Variations on the Death of Martine

After Christopher Durang and David Ives.


Leon!!!

Martine! You are shouting in your sleep. Something about the Proletariat always being right... 

I was reading this encyclopedia before bed. “Trotsky, Leon.” And then Trotsky himself tucked in next to me saying, Good. It’s about me.

Are you a Trot? Or a Stalinist Martine?

Neither! Listen to this. On August 20th, 1940, a Spanish Communist named Ramon smashed a mountain-climber’s axe into Trotsky’s skull in Coyoacan, a suburb of Mexico City. Trotsky died the next day.

Then in my sleep Trotsky said, What is the year of that encyclopedia?
And I said 2019. And Trotsky said, Strange.

And I said, Yes

But interesting. I am Trotsky, he said, and he looked very sad, as if I was Mrs Trotsky. 

So I said, Yes, dear. And this is our house in Coyoacan.

Hmm...There aren’t any other Trotskys living in Coyoacan, are there? 

I don’t think so. Not under that name.

So you slept with Trotsky?

Not on purpose.

...............,.........

At 2am:

No one is safe!!! Force must be used. And the revolution of the proletariat against oppression must go on forever and forever...

Martine!!! Are you now sleeping with ‘old Trots’  again? it will be Corbyn next! 

Frances, of course not! I was just reading the encyclopedia... 

Is it the Britannica? 

And what of it? you should seriously check your politics!

Martine, I think that there’s a mountain-climber’s axe in your own skull right now.  

I knew that! When I was combing my hair this morning, I noticed a handle sticking out of the back of my head. For a moment I thought it was an ice pick, so at first I was worried. 

Martine, it’s an ice pick. Even your death is the same, you are a Trot!!! 

Don’t even say the word! You know my recurring nightmare.

HA! You’ve outsmarted destiny! Which is only a capitalist explanation for the status quo! 


Then in my sleep Trotsky said, What is the year of that encyclopedia?
And I said 2019. And Trotsky said, Strange.

And I said, Yes

But interesting. I am Trotsky, he said, and he looked very sad, as if I was Mrs Trptsky. 

So I said, Yes, dear. And this is our house in Coyoacan.

Hmm...There aren’t any other Trotskys living in Coyoacan, are there? 

I don’t think so. Not under that name.

So you slept with Trotsky?

Not on purpose. 

At 2am:

No one is safe!!! Force must be used. And the revolution of the proletariat against oppression must go on forever and forever...

Martine!!! Are you now sleeping with that ‘old Trot’ Jeremy Corbyn? You are a Trot!

Frances, I was just reading the encyclopedia... 

Is it the Britannica? 

And what of it? you should seriously check your politics!

Martine, I think that there’s a mountain-climber’s axe in your own skull right now.  

I knew that! When I was combing my hair this morning, I noticed a handle sticking out of the back of my head. For a moment I thought it was an ice pick, so at first I was worried. 

Martine, it’s an ice pick. Even your death is the same, you are a Trot!!! 

Don’t even say the word! You know my recurring nightmare.

HA! You’ve outsmarted destiny! Which is only a capitalist explanation for the status quo! 

“The soul throbs like the sea for a larger life." *

In March I began an adventure. It started in Poland, then onto house sitting in North Street, Swindon. By September I was faced with very difficult prospects and the possibility of returning to the NHS as a mental health nurse. I’ve not been able to focus on work recently, there has been so much to think about and do. With no real base to work from, I felt rather displaced with a brain like scrambled egg. I have been saved by several brilliant people, one of them, like a fairy godmother, Helen Dewbery, transformed a poetry festival into a great poetry festival and I can't wait to take part and support it.

I went on holiday to Belgium, to see friends. I've known Magali since she was 11years, almost the age my twins are now. She more or less moved into our house, emptied our fridge daily and played with Michael, Aidan and Finley. We all travelled to Belgium by inter-rail together for the first time in 2001, then her wedding in 2011 and Magali has made several trips to see us in the UK, last year with her little son Hugo and husband Ludger. So in my period of unsettlement, I felt very much at home with my second family in Belgium and it just seemed right to be here and take a breath!

Monday I was asked to come in for interview the following day to the European School, Luxembourg (quickly searched for qualifications and docs online - updated CV). Cover letter (do I want a job?). There’s a farmhouse for rent next to good friends complete with 6 goats (looked up how to walk goats) - On Tuesday I had an interview at 1:30pm. At 4pm I drove home. Wednesday I’m offered the job. Thursday Mike Pringle offered to join us on the adventure and drive the books, art and essential kitchen things plus soft toys and bikes over the channel. Friday we load the van - plus a tip run. Saturday we set off for Calais and onto Virton. Sunday, I’m on the Veranda waiting for the dawn chorus. I heard an owl close by in the trees. Over the hill, in France, the wind turbines were working hard beyond the trees and I could just see the tips of their wings turning. It felt so good! At 6am, Mike, Ann-Marie and myself walk to France and the air is fresh and the sun rises, we walk the circle back to the house and start a new day of unpacking, exploring, bike-riding.

Creative Writing Week 6: Publishing

Ensure the work you want to submit is at its best.

Research where to send your work:

Buy the Artists and Writers Year Book, or get it from the library. This tells you everything you need to know plus it is full of good advice about writing in general. 

Research the publishing houses you feel suit you. Do they publish similar work? What are their submission guidelines?

Try getting your work in magazines first, to build a publishing CV. 

Try to subscribe to, and read the magazines you are interested in being published in. 

Publishing Short Stories

Always read some of the stories published in the magazine.
Check the guidelines: word count, form, genre etc
See here for a very good site for fiction writers:  

Short Stops: This is a really valuable resource for writers of short stories: competitions, lit mags, workshops and lots more.

Publishing Poetry

Here are a few helpful pieces about publishing poetry from editors of various presses and magazines:

Bloodaxe Books

Shearsman Books

Culture Llama (Short story collections here too)

YouTube: Some poets have gained a reputation using YouTube as a tool to share work:

Hollie McNish

Poems on Ezines:

Hera Lindsay Bird: The Spinoff

Patricia Lockwood: The Awl 

Amaryllis: A Swindon Ezine edited by Stephen Daniels 


Self-Publishing

If you would like to self-publish your work make sure it looks as professional as possible, and free from mistakes. Look at sample books from reputable publishers to get an idea of style and content. Keep things plain: times font, no borders and poor pictures. 

Think about how you might market your book and gain reviews. 

You might try print on demand publishing. It is easy to use and you only need to print one copy at a time so it is easy to get a sample of the work. 

Lulu Publishing

Blurb 



"I am not afraid of Art" - Understanding Literary Cubism

I've been reading the poetry of Max Jacob, given to me by fellow poet and friend Carrie Etter - 'I know you.' she said. She was right, I loved the book. I read in the introduction he was a friend of Picasso and explored cubism in poetry. This prompted me to find out more about 'Literary Cubism.' Although I have long loved the poems and writings of Apollinaire, I had not considered cubism until I started this research. Here's some finds from this essay by Pamela A. Genova: The Poetics of Visual Cubism: Guilaume Apollinaire on Pablo Picasso

"Apollinaire counselled his fellow poets and artists to seize and translate the turbulent atmosphere of the new, to accept nothing at face value and to always seek out the unlikely and the unusual.


Apollinaire believed that life was an inherently artistic adventure, and art a primary element in the experience of life, the two elements indivisible


Literary cubism: the exploration in language of the principles of unlikely juxtaposition, immediate spontaneity,  and the reconsideration of the dynamics of the material world.' In this vein, he fashioned unusual linguistic and structural systems." 


Pamela A.Genova, University of Oklahoma.   


The rainbow is bent, the seasons quiver, the crowds push on to death, science undoes and remakes what already exists, while worlds disappear forever from our understanding, our mobile images repeat themselves, or revive their vagueness, and the colours, the odours, and the sounds to which we are sensitive astonish us, then disappear from nature-all to no purpose. 

Guillaume Apollinaire

How do we write cubist poems? 


I'll try and summarise:


Reorganise space, both on the page and in the mind's eye


Be spontaneous and impetuous


Be prepared to be misunderstood, underestimated, and disregarded


Reject fallen idols and cliched forms


Speak in the present the words of the future


Use imagist language


Speak with spontaneity, simultaneity, and the vibrant nature of the concrete world


Cubist poems have a 'fourth dimension', a spiritual quality of the imagination, directly related to the creative process, a subtle perceptual faculty both esoteric and methodical


Perceive in all directions at once, both spatial and temporal, endowing objects with a renewed sense of presence and utility


Play with shape and sound, word and image


"float in the azure of our memories, and partake of divinity, in order to damn the metaphysicians" 


Dance around the incandescent fires of passion, fear, and desire


Surprise: the greatest source of what is new - "Surprise laughs savagely in the purity of light"


The three plastic virtues: Purity, Unity, and Truth


Purity: forget after study


Unity: the relation between a newly created thing and a new creator


Truth: search for it - especially in that of the imagination 



Finally, be multidimensional: imagery, sound, shapes, repetition and colours

Some cubist poets:

MINA LOY - Human Cylinders

PIERRE REVERDY - Clock 

GUILLAUME APOLLINAIRE - The Lady 

RENÉ MAGRITTE - The Legs of the Sky

MAX JACOB - Rainbow

GERTRUDE STEIN - A Carafe, that is a Blind Glass














Creative Writing Week 5: Editing

Writers' Workshop

Bringing your work for criticism, especially for the first time, can be daunting. Remember, good writers' groups are there to support your work at all stages of development and will take a positive approach to helping you improve. Here are some guidelines I like to set in the groups I facilitate. 

  • We are here to help and support each other, and encourage writers at all levels to improve, please do so with kindness and respect. 
  • Express what you liked about a piece first and then find specific details that might help improve the piece. End with saying something positive. 
  • Be polite: try not to say, "it 's boring" or "I don't understand it." - think about ways to phrase your concerns that will help the writer, "The piece was a bit slow here. It may help to take out some of the adjectives ..."
  • Don't get personal, stick to the text.
  • The writer makes the final decision on whether to accept or reject any criticism. Respect their wishes and don't push it. 
  • Be respectful  Even if you dislike the piece, the writer has invested time and effort on the work. Try to use the kind of language you would like used for yourself.
  • Try not to take it personally: suggestions to improve your work are not criticism of you as a person. Try not to be defensive - listen carefully, write everything down and make. considered decision later - perhaps even two weeks later. 


Some editing tips:


Creative Writing Week 4: An Introduction to Writing Plays

I love writing plays. My pen just goes off with a mind of its own and blah blah blah ... I have lots of dialogue. I often wonder where it all comes from. I usually have an idea, and some characters to play out the idea.


The best resource for playwriting is the BBC Writers Room. You can listen to plays, download plays, learn about plays.


Other resources:

Take a tiny idea and transform it into a full blown farce: How to Write A Play by Alan Ayckbourn 1973

Here's 12 tips for aspiring playwrights by Maxie Szalwinska

Some Scripts:

NOT I Script by Samuel Becket and the drama on YouTube: Not I


The Birthday Party by Harold Pinter 1957 (You can buy the book for this script)


Man with Travel Hairdryer by Katie Hims and the script for download is HERE








Creative Writing Week 3: An Introduction to Writing Poetry

The best way to learn about poetry is to read lots of poems. "Poems are the best teachers" Mary Oliver.

I try to read at least one poem a day. This is achievable because they are often short, so even when I have little time I can read a poem and learn something new each time. Learning to write poetry is a continuous journey. When you read poems, read them first for pleasure. Read them again, and again, and again. The poem will reveal itself to you this way, if it's any good, it may not give up its gifts straight away.

Think about:

The shape of the poem. Why the line breaks where it does and what effect that creates.

The sounds of the poem and how they come about: assonance, consonance, alliteration are examples of how poets wield sound into poems.

Meaning may work its way into the mind like magic (you may not be able to explain its meaning, but you feel it). Ask yourself what the poem made you think, feel, see, hear and taste. What did you learn from the poem? Did it change your life?

My life was once changed when I heard Martin Luther King speak his poem/speech:

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, that one day right down in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today."

What was his intention? Freedom! "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Not all poems have such brave intention, they come to us quietly, they come carrying metaphor and sit on our shoulders awhile to guide us through life. They whisper, bother us, disturb us, excite us - and we can't always pinpoint why.

"Metaphor drives the engine of poetry. Figurative language—figures of speech and thought—guides the interaction between poet and reader." Edward Hirsch.


Good luck with the beautiful experience of reading poems.


You can find many great poems online:


The Poetry Archive:


Wendy Cope


Roger McGough


William Carlos Williams


The Poetry Foundation:


Pablo Neruda


Margaret Walker


Carolyn Forché               


The Poetry Library        

For magazines and publications.

https://www.nationalpoetrylibrary.org.uk


Poetry can now be found in the form of films. Take a look at these.


Poetry Film: http://poetryfilmlive.com/


Animated Poetry - Billy Collins: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iuTNdHadwbk


We looked at many poems and discussed the devices and forms they used:

Form

The Poetic Line (See 'The Red Wheelbarrow' by William Carlos Williams)

Metaphor

Simile

Ambiguity

Syllable

Rhyme

Rhythm


There are many more. You can learn much on the Poetry Foundation website: LEARN

Keeping reading a wide range of poems and you'll find the way forward to suit your style and voice.