Sunday, 12 May 2013

Boosting Creativity: A Poem a Day for a Week

A few weeks ago when I was looking at ways to boost a writer's creativity, (The Lion in the Attic: My Top Ten Tips for Boosting Writer's Creativity, April 28th), I came up with the idea that I should write a poem every day for a week. I didn't want to post the poems at the time because that would have turned it into a different undertaking and I wanted it to be all about creativity rather than show and tell. Since then, though, I have looked back on that week and realise just how much the daily exercise stimulated my mind and changed my experience. To begin with, I looked for poetic ways to describe events in my day, or memories provoked by them, and scribbled them down. Later though, I began to grasp just how full of words my days are as I edit art and craft authors' writing, listen to what is going on around me, check my email, news websites, Facebook and other blog posts and read texts on my phone. I started to see these snippets of language as poetic in themselves, needing little more than assembling to create poetry. I recalled a blog post I had read that described how David Bowie used to cut up his own old diaries and use the phrases that resulted in his songwriting ( I began to hear the poetry in the language I encounter every day, that I am not usually aware of, and set about cutting and pasting it into poems. It was a fascinating exercise - I urge you to try it if you haven't. I would not claim for a moment that the results are brilliant, but the exercise reconnected me with a creative, poetic me from a very long time ago, and made me look very differently at my days.

In the car on the way to swimming
I choose silence;
Retreat from a jabbering world.
Swimmers cut you up like impatient drivers;
I swim on, in the flow,
Think of a lost child, a sick father, an author’s complaints.
I get dry and, at the make-up station
Brush an eye like Japanese art,
Another lop-sided, cubist.
I go out to rain, blossoming, fresh;

Running, I get wet.

The girls of the tribe got ready at Saskia’s
Her bedroom the size of my house.
Crimped and parading, we laughed and encouraged,
Lifted on bright hopes and tart wine.
Weeks of anticipation led us,
Painted and trussed up
To Bidborough Village Hall
To find the party already raided,
Underage drinkers disbanded and scattering.
Thrilled by the drama, the rage of injustice, we began the long walk home
Carrying our heels, unfettered, laughing.
It was better than many parties with their casual cruelties
Always a girl in the loos, crying, and me
Not knowing how to be with boys.

Lord, now I know you
I remember my heedless childhood and faithless youth,
The little old lady who hobbled to assembly
And showed us a picture of Jesus and a door
And told us of a light eternal;
How I worried that she’d left her torch on,
So old-fashioned, doddery and odd.

My headmistress at grammar school, a missionary’s daughter
Led hymns each day and I sang, and sang,
And mocked her
A spinster, absurd, saying ‘When I became a man’
To a chorus of giggling.

Later, a teenaged au pair,
I listened as the children’s grandmother
Told me how her son died, at 17, of leukaemia.
C’est ma foi chretienne qui m’a souentu’, she said
My Christian faith kept me going.
 I allowed that this was an amazing thing
That faith could achieve for others.

Lord, years later, when your love burst upon me,
Barely invited, overwhelming,
When I opened the door a tiny crack
And you rushed in
I could finally see the seeds sown, the sweet blessings
Of the faithful
Who I mocked and ignored and scoffed at,
Their efforts fanciful and fruitless.

Lord, how humbly now I thank them;
I hope heaven has ears so they can hear me.

‘Luvly grub and chat yest, many thanks! Xx’
I pause, pondering the cost
Of private prostate treatment, researched online,
Think, ‘We’ll pay, Dad, we have a fund for the car
But I’d rather fix you. I love you, Dad
I’d do anything for you.’
I reply, ‘No probs, we enjoyed it,’
Hope that ‘xx’ says it all.

Amid other people’s writing
I wait for news
Typing in Mexican paste
And sugar toadstools, thinking
A friend might die, another might conceive.
From my window, leaf buds push and glow, juice-green
The sun battles against a cold wind
There’s snow in Spain.
Remove the head from its stick
And apply confectioner’s varnish.
We’ll meet at the Charing Cross Hotel
To plan your book.

Dampen the back of a dusted leaf
And wrap it round the arm.
Hello, Sue, alright, love?
Dust with chocolate brown powder and leave to dry.
Would the twins like to come tomorrow?
Yes thanks, I’m sorry, we’ve got no credit.
The Queen of the Netherlands has abdicated
In favour of her son;
Had beer in the old haunt, end of a mad busy trip,
From Rich in Joe Bananas.
These fairies represent young love.

Use fuchsia pink, Cornish cream and foliage green
Say Hi from me!
Pure food-grade alcohol should be hyphenated throughout.
Amanda: They called me a devil.
Around five, the room falls silent
I am tired of words and waiting.
I walk out in a day blue and blowing
And the sun in the alley by the hostel
Warms my hair.

Dad has rung. I receive this message and fear bad news
Of illness or other complications.
Almost seventy-five, he’s had a dash to hospital
Followed by pain and indignity
After lively years quite illness-free.
This has cast a shadow from some future
We recoil from and don’t want to see.
I ring him back, and hear his news
A scanner in a hidden bend
Has brought his second speeding fine.
I laugh -  I’ll see him Sunday
He’ll try to keep out of trouble until then.

The words of others bubble up and through
I have used foils in tones of gold, copper, red and bronze
And autumnal shades of sheer fabrics.
My friend is not pregnant after all;
I met her on the common, disappointed.
My other friend hangs on to life
Refuses to consider an ending.
His wife keeps up an exhausting front ,
Holds on to the things she wants to say.
Coming back with the twins we met a daughter and a husband
Straight from the hospital, faces telling dismal news.
Think about bags, hair slides, cushions, a bodice
A pair of matching evening shoes.
Samuel has not registered at school today.
A soldering iron was used to burn away
The areas between the foils.
I was 10 minutes late, but was present for most of form time.
Omit the stitching and go straight to the distressing stage.
Chosen people, holy and dearly loved.
I have always been nervous of proper golf clubs.
Strictly no demin or cargo style trousers.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.
I switch everything off: the roaring tower, the flickering screen
 And journey home in goldening green.
We must be on the lookout for just the right detail.
A magnolia tree drops fat pink petals
A carpet for my feet.

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