KAI – SCRATCH SHOW – Title (draft): Apologies to my dog with unexpected feedback

7 Feb

Hi there,

the bats is dead. I came up with a poem, but am really stuck with it, not knowing what to write about him. So, in the last session, I came up with a new quick draft and there was one specific memory I’d like to use to write about the vague boundaries you’ll always have when creating Art in Educational contexts: Art as Art, Art as Therapy, Art as Education. I strongly believe that Arts (no matter which art form) are most engaging and liberating, if you do Art for Art’s sake and not for therapeutic or educational purposes, you always work on all three levels. But sometimes, for example in the situation I describe, there might be a total misunderstanding when somebody is telling something very personal and you don’t get any response to it, because you’re working on a group performance, or more general, because the facilitator feels not competent enough to face this professionally. So yeah, this is the issue I’d like to get across. 

Feedback I’d like to have:

  • Which words / lines should be added / altered / cut to make this poem more concise and powerful in what it wants to say?
  • Clichés!, Specificity, and in particular: Grammar mistakes, especially prepositions and “awkward” language
  • What works in terms of style and flow?

I’m thinking about merging the “Him”-Section and the Confess-Section together to make it more concise, but I don’t have the time to do this tonight. tired!

Thanks for any Feedback!

G14/214, a black-japaned room,

With several galaxies of dust and hair in the space of the ground

With a fainting line of chalk as a trace of a previous performance,

With white craters all over the wall,

You see me crisscrossed on a scratched-up black chair

Surrounded by a group of 20ish students listening to our ‘outer eye’,

Shaping rules word by word, syllable by syllable.

Next set of rules:

  1. The entire group sits on a row of chairs, directly facing the audience.
  2. If you want to share a story, come to the mic in the front and tell it. Once you’re finished, return to your seat.
  3. Mix facts and fiction: Your story can be fake, but must at least appear to be potentially true.
  4. Only one is allowed to be at the mic.
  5. Don’t act as a fictional character – perform yourself.
  6. If someone is standing at the mic, two other place themselves on both sides behind this person. They copy every movement.

Tryout for 10 Minutes and we begin.

Everybody sits, two stand up at the time, notice each other and sit down immediately,

Unintentional Freeze Frame for 42 seconds,

My heart is an unaligned washing machine slamming against my rips,

One stands up and goes to the mic. Two others follow and copy the small movements of the fingers.

They sit down. I flay my chair with short, sudden scratches,

Slowly releasing its bare wooden bones with my bitten nails,

And the black splinters cut into the bare skin underneath my nails.

You see the white in my staring eyes, fixing nothing but internal memories about my dog:

Him, the flabbiest of 9 toast-brown puppies crawling on hay in a farm I don’t remember anymore.

Him, lying in the footwell of our Volvo we used to call Bomber.

Him, guarding me at the open door to my childhood room when I was send to sleep and not leaving until I dream.

Him, peeing on the floor because you were too excited about our return from holiday and then licking it off the floor because you feel guilty.

Him, baring your teeth when we waved our fingers to you.

Him, wagging your tail when I say: “Dicker, fetter Junge”

Him, being part of a dare exercise of two 14-year-olds, approaching you while you’re leashed.

Him, biting me because I lay down my head on your body while you wanted to sleep.

Him, having gut rot since you’ve eaten all the Halloween candies I’ve collected.

Him, drinking water from a puddle after a one hour walk.

Him, sitting in front of me, slobbering when watching me eating Nutella.

Unconsciously, I stand up, go to the microphone:

“I’m owning my dog a better life than he has had”


He spent half of the day alone in a corridor with no windows.

I hardly walked the dog, and if, I pulled him to keep walking.

My father was right asking: “Is playing this computer game more important to you than to feed our dog?”

I didn’t remove his collar with metal rods bend to the inside to hurt, and thus making him follow.

Having said this, I stand there with a cracked body,

And the ten minutes tryout was over, so they

asked me whether I’d used my arms so much on purpose,

Because I knew two would stand behind me, copying all my movements,

Which transformed the three of us into a dance of six arms, straying around.

I deny. I strayed my arms with no intention. I didn’t want to dance.

So, we skipped the rules and went on.


One Response to “KAI – SCRATCH SHOW – Title (draft): Apologies to my dog with unexpected feedback”

  1. mouthypoets February 7, 2014 at 10:13 pm #

    HI Kai,

    Firstly – massively impressed you have worked out a poem! I would be really interested to know if you feel writing yourself is supporting you ability to teach poetry yourself? Oh, and the pace of which your learning to write poetry in your second language is amazing.

    Before you look at this feedback, have a look at these links to some of the key editing material we have online (I am sure I sent this over for translating for LowenMaul but looking at it for your own work should still be helpful!)… https://mouthypoets.wordpress.com/2012/04/28/3-editing-exercises-for-stronger-poetry-2/ // https://mouthypoets.wordpress.com/2013/05/12/15-points-to-editing-success/

    Now, onto feedback…

    -the concept

    -word choices; craters, scratched-up, 20ish, flay… There is a real clear sense of voice already in your work and I really enjoy that.

    -the movement – there is a clear sense of image, image, image and it feels like you are building something = I want to listen.

    -the use of rules in the piece… I feel like this could work in performance really well and in really grounds the poem in something/somewhere concrete.

    -‘unintentional freeze farm for 42 seconds’ lovely specificity and imagery.

    -I love the washing machine line, and it’s where the balance of your emotions and what is happening with the class start to interact that I really enjoy this piece.

    -you asked about specificity – it’s impeccable throughout!

    Lines I don’t understand:
    -G14/214, a black Japanned room… Just not sure what this means, what image it is or what is happening?
    -outer eye? Is this a phrase I am unaware of?

    Form/ concision:
    -look at every stanza as a unit of meaning; an image, an event, a tone – each new stanza changes the event, meaning, image or tone and looking at line breaks a highlighting elements on these. This enables you to cut out repetition, tighten up images, reorder sentences and ask yourself – what do I actually mean here or what is the most important point in this unit? Is this unit important at all. My example below should be interesting because I am editing it with my knowledge but being guided by what I think is happening – what you are currently telling me through the words (I am afraid I have had to simply cut out the lines I don’t understand)…

    Galaxies of dust and hair on the carpet.
    A faint line of chalk: a trace of yesterday’s
    performance. White craters across the wall.

    See me – crisscrossed on a scratched-up
    black swivel chair. Surrounded. 20ish students
    listening to our ‘outer eye’. Shaping rules

    word by word, syllable by syllable:
    Sit down on a row of chairs facing the audience directly.
    (Etc. …)

    -notice it’s all about using as few words as possible and maximising concision through punctuation. Analyse the changes I have made and see if you can use those techniques to edit the whole piece into 3 line stanzas of similar line lengths. This should tighten flow, specificity and punctuation.

    2. Play with the narrative:
    It’s quiet hard to follow the story, why not try playing around with some of the narrative structure sheets I gave you, labov, 7 types of story etc.? I think it might help you play around it’s the order of information? I also try printing it out and cutting it up and finding the best order that way.

    3. Grammar wise, there is a bit of work to be done but I am not the ideal person to support you on this, I suggest you do a call out to any grammar peeps in mouthy. And see if they are happy to proof that side of things is it’s not my strong point. Anne does all of mine, but I a aware she is mad busy so it might be good to unearth someone new.

    Speak soon

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