–    ‘That’s air to you buddy, inhale and keep at it.’

Air is what we call it, and air is what we get.
I’m fond of the royal we.
It takes you places – to the supermarket, to the drawer, to the fiasco.

I’m fond of the fiasco, aren’t you?  Small delicacies of hot air, that’s one way to put it. Failure is another. It’s something you can total in your mouth, a car-wreck that dissolves over time into a debacle of tastebuds.  Unfortunate passengers peep from the lips, and scoop up the dry flakes of lip ice, craving moisture, and they stare down the throat, one after the other, looking into the airway for the things to come.

It’s been a while I have to admit. I try and keep a neat profile these days, after my last escapade – which was also tied to the bus movie (‘Oops! I’m sorry. I just made you miss your bus’) and the sequel in which I starred as an extra waiting in a very long line, busting, just busting, to go to the loo.

The follow-up film’s called ‘Four Parts Air’, and from what I can tell it’s about one man’s struggle with his God’s struggle, which escalates into a race, a bewitching tie and two distinct toots of a motorcycle horn. One man rushes out of the house, gets on the bike and drives off, raising his hand and bringing it down fast like a whip.

I was in the bit at the horse meet. For six days I stood desperately in line.


What makes this ‘real’?

By the time I finished the first version of the ‘Mitchell’ exercise, I think I’d already begun to anticipate the inversions I was planning. I didn’t necessarily incorporate them, but I did clarify my images in anticipation of turning them upside down. This is why the first is stronger, it is clearer in its progress, and is not so burdened by ‘ending’ or of tying things up at the end. There are small endings throughout.

The second version is quite nonsensical. I’ve been thinking about what Tina wrote to me in response to the last paragraph in Leaving Home, how it works poetically, but is also very real. I read ‘Life: Field Research’ to my friend Susie via Skype and her response hinged on the image that I started with, of the hands. There was something in this that she carried with her throughout the poem and it was through this that she traced her path. I really liked the way she described this kind of progress, path finding and reconnaissance.

In a way this situating of an image prepares the reader to flick back to the beginning once they have finished the first reading, maybe even just lightly, to glance at this initial image and identify why it was there, whether it leads in the right direction, or if it’s altered slightly on second look.

I’m always drawn to surreal images and word play, because of the disregard for logic they prompt, though not even I believe this neutrality and it is the logic that emerges anyway or via the reader, that makes the process interesting for me. I’m becoming more interested in bracketing the surreal or heightened poetic. To explain it’s kind of like how James George installs humour in his characters dialog and lets loose with language in his descriptions of the characters environment infused with their consciousness of it. So that’s one way of looking at it.

Part of what I’m trying to clarify is this sense of completion for the poem if I’m doing a monologue or a dialog piece, in prose or poetry. When is it finished? At which point has it conveyed enough so that the reader can comfortably glance back to the start and get their bearings, test their instincts and impressions, and feel like they already know the poem enough to ask it or themselves questions.

The ‘Mitchell’ exercise allowed me to write without making too much of a distinction between me as writer and reader, I was leaving myself clues and cornerstones which I could pivot off and return to. Cool.

So I got stuck again

So I got stuck again and then was reading this in the IIML newsletter:

“One excellent metaphor per page is much much better than eight fairly good metaphors on a page. Watch out for adverbs, don’t use them too much. Don’t write a character according to your first thought about how the character should be, because that’s probably a cliché. Take the cliché and turn it round. A bank robber shouldn’t be tough, mean and scarred, they should be gay and Welsh. That’s a good fresh bank robber. Sam Goldwyn said, “What we need here are some brand new clichés!” Invent brand new clichés.”

– David Mitchell

Desperately trying to go cold-turkey from weekly exercises I coudn’t help myself and like a wimpering pathetic adict I made up my own:

Write a poem and then turn the images into opposites/alternatives.

So up next is the ‘exercise’, Versions 1 and 2.

p.s. that thing about limiting the metaphors, might not be so generative in poetry, a bad metaphor can work wonders…though it would be an interesting proposition to debate one day if we all get really bored or run out of biscuits – eek, what a thought!

Life: Field research

Set yourself small tasks to start with.

– Take a long walk with gravity

take a hand, two if you think it’ll help;
no need to be modest at this point in the game.

Exercise anything inbuilt – lizardry, skin-changeability –

if you don’t have a chameleon you should get access
to one, even if its just a t-shirt,

this proves very near to winding up human.

Set yourself another small task.

– Take on extra blood

Become fuller than when you started out, you know blood,
how in your hands it weighs more at the end of a walk
than it did before, and you raise each palm up, strangely
upwards, you might be tempted to sniff the heaviness
for a chemical change, like you would the inside

of a dish washing glove; for factors like finger-room, powdery glue,
the innate ability to simply look at something sharp
and take on fluid through the hygienic barrier and
its pink or lemon or unnaturally sky blue law.

Now you are ready to take things to the next level.

– Take up information at the speed of light

Some say it’s the things that sink in the slowest that
get us in the end, but I say jumping

to conclusions really cripples us, the way we let ghosts tag along and
pull them abruptly into our glands when frightened,
allowing them to freely circulate chronology
and secrete all the men and women we never knew we possessed, like snow-drifts,

ruining the carpet, the children, especially that image of yourself you once formed an intense friendship with – even though you don’t talk anymore it hurts, as hurt makes transparent our strangers, our promenades, our Christmas lights, our jogging shoes,
our wet areas, our inner plankton that is the only froth
at the mouth to gain the respect of others.

stains pick their teeth, these claws we keep
inside ourselves for when light changes
and we have the means to retract them all the way back to times

You know it; you’ve made it to the big STUFF.

– Take what’s left into your hands

Life: Summation of shadows

Think Big.

– Take a smoker’s jog with indignity

take a foot, one more if you think it will get you going;
essentially be exultant at this point in the game.

Sit a couch-potato on anything supernatural – rocket science, skin imperfections;

if you don’t have a damaged good you should get access
to one, even if its just a leg in board shorts,

this proves very near to winding up historically human.

Set yourself another bubonic task.

– Take on extra silence

Become whinier than when you started out, you know silence,
how in your ears it thins more at the end of a whisper
than it did to start with, and you prick each lobe up, strangely
upwards, and you might be tempted to blow
an ear drum, the inside of a cave dwelling;
there are factors like finger-painting, sticky fire,
the innate ability to look at something rounded
and take in stone through the earthly tumour
and its ochre or mint or natural blood sucking bylaw.

Now you are ready to take things down a notch.

– Take hold of the lame foot of darkness

some say it’s the things that erupt the fastest that

get us in the end, but I say blocking out half-heartedness really cripples us, the way we let humans tag along and shove them gently out if our bloodstream when joyous,
allowing them to chain themselves or electrocute small things,
and suck up to all the boys and girls they knew they abandoned that time in the heatwave,

leaving you to clean the dishwasher, the grownups, especially that image of bought tomato sauce you once formed an intense friendship with – even though you don’t shut-up anymore, it’s orgasmic, as orgasms make unclear our familiars, our short walks, our casseroles, our tea-cosy’s, our dry areas,
our inner hoot of owls, this being the only leak, like the tummy button, to gain the indifference of others.

clearings hover in their skin, these pads we keep outside ourselves for when darkness acclimatises and we have the short-straw to insert, like official sponsors, all the way this time, the dreamed-of colonoscopy of ever expanding eternity.

You know it; you’ve made it to the nitty-gritty.

– Take the conundrum from under your feet.

Two books

I’ve just finished Hummingbird by James George, and before this Acts of Love by Susan Pearce.

Acts of Love had a tone generated by the way the characters are realized in the narrative. Pearce didn’t confuse the ideals of the characters with who they were. In one way this made the characters feel distant from me initially in the book, but it allowed a later freedom of movement for their own agendas to come to life, to visualize the attempts alongside the accidents that construct their journeys. Realizations came from a tension between intention and action, reflection and response.

Hummingbird’s quite different in tone, though, like Acts of Love, in which there was a uniqueness to the ‘dramatic’ (non-Gothic in feel somehow) progression of the story, it’s like walking into a cool room after having sat in the sun for too long – something alternative sinks in. George infused the dialog of his characters with humor and puns, however his descriptions and the inner lives of the characters were beautiful, rich and intense, shaped in the limits and evocations of his choice of language. For example, the image used to evoke the relationship of Jordan and Kataraina, a leaf with jagged edges, each a half of the leaf, unable to see each other from opposing edges, all of each other, but somehow bound into its whole by a spine.

I don’t know why I’m so interested in people occupied with design at the moment, but I’ve been a bit stuck with writing the last few days so I’m going to write a series of three poems along this line of interest; one loosely based on the coin designer of the first NZ decimal range of coins, My James Berry, the design of a suit featured on Stuff today which mimics the effects of old age and will give you a taste of what its like, and a mystery third…

First Kiss

You know what I mean, right? Though perhaps yours looks a bit
different? Once I dropped something from very high above the
lake. Weeks before I’d asked myself, what thing would fall into the
centre there and turn the rips of its falling into one unabashed
wave? Long, unbroken, immaculate even, at the tall of disturbance,
touching all shores at once.

Historically, many mouths, as many as can fit along the water’s
edge, wait for the pressure of that wave, salt-less to salt-less lips,
winded windpipes, many mouths gargling instruments with
breath inside, something that’s been practiced there before, but
definitively fresh; a thud of gum, impromptu flavour, air’s
spearmint, just as softness plummets to the core of the stomach,
accidentally setting off an abdominal heart-beat.

So it came to me, the form of the lake’s object; it must be able to
latch and unlatch, knowing the kiss for what it is, it’s coming
and going peer-pressure. To know it, is to know the shiver-touch

murmur nearer than blood.

This dual-patience has befallen and so sand blushes, water
wishes me more than wet. I’ve seen the body curl, it did so all
over the bay. I couldn’t help it, and still it won’t tell me how it
came to be there in that way.

All I know is that its inarticulacy is centred, and when I shove it
over, as in a test of strength, it tingles and sucks and risks the
occasion all over again.