Welcome to ArtiPeeps’ latest initiative FreeSpace whereby we offer 3 post slots to any creative who has taken up a Weekend Showcase. Within these 3 spaces the creative can do whatever they like, and stretch the slots time-wise however they like to. And here taking up this offer, in the first of their 3 slots are James Knight and Richard Biddle
The nicest people you’re never likely to meet…or…How ‘Time Lines’ came in to being…
About a year ago, I began using twitter to promote a now defunct business. I quickly realised its potential for connecting with like-minded others, and put it to work. I found the immediacy of its feed both addictive and seductive.
As a struggling poet, creative writing was never very far from my radar. So one day I had an epithany ‘what if I used the tweet as an experimental platform for poetry.’
It wasn’t long before I found out that there was already a seam of creativity out there. It was called, among other names, #microfiction and there were quite a few people at it. @echovirus12 was one of the first nuggets I found.
EV12 is the brain child of @jeffnoon. It is a constantly changing evolving narrative that involves a number of different writers. In simple terms, each writer/member has the choice to respond to the previous tweet by echoing some element within it, and there is one golden rule: you cannot follow your own tweet. It’s genius, a kind of modern day exquisite corpse. I immediately wanted to be a part of it.
In my searching, I also found the amazing @virulentblurb by the incredibly prolific
@kneeledowne who uses twitter like no one else on earth.
‘Originally starting life as an experiment to write an ongoing fantasy novel via the medium of Twitter, the Blurb has now mutated into its own website. ‘
I started writing, what I hoped were absurd, strange and darkly-humoured tweets and it wasn’t long before my work was noticed by the extremely talented @jamesknightbad, whose creation ‘The Bird King’ I had just discovered. His alterego, @badbadpoet had created this mythical character.
‘How did the Bird King come to be in James’s head in the first place? Maybe Loplop planted him there: a bad seed sown in the soil of dreams. Maybe a mythical being called Crow was responsible. To this day, James is unsure. We will probably never know.’
James and I seemed to share a similar proclivity for the absurd and the surreal and it wasn’t long before we were regularly communicating and RTing each other’s outpourings. This mutually respectful appreciation led to James inviting me to contribute to his latest project, an anthology of writing by poets & dreamers who were using Twitter as a portal through which they could birth their latest ideas; like me, they were using Twitter as a testing ground/sounding board.
A few months later and the dream has become a reality. Amazingly, James coordinated, collaborated and self-published the book that is now called ‘Time Lines’
Self-publishing anything always involves risk but above all it requires ‘guts’ and a belief.
‘Time Lines’ is ambitious, it is international. It combines the writings of poets from the USA, UK, Australia and Mexico.
Five of the writers, including myself are members of @echovirus12. Yes my desire to become a contributor/member of EV12 came to fruition.
‘Time Lines’ is ‘out there’ literally and figuratively. I don’t want to say too much about it here, other than, I am proud to be a part of it.
Not being one for self-agrandisment, I hope that if your’re reading this, you’re curiosity has been aroused and that you will make the step towards supporting our venture by clicking on the link below.
Finally, James and I are now collaborating on another project @cosmologgorhea. In short, it’s an ‘epic’ mythopoetic, prose poem inspired by creation myths, surrealism and the big bang theory.
We take it in turns to tweet, building-up an imagistic wordscape. Each tweet has to include 3 words that have been chosen in advance by the person who last tweeted. We have no idea where it will lead us. Who knows, perhaps one day we may actually shake hands but if we never, ever physically meet it doesn’t really matter, our minds have, our words have and our cyber-selves have. In today’s social-networking age, remarkably, this can be all we need.
The Madness of the Bird King is a poetic picture book for grown-ups. It presents the reader with the enigmatic Bird King and his world, in a poem made of twelve fragments, each with an accompanying watercolour illustration by Diana Probst.
In constructing our little book, Diana and I wanted to offer the adult reader the feelings of delight, wonder and joyful terror that young children experience daily, when immersing themselves in picture books like The Gruffalo and Where the Wild Things Are. Much of that rich emotional experience is a result of the potent combination of text and image; the magic of The Madness of the Bird King is generated by the connections and disjunctions between my words and Diana’s beautiful pictures, which are not illustrations in any traditional sense. Although each painting was inspired by a Bird King fragment, we have not paired them up. Indeed, some of the pictures were inspired by tweets that didn’t make it to the finished poem.
What follows are the first three parts of our twelve part work. In the book, my text appears on the left hand page, and Diana’s illustration appears on the right. The Bird King himself may sometimes be glimpsed, fleeting between the two.
The Bird King is mad again.
through empty midnight streets,
The Bird King’s wings:
cobbled together from wire
But the feathers are real, seasonal:
Spring: urinous, downy.
Summer: purples, scarlets.
Autumn: rust-tinged greys.
Winter: a widow’s fan.
The Bird King spends much of his time
asleep on a throne of lightbulbs,
dreaming of love.
Waiting in the wings: his retinue of electricians.
Sometimes he wakes,
His laughter breaks glass,
He cackles and crackles on his electric throne.
Copies of the book can be purchased here
Find out more about Diana and her work here
You can read Diana’s account of her work on the Bird King book here
This one is called:
Grandma’s Eyes or 13 Unpleasant Stories, Invented for the Purpose of Terrifying and Mystifying.
1. She found the book at twilight in the silence of the forest. It was bound in red leather. When she opened it, the pages turned into moths and fluttered in drunken spirals, aspiring to the moon.
2. Grandma’s garden has gnomes, roses, a lovingly mown lawn. But her greenhouse is home to a thousand desperate twisted things, gasping, blind.
3. She pauses before the door to the forbidden room. The apple-shaped doorknob is warm, smooth. In her other hand: a key like a snake’s tongue.
4. Grandma sips a cup of tea. A broken wolf stares at her from the prison of a picture frame.
5. The curtains of her eyelids are the forest. Denser and denser into the heart, into the wet darkness, into the house of phantoms.
6. Grandma’s teeth are knives, hatchets, crenellations, the serrated canopy of the endless forest.
7. When she breaks the mirror she swoons into a long, restless sleep. Her lips turn to rose petals, her hair to snakes. Her sex becomes a seashell. Put it to your ear: listen to the mermaids murmuring in an ocean of blood.
8. Red roses proliferate in the Kingdom of the Wolf. Grandma’s skull is a cave. Inside, you’ll hear the voices of the dead.
9. In her heart is a mirror in whose surface you may catch a glimpse of the witch, an apple, a rose bush, a broken sword.
10. In Grandma’s eyes you’ll see a red moon, red shoes, secret flames, the howling storm. She shows her bleeding palms to the heavens.
11. Opening the door to room 13, she finds herself entering a candlelit bedroom. Her double is sitting at the dressing table, smiling at her own reflection.
12. In the Medusa coils of Grandma’s floral wallpaper: the statue of a wolf.
13. An axe, a grin, a labyrinth of trees. The girl, now a woman, writes her name in blood on the mirror of the moon.
And this is:
Dinner for One
I made the film a few years ago with a couple of exceedingly talented people, but we ran into some copyright problems with the soundtrack soon after it was uploaded to YouTube. So I approached Adam Wimbush who composed some terrifying music for the Bird King last year (See here for more details) , and asked if I could use a section of his piece Realms as the soundtrack to Dinner for One. He agreed, and when I added his music to the film it was as if he’d written it especially for our horrible little piece. I’ll say no more. You can see the film and enjoy the combination of sound and image yourself. I’m the one in the suit, by the way.
Picture this happening continuously –
In his mildew-ridden study, pocked with mouldy black stink on the walls, he struggles to word the paper with thought. Blank pages lie before him like prayer flags awaiting a tornado.
At his back, books ranged on makeshift shelves chatter claptrap at him, trying to distract him from his task with their half-muttered theories and better poetries.
An idea forms in this memory like sucked bones giving up their sparse meat, a tongue-snapped taste that lasts as long as a snowflake.
Ghost-seeking torches hover their nervous beams over graveyards. Moonlit ouija boards anticipate the spelling out of death. Municipal murders, suicide rumours, scare-legends…
…In an abandoned toilet, where a boy’s body was found swinging, they dare each other.
Suddenly he realises that residing within his aging limbs there is a poltergeist. He decides to become invisible.
This is a symphony to be conducted with a pin, a moment to be replayed again and again and again.
Like a throng of winged ants leaving their dead queen, these letters leave me, an exhaled silent trail. Pips, delicately planted so as to grow into fruiting trees. Or, is each word a tiny coffin making this whole text a burial site for dead thoughts, an insignificant graveyard.
What will become of this effort? Will it be cast aside like a rotten fish, left to fester in maggoty juice? Will each vowel metamorphose into a tooth, each consonant merge to form a fleshy tongue and will this alphabetic mouth be able to talk?
More likely that the autopsy will reveal death by natural causes and not the last scribbled scrawl of a suicidal scream.
Whispers, that’s what these ciphers are. Shadows cast from the mind to the page, lit by a moon the size of a penny.
Retrace the steps and you will find heaps of scrunched up paper, each one an undiscovered planet frustratingly tossed into the air in an attempt to find an orbit, failing and falling back down to terra-firma with a whimper.
Read this treatise and think of the tiny things, the details; a match before it ignites, a mosquito before it bites and a splinter waiting to catch your skin with its irritating twinge.
Paper cuts, snagged nails and kisses of betrayal, this is a novel to be read through a microscope, a symphony to be conducted with a pin.
Dressed in a suit of soot, tar-gloves and tar-shoes, a charcoal walking stick and a lump-of-burnt-wood-hat, it carries a cave on its back, a cave where secrets are stored and fetish is found. Sometimes the cave is a mouthful of ink and the fetish a lithe tongue, darting in and out, licking the light to darkness.
Its smell is burning tyres and its voice a chalkboard nail scratch, whispering screams, cutting dreams, penetrating.
It is a fat, on its back, black beetle, a malignant cancer, and a barrage of dubious bruises.
Unable to escape the liar’s essence, the murderer’s stench and the rapist’s desire, it rolls its solemn heart through the lonely body of every nocturnal hour. Cursed by the sun, this is where it must stay, firmly lodged between the witches and the stars.
A fox scratches at a wire fence, its snout catching the panic of a chicken. On a country lane, a car crunches a badger’s bones to pulp.