Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010 Wishlist

I'm not a fan of New Year Resolutions. They reek of being good and behaving yourself! And no one should have that kind of pressure.

But a wishlist is something else. What would you like to see in 2010? For yourself? I played a wishlist game, quite a few years ago now, during a Christmas Party at the University of Kent... collecting wishes from as many people as possible and then assembling them into a poem. You can read it below.

One of my wishes listed in the poem was 'a house by the sea', and, now I live in one! Maybe writing things down can make them come true : )

So, post your wishlists here. Have a wonderful New Year's Eve and wishing you all the good things you need in 2010.

Lynne x

What We Want
The School of English Christmas Wish-List 2002

We want flats in London, shepherds’ huts,
houses by the sea. We want the smell of pine trees,
lavender and roses on pillows, fresh white sheets.
We want a cure for snoring, more hours to sleep,
more laughing dreams. We want convertibles
and window seats, movie posters and movie passes,
crystals and mirrors, ironwork in unexpected places.
We want unlined hands, half-moons in our nails,
smooth feet. We want good foot-balling knees
and J. Lo’s bum, faces that don’t give us away,
20/20 vision, hair that goes white not grey, bodies
of Greek gods that won’t shrink as we get older.
We want to be piano players, Salsa dancers,
lucky in cards and Lottery winners. We want
our books to write themselves, win contracts,
to say goodbye to QA and PhDs. We want to write
shining essays. And can we have more chairs,
more money, full time jobs? Can we please
abolish Comedy & Tragedy? And have gardens
that look after themselves, magic fireplaces
that light every morning and clean away at night,
clothes that don’t need ironing - purple shoes,
tight red leather skirts. We want cranks
to open our minds wider, devices to translate
what people really mean, to listen harder.
We want our futures to survive their construction,
for our children to get their degrees, to find
themselves, their places in this world,
and return to us safe and in health. We want
to remember them at their best. And for all of us
to be happy cats and birds, to drink good wine
and have the space and time to watch trees
change slowly. And if magic really does exist –
for Spurs to win the title, Liverpool the League,
for Bob Marley to rise and give us babies.
And less fear, yes less of that, no wars,
and more joy, freedom and peace, and peace
of mind, yes, much, much more of that.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

December Poetry Prompt 1 - Keeping it Anonymous

A Scandal in the Suburbs

We had to have him put away,
For what if he'd grown vicious?
To play faith healer, give away
Stale bread and stinking fishes!
His soapbox preaching set the tongues
Of all the neighbors going.
Odd stuff: how lilies never spin
And birds don't bother sowing.
Why, bums were coming to the door—
His pockets had no bottom—
And then-the foot-wash from that whore!
We signed. They came and got him.

X.J. Kennedy
In a Prominent Bar in Secaucus: New and Selected Poems, 1955–2007
The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007.

XJ Kennedy's poems is a rant, and a defense, and a contemporary spin on the biblical story. I like how no names are mentioned but we are absolutely sure of what we're reading because of certain details: bread, fishes, lilies, footwash...

Can you write a poem about a famous, or infamous person, that does not mention them by name, either in the title or the text, but still make it clear who the poem is about?

To make things a little more challenging, try and keep the poem to a maximum of 12 lines too.

You can either write the poem in the voice of your chosen character, or adopt the voice of an 'observer' as in the case of this poem.

And remember, a poem needs to be 'about' something too. It needs to be the vehicle for an idea, or ideas. 'A Scandal in the Suburbs' is not just about the Jesus story, it makes me think about how easily we judge people, how we find ways to defend our actions. It's about fear of difference. Perhaps of change.

Good luck and write well. And enjoy the holidays.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

December Poetry Prompt 1 - Food

Food is on my mind. Not surprisingly since I seem to have eaten non-stop for the last three weeks! I always end up eating more when I'm doing less - lazing about on the beach and loitering in bookshops must use up far more energy than I realise : )

Although, to be honest, food is never very far from my mind. When I was teaching at the University of Kent, in the UK, one student remarked that I had never managed to last a whole seminar without mentioning food or drink. In the context of the seminar's theme, that is... But it's true that my novel, The Oven House, is full of foodie bits - coffee shops, poached salmon, kettle crisps, home-made soup, pesto sauce, ice-cream...

I also know that food plays an important part in my memories, from my dad's vegetable garden, to the tin of condensed milk my granny kept on the kitchen table to add to her tea, to the frozen peas I tried to outstare every time my mother put them on my plate and said, 'Eat them. They're good for you.'

Brainstorm for food associated with your childhood. Food you liked and food you hated. Food and drink that you weren't allowed to have. Treats. Special occasions. Fears and rewards.

Here's an old poem of mine to start you off.

Bean Picking
for my father

When the jungle of leaves
dropped their scarlet blossoms
we waited for them to grow
at first invisible against the green

but in August we pushed
between the rows with a colander
and your orders to leave the small
and not to miss the big.

The coarse underside of leaves
grazed our bare shoulders, sun
dribbled through the overlaps.
We smelt hot, uncooked beans

and tugged them from their stalks,
some solid bodied, plumping
along their length, others curling
like witches’ fingernails.

In the kitchen you topped, tailed,
and pared the spines away.
Just a plate of these’ll do me you used to say,
with butter and a drop of pepper.

At the end of Summer
you saved twelve maybe twenty
moist red hearts
to harden in brown paper.

Write well.