BADPOET; Arbitrary

BADPOET is a project I started playing around with about a year ago now, the basic idea is, that while I have the utmost respect for poetry as a medium and even more so for the practitioners that can use it to express themselves, I am and always have been a pretty bad poet. This then, is my way of embracing my undoubted and inescapable flaws as a writer. I generally use these as short detours when my mind is wondering away from Strangetown. After all, I am of the firm belief that if your mind wants to wander then you should always let it, you never know what it might bring back. Anyway, this is the first in my collection of bad poems.

*ahem*

Arbitrary

In an attempt to write
bad poetry
Is it possible to
Stumble upon something
to be enjoyed?

Although I feel I have
A grasp of stanzas
I have sometimes suspected
in hands such as mine
that the customary
breaks in the line
are somewhat
arbitrary.

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In Conversation With; Isabelle Sudron

Moving forwards, to make sure that this isn’t just a blog full of me blathering about my own work and to provide a wider perspective on the weird and wonderful world of writing I will be pestering various literary types into answering some questions for the delight and betterment of all.

First up; Isabelle Sudron, a young lady that I met at University who, in an apparent contravention of the laws of physics, has a smile bigger than her whole head. Please take the time to check out her undeniably snazzy website HERE or indeed HERE before reading our hard-hitting expose on the life of an aspiring children’s author.

 

Writing Strange Give us a little background on yourself. What was the moment it clicked that you’re a writer and what are your ambitions moving forwards?

Isabelle Sudron I’ve always written stories and poems but I never really considered myself a writer. I felt silly calling myself a writer when I mostly just sit in a room alone, type some words, delete said words, and start again. Then, somewhere along the line, my definition of a ‘good day’ became measured by how much writing I got done. That’s when I thought, ‘I guess I’m a writer now!’
And, in terms of my ambitions, I’d just like to write for a living everyday – that’s the dream!

WS What are you working on at the moment, how far along are you?

IS I recently finished writing my first children’s book, Olive in the Heights, and it’s now in the hands of a number of lovely beta readers. So, right now, I’m waiting in fear for feedback. The next step is making a few final tweaks to my manuscript (I hope) and then harassing literary agents across the land!

WS What’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome so far in your career and how did you do it?

IS A few years ago, I quit my job, moved back home and took an unpaid internship to get some experience in storytelling. My employer was a nightmare – think Miss Trunchbull meets administration – and at the end of two months of hard work, she assured me that I wouldn’t make it as a writer. So, I was unemployed, inexperienced and apparently talentless too. I felt pretty low and I spent a long time struggling to decide whether to prove ol’ Trunchbull wrong or throw in the towel. There was lots of soul searching, feeling sorry for myself and comfort eating. But, eventually, I decided I had nothing to lose. I got myself a part-time job and I focused all my spare time on writing a book.
Although that felt like a pretty rough milestone in my career, it’s probably also what kickstarted it. Thank goodness for the real-life Trunchbulls, eh?

WS When and how did you decide to produce work for a younger audience, do you have any particular influences?

IS As a reader, I don’t think I’ve ever really grown out of children’s books. I love the fact that anything and everything can happen, characters can be eccentric and plots can be so random. And as a writer, I love the fact that children are willing to suspend their disbelief for a great story. I feel like that creates so many more possibilities for writing. My main influence has to be Philip Ridley, he is my absolute writing Yoda! His books have eccentric characters and unusual plots, all while being set in average neighbourhoods that lots of kids actually live in. I still read his books when I need a bit of inspiration (and sometimes just for fun too).

WS Is there anything you’ve learned in the course of your efforts that you think of as being particularly useful to people in a similar position?

IS For me, planning is essential. Yes, it can be boring and frustrating, but it shaves so many hours off editing. The most useful resource I’ve found, in terms of story planning, is Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat and his ‘beat sheets’. Although they’re intended for screenwriters, I’ve still found them really useful. Another important thing I’ve learnt is that you don’t necessarily need to be a good writer to be a good storyteller. In the words of Elmore Leonard, “Write the book the way it should be written, then give it to somebody to put in the commas and shit.”

WS And just to be mean, what are your three favourite pieces of writing?

IS That is such a difficult question! I’d have to go for:
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion and
Mighty Fizz Chilla by Philip Ridley.
I like books where you really get to see the characters grow and these three books do just that!

the man who could not smile (iii)

The third and final installment of the man who could not smile, then, in which our hero listens to the news and unexpectedly meets a young lady.

Over the course of the next couple of weeks I’ll be trying to edit this and get it published, so stay tuned for news of any platforms accepting original short-form creative writing and my spirited attempts to badger them into submission.


I mulled these various pieces of information over in my mind as I read an essay about the rapid rise in popularity of courgette ribbons and its effect on various heartlands of the agricultural mediterranean meanwhile miles davis broke down musical barriers in the background and I indulged in a bottle of mencia that a local wineseller assured me was a fantastic expression of a little known grape and which, while I had learned that he spoke on these matters with some authority, tasted to me like a generic dry spanish white wine and was therefore hugely overpriced

at some point I suppose I fell asleep because my watch, which I can no longer enthuse about but which rather charmed me when I initially paid a swiss artisan to hand make it, told me that it was 9:30 am, about two and a half hours before my appointment

the morning news informed me that world was still an astonishingly violent and seemingly irredeemable place as I brushed my teeth.

The weatherman informed me that the weather was unseasonably something or other as I quietly reflected that if the weather was unseasonable all the year round then maybe it was time to sack the weatherman and polished my shoes

the sports report told me of fantastic achievement and of unfathomable heartbreak as I tousled my hair

the watch told me it was time to get into my stylishly understated german saloon car, it being well know that sports cars are the preserve of dickheads and footballers, and leave in order to arrive for my appointment an hour earlier, the better to make the receptionist feel extremely uncomfortable with unnecessarily intense eye contact, a technique that has served me well over the years

after filling in the relevant paperwork I was seated on a wine red leather couch and presented with a passable cortada

I sat forward in my chair, making myself appear as uncomfortable as possible, and tried to lock eyes with the receptionist only to find my view blocked by a woman who was herself filling in paperwork

anatomically correct,
stylistically astute,
personally aloof,
I disliked her instantly.

Moreso when she ordered a double macchiato, a much more on trend caffeinated beverage than my own choice

I said a crude word aloud to myself

She informed me that she hadn’t quite heard me, although I knew she had

I informed her that it wasn’t important

Her disdain was obvious, the same her boredom, she asked me why I was there

I informed her that I could feel no joy

She reminded me that she wasn’t the therapist

I protested that she had asked

She told me she was sick of yp’s bitching about their insecurities

I told her that my position in life allowed me to sample the best of everything and that I didn’t really like any of it

She laughingly informed me that the things I was told to want were made by people like me, whereas she was being sold things by people thought woman was a marketing demographic

I told her that making money to spend on things I didn’t want meant that I only needed more money to buy more things I didn’t want

She told me that, since I was in a position to afford things, I should shut the fuck up about material satisfaction

I told her that the proliferation of impossible ideals meant that I could no longer feel an attraction to a real woman and that pornography had ceased to arouse me years ago

She howled with laughter, and said that because of a lack of seating she had found herself on top of a washing machine as an adolescent and that no man had ever made her feel nearly the same way

at that point I was called into the therapist’s office, wherein I remember nothing other than developing a nosebleed.

The beluga sturgeon is a breed of fish that has existed, relatively unchanged, since dinosaurs inhabited the planet

the fish themselves don’t produce eggs until they have reached maturity, which can take up to twenty years

these eggs are then used to produce Almas Caviar and sold at an astonishing price

I was seated in my customary table in the corner of the restaurant and, having ordered Almas Caviar, asked to speak to the chef

His caviar, I told him, lacked a little flavour

He informed me that his food was so well regarded that he had recently been approached about being the subject of a feature length documentary

I told him that, if you looked for it, you could probably find a documentary about status quo

he asked me why I insisted on disparaging his culinary efforts

I explained to him that as his best friend, it fell upon me to be honest

He assured me that he was better acquainted with several people

Regardless, I said with the disdainful gaze of the woman from the waiting room on my mind, I’d like you to know that I think I may have met someone.

Julian, said the chef, I really don’t care.

the man who could not smile (i)

So, a few months ago I realized that since starting work on Strangetown in earnest I have been stockpiling ideas for other things I want to write and this one wouldn’t leave me alone. Inspired by George Saunders’ take on consumerism and the numbing effect of it when I read the In Persuasion Nation collection I wanted to see what my own take on that might look like and came up with the man who could not smile. As it’s a little longer, I’ve split it into three parts, the next two will be posted over the next week or so.

*Ahem*

the man who could not smile.

the thymus gland is found in many species of mammals, including humans, and only functions until puberty.

its function is to prevent autoimmunity, meaning that the immune system will not attack or reject itself helping to ensure that the creature survives into adolescence and thus reach full maturity.

in lambs, the gland begins to regress once the lamb moves away from a full milk diet, anytime between 14 and 60 days old.

i ate three lambs’ thymus for lunch yesterday.

i thought they were a little overseasoned and i said so to the chef.

he informed that his sweetbreads recipe was award winning.

i informed him that since the president of the united states of america had, in the same calendar year that had seen a considerable surge in the number of targeted drone strikes, been awarded the nobel peace prize, the entire notion of an award, of some underlying notion of meritocracy, had been negated.

the chef replied that his sister was very ill and that his restaurant was full and that he did not have time to discuss politics.

i reaffirmed that his sweetbreads were overseasoned.

he asked me to leave.

suicide tuesday is a colloquial term given to the period of depression and anxiety that occurs midweek due to excessive drug use at the weekend.

the thinking espoused by people that have a rudimentary grasp of brain chemistry is that the finite amount of endorphines, the hormone responsible for the pleasure which floods the system upon the ingestion of, for example, ecstasy, that store of pleasure has been used up in response to repetitive loud music and aimless, rambling conversation.

i thought about this, reclining in my chair and listening to a miles davis album through a newly purchased Sonigasm stereo system with patented dynamic equalizer technology.

according to the salesman, the adverts and several celebrity endorsements the way in which the amplifier reacted to modulation in the frequency of the music in real time ensured that the emission of every phrase, bar and note was subtly altered so as to be absolutely perfect.

a Sonigasm sponsored listicle about which ten albums best showed off their new technology, that had recently been awarded a prestigious prize for journalism, had appeared in my e-mail inbox a day or so after i bought the most expensive system in the range and paid someone to install it for me.

it was suggested that Bitches Brew edged out Dark Side of the Moon because, musically it was more challenging and therefore best placed to show that their customers were in possession of impeccable and discerning taste.

i do not like jazz music, but part of my employment contract was to ensure the curation of an impeccable and discerning taste in music in case I was ever called on to venture and opinion on, say, whether I thought that krautrock was better defined by can or kraftwerk during a business lunch with an avid record collector.

the reason I was thinking about Suicide Tuesday was this; the results of thousands of years of the human wide-quest for pleasure had conspired to leave me cold.

like the roman aristocracy, ensconced in a orgy while a madman played a violin on the burning rooftops outside.

the reason I was thinking about suicide tuesday was this; my employers had begun to suggest that my malaise was affecting my work.

they were of the opinion that, in order to sell luxury life insurance to precocious entrepreneurs, i not only needed to have impeccable and discerning taste but also to have an optimistic and gently encouraging disposition.

existentialism, they pointed out, is bad for a business that mainly trades on mortality.

one of my employers is particularly fond of internal rhyming structures and, when asked about it, is able to espouse at length the popularization of such techniques within the mid-nineties hiphop scene on the east coast of america.

this knowledge, he is keen to point out, once helped him sell a massively overpriced policy to an american mogul who, every 4th of july, sends him a hamper full of nestle products for reasons best known to himself.

this is one example of success that has been used to inspire me during the previous quarter, it being in the belief of the company that encouragement is a far more useful workplace tool than reprimand.

about existentialism my employers, i think, have a point.

kierkegaard and his descendants probably would have suggested that, in a world in which people have shifted towards defining themselves by what they enjoy rather than what they do, someone that finds no enjoyment is, philosophically and psychologically speaking, fucked.

this, i felt, was historically unfair.

at any other period in recent history me being symmetrical, strong jawed, muscular, wealthy, white, young, male, heterosexual, healthy and employed would have ensured that my place in society was taken for granted, unchallenged.

at some point, someone had decided that being happy was important too, that unhappy people were somehow unusual and unnecessary, to be avoided.

things at work had come to a head over a business meeting.

Pulp Idol Firsts 2016

For anyone interested in getting to grips with the kind of thing we’re talking about here, and also to introduce themselves with some fantastic Merseyside authors, you could do worse than to get yourself a copy of Pulp Idol Firsts 2016, which as well as the first chapter of my own novel contains work from the other eleven finalists of last year’s competition.

For those of you that don’t own a kindle, just search for the name of the collection and you should find it in several digital formats.