This is a radical rewrite of a poem I wrote many years ago, in response to comments on Urbis. (By the way, I'm averaging 6.8 out of 10 on scores for my poetry, which isn't too bad and average when spread over 18 poems.)
The location and motion of a particle
Can never be simultaneously known.
Determining location obscures motion;
Measuring motion hides location.
If you work out either one
You can calculate how likely
It is you'll be able
To work out the other.
But that's it.
This makes protons and their ilk
Seem different from vehicles like
Ships, trains, buses and planes.
Timetables confirm these suspicions.
However, the uncertainty principle is still there
At a macroscopic level.
It's just most of the time,
We don't notice it.
Until the bus is late.
I find watching people fascinating, though I worry they'll notice me writing about them and confront me with my arrogance. Anyway, here are a few notes made last night: I can feel a poem emerging from this, and have a few ideas which are finally gelling. Hey, you're getting to watch the creative process at work here! Think of it as open source poetry.
Evidence - how do we decide whether to accept arguments?
Light moving on window dappled with shade at night - a face emerged.
Arcs described by the bus: near edge of road, tree, middle of road. Like distances between people: intimacy with people we see every day on the bus but don't talk to, people we glimpse from the bus every day, people we only see once.
Man so drunk he's got his hat on inside out, staggers from the ledge of the bus.
Oppressive stench of man wearing inappropriately-trendy "Hot Fuzz" T-shirt (he's old) plus donkey jacket. Smell of bad breath and dirty hair.
Day vs. night, innocent vs. corrupt, oscillations between extremes.
A girl: hair crudely hacked, cheap hair bobbles and matching plastic ear-rings. The edges of her hair like broken spaghetti, jutting in clumps.
The foetid man half-turns towards this girl next to him, as if he feels an urge to speak to her. In a dainty gesture, he steadies himself against a turn, placing one grubby hand with dirty fingernails against the sill of the bus window. His index finger points outwards, like the little finger of a posh person drinking tea.
Behind the face, patterns of light and shade swarm over the windows. Pin pricks of light describe arcs in the darkness.
(Ed.: This is the bit I'm most proud of.)
His head like a large stone rolled loose from a cairn.
Delicate grey lichens cover the side facing the sun.
Underneath, labyrinthine fungi flourish in shade.
Today I only managed one line. I keep thinking of this poem I read at school which compared a writer's block to constipation. That's kind of how I feel at the moment - not that I've got a writer's block, just no time to sit and write. Notice I'm still trying to write "iambic pentameter": this one actually popped fully-formed into my head, which I suppose is a good sign I'm starting to get the hang of it. I might write something soon which pulls together all my bus observations.
The arc of black it makes behind the ear. (Looking at the arm of someone's glasses from behind.)
I've not had the time I'd like to devote to my writing this week, and I've been scribbling one or two lines on the bus. It's the best I can manage at the moment.
Mirror image, damaged in dog fight.
Relying on thumbs: it's something we do. (I got a nasty splinter in my thumb which has made it difficult to grab things. At least I think it's a splinter.)
Now I've got some new notebooks, I've been making jottings on the bus. I haven't been feeling very inspired this week, and haven't had much time, so nothing very fully-formed has arisen. But here are my notes, such as they are.
(By the way, I am writing every day, on the actual day, at the moment, but writing by hand in a note pad. That's the reason behind the delay in getting stuff onto my blog. I bet you were all wondering, weren't you?)
The ghost you were
You, a ghost, a tint of life
Puckers in molten face
The variants we make of vice
The flowers huddle in conspiracy
Whispers, petals cupped to hear neighbours
Treason among the roots as verminous worms
Cast the blame around
Religious hatred, the need for respect does not incur agreement
A balmy day. A bus shudders in wild
effusive arcs, cracks hard against a tree.
In a dream I came upon the forgotten city. It was once known as Watten Etta; before that, Town X. All I knew...
Like carrying a piano into a room up a flight of stairs.
My love is like a tired old man who hefts
Pianos up the stairs. Always alone.
I bought Stephen Fry's book The Ode Less Travelled yesterday, as it gives a thorough but approachable introduction to prosody ("the art of versification"). It contains technical descriptions and exercises to introduce the various elements of poetry: so far, I've been learning about metre, feet, iambs, iambic pentameter, enjambment and caesura. Some of this stuff I covered in my English A Level, but surprisingly little: I think it had gone out of fashion at the time I was studying English. Even in my English Literature degree, I didn't cover the technicalities in any great detail. It's certainly interesting, and I'm hoping it will help me make more informed analyses of other people's poetry, and make me appreciate the benefits of using traditional poetic forms and approaches.
So my creative output today was in response to the first exercise in the book: writing 20 lines or pairs of lines in iambic pentameter (ten syllable lines with a ti-tum ti-tum ti-tum ti-tum ti-tum rhythm, i.e. a stress on every even-numbered syllable). I managed 15, some of which match the requirements, but not all (I always found detection of stresses difficult). It's surprisingly hard to write like this, as it forces you to make certain choices about the first word on a line (it can't have a stressed first syllable). Here are my attempts:
A cough, a sneeze, before we wake for food.
The written word so rarely read this well.
I'm pretty sure the second line is wrong.
The broken record turns about itself.
My mother drinks a glass of bitter beer.
Before the dawn was brighter than we thought.
Perhaps gorillas wander to and fro.
We watch their shiny bottoms come and go.
The crazy cops are seeking someone bad.
A shot, a shout, a scattered crowd of folk
Derides the nonsense spouted by a priest.
The telly always offers us its crap.
Consider if you will the elephant.
More adverts disappear us as we stare.
Aghast, he saw his picture on the floor.
He fell upon them, crying out in fear.
A picture frame is seldom red, it seems.
They borrow chairs to fill the empty hall.
This is a rewrite of a poem I wrote a long time ago. I submitted it to Urbis, and got a couple of comments, and thought I'd take a crack at taking them on-board. Most of the comments centred around it being too verbose, with too many irrelevant details, so I pulled it to pieces for about 30 minutes, and still wasn't happy at the end. I thought it might be interesting to show the two pieces together, which perhaps gives some idea of the process I went through. The new version isn't finished (that's why I'm struggling), but I am happier with it than the original.
With a pad of paper against her knee
(The writing smudged) she looks at the camera.
He inhabited this room for three months
With American footballers on the curtains
(Although he was 21).
She visited twice, once bringing shepherd's pie
He upset her perhaps this day
By not walking her to her car.
She is looking at the camera, seated on the bed,
With him taking the picture in black and white:
Her smile is almost goofy
Above a hint of double chin;
One eye slightly askew, just to the left.
No one saw this but him.
The time spent with her is extrapolated from here,
Her blonde light grey hair untidy,
Her blue green dark grey eyes like wounds,
Her white teeth like half a melon skin.
With these tools, he tries to make rooms
She isn't in.
He captures an image
of her on the bed.
won't walk her
to the door.
sheaves of straw-blonde
wounds of blue-green
This is actually a rewrite of an ancient (1991?) poem. Me, rewriting? I hardly ever used to do this, but am finding that time is giving me objectivity about some of my older stuff, which I can use to make improvements. Hopefully.
the sea is in bed
the sky its sheet
the beach tautens
the sea touches the horizon
like a touched thigh
we ache for the place
I wrote this on the back of a magazine on the bus this morning. Nothing fully-formed, but a few ideas and images.
By the way, I managed a whole month (31 days) of writing something (nearly) every day. It's been a great experience for me so far, and has really started perking up my creativity. Some of the stuff I produced was even half-decent.
A woman and man about to cross a Pelican crossing, the woman grasping the man as if to say, "Don't leave me, don't ever leave me, I need you."
Girl in herringbone-patterned coat reads a novel. In the margin of one page, she or someone else has written, in capitals the length of the page, "L AND G DREAM".
I had to take out the rubbish. It was about 3 miles to the dustbins, up-hill, along a path with a wire fence running its entire length. In a moonlit playground a child described hesitant white arcs with the swing. When I got to the dustbins, they were overflowing.
A stern woman in long black coat with glasses and purple-grey hair.
The bus driver's son sometimes gets onto the bus when I do. He barely acknowledges his dad. Sometimes his dad will remind him to be home on time, or to ring when football practice finishes, and the boy merely grunts and inclines his head, away from his father.
A story about a cobbler, or someone who works in a computer hardware shop. These are things I know about.
The birds have made shoddy nests, gingerly cradled in the white arms of a birch.
A man like an untidy heap of box files waits for a bus.
birch stencils the moon
an oak pins the horizon
bricks block spaces
where ladders climb light
shadows ribboned by bars
mask limbs lapping limbs
eyes lost in waves
curl around the night