Love the words, love the words…

Yes, the famous direction Dylan Thomas gave to the actors on the opening night of Under Milk Wood. And I DO love the words.

I wrote a baby’s lullaby story as a tribute, and it was recorded…

More and more, as I’ve been writing poetry for my creative writing class, I simply love THE WORDS – and if there ISN’T a word, I make one up. It’s the sound, to me, that conveys the meaning, WAAAAAY more than a dictionary definition.

There’s even a technical term for one of the devices I (inadvertently) use sometimes, without even realising it was a device.

The transferred epithet.

Good ole’ Dylan Thomas, again – to illustrate:

“though moles see fine tonight in the snouting, velvet dingles.” UH?

Well,  snouting and velvet are adjectives which would usually be used to describe a mole, rather than a dingle (a wooded valley).


I read a great article called ‘ Twist Words to Surprise Readers,’  by Beth Hill.

Here’s a little extract, which rather sums up my word choice ethos – an ethos at which I sometimes fail – but the THOUGHT is there.

“I’m talking word choices that twist the common, allowing you to see a different side or facet, twists that make words and passages of text shine. Words that crack open a scene, forcing rough edges or raw emotion to protrude. Words used in the wrong context that actually prove to be perfect in that context. Verbs used as nouns, nouns used as verbs. Adjectives used as nouns that get readers nodding their heads or laughing or smiling or pulling your book closer and settling in for another chapter.

Poets seek this kind of phrasing as a matter of course and although you don’t necessarily need to write poetically, do take advantage of this technique.”

That’s one way of saying ‘LOVE THE WORDS!’

Not to mention, onomatopoeia.

On that note, here is a poem, inspired by a piece of music – yes, played (endlessly!) at the writing class until I thought I might scream if I heard it one more time, lovely though it was. It’s Prokofiev’s Clarinet Sonata, 3rd Movement, here played on the flute by James Galway:

And the poem? As I recall, it had to be about a street.

Lowly lull
Left-behind land,
Lightly layered
Living lost in time

Meander, wander
Along the strand
The fragile strand
That binds us to
Forgetful past,
No reminder

Ghost shadows ghost,
Mist and mirrors,
Moping moon
Breath crystal-sharp droplets
Only form in formless future

And drip
And dissolve
Until street
Shivering stream
Flowing back
To eternity

Lowly lull,
Lowly lull,
Labile luminiscence

A Street at Night in Wet Weather by Edward Steel Harper II

A Street at Night in Wet Weather by Edward Steel Harper II

Love the words, love the image…

The poets in me

“Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese,” said G.K. Chesterton. (Now there’s a challenge!)


Fabulous! Eat your heart out, Annie Lennox. I suppose, if you don’t know the original, this won’t seem in the slightest bit funny.

Just for you…

Sweet dreams are made of this
Who am I to disagree
I travel the world and the seven seas
Everybody’s looking for something

In all honesty, I only added the quote and the song (poem) because they made me laugh. Quotations about poetry can be awfully SIGNIFICANT. Which I’m not. Or, I like to think I’m not and then I start writing poetry. There are poets inside me. More than one. The silly and the seriously serious poets inside me who vie for my attention. Sometimes, it’s a draw.

SO – the subject for creative writing class homework was…A Piece of Cake.

When quizzed about the process of producing the poem, I was able to recall the starting point, which was a thought:

Juggling chainsaws? Yeah. Piece of cake.


WHY I had this thought I can’t begin to explain.

So, the poem started, as written by one of my poets. The silly one, who’s always first in the queue.


I have ambitions, you see.

A wish list.

Things to do before I die.


Mastering the wearing of flip flops.

Swimming with tadpoles.

Climbing the north face of Oxford Street without oxygen.

Competing in the Grand National, maybe as a fence?

Learning to wolf whistle better than a wolf.

The list is endless.

And each of these things is easy.

A piece of cake.


But as the poem evolved, another of my poets took over…two lines repeated so it makes more sense.


And each of these things is easy.

A piece of cake.

Compared to remembering what day it is.

And your face.

Your name.

And who I am.

And was.


Thank you my poets. For the twist.


by Super-Her0, on Deviant Art

Writing about debt

Yes, debt. Writing as part of a fascinating project – Burning the Books – in association with my creative writing class


Here we all are – with creator Alinah Azadeh in the centre, holding the book. Yes, sorry about the need for a magnifying glass.

“What do you think about when you think about debt? Is there something you owe, or are owed, that you would like to see an end to? A sum of money, an action left undone or a word left unsaid? Or a debt owed by a third party that needs to be called to account? The Book is coming to a street or venue near you. The Book will be recited. And then The Book must be burned.”

My thoughts circled around the idea that the gift of life could so easily become tarnished and turn into a burden.

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A song to parents, of universal debt

I O, I O, I O
I owe you, he-she.
Who gave my life to me.

The gift of life, skin-wrapped
chrysalis, no wings attached,
you said
X-Y permutation
your future-hope creation
bearer of your dreams

Your dreams
Not mine

The curse of life, mutated he-she
not he-she but me
my heart
crushed into rib-cage
I said
flightless bird, embryonic rage
for all you wanted me to be
for all I failed to be

your he-she clone
not me

Debt’s a gift, debt’s a burden
And I will not be free




For this, Peter likened me to Philip Larkin, which I must say I took as a huge compliment (even though he meant that the poem displayed a black and bitter view of parenthood – or rather, of being the child of parents…)

You know the Larkin poem, This Be The Verse, which starts like this…

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So – to write it down, by hand, in a beautiful volume, and then have it recited in public, and then to witness the book being burned, was…

Ella Eyre in concert - Birmingham


And to my boys, accept my gift of life and know that it is not a debt.

Writing inspired by art

Well, I was just going to describe a recent piece of work as, ‘inspired by art’ – but then, don’t I go and discover it has a name all of its own, this sort of creative writing?


Silly me.

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“Ekphrasis has been considered generally to be a rhetorical device in which one medium of art tries to relate to another medium by defining and describing its essence and form, and in doing so, relate more directly to the audience, through its illuminative liveliness.”

Let’s just stick to ‘inspired by art,’ shall we?

Take John Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn, for example.


Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness,
       Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
       A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fring’d legend haunts about thy shape

       Of deities or mortals, or of both…

Then, Walter Pater wrote so lyrically about Mona Lisa

“She is older than the rocks among which she sits; like the vampire, she has been dead many times, and learned the secrets of the grave; and has been a diver in deep seas, and keeps their fallen day about her; and trafficked for strange webs with Eastern merchants: and, as Leda, was the mother of Helen of Troy, and, as Saint Anne, the mother of Mary; and all this has been to her but as the sound of lyres and flutes, and lives only in the delicacy with which it has moulded the changing lineaments, and tinged the eyelids and the hands.”

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And apparently, William Blake said that poetry and art are ‘ways to converse with paradise.’ 

Hope so.

And I WAS inspired by art – another exercise for my creative writing class. Tutor, Roddie Phillips‘ wife, who also attends, is the stellar artist Catriona Millar. (It was through Catriona’s work that I met them both…and cajolled Peter into buying one of Catriona’s paintings for my birthday.)

Here it is. I love it so very much.

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Little Wing by Catriona Millar

Homework – to write a piece inspired by art. What else could I choose? (Though I had to step over the idea that it appeared to be very sucky-uppy to write about the work of an artist who would be THERE and also, possibly, fraught with danger. Say she hated what I wrote? What a difficult position she’d be in. And me. And Roddy too.)

Still. It came off.

Little Wing by Catriona Millar by Caroline Coxon

Dressed chestnut for autumn
Fallen angel
Floats in the air, between stillness and motion
Swept sideways, hair, nose, and shoulders
Insubstantial and substantial, both.
Dream of inception,
Dream of annihilation

The bird.
Vicious and comforting
Brooding black, pretty pastel-winged,
Thought of aggression
Thought of protection

Want for nothing.


Inspired by art.


Writing hungry

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I’m quite often hungry.

(Not REALLY hungry. I wouldn’t, in a million years, equate my mild stomach rumblings with what it’s like to be starving. I can only imagine. My heart goes out to those people, wherever they are).

I’m hungry because I’m doing the 5:2 thing – five days of eating as usual and two non-consecutive days of fasting, eating only up to 500 calories worth of food, which is about a quarter of a normal (privileged) Western intake. This is not so much because I need to lose weight, because I don’t – it’s more to do with a healthier life-style in general. I have lost weight too, incidentally, sensibly, slowly and sustainably, which is a bonus.

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On my starvy days, as I call them, I don’t eat anything at all, just take drinks – water, fruit juice, coffee, tea, herbal teas…whatever – until maybe 1 or 2 o’clock in the afternoon, which means I’ve fasted for about sixteen hours or so, since dinner on the previous evening.

I don’t actually feel hungry at all until I eat something – but that’s another story.

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What I HAVE noticed is that, without food, my brain is sharper. And when I’m hungry – or rather, when I’m fasting – I actually FEEL better.

I’ve been doing a little research about this, in a Google sort of way, and have come up with some interesting scientific information.

There’s an article on the Live Science website called Hunger Can Make You Happy

“Contrary to the moans of many dieters, being hungry may make you happy. Or, at least, it can be a serious motivator whose evolutionary intent was to help you find dinner instead of becoming dinner.”
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The researchers assert that when I fast and my body notices the dearth of calories, it increases production of a hormone called ghrelin which makes me more…well, alive and alert (my words). They believe that this is an adaptive measure, for survival. “Getting food, especially in the wild, requires concentration, clear-headed perception and often cooperation.” So, if I can avoid the urge to eat, which is what ghrelin is telling me to do, then I can harness the increased energy levels for something more creative.
Being a little bit  hungry has certainly, so far, made me noticeably more efficient and more focused.
Yesterday morning, I completed a poem which, the previous night, was stuck fast in my brain with super-glue and would not be shifted.
I attribute the ease of flow yesterday morning to the power of…GHRELIN!
My new writing companion. My secret weapon.
Only not so secret.
Don’t tell anyone, will you?


Is modestly proud an oxymoron?

Of course it’s an oxymoron.

“A figure of speech in which incongruous or seemingly contradictory terms appear side by side.”


Yes, I know it’s not a figure of speech but it made me laugh.


Today, I’m modestly proud and I don’t care if it’s an oxymoron. What’s more, modestly proud exactly describes how I feel. Because I’m British and we British aren’t ALLOWED to be blatantly proud. However, I’m NOT blatantly proud anyway. As I said, I’m MODESTLY proud.

You see, I’m in print!

I’m only a modestly proud oxymoron because I’m in an anthology with 44 other writers, so I’m a mere forty-fifth as proud of myself as I expect I would be if the book was just my work. Or is it forty-fourth? Mathematics was never my forte.

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Cover image by the brilliant Catriona Millar

I would be dishonest to say that there wasn’t even the slightest tingle of (modest) pride when I turned to Pages 58 – 61 to see MY NAME IN PRINT, my story and my poem PUBLISHED. (I’m such a child!)

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(Oh, by the way, I’m sure the  preceding 57  pages and the 44 pages after that are EXTREMELY good and well-written etc. but…)

Copies available all over Eastbourne, as part of the Arts Festival 2014. Proceeds go to local charities.


The book is an anthology of work produced at our creative writing workshops – Bourne to Write – with Eastbourne featured, whether as a location or a barely perceptible nod.

Apparently, BBC Radio Sussex is interested…

That’s a definite possibility and I’m terribly pleased.

(Today, the oxymoron rules!)

Fast work if you can get it

” Wisely, and slow. They stumble that run fast,” said Shakespeare, indubitably talking about me and the perils of fast work.

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Fast work (at least, trying to work TOO fast) probably doesn’t pay in the field of copywriting or proofreading. Accuracy is key. That’s not to say I work SLOWLY – it’s a balance between speed and efficiency, that’s all.

With creative writing? Another matter entirely.

Creative writing class on Monday. I’ve already blogged about speed writing assignments which somehow force my brain…no, ALLOW my brain… to pour forth some completely uninhibited stuff that sometimes seems to work.

The same applies to homework.

It’s 3 p.m. on Monday afternoon. I haven’t done my homework.

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I have lots of work-work to do between now and leaving for the class at 7 p.m. Fast work it’ll have to be!

I don’t like going to classes without having done my homework. First, I’m a goody-two-shoes teacher’s pet. Second, it’s a waste of an opportunity of having my work heard and assessed by other people.

Okay then, I’ll DO it. Quickly. Poems are quick. The subject? ‘The birthday present.’ NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! More slushy sentimentalism opportunities. (Remember, I DON’T DO NICE.)

Subvert, Caroline. Subvert. You have ten minutes.

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My title -‘The greatest gift of all’ – a gushing load of…gush…from Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers. Find it on YouTube if you want gush.


The greatest gift of all

The only noise is a soft…blip…blip… and the incessant gargling of in-out breathing through a tube.
White ceiling tiles, like slices of bread waiting to be sandwiches, form his sky.
He calls out to let them know he’s awake, but he can’t hear himself, his tongue a big, sticky glob.
She squeezes his hand. Tells him she loves him, through a veil of tears.
But he doesn’t know who she is.
Still, love can never be bad, wherever it finds you.
In to his line of vision, candles splutter on a cake he’ll never eat.
“Happy birthday, darling,” she says.
Why, is this the day he’ll be born again?
That would be happy.
The sound of the switch is soft.
His sky turns to thunder black
And lightning forks electricity through his chest.
His last thought. Thank you.
She clicks life into the switch again, blows out the candles.
Both they and he beyond reignition.

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Fast work if you can get it …and you can get it if you try.

Or don’t try?

(The poem was chosen to feature on the website.)

A poem begins with a lump in the throat

And that little phrase, from Robert Frost, brought a lump to my throat too – but not a poem.

That was yesterday. A bit of a struggle to begin with.

“I wandered lonely as a hat.” (I’m just a hopeless Romantic…)

But then, perhaps I was inspired by listening to the chickens?

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(That’s actually quite profound!)

No. My poem. Inspired by a deadline.  Not so much inspired as frightened into being, but that’s good enough for me.

My creative writing class is to publish a book of pieces about Eastbourne, for the eponymous festival. I have 1300 words available to me, which could be one piece or a combination totalling 1300. Deadline…February 24th. Quite close then.

So I thought I’d start with a poem, though I’ve never thought of myself as a poet.

Oh dear…

“A prose writer gets tired of writing prose, and wants to be a poet.  So he begins every line with a capital letter, and keeps on writing prose. ” ~Samuel McChord Crothers, “Every Man’s Natural Desire to Be Somebody Else” The Dame School of Experience, 1920

Is that me? DID I write a poem?

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But then…

“Always be a poet, even in prose.”  ~Charles Baudelaire, “My Heart Laid Bare,”Intimate Journals, 1864

I’ll stick to the Baudelaire theory. I like to write with lyricism, indeed, am sometimes castigated for it when writing screenplays which are conventionally lean and mean.

The poem’s okay. That’s all I’ll say.

I’ll show it to you another day.

Perhaps I’m a poet and didn’t even know it?

Didn’t even know it.

Until yesterday.