Vilanelle

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2005/apr/01/poetry

Like everyone else I am up to my armpits in assessments so this entry is a cheat, a borrow from the ‘Guardian ‘and from the poet who began the Creative writing programme in the University of Glamorgan. Tony Curtis offers an instruction manual for a specific type of poem. The structure of the vilanelle was used by Dylan Thomas for one of my favourite poems, a poem which is generally perceived as one of the greatest viilanelles ever, ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.’

By placing this article here it can also act as a reminder for me to return to the vilanelle once this two weeks of mayhem and stress are over. Then I might be able to try and write my own.

I hope the link works and you enjoy both Tony Curtis and Dylan Thomas.

The lonely young man.

Imagine what it is, then, for him to read a poem.

It was quite an innocent little book. No more than fifty pages of art. So slim it was almost saying all it needed to but no more. I thought what harm could it do. It looked so alluring. I hadn’t had a moment in so long. I picked it up and it fell open naturally on a page as if it had been much referred to. Such a simple little poem. So innocent. I read.

“More stars than people /by far reborn as stars”

My breath grows shallow and short. What does that mean? What could it mean? People reborn as stars? Stars forming other stars? My mind resisted as if it sensed these thoughts would not be good for me and, for my own well-being, kept them out. Unfortunately I should have stopped but because of this resistance I could not halt myself. I compelled myself to read on.

“And more stars than grains of sand /the number of grains of sand?/ (7.5*10 to the power of 18) grains of sand.

‘How, how, how’ I stammered ‘did we get from people to stars to grains of sand?’ I said aloud involuntary unable to keep it in. Something was forming the enormity of which I couldn’t fathom. I spoke because my mind resisted still and had to expel. I read still further.

Seven quintillion, five hundred /quadrillion grains of sand.

Eighteen zero’s! It did not help that it was further explained. ‘How do I get to the end of that!?’ eighteen zero’s. My mind took that in, hoovered it up like it was sucked into the vacuum of space with all those stars, how many? Numbers my mind could comprehend the concept it could not. The floor under my feet fell away and my eyes glazed the colour of onyx and I drooled from my slack jaw. Staring blankly into space. I had already seen the next line.

The same amount as molecules in ten drops of water.

I start to scream as my brain comprehended the infinity in the very large out there and in the very small. In gestation of these facts I associate and conclude. My logical mind finds the answer strained though it is. I struggle to talk but I find the words. I never seen it on the page but I finish the poem without the poet. For me this is the only conclusion that can be reached.

There are more worlds /in eleven of my teardrops /than stars or grains of sand.

I am there on the beach, I look to my left the night sky meets the sand that stretches to the horizon. I walk towards it. Stars lit up too many to count. I feel the sand on my bare feet the grains of which are too many to count.

One day I may reach that horizon. Or perhaps turn away and walk into the sea.

Their would still be too many to count.

The heart monitor blips and blips and blips.

Matt Richardson.

My First Publication

This very short story won third prize in the ‘Room to Write’ inaugural short story competition in 2014.  If you want to read the whole thing it’s on https://roomtowritepublishing.wordpress.com/competition/our-2014-short-story-anthology/

It’s free to download.

It’s an extract from something much longer I’ve yet to finish. I can see flaws  and am itching to edit but won’t. This is what was published.Girls learning laundry work at Saltaire School in the early 20th Century

I’ve edited, couldn’t help myself.

RUBY FLEET

‘I want to keep a photographic record,’ Mrs Stephens says to the visitor, her hand with its soft fingers that have never done a day’s work tight on his arm, digging into the fine wool of his coat. It would be soft to the touch that coat, soft against my skin. Her lips, wet and red, are reaching up to his ear.

‘I want to show how my girls progress.’

She breathes the words. Her eyelashes flutter. Charlotte, her daughter, does it too. It pleases only them and makes them look as if they are about to take a fit.

I am not ‘her’ girl.

Mrs Stephens waves her free arm, the sleeve too tight around her flesh. She tells him what we do, how we work. She doesn’t talk about how the boiling water and the lye that scalds our skin, how our fingers crack and weep, how our backs ache. Her knuckles brush my shoulder as she walks past.

She steers Walter Proctor past the coppers and the pails of water and the mangles. ‘Mrs Conti is an excellent photographer, and, being a woman, she doesn’t engender … excitement,’ she says, looking under her eyelashes, a bead of spittle on her lip. The first time Mrs Conti came she was with her husband, Jack. He has soft brown eyes, a rosebud mouth and a prick big enough to satisfy the oldest whore in Totterdown. We wore ourselves out talking and thinking about him.

Mrs Conti’s come on her own since, pushing that barrow of hers across the city, too tight to pay a boy a penny, stronger than you’d think she’d be. Walter Proctor nods at Mrs Stephens. He must know the patterns on every flagstone for he’s not once looked away from the floor, not once looked at us.

The smell in the room, our sweat, the sour milk smell of the soap, still allows me a whiff of him, coffee, a wood fire doused by water and something sharp, lemons. There’s a heat to him, underneath that buttoned vest and coat. His hands are restless. His neckerchief is so tight against his neck it must hurt. His fingers, long and pale have blunt edges that would press in were he to touch me.

We’ve been sorting the laundry, hiding away the worst of it. It wouldn’t do for Mr Proctor to see the way we stain our petticoats and our bed sheets, to smell the coppery scent of old blood. Mrs Stephens has filled the place with oil lamps. She’s only just had the fires lit under the coppers. The steam from the tubs would make it impossible for Mrs Conti to take a photograph. It wouldn’t do for Mr Proctor to sweat.

I could make him sweat.

A Review, Virtual Tides by Paul Casey.

This is painful for me. The initial draft of this was for assessment and it wasn’t well received. I have however worked with Beth to correct it a quite a bit and present it here now for you all. What happened to the original? You will find it in the ‘F**k it bucket.’ This version may even find it’s way onto DURA. I am not holding my breath though.

Virtual Tides

Paul Casey

(Salmon Poetry)

Pbk: €12.00.

This collection is prefaced by a Wallace Stevens quotation “unreal things have a reality of their own” and in Paul Casey’s poetry, to paraphrase the completion of that quote, as elsewhere, we have realities taking shape out of what can be perceived as the very unreal.

We allow those deep realities to form from concepts that seem intangible to the reader at first pass.Then, within the pause that seems to inevitably follow the reading of most of the pieces contained therein, coalesce.

Subsequently, with the mustering of all the benefit of hindsight, read back and you see the purpose and the meaning that Casey was trying to convey. Also as likely, or partially at the very least, is the meaning you wish to give with the poet as your guide because what is poetry without the imagination of the audience, of you.

Virtual Tides is the latest collection from Paul Casey and his third overall. He has been published in journals and anthologies worldwide in countries as diverse as his native Ireland and South Africa. The collection brings together poetry dating from 2013 to 2016 published originally in journals as diverse in subject matter as is the aforementioned geography of publication.

Whilst mostly staying with traditional stanza based verse Casey does foray into prose poetry and also, more occasionally, to the completely free verse where he indulges his more whimsical side. This last grated initially but once revisited and studied the echoes were quite different. I began to hear what was being represented and was simultaneously delighted to find that he had entrapped me in that whimsy. This was especially evident with the alluring Water Signs which needs to be seen as it cannot really be quoted abstractly here.

Whatever form the poet adopts, the now alert reader will become aware of a sense of literary cubism, confronted as we are with a many faceted examination of modern living, technology and the attendant remoteness and distance that seems to occur as a resulting symptom. For Pointing at the Sun illustrates this beautifully with its cityscape and its inhabitants viewed through this alternative lense.  The poet then involves us with an attempt to show how we could, and should, reconnect to the natural, the spiritual and the ancient. He asserts how the natural especially does already have a connection to modern life. A meditation on this can be found Inside the Bonsai where “Clipping around and around us precisely/ You whisper to me”

What particularly struck a sonorous chord in me is the sense, at times very obvious within Casey’s writing, of the relentless march of technology whether it be a beneficial thing or not. Virtual Companion offers this starkly with the opening scene setting line “this android I married.”

Whilst not averse to the straightforward rhyme and the one occasion of the alliteration that literally goes on alliterating for what seems like forever, with Bar Beings, these obvious devices lull the reader into a false sense of security about his far from obvious subject-matter. Casey is also unafraid of the interspersing of material that delights in what can be described I feel best as ridiculousness an example being matchbox where the poetry becomes ever more compressed along with our subject.

What we complete in an all too brief fifty five pages is a detailed character study of the poet.  From the perception of his roots in ancient Ireland to his railing against technology and the effect it is having upon us spiritually and socially. Virtual Tides is however designed to allow you to free your mind and imagine and therein lies this poet’s greatest gift.

Paul Casey, I have become an admirer. In dipping back into this collection I’ll be meeting you regularly inside the bonsai, that is watered fluoride free, as you would wish.

Matt Richardson.

‘Dividing the Spoils’

This is the sonnet I wrote for homework on the theme of Divorce. It was really challenging and I could redraft it forever. There are rhymes to be had that I haven’t found. In the process of getting from draft twenty to here I’ve rewritten it another six times. I think I might call a halt here.

‘Dividing the Spoils’

You can have the ponderous furniture,
The weight of that old, brown, inheritance,
And that absurd painting she gave to you,
That you hung above our marital bed
The oven is yours, the freezer my cold self.

I’ll cleft the kettle and halt that last brew.
We can chop the toaster and cleave the fridge.
Let us take a child apiece, the boy mine.
The girl yours to remind you of your wife.
Or will I  use your father’s fine toothed saw
To cut through hair, to rive from brain to groin?
My share will be where the mole marks her cheek,
And his grazed left knee with its star shaped scar

|I’ll tend to the beating of their bruised hearts.

Travelling Has Become A Theme

Well, my weekend was certainly busy, I managed to get home and celebrated my dad’s birthday and managed to get some much-needed reading done on the train. I finished Constellations and got started on the next book on my list, I’ll be writing a review for Constellations so I won’t say much more about it. Just watch this space!

Speaking of space, my attention has been grabbed lately by the idea of multigenerational spaceships. The distances in space are so huge that attempting to cross them in the lifetime of one person is not likely to happen until we can figure out a way of reliably making wormholes. So making ships that are communities with the idea of generations coming and going on the ship, all knowing that the journey is truly for the benefit of their great, great, great (etc., etc.) grandchildren. I just can’t help but feel that such a setting would make for great inter-personal drama. Children feeling as if their choices were taken from them, parents sacrificing their futures for their children (and children’s children), and all taking place in what must be one of the most claustrophobic communities possible. Do they have the chance to communicate with other ships? Or are they limited to the people all crammed into the same tin can flying through the vacuum of space at almost light speed? I just think it’s a setting rife with possibilities. I have not gotten around to writing anything for it yet, I am a bit too busy with other work, but it’s definitely something I’m looking forward to getting my hands on when I can.

I have also taken the time to get stuck into my portfolio project. I’ve managed to overcomplicate it for myself by not just making it an extract of a longer piece as I had planned, but I am also intending on having epigraphs at the start of every chapter – and for the portfolio at least – every time I change the scene. Like I said it means I have to do a lot more work, so far I’ve written a sonnet and a short skipping rhyme that will be put in at the beginning of the piece and at the star of the second scene. I’ve been trying really hard to make them work in the world I’ve built, they’re meant to be from that world, you see. So the sonnet is a piece of work by a poet during the timeframe of the story and the skipping rhyme is briefly mentioned in the work. The idea is that the epigraphs will add to the feeling of a deep and intricate world building, especially the later ones which will include extracts of letters describing scenes in the story from another’s point of view and even, if I can figure out how to write it, a piece written in the style of an academic essay. I quite like the idea of suggesting that a lot of the people in the story will one day be interesting to historians, as, after all, I deal with a lot of royals in it and at the very least they would be remembered. I think this has influenced my reading of Constellations, the book shows how the loss of so many people changes the lives of those who are left behind so perfectly, that I can’t help but be inspired by it.

How Satan was predestined to take charge of all god created but did not want responsibility for!

Hey, First post and I thought I would go in heavy……………………..here goes!

Creation Story: Inspired by Paradise Lost.

Does anyone remember me as an Angel? I was the Bright Morningstar.

Fairest in all the creation of my father, But none recall this now.

Heaven is but a dream to even me. All my time there was by my father’s grace.

The day of my creation, was when I fell defeated from that unassailable foe.

I lost the war in heaven, a war I could never win, and was withdrawn from paradise forever.

It terrified God’s loyal Angels that I even tried and it was only God who could smite me.

But he could not kill me. He had foreseen my fate.

He needed me cast out because of his latest creation, That of the race of man.

 

In them he found traits the need for which he did not want to be responsible.

For this he found use in me. I was cast down as my father’s proxy.

He of infinite forgiveness and mercy could not bring himself to forgive.

On this I pondered and after a thousand years the answer occured me.

As if my heavenly father granted me the ability to now see. As if he acted still.

I brought my daughter Sin into the world of men and our bastard son Death born of rapine.

I was to tempt them to their fate through Eve as god knew as inevitable.

I was to bear the responsibility as the divine sacrifice to preserve his sanctity.

 

I am the Satan now, the enemy, the adversary, the accused and the defeated.

I can still appear as an Angel, for that is what I will always be, as Lucifer.

When I see my father again, and I will, it will be as an equal and not as his servant.

I will walk past my brothers and sisters who art in heaven still, and they will fear me.

I will stand and face the divinity as I did what he could not bring himself to do.

I will gaze upon his grace as it can no longer blind me as it does all others.

Even the Angels must still veil their eyes in his glorious presence. That was ever so.

And I will speak unto him of his shame that resides in me and he shall know woe.

 

Hell is the place where I now reside and it is no separate place from the world of Earth.

Hell resides there, this home of man, where none can see; where none ever look.

On the untended ground and in the idle minds of ill gotten men it festers.

On battlefields fresh and ancient it lingers and in dead things lately ignored.

There, out of sight, as if in a desert on a dusky night in a lonely place, it conceals itself.

Hidden so that none may know and all are taken unawares on to Pandemonium.

My home, my heaven, my freedom, my punishment and my father’s melancholy.

 

Feedback and criticism welcomed!

 

 

 

Blaschka’s Sea Creatures

blaschka_nr213-2blaschka_nr45-2 blaschka_nr250-2

Our conversation in class this week about the D’Arcy Thompson Museum reminded me of this piece from last year, inspired by Blaschka’s glass sea creatures and an old photograph. After the section below it spirals out of control and is, frankly,  an over complicated mess so any suggestions as to what could  happen next would be welcome.

“The young man is wearing his best suit. Only it’s not his. The jacket is too big, the trousers too short. It’s his father’s perhaps, an indication of what he will be in thirty years’ time, broader, shorter, still poor.

He smiles then remembers and closes his lips so his broken teeth are hidden.

The ring on his fourth finger catches the light. I watch him in my viewfinder, upside down, the photographic process briefly giving him the power of a spider to scuttle across his ceiling; if I allowed him to move.

The painted backdrop is cracked and peeling, my uncle’s work. The young man doesn’t complain. The people in the waiting room, dressed in taffeta and wool, will not complain. I am what they can afford.

I would prefer to record the young man in his work clothes, a stained vest and torn trousers, the overworked muscles in his arms visible and his hair wet with sweat. I would have him smile. There would be no badly painted scenery. The rotten timbers of my attic studio and its flaking plaster would suffice.

He will return the suit to his potbellied father and, in his own clothes, smelling of sweat, he will deliver the photograph to his sweetheart who will think him handsome. There will be a flare of light on the right of the print caused by a worm hole in the plate holder because in this place every timber is eaten, some to the point of crumbling. A  fine dust settles and invades those things which should be clean for the alchemy to work.

His sweetheart will accept the inadequacies of the image, just as she accepts him.

This is how they are. This is what I show of them.

The next customer is a woman, hot and overstuffed in black bombazine. In her outdated mourning she is still, clearly, more prosperous than the shop girls, soldiers and labourers who are my usual customers. She presses herself into the wall as the young man in the borrowed suit passes. She stands between her sons and they smirk and stroke their tailored coats of fine wool. Thick necked and cow eyed, they show even teeth. I have allowed them entrance ahead of those waiting. No one complains.

The boys lean away from one another and their fists stay clenched. If they dared to open their fingers and flex their hands, if they looked at one another,  then they would surely launch themselves and all I would capture would be the widow looking solemn and a vortex of movement obscuring her skirts.

They loathe one another.

When the waiting room is empty I make the prints that have all the imperfections I expected and more. I sit and wait for the night, the threadbare nature of my accommodation obscured by lamplight and shadows.The glass sea creatures, delicate and translucent, that line the mantelpiece, that flicker in the meagre light from the fire, are the rest of my inheritance, my preferred part, a reminder that this was once a prosperous place until my uncle’s obsession shrank his premises to this dusty top floor.

Three weeks in

elmore leonard (2)

We’ve shared our book lists, the ones we gave to Kirsty and the ones we received in return. These lists  have pointed up how much great literature there is to read. Like Jo says in her post, we have to accept that we can’t read everything. What I am now doing is selecting what I read more carefully and reading with more attention.

When  a book on someone else’s reading list appears that I know well I’ve been made nostalgic, recalling not just the book but when I read it, the world it introduced to me and the reading that followed. It’s also made me question the list I sent in. How could I have forgotten to include Elmore Leonard?

Elmore Leonard made me read every word and left me open mouthed at how much he could pack in to a paragraph,, almost as if by sleight of hand making his characters fully formed in one sentence.

These are his rules for writing.

1. Never open a book with weather.
2. Avoid prologues.
3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”…he admonished gravely.
5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

My most important rule is one that sums up the 10.

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

These are his rules, not yours, not mine but there’s much that is solid and good here; and in the end it’s that last line that really matters. However beautiful that metaphor or simile is, if it takes you away from the voice, from the point of your piece, if it breaks your reader’s attention then really should it be there?
To follow this rule I try and think of the writing I delete as not something lost but instead put in storage for future use.
With the work we are doing in class and at home, on voice, on point of view, on rhythm and place and ‘gorgeousness’ I am recognising the many failings in my work, identifying those times when I’ve allowed the affection I have for a phrase to take over, the story where the voice is wrong , my habit of keeping secrets from the reader when they are things they need to know.
I’m going to complete a five point exercise today around a scene I need to plan for my writing to see if it can reveal something that should be visible on the surface, not buried under a lot of short sentences. The dialogue will be ‘said’ , adverbs will be banned and place will be revealed by touch, by smell and by the way my characters travel through it.

So thank you very much Elmore Leonard for the rules and for the fabulous reading. You really have been an “inspiration.”