Friday, 14 December 2007

SHOT NO 14, by Bertram Karrasch and William Wordsworth

Itinerary poems of 1833, XVII, Isle of Man. William Wordsworth

A Youth too certain of his power to wade

On the smooth bottom of this clear bright sea

To sight so shallow, with a bather's glee

Leaped from this rock, and but for timely aid

He, by the alluring element betrayed,

Had perished. Then might Sea-nymphs (and with sighs

Of self-reproach) have chanted elegies

Bewailing his sad fate, when he was laid

In peaceful earth: for doubtless, he was frank,

Utterly in himself devoid of guile;

Knew not the double-dealing of a smile;

Nor aught that makes men's promises a blank,

Or deadly snare; and He survives to bless

The Power that saved him in his strange distress.

He has recently been a little vague,

Although they enjoyed the holiday at sea.

He told the children stories at bedtime with great glee.

So everybody was surprised to hear of the decision they made,

He and the wife he betrayed.

You can virtually hear now the reader's sighs,

The room echoing from the elegies

Of deceived husbands and wives - their fate laid

In the hand of the other. Frank,

This was the name of the wrongdoer, was full of guile.

But on his face he had a reassuring smile,

When he put the piece of paper in front of her and pointed at the blank

Space. Here to sign and you are free - again. God bless

You, darling, sorry for the distress.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

"... you're in love with the truth
when you discover it at the point of a pencil."

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Ex 6

Fly high
and keep writing.

Ex 5

Out of the blue
and continue ....

Ex 4

Start with


or use it as a title and start to write about what ever it makes you think of.

Ex 3

Someone I know saw me in a cafe - where else? - a couple of days after my birthday, and went and bought me a card before they came to say hello. The card was a really good-looking one called Escape by Clare Maddicott and on the front was a blue bird in flight and some words and phrases, and there and then I wrote a short piece I'm proud of starting with one of the phrases - "OUT OF THE BLUE".

The phrases are all short enough and generic enough to be uncopyrightable - except, maybe, the one in this exercise; though you can use it to start a piece and then cut it off the front when you publish what you wrote - and your next few exercises are based on phrases from the card.

Exercise 3 is to write a piece with the title or first line as follows:

Bask in heaven's blue smile

Stop thinking about it, please, and start writing ....

Friday, 16 November 2007


  • Advertisements for Myself
  • The Presidential Papers
  • Existential Errands
  • The Executioner's Song

Monday, 12 November 2007


You feel a personal connexion to writers whose writing is important to you - you have spent so much time in their company, thinking their thoughts.
I read Ancient Evenings 6 times between 1984 and 1990, and 2 of those times I finished it and then started it again straight away: I loved immersing myself in the world of that book, with its sensuality, perfumes, palm trees, dust, rituals and conspiracies. There's something OCD about its Egyptian nobles' attempts at immaculacy amid the mud of the Nile and the dust of the desert, and there's an anxiety under the ritual, prayer and protocol they use to try to keep their souls and society clean. Ancient Evenings puts you in to the heads and consciousnesses of the characters, and through their 5 - and sometimes 6 - senses Mailer lets you experience the blunt, smooth or scratchy edges of their experience of their world.
the time I would guess I knew it as well as Mailer did, though differently. After 1990 I left it alone so that it would seem fresh when I read it again, and I might not like it now - the Battle of Kadesh seemed less good as an extract in The Time of Our Time, though that may be because it was out of context - in most good writing the words all rely on each other, woven tightly together, and separately they lose impact and emphasis.
I used to read The Last Draft of The Deer Park when ever I was scared or depressed, because it made me feel better. It is a factual piece about rejection and humiliation, and anger, depression and exhaustion - and Mailer's patient, introverted absorption in revising and refining the proofs of The Deer Park line by line and word by word - at first with excitement and then, closer to the deadline, slowly and strugglingly in a fog of sleeping pill hangovers and tiredness. Following the honest downs and ups and struggles of the piece - Mailer was always bothered about being brave and usually honest about feeling fear - always helped me; and you can learn more from it than from anything else I know of about how to write and refine your writing sentence by comma by sentence.

When famous people die they are on the news and you can be more conscious of them than you were the day before. Though this is true with Norman Mailer, I had also been watching him in the last few weeks on YouTube clips - Charlie Rose interviews and a real act of violence with Rip Torn in Maidstone - and a 2007 interview where he explained for me why most of us accept this change in our society to a system where we are all suspects who answer to the state and have to prove our innocence. "Fascism comes back to our infancy and our childhood when we were always told how to live," he said: " ... the secret of fascism is that it has this appeal to people whose later lives are not satisfactory."

Friday, 2 November 2007

SHOT NO 13, by Bertram Karrasch

To look at him is to see a wooden stool.

The traffic-light-bright yellow of the wooden seat dazzles the eye,

A big bottom torn from a clown's dress.

Four pins of wood underneath, like taken from a bowling lane - the legs.

They are novices to their new task.

Three legs are willingly holding and supporting the seat,

One is rickety, breaking out of the circle, secretly betraying his friends.

A subversive element he is.

He never liked to line up in formation, always wanted to be different.

He is still hesitating.

But one day, not now, one day, he will be a dissident.

"The thing when you improvise stuff is
you don't know what's going to be left in the movie."

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

SHOT NO 12, by Bertram Karrasch

Oxford Road long after mid-night

A police siren chases an ambulance car.
A CCTV camera watches the scene.
People queue up in front of a cash machine.
A beggar calls them names.

The traffic light changes to green.
A taxi turns on the empty road.
A cleaning vehicle collects beer cans and bags of crisps.
And leaflets, wet from the rain.

The 24h Spar across the road has a delivery.
Trays hold bread in plastic bags.
Carton boxes contain bottles with fizzy drinks.
The driver wears a hat.

I go to bed now,
Still time for a wank.

Monday, 29 October 2007

SHOT NO 11, by Bertram Karrasch

Now I sit in a house made of ice and snow, on a thick layer of sheepskin, in a warm pyjama and drink a cup of tea. The candles on the small wooden table flicker and make our shadows dance on the shiny walls.

It is absolutely quiet and peaceful in the snowhouse. The skin in the entrance hangs still now, doesn't move at all. Only a few hours ago it was thrown in to the room when a strong storm swiped across the peninsula. We had to bring the dogs in to one of the snowhouses. It was already dark outside and there was no moonlight, which could have made our task easier. ...

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Intro to Shot No 10

I wrote this today. At the moment the title is Amuse Bouche.

Ex 2

You can do this easy exercise to start some new writing. Write

When we got there the sun came out, so

and keep writing - loosely and enjoyably and following any changes of subject, and only coming back to your first idea as much or as little as you feel you want to. You can start and see what happens.

SHOT NO 9, by Elaine Speakman

In the middle of the night
It came,
Hard and fast
Jolting me out of sleep
To the painful realization
Of being alone,
With the hours
In to the grey emptiness of knowing
That dawn will bring no relief,
Will only gather the clouds of despair
About me,
Maybe the moon tomorrow,
Or the day after,
Or the day after that
Will gently tease me free,
Maybe not,
Maybe the little red pills
That firm my grip on life
Will need to be shaken
From their hiding place
And swallowed.

Ex 1

Your turn to have a go and have some fun; you can get a coffee or what you most enjoy drinking, and some paper and a pen, and relax and write

The train stopped at the station

and follow on from that and keep writing for 10 minutes - or 5 minutes if you want - writing what comes out and letting it happen and enjoying it.

You can leave it and read it later and make it better if you want. It may be beautiful or horrible or anything between; I write pages like this and then only ever use one line from them - though I wrote the bad pages to get to the line I like. Other times you find you've written a piece that works with no or few changes - like rolling the perfect pizza base .... (I would imagine).

You can write something if you want to, and what you've written you can keep a secret or show to some one or to every one, and you can send it as a Comment to this page. I manage comments before they appear, so you can even send me what you wrote as a comment and ask me not to let anyone else see it.

I would like to read anything you write from this exercise - Espresso Shots is not muffins a monologue, it's like coffee and a conversation.

The first line of this exercise is similar to the first line of one of the books in the Have You Read ...? box on the left: have you read it, and do you recognize it?

Thursday, 11 October 2007

SHOT NO 8, by Adam Grant

I feel jilted as a dishevelled beauty leaves my lover's lair,
Her eyes full of sleep and health from recently left lust
The smell of sex does not linger in the air, but it should.
My lover looks seriously in to my eyes, hers dart
Feverishly they try to stay upon mine.
A half hearted introduction discloses only that she knows no name
And the warmth of soft scents ... morning sun kissed cheeks
Leaves my senses be, and I grow cold.
She'd laid it on the line from our start -
"Sleeping with a girl is only a lustful action,
Like watching pornography, it is not love,
For I only have love for you."
It seemed like fun then ....

Friday, 5 October 2007

SHOT NO 7, by Dave Puller

I gave her everything.

And she took it.

SHOT NO 6, by Anthony Sides

You were still asleep when I pressed the cushion on to your face. I tried not to wake you. You moved your head slightly in your sleep when you felt the cushion cover and I pushed my two hands down with all my strength from my shoulders down through both my wrists and held my breath praying.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Intro to Shots No 5 and 6

Peter Sansom ran a writing work shop in Huddersfield in 2006 and asked the group to write something beginning with the line You were still asleep.

Steve Waling wrote a poem, and a few days after he showed it to me I wrote some prose with the same first line. Steve's poem is in his new book Travelator and I appreciate his permission to include it here.

In The Times Ian MacMillan listed Travelator first in his "Five to Cherish" and wrote:

Waling was once poet-in-residence at a chip shop and his poetry has a salty quality that makes you want more. [Steve's publisher] Salt churns out quality books like there's no tomorrow.

Thank you again to Steve for the poem, and to Steve and Ian MacMillan for this opportunity to use square brackets.

SHOT NO 5, by Steve Waling

You were still asleep

as light came in through the curtains.

The first bus crawled up the hill. I made this

from a dream of my childhood.

This is the house on the corner. Bought

by an absentee landlord, kept empty

for when the price goes up.

Not in this town. The garage next door

was arsoned. Mum lives up the hill now,

I don't like going back. Nostalgia's

a type of arthritis for the poor

who live in the present. The future's

a new block of flats in Manchester at

a hundred grand a room. C-cold. Blinds

at the window and the traffic at the roundabout

never stops. You were still asleep and I

had the horn for you.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

SHOT NO 4, by Anthony Sides

This story was prompted by the excellent  Fast Fiction by Roberta Alan, where she writes:
"A story that takes place on a dark city street late at night has a different atmosphere from a story that takes place in daylight on a prairie filled with wildflowers."

The clouds and light moved slowly on the prairie changing the colours and perspective.

Behind her in the yard her mother was taking the wash in off of the line. A warm breeze blowing in starts and stops blowing the thin smoke flat from the chimney of the sod and timber dugout.

There was the swishing of the breeze and the smell of dry sage brush, and the little girl could taste the milk she had drunk and feel the grass warm and scratchy under her feet, and she looked in the grass for bunnies among red and blue and purple flowers.

Above a hollow was a feather. The breeze twiddled it. The little girl noticed it.

An Indian stood up. The little girl stopped still.

The Indian looked past her, blank. Lifted his bow. Pulled the string back to his chest. He was bare chested - in buckskin leggings with fringes.

The little girl turned ran - toward the homestead - near too far away. Her mother standing in the yard. Pulling the dried clothes down, still in the past moment.

The girl running weak legged on the warm scratchy grass with everything slowing down.

"But I just write to write."

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

SHOT NO 3, by Anthony Sides

All around is the sky with the scratchy branches of the bare January trees.
The sun on your face. Do you get careless or unlucky or do you have to secretly be tempted to? Still-faced and composed.
Sentimental spin of a half-true anecdote. Some people will do anything. Expect less of people.
Behind the buildings brilliant blue sky a few white clouds shredding at the corners.
The ones who barely met you once know you're a topic of interest now, they want some of that interest to rub off on them like newsprint.
This time last week ....
A coldness that gets in to your bones, a clay smell.
Down, slowly, inside, out of the sunlight.
Driving away leaving you. Past chip shops, and kids in school sweat shirts on their lunch hour.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Note about Shot No 2

WARNING: You may prefer to skip Shot No 2 because of a bleak section about death and decay that you may regret reading - you can read some of the other shots instead.

SHOT NO 2, by Anthony Sides

Fast David Letterman-style walking - council houses white with gardens parked car in front yard muddy rubber mud guards smell of ox tail soup from kitchen for lunch seeing through living rooms to back windows and gardens - lemon-coloured leaves piled up against the grass by the wind - newsagent pizza hairdresser solicitors - maisonettes small and narrow and very new and brutally close along side each other - funeral home and a thought of bodies made to look OK but rotting inside faces slumped flabby discoloured head turned slightly against quilted smooth coffin lining mouth funny - groceries blessed Caribbean meat a man on the pavement walking from a large van with a blood-lined carcass on his shoulder a 1/2 carcass hollow curved inside of rib cage - the brewery and giant metal Ms one of them with a billboard on to fund it big Ms to Mpress the Olympic committee and any one with a festival and the smell from the brewery the same as home-brewed beer in the airing cupboard when I was a child hiding. Right turn and left and parked cars along the road and further up a garage cars along the road side near it and in the yard - every where quiet now these streets mostly empty - vistas of factory yards you could photograph - now behind the polytechnic and made it pretty much. No such thing as safety.

Intro to Shot No 2

WARNING: You may want to skip this shot - it's bleak and has a section about death and decay some of you may regret reading. So you may prefer to read one of the other shots instead.

Friday, 3 August 2007

SHOT NO 1, by Anthony Sides

Early morning driving delivering all night driving the truck home now in jeans and a jeans jacket buttoned to the neck a norther blowing dust in the cold white-skied horizontal sun light - tense and tight from shivering - slow and sluggish sense of the dusty-fronted stores and offices and cafes and the pool room, working the stick shift and steering automatically and seeing every thing sluggishly from the distance of this side of all the sleep you need and the empty street and store fronts turning around the cab of the truck around you as you go right and in to the filling station - eggs and ham and grits and coffee next and school after - pushed to a distance and not really part of the main business of the day from being awake and up working for that long before hand.

"It's not considered. It's just about ... Click!"