Week 6 Tasks

[Task 1]

Out of Character

like an unprovoked slap in the face
lecture chased good deed down the street
people staring as if I were the mugger
when it bordered on the other way around
normally overflowing with sorry
this instance no urge to apologise
usually do not confront
once bitten twice
but fists were clenched
and shoved into pockets
the pocket that paid out when I thought it was just tissues and house-keys
the pocket from which I had retrieved 20p on request
the 20p I handed over without challenging alibi
don’t think I’ve got any change but if it’s in here it’s yours
he is not homeless
this is not our first encounter I remember too late
a recurring local cameo
verbal attack on my choice of degree
stole campaign badges instead of signing petition
no questions asked just 20p between strangers
welcome to it
but then
personal space violated
thrusted face demanding a quid
explained one coin was all I had
he sneered isn’t that fucking convenient the exact amount
I asked for but you don’t have a pound?
started off on a rant
so I started off down the path
and that’s when footsteps accelerated
called me disgraceful bastard among other things
and objection erupted out of character
spewed into the air didn’t bother to turn my head
startled the young family leaving Burger King
who paused to observe
two mad men shouting expletives in public

one of them 20p richer


[Task 3]

The Battery

1.5V (Pb). You are the tiny canister that sits motionless while packed with charge. Sleeping baby to be handled with care. So smooth, wrapped in a hard plastic jacket stuck to skin with adhesive. The jacket is segmented, has a raised line that catches on the nail like an elusive end of Sellotape. I could peel you but I won’t. Your bottom a metallic moon-mirror, paint lid that shows the eye blurred as if smeared, but when polished on sleeve nothing changes. Bold red and white announces practical purpose, cousin to a First Aid kit. Positive: a reverse England flag, neo-Nationalist tattoo gone awry. Negative is a stop sign.

You’re a puppy wriggling with nervous energy, keep trying to get out of hand and roll across the table. Cradled tightly in the palm you attract electrolytic grease.

There is plenty of reading material curving your surface. Do not Swallow. Do not dispose of in fire. Not rechargeable. Keep away from children (whole toy-boxes silenced). The warnings are fancier in French, more forbidding in German. Ingredients acidly listed as just Zinc Chloride. Apparently you don’t like wheelie bins, they are banned. ‘For Low Power Products’ is a lukewarm performance review but you got AAA and have so much potential. Made in Poland by the Panasonic Corporation – you are a corporate tool but everyone is these days, so don’t worry.

It’s ironic how terminals spark things into life. I shake you with vigour but electrons won’t rattle within or salt-sprinkle forth. Hub of internal resistance. Fight the power! But you are the power! Hub of internal struggle.

Some people say a potato or lemon does the same job – but if all potatoes were lost to another famine, we’d be grateful to still have you (except we wouldn’t, because you taste bad). Solo stubby nipple ringed with hypnosis is a siren who calls to poking tongue with metal ballads. But you would have to be 9V for her fangs to shock the apex with that stinging burst of nostalgia.

Size S: is that small or substantial? You’re pretty damn cool, little battery, just over an inch tall; delicate yet solid, a dead weight. Where should I put you? Excuse the human impulse to use a thing to do another thing. You’re engineered to slot into so many places. Sleek…purposeful…tell me, how does that feel? I envy your surety, your place. There are signs everywhere telling you exactly where to go and how to fit in.

Look, battery, look, I have Googled you. The Voltaic Pile is your great-great-great-great-grandfather. Here is a diagram labelling your insides. Why do you show no interest in this non-invasive dissection?


[Task 4]

My City: An Overview

they build Coventry up as a city rumbling with hunger for success but the tower blocks taste of stagnant plasterboard-porridge in the concrete jungle the roots of destruction tangled up in politics smashed glass does not equate party animal so the students emigrate nightly for alternative scenes and DJs in ten-minute-train-ride towns our architecture dazzles visitors with its dullness but it beats being homeless witness the homeward-bound hide their grateful smiles anchored here for life by spine-crushing loads on all sides as they pass CLOSING DOWN SALE shop fronts shuttered my wallet apparently purged its cash to binge on stacks of loyalty cards tourists are dragged in to document what’s destroyed regeneration is less entertaining than ruin all eyes on the naked lady this city murmurs and tuts and shouts in the streets over the heads of pushchair prisoners it begs persistently for change outside Spar (the one that used to be Yates’ wine bar) whispers we were once a community in the war forgetting Iraq Bosnia Kosovo Afghanistan Iraq Libya Syria the clash of regimes colours opinions bus doors this city’s soundtrack is an intermingled chorus of multicultural exchange potentially bewildering like the first day of school when everyone is tentatively testing out the dynamics sometimes it gets you in the gut like a rampaging bully sometimes it gets you in the gut like human birdsong


One thought on “Week 6 Tasks

  1. ecopoetics

    1) This is a great vignette in verse. The first two lines are wonderfully open to interpretation: “like “an unprovoked slap in the face/ lecture chased good deed down the street.” Do the next two lines perhaps explain too much? I think that for the purposes of the exercise, narrative gets in the way. Ezra Pound focuses on the timeless nature of the image in his famous formulation: “an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time” (cf. “A Retrospect”:
    http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/m_r/pound/retrospect.htm) Could this narrative be translated into a series of “instants of time”? A sequence of feelings arrested in images capturing the “intellectual and emotional complex” your vignette narrates? Perhaps begin by breaking the poem into stanzas and then center each stanza on an image. The I/he transactions complicate the task of locating the “objective correlative” that is the inner life of what you are both feeling separately and, perhaps in an odd way, together–so you could also try rewriting without those pronouns. Adding a pronoun or two back in, where necessary.

    3) I feel that, similarly, here, the task of imaging forth the object gets complicated by focusing on your relationship to the object. There are some wonderful images here, struggling to gain their own autonomy as “progressive nominations”: “a reverse England flag, a neo-Nationalist tattoo gone awry . . . a puppy wriggling with nervous energy.” Where the images could take off, they get dragged down by description. I know it seems counter-intuitive, but perhaps by taking yourself out of the equation, you might more boldly make the leap to nominations (NOT descriptions) of the qualities of the object. Again, once you’ve multiplied and thickened the object in language, you might add yourself back in (if necessary): a little bit goes a long way!

    4) The most successful of this group, to my reading eyes and ears. However it’s worked, the varying focus on different kinds of metaphor together with the unpunctuated assemblage, a rush of imagery that doesn’t waste time editorializing or deconstructing the images into rational arrangements, really sings! I FEEL Coventry in this poem: even though there’s no “I” in the text, you are (paradoxically) far more present here than in the other two exercises. Keep working at this mode!



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