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:
- There’s only 3 students (nowhere to hide)
- The reading list for the first session is longer than my arm
- I have never had my poetry critiqued or graded before
- 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:
- Go to a bookshop and find the following sections: LAW, ROMANCE, HORROR, COOKBOOKS, GARDENING, HISTORY, CHILDREN, RELIGION, BIOGRAPHY.
- Pick a book at random from each shelf and turn to page 108.
- Read the page and write down the word you like most from the page.
- 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.
The words I picked, by the way, were: DISORDER, HANDCUFFED, WATERING, THICK, DECAY, THROBBING, POACHING, CONSCIOUSNESS, UNOCCUPIED.
So here are the results – a first draft, definitely, but a fun project with an interesting outcome.
P.S. if you want to try one of the exercises for yourself, here’s the link: http://somaticpoetryexercises.blogspot.no/2007/09/written-at-jason-zuzgas-request-for.html
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
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:
In a world elsewhere
Had not observed
the world change
around her chair.