A whole lotta 2s : Tackling the 2022 24 Hour Poetry Marathon, June 25-26

Imagine they’re all writing poems as they run.

This time tomorrow I’ll be 3 hours into my 6th 24 Hour Poetry Marathon (it begins 9am ET in the USA & about 500 people from all over the world participate).

A Poetry Marathon is exactly what it says on the box. Once an hour for 24 hours I’ll be attempting to churn out a poem (possibly using assigned prompts; maybe just using my own ideas) while attempting to stay focused, stay awake, stay sane, & occasionally, if a poem is completed relatively swiftly, grab a few moments kip here & there…

My goal is to finish (or at least progress) a Young Adult verse novel I’ve been playing with on & off for too many years. About 40 poems in the sequence have been created so far. There are multiple gaps in the narrative. My goal is to plug some of those gaps and hopefully incite a sense of momentum & motivation to spur me on to completing a first draft of a complete manuscript.

In previous years I’ve posted my 24 hour poems on this page (one of the requirements of the competition is a poem must be published every hour; ie you can’t write 4 in an hour, then sod off for 3 hours to play hockey). This year I won’t be publishing them here. This is because one day I would like said verse novel to be published. Having a large swathe of poems already online; albeit on a relatively innocuous little poetry page; could potentially be detrimental to said publication’s chances. So no go. I’ll still be posting on the group’s blog — but given that is closed to the public it doesn’t have the same issues.

That said, I still intend to post hourly snippets of poems, just 2-4 lines perhaps, the best bits as it were, taste tests, teasers, treats from each new poem. But in the interest of sanity, I intend to simplify things & post every teaser on one page, simply updating the same page every hour. Who knows, they might form their own meta-poem by the end of the day. (Or they might be a dog’s breakfast. We don’t yet know. But we will be 10pm Sunday. So hope you pop back occasionally & check it out.)

Day 30 — the final poem on this topic for now (but probably not the last I’ll ever write on it)

Thank god this month is over. Today was another exhausting (yet rewarding) experience. Another short film made. Well — shot, at least; editing still to come. 

I’ve been planning this poem for a couple of weeks now, so it was quick & easy to record as variations of it have been roiling though my mind ever since I conceived of it as a fairly neat way to wrap up & round out this month.

*****

MORE EVIDENCE OF THE FOOL THAT I AM

despite everything 
pledge to myself

in exactly one year
i’ll contact you again

see if things have changed
enough for it to just

possibly maybe perhaps 
work out between us

this time

Day 29 — 11th hour inspiration

Today was a tough day. Long tiring. I have at least a dozen titles/ideas for love poems about my most recent experience of same that I thought I might write this month that I never got around to. Titles I jotted down included: fairy tale love, five answers to the same question, how we got to this point: part 1, invested, MSG, questions i now know i’ll never ask, reconnection, rid, soul mates, tainted, the moment of hindsight, the spare, to those who wait among others. I guess some of those might get written one day. Just not today. Nor tomorrow neither.

Other topics I consider were: love of books, love of planet, love of land & billionaires — their love of money versus their non-love of humanity. All of which might well have produced some interesting explorations. Yet the one I went with came to me quite quickly through the flittering eyelids of halfsleep.

*****

from a foreign field

end of an exhausting day : babblebox on in background : company as i chairdoze : when my fave Escape begins : & i am reenergised 

whether it be — golden farmland : mist-ridden valleys : lumpy mountains : windswept seas : hemlike hedgerows : aching lakes : weeping brooks : ancient sprites : wildflower fields : one hundred types of rain : or chocbox houses : in tiny hamlets : with absurdly wonderful : gobstopping names

no matter which area — Cornwall : Cotswolds : Cumbria — Devon : the Downs : Lake District — Shropshire : Warwickshire : the Shire — New Forest : Sherwood Forest — the moors : the fenlands : the locations list nearly endless 

cannot help myself : though often wish i could : feel inexplicably torn : that some small part : of my traitorous soul : is & always will be : for ever England

Day 28 – white magick cleansing 

A more playful poem than some this month, because after all, I do still have my sense of humour.

 

 

*****

deep cleansing the past month

week 1: a necessary exorcise of Her

my friend Charlotte convinced
that to provide clarity & clear 
the psychic air around me i must 
exorcise Her negative energy
from my  home  head  &  heart 

together we assemble two strands 
of black hair & one of henna;
a handwritten letter; & the sole gift
i ever got (a clue in itself she whispers) 
a copy of Her favourite book

i must burn them at midnight 
of a new moon ie tonight
i’m tired i tell her & it’s cold out
she’s long gone when i sacrifice 
Her meagre possessions to flame

— it makes no difference 

.

week 2: Spell for Aura and Energy Flow

disappointed but not deterred
Charlotte has lent me her
White Spells for Modern Wiccans
with multiple pages marked

turning to the first post-it note
her neat handwriting declares: this spell
is perfect for purifying one’s aura 
or the energy flow between two people

things i need

bundle dry sage
“loaded” white candle
a feather (purified)
photo of each of us

having none of these items
Charlotte swiftly visits 
& watches as i perform
the spell under her steely gaze

   i. put candle & sage
   on a silver platter
   with the two photos

   ii. light candle
   burn sage carefully
   creating smokeless smoke

   iii. with the feather 
   sweep smoke towards
   the outside of the house

— it makes no difference 

.

 

week 3: Enchantment to ward negative energy from the home

on a waning moon day
peel & quarter an onion
form in a cross on a white plate 
in front of a brown candle
light the candle, chanting

   Creature of fire 
   Bringer of tears 
   Hear my desire 
   Banish my fears 

   Power of three 
   Set this home free
   Cleanse it today
   Long may it stay

travelling counterclockwise
walk through the house

saucer in left hand, candle in right
turn three times clockwise in every room

leave the onion & candle in the kitchen 
until it’s completely burnt down

then throw the wax on your lawn
& bury the onion far from home

— it makes no difference 


.

week 4: spell of my own devising

go into the garden
pluck five sprigs of fresh mint
return inside
heat some water
(from the tap is fine)

tear the leaves 
from the stalks
& drop in a mug
pour hot water over
breathe in deeply

pop your patio chair 
in a patch of warm 
autumn sunshine 
but take a rug too 
cos there are clouds above

sigh loudly after sipping
open the given book
(course i didn’t burn it
i’m no monster)
lose yourself in reading

— it doesn’t fix everything 
but it makes a small difference 

Day 27 — 2 weeks ago today

This was written yesterday after a long day. First my regular Wednesday shift. Then working on a member of Film Club’s short film script for 2 hours in the afternoon, then 2 hours mentoring a local poet on a dozen poems from a collection she’s trying to work up into submission quality for chapbook-style competitions. 

After writing it, I said I’ll just lie on my bed for a second to rest before I come back to set it up/post it on my website. Bwahahahaa. FLW. Of course I was asleep. Before 9pm for goodness sake. When I woke again at 1am I made the executive decision that it could wait till I upload tomorrow’s poem. 

*****

how i spent my last day with you

spent all morning
watching that door
waiting for you 
to descend those stairs
cavort over here
& tell me that somehow 
despite all the odds
you do, yes indeed, do
in fact love me 

promise myself
i’ll go inside 
in a bit

after this shower passes
perhaps 

then inside 

it’ll be dark soon

Day 26 — stream of consciousness poem

I wrote this (well the first draft of it) dictating it into my phone as I lay in bed about 3am this morning, unable to sleep. I was just trying to record some ideas that have been roiling round in me for much of the past fortnight (possibly longer). Sure, I’ll be glad when April is over, but I gotta say it’s been hella good therapy. 

When I looked at it again around 7am, I realised it made a dreamy kind of poetic sense so instead of ripping phrases out & assembling them, I thought I’d try a different poetic technique & go with the flow. This consisted mainly of tidying up the times I had to repeat myself cos it didn’t understand what I was saying & deciphering some of the VRS’s quirkier interpretations. Adding a phrase or two here & there, but really very little.

When I read it again at 11pm in preparation to post it, I cried. (But then I always have been a bit of a sook!)

*****

dream of consciousness

we spoke with such softness and hope … of a life we might live together … we felt like everything was coming together the way it was meant … the way it should’ve done years ago … years and years ago … where all those missed opportunities finally reached fruition … like flowers being born … after long years in dry ground … waiting for the rains … of being fully awake … fully alive … at last … we discussed living together … we discussed weddings … we discussed babies … we discussed beliefs … talk of souls and eternities … re-discussed lives together … loves together … lives passed … lives present … we really did wonder if we’d known each other before … been together before … as if some web connected us through time … and space … the dark matter mattered … and for a few months it felt like everything we did … tapped into that magic stream … we appreciated everything … it was all wondrous and wonder full … the connection … the constant need to be in contact … the thousands and thousands of text messages … over 7000 last time you counted … sure about 6500 were from me to you … but still … along with hundreds of photos and videos … little snippets of where we were … what we were doing … random thoughts … random things … tiny silly things … things that made us smile … made us happy … things we thought we’d do together one-day … road trips that we go on … places we’d visit … things we’d write … plays we’d be remembered for … play time 

the hardest thing is … you took away the fear in my heart … filled it with joy and laughter and hope … and now going back to what it was … is worse than it never filling in the first place … but I think I get it … seems now you only were ever half-present half-engaged half-involved half-accepting half-believing half-wanting … half of where I was … I know that’s a lot of halves

you say you don’t believe in fairytales … that life isn’t a fairytale … but it could’ve been … and more … could’ve been better than that … we had all the ingredients … we had the potential the promise the prospect … the energy of fire … the connection (again with that word) … the buzz … the celestial bees buzzed right through us … through me anyhow … when I’m brave enough … to look back through some of the photos … or god forbid … read some of the messages … we sent to each other … I still can’t understand why … why you didn’t want this

why … you didn’t at least want to try

Day 25 — make love not war (3 for the price of 1 today)

For once, I don’t feel conflicted about writing an Anzac Day Poem. And as happened 2 days ago with Bill Shakey Day, (& last year for both days) having a superimposed theme (“love” this year, “climate change” last) made me look at the day in a whole new way — which in turn has generated not 1, not 2, but 3 poems of which I am exceedingly pleased. 

Looking at love in war time is a wonderful way to get around the whole uncertainty I have about A25. 

It’s also a lovely way (pun intended) to honour, commemorate, call what you will my grandparents in poetical form.

*****

Anzac Triptych
1. Atherton Tablelands 
2. Goodbye Will Moon
3. TIL


*

1.
Atherton Tablelands

In April 1943 following three weeks leave after seeing action at Tobruk, Mersa Matruh and El Alamein Gunner RL JONES of the 2/7th Field Regiment arrived at Kairi in the Atherton Tablelands.

It was love at first sight.

Even though he was from 
a notoriously lush part
of the Adelaide hills the green 
in Far North Queensland 
is several degrees greater 
than most mortal eyes 
are used to — or able to endure.

Gunner RL Jones remained 
on the Tablelands with his unit
for almost two years — training
and playing upon the rich red 
loam born in ancient volcanoes.
Before being sent to Tarrakan 
that began the Allies’ Borneo 
Campaign. He survived those jungles 
by thinking often of the equally 
lush Atherton tablelands — 
until the Americans blew up 
the world and the war ended.

Gunner RL Jones eventually 
made his way home & made
Florence his fiancé.

Rueben told Florence. 
Of the green.
Of the red soil. 
Of his desire to move there.

Florence said no. 

He never saw the Tablelands again 


*

2.
Goodbye Will Moon

In late 1944 Corporal BI Burgan of RAAF 1 Squadron was likewise on leave when he visited his parents in Port Wakefield.

Quiet Sunday evening.
Parents off praying.
It’s been a long journey 
and I’ve only a few precious
day’s leave. But I know
dad will be disappointed
if I don’t attend. So 
although I don’t feel like it
reluctantly walk across town.

Only one seat remains 
in the very back pew.
Slide into that space next 
to a beautiful young woman
who smiles as I sit down.
Can’t concentrate. On 
what the pastor is saying.
Nor the service itself.
Nothing but —
that sublime smile.

Afterwards, I offer to walk 
her home and am bemused 
and delighted to discover 
she’s boarding with our next 
door neighbour.

We stand talking for ages
til I brazenly lean in
and kiss her over the garden gate.
I’d best go in now, she says.

The best night of my life.

During my leave we spend 
as much time as possible
together but it ends
all too quickly. Before I 
deploy to New Guinea 
I must tell her. I confess
undying love. The hammer 
blow. She’s engaged to another!
I didn’t know I say 
and chivalrously
offer to step aside. 

Leave it with me.
She says.
I’ll deal with it.

And. She. Did.


*

3.

TIL

today i learnt 
that unlike my
gran and grandad
nana and papa 
weren’t engaged
or even dating 
while he was away 
during the war
they only started 
seeing each other
after he got home 

her first  love 
     died     flying   bombers
over    germany 
   she       was                s h a t t e r e d
when   Will    was  
                                     killed 


suddenly saw my frail
ninety nine year old nana
       with  newer 
    sadder  eyes

Day 24 — the making of a poem: behind the scenes sneak peak

Attended a Gawler Poetry Readings – Poetry at the Pub workshop run by the very talented Heather Taylor-Johnson

It was an excellent workshop … & here I’m going to quote some blurb: Form is an active part of a poem, not just an aesthetic, so the workshop will look at how different forms DO different things within a poem. Which indeed it did. We looked at multiple examples of different poems in different forms doing different things. We discussed what those things might be. We did numerous writing exercises which produced several pomes which we were nice starting points for later play. 

But one exercise was particularly pertinent. Seeking to see if I could use the workshop to generate today’s NaPoWriMoPo Heather asked us to to consider something we were currently dealing with. I chose the unexpected end of a relationship (for those of seven of you who’ve been here all month this will come as no surprise, hahaha).

However in the interest of walking you through some of what we did, somewhat unusally, I’m going to present several versions of the poem (2 drafts and the current ‘final’ version).

Task: to write something super swiftly on the topic (3 minutes). 

& so this. First version.

Draft #1.

[untitled]

Sorry you were not
Brave enough to brace
Yourself against the slow
Flow of obstacles 

Mud & stones & sticks 
Rumbling down the mountain
Brought down by weeks
Of rain & now the deluge 

The sad landslide 
Has wrecked everything 
Washed away whatever
We had tentatively built

Not sure I have the energy
To commence the clean up
Let alone attempt any kind
Of reconstruction efforts

Curiously because this was late in the session I was already thinking about form & for some reason wrote it in quatrains which is not something I’d normally do. But quatrains certainly don’t suit this subject matter.

Aside: when I started the poem I wasn’t actually sure what it was going to be about. I only had the first few words of the first line “Sorry you were not/Brave enough…” When I wrote “brave” I immediately paired it with “brace” (why? they looked nice together) then I had to work out what she was bracing against. “slow/Flow” popped in … & that’s where the landslide imagery came in … & the rest wrote itself. [It’s interesting to keep track of what happens to those words/images through the poem; or I think it is anyway.]

Supplementary task: five minutes to reconsider it in terms of its form considering how altering form might enhance meaning. I couldn’t at first see what to do. Then:

Sorry you were not
      Brave enough to brace
           Yourself against the slow
                  Flow of obstacles 

But if I did that I’d rapidly run out of room. So I reduced it from 5 spaces to 1.

Giving me this:

Landslide/slip

Sorry you were not
 Brave enough to brace
  Yourself against the slow
   Flow of obstacles 

     Mud & stones & sticks 
      Rumbling down the mountain
       Brought down by weeks
        Of rain & now the deluge 

          The sad landslide 
            Has wrecked everything 
             Washed away whatever
               We had tentatively built

Not sure I have the energy
To commence the clean up
Let alone attempt any kind
Of reconstruction efforts

Which still didn’t look right. But maybe was kinda going somewhere. But anyway, formatting it on my iPhone was too hard & besides I was out of time. 

Only when I got home could I play. & after attempting it all lined up on the right hand side of the page. Urrrgh. I ended up with this. Which while not perfect, I quite like.

slippage

so
sorry 
you were 
not resolute 
enough to brace 
your soul to resist 
the detritus torrent
mud & stones & sticks
rumbling down the mount
deluged by weeks of rain — now 
the sad landslide has wrecked everything 
washed away everything we’d tentatively built

not sure if i have the energy to commence clean up
let alone attempt any kind of meaningful reconstruction

Day 23 — some sort of sonnet (actually not)

The theme behind today’s (belated posted, but written yesterday) poem is my lifelong love of Shakespeare. The original concept was to write a sonnet (ie the form he used to create some of the most famous love poems in the language); but that quickly slipped into something else. As preparation I reread (though I really don’t need much of an excuse) Bill Bryson’s slim but wonderful little volume on Shakespeare. If you haven’t read it, I suggest you do. It might also help you get a couple of the, well let’s call them jokes, within the poem. Hahahaha.

little love song

not knowing why : bought a book : Christmas 84 : Campbell’s newsagency : Elizabeth Shopping Centre : remainders table : cheap large format : paperback : paper so cheap : can’t stress : how how cheap : navy blue cover : with a terrible reproduction : of the terrible Droeshout engraving : every play laid out : in tiny font : four columns wide : the sonnets : & long poems : across the bottom quarter : of every page : bland introduction : courtesy : Dennis Allen : M.A. (Oxon) : B.A. (Lond)

read every play : that summer : though the poems : (ironically) : didn’t : do much : probably wouldn’t : couldn’t : today : even with : binocular assistance : oh for the eyes : of youth : loved the wild plots : the stories : the eccentric characters : the humour : loved the language : both the archaic nature : & the richness : so much colour : how he could do : so much : with so few : no doubt didn’t : understand everything : no footnotes in Allen’s : tome : but got enough : to form a lifelong : love

today : love the fact : he annoys so many : conspiracy theorist : nutjobs : Looney : Battey : silly men : who can’t cope : with the idea : (theirs) : of a provincial : country bumpkin : being so talented : profound : influential : the so-called : Shakespeare authorship question : twists : certain men’s knickers : into such knots : they resort to : anagrams : cryptograms : & candidates who died : even as : new plays were : being performed : (solution : they pre-wrote : a wad of plays : prior to death) : was never a question : in his day : nor for : 200 years : the reality : most scholars : laugh : at the ludicrous claims : as : they : should  

Day 22 — if you know your classics, the title gives it away a bit

Sparta’s one word reply

If you loved me

Would drive 1250 miles just to fall down *
Would cut my hair boring businessman short
Would keep losing weight till I was wafer thin
Would work whatever godawful job necessary
Would bid farewell to family & friends
Would sell all my books (well most)
Would even give away the dog

If you loved me 
I would move here 
   between the mountains & the rain 
Would swap my edge of desert 
   bleak heat dry grass existence
For your tropical paradise rednecked 
   cultural desert & assault of green
Would learn to be happy here
Would start again

If you loved me 
I would do these things
For you

If … 

.

* admittedly I’m not walking as far as The Proclaimer’s boasted they would,
but the climactic conditions of Scotland & Australia are very different
— though I would be going 250 miles further than they promised
if that’s any consolation

.

The Spartan connection

Philip II of Macedon had conquered almost every Greek city-state barring Sparta. He sent a message: “If I invade Lakonia you will be destroyed, never to rise again.” 


The Spartans reply? “If.”