Five Finger Death Punch

I smile when I hear the ‘five finger exercise’ mentioned in class.  It makes me think of the band ‘Five Finger Death Punch’.  At first, that is what I was silently cursing these exercises as, a death punch to the brain.  It is meant to be difficult, making you think and reflect, like weights for the mind.

Before I embarked on this course, people would ask ‘Oh, what do you write?’  The defence was always ‘short stories and crap poetry’.  This course is making me realise that I am capable of writing poetry.  I borrowed a book from Gail, meant to be for reviewing on DURA, but on reading it, knew instantly that I’m not knowledgeable enough to write an academic review.  It would have been an opinion piece.  Instead, I used it as inspiration.  I flicked the pages and let the universe decide.  Poem 8 from Beneath by Simon Perril it is then.

my sister went first

we’d a pact

that after crossing

she’d show she’d left

by gripping a weft

of unspooled wool

white-nuckle tight.

In the event she swung

and I saw the slug

of her tongue

and wept

at her outstretched palm

Point of view

She had always been the braver of the two, living up to her elder sister title.  There were two extremes with her, the best and the worst.  Anything in between was unacceptable.  Demanding and telling at the same time, ‘I’ll go first.’ she said and promised to tug on the wool that was meant to hold them together on this latest daredevil adventure.  A discussion seemed pointless to the outside world, Shelley would always go first, but this ritual always persuaded her brother, making his second place bearable and justified.  She reeled him in with this tactic flawlessly every time.

Voice

I was fed up of being played around with.  These damn kids had their fun with me, I’ll tell ya.  I was meant to be a cute little bootie, or maybe a Christmas sweater, or a goddamn tea cosy for some a these English types, who like to drink tea in weird shaped pots insteada coffee like regular folks.  Instead, whadda I get?  Tossed over to a girl that shoulda been a warden.  She had dictator stamped all over her, I’ll tell ya that for nuthin’.  She turned my life into hell, twistin’ and knottin’ me around into cat’s cradles, passed along into her brother’s filthy hands and gettin’ God knows what all over me.  Here I am, all outta shape and dirty and whadda them two do? Takes my sister, a nice red number all new and unspooled outta the bag and takes her on some stoopid secret mission.  I’m still waitin’ for em to come back, they been gone a long while.

Rhythm

The jagged rocks jutted

from their hiding place

clawing with their points

for a leg an arm a face

 

The jagged rocks hungered

many an empty hour

sharply slowly waiting

poised  to devour

 

The jagged rocks rejoice

she enters their domain

woolly lifeline falls with her

ripped by the strain

 

The jagged rocks are sated

sporting bloody smiles

the hunger will return to them

in a short while

Place

The cave was a palette of grey and black.  Nothing shone or twinkled here, as if the darkness had sucked the beauty from it centuries ago.  It stank of death.  The jagged rocks hid the floor, sentinels poised to attack.  The air was thick with icy nightmares bristling your skin with wrongness.  Every fibre of human being screamed GET OUT, but the two children swept fear aside ignoring those instincts in favour of burning curiosity and took another step toward the entrance to Hell.

Gorgeousness

The unspooled wool twanged and snapped under the strain of her white knuckled grip.  Mark stumbled backward as Shelley fell in an un-choreographed surprise dance.  Open mouthed in horror, the silence of her scream conveyed her fate as the rock sentinels grasped for her flesh.  The head struck first, giving birth to crumbs of stone that rolled into the abyss.  The mother, a grey pyramid surrounded by a moat of blood protruded from Shelley’s right temple, her slug tongue reaching for her shoulder.  Her wide disbelief eyes stared at the roof of that terrible place, palm extended upward pleading to an unseen God.

I know none of these are perfect.  I know I am well over my word count.  Sometimes you have to take a few hits to get to the title fight.

beneath

I’m Too Shy to Call Myself a Writer

Why am I doing this course? Simple. The late, great and lovely Jim Stewart told me to. I was sitting in his office, eating tangerines, asking for advice on some work. We got talking about my plans for after uni and Jim told me to go for the MLitt. Another year spent working with the uniquely amazing creative writing department? Go on then. I’m extremely sorry and endlessly sad that Jim isn’t here to guide me this year, but I feel his influence on the course in every session. I’m extremely honoured to have been his student for three years and that he pointed me in this direction.

I think that what I want to get out of the course is maybe a little different to what other students want. I’ve been talking to my fellow classmates and they all have these amazing dreams and goals, many of them have completed novels and other pieces of writing to be proud of. Sitting amongst them, I feel wholly inadequate as any finished short story I have ever written has been the product of my undergrad creative writing modules and I have used them for my portfolios. I’m too shy to call myself a writer, especially around people who are proper writers.

I don’t spend much of my spare time writing because I don’t have much spare time. In the past few years I have spent my summers interning at New Writing North, editing their online magazine for young writers, Cuckoo Review, and mentoring at writing summer schools. I spent my summer this year travelling Hadrian’s wall working on Mansio (a travelling writing project inspired by the wall). I have volunteered at Hexham Book Festival twice and next weekend I am heading to the Durham Book Festival to help out. Whilst I have been lucky enough to be paid for some of these experiences, I’m the girl who will happily work for free if I get paid in literary experience. One of my favourite things ever is that moment that you see someone has been touched by literature; eyes wide, chest full and mouth about to spill out passion. I love seeing people use writing as therapy, I love watching minds change and open, I love when someone gets it. I want to live a life where I get to witness that every day. I’d love to be a writer myself, I think someone getting it and ‘it’ being something I had written must be extraordinary. Already on this course I have been able to witness people being inspired by the reading list and I’m really enjoying being surrounded by such passion.

I’m too shy to call myself a writer yet, but maybe by the end of the year, I’ll be creating work I am proud of, even finishing some of it, and hopefully I’ll be able to call myself a writer.

An Introduction to Poppy: ‘…my literary heart lies with women.’

Hello everyone, I’m Poppy. I’m the one in class with the long blonde hair who is always clutching my purple diary to keep up with my schedule. I never wanted to become predictable with my reading but looking back at the books I am most interested in, there is a strong running theme. Women. I’m a complete sucker for a novel with a strong female lead or a mousy lady who is downtrodden by a patriarchal society who rises above it to empowerment or even a woman going about her daily business. This is not to say that I do not also enjoy reading about men, some of my favourite work is by men, with male leads. It’s just that my literary heart lies with women.

I’m currently doing something I hate which is reading books simultaneously. I’m reading last year’s Man Booker International Prize winner, The Vegetarian: A Novel by Han Kang. This is the hilarious story of a man from South Korea whose usually boring wife decides to become a vegetarian (She’s actually vegan but I won’t be pedantic). I’m also reading Kate Tempest’s debut novel, The Bricks that Built the Houses, though I’m reading it painfully slowly, trying to adapt to the slower pace in contrast to her poetry. Alongside these novels, I have just started Angela Readman’s book of short stories, Don’t Try This at Home. Published by & Other Stories, the lovely mustard, jackalope* printed cover is what drew me in and the first line of the blurb was irresistible: ‘A girl repeatedly chops her boyfriend in half but, while her ‘other half’ multiplies, she is still not satisfied.’

My literary influences, to those who know me, may be slightly boring as I rarely shut up about them. Firstly we have the fraud** that is James Frey, I don’t care if his work is fictional or not, his writing style is right up my alley. Secondly we have Steig Larsson, a true feminist ally. I can’t have anything but admiration for a man who wrote a trilogy (intending to write ten whole novels), exposing disgusting misogynists, portraying off-kilter sexual and romantic relationships completely without judgment and celebrating the weird and wondrous creation which is Lisbeth Salander. Next there is Miranda July whose short stories and novel left me feeling completely inadequate as a writer; if I could create a character with half of the intrigue of one of July’s, I would be a happy little writer. Marilyn French is the next on my list, The Women’s Room cemented my views and made me eternally grateful for the women who have fought, even if quietly, for women to be where we are today, even if we have further to go. Finally there is Sylvia Plath because, of course.

I’m running closer to the word count so I’ll leave this here. I hope you’ll get to know me over the year as more than the blonde haired lass with the purple diary who keeps banging on about women.

*I later read that these are a creation by one of the characters where he puts antlers onto stuffed rabbits.

** Frey claimed that A Million Little Pieces was autobiographical but it was found that a lot, if not all of it was fiction. (Click here for more info)