Ghost Crab

#11 Ghost Crab

Some splendid offerings for prompt number 11 of 30, which is very much a pair of ragged claws. Love this one from Charley Genever

A spiral of seaside under padlock;
patrolled itch, parted by transparent scuttle.
There’s no ignoring a haunting.
I don’t know which night’s ambush
is the patient with the pattern,
or which star is the blue-bollock to blame.
They’re all carriers of some kind of plague.
Pincers for the exorcist,
they speak like the police,
call the fucking mystery machine.
Try to wank it off.
Fail the phantom weight.
I am bound by plasma;
deep redded shame, melt the ghosts away.

… while Harry Gallagher comes at the prompt from a different angle with this ode to a friend with physical disabilities.

Crab
(im, Dean Wycherley, owner of Middlesbrough’s great Record Shop c.1980)

You were the chalk among cheese,
a crab amid speedwalkers,
a lonesome goalkeeper
in a world full of strikers.

Crutches thrown off like unwanted confetti
that never quite landed on your path.
No listener adoring your whistling vowels,
who knew the difference between a cry and a laugh.

No footsteps to echo through
the cathedral of your mind,
stacked with facts, top to toe,
colour coded, neatly filed.

All they saw were the signs
Keep Away From The Edge,
As if you led to some dangerous
contagion. Redfaced,

they stayed safe at
more than arm’s length;
away from incomprehension
and its attendant embarrassments.

Books and their covers
make uneasy bedfellows,
when laying straight
is more than a struggle.

Thanks for reading, if you’re enjoying these prompts then why not send me something of your own? Or follow to get a new batch of experimental writing every day. Tomorrow, we investigate The Nature Of Things.

OK, here’s my little offering, to finish up!

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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!

 

The Art Of Delicate Resistances

Prompt 9 of 30 is a bit delicious, isn’t it? This is what Hannah McKay wrote in response to it, drawing on her expertise and experience as a shiatsu therapist and teacher:

Stretch to the edge of totality.

Hands holding, holding hands, legs, backs –

Instructively wait, listen –

Acing my own consistent muscularity

Touching Structures, the whole body

Understands breath at the edge of everything

My own response was a bit less wholesome…

#9 The art of delicate resistances2345

If you’d like to submit a response to any of the remaining prompts, comment below!

Titles for imaginary poems – JANUARY SALE!

If you’ve been following my blog recently, you’ll know that I’m undertaking a self-directed writing residency at MIMA. I’m using documents from their archives to inspire some experiments, like these in stop-motion animation, micro-poetry and found poetry collage.

But when I moved on to the file for my next chosen artist, Brazilian photographer Brigida Baltar, I found very little to work with. The main document was her CV of art works, exhibitions and galleries where she has been shown. It was a VERY long list, and a lot of it was in Portuguese.

There is a poetry technique called ‘homophonic translation’ or ‘the arrogant translator’. In it, the poet creates a new work by (mis)translating a poem written in a language they can’t understand.

I did this with the Portuguese phrases, thinking I might write one piece incorporating some or all of them. Instead, I ended up with the titles for swarms of new poems, short stories and flash fictions, which have been plaguing my brain ever since!

In an attempt to halve my torment by sharing it, here are 30 of them issued as writing prompts via the slightly trash-sarcastic medium of pre-designed Instagram slides. Please send me anything that comes out of any of these prompts, and I promise I’ll share it here alongside my own efforts!

1111111#8 In search of the miraculous - Copy - Copy#9 The art of delicate resistances - Copy - Copy#10 An indoor heaven - Copy - Copy#11 Ghost Crab - Copy - Copy#12 The nature of things - Copy - Copy#13 The peripatetic school - Copy - Copy#14 For love of the rebellious traveller - Copy - Copy#15 Itinerant line - Copy - Copy#16 after other utopias are planted - Copy#17 Paper Trail - Copy#18 The lift and aspirations of the line - Copy#19 Other flowers - Copy#20 More precious than prattle - Copy#21 The marketplace of earth and barricades - Copy#22 From which precision, despite it all, we are sentient - Copy#23 The subtle vertigo of images - Copy#24 House of abasement - Copy#25 Sonorous passageways - Copy#26 Resplendent incisors - Copy#27 radical handy-arms - Copy#28 O! Son Of Trauma - Copy#29 the last house of the last passenger

#30 Get that balance

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…

Teeny Tiny Writing

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that one collaged found poem does not a writing residency make.

(To catch a hold of what I’m blethering on about, read how I am inventing my own residency, and have a neb at my first piece of work.)

Next steps, therefore, must be to produce more, more, more, MORE work. Dutifully, I turned my attention to the ‘treatment proposal’ document pertaining to Toussaint L’Ouverture by Lubaina Himid. I took that report, and I cut it into strips, and I shuffled it around, and I thought about how we should treat each other with the kind of loving attention that a conservator lavishes on an Old Master, and – well. Turns out either the language of art conservation is truly lacking in poetry, or I am much worse at this than I thought. Darnit.

I managed to glean two micro-poems, two tiny little ‘treatment proposals’. The first is a kind of instruction about treating your own self with patience.

Surface, glazed – a decision made

The second is more about treating others with compassion.

Whilst inherently unstable,
small tears can be repaired by
supporting

Then, because they were so teeny-tiny, I spent some time bigging them up via the application of Some Slightly Flashier Techniques, making one into a stop-motion film,

and the other into both a stop-motion and a collage.

Treatment Proposal 1 collage after Himid
The upshot is that I quite like the end products! The collage is on cardboard, something I’ve been meaning to try for ages, and which I felt duty-bound to do now because Himid’s work is on cardboard. It’s a fantastically accessible material, which I’m sure is a political statement on her part, and of course it’s a better environmental choice than buying art paper especially. I think I’ll keep on using cardboard in future projects.

The stop-motions are fairly crude, but I do love the process. I played around with filters for the first time, and liked the way a black-and-white resulted in great gashes of light appearing in the animation. It’s good to know that even if my lighting conditions at home are desperately amateur, I might still be able to salvage or even improve footage by using the right built-in cheats.

Next time, I combine erasure poetry with stop-motion, and try to pay homage to Himid’s politics. While I’m gone, here’s an automatic haiku generator for you to play with.

Lubaina Himid’s Sexy Slapdash Squares

I’m in the second-floor gallery at mima. I’m surrounded by an amazing array of art. I need to choose maybe half a dozen artworks as my focus. I’m a writer-in-residence. I’m going to use their archived records as source texts for erasure poems, but I have no idea what kind of documents are kept on file. What do I choose?

My first choice, without a moment’s hesitation, is Toussaint L’Ouverture by Lubaina Himid. It’s huge, bold, and contains loads of brilliant collage elements. I know that I want to use collage as an erasure technique in my found poems. Himid is definitely a good choice.

mima envelopeSkip forward a few weeks, and I’m at home when an enormous padded envelope arrives from the mima team. Inside is a ream of photocopied archive documents, including several about Himid’s work. There is an extensive biography, an acquisition statement, and a detailed condition report from a conservator. This last document includes a thorough treatment proposal, full of technical suggestions on how to repair and maintain the painting.

I start from waaaay inside my comfort zone – a tiny found poem spied in the condition report, simple and quite abstract. It’s all about colour, but not about race. I know I’ll have to work out how to respond to Himid with some shred of socio-political consciousness, but I haven’t thought it through yet. I just want to do some erasure using collage squares that are as exuberant as the ones that Himid has used to make the floor under Toussaint’s boots.

Himid collage squares

I ransack my stack of magazines for images featuring gold and yellow, cut them into rough squares, and set about it with a Pritt stick. Bliss.

“Gold has yellowed….yellowed…yellows”

Gold Yellows collage after Himid

Is this developing my creative practice? It’s not so far away from work I’ve made in the past, although I’ve never made a process video before. I love time lapse! OK, I will try to do more of these videos, and framed better, without so much of my belly-bulge showing. But first I have a hankering to do some stop-motion.

Tune in next week to find out what I manage to squeeze from a treatment proposal, and why I start regretting the whole endeavour…

What to do with a blank page, and why?

Creativity is always a leap of faith. You’re faced with a blank page, blank easel, or empty stage. – Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way

I’m currently a writer-in-residence at mima, Middlesbrough’s Institute of Modern Art. Well, so what? I hear you say. Congrats and custard to you, I bet you’re very happy with yourself. But, BUT, friends – there are no terms to this residency! I have to decide for myself what to do and when to do it by. This is quite different from when I was poet-in-residence at Hartlepool History Then And Now, gathering and re-telling WW1 maritime tales. This is a teensy bit terrifying. What on earth am I going to do?

WeBelieveAnything

Some background? Ok. Last year I was accepted on to the Writers Block North East novel-writing bootcamp, a year-long programme during which, if participants so choose, they may supplement their frantic novel-writing with a self-generated side hustle at mima. My side hustle is this –

I will use archive documents relating to artworks in the Middlesbrough collection as source material to inspire blackout, erasure and found poetry, plus a load of other digital and multimedia approaches like stop-motion films and collage.

If you follow my Insta, you’ll know that these are all things I do for fun. They’re not my ‘real’ writing. (Whatever that means, imposter-critic-head-voice) I mean, writing is writing and I’m a writer, right? (WHATEVER THAT MEANS, IMPOSTER-CRITIC-HEAD-VOICE!) So why do I do them in the first place? And why choose to do them more?

I do them
1. To keep myself creatively active through times of block and mental exhaustion
2. To retain playfulness as a creative principle
3. To get some wiggle-room into the idea of ‘writing’ by crossing disciplines and media
4. To activate my subconscious and surprise myself
5. To activate my subconscious and recognize patterns of thought, association, values

So, by making techniques the focus of this residency, I hope to
1. Make work on a broad and unexpected range of subjects
2. Make work whose forms and materials are influenced by both the source texts and the artworks to which they refer
3. Experiment with a really wide range of techniques, and fail as interestingly as possible
4. Learn to use new equipment and digital methods
5. Say hi to a new bunch of people via the mima Insta account

PoemsHelpDriverlessVehiclesBut YOU lovely lot are going to get more than just an Insta post. I’m going to take you with me while I work out what the heckitty-heck to do, and if you have had any similar experiences of setting up your own residency in any artform at all, you’d better believe I’d LOVE to hear about it. Have you blogged about it? Send me links! I’ll quote you! What’s your process, your practise, your advice?

Tune in next week-ish for some Gold/Yellow collage, a process video in which my belly features far too prominently, and me fangirling somewhat about Lubaina Himid. And follow @mimauseful on Insta, please and thank you.