Monday, 28 March 2011

Freeze a Moment

by Jan Dean

One of my favourite ways of writing a poem is to freeze a moment. Here’s how.

Close your eyes and listen.

Open them and look around.

Check out the moment with your other senses – are you drinking milk/chewing caramel? Is there a hole in your sock so that the skin of your toe keeps sticking to the inside of your shoe?
(Note to self – put socks on shopping list…)

Once you’ve collected a few impressions you can begin to write. E.g.

The washing is sloshing
and slapping socks clean
the PC is humming
words flick on the screen

*Thinks* - hey I could make this just a sound poem if I wanted – ‘The Song of The House’ – but for the time being I’ll carry on with the original plan.

            The books on the shelves
have slid and lie slanted

*Thinks* - hmm, I’ve bounced a few follow up lines around in my head, but none of them are very good, so I’m going to ditch these lines.

            There’s a hat on the floor
            and a cat in its bed
            and a large hairy mammoth
            behind next door’s shed…

*Thinks* Ooo, I wonder where that idea came from?  But I do like it.  So Now I’m going to try to tie it in with the original lines.

            A large hairy mammoth?
Yes, that’s what I said.
            So it’s goodbye to laundry
            and goodbye to writing
            Meeting a mammoth is much more exciting           

Well, now I’ve got a first draft.  It may come to something, or it may not.  And if it doesn’t I can always freeze another moment and start again.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

My Special Writing Place

Roger Stevens

Many writers and poets write their stories and poems in very boring offices. Some write in exotic locations, on tropical islands or on their private jets. Roald Dahl wrote most of his stories in his garden shed. He liked the peace and quite. In fact he was so particular about it being his special place he didn’t even let his illustrator, Quentin Blake, visit his shed.

I’m often asked by people where I write my poems. I’m happy to tell them, although I do wonder why they ask. Do they think that writing in a similar place to a well-known writer will confer some of that writer’s magic upon their poems or storytelling?
I’m lucky, I guess. I have a special room that I built in the west wing of my mansion. It faces south and looks out over my own private beach. It’s very calm and peaceful.
In my writing room I have a big writing desk and all the latest computer wizardry. I even have a computer that writes poems for me if I’m really stuck. As well as a super spell-checker, I have a rhyme suggester, a simile builder and a metaphor maker. Oh... and an alliteration assembler.
I have several drinks machines and food dispensers for when I’m thirsty or feeling a bit peckish. If I fancy a strawberry and toffee ice cream, a chuckleberry ice cream or a Knickerbocker Glory I just press a button and out it pops.
If I get stuck with a story I press another button and a giant TV and cinema screen comes down from the ceiling and I watch very old films from the 1960s.
It’s very peaceful in my room as I've said. If I get fed up with the sound of the ocean I can have sounds from the tropical rainforest piped in directly from Brazil via my personal satellite.
And if I've written three or four really tough sentences and am feeling a little weary I can have a lie down on my luxury mega-king size bed or play snooker or Scalextric with one of my celebrity friends, like James Carter, Philip Ardagh or David Beckham.
So as you see, my special writing room is not that different from that of any other writer. And I wonder if you have a favourite place to write?

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Ten Random Facts About Sue Hardy-Dawson

The first poem I wrote was in Wales on a post card to all my relatives. I was about 8 and hated writing. I thought poems had to rhyme when I was small because all the ones my dad read me did. When my Nan died I was 25, and we found it still there among her possessions

A solid sheet of barren rock
A valley down below
A breeze blows on its lush green grass
As green as grass can grow

A silver fern against the rock
Yes all these things together
Will make the memory of this place
Stay with me forever

(and in fact it did, vividly.) The Thought Fox by Ted Hughes was my first favourite grown up poem. I still remember being in a classroom on a hot summer's day and then being suddenly transported by the poem to a world of snow and forest.

My favourite poet? Ooh – that’s not fair. I’d have to say Carol Anne Duffy, but I like lots of others too. My favourite illustrators are E H Shepard and Quentin Blake because their pictures always make me feel happy inside.

My favourite soup? Lavender. It has such a lovely smell. Oops sorry, I thought you said soap. I've never washed with soup so I can't comment.

My favourite fish is called Lucky Blue because he has survived for many years in our house and never once criticised my poetry. Old Goldy was not so lucky. And he was always complaining about my couplets.

My favourite time of day is when everyone else is asleep and I can spend hours scribbling with just the cats and dog for company. They listen solemnly when I read my scribbles back. My favourite place is the railway embankment next to our house where I played as a child. We didn't have Playstations in those days so we just had to rough it, making real mud pies and watching the seasons change. But don't feel too sorry for us, we loved it. There was also a family who lived in the next house along who kept, goats, zebra finches, rabbits, chickens and bantams, which are tiny hens. I was in Heaven. We had a real den made from an old scrubbed-out chicken house in which we used to store such delights as lukewarm lemonade and soggy Garibaldi biscuits, probably to the joy of visiting rats. Despite our very grubby finger nails and the visiting wildlife we somehow survived. Except for Goldy of course.

My favourite insect is a dragonfly. They are so beautiful they feel like they can't actually be real.

My favourite obscure fact about myself is that once, when I was 8, I slid down the railway embankment on my bottom in a brand new dress and stockings. This did not seem to make my mum happy at all and she felt the need to convey her displeasure by asking lots of trick questions like “Did you think that was a good idea?” and playing a sort of game of chase with me around the house whilst waving a muddy stocking in the air. Adults can be so confusing.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Embarrassing Parents

Have you ever been embarrassed by your parents? When Joseph was a teenager he would refuse to actually walk with me and Jill in the street “in case his mates saw us.” How silly is that? And I don’t see why he should have been embarrassed by me and Jill dancing in the road at a street festival in Holland, either. He should have been proud of his step-dad. When I hoisted his mum over my head and did the splits at the same time it produced a huge cheer and applause from the crowd that had gathered around us. I was quite upset when he ran away instead of staying to help his mum carry me to the hospital. So you would think that, as a grown-up, I’d no longer be embarrassed by my parents.
But Jill and I decided to take my eighty-year-old mother for a drive in the country. It was a lovely sunny Saturday in June. We drove through the village of Northiam and saw that the local school was having a fete.
“Shall we have a look round?” I asked.
“Ooh, yes,” said Mum, “that would be nice.”
So we did. We had a go on the bottle stall and Jill won a small jar of salad cream. Then we bought a spider plant from the plant stall and watched a display of falconry.
Unfortunately the falcon man hadn’t turned up but the resourceful school decided to go ahead anyway.
Several teachers had each painted the picture of a bird of prey on a shoe box, and tied the box to their arm with a piece of string. Then each one took a turn of throwing the box up in the air while we had to imagine that it was a real bird, wheeling through the sky, and swooping on a sparrow.
The falcon I imagined was easily the best. It did somersaults and finished its display by swooping through a hoop of fire upside down.
So, Mum, Jill and me were walking around the school field enjoying the fete when a band started paying. It was the east Sussex All-Comers Ukulele and Trumpet band. They were brilliant. They played Take That’s greatest hits.
That was when my mum got embarrassing. She grabbed my hands and shouted out, really loudly, “let’s have a little dance!” then she started going round in circles, taking me with her, and every so often punching the air and whooping. An eighty-year old whooping woman dancing to Shine is not a pretty sight.
It was very, very embarrassing. The only good thing about it was that Jill went round with the hat and managed to collect seven pounds 63p. So we all treated ourselves to an ice cream and Mum bought another spider plant to keep the first one company. 


Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Picture Poems by Celia Warren

Have you ever taken a photograph, and then found, when you look at it on-screen, all sorts of little details that you hadn't noticed at the time? A young bud bursting with colour, just about to open; a tiny cloud amongst lots of big cumulus, that is all alone and a perfect square shape: that sort of thing?

I love taking photographs. And the more I take, the more it makes me look closely – both at the time of snapping, and during the more leisurely viewing on my computer screen. Digital photography is so instant, so realistic, so exciting. Sometimes, a beautiful photograph of, say, a personable, friendly robin, or a perfect flower head, is a poem in itself. Sometimes the picture can inspire a poem.

These days, most people have a camera with them all the time, if only on their mobile phone. Start looking for unusual photographs, and then allow words to enter the arena – you might find you end up with a poem or two. Here are a couple of examples of my new photo-poems that have sprouted this spring:

Can You See Frog?

Can you see Frog in the pond there – shiny and shy?
He doesn't miss much with his careful, cautious eye.
He's come up for air, you can just see his head and – dash!
We came too close: he's a memory, a plop, and a splash!

Paper Clips

Paper clips are the safety pins of life,
Or life as we know it.
They anchor aspirations,
Hold thoughts together,
Add purpose to cold white corners.

Even empty pages,
Devoid of word or picture,
Seem stronger, more constructive,
For their metal presence.

They epitomise efficiency;
They mean business.
No messing; no mess:
“We are paper clips
And we're not afraid of paper.”

At least, that was the case,
Until God invented plastic.
Now, in their frivolous colours,
They trivialise the desk.
“Party time!” they cheer,
Grinning from 'ere to 'ere.

“Ever thought of linking us?
We make a great necklace.
 Dive in. Enjoy!”

Photos and poems (Can You See Frog and Paper Clips) © Celia Warren 2011