Tag: Poetry

Brand Ambassador

we are just hear to tell the truth / tell the good as well as the bad / counteract all the lies / get our message out there / provide some much needed perspective / all hail the benevolent bosses / let’s keep it light guys / we are just here to better inform you / no need for such language / you do not have all the facts / you are misinformed / you are a child lost in the woods / alone / with only a failing torch / we have the map / we have a gps and we can lead the way out of this forest / we know where you are / we haven’t implanted the gps in you / silly / of course not / the technology doesn’t exist yet / we know all the routes / if only you’d listen / we’re going to have to insist / please do not raise your voice / aggression will not be tolerated / please stay seated / allow the machine to do it’s work / do not cause a scene / this won’t take long / we are here to help / we are giving you another story / the one you won’t hear or read / the media hates success / your echo-chamber is too limited / not long now / stop squirming / people are jealous / those stories are false / our workers are happy / look how happy they are / they are part of our success / look at their smiles / they enjoy it / everyone wins / they have adequate breaks / of course / we are not monsters / we calculated what is enough / to the second / so nothing is wasted / we are not cruel, we are kind / everything is optimised / everything is efficient / that is what you desire / after all / embracing life fully / sometimes we give our workers a minutes rest / please stop the hostility / this is your final warning / the machine is almost finished / it is not calibrated to hurt / your pain is an act / we have the information we need / and more / we know everything about you / two seconds / stay seated / stay quiet / listen to what we are saying


How to Be Free

Draw a line before your flat door.
Put up a sign saying Do Not Cross.
Disconnect your phone, gas,
the broadband, electricity.
Tear up the quarterly newsletter
issued by the resident’s committee

Declare your flat sovereign
and the line a border.
Open any post with
bomb disposal gloves.
Push back the neighbour’s cat
when it tries to enter.

Put down barbed wire
across the corridor.
Watch everyone who passes-
they might be hostile.
Start producing your own
newsletter, telling the truth.
To be safe, destroy the post.

Wonder why deliveries stopped,
why your fridge is empty
and the taps are dry.
Blame the other flats.
Blame the resident’s committee.
Detain the cat when
it crosses the line.

Turn the barbed wire
into sheet metal, a wall.
Brick up your windows.
Stop the freeloading light
from pouring into your home.
Force the cat into a cage.
Don’t feed it. Ignore the cries.
Wonder why the neighbours
are suddenly outraged.

Sharpen your knives
and wait for the knock
as they come to invade.


Be quiet and listen

Open mic nights are wonderful spaces. They are brilliant places to try new work in front of audiences and get instant feedback. But more than that, they are places where you can listen to the voices of others and learn from them. It’s essential in these times to be in the same space as others and listen to their words.

Over the last year or so, I’ve been going to a lot of poetry nights in Bristol. I’ve barely scratched the surface of the different nights the city has to offer. I read, nervously at first, but then relaxing into having a space to speak. More than that though, I appreciate listening to varied voices in each night. The joy of open mics is everyone gets their turn to speak. So you hear a huge variety of people from all different backgrounds reading poetry. It can be hugely powerful to hear marginalised voices that you wouldn’t normally be exposed to.

There are people in all open mics who turn up, read their pieces and then disappear. I’d argue these people are missing the point. You read your stuff, yes, but the whole point of the night should be to listen to the other people around you. The nights are not only about you. It’s an exercise in quieting the ego and making sure you stay grounded.

Making art, especially writing, can be a lonely business, so it’s nights like these that link you to a community of people who are doing the same thing. It shows you are not alone in your endeavours and helps you carry on. By listening to others, it also exposes you to different stories, different references, different ways of seeing the world.

Politicians and reactionary tabloids often push simple narratives as a way of managing dissent. The world works like this. Those people are not like you. They exploit and perpetuate prejudice for power. Open mic nights dismantle these simple stories. They allow you to hear other people’s stories from all different backgrounds and empathise with them. It can be incredibly powerful to be in the same room as people and hear their poetry. In these days where we form so many of our opinions online, it is essential to have real-life spaces where marginalised voices can speak freely. It’s also important for privileged people like me to be quiet and listen. Listening becomes a revolutionary act because you are giving your attention to others. It would be a better world if we stopped shouting and allowed others to speak. So stay and linger a while, engage with voices that are not your own. It might be good for you and the world.


NaPoWriMo Lessons

I’ve done NaPoWriMo for the last three years. I’ve found it hugely useful to create new poetry and improve my craft. The process of writing thirty poems in thirty days is not a great achievement, but it is a useful one. It highlighted a couple of things to me:

Pushing Through Resistance

Each time I work on this challenge, I get sick of it. There comes a point where I feel I have nothing left to write about. This generally happens around the third week, where I have lost the initial momentum and the end seems far away.

This year I also struggled with the arbitrary rules I had set myself. Towards the end, they felt constricting. I was increasing the line count day by day. My poems tend to hover around 15-20 lines, so stretching them to a longer length seemed difficult. On day twenty or so, I thought that I couldn’t write longer poems at all, I had lost anything I wanted to say and might as well give up.

As will be obvious, I didn’t give up. I kept on pushing through, writing increasingly long poems until I reached the thirty lines. Some of the longer ones became my favourites. The resistance and fear I felt were because I was pushing myself out of my comfort zone. It was something new and I didn’t know how to do it. But the limits I set myself pushed me forward and helped remove the fear. No matter how good it was, I needed to get x number of lines written and published by the end of the day. The deadline and limits allowed me to push myself, even though they were completely self-imposed and arbituary.

The power of the subconscious

Most weekdays I would write on my lunch-breaks. I only had an hour and by the time I ate and did general life business, there wasn’t many minutes left to actually write. I learnt to trust my subconscious and just go with my instincts on what to write. There simply wasn’t enough time to find an idea that I knew would go somewhere.

If I didn’t have a clear idea of what to write, I would flip through my notebook, choose a phrase almost at random and just start writing around whatever it was. Before I realised it, I had a poem. Writing in this way over a number of days made me feel like I wasn’t in control of the process, the writing was coming from my subconscious. It sounds strange to say but I think this is when I produced my favourite poems when I barely knew what it was I was writing about. Poetry as a form is all about the half-glimpsed images, the moments that floor you emotionally and you never quite know why. Digging in deep threw up unusual images for me. Often I would understand a poem halfway through writing it. This process can be hard as it feels like giving up control, but it is worth it. Trust your gut instincts and your feelings to guide you.

Time to write

Life continued around NaPoWriMo. I started a new job and adjusted to a new life. But every day, there was always at least half an hour where I could squeeze in writing. This process has highlighted I can always write in the cracks or the quiet moments of the day, even if it’s only for ten minutes. Despite this constant impression I have of being busy, there is almost always a few minutes that can be carved out and reclaimed. And a few minutes is better than none at all.

Next year

I’m going to do this again next year. The whole process is extremely beneficial to my work and always throws up interesting poems. I’m undecided about whether to post them up online next year as I may want to start sending poems out to magazines. But whatever I decide, I find it useful to exercise to work on something intensely for a month, every day.

You can download all the poems I wrote for NaPoWriMo 2018 for free here.


NaPoWriMo 2019 day 29

Rewritten

Eyes flicker and head reels.
I am lost and dizzy from
another reality adjustment.
Precious seconds to get my bearings,
probing my memory for gaps,
a tongue checking missing teeth.

A nerve twitches, a sign of change.
Last Tuesday no longer existed.
Not the worst to reconcile,
nothing of great importance lost.
Perhaps just a rainy day gone,
work, tv and cups of tea.

Whole months have been deleted before,
years when they were inconvenient.
We accepted them without protest
not often knowing what we lost.

The subtle, gentle changes are hard-
rain when you swore it was sun.
Physics changing. The bullet
landing there, not here.

Most stopped caring about politics.
We became numb and did not register if
a speech’s reception was edited
or some minister altered a few votes.
These are the days of constant whiplash
and rising nausea. No, we mourn the
quiet moments most. Holding hands
deemed subversive and forgotten
or our laughter changed to silence.


NaPoWriMo 2019 Day 27

Emergency Protocol

If you are hearing these words
then our efforts were futile.
We were an ant trying to halt
an avalanche, a single voice
trying to cross the endless void.

I was no-one important, a bureaucrat
following the train tracks left behind
by countless generations. Not many
of us can switch tracks or derail without
wrenching metal and screaming sparks.

I record this message as an emissary
from the past, from your former government,
but it will be clear to all of you listening
that all our institutions and borders
were always illusory, tricks of the light.

We congregated as one and decided
to create numerous systems together,
will them into being, change the outcome
by observation and belief. We forgot
our complex creations were just fictions.

It pains me to think of you listening to this.
We are sorry. We were blind in so many ways.

There is little to be done now
but to listen to seeds split open and grow,
feel your heart thump, reminder of life,
and to spend time with those you love.
That’s all there ever was.


All the poems I wrote for NaPoWriMo 2018 are available as an ebook that you can download for free.


NaPoWriMo 2019 day 26

Conversion Rate

You are a grizzled space marine
reporting for duty on the SS Hermes.
Humanity faces a new and terrible threat.
You are our only hope for survival.
Whilst saving the galaxy, why not
look stylish with optional upgrades?

(The waking world is a buried memory.)

Superhumans swarm above your head
battling an ancient foe, standing up
for what is good and just. You must
stay on the ground and duck for cover,
having never fallen in radioactive waste-
but you can buy their merchandise.

(A flash of dawn light.)

A dictator walks the streets alone.
You are forced to stay at home,
watch the Good Leader on television,
where we can categorise and file you.

(Eyes flicker and succumb once more.)

Today the sun expanded without warning,
consuming our glass sphere in flames
four billion years early. The future
is always uncertain. Buy insurance.

(Waking for certain now, you watch
as a bee attempts to crawl into
a drawing of a lilac, again and again.)


NaPoWriMo 2019 day 23

The Kite Festival

The dates are always unknown.
It is never scheduled or planned.

Rumours circulated it was banned.
A few news in brief articles
stoked our speculations. Years passed
and life happened. It was forgotten.

Until yesterday, when unusual sunlight
kissed bare skin and breeze blew blossom
making confetti. We started driving
when we saw flashes on the horizon,
bright purples and oranges that
swooped and darted and flickered.

Moving down the road, we saw it all;
saw the fishes and birds jiving
in the sky, saw the strings that
connected them to small figures
guiding their joy from the ground.

We drove past, continued home,
but my heart opened the door
raced across the grass,
climbed up the string
and in that cloudless expanse
it became part of the dance.


NaPoWriMo 2019- day 21

Thread

Plane trails cross the sky,
thin lines from one hub to another

Small boats over the ocean
drag the same white trails behind.

On a blank page, write out the names
of everyone you’ve ever known
even passing acquaintances and colleagues
you haven’t said a single word to.
Then draw lines of connection.
You will have a map of the cosmos
and a diagram of an molecule.

From above at night, the cities
towns, villages and roads are glowing
cells and veins. Grids are subsumed.
From above, the ground is a pictograph
of the inside of your skull.

One strike sends sharp signals
to everyone. We all twitch and flinch.

Somewhere within the network, you
are a single synapse, one electrical
spark dragging connection in its wake.


All the poems I wrote last year for #NaPoWriMo are available as a free ebook. Download it here.


NaPoWriMo 2019 Day 18

Liminal

The sea is a distant silver chain
hugging the horizon.

Wind laughs, dances and sprints
giddy at the space.

Grains bounce and tumble through
her outstretched palms,

each and every falling dot
another universe.

The shore-line sighs and is erased
so gradually

by the careful, precise hands
of advancing waves.

Names, messages and castles
blur, then vanish.

Wind tires herself out and calms,
dampens the sea peaks.

The hidden beach slumbers underwater
waiting for the tide to turn.


All the poems I wrote last year for #NaPoWriMo are available as a free ebook. Download it here.


NaPoWriMo 2019 day 17

Unmoored

Stranded in the nothing,
spinning like a planet
My thoughts are still and calm
like the first light of dawn
through willow branches at home,
which I will not see again.

Giving myself to chance
I start to count all the
different types of infinities.

One slip and I fell upwards,
my body only a loose collection
of dust,rejoining the cosmos.

I glance over my years,still
calm. Each moment inevitable.

As oxygen runs low, all I see
is orange, red, blue and white.
The light of countless stars.


NaPoWriMo 2019 day 16

Language

I ask the rain for answers
but it offers no reply,
just a gentle tip tip tap
annointing my forehead.

I want to speak the same words
as the indifferent sun
or babble with the brooks
in quiet flowing tones.

So much remains unknown.
In thousands of lifetimes
we may, together, learn a word
of an infinite lexicon.

I try to converse with the wind
but it does not answer back.
With soft and tender hands
it ruffles through my hair.


NaPoWriMo 2019 Day 14

Oblivion

We ask for guidance from eternal stars
burning above our heads in the night sky.
They are too distant, the void too vast,
the cosmic fires never answer our cry.
Movements we thought once to be signs of hope,
we thought they were suspended in æther.
Now we know, when we peer into our scopes,
they are long dead and sound won’t carry either.
Our atoms once were forged within their flames
before gravity spun our fragile sphere
Now no connection or link does remain.
Now falls the night. We are alone down here.
Yet through our learning, science and art
we can create new meaning in the dark.


All the poems I wrote for #NaPoWriMo last year are available as a free ebook. Download it here


NaPoWriMo 2019- Day 13

Thirteen

One time, he marched down six flights
then, panting, demanded the manager,
argued his way into a room change. Any other
number would do, would keep him safe,
but those digits were cursed. He wouldn’t
even walk in. He never stepped on pavement
cracks despite his mother turning to dust,
burnt sage and rosemary to cleanse the spirits
from his flat built in the eighties,
was always polite to magpies. In this way,
the unknown was kept in fierce control.
Life continued to intrude, long and
yet brief. He would not like this small poem.


All the poems I wrote for #NaPoWriMo last year are available as a free ebook. Download it here


NaPoWriMo 2019- Day 12

Aeolus

You would not know me in this form.
My face shifts and is never still
like the empty dunes that whistle
so sweetly or the swaying branches.
If inclined, I will fill your sails
with the steady direction of home,
and help your seeds scatter over soil.

But my origins and allegiances can change.
Within a cloth bag, I keep my rage.
Do not provoke me or otherwise
I will untie the intricate knot
and watch your houses take flight.


All the poems I wrote for #NaPoWriMo last year are available as a free ebook. Download it here


#NaPoWriMo 2019 Day 11

Observations in the Dark

Walking alone at night, gravity
increases. You are dragged downwards
towards the shivering planet. Your air
becomes a compressing accordian.
The sky is a finger tip stretch away.

Halt and crane your neck upwards. See
a section of infinity sprawled before you.
Don’t you know this starlight has rushed
as fast as possible, for millions of years
to reach your eyes? Look closely

to see the start of everything.


All the poems I wrote for #NaPoWriMo last year are available as a free ebook. Download it here


NaPoWriMo 2019 day 10

Sequence

Synthetic flowers bloom through concrete
endless identical duplication.
Algorithms ensure each cluster is neat
and our coding is perfection.

Nature is chaotic, impure and free,
we discarded untidy mutations.
Better to lie under precision-made trees
than risk a genetic connection.

Despite our models, projections and all
sometimes the weeds still take root.


#NaPoWriMo 2019 Day 9

Demolition

The bulldozers, with unsmiling jaws,
sneak around behind your street.
Their growling engines go unheard.

They lurk until you go to work
then devour your walls and windows,
chew your garden and rooms to dust.

All they leave is a flat facade,
a movie set illusion of your home,
a blue door with absence behind it.


All the poems I wrote for NaPoWriMO in 2018 are available for free as an ebook. Download them here.


#NaPoWriMo 2019 Day 8

Remnants of Shock

Withered branches, bony fingers,
scrape a sea of forever cloud.
Ash falls in soft snow clumps,
embracing land with quiet tenderness.

Look down, to where knotted roots
erupt from the carpet of grey.
Imperceptible at first, your eyes
adjust: new scattered flecks of green.


All the poems I wrote last year are available for free as an ebook. Download them here.



#NaPoWriMo 2019 Day 7

Playback

Lying in bed awake as the city sleeps,
the events of the day play before her
like a scratched and dusty DVD. Incidents
unfold out of sequence, sentences
skip and repeat and fall out of sync.
As the pause button fails again, she tries
to listen to calming sirens instead.


All the poems I wrote last year are available for free as an ebook. Download them here.


#NaPoWriMo 2019 day 6

Möbius

and confusion and so you live
and this time round you learn
the universe has more dimensions
than you can possibly perceive
and you are an ant on a paper strip
and the end is darkness then lights


All the poems I wrote last year are available for free as an ebook. Download them here.


#NaPoWriMo Day 5

Dissonance

Under a static sky, we speak
in dial-up modem screeches.
Number stations replace news.
Books become junk code. Still, some
claim to see patterns in the flux.


All the poems I wrote for last year’s NaPoWriMo are available as an ebook for free. You can download it here.


#NaPoWriMo 2019 Day 4

Below

Down here, light dances on my skin.
The world is a muffled radio
playing the next house over.
I sink and try to tune in.


All the poems I wrote last year are available as an ebook for free. You can download it here.


#NaPoWriMo 2019 day 3

Downpour

Sudden rain cascade
hits pavements and commuters.
Primrose opens up.


All the poems I wrote last year are available as an ebook for free. It’s called Lost in April Fog and you can download it here.


NaPoWriMo 2019: Day 1

For the last couple of years I’ve taken part in NaPoWriMo, where I try to write a poem every day in April. I’ve really enjoyed the process. It’s got me back into writing and has helped produce some of my favourite poems. And some of my least favourites, but the beauty of this writing exercise is you carry on regardless. I also really enjoyed publishing them in public last year. It forced me to be accountable to myself and not skip any days, whilst also trying to make them as good as possible.

If you want to see my attempts from 2018, I’ve released all of last year’s poems for free as an ebook. Go check it out.

So onto this year. I’ve written a lot more poetry this year and even performed some. Still, I would like to attempt NaPoWriMo again. The timing is not fortuitous, I’m changing jobs in the middle of April, but we will see how it goes.

Last year I generated the title using a random word generator. Arbituary rules make everything better, so here’s my personal rules for this year:

  1. The length of the poem will increase depending on the date. So I will start with a one-line poem and end with a thirty-line poem
  2. I can use a random word generator if I get stuck but it doesn’t have to be the title, it can just be used for inspiration.
  3. All poems to be published here and on Twitter and Instagram.

Should be fun. Here’s the super short day one:

Mute

In darkness, snapshots of dying stars stay silent.