Home

It’s funny I saw that other place as Home

& not my place; but now things have unravelled

I see my own place anew; love its peace, its warmth,

its acceptance of who I am,

the quirky writer with special needs,

that I can move freely within its borders,

its little backyard big as the other’s big yard.

Home is the dog that wags its tail when it sees you.

Writing School

I was in writing school again.

The teacher, Mr. Wiles, was tall and totemic.

He was disparaging a writer that was currently in the ascendant.

‘His prose is loose and lumpen’, he said. ‘It clumps along the hallway of sentences like Lurch in The Adams Family’

*pic courtesy of Wikipedia

Why Do You Do it?

Why do you do it? she asked.

Why do you copy other people’s poems and passages into your notebooks?

Why don’t you write your own stuff?

But I do, I answered. You know I do.

Then why this?

How do you explain the notion of a commonplace book to a non-writer?

For inspiration, I say, For enjoyment, the way people flicker through old photo albums

or their smart phone galleries.

But it wasn’t quite like that.

It was modeling too,

getting the feel for writing at the top of its game, to remind you how it’s done,

for quotes like this: ‘I don’t believe in writer’s block … plumbers don’t get plumber’s block,

doctors don’t get doctor’s block.

Why should writers be any different and then expect sympathy for it?’

[ Philip Pullman]

But she didn’t get it.

You’ve got heaps of these notebooks in your cupboard, she said. What is wrong with you?

Have you no faith in yourself?

There was no point in arguing.

But when she came upon me ‘copying’ I would flinch as if caught in some shameful act.

One Special Place

I thought about what Fiona had said,

the female lead in ‘The Bear Came Over the Mountain’

about her developing interest in Iceland,

how she looked at travel guides,

read accounts of famous writers who had visited,

Auden, William Morris,

but didn’t really plan to travel there herself.

There ought to be one place,

she said,

one special place,

‘you thought about and knew about

and maybe longed for

but never did get to see’

*have you a place like this?

Rusty

When I was a kid in High School we learnt things ‘off by heart’:

poems by Keats and Coleridge, extracts from ‘The Ancient Mariner’,

soliloquies from ‘Hamlet’ and ‘Macbeth’, whole passages from Dickens;

chronologies of The Persian Wars, War of the Roses,

biographies of the Tudors; not neglecting the sciences, we memorized

physics and maths formulas,chemical equations, and slabs from The New Testament —

we were walking Wikipedias; now I’m a big kid, into my senior years,

I’ve grown rusty, which is why I’m in the backyard walking up and down —-

the bees must think I’m mad —- learning by heart my NEW mobile number

which everyone but me knows





  • what things did you learn ‘off by heart’?
  • do you still remember them ?

How Many of These Have You Read?

I was chatting with Worms the other day about Proust,

about his masterpiece, ‘Remembrance of Things Past’

and how neither of us had read it; Worms even found

the name ‘Proust’ intimidating; and I thought how many

of the world’s best known works I have never read,

like Longfellow’s ‘Hiawatha’, Melville’s ‘Moby Dick’,

even Shakespeare’s ‘Titus Andronicus’ and even though

everyone has heard of it, who’s read Dickens’ ‘Little Dorrit’?

There’s even a short story by David Gilbert devoted to

the George Elliot book that no one I know has ever read,

and few have heard of: ‘Adam Bede’. There must be others.





*can you think of any?

* have you read any of these books?

* what has put you off reading them?

pic of Proust courtesy of Wikipedia

Slouch

I don’t like the way the branches slouch,

my grandfather would have said.

It shows a lack of moral fibre.

Grandfather did not approve of droop

though I think he could have cut the branches

some slack.

The best people slouch at times.

Oscar Wilde certainly did though he was no slouch.

And Tilda Swinton and Anne Hathaway were spotted

slouching at the Golden Globes.

I like the way Fridays slouch towards the weekend.
Poems should slouch a little too.

They should not appear cinched and pained

as if wearing a tight pair of underpants.

pic courtesy of Wikipedia

Prickly

I wasn’t going to wear it. ‘A hoodie is not a cardigan’, I said.

‘Anything that does up at the front is a cardigan’, he insisted.

‘A flack jacket does up at the front; is that a cardigan?’ I said.





We were off and running like the cabbie who couldn’t get us

to the venue fast enough. And then he started on my silver hammer,

why I used the word ‘silver’ when the important word was ‘hammer’.





I could have hit him over the head. And then he said I was embellishing

the tale. ‘I’m a writer’ I pronounced from the saddle of my high horse.

‘It’s the writer’s prerogative to embellish,’





‘You call yourself a writer,’ he said. ‘Your poetry doesn’t even rhyme.’

Now I admit calling him a ‘Neanderthal’ didn’t help matters.

But it’s not just writers who are prickly.

The Ninth Crypt

I am about to read a book called ‘The Ninth Crypt’,

A novel I acquired for twenty dollars at the supermarket

But fear I may have made a grave mistake:

Browsing through the blurb I see mention of only

The ninth crypt, all well and good, but what about

The other eight? Perhaps the author is planning prequels

Based on the success of this volume but seeing he is

Now a septuagenarian who came to writing late,

This is most unlikely; perhaps if I bury myself deeply

in the text I shall disinter enough cryptic clues

To keep me happy — but at 800 pages !!! I await

Clarification; in the meantime this tombstone of a novel

Shall stand on my shelf of great unread books.





  • have you got any big unread books on your bookshelf?
  • photo by Grangeburn on Pinterest

The Third Sentence

Many creative writing classes and manuals will stress the importance of the first sentence, that it must grab the reader’s attention. Even Hemingway espoused this fallacy. But the first sentence is never enough.

Yes, it must grab the reader’s attention, If it doesn’t the reader will go elsewhere. There are plenty of options — but if the second sentence is flaccid, all will be lost. The second sentence fulfills the promise of the first.

But it is the third sentence that seals the deal. The third sentence assures the reader that the writer is authentic, that they are worth listening to, that they have something to say and have the command of language to say it with flair and authority. They can be trusted.

After that the writer will be ‘in full swing’. The reader will be committed;  will go along for the ride.