Wednesday, July 16, 2008

And one more summer writing idea...

Below is an email from Fiona Robyn talking about her a small stone project. Why not join in and send her your own. I have.

Hi all - People keep sending me fantastic small stones after reading my blog ( and so I thought it was about time they had their own home. I'm starting 'a handful of stones' ( and I need some good quality submissions before I begin posting. If you'd like to submit, send up to three small stones to Each stone should record a moment of 'paying attention', and can be up to 100 words, with or without a title. Please title the email 'a handful of stones submission'. Include your full name, and a single link to your blog or website if you'd like it to be included.

I'll usually read and respond to submissions within a week.

Please feel free to forward this to anyone you know who might be interested in submitting.

Thank you!

Fiona Robyn


Monday, July 07, 2008

It’s a French thing…

Almost everyone here takes a break in July and August, so AppleHouse Poetry Online will be doing the same. It will give me some time to paint more than a few walls in Villa Les Marronniers, and hopefully to get down to some writing myself. And reading… I have missed reading so much. So, all in all, I’m likely to be the palest person on the Cote d’Azur this year!

But so as not to leave you bereft for the summer, and if you have time in between barbecues, airport terminals and shaking sand out of towels, here’s a list of 10 prompts for poems/free writing over the next couple of months. I’ll choose a Best of Summer Prize Poem at the beginning of September from all those posted, and I’ll pop into the comments box from time to time too.

Take care, bonnes vacances, and write well.
Lynne x

AppleHouse Poetry Online Summer School Prompts

1. Experiment with writing at times you normally wouldn’t, for example:
a. the moment you wake up
b. in the dark without the light on
c. in a moving vehicle (but preferably not driving!)
d. while having a bath

2. Write a poem about how you have, or will, forgive someone or something.

3. Write about a time when you were lost, literally or figuratively. Maybe include both in one poem.

4. Open a dictionary half a dozen times at random and write down a word each time. Write a poem that includes all those words.

5. Walk in a place that you think is ugly and find something beautiful there. Write about it.

6. Write about salt.

7. Take the first line of a poem (preferably one you’re not familiar with) and carry on writing your own.

8. Write a page of statements about yourself that are completely false. Now add phrases like: I am, I have never, I will, I believe. Use repetition to try and convince your reader of their truth.

9. Write down five sounds you can hear. Then list the things you associate with those sounds. A car engine might remind you of being picked up at the station. The clanking of crockery of the time you worked as a waitress. See where these associations take you.

10. Brainstorm for associations – words, phrases, images, memories, emotions – around ‘heat’. Keep going until you feel there is nothing left to write. Then make yourself write some more even though it feels impossible. What we need to say often lies deeper than we realise.

Friday, July 04, 2008

June Prize Poem

I made a shortlist of 3 poems this month:

Alyss Dye – What’s Happening in This Picture?
Caroline M Davies – The Night Café
Linda W – Last Drink

Alyss’s poem builds tension and drama with its title question, the refrain of ‘Look again’ and its stanza progression. Although we expect the worst, the last stanza is worse that we wanted to imagine. This is a powerful poem of witness.

There’s a similarity to Caroline’s and Linda’s poems – they both work with images of light and dark (concrete and figurative) and explore the experience of a solitary drinker. I really liked the rhymes that Linda creates at the beginning of the poem – cools/tables, street/feet – and felt a little disappointed when they didn’t continue (sorry, Linda!), so that tipped me in favour of Caroline’s poem, which I’ve chosen for June’s Prize Poem.

While the poem might have been inspired by the Van Gogh painting, it also successfully stands alone on the page. The images are vibrant and specific – I can see and hear the café in my imagination – and the shift from the upbeat mood to the reality of loneliness is subtly handled at the end of the second stanza: but outside/ the night waits down the street.

The use of the imperatives in the last stanza, and the stress they add to the line openings (Call/Chuck/Lean back/Put off), reinforces the sense of need here. It’s unclear if the narrator is also the person who is alone in the dark, but the poem can be read like that so it avoids any sense of judgement, of the narrator being separate from the scene. Or we can read the commands as instructions to us, as readers, and even if we haven’t had the experience of sitting alone in a French café at night, most of us would still be able to identify with the desire to stay in the light, where life and people are, and avoid the lonely dark.

Congratulations, Caroline. If you email me with your postal address ( I’ll put your prize in the post next week.

The Night Café

How the lights shine out
bright yellow on the terrace of the café.
See the face of the waitress
smiling. The shadows
cast by sunlight
banished for these night hours.

The table tops gleam with a green sheen.
The constant chink of glasses
and the hubbub of conversation
suggest conviviality.
All is bright but outside
the night waits down the street.

Call for another beer.
Chuck another franc to the guitar player
to make him play on.
Lean back against the wooden
embrace of the chair.
Put off for a few moments longer
the pain of stumbling out
alone into the dark.

Caroline M Davies