creative writing, Literature, poetry

Mangled Fledglings

Hegemony Through Perspex

I am plagiarised scum.

Every day I paint the smudges your walls

Collecting spit, dead cells

Think lipstick, a dried curl on frosting.

I like to come to you at night,

When you are clear of congestion

(ugly? I know, it’s a by-product)

 

Lick the gravel. Hint of diamond

Cut; I was a frog. Bulbous,

Tasting blueblood, mechanical riches

Cast from the molten ore, Scavenger abounds

What is significance? – I am to you is to them is to me

Squeeze the wax from the polecat’s ears

 

Drag out thick wire mesh of brain      Ambivalence, fuck you ambivalence

Pull fat sausage guts, pustules steeped in vinegar

They’re behind me, spit, howl for blood.

To taste that cold gun metal

Moulds each ligament of your mail, each burnished plate.

 

Stuff your pearls down your oesophagus,

“We regret to say that we cannot accept –”

 

Ebstein Barr

Bites

Harshly pulsates, mottled crab mountains on a shit-stained envelope

Why do I come swallow so quickly?

Fifteen Minutes

Nuts and bolts in the back – Put up your Dukes!

Lions fuck every fifteen minutes

Barbed vegetable, my weapon of choice

You

Caught writhing on a fingernail,

Don’t waste your fears gripping away at broken strands

Strands broken bite pull the weed

Raw, tempered steel feathers

Oculus – Boiled, blistering, torrid

Unhatched

Crush your china teeth on silk.

 

They

Frigid

“An ordinary resting heart beat ranges from 60-100 beats per minute.”

Puer – devour, gorge, feast.

 

Beautiful girls. I hate beautiful girls with warm ochre glow, exquisite supple roughness of a russet coat                they grow, plump apples, snatch, throttle   cherubic purity of face dark almond windows to a gooey, half-risen loaf                 as malleable as clay     once I sprinkled arsenic on your toast and you fed it to the cat                     stupid dead cat       you had a crack down the middle of your left brow and your dick was mottled like raw ham and smelled like it, too        dirty drains dirty words dirty dogs    the silk wrapped around shelled mollusc, vile            I raised the hulk of poisoned flesh, felt the warm silkiness of the liquid seeping down my legs, threw my head back and breathed –

 

“Don’t you want to see it?”

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(Day 5) “Love me, hate me, don’t ignore me” Ally Ross, TV critic, the Sun

To start with: Today, I was tired. And completely not in the mood to drag my butt up to Canary Wharf once again, with a twisted ankle to boot (it actually might very well be a sprain. I’ll have a limp for the rest of my miserable life).

And then to hear a shit ton of people boasting the fuck out about their results:

Ally Ross, TV critic for the Sun, reminded me of a scraggly pigeon and looked in need of more than a few breadcrumbs. He began with the word “passionate, a word so overused by many of the visiting journalists this week: “Make sure you’re passionate; it will show through your writing.” However, we were also told to avoid pandering to the audience. Ross also enlightened us with the following surprising information: “As you grow older, you become more cynical.”

You certainly don’t have to tell me that. I can’t remember the last time I uttered a sincere word to anyone, at least without a mocking tone of voice peppering my words. An apparently, criticism is worth all the hassle as long as you can “take what you dish out.” Though I have to admit, the freedom of writing for tabloids certainly does appeal to me, as it also does to Ally Ross. And of course, the wonders of being a TV critic are boundless. But, as cushy a number as it might be, I’m not suited to spending my career glued to the TV screen even if it is a brand new expensive one, free of charge from my editor, and watching crappy television. I doubt that my acute, language sensitive nerves could stand those 10-12 hours a day, to be perfectly honest, although all Sky channels are paid for. What unimagined luxury!

One question that really grabbed my interest was “How do you avoid writer’s block?” I doubt that any writer, old or young, exceptional or mediocre, has not come to grief stumbling upon the dreaded writer’s block at some point during their career. We were assured that as long as none of the pages you turned in were blank, you were onto a good thing. Personally, I’d rather turn in blank paper rather than a whole bunch of crap that I regret spending an hour of my life writing and would give anything to change. But of course, in this hard, remorseless world of journalism, it is virtually impossible to have your own way in anything. There is no real way to avoid writer’s block: you must simply deal with it as if it were a turn of the season head cold, bound to pass after a bit of cosseting and some prescribed medicine (in this case, I suppose it would be strenuous TV watching).

The title of this post may sound like the lyrics from a cheesy American love song, but it is in fact Ally Ross’s mantra, proving that all criticism is worthwhile. Especially your own. Therefore, I feel fully justified in giving my own opinion about his career. Journalism, as I am fully aware, encompasses all different types of communication whether it be on TV, reviews, news reports, websites, the lot. And all are similar, linked together in some way like missing pieces of a giant jigsaw puzzle. The question is, are all the pieces needed?

Answer: yes. A jigsaw with a missing piece would be incomplete, there’s no doubt about that, and it would be impossible to replace it with a different piece. Therefore all the pieces are necessary, and it is all these separate pieces that create the world of journalism, that giant sphere of communication and contact that envelops us in its wireless connection embrace. Right, let’s go for another analogy: a tower of wooden blocks. Remove one of the lowest bricks, and the whole tower topples. But do the bricks crumble? No, they do not. They remain as unchanged as ever. And no, I’m not saying that the world of journalism can do without television reviews. I am simply saying: Would the absence of it made a great impact? Thanks to social media, there is little need to catch up on reviews of the latest shows and rely on the  journalist’s critical comments to piece together gossip about the actors.

I am for once aware of how satirical I may sound throughout this blog post. Now that I am aware, I am obliged to end it here: there is absolutely no fun in satire if you know you are trying too hard. I blame the influence of our esteemed critic. But maybe, Mr Ross, if you point me in the direction of a few good internships, yourself and your work will grow visibly more appealing before my eyes.

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(Day 4) “No extra words than a machine would have extra parts”

The above quote, my friends, describes exactly what a sentence in a good article should be like, according to the esteemed Mark Gilbert, Bloomberg News, who graced us with such wise words at the end of today’s session. Instead of admiration for his skill with metaphors, I felt a sense of dread. If anyone is guilty of putting extra words in a sentence, it’s me.

IMAG0471 (My mug shot.)

And of course, in the harried, harsh, unforgiving world that surrounds journalism and news today, I would certainly find it difficult to conform to the word limits of editors (time constraints could be met, perhaps, with practice). One of the skills so prized by Mark Gilbert is the skill of self-editing, which I unashamedly admit is lacking in myself. However, I think that the ability to self-edit effectively comes at a price: to an extent, it is almost self betrayal. When I type a sentence or paragraph that I can approve of completely (which is rare enough in itself) I am loathe to edit it in any conceivable way. Now, that may seem vain, but it’s the truth; if you take pride in your work then consequently you cannot bear it when the red pen slashes through your hard written work with as little mercy and as much brutality as a sharpened dagger.

But what I have found is that writing, when it is good writing, shouldn’t be at all hard to accomplish. Realistically, something that did not take a great deal of effort to write – almost none at all, if possible – would be better than an essay in which the author has struggled to pen two sentences that flowed, and tried and failed to make sense of their own mind and internal voice. Because that’s what it comes down to: the fluidity of the internal voice. It should be as serene and eternal as a flowing river; ever present, resurfacing at times of need. Unless of course you hit, as many writers have, the inevitable dam of writer’s block. I suppose that one of the beauties of journalism is that there is always something to write about; there is always a story, it is just a matter of finding it. You must probe the person you are interviewing to eke the story out of them, as if wringing out every drop of water from a dishcloth. As Mark Gilbert advised, it is better to sit in silence when interviewing: “Learn to shut the fuck up, and let them fill the space with words. People hate silence, it makes them uncomfortable.” This is certainly true; pretty obvious, when you realize it.

It is clear to me even more now, after today’s session and the sessions that preceded it, that to be a journalist you cannot be a one-trick pony. You must be “a carpenter with a toolbox” to quote Mr Gilbert, who also verified that you certainly don’t to be an expert on economics to work at a financial magazine.  If the job today does not require a screwdriver, get the hammer out instead, and wield it with the same scrupulous precision. When asked if he found financial journalism hard or boring, he answered, “It’s terrifying; but never hard. It’s about people, and people are always fascinating.” He likened it to throwing darts at a blackboard littered with topics; whichever one you hit is the topic of the day, and you make it into something worth reading. And this proves my previous point to be valid: it all depends on your own internal monologue, and whether you can make something interesting to the reader. This is why I am unable to convey any sense of aloofness or dispassion when I write, as I mentioned in one of my previous blog posts about the Mick Hume session we had on Saturday: how is one able to be less opinionated, yet still maintain the reader’s interest and allow for their own personal style? The answer is: you can’t. No, I will backtrack with haste; hell, of course you could, but it would be a complete waste of time for someone like me, who is unable to maintain any impartiality when discussing anything. The opinion is what makes it worth reading. If there’s no passion, there’s no point. Why should someone enjoy something you have written, or be affected by it, or experience any emotion whatsoever from it, if you yourself haven’t felt the same? And if you felt like shit when writing it, or were so dispirited and blasé about the entire thing, it would come across in the finished product. How do I know this? I read voraciously, any time, any place, anywhere. I read to take my mind of my own problems, I read to educate myself about other people and their problems, and other lives and times and places so different to my own. Having recently read Gone with the Wind (I intended to tackle it for a long time, but never got round to doing it until about a week ago) I can certainly detect fervour, zeal and vehemence when it drips off the pages of this book. The vibe, whether it is remorse, agitation, dedication, resentment; it should be as tangible as a boiled sweet. The aftertaste should remain on the tip of your tongue. I’ve been writing as long as I’ve been breathing; that’s what it seems like. Why should I stop writing? Why should I stop breathing? The response to both would be the same. For the true master of penmanship, writing should be what eating is to a starving person: a constant joy and craving. And if I have to relentlessly pimp myself to get what I want, then I will do it. In the words of recently deceased icon, Robin Williams: “You’re only given one little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.”

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(Day 3) Paul McCartney… nope. Unfortunately it was Paul McCarthy.

This beautiful summer evening would certainly have lost a significant amount of appeal, had we not been graced with the presence of Paul McCarthy, previous sport editor at the News of the World and Managing Director of MaccaMedia at Canary Wharf today. Prior to this, we went through the gruelling experience of being nagged about lateness. God, there’s nothing I loathe more than adults assuming an authoritative air over young people who are classified as young adults (as we were reminded multiple times on Saturday, to the point where I longed to throw a brick at the next person who mentioned it). Not to mention being rather pointless, (as such reprimands are always disregarded, trust me) it also seems rather hypocritical. As I have thought often and oft throughout my twelve years of full time education; to earn respect you must give respect, and if you expect someone to act like an adult do not treat them as if they were a child, and presume to tell them something they already know.

Anyway, onto Paul, who also toppled dramatically in my favour. He began with the stale, hackneyed term: “It is difficult to get into journalism.” (Well, no shit. If I thought it was easy, I wouldn’t be here.) He wanted to be a footballer, got injured, dreams crushed…but realized that he had to be involved in football, in whichever way possible (right there, I lost all ability to relate to him. The idea of dedicating your life’s work to a sport is entirely too foreign to me). Of course he had worked for his local paper as Alain Tolhurst recommended…nothing I didn’t already know. All that was really apparent was his bubbling enthusiasm and delight in his job: the amount of times “fantastic” and “best thing in the world” were repeated, I practically lost count. We were advised to record anything we saw or heard that could be of any interest, and “get our own writing style”. Another banal sentence I’ve heard too many times this week. It’s really not possible to “get” your own writing style, in my opinion. You’ve either got one, or you don’t, and if you claim otherwise, then how the hell did you write before you became aware of this?

Lots of c words were standing out to me during Paul’s rant: Have strong opinions, CONVEY your opinion, maintain enthusiasm as your writing reflects it, CAPTURE it, do it with CONVICTION and CONFIDENCE. Which is all well and good, but pretty much impossible if you have no conceivable interest in sports. This made the writing task also difficult for me, knowing nothing of Luis Suarez at all, and having no idea that the biting footballer was him. Well I warned you, didn’t I? Don’t look so astonished at my ignorance.

“Don’t be scared to let people see your writing. Get stuff out there, learn from criticism.” Well, I’m doing that right now, aren’t I? Putting my work up on the internet for all to see and bombard with insults: oh, the joys of social media. McCarthy informed us, self importantly, that sport provokes emotion and passion, which must be reflected your writing. Well, he certainly hit the nail on the head there; that much was obvious to me. Passion: any kind of zeal, enthusiasm, emotional intensity…all of it must be conveyed through writing. And I hope I am conveying to my rabid readers right now the sheer indifference and dislike that I have for something as mundane as sport. And before you start spouting any sexist bullshit: no, it’s not because I’m a girl. It’s because I simply do not give two shits about it, regardless of my gender. It really is ridiculous, the amount of times that basic fact has to pointed out to people: neither your gender, nor your sexuality, has any impact on your likes or dislikes of certain things, whether it be sports, makeup, the colour pink, whatever.

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(Day 2) Photoshop is for the lowest of barbarians

And now for an account of the much anticipated photojournalism session at Thomson Reuters, creators of the Wider Image app (an app I have never heard of but will certainly download when I get the chance to use someone else’s Wifi).

IMAG0469

I learnt that all forms of Photoshopping, also known as photomanipulation, are for the lowest of barbarians. (The vigour of hatred for Photoshop made me regret all the times I had ever used such vulgar software.) The slideshow of photos we were shown at the beginning of the session sent a number of important issues circling through my mind: War, obesity, Poverty, Horse racing, Breastfeeding in public, the status of royalty… I might as well tell you now that I absolutely despise any person who idolises royalty. In actual fact, I despise any person who idolises any celebrity (discussed in more detail in my Society’s Need For Role Models post, feel free to check it out. *Winks* I personally give zero shits about the colour, design and cost of Kate Middleton’s clothing, but that’s just me.) Anyway, after this well-edited, musical slideshow dripping with professionalism, the visual journalist, Russell, gave us a look as if expecting us to be bowled over by such expertise…Which of course we were, if our respectful silence was anything to go by. Normally I’m forced to fake enthusiasm in such a situation, but in this case I was genuinely impressed, and Russell didn’t seem like the extremely irritating type that oozes arrogance and self-esteem (and as there are many irritating types of my acquaintance, I can spot them from a mile away).

Russell continued to talk at length about the 2,000 pictures Thomson Reuters moves daily and the 20,000-27,000 pictures they see every day (I had the mental picture of hundreds of sacks of photographs before I remembered they did it in cyberspace), the 3,000 full time journalists they had, the 600 photographers they had, the 160 years their company has been around…if he was attempting to gain our respect through figures he was certainly succeeding.

What I also found interesting was the discussion concerning the impact of social media on photography, and the importance of watermarking any published images to promote the company and prevent stealing. Unfortunately what was not quite so interesting what the sound of Gabrielle Fonseca Johnson’s monotonous voice. God, people with such prosaic voices simply shouldn’t speak. Thankfully, not all of what she said was as tedious as her tone. We were again regaled with the fact that Photoshop is simply “lazy photojournalism” but when employed with skill, can be effective in times of need. The issue of photos hitting social media websites (Twitter, Facebook and Instagram) before they could be captured by professional photographers was then discussed. Of course, it is unfair when a paid photographer is unable to capture the scene of the incident, for example, a house fire, before it explodes all over Twitter from the iPhones of eyewitnesses. In the sagacious words of our good friend Russell:”If they get there first, they get the picture.”

I am reluctant to admit that I did enjoy the activity on photo editing that we were presented with at the end of today’s session. Pretty grueling to leave out some amazing, iconic photographs and only choose three to display in our presentation. However, I quite enjoyed the process of elimination by which we chose our three main pictures: I suppose it brought out my strongest overbearing streak and I enjoyed dismissing the ones I thought we didn’t need. Oh the joys of being an editor! We attempted to “make the best judgement” and “avoid being excessive”. I am well aware that I would fall into a guilty trap when accused of excessive writing, a fact I can unashamedly accept. Although I do, of course, want to be a journalist, and I acknowledge the word limits and time constraints such a job automatically comes with, I don’t wish to remove all the uniqueness and flair from my writing. Such predictability and stodginess found in media today is, I would imagine, a result of this. Give me individuality over conformity any day.

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Of life, ambition, drive

Why do you want to live?

What would be your answer if the above question was posed to you? Is there any particular response that would spring to mind? Or would you simply shrug and reply, “I’m alive, aren’t I?”

But you see, my friends, being alive simply isn’t enough for us anymore. We need to attempt to achieve better things, aspire to greatness, jump to the highest heights and all the rest of the clichés. We can’t simply wallow in the satisfaction of being alive any more, as our fellow compatriots, animals, are able to do. We are forced to turn up our faces into the hot glaze of the sun, and stare back unflinchingly, prepared to soldier on, although its unforgiving glare threatens to shrivel us. We feel compelled to make a mark, to scratch out an everlasting inscription on the surface of the earth upon which so many thousands have trod.

If you asked me, “Why do you want to live?” and “Why do you want to write?” the answer to both would be the same. I don’t know why, all I know is that I must.

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