The Tourist

Currently… mostly packed for Venice. I can’t sleep.

I’m starting with a mild apology. I’ve been meaning to write another blog post all summer, but the words haven’t come, and I haven’t really had the time (which I hope to explain in another post). I’m writing now because I’m off to Venice tomorrow for three months, so I thought I might as well. So here’s a quick poem: the first I’ve written properly since my last blog post, though I did appear at Poetry Unplugged on Tuesday reading some old material.

Funnily enough, a family friend once did the first three lines of this poem whilst we were on holiday.

~

The Tourist

The tourist says
‘Don’t look like a tourist’
As he unholsters his camera:
He says
‘Act natural’
As he snaps the vista
So many have seen before:
He loudly proclaims
‘I’m just like a local’
As he calls the waiter in French:
That is, until he stutters a little
And orders a crème franglais.

The tourist walks
From landmark to landmark
Guffawing and gurning and leering:
He stops
Only when fame sparks his mind
With the words within his guide:
He buys souvenirs
With carefree delight
As the hawkers dine in style:
That is, until the first one breaks
And he has to cry for a while.

The tourist eats
The local cuisine
With a dollop of wholesome ketchup:
He plays
International drinking rules
At the Irish Pub in town:
He tries to order
Some exotic thing
Like shark or dog or snake:
That is, until his stomach quakes
And lurches overboard.

The tourist sees
A local girl
And asks her for some help:
She replies
In perfect English:
‘You should go back to London.’

~

I had a cuter ending in mind for this poem with a full-length final stanza, but I decided to be a bit brutal. Maybe I’ll write the other ending another time, but I’m a bit tired now.

Hopefully I’ll be sleeping in Venice tomorrow.

 

On the Edge of Tomorrow

Currently listening to: One More Night, Phil Collins – though Maroon 5’s completely-unrelated song One More Night is also cool.

If you’d like to bypass my spiel, there’s a poem at the bottom of this. It’s not the greatest one in the world, but it’s the first one I’ve written in almost two months.

~

This is the final night in my student house. Considering it was ‘raining’ through the ceiling when I moved in back in late September, I’d say it’s been better than I expected, though not much better. But, for better or worse, it’s been home, and part of me is going to miss it.

Indeed, for better or worse, I’ll probably miss this year. Parts of it have been great, and parts of it have been terrible. To be honestly melodramatic, I’ve had my fair share of laughter and tears, inspiration and frustration, love and loss. There’s been baking at midnight, pints in the moonlight, picnics in the afternoon and… hangovers that lasted past noon. There’s been movies, dinners, parties and poetry readings. There’s also been a lot of work – more than my friends who study science would believe. And there’s probably been more rain this year than last year.

But enough of me reminiscing. Before I continue, I’d like to apologise. Exam term, as a student, tends to mean a lot of work, intermingled with a lot of partying: I’d like to think that I’ve succeeded at both. However, this means that I haven’t really been updating this blog for the past two months, for a bunch of reasons that’ll become clear… right about now.

Work…

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I guess this counts as evidence that History students actually do work. Or that they procrastinate enough to take pictures of their work.

NaPoWriMo didn’t do me any favours, for one thing: at the time, I had three essays due, totalling 13,500 words. I haven’t got them back yet, so I’m not entirely sure how I did, but I did hand them all in by the deadline thanks to a lot of tea, Diet Coke, water, dark chocolate digestive biscuits… and a link to a Lionel Richie song my friend sent me at 0330 during the final all-nighter before the deadline.

After those essays, I had exams. With exams, came revision, and a fluctuation in my eating habits that I still haven’t quite shaken off. I know it’s an odd observation, but I’ve noticed that I either binge horribly or skip meals when it comes to revision time. On some days, I’d bring no lunch onto campus and just work on an apple, whilst on others I’d go to the supermarket and buy ALL THE FOOD (there was one day where a friend and I took a revision break to the supermarket, and after we got back I didn’t stop eating for three hours). In the end, the exams themselves seemed to go well enough – though again, I don’t know how I did yet – that feeling of satisfaction is probably down to them being ‘done’ more than anything else.

Cambridge, Baking, London and Poetry (again) 

In between essays and exams, I had two and a half weeks of ‘freedom’. So inevitably, I decided to pop to Cambridge to see my sister and my friend, and inevitably (I guess), I wound up drinking on a punt. On the plus side, I didn’t fall in the Cam, and have learnt how to punt in a straight line.

Brownie

A brownie, from the batch which I took to Cambridge – I think.

Typically, I also took brownies to Cambridge. I’m not sure I’ve come up with any new varieties of brownies in the past two months, but I did succeed in making a cheesecake (the only one of the year!) last week, complete with strawberry sauce. The strawberry sauce is different to the one I made last year, since it’s more of a smoothie now than anything, since I added vanilla ice cream to it to make it a bit thicker.

As well as taking an excursion to Cambridge, I wound up in London for Poetry Unplugged again over revision season, and read The Box and The Social Network, which seemed to go down well enough. Someone told me that they thought that The Box was a coffin, which was an interesting thought since I never actually noticed the parallel, even though I wrote ‘And you will bury this box,/Deep within,/And it will not define you.’ I guess this is further proof of my belief that poetry is as much what I see in it as the author, as what people get out of it as readers. And it’s probably further proof that I’m mad and am subconsciously putting images into my work that I don’t see.

Socialising… because this is ‘The End’

I feel odd writing a header that says ‘socialising’ as an excuse for not updating my blog, but I think I can say that a lot of it has been justified recently.

See, this year feels like much more of an ‘end’ compared to last year. Last year, there was a slightly strange acceptance that I’d see most of my friends again this year, because we were all moving on together into second year, and because I didn’t really know that many people who were graduating.

This year, many of the friends I’ve made here are moving on, be it because they’re graduating this year or because they’re taking years away from university abroad or working. That, combined with the hope that I’ll spend my autumn in Venice, means that I won’t see a lot of people until 2014, and that I don’t know if I’ll see others again any time soon. It’s a strange situation, which has led to a lot of awkward goodbyes.

On the flip side, of course, it’s meant that I’ve wanted to spend as much time hanging around with people as possible, which has meant that I haven’t really had time to write. There’s been pub times, house parties (one of which ended epically), the Disney drinking game, Man of Steel (which is hilarious), many ‘coffees’, a game of monopoly, a failed barbecue and many other things I can’t remember.

I can also, satisfyingly, say that I FINALLY managed to commandeer (thanks to a friend) a piano at the University to have a mess about on, because I really miss my piano when I’m here. I can’t really play or actually compose, but I have fun messing around.

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Unsurprisingly, finding a piano led to me trying to compose sheet music (roughly) the night before my Italian exam.

What I’ll miss more than that, though, is the wonderful people at university. Yes, this year has been a hard year, and yes, I’ve had my ups and downs, but at the end of the day, I’m another day older… and I’ve grown up, thanks to the wonderful friends I’ve kept and the new ones I’ve made.

~

And with that rather rambling blog post, here’s a poem. I’m not quite sure what it means, or if I’ve quite done the idea justice in my own mind, but I’ve been sitting on this for too long. Half of me thinks I should write another stanza, but the other half thinks that it’s quite enough. And it’s past half-two in the morning, so the latter half wins… at least until I decide to edit.

~

On the Edge of Tomorrow

I spent six months waiting
on the edge of tomorrow,
Waiting in the wilds,
With the gifts, with the songs,
With the shot-glass blossoms
Spent of their youth
And dry of their tears,
Lost among trinkets
And brittle in the light,
Grey as the moon,
Now turned to ash:
Once hugged, now forgotten.

It only took one look
to fall from the edge of tomorrow,
Fall on the wind,
Chocolate-scented, milkshake-dressed,
With the paper cranes now turned to planes
Flying free of the dark
And light of their burden,
Warm in their hearts
Yet strong in the fire,
Born of the eyes
Now happy in tears:
Once bereft, now at peace.

Life in a Poetic Light

Currently… quite relaxed. I should be doing essay now, but that can wait, because I’ve been waiting all month for this.

Yes, it’s the last day of NaPoWriMo. It’s been hard this year, I’m not going to lie: there have been many occasions where I’ve just stared at the computer screen and the words haven’t come. However, I’m quite fond of some of the things I’ve written this month too, and I’ll probably find that some of these words will take on different meanings as time goes by.

I will confirm that I did go by ‘hardcore’ rules again this year too: 1 poem a day, within the 0000-2359 cycle, and no stockpiling. I haven’t taken the prompts from the NaPoWriMo website, which I guess could have made it even more hardcore, but I’d like to think that I’ve written on a variety of topics and forms this month that has kept it vaguely interesting. We’ve had current affairs, memories, moralistic poems and musical ones; sonnets, lyrics, regular verse and random ventings.

Most importantly, it’s been fun.

This won’t be the last time that I post on this blog – like last year, I’ll be back soon, but I will take a break from updating it every day because I’ve got a lot of work to do at the moment. Also, I suspect I’m slightly burnt out creatively – writing every day really does take it out of you.

But there will be more poetry, because there’ll always be something to talk about, something to care about, something to write about.

So thank you, everyone who’s been following my blog this month, and congratulations if you too succeeded at NaPoWriMo. Keep writing, keep dreaming, and keep seeing life in a poetic light.

~

First, here’s a haiku *ish*, because I wrote a poetic preamble on the last day last year too.

We will see summer
Life in a poetic light
Smiling as we dream

Today’s poem’s of the slightly random unstructured variety, as I’ve done more of this year. I suspect it’s because I’ve often not had that much time to write this month (though I did go for coffee with some poets last week and they all said that they’d been doing their daily poems in under 10 minutes, so clearly I’m not that quick…). Enjoy.

~

Life in a Poetic Light

In every moment that’s not mine
My eyes will betray
An afternoon story set
In the flowers and rain,
A beautiful tragedy
Amidst the sky, never the same,
Sometimes a tall tale and
Sometimes a love song,
But always as dramatic
As words rendered low,
In a hushed warning, stern enough
To make you freeze
And as exciting
As a touch of lips upon falling snow
In between the amber glow
Of streetlights,
That illuminate the shadows in your mind
That make those signs
And forge those connections
With the ticking clock of your present
To the lonely echoes
That whistle cold
And draw every word you ever said bold,
Embossed in the image,
Of every smile you see
And every visage that makes a character
Feel, more than imaginary,
Seem, more than a metaphor,
And become a dream.

In every moment that’s not mine
My eyes will betray
Your life in a poetic light.

Traffic Light Revolution

Currently… just got back from watching Les Mis at the student cinema.

This isn’t actually the first blog post I’ve done today, but I’m saving the ‘Ode to Ben’ I wrote for my friends who have a mild crush on Ben Whishaw (Q in Skyfall) for another time, because I think just pasting their conversation into poetry is slightly cheating.

Then again, I’ve done myself no favours by leaving myself give or take 39 minutes again.

Also, I suspect I’m moralising again. Oh well. 1 to go.

~

Traffic Light Revolution

A wry smile watches you run
Away in the dark, away in the night
Making play with the shadows
That dance like swords
And stun my heart
Red as a revolution,
Caught in confusion
As bayonets clash
And cannons roar past like buses
Racing from my eyes and my ears
Until they stall
In the traffic jam
Of my cluttered mind
Held at the everlasting amber
And yearning for green
To touch my skin
Like fresh-cut grass in fresh-cut dreams,
Cut from the cloth of the endless summer,
Full of life until the world breathes autumn
And turns the green lights amber and red
And before long the dream is dead
Left too long to rest in a broken head.

But the itch of revolt scratches
And soon you can’t help but catch
The fever of revolution
And the will to turn red into amber, into green,
To turn the tide of your heart
Back towards the horizon
As you will your dreams to race, to live,
To run towards that edge and jump
And fly,
Making shapes of letters in the sky and
Passing the green with glee
Not thinking about stopping,
Not thinking about morning,
But thinking of chasing,
All the things you could ever be,
Could ever see,
Could ever know if only you’d passed the red
And let your heart follow the green,
On days and nights
When all you did was barricade the path
And kill the messenger
Who might have set you free.

So go, set fire to the revolution,
And let it breathe green.

Forbidden Conversation

Currently listening to: The Man Who Never Lied, Maroon 5. That song will always remind me of the bus from back home.

I’m not really sure where tonight’s poem has come from exactly, apart from that I’ve got a tune in my head. Annoyingly, the words don’t quite scan to the tune I’ve got in my head, but they’re oddly compelling (probably because I have a tea and cake craving of some kind).

~

Forbidden Conversation

It was a coffee-coloured, tea-driven,
Cake-laden conversation.

Afternoons passed,
Like animals,
Lazing in the sun;
Sleeping in the shadows of a
Forbidden conversation.
Sitting in the park,
Like two lost souls,
Drinking in the rain;
Acting like we’d never had a
Forbidden conversation.

Evenings came,
Like haunted kisses,
Looking to hurt us;
But still we talked in whispers of a
Forbidden conversation.
Sleeping side by side,
Like two old friends,
Dreaming through the night;
Knowing that we’d had our only
Forbidden conversation.

It was a coffee-coloured, tea-driven,
Cake-laden conversation,
Making it seem like the world
Was bigger than we ever knew,
We talked like we knew madness,
And it didn’t know how to scare us,
In that coffee-coloured, tea-driven,
Forbidden conversation.

Finding A Song

Currently listening to: Mr. Rock and Roll, Amy Macdonald.

And they’ll meet one day, far away, and say ‘I wish I was something more.’
And they’ll meet one day, far away, and say ‘I wish I knew you, I wish I knew you before.’

There’s something cool about that song. I don’t usually quote lyrics in my posts, even though I have a quirk of posting what music I’m listening to, or have been listening to. I’ve never been any good at writing lyrics, really; occasionally I’ll write poetry to tunes that I have going round in my head, but they never usually turn out well: one of my friends reminded me of the ones that I wrote at the Writing All-Nighter last term (one of the prompts was ‘write a song’), which was pretty bad; I padded it out by using a chorus, which my friend didn’t do. Here’s half of it (because the other half really is that ‘drunken, tired, 2am’ kind of awful).

It’s been days and nights since you left
Nights and days since you died
Days and nights since the last time you prophesised
Nights and days since you cried.

Indeed. I don’t think I’m a patch on Amy Macdonald yet.

~

Interestingly, after I started this month writing in musical themes… we’ve almost come full circle.

~

Finding A Song

We didn’t have a song.

We didn’t have a song
Until I walked those steps with you,
Tapping a beat with my toes
As you danced,
To the distant melody
Of feelings and fires,
And your hair ebbed and flowed
Weaving notes, in time
To the beat of our hearts
As we sang,
And we laughed,
We let the lyrics sit
Between us,
As we talked and we shared
As the night grew young
And they played our song.

I didn’t know what it meant
What it was
About those words
That made us sing like stars
Sticking out in the dark
Like nothing mattered
Because, nothing did,
Nothing did in the moment
When we sang
When we laughed
When we knew something was there,
In the words
And in that song,
Something new
As we danced
In that moment, in that memory.

We didn’t have a song when I knew you.

Your Own Little World

Currently listening to: Going Under, Evanescence.

In a rather good day, I got a fair amount of work done and finally got round to seeing Skyfall with Georgie, Catherine and Claire at the student cinema. I still can’t quite believe that I didn’t watch it at home over Easter, since my dad’s got the Blu-Ray. It’s pretty good though.

I’m not going to lie: I am actually counting the days until NaPoWriMo is done now.

~

Today’s poem is inspired by a meeting with a friend today, who said hi as I was walking back to where I was working and I nearly didn’t stop. ‘You looked like you were in your own little world’ was basically what I think they said. It’s also partially inspired by the reading I did for my seminar this week, on 1680s London Coffee Houses and the historical basis for ‘going for a coffee’ meaning more than just drinking, but having a chat and discussing things too.

~

Your Own Little World

In your own little world
You don’t notice
The rain
Or the hail
Or the strangers that pass
Like a mist
As you fight through the crowd,
You don’t see
The smiles
Or the scowls
As their faces blur together
Like a painting
On the edge of your eyes,
You don’t know
Their thoughts
Or their dreams
As they gaze absently
Through blind portals
At the path beyond your obstruction,
Until you look up
And talk
And share
That curious connection
Like social animals
Beyond our own little worlds.

The Ex-Zombie Cyborg

Currently listening to: The Writer, Ellie Goulding. I’m listening to her first album again, and I forgot how much I liked that song, and the album in general.

Today was a happy, if strange day.

I woke up for a croquet game at 9am, which seemed like a good idea when we planned it in the Tuesday afternoon sun. Such an idea was decidedly less appealing when I slept my alarm for the fourth time this morning, but eventually I got up, and it was good fun. There was Pimm’s (the only acceptable drink to be drinking before midday – and I only had a small glass for reasons obvious below), hats (including the fedora that came with my room when I moved in this year), and a fair few strange looks from passers-by. My friend Rosie and I wound up winning after a tie-break.

In the afternoon, I was back at the local primary school volunteering in class and helping with reading. It’s been really fun to watch the kids progress over the four months or so in which I’ve been listening to them read; even the slowest readers are getting more fluent now and it’s really heart-warming, seeing that. What’s cooler, though, is seeing how they grasp stories and interact with them on a critical level, even though they’re only just taking their first steps in reading. They’ve got a growing sense of plot, character, what makes a good story and what kinds of stories they like.

There are two questions I like to ask them about what they’re reading: ‘what’s happened so far?’, and ‘what do you think is going to happen next?’ It’s what I like to think of as a two-step approach to judging how well they’re understanding the stories they’re reading, which the teachers asked me to look for when I started at the school.

‘What’s happened so far?’ is the first step – if they can articulate what’s happened so far to me (often they’re in the beginning of a book when they read with me), then that’s the basic requirement. Sometimes I ask them what they thought of what’s happened so far, and to be honest, I look forward to them saying that they don’t like it, because that means that they’ve got a clear opinion. That’s always good, because I’ve noticed that they often say they like books without really thinking because they’d rather not be confrontational with a figure of authority (even though I dress relatively casually, I’m still obviously ‘an adult’).

‘What do you think is going to happen next?’ is a harder question, I believe – it makes the child think about what’s gone on so far and what the consequences of that would be, and also how a ‘typical’ story of that type would progress. Sometimes, they don’t really know, and that’s fine. Sometimes, they get it spot on, which is pretty funny when they find that out. Occasionally, they come up with exciting and wacky ideas that aren’t ‘typical’ at all. It doesn’t really matter, so long as they’re reacting to the material; one kid told me (after reading a book on Judy Garland), that they wouldn’t like to be famous because it would mean that people would follow them everywhere, and they instead wanted to be a vet because they liked dogs.

Smart kid.

~

This poem is inspired by a friend of mine, who might be getting a hip replacement due to a partially dead hip bone but is keeping a surprisingly happy face on it; their response to ‘feeling better?’ was ‘nope might need a hip replacement lol’. And yes, I did make the ‘dead leg’ joke. That conversation made me come up with this strange creature that is in no way actually based on my friend apart from the extrapolation into metaphor of the mechanics of replacing a dying hip with a mechanical one. Hence, ‘ex-zombie cyborg’. I jotted it down as a prompt and am only now getting around to writing it.

~

The Ex-Zombie Cyborg

Once dying, now remade, but not reborn,
This wounded creature still roams the wastelands
Seeking vengeance, seeking solace, still torn
By the pain that wrenched it from living hands
And the tender burn that flares in its joints,
It staggers, gently, with its broken spine
Clacking as it breaks at another point,
While it groans a whir and a moan in time
With the undead, ticking, hopeful heartbeat,
Waiting for something to save it, at least
From the hurt that hopes to end its repeat
And leave the broken cogs and bones in peace.

Its body may die, its servos may seize
But its heart will still beat, alive and free.

 

To Little Lena, From Daddy

Currently listening to: Don’t You (Forget About Me), Simple Minds.

Today’s poem is the equivalent of Dreaming last year: I wrote it at Writing Society today.

Our prompts were some vintage postcards, kindly bought by Olivia and Sam on a trip to Brighton over Easter. Here’s the one I got:

The first thing we noticed with the old postcards was the smell: they smelt like that ‘old book’ smell – of yellowing, brittle pages, dusty sheens and heavy covers. The first thing I noticed with mine was that there wasn’t a stamp, which means it was never sent. It was from London, or at least, I took it as such because it was printed there. The flower and the scene of snow on the front caught me; I guessed it was delivered in winter, that it was a snowy winter, and that he thought she’d like the flowers.

I have no idea why it wasn’t sent or what happened, so I tried to weave a story instead. He must have had a good reason to miss her birthday.

~

To Little Lena, From Daddy

To little Lena
From Daddy.

To little Lena
A Very Happy Birthday
From Daddy.

To little Lena
My little flower
Be good for Auntie Mildred
And Uncle Alan
From Daddy.

To little Lena
It’s snowy here
And I don’t know if it is at home
But remember to wear your gloves.
Keep warm,
From Daddy.

To little Lena
It’s very cold,
But I saw this flower
And thought of you.
Have a wonderful day
See you soon
From Daddy.

To little Lena
I hope you’re having
A wonderful time
With all this snow
And even though
I can’t be back for your birthday
Have fun,
From Daddy.

To little Lena
You’d love London
With all its lights and sounds.
I’ll make sure to bring you
Next time I go,
Perhaps in summer.
I’m sorry I’m missing your day
But I’ll make it up to you.
From Daddy.

To little Lena
I’ll be back tomorrow
On the 3:30 train from Euston
So I should be back for dinner.
I’ll bring you back something nice
And you can tell me all about Christmas
When I get back.
Miss you lots
See you very soon
From Daddy.

To little Lena
I fear I don’t have long
So I’m sending you
My present from London.
I hope you’ll like it
But, try to keep it
From your mother.
Remember
That I will always be there
Love,
From Daddy.

To Lena
When you’re all grown up
And look at this
I want you to smell
This old postcard
And remember
All the times we had
And all the times we shared
With a smile
Because you are my little flower
And I will always love you.
From Daddy.

To Lena, my little Lena
From Daddy.

Beyond The Horizon

Currently… really tired.

It’s been a bit of an odd day. I’ve done some but not enough work, run around and played catch on the common, part-organised a 9am croquet game on Thursday and had a nightmare about cheques.

Madness rating: moderate.

This poem is somewhat inspired by a short story I wrote many years ago that I wrote late one night for an English presentation, back when I was 15 or 16. I was surprised that I even remembered the story. I’ll save it for another time.

~

Beyond The Horizon

This is the last minute.

Far away a star is falling
Like a Frisbee, caught in the wind,
Stalling
Before tumbling round and round
Like a sycamore seed in the fall
Catches the light
And scatters it orange,
Like a supernova breathing its last,
This star streaks across the sky
Seeking a new place to settle down
In a far off town
Beyond the horizon.

Metal tears against metal
In a cacophony of rotors
Screaming in polyphonic symphony
With black flames
Choking the cast
Of this proceeding tragedy,
In a cloak concealing them
Against the night,
And blinding them of
The misfortune yet to come
That will reveal itself
When the sun finally wakes.

Screams cut through the air
As he tries to save the one he
Cared about,
While another one fights the gods above
Pulling at the reigns
Of a long-dead horse,
As a third simply shouts
To all the demons in all the realms
To save him from his maker,
While the final pair
Prepare in vain
To jump and fall from grace.

The flightless bird fell in a flutter
But he only felt the treetops
Shudder
Seeing only the star
In the sky so bright,
Lighting up his night
Like a candle,
Now, used and spent
But leaving a warmth
As it left the world
In an unknown moment
Of silent bliss.

This was the last minute.