from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

arrival on the island in 100 words with no 'e'

Ready for a bit of light relief? (That, dear readers, is a pun, as you'll see.)

Regular readers will know of my occasional practice of writing little journal-like pieces of exactly 100 words – a good discipline for someone who tends to over-wordiness. One of the most exciting creative projects I've been involved in was an email exchange with friend and fellow-poet Rupert Loydell. We agreed to co-write 100 prose poems of 100 words in 100 days. This was a very inspiring and catalysing process, and the result was published as A Hawk Into Everywhere (currently out of print, but watch this space). It seems to have inspired a number of other poets, and other collaborations. I'm very proud of it.

One of the things I do with my various writing groups is to attempt to inject a little of 'big sky mind' thinking (I refuse to say 'blue sky' thinking), with the aim of breaking our habits of expression. One of these is a piece of writing limited to 100 words, with one letter of the alphabet forbidden (this is a combination of an exercise of mine, one of Bernardine Evaristo's [I think] and something from the French oulipo poetic movement).

On Iona the task was to write 100 words on our arriving on the island without ever using 'e'. (I am ashamed to say we were very competitive at being first to spot who had slipped up in the reading back – most of us, as it happens!) It's hard. And you have to find a new vocab. So like those foul-tasting cough medicines of our youth it probably does what it's meant to. Try it – use, say, 'this morning' as a prompt...

Here's mine:

It’s light – limpid, viridian – almost solid in its fluidity, its glass quality, on which my boat is gliding. It’s light holding this ‘I’ up, supporting my swaying. It’s light picking out instants of colour on land – prisms of habitation, a hut, drawn-up hull, crab-pot, cat.
    Landing in light. It’s light in a hug: almost-sibling to almost-sibling, warm, woman, loving.
    It’s light calling lilac, fuchsia, apricot out of Fionnphort’s rocks, across this Sound, across a compass of shifting tidal drifts; drawing us out of cracks in which it’s our habit to burrow.
    It’s light calling us back.

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