This is the related sequence that i wrote for my end of course assessment, for my Open University course A363 - 'Advanced creative writing' including commentary & bibliography
‘As stars, a fault of vision, as a lamp,
A mock show, dew drops, or a bubble,
A dream, a lightning flash, or cloud,
So we should view what is conditioned.’
2 mins in the chair
3 ½ hrs till i get a moment
and the day is spent
I dive into foreheads of wrinkled waves
blackbirds swiping beaks on planks
what clairvoyance is this?
is it not the sea but what floats in it?
puzzles may mean no
thing.we are all of us some
times absent from this world
today tomorrow yesterday
you gave me shards of winegreen flower
reflecting many a disparate image
drunk a fish drunk
that look like
poe could be no drunker
turned to wax and charcoal
but do not stare too hard
the soul is in the
waiting.under gaping holes stuck with
cellotape and bluetack mirror
doors swivel to reveal gaping
fishpeople in their bowls
STEEL barbs scratch teeth
scratching like animal claws
shoulders hunched hands clenched
thinking now,now it’ll be over,NOW
no.time swirls with the green and
red spit down the drain it all goes down
and the road always running ahead
ENTER the fish supermarket swimming
in expensive colours—
Blue-£30, Green-£40, Red-£50.
knock on the glass and see them
a e r
into prison fireworks
window blackfish eyes
many tyre tracked turtles
for sale sharp clown beaks and claws
blackredblackredyellow it smiles a mirror into the
past shelves of tanks seeping stale salt water slowly
a mulch on the floor,closed
eyes peering behind
plastic curtains,NO ENTRY not moving
eyes not blinking
in the deep end it sat
squatting solitary supreme
intoxicated by the fakery
a cat of four and twenty lives,a
balancing act on a rocklike see
saw halflight flickering somewhere,he
shapeless,or...in fact returned
to OUR original shape-armless,legless
his tank a picture of glass womb hanging
from the wall I can almost hear him
singing a birth of awful promise,this half
life.is it alive?we stare waiting with the
music surrounding us,guarding
us,ah!the music!he hears it and
he’ll suck you under,cut throat
he seemed to me a flower that i drew from memory
like gaughin,scales weighted un
questioning the dream and worlds end
asphodel,a greeny flower each thought
a dancing orange fish separately jointly
we looked at each other touched
a glad fellow to marvel at there are always two
ways the other usually just behind
struck,by the eye he held a soundless song
you see he’s speaking but does not realise
he breathes water,we air
that last image forever
imprinted on my eyes
break this jug containing all our lives...
hmm,yes,they eat people there...
grow to enormous size and swallow
you into a whirlpool,under
daffodil time,wallowing in
this ocean,a keyhole of
glass silver arrows
a maze of bubbles,that reflect
an up-side-down universe beside the first
from the dank jungle pool
to the desert wilderness
back into dust,the tide
diana’s lover has gone
out and In the distance
there is no horizon
just the white cliffs bordered by
the war of waves...
let us sit and watch the waves together
the plants dance furiously
i watch them
the shy girl for sale
the queen bee
i sit and eat a cheese scone now
others are waiting
hurry stuff mouth hotwedged gainst gums
we walk round followed by a giant
fork lifting some slabs but they fall.running
to slam the car door i nearly choke
with laughter,but all is silent and my mouth
clean as we
past the tractor in his own tank
slowly s-l-o-w-ly making another
at home the dog is pleased to see us
she has my crumbs.
amputated from yr life
limbo you remain
a tourist swimming in Lethe
who shall say by these worlds
which is light which is dark?truly
the light casts shadows over us all
what are these aborted spirits
that float here?
a dead goldfish in a pond of
star crossed eyes?
pfft pfft scwzzoop,the
walk out into the light
where the bird sings!.
drown in the glory of the poem
drown in the fire of the gone
world,our sea is the road—
metallic minnows darting down stream
mind tugging in tow
it began with mouths and eyes
sinking,wholly lost at sea,drifting
mesmerized by the glimmer of waves
in this tricking light
so you see the eyes slowly waken to the light
but all is dark and all is night
TOTAL LINE COUNT: 158
Apollyan (Greek) Angel of the bottomless pit, also known as Abaddon ‘the destroyer’ in Hebrew.
Diana (Roman) Italian goddess of woods, women, childbirth and later by association with the moon and the Greek Artemis.
Lethe “forgetfulness” one of the rivers of the underworld.
Through this course and A215; I have written short stories, plays and screenplays but I always come back to poetry. Poet’s see in a particular way: ‘You’re standing on a bridge...everyone can see the sunset but only you can see the chip wrapper.’ (McMillan, CD3, Track7)
As many genres overlap, I wanted to employ the collage, used by artists and poets: ‘voice call your eyes, call / days so shone seem cheer,’ (Zukofsky, 2006) and film techniques such as montage: ‘Sometimes montage can induce wider meanings to do with theme and poetic parallels.’ (Neale, 2009). My aim was to create a surrealistic world by using onomatopoeia, personification and juxtaposition, Invoking relations between the senses, like Rimbaud’s Vowels: ‘Black A, white E, red I, green U, blue O—vowels.’ (Rimbaud, 2008).
My first plan was too wide reaching, and suffered from a ‘muddled approach’. (Bower, 2010). I solved this by reviewing the handbook and my notebooks, to ensure a disciplined, consistent approach. My revised proposal was scaled down to a single day, I then decided to focus on a few hours - as poetry’s scope is limited - with a sense of repetition and reoccurrence.
My original idea was to use William S. Burroughs ‘cut-up’ (a series of images like photography) to produce a startling new verse out of established poems: ‘The cut up method brings to writers the collage, which has been used by painters.’ (U B U W E B)
For TMA06 I submitted a draft of ‘Ch7’ and a cut-up of The Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock, (Eliot, 1974) but I failed to ‘assimilate its ideas’ into my own; there were too many ‘undulated phrases’ (Bower, 2010) and Eliot’s voice ended up ‘overpowering’ mine. I resolved this by following my tutor’s advice: ‘paus[ing] for thought’ and taking a ‘step back’ (Bower, 2010) I only incorporated a few phrases, thus making it new. Eliot and Pound frequently used lines from other writers in their works e.g. ‘A patient etherized upon a table’ (Eliot, 1974) is from C. S. Lewis’s ‘A Confession’ (Knowles, 2006) and: ‘Tching prayed on the mountain and / wrote MAKE IT NEW / on his bath tub.’ (Pound, 1996) is taken from the Book of Revelation, Ch. 21, V. 4: ‘And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.’(Knowles, 2004) The fragments I used include: ‘glad of a fellow to / marvel at’, ‘is it alive?’, ‘Daffodil time’, and ‘a birth of awful promise’ (Williams, 1967)
The flexible nature of poetry allows for an untraditional form; The Soft Machine (Burroughs, 2001) gave me the idea of arranging the sequence unconventionally. Traditional narrative has a forward motion but I also wanted to create a swirling movement; influenced by H.D.’s poetry and ‘The Pisan Cantos’ (Pound, 1996): ‘The image is more than an idea. It is a vortex or cluster of fused ideas and is endowed with energy.’ (Pound, jittery.com)
E. E. Cummings has been a major influence on my writing; his poetry is individual, personal and lyrical: ‘... Her,eyes count slow(ly’ (Cummings 1996) ‘The gaps like musical notation help the reader to pause, to visualise.’ (Jones, 1979) The typography is what first attracted me: ‘...It is often an idiosyncratic element in writing that engages you and makes the writing special.’ (Neale, 2009) and is similar to Zukofsky’s: ‘thoughts in motion,’ (Bernstein, 2006) I felt an affinity for this style because I naturally write colloquial, sparse poetry, and like the idea of: ‘Punctuation to mean in itself, rather than act as a formal adjunct to the language.’ (Jones, 1979).
I wanted the poem to be a visual experience as well as an auditory one, so I used graphology techniques such as font type, point size and colour. I used short lines to quicken the pace (and create a threatening atmosphere), and a few longer lines to slow it, creating abrupt changes, and suggesting excitable, fractious thoughts. I used to end stop most of my lines but after reading Cummings I decided to use more enjambment (even within words) to all most ‘cut-up’ the poem, which creates new meanings and a jarring tone: ‘Varying the rhythm to mimic the movement of the speaker’s thoughts.’ (Neale, 2009) I suppressed capital letters, (even with proper nouns) used ellipsis, contractions, and omitted punctuation and spaces, to visualise the internal. I also used line breaks for added contemplation, where I thought the poem would benefit aesthetically from some more space. I like to use alliteration and repetition for emphasis and questions to divert the reader’s attention. I freely use images, including simile and metaphor when the poem’s logic takes me in this direction.
Revising and drafting was substantive ‘Ch5’started off having a very short line length, I decided to double it up - the theme is separation – so placed a caesura down the centre, this creates a literal, as well as an emotional division. (It can also be read vertically, as a sort of ‘cut-up’). I had to cut a lot: ‘It can be very fulfilling to overwrite, to get the words out of your system, and then to cut.’ (Neale, 2009) I changed names, reordered and condensed material: ‘If you write a narrative sequence in poetry you need to be ruthless
about making it sparse, about letting the reader do the work of connecting events.’ (Neale, 2009)
The sequence revolves around a specific afternoon, containing the themes of time, alienation, and perception, with leitmotifs of the sea, and eyes. Each poem is a short story, yet is connected to the whole by time and place, thus ensuring structural unity. It is arranged like a novel; with chapters for titles etc. The modern language is juxtaposed with classical references, to merge eras and create a kind of super-reality. The fish farm
section is symbolic of a subterranean world and benefits from an impressionistic style; the scattered verse, acting as a visual aid to represent thoughts, thus dramatising the mundane. The dentist and garden centre poems are more ‘normal’, therefore benefit from a more conventional approach. There is a feeling of gradual dissimilation - remaining unresolved -and the avoidance of straight lines is symbolic of waves breaking.
I have learnt a lot from the OU’s creative writing courses, both technically and analytically, I have gained confidence and polished my work to a publishable standard.
WORD COUNT: 1,002
The ‘Cut-up’ technique: a piece of writing cut up into sections and pasted together to shape a new story, possibly revealing new meanings. See U B U W E B (Bibliography)
Apollinaire, Guillaume (1971) The Selected Writings. New Directions, New York
Audio CD 3, (2008) Research, Structure and Style, Tracks 6 & 7, Ian McMillan – on the importance of repetition in poetry & the use of surrealism.
Baudelaire, Charles (1998)  The Flowers of Evil. Oxford University Press
Bower, Sarah, A (2009) Assessment summary 04, 05 & 06 (pt3) A363
Bowie, David , Amazon mp3 downloads Life on Mars, Ashes to Ashes [online] Available from http://www.amazon.co.uk Accessed 4/5/2010
Buck, Kate. Writer’s Notebooks, written – 2008, 09 & 10
Bukowski, Charles (1983) Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame, Black Sparrow Books
Bukowski, Charles (1977) Love is a Dog from Hell: Poems 1974-1977, Black Sparrow Books
Bulgakov, Mikhail (1997)  The Master and Margarita, Picador
Burroughs, William S. (2001)  The Soft Machine, Flamingo Modern Classics
Cook, dr Chris (2001)  PEARS Cyclopaedia 2001-2002, Penguin Books Ltd.
Cummings, E. E. (1996)  Is 5, Liveright
Eliot, T. S. (1974)  Collected Poems 1909-1963: Faber and Faber
Famous Quotes. [online] Available from: http://www.jittery.com Accessed 31/4/2010
Ginsberg, Allen (2006)  Collected Poems 1947-9, HarperCollins
Jones, Peter. () An Introduction to 50 American Poets, London: Pan Books Ltd.
Knowles, Elizabeth (editor) (2004)  The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, Oxford University Press
Lautreamont, Comte de (1965) Maldoror, New Directions Publishing Corporation
Neale, Derek. (2009) A Creative Writing Handbook, London: A & C Black Publishers Ltd.
Ousby, Ian (1998)  The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English
Poe, Edgar Allan. () The Collected Tales & Poems, Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions Ltd.
Pound, Ezra (1996)  The Cantos of Ezra Pound, New Directions Publishing
Rimbaud, Arthur (2008)  Complete Works. Harper Collins, New York
U B U W E B. William S. Burroughs The Cut-Up Method of Brion Gysin [online].
Available from: http://www.ubu.com/papers/burroughs_gysin.html Accessed: 5/4/2010
Williams, Carlos William. (1967)  Pictures from Brueghel and other poems, New Directions
Zukofsky, Louis (2006)  Selected Poems, edited by Charles Bernstein, American Poets Project