Archive for October 2017




Wednesday Reflections/Small Deceptions

Reflections/poem biography for Small Deceptions

rainbow sky with swan & 3 liles recropped smaller realigned

“A leopard that transforms its spots
without using paint, or photoshop.”

Although I’m not a scientist, my husband was a physicist, and I have a curiosity about the world, which can sometimes, if not always, be satisfied through science.

This sequence started with the small observation that masses of water like oceans and seas appear blue, while the actual liquid that trickles through fingers is clear.

From this small deception, due to how sight and light work, into the science of perception of colours. From there, to more deliberate human manipulations of reality, truth and appearance. Also, how words may be used to lie by omission if not outright untruth. This, sometimes as subtly as the change from ‘lust’ to ‘last’ to ‘lost’, where each small alternation in surface sound/spelling actually carries a far greater significance meaning-wise.

Electric Questions - lit version smallerDiscussion Point

This sequence alternates between parts with straight-forward couplets and parts where stanza breaks occur part-way through lines. Is this use of form effective or distracting? Why?

Inspiration/Writing Prompts

1) Make up a blatant lie about something, something that is obviously untrue – in this world. Now imagine a place where this lie is actually the truth. If you want to develop this a step further, imagine what might happen if characters from these two different worlds met for the first time, both believing their view of the world is the correct one. What if they suddenly found themselves in the place where the exact opposite is true?
2) Create a list of lies poem. Start with a small subtle deception that might pass unnoticed. Gradually stretch the truth further and further, building up to an outrageously blatant fabricaion.

plentyfish cover (1)At poetry readings, I often enjoy hearing about the background to a particular poem. ‘Wednesday Reflections/Sometimes I smile’ is my attempt to share the inspiration, frustrations, pain, philosophies and thoughts that lie behind my poetry collection ‘plenty-fish’. Each Wednesday, this blog will contain one of these ‘poem biographies’, as well as points for potential reader discussion and also writers’ prompts. My collection ‘plenty-fish’ may be bought from Nine Arches Press, here, or my website, here. More Wednesday Reflections on other poems in the collection can also be found here.

October 25, 2017

Wednesday Reflections/On the Brink of Adultery

Reflections/poem biography for On the Brink of Adultery

Clinging onsmaller

“Longing pulls us to sure gaps
between words, hands, lips –
to lunge.”

Temptation, temptation everywhere… I often think that those who have never been tempted, not even the slightest, must either be good at self-delusion or avoidance. Whereas being tempted seems quite natural, following temptation is of course a different, and a potentially altogether more dangerous and hurtful, decision – as this poem explores.

Sex and love are two very different things, though we may often choose to tie them together. Trust is important, and breaking trust is hard for most of us to recover from. I’ve never seen much point in po-faced about real life though; we’re all human and I do believe that relationships have their own unique natural life span – be that several months, years…or whole lifetimes.

Electric Questions - lit version smallerDiscussion Points

Does framing this poem’s potentially destructive scenario using a conceit (rather than a more ‘real life’ example) narrow or widen its scope? Is a poem harder or easier to read when it allows the reader some distance from strong emotions? Does this change a poem’s potential impact?

Inspiration/Writing Prompt

Take the most important belief or value that you – or a fictional character – cling onto and structure your/their life or relationships around. Think of a real occasion – or create a fictional scenario – in which this is put to the test, or even broken. What happens and how do you/they deal with it?

plentyfish cover (1)At poetry readings, I often enjoy hearing about the background to a particular poem. ‘Wednesday Reflections/Sometimes I smile’ is my attempt to share the inspiration, frustrations, pain, philosophies and thoughts that lie behind my poetry collection ‘plenty-fish’. Each Wednesday, this blog will contain one of these ‘poem biographies’, as well as points for potential reader discussion and also writers’ prompts. My collection ‘plenty-fish’ may be bought from Nine Arches Press, here, or my website, here. More Wednesday Reflections on other poems in the collection can also be found here.

October 18, 2017

Wednesday Reflections/throughrose-tinted…

Reflections/poem biography for throughrose-tintedglasses/plentymore/Drowningone’sclichés

watching double small-003
“my fingers butterfly
through air; dive from the page –
my mind’s wrecked lake”

Yes, this piece probably wins the prize for my longest ever poem title, and also explains the collection title. ‘Plenty-fish’ was inspired not by the dating agency that I’ve since learned shares this name, but my playing with the phrase ‘plenty more fish in the sea’.

In this case, the wine-fuelled, lovelorn musings take place not by the sea but overlooking a subtropical indoor swimming pool. (Real love should be taken seriously; less so, those experiences that are dressed as love at the time but later turn out to be in drag. We love, we learn, we laugh.)

But a light ironical touch is, of course, partly the joy of not being single. Remembering heartbreak in a poem is altogether a gentler experience than going through it in real life.

Electric Questions - lit version smallerDiscussion Points

How much work does this poem’s title do? Does it carry too much weight compared to the poem? Ideally, what do you think the best titles should do? (Tease, hint, set the scene, establish an analogy or conceit, pull varied threads together, summarise…?)

Inspiration/Writing Prompt

What in your life feels like swimming/trying to swim? Write a poem or story about actual swimming, using swimming as an analogy/conceit or combining both.

plentyfish cover (1)At poetry readings, I often enjoy hearing about the background to a particular poem. ‘Wednesday Reflections/Sometimes I smile’ is my attempt to share the inspiration, frustrations, pain, philosophies and thoughts that lie behind my poetry collection ‘plenty-fish’. Each Wednesday, this blog will contain one of these ‘poem biographies’, as well as points for potential reader discussion and also writers’ prompts. My collection ‘plenty-fish’ may be bought from Nine Arches Press, here, or my website, here. More Wednesday Reflections on other poems in the collection can also be found here.

October 11, 2017

Wednesday Reflections/Cactus Ballgown

Reflections/poem biography for Cactus Ballgown
cactus pin flower multi collage smallest

“This dress should be kept for those prickly occasions
when you sense dryness, and wish to make a point.”

‘Cactus Ballgown’ is one of only a few poems in plenty-fish that I know by heart. I have known the poem by heart for years now, and once performed it impromptu in a London café – a bizarre life moment, where a stranger, hearing I was a poet, immediately asked to hear my poetry.

The poem was written in 2012, at a time when I was generally exploring the possibilities of performing from memory and slipping seamlessly from the flow of a poem introduction into the actual poem itself without overtly signalling to the audience that this was about to happen. My typical way of doing this became to talk about the difficulties of choosing an outfit for a reading and the sometimes strange advice friends can give, such as to wear a Cactus Ballgown…

But, as friends know, I’ve never been a particularly girly girl. Poetry readings are one of the few occasions where I make that extra special effort with how I look. The truth is that I knew the real everyday cactus dress in my heart long before I came to write and learn the poem by heart.

Growing up as an introvert, I was an uneasy teenager in loud crowds and big social functions. Over the years, I realised that what was shyness for me often came across to those who didn’t know me as aloofness or an intentional distancing. As I love word play and conceits, the cactus was already a natural analogy for exploring this.

But there is extra, unwritten, un-explicit, weight for me personally behind the analogy. My father is a keen gardener. When I was growing up, he was also a cacti collector. Between the age of 18 months and nearly 12, I lived in a house that had a big garden, a greenhouse with lots of cacti, and larger cacti stationed on the porch.

Like most children, I got into trouble: for not doing what I was told, for trying to skip going to bed on time, for playing games when I was meant to be doing something else, somewhere else. With a large garden, we played lots of hide and seek and had plenty of typical hiding places. One of these was behind the cacti.

One day, I was hiding too fast and ran into the cacti spikes. My memory of exactly what happened and how is hazy, but I do remember the pain. I also recall not being able to tell anyone about it – whether that was because I was playing a game I wasn’t meant to be playing at the time or just sheer embarrassment at my own clumsiness!

While none of this was explicitly on my mind or in the writing of ‘Cactus Ballgown’, I’m fairly sure the ghost of it is in the background, even if only for me. Although the poem is outwardly armed with barbs and pun humour, as a poet, reading this poem is also me acknowledging when I feel at my most vulnerable – not so much a cactus, perhaps, as a hedgehog slowly, cautiously, uncurling from its spikes.

Electric Questions - lit version smallerDiscussion Points

1) Do the puns in this poem intensify or ease the sense of shyness/embarrassment/internal cringe that are a large part of the narrator’s awkwardness with people?

2) Do the sadder glimpse of loneliness and shyness come as a shock because of being placed alongside these touches of wordplay and humour? Does this lessen or heighten the poem’s overall emotional impact?

Inspiration/Writing Prompt

Choose one of the most embarrassing things that has ever happened to you and turn it into a poem/story. If you don’t want to own or acknowledge it openly as yours, use a fictional character and write it from their viewpoint, or in the third person. Alternatively, choose something embarrassing that happened to someone else and try writing about it as if it happened to you.

plentyfish cover (1)At poetry readings, I often enjoy hearing about the background to a particular poem. ‘Wednesday Reflections/Sometimes I smile’ is my attempt to share the inspiration, frustrations, pain, philosophies and thoughts that lie behind my poetry collection ‘plenty-fish’. Each Wednesday, this blog will contain one of these ‘poem biographies’, as well as points for potential reader discussion and also writers’ prompts. My collection ‘plenty-fish’ may be bought from Nine Arches Press, here, or my website, here. More Wednesday Reflections on other poems in the collection can also be found here.

October 4, 2017

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