Creation, Not Devastation

At the end of 2014, I made a vow to myself- regardless of my social calendar, I would dedicate more time to the act of creativity in 2015. The latter part of last year was so chaotic with thirtieth birthday celebrations, including an amazing Narnia party with two of my best friends, and festive preparations, not to mention the completion of my 30 Before 30 challenge (yes, I did it…in a fashion!), that I was always too tired to summon up the energy necessary to maintain my blog and, consequently, lapsed into a creative rut.

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Of course, we all have good intentions for the year ahead- the desire to change ourselves for the better is just part of human nature-, but they often become lost somewhere in between theory and practice because, let’s be honest, life has a horrible tendency of getting in the way. Following the abysmal attacks in Paris, however, my desire to be creative has intensified. Like so many others around the globe, I often forget to appreciate how lucky I am to live in a society that allows and openly advocates freedom of expression. Though some will be scaremongered into submission by the atrocious acts committed by terrorists, the majority understand that to stop expressing their opinions through an artistic medium is to relinquish their freedom, their identity, and even, figuratively speaking, their existence. After all, the act of creation is synonymous with life – when we stop creating, we stop living.

This year, therefore, I intend to be as creative as I possibly can. Although I normally commit myself to some sort of literature related challenge, my only objectives this year are to increase my poetic and blogging output, writing more about the things that I feel passionate about, and to gain some new skills in the creative arena. After receiving a copy of my most recently published poem on my thirtieth birthday, I would really like to capitalise on last year’s successes by getting more of my work into the public sphere, but I also want to develop skills in other areas too- such as learning a particular form of dance and enhancing my sewing skills.

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Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, I hope that the New Year has brought you happiness and prosperity. Although 2015 may not have started well in the context of world events, let’s summon up some positivity and begin our year as we mean to go on: by embracing the act of imaginative creation, not destruction or devastation.

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The Reluctant Poet

Although I’ve been writing since my teenage years, I’ve never described myself as a poet, preferring to say “I write poetry” instead. Perhaps my reluctance to define myself as one has stemmed from an inability to recognise myself as a poet; an unwillingness to commit myself fully to the poetic world; or an innate fear of failure.

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…Is this what a poet looks like?!

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Does this make me a poet?

Whatever the psychology behind it, I have now reached a point where I feel comfortable applying the term ‘poet’ to myself. Recently, at the risk of sounding a bit pretentious (that was probably a factor in my reluctance too), I’ve started to introduce myself as a poet in social situations with new people, and have been pleased to discover that it doesn’t cause anyone to mumble an excuse and leg it. In reality, it actually has the opposite effect- people seem to love it!

The only downside to this, especially when talking to the opposite sex, is that many people instantly want you to stand on a table and recite poetry for their own entertainment. What these people fail to realise is that a) I’m not a performing seal, b)  I don’t create poetry on command (unless it’s a commission, which is a different matter entirely!), and c) this request becomes incredibly boring and predictable really quickly. As lovely as it is for people to show an interest in my passion, I don’t necessarily want to showcase my poetry in the middle of a party…and not just because my level of inebriation has caused me to forget everything I’ve ever written.

Coming out of the poet closet/garret has, however, reinforced the notion that we all have a unique selling point; something that differentiates us from the next person, making us alluring to friends and strangers alike. Sometimes we may have to look a little further or search a little deeper to discover it, but I truly believe that everyone is interesting in their own way- whatever their passion. Of course there will alway be people that we don’t get along with; that’s just human nature. Yet, even if they’re not likeable, in my mind, there’s still at least one element of each person that is interesting- whether they’re a poet or a philistine!

In celebration of this, my admission that I am actually a poet, and the fact that another one of my poems has just been accepted for publication, I thought I’d share one of my previously published poems, which I wrote when I was at university. It’s not related whatsoever to anything I’ve just been waffling on about (though it does consolidate my point about not wanting to spout poetry in social situations; it would kill a party atmosphere completely!), yet I’d like to share it anyway. Hope you enjoy!

Superstition

In the cupped palm of your hand,

your love line creases into a smile

that’s not for me.

An omen in itself,

and still my tulip buds

in extravagant yearning,

straining for the sun,

searching, searching.

Over my shoulder, apple peel

curves into an initial that can

never begin to spell your name.

A euphemism,

but still I sense

its implicit meaning,

superstition overwritten,

fading, fading.

Inside of me, a flower

defies nature, inverts itself,

becomes nothing.

A loss within myself.

And the peel writhes

into a curious ball of misery,

widowed of a name,

grieving, grieving.

Kitchen Creativity

Finding inspiration in everyday life isn’t always easy. Though I am a voracious reader and frequently visit new places, endeavouring to assimilate as many social and cultural influences as possible, there are times when it seems like my mind is completely and utterly devoid of any sort of poetic thought (which is partly why I created this blog- to force me into regular acts of creativity!). At times like these, instead of waiting for inspiration to come, I actively seek out creative opportunities.

This week I made the decision to carry out a simple writing exercise as a means of ‘assisting’ my brain. Despite getting some odd looks, I raided the kitchen cupboards, collecting a few random objects, and assembled my ‘stimuli’ on the dining room table.

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As you can see from the photo above, the things I chose were mainly common objects that can be found in most homes: a tape measure; a map; a box of matches; a shell; a clove of garlic; …and a masquerade mask (which doesn’t technically belong in my kitchen, but I thought I’d make use of it anyway!). When we encounter these objects on a day-to-day basis, we don’t always think about what they might represent or how we can use them in a creative way. Sometimes, however, if you have the time and you’re that way inclined, it’s interesting to spend a few minutes thinking about them (yes, thinking about a clove of garlic is interesting!), if only to remind ourselves to be open to new possibilities and ways of looking at the world.

 The Task

In the first part of my writing exercise, I allowed myself a maximum of two minutes per item to write down ten words or phrases that immediately popped into my head when looking at/thinking about it.

Once I had completed this part of the task, I used the words/phrases as inspiration to write six unrelated haikus, one for each piece of stimulus. As haikus are very short poems, consisting of a line of 5 syllables, a line of 7 syllables, and another line of 5 syllables, I thought this would be the perfect way of exercising my poetic brain. The fact that they’re so concentrated means that every word has to be very carefully chosen to create the greatest possible impact, however, so they’re not as simple as they initially seem! This does make you more aware of phonetics though, so it can be a good poetic technique to use with children who are developing their understanding of sounds.

 These are the results:

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 Garlic- contained, wrapped, layers, delicate, bunched, skin, bulging, veined, whole, crinkly

Delicate layers

peel away, revealing skin’s

luminous wonder

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 Map- navigation, geographical, winding, belonging, travel, route, plot, guide, landmarks, streets

Belonging to time,

streets of memory wind through

this town of my mind

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Matches- strike, burn, rage, ignite, light, glow, short fuse, fuel, primitive, potential

Potential to strike.

Short fuse, ready to ignite-

fire contained in light

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Tape Measure- length, unravel, distance, height, coiled, metres, measurements, quantify, numerical, growth

Unravel metres

of yourself and we will be

at the height of love

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Mask- masquerade, disguise, all in the eyes, opulence, glitter, facade, ribboned, riches, hedonistic, decadence

Opulent disguise,

facade of glittering lives-

it’s all in the eyes

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Shell- ancient, whorls, unicorn’s horn, stick of rock, waves, textured, spiral, fairground, home, pearled

Horn of unicorn,

Textured whorls of pearled beauty-

Sea’s gift to the shore

Although I didn’t produce anything particularly great, this exercise really helped to alleviate my creative block, and rejuvenated my brain. As a result, I would definitely recommend it to anyone in need of a little creative jumpstart. Whilst it might seem like a very simple task, it can be amazingly enlightening, encouraging you to consider the nuts and bolts of everyday existence in a far more philosophical way, and heightening your awareness of words and sounds in the process.

Settling down in front of the telly/snuggling up with a good book every night might be relaxing, but, as I discovered, every so often it’s good to step outside of your usual routine and spark the creativity within…

Abundant Autumn

For many people, the seasonal shift that starts every September is simply the gloomy precursor to short days, endless nights, and the dreaded threat of a winter cold.

Whilst most people no longer associate autumn with glorious abundance, the first chill in the air sends me into spasms of ‘fruitfulness’, my creative faculties instantly ignited by the flourish of colours in the world of the outdoors.

To celebrate the dying of the light, it’s become a bit of a tradition for a couple of my friends and I to have an autumnal picnic. As ‘autumn babies’ we all have a strange affinity with the season, and love nothing more than to don the layers for our own little feast.

This year, we may have done it a bit early. The first leaves had barely graced the grass before we were laying out our spread in the park, eagerly discussing the arrival of ‘magic in the air’. There were no trees ablaze with the fiery shades of the season; no romantic mists; no swallows gathering for epic journeys halfway across the world.

Even in the absence of these Keatsian notions however, the park had a certain quality; a charm; a sense of enchantment that made my skin tingle, and infused all of us with excitement at the prospect of the rosy glow of autumn.

And I realised: this is what I love about this time of year- the anticipation of awe. The knowledge that something magical is about to happen to the natural world. The fact that anyone can experience it.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t always need money to enjoy the world. As long as you have some degree of appreciation, imagination, and a willingness to attune your senses to the elemental magic in the air, life can be as abundant with wonder as you want it to be…

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