Midnight – SST10 First Draft

17 Dec

Apologies for how rough and raw this is, I’ve just managed to piece this together but I’d really like to give it the attention it deserves… I’m intending to do a lot of work on it, expanding the narrative and the light references and moulding the lines into something with a more comfortable performance flow. Might be unrecognisable by the end, but here’s the very bare bones.

When I was seven my mum used to buy
packets of ten strawberry splits from the discount store.
I rarely remember eating a real meal,
but I remember licking them, one after the other
until I was so full of ice and sugar
I could trace the core of cold
right down the middle of me.
I was sat on the step with my best friend
eating ice lollies.
‘I can’t wait for it to end’, I said.
He didn’t know what I meant.

I remember the winter I was ten
shivering my way to school in shorts,
and not wearing a coat in highschool was my trademark.
When I was seventeen I blagged my way through a tenancy agreement
by telling them I was twenty three and a teaching assistant.
My pupils had eclipsed my irises and left everything gray –
I hadn’t slept for three days.

When the wind blew
the curtains covering the closed windows fluttered.
Turning the heating on would fill the room with smoke.
So I didn’t.
I would turn the hotplates of the oven on
and wedge myself down the length of the narrow kitchen.
It seemed I was constantly breathing out smoke
even in the absence of a cigarette.
I didn’t know whether my insides were frozen or smoldering.

When I was nineteen my girlfriend moved in with me.
She was encased in ice
but would spit sparks at me without thawing.
She taught me how to tie a scarf against the wind,
and I taught myself to pretend
the electric heater was an open fire,
to imagine I was warm.
Sometimes I would hold icecubes in my hands
until they melted.
Fascinated by the way they burned.

As I grew I became obsessed with layers,
with silks and merino wool.
I would worship the cloth with my fingers,
amazed that things so thin
could hold in so much heat.
I sat around real camp fires,
and looking into them I learned
that it was heavens, not hells,
that are made of flames.
I learned to keep away the cold,
embracing strangers under stars,
and that dancing can make even the naked warm.

When I was twenty five I learned how to breathe fire.
To stand on stages and to make ice weep.
I own more jumpers than I can make use of.
But sometimes I’ll walk barefoot through snow,
just to watch it dissolve.
And I still squeeze icecubes…
fascinated by the way they burn.

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2 Responses to “Midnight – SST10 First Draft”

  1. MouthyPoets December 23, 2015 at 2:07 am #

    Hi Midnight, don’t apologise for this draft of a poem it’s great. I really enjoyed hearing this when you read it out at the last Mouthy session. You seemed to think it was too long, but i was fully engaged throughout- the images and narrative had me hooked. If you decide that you want to shorten it/cut lines out, maybe a starting point could be…
    1. Think “what do i want to say with this poem”? What is really important that i must get across? maybe have one main ‘message’
    2. Anything that doesn’t ‘fit’ with your ‘message’ can be written in another poem
    3. Try striping the poem to the bear skeleton, leaving the words and images that keep it chugging along…for example

    I rarely remember eating a meal,
    mum would buy strawberry splits
    from Poundland.
    i licked them, one after the other
    I was full of ice and sugar
    I’d trace the core of cold
    to the middle of me.

    And this is a very crude example, you may strip it back, hate it, then put everything back again, but sometimes it’s good to see the skeleton- especially as this poem is talking about being cold- maybe striping it back to bare minimum will add to the cold, inhospitable, unfriendly “don’t get too comfy here’ type feel ? In certain areas that you want to highlight- you could embellish with more and this would contrast with the skeletal parts.
    4. you will notice that i reordered some lines- I think “I rarely remember eating a meal” is a striking first line.

    Feel free to ignore my suggestions!! i’m really looking forward to seeing this develop- ioney

  2. MouthyPoets January 5, 2016 at 5:46 pm #

    Hi Mid,

    No need to apologise, this is the first draft stage so this is exactly what we are looking for, if it was too polished we wouldn’t get the chance to feed into/play with the process!

    LOVE
    -Whole first stanza, so much detail, so much sensory experience – I see it all, I know the characters and it is an original, interesting and engaging story. You are a really good story teller.
    -Specificity throughout is great; the jacket, the strawberry split (though I kind of want to know which discount stour), the age you said you were, the job you said you had. The specificity means I see and understand every bit of this story and feel really attached to the characters within it, as your reader I care about what happens to them! Well done!
    -‘I didn’t know whether my insides were frozen or smouldering.’ I love this parallel throughout and how you redress it over and over but each time with new freshness.
    -‘the electric heater was an open fire,’ Great image and it tells me a lot about the narrators imagination and aspirations.
    -‘Sometimes I would hold icecubes in my hands
    until they melted.
    Fascinated by the way they burned.’ … love the phrasing, the image, the idea.
    -Really love the way cold and heat are melding – really nice and original approach to the theme.
    -‘that dancing can make even the naked warm.’ – well you know from the reaction you got from Mouthy that this is brilliant.
    -I love the way you move the narrative through objects and develop characters too, like how the narrator becomes obsessed with fabric, I feel like so much time passes in this stanza without you needing to explicitly tell me, I feel the narrators growth entirely through visuals. Brilliant.
    -‘to make ice weep’ beautiful.

    QUESTIONS
    -My pupils had eclipsed my irises and left everything gray – To me that means your pupils are massive and therefore your eyes are black rather than grey? I got a bit confused about this image although I love the idea of pupils eclipsing irises.
    -How do you want to expand the narrative? The poem feels like it is all there for me at the moment it is now about pairing back but maybe it isn’t saying something you want it to say at the moment which I appreciate can be the most important thing.
    -Not sure I get this bit –
    ‘She was encased in ice
    but would spit sparks at me without thawing.’
    …some clarity here would be great.

    SUGGESTIONS/ CHALLENGES

    1. POETRY VS. PROSE
    This poem feels very prosaic at times, it reads a lot like a story. Now the discuss between where a poem ends and a story begins is a difficult one, but I want to challenge you to do a couple things…
    1. Intensify the economy of the language. How can you use as few words as possible to say what you are saying? Can you use a better verb or noun instead of a descriptor, can connectors be removed, can a line break to the work of an and or then? Etc. I also want you to think about the music of the language you are using? How can the sound work with or against the content to create another layer?

    I have started playing around with the poem to give you an example of what I mean…

    At seven, mum bought packs of ten
    strawberry splits from Iceland. I’d lick
    one after the other until full of ice and sugar
    my cold core sat red-tongued
    on stone steps next to my best friend
    ‘I can’t wait for it to end’, I said.
    He didn’t know what I meant.

    Winters at school in shorts,
    my coatless trademark.
    Blagged tenancy agreement
    telling them I was twenty three,
    a teaching assistant with pupils
    eclipsing my irises.
    I hadn’t slept for three days.

    2. REDUNDANCIES
    -You’re often using more words than you need to, some examples…
    ‘Turning the heating on would fill the room with smoke.
    So I didn’t.’… I can guess that you didn’t.

    ‘the electric heater was an open fire,
    to imagine I was warm.’ … The line before suggests you are imagining that

    Phrases like ‘I remember’ are inferred but it being first person past tense.

    ‘I could trace the core of cold
    right down the middle of me.’ … Your core is down the middle of you

    … Push yourself to question the need of every word and phrase, you have so much strong stuff in there you don’t need to tell me twice, given your strongest words (and there are loads of them) space to shine.

    3. THE ENDING
    -How would you feel about slightly editing the ending too…
    ‘And I still squeeze icecubes…
    fascinated by the way we burn.’
    …Just to add an extra layer of meaning?

    I hope this is some kind of helpful, I really enjoyed reading and working with it and personally think it is much closer than you are giving yourself credit!
    Debris

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