Five Seven Five

When my Winchester flatmate Sam and I cross paths, often in the kitchen at odd times of the day or night, he’ll frequently ask what I’m writing at the moment. In the last few weeks, with no academic work to do, the answer has tended to be “nothing much”. Even when I’ve prompts in mind, nothing has been fruitful, but one very small thing has suddenly helped to change that – and I could find it rather useful over the coming months at home.

When I saved and submitted my poetry portfolio at the beginning of last month, I assumed that I was letting go of the last batch of verse I would write in a while. I’d had trouble gelling with the module, and – excluding one on song lyrics – I haven’t chosen to take any poetry modules next year. That was that, or so it seemed. Just the other night, using the pen and notebook Louis bought me for my last birthday, all it took was three lines to reveal that perhaps I have unfinished business with it after all. In a haiku, I have a simple outlet for all of those fragmented thoughts and emotions I’m keen to express. It’s also good for the ideas I have that aren’t quite big enough for me to expand on substantially, those that start out as words, phrases or images. If I get them down on paper in this way, I’m shifting my writer’s block and expanding my portfolio, albeit more gradually than I would like.

As I’ve said, it could come in especially handy over the next few months while I’m back in Somerset for the summer. It’s fair to say that I’ve been more than a little bit apprehensive about returning from Winchester and facing numerous questions about what I plan to do with myself. I’ve been embarrassed about admitting that right now, there are no plans to speak of – but I’m hoping that writing and the ideas I have will help to ease that as I work on making some. It doesn’t matter whether they manifest themselves as bigger things or smaller ones, or in three lines or more.

Mason

 

The Skeleton

I’m currently in the process of writing my last essay for this year, ahead of my return to Winchester on Saturday. I don’t have a detailed plan as such, only a few brief points for me to incorporate and consider – I procrastinate badly enough without something stopping me from getting stuck in. 1,500 words separate me from the first year’s finish line. The draft I’m working on is my third attempt at this essay, since I got halfway through the first two before becoming dissatisfied with them, but I’m doing so feeling much more comfortable.

I’ve chosen to tackle it using the “skeleton method”, if you like. I begin by writing all of my basic, fundamental points for the different areas of the essay, so that it has a vague structure. Then, once I reach the end, I go back to the start and fill everything out, providing references and quotes and developing my arguments. I don’t always use this, but when I do, I feel much less stress and pressure as I work. This occasion is no exception, and it comes just as I’ve received a mark of 68 for my poetry portfolio, and 65 for the rationale that went with it. That significantly surpassed my expectations, in a module that I thought would be by far my weakest, so I can hold my head high as I submit this last piece of work and look towards next year. At a glance now, I’m 793 words down, with just 707 – excluding quotes – to go…

Mason

Flarf Poetry

I’m now in the midst of my Easter break back at home – although, to all intents and purposes, my first year at university ended just over a week ago. I’m going back anyway, but for the next couple of weeks, I’ll focus on getting the last four assignments for the year done, while looking at what I’ve already accomplished with a great deal of pride. My marks this year have been very consistent (although nothing counts until Year 2) and I have learnt much and grown creatively. Approximately 7,000 words in total lie ahead of me during this break, and I hope can be as pleased with those as I am with what has gone before. Having such confidence in my work is very rare, since the self-doubt almost always kicks in once something is finished!

I’ve now submitted my poetry portfolio, and in time you may well see the whole thing here. For now, though, I just want to show you the poem that concludes it, as an example of flarf poetry. In class, we were told to think of two completely random words and enter them into Google so that we could write something using its search results. I chose “grassy brick”, which meant that I swiftly came across a set of instructions on how to grow grass in an old brick. I adapted these into stanzas – with some artistic licence – and I ended up with a simple and surreal final poem that didn’t take itself too seriously. I wouldn’t have ended the portfolio any other way. It’s called “Gardening For a New Generation”, and it goes like this:

“Gardening for a new generation.

Plant a seed in an urban jungle.

What will you need?

A brick, glazed, strictly non-porous;

Nothing else will do.

 

Blow away the dust and the cobwebs,

The ghost of a hardened hand.

Make it wet, soften the stone to sand,

Eat that pie on the windowsill;

You’ll need the tin tomorrow.

 

Half an inch of water will give new life.

Bless the brick with more,

As it sits in its bakelite bathtub.

Watch the cheap seeds sprout;

You’ll like grass, it’s hardy.”

 

Mason

The Cultural Relevance Of Apple Crumble

You know how I’ve showcased a few small pieces of miscellaneous writing on here recently? Well, the first examples of 2019 are ready! The first is the title of this post, one of those bizarrely amusing phrases I felt I had to note down, even though it does not actually refer or apply to anything – not even apple crumble. It was just a throwaway remark made in my Creative Non-Fiction seminar last week, but as soon as I heard it, I knew it was destined to end up written somewhere, probably here. Shortly afterwards, I also heard the phrase “an envelope full of Austrian tea”, and that was another strong candidate for a title – but given the dessert-based title of the last post, I thought it best to keep that minor theme going.

The second piece of writing comes from my Poetry class on Monday – and, more specifically, from a supplement my tutor received with his copy of The Guardian, dated 12 January. In one of our creative exercises, he tore out a page for each of us, and we looked through these for interesting words and phrases we could use in a poem. As I recall, all that was required was a sudden change in tone at the end, and although it was challenging to incorporate this, I gave it my best shot. See what you make of this – pieced together from what I found in two entirely unrelated articles.

“The lonely life of an outsider

He nonetheless professed to cherish

Six months’ house arrest

And five years’ probation.

 

But as he tried to make sense of the stars

An undying love affair with the cosmos began.

Stars look like snowflakes

Astronomy is an art

The most beautiful sight in orbit

For a journalist-turned-teacher

And alcoholic boyfriend.

That may not be a story you’re familiar with

But trust me, it’s not one you need to know.”

 

Mason

A Heart Full Of Hope

Here we are, folks – my very first post for 2019. I can safely say that 2018 was a corker of a year for me, and although I spent the last few hours of New Year’s Eve alone at home, I did so with a belly full of pizza and a heart full of hope, so I was more than happy. I used some of that quality time to continue reading a book Lara bought me as a Christmas present, Agatha Christie’s Evil Under The Sun, which features none other than Hercule Poirot himself. She got it upon hearing that I’d never read any of Christie’s work, and told me that I’d find it very easy to become immersed in the story. She was absolutely right – as I write this, I am 93 pages and seven chapters in, at a point where many probing questions are being asked of every potential murderer. I got there in no time, and my enjoyment of this new book in my spare time has subsequently increased my excitement for what lies ahead at Winchester even more.

Of course, nothing by Agatha Christie is on the reading list, but a few other books are, and two of them arrived yesterday. I am yet to look at them properly, but both are works of non-fiction – and as you might have gathered, I’m rather fond of life writing. The opportunity to read about the experiences, trials and tribulations of others is always tantalising, as is the opportunity to write straight from the heart about my own. The prospect of so much creativity from that and my other modules – including one actually called “Creativity”, and one on poetry, which I have always enjoyed – makes this January much more inviting, since I can’t yet tell what new ideas will manifest themselves, or how. I don’t know what will happen outside of my work either. The world is once again my oyster and as always, the unknown is very exciting. I can’t wait to go and see what it’s all about! Before that, though, I have another very precious fortnight left here at home – and before that, there is a brand new episode of Doctor Who for me to enjoy coming tonight. I fully intend to make the most of both.

Happy New Year to you all!

Mason

The Pull, Part 7

Well, July is now officially upon us, and as I sit here writing this I am just over three weeks away from the start of my summer holidays – and beyond that, my great Winchester adventure. In the meantime, however, there is still work to be done, and not just in my day job. There is also the small matter of my poetry project. The titles for my poems are all present and correct – you saw them in “Accordion” – but what form the accompanying material will take is still yet to be seen. I do have some rough opening lines for the first poem, “Time Off For Good Behaviour”, but those were mainly written as an excuse for me to open a new notebook and are therefore likely to change.

Beginning a new notebook of any kind is always a treat for the senses. Everything about it is something to be cherished – the spotless and totally unspoiled cover, the pristine pages that lie within, and every magical indentation your pen makes upon them. The notebook I am using for this particular project came from the University of Winchester itself, and I told myself that it would never go to waste playing host to half-finished ideas. It was therefore set aside for poetry, and that in turn meant that I could not start writing in it properly until yesterday. I will admit that it has been increasingly difficult to resist, sitting patiently on my bedside table, always lingering in the corner of my eye. No matter how big the temptation got, though, I told myself that the end reward would be well worth the wait. I only allowed myself to sign and date the first page, so that everything written in it could form a time capsule I can look back on with fondness in the future.

I wrote the first paragraph of this post yesterday, when I had not yet attempted to change the opening lines I had already composed. I subsequently opened the notebook – and, deciding once and for all that they simply did not work, I crossed them out and started again. The new lines that resulted from this flowed much better and felt less forced. I am planning to show the completed poems to my coursemates before you get to see them here, but I will give you little snippets along the way. Make of these what you will!

For a few precious months, the shackles are off. Lie down in your bed, or feast in your trough.

This freedom’s a nectar you simply can’t waste. Feel every last drop flow through you with haste.

Mason

 

 

Good Medicine

Everyone says, very accurately, that laughter is the best medicine to help see us through difficult times. An equally effective antidote, however, can be found in that funny luminous orb which occasionally (but not often) decides to show its face in Britain. Sunday was thankfully one of those days, and although I have a difficult relationship with the more rural parts of the world – generally preferring somewhere more lively with people going about their business – I was happy to write in the garden with a cool drink. I had opened my notebook with thoughts of my summer poetry project – described in “Accordion” – firmly in my mind. I found myself once again needing to prove to myself that my poetry could be half-decent, especially if I was going to spend my summer focusing on it, so I gradually scribbled some verse while my family watched on. What did I use as inspiration? The sunshine, of course, and specifically how it was lifting my spirits with its warm embrace. You can read the poem below – just bear in mind that it was composed hurriedly and may not be of as high a quality as something more considered. This time I can’t hide behind the fact that it isn’t finished yet!

I hope you like it – it has certainly made me feel even more eager to begin the poems that lie ahead:

I never thought that much of you
Your green and pleasant land.
But then I see a different side
When I am in your hand.

I feel your rays within my veins
I feel your tender touch
Your beams do dance upon my skin
Loving me so much.

You let us share you with our friends
Unite our lives as one.
As we forget our small divides
To bask in summer sun.

And though you do go in again
The memories remain
Like bright and vivid Polaroids
Unblemished by rain.

And when you are not in the sky
I save you a place
In my mind so that you can
Still shine upon my face.

Mason