Category Archives: sense

branching

This post is a bit of an experiment! The idea had a couple of starting points…

I was looking at some Lady’s mantle flowers in bright sunshine. This started off a chain of thought which had a lot to do with the process of branching – how we see it in natural growth, echoed in man-made patterns, and also in mathematics.

Not long after I read about a free piece of software for game developers called Ink. This is a lightweight tool aimed at authors writing stories where the reader gets to make choices. Ink is made by an award winning Cambridge based game development company called inkle. If you’re interested you can find out more about the company and download ink software from their website.

I decided to try to make an interactive poem, where your choices can affect the flow of the poem. To begin with I chose something quite simple, and fairly structured.  I wrote three short threads of poetry about my Lady’s mantle ideas, then developed a page using Ink that allows you to choose how the poem branches as you read. So in the end I had a poem about branching … that could actually branch!

I’m not able to embed the resulting poem here on the blog, but I can host it on my website, so I’m going to add a link to show it in a new window, but if you’d like to come back here and like this, and/or leave a comment about it, I’d love to hear from you…

Click to open a new window with the interactive poem ‘Branching’

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gestures: pull

This is one of a sequence of poems I’ve been working on
about feelings connected to physical gestures.
(This one is centred to avoid a spin.)

 

pull

arms waving off big
a balanced bending in
LOOK
shiny handle
SEE
fingers grasp
PULL
arms wide again
symmetry of breath
a metronome
counting
CHECK
.
my body retains
this programmed movement
unused
for over thirty years
the stroke
to quit the air
making landfall
in
good and gentle
order
.
martial choreography
civilian drill
a highly specific
whole body awake yawn
beyond any other gesture
learned
indicative of
the most firm
intent
100
%
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time
to
live
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eyeline

I originally wrote this intending to send it in to Visual Verse for a great image of a horse by Bruce Connew. I never got around to it, and I’d forgotten about the poem until I happened on it today. Anyway, I still kinda like it, I hope you will too. As often from me, there’s also some sciencey inspiration – see below…

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Karen McComb, who heads the research group and co-lead author of the study, said “Horses may have adopted an ancestral ability for reading emotional cues in other horses to respond appropriately to human facial expressions during their co-evolution. Alternatively, individual horses may have learned to interpret human expressions during their own lifetime.”
Source: ‘Horses can recognise human emotion, study shows’ Guardian 10/2/2016

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eyeline

scary sounds tinder
my right brain.
my left eye
flares.

you. your voice. angry. anger. danger. is it?
do i? do we? does the herd?
set, set, set.
my heart revs.

a dren a lin.
ready, twitch, ready.
muscles cinch.
ears prime.

time made your mood our threat.
your anger the wolf on the prairie.
your impatience an adder under-grass.
your oath hard iron in flight.

so if you don’t need to, just don’t.
step calm. breathe gentle.
speak less. listen more.
hear. my. gaze.

quietly.

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drawing breath

Trees can be very big, and some of them are very old. Their character and way of life is complex, in many ways hidden, and very different from our own. They can make us pause and they can make us gasp.

drawing breath is a collection of twelve poems arising from a collaboration with visual artist Tansy Lee Moir.

I’ve made booklet with the poems, some photographs, and some of Tansy’s drawings, and I’ve also made a series of recordings of readings.  Hope you like them!

You can find links to all of these and more about our collaboration here.

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Charcoal

img_0129-2

I had a grand visit to Tansy Lee Moir’s Drawing in the Trees workshop at the Howden Park Centre yesterday.  I was there as part of my collaborative work with Tansy’s ongoing Dialogues with Trees project.  This was an excellent opportunity to see what happens in a workshop, and read one or two of the poems I’ve been writing to the artists taking part. The weather wasn’t ideal for drawing outdoors, but looking out the window today – it could’ve been worse!  We managed a quick foray between showers to some trees near to Howden Park.  Apparently watercolour pencil works well on wet paper…

After we were renewed by a quick coffee and sugar supplement, Tansy began to demonstrate some of the ways she works with charcoal to make her superb tree images. Then everyone enthusiastically started to get their hands dirty! I do enjoy photographing people when they get really engaged in a process.  Everyone’s focus was excellent and the amount and standard of work that happened in a short time demonstrated that this was a talented group of folk!

I’m sure that I will write more poems following from the experience of watching this group. I’ve found that the kind of concentrated looking that I like to use photography to achieve is a good starter for later ideas.  The truth is, however, I’m a pretty ‘slow poet’ – I don’t think I’d get far if put on the spot in the way that you sometimes hear on a radio program (“and we’ll hear what he’s written based on that story a little later in the show…”)  I suspect that perhaps there is an element of showbiz at work here, and authors might get a little more preparation time. However, fact is I’m slow, and I’m ok with that.  It takes me ages to get stuff down, and a few more ages to hammer it into something vaguely resembling a poem!

Fortunately yesterday I was in the happy position of having what I might call some Blue Peter poems. For those too young to remember or perhaps from overseas, Blue Peter was a long running UK children’s show.  Presenters demonstrating creative craft projects for young viewers would regularly reach authoritatively under the workbench to loft a minor triumph of paper, card, adult supervised use of cutting tools, and more-often-than-not ‘sticky-backed plastic’ with the words “we don’t have time to do all of this just now, but here is one that I prepared earlier…”  (I suspect that the “earlier” glueing etc was most likely in fact accomplished by craft-worker prototypes of QI’s research ‘Elves’).

A long ramble!  The point being, from my previous work with Tansy, I had some poems I’d already written about drawing and trees. So I could reach into my folder and produce something relevant that “I prepared earlier…”.  I could hardly ask for a more clued-in audience! I think the poems went down quite well. To close this post, I’ve included one below. 

For those that are interested, there is another Drawing in the Trees workshop in March.  I’ll be reading more poems at the Residency Presentation event later this April at Howden Park Centre.

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powdered charcoal

Charcoal

The fifth element, chopped and fired,
pulped, pressed and regrown as a sketch.

Only a few hundred grains
from hilltop shadows to putty pure glen.

From Marianas deep bass
to an almost inaudibly floated treble tremolo.

A winter-land in negative,
high altitude luminance over solid black ground.

A thin gauged pressure range,
stick dark ridge line and leather coaxed hollows.

A slim meniscus of opportunity
where leviathans may be tickled from grey sea mists.

Drifted mirages of wood
Emerging solid, substantial and inevitable as time.

Bodies breaching skyward,
Trunks shattered titanic in shadow-tone swells.

These fragile giants – at a clumsy sleeve
they might plunge and vanish, like a forest lost in fog.

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Present in Scent

P1010409Chuffed to have my poem ‘Present in Scent’ in Ink, Sweat and Tears today.


Cracking it.

evernote-camera-roll-20160910-215921She sighs off the boulder wall.
Randomise, resequence and replace.
Shoulder, hand, heel.  Shelf, stretch.  Step, toe, jam.

 

Old plastic puzzle pieces itchy to fit,
An unpacked jacket tangram Tetris in a gale,
Chalk cat’s game, reset and go again.

 

Tumbled down red mat recombinations,
A solid grace neatly reabsorbed,
Fingers sounding mumbled alterations.

 

Incredible all-at-once, do-it-now obvious,
The Tower of Hanoi’s hop skip traverse,
Arms unfankled into two warm sleeves.

 

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