Hannah Silva – writing task

1 May

Hey folks

Great to work with some of you on Friday. We ran out of time at the end so I just wanted to elaborate a bit on the final task so you can do it in your own time – and for those of you who weren’t there.

[also a reminder that as associate artist I have some hours to offer you which can be used in various ways – feedback on poems, general writing/performance conversations…feel free to get in touch:  silva_danca@yahoo.com. ]

I’m working with you again on 13th May so if you have a chance to try the task, bring your poems then.

  1. Personal mythologies. – gather words

Make a map of your personal mythologies, put your name in the centre of a page and work out from there, so you might think about words or phrases that are important to you, objects that you wear or keep, colours, strange things you believe, superstitions, sayings passed down by your family etc…

– this is easier to do with pen and paper as then you can make a map, but here’s an example (bearing in mind my associations are personal and therefore may not make much sense to you!). [Example, I associate ‘palindromes’ with my name and myself… because my name is a palindrome…]

 

Hannah --------- storm when arrive somewhere new
H -------- palindromes
H --------- a recorder for a backbone
H----- four leaf clover
H ----- amber
H ------ iris

 

Then from those words you do a word association which could be through sound/meaning etc, but don’t worry about the personal mythology thing at this stage…[I associate storms with lightning, thunder, counting, etc etc]

 

Storms ----- lightning
storms ---- thunder
storms ---- counting
storms ---- open window
storms --- train door closing
storms ---- torn
four leaf clover ---- Ireland
four leaf clover ----- Suffolk

 

and you can do this again, using all these words [I associate Suffolk from the previous list with Aldeburgh, and I associate Aldeburgh with  beach …]

 

lightning ----- bolt
lightning ---- lighting
lightning ---- caravan
Suffolk – Aldeburgh
Aldeburgh – beach

etc etc

You keep doing this until you’ve got masses of words and phrases… I’ve already got a lot:

storm when arrive somewhere new, palindromes, 
a recorder for a backbone, four leaf clover, 
amber, iris, lightning, thunder, counting, open 
window, train door closing, torn, Ireland, Suffolk,
bolt, lighting, caravan, Aldeburgh, beach

  1. Write using those words and phrases

Then you write a poem using those words and phrases (you might use some of them or all of them, you might made adjustments etc – rules are there to be broken)…

e.g: (I’m doing this quickly, it’s a free write/1st draft)

 

I was born with a recorder
for a backbone, into a storm that
swallowed sound and spat
it out again like a palindrome.
When I was eight I found a four
leaf clover and knew I would be lucky
forever, dried it between the pages
of Alice in Wonderland, it sits at the
bottom right hand corner of a photo
of a baby with huge green eyes on
her mother’s shoulder. When I was ten
I walked the stones of Aldeburgh Beach,
found a golden one and took it to man with
long blue hair and bronze fingernails
who told me the sea had left the amber
there for me. When I was twelve I painted
irises in watercolour, when I was fifteen I
followed a giant bird through my open
window, out onto a field, I spun and spun
and screamed at the moon and counted the
distance between me and a storm. Just the other
day, I got on a train, and the thunder
cracked as the train door closed
and I knew my body had finally learnt
how to play the instrument
that it grips in place of a spine.

 

  1. Find a myth/folk tale etc

So it may be that the poem above could work as it is, with edits etc. But another exercise is to splice it together with something else. You might like to choose something that you feel a connection to, but it could be anything.

I’m choosing a few extracts from An Illustrated Dictionary of The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya (by Miller and Taube):

‘In central Mexico, the preeminent god of death was
Mictlantecuhtli, or lord of Mictlan, the Underworld.
He is usually depicted as a skeleton wearing 
vestments of paper, a common offering to the dead.’
‘Flowers were viewed as sacrificial offerings, and
according to some stories, Quetzalcoatl led his 
people to offer flowers and butterflies in lieu of
human flesh’
‘it easily yields sparks, and the rock itself smells
 of smoke after use. It is a fine-granular quartz 
which abounds in the Maya lowlands. As the primary 
means of striking fire, flint was of inestimable 
use to humankind and was thus personified and 
deified; it was also the symbol of human sacrifice....
 Among the Aztecs, flint blades are also 
personified, frequently with an open gnawing mouth,
indicating their ability to tear flesh’

 

4.Splice the two together…. – You can keep the two poems as they are and just cut them together if that works, e.g

I was born with a recorder
for a backbone, ‘In central Mexico,
the preeminent god of death
was Mictlantecuhtli’
into a storm that
swallowed sound and spat
it out again like a palindrome.
The lord of Mictlan, the Underworld
is depicted as a skeleton wearing
vestments of paper. When I was
eight I found a four leaf clover…..

 

or you might like to play  a bit more, e.g:

I was born with a blockflute
for a backbone, into a storm that
swallowed sound and spat
it out again like a palindrome.
I grew into my skeleton, like the lord
of Mictlan, I wore vestments of paper,
and offered myself to the dead.

When I was eight I found a four
leaf clover and knew I would be lucky
forever. When I was ten I dried myself 
between the pages of a book 
full of riddles and stones.

When I was twelve I painted
irises in watercolour, then rubbed
them out with a fine-granular quartz,
it came to life between my flint
fingers, its gnawing mouth tore open my
window and let in a giant bird that
shrilled at the moon.

Nobody could live like this.
I had to sew my body back up
I had to imagine my skeleton
was tuneless bone, I stopped looking
for luck and flowers in pools of water
I stopped listening for storms.

I nonchalantly stepped onto a train,
but as the doors closed
thunder yelled, your eyes entered
and the instrument buried
inside me screamed.

Hannah Silva
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