Archives for posts with tag: war

Starflower 1
Borage Flower by Yummifruitbat (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

Accept

This falling debris is your life;
Too late to snap the hinge. 
Your children's children will collect 
cast snakeskins along this route 
on which you will breathe your last

Even with your eyes still open 
and your legs that drag on.
Inside your body, dim,
	a blown-out cave
	with rubble
	Pandora's thaw upon the ground.
Borage flowers hang sealed
to the wearied bees.

I’ve been writing 1,000 words a day towards a novella project. As of yesterday, I’m half-way through the first draft schedule. The plan is to start typing up next week. I estimated that 1,000 coherent words of narrative added to my regular routine of three daily warm-up pages plus a weekly poem would prove easy-peasy. I pride myself on being a copy-producing machine. After all, my ability to churn out word count as reports, grant applications and training materials has earned me my keep in a number of day jobs.

It baffles me that this pure creative writing seems so difficult. (Current concerns about rent, groceries and life sustainability don’t help.) It is not for want of ideas or fabricated universes, but putting words to lines has highlighted my depressing lack of skill. How do actual real writers give their characters believable voices? Or dress them in the morning? Or make their characters’ journeys truly compelling for readers?

There are a number of ‘make it as a successful, 6-figure income-earning writer’ gurus that I follow online. Besides product funnels, they tout pure, unadulterated prolific word count as the Midas touch to funding your rent, groceries and life sustainability. At the moment, I wrestle each day with my solidly boring, 1,000 fiction words. Any more would still simply be more solid boringness. At this rate, oh woe, I am going to have to eat my own story-filled paper to fill my stomach.

Each night this week, I also kept writing ‘post poem’ on the to do list for the next day. Other things were marked off: laundry, hoovering, plug clean (yes, even this least favoured of tasks), grocery shop, birthday calls and press-ups. The gurus would say there is no excuse for not doing The True Work, which of course there isn’t.

I have four poems in process that are not quite ready. (I should simply tackle them. Oss.) So I accepted that the post would have to be a fresh verse. Yesterday, in lieu of actually doing The True Work,  I resorted to searching for writing prompts online and took down three sets of pointers. The first was to locate your piece in a place of fear. The second suggested two words to incorporate: dim and hinge. The third was a suggested trio of words: thaw, honey, snakes.

My place of fear at the moment is that my life, as everything is right now, might be it. As I started writing, the fear place expanded from petulant whinging to more enduring scenes of human struggle and hardship. A sign from a local building site (‘Beware Falling Debris’) inspired the first line. With some re-writing (at least four derivations from the first loose draft), the scene started to emerge as something more ‘Biblical’ or resonant of Greek tragedy. The Pandora reference is an apt fit (and is one I have written about previously in Her magical box). At the risk of siphoning from current headlines, I pulled some of the lines about loss an suffering that felt too obvious.

‘Dim’ and ‘thaw‘ slotted in comfortably. The other words proved more challenging, especially ‘honey’ and ‘hinge’. At the moment I spoon honey onto my morning porridge, conscious that it is an ancient foodstuff with healing and nourishing properties. Its golden colour, different in each jar, and stubborn viscosity entrances me at the start of each day. Incorporating honey, this most useful and delicious of substances, into the poem struck me as a good puzzle that I wanted to solve. I worked with honey losing its sweetness and considered artistic license about honey going acrid (which doesn’t happen).

My byways led me to an astonishing discovery. Romans had a fondness for borage honey, which they believed made them happy. Further research into borage revealed that historically it is viewed as a flower of happiness and courage (poignantly, originating in Syria). The narrative match between borage and honey proved to be the bee. In these modern times, urban and peri-urban bee populations are under threat; a reflection of the compromised health of our biodiversity. In the poem, the tired bees who cannot access pollen both respond to and embody their weary environment.

From all this thinking and research, the four handwritten drafts and a few cut ‘n pasted, re-written versions on the screen, I present to you a 65 word poem. Rather than the opulent Midas count, it is a pure, pruned fragment from the falling debris of my – our collective – current life.

BeadedQuill on
Facebook
Twitter

Starr 031007-0039 Danger - Unexploded Ordnance - Restricted Area - sign

Forest & Kim Starr [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

November punched its winds at us.
Blind, we raked remembrance
and glory. Blind grot from combat
now in books
is still our iron harvest.


Two sources were the inspiration for this poem. A friend’s Facebook status about the discovery of an unexploded shell in his local Swedish neighbourhood prompted me to look up a little about these doodads.

UXO (unexploded ordnance) is the acronym used for munitions that did not explode at the time they were employed and are still pose a threat when discovered at a later date. The UXO’s are also identified as ‘blind’. The ‘iron harvest’ is the colloquial term used for the residue shells unearthed by French and Flemish farmers in the erstwhile battlefields of WWI.

I have also been thinking about how our human experiences, both individual and collective, can sometimes take years to surface or reach a conclusion.

In truth, I have also been browsing through the poetry journal Agenda’s Requiem: The Great War edition. Perhaps this and the general culture of WWI commemoration have entered my sub-conscious.

However, there it was not my intention to produce a WWI or a war commentary poem. I merely wanted a poem. As with all my poems, hopefully it could travel to any time or place where humans leave their trail.

(It is also an irony that in isiXhosa, uxolo means peace.)

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill
Books:
In the Ocean: a year of poetry
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012

Northern (Hen) Harrier.jpg
Northern (Hen) Harrier” by Len Blumin from Mill Valley, California, United States – Northern Harrier. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

a poem written in London on Sept. 26th, 2014

Sky’s signal stopped September 10th.
Three days later, Hope’s did too.
Birds of their kind hunt small mammals.
Birds of their kind are near extinction.
This plight of the birds sparked action
and the hatchlings all were tagged.
Now Sky and Hope have vanished
there’s a reward for word.

In bed after my radio-alarm clock goes off, I listen to an early morning news bulletin. Half-asleep, half-awake is a strange state in which to have the bad, ugly and feel-good filter into one’s mind. In this doze I have half-heard, half-imagined many strange things about the world’s antics. The juxtaposition of the news items can in itself be uncanny, as was the case yesterday. The opening story was the impending Westminster vote about whether or not ‘to go to war’. Later in the bulletin was the item about two rare birds of prey that have disappeared.

I take in a breath when I see magnificent birds of prey in the air. Condors, eagles and falcons soar with a self-assurance that inspires awe. I don’t think I’ve seen hen harriers; they’re found further North of London. Yet the image of sharp-winged birds of prey cut down, whether by game shooters of misfortune, struck me. (Hen harriers are on the brink of extinction due to their unsuccessful breeding rate.)

With the names ‘Sky’ and ‘Hope’, a poet couldn’t have asked for better ready-made symbolic material.

The Westminster vote, the first item of the bulletin, is scheduled to happen today (Friday, 26th Sept.). I have omitted this last line from the poem, “In cabinet they vote on war.”

The line felt too obvious. I hope the smart reader is able to join some literary dots.

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill
Books:
In the Ocean: a year of poetry
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012