Monday, 2 March 2015

Learning about historial fiction

I love online learning and feeling I needed something else in my life I have just signed up for a new course. It just so happens that it is on writing. The title of the course is Plagues, Witches and War: The Worlds of Historical Fiction and it is run by Coursera. I'm hoping it will expand my horizons in what I read and help me get to grips with understanding research.

While not exactly a 'how to' writing course it does look at how authors use research to aid their novels. It sounds like a comprehensive course, though the tutor admits it can never cover everything because the subject matter is so big. I'm looking forward to starting the first module tomorrow.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Writing 201:P Poetry (last day) Sonnet

Ahh! a day late with this. The last poetry prompt which I should have submitted yesterday is a sonnet on the theme of the future and with the device of  chiasmus. Mmmmm not come across that before. It is where A and B are repeated as B and A. I managed (finally) to get one in!

My sonnet could do with editing probably and the strict iambic pattern isn't true but rules are there to be broken!

I turned to a subject close to my heart. We have to believe in a future for all  mankind.

This is the end of the challenge. It has been interesting and fun. I've learned a few new devices I'd not come across before and I was pleased to see some unusual forms cropping up. However, it was nice to end with an old traditional form, one I've struggled with over the years but have got to rather like.

Making a difference

Sometimes it is hard to see a way through
With all the gloom the media paint us,
Faces sunken as they stare back at you
Bellies swollen, too weak to make a fuss
And pitted buildings, bomb sites once a home
Now broken like those who used to live there
And with what they can carry they leave to roam
Across the dusty earth where some will care
And give them hope to live and live to hope
That one day they’ll be peace but do they dare
To dream somewhere will be theirs upon this globe?
So sign petitions march or send a gift
However small will count, the tide will shift.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Writing 201: Poetry (Day 9) - Found poems

I love writing Found poetry and today the prompt was landscape, found, lists.

I must admit this is rushed. I just grabbed a Winchester Explorer Guide sitting next to me and used that. If I had more time I would do something a bit more adventurous and use more than one source. I remember doing one for The Poetry School but I think there were other restrictions to the form. I can't remember what they were. Anyway, I'll return to found poems in the future because I love having a go and creating odd pieces of poetry, something a bit wacky from lines/words picked out of magazines and rearranged.


Unspoilt, one hour from London,
the freshness, beauty –
see it – manual and powered
wheelchairs available;
maps, walking guides,
major sites,
highlights – the seat of King Arthur,
the Cathedral,
England as it ought to be,
don’t take our word for it,
enjoy for a snapshot,
silver discs, follow the footsteps -

welcome vibrant explorer.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Writing 201: Day 8 - Ode

Day 8 poetry prompt is Ode-Drawer-Apostrophe. I guess my poem is an ode of sorts and it is about an object in a drawer and the poem speaks to another person. So I think I have all the ingredients. Written in a short space of time I hope it hits the right note:

Go Sew!

I see you have found it nestled between hankies and scarves,
the small round tin, smooth edged, tactile.
It fits in the hand like a stress ball, turning, turning,
fit for purpose, easy to slip into handbag or case.

And just in case you need it I will give it to you;
maybe you will use it for I never have
just opened the lid to look in, finger the contents
and re-live the horror of needlework lessons in school.

The yellow paper tape measure has never been unfolded,
the needles are still shiny new and sharp,
the tiny buttons that probably don’t go with anything
are still affixed to the see-through plastic sleeve.

I replace the lid. The tin is black like the mood that came
over me in lessons. I don’t know why I kept it. I had others
equally unused but I liked its compactness, a ‘ready-to-
travel’ helper which never went anywhere.

So, take it, my friend and get some use out of it,
give it a good home, one where it will be loved,
its contents opened, cotton unraveled from the grey

cardboard holder, pins pinned and needles threaded. 

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Writing: 201- Day 7 - Prose poem

I took a day off from poetry yesterday. The prompt did not inspire me but today I have tackled the prose poem using assonance and on the theme of 'fingers'. In my case it's just the one finger and more about what is on it.

This poem had it's beginnings elsewhere, another much shorter version exists. In this version I have taken the theme and expanded it to incorporate more and likened the two rings sitting together reacting like mother and daughters often do! I think this is the first prose poem I have ever written. I'm still not sure about it. I found it hard not to break it up into lines and stanzas. Let me know what you think.

The Ring
I twist the gold band feeling your essence when only warmth remains after a fire has died. I wear it next to my own wedding ring. They sing in unison recognising each other. This is all I have now. This and the memories, a wardrobe full of clothes, an album full of photos and I cling to them like an abandoned child for I am an orphan now.

Some days later my finger rejects the ring. The flesh swells as the two gold bands rub and snub each other just as we did in those falling out days, in the silences and the cheap flung words meant to hurt. Now I clutch at your remaining blouses and skirts, reluctant to part with every bit of you, fingering broaches and necklaces, remembering the lipsticks you bought in reckless moments when you were down.

I lay your wedding band aside as I fold your life into bin bags. I take what I can even the earrings I will never wear. I cannot bear to dispose of you like this. I grab the ring and place it back on my finger. It nestles close to mine. Whatever we have been through our bond glues us together. In the years that will follow I become stronger than you could ever know. But I don’t know that now. I only long for you. The moment I wake, after that second before I remember, the ache grinds into me.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Scary but positive

I did something really scary today. I read a poem of mine to total strangers! Okay I've read in front of small audiences twice before at local prize events but this was different in that I went on my own and there was no one I knew there.

Let me explain. I recently found out that Croydon Library have a Poetry Hour once a month (found a leaflet about it when I met a friend for our regular lunch date in the Library cafe). The event is for anyone who wants to perform poetry or song - your own or other people's, especially those who have never done it before.

There was an email address to book a slot but I couldn't be that bold! I decided to go along to suss it out. However, I did go armed with a few poems....just in case.

It was a decent turn out and it was obvious that a lot of people knew each other. Poetry Hour has been running for some time it seems. First off those who had booked a slot read one poem and then the floor was opened up to anyone else there who hadn't booked but brought something along. I sat there working myself up to it and let several people go first. There was indeed a mixture of own poetry and poems by other poets - someone read Shall I compare thee to a summers day..and another read song lyrics by Donovan. Things were moving quickly and I knew I had to make my move before those who booked were given a chance to read a second poem so I stood up with my heart banging like crazy and walked towards the microphone.

There had been a theme - Valentine's or the cold but you could read anything. I chose a poem which I described as perhaps a different kind of love (in this case the coming together of a guitarist and guitar for the first time in ages). It was short and a poem I particularly liked. Once I nervously introduced myself and the poem I found that I relaxed a little as I read. I remembered to look up (well once) and spoke slowly and clearly.

Of course I was relieved when it was over but I was so pleased with myself.

The theme for next month is Easter, Astronauts and Mothers. I've added my name to the mailing list and will try and get along next month and put myself through this again! If nothing else it is good experience in reading aloud and I will get to know people. At present there is nothing similar where I live so a trek over to Croydon it will have to be.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Writing 201: Day 4

Today I have been working on a Elegy on the theme of fog. I'm not sure what I have written quite works. Maybe there is too much tied up in it. I believe there may be a stress pattern to elegies but I always abuse those! I use my ear to hear how lines work but mix it up. The prompt looked a metaphor. I use metaphor quite a lot but I don't think there is one in my poem as such this time. I struggled for inspiration with this and I'm not that happy with the result. Maybe one day I'll take it apart and re-write it in a different form. I looked at not having end rhymes but they seemed to naturally want to be written that way. So here is my flimsy effort for today:


Boundaries shift losing their edges
Eyes strain to see ahead
All points of reference disappear
Under a smoky bed.

Movement slows, cars are nose to tail
Break lights blink off and on
Headlights beam as if they’re searching
Sucked in trails, there, then gone.

All is grey, swirling dense and cloying
Changing whole perspectives
Horns beep out in great frustration
The fog ignores and drifts.

Nothing looks the same anymore
Blind is the traveller now
All reason and logic come undone
This is nature’s power.

Our instincts for time and space is lost
With ancestors long gone
Clocks and technology run our lives
Without them we are done.

Man made machines point the way for us
Our brains are dull as fog
Hooked and wired to get our daily dose
Just another dim cog.

Take away the safety nets and breathe
Find your natural rhythm
Nature gave you all you’d ever need
Become nature driven.

Undo the restraints that keep you bound
This life belongs to you
But only you can change the pathway

Do what you need to do.