Thursday, 19 September 2013

A country road. A tree.

The scent of pig is faint tonight
as the lime trees hang their heads against gradations of blue,

looking at the lone suitcase in the middle of the farmyard
with a sense of solidarity. Also forgotten. 
From Gradations of Blue by Matthea Harvey (2000)

There are many vivid images in this poem on memory and ageing.  Memories are described as weights that are carried with us as we age, a journey suggested by birds, a barge, a plane, trucks, a suitcase, a colony of ants etc.  The poet has described herself as "a general gatherer" and her poetry often contains collections of objects, glimpses of items retrieved from a shoe box. 

The first two couplets in Gradations of Blue remind me of the stage directions for a Beckett play.  An incredibly efficient use of image and word which perfectly sets a scene.  In fact, in the style of Hemingway's 'baby shoe' story, there is an entire narrative contained in those four lines, should you choose to imagine it. 

It strikes me that we could write similar scenes by creating a list. So, let's have a pop at it.  Here's what we need:

  • a scent (pigs - faint)
  • a time of day (night)
  • a character/s (lime trees/suitcase)
  • a colour (gradations of blue)
  • an object (suitcase)
  • a location (farmyard)
  • a feeling (solidarity)
  • a statement (Also forgotten)
You might like to start with the location and work the other details out from there.  Here's my list:
  • a location - bathroom
  • a scent  - bleach
  • a time of day - mid-afternoon
  • a character/s - skirting board
  • a colour - metallic silver
  • an object - lock
  • a feeling - shame
  • a statement - impersonal personal space
And two couplets:

The skirting board is no longer white, though bleach foam
eats at its feet. A crack where the door fits, slip of light;

cold afternoon.  Steel bolt points down in shame, to the sickened
board.  Off-white: no colour at all.

Give it a go.  See what you come up with then please do share.



Colin Davies said...

Quite brilliant.

Ashley R Lister said...

I've tried this. I'm not sure I followed the dictates of the exercise. But I have to admit I like what I've produced.

Familiar dog farts warmed through the windscreen on the day's last school run.
Grey skies, roads, cars and gridlock. Mounting road rage, accelerating faster than any Blackpool-bound car.


vicky ellis said...

I like it. But I'm a sucker for a familiar dog fart. They clear the screen so much more efficiently.