Category Archives: poetry

Pancakes and Possession

Our latest story prompt was a bit of a mixture, with a few stories based on the theme of pancakes and others focusing on the theme of possession. We even had a poem to add to the mix this time. Regardless of theme, all of the stories were a great success with the rest of the group and we hope that you enjoy reading them!

Yours, by Michael Bailey

Gwen walked along the woodland path here and somewhere else. It was cool in the leafy shade, a relief from the searing sun outside on the lake. The path wound up the hillside between birch trees. A strong breeze shook the branches and made the leaves shiver. The birdsong died away as the temperature seemed to drop and Gwen felt the skin on her arms rise in goose-bumps. She looked behind her, there was nothing to be seen and yet a shadow moved at the corner of her vision. She stopped and looked again, the shadow didn’t move but hung like a dark area out of focus close to the path. “Get away from me. You have no place here, go back to where you belong,”, Gwen commanded. The shadow dissolved but Gwen didn’t feel reassured. She hurried on, turning down the hill and back into the sunlight at the lakeside.

She was still agitated when she met up with her partner, Rob. She told him what had happened and he asked if she was sure. She nodded. They went back up the path she had taken but all was peaceful and untroubled. They returned to the lake and sat on a bench looking left across the lake to the cleared track through the woods underneath the descent of a winter ski lift.

Rob lifted his binoculars and studied the vertical trackway. The supports of the lift cast black shadows that lay parallel at intervals like railway sleepers. He had thought he might spot a deer but instead he saw nothing. He couldn’t be sure, he couldn’t see anything to focus on but he got the impression of something outside his field of view moving from shadow to shadow towards them. Finally it disappeared behind the brick building that housed the end of the ski lift fifty yards away from where they sat. Now it was Rob who felt the hairs on his neck rise. He could sense something there, hidden behind the wall he was staring at. Gwen suggested they go into the hotel.

They talked about what might or might not be out there and drank a beer each, encouraging one another to put the incidents aside as the products of overactive imagination in this slightly spooky out-of-season ski resort. The shadows softened and the colours intensified into the golden hour of evening as they stayed at their table by the window and ate supper.

Upstairs in their room Rob was relaxing when Gwen burst sobbing from the shower. She said she was frightened, her eyes were wide and the suntan on her face had blanched where her skin was drawn and pale. Rob tried to put his arms around her but she pushed him away clutching her towel tighter around her shoulders. No, she said, I’m frightened of you. “Who are you?” she asked, staring hard at him. “I’m Rob and you are Gwen and we are the same as ever”, he told her. He suggested they go back into the bathroom and look in the mirror.

As she stood in front of the mirror over the sink with Rob standing behind her Gwen couldn’t bring herself to look. Rob gently raised her chin with his hand.

Look, he said, there is nothing to be frightened of. He put his hands on her shoulders and massaged them and her neck which was stiff with tension. As she relaxed she let her towel slip to the floor and he looked over her shoulder to admire her nakedness. Come on into bed he said, it’s all over, nothing to be frightened any more. He took her hand and led her into the bedroom.

Gwen kissed Rob tentatively at first and then with a desperation that went beyond their usual passion. She clung to him as he kissed her. She moaned and wrapped her legs around him pushing herself against him, pulling his buttocks with her hands, digging her fingernails into his skin.

Rob’s face was above Gwen’s as he entered her. In that familiar moment when intense feelings of love and oneness usually overcame him he suddenly saw Gwen’s face transformed into the mask of a wild beast, lips drawn back in a snarl that bunched under the merciless eyes staring at him. The long sharp white teeth were daggers bared in a grimace of savagery that would surely rip his throat open in an instant. Rob’s eyes popped as he thrust harder and heard his own voice “I love you, I don’t care, do what you want, I’ll never stop loving you.”

He blinked and Gwen’s face had the look of sublime and far away calm it always had when they made love. The terrifying mask had gone. Rob had no doubt that he had seen it and that he had somehow passed a test by reacting as he had. Accepting his fate without bargaining, without relinquishing his love for Gwen whoever or whatever she was.

In the morning Gwen was her old self, chatting about the history of the resort and of the region they had travelled through to get there. She said nothing of the strange apparition they might have imagined in the afternoon or of the terror they felt in the night. Rob didn’t want to upset her so he kept quiet as well.

Weeks later Gwen started crying one evening. Words tumbled from her as she told Rob she was afraid of what she was inside. Rob let her talk until she ran dry then gradually tried to comfort and reassure her that he loved her.

She was not convinced. “How can you love me when you don’t know who or what I am inside?” she asked. Rob smiled sadly and shook his head. “Gwen my love, I have already seen what you are and I know one day you may bite my head off, quite literally. But loving you makes me what I am and I am yours.

 

The Embassy Ball, by Alex Chase

Our eyes met

Across a crowded room

Kindred spirits shared a spark

A single thought

Your eyes shone

Brighter than the diamonds round your neck

And then we’re off

Our twin circles

Never quite align

Mutually exclusive gatherings

At the Embassy Shrove Tuesday Ball

As lackeys and toadies

Each more demanding than the last

Beg for favours

“Not me, it’s for a friend”.

I found out who you were

Married

Children

A duchess, in another life

The endless social swirl

Spins us ever further.

Apart we drift.

I saw you later on that night

But you were occupied

In quartering a crepe

Lemon and sugar

Simple tastes for one so glamorous

The music plays

I hesitate

“Ask her to dance”

A voice behind me says

I turn but no one’s there

Perhaps an angel

I turn again

Too late

You and your partner

Spin

Twin dervishes

Never pausing for breath

Much less a chance for other men

To tear you from his grip.

And then the evening’s done

The serving staff

Return to tidy up

The debris of the night’s soiree

And back to work

Though sore of head and heart.

What’s this?

Another function to attend

Perhaps this time

We can communicate

In words

And not just looks.

But then I read

Divorce

Society was not for you

And so the country girl went home

To her cows

And sheep.

And stable lads.

The life less gilded.

And I was left

Once more alone

Amid the spires and steeples

Of the urban wilderness

And so I go

Through endless parties

Conferences

And balls

Until I reach the end of term

And finally

Recalled to home

I look

At that great sea of toil and strife

And shines out just this

One moment full of happiness and bliss.

 

I’m So Lucky to be Alive, by Cuca Vega

‘I’m not a pancake!’ I kept repeating again and again to Jimmy, Joey and Tommy.

They wouldn’t believe me.

‘Seriously, I’m just a kind of flat donut, that’s all.’

Jimmy has been a rye bread all his life and the wisdom that comes from such a nutritious way of being prompt him to reflect. ‘Rather a flat donut, then?’

I jumped at the opportunity. ‘Yes! yes! A very flat donut without any jam inside.’

Joey wasn’t convinced and nodded his disbelieve to Tommy.

‘Look.’ I said. ‘Have a try. Just take a little piece of me and tell me I’m not a donut but a pancake.’

Tommy liked the idea and being a mini chocolate roll it was easy to move my way and have a taste.

‘What do you say Tommy?’ the square, sliced white bread Joey shouted from his shelf.

‘Uhmmm… I think Fenny is right; he does taste more “donuty” than pancake-like.’

Jimmy was satisfied and with that he decided: ‘Right then, you can be spared during breakfast time but you are gone in the afternoon tea.’

There!

That was all I wanted – a few more hours of glorious, vibrant life.

I was so happy I could have jiggled if I was not so flat. I did manage to ‘slop-slop’ my edges to show my delight.

It was already 5.30 in the morning. We were all freshly baked and ready for the day ahead. Jimmy and Joye would be eaten up first at breakfast time. Tommy and I, it was certain now, would be gobbled up during the afternoon tea.

Life is great!

I can sit here and savour another 12 hours or so of perfect joy.

I am so lucky to be alive.

 

Nothing Keeps, by Stephen Pellow

Every evening it’s the same. Home from work and it’s been a long day, I know, but there’s never a plan. No organisation. No structure. One by one each and every cupboard is opened and I peer inside to see if there is something – anything – that takes my fancy. Something different. We can’t keep having the same stuff week in, week out. Times are hard and the budget is tight, yes, but a bit of variety wouldn’t hurt.

Right, let’s start again from the beginning. I was looking but not seeing before perhaps. There has to be something more here. Could this be something promising? Store in a cool, dry place. That hasn’t really been an option. Cool is a phrase rarely attributed to this place. The expiry date has long passed. Nothing lasts forever no matter how many preservatives you inject into it. Never say forever. Nothing keeps.

And this? This has been here longer than I have and would probably kill me given half the opportunity. Can’t bin it really though, can I? It’s not part of the diet anymore… shouldn’t really need any physical reminder. In the bin it goes.

Something from somewhere I can’t even pronounce. There wasn’t any harm in experimenting, I suppose, but nothing good came of it either.

Well this is may be worth further investigation. A tin with no labels. Keeps things interesting. But after this long you need labels. Even if you ultimately aren’t going to enjoy what’s inside the can and especially if what’s inside has expired after leaving it so long. Without putting a label on it. Don’t even. Just sweep it off the shelf and straight into the bin. If it’s not good enough for me, I don’t want anyone else having it either.

Maybe check the fridge.

Ah, fruit. Strawberries no less. Their seeds are on the outside. They’re exposed to everything. I’d rather be the seeds of its neighbour in here, the tomato. Cushy and protected inside, shielded from the elements. From feeling.

I fear I may end up popcorn. It’s like I’ve been this little hard kernel. Small and insignificant, in a bag with hundreds of others just like me. Then I have my moment. I finally reach temperature. Maybe I even get there first and I pop and suddenly I’m twice or three times my size, and oh, so sweet. But then so is everyone else. They have their moments too and we are all the same again. The playing field levelled. Most likely I’m the one piece of popcorn that’s stuck to the bottom of the bag, going stale, or ends up on the floor and gets eaten by the dog. Worse still, I remain a kernel. I never had my moment. I never popped.

Or an egg yolk. It would be better to be one of those. A yolk rests within the membrane of the egg, that itself surrounded by a shell. But not a hard shell. It is fragile. It can be cracked all too easily, spilling the gold and the white out and mixing with milk and flour to make a perfect batter.

These cupboards depress me. Pancakes for tea again and then I really must go shopping. Never any bloody food in this house.

 

The Greatest Possession, by Becky Bye

He sat and stared fixedly at the woman talking in front of him, watching the red curves of her lips warp into different positions. He heard sounds, but the words wafted over him like a dream.

Sit still. DON’T panic.

He shifted his position slightly, feigning interest as best he could, crossing his left leg over his right knee, then swapping them over.

He felt his foot begin tapping uncontrollably and he focussed all of his energy onto it, willing it to stop. He linked his hands on his lap and squeezed until his knuckles bleached white. He bit his lip until he could taste metal.

Sit. Still.

The woman behind the desk was handing out a sheet of paper to him. He smiled, reaching out a trembling hand to take it from her and peered down at the paper. It fluttered in his grasp and he squinted, trying to stop the words from bleeding into one on the page.

Focus. You’re absolutely fine.

He realised that the woman had stopped talking and he looked up at her quickly, nodding his head and making noises in the affirmative, hoping that it was the right response. She stretched out her hands in front of her, the painted nails shiny on the pockmarked desk top.

He swallowed hard and placed the paper onto the desk as the woman resumed talking. He scratched his chin, though it didn’t itch.

Deep breaths.

He uncrossed his legs and shifted slightly on the chair, rubbing his palms down his thighs to remove some of the moisture that he could feel seeping through his pores.

Nothing is going to happen, just pay attention.

After a moment, the woman stood up, straightening out her pencil skirt over her thighs and extending her hand.

“Well, that will be all, thank you, we’ll be in touch.”

As their palms met, he felt the woman’s hand tense within his clammy fingers and she hastily withdrew her arm.  His lips trembled at the corners as he contorted them into something of a smile.

As he left the room his ears buzzed, his legs and feet clumsy as he tripped out of the woman’s office and into the hallway. The clinical smell of office equipment made him feel sick and he bustled outside.

The coolness of the air outside calmed him and he inhaled deeply. He sighed, knowing that they wouldn’t be in touch.

Messed that up didn’t you.

Panic attack 1, interview 0.

 

 

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Book launch: A Somersault of Doves, by Valerie Bridge

We’re extremely proud to announce that one of our Storyslingers is launching a book next Thursday, 12th December 2013, at Shaftesbury Arts Centre.

A Somersault of Doves by Valerie Bridge is an anthology of poems reflecting the last 100 years of migration particular to one family of Latvian, Russian, Austro-Hungarian origin. It’s also a record of flight and resettlement during a time of incessant Uprisings, and two World Wars, shared in essence by many.

This book launch is accompanied by art by local artist David Marl, whose illustrations appear in A Somersault of Doves

The launch is from 3.00pm to 8.00pm, with Russian Mules, Russian Snacks, Russian Music and readings. Everyone is welcome to browse.

As soon as the book has an Amazon page we will add it to our Published Fiction list so you can buy it online.

And massive congratulations to Valerie!

New Collaborative Geofiction website

Johannes Bouchain of Urban Geofiction and his colleague Thilo Stapff have set up a new geofiction community like no other. This is a collaborative geofiction experiment that welcomes cartographers to add to the map.

 

Using the tools of the Openstreetmap project – http://www.openstreetmap.org – Opengeofiction offers, for everyone who would like to participate, the possibility to contribute to mapping a fictional planet. Interested? Then:

1. Create your account – http://opengeofiction.net/user/new. (You’ll get an e-mail when your account has been activated, it may take a little while.)

2. Choose a free (green) area from the overview map http://opengeofiction.net/about#overview-map. (Please send an e-mail to info@opengeofiction.net and mention the area you’ve chosen.)

3. Start mapping by using the tools available (http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Editors. If you don’t have any experience yet, please tell the Opengeofiction team at info@opengeofiction.net and they’ll try to help you as much as possible.

Find more information about the project and about other ways to participate here: http://opengeofiction.net/about.

Examples of what it can look like: http://opengeofiction.net/?lat=45.22&lon=-21.28&zoom=8&layers=M (Roantra).
http://opengeofiction.net/?lat=47.809&lon=-8.902&zoom=9&layers=M (south of Kalm/north of Sathria, “under construction”).

You already have a fictional country and/or city that you would like to place on the Opengeofiction planet? That’s wonderful! The free (green) areas at the overview map http://opengeofiction.net/about#overview-map can still be changed a little bit, so that your imaginary country hopefully will find its place in one of the continents. Maybe you find an area that already has almost the same form as your fictional country (and is also located in the right latitude, so that the climate is like you imagine it for your country).

Fictional Worlds Map Making Competition UPDATE

Storyslingers second fictional map making competition is underway. With only one month left before the deadline, it’s time to get drafting! 

An exciting opportunity has arisen for the winners: depending on the quality of the submissions, the Slade Centre gallery in Dorset is keen to put on a short show, giving winning entrants the opportunity to exhibit their maps in one of North Dorset’s leading galleries. Winning entrants will be given the opportunity to publicly read their work in front of a live audience (this is totally optional!)*

The best maps will also be displayed at Shaftesbury Arts Centre in June and here on the blog. A public reading opportunity may arise in Shaftesbury as well (TBC).

Competition details: Every story is set somewhere and it’s the writer’s job to immerse their reader fully into that fictional world. How are we to write convincing worlds if we do not know our way around them? We challenge writers and/or artists to draw a map of their fictional world.

Please email your map as a jpeg to zomzara@googlemail.com with Map Making Competition as the subject.  Previously we stipulated 72dpi: but if you have a nice detailed map, send it larger, send it so that you’re satisfied we can see all the detail. I think my inbox will cope! If your map appears elsewhere online in a large resolution you can always link us to the site.

If you’re interested in the public reading opportunity, please let us know so we have an idea of how many people are potentially interested.

Entry is FREE. This competition is open to all, young or old, artistically brilliant or dysfunctional. If you’re under the age of 16, let us know and we’ll enter you into the kids’ category too.

Have your maps sent to us by the 21st of May. (If you send a day or two late, we’ll probably still accept it, though no guarantees).

Facebook event.

* please note that this opportunity is dependent on the artistic quality of the submissions, so it may not happen. As writers, we’re more interested in the imaginative quality, so there might end up being a clash of interest between us and the Slade Centre. Maps will be exhibited at Shaftesbury Arts Centre for sure.

Some awesome maps I found on the internet:

Image

map2_preview

by David Hyman http://davidcharlaphyman.com/:

REEDSBURG CITY GIMP small

CT River

Oh, Milly Molly Mandy – how you inspired the child version of myself. This was the map that started my fascination with fictional maps.

Map Making Competition II

FOR AN UPDATE GO HERE: http://storyslingers.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/fictional-worlds-map-making-competition.html

Last year we ran a map making competition. We tied it in with the Shaftesbury Arts Festival and so there wasn’t a lot of advance notice. Lots of people contacted us to say what a cool idea it was but they didn’t have enough time to do their map before the deadline.

Well good news, chaps! We’re running a second competition, this time with a nice long gap before the deadline (May 21st).  

So here’s the details: 

Every story is set somewhere and it’s the writer’s job to immerse their reader fully into that fictional world. How are we to write convincing worlds if we do not know our way around them? 

We challenge any budding writer*/ artist out there to draw a map of their fictional world. It doesn’t have to encompass the entire world, it can be a small part of it; a city/ borough/ street, an island, a country or county, a building-plan etc.

Please email your map to us at zomzara@googlemail.com with Map Making Competition as the subject. Make sure the file isn’t massive, send it as a jpeg 72dpi. Keep a print-version at hand because we’d like to pin some of the best maps up at Shaftesbury Arts Centre (we’ll contact you about this). The winner will be featured on our blog and within Shaftesbury Arts Centre.

We will be publishing the winning map online, so if your world is top-secret then maybe keep it under wraps for now and submit it next time.

The world/ location must be your own. We don’t want to see lots of renditions of Hogwarts.

The closing date is May 21st, so get your colouring pencils out and start drafting!

Further info: We don’t take ourselves too seriously, so we don’t expect you to either. We’re not concerned about intricacies of scale or worried over the physics of your world. If it looks cool, we’ll be happy. Inspire us, excite us.

*Wait, you’re not even a writer? But you like to dream up worlds and make maps? – okay, that’s cool, go for it and submit. Maybe one of us writers will like your world and want to team up with you and write a story set in your world. Our writers are always on the lookout for things that will spark the next story, so we’d love to find a new world to write about.

Mind-Mapping for Fiction Writers

Today I’d like to talk about mind maps—what they are, how to use them, and where to get them—as a way of brainstorming, solving problems, keeping track of your events and timelines, and generating new ideas.
Sometimes stories are straightforward: you begin with your basic idea or outline, and then you sit down and write it from start to finish. But not all stories are that easy-going. Quite often you find they grow and become complex, unruly things, and before you know it you’re buried under a mountain of notes and plans, maps and research—and that’s before you’ve even tried to structure your plot or study your characters in depth.
This is where mind maps could come in handy.
I’m fairly new to mind maps, but so far I’ve found them helpful for keeping my novel timeline in order. They’re also an excellent “quick-reference” if you’re looking for a specific detail and you don’t have time to wade through page after page of notes.
What is a mind map? From Wikipedia – A diagram used to visually outline information.
How do I use a mind map?You start with a central theme or idea, usually placed at the centre of your map/page. This could be anything from a single word prompt to a phrase or topic, problem, character or concept. From there, you create sub-nodes and attach anything associated with the central theme. These sub-nodes grow outwards, generating more and more sub-themes and ideas, very much like a spider diagram. The best way to understand how a mind map works is to see one in action. Take a look at thishand-drawn mind map and thiscomputer generated map (both images from Wikipedia).
How to make a mind map:You can create easy, free mind maps using paper and coloured pens or pencils (see example map above). But if hand-drawing isn’t your preference, there are also a number of programs available for the computer—some free and some paid.
Free Mind – Free Mind is a Java-based software that is free to download and use. They have a helpful website that provides instructions on installing and running the program. Works on PC and Mac.
Simple Mind – A simple, easy to use program. This is also a Mac app, but I’m linking to the desktop version as you can use it on a PC as well. You can only download a trial for free; you’ll need to buy the full version if you want to keep using it after 30 days.
Bubble.us – I’ve not tried this one, but it looks like it could be useful. You create your mind map directly in your browser. You can print it out, or download it to your computer when you’re done.
Mindomo – This is a paid program. The website states: Human thought is characterized by expansion in multiple directions.  As a mind map software, Mindomo is a perfect match to work the way your brain does reflecting your thoughts.
MindMeister – This mind-mapping tool allows you to share your mind maps with others and collaborate easily. There is a free trial, though it should be noted that you have to pay a monthly subscription for the full program.
There’s also a list of (rather pricey) paid mind map programs for Mac here, and a list of freeware programs for Mac here.
And there’s a list of free mind map programs for PC here.

Fiction, Poetry & Music night at Beggar’s Banquet

Storyslingers and music cafe Beggar’s Banquet teamed up last Thursday to put on a night of stories, poetry and groovy tunes. The gathering wasn’t widely pimped, though we ended up with around 17 people in attendance, most of whom were writers, artists or musicians (and those in between who do a bit of everything!).

The venue was cosy and mellow-lit, creating a warm and friendly atmosphere. It was gently buzzing as people started turning up—a lot of readers had only met briefly before, so it was nice to reconnect. We also got to meet a few spouses; now they finally know what we get up to when we’re all together. We hope they enjoyed themselves, too!


The universe must have been in balance that night, as we were able to set the playlist as writer-poet-writer-poet. Nine wonderful writers shared their work in the end, reading a varied and vibrant selection. As always with these events, we were excited by and extremely proud of the talent in our local area.

Tish Oakwood reading her superb collection of poems

Sue Ashby also sharing a selection of beautiful rural-themed poems

Me reading my short speculative piece “Ring-Ring” 

To close the event, our generous host Meru performed a nifty acoustic song about not having anything to sing about. His soft, gravelly tones went down a storm, and we hope he’ll sing for us again at future gatherings.


Our line-up:

Peter Jump – who read two short stories.
Tish Oakwood – who read a collection of poems.
James Broomfield – who read a short story.
Elaine Cadogan – who read a collection of poems.
Jennifer Bell – who read a short story.
Sue Ashby – who also read a collection of poems.
Jennifer K. Oliver – who read two short stories.
Juliet Austen – who read a selection of her poems.
John Maynard – who read a short story.
Meru – who sang and played acoustic guitar.

We’d like to thank everyone for coming, especially those who brought material to read. We hope you’ll join us again next time! 🙂

Poetry from Jesmond Arbour, world-class drunkard

Never let it be said that our Storyslingers writing prompts don’t inspire moments of creative madness. This is a result of last Tuesday’s meeting. The prompt was ‘Scarecrow.’

The Scarecrow
by Jesmond Arbour
Bloody thing-
Stop looking at me!
I’ve only stopped for a second pee.
The third I shall save for Auntie Doris’
And maybe some more for the car park at Morrisons.
What’s that man doing mummy? – a shrill voice cries
PISS OF YER LITTLE SHITE, OR I’LL SMITE YOUR EYES
Oh god, how simple life would be
As a Scarecrow – like this one in front of me.
So in I climb, into the clothes that were, once tied with string around the frame now bare.
The hat with straw sits atop my bonce while the allotment owner shouts:
What the jolly fuck do you think you’re doing, sir?
You can also watch the author himself reading this poem:

Mr Arbour (the author) wanted to add “Where did you get that?  I didn’t write that.  You must be mad sir, this is the work of a deranged drunkard!”
Many thanks to Cobedy for providing the laughs! For more hilarious sketches, check out Cobedy’s video channel here.

Dada Poetry


Last session we looked at Dadaism, an avant-garde movement that was formed in 1916 by Hugo Ball, Richard Huelsenbeck, Tristan Tzara, Hans Arp and Marcel Janco at the Cabaret Voltaire, Zurich. Its formation was largely concerned with the political circumstances of the time, as a reaction against the war, against the “nationalistic frenzy in Paris” (Huelsenbeck 1920), and as a way to keep a grip of individuality.

“The word Dada was accidentally discovered by Hugo Ball and myself in a German-French dictionary… Dada is French for a wooden horse.” (Huelsenbeck 1920).

It was a movement that concerned itself with anti-art and anti-aesthetic, it sought to remove conscious control from the artist, to strip art of meaning and take it to its base purity.
“Let us try, though it is difficult, to remain absolutely pure. We shall then perceive everything that binds us. And as for the unpleasant language which suffices the garrulous… let us reduce it, let us transform it into a charming, true language. In this state of purity… language renounces its imperative function and aspires toward an autonomous existence, producing a confused, illogical pleasure, an indefinable sensation of release from gravitation. ‘I dream of new harmonies’, Gide wrote at the time, ‘of an art of words, more subtle and more frank, without rhetoric, which does not seek to prove anything’. ” (Raymond, 1933)

Tristan Tzara’s method of making a poem was to “take a newspaper, take scissors, choose an article, cut it out, then cut out each word, put them in a bag, shake.” Then take out the scraps one at a time and copy the words out as they come.     

We did it a little differently at Storyslingers; rather than use a newspaper as our source, we selected two extracts from classic texts, one from Frankenstein and the other The Master and Margarita, (so both with supernatural elements). Many members struggled to let go of their authorial control and couldn’t resist ordering the selection of scraps in a way that had some logical semblance. I think this in itself is very interesting, especially when considering contemporary discussions about creativity and education. I’m thinking in particular of Ken Robinson’s lectures on creativity in education. Take a look at this video: 



And then consider Henri Focillon’s ideas In Praise of Hands, which appeared in The Life in Forms of Art (NY. 1948).

Focillon spoke about Apelles experiencing ataraxia while he was trying to paint a horse. (Ataraxia relates to Dadaism, I think). Apelles wished to represent a bit of frothy saliva and was so unsuccessful that, in a rage, he gave up and threw the sponge with which he was using to clean his brushes at the horse, thus producing the effect of the horse’s foam. (Sextus Empiricus). This story “makes us reflect upon the resources of pure chance. Here we are at the antipodes of automatism and mechanism, and no less distant from the cunning ways of reason. In the action of a machine, in which everything is repeated and predetermined, accident is an abrupt negation. [The artist] …takes advantage of his own errors and of his faulty strokes to perform tricks with them.”

“In the hand of Hokusai, accident is an unknown form of life, the meeting of obscure forces and clairvoyant design. Sometimes one might say that he has provoked accident with an impatient finger in order to see what it would do… Hokusai belongs to a country where, far from concealing the cracks in a broken pot by deceptive restoration, artisans underline this elegant tracery with a network of gold. Thus does the artist gratefully receive what chance has given him and places it respectfully in evidence.”

So according to Ken Robinson, in modern education we are taught to fear mistakes, to fear being wrong, which is indeed reflected in the Storyslingers’ reluctance to give up their control and leave their creations to chance.

We also talked about Dadaism in relation to Barthes’ comments on ‘death of the author’, which I would like to go into greater depth about. This post is getting on for an essay now, so I will save these thoughts for a future post. Until then, enjoy these dada poems that we wrote:

Appeared at the possessed, appeared at the…

The deep, I swear; carried his Moscow and weary existence.

Dear revenge, the “on you”, at the hour of the grief, Editor Had was wearing a “and on you!” 

To execute solemnity, adjuration, excited, while Mikhail – short.  His neatly night, and… and… black, wandering Berlioz.

For short, Alexandrovich = devotion.  To pursue friends as I shot, I as forever.

I call assured spirits and ‘green’ gave way, who, and on which, me.  

My.

Poem 1.
and
and
drag
literary journal
literary associations,
on
white trousers
I will
By the sacred earth
Will
Furies
Also
Murderer
Begin
And kissed
Aid
Of earth,
Literary
Moscow
Murdered
To
He or
In his hand.

Poem 2.

Cursed and hellish monster
Had
Back on his head,
Wrinkled
Back
Tread the green
Wander near
And
Lived; their
And by thee
Quivering lips
In
Cocked
Which
Of the
Almost assured
At the house of the
This misery
Grass
Summer suit
White
Who.

Patriarch’s Ponds. Associations, dressed in a Berlioz, an awe horn-rimmed glasses my utterance / And and with who called Massolit / broad-shouldered drag drink deep and by thee, O torments me. Hair, eternal my.

Approximately of a fat dear revenge the demon who which devotion, Alexandrovich I swear; shaven the destroy awe will herbage back me had me, that to spirits of my now.


The following are semi-dada poems, in that the writers of these poems arranged the words they randomly selected in a conscious, logical (ish) way.

Drink deep
From my eyes
And with that
Vanish.

By Jennifer K Oliver
Poem 1.
The lips should utterance
One of you pseudonym of Homeless.
And his conduct and vengeance

Poem 2.

I must excited quickly
dark-haired, plump, bald
Destroy him by perish
The spirits their murderer
The poet feel, poet agony;
This shall feel the dead over

The Dada Painters and Poets, An Anthology. Second ed. Edited by Motherwell, Robert. 1951, USA.