Tuesday, October 31, 2006


after some very helpful feedback here is the revised version of yesterdays poem!


Boo to a goose, the words hang left unsaid,
for I’m afraid, afraid of life itself,
I am a helpless bird deprived of flight,
in shameful darkness tearing up the night,

interminable thoughts that swim around, around,
unholy dreams unbidden haunt my bed,
then tossed on sterile seas I run aground,
and flounder, flounder, wishing I were dead.

In salt washed sheets I’m doused until the dawn
breaks singing birdlike through soft window pane,
and all falls silent, silent as the owl
that hunts on velvet wings before the day.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Iambic Insomnia

It's a tough call writing a poem purely in iambic pentameter. Especially for a girl like me who likes to write spontaneously from the heart. I can write with rhythm no problem but it's where the stresses come in the lines that I find tough. In iambic pentameter the stresses are short long short long etc - when I looked at some of the verse I have written this week I realised that the stresses were in the wrong place some of the time. Mind you the odd out of place stress in a poem can be very powerful.

anyway here is the final article:


Boo to a goose, the words hang left unsaid,
for I’m afraid, afraid of life itself,
I am a helpless bird deprived of flight,
in loathsome darkness tearing up the night,

interminable thoughts that swim around, around,
unholy dreams unbidden haunt my bed,
then tossed on barren seas I run aground,
and flounder, flounder, wishing I were dead.

In salt washed sheets I’m doused until the dawn
breaks singing birdlike through soft window pane,
and all falls silent, silent as the grave,
and I am overcome with sleep again.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Poetry At the Edge of the Comfort Zone

This week I have been trying to get my head round prosody, which is the study of rhythm, meter and intonation of a poem. I can understand iambic pentameter (a line consisteing of five feet or iambs) but I am finding it hard to get to grips with all the other terms and how they work - like the trochee and the spondee.

My task for the week is to write a poem of at least 14 lines in iambic pentameter. It should be simple enough but somehow I just can't get to grips with it. I like to read rhythmic rhyming poetry (like the Lady of Shallot) but I guess at heart as a writer I am more of a free verse kind of girl. I am sure that I will get to grips with it eventually but right now at I am at the limits of my comfort zone. I guess that is where the real learning begins.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Everyone needs a liittle Jethro Tull in their Life

I was recently having a clutter clear and I gave some cassette tapes to a friend who had been bemoaning the lack of music to play in her car. One thing that struck me as odd when I perused my old tapes was the lack of thought that had gone into matching albums up (or was it deliberate) - bearing in mind some of these cassettes are 20 odd years old. I suspect that the reason was merely random availability of albums to tape. If I was making tapes now though i think I might put a little more effort to matching up the a and b sides to better complement one another.

A good example of my discordant mismatching is Terence Trent D'arby. I knew my friend was a great Terence fan - but she is now cursing me - for what did I put on the other side? Why Jethro Tull of course! I do feel sorry for her I really do, but there is also a naughty part of me that can't help secretly hoping that she will grow to like Jethro Tull. After all doesn't everyone need a little Jethro Tull in their life? Mind you whether it will grow on her will very much depend on which album it is (I can't remember!). If it is "Aqualung" she may be a lost cause as this is not really a good first album for the Jethro Tull virgin - you need to be introduced a little more gently before you hit the heavy themes and rock of Aqualung. "Heavy Horses" on the other hand, is much gentler on the ear and brain, although it may be a little too folksy for some tastes - although not as folksy as "Songs From the Wood".

Metafiction Love it or Loathe it?

In my Critical studies class we have been examining difficult concepts such as post modernism and metafiction. Metafiction is something that I can't quite bring myself to like. It is a device used by novelists whereby the author reminds you that this is a work of fiction that you are reading and that they are the author writing. Fowles used this in The French Lieutenents Woman and similar methods are used in both film and theatre.

This is a practice that I find irritating - in fact I recently stopped reading a novel called "the Crimson Petal and the White" precisely because the author was using this method and in my opinion it was going on for too long. When I read a novel or watch a film I like to immerse myself in it. I want to enjoy it primarily for what it is - an act of escapism and enjoyment. I don't want to be reminded every few minutes that what I am watching is not real - I know that already! But for the duration of the experience I am willing to put that aside and I want to believe that it is real - at least until it is over. For me the mark of a good film or book is that I become so immersed in the story that I forget the world around me. I don't mind a bit of narration - like that of John Boy in The Waltons, as long as it doesn't detract from the story or continue throughout the whole film.

Maybe I am unusual in this, I don't know. I know that I often don't notice mistakes in films that friends of mine have pointed out and i think the reason for this is that even if the film is mediocre I still want to give myself over to beleiving in it - to feeling that while I am watching it I am part of the story.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Strangeland, Strange Life

My current reading material is a book by the artist Tracey Emin called "Strangeland". It is a fairly short autobiography of sorts. What I like about it is that she doesn't write in the traditional autobiographical style. The book is made up of fairly short chapters, each one a snapshot of her life or an account of a particular experience. Her life has obviously been hard at times but she has come through it and those early experiences clearly have made her the person that she is today.

Although some of the experiences related in the book are unpleasant or slightly shocking they are not related in the voyeuristic style that some autobiography takes, and becase each account is so short you are left more with a sense of understanding the writer better than before than of reading something harrowing that should have remained private.

I hope that if I ever write my life story that I could do it in this snapshot style. It is easier on the reader, it is more artistic and also means that you don't have to recall every detail of your life. I find that as I get older I don't remember everything about my life but there are some incidents and times that I can recall in great detail. I suppose these are the defining moments in my life - whether they were good or bad.

The sad truth is that we are all affected by our childhood and life experiences, and if our past is full of dysfuntion and unhappiness this can lead to stuggle and confusion later on in life. I do believe though that humans do have the ability to get through these experiences and to an extent get over them - not to blank them out but to let go of blame and resentment that can hold us back in adult life.

I am lucky my life was far less traumatic than that of Tracey Emin or Dave Pelzer, however my family life was difficult and dysfunctional, which in turn led me into some unhappy situations after I left home. I used to feel resentful of this, I longed with all my heart to have a normal happy family, I was jealous of other people who did have this love and support. I have learned over the years though that these experiences have made me who I am now. And although I am far from perfect (too hard on myself etc) I also know that they have given me the stregnth to get where I am today. To bring my son up in a loving and supportive environment, to work and study and the fact that I have done this with little or no support from my family makes me proud of myself.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Children of Men

We went to the cinema last night to see a film called "Children of Men" starring Clive Owen, Julianne Moore and Michael Caine. It is the best movie that I have seen in a while. Set in an apocalyptic future Britain where terroism is common place and refugees from other countries are rounded up, put in cages and shipped off to detention camps like concentration camps. I won't give the plot away but the premise is that there has not been a child born in the world for more than 18 years and Clives Owens character gets caught up unwittingly with a terroist organisation called the Fish. Michael Caine does an excellent turn as a rather eccentric old hippy scientist.

I was rather worried about seeing this as I am not a fan of violent movies but in this film the violence is integral to the plot and is not gratuitous. The most disturbing thing for me is that I can see that Britain could easily end up like this and that thought is terrifying to say the least.

I have always had a fascination for films and books that have an apocalyptic vision of the future - maybe it stems from being brought up during the cold war and with the nuclear threat hanging menacingly over our heads. In the 1970s/1980s we were fed a diet of films like "Protect and Survive" films and booklets and there were serials on tv like "Day of the Triffids", "Survivors", "The Changes", "Quatermass", "When the Wind Blows" and "Threads". My parents were involved with CND on a local level and as a teenager and young adult I went on marches and protests including a big one at Greenham Common, where protesters linked hands around the perimeter of the airbase. So all these ideas about war and destrution have been very much part of my psyche for as long as I can remember.

Anyway this is a film that I would highly reccomend if you like your cinema to make you think as well as entertaining you.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Love of Poetry

I love poetry. It is a mystery and a wonder to me. It is full of magic and holds me in it's thrall.

People have often said to me that some of my poems would make good pieces of prose if I expanded them - but to me there is just something about a poem. It's the use of less words that makes it so special. Prose can sometimes flounder in superfluous words, whereas (good) poetry is more succinct. It gets to the point quicker and without losing the reader along the way. It gets straight to the heart of the matter. One of my favourite poets is Lorca who uses very few words but they are incredibly well chosen and are able to convey powerful imagery and emotion. In his work the silences between the stanzas add a kind of power to the work that is hard to explain.

Only the Desert Remains (And Then) From Poem of the Deep Song by Federico Garcia Lorca (translated by Cola Franzen)

The labyrinths
that time creates

(Only the desert

The heart,
fountain of desire,

(Only the desert

The illusion of dawn
and kisses

Only the desert

This is not an argument for poetry against prose, but rather a rejoicing in the poetic. I love prose too, I am an avid reader and have written plenty of prose myself. But over the years I have found myself coming more and more back to poetry, just as I always end up back at the sea. Maybe it is because poetry is so closely connected with music and rhythm or maybe as I increase in years i want to get to the point quicker without too much pussyfooting around, or maybe it's just that over time my appreciation of the use of language has increased. Who knows it could be all these reasons but somehow poetry feels like coming home.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

13 Obscure Single I had as a Teenager

Thirteen Obscure singles that I had as a teenager

1…. Seven Days of Splendour - Jameson Raid
This is a single by a little known band although I did manage to find a link that you can view here. I think they were from Birmingham, I purloined this single from the communal collection at the commune I used to live in - nooone else liked it.
2....Hollywood Tease - Girl
Links to other Thursday Thirteens!
My friend Rae and I absolutely loved Girl, but listening to them now I can't think why they are absolutely terrible! Maybe it was because they were pretty boys and we were young. Or maybe it was because noone else knew about them. I remember how excited we were when they got on Top of the Pops. Their guitarist Phil Collen went on to play in Deff Leppard.
3....Bad News - The Xdreamysts
I heard this single on the John Peel show and ordered it from my local record shop. It took weeks to come. It came in a clear vinyl sleeve with pink writing and it smelt divine. As you can probably tell this band wasn't even a one hit wonder!
4....Cecil B. Devine - Blazer Blazer
Another 70s rock band that didn't quite make it. I think I bought this from the discount box in my local record store. I liked it a lot at the time.
5....Women in Uniform - The Skyhooks
The Skyhooks were an Austrailian new wave band that never made it very big over here, which is hardly surprising given the sexist sentiments of the song. I was surprised to find that they are still going strong - click the link above to see a truly shocking photo!
6....Frustration - Purple Hearts
The Purple Hearts were part of the late 70s mod revival and they were great. I never heard much about them after this single though. I used to have a tape of them supporting The Jam in concert.
7....Laser Love - After the Fire
Semi new wave. This single is opaque dayglo orange vinyl. I bought it in Rumblelows, which was an electrical shop. I liked it a lot but went off them when I discovered that they were evangelical christians - yes I know it is prejudiced but I was a teenager! They are also still going.
8....See You Later - The Regents
Not to be confused with the American 60s band the Regents, these Regents were British and punky. They looked but they might be big but then drifted into obscurity.
9....Time For Action - Secret Affair
Another superb Mod revival band. Ian Page was fantastic, and although this song was a hit I never understood why they weren't bigger.
10....Don't Be a Dummy - John Du Cann
This was actually John Cann, forerly of Atomic Rooster, although this was a very new wave style track. It was used for a levi advert and became a minor hit.
11....Which Way Did the Wind Blow - Grand Prix
Another heavy rock band with a terrible name! I liked this a lot at the time - they were like a cross between Foreigner and Whitesnake, and yes I believe they are still going.
12....Passion Killer - One the Juggler
Don't really know how to describe this band. They looked like a bunch of gypsies and sounded like a cross between Split Enz and Crowded House.
13....Teenage Warning - The Angelic Upstarts
Punk with a vengence, best known for the violence at their gigs and later became admired by the skinheads.
1. amy
2. shoshana
3. christina
4. brony

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Artists and Personal Suffering

Talking of artists who use their own life and experiences to fuel their work one should not overlook Frida Khalo. Most of her work is very personal reflecting her turbulant realtionship with Diego Riviera, her years of pain caused by the injuries that she sustained in a bus crash when she was a teenager and her experiences of miscarriage. She had a difficult yet full life and altough I do not like a lot of her work I can't fail to admire her. I think her work is somehow a bit too raw and painful for me, as is that of artist Hannah Wilke who photographed and filmed her expeiences of cancer. It is moving yet distressing work to view - Wilke eventually lost her battle with cancer in 1993.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Coughing and Poetry

This was going to be a post about art but as I haven't been able to post images to my blog for a few days now I will leave that post for another time. This weekend has been about poetry and coughing - you couldn't get two more disimilar things if you tried. I have unfortunately succumbed to some horrible virus that has been doing the rounds that every now and then sends me into paroxysms of coughing. It's like having a monster inside my chest trying to burst it's way out and every now and then it sneaks its little claw up into my throat too.

horrible ... but luckily although colds normally seize my brain up - this one doesn't appear to have had that effect. Yesterday evening I found myself writing poetry - riddles, haikus and prose. Not bad for someone who felt like they were on deaths door a few hours earlier.


Soft shingle shifting,
Beneath cool salty water,
Such a sensual sound.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Three artists

I have become interested in several British artists in the course of researching my for my visual studies portfolio. I was looking for artists who have explored their past and their family through their artwork. The two that immediately sprang to mind were Tracey Emin and Richard Billingham. I have never much like Tracey Emin's work, I think partly because I didn't like her much. I found her abrasive and in your face and that is not the kind of character that I am usually drawn to. Plus I had found all the controversy surrounding her bed to be annoying and gimmicky.

This week however, I watched a video about her and now that she has ditched the drink and the bad girl of art personna I found myself warming to her a bit more. It's clear that she had an extremely dysfunctional childhood, and has often had a difficult time as an adult as well. I admire the way that she has explored and come to terms with the difficult times in her life through her artwork - although this can be viewed as narcissistic or egotistical. Introspection is always a good quality to have I think, as long as you deal with your issues and move on and don't become obsessed and hung up on things that happened in the past. I also wonder whether to be a really good artist or writer you need to make some introspective work. It can add depth and emotion to your work and how as artists can we make work that is not related to our experience of the world?

Richard Billingham is another kettle of fish altogether. I saw some of his work a couple of years ago at the Saatchi Gallery in London. He had taken a series of photographs of his parents. The work was very controversial at the time and ther was much debate in the press as to whether Billingham had exploited his family, however his family seemed quite happy with the work. Billingham used his work as a way of coming to terms with his dysfunctional parents who were alcoholics, he took a series of pictures of them as they went about their daily life - these photographs included them drinking and his father lying on the floor drunk. I'm not sure whether this is exploitation or not.

I have also been looking at the work of Michael Landy. His most recent work was a life sized reproduction of his parents house "Semi Detatched", which was in the entrance hall to the Tate Modern earlier this Year. Landy also did an installation afew years ago where he destroyed all of his possessions. An interesting idea - I'm not sure I could do it though.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Lots of writers have used the medium to explore their pasts and come to terms with them. Although I am not sure that I would want the whole world to know about my past (shame issues?!), I think that the act of setting it down on paper can be extremely cathartic. My counsellor has suggested to me that I could use my art to somehow explore my issues with my family and sense of identity. I think that this is probably a good idea, although it is hard to know where and how to start.

Some of my recent collages have been about these issues and I would like to explore them further. My personna and view of myself is very much bound up with other peoples perceptions of me - both my family and society. Whether these labels are real ones that people have used, imagined ones that I feel are applied to me or ones that I give myself, they often feel limiting : single mother, bright, fat, lazy, daughter, sister, carer, ex partner, difficult, student, mother, reflexologist, pre school teacher. All these labels are so limited when taken on their own they don't say anything about the real person. Sometimes I think I should make myself a series of hats that I can wear when I am playing a specific role - the trouble is I would often have to be wearing several at once! Maybe I should have one hat with fuzzy felt labels to stick on...

Sometimes I find myself struggling when a particular label is used, somedays I don't feel like being a carer, a daughter or a mother even. How do we reconcile our own inner life, our ego, to the way we are related to by other people? Sometimes being labelled can cause resentment, people don't look behind the label to see the real person. Or occasionally someone will give you an inaccurate label soon after meeting you and will never review that label even if it turns out to be far from accurate. I am not innocent myself here I am sure, although years of working with pre-schoolers has taught me that sometimes it can be well worthwhile to persevere with someone that you find difficult to begin with.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Wordy Wednesday - Much Improved Poetry

I am learning a lot on my course already - I really am! I am writing and changing my poetry until it turns from something I like to something I can be proud of. I was intimidated at first - I looked at the poems posted on the bulletin board and was awed. I thought my poetry was pretty good - my friends are always telling me so - but what do they know. Some of the stuff on the bulletin boards was amazing - I looked at it and my initial thoughts were "I can never write like that, it just isn't in me" now I am not so sure.

I love writing but haven't always had staying power. I often dash off something that is pretty good, but then become precious about it and want to leave it unadulterated. What a mistake - some of those poems could be so much better with a bit of tweaking, a word changed here or there. Anyway last week I wrote a poem about my son who has just turned 14. I liked it, but after a bit of feedback and reworking I am really pleased with it. I don't usually share poetry here but will make an exception today...here goes. Let me know what you think...


Fourteen years old today.
Shaggy haired, stretch limbed,
Like a boy doused in miracle grow.
Will fourteen trip the hormone switch in his brain,
Send him falling helter skelter,
Tangle legged into the world of irascible awakenings?
Might something stir within him, monster like
Driving away the boy we know,
Leaving instead a belligerent alien with a child’s face?
At the door he stumbles
Foxed by the stilts that once were legs
Tripping over his clowns feet,
His voice ripped from his throat,
And replaced with that of a man.

Monday, October 09, 2006

What is this Postmodernism Anyway

Just a quick post this morning as I feel that I have been neglecting my blog this weekend. I have spent the last couple of days grappling with such terms as postmodernism, metafiction and fabulation for my critical studies homework - nothing like throwing you in at the deep end - and we haven't even had a critical studies class yet!

It's postmodernism that has foxed me most though - I understand that loosely it is a mixture of old and new, basically anything goes, but there is so much written on the subject that it is easy to get bogged down and a lot of it is hard to understand.

What I can't get to grips with is when did modernism stop and postmodernism begin. I may be naive but I thought that anything new was modern. But modernism seems to be ideas that conciously break with the past and try to be different. Although of course it is dabatable as to whether anything can be truly original. So postmodernism differs in that it uses both new ideas but also elements of what has gone before. Like using opera in a pop video, or a gothic arch on a modern building. It's all very confusing and I haven't even got into the philosophy part yet! and that's only one question of the six we had for homework...better get back to work!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Emotional Inspiration

I was flicking through the tv channels last night, when really I out to have been going to bed and I found myself watching the tail end of a programme about Nick Lachey. Nick Lachey is most famous for being in the band 98 Degrees and for being married and soon to be divorced from Jessica Simpson.

He seems like a nice guy but I have never really been a fan of his schmaltzy style of pop music but I found that I actually quite liked a couple of the tracks that they played off of his new album. So what is the difference? Well he wrote this album during his marriage breakup and it is very much an album from the heart. It's a great thing how some artists are able to turn personal tradgedy into great art/music/poetry. In fact I know that I have written some of my best poetry when I have been feeling insecure or completely miserable (or both!).

So I got to thinking are there any more great break up albums out there? and two that immediately sprang to mind were "Blur" by Blur - Damon Albarn wrote some brilliant tracks after his much publicised split with Justine from Elastica, and Face Value by Phil Collins made after the split with his wife. I am sure there are probably many more.

It's not that creation is better when we are miserable it appears that it might be to do with experiencing extremes of emotion, as may people write fantastic stuff at the beginning of a relationship as well - Lou Rhodes new album Beloved One is a good example of this.

I am sure that the author Julia Cameron would disagree with me. she has always maintained that great artists etc don't have to be depressed, flaky, alcoholic or drug addicts. She advocates keeping up a steady practice of creating every day and that if we do this great things will come. Well I am sure she is right but I can't help noticing that those extremes of emotion give my practice a little - or large boost!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Inspirational Tracks

10 Inspirational Tracks for a Tuesday

1) Starlight - Muse
2) Wondering - Dirty Pretty Things
3) Rock and Roll Doctor - Little Feat
4) Pretty Persuasion - REM
5) Ghosts - Japan
6) Sleep - The Dandy Warhols
7) Man Out of Time - Elvis Costello
8) Changing of the Guards - Bob Dylan
9) Rosalita - Bruce Springsteen
10) Sail Away - David Gray

Some of these tracks I have rediscovered or discovered for the first time watching dvds of The Old Grey Whistle Test and some are more recent. I never liked Little Feat much when I was younger but watching their 1970s performance I was amazed. If you get the chance the series is well worth a look.

Monday, October 02, 2006

(CD) Wow I'm a Student

Yippee I finally got some cd vouchers from HSBC after quite a lot of chasing on my part. I talked to someone else last week who had been enticed by HSBCs offer and had chosen an MP4 player, which surprise surprise never materialised. Anyway I was determined to get my promised 10 cds and nearly jumped for joy when at last I got an email from cdwow saying my voucher had arrived. Not 10 as promised though - it was two, apparently they will issue two per month - why two per month is a mystery. Perhaps students can't be trusted with more than 2 cds at a time. Perhaps they think we will get so over excited that we will spontaneuosly combust or be so busy listening to them that we won't get drunk or do any work.

Not that I have got drunk yet. I am obviously not a traditional student. It must be to do with being so mature! Sadly I think my drink and drugs days are long past! After a roller coaster of emotions last week I now find myself feeling strangely calm about the whole thing. Someone pointed out to me that far from being a disadvantage, being a mature student who is not caught up in that whole party scene will mean that I can really focus on my work and get as much out of my course as possible.