Sunday, 5 June 2016

Targets and teamwork: how to complete a daily writing challenge


I am THRILLED to be featured on the Write-Track blog, together with my writing buddy, the fabulous Christine Cochrane! Join us for a conversation about taking part in this year’s NaPoWriMo, including the challenges we faced and how we supported each other along the way. Plus: CARTOONS!
What keeps us going as writers? Staring alone at the blank page doesn’t always work; sometimes it’s about targets and teamwork. Christine Cochrane and Divyam Chaya Bernstein are two writers who recently completed the daily writing challenge NaPoWriMo. They tell us how they supported each other along the way.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

An Invitation

Will you join
the year long
rose and honey
initiation?

* * *

This week, I am exploring the 10 word poem. I called the first one A 10 word poem. I figured I better give this one a title!

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Reaching Into Boxes

Truth is a small-headed brush
It takes time
to brush the spaces,
months between my teeth.
Truth is a small-headed brush
cleaning silently
through the night.
When I was a student
I could fit everything I owned
into these little indentations.
What happened?
I am not
a proper girl.
The thing I love most,
more than my clothes,
is my decay.
* * *
I wasn’t planning on writing any poems this week. I was on vacation from poem-writing after the month-long poetry party that was April. Also, I am moving house this week and knee deep in boxes. But poems love such moments!
Late at night, having just cleaned my teeth, I felt drawn to the split page technique I used for Dream Macaroni. (One of my favourite poems from this year’s NaPoWriMo.)  I love the strange atmosphere this technique creates – surreal and yet true.
Take an A4 piece of lined paper and fold it down the middle. Write a topic heading at the top of one side of the paper and then write a contrasting topic heading at the top of the other. For each of your headings, free-write as much as you can around the topic. Now unfold your piece of paper and read across from left to right. Can you make any sense? Now write a poem in which you connect two things which might, at first glance, seem very different or not connected at all.
— Helen Mort, from Poetry and the Brain.
The two subjects for this poem are – not surprisingly – dental hygiene and moving house.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

The Flame


by the fire
At the outer edge,
smoke.
At the centre,
void.
Even in a bright room
it pulls you
in.
This is a darkness
into which
I want to disappear.
I know this darkness;
I came from it
not so long ago.

Friday, 29 April 2016

That Question in Your Throat


I am thinking about the future
you invented
at the bottom of your coffee cup.
I am thinking about the dreams
given to you
by the mountain slavs.
I am thinking about the language
you created
to speak your secrets.
I am thinking about the dark stone
on the ocean floor
burrowing towards the light.
Don’t die with that question in your throat.
* * *
Today I used the same technique as I did for The Goose Girl. It was taught to me by Barbara Marsh on Writing Poetry: Experiments in Choice and Chance. The technique: choose a poem that you do not know well, preferably one that you have never read before. After each line of the poem, write your own in response. Then lift out your own lines and use them as the basis for a new poem.
The poem I used as my starting point was Why Are Your Poems so Dark? by Linda Pastan.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

The Light Under the Door


They are in light.
I am in darkness.
I see the thin strip
of light
under the door.
It is not enough.
I am new
to this world.
I do not know
there is a tomorrow.
I only know
they have cast me away.
I cry for them to come
but they don’t come.
I rock towards them
in my little boat.
They find me
almost at the door.
They tie my cot
to the radiator.
I rock so hard,
I pull it
from the wall.
I am the will to live.
I am a plant
reaching through dark soil
towards the sun.
I will burst through
the hard shell of myself.
I will even burst
through concrete.
Include me.
Include me.
Include me
in the circle of light.


Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Dream Macaroni

eating macaroni
It seems as though the recipe is simple.
When you enter it you’ll be surprised;
the macaroni is a part of you
trying to communicate with water.
You were not really listening at cookery school;
to make a smooth sauce
you have to keep stirring time.
You have to dream like a pro. 
It’s important to have a crunchy top,
light shining through breadcrumbs,
revealing the things that bubble away
beneath the cold salad of your mind.
Bathe in the atmosphere,
in the incredible cooking
of your own depths —
you can’t go wrong.
* * *
The prompt for today's poem came from The Poetry School:
Take an A4 piece of lined paper and fold it down the middle. Write a topic heading at the top of one side of the paper and then write a contrasting topic heading at the top of the other. For each of your headings, free-write as much as you can around the topic. Now unfold your piece of paper and read across from left to right. Can you make any sense? Now write a poem in which you connect two things which might, at first glance, seem very different or not connected at all.
— Helen Mort, from Poetry and the Brain.

My two topics were dreamwork and macaroni cheese.

Monday, 25 April 2016

The Goose Girl


She is returning home,
face proud with blood,
eyes no longer the same.
The geese are my brothers, she says.
This was once my own goose foot,
too tender to walk on sharp stone.
After digging in the soil,
it is light as it rests in her palm.
She will carry it with her, always.
The moon, dark with sorrow,
has the answers to all her questions.
There are too many now to tell.
* * *
Today's poem uses another technique that I learned from Barbara Marsh in Writing Poetry: Experiments in Choice and Chance. The technique: choose a poem that you do not know well, preferable one that you have never read before. After each line of the poem, write your own line in response. Then lift out your own lines and use them as the basis for a new poem.
For my starting point, I chose Loneliness by Meg Kearney. I tried not to read the poem before working with it. (Although I enjoyed it tremendously afterwards!) The resulting piece evokes the world of Grimm fairytales. Working from someone else's poem rather than my own ideas allowed the poem to retain an atmosphere of mystery, even to myself.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Funeral Food


I like to go round to someone’s house
when there’s a funeral going on
and feed myself and my family
with tablespoons of honey
and peeled cooked chestnuts.
It is both comforting and sustaining
to taste the golden centred discs
infused with cinnamon sticks,
molasses, star anise, and bay.
There’s something hopeful and cheering
about the golden yolk
of the egg of mourning
and the solemnity
made sweet with prunes.
Here is the cycle of life —
the end and the beginning in one.
* * *
This poem is a variation on the found poem, taught to me by poet, songwriter and teacher, Barbara Marsh. The words and phrases come from a Nigella Lawson recipe. They have been selected and rearranged to form the poem with minimal changes made by me. This was a great piece of writing to work with, because the text was so rich with sensory images.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

That Night With Her


When she
entered the chamber,
her feet
hardly touched the ground,
so light she was,
like a marigold petal,
carried
on cool currents of air.
And I,
who lay trapped in the dark,
could sense her presence,
felt the tremor
of sobs
as they shook
my mattressed coffin—
I, who should feel nothing.
There, in the dark,
I tasted the blood and salt
of her strange suffering —
this bride to be,
already covered in bruises.
There in my tomb,
I drank from her cup,
the wine of delirious emotion.
It stained me red;
it gave me back my soul.
* * *
Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt is to write a poem in the voice of minor character from a fairy tale or myth. I love myths and fairytales and I found this prompt to be an inspiring one. I wrote two poems, each exploring food as character.
‘That Night With Her’ is written in the voice of the pea in 'The Princess and the Pea'. To Be Devoured is written in the voice of the cake in Little Red Riding Hood’s basket.

To Be Devoured


The cool white cloth
wrapped itself around me.
Mother made it with her own hands
just like she made me.

She wrapped the girl in red,
but the girl protested,
stamped her foot,
face like a corkscrew.

I laughed to myself,
Don’t look so pretty now, do you?

She wore the cape in the end,
stormed out of the house,
swung me roughly in my basket
as she tore down the path.

Stop! I shouted.
Are you trying to kill me?

She calmed a little,
sung us both a ditty
about love and buttercups and mandolins.
Her voice soothed my seasick soul.

(I almost liked her then.)

I lost myself in daydreams —
Granny would caress me
say how sweet I smelled,
all almonds and cinnamon.

The girl hated Granny’s kisses.
How her cheek glistened with saliva!
I saw her wipe her face
when Granny turned away to stoke the fire.

Oh, Granny!
Won't you consume me with your kisses?

A voice wrenched me from my reverie.
His eyes deep as the forest,
drool dripping
from the corners of his mouth.

It was me he wanted, not her.
All she cared about was skipping in the grass.

I let him know
I longed to be devoured,
longed to give myself
to the wild green of his eyes.

* * *
Today's NaPoWriMo prompt is to write a poem in the voice of minor character from a fairy tale or myth. I love myths and fairytales and I found this prompt to be an inspiring one. I wrote two poems, each exploring food as character.
'To Be Devoured' is written in the voice of the cake in Little Red Riding Hood's basket. That Night With Her is written in the voice of the pea in The Princess and the Pea.
I'm feeling a little hungry now. I think I need to go and eat a piece of cake!

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Angel




Today I felt inspired to continue with yesterday’s supernatural theme!
Source text: The Encyclopaedia of Fantasy by John Clute and John Grant. The version I used is the weighty hardback. However, this incredible resource is now available online. It is worth checking out!