I’ve been going to a writer’s class, just a small group that meets monthly. We try out different techniques, different inspirations, and we can write in any form we choose. Mine is usually poetry, as I like the challenge of trying to distill what I say down to the least number of most effective words – since I’m usually rather a wordy person, it does me good. And I think that poetry and pictures work in similar ways – they say things that can be felt but not always articulated in the usual ways, and they both involve a stripping down to what’s essential. And of course a short poem is quick to write – an advantage that’s not to be sniffed at.
At our last meeting we looked at unusual ways of using language, with examples from ee cummings (one of my favourite poets) and a poem by Rody Gorman (whom I’d never heard of) called Soldier’s Heart. He uses a technique that lumps several words into one long word that somehow expresses more than the individual words would if used separately. It reminded me of those endlessly long German words that are a combination of several shorter ones. I can’t find a link to the poem, so I’ll reproduce a little of it here just to let you see the idea:
[He] was filled with war-goddessbattle-fury
And darkness and sudden violent madness
And flutterloitering and floathovering and fumblerestlessness
And double unsteadyrestlessness and strifemalice for every place
Where he used to be and belovedcharitylove for every place he was not.
Not the easiest to read, but very distinctive.
Our task was to do something similar, and we were given inspiration in the form of books on mythology and legends. None of these got me going, and I pondered on what would, eventually coming up with the Tarot. I’ve always loved Tarot cards, more for their visual appeal than anything else, although I did go and learn how to read them at one stage in my life. The pictures on them can be regarded as Jungian archetypes and say a lot about the human experience. The one that always got to me is The Tower. The Tower represents a falling away of all the structures in your life, everything you hold true, the familiar, the dear, everything on which your life rests. It feels catastrophic, but has a larger meaning of clearing away the dross, throwing everything up in the air and then allowing it to settle into a new and better pattern. I feel as if I’ve been in the the Tower pattern many times in my life, so it resonates with me. You can see a couple of depictions of The Tower at the top of the post – the first is the Aquatic Tarot, and the second is the well-known Rider-Waite Tarot (both are copyright free). The card pictured next to the poem is from Dancing Tarot, also copyright-free
A whole poem came to me and fell into place, inspired by this card. I’m not sure I can really take credit for it – it just seemed to appear fully-formed.
When the tower crumbleshattered
And felldived around her
And skyboltfire cracked and flamed
She felt a chaosmadfear in her heart
The world was full of fallingfear and shattersounds
And explodebricks crashed around her
Heavenfire flamed through her senses
And her body floatfell to the grasshard ground.
This was a lot of fun to do, although I’m not sure I’d want to make a habit of it! The technique obviously lends itself to rather grand, gothic scenarios, and I wanted to try it on something quite different to see if I could get it to work, so I wrote a short poem about my kittens. One is black and white and looks as if he’s wearing a tuxedo, and the other has wonderfully patterned fur that makes her look a lot like a snow leopard. As they sat waiting for me to feed them, I had the idea that they were dressed up to go out to dinner, and wrote this:
She wears leopardpawfurs, he a dinnerdatetux
Their rattlingrollpurrs are loud for such tinysmallperfects
Dinner is platepalemilk and meats braised in gravygel
Afterwards, tumbletussling padpawsoft play, then counter-curled sleep.
A final thought: if you had to depict the essence of The Tower photographically, how would you do it? At the moment I have no idea, but it’s something interesting to think about. Any ideas?
(Thank you to Fiona, for her writing course Kickstart, and for the prompt that led to this.)