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Scarlet Letters

Mar. 27th, 2014 10:41 pm The people are coming

With warm mid-March sun at its back,

Nature is laying infinitesimal yet determined siege

To the feet of stones with human names.

The air hums purposefully about my ears.

My feet remain unbound; I am welcome not to linger.

I am but an anomaly, a mote in the eyes of millennia.

Koko wa, kamisama ga iru no

There are spirits here,

Gods, forgotten but not gone.

I can hear them pushing out plant shoots.

Hear them in the creak of reaching limbs

And the coil of burgeoning blossom.

Feel their studied stillness before the rush, the explosion, the grand unveiling

Of spring! Winter is over; time to get drunk!

The people are coming, to read poetry to cherry trees.


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Feb. 11th, 2014 12:03 am The fiction of “women writers”

I am a woman. I write. Like many, I baulk at being called “a writer”, as if that's a thing that I live and breathe and embody and do with every waking hour (see date of last blog entry. Ahem.) I'm actually much more comfortable being referred to as a sporadically ambulant caffeine repository.

But I do spend a lot of my time reading, and thinking about writing, and reading thinking about writing, and I keep coming up against this same constellation of ideas:
“It's important to read women's fiction, to get a different perspective and an insight into how they think.”
“Her book is totally set in a patriarchy! And she calls herself a feminist!”
“Help! I'm a man - how can I write strong female characters?”

And what I read from all this is “women are different from us, and near impossible to understand”.

And, y'know, this bothers me. Not because I don't believe in women expressing themselves in writing, because, obviously, I do. Not because I don't believe there's an imbalance in the publication and review of male and female authors, because, clearly, there is, and there shouldn't be.

It bothers me because I don't think any of this is helping women to write, with freedom and confidence, and promote their work, and have it published. I don't think that treating females as uniquely difficult to understand is helping us out with the whole empathy/ shared human experience thing either. In fact, I think it's holding us back.

And here's why, in three fluffy little mini-rants.

1. Women are not a sub-category; we do not all think alikeCollapse )
2. Women can write about whatever they chooseCollapse )
3. Women are people tooCollapse )

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Nov. 8th, 2013 09:38 pm The sea

There are many things that adults think they know about the sea. They are all wrong.

The sea is big and deep and scary. The sea clings on to people, and because we have fingers and not fins any more we can't escape. That's why I don't like the sea. I think I might if I was a plesiosaur.

The sea goes on forever, until it becomes the sky. Sometimes, when the sky is really close to the sea, everything is bright and warm and you have to screw up your eyes until the sun goes blood red. Sometimes, if you squint hard enough at the sea, you can see faraway islands with secret coves and pirate galleys. They are too far away for anyone to ever go to.

If you close your eyes and just lie there, the waves sound like shh-shhhh, but just when you feel calm they start to jump and crackle, and then if you try to listen to each wave move one by one you feel scared and small and queasy, because you know that the sea is big and lonely and always searching.

When I feel like that, I bury my feet and my legs deep in the sand like a big crab. The sea slurps and sucks at the sand, but the sand is always moving, always dancing out of reach, carrying with it the sun that shines from white, to yellow, then orange, before it falls into the sea.

When the light is gone, the sea will get ahold of me for good.

Current Music: Scorn - The End | Powered by Last.fm

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Sep. 16th, 2013 08:47 pm She left a note

She left a note
Saying not where she was going
But where she had been
And what she had seen
And why, why she must go.

He read her note
And wept,
Tears etching age around eyes
And face, and falling
Upon paper, upon ink.

And as he wept, ink wept,
Reaching jagged spiderlegs
To paper, to fingers,
Blackness into skin,
An indelible taint.

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Current Location:
Current Music: Front Line Assembly

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Sep. 9th, 2013 10:11 pm Walking in darkness

By '87, we'd had enough of London. Its streets had turned out to be paved with just enough gold to take out a mortgage on a small house at a substantial remove from work, from where it was at, and from the kind of green fields that somewhat older children would probably want to frolic in one day if they weren't to eventually succumb to a life of dissolution and hard drugs. We felt hemmed in, and worried that one day, my brother would bounce himself out the window of his tiny bedroom. And so, with a cunning little manoeuvre that saw us kids stay with relatives before arriving at a miraculously-furnished new house, we moved.

Perhaps this clever ploy explains why, for many years, I had dreams of hidden trapdoors and mysterious tunnels, Narnia-esque wardrobes and loose bricks into underground caverns. Or perhaps, given that I thought I knew how to think myself into flight and could hardly sleep for fear of the cybermen hiding under my bed, I just had an over-active imagination. Goodness knows we needed one, in those heady days of two-colour text adventures and Sylvester McCoy as Doctor Who.

Or perhaps the house itself inspired such thoughts. I wasn't the only one to have them. It was bigger and older than the London house, and while publicly I scoffed at my brother's unwillingness to go up the stairs alone after dark, I did so myself with some trepidation. There was a haunting aspect to the way the shadows clung at the walls, a solidity and an age to the darkness that may not exactly have menaced, but boy did it know how to loom. It was a darkness that demanded to be taken seriously.

But I was not easily cowed as a child, and over time I came to an arrangement with the dark. What made it mad, I figured, is that although it had been there first, it was still forced to flee on a regular basis by these four persistent, fidgety beings on their meaningless nocturnal perambulations. Pretty unfair really, a concept that the young me understood all too well. So rather than shoo the darkness away with my blundering invasive presence, I swam through it, my hands learning to follow the wooden detail on the wall that started out at head height and sank over time to my waist.

Even now, I still prefer to walk the house in darkness. Sometimes, because I'm grown-up and sensible now, I tell myself that it's because I don't want to wake anyone. But the house and I, we know different.

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Aug. 30th, 2013 11:07 pm Faith in the system

You can have faith in the system. In procedure, in structure. Nature is a system, a self-regulating machine, and so it is only natural that man too should yearn to organise himself and his fellow man according to best principles. Man can have faith in the manual, in which the right way to do things is set down, unchanging before his eyes, and before the eyes of all who shall seek to do such things, so that all things are done the same, and lo, it is good.

It is good not to have to think too hard. Reassurance breeds serenity, contentment, placidity. Where there is no system, there is only chaos, brute violence, an orgy of selfish Neanderthal wants. Only the fittest survive, and fitness is not something we can choose or not choose. The system brings a new kind of democratic fitness. Adherence to the system is the new choice, and one that we all can make.

The system offers you peace and contentment. The system offers you the reassurance that you are right, just as right as all others who follow the system and in just the same way. There are those who choose not to follow the system, and their lives are their own indictment, the kind of dark non-secret mothers would once have invoked to frighten their children to bed at night. The system has streamlined the child-rearing process, of course, so this conversation no longer takes place.


I'm playing around with worldviews. Please don't think that this is mine.

Current Location: Ichikawa
Current Music: DJ Hidden

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Jun. 7th, 2013 11:46 pm Song in the key of salaryman

He is almost poetic,
A double-jointed twisting hymn
To an evening on the gin.


Current Location: Japan, Hon-gyōtoku, Tajiri

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Jun. 1st, 2013 07:15 pm There stands a tree

There stands a tree.
Tall, slender, unbowed,
Trunk liquid smooth,
Luring of touch.

Boughs upflung,
Tangled, chaotic, unashamed.
A reverie, a revelry.

Roots that yearn deep
To tickle at dinosaurs,
And all that soil has seen.

With my leaves shall I
Reach ever to the sun.
As my trunk gnarls and twists,
so shall I stand slender and unbowed.
With my boughs shall I dance,
In reverie, in revelry,
In time to the death rattle
Of curling leaves.

And when there stands a tree no longer,
So shall my roots remain.

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Apr. 21st, 2013 10:24 pm On language learning: a heretical Sunday sermon

A cynical mood front has been gathering in my teacher brain of late. Perhaps it's because, when I ask my friends who speak good English what their strategies were for learning, they shrug their shoulders. "Study? I guess," they say. "I just kind of stuck at it."

Or perhaps it's because my dentist speaks better English from listening to BBC Radio 4 than many do after years spent in classrooms, or even living in English-speaking countries. In any case, I'm starting to lose faith in theory.

There's no shortage of theoretical moths batting about the EFL flame, that's for sure...

* It's all about exposure to the target language without the pressure to respond: "Put the banana in the box Taro. Well done. Now put the melon on the floor, behind Shohei. Excellent! That'll be 30 quid please."

* It's all about using the target language in a relaxed environment: "Take a seat in the big brown massage chair. Let's read dialogue number 4. Oh Mavis, what lovely shoes. Are they new? ... There now, wasn't that easy? You're very clever. That'll be 30 quid please."

* Negotiation of meaning should take place in pursuit of the completion of a mutually interesting task: "OK, so there are poster paper and pens at the front of the classroom, so let's all wast-, er spend ninety minutes drawing a map of your hometown. When you're finished, present in pairs. Make a list of the similarities and differences. I'll be in my office. Don't forget to pay on your way out!"

* Linguistic responses can be automaticised through a series of questions and responses that were written in 1900: "Name six things besides cigars which should be kept in a dry place... Describe all that you could procure from an ideal penny-slot machine... OK great, you can pay at the reception desk."

* The teacher should say as little as possible, so the students are in control of the target language: ". . . . . . Teacher, what we should do now? Ah... Monkey? No... Pray? Ahhhh...?"

What's the one unifying feature of these methods? Why, their democracy of course! Their promise to all that if they only show up each week and... What's that? Money, you say...?

Ah yes. Money.

English language teaching is an industry, and a rather successful one. In fact EFL teachers are the UK's sole remaining export industry. As a result, rival theories spring up all the time, selling to bright-eyed future globetrotters and world-changers and sunken-eyed hunchback EFLers alike. Siren-like, they shimmy, beckon and seduce, yet all offer hope that, at the end of that road, however long and winding it may be, all will be able to master English, to talk with poise and confidence at embassy receptions and bring up bilingual babies who will spell the end to war and discrimination forever more, ushering mankind into a new post-Babel golden age in which no Taro will be unable to effectively box a banana on receiving said instruction from his teacher.

This, in my experience, is a lie.

Successful language learners are those who care, and those who can. Motivation and aptitude. I wanted to learn, I kind of stuck at it, it sort of made sense, and now here I am.

It's either that or Radio 4. Which gives me an idea...

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

Current Location: Japan, Hon-gyōtoku, Tajiri

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Mar. 9th, 2013 05:30 pm What we wish for

In a corner of downtown Shinjuku,
Under thatched eaves, under skyscrapers,
Between bonfires
And the hot sake in me,
I bowed, clapped, bowed,
Rang the bell,
And wished,
For once,
For nothing for myself.

For a second,
I felt a selfish pleasure
In my selflessness.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.


Current Location: 33.9763,133.5405

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