A tentative blog to test the temperature.
Ten years ago I was writing several blogs on various subjects - F1 motor racing, Music, Classic Cars, Great Romances and, most crushingly, a personal journal that included my thoughts on America, memories of England and Africa, opinion, humour, writing and anything else that occurred. It all became too much (I was attempting to update the journal every day) and I collapsed, exhausted and thoroughly disillusioned in the end.|
So this blog is indeed a Toe in the Water, a place to document my thoughts in and on WdC but with a determination not to get sucked into the blog whirlpool ever again. Here's hoping.
|Prompts and All That
I had a thought and it’s my thought so it makes no claim to infallibility. But it just might be true and is certainly worth thinking about. This comes from over a year’s participating in contests and a sudden realisation of what’s wrong with prompts. If I may phrase it succinctly:
The longer the prompt, the less scope for imagination.
The best prompt of all is the one-worder for it invites a multitude of interpretations and has no hope of restricting a contestant to a particular path. As words get added, the boundaries march inward until, eventually, the contestants are forced into the position of merely putting the finishing touches to a piece that the contest owner wants to see. Those, I never write for, considering that, if it’s that important that the piece be written, the prompt originator should write it themself.
I have a strong belief that this is what decreases the number of entrants and, ultimately, leads to the demise of the contest. It is possibly a factor, at least.
Give me one or two words to play with and I’m happy to set them free into the fields of my imagination. But tell me the story and then ask me to end it and I’ll look elsewhere. You might disagree - so tell me and show me where I’m wrong.
Word Count: 223
The Daily Poem today called for us to write of a favourite poet, preferably in the style of that poet. Naturally, I thought of Dylan Thomas, the master of free verse, and attempted a little something in as close as I can get to his style.
But then I thought of the other Thomas, the one no one has ever heard of, that Edward Thomas who was encouraged by Robert Frost to turn his hand to poetry. At the time I discovered him, his work was as though tailor-made for me, angst-ridden teenager that I was, and I recognised a kindred spirit immediately. In the first poem of his that I read, The Unknown Bird, I fell under his spell of sad, introspective emotion. The other boys laughed at the words “La-la-la,” but I discerned more than just the sound.
Thomas was young when he wrote his poems and he was killed in the Great War, just another statistic of the slaughter on the western front. Never a war poet (he had not the anger and resentment of poets like Sassoon or Graves), he is worth remembering even so. It was death that he was preparing for and it runs like a prophetic thread through all his poetry. Good on yer, Edward.
Here’s a link to that poem, The Unknown Bird:
Word Count: 231
|Not Another Blog Post
Well, it is and it isn’t. Obviously, it’s a blog post because it sits where blog posts go and has its own number that identifies it with the rest of the blog. But it isn’t really a blog post because its sole purpose is to crow about the fact that I’ve written a poem for no other reason than I wanted to.
I debated what to do with it - whether to use it as a blog post and, hopefully (oh the optimism of youth), to garner a few more readers as a result, or to face the fact that blog posts have a very short life span and that it would be better to make it an item in the poetry folder. In the end, as you can see, I decided to do both.
So, if you want to read the thing (and, after all, who wouldn’t?), the link to it follows:
Word Count: 152
|Norway and Other Matters
I awoke this morning with thoughts of poetry running through my mind. Not thoughts about poetry, but actual lines, words and phrases, gluing themselves together into poetic shapes and working their way to a complete poem. Or several poems - it hadn’t developed far enough for that to become clear yet.
It suddenly struck me. This never used to happen to me. In the past, I would wake up and my head would be filled with stories or solutions to problems I was having with the development of some tale or other. But never poetry. This was relatively new.
With seventy (well, say fifty-fivish - I wasn’t interested in poetry until the age of about fifteen) years of having some form of relationship to poetry behind me, whether writing it, attempting to write it or just simply ignoring it, it is only recently that it has started to bother me at night. It’s as if poetry has been quietly bubbling away in my unconscious mind, like some weird witch’s brew, never making itself open to my awareness until it was ready. And ready it appears to be.
I am thinking and writing better poetry than I have ever done before. I can say that as a dispassionate observation without fear of contradiction, since this is my blog and here my word is law. Some of the stuff I’ve written lately, especially the poems written purely from inspiration and not for a contest in WdC, is very good. Of course, you don’t understand how hard it is for me to say that, even here in the confines of a document that very few ever read. My Englishness is appalled that I should make such an inflated claim and jabbers away in the background, insisting that I tone it down. But I must resist since I’m trying to make a point here.
You see, it’s this realisation of what my brain is doing that forces me to the conclusion that it’s not just WdC’s influence that has brought about this change. Yes, the contests, the prompts and the spurs to write have played their part in giving me the necessary practice to sharpen the basic poetry skills. But the thinking that goes on, this involuntary playing with poetic constructions and allowing poems to develop for no apparent reason in my brain, this is something entirely different. It has to be the witch’s brew thing.
Recently, my wife said to me that she thinks that poetry will prove more important to me than prose. At first, that filled me with horror. One does not allow ambitions to be deflected overnight. But time has made me realise that she may have been right. Certainly, this blog post is the first bit of prose that has forced itself on me for a long time - it’s all been artificial pressure from outside otherwise. And what’s it about? Poetry, of course.
Seems that I might as well resign myself to this poetry jag after all. It’s a bit of a bugger that there’s no money in poems but I doubt I was ever going to make much from anything I write anyway. And so we arrive at the other thought I woke up with this morning. And that’s about Norway, as promised in the title. The fact is that Norway is like skin.
It’s Norway’s coastline, you see. With all those fjords and inlets and islands and suchlike, Norway has a length of coastline that is far out of proportion to its land area. So long is its coastline that, if we were to straighten it out into a simple shape, it would encompass an area probably big enough to contain the entire continent of Africa.
And it’s the same with skin. Were we to iron out all the wrinkles and ins and outs and complications and crooks and nannies (this is the last time I’m going to explain any of these games that my mind plays with words - in future you’ll just have to slow down, work it out or remain puzzled - crooks and nannies, nooks and crannies, okay?), we would probably end up with a bag big enough to contain several elephants. And elephants, of course, have such wrinkled skin that, if we straighten them out, we could carry a few whales in them.
Which is all just to prove that I am just as capable of thinking up nonsense as the next man. My oddities may occasionally prove useful in providing the impetus to creation but they are also the source of some of the most ridiculous things known to mankind. Truly, we are a piece of work and all the rest of that superb Shakespeare quotation from Hamlet. But I kinda like Hair’s version:
What a piece of work is man
How noble in reason
How infinite in faculties
In form and moving how express and admirable
In action how like an angel
In apprehension how like a god
The beauty of the world
The paragon of animals
I have of late
But wherefore I know not, lost all my mirth
This goodly frame
The earth seems to me a sterile promontory
This most excellent canopy
The air look you
This brave o'erhanging firmament
This majestical roof
Fretted with golden fire
Why it appears no other thing to me
Than a foul and pestilent congregation
What a piece of work is man
How noble in reason.
Word Count: 903