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A blog by Nikki Dudley about the gaps in everyday life...

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Saturday, 31 October 2009

Talking of rhyme...

After my recent post about why poems don't rhyme anymore the other day, I found an old poem of mine from secondary school that rhymes. I thought it was okay, if a bit depressing... Then I thought I'd post up this one and a newer one. The contrast is quite funny!!!


POEM FROM SECONDARY SCHOOL

Past, Present And Future.


The Past was yesterday’s nightmare,
Don’t look back, you might start to stare.
Don’t want to return to that place,
Most of it was an unfair race.


The Presents here, it’s a painful fight,
Keep on punching with all your might.
Today is ending, the lights are out,
The future is only full of doubt.


The futures coming, like an asteroid,
Already people are filling the voids.
No idea when time will end,
No idea what the future will send.


A RECENT POEM I'VE WRITTEN (from Exits/Origins)


discharged to duty
a pole it/ truths

that are easy to bury but you can’t
bury me, or the print, ed. pages

you can’t buried me shaking in the morning shaping up the month with a pen and a
number / squashed with the wait for escarpment:

working on this age.

Fuck so satisfying when writhing in words/dialogue that scars underneath
the sound of ringing, I think about what they dreamt about and the empty notebook,

aside: secret verses
about love?


The hedge shook in sympathy when the balloon hit the twigs, stabbing the sky and
we all fall down, we all feel drowned, ringing words in my ears to say hello


-Is that all you want? Is that the means to errand?

The ghostly vision haunts him like the blank pages, a yawn that stretches for 49 sheets
until he scratches the words ‘these blank pages represent

the rest of my life’

and I’m sore, no sure, the pole it never dries/ ink drips from the fingertips
when curtains gather, my love. Imagine the blessed balloon is fit to burp, a stammer
into your consciousness, that falling
man.

A name represents a fate? Don’t take it literary or fate becomes your ‘name’ / lean
back / hold your nose / submerge memory in the blush of the names on the arches –
scratch my own I’ll scratch my own in the notebook where

sigh lent louder than protest = HE UNFURNISHED


* So, as I said, there's space for both types in the world but I do prefer the lack of rhyme these days. But as you can see, I love sounds and playing on words, which I think also provide some rhythm. Anyway, after I've laid bare my 13 year old self, I'll head off now!

Thursday, 29 October 2009

What's in a rhyme?

As most of you know, I am a poet as well as a fiction writer. Therefore, I really enjoyed the following article...

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-lundberg/why-dont-poems-rhyme-anym_b_97489.html

What a question: Why Don't Poems Rhyme Anymore? I spent years at school learning about rhyme and went to university and learnt how to un-rhyme. Yes, I know it's not a word! And this is precisely the point. As much as I appreciate the old forms and their traditions- Keat's sonnets, the Victoria poets, iambic pentameter, rhyming couplets, refrains etc etc, I can't help loving the possibilities provided by a lack of rhyme.

As this article also notes, non rhyming poetry is not without it's rhythm or song. And not only that, the diversion from constantly trying to rhyme words certainly opens up words to a whole multitude of possibilities. As John Lundberg discusses in this article, simply playing with the three words that Stein uses 'roast potatoes for' can spark off an hour long discussion (as it did on my Masters course). Is the 'roast' a verb? If so, are they being roasted 'for' someone? Or is the 'for' referring to some purpose not detailed here? Is the 'roast' merely descriptive? And most importantly, is this even a poem!?

So many questions and although this is a little sparse, there are plenty of examples of more contemporary poets using meter without rhyme i.e.: some bpNichol, Maggie O'Sullivan, and some newer poets such as Harry Godwin, Marcus Slease... (Also William Carlos Williams, who I notice has made it onto the tube posters of late!) Although not traditionally rhying, they have elements of word play, repetitive sounds, playing with different sounds in the throat.

I think it's terrible to dismiss rhyme and equally terrible to dismiss those who don't use it. Both have a place and poetry is one of the forms of expression which I think has a varied and fascinating progression that can be mapped through many different times. What is also fascinating is when forms return to the forefront, recede and mix with others. It's us non-rhymers who feel able to appreciate the older forms as well as branching out into new things. Simply rejecting one whole style of writing poetry seems a bit of a shame as it's all fascinating stuff! And although the President of the 'The Queen's English Society' meant to put down non rhyming poetry by using the term 'word-things' to describe them, I think myself and other poets who write this way would find that a compliment. 'Word-things' is so much more playful after all...

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Chapter 2- THE PHONE CALL

At 15:32 a day later, Thomas Mansen stops. He drops his pen as though it has stung him. He pushes away from the desk and stretches his legs. He doesn’t pick up the phone even though it cries out. He stops and cannot find a place to start again.

He wonders what his boss would say if he went to his office and said, “I’ve stopped and I can’t begin again”. Would he himself be able to explain this? He doubts it. He doesn’t feel hungry yet, he doesn’t need to piss and life is unusually ‘fine’. In fact, his boss even suggested a promotion might be in the works and he hasn’t argued with his girlfriend in months.

So he is lost.

Perhaps he has some rotting disease that works its way to the surface inside out and that’s why he feels strange. Perhaps his heart has stopped and he has unknowingly passed into death at his desk whilst helping Mrs Rayder understand that her policy does not cover the death of her beloved tomcat, Bubbles.

He laughs into the air. “Shit”, he mumbles, knowing it’s entirely possible for this to be the case. Yet, hearing his own voice reassures him that he is still in a physical realm of existence, not in a twisted form of limbo where everything is similar to the life he has been leading up to this point.

The pen lies on the pile of paperwork. He stares, narrows his eyes, screams at his hand to move forward a few inches and clutch it. But his hand ignores him. His eyes begin to ache and tire in their sockets. He closes them for a few moments and reopens them.

Yet, he still doesn’t move. He begins to panic and thinks he’s having a stroke or an unworldly force is possessing him. But he knows he has to meet Emma later at the restaurant. Will he make it? Will his body simply imprison him here throughout the night? He would much rather be with Emma, having sex, talking about nothing.

He sees the light of the phone glaring at him. There are incoming calls on four lines. He is sure one of them is the old man who phones every day, pretending to ask questions about his housing policy, but in reality just wanting to connect with another human being. Apart from that, it could be any one of the thousands of customers, waiting to chew an ear off.

“Come on Thom, get yourself together!” He shakes out his shoulders. He smiles at his progress and prepares to get back to his day. However, he now finds he has no desire to pick up the pen, to continue signing the rejections on policies, to hear another customer saying “of course I read the fine print” when they haven’t, to continue in any way at all.

He goes through every part of his job specification in his mind and cannot put a tick by any of the duties. He watches the other people walking by his office through the glass, like a helpless goldfish not functioning at the same level or speed. They are all busy – moving papers, picking up phones, and chatting about who’s shagging who this week. What is stopping him from doing the same?

He imagines if any of them cared enough to notice him, what they would see. A man, who is clean-shaven, has straight and recently cut brown hair (which curls at the sides if he doesn’t monitor it), a straight tie, a dribble of ink trailing from his lip that he doesn’t know about. Thom complies with every rule about uniform in the employee’s handbook; he is the physical representation of company policy. Would they know he hasn’t moved for five minutes? Would they assume he has been working up until the moment they happened to glance in?

Although his body is functioning again, Thom’s mind is suddenly heavy. His head drops into his chest like his neck has dissolved. A depression pulses through him, makes his chest rise and fall in a pitiful sigh, makes his body sprawl out on the desk like a person who has just suffered a heart attack. He watches his breath make a mist on the wooden face of the desk.

Abruptly, the phone stops wailing. Then ten seconds later, it rings again.
He grabs hold of the receiver. He balances it on his face which is still flat against the desk and awkwardly muffles, “Hello. Thomas Mansen”.

“Thom. It’s Richard”.

Thom shoots up as though someone has electrocuted him. “Rich, what’s going on?” It’s the voice... He can tell from the first syllable, the downward direction of the tone.

Richard delays, his breathing heavy for a moment. “Thom…it’s about Daniel”. Thom is sure Richard is crying, or perhaps he has a cold. “He’s dead”. Crying, then.

“What?” Thom stutters, then again, “what?”

“He fell under a train. Yesterday”. Richard’s words are so direct, poison darts that keep hitting him, closing in on his ability to respond normally and quickly. Thom’s chest starts to tighten; his bones are shrinking like clothes washed at the wrong temperature. “I’m sorry I didn’t call earlier. Aunty didn’t take it well, obviously… I had to call the doctor”, Richard adds, making Thom feel like he has been squeezed out of his body and now lingers somewhere above the desk, not knowing the way back in. He needs to get to Aunty Val.

“Oh”, is all Thom says.

And then he listens to Richard, talking about the funeral, an inquest, the reading of the will and asking can he come and can he bring Emma, and Aunty Val would’ve called herself but she is still crying, and she needs him there. Tonight.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

The beginning

CHAPTER 1 Red Snake

I chose him because of the red scarf.

My palms sweat. Dirt from the walls is smudged across them and slithers in the folds. There is a faint smell of kebab in the air and an excited murmur moving down the platform like Chinese whispers. I wonder how distorted the message will be by the time it reaches my end.

Can you hear it too, Mum? Do you think they’re whispering about me?

There are other scarves too, red and white combined and I guess that a football game must have taken place. Yet, his scarf is different. It is pure red, the red people affix to the badge of fiery passion, the badge of cold-blooded murder, without the interludes of white to dull its beauty.

He is unique. I’ve watched him for weeks now and the time has finally arrived. The clock says 15:32 as casually as ever but it secretly signals to me: this is the correct time. It is not destiny; it is careful planning and the instinctual knowledge inside.

Mum, this is the moment.

Now, my breath barely disturbs the stillness of the cavern the swarm of strangers are gathered in, all awaiting the rush of wind that will open up the arteries, revive us. Everybody appears lost, shuffling on their feet, staring at the same grotesquely large posters until they become less overpowering, fiddling with buttons, holding their phones and longing for reception. Anything to avoid eye contact.

My favourite moment is the shared objective, the upraised eyes facing the same direction, the temporary and forced community as the wind invites the dusty air to dance, flings the litter in celebration. All I can do to keep calm is count the seconds down in my head. Even when I think of you, you are bouncing in my mind.

The only details I know about him have been gathered through observation from afar. This is actually the closest I have been to him in three weeks. From here, I can smell his sweat weaving with his aftershave. I can also see how he has missed a belt loop and a tiny bald patch in the back of his hair, perhaps where he has a birthmark.

Are you excited too, Mum? I know you’ve been thinking about him when we’ve been trying to sleep. Now, we’re so close…

He is reading one of those trashy papers that have stormed the city. The wire of his iPod headphones is coming out of his ears and snaking down his chest to his jacket pocket. If he knew what is about to happen, would he change the song he is listening to, faintly nodding his head, and not struggling to remember the throwaway words. Would he fling down that paper and rush off to buy his favourite book?

It is the scarf that ensnared me. I had been wandering the streets three weeks before, in another dimension of thought or nowhere at all. Then, it flashed at me, like a camera suspending a moment in time. It is a snake that has coiled around my attention and shot its venom into my blood. I latched onto the scarf and followed it all the way home. The rain tried to bully my eyes closed but I stood firm, keeping them set on the scarf weaving through the grey world. When he reached his house, I stood outside for another half an hour, smiling, pouring with gratitude.

Since then, he has been my daily plot. Today, he has thrown his scarf on haphazardly, perhaps being late or not wearing it for warmth but simply out of habit. I can only guess who bought it for him. His girlfriend? His mother? An old friend or relative who put no thought into a present for him? Or perhaps he chose it himself and red is also his favourite colour.

Despite following him, I recall very little about his appearance and when I try to remember three days later, I won’t have a clue. I can guess that he has black hair but then I can also guess it is blond. I can say he’s short or maybe tall. I can say he is black, white or asian. Yet the fact is; I haven’t paid attention. When the photo appears in the paper, I will look on it as fresh-eyed as everybody else.

What I remember most is a sense of him, a presence. He is like a positive image in a photograph where the rest has been inverted. Even more peculiar is the sense that he is aware. Sometimes I have caught him pausing in the street, as though to let me catch up. Another time, when he was trying on clothes, he seemed to single me out in the mirror and mentally ask my opinion.

The countdown begins to flash: **STAND BACK TRAIN APPROACHING**. My chest implodes and the rest of my body springs alive. All I hear is a harmony of sounds: beating inside and the roar of the train.

Step forward.

Peer into dark.

Wind hisses at hot skin.

Folding newspapers.

Roar gallops in heart.

Eyes of light emerge.

Monster creeps closer.

A unison of feet.

Red scarf flutters.

Spring forward.

Head slightly turns.

Outstretched arms connect.

Eyes of train wide.

Mouths silent words.

Falling.

Newspaper flailing.

Reach out.

Touch the scarf.

Train screeches.

Screaming.

Monster engulfs.

Faces press up to windows.

Scarf a ball in fist.

I breathe. Stop. Think: Right on time. As he fell, his lips moved in the shape of these words: Right on time. Right on time. Right. On. Time.

Mum, did you see?

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Ellipsis- what's it all about?


“Right on time.”

Daniel Mansen mouths to the woman who pushes him to his death.

Only drawn out of madness by Daniel, the murderer, Alice becomes obsessed with discovering how a man she doesn't know could predict her actions. Similarly, Daniel’s cousin, Thom, is driven to explore the circumstances of the death when he finds a note at the family home detailing the time and place it occurred.

At first a simple search for answers, Thom and Alice soon become knotted together in a story of obsession, hidden truths and the gaps in everyday life that can destroy or save a person.

REVIEWS of Ellipsis:

'Unique, compelling and stylish prose- an excellent crime/thriller and a classic tale of obsession.'
Melanie Murphy, author of 'Lore', Dublin (authonomy member)

'Tight,evocative gut-punches tempered by the desperate details of everyday life.'
Shawn Kupfer, author of 'White Male, 34', Raleigh, NC (authonomy member)

'This is the type of story that keeps a reader up half the night.'
Maureen Vincent-Northam, author of 'The Writer's ABC Checklist' and 'The Greatest Genealogy Tips in the World', Hereford (authonomy member)

'It gave me the chills...I could picture everything as it happened.'
Sheneise Stone, author of ‘Eden Falls’, Essex (authonomy member)

'I wouldn't have stopped reading if my house was on fire!'
Cas Peace, author of ‘For the Love of Daisy’, North Hampshire (authonomy member)

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