Day 7 – Change of Game

Having completed my first session as Poet-in-Residence, means, at least in my self-imposed rules, I can change the Word Game used to generate poetry. For next week’s session, I will be using Judging a Book by its Cover as the game to write poetry by. Its technical name is Ekphrasis. Wikipedia elucidates thus: a graphic, often dramatic, description of a visual work of art.

& to be honest, I couldn’t be happier: I’m much more comfortable making poems inspired by images than shuffling other people’s titles around.

That said, I began wandering round the library, er, my house picking up books at random & checking out their covers & going: OMG I’ve never gonna find anything good.

That’s when I came across, Gatherers and Hunters by Thomas Shapcott. Tom was my Creative Writing Professor way back in 1997-98. I’d taken it off the shelf cos I’d been talking with Mike Ladd about the last time we’d seen him … & later I realised, it was at the launch of this book. So, with synchronicity in action …


still life

above your bed/ on a pink shelf
which might be marble/ or merely cloth
4 items/ artistically arranged
a sheep’s skull/ minus lower jaw
a jar/ of homemade olives
an upturned/ coffee mug
&/              the last object
which might be/ a gold bar
or equally unlikely/ a block of butter
from the doorway/ i cannot tell

the symbolism/ immediately obvious
since your mind/ was stroked
speech has slurred/ language failed
you no longer delight/ in caffeine’s bite
words scrawl to worms/ & that mouth
on which butter once/ wouldn’t have melted
now utters/ random profanity
as if decompressing/ years of vitriol
the only thing/ which puzzles me
are the olives/

step forward/ reach above your head
unscrew the lid/ pop one in my mouth

————still pondering


NOTE: the work of art which forms the cover of Tom’s book is called ‘Still life with skull’, 2004, by Don Rankin

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