Week 15: Outer Space

Thoughts on space travel prompted by Fern Hemingway.

It was not that long ago when the chances of mankind encountering an extra-terrestrial being was thought to be negligible. But now it is much more likely that we might find some company while we career through space and time. We now know of the existence of thousands of exoplanets, dozens of which are in the habitable zone in relation to the star they orbit. The distances involved are still unimaginable of course. If it takes light, millions of years to reach us from other galaxies, how can we expect to get there? But, according to Einstein, the seemingly impossible may just be within our grasp.

According to the Special Theory of Relativity, the passage of time can be slowed down and distances shrunk if we can travel fast enough. If we managed to travel at 99.99999999% of light speed, then we could travel out of the Milky Way and all the way to the neighbouring Andromeda Galaxy, almost 3 million light years away, in a mere 50 years. (The journey would only be so short for the travellers themselves. The inhabitants of Earth would have to wait six million years for the voyagers to return.) But sooner or later, if something is humanly possible, some intrepid soul will give it a go.

So what would life be like in another galaxy? Will there be plenty of grass to eat? Squiffy would like to know!

Image credit: staticflickr.com

Week 14: Stroppy Gnu

Squiffy has not had the best of years,. As a thoughtful and gregarious creature, he’s been dismayed by many world developments, his webzine “Ruminant Rumours” was widely dismissed as nothing more than regurgitated gossip, and the only poem he’s written for months (“Shall I compare Thee to a Summer Drought”) was frankly dispiriting.

And it’s in this mood that Squiffy is in contact with you this week. Don’t respond straightaway, but wait until something this week infuriates or deeply frustrates you, then rant, vent, let off steam- write tabloid, without being tabloid, give an airing to all those pet hates that aren’t yet housetrained, open the window wide and shout at the seagulls…

It’ll make you feel better afterwards…

Prompt by Chris.

Picture credit-Gnu by Rivo4 (Flickr Creative Commons )


Week 13: Confession or ‘You’re not the boss of me now.’

Confessional poetry is the poetry of the personal that emerged in the late 1950s and early 1960s and was associated with poets such as Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, and Anne Sexton. A famous poem of this period is Daddy by Sylvia Plath https://goo.gl/L1qq9H Contemporary poets writing in the same genre are Sharon Olds and Marie Howe who wrote this poem – https://goo.gl/xgyXyn

The approach shared feelings experienced about death, trauma, depression and relationships but by using all the craft of poetry, so that the reader wasn’t bored by something only the poet was interested in.

Keeping this in mind, Squiffy wants to hear your confessions in an Epistolary poem, as these are poems of direct address that can be intimate and colloquial, It doesn’t mean a poem like a letter, but one in which you directly talk to another person about your experiences, as in this poem by Major Jackson, https://goo.gl/S76esE

And because Squiffy knows you, he wants to hear what your teenage self would think about your life now. These are the things we say we want to tell our teenage self https://goo.gl/cdhN6q , but what do they want to tell us? Would they think we had sold out? Or be amazed that being gay isn’t a big deal?

When you knew everything, were you that wrong?

Prompt by John Alwyine-Mosely

Picture Credit: https://digitalsynopsis.com/

Week 12: Paradise Lost

Peace and Goodness — worthy virtues of course, but can you see the cracks in the tile? Robert Burns knew the best-laid schemes gang aft a-gley—a truism for mice as well as for men. But it’s hard not to conclude there’s something fundamentally wrong with the human race, especially while the Manchester atrocity is still a raw pain.

An alien reading one of our history books would probably be unimpressed. Individually and collectively, we always seem to mess up. Without wishing to be trivial, it’s a fact that gnus have done far less damage to the world and its inhabitants, than humans. Squiffy would like to know what it is about mankind that makes it so intent on self-destruction. Personal examples, real or imagined, may help both his and our understanding. Conversely, Squiffy will be equally happy if you post something hopeful.

Prompt by Colin. Likewise, the photo.

Week 11: The Future from the Past

Back before Queen Victoria died, Jean-Marc Côté, a French commercial artist was commissioned draw 50 postcards of what the world would be like in the year 2000 – https://goo.gl/bnDrzZ And women writing in The Ladies Home Journal also imagined the future in a 100 years time – https://goo.gl/9UpPBe

Of course some of the predictions like mobile phones and TV came true and others like heating by radium thankfully did not. They foresaw the mechanisation of skilled work and the growth of communication technology but not that commuting to work would get worse.

Perhaps this future imagined by Tracy K. Smith will have some truth as well. https://goo.gl/SXtYQO By contrast Dean Young imagines what the future will think of us- https://goo.gl/5vrzZK

Squiffy wonders what would a Victorian think of your work now and how it affects your life. Could they have imagined it? What will our great-grand children think about us? Will they forgive us for abandoning the 40 hour week and using mobile phones?

What words or sentence syntax would either generation use? What are they saying about themselves when they talk about us? What will we gain or lose?

Prompt by John Alwyine-Mosely

Image credit: Paleofuture – Paleofuture Blog – French Prints Show the Year 2000 (1910)

Week:10 Night Birds

Squiffy had been sipping on the sap of the Hejerra Tree, while out in Mexico hoofing over border construction signs. Feeling drowsy he leaned against a pickup truck and suddenly the sky turned black, except for a flock of brilliant yellow birds which flew in circles around him.

“Great idea for a prompt” he was still muttering when I hauled him into the back of my car. I assured him I’d do my best, so this week, think of night birds, singing in Berkeley Square (only nightingales do, reputedly), Tom Waits’ Nighthawks at the Diner, birds sleeping somewhere, albatross not sleeping till they reach their destination, owls.

Realism or metaphor is perfectly acceptable, you could try and help Squiffy understand what his yellow birds meant, but break it to him gently if it’s uncomfortably Freudian.

Prompt by Chris

Week 9: Doors

Prompt by John Alwyine-Mosely

Have you thought much about doors? No, this isn’t a plea to get down to a builders’ merchant, although what you buy and why could lead to interesting poetry. For example, hunt out Hellhound Memos (1993) and read Barry MacSweeney’s vitriolic attack on Thatcherism using DIY and B&Q as a metaphor for the loss of social and community ties brought about by privatisation.

No, this is about thinking of doors you meet when you leave home, when you get in and out of your car, go into a meeting, go out for lunch, visit a friend, and return home. These doors suggest turning points to new opportunities or a place to pause before making a decision.

This is well illustrated by this Carl Sandburg poem – https://goo.gl/fpN3wwOr they may also be best kept locked and not crossed, as suggested by this Anne Sexton poem – https://goo.gl/2mgPez

So, what Squiffy wants to experience in your poem (or story) is why you or the narrator needed that door to be shut or open. Or what the consequences were of crossing a threshold, or should have been.

John’s bio-notes:

John is currently working in Poland as a TEFL teacher after 20 years of working in UK Early Years policy and service development. He has had poetry published in many paper and on-line journals. These poems can be found at publishedpoems.wordpress.com

Image c/o John Alwyine-Mosely.