Matt Miller – The Scientist (New) – Headline Film

1 Jul

OK, first off, apologies for the length of this. I’m trying to work with a metaphor which is doing my nut in a bit but is basically trying to describe a character who believes himself to be separate from everything and sustains this by externalising himself.

I wanted to add the passage in which he left the shed and partied in the garden both as a means of progression of the story and also to add an extra element of surrealism. I feel though, that this may have impacted on the memory passage (the ‘it smelled of’ refrain bit) – I think they’re both are doing the same thing.

Sooo, the feedback I want is, which bits of these metaphor are making sense, or feel relevant, and which can be cut. I realise this version is long but that is largely because I’d like some help deciding which the bits are that should be cut. So yeah – foremost a structure edit, though comments on individual images also appreciated.

(Also ideas for film welcome.)

. . .

 

The Scientist

Hello. I have been here for years.

Waiting for this water to unspill.

Eventually, I know that it will.

 

An experiment in displacement.

In order to examine myself,

I placed a glass of water on a table.

 

Still, inactive, held close

within its container, it was nothing

but pure potential.

 

I couldn’t believe that in the middle of that unrippling brag

there was no seething, bubbling boiling pit,

no anger and spit, no need to be somewhere else.

 

Out in the garden, where I knew they were all partying.

I could hear the laughing voices and smell the cake.

But I stayed with my glass of water. Mine to protect.

 

There it stood, unmotionless,

taunting me. I’ve tried, but I cannot

believe in its transparency.

 

I surrounded it with friends. Arbitrary objects

from my shed. Plant pots with smiling faces,

sawdust shavings arranged into the shape of happiness,

the tangled remains of last summer’s wasp nest,

no sting left. A pillow.

 

I surrounded the glass, here on this desk

with unmoving amounts of love.

 

And still it did not move.

 

So I removed all of its companions, placed it high

on a shelf, away from everything. I watched it,

wanted to see it sob, to send globules of itself tumbling

down the sides of its skin, but still it did nothing.

 

I am a scientist.

Everything is outside of me.

I do not know absent.

I do not know lonely.

I know only subjects, objects,

reactions, experimentations.

There is no way to know limits

without breaking them.

 

I am insignificant, inconsequential,

my past is my past and not a

sequential narrative to be examined.

I cannot be damaged.

I cannot be unpacked, I have no luggage

 

There had to be a catalyst. So I went looking for one.

Ventured out into the garden one afternoon,

lay on my belly and flicked the latch, snaked out.

 

The sun was blinding white and obscured my perfect vision

with indiscriminate blobs of swimming colour.

Between the foxglove beds a hundred faces painted

with permament loop and blam played Twister on the grass.

One spotted me, grabbed me, hurled me into a mass

of jelly limbs. They smothered my perfect coat with

strawberry ice-cream and raspberry vodka.

Built a manic house around my head and poured

eagle feathers down my straight backed throat.

 

We danced until dusk. I forgot where I was.

Until, lying on the lawn and watching the sun

paint the sky a colour I couldn’t describe,

I remembered my glass of water in the shed

with it’s stillness waiting to be bled.

I found a stone. Stood. Goosed back in.

 

I feel like I knew the consequences

as I stood, pinching the pebble between

my thumb and forefinger

above the surface of the water.

 

When I dropped the stone into the glass,

the liquid moved from one place to another,

sloshed upwards,

spilled onto the wooden surface

until it grew stagnant.

Until it smelled

 

like kitchen equipment,

the wok they’d bought for me

on my birthday,

packed into my suitcase, slung

into the boot of my car,

until it smelled

 

like a failed experiment in love

a failed forray into connection,

until it smelled

 

like the corridors of a jumble of arms

in which I had known people,

until it smelled

 

of your breath on quiet mornings

until it smelled

 

of your lips, until it smelled

 

of lactic fear seeping from between my ribs,

the sweat that leaked from my knuckles,

the plea to stay I sought from your open eyes,

until it smelled

 

of unwashed blankets and folded knees

at two in the afternoon for days,

 

until it smelled of this puddle. On this desk.

 

I hated the stench of that spill,

but could not look anywhere else.

 

Some Sundays I lash out a tentative tongue to taste

the rotten texture of nostalgia, allow it to form a coat

across my pallete, infect my vocal chords with could,

with should, with then, with when? With, it doesn’t matter now.

 

Outside of this shed, I’m aware of the passing of days,

the passing away of chanting masked madness.

Yesterday, I managed to look out of the window for a full hour without thinking.

 

I have been here for years.

Waiting for this water to unspill.

 

Eventually, I’ve learned that it won’t,

and that the past is an addiction, a liquid that,

no matter how sour, begs a quick lick now and again,

a drug, a salve to wipe the varied taste of the present.

 

 

 

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2 Responses to “Matt Miller – The Scientist (New) – Headline Film”

  1. mouthypoets July 2, 2014 at 3:31 pm #

    Hey Matt,

    First of all I love the metaphor of the water I think it works really well and is totally original. I really like the story you take us on as well. And the way you circle around with “waiting for this water to unspill” which I think makes people go ahhh I get it all, that’s clever.

    — Also really love the line where the water spills, I just think the image sums up displacement really well.

    — “There it stood still, unmotionless” – do you mean motionless?

    — Is the water a metaphor for the scientist? If so, I’m not sure you need this bit:

    I am a scientist.

    Everything is outside of me.

    I do not know absent.

    I do not know lonely.

    I know only subjects, objects,

    reactions, experimentations.

    There is no way to know limits

    without breaking them.

    I am insignificant, inconsequential,

    my past is my past and not a

    sequential narrative to be examined.

    I cannot be damaged.

    I cannot be unpacked, I have no luggage

    I just feel like it’s explaining a bit too much where you’ve been descriptive for the rest of it, I’m not sure it adds anything.

    — The bit where the party people spot you – it’s not clear that that is what’s happening, it took me a a few reads to understand what was happening.

    — The bit where you talk about “until it smelled like…” goes on a bit long, I think this can be half the length as I lost the original point whilst reading it and I really like the idea of it so want to still get it.

    –“I hated the stench of that spill but couldn’t look anywhere else” – I’m not sure I understand what you mean here, maybe if the bit before was shorter and more to the point but at the moment I feel like it doesn’t really mean anything.

    — The ending – I think the last line should just be
    “Eventually, I’ve learned that it won’t” – I get why you’ve used the last few lines as a sort of summary but I think you’ve already put the point across and would have more of an impactful ending without it.

    Hope this helps, let me know if you have any questions.
    Hayley x

  2. mouthypoets July 2, 2014 at 4:34 pm #

    Hi Matt,

    Great to see a new draft of this up, feels like you have got loads out and there is a fuller formed poem in all of it, it felt like you wanted some thorough honesty on what I think should be kept and what should go so I have really focused on that…

    LOVE
    -“I surrounded it with friends. Arbitrary objects from my shed” and then the lists of specifics is fantastic… part of me wants this to come closer to the beginning because it is the first time I feel like I get a concrete illustration of who this protagonist is… that said i don’t know what you are planning to portray in film before that…(?)
    -Really love the descriptions of the objects as “unmoving amounts of love” this section is really where it feels like you have broken out of following the rhyme and into content and layered meaning… more and more wondering if the poem could start with this image instead? It feels like it is saying what you said before in a lot of ways but better.
    -Love the idea of you geering the glass and trying to make it move yeah. Can you just start on “I surrounded the glass with friends” and just keep everything else the same? It feels too good to be coming so late!
    -Love the image of him going out and finding a catalyst, the wording suggest science and the detail of snaking out (also lovely verb generally, like what you have done there) suggests the narrator is somewhat unstable without spelling it out which I really like.
    -Love the detail of; foxgloves, twister, strawberry ice-cream and vodka… really interesting collection of things that are all familiar yet together paint something new and interesting and specific… Saying that I am not really sure what is happening in this section? Maybe your going to show me in the film? Just need to make the action of what is happening clearer I think as this feels like a turning point in the poem?
    -I like the vibe that he leaves his shed and find something better, then remembers the glass… although why this changes everything feels like it needs to be clearer in action as I mentioned above.
    -“it’s stillness waiting to be bled”… lovely
    -“goosed back in” lovely verb!
    -Love the ending! Really nice movement, your right these is too much, I have suggested which images to cut in my suggestion section… I have been a bit brutal to let the truly brilliant stuff in this ending shine. Really good work.
    -Like how you turn the ending back on itself and the smell becoming addictive.

    QUESTIONS
    -There are a lot of un’s; unmotionless, unrippling, no anger… is this deliberate? These kinds of negatives are really hard to visualise but I get the feeling you are making the liquid hard to see on purpose, although I am not sure why and it is coming across as a little inaccurate instead?

    -What is loop and balm and how can your face be painted with it?

    SUGGESTIONS
    1. Cut…
    “I am a scientist (up to)…
    I cannot be damaged.”
    -It feels like “I am a catalyst (and onward)” is saying this stuff but better.
    “The sun was blinding… (up to) swimming colour.”
    -Seems like detail that is not as good as what is before or after it though I appreciate it tells you something interesting about the narrator it is not as interesting as everything else.
    “Until it smelled
    like a failed experiment in love
    (up until)
    in which i had known people
    until it smelled”
    -Also “of your lips”… I feel like the breath and ribs and knees is enough.
    -I would suggest you finish on “but could not look anywhere else” and cut the rest after.

    4. Cutting & Condensing…
    (This bit of feedback is about the first few stanza’s so if you have decided to cut them due to what I said in the LOVE section, it is only worth skimming)

    -It feels like it is less about cutting and more about condensing, you are using lots of words overall and I am not sure you need as many as you are using? Below I have an example of what I mean playing with the first few stanza’s…

    Years, I’ve waited for this water to unspill.
    I know it will. This experiment of self-examination:
    A glass on water on a table. Still, inactive, close
    container. Pure potential.

    I couldn’t believe the unriddling brag
    seething in the middle: a bubbling pit,
    no anger and spit, no need to be somewhere else.

    -It generally felt like each line could be working harder to say more, I would encourage you to go through and look at what each word, line and stanza are doing and squash it down… It might feel a bit early to do this, but I can find doing this can stop be hiding behind lots of words and ask myself, which of these things am I actually trying to say?

    PERFORMANCE/FILM
    -Just thought this might be an interesting reference point for other poetry films with a surreal edge… http://www.psychicbread.com/film_poems.php
    -Other than that… I am really not sure… What brief have you given Stuffed Fox so far?

    Hope this helps,
    Debris

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