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Renaissance Fair

I fervently believe that our natural creativity, given free rein, can unlock all doors and solve all dilemmas no matter how seemingly heavy or intractable. We can start with whatever is to hand which means we are always ready.

So in that spirit I offer this acrostic poem – a response to the Daily Prompt Recreate – to mark the start of a series of posts where I will try to weave the random words that WordPress throws at me into a coherent narrative. Each will be a 100 word story linked in some way to the previous one.

Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           E.M Forster

R uins surround you, strongholds returned to rocks.
E ven your wisest words run out like sand.
C ollect those scattered thoughts from the low places.
R eassemble them in new formations to
E ntertain yourself in the long, dark, desolate night.
A t last comes dawn where dreamers meet.
T heatres will play out a thousand and one possibilities.
E verything waits as usual to be imagined into fresh life.

 

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Image: vulture.com

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Guiding Spirits

I regard organised religion as more of a dividing than a unifying force but I share with those who are religious an overwhelming desire to express thankfulness. Naturally I am grateful to family and friends but beyond them I would like to salute all the men and women whose energetic effort, excellent example and power to Elevate have enriched my life immeasurably.

I may have left out a few but this is the best I could manage in half an hour. It’s not much to give for a lifetime of encouragement.

Jane Austen 
Samuel Beckett 
William Blake 
Jorge Luis Borges 
Boudica 
Ray Bradbury 
Emily Bronte 
Big Bill Broonzy 
Arthur Brown 
Lenny Bruce 
Gautama Buddha 
William Burroughs
Samuel Butler 
Italo Calvino 
Bill Carlin 
Leonora Carrington 
Lewis Carroll 
Rachel Carson 
Miguel de Cervantes 
Anton Chekhov 
Samuel Taylor Coleridge 
Peter Cook 
Marie Curie 
Charles Darwin 
Ray Davies 
Richard Dawkins 
Charles Dickens 
Emily Dickinson 
Bob Dylan 
TS Eliot 
Harry Enfield 
Mary Anne Evans (George Eliot) 
Ella Fitzgerald 
Anne Frank 
Mahatma Gandhi 
Khalil Gibran 
Alan Ginsberg 
Jane Goodall 
Kenneth Grahame 
Jimi Hendrix 
Bill Hicks 
Christopher Hitchens 
Billie Holiday 
Barry Humphries 
Aldous Huxley 
James Joyce 
Carl Jung 
Franz Kafka 
Frida Kahlo 
Paul Kantner 
John Keats 
Jack Kerouac 
Martin Luther King 
Rudyard Kipling 
Philip Larkin
DH Lawrence 
Edward Lear 
Ursula Le Guin 
John Lennon 
Abraham Lincoln 
Nelson Mandela 
Katherine Mansfield 
Bob Marley 
Spike Milligan 
Dudley Moore 
Jim Morrison 
Van Morrison 
Arthur Miller 
AA Milne 
Joni Mitchell 
Friedrich Nietzsche 
Florence Nightingale 
Flann O'Brien 
Joe Orton 
George Orwell 
Wilfred Owen 
Emmeline Pankhurst 
Rosa Parks 
Louis Pasteur 
Edgar Allen Poe 
Richard Pryor 
Queen Elizabeth I 
Francois Rabelais 
Arthur Rimbaud 
Christina Rossetti 
Mary Seacole 
WG Sebald 
Mary Shelley 
Percy Bysshe Shelley 
William Shakespeare
Grace Slick
John Steinbeck 
Lawrence Sterne 
Robert Louis Stevenson 
Marie Stopes 
Tom Stoppard 
Dylan Thomas 
EP Thompson 
Thomas Traherne 
Harriet Tubman 
Leonardo da Vinci 
Don Van Vliet (Captain Beefheart) 
Kurt Vonnegut 
HG Wells 
Oscar Wilde 
Hank Williams 
Tennessee Williams 
Virginia Wood 
Virginia Woolf 
William Wordsworth 
Neil Young 
Malala Yousafzai 
Frank Zappa

 

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Image: Pinterest

Under Cover

The jocular tone of my previous post masked a deeper unease.

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For some reason, I’m finding it increasingly hard to write at any length. It feels as if joining up ideas has become, well, unfashionable. Old hat. Yesterday’s news.

Today it’s all about soundbites, slogans, headlines, jingles, tweets – short stuff that can be repeated over and over until it sounds like something you’ve thought up yourself. It’s rather like being in some great big whispering gallery.

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As social animals, we are attuned to voices. And our natural instinct is to be loyal to others. When their voices become fragmented, our own inner voices break out in sympathy.

According to The Writer’s Idea Book by Jack Heffron, seven inner voices are the enemies of creativity:

  • the procrastinator says later
  • the victim asks why me?
  • the talker dissipates the urge
  • the critic makes us nervous
  • the judge deems the act unworthy
  • the author is obsessed with reception
  • the capricious guest is inspiration

As for me, I’m going to start tomorrow – if the noisy numbskulls around here will let me – and what I write is going to be the life-changing story of absolutely everything unless of course it’s been done many times before by better writers than me, there isn’t something more useful I could be doing and there isn’t a chance in hell anybody might want to read it even supposing that damned elusive muse condescends to pay me a flying visit …

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Oh well, while I’m waiting, perhaps I’ll stick to the short stuff. If you can’t beat ’em join ’em, eh?

Regular readers will know that I’m fond of keeping it short. Acrostic poems, haiku, 100 word stories – all of them over, almost, before they’ve begun!

Blink and you’ll miss them. But I like the idea that you can capture a whole world in a small space. And focussing on technical constraints like word and syllable counts can stop you stressing about content.

How not what.

Them wide open spaces give me the heebie-jeebies. Not enough cover. Too easy for them to pick you off.

Unless, of course, you go by train …

 

The Whitsun Weddings

By Philip Larkin
That Whitsun, I was late getting away:
    Not till about
One-twenty on the sunlit Saturday
Did my three-quarters-empty train pull out,
All windows down, all cushions hot, all sense
Of being in a hurry gone. We ran
Behind the backs of houses, crossed a street
Of blinding windscreens, smelt the fish-dock; thence
The river’s level drifting breadth began,
Where sky and Lincolnshire and water meet.
All afternoon, through the tall heat that slept
    For miles inland,
A slow and stopping curve southwards we kept.
Wide farms went by, short-shadowed cattle, and
Canals with floatings of industrial froth;
A hothouse flashed uniquely: hedges dipped
And rose: and now and then a smell of grass
Displaced the reek of buttoned carriage-cloth
Until the next town, new and nondescript,
Approached with acres of dismantled cars.
At first, I didn’t notice what a noise
    The weddings made
Each station that we stopped at: sun destroys
The interest of what’s happening in the shade,
And down the long cool platforms whoops and skirls
I took for porters larking with the mails,
And went on reading. Once we started, though,
We passed them, grinning and pomaded, girls
In parodies of fashion, heels and veils,
All posed irresolutely, watching us go,
As if out on the end of an event
    Waving goodbye
To something that survived it. Struck, I leant
More promptly out next time, more curiously,
And saw it all again in different terms:
The fathers with broad belts under their suits
And seamy foreheads; mothers loud and fat;
An uncle shouting smut; and then the perms,
The nylon gloves and jewellery-substitutes,
The lemons, mauves, and olive-ochres that
Marked off the girls unreally from the rest.
    Yes, from cafés
And banquet-halls up yards, and bunting-dressed
Coach-party annexes, the wedding-days
Were coming to an end. All down the line
Fresh couples climbed aboard: the rest stood round;
The last confetti and advice were thrown,
And, as we moved, each face seemed to define
Just what it saw departing: children frowned
At something dull; fathers had never known
Success so huge and wholly farcical;
    The women shared
The secret like a happy funeral;
While girls, gripping their handbags tighter, stared
At a religious wounding. Free at last,
And loaded with the sum of all they saw,
We hurried towards London, shuffling gouts of steam.
Now fields were building-plots, and poplars cast
Long shadows over major roads, and for
Some fifty minutes, that in time would seem
Just long enough to settle hats and say
I nearly died,
A dozen marriages got under way.
They watched the landscape, sitting side by side
—An Odeon went past, a cooling tower,
And someone running up to bowl—and none
Thought of the others they would never meet
Or how their lives would all contain this hour.
I thought of London spread out in the sun,
Its postal districts packed like squares of wheat:
There we were aimed. And as we raced across
    Bright knots of rail
Past standing Pullmans, walls of blackened moss
Came close, and it was nearly done, this frail
Travelling coincidence; and what it held
Stood ready to be loosed with all the power
That being changed can give. We slowed again,
And as the tightened brakes took hold, there swelled
A sense of falling, like an arrow-shower
Sent out of sight, somewhere becoming rain.

Swings and Roundabouts

Two years is a long time to spend in the blogosphere and I find my thoughts tracking  back over those 211 posts – a little over one a week by my reckoning – to consider what, if anything, they signify. Worth remembering, I think, what I wanted to achieve – here’s a mash-up of the first few posts:

My voyage of exploration begins. I want to recapture the spirit of childhood, when we would set out from home with the deliberate aim of getting hopelessly lost …

I find it sad that children today don’t occupy the streets and open spaces like we did when I was young. There have always been risks in such freedom but we made a habit of going around with our friends, rarely if ever alone. We knew the dangers and were able to avoid them. So many kids were out and about, there was safety in numbers. With more adults around, too, we behaved ourselves most of the time because we didn’t want to get into trouble. In this way, we learned how to take responsibility for ourselves.

Sitting alone in your bedroom is not a healthy substitute, especially when you factor in the online risks and bad cyberspace influences that would shock many parents. It’s a case of out of the frying pan into the fire, I’m afraid. Let’s make the open air a place for children again, providing proper facilities and a sensible but not stifling adult presence. It would be quite a challenge but I can’t think of a better way to create the communities of the future.

I love the idea that when you start saying something, you don’t know where you’re going with it …

Hmm, not sure all those lofty declarations of freedom have borne fruit. More often than not, my writing is tightly controlled: acrostic poems, haikus, hundred-word stories. Such constraints enable me to turn out posts on a semi-regular basis but there is a danger that they can become somewhat glib and formulaic. I’m wondering what became of my desire to go off-piste once in a while, starting stuff I wasn’t sure I could finish with my adult dignity and amour propre still intact!

Two years ago Obama was still in the White House and the United Kingdom still in the European Union. The future – always glimpsed through a glass darkly – at least showed signs of being recognisably and reassuringly like the past. But now all bets are off. I’ll risk a wild metaphor and say we are adrift in a sea of raw emotion clutching at puny straws of reason. At times like these, I sometimes think, only the heightened language of poetry can hit the spot:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
                                        from The Second Coming by WB Yeats
 Anyone dismayed by the surfacing of ugly prejudice in their own societies will find the poem’s final imagery disturbing:
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds …
… And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
A while back I created an imaginary town called Bafflesby because I had a strong urge to send up the sort of blinkered thinking that threatened values I grew up with:  the likes of tolerance, empathy, clarity, openness.
Just recently I’ve found it hard to invent new scenarios because it turns out that truth really is stranger than fiction. What with all these alternative facts and all this fake news, truth is a now a character in a costume drama. Remember those cheesy sword-and-sandal epics where the Romans wore wrist-watches?
Truth is now so strange that complete strangers come up to me and say, You couldn’t make it up! It’s true. I can’t. If I tried, it would be like shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.
Actually I’m hoping he’ll get bored running around and come sneaking back home for some hay and a nice rub-down. In the meantime, I’ll read Private Eye to discover how to poke fun when things stop being fun.
I suppose most countries have satirical magazines which probe wrong-doing and parody folly. What about those in your neck of the woods? It would be good to hear about any.
Private Eye’s covers are an art-form in their own right …
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Laughter is the best medicine, they say. They would say that, wouldn’t they, as it’s also much cheaper? But I don’t want to end this post on a cynical note. I played with my little granddaughter today and we just followed our noses, making it up as we went along. You don’t need toys when the whole world is yours for the taking.

Watching a bit of telly is OK, though, when invention begins to flag. And YouTube is a great way to explore past and present together. She loves the Bill & Ben colour animations – though not the ponderous old black-and-white string-puppet versions we had to endure. But I did get her to watch this little gem from back in the day, when grown-ups could poke fun at themselves without losing their dignity … and we both laughed like drains!