To ease us into POVEMBER we covered various forms of poetry this week. Here are some of the notes and creations from one of our groups (Maria, James, Heather). If anyone else has stuff to share that they came up with, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org — we look forward to reading it! x
She didn’t have to wait long for a new customer today.
She felt it at the palm of her hands when she shuffled her deck of tarot cards. So just as she had predicted, the customer from last week entered her booth, her hand clutching another young woman’s arm. Our fortune teller smiled at the sight of this; the young woman was positively beautiful, skin glowing with life and blood.
“Welcome back,” she said, channelling all her magic to the sound of her voice. The young woman relaxed immediately, her eyes widening in fascination. Our fortune teller lit the candles next to her deck of cards.
She might have some fun with the girl before she drained some of her life force.
The young woman took the seat opposite, her auburn hair flowing down in curls. She was nervous, she was biting her nails and picking the skin off her fingers.
“Leave us,” the fortune teller ordered the old customer, who diligently obliged. Once she was alone with the woman, she flashed a kind smile.
“So what’s your name, my dear?” she said.
“Cassandra,” the young woman nervously whispered.
“Now what seems to be the problem?” she mustered all her energy to make Cassandra relax.
“I’ve been having these strange nightmares, I see fire, and disease, and death. I’m all alone. Oh God, help me! I’m afraid!” Cassandra’s voice rose in pitch exponentially.
“Relax, relax.” The fortune teller’s soothing voice filled the booth. “Don’t worry, I’m here to help. Now…” she coughed as she offered her hands. “Take my hands.”
The young woman reached out tentatively, and the fortune teller stifled a moan. Oh, she hadn’t felt such a vibrant soul in decades—so bright, so strong, so powerful…
“Close your eyes, my dear,” the fortune teller said soothingly, “and relax”, and Cassandra did, eyes closing and head drooping forward.
The fortune teller sighed, and smiled, and began to draw the power, pulling the brightness and the power into herself. And then Cassandra grip turned hard and strong and unyielding, and her eyes flew open, and with a voice like a steel trap, uttered one word.
The girl’s skin was rapidly losing its beautiful, youthful texture, becoming ashen and cracked. The fortune teller still gripped Cassandra’s fragile fingers, draining every last spark. Cassandra’s now corpse-like form clattered to the floor.
Nonchalantly, our fortune teller flipped over the top card. Death. There was something pleasing about the skeletal figure.
“It was never going to end well, my dear,” she mocked the girl’s body.
“It’s unwise to mock the dead, sister. Even you should know that.”
Our fortune teller turned to face her older sister, half entering from the curtains.
Her face still held a certain glow, more from a good moisturiser than from a healthy diet of souls.
“What’s got your knickers in a twist? Feed on another coma patient this morning?”
It was irritating to watch her sister attempt morals.
“Let her go, sister,” her sister states calmly, “I don’t want to hurt you.” She laughed manically, like her sister would dare.
“I drew from the cards to decide her fate. I’m just a tool in the hands of a higher power.” She keeps an eye on the girl who had gained some color back. “There’s enough to share.”
“I made a vow that I will keep, sister, don’t make me hurt you.” Her sister takes a step into the room and the girl goes limp. “Stop now sister.”
“I can’t, I haven’t felt power like this in so long.”
“Don’t kill her then. Enslave her, let her replenish her power and come back.”
“Death has its place in life. She gets her power from somewhere, I will that find that.”
By Eugenia Lo (& MK, CM, H, JL, Z)
The scalpel dug in jaggedly to the lady’s cold flesh. It didn’t glide as it usually did with the live ones. She was a model subject, so demure in her nakedness. Her glazed eyes did not flash with wanton thoughts; she was pale, voluptuous and perfect. The surgeon drew another implement from the steel tray at his side. This one was encrusted with blood from his previous guest. His last guest was more vocal, she had been warm and fidgeting. Oh but she was complicit… they all were. A bulbous buzzing fly floated past his face landing on the work table next to his Madonna. He smashed it mercilessly with his cold steel saw before wiping the blade on his smeared apron.
“This won’t hurt a bit,” he whispered, gently caressing the angelic woman’s swollen belly. He dug the saw in with an uncomfortable crunching sound. The greying skin peeled back and a few black droplets of congealed blood flecked upon his forearms. Still he persisted. Such a pity to spoil such a perfect woman. Still the treasure lay within and he edged ever closer.
He prized apart the layers of skin, he could not help but remark upon the exquisite delicacy of it all, the mesh of tissues that had once teemed with life. Now the time had come for the more tender implements. He put down the saw and took up a glinting little silver blade, so small and keen… It was the sharpest in his copious collection. He had found the seat of the jewel, the filmy sac, purple and stiff with the vigour of death. He pulled the blade across its length and out poured the stagnant liquid. The womb had been the only home this little creature had ever known, but soon…soon it would become so much more.
He could almost hear what could have been, the sound of a new life wailing. This was not the first time he had to operate on a pregnant patient but it was certainly the first time he could still feel the faintest, the slowest pulse of a heartbeat as he dug his gloved hands in to the belly of the woman.
As his plastic mitts emerged from her stomach, soaked in a foul crimson liquid, he could see the remnants of a deformed creature. Oh what life this poor thing could have grown up to be. He could have been a teacher, a priest, a soldier. Then again he could have been another homeless tramp that litters the streets. As he put the fleshy mess onto the tray, he could hear a horde of crashing and banging from along the hall.
He flinched but didn’t panic. This couldn’t be rushed. He carefully lifted a syringe, filled with an ominous dark reddish brown liquid, and pulled the tiny deformed child towards him. His eyes gleamed, “This however,” he said wickedly “…this will hurt.” As he pushed the needle in to the child, pressing the plunger all the way down, the infant let out a terrible blood-curling scream. He dropped the syringe and stepped back, smiling serenely as the baby writhed and cried. The footsteps were louder now, faster, running towards him, but he didn’t care. And as several burly men burst in to the room, he simply laughed. And as his own knife sliced his throat there was a perverse happiness in his eyes. “It’s too late.” He gurgled, and the life left him.
The child was taken away, after being soothed and silenced. It was placed in the loving arms of a doctor and his wife, who for many years had been in want of a child. There were none who knew of the vile chemicals that had been forced inside the infant’s veins. None who knew the change they had brought to the fragile little body. The surgeon was dead and the records buried. The baby was safe and loved.
Months passed. Red and golden leaves fell, then ghostly snow before the crocuses broke free and spring came at last. The child had reached his first year, unbeknownst of course to his adoptive parents who hadn’t taken up his care until the tendrils of summer had curled itself around the rosy blossom. So there were no gifts and no special tea prepared, as far as the child’s parents were concerned those arrangements were not needed for weeks. Yet the child felt it within himself, somehow within his tiny body he felt the advent of the cyclical date of his nativity. With only the first few teeth protruding and annals of communication not yet available to him, he was unable to make his feeling known.
That night the old grandfather clock in the hallway struck midnight and the child howled. The most bloodcurdling screech that rattled the windows of the old manor. The doctor’s wife sprung from her bed and ran to the child’s crib. As she reached her arms in to cradle her beloved son she felt a sharp sting on her forearm and fell to the ground lifeless. The child’s jaw trickled with blood. The surgeon’s final masterpiece was complete…
By Hayley Rutherford (& the homies)
It wasn’t the waiting that she hated, as much as the silence. Standing in this deserted clearing, back against a tree, the bark digging into her skin through her clothes, she longed for a sound, any sound. Her hand gripped the handle of her sword, still sheathed at her hip, and the weight of her various other concealed weapons was a comfort. A bead of sweat rolled down her upper lip, but she didn’t dare move. The silence was unbearable, almost a physical weight on her, and then…
There it was, the signal, and she tensed, coiled like a spring, and then out of the corner of her eye she saw a movement, and she leapt into action.
She had sliced through the first man’s neck before he knew she was there, his head flying in an arc through the air, and she killed two more before they had time to make any move for their weapons, her sword making a sickening squelch in their flesh before they fell lifeless to the ground. She easily floored one more, whose fumbling fingers had barely found her sword and hadn’t even been able to unsheathe it in time.
There were three more, she saw, armed and ready and wary, and she smirked and raised her sword.
The largest of the three bared rotten teeth in a perverse smile.
“So, the little kitten thinks she can fight.”
His comrades laughed in mirthless mockery.
“Tell you what, darling, Drop that sword and we might go easy on you.” I did. And as I did, I slid a knife from its sheath and flicked it into the first bastard’s eye. He dropped his sword and staggered back.
With both hands, he ripped the knife from his eye, leaving nothing but a hole in his face like a burst sore.
The brute clearly doesn’t know when to die, I thought. Picking up my sword, I sliced his legs from under him. He lay on the ground, groaning with pain. The night was silent once more as I shoved my sword through his throat. The way was clear. As I began to edge towards the door, its portcullis closed over it like bared teeth.
I smile at the artful way I had disposed of these men. My swordsmanship hadn’t dulled but it could use some sharpening if I’m to stay on top. I step carefully through the hallway, aware of my surroundings, always. Making a mistake will kill you here.
A knife hurtles through the air and sings as it passes my ear. “You always were a lousy shot,” I tease the man standing behind me.
Edgar pulls me into an embrace. His soft lips caress mine.
“Now, now is the time, my love, he whispers with passionate glee. “Your exile has been too long, far too long my love,” he whispers, sliding his hands over my hips. I unfurled myself from his grasp and hushed him.
“To the task at hand,” I uttered defiantly. “Once that old king has breathed his last pathetic breath then we can rejoice.”
“And I will take you as my wife and we can rule together,” Edgar burst, his fevered lips finding mine in a frenzy.
I stepped back, drawing my sword. “Never forget, Edgar, that I am more of an heir to this throne than you are. After all, I am your elder sister…”
We began to dance. Not the dance of lovers, or even brother and sister, but a deadly dance, knives flashing. He pulls my hair, leaves my throat bare and ready for his knife, but I am too quick. His blade meets nothing but air. He slashes at me again, and I dance out of reach.
“Sister, dear- why must we fight?” he gasps. “We are blood are we not? And do I not love you more than anyone, or anything, in this bleak world?”
“You do, dear Edgar, I’m sure that you do. But if ever anything less thick than blood, it would be gold. It is mine, all mine. Share it I cannot. But my love, if you will give it to me, all to me, and take only my loving caresses in return… why then, we shall be so very happy, my dear.”
Edgar’s arm went slack, and he ceased brandishing the knife.
“That is all I ever wanted,” he replied.
“Then come to me, my dearest one.” We embraced, kissing so passionately that all else around us fell away. But then, a knife… a knife sunk in, and one sibling was no more…
She stepped back, shuddering in disgust. “Thank you,” she said, bowing deeply, and a figure stepped into the light, over the dead body, stepping on the corpse without a care.
“My pleasure,” the figure said softly, returning the vow.
“Let’s dispense with these pleasantries, Serena, my dear,” the girl said, smiling. “We have much to do, after all,” and the figure removed their hood, revealing a scarred but still beautiful face, with long dark hair plaited out of the way. She smiled.
“Of course, your Majesty,” Serena said mockingly, and the other girl laughed.
“Not yet,” she said, and they sobered, thinking of the task ahead.
“First, though,” the girl said, “we have to get rid of this scum.” She prodded the body with her foot, and expression of utmost loathing etched onto her tired features. “I want to rinse my mouth out with bleach after that kiss, urgh,” she shuddered again, “but I had to keep him distracted.”
“You saw me coming, then, Ella?” Serena asked, a note of disappointment in her voice.
Ella chuckled, bending down and roughly grabbing one of the body’s limp arms. “Help me with this piece of shit, will you,” she said, and Serena grabbed the other arm. With a grunt, they hauled it upright, the head lolling sickeningly, eyes still open.
Serena grimaced. “I don’t know how you could ever pretend to love him,” she said, as they staggered back to the entrance of the castle, cautious and careful despite the casual conversation. “He was despicable even when he wasn’t dead.”
“Let’s not talk about it,” Ella sighed, as they heaved the body into a thicket of bushes, scurrying quickly back into the castle. “And yes, I did hear you coming,” she said smugly.
Serena groaned. “One day I’ll sneak up on you,” she promised, and then they quieted, huddling in a dark corner, carefully checking their weapons.
“You ready?” Serena said, hand resting on Ella’s arm, the challenge in her voice at odds to the comforting touch.
Ella smiled, sword drawn, and her face in the semi-darkness looked positively evil. “To kill the king? I’ve only been waiting for five years,” and then, with a brisk hug, the two crept deeper into the dark, eerie castle.
By Maura Kenny (& co-conspirators)
The tiny moon was in shadow, behind the planet, no light from the far off star illuminating its craggy surface. The black spaceship lurked near it, orbiting slowly, watching, waiting.
And there it was- the opulent, rich convey they were waiting for. An almost tangible aura of expectation fell over the ship, as it broke away from the moon’s pull and sped silently after the convoy, cloaked and shielded and almost invisible.
Inside the ship there was a hustle and bustle, a stark contrast to the stillness of the void outside the steel walls. The captain was barking orders, her voice almost drowned out by the clatter of weapons and the whir of the shielding mechanism and the clanking of the engines, working way too hard.
The chief engineer was yelling at her assistants as she fought desperately to cool the quickly overheating engine, cursing loudly and vowing that this time she would persuade the captain to actually stop at a port so she could get the parts she needed to properly fix this piece of junk.
The quartermaster was divvying up their meagre supply of weapons, thankful (not for the first time) that everyone was well-armed already, as she banged a blaster against the wall in an attempt to loosen the stiff trigger.
“Thirty seconds!” hollered the pilot, hands clenched tight on the juddering controls as her co-pilot frantically flicked switches and adjusted dials, the last ship in the convoy directly in front of them. This part never got easier.
A deathly hush fell over the ship, everyone stilling, hands on weapons, braced for impact, and then the tiny battered black spaceship collided with the opulent glittering exterior of the huge ship with a resounding crash.
By Maura Kenny
So these are the two sonnets Maura, Maria, James and Heather came up with. The prompts were ‘wonderful’, ‘hurt’, ‘whispers’ & ‘a tragic love story’. Since we were talking about Yeats earlier in the seminar, we went with the theme of fairies. When it’s finished it’ll be a wee sonnet cycle on the subject of a grove of fairies in the woods, and a young man who, tempted by the sweet music made by the small creatures, finds himself fatally enraptured by one of them. They work sooo much better when read aloud in unison, by the way. Kind of uncanny.
On the top of the hill the fairies play
Around the flowers they frolic and dance
And beckoning you close, they whisper “stay.”
Unwary travellers may take a chance
Follow the fairies wherever they go
Along the beauty of some ancient tune,
With glittering notes the stars start to glow.
While the sprites soak up the light of the moon
The Seelie Queen sits in her flowered shrine;
Her gentle smile, her sweet benevolence
Her beauty, her love and her kindness shine.
You slowly move forward with hesitance.
What you thought you saw was purer than gold,
But deep in the shadows are stories untold.
A tale passed down from each father to son,
A warning to all seduced by the call
Who blindly pursue what cannot be won–
The hearts of fairies in love will not fall.
One moonlit night a boy strays from the trail,
Drawn into the trees by enchanting sounds
He walks through and pulls back the willow veil.
Driven by desire he enters their bounds.
The fairest creature of alluring face
Came forth from darkness and ensnared his soul:
The maiden moves and sways with serene grace–
Stunning to see but her heart is a hole.
And now he will dance till the day he dies,
While fairies laugh as their song fills the skies.
In the deepest, darkest depths of the wood
There is a place to which the fallen go
When their footsteps no longer walk the earth:
A sad and ancient place misunderstood.
Some say it bears the most famous of graves,
A shrine to the fallen sprung up among trees;
A holy space for errant knights and knaves—
Those who met love’s cruel fate among the leaves.
In winter sprites will lay down white roses
As they sing out the sorrows of snowdrops,
Wishing for spring when lovers bring posies
And lovely the sound of all those blood clots:
For what mortal male would stand but a chance
With fairies who spin in such fatal dance?
Across the sweeping valleys, fields, and hills
Where children imagine, run, and play
Mothers warned, play out in fields if you will
But never in the faerie woods do stray.
And though they knew to heed their mother’s word
When dancing lights glittered in the darkness
And sweet strains played as they had never heard
The children ran to the shadows’ caress.
Merrily they skipped in time to the charm
There was not one boy or girl left behind
And their parents searched for them in alarm
Though nought but small footprints were there to find.
So never in the faerie woods do stray
For they will happily snatch you away.
“We thought the idea we had would work best as a screenplay or television series. A bit like Lost, in terms of a set of random characters coming together over an exceptional circumstance, but with faster pacing than Lost and it would be a self-contained series, maybe like six episodes. A bit cinematic, very visual.
My character was: Alfie, the obsessive architect who experiences prophetic dreams.
These dreams portray the collapse of the building he has most recently designed. The collapse occurs in various ways, but always involving some kind of impact, implosion or explosion. Through flashbacks we come to understand that these dreams originate from Alfie’s experience of witnessing 9/11 from his mother’s living room, staring at the television and thinking he was just watching a pretty brutal disaster movie. It was only in the ensuing weeks, with further reporting and a shaky lesson at school, that he came to understand that this thing had actually happened. Throughout the series, there will be stuff about the flimsy nature of reality, the slippery relation between fantasy and reality, representation and real life. In Alfie’s head, 9/11 still sears with this uncanny, filmic quality. He can’t help but design all his buildings in a very similar style to the Twin Towers. All his sketches bear traces of that primal trauma. He used to have dreams where the fall of the second tower would loop over and over again in his mind, and he’d wake up in cold sweats. Now the dreams are about his own creations. He was a very prolific architect and sailed through university, completing his degree in fewer years than the required seven. The dreams of collapsing creations started when he started uni.
He tries to control this strange situation by designing elaborate architectural landscapes, ones with the sturdiest materials. It takes years to build them, but sure enough, the night before opening, he will dream of its destruction and awake to the fresh creation burnt to ashes, collapsed to rubble. After a while, people begin to be suspicious of him and he stops being hired by architect firms. Then, when word gets out about the slightly supernatural trail of bad luck that follows him, Alfie is hired by artists who are interested in the transience of the modern urban landscape. Everything he draws and builds is beautiful, but fleeting, they write on their website. They are planning to make a documentary film which will end up looping in the exhibition rooms of the Tate for the whole of winter. His crumbling towers capture the essence of contemporary consumer futility. In his spare time, he is designing a new hypermarket, in the American style, hoping for success on British shores. He has a hopeful sense about this one; that it won’t fall down, because its purpose is so insignificant. A place where people buy groceries, reduced tellies, own-brand shampoo. Surely it would not warrant the usual extravagant disaster.
- 2 x TV executives
- Adult entertainer
- People are drawn to the supermarket because it is advertised as an innovation in consumer experience, designed by a famous architect. They want to experience the surreal browsing wonderland of an American hypermarket.
- Alfie waits for the customers to arrive, watching them from the roof as he nervously sips brandy. He has not had the prophetic dream yet; there is no telling what will happen to this particular building.
- The spy is actually chasing the hitman, pursuing him through the supermarket?
- The adult entertainer, Wendy/Gwendoline, is drawn to the hypermarket because it sells very rare health-giving berries (from a specific Australian wetland) at a precious price. This is what also draws the health-conscious (unhealthily addicted to being healthy) TV executive. Turns out Wendy knows a special recipe for unlocking the berries’ hallucinogenic properties.
- There is a war going on outside – some kind of vague nuclear meltdown between nations. A lump of debris/plane crashes into the hypermarket, shattering half the building. All the characters have to make their way to the safe part, picking their way over collapsed shelves and bodies and bricks like they are trapped in a labyrinth.
- Everyone is oblivious to the war.
- There is a television broadcasting disaster on a loop (because the crash cut off the signal and so it got stuck on one particular scene) but they assume it’s just a movie. Deja vu – 9/11.
- One of the TV execs (the deceitful one) is secretly filming everything as the characters work their way through the hypermarket, fending for survival and trying to work out how to reestablish their phone/internet signal to send for help.
- It is all about questioning what we take as reality: we witness the hypermarket from each character’s perspective – the anxious architect battling with guilt, the hallucinating Wendy and Steve McNicol the TV exec., the mesmerised hitman staring at the telly, worrying about his cat who is pining at home without him.
- There is an irony because we know about the war outside and they don’t; they think the supermarket is a sinister environment, but actually it’s providing domestic sanctuary from the war outside (e.g. have cute scenes where characters share Pop Tarts and cereal straight from the packet, chatting about how they miss their houses).
- It ends with the discovery of a giant telly, and the revelation that the TV executive has been filming them all along; one of them hears their own voice repeating something they have said before and follows it along to discover the telly. The final scene, perhaps, will be the characters all staring up fearfully at this giant screen reflecting their own selves – and they are frozen into silence (a silence perhaps suggestive that even the world outside has ended?).”
We have just added a page on the blog where you can submit any work you and/or your group came up with in the workshops. There’s a link in the menu at the top of the page, or just click here.
Please do submit, as not everyone gets to hear what other groups have come up with, and it’s really nice to preserve the work rather than it getting lost amid revision flashcards and lecture note scrawls! Don’t worry if the work is unpolished or unfinished. These are not meant to be finished works but rather a starting off point to inspire your writing. So please submit absolutely anything you’ve come up with!
On the other hand, if you do have finished work from a workshop or something that you’ve finished at home, send it in via the form, with a title, and we’ll post it up as a finished piece.
If you have taken a photo of your work instead of typing it up, just e-mail of Facebook message it to us.
Can’t wait to see some of your submissions! :)
Dear Creative Writers,
We can now announce our schedule for the year! This year we have a range of workshops, some passed down as traditions from previous years, and some new. Most will follow a similar format to usual, with some discussion, group work and some individual tasks, but for some we have some interesting things planned. Make sure to bring a bottle of wine along to Week 5 next semester for example…
I hope that all of you can make it along most weeks, however if you’ve a busy schedule this year have a look at what’s upcoming and see what you’d most like to come along to. We’ll try and make each week as fun and inclusive as possible, so even if a particular genre isn’t necessarily your ‘thing’ there’s usually a way to put a spin on it to make it work for your style, plus it’s always fun to see what groups come up with together!
We’re really excited for this year and can’t wait to get to know you all in the weeks to come, and we hope you get the most out of the workshops, and use the time to socialise as well as getting some inspiration and feedback for your writing.
We had our first meet up tonight for the new semester and it was a great success! Thanks to everyone for coming along. Despite being in the pub and frequently distracted by beer and chips we actually managed to kick-start this year of creative writing in a pretty productive way. We did a little exercise where each group member took turns writing a line to build up a little story. Here are some samples from our fresh new faces!
When I woke up I really wished I didn’t go there last night.
What I saw was imprinted on my eyeballs, every time I closed my eyes it flashed on negative.
I tried blinking, rubbing my eyes, hitting my head, anything to rid myself of the memories.
Nothing worked so the only thing left to do, my last hope, was to go back there and relive that fateful moment.
Tentatively I lowered my feet to the carpet. Even the soft touch of the wool sent spikes of pain up my toes.
Ignoring the aches I hobbled to the wardrobe and slipped in to some new clothes.
Then I opened the door, made my way downstairs and stepped in to the cold, dark night.
The street was dark but the figure ahead was clear.
There, at the end of the road, illuminated by the dim orange dusk of the streetlights stood a tall man in a long coat.
He lifted the coat up and I ran towards him.
Drizzle feeds the moss on the wall.
The moss keeps expanding, eventually covering the whole wall and part of the footpath.
Her dog gets covered too and he’s likely to die.
The little girl is very sad and attempt to hold back the tears as they take him to an expert.
The expert confirms that the moss is doing the dog no good and he only has days left to live.
She watches as he turns to stone; the tail that once thumped a rapid rhythm of joy when he saw her solidifies.
Then his ears and his tongue turn in to stone too.
Next to solidify is his heart, and the girl’s goes too- never again can she love another dog so much.
She returns to the wall where the moss grew.
The drizzle starts up again.
“That’s so meta…”
“I volunteer to write the first line of the story,” volunteered David, heroically.
The entire group looked at him in awe.
As waves upon the shore lie….
An unwritten sentence, now write, or wait, now write, or! Wait… now write!
Fergus is confused. So is Molly.
The rest of the class, however, appeared to proceed with complete confidence.
But David was brave and Fergus was confused so where was the point?
There was a long silence with everyone looking at David
And he scrawled on to the paper: “I volunteer to write the first line of the story,” volunteered David, heroically.