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.

12

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.

 

1

And here’s my true tale, written in the chaos of January – the traditional, annual Tax Returns Panic!

2

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.

12

…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!

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?

12

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 Nature Of Things

1

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.

2

 

 

An Indoor Heaven

The strange prompts and their wonderful donated responses go on! Thanks to Jules Clare for this poem

A poetic stage
at the Translucent Sage
A satisfying slam
Full of Doc glam

What about a cave?
Fingal is all the rave
Oh, come on Poets, behave
Recite your purple fave

Her indoors is listening
Beads of sweat are glistening
It’s time for the baby’s christening
Feel the congregation stiffening

An indoor haven
The audience cave in
A lady in purple raving
Human souls worth saving

Big thanks also to Mandy Maxwell, for this slice of domestic bliss!

An indoor heaven is a duvet
When it’s raining outside on a blue day
We’re Netflix n’ chill with a movie
Salsa, tortillas n’ doobie

An indoor heaven is a cuddle
Arms n’ legs in a muddle
When all the parts of the puzzle
Fit to create the bubble

An indoor heaven is laughter
It’s belly bustin’ banter
It’s finding the perfect partner
For the happy-ever-after

Mine went odd, predictably. I thought first about sleeping in a doorway, wishing to be inside. But that didn’t work. So I thought about how I always picture Heaven as being essentially a return to Eden, an outdoor space. I imagined an artificial, indoor Eden, and then that got me thinking about how the Biblical descriptions of Heaven are actually very urban and materialistic – cities and mansions of gold and jewels. And then this happened :

123

If you’d like to have a poem or short story featured that you’ve written in response to any of the remaining prompts, please comment below!

 

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.

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.

1

23

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!

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

1

2345678

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.

1

2

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.