Thursday, November 28, 2013

Skank, sket, drab, strum, scrubber

A feature in the Guardian on 26 November quoted a young man on sexual violence against girls and young women and the pressure put on them to give in to demands for sex: "[She thinks] these people are going to look after me and they care about me […] that female usually ends up getting a name … whore, sket, dirty girl, smig," said one 27-year-old male (Guardian 26 November 2013). 

The quote reminded me of two visual poems I created: the first, 'Words for Women', which appeared in Binders Full of Women and is now in Woman's Head As Jug. 

The second is 'Prostitute', published here for the first time. It uses fewer synonyms but places them between a comprehensive collection of women's first names. Many of these names, given at birth, mean light, grace, or love.

The Brighton launch of Woman's Head as Jug is tonight - November 28 - 7.30 for 8 pm at the Red Roaster cafe in Kemp Town:

Monday, November 25, 2013

Will you marry me?

Hidden among the inevitable care home jobs, personal trainers, distributing catalogues, home working and cold-calling, are the weird and wonderful gems: a 'lady woman to cook' (in a trailer) or presenter for a new TV show - 'Social Freaks'.
Yes, it's the world of Gumtree, and I was blissfully unaware of it until my daughter announced she was helping someone propose to his girlfriend after answering an ad.
Fearful, because that's the habit of motherhood, I suggested maybe I could help?
Her task was to meet a man in a hotel in Brighton, to lay out his proposal in fairy lights and set a CD player going  with romantic music on the bandstand moments before he arrived with his girlfriend.
All that, without being spotted, arrested for loitering, the lights going out, or worse.
As my mother pointed out - she's the short story writer whose plot antennae are finely tuned - what if the girlfriend had seen them meet earlier?
My worries bobbed along in the plot of a gory crime thriller with the proposal a lure. 
So yes, I did drive her down to the seafront and loitered myself. Actually I helped lay out his rather basic arrangement of lights on black bin bags and personally feel he could have stretched it a little more and added a 'y' and an 'o', as well as a question mark - after all it was a proposal.  
As Giya set up the CD player and her camera - because she'd volunteered to take a sneaky distance shot of him on his knees proposing - I guarded the message. 
I wouldn't have imagined quite so many passers by at that time of night, or so many dogs, who were the greatest risk of course, because any one of them might have decided to piss on his proposal.
It was sweet though, as I explained to total strangers about this plan that another total stranger had concocted with my daughter. Many of us shared an 'ah' moment and one couple who were completely taken with the idea actually strolled back later to see if they could spot him. 
Giya, meanwhile, was waiting for the text telling her to start the music and trying to keep tourists away - two were very determined to stake their claim, but were persuaded to leave when she explained her dilemma. 
The future husband, very kindly, had given Giya her £20 for the job upfront, so he was taking a risk too. But it went off smoothly, the girl cried, Giya caught the moment on screen and they walked away arm in arm. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Woman's eyes as telescope

A friend, a fellow poet who teaches, is overwhelmed with work as are many in full-time jobs. And yet whenever other friends gather round the kitchen table, all we can talk about is the absence of work, rising overdraft, invisibility.
Economics students, I read somewhere, are beginning to ask for lectures on alternatives to the model that is failing some of us so dramatically.
A wet morning in south Wales. I was visiting one of my oldest friends Helen (whom I've recently rediscovered in France) when she was living in a cabin in Tipi Valley.
My gorgeous first car, a Morris Traveller, didn't like the damp but Nigel, whose house I was lodging in at the time, always reassured me that it had the simplest engine. In fact he took the engine out once for me to replace the head gasket. The engine was so simple that there were two easy solutions when it wouldn't start - one was to bash the starter motor with a hammer. Nigel, a science teacher and subsequently writer of science textbooks, always had a knack of explaining how things worked. The hammer was his solution - why did it work? It disturbed the metal filings clogging up the motor.
The other solution related to spark plugs. I suspect modern engines don't have spark plugs, but there were four (I think) in the Morris Traveller engine. These were the problem in the damp. But they could be over-ridden by the starter handle.
So there I was with a car that wouldn't start, unable to ring the AA (it was a time before mobiles). I tried the starter handle. It worked. The engine made the right noise and I was off.
I trust that my memory's coughed up a working metaphor and there is a starter handle solution to the most serious lack of work I've experienced, or perhaps it's a hammer solution? I can't decide which describes the Writers' Masterclass, a series of small, six person workshops I'm planning (details on my workshop book blog).
What I do know is I'm going to have to turn and/or bash something.
In preparing for those two possibilities, I was going through old notebooks and rediscovered the list that accompanies my book title. It is optimistic, suggests possibilities, as does the continuing existence of Tipi Valley and the influence it exerted.
Woman's Head as Jug on Kindle: