Thursday, December 10, 2015

Writing Diary III

It is 10:54 going on lunch-time (I’ve not eaten yet) but I’ve written, effectively, two articles on Flashing from Prompts, written a 730 word flash, taken the dogs out, done a bit of shopping. I smell worse than the dogs and I desperately need a shave, but first I need to generate a new set of prompts and I have remembered to record the process as I go. But just remember, sourcing “aware” rather than “drunk”, will almost certainly cheapen the process and make the found connections far more banal.

We shall see. The two collections are Billy Collins’ “180 More” and Neil Astley’s “Staying Alive”. After this round I’ll put them back on the shelf and try something else.

So, first-off I copy the old header, change the date-time and numbers

Advent Prompts 3100-3125 - 09 December 2015 - 10:19

I’m guessing the finish time, twenty minutes hence. I put the 5 x 5 number block out, grab the books and go, filling in random slots.
But first I got a scam email. I’m supposed to click on the file that no doubt contains a virus, so from that I can see some prompts, so I copy bits into some slots. Here’s the email

Dear Client,

This e-mail is pursuant to your contract with Foreman&Clark Ltd. for our services date November 15, 2015 for the amount of $4,249.
Your failure to pay as per the December 1, 2015 invoice equals to the breach of our contract.

Please, acknowledge the receipt of this e-mail within three business days. Please, make your payment to the corresponding account, stated in the invoice attached no later than January 2, 2016.

In case you fail to respond to this e-mail we well be compelled to pursue all the necessary legal actions.

Thank you beforehand for your attention to this case.
Looking forward to hearing back from you.

Ruby Robertson
Sales Manager

Foreman & Clark Ltd.
256 Raccoon Run, Seattle, 
WA 98101

Prompt 3107 is now Pursuant to your contract with Foreman & Clark Ltd, prompt 3116 is Please acknowledge receipt within three days, and prompt 3124 is 256 Raccoon Run, Seattle, WA

As an aside (as I start scouring) in Poem 1 I read “I was not afraid”. I used a similar thought in this morning’s flash, but the prompt did not come from here, a Sharon Olds poem. Nor did I use Greg Delanty’s The Alien which begins I’m back again, scrutinising the Milky Way. Yet my story has the lines:

Do you know, Coman, that if you lie here and look up through that high window, there are stars? Would you like to try the view from my cot? They are very beautiful.

Are you not afraid, John?

No, Coman. I don’t know why.

To work. I really like the line from Kevin Young’s Muzak.

When old, do not let me bark at passers-by. That I’ll bastardise a bit to When I am old I will not bark at passing cars (3102). Remember this is not plagiarism. We begin with a feeling, change it; then the Boot camper may well change it again, combine it with other such phrases, bastardised at lest twice, cut, added, whatever, and there will be anything from zero to 25 of these, scattered, usually, through a story. It’s no different from hearing Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and writing “Where the hell are you Roger? Roger? Roger? Where are you?”

If a line strikes me and I think I’m very close, I use the original and post it in quotes so campers no it’s a direct steal for them to work from. It’s rare I’ll use a whole line or more than one line from any author.
This writing about the process is really screwing me up!

In  WS Merwin’s “To the Dust of the Road” he says: And in the morning you are up again / with the way leading through you for a while / longer if the wind is motionless when / the cars reach when the asphalt ends

That makes me think of baking days when the tarmac softens, so: 3112
When there is no wind and the car-parks swell with heat

Kenneth Koch says: 

How lucky that I ran into you / when everything was possible

I have, (3119)

Before we met, when everything was still possible

Katia Kapovich writes about running hurdles. I don’t take anything even indirectly but she makes me think of when I raced 400 metres, how in the last fifty metres you feel like you’re running on the spot and the pain is ridiculous.

3124 - When in the last few metres time reverses

Kate Bass (The Albatross) says: When I know you are coming home / I put on this necklace

I like the idea so write, I shower as you board the 17:52. I dress as you drink your one whisky. I’d split them then. Maybe campers will find the pair and recombine the broken idea. Obviously what is starting to accrue in my head is the idea of someone (it feels like a woman) ritually preparing for someone (it feels like a man) - but at this point they could be lovers, it could be about cheating, it could be about possession. (I’ve no idea). 3109 becomes I shower as you board the 17:52. The later I dress as you drink your one whisky goes in an earlier slot, 3104.

I read about glitter, thought Gary Glitter the singer and end up with Breakfast With Gary Glitter

Cecilia Woloch’s “Slow Children at Play” is not about missing children but the poem makes me think of kids, so: 3117 becomes

There are no children here.

Note that this placement was random but There are no children here follows Please acknowledge receipt within three days and flipped in order, I can’t help but think of children sent by post and the company demanding proof of delivery! (This would never happen when generating the prompts “drunk” but is an example of how stories emerge from randomness.

Kenneth Koch’s “Stammering” has a line I hate. Where did you come from, lamentable quality? and for some reason it reminded me of “Where do you go to my lovely?” an early line from “The Streets of London” so I write. here, explained, you might connect or think of the song, but cold, in a set of 25 prompts, the line can be anything to anyone. I’ve got the damn song in my head, and as it happens, I have a Ralph McTell story. An old friend of mine ran a Folk Club and turned him down. PS the song was on the album “Spiral Staircase” so that goes in at 3101, twenty prompts distant. Who knows if anyone will connect the two things, or think of failed promoters?

Suzanne Cleary in “Trick Pear” writes: The woman pushes a grocery cart, flanked by four daughters, nine to fifteen, all shades of blond, grey-eyed, slender. Not really using this, I think of four girls so identical it makes me think of The Stepford Wives.

3123 Four sisters, so blonde I think of robots.

Michelle Boisseau’s poem “Tariff” has the writer remembering he caused a suicide. Not using any words but now I want to have a line which might take a camper (or me) there.

3120: I know I sent you that direction

Sometimes I get lazy and throw in a one-word “break” so 3118 becomes “aniseed”. These one-worser are placed to break up thoughts and send ideas going the other way. From the next poem I grab the word PASSPORT. Then, for no good reason (apart from being tired) I think, I am suddenly tired (3105)
I read Yannis Ritsos’ “Interchanges” which starts with a plough but has a line the meaning of things and for some reason I see an image of earnest dark-haired sixties students smoking Russian cigarettes and discussing philosophy. All the men look like Manfred Mann and the women look like Twiggy. 3111 = Dark Polo-Necks and Perfect Beards, 3122 = Gauloises hanging from delicate fingers.

A line from David Baker is: not know what I’ve done, nor why she thinks and it makes me write: It isn’t what I did, but what I intended 3125

I read “moonglow” somewhere and write MOON as a breaker 3113 and  Cathleen Calbert has a line why couples cook so much which makes me want to write something linking food, love and sex: She made me creamed chicken and rough brown rice, then watched me eat. (3115)

Cecilia Woloch mentions Doc Martens and I write 3106 You wore a dress like spray-painted plastic and shiny red-red boots

I spot “Garlic” somewhere and bung that as another breaker (3108)

Rebecca Wee writes We walked, undressed, in a tawny field, and the heat

3110 becomes We were in a cornfield hiding from searchlights

This normally fluid, almost random, whacky, disjointed process, written-about in real-time has taken 78 minutes (yuck!) and has really, really made my teeth ache - but we finish this normally 5-10 minutes work with this. 

It’s important to see the block of words, hear the sounds, think, combine, invert, play.
3101 Spiral Staircase
3102 When I am old I will not bark at passing cars
3104 I dress as you drink your one whisky.
3105 I am suddenly tired

3106 You wore a dress like spray-painted plastic and shiny red-red boots
3107 Pursuant to your contract with Foremen & Clark Ltd
3109  I shower as you board the 17:52. 
3110 We were in a cornfield hiding from searchlights

3111 Dark Polo-Necks and Perfect Beards
3112 When there is no wind, when the car-parks swell with heat
3113 MOON
3114 Breakfast With Gary Glitter
3115 She made me creamed chicken and rough brown rice, then watched me eat.

3116 Please acknowledge receipt with three days
3117 There are no children here
3119 Before we met, when everything was still possible
3120 I know I sent you that direction

3121 The Streets of London
3122 Gauloises hanging from delicate fingers
3123 Four sisters, so blonde I think of robots.
3124 When in the last few metres time reverses
3125 It isn’t what I did, but what I intended 

Too many people at this point (with 25 prompts) literally articulate. It might go. Hmmm, Spiral Staircase, oh yeah. I could have this man who hits his wife at the top of a spiral staircase and she falls, and…


No, no, no.

In one sense the exact words, the meanings don’t matter. What you need to do now is play, combine, hear phrases, sentences, listen for the music, YOUR music, some phrase or combination that “rings” for you. Almost always, for me, this is my opening.

I believe, if you “stay drunk” the phrases find you, not the other way around, and you are struck by something “obvious” which (I argue) resonates because it connects to something deep in your gut-memory.

I now have a big problem (apart from the fact I’ve written 6,500 words since 05:30 and I feel like crap. ATM I am too-connected to the prompts, too aware. So I think I’ll break off, have a shave and shower, grab some lunch and hoe, then, I can feel the force and not just see the words.

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