I’ve spent most of the early weeks of 2017 working on a picture book, so I’ve been playing with rhyme and metre a lot, and think in rhyme and metre a lot. So when one of my favourite Facebook feeds, Grandiloquent Word of the Day, threw this little beauty at me today, it got me playing with rhyme.
And, for balance, one of my own.
I started out life as a poet: my first ever sale was a poem, to a University magazine, and over the years, I’ve published at the length far too infrequently. Good poetry is hard, and I am, far too often, far too lazy to craft and mould a good poem from its initial frenzy of wordplay. I’ve sold less than a dozen over the 15 years of my professional career, which always feels like a lack on my part: I always wish I could write more, and better.
Poetry, to me, is a proving ground of vocabulary, wit, and rhythm. I hit those scales too rarely for my liking.
Working for a Greener Narrative is one of those times. It appeared in Andromeda Spaceways In-Flight Magazine issue 36, back in September 2008. Enjoy.
Every time you say you don’t believe in fairies, a fairy dies.
Therefore, by Disney’s Law of the Conservation of Narrative,
If you say you do believe in them…
pirates, honest politicians, dinosaurs, God, atomic monsters, the division of Church and State, yetis, a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay, angels, vampires, Nessie, aliens, the Green Man, terror birds, Prestor John, serial killers, the Midgard serpent, zeppelins, children as the representatives of our future, and Daleks.
Before I can set up viable breeding colonies.
Today is World Poetry Day, a UNESCO initiative to support linguistic diversity and promote the use of poetry to give native and endangered languages the chance to be heard within their own communities. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to highlight the lyrical beauty of poetry, and its ability to articulate an image, theme, or emotion within a compressed, heightened, narrative structure.
And to read poems. Because, frankly, poetry rocks.
being rather young and foolish
I borrowed a machine gun my father
had left hidden since the war, went out,
and eliminated a number of small enemies.
Since then I have not returned home.
swarms of police with tracker dogs
wander about the city
with my description printed
on their minds, asking:
‘Have you seen him?
He is seven years old,
likes Pluto, Mighty Mouse
and Biffo the Bear,
have you seen him, anywhere?’
sitting alone in a strange playground
muttering you’ve blundered, you’ve blundered
over and over to myself
I work out my next move
but cannot move.
The tracker dogs will sniff me out.
They have my lollypops.
So: what’s your favourite poem, and where can it be found?
What good is a day without you?
What good is the end of the world with no witnesses?
What good is a singular view?
Where do our souls re-align?
Where can I go when you’ve risen away from me?
Where do I look for a sign?
How did the bed grow so wide?
How do the oceans not swallow the continents?
How many times have we lied?
Where are the wrong and the right?
Where are the chariots bringing the sun to us?
Where are you sleeping tonight?
What good a life without you?
What good in the end of a love with no consequence?
What good can I ever do?
Amidst all the kerfuffle, I failed to notice that results had been posted for the 2013 City of Perth Library haiku competition, and I managed to avoid the ignominy of actually winning anything with any of my entries.
So, for posterity and your education adn amusement, I present you with my five failed entries:
Ah, well. Back to trying to make my fortune from short stories and late night Baldur’s Gate playing sessions….
As part of Connor’s home-schooling I’ve been teaching him haiku. It’s a wonderful way to learn imagery and active language, and to teach him to consider the weight of a word before using it: when space is limited, everything has to count.
His first few efforts were simple things, but yesterday, sitting in the library at Murdoch University where we were using my rostered day off to indulge in a home schooling day trip, he cracked the active-language barrier, and gave me this one:
The delicacy of thought, with the bloodthirsty gusto of the 8 year old. What’s not to love?
I’ve reached that point. That point I reach. At some stage, in the middle of every large project.
This time, I’m halfway through inputting the first round of line-edits into the Magwitch and Bugrat manuscript. I’ve got to line-edit Father Muerte & the Divine after this, and plot out the synopses of The Sin-Eater’s Lonely Children and The Hall of Small Questions. I’m a long way away from any original writing. A long way from just shoving my face over the keyboard and blatting along, exciting myself as I uncover each new turn of phrase, each new plot point, each new character or narrative twist or (let’s be honest, being me) nob gag I wasn’t expecting.
I’m at the point where thoughts of poetry begin to surface.
I’ve always had an affection for poetry, particularly 20th Century absurdism: I’ve collections from the likes of Spike Milligan, Adrian Henri, Roger McGough and Brian Patten. I grew up with Bruce Dawe and Les Murray when he wasn’t being a right-wing twat. I started out as a poet: my first few sales– University publications, while I was studying– were poems. If I had the talent, and the patience, and the sense of rhythm, I’d probably be a poet. (For the record, my favourite poem is Brian Patten’s Little Johnny’s Confession. You can read it here.)
There’s something about the purity of thought contained in a poem that bubbles its way to the front of my consciousness while I’m slogging through the muddy fields of my longer works, desperately turning over sentences hoping to find one that’s still breathing. Whatever it is, whether it’s just the desire to complete a single, simple work or the unconscious desire to express myself in clear, lyrical lines rather than page after page of sodden description, I find myself itching to push everything aside and rediscover my poetic ambitions.
I shan’t, of course. Not until Magwitch and Bugrat is finished. Then I may indulge in a verse or two to cleanse my palate between my major projects. But, in the meantime, I’m going to indulge myself slightly and post a previous poem here for you all to snigger at.
This one’s called I’ll Keep a Green Lantern Burning. It appeared in Strange Horizons back in 2008.
I’LL KEEP A GREEN LANTERN BURNING
If you like that one, head on over to my FB author page, where yesterday I posted another previously-published offering, Working For a Greener Narrative, which first appeared back in ASIM #36, also in 2008. 2008 was a poety kind of year…