Song of January

Amsterdam, 2012.

And here’s another poetry exercise. I like the results of this one less than yesterdays, but the premise was pretty interesting.

  • List 10 verbs at random and then perform two rhyme operations on them. These could be full rhyme; however, I encourage you to try slant rhyme echoes using assonance, alliteration, syllabic similarity (the way the words “window” and “finger” share the syllable “in”). You now have 30 sound shaped words at your disposal. Use as many as you care to include as you go along.
  • Include a reference to pets, food, or cigarettes.
  • Write a “song” or name your poem “Song” or “Song of . . .”

I can’t remember what my 10 verbs were, exactly, but most of them are in the poem below. Again, this is a rough draft (20-30 mins writing). I should probably start spending more time editing.

Emily x

Song of January

You prance and glance around the living room
you sit on your hands
shy away from the fingers
that last month
held the cigarette.

You tie logic in knots
Cold turkey.
I am stern
As you upturn my reminders:
This was your idea
I’m not overruling you
I’m not being cruel
This was


Just one won’t hurt
I’m afraid I might snap
If I don’t slip once
If I don’t let go
I worry for my health

Your smile is wry at this
Your overt motives
fooling no-one
But you’re into your flow now –
Skipping or slipping
toward the amber amulet
in your mind.

Poised to fall,
Poised to fly.

Another week, another poetry assignment

Mother and daughter in Saigon, 2014.

This week, we were set three poetry tasks. I don’t know what it is about these tasks but they make me so angry to look at, and I feel really resistant to doing them. I think about complaining, dropping out of the class, then I just do it and find myself really enjoying it.

Here was the outline of the first task:

Spend 20-30 minutes writing with the following suggestions in mind:  
• Have hovering over the writing piece the sense that force is more primary than clarity
• Include some form of repetition such as anaphora or polyptoton*
• Include an exclamation
• Include a self-deprecating moment 
• Write a Love poem 
* Anaphora – repetition of a word at the beginning of a sentence / stanza; Polyptoton – repetition of a word in different forms e.g ‘tight’ might include tightly, tighten, tightrope.
So I tried the task, mainly resistant due to the first bullet point, which I was skeptical about (pretentious bullshit alert?). I ended up using the word ‘light’ in order to incorporate anaphora and polyptoton, and I used a piece of free writing from last week’s seminar as material. The free writing itself was about a dream I’d had the night before. In the dream I had a daughter, and I woke up missing her but feeling loved by this imaginary child. Then, a nasty interaction with a stranger that day, though unrelated, killed the feeling of being important/responsible/loved. Hard to explain, just a feeling coming and going, which I suppose is apt material for writing with ‘force’, not ‘clarity’. This isn’t a finished poem, but the product of 20-30 minutes of writing (as the task dictated).
Emily x
P.S. My tutor gave me some homework back (a poem) and asked why I’d aligned it to the centre of the page. So I’m left justifying this one.


Light hair, light eyes,
when I wake, she’s still there –
Child of light.
Three feet tall, slight.
Warmed for the remainder of the day
by her eyes full of delight,
delight we share.
Hers and mine.

Light with the night memory,
Night flutter,
but my stomach feeling flatter,
feeling empty. Feeling lighter,
having never really held her –
Lightning bug.

Light all day thinking of her,
her slight arms, her light hair,
I walk lighter, light as air,
with my womb-bound
luminary. Firefly,
waiting somewhere.

Light still later, in the car park,
glide down the cold, cemented stair.
No normal urine stench, only
delight in the fresh air –

Alight on someone. But not her.
Watch your fucking step, Moron!
Cold contempt. Darker stare.

Light hair, but not hers.
Not here yet, not anywhere.

Abecedarian Poetry

Scout and me, a few houses ago. Harrow, 2012.

Abecedarian. This is my new favourite word. It refers, in this case, to poetry in which each word begins with the next letter of the alphabet. I wrote the following in my poetry class yesterday as part of a 3 minute poetry exercise. The topic is, again, Scout the cat, and her reaction to her recent m0ve to Beeston.

Emily x

Abecedarian Poem

As befits cats,
darting elegantly from
garden hideaways is:
Jungle Kitty.

missing nothing,
observing patiently.

She tolerates us.
Very warily,
yet zen.

Ways Of Making Love

If I could be half the woman that she is cat, the world could begin.

Another day, another poetry writing exercise: these ones coming from Bernadette Mayer and available at this link. These ones were slightly less bat-shit than yesterdays (see below post) and I’m not sure if it’s fair to say I did this one correctly, since it demanded a list of ‘ways of making love’ but I decided that was just a jump off point. I wrote this in 5 minutes and had just been reading some Charles Bukowski and Jack Spicer poems. With those poets in mind, I decided to leave the grammar a little sloppy and the tone a little conversational.

I’ve also included a poem below from Bukowski – about cats – because I like cats and I like Bukowski.

Emily x

Ways Of Making Love

Last night, as we lay in bed, I said
it was cute when you asked
if everyone’s as happy as us,
cute that you’re happy
with the fill of your cup.

I didn’t say that, you said,
I didn’t say happy,
I said I wonder if everyone
has as much fun.

Specificity is your M.O.
and proving a point is mine.
So what’s the difference, said I,
between happy and fun?
And I made you play a game,
at quarter past one. Called

‘Imagine if we weren’t fun’,
and I reminded you in monotones
to not forget to put the bin out.
The recycling one this week
And also we should really
get round to registering
with a GP
we’ve been here six weeks,
for goodness sake,
what if anything happened,
like a head cold.

But this is still fun, you said,
you’re lying on top of me
and naked in our bed.
You started digging your fingers
into my waist

You have to forget
the naked bit,
that’s not part of the game,
the game is the GP bit,
I tried to explain.
I’m proving that
happy and fun
are one and the same.

But your fingers on my waist
you’re always like this,
using tickles to undo me,
winning games with a kiss.

“Their eyes are more beautiful than our eyes. and they can sleep 20 hours a day without hesitation or remorse.” – Bukowski, My Cats


startled into life like fire

in grievous deity my cat
walks around
he walks around and around
electric tail and

he is
alive and
plush and
final as a plum tree

neither of us understands
cathedrals or
the man outside
watering his

if I were all the man
that he is
if there were men
like this
the world could

he leaps up on the couch
and walks through
porticoes of my

Disorder Of The New World – An Experiment


These pictures of my cat and me sharing a formal breakfast a few years ago are irrelevant but hopefully provide joy to you, my internet browsing friend. London, 2012.

Happy New Year!

The Spring term is approaching and with it, two new modules. One of those is poetry, which is frightening for a few reasons:

  1. There’s only 3 students (nowhere to hide)
  2. The reading list for the first session is longer than my arm
  3. I have never had my poetry critiqued or graded before
  4. The ‘experimental writing tasks’ we have been tasked with for the first class are bat-shit crazy.

One of the lists we were asked to pick from was reasonable. ‘Write a mirror image to a poem you already know and love’. ‘Write a sensory description of your breakfast’. ‘Write a list poem entitled Ways Of Making Love.’ The other list was less reasonable. It included suggestions such as ‘sit under a tree with a penny and some orange juice in your mouth, thinking about love, and write about poverty’ and ‘stand naked in a bucket of water by your front door; invite friends over and ignore them, simply staring silently at them through the keyhole’. Come on man, this is the kind of crap that gives poets a bad name.

So I chose one of the more reasonable exercises. It required me to do the following:

  1. Go to a bookshop and find the following sections: LAW, ROMANCE, HORROR, COOKBOOKS, GARDENING, HISTORY, CHILDREN, RELIGION, BIOGRAPHY.
  2. Pick a book at random from each shelf and turn to page 108.
  3. Read the page and write down the word you like most from the page.
  4. Sit down in the bookshop and write a poem.

So I dutifully hit up my local Waterstones and traipsed up and down the four floors until I’d found my nine sections and my nine words, then I sat down on a comfy sofa in the young adult section (cosier and quieter than the in-store Costa) and tried to write.

Normally, I come up with an idea first and the words follow. This activity was not my comfort zone, and I don’t think the results are particularly impressive. But the process was definitely interesting. At first I couldn’t see the purpose of picking the words like this – as opposed to finding 9 random words in the dictionary or from an online generator, say. But the process – of moving between sections, reading from the different genres, building the list slowly on my page – definitely had value. It allowed ideas to percolate, and got me thinking laterally about how to use the words as I gathered them.


So here are the results – a first draft, definitely, but a fun project with an interesting outcome.

Emily x

P.S. if you want to try one of the exercises for yourself, here’s the link:

Disorder of the New World

By the time I turned the final page
and regained consciousness
the world had changed.

The stealthy poaching
of the day; the slow decay
of sunlight had all occurred
behind my back. And now:

I was pinned to my chair.
Handcuffed; bound to stare
into the thick dark. The thick air
of the house was throbbing:
with a silence
as heavy
as company.

Through the window
In the garden’s dark disorder
My eyes alighted
On the glittering borders
Of a watering can.

And fixed on it. Daring
Some malevolent hand
To seize it.
And then to seize me too, who:

Handcuffed; adrift
In a world elsewhere
Had not observed
the world change
around her chair.