried to throw my stick into the sea
but the sea tossed it back
with a million tonnes of plastic,
said it was too full up for now
but if I stuck around
for at least another day
it could do with a hand itself.

Today I shot my slings at the sea wall
but all that came back
was an echo of a wave
as ancient as time,
a reminder that tomorrow is a choice
that will happen with or without
the sound of my voice.

Today I unloaded my woes to the sea.
The rage and the spray
of a world of injustice
was carried away on the westward wind
that battered and dropped me
then propped me back up
to await the turn of the tide.

 

Radical Handy-Arms

Oh this was one of my favourite mis-translations, from all the way back at the beginning of this project! Here’s my effort, a little complaint from a bloke with growing political anger issues.

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The prompt also inspired Jules Clare, who has donated this poem, also flavoured with politics:

DMs on hardy feet
White socks under Docs
Gathering in circles
Skin head flocks

We don’t need
this Facist Groove Thing
Crushed by the wheels
of British industry

A free trade deal
A Statute of Liberty
Dead in the water
Donald and The Peach

Lest we forget
Iranian arms widespread
A life in arms
Radical, handy and ultimately unseen

Resplendent Incisors

When I was writing to this prompt, I really wanted to do something about the tiger who broke her front tooth and had it replaced with a gold one, but everything I tried turned out a bit – dunno, but wrong. So I did what I often do when I feel lacking, I tried out a form, a set of rules to play by. In this case, a Terrance Hayes A Gram of &s-type exercise. 11 lines, last word of each line must be found anagrammatically within the words of the title, 4+ letter words only, no pluralisation. I’m not saying the resulting poem is any great shakes, but it did come together with the little click that says ‘poem’ to me.

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If you’d like to try your own A Gram of &s poem, or any sort of piece playing with anagrams of this title, here’s my most interesting word list so far – what others can you find?

INCITE   RILE  SLICE  SORREL  SPLEEN   SPLENETIC   RINSE   SCISSOR   CORPSE   ROOST   CREST   STRIPE   INCISE   SPINDLE   SPIRE   INSPIRE   SPINE   STELE   STEEL   TREND   REPENT   INDENT   SPITE   SPORT   PORTER   PRESENT   PINCER   PRINCE   INTERRED   RESPECT   TINDER   SCREED   SECRET   SECRETE   CREED   REPEL   RISEN   RENNET   CRISP   CREPE   ROPED   DINNER   DINE  DINER   TINE  SITE   TENSE   CREDIT   SEER

Update! Ann Cuthbert found some more anagrams, and wrote this superb Gram of &s with them, about Mayan jade teeth…

Lady of Teotihuacan, you rise,
bones stripped but breath not spent,
while Kukulkan writhes, peers
from your mouth, from green serpentine
tooth, tartared and worn before the cist
claimed your corpse. Jade priestess,
you are the passageway, you entice
the serpent-god to emerge, spirit
up a wind, conjure ancestor-gods in rite
of resurrection. Green in your jaw, he sleeps.
At your summoning, he stirs.

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)

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.

Seafood Handbag

First week done! Thank you if you’ve read along every day with my Brigida Baltar prompts – I’m going to take a short break after this one to offer you a review of a new poetry pamphlet from Ink Sweat & Tears, so please stay tuned. And if you’d like to write something of your own in response to any of the remaining prompts, please do, and please send it to me to be featured! (imeldasays at gmail dot com)

In the meantime, here’s another prose/poem/flash thing from my notebook of experiments.

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Bonus features! A very short and wicked story from Iain Rowan:

A seafood handbag works like this.

First you take an old bag you might not miss – you know, in case of leaks – and line it with a freezer bag – you know, to try and stop the leaks – and then you fill it full of frozen prawns. Fold the plastic over, and close your bag up tight, because you don’t want to be chased by cats, or at least not tonight.

Then when you’re at the dinner party, you smile sweetly like you don’t know what she has done to you and every time you excuse yourself to the bathroom you open up your seafood handbag and you push those tiny prawns:

in the little cracks in their wooden stairs
where you can bend the panel under the bath back just a little
inside the brass curtain pole on the landing
to rest on the wooden frame at the back of the pictures of Degas ballerinas on the stairs
in that hidden hollow behind the pedestal of the graceful sink
deep into the dish of scented pinecones
between the slats of the bathroom extractor fan
under that edge of hall carpet that lifts just so

and at the end of the night you say goodnight like you still don’t know what she has done to you and you complement her on how lovely her house smells and is it those Jo Malone sticks and she says yes, lime basil and mandarin, I’ve always felt it’s so important that a house smells lovely, and you smile and say yes, you’ve always thought so too.

And this little gem from Lisette Auton

If my accessories were made of food I should never be scared of hunger, but fearful of the scorn of supermarket staff when I need to buy another bag as I wipe the remains of mine from the corner of my mouth

And this tongue-in-cheek piece from Ann Cuthbert

Fishing for more compliments? Feel your style’s become a bit washed up?

Surfacing on the trendscape, winkling its way into Mega-influencers’ wardrobes, what Instagram is going starfish-eyed about – The Seafood Handbag.

Warm the cockles with a range of classic maritime-cuisiney styles:

The oversized bait-bucket bag is scuttling sideways off the shelves. Boiled lobster pink’s a best seller or, for something just as shiny but with a grittier edge, get it in oystershell.

Social media won’t clam up about Fruit de Mer’s cross-body jellyfish purse in pulsating purple (£315) while Sushi’s fishtail multi-porpoise tote (£795) is to krill for with scalloped storage pockets, appliqued sequin shrimps and crispy kelp handles.

Don’t want to shell out quite so much?

Mariscos do a version, cheap as moules frites but just as style conch-ious, at £21.99.

So you don’t need to be the abalone one without one this season. Go net the Seafood Handbag today.

More pun-tastic fun from Caroline Walling! I hope you enjoy all the contributions here. Tune in on Monday for tales and poems ‘In Search Of The Miraculous’.

Cod you do with another bag, not just another bag but a bag like no other that you have ever had? 

This deep bag, cool blue, sea green, crystal edged, foam white, crisp tight bag. 

You can clam it securely and the scaled-up pockets make it just right for the important things.

Beach side, pool side, town or city this bag is the life and sole of the party

You’ll look quite a catch, carrying this bag!

Crab some style and nip over to our website or shops

So, you can net yourself one of the best served bags in town!

Happiness With Rice

Nearing the end of the first week of obscure writing prompts developed by me messing around with homophonic translations of Portuguese phrases in the fine art CV of multimedia artist Brigida Baltar, because what else does one do when one is writer-in-residence inside a modern art gallery’s archive files??

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First up, a lovely tiny poem from Lisette again

She explains for the hundredth time as she sets the timer and steam wefts its course along kitchen wall to ceiling cloud. I pretend not to remember so that I can savour her voice.

A poem from Hannah McKay

I’m not too keen on the slimy slippiness of macaroni cheese;
pebbles in the mouth poppiness of peas;
noxious fumes of cod and salmon;
lump-throat gristly-ness of gammon;
unplumbed depths in a bowl of soup;
or creamy sloppy potato gloop.
Give me clean tastes, coriander, spice
black beans and lime
finding happiness with rice.

A great folkloric piece from Ann Cuthbert

You think to slow me down, to counter
my attack but I enjoy it –
it’s the only time I get some proper peace.

You scatter grains, sprinkle seeds, leave sacks of rice.
Once it was a bag of salted nuts.
I can’t resist, have to turn back.

The rhythmic repetition calms me as I count.
Sometimes I vary language – thirteen, pandrah,  achtzein, douăzeci –
I’m a polyglot, I’ve got the knack.

You’ve called me many names across the ages –
foul fiend, Lilith, Nosferatu, Drac.
But the one that makes me happiest is Arithmomaniac.

(Folklore from many countries says that a vampire can be stopped by sprinkling seeds, grain or rice in its path because it has a compulsion to count them.)

And then mine, a fictionalised micro-memoir set in 1996 Hong Kong.

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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