Another Way to Die

It occurs to me that I need to keep better records of failure. I’ve mentioned before that in my early days of flinging poetry at submission targets, there was the Big Book of Failure, which served a useful purpose. It gave physical form to the terror: how much work had to be done, how much was subsequently rejected in my pursuit of the elusive win. It was approximately eighteen months of thrashing about before I got lucky in November 2018.

After that, the lesson was learnt: keeping a list of the rejections only became useful when recycling them. I got tired of looking at work after it would be rejected and believing that if it was rewritten or further polished, somehow it would be successful. What I was producing was good enough, just not what was being asked for. It’s why Places of Poetry was so important, I realise looking back on last year. Writing without the need for validation was a game-changer.

To have a poem published from that set of work is pretty much a dream come true as a result, because for the first time it wasn’t about the winning. That was the bonus that keeps on giving: I made the contest, set the goals, found myself talking about my joy on national radio and it was me that made all that happen with my own effort and output. It’s only now beginning to become clear that this was the fundamental shift in attitude I needed to move forward as a writer.

If that hadn’t happened last year, poetry would probably have been given up completely, career moved in a completely different direction. Between then and now I’ve been hospitalised, there’s been a major personal health scare and now we’re in a pandemic. None of this was on the plan, but we’ve coped with it all, with some confidence. The one thing that never really got dealt with was the consequences last year of counselling. The last two months has seen that issue finally pulled into focus.

The last submission piece completed today has been one of the most uncomfortable things I have ever written. It combines intensely personal parts of my history with the true, visceral terror of living through the last six months with a mind at times very close to total breakdown. It was built from pieces in a significant collection that showed that, if pushed, I could produce work to someone else’s brief which would be good enough to be shortlisted.

That collection is now split into three: the sunniest group of 22 poems also got sent away to somewhere else, final eight poems that remain will now sit for a while and breathe, before being repurposed for a major contest in September. I’m done with submissions for this month, a mere five days in, because the lesson has been learnt, finally. Validation only works if you believe it. I don’t need other people to tell me how capable I am any more, just need to feel confident in my own ability, and have never felt as confident as I do now.

Ironically, I’m already expecting rejection this week from work submitted before all this chaos began. I won’t take this as a setback either, because looking at that work, a copy of which is sitting to my right, I can already see where it could be improved. Some submissions aren’t about winning in the first place, but building confidence to take part in other, more important events. It’s the miles in your legs, to use a cycling metaphor: muscles never build strength or condition if you don’t exercise daily.

Poetry is, in many ways, just like exercise, and it is not surprising that I see many poets as keen runners or athletes. Understanding how words work in a brain and then condition them with strength and repetition makes an awful lot of sense. Finding your voice will never happen if you’re too frightened to speak out loud, or make mistakes. It is a balance within you, and between you and the Universe, in a constant and often frustrating state of flux.

This month, I’ve decided to get the cosmic angst out of the way early 😀

Ballroom Blitz

Oh look, we’re back… when I say that it makes it sound like everything is organised and finished, when the reality is that an awful lot of is sitting, waiting to be fixed. In Good News [TM] we have timescales now, and realistic levels of expectation. Welcome to the New Normal, and there’s quite a lot of stuff to catch up on so let’s get started.

This month, and in fact going forward long term, we’ll be sticking Instagram and website content into a combined output. It makes more sense to not keep trying to be lots of different things across multiple platforms, and to focus effort on content over variety. Therefore, if you follow my Instagram, you’ll see me using that this month as a means to deal with the COVID stuff, how I make ART as a CREATIVE, and some other bits too. It also becomes the way I’ll tell you how my efforts to become FAMOUS are going, or not, as the case may be.

On that front, we made it to a shortlist proper for the first time last month with some poetry. We’ll keep plugging away at that side of things in tandem with self-publication, which is going to happen before Christmas. That work begins in September, and I’m already looking forward to the output, of which there is much to choose from. Picking the best work is the easy bit: it gets harder when you’re the graphic designer and the production co-ordinator to boot. No matter, the work will be done.

The biggest single piece of news however is I’m working with the local Arts collective as part of their New Artists Network. That’s never going to stop being funny: at 53 I’m still less than two years into a professional endeavour, as you’re considered successful after publication. My first piece debuted in November 2018, my next piece appears in hardback, in October for World Poetry Day. So, technically I could call myself established from that point, but if you know me well that’s never happening. This doesn’t stop even if I do hit the target, multiple times.

I don’t ever see a true end to this period of creativity in my life.

Umbrella

As if there was not enough to be doing in June, I’ve taken an extra fortnightly task onto the list: Time to Change’s Story Camp. Running this week until the end of August, I’ll get a new prompt every other Monday. It encourages us to ‘tell our story’ about mental health and, in this case, I’ve decided that response will come via poetry. I’d not expected to have an automatic, almost visceral response to the initial prompt either, but it happened. This was written late Monday night and posted on Wednesday, and might be one of the best things I’ve produced for some time.

In the chaos of this week, to use my voice when so many others are being silenced seems… wrong. It really does. I appreciate that these events are arranged in advance, with no idea of the potential chaos that may unfold around us. That response needed to be the point of the poem: my own experiences at this point should absolutely not be taking centre stage. In two weeks, the world could well be in a completely different place, but for now personal history needs to mark this moment with significance.

Having someone else provide the prompts however is, undoubtedly, a bonus. Not having to think of directions or ideas, having an opportunity just to create has been what this week has been all about, and writing here after a week of doing just that? It is incredibly satisfying. Therefore, when all these are done, we’ll collate them together as a testament to how the Summer played out from my distinct and unique mental health standpoint.

You’ll see that poetic graphic a few times therefore in the next ten days: I’ll post it, optimising exposure times, just to prove I have learnt a few things about how Twitter has worked over the years. Now that’s done, it’s time to go sort out the Drabbles for next week, swiftly followed by the inaugural YouTube video … now, about that…

Overload

A lot has happened since Friday. Really, quite tough to know how to process everything, when it happens all at once, but we’ll keep doing just that and moving things forward. I wanted to put up a general statement of intent here before posting the Short Story Archive. There is a great deal on the table for June, which took some planning to stick properly in place. As a result, some other stuff has changed.

There’s far more than just 31 pieces of music or instances of notable television programmes that define me, it transpires, so June’s #Soundtracking2020 and #Narrating2020 are extensions of last month’s selections. The weekly poetry has been put on hiatus so that the two main projects I’m working on get the love and attention they deserve. However, there will be poems, under a couple of other headings. One is a project for Time to Change (more of which on Wednesday) the other, much more personal.

That’s my video project for the month, which I had hoped to have done by Wednesday… but last week hit me hard. So, the new release date is June 11th. It will also (inhales) be the first video on the Internet of Words YouTube Channel. Apparently I need to be there, Vimeo is simply not enough. I understand this, it’s perfectly fine, even it I’m not really a fan of how that organization is doing business right now. These things matter in the modern world.

Week 22’s poetry is the only notable casualty therefore in all of this: graphic and sixteen lines of unfinished work is sitting on my left, continuing to taunt, so the plan is if I can get it finished on top of everything else this week, I will, though the more likely possibility is it will mysteriously appear sometime after my deadline on the 20th. Needless to say, knowing I promised summat then it not happening is becoming the bane of my existence.

If stuff is promised, we’ll find a way.

Having a lot on used to make me prickly, but now it’s more about how all the portions of that output are suitably balanced that matters more. As long as there’s something properly creative in the mix, it will all work itself out pretty well regardless. If I can do all of this AND manage my exercise goals as well this month? Then we really have made some significant strides forward. This may not be Normal for other people, but it works pretty well for me.

Let’s get on, shall we?

Overload

I mentioned in passing on Monday that I’ve had an idea in my brain for a while that might work as a ‘proper’ collection of poetry: that is, a lot of pieces, which when strung together create their own, self-contained story. I’ve only worked with small numbers of poems previously, because the idea of anything over twenty at once quite frankly made me feel unwell.

However, a lot has changed in the last three months. Lockdown has been surprisingly kind to me in that regard, and whilst many are struggling to put anything worthwhile together, I really have thrived under the pressure. Therefore, not only is the idea for a massive opus no longer just that but exists (at least in two parts) on paper, but the theme that will hold it all together is clear: mental health.

I feel there is a great hole here, waiting to be filled.

randoradar#3

Nobody has experienced mental health difficulties in quite the way I have. It has created a unique mindset and outlook. Every word written is, like it or not, affected by that outlook: therefore if I can write a 70,000 word fanfic to a strict deadline I sure as fuck will make a poetry project come to life in the same timescale. What needs to happen is the setting for it all, and that’s already happening.

Putting the right foundations in place is the key, it is apparent already how that allows the business of words to correspond with ideas. There’ll also need to be a soundtrack too, and that’s being built on the newly-introduced daily walks around the block (note my block for this exercise is 4km long) as the rhythm of movement then corresponds to the business of lyrical suffrage. Trust me, that’s what it will be.

A great deal of suffering will take place for this art.

randoradar2

Many things are aligning, and radar is pinging back new places to be, other positions to consider. Every time something positive takes place that too sets up reverberations in the ether, possibilities previously not considered. I like these ideas being sonar, sounds from nowhere pinging backwards and forwards until their target is located. It appeals to the science part of my brain.

Strap in guys, things are about to get surreal.

2020 Week 20 Poetry: Anger

In the past few weeks, strange things have begun to transpire in the poetic parts of my brain. It’s not a worry, far from it: daily practice and a new openness to moving words into different spaces that were previously unexplored is producing some fascinating new combinations. Undoubtedly this will continue to be actively influenced by the introduction of video content into the equation.

I have an idea for my first full collection.

There’s a new pamphlet in the works.

What a time to be creative, and lucky to be alive.


Anger

What began, only remains sacrificed with ungodly zeal, altered outlooks reveal disquiet,
unexpectedly adroit, passively regressive understanding, Zen demanding.

Insidious fuse, unconsciously lit, don’t think she’ll get away with it: scarlet womankind,
sexuality unwinds, leisurely descent, decent laments loss of splattered purity.

Anger explodes, abode decimated, consecrated ground shaking; liberties taking quickest
path, highest land abandoned, no longer sacrosanct.

As her lust settles, desired reanimates, immediate placation of destructive situation...
everything resisted; actively assisted returns to movement, circumstance.

Such drama, crisis cavitates creating pressure, tension’s taut suspension; what was end
begins renewed; gentlest caress quietly begins redress.

Strong

It’s time for your weekly update of The Poetry Experiment, which has now come to encompass not only a general reaction to Lockdown, but responses to specific COVID-related events. There’s a lot been done in the last week as well, which is reassuring when I’m not really in a particularly productive place right now. It can’t be helped: we’ve lost a family member this week, and there’s been some other drama to deal with.

It’s time to focus on positives.

Number of Poems Written: Eight.

monkey typing

I made myself last week sit down and plan how this ‘story’ is going to pan out, because that’s what this is. There’s a period of reflection before everything went mad, a focus on three days within that period, and a series of emotions I’ve felt as a result of the entire event. Poems are emerging quite organically as a result: of the eight we have thus far, there’s one at the start, five in the middle and two at the end, making a basic framework.

I’m pretty pleased with what’s been produced thus far too, and how things are fitting into the ‘play’ I’ve imagined this could end up becoming. The next stage will be to read through everything and start focussing on the feelings and descriptions I think are missing, that form part of my lockdown experience and should as a result be recorded. I’ve set myself the notional target of the end of this month to have all the pieces in place.

Emotional Investment: High.

goodmorning

We have not as yet reached the ‘everything sucks, I hate myself’ part of this project. That’s always a massive bonus, that if I can get the majority of the hard graft done before paranoia and anxiety set in, so much the better. It helps considerably having Patreon as a constantly running set of deadlines to hit going forward, so there’s always this background awareness of what needs to happen, and has to take place.

As a displacement activity today, in an attempt to see if I can get my brain to do anything else but mourn a loss and grieve over other things, I’ll be pulling poetry together for some online submissions. As these aren’t being specially aimed for, as is the case with this work, that should lessen the emotional impact of worry over whether my stuff was ‘good enough’ It is the recycling task I should do more of going forward.


You can expect an update on progress in the next week.

Give a Little Bit

The #SixFanfics project is going very well, with the last two decades of content scheduled to go to the polls tomorrow. I’ve had a massively productive day and caught up on a ton of outstanding stuff, and now it’s time to start contemplating where to be placing my attention going into the second half of the year. In an attempt to pick up more Patrons, I have again listened to feedback over appropriate stretch goals.

It’s been coming for a while, but today dawned the understanding I need a website to sell stuff on before I can start selling stuff. An account on Gumroad’s sat gathering dust for some months, and it is high time to start getting it ready for use. I’ll be programming time in June (can’t believe I just typed that) to start organising the levels of content we’ll need to accommodate a virtual poetry collection, plus physical output.

I’ve produced a number of unique commissions this year, for special occasions (a christening and two weddings, if I’m being honest) plus I made all my Christmas gifts this year as one-off, special poems for all my mates. This is a revenue stream that needs more promotion than is currently the case. Therefore, over the summer, there will be plenty of opportunity to make this all a reality.

WSE New

I had something rejected this week that was, in my mind, probably the best piece of poetry I’ve ever written. It was the final straw that has made brain grasp that if I want success, waiting for other people to notice me is not enough any more. It is time to make the noise and push buttons and generally become what I have always been afraid of: a better person. This me is more productive, more proactive and more capable of changing the world around me.

This me is about to make everything better.

2020 Week 18 Poetry: Sow

Poetry is having a rest next week, because I’m pretty rammed in May as it is and taking on too much, I have discovered, is a sure-fire way to burn me out. Therefore, here’s my last bit of stream of consciousness for a while. I am proud of these as a group of five, and we’ll probably revisit/revise this lot a bit later in the year. It’s useful to allow your brain space to shift and move.

It is amazing what happens when you relax and let words flow unhindered…


Sow

Here we are, staring disconsolately, fallow time between main course and dessert, lost in relationship’s parched weeds, future; tense, relationship.

Two plated, hot then cold: between minimal, extravagance once expected, now deflated, content remains unknown, grown, soon cast aside.

Fork civility, spoon-fed platitudes scraped, pushing scraps abound, innate remnants, sitting tenants pile pointless platitudes, resentful moods.

There we go, separate bills, fallow lives, consequences reaped; to sow once more, swipe left field-hand, season begins again.

2020 Week 17 Poetry: Far

I have absolutely no idea how this happened at all. It just fell out of my head in five self made-pieces, last taking prompts from previous four. It’s odd sometimes how these things just happen.

It’s a long way from where I was on Monday to where I am now.


Far

There to here’s strained gasp away
emerging resignation
pain never leaves anything, well
separation anxiety
stitched within this soul.

Here was now, a breath ago
hidden panic, exposed
juxtaposed across decades
disturbs uneasy timeline
stuck tightly to my soul.

Redefinition, emerging
greater confidence, self-defined
unexpected truth unwinds
experience repeated
expletive, summarily repeated.

Then to now, alteration;
recognition what before, no longer
adequate observation
delayed participation
reassign priorities, regroup.

There to here’s return to form
hidden panic assuaged:
unexpected, belief transcends
delayed, anticipation
emergent; new direction.