Archives for the month of: January, 2013

Image

In this place,

I eat butternut soup

to mend a broken heart.

There wasn’t any stock in the cupboard,

so I used Marmite instead.

With a fork I smashed the

veg pieces small

because I had no way to purée the soup.

Early this morning I picked leucodendron and fynbos leaves,

even before I did yoga,

while the dew was still out.

The birds keep flying around

the house.

Now two small birds flew in through the door

and they hop in the lounge, on the sisal floor.

Advertisements

octopus

As of today, a printed book with my name on its cover is on its way to me. Gather ‘round Susan, Charles, Orhan and Jean, for I have joined your ranks! Note to self, disbelieving friends and family, I have now accomplished one of my personal goals and am one step closer to thinking of myself as a writer. It is time to pop open the champagne.

Instead, I feel embarrassed.

This moment hasn’t happened the way I had envisaged. The book’s completion is four years later than scheduled in my Life Plan. The material isn’t a grand novel. No lauded literary critics are clearing spaces on their desks to digest my masterpiece for their rave reviews. TLS hasn’t requested an interview.

It’s just a first draft of my first volume of poems, scheduled to arrive in the post early next month. I am to double-check for typos and confirm layout. Then it will be time to consider the marketing campaign and how this first volume will relate to my next project or collection. How flat and mundane this feels. Plus I still have rent to pay and groceries to buy, neither of which this book seems to be covering right at this moment in time.

There is a running motif I keep encountering: when we wish for things to happen and move towards making them come true, they often do, but with some significant variations on our specifics. Those with more life experience will nod their heads in recognition.

For the last six years, I have been working with a list of goals I affectionately call “The Eight.” I have tried throwing them away, revising them, breaking them down into bite-size, achievable chunks, assessing the ‘corner-stones’ of each dream/goal so as to reach towards the essence. Yet, they’ve stuck around, like a tentacled shadow. “The Eight” has become my personal octopus of hope and demonic possession. Down strange paths we have travelled. Late at night it causes me to rail at my own problem-generating stubbornness:

Who really cares whether you live in a wooden house with a deck on a lake?

Who will know if you never tango in Buenos Aires or don’t get around to visiting Shanghai or Morocco or New York?

Why do you need to pursue doctoral studies anyway? Surely, you don’t need a qualification like that to follow an enriching, satisfying vocation. Just knuckle down with whatever job.

What does it matter if you don’t share part of this life’s journey with one, exclusive companion and a bundle of children?

Well, you could go on and buy that handmade viola and get cracking with Grade 8 exam prep. No excuse there.

You want beautiful clothes? Start by not shrinking your favourite green top in the wash.

Today’s good news is that out there in the world, there is a book going to print with my name on it. The other good news is that my like-minded friends, family and community who care are popping champagne at this achievement. There, please note, are two goals accomplished. Now, what about that tango trip to Buenos Aires?

With thanks to The Cat’s Meat Shop for the wonderful Punch cartoon from 1873.

Follow @BeadedQuill on Twitter for updates on “Shining in Brightness,” BQ’s first volume of poetry, and her journey with the remaining six goals of “The Eight.”

V5 Hi-Techpoint

nibs for superior poetry

ink for better flowing prose

Pilot presents your ideas

only rounded in script and

immediately on the page

gilding the lines of a notebook

well-loved

you bought it yesterday at

Ryman’s, £10,99

(Moleskine. Red-bound. Eye-catching spine.)

Nib and manuscript together oiled

by finest technology.

I am not alone in my penchant for particular stationery and a writer’s superstition that certain tools will aid creative flow better than others. My sensible self can recall perfectly good ideas captured by stubby pencils on torn envelopes and creative metaphors saved in the drafts folder on my mobile. If you turn to the front and back pages of my pocket diary, there you will find my most loved notes – poems, quotations, off-hand observations – as jotted down by leaking ballpoint.

Nonetheless, for some time I have been a sucker for the Moleskine myth, which Christian Lander summarises in his blog post #122 Moleskine Notebooks. Of course I know, as Lander points out, “[t]hese notebooks are considerably more expensive yet provide no additional functionality over regular notebooks that cost a dollar.“ But oh! They just look artsy and match corduroy jackets and drinking espressos. Truth be told, most of my rambles fill up A5 hardcover notebooks and A4 exam pads from the 99p Store, for which I thank all those factory workers who churn them out at such an affordable rate. The poem above was scribbled in a rather pretty pink, square notebook with a green-chested little bird on the front. It was a gift from a friend.

My real weakness is pens. In my hand should be an ink pen, ideally boasting “liquid ink” or “soft nib,” and in black. When I first arrived in London, I made a pact not to buy unnecessary stationery and instead pocketed any abandoned pens I found lying on pavements or library tables. For more than three months I wrote pages using those small pens that builders, plumbers and other tradesmen carry in their pockets to jot down measurements etc. But, I found I went through them so rapidly, sometimes in two or three days, that this would not do. From these I moved on to committing to ballpoints in any colour, and at one stage worked for months through half-a-dozen unwanted red pens that I had inherited.

Finally, after two years, I permitted myself to move up the pen ranks. Since August 20th last year, I have been working through an extravagant stash of ten V5 Techpoints with a 0.5 nibs, which I bought in a rush of bohemian indulgence, probably after hearing one of my poems was to be published. They were £2,75 each and one will last about 6-8 weeks of writing. That totals in the region of 120 A4 pages. A pen lives in each of the two notebooks I’m filling daily (one A5 cover hard-back and one A4 exam pad, remember). Another V5 Techpoint, sometimes a luxurious choice of two, live in the side pocket of my bag – just in case. These pens don’t get lent out. For that I have an extra ballpoint: the one that leaks.

For more on Beaded Quill’s penchant for pens and poetry, follow @BeadedQuill on Twitter.

Forgive me if I seem to pester,
I don’t mean to take your time.
It’s just that, well, because I like you
I wondered if your day went okay.

It’s late, past 00:00, but I won’t sleep
Unless I get that text reply
Where you’ll sign “X”* and leave a mystery
Joke or word for me to unravel.

I know, I know, it’s far from likely
That you ever mean it so,
But we, recipients unrequited,
Love a lilting verse: it entertains.

*That is big x.

If you’re around at 00:00 and looking for some diversion, follow my Tweets as @BeadedQuill (on Twitter).

 

Two weeks into the New Year and I’m trying to remind my writer self, my Wandering Poet, of some responsible adult, routine-like habits. Most of these we have been following now for about six months. We start the week with an early morning hour’s walk in a nearby wood. Mondays are days for ‘laying track,’ that is writing anything and everything as compost for future work. Tuesdays are days for writing admin., drafting and practicalities. Pre-work Thursday mornings are a meeting time, initially intended for business-like brainstorming that has become a weekly log of watching Londoners in the coffee shops of the West End. There are the suited businessmen who eat polystyrene breakfasts at MacDonald’s, the tourists who stop in at Costa for lattes and the skinny jeans-wearing set who frequent a niche coffee joint in New Row (Where they don’t do Americanos.). And there are the smiles and welcoming banter of the waitress and proprietor of my current favourite spot, Scott’s.

Here I have found the soup-bowl sized Americanos to my liking. I go in quietly, avoiding unnecessary niceties. I have pages to write, the barber across the road to watch, hits from the nostalgic eighties radio show to note down. Jones Bootmaker across the street changes their enticing ‘Sale On’ window signage every two weeks and Flight Centre across from them only opens its office after I have set off for my day. When I am at Scott’s scribbling, Flight Centre’s lights are always off and nobody’s in.

Last weekend a friend passed on a clunky CD player; an old school kind with a tape deck. The gift came with a stack of decommissioned CD’s from a local library. I’ve moved through Brahms Symphony 3, 60-minutes of Mozart highlights, Beethoven Symphonies 1 and 6 (scratched) and tonight it is Berlioz.

Sitting on the floor next to my desk, back against the wall with laptop balanced on bent knees has been my favourite writing spot for the last while. Above me like two inspirational angels, the little girls light the lanterns in John Singer Sargent’s “Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose.”   For wont of blue tac, I have used gold and silver star stickers to stick up the reproduction of this painting, torn from a promotional paper handed out in the City.

But tonight, in this spirit of being more grownup, I am sitting at my desk in my rented room. The hooded empty eye-socket of the desk-lamp stares at me. A year since moving in, it still needs a light-bulb. And you, my reader, need a poem:

Kindly find one posted above for you.

Follow me on Twitter: @BeadedQuill

Last night –

I was on stage as a magician’s assistant. He made it appear as if the denim
jacket I was wearing on stage peeled off me and duplicated. He then held the
second one up to the audience. Before this I had been swimming with my brother. We were in the warm, murky seawater off an island, amongst an overhang of drooping tropical trees.

Uncannily, while I’m compiling this post, a friend who tweets as @2catsandababy, recounts:

Dreamt last night that the PM [her toddler] was kidnapped and taken to China. I had to make him snacks AND THEN pilot a plane east to rescue him.

With dreams, “[t]here is no formality, no introduction: you open the book and already you are inside the country of writing” observes Hélène Cixous in Three Steps on the Ladder to Writing. She says it best, when she declares, “Our dreams are the greatest poets… The problem is that we usually destroy our dreams the moment we wake up, or everyone would be a poet.”

Here we have three dreams spared destruction. With them you found yourself inside the country of a magician’s trick, a coastal glade and a ‘plane off on a rescue mission to China.

Follow my dreams and other writing using 140 or fewer characters – on Twitter. I tweet as @BeadedQuill.

Reference: Hélène Cixous, 1993, Three Steps on the Ladder to Writing, (trans. Sarah Cornell and Susan Sellers), Columbia University Press: New York, 1993, p. 81.

Relentless much this 9 to 6:
Notes, reports, another news, the internet, bulletin hour.
In shops shelved stock; trains late, on track.
Getting so much done!

This morning I read a up to item ten of a list nearing thirty on essential tips for blogging. In order to create a more magnetic headlines (item #8), take your title and preface it with a number and an adjective. For those who like a formula: Number+Adjective+Title. This poem’s initial title was ‘Getting done,’ an echo of the last line and a nod to how restaurants ask one how you like your meat cooked. ‘Accomplishments’ sounded appropriate for a title and a January poem about real world productivity. The rest fell into place according to the formula.

Follow my 926 breathless accomplishments on Twitter. Find me as @BeadedQuill.

 

The Sounds of the Suburb on Holiday

Someone’s house alarm is whittering.
Post slips through mail slots,
onto passage carpets.

The crack and fizzle of fireworks on New Year’s Eve;
the sky-bright still of hangovers on New Year’s Day.

01/01/2013


Leading up to New Year’s and the party eve just passed, I house-sat for some lovely local folk I know. They are both retired orchestral musicians, so on their walls is an impressive collection of framed posters and programmes. I was particularly taken by the sketched ‘family tree’ outlining the lineage of Italian violin makers which caught my eye as I re-filled Quaver the cat’s water-bowl.

In that street facing room, often with bay windows, where most houses in this neighbourhood have a lounge, these musicians have a tranquil music room. For the season, a Christmas tree, resplendent and fine, had been set up next to the fireplace. But my excitement rested on the shiny, black upright with a bright and strident tone.

They had left out some music for me: Haydn, Mozart and Clementi piano sonatas. My fingers took a while to register the key we’re playing in is no longer D major, but rather G – or even more hilariously, they leapt to add F#’s in a simple C major passage. An Adagio movement in f minor was painful, but I made it to the final double bar-line. For three days, my attempts at Haydn, Mozart and Clementi gave me such pleasure. I’m not sure, though, what the neighbours thought.

Each passing year is another added to that long ago time when I played – that is, practised – with any seriousness. It has been thirteen years since I did this on a regular basis, I keep thinking to myself. After all, I only started playing when I was on the better side of seven and I wasn’t spectacularly good, but all those hours of practising must have left some scaffolding. Despite the inaccuracies, fumbling, muttered choice words of frustration, both my brain and fingers still had an idea of what to do. I am still slightly astonished.

All this has set off some thinking about solid foundational skills and their endurance beyond a period of hibernation. In the face of frustrations about my writing progress and capabilities, I wondered how my recent stint of piano playing might reveal some insights. The truth is I turned a little melancholy. I don’t play anymore. I don’t. This was a bout of sight-reading. It was simple self-indulgence. Hardened, perfectionistic music teachers would decry it as messing about.

“When will you stop being lazy and write something other than short poems,” someone said to me. Through most of 2012 I asked myself that and tried producing some other pieces.

Well, I guess, perhaps I am still merely messing about.


Follow my Twitter musings about messing about, music, culture, yoga, writing and green tea. I’m @BeadedQuill.