All Saints Day Micropoetry

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Things have been quite quiet on the prose front in November, mostly because I’m running a separate Haiku project on my personal Twitter. However, a daily poem remains on the IoW feed, with weekends off now to allow a bit more time for creativity to grow. I found writing every day was as exhausting as running or exercising, and giving myself a break is really beginning to show benefits. Here’s the first of four pieces of five separate sections, based on notable days in November.

The 1st of the month is All Saints Day for Catholics. Here are my thoughts on whether such celebrations matter in a modern context.


All Saints Day

This holy day,
Remembrance:
All those whose love
Triumphed past hate.

Understanding
That saints are made:
Demonstration
Better lives led.

This history
Presentation:
Reminder for
All those sinners.

Aspiration
To be finer:
Improve outlook
Become wiser.

This old order
Has long since passed
Religion used
To dictate life

Depressingly
For others, it
Remains a tool
For just such means.

This is unfair
A Universe
Full of knowledge
Is more than faith.

Comprehension,
Then: human saints
Allow minds that
Understanding.

This is their gift:
Grasping faith is
Made by humans,
And thus our path.

Enlightenment
Emotions give
Vital insight
To what we are.


 

I Love You

30 THANK YOUS 2

I’ve been looking a way of thanking those people who have helped me get to this stage in my life: ultimately, my best work is with words. Therefore, I’ve spent the last year giving back to friends and RL people who I have a real and tangible bond. These gifts have taken several forms: hand -decorated letters, real-life statements of intent and poetry for those people without whom I would simply be less than I am. Then, I realised there are a bunch of people, many who have followed me for years, that I’ve never truly thanked for their contribution to my existence.

That’s when the #30ThankYous Project was born.

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Every day, starting on November 1st, someone will be gifted a Haiku. I’m very intentionally not going to release a list of recipients: this is not about anything other than surprise and genuine gratefulness. It’s not being done to make a point or impress an audience. These are 30 people without whom I would simply not be what I am. All of them give their words and time freely and without expectation of thanks too, and that is what matters the most to me. Everybody will get an image and a hand-penned poem, just for them.

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Someone, I can absolutely guarantee, will be annoyed they never made it on the list. This understanding was almost enough to derail the entire project before it began until I grasped that this project is an approximate metaphor for Social media itself.  Whatever I do, regardless of the intent, will eventually upset someone. I accept this and still feel the task is worth completing. In fact, looking back on what I’ve written, this is some of my best haiku in action. When they’re all done, I’ll archive them all on Flickr for posterity, so if people want a physical copy they can print off a high-definition version.

The first one will be published 9am GMT on Wednesday morning, on my @AlternativeChat Twitter feed. I’ll see you there.

 

GSME #26 :: End Game

social-media-asides

The Great Social Media Experiment is taking a rest until December. There are a number of reasons: the most significant one remains the most important.selling-yourself

I fully understand the significance of the online sell: so much more than that was the case when all this began, and with honesty in tow. There does have to be a measure of sacrifice to the online gods if you ever want success, and right now that’s in direct conflict with the means at my disposal for creating such content. Every single picture taken and uploaded, each Tweet composed… all have the potential to transform your fortunes.

This outlook also fundamentally alters the perception of people around you. Having people scream you’re a sellout, you only care about yourself whilst totally believing that’s my plan? This year I’ve learnt a lot about where I want to be, as well as those people I’d like to have around me. No longer is there the feeling I need to be nice to those who think they’re owed something. This has stopped being about knowing the right people and, as each day passes, becomes more about understanding myself as a priority.

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When I come to look back on 2017 it will, I’m sure, be with the eyes of someone who finally grasped the truth about the Internet. If all you want to see is stress, anger and idiocy… then that is all there is to be seen. Only when you take the time to dig deep, and truly accept that you are part of the problem, does it become possible to move past so much of the negativity that currently exists. That onus is on you, and you alone. For me, organisation and purpose have become their own rewards.

When I re-start this project in December, Social media will work for me. I don’t need your skanky pretend followers or promises that if I do X then Y will instantly follow. I’m about to create my own means of controlling the ebb and flow of data and interest. Then, if I fail, I can at least say I tried to be an innovator, which matters infinitely more than being part of a flock of foolish, ignorant users. The future, at least for me, is innovating with my rules.

#ThinkTober Week Three

Week Three of the Haiku project ended up as something of an experiment in different canvases. Some worked, others didn’t, but overall I learnt a great deal about organising myself more effectively. Needless to say, all of this is useful information to take going forward in the weeks to come.

#ThinkTober 31 Haiku from #inktober2017 @inktober prompts. Day 15: No Fate.

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One of the most significant changes will be that if I use myself as a canvas, I’ll need to get somebody else to take the pictures. This picture is a bit more blurry than I would like: had I been better organised, a far more professional picture could have been taken. Also, fountain pen ink is by far the best thing I’ve found to write onto my skin. This won’t be the last time that happens, I’ll wager.

#ThinkTober: 31 Haiku from #inktober2017 @inktober Prompts: Day 16. Tattooed Lady

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Welcome to the green space outside my house: one of the trees here fell down a few years ago and crushed my car. This one, however, appears to be made of sturdier stuff and became my backdrop: I did think about writing on the bark, but am pretty certain that would qualify as vandalism. Card and BluTack had to do instead.

#ThinkTober: 31 Hauku from #inktober2017 @inktober quotes. Day 17: I, Wood.

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In the interests of full disclosure: this spider was not killed in order to make the Haiku happen. I found a long-dead spider corpse (with an already detached leg) to play a stunt squashed arachnid. I still need to put this unit together, now I come to think of it… ^^

#ThinkTober: 31 Haiku from @inktober #inktober2017 prompts. Day 18: Dead Legs.

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I need to make more use of custom card cutouts in the Christmas set of Haiku I’m planning. Hobby shops probably will be able to provide me with some festive shapes, and I’m smart enough to be able to design some of my own. There’s also the opportunity to print out my words and then place them against plainer backgrounds, which is an approach I’ve not utilised…

#ThinkTober: 31 Haiku from #inktober2017 @inktober prompts. Day 19: Look, in the Sky!

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This, of all the Haiku I’ve done, is my absolute favourite of all. It required me to have to write a poem only using the Scrabble letters and then finding a way to place them on the board where particular letters had to be duplicated. Okay, that’s not exactly how a game would work either, but you can’t have everything.

#ThinkTober: 31 Haiku from #inktober2017 @inktober prompts. Day 20: Score!

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Yes, I texted this one in because I was short for time.

I think it works regardless 😀

#ThinkTober: 31 Haiku from #inktober2017 @inktober prompts. Day 21: Instant Message…

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… and that is Week Three done. That leaves me another 10 days worth of Haiku to complete, which I’ll post as one complete post after the Project is finished. Many thanks for sticking with me thus far, and I look forward to seeing you for the last part of the journey.

Standing in the Rain

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At the end of this month, the Patreon content produced for this website will take a four-week hiatus in order to allow me to properly participate in the 2017 NaNoWriMo event. However, I do not intend to rest on my laurels: during this time I’m going to survey everyone currently contributing to my cause with some questions intended to try and learn what people like and dislike about my output. Using this, I’ll then replan tiers for a soft relaunch in December. If you’re a Patreon donor, look out for the e-mail in early November.

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The NaNoWriMo preparation is now in full swing. I’ll be spending next week putting down markers for what needs to be done: setting clear objectives, looking at what will cause me issues, working out what needs to be planned in advance. I’m probably about 80% ready to roll on this, all that is needed now is a clear plan of action that I can cross off as things are completed. In fact, if I’m totally honest, this is the most organised and confident I’ve been about this entire event since I started doing it.

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There’s still quite a lot to finish before November is here, however: there’s a couple of week’s worth of Haiku that still require archiving. However, the level of organisation currently is more than satisfactory. Let’s see if we can’t keep that momentum going as we go careening into a new week, the hood of coat on my head as I pretend its a superhero’s cape…

Book of the Month :: From Page to Screen

Most of my friends, if asked, could cite at least one favourite literary work that has been ruined during the process of adaptation from page to (small or large) screen. For me, it was the cinematic version of The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: immediately obvious that it would be completely impossible to distil down the brilliance of a bunch of radio comedy episodes and a couple of books into the format. Douglas Adams’ vast raft of source material would never effectively support a static, limited running time adaption.

Some writers work asks a lot of its readers, and expects you to do a lot in return. When you consider why Ian McEwan isn’t nearly as successful a writer as should be the case, there’s an argument that his work is simply not accessible enough to a general audience. Undoubtedly it is the subject matter he chooses to write about that is responsible: it remains a tough ask to adapt in order to gain larger critical success (and in turn drive book sales.)

However, as we discussed in the last essay, that’s not necessarily an issue anymore as an author: McEwan has begun to benefit from how modern audiences are themselves evolving to accept more extreme narratives that do less to entertain and more to challenge. It is also a reflection of the changes in current society that the desire to question contentious issues and decisions is coming to the fore, far more than was the case back in the early 1980’s when McEwan began his life as a writer.

For cinema audiences, it was Atonement that has became the most accessible and relatable of novel to screen adaptations, which benefited from the popularity of both leads (Kiera Knightley and James McAvoy) and a sweeping view of London and Northern France during the Second World War. The film won an Oscar for Best Original Score and the BAFTA for Best Film: of a total of 122 nominations for awards in its eligible period, 34 were given to an adaptation that was probably the most wholly satisfying of McEwan’s works at that time.

The key difference here, one has to initially argue, is the depth of field that Joe Wright gives to the visuals linked with the ability of screenwriter Christopher Hampton to create not simply a faithful reproduction of the narrative, but something that presents the significance of a quite complicated (yet ultimately linear) structure. However, for me at least, this novel is the most accessible of all his written work to begin with. The series of events that bring together Cecilia Tallis and Robbie Turner, and then drive them apart relies far less on the conceits and emotional dysfunction that earlier works use to drive the plot forward.

If one looks at Enduring Love as an example of how book and film are the same but somehow different, one can understand the complex set of variables at play which needs to be aligned to produce a consistent result from page to screen. However, as we have already established, what one person considers as ‘faithful’ can move a long way from another’s perception. In this case, the whole plot in the novel hinges around the obsessive nature of Jed Parry’s relationship with the main protagonist, Joe Rose. It doesn’t help that the film then significantly reduces the ages of these characters (which is not uncommon in adaptations to begin with) and that large amounts of depth from the original text is simply lost in the process of translation. There are flashes of brilliance in the visual adaptation, but not enough of what makes the story so quintessentially McEwan is preserved in the final version.

EnduringLove

Having watched a number of the authors’ works adapted, undoubtedly it is The Child in Time which does the best work at giving the sense of genuine loss and disbelief that is prevalent in a great many of McEwan’s other narratives. It is undoubtedly due to the presence of someone who is a great fan of the source material: however, this too suffers greatly in the adaptive process. The first ten minutes are genuinely difficult to take in: the rest, however, is far less about the nature of space and time than this viewer would like, especially in the painting of other characters who effectively take away from the central roles and the point of the plot.

The overriding feeling I’ve got exploring these adaptations is that sometimes, books should never get translated into visual versions of their literary metaphors. In the modern world, however, it is almost an accepted norm that successful novels will, at some point, motivate somebody to want to translate their vision of events to a wider audience. Without this kind of inspiration, we would be so much poorer as a society: the problem with the individual adaptive process comes when attacking anything that has a particular fondness related to it. One need only look at the entire Marvel and DC Comics output in cinematic terms to know how some readers almost violently object to how somebody else paints their favourite heroes and heroines.

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It is a sign of a wider acceptance of the contentious that there’s a raft of McEwan adaptations in the pipeline: On Chesil Beach and The Children Act will both be on cinema screens in 2018, and neither are easy reads. However, what may be more likely to save these two productions against of all that has preceded them is that the author has returned to adapt his own work. It is ironic as the man worked as a screenwriter in the 1980’s with a string of film credits during that time before his literary career truly took off. He even took a stab then at translating his own work, back in the 1990’s: The Innocent is a woeful rendering of the original novel and seemed to cure McEwan of any desire to continue the task.

The adaptation market for novelists, however, is big business, and the subject matters of the two upcoming movies (sexual awakening in the early 1960’s and the dilemmas of high profile legal cases including minors) could not be further apart in tone. From the early reviews, there appears to be at least some agreement that the heart of both novels has remained intact. However, it is unlikely that either will come close to the success of Atonement, which ultimately benefited from becoming a product of the period in which it was created. Of all the adaptations I have seen, if I am honest, no-one including the author has ever managed to successfully find the means to create a true visual representation of the pictures I was able to conjure in my own head.

I am left therefore with the increasing opinion that some books should remain the property of the reader and them alone. It is possibly significant that a large number of my favourite novels sit in this bracket: it is not simply down to the subtleties of language as a storytelling device, but the simple belief that some writers do their best work when the reader supplies the visuals. There’s a brilliant and often forgotten interface that is lost when all your stimulus comes from imagery, after all. Forcing the imagination to fill in the gaps is a far better means with which to scare or challenge thought process in the first place. If all one wants is escapist entertainment, then the cinema is likely never to be bettered, but to produce a work of power and gravitas using simply pictures and words is still a big ask.

It is here that books cannot be ignored, and why it would be more sensible sometimes not to imagine what might happen were our favourite book to make it to cinematic status. In these cases, it is far more sensible to allow imagination to be the director, and the pages present a screenplay that relies more on the reader’s rapt attention than it does special effects or a bankable star. In my world, I get to cast the actors liked most in the main roles, and send them on these adventures that someone else has worked hard to create on my behalf. Certainly, when it comes to Ian McEwan’s work, I’d rather the page remained the only way I could consume his stories.

All Cried Out

autumn schedule

I owe everybody a bit of an apology, and it is probably time there was some honesty with myself in the process. The pace of literary progress has been a bit too much for me to keep up with, and with the sheer range of writing content, I’ve suffered from a definite case of overreaching. There was too much to do, not enough time, and some quite unpleasant emotional fallout resulted from last week’s essay. As a result, over the weekend, I simply lost the plot.

Now, it is time to pick up the pieces. There are some gaps in the schedule that will magically fill as a result, starting with the Haiku missing from October 6th, and after that… I’ll go and stick in the missing stuff back on a chronological basis. Because of the way I work this will mean EXTRA CONTENT this week, but filling in the gaps from the last ten days. Most people, I suspect, won’t even notice the difference, but I’ll know. In the end, after all, I’m doing this for myself most of all.

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This is probably a good moment to thank you all for sticking with me whilst I get all this stuff organised. I really do appreciate all the support and encouragement too.

Time to get back on track.

#ThinkTober Week One

Think-Tober

Most of the time, when I have an idea, there’s nearly always been a moment in the development process when I regret it. However, that has not yet happened with Think-Tober. In fact, between you and me, this is the most fun I’ve had with a project since I came up with the Patreon at the start of this year.

#ThinkTober 31 Haiku from #inktober prompts: Day One 😀

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I could, on reflection, have simply stuck all of these images on my better seen (and more widely read) personal Instagram account, but that would negate the point. It isn’t about the views. This is me, making art for myself. It is finding original ways to tell stories with words and pictures and is the best fun I’ve had for a very long time.

#ThinkTober 31 Haiku from #inktober Prompts: Day Two. Geometric Love Song.

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The plan is simple: look at the prompt word, then think of how the Haiku could be presented. Is it something I can do easily or will the process require a setup? How complex or otherwise do backgrounds need to be: would something too complicated detract from the point of the poetry?

#ThinkTober 31 Haiku from #inktober prompts: Day Three. For Shores.

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There’s been some thinking too about the place in which I live, and how backgrounds and environments can be altered, constructed as frameworks onto which poetry can be inserted or placed. Every day is a new ‘scene’ to be created, built and then photographed. This is only my camera’s phone too: no manipulation save for the filters Instagram presents.

#ThinkTober 31 Haiku from @inktober #inktober quotes. Day Four: Drifting.

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Then came the revelation that there is video too, so with thought these words can move and become something more than simply static tableau. That’s a concept that still needs some thought, but the door opened, as a result, is significant.

#ThinkTober 31 Haiku from @inktober #inktober2017 prompts. Day 5: …and RELAX.

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There is acting, in every day’s work: pieces of myself revealed (sometimes with intent, others by accident) that is turning what began as something academic into a deeply personal experience. Looking back on the last week comes the realisation that there is so much more that could be done, and it inspires me to attempt next week’s selection with more flair and skill.

#ThinkTober 31 Haiku from @inktober #inktober2017 prompts. Day 6: Weapon of Choice.

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Then comes the understanding that simple is best, sometimes: of all the week’s ‘work’ I think this is my favourite Haiku of all. When simply reduced to writing implement and paper, all the stresses and strains of the world fall away, and everything is perfect. Everything else, in effect, is superfluous.

#ThinkTober 31 Haiku from @inktober #inktober2017 prompts. Day 7: Navel Contemplation

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I posed naked for this picture: of course, you can’t see that, only scars from surgery to the upper abdomen and belly button. I make myself part of the art but am never really comfortable with that process, so next week there’ll be more of the same, to push out of comfort zones and try to make statements. Each of the 31 days will be as different as possible: no repetition, and absolutely no compromise.

I hope you’ve enjoyed both poetry and art.

National Poetry Day Haiku and Micropoetry

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It seems somewhat disingenuous to have produced a week’s worth of poetry for a single day’s celebration, but I decided to use an existing format to advertise a worthy cause. In the end, my efforts were largely lost as individual works, so putting them together as complete entities a week on seems like a very sensible thing to do. Both of these sets of poems were written whilst I was in Birmingham, the first time that this has happened. I intend to do more location work as time goes on: it was glorious to sit, pencil in hand and write these sequences first in longhand.

My physical notes for the Haiku portion of last week’s #nationalpoetryday @PoetryDayUK output 😀

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I learnt an awful lot of useful stuff last week: not to overstretch, to rewrite (constantly) and to not be afraid to alter my perceptions of what is important. As a result, I feel these two sequences are the best produced by a long way in this process of poetic evolution.


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To sit, then write words
Chosen without concern, this
Is truly freedom.

To think without fear
Pure joy, earnest expression
Woman’s true freedom.

To laugh at the joke,
Criticising: no comeback
Their own true freedom.

To believe better,
Transformation, empathy
Our right; true freedom.

To exist, equal
Consideration, respect;
Life’s meaning, freedom.

To own all such things
Yet not to understand for
Some, they don’t exist.

Greatest injustice:
Belittle those without their
Deserved, true freedom.


Only when taken away, does
Freedom really matter:
Existence, shattered.

Grasping just how lucky we are,
Then liberation is gone:
Loss, horribly wrong.

Those lives that exist without rights,
Fighting for every breath
Nothing precious left.

Look to us with excess, and say:
‘Why don’t you understand?
Life is in your hands.’

Perhaps answer is to lose all:
No sitting on the fence,
Fatal consequence.

Finally, when all fear is gone,
Then truth can be revealed:
Divisions held, healed.

I control, both body and name
Not taken for granted:
Freedom, implanted.


GSME #24 :: Stupid Girl

social-media-asides

On Friday, I did something stupid, and paid the price by being soundly roasted to a crisp on Social media. What did I learn from this? Thing number one is that if you decide to start a fight, the benefits can initially appear more sensational than the personal trauma that results:

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At its peak, my self-destruction was garnering over 25% engagement. That’s the stuff of legends and ultimately, completely unsustainable. The only way you’ll keep that amount of interaction going is to reply to every thread until your eyes bleed and you’re down to zero followers. In fact, there were so many responses and retweets the entirety of my analytics went tits up for the whole of Friday. It was only when I checked this morning that the real numbers were revealed:

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The truth, in retrospect, is that engagement for the day was a modest 1.9% overall. 65k impressions means absolutely nothing, in the larger scheme of things, and tells me (if I needed to know already) that most people love to sit and watch other people having a fight. It is the same mentality that makes drivers slow down when there’s a road accident. That’s not what I started my journey for.

It is certainly never going to happen again.

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I know when I’m in trouble, and gut has always served me well in instances of drama. However, what I severely underestimated in this case was the responses of those with whom I interact. This is probably the most important lesson of all when ‘doing’ Social media: not everybody is your friend, and ‘business’ is something that some people don’t like to think you’re mixing with their pleasure. Someone asked me a while ago how you know who to trust and the reply has not changed since this entire journey began.

Everybody has the potential to destroy you whether you fuck up or not.

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What matters more in situations such as this is how you conduct yourself after the event. In my case, I issued a public apology on Sunday and wrote a blog post where I withdraw myself from making any contentious comments on the subject in public. This used to be my job, until I stopped writing about that particular game in order to concentrate on the Patreon. If there is a contentious opinion to express from now on, it will be posted on my Blog, where there’s a better chance of presenting my opinions with some depth. My job now, especially this week, is what should be taking priority.

Friday didn’t happen to get either views or attention, I just wanted to discuss an idea. This post however is capitalising on this spectacular failure as a basis for constructive criticism. If I wanted to use anyone as an example of how not to do Twitter, it would be me. I can’t say this won’t happen again, of course, because nobody is perfect.

I can say some very important lessons have been learnt and acted upon.