Apr '15 30

The Beast. Photo by Robert Rath from Robert's website.

And so, the end is here. The final poem of the 30-poems-in-30-days madness. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment and provide feedback. You don't know how much I appreciated it; knowing you were somewhere with me on that lonely marathon track boosted my energy no end.

Today's poem is a bit Schrödinger-meets-T-S-Eliot. You can read about the Schrödinger's cat quantum mechanics thought experiment here and about Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T S Eliot here.

multiple miaows

Schrödinger's cat
has been let out of the bag;
photos of her
posted all over the internet;
quite the cat-about-town
double-slitty-kitty eyes
commanding your attention;
swish of a stringy tail
and twitch of a whisker
demanding that you
entangle with her;
you love and hate her
wonder who named her
observe her now
in her cute-pussy pose
to determine
her fate.
Here's looking at you, Kitty.
(So who's watching us?)

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '15 29

Ghostly Ivories. Photo by Robert Rath from Robert's website.

And today's poem, penultimate for the month: three spooky little quatrains for you. This poem poses more questions than it offers answers: who or what is possessing whom? or what? and who or what is haunting this poem?

The fourth line insisted on being there even though it seems out of place. The line 'little stitches join this world with the other' is from The Celtic Twilight, a collection of Irish folklore compiled by W B Yeats.


coins that jingle in a dead man's pockets
place them face-up on his still-warm eyes
we think we're alive but are the dead really dead
feet that bleed on slippy prison tiles

who removed the roses I'd placed on the table
scattering petals all over the floor
why was the kettle hot, when I'd been away
who moaned 'always' as I sat here, alone

little stitches join this world with the other
little boy recounts a life already lived
unexpected shadows cast a sudden glamour
what we had hoped for cannot be disbelieved

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '15 28

The End of Time. Photo by Robert Rath from Robert's website.

If I had had a bit more time I might have played around with the layout of this piece. I decided not to, given that the poem is also posted to Facebook, where I have zero control over the layout.


I can count on it.
I can never wait for it
anticipate it
brace for it.
Day may be breaking
light might be fading
night might be closing.
Stars may be high
seas may be smooth
everything fine.
Maybe I hear a Rose melody
sniff a faint trace of Brylcreem
see an MG on the street
see someone wearing a Harris Tweed.
Maybe my thoughts wander
into no-go territory
snap! just like that
my intimate alien takes control
cauterises my heart
slashes the me–world connection
rips out the pain-relief IV
shreds any dignity
unleashes on me
the canker of your absence.
One certain moment.
I can count on it.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '15 27

To be honest, my inspiration well was running dry today so I decided to generate a few Google Poetics. This involves typing words into Google and allowing it to autocomplete your search, then taking a screenshot of the results. You can read some great examples over here at the Google Poetics website. To quote the front page: "Google writes poetry on subjects that people are truly interested in".

I've typed out the results so that the gems are a bit easier to read!

why / i can / how do / why don't

why are firetrucks red
why am i always tired
why are cells so small
why are oil prices falling
why am i always hungry
why am i so tired
why are flamingoes pink
why are goals important
why am i single
why am i so angry

i can see clearly now
i can't think straight
i can show you the world
i can't sleep
i can't stop
i can't even
i can hear your voice
i can sing a rainbow
i can be your hero baby
i can't tell you why

how do i have the same dream again
how do i have twins on sims 3
how do i have a boy
how do i have a baby
how do i have twins
how do i have an affair
how do i have 2 instagram accounts
how do i have wet dreams
how do i have an organism
how do i have two monitors on one computer

why don't we have both
why don't you play in hell
why don't you love me
why don't you get a job
why don't you speak english
why don't you do right
why don't we do both
why don't we have both spanish
why don't muslims eat pork
why don't we do it in the road

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '15 26

Holding On To The Rail. Photo by Robert Rath from Robert's website.

I was a massive fan of 'The X-Files' 'back in the day' and I've recently started watching 'The Fall' starring Gillian Anderson (who used to play Agent Dana Scully in 'The X-Files').

This evening I reached for The X-Files Book of the Unexplained, which was a present from an ex-boyfriend. (Well, he was my boyfriend when he gave me the book!)

And so, today's offering, bringing together exes and X-Files.

The Ex-Files

Mulder: "Ask an important question and you're on your way to the pertinent answer."
Scully: "Imagine a miracle and you're half way there."

Alternative dimensions.
Crisis after crisis.
Debunking myths.
In a messy space.
In search of the truth.
No tangible evidence.
Out there.
Questions that remain unanswered.
Smoke screens and salvage operations.
Strange and unexplained.
The truth is out there.
Threats and paranoias.
Trust no-one.
Unfinished business.
Unidentified extras.
Unusual encounters.
Weird nature.

I want to believe.
Leap of faith.
Miracle man.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '15 25

Mirror image. Photo by Robert Rath from Robert's website.

I've always been able to handwrite 'fluently' in mirror writing; today I discovered that it's not possible to do it in Word 2007 without using horrible WordArt. I also found that most online tools don't offer a true mirror function; they flip and switch, but some letters still face the 'normal' way. The closest/best tool was this one here but the resulting text is still not a true mirror (it has turned some of the lower-case letters to upper case; and all the commas, as well as the accent on the 'e' in cliché, are facing the wrong way). In spite of these challenges, here's a thought for today.

éʜɔilɔ ƨƨɒlǫ ǫniʞool

bnim ɿuoy nɘʜW
,ƨǫniʜƚ ƚƨiwƚ oƚ ƨɘbiɔɘb
,ƨǫniʜƚ ɘƚɒɔilqmoɔ
,ƨnoiƚnɘƚni ƨ'ɿɘʜƚonɒ bɘɿʜƨ
,ƚnɘmɘǫbuႱ oƚ qmuႱ
ɘmiƚ ƨ’ƚi nɘʜƚ
.ɿoɿɿim ɘʜƚ ni ʞool oƚ

And in case you haven’t a mirror close by:

looking glass cliché

When your mind
decides to twist things,
complicate things,
jump to judgement,
shred another's intentions,
it's time
to look in the mirror.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '15 24

Crazy. Photo by Robert Rath from Robert's website.

I was hunting around for a writing prompt; a commenter to this article over here suggested drawing a card from a card deck called Oblique Strategies and using the text as a starting point. I downloaded the free Oblique Strategies app that allows you 'draw' a card, but cycling through them I decided to collate a selection of the strategies themselves – slightly modified here and there – into today's poem.

How many sides does a line have?

Listen to the quiet voice.
Listen in total darkness
or in a very large room, very quietly.
Do the words need changing?
Use your own ideas.
Retrace your steps;
move towards the unimportant
into the impossible.
Are there sections?
Where is the edge?
Go to an extreme, move back to a more comfortable place
and remember to consider transitions
but change nothing; breathe more deeply.
Trust in the you of now
then distort time:
what were you really thinking about just now?
You can only make one dot at a time
but this gives the game away:
a line has two sides.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '15 23

Creative Cat. Photo by Robert Rath from Robert's website.

Today is William Shakespeare's birthday: he was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, in 1564, so I thought I'd have a bit of fun. There is a school of thought that subscribes to the idea that playwright Christopher Marlowe, a contemporary of Shakespeare, was in fact the author of the Shakespeare plays. (Academics distance themselves in horror from this idea.) In Ros Barber's fabulous prize-winning verse novel, The Marlowe Papers, Marlowe considers his past and faked death; a book definitely worth reading.

In today's poem I've mixed some plays by Shakespeare with one by Marlowe, included some Shakespeare references, invented some Elizabethan-sounding words and constructed a few good curses from here. Sincere and abject apologies to the experts. And if this poem sounds clichéd, it's because most clichés in fact originated from the Shakespeare back-catalogue.

i. am. will. any other name smell this sweet?

It will
all be well in the end, you said,
but what a tale I heard this winter's eve
while dreaming of midsummer nights:
penmanship from the grave!
We were but two gentlemen of proximate hamlets;
now marlovians make much ado about nothing.
There'll be a massacre in Paris
and Denmark ransacked
before this tempestuous plot takes hold.
What comedy of errors; mark my words:
this defamation shrew needs to be tamed.
I will
spear those who drag my bardic name
in the scurling gutter
mingling it with his scurvy moniker,
the pribbling, flap-mouthed ratsbane.
What a piece of work! Such vaulting ambition!
He may lead his merry wife a dance
around the globe
(and well she may like it) yet
I will not
yield my labours of love
to that saucy, pox-marked plague-sore.
I will go measure for measure
to claim my writes
and dance on the grave
of that yeasty, wart-necked varlot.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '15 22

Celestial Whirlpool. Photo by Robert Rath from Robert's website.

During NaPoWriMo in 2013 and 2014 I wrote poems from a bunch of words after plugging a phrase or sentence into an online anagram generator.

I decided it was time for another one. I entered the phrase 'poem a day number twenty-one' and it offered 65,218 possibilities (the number was higher than expected because the results incorporated repeated phrases in batches of four). After weeding out the duplicates I rescued a poem from the final word pool; it turned out to be a tragic randy man story.

When I was posting, I realised that today was the 22 April, not the 21, but I wasn't about to go through the process again!

bad to bone or meteor

        A pure new moon: portent.
Remote town and port
uptown poet Romeo
true eye to tempt women
porno preen renown.
        A pure new moon: omen.
Men mutter, erupt
woe to you, you wormy runt
no more your wooer moment
your puny ween and rutty trumpet
wet our women,
try our temper.
        A pure new moon: potent power.
Women warn Romeo
to uproot or repent;
mount no more!
rue your unworn women!
run, you torment, run!
Poor pet Romeo:
men put rope on a tree.
Pretty Romeo prone
now torn, mute.
        New moon, new tone. A meteor.
Women weep, troop to nunnery, weep.
Men toot:
no monument to your rotten rump;
none to mourn your twopenny poetry;
your empty tenure now a mere memory.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '15 21

Grind Them Smooth. Photo by Robert Rath from Robert's website.

Processes and procedures associated with poetry fascinate me. One of the most famous procedural poetry groups was the French group Oulipo, whose members experimented with mathematically constrained writing techniques. They came up with the N+7 procedure, which involves replacing each noun in a text with the seventh one following it in a dictionary.

There's a nice N+7 online generator over here. I simply entered the text of one of my poems and the generator spat out 15 texts ranging from N+1 to N+15. Here for your entertainment is the N+7 version. Some words were obviously not in its dictionary! I particularly like '...his flukes on my bottleneck'.

You can read my original poem, 'The Smoothest Place is Right Here', at the end of this post. This 'found' poem, sourced from Chapter 18 of James Joyce's Ulysses, was published in The Found Poetry Review's special Bloomsday edition in June 2014.

My friend and poet Mike Hopkins, who's also writing a poem a day this month, did this with Yeats's poem 'He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven' and you can read the entertaining result on his website here.

The Smoothest Plaid is Right Here

theres novelette like his kitty hot dowse to the south
o heartthrob kitty me straight on my moviegoer i cant wait
swelter like incisor his flukes on my bottleneck
and yet not a partridge of luck in our necessities

im softy like a pearl but stretched out dead
this damned old bedroom is jingling like the dickens
weve too much blot clattering up in us
im a juicy peccadillo where his brew makes me waterproof

i dressmaker creditor muslin at the boulevard of the bat
i remember a young may mops beaming luck
i tourist fens in clogs asleep in the shake-up
then cub them defendant and send them all spinning

he was a balmy bollocks but too beautiful all the same
hed be glauming me over my moaning made him boardroom
we kissed goose the candle locus was frozen
an icy window-dresser skeeting across from the moustaches

Here's my original 'found' poem.

The Smoothest Place is Right Here

theres nothing like his kiss hot down to the soul
o heart kiss me straight on my mouth i cant wait
sweet like incense his flowers on my bosom
and yet not a particle of love in our natures

im soft like a peach but stretched out dead
this damned old bed is jingling like the dickens
weve too much blood clattering up in us
im a juicy pear where his breath makes me water

i dream cream muslin at the bottom of the basket
i remember a young may moons beaming love
i touch fellows in cloaks asleep in the shade
then crush them deep and send them all spinning

he was a balmy bollocks but too beautiful all the same
hed be glauming me over my moaning made him blush
we kissed goodbye the canal lock was frozen
an icy wind skeeting across from the mountains

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '15 20

Nautilus Illuminata. Photo by Robert Rath from Robert's website.

Today's poem is based on the Fibonacci Sequence. This mathematically described structure often occurs in nature, for example in sunflowers, pine cones and Nautilus shells.

In this mathematical sequence every number is the sum of the two preceding it. So, starting at 1, the sequence is 1+1=2; then in turn 1+2=3; then 2+3=5; then 3+5=8 and so on.

I applied the sequence to the number of syllables in each line, so the first two lines have one-syllable words, the third line has two syllables, etc. I wrote one of these before; for NaPoWriMo in 2013. You can read it here.

I increased the challenge for today's effort: I went as far as the 21-syllable line before turning the poem around. I also included the word 'Fibonacci' in the poem.

one gold fib

about how
to execute a
Fibonacci series poem;
how the key idea might hinge around the thirteen-
syllable line, or even the twenty-one syllable line, like this, before it turns
in golden ratio'd symmetry, spiralling to
last lines in manic urgency,
halting, leaving me
to wonder:
what was

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '15 19

Last Rays. Photo by Robert Rath from Robert's website.

I wrote today's poem on a most delightful drive back to Adelaide from Edithburgh on the Yorke Peninsula.

the long road north

through luminous trees
wintry western sun
strobes the long road
'look at the light!' you say
but a 'save our farmland, save our future' banner
and roofless, stone-skeleton'd cottages
remind me of famine and exodus
and how my own damn fury
flickers just below serene surfaces;
see, the high drama of clouds as light intensifies,
see, how shadows lengthen as the sun dips;
'look at the light!' you say
but all I recall
is how sarcasm rose, dripping gold
in a game, goading me
eroding my thin fabric
needling me with a pinprick point
hemming me in, the thread of
anger running around my edges
threatening to unravel:
but you always help me see light
wherever we're going,
(and sometimes we take the long way)
and even now, as it changes and surprises us
there is nothing new, just new to us

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '15 18

Neptune Fish Trap. Photo by Robert Rath from Robert's website.

I was browsing an old edition of New Scientist (10 May 2008, to be precise) and I was struck by the number of brilliant headlines throughout. The first one that grabbed my attention was the most poetic-sounding 'Why didn't the early earth freeze under the faint young sun?' For today's poem I have done a mash-up of some of the best headlines from the issue and joined them with phrases and words to make some sort of (non)sense.

May the New Scientist be with you

The man who won't give up said
stop the internet, I want to get off.
Over our dead bodies, they growl.
Why didn't the early earth freeze under the faint young sun?
Sea creatures had a thing for bling, he whispered,
they always favoured style over substance.
Some swans are grey, but we know that less is more
and now that the secret's out on black hole trysts
you need to believe that drivers' pain is the planet's gain.
Look at it this way:
when the smoke clears
the medium is the means.
From babble to tweet
you need to be a mimic
and grind them down, get them angry.
Remember that
resistance isn't futile
but any God of creativity
would advise you that
reality's easier to take than sedation,
and to take it you need to
stink or swim.

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '15 17

Ghost of a Surfer. Photo by Robert Rath from Robert's website.

As a basis for today's poem (and title) I used one of my favourite quotes (read it at the end of the post) from page 324 of Shanghai Dancing by Brian Castro, an almost manic, yet most poetic, fictional autobiography. I used the quote in the two middle lines (seven and eight) and balanced the poem around it (six lines before, six lines after). The final six lines echo and mirror somewhat the contents of the first six lines. The poem itself explores the power of language and questions the reliability of memory and the premise of the middle lines – that the dead are in us.

Also, I was alone today for a while in a large, old echoey house.

the way we hear the heart

Is there anything stranger
than the thump of a book falling on the timber floor in an empty house
or how a building's bones creak as it shifts and settles;
a footstep softfalling but never entering the room;
the whisper of obsolete words in our ears
language preserved for the realm of the dead, unknowingly heard
but the dead are in us...in the form of ancient
languages, which live within our own
thus the dead are preserved
which is why we are moved by arcane words
and hear footsteps that never cross the threshold;
and why my bones creak and settle
as I bend to pick up a strange book
full of secrets I already know.

The dead are in us, I said, in the form of ancient languages which live within our own. Like hearing the heart through the lungs ... buried kinships.
Shanghai Dancing, page 324

Posted by Jennifer Liston

Apr '15 16

Transient Landscape. Photo by Robert Rath from Robert's website.

Another day, another rescued poem. This one is rescued from two books by Irish poet Eavan Boland - Object Lessons and A Journey with Two Maps - in which she reflects on her experiences of becoming a poet and the nature of that journey.

As I have said before, the important distinction between my rescuing process and other process-based approaches such as 'finding' poems is that I do not select a complete phrase or sentence; after I transcribe the text I jumble it so that all the words are in random order, and then I choose words as individual building blocks. The resulting rescued poem is usually quite surprising because I take the words out of their original context and create my own stories from them.

unreliable distance

the past is a wound
windows fracture the language of a nation
there is grace in place
and power in possibility
but the poor and the young who have entered
my house on this street in this city
who have stood tall in their dispossession
who have looked far for purpose
and near for the origins of their doubt
should realise
that even this church is witness
to the weakness of some spun story
and sense
the present world drawing towards
the edge of their history

Posted by Jennifer Liston

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