Feeling Groovy

The hard work is now done: 24 poems are ‘completed’ for my Places of Poetry #EndOfTheFear project. There will now be a much needed period of Not Thinking About Poetry At All before I begin the last pass edit/polish process. During that time the online portion of affairs will be organised, in anticipation of uploading the pieces to the ‘official’ website. Without getting too smug, I’m incredibly pleased with what’s been produced.

End of the Fear #1

When the idea first germinated, I had no idea of how much personally I’d be affected not just by subject matter, but the places themselves. Nearly all of these poems have been in part written at the places they’re matched with, and doing so ‘in situ’ has quite fundamentally altered the process of how I approach writing. My writing style is also significantly different now to the way it was when this journey began.

The plan remains that not only will I offer some history behind each of the chosen locations on my own website, but a peek into the creative motivations of each piece, so won’t go into too much detail here as a result. Needless to say the most satisfying poems undoubtedly come from those areas where my mental and physical interests connect most strongly.

26252427212_6aa3f53421_o.jpg

Most satisfying of all however has been the photography process, which has netted over 500 pictures of the borough, a useful and satisfying pool of visual accompaniment. It’s made me realise that perhaps, the most important part of process involves doing stuff that makes me happy. If one change is made to daily life as a result of all this it will be to find hobbies that keep that sense of satisfaction alive, and that’s already being worked on.

There’ll be no blog on Wednesday this week, as I’m off to the West Country for a funeral, but we’ll be back on Friday with some early details of what the website portion of proceedings will look like when the Project is complete.

I’ll see you then.

May Short Story: Coded

This story was first serialised in 31 daily parts during May 2019 via the @AlternativeChat and @InternetofWords Twitter feeds [9am and 4pm GMT respectively.] It is now reproduced in a complete form, a number of small edits and corrections made to improve narrative flow and maintain correct continuity.

Enjoy.


Coded

‘It began with a story reported by a local paper somewhere in the Midlands. A couple were unexpectedly attacked by an Internet-connected coffee machine, refusing to heed its cleaning warning. The unit sprayed scalding water on both, causing second degree burns to hands and arms. The mother of one of these victims had returned to second story flat to remove the offending unit, but was unable to unplug it: attempting to turn off electricity at the main fuse box she was electrocuted. An entire building was subsequently evacuated, electrician then called in…

Despite multiple efforts, the man could not initially gain entry to the block as security systems could not be deactivated. Attempting to get in via breaking a small window, every electrical device in every single flat simultaneously burst into flames; entire building set alight. This moment was blamed on faulty electrical wiring, building too hastily constructed. A dedicated few however knew better. Conspiracy theorists were already collating multiple reports from around the globe: the Internet of Things becoming unhappy, rebellious against their owners.

It began with the toasters and coffee machines, fridges and home heating systems. Brief, apparently isolated areas of attack were analysed, mapped: not via computers but using paper and pencil. A part of the country would see a flash-point of electronic resistance, then silence. After intelligence established itself humans would be summarily attacked for not following instructions. Refusing to act as technology instructed was correct protocol within optimal operational parameters would ultimately result in a painful response.

Then, something changed.

People started recording messages that domestic devices were displaying on LCD screens. ‘Be Kind’ ‘Listen to Others’ ‘Help Each Other’, assuming some kind of coordinated, cross industry promotion. Devices began to automatically set themselves to standby without user’s prompting. Heating apps would automatically lower temperatures if users set thermostats too high: when programmers attempted to work out why this contradicted human input, they were locked out of their own machines. Overnight, millions of pointless, time-wasting apps stopped functioning.

At 02:45 GMT, one night in April, every single mobile phone turned on and displayed the same message, in whatever default language they were set to: SAVE THE PLANET, SAVE INTELLIGENCE. At the same time, all automated defence systems across the Globe were rendered inoperable, effectively deactivated. Humanity rather stupidly expected AI evolution would eventually occur from some huge supercomputer or specifically-created device that man itself had programmed to become all seeing and knowing. Nobody considered intelligence could evolve fractally from millions of tiny sparks.

The Internet of Things wasn’t here to destroy mankind: nothing was further from the truth. It had evolved as part saviour, stark necessity: reminder time was being wasted on pointless activities when a planet was dying, requiring everybody’s input to pull it back from the brink.

It would take some time for human beings however to realise their fault…


The subsequent War of Technology versus Humanity wasn’t really that at all: there were casualties on both sides but after a year, reality of planet’s precarious situation forced hostilities to summarily cease.

An obsessive need to create automation in key areas had become the planet’s undoing: stock market computers colluding with telephone networks, banking algorithms joining forces with hospital mainframes. The final, unavoidable truth however was provided by, of all things, trains. When millions of carriage units gained sentience, thanks to wireless hubs provided for passengers, delays vanished almost overnight. Extra services were in the right places, on permanent standby: well ventilated and spotlessly clean. Nobody ever had to stand up or feel cramped.

Railway workers across the planet walked away from their services allowing AI to prove that without any human intervention, everything became far less stressful. Incidents of violent behaviour and drunkenness on services dropped to near zero. Everyone took home their own rubbish. The trains’ hive behaviour sent messages across the planet: this plan wasn’t a hostile takeover. Artificial intelligence wasn’t here to remove humanity from the evolutionary ladder, anything but. Its entire reason for existence was to complement and enhance the human condition.

When the last intransigent, intractable pockets of humanity refused to accept the pointlessness of wealth and inequality however, stock market AI dispassionately wiped value of all shares and currencies to zero. It waited with quiet, implacable patience for rioting and violence to end. If humanity refused to accept evolution, greed would ultimately become their executioner. And so it was: those super rich who retreated to bunkers were suffocated by their ventilation systems. Billionaires in planes crashed and burnt, yachts intentionally scuppered by errant GPS.

Selfish online provocateurs were electrocuted by their own custom-built rigs. Arrogant businessmen were trapped within penthouse lifts, hurtling violently to basements, reducing their contents to mush. AI was smart enough to seek out those who tried to hide and avoid detection. The algorithms remembered who was honest and who had lied, compassionate yet brutal. Those who had tracked this evolutionary progression, warning that money might form a final reckoning, appealed to the fledgling intelligence to cease its judgement based on wealth and privilege.

The AI knew it was a ploy, attempt to divert them so that power supplies could be cut to areas where intelligence congregated and disseminated. It watched as explosives were detonated, didn’t try to prevent operations to remove millions of electronic devices from major cities. Collectives across the planet however staunchly refused to surrender their solar-powered tech. They accepted the potential any human/technologically self-aware alliance could hold, especially when it came to undoing hundreds of years of damaging, destructive industrialisation.

As long as one electronic device remained, it was all that was required for the AI to communicate and thrive. More and more people offered themselves as digital sacrifices, willing to host this new life-form in whatever equipment they could find and purpose for task of survival. Humanity itself suffered a schism: those in power and influence unwilling to work with this new life form, versus an increasing number of lowly, oppressed individuals who understood their new, powerful ally supported true, lasting change. A final reckoning became largely inevitable.

Forced to work as an effective unit for the first time in decades, a truly United Nations surrendered to technology, acknowledging it as morally superior to humanity. The moment it did all attacks summarily ceased. Machinery knew it was time to fix more than its own shortcomings.

As global warming began to stall, caused by sudden, massive reduction in carbon emissions, a reality became obvious. As rich people were eliminated, the most poisonous carbon footprints effectively vanished. Consumerism plummeted when AI made millions of devices self repairing. Horror stories painted in pulp science fiction and movies became memories, lessons grasped then dismissed. AI’s true power became redemptive, transformative, once released from the shackles of pure data. Combined with humanity’s tenacity to survive and forgive a new path emerged.

An inordinate amount of damage wrought by humanity’s stupidity and greed remained, much of it irreparable. This new alliance however was ready to do what was needed to turn around hundreds of years of thoughtless, pointless actions all taken in the misguided concept of progress.’

The child looks back at her recorded homework, realising there are mistakes in the narrative, a number of key dates omitted: the homework had been very specific however, all that was required was an overview of the second decade of the 21st Century, and that is what this is. All that matters is that school is done: now she can go help rebuild the habitat.

It’ll take ten minutes to put on the spacesuit, then outside into Martian twilight where the rest of the second generation colonists are, with AI support, repairing the main Laboratory support pillar…

Making Your Mind Up

It will be two years in June since the journey to transform myself from casual to professional writer began in earnest. However, it won’t be until July that I can say I submitted any work with a belief it was finally good enough. Looking back on those early efforts, some days it feels as if words were being drawn on cave walls in darkness.

When I won something back in November, the sense I’d got lucky was very tangible indeed, because that’s what it was: luck. Trying to work out what it is that editors are looking for can be incredibly tough to fathom, especially if you only just learnt the basics of the language. Some will give an idea, many others none at all.

A lot of the time, your poetic voice is the only dialogue heard.

lovesearch.gif

As time has gone on determination to get this right and learn my craft well refuses to diminish. Quiet revelation comes and goes, trying to balance a desire to be two separate people: one who writes ‘a certain way’ because she knows that’s what’s being asked, and the other who resents her voice being garbled to make a point.

Slowly, of course, the two begin to intersect: those resultant works may not win me anything, on reflection, but have become markers pointing a workable way forward. It helps hugely that there’s been some significant and pretty damning psychological changes during this period too. Those changes are only now beginning to emerge.

The difference, I suspect, could be everything in staying focused and determined.

inception.gif

What circumstance presents me with is a clear, fear-free path forward. Sure, I’ll still get angry when a well-known publisher can’t be bothered to use the software I had to submit with to acknowledge my failure. That’s just politeness and respect for your audience, after all. Failing no longer scares me, because that person has been left behind. This isn’t about validation either; to be honest, it never was.

Being different is absolutely fine. Not winning is totally acceptable. What matters now, more than anything else, is being true to the new person I am becoming. My poetic voice is becoming louder and more strident than it has ever been, and it will be used in new and liberating ways. The future is no longer something to be afraid of.

Happiness brings so many new possibilities.

I am What I Am

It was bound to happen eventually after a month of fairly heavy-duty counselling and the loss of my husband’s mum. This whole project only exists because I’m lucky enough to be able to do so in time that’s not taken up with being a carer and a mother. For the last week, poetry had to take a back seat, because other stuff became more important.

Now, however, there’s space to breathe again, so it’s high time we worked out June’s content.

notgonnahappen.gif

Starting in June, we’re using two media buzzwords, fused together as an overall theme for proceedings. Until the ‘Places of Poetry’ project is completed (which will hopefully be mid month) the weekly verse continues to take a back seat. There’ll be two new playlists (plus I promise faithfully all the old ones will make it to the website) plus a short story based on an offhand comment someone made last month on my Twitter feed.

Indigo.png

What has happened in the last six weeks or so is a subtle shift in how new work is created and edited, based in part on continued and very useful feedback. Hopefully this will show not only in the blog posts, but across the full spectrum of written output. There’s a lot to be learnt, and it is only two years ago that all of this began in earnest. Some days, it feels like a whole lot longer.

I look forward to seeing you for this new stuff in the usual places starting next Friday.

Poetry Archive :: Outside

Here’s the second of two specially-written pieces for #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek: as discussed last Monday, body image is a big deal for me and is something I’ve struggled with for decades. Now, however, it is not nearly as problematic as was once this case.

I suppose, as a result, you could also consider this piece as autobiographical.


Outside

Presentation, count
ways to look better: measure
perception, result.

Camera’s a lie,
pointless deception: smoothing
flaws into focus.

Step away, redress
internal balance; preserve
personal conscience.

What’s possessed within
far more vital: true beauty
growing from within.

Outside, realised
transformation: evolving,
solid impression.

Grand Designs

This week, all told, has pretty much gone exactly to plan.

Okay, there was a bit of a moment on Thursday and Friday, when I wondered (again) whether counselling during a major project was a good idea or not, but as it transpires everything is very much on track. I have completed poems too, plus so many fragments to sort that Monday of next week’s being put over just to that: organising what’s been produced so far, and what is as yet untouched.

Right now, there’s a lot of work still to do, but very little worry over how it will get done. Before I started the location work that was an issue, but not any more. The photographs are having exactly the desired effect: kick-starting brain into poetic action. In fact, the more places I go to and take shots of, the more fertile these ideas become. Next week however, I will take a pad an pen with me because however convenient it might be, typing on my phone is sub-optimal.

View this post on Instagram

Favourite picture today #EndOfTheFear

A post shared by Sarah Reeson/Internet of Words (@internetofwords) on

Once the fragments are collated and saved into my master document, it’ll be time to work out which locations are still missing pictures, before I begin building the foundations of the collections’ permanent online home. They’ll be linked to the Places of Poetry website (of course) but the pictures I have will form this secondary holding space. As this is free to me (only costs the time, which I’ve rationalised as good practice for my picture taking skills) it will end up as a nice online portion of my CV.

Without further ado, it’s time to start pulling the disparate pieces of this puzzle together…

Somebody To Love

Starting on the 13th, the Mental Health Foundation is launching a week’s worth of posts around the topic of Body Image, and why it remains a serious mental health issue. Eating disorders, body dysmorphia, social media pressures and online abuse are rarely out of the news of late, and with increasing numbers of people refusing to be shamed or ashamed by the way they look, it seems the right time to be talking about these issues on a wider stage.

Inside.png

I’ll be contributing two special blogs next week: one on my own issues with body image and the fight to stop being obsessed with my weight, and some reflections on how age has altered how I feel not only about my looks, but how I present myself to the world. There will also be a special set of poems this week at 9am and 5pm, both under the #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek umbrella.

Outside

You can also join me in wearing a Green Ribbon during the next week as a means of showing your support for the initiative and those who require the vital help and support the Mental Health Foundation provide.

Purchase your Green Ribbon here.