Back Catalogue # 6b Bridge and Ford (1994)

[As part of the ongoing project of publishing poems from my back catalogue and in response to the #WordPrompt prompt ‘Bridge‘, I am posting this 1994 prose poem entitled Bridge and Ford]

Bridge and Ford

A bridge is no place. A road in the air, thrown between never more than two separate earthbound regions. Normally obviating something – water or a drop – that is of another element; to which it nonetheless owes its name.

To claim a bridge has arms and hands wedded at the centre of gravity forever would be a sentimental exaggeration. 

Bridges pull themselves up by their own weight: an exercise in the reflexive mood. A complex of just stable tensions. Concrete and stiff cables swaying in the wind. Fragile strength. At times calm and strong; at others rippling and turbulent.

Yet, all bridges, of whatever character, share the same destiny. The same project; the same end. Slung by human beings  – a non-illusory rainbow – between unlike places; denying or defying something of an utterly unlike nature; generating association.

Like a word whispered cleanly in the ear. Through an air, willing yet alien. 

*

A ford, conversely, is a place where nature cedes right of way at times, depending on whimsy or season. Semi-permeable, it does not link entirely unlike things. Folk on either side speak the same tongue. Have grown up together. At a sensible distance. Road and flow blend together in a pleasing rhythm. A proper name known by heart; but without meaning.

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Sunshine Blogger Award

sunshine

I am truly grateful to Rizza Jairi for nominating the dark little corner of the Web that is my blog for the Sunshine Blogger Award. Rizza is a budding blogger from the Philippines who deserves our support. https://younggirlsvoyage.wordpress.com/

The Sunshine Blogger Award Rules are as follows:

  1. Thank the Blogger who nominated you and provide a link back to their blog so others can find them.
  2. List the rules and display an award logo on your blog post.
  3. Answer the 11 Questions the blogger asked you.
  4. Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and notify them by commenting on any of their posts.
  5. Ask the Nominees 11 new questions.

Here are my answers to Rizza’s Questions

  1. Describe how you first got into blogging? I was looking for something to do in my retirement and had a lifetime’s worth of writings and reflections that I wanted to publish in some way.
  2. Can you tell me some of your strengths that really helped you in blogging? Liking writing obviously helps. Being kind and generous in dealings with fellow bloggers is important in today’s online jungle. I am forever grateful to my mother for teaching me to touch type.
  3. What type of networking do you think is better to enhance your traffic to the blog? This is something I confess I am not good at. I am too shy. I try, in the words of Philip Larkin, to be ‘true and kind’ or at least ‘not untrue and not unkind’.
  4. What do you think is the best service a blogger can provide to his readers? Food for thought
  5. What would be your ideal working environment? A walled garden in summertime.
  6. How do you manage time to run your blog efficiently? I have plenty of time and really should spend more of it blogging. I find interaction with other bloggers a great spur to productivity.
  7. What is your greatest achievement outside of blogging? Surviving thus far in life with a lot of help from others.
  8. What was the most challenging moment in your blogging journey so far? For me, the most challenging thing was plucking up the courage to start in the first place.
  9. What do you find the most frustrating aspect of blogging? I find it quite lonely a lot of the time.
  10. What is the biggest difference in your life post-blogging? I am much more confident, fluent and prolific as a creative writer,
  11. Would you encourage other people to make their blog? why? Writing is the best way to develop your soul and blogging is a way of sharing that process with others.

My Nominees and their websites are:

And here are some questions for my Nominees

  1. Why did you start blogging?
  2. What qualities does a good blogger require
  3. How do you attract visitors to your blog?
  4. What is the nicest comment anyone has posted on your blog?
  5. What is the nicest comment you have posted on someone else’s blog?
  6. Why is writing important?
  7. Why is blogging important?
  8. What is the purpose of poetry in this digital age?
  9. Can images be as powerful as words?
  10. What is your favorite part of speech—noun, verb, adjective, preposition etc?
  11. How do you stay sane?

 

 

 

 

Finding Everyday Inspiration 19 & 20 (Feedback)

I’ll use both the 19th and the 20th Finding Everyday Inspiration assignments to provide some feedback on the course in a single post.

First I would like to thank all those involved as creators or participants. I am well aware that it is a labor largely of love and greatly appreciate the time and effort that all have put in.

I always find this kind of series of tasks to be a very useful spur to thinking, creating and blogging and a way of reaching out to others in the community. To my mind, it doesn’t matter if the prompts are somewhat banal, since this provides greater leeway for interpretation and experimentation, without daunting less experienced writers.

I found it difficult to complete Task 19, since I could find no area on the Blogging University site where participants are invited to register and post links to their responses, as has been the case with previous such courses I have taken part in. As a result, I only read the posts written by bloggers I already follow regularly and, so far as I am aware, only they read mine. Another criticism is that I did not receive the prompts in the stream on the blog site but only by way of email. I am aware, however, that both of these issues may have more to do with my lack of computer skills than with any inherent deficiency in the course. Still, I think it would be helpful, in the interest of greater social inclusion, if the course were made as easy as possible for those with poor computer skills to navigate, thus ensuring more interaction with other participants.

This did not, however, stop me, as always, from deriving immense enjoyment and inspiration from participating in the course and it has, therefore, provided me with a number of what I suppose could be described as ‘aha moments.’

As is usually the case, the course prompted me to publish some writings that lie outside of my comfort zone. I had originally intended this blog to be a forum for largely academic-style writings and postings about language teaching. As I mentioned in my last post, I first got the idea of using it as a way of publishing some of the large body of poetry I have produced over the years, from a course. This time I have, for the first time, published a short story and a part of a novel. If my past record is anything to go by, I will now continue to do so. Once I have been coaxed out of my comfort zone, I tend to find myself intrigued by moving out of it more often.

I also find it very useful when the prompts provide some technical guidance. As I noted above, I find the bureaucratic IT aspect of blogging especially challenging. But I am a fast learner and a simple prompt put in simple terms is usually enough to get me using tools that I was previously unaware of. This time, I learnt how to use the block quotes, for example. I would very much like more of this kind of orientation.

I don’t make plans for the future for myself personally; nor have I ever done so. I know that they will always be frustrated. I prefer just to wait and see what happens and am usually pleasantly surprised. Still less—at my age and in my state of health—am I willing to make plans for a future five, ten or twenty years hence. So I will pass over the questions relating to this. I will, however, end with some remarks as to the future of the blogging community as a collective whole.

I never cease to be impressed by the way that all the fellow bloggers I have encountered in this community (without a single exception) have always been kind, civil and supportive, despite the growingly savage polarized and intolerant virtual and real world in which we now live. It is especially impressive that this has been achieved, not by creating and policing some artificial ‘safe space,’ but simply out of the goodness of heart of the people who collectively choose to come together in this way. I think we should all congratulate one another on this and perhaps think collectively about ways in which we can spread this ethos out into the wider world.

Habeas Corpus

I have for a long time now been working on and off on a poetry project involving prison letters and prison dating. The project goes by the working title of He said she said (inside) and bundles together a large number of my poetic and non-poetic interests/obsessions: found poems, crowd-sourced writing, acrostic poetry, randomness, statistics, lists, internet search engines, corpus linguistics, discourse analysis of the use of little words (prepositions, pronouns and the like), ambiguity, the interface between art and science, gender differences, social inclusion of underprivileged voices, voluntary or involuntary confinement/’encavernment’ and the illusory constitution and projection of the self through language.

In response to today’s Finding Everyday Inspiration task https://dailypost.wordpress.com/blogging-university/writing-everyday-inspiration/ on the subject of letters I am, for the first time, publishing some preliminary results of this ongoing creative writing research project.

As befits a project that is as much social science as art, I must first outline the methodology used to produce these ‘poems’.

Twenty letters were selected at random from a corpus gathered from prison inmate dating sites, ten written by male inmates, ten by females. Word frequency calculation software was used to arrange the words used in the letters, divided up into male and female groups, in order of frequency. Words were included in the final poems/results tables if they occurred with an overall frequency of ≥ 5 (i.e. 0.5 occurrences per letter), calculating separately for each group.

Crude intuitive cluster analysis was used to arrange the words by descending order of frequency into groups that make up the lines of the two poems (one for the males, one for the females). The poems are formatted in such a way that the font size of each line is proportionate to the frequency of the words it includes. (I was not able to reproduce this effect in this blog post.)

No attempt is made to massage or manipulate the resulting text so as to make it more grammatically or metrically acceptable. I find the resulting ‘poems’ eerily revealing and am thrilled by the idea that my authorship of them is at best minimal. These poems and this project belong to all incarcerated people around the world who take the trouble to put pen to paper.

While writing this post, I decided to rename the project Habeas Corpus.

 

She said (inside)

I

and to a

my with am for

you have

the love be

of me

very

new like is in enjoy

would that open know can

who what person but

things someone people out or learning if good

 

He said (inside)

I

to and

a

you am

the is

me of my in that

do

have

if with can

who

for not about it

this only be

would or friendship are

so like life know all

love little from at

your write will we very real on never looking great get

time take some share out one myself make God friends friend because

Poetry Rehab–Missing–Throwing the Postman out of the Pram

This longish poem is still very much work in progress. I am still far from happy with the way I have managed the rhythm and the development of ideas. It is an attempt to create the fusion of personal, political and spiritual concerns that I am still groping towards as a poet and a person. I submit it here in response to Andy Townend’s Poetry Rehab Missing prompt https://wordpress.com/read/post/feed/31982590/858627284 as it seems to cover various senses of this word. Any constructive criticism is, as always, most welcome.

 

Throwing the Postman out of the Pram

The squeaky plastic toy postman

was part of a series of shampoo bottles

—policeman, hard-hatted construction-worker,

fire-fighter, farmer, nurse—

a whole trade union movement

of workers dirtied by politics and labor

and cleansed by a daily baptism of bubble-bath;

and dirty for having been in and out

of your baby mouth so often,

and in and out of your high-walled pram

into the dirt and back, little sister,

until lost.

*

Oddly,

the loss of that little postman,

somewhere outside of the pram,

squashed, on the narrow sidewalk

between the blackened car-park walls

and the trucks thundering

along the once sleepy high street

through the center of town,

somewhere between the shiny-windowed family planning clinic

and the bakery chimney black with sugary soot

and the scent of gingerbread men,

lost forever under the wheels of a juggernaut,

upset me far more than you

with your giggling fort-da games.

*

The little postman was thrown unceremoniously

under the bus, as workmen drilled the road

noisily under red&white striped tents

between cups of tea. And probably laughed.

Mother didn’t even notice he had gone,

still less you, little sister, with your new-born smile.

Only I noticed that the postman

was missing and no longer among us

no longer lined up alongside the other smiling guilded icons

rimming the bath.

The only smile lacking mine.

The engineer was not weeping,

nor the policeman seeking him out,

nor the nurse tending his wounds.

“I’m alright, Jack,” they each seemed to grin back

from their own squeezy soapy toy world.

No solace there.

The dirty bathwater gurgled down into the plughole

as always and all was lost. The postman gone.

*

Later, policemen will take sticks to the backs of miners

and printers. Squeeze the life out of picketing dockers;

bludgeon firemen and factory workers. Throw them all

out of the high-walled pram of the nanny state.

Truncheons their toys.

The rich and privileged and their henchmen

behaving like little kids, treating other people’s lives

like unwanted toys. To be thrown out

of the pram; unwrapped under the Christmas tree

and tossed out with the trash on Boxing Day.

*

The message the stern-faced postman brought was never his own:

letters from half-forgotten family members popped

through the post box among bills. The flurry of cards

and packages at the end of the year justified the postman’s Christmas box.

Even carefully packed clotted cream.

*

Once a year—double overtime—we would trudge—

duffel-coated little Santa’s helpers—

down to the railway station to load bags

full of gifts and festive greetings onto waiting trains.

And the ASLEF driver would step off the plate

to warm his feet on a two-bar fire and rant Utopian dreams,

riding his metal sleigh sullenly through icy dark of night,

a Santa clad in Lenin red

cheering us with his tales.

….

We wait now for the postman thrown out of the pram to be found—

the redeeming Übermensch,

Homoousia knitted back together

by kind ladies who go to church—

and hang fairy lights in trees

to welcome his return.

Tinker, tailor, soldier and sailor

have lost touch with the candlestick-maker

who is out of work these days. Unions come

and go. Places taken by accountants,

upstart slum landlords, slick-talking lobbyists,

lawyers, ad-men, bankers, TV anchors.

But none of these become icons filled with foaming bubble-bath

squirted out with the cheerful squeak

of a station master ordering off a train

in a mist of sooty steam and a flapping of flags;

or of a factory chimney tooting time

for workers to knock off and get back home

on bikes

to polish billiard cues for the night ahead,

or of milkmen whistling

on whirring floats

as they do their rounds.

Paraklausithyron–Poetry Rehab 101–Partition

Paraklausithyron is a term used to refer to Ancient Greek and Latin poems based on the conceit of a jilted lover complaining to his mistress’s locked door as if it were a human gate-keeper. Sextus Propertius, in poem 16 of his first book of elegies, inverts this trope and gives voice to the door.

Translating Propertius is a long-standing project of mine. I feel that his ironically political elegies, overshadowed by recent wars and scarred by romantic strife, speak to our own age in a special way. I have already posted one of my older attempts to translate him on this blog https://oudeis2005.wordpress.com/2015/06/09/poetry-rehab-101-away. I wrote a lot of Propertius-based poems at the time of the 2003 Iraq war.

This is a new ‘translation’ of Propertius I.xvi that I knocked off tonight in response to Andy Townend’s Poetry 101 rehab challenge prompt on the theme of Partition. https://wordpress.com/read/post/feed/31982590/769502657

My work in this medium tends to employ a chorus of voices, not all of them very nice—most of them, in fact, not very nice at all. I feel, therefore, that I should both apologize to those who may be offended by them, pleading that they are not my own, and, at the same time, plead my right (duty even) to include disturbing voices in my verse.

Propertius himself liked to play with quotations within quotations, one character quoting another quoting another, creating a sort of disturbingly distorted discursive hall of mirrors. I try to echo this in my own take on his work.

Paraklausithyron (after Propertius I.xvi)

My old door, once thrown open in joy

for heroes returning home from wars

or wept on by red-handed servant-girls

leaving in disgrace, is now battered

at by belligerent drunks, the stoop

littered with used condoms, needles and cans.

*

The whore on the third floor is beyond

redemption, the screeching arguments

& cars parked outside blaring out rap

worse than the smut you see these days on TV.

*

“You got some nerve, you fucking tight-assed

cold-hearted bitch, shutting me out.

I’ll thump you down. Daddy gonna bed down

here in the snow, rain twinkling in the streetlamp

lit night, cuddling a gun, listening out

for your shrill hinges’ creak. I’ll knock over

the nosey cow peeking out, slip through

the crack, up the stairs, shouting, dissing

you. You melt, sugar, at the sound

of Daddy’s voice & don’t mind that I

knock you about a bit for your own good;

turf the sissy boy you’re shacked up with

out, in my blizzard-of dreams. It’s you

door-keeper, nosey cow, I blame,

as the dawn chorus starts up

& the hangover kicks in; you who

can’t be won over with cheap perfume

or a punch. I sing to you

with the rhythm of a pneumatic drill

digging up the street.”

*

I poke my nose through

the crack in the chained door

& dial 911 again, wondering

about the girl upstairs,

what I could have done,

where it all went wrong.