Tag Archives: Tiffany Coffman

The Tiniest of Things #3: The Warehouse

14 May

box people

Welcome to The Tiniest of Things, A monthly mix of ‘writerly’ observations and poetry from poet Tiffany Coffman

Tiffany3

My name is Tiffany Coffman, and I’m a poet. I know. It sounds like quite the declaration of an addiction, and in some way I suppose it is. I have no formal education or a degree hanging on my wall, but what I do have is the breadth of my life experience and the appetite for creativity that drives me to write. Poetry has been with me since childhood, a curious cohort that has permitted me to get absolutely lost in imagination and disclose what I absorb through the senses, through memories. As a creative, the ability to bend words to my advantage, whether in rhyme or by natural flow, then revel in the middle of it all is the stuff of magic. I write from an organic place, a place of fidelity, wherein I attempt to gift the reader with imagery and storytelling so inviting that you’ll have felt you’ve shared something with me. I don’t write for myself. I write to take you along with me on a ride of emotions and confessions, whether they’re mine or yours. So we’ll take the top down, throw the map away, kiss the asphalt, and roll.

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Every man has reminiscences which he would not tell to everyone, but only to his friends. He has other matters in his mind which he would not reveal even to his friends, but only to himself, and that in secret. But there are other things which a man is afraid to tell even to himself, and every decent man has a number of such things stored away in his mind.” – Dostoyevsky

The Warehouse

I wasn’t raised by the warmest of mothers. My memories of her are of emotional and verbal abuse and heavily lacking in affection. I despised burnt toast as a child (still do) and more often than not my mother burnt mine. While my sister had no issues eating it, I couldn’t stand the taste, so my mother would have to make another batch. There was just something about the surface taste of burnt toast that I found unappealing and possibly a little uncaring on her part. How easy it seemed for my mother not to care.

As writers, we must care about our work even though it means digging deeper and paying closer attention to what we’re attempting to do; how we’re attempting to affect others with our writing. Staying on the surface as a writer can be unappealing and lack tremendous flavor for the reader, but for the writer it may be the safest place to reside. Herein you never have to push boundaries within yourself and can churn out work comfortably and at a nice clip with minimal reveal. In essence, there is no danger.

Every day I take the same route to work, but the past few weeks I’ve noticed a man of average age in the mornings walking the length of the block. He strikes me as odd as he walks at a slow pace always wearing the same clothes. There is nothing unusual I notice about him that would make sense of the slowed way in which he walks except that he appears to be quite content meandering back and forth. I began to wonder if he ever left the block, or changed his clothes, or if he gets a wild hair and sprints for a few. What if we do this as writers? What if we get stuck on the same length of block, never venturing beyond into danger, finding ourselves content to remain in our safety zone?

Danger is a grand thing as a writer. It’s imperative if you intend to evolve beyond everything you believe about yourself. I’m not talking necessarily about revealing your secrets in a confessional manner, but you have to dig deep as a writer and find pieces of your unique experiences to flavor a piece or add dimension to characters. You can only do this by revealing those things inside yourself that are deeply recessed. This type of self-understanding will add authenticity to your work as the reader will find you credible and real regardless of what type of writing you do. It’s all about connection between the reader and writer as you never write for yourself alone.

I’m always looking for ways to change things up as a writer as I can get stuck in a particular way or on a particular theme. By constantly challenging and pushing yourself by tapping into those raw materials you’ve so conveniently stored away in the warehouse, you will allow for the most engaging write that when exported to the reader will give them a sense of who you are. This realness that you deliver will

keep them coming back to explore your work, connecting. And it’s not about attempting with your writing to be different for the sake of being different at all. In fact, should you deliver something that feels in the slightest way faked or forced the reader will call you out. It’s not about being different but going deeper; getting off that same stale length of block and seeing what courage lies in you to move further down the road.

 As writers, it’s our job to see the extraordinary out of the ordinary – to dig up those dusty memories we’ve buried so deeply and examine and expose them. W.B. Yeats said, “Why should we honour those that die upon the field of battle? A man may show as reckless a courage in entering into the abyss of himself.” So it’s not about finding a different abyss, or scratching the surface, but really diving in to the

depths of your own warehouse that will take your writing to the next courageous level. It’s not in any way easy at times digging up old bones, but I say better to be an archaeologist than a grave digger. Fall crazy, mad in love with the abyss of who you are. That’s where the good stuff is. Take a courageous peek at what you think you believe about yourself – your recollections – and then weave it into words.

 A few weeks ago while making breakfast I burnt my toast. It was the last two pieces of bread I had left and damn it, I needed that toast. So I decided to scrape the burnt surface off to see if that removed the terrible flavor I’d always hated. Sure enough it did. In scratching the surface I’d discovered something deeper; a mother who could’ve just as easily scraped off the surface in lieu of making another batch of toast for me. And in that moment, she was the most caring mother.

 Dive deep into the warehouse.

>>

 

You can find more of Tiffany’s poetry and prose here:

http://tlcoff.wordpress.com/


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The Tiniest of Things #2: ‘Been Around the Block’

16 Apr

box people

Welcome to The Tiniest of Things, A monthly mix of ‘writerly’ observations and poetry from Tiffany Coffman

Tiffany3

My name is Tiffany Coffman, and I’m a poet. I know. It sounds like quite the declaration of an addiction, and in some way I suppose it is. I have no formal education or a degree hanging on my wall, but what I do have is the breadth of my life experience and the appetite for creativity that drives me to write. Poetry has been with me since childhood, a curious cohort that has permitted me to get absolutely lost in imagination and disclose what I absorb through the senses, through memories. As a creative, the ability to bend words to my advantage, whether in rhyme or by natural flow, then revel in the middle of it all is the stuff of magic. I write from an organic place, a place of fidelity, wherein I attempt to gift the reader with imagery and storytelling so inviting that you’ll have felt you’ve shared something with me. I don’t write for myself. I write to take you along with me on a ride of emotions and confessions, whether they’re mine or yours. So we’ll take the top down, throw the map away, kiss the asphalt, and roll.

________________________________

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Words will not come about in the lateness of this hour

tick tock; tick tock

Busy body clock

Mind your own goddamn business!

Tick tock over someone else’s clock for I have work to do

Your insipid clicking and untimely ticking

is clunking in my brain

And this matter matters more to me than to you, so…

So…

Oh! Now you’ve done it!

I’ve stopped again

Stopwatch-ing then

Why don’t you go run a few laps around the block?

Unstop the stop

And make useful knots in someone else’s clock?

Harbinger of Time binging on mine!

Take your present and gift it to the past

for there’s no future for you in the mixing

of such verbal elixirs of rhyme and reason

Do not unseat me or try to deplete me

Or I’ll…

So help me, I’ll…

I’ll…

oh, damn.

>>

Been Around the Block

It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.”

Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

I’ve been given the rare privilege of losing everything I own twice in my life; the first time at 17, and the second time at 34. In fact, I’ve lost an abundance of things in my life. There is a stripping away of one’s identity that leaves you naked wondering who you are. I’m not going to mislead you by saying it’s been easy or that it hasn’t made me question the why of things, but what it has done is made me resilient, flexible, and skilled in the art of loss. These are events that get stuck in the back of your throat trying to cut your air off, and until you master the art of loss through repeated dyings, you’ll continue to jeopardize the flow.

Oxford Dictionary defines writer’s block as “the condition of being unable to think of what to write or how to proceed with writing”. I’m not going to sit here presuming to know why someone gets writer’s block because it’s a subjective thing. Someone may be blocked because they’ve exhausted all their original thoughts not knowing where to go next, or perhaps the responsibilities of life need more attention. Maybe one’s confidence has declined and fear has taken hold. I’m not so much concerned with the why but rather how to move through it.

In writing, there is an ever present conflict arising between the writer and the words with the writer trying to control the words and the words trying to control the writer. The two diametrically oppose each other as they vie for authority. When the writer wins, the writing is forced and flat, and when the words win, writer’s block sets in. Normally competition can be a healthy experience, but competing in a zero sum game can cause a writer to become locked as one attempts to constantly outdo their last piece. Often times, the desire to want to write too much or the next best thing can wreak havoc on a soul.

I’ve never experienced writer’s block in my life. Let me clarify. The occurrences when I’ve been unable to write have been perceived as simple disinterest in writing, i.e., I wasn’t feeling it, or I needed to take a step back, reassess. Maybe it’s my perception that sees it as something other than writer’s block that frees me from any anxiety associated with it. The only tension I’ve ever received with regard to my writing has not been over whether I’ll ever write again, but rather, will my disinterest in writing remain? Even still, that quickly passes as what is gifted or gathered through desire is rarely lost for any length of time. Whenever my desire to write lingers, I see it as Desire going out for a long walk knowing full well it will return, but should it not, I’ve always accepted that possibility as well. Acceptance can be defined as “the action of consenting to receive or undertake something offered”. The ability to walk away, not fight, and exit a situation is key.

When writer’s block sets in it’s not a time to panic but an opportunity to rest; a sort of signpost pointing towards a need to do nothing in the way of forcing a write. Writers often fall into the thinking that they must always be in a state of writing, but while you’re spending all this time writing in your head or on paper you’re not listening. There’s a quiet to be had inside yourself wherein the whole world of experience rests. The noisy external, brought inward by the five senses, can erupt in a mass of confusion causing anxiety, pressure, and the control over the expectation to produce. The need to control is strong in the human psyche as it creates the illusion that you’re able to direct the course of events. To let go, really let go of something, causes uncertainty and fear, so we do whatever we can to avoid this. The upshot is that the very thing we’re trying to avoid we bring on even harder, digging our claws in it with such ferocity. If you can use writer’s block as an opportunity to be still and go softly inward listening to all you’ve taken in, the ideas will eventually flow without force or stress.

Tiny little deaths happen all throughout one’s life as you’re constantly losing things; friends, jobs, marriages – all coming and going. But all things are in a constant state of flux including a human being. Memories get old, they fade, they change, and they even rewrite themselves. This idea we as writers have bought into that we must have a muse adds to the building of the blocks. Countless times you’ll hear writers say they’ve lost their muse and with that, their inspiration. But nothing really belongs to you in the first place. Remember, all coming and going. You need no muse, no rituals, no hot tea, or special time of day. Everything you’ve ever needed in your life is contained within yourself waiting to be noticed and unearthed and spilled onto paper. The notion that you should always be writing can interfere with the moments of rest so important to a human being, those moments of introspection. You’re either writing or not writing. Plain and simple. The idea that you should constantly be writing is what damages a soul.

Don’t try to make writer’s block more than it is as that will only give it power. Use every block to rest within yourself and start listening. “Listen” to art, photography, music, or nature. Tune in to other senses such as sight and hearing that give your writing mind a rest. Attach to nothing, yet attach to everything. Feel the world around you while pulling it in to lie within your cells firing your imagination and feeding your soul. This is where your freedom resides; unbridled and unattached to doing. The writing will be there waiting for you as Desire makes its way back home. Remember; don’t be afraid to lose things. They’re either meant to stay with you or not.

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Tiffany will be back with her next entry in May .

Meanwhile you can read more of her work here:

http://tlcoff.wordpress.com/


Bunny Hops: ArtiPeeps Update

1 Apr

Hurry

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It’s been a little while since I’ve given everybody an update of what’s afoot with ArtiPeeps, so I’m taking this Easter Monday as a cue to do so. I am trying to embody all the energy of the hare above at the moment but not the speed- slow and steady is what I’m aiming for; trying to build something solid and meaningful in the long term. All of what you’ll find below is part of that trajectory.

Today is the launch of the new ArtiPeeps logo that you’ll see to the right at the top of the sidebar. It has been designed by artist and illustrator Gary Caldwell and Gary and I have been working on it for a number of months. The logo’s aim is to embody all that ArtiPeeps stands for in a clear and precise way and to communicate the notion of collaboration visually. There is also an explicit nod to another one of ArtiPeeps’ concerns -well-being. We’re going to use the logo on all our official documentation and business cards etc. It will also be the logo I use for my various social media profiles. It’s one of the stages in our professionalisation, so it feels good, and Gary has been a great collaborator. Artipeeps likes Gary.

In terms of present and future collaborations our Transformations Poetry Project is going on a pace. It’s our 3rd month in and the quality of the poems has been extraordinary. Long may it continue!  You can find all the poems here, here, here & here. My aim is to also bring in artists into this project to contribute one painting, illustrating one book. We have two artists so far. If you are an artist and would like to get involved with this please do contact me. The poems and art will form an exhibition/collaboration next year and this will, in real terms, move the virtual collaboration into something concrete and tangible (which is an important intent); foregrounding all the creatives involved. The exhibition which hopefully will also include the poets involved will take place in Kings Lynn late next year; I will be crowdfunding for this exhibition starting in July (that’s the plan).

Our mental health ‘Recovery Project’ is also well under way- 3 artist (Ray Bentley, Jeremy Moseley, Hugo Smith); 3 poets: (Carol Robson, John Mansell and Rebecca Audra Smith) 1 audio visual artist, (Shaun Blezard) working on the theme of recovery *. You can find full details of the project here just last week the 3 poems were passed to the artists. Indeed, the first section of our piece ‘despair’ is already complete as is the soundscape for the whole piece written by Shaun . The artwork combined with the poetty will be ready by the end of April and then it will be a matter of combining all three sections into a whole of some sort in May and releasing it to the world. It’s an extremely affecting and powerful piece we’re creating, I can feel that already. We’re getting a mental health charity involved with us and I’m working towards placing the piece in some way within psychiatric hospitals and/or like-minded organisations.

In relation to the well-being aspect of ArtiPeeps, it is also my intention to create a sister site (ArtiPeeps Well-being) that is dedicated to supporting creative minds. The two sites will be interlinked, but there will be a very clear psychological imperative to the sister site using art, literature and poetry therapeutically and creating links with similar groups and organisations such as Space2Create (with whom we’ll be forging a firm link shortly).

We also have our first prose collaboration Hot Potato kicking off in the middle of April, where 8 prose writers (Ben Cooper, Gail Aldwin, aksania xenogrette ,  CJ Sullivan, AK AndersonLaura Besley, Gwendolyn S, Natalie Beech (over a period of 16 weeks, will be writing one short story sequentially). It’s going to be good. We’ve got great potatoes!! 

We have also found another visitor peep/artist in residence Kelly Occhiuzzo who will be with us for the month of May co-ordinating and taking part in a 4 artist project she has developed in which 4 separate new pieces of art will be created over the period of a month. We’re in the process of firming everything up at the moment. We’re so glad to have her with us!

My focus is still firmly fixed on building as many individual and group opportunities into ArtiPeeps as possible, and the well-being sister site will be developed steadily alongside everything as best I can. I have to admit that balancing the running of ArtiPeeps with actually doing what I need to do to develop it is difficult. Finding the time to do business plans, make connections etc. At present I am in the process of trying to find not only someone to help me with all the day-to-day computer work but also someone who can help me with the budgeting of my 5 year business plan which will act as the foundation of ArtiPeeps’ business equity and project crowdfunding plans. I am approaching CamCreative in relation to this….

In terms of individual opportunities, ‘Weekend Showcase’ is running smoothly every Friday with a new creative featured each week. Every creative showcased is then offered the option of taking up ‘FreeSpace’ (3 separate slots which can be taken up in a cluster or spread across months for mini-projects or for further platforming). James Knight has already done so and Koos Kleven (cartoonist) is also taking up this offer as has poet Oregon McClure. I am also starting up another mini-opportunity called ‘FullSpread’ which will offer creatives: a showcase, ‘FreeSpace’ and a guest blog. This could work particularly well for groups and organisations that want to not only communicate what they do but also want to foreground individuals and projects. We are in fact in the process of offering this to Space2Create.

In terms of features our usual ones,Frenzy’s Flash Feature’ (Greg Mackie), ‘Flash Fortnightly’ and ‘Classic Friday’ ( Nisha Moodley) are going strong, and we have now introduced a new monthly ‘writerly’ feature ‘The Tiniest of Things’ with poet Tiffany Coffman.

Last week ArtiPeeps was nominated by Ant DiMartino for the ‘Very Inspring Blogger Award’ which caused me a bit of concern because it’s not me that does all the writing and the contributing it’s you. As I said to Ant I’m thinking hard how best to handle this and I will only proceed if I can foreground creatives from within ArtiPeeps and its environs… and they might not want to participate…so we”ll see.

As you can see there’s a lot going on; things shaping and shifting in every direction. It’s all really exciting but there’s such a lot to do so it’s about being slow and steady whilst embodying boundng hare-like energy that moves us consistently forward. It’s a matter of stepping forward each day and leaning into every opportunity I can to develop ArtiPeeps and all those who sail in her.

I thank every single contributor and supporter of ArtiPeeps. You are growing ArtiPeeps by your sheer presence and that is an amazing gift, and if you want to get involved just contact me!

Nicky 

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* “Recovery is being able to live a meaningful and satisfying life, as defined by each person, in the presence or absence of symptoms. It is about having control over and input into your own life. Each individual’s recovery, like his or her experience of the mental health problems or illness, is a unique and deeply personal process.” Scottish Recovery Network 2009

Recovery is not about ‘getting rid of problems’. It is about seeing people beyond their problems – their abilities, possibilities, interests, and dreams and recovering the social roles and relationships that give life value and meaning”Julie Repper and Rachel Perkins, 2002

The Tiniest of Things #1

19 Mar

box people

Welcome to The Tiniest of Things, A Monthly mix of writerly observations and poetry from Tiffany Coffman

Tiffany3

 My name is Tiffany Coffman, and I’m a poet.  I know.  It sounds like quite the declaration of an addiction, and in some way I suppose it is.  I have no formal education or a degree hanging on my wall, but what I do have is the breadth of my life experience and the appetite for creativity that drives me to write.  Poetry has been with me since childhood, a curious cohort that has permitted me to get absolutely lost in imagination and disclose what I absorb through the senses, through memories.  As a creative, the ability to bend words to my advantage, whether in rhyme or by natural flow, then revel in the middle of it all is the stuff of magic.  I write from an organic place, a place of fidelity, wherein I attempt to gift the reader with imagery and storytelling so inviting that you’ll have felt you’ve shared something with me.  I don’t write for myself.  I write to take you along with me on a ride of emotions and confessions, whether they’re mine or yours.  So we’ll take the top down, throw the map away, kiss the asphalt, and roll. 

140 Characters Does Not a Poet Make

Haiku.”

Gesundheit.”

Tanka.”

You’re welcome.”

It wasn’t until July of 2012 that I decided to take my longstanding twitter account to the next level with the intent to immerse myself inside the poetic community.  I’d just recently gotten back into writing after taking 5 years off with the fierce determination to share my work and that of others, with Twitter being the perfect venue.  It was love at first sight you could say.  I was lured in by the tasty little micropoems of various flavor and form, relishing how others’ words danced on my tongue inspiring me to follow.

And follow I did.  Not just those I admired, but followed suit by beginning a life of microtweeting my own delicious amuse-bouche for others to savor.  This form of 140-poetry offered a great opportunity for me to get my name out there as a formidable poet as well as tap into a sort of stream of consciousness writing.  The brilliance in this for me was the ability to write immediately what I saw and felt in the moment which often captured a concept that I was then able to expound upon at a later time.  It was also a way to hone my word bending skills and get automatic feedback from others which acted almost as a compass for me with regard to the direction I wanted to take my writing.

So, off I went into the poetic sunset with tiny little micropoems at the ready, firing them off and into the twittersphere, and then situating myself at the helm where the real writing began.   My micropoetry became infectious to me as I began tweeting from odd locations: darkened streets on Halloween night, side of the road under lamplight, during breakfast with a friend, an ATM, etc…  Ideas flying from every direction allowed me to write deeper, fuller pieces.  Now excited and ready to move beyond the sole need of micropoetry, I tweeted full pieces of my work, sat back, and waited.

And then to quote Philip Larkin, “Nothing, like something, happens anywhere.’

While I found some positive response, I quickly realized that Twitter is not designed for much more than the 140 character attention span.  Instant gratification rules the land as far as reading, retweeting, and favoriting poetry goes.  The idea that I’d get more response to my work if I tweeted Instagrammed fruit arrangements as opposed to full length poems was disheartening to say the least.   I was writing for my life, literally writing my ass off, while others were getting recognized for microtweeting endless bits about snow and sky.  If done uniquely it should be recognized, but often there was no creativity in it.  Micropoetry had either become so average or so affected and contrived, with each word so cleverly but unemotionally placed, that I became discouraged and even incensed.

What had become of writing?  Not that I even knew what writing truly used to be in the time before I was born, but I was fairly certain it wasn’t about writing what amounted to a descriptive sentence and thereafter labeling it poetry.  Poetic in nature, perhaps, but not poetry.  Random thoughts and outward thinking suddenly became the poetic norm as I watched the craft of poetry being diminished singlehandedly by Twitter.  People with no real interest in poetry were now deemed twitter poets by throwing out descriptive sentences and tagging it as micropoetry or even ineffective Haiku.  Things like, “She walks around the room / slippers on feet / battling the cold” became officially notarized as legitimate poetry by virtue of a few forward slashes and a nifty hashtag.  Ah, the true hallmark signs of a poet.  If I’d known writing was that simple, I would’ve been forward slashing my way into fame since the age of 10 and humbly grabbing the title of #PoetLaureateoftheUniverse.

The ripple effect of such micropoetic tweets rears its ugly head most notably during a holiday or change of season.  During the transition into fall, for example, it seemed everyone was talking about Autumn – that kicky little chick that turns heads, changing minds, changing moods, breaking hearts, and falling away leaving Winter to clean up the mess.  It was all about leaves.  Their various colors, their falling, their crunch underfoot, but it was repetitive and ad nauseam with nothing original being said.  Everyone was duplicating everyone for a try, a stab, a right to claim this unoriginal micropoetry.  It’s Autumn.  Leaves change colors.  They make a crunchy sound.  We get it.  No one is saying anything outside of the ordinary, and no one is noticing anything beyond the obvious.  But isn’t that a poet’s job?  To notice what others can’t see?  To say what others are afraid to say, and to be brave enough to tear an ideal, a place, or a belief apart?  What has happened to the fearless poets of yesterday who worked hard mastering their craft, line by beautifully placed line?

It is in my frustration that I eventually mourn the loss of such great poets as Sexton, Larkin, Rilke, and Bukowski to name a few as there seems to be a lack of ordinary genius in the world of Twitter.  Poets who are passionate about their craft, wrangling words and putting forward an emotion for digestion into a soul, are becoming endangered by the likes of social media outlets such as Twitter where you’re forced to define yourself as either a poet on Twitter or a Twitter poet.  The distinction should be clear.  Unfortunately, those of us that deem ourselves poets on Twitter may even fall into the trap of instant gratification with forced micropoetry perpetuating the illusion that Twitter is the place where poetry happens.  Poetry happens in your soul, sprouted from an idea that travels to heart then hand and spills onto a page carefully scribed for a shared world.  It does not necessarily reside in the 140-characters that take less than 140 seconds to type and the blink of an eye to release into the atmosphere as an alleged reflection of ordinary genius.  The world is ordinary enough, isn’t it?

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Please take the time to click, and then click again to zoom into the cartoon so you can see the artwork in all its glory and detail. Thank you!

twitter_poet_larger

 

 

The above cartoon was specially commissioned by ArtiPeeps for this post and was drawn by the artist and cartoonist KOOS KLEVEN.  DO check out his work here, and on our ‘Weekend Showcase’ here.

You can also follow Koos on Twitter here.

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Tiffany will be back with her next entry on Tuesday 16th April. 

Meanwhile you can read more of her work here: http://tlcoff.wordpress.com/ 

and follow her on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/tlcoff

Curtains by Tiffany Coffman

18 Feb

Curtains

Curtains

It’s Saturday, a day where she should be kissing the world and venturing outside her boxed life, but there’s so much of it. God saw fit upon every sway through each day that her attention was drawn to couples; couples in love, couples laughing, and couples making a life. It had been years since she made anything. The slap that God delivered she viewed as particularly cruel as her decision to remain alone seemed dishonored. Or perhaps her anger was rooted in the idea of a God forcing her to see things differently, to buy into that bullshit hope that maybe one day, one day ‘he’ would come. But she was smarter than this and knew she’d outwit her God.

Spared by the oncoming brightness of the day, she rattles around in her slippers scuffling across time. The rising light gazing through the broken curtain on her sliding glass doors suggests she’s peeked out a time or two into a world she feels doesn’t want her. Changing directions between wanting love than not, she sips her conflict slowly every morning heating up that spot on her tongue that has long forgotten the taste of a man.

Sitting slouched on the worn sofa, shoulders rounded from carrying the weight of a thousand nights, the first morning’s tea is finished off as she looks across the empty room at all the things that don’t belong to her. Charitable bits of odds and ends that neither reflects her style or intent stare back at her as if to say, “We just don’t care.” The irony of this is not lost on her as she shuffles back into the kitchen for a second cup of heat.

Inside her robe pocket, she pulls out a tissue that has seen better days. She once thought to invest in a handkerchief but was too broken to feel she’d deserved otherwise. Besides, there was something pathetic and demeaning about using a tissue until it fell apart that she found sadly familiar. Catching a glimpse of morning’s beam from the broken curtain on her kitchen window, she let out a sigh as another day was unavoidable. Wandering, she retraced how she felt upon the sun’s awakening the day she believed he loved her, the one after the others. Her heart, bright as the sun upon her, expanded with a rush of him filtering in only to be disturbed by the sound of the kettle’s final call. Little balled up bits dropped to the floor as the tissue partially disintegrated, making an unnecessary bread crumb trail from the whistling kettle to her teacup as she knew better than to be misled by anything unfiltered.

Traipsing back into the living room spilling her tea, morning had officially taken over. While she knew she should eat something she just prayed the day would speed by quick enough to carry her to night and straight into bed where hours could be tucked away. The clock high on the wall was permanently stuck at 2:19, dead and drained, with no indication of a.m. or p.m. except that it was the only thing left from her second marriage. A relic from a moment when her second husband actually gave a shit about something, at least something that alluded to being part of a family. She’d allowed it to remain on the wall despite its uselessness, partly because it did reflect a time when her second husband actually cared and partly because he placed it so high it was only accessible via a ladder of which she did not possess. Ignoring the clock after so many years, it had once struck her mind that he might have placed it so irretrievably high as to remind her how little in fact he did care about her, but she only allowed that consideration for a brief moment as the other scenario performed better in her head. Regardless, her complete indifference to him made any decision over the clock’s removal a waste of time.

Tea stains on her slippers, she let out another deep, long sigh. She wasn’t ready. Today was the day she’d promised to get the place together. Since her last child left home, she hadn’t cared about straightening up or much else for that matter. Things like grocery shopping and picking her clothes up off the floor seemed an effort she had neither the energy nor care for. Reduced to a life of slim pickings and stepping over things, she’d grown accustomed to expecting the least while tripping the most. “It’ll be alright, mommy. You’re strong. You don’t need him.” Her daughter’s last words echoed more confident than she. “Movement. You just need movement.” Noticing an odd flash of light from the hallway, she shifted slightly over to observe her cat scurrying from her daughter’s old room.

What had once housed her little beacons of light had now become asylum to odds and ends secreted away. More often than not she kept the door nearly closed as the broken curtain on her daughter’s window allowed in the sun without permission. But nothing would get past her. Not sun, not God, not love. The room, looking lifeless and in shambles, was but a ghost of what used to be; two dancing, silly little girls twirling and falling all over each other in laughter, giving her reason, giving her purpose. The closeness they gained being shoved in the tiny apartment after the fire seemed more charitable than the mismatched furniture ever was. At least the closeness was authentic, not feigned like the closeness she received from men.

Men. She never reasoned what they wanted except she knew it wasn’t her. One after the next would pass through her leaving a haunting residue. “I must be wrong,” she thought. “They never come back for me.” She remembered leaving home at 17 knowing well and good her mother didn’t care, but her father? She knew for certain he’d come for her. He never came, and just like the others after him they never came for her either. “It says something when your own father doesn’t come to collect you. It says something about you.” Glancing glossy eyed across the length and width of the room, she reached her hand inside her robe pocket for that familiar tissue. Backing out and into the hallway, another disintegrating bread crumb trail paved way as she proceeded to her room.

The scent of sandalwood imprinted in the bedroom hovered overhead sanctifying the space. It was the one room in the house that had some semblance of warmth. In the corner was her bed, shoved tight against the wall and butted up against the lone window in the room. She remembered how she despised the sleeping arrangement with her second husband as it trapped her in the corner, cold air hitting down upon her from the window. She always felt up against something when with him, something cold and immobile. “You don’t physically inspire me,” he’d once said upon her plea for intimacy. Noticing the devastation screaming across her face, he’d attempted to correct his misspeak by leaving to get beer so as to get intoxicated enough to have sex. A crumb of nothing, pointing to something, but a crumb she fed on nonetheless. Starved between a cold, white wall and a cold, white wall she felt snowed in, but at least one spark of warmth arose from the physical wall as it offered a comforting ear having wept into it a time or two.

Over on the adjacent wall, countless books were stacked on the overburdened bookshelf underneath layers of dust waiting to be touched. She’d no idea why she continued to buy books with no intent to read them except that it was comforting how they always found their way to her and stayed. Other times the books were bought on mere suggestion from men she felt a connection with but who had since moved on.

The rich tones of the mahogany furniture passed down after her Grandmother’s death were the only pieces in the house that didn’t feel charitable. They offered her a momentary sense of self-worth as she often deemed herself undeserving of such things, and while other foreign pieces were falling apart and peeling away their false laminate smiles, these pieces stood with warmth of heart and solid strength, much like her Grandmother. As for her Grandfather, he passed on in her youth as did the last time she felt adored. “Every morning at the breakfast table, he just has to have your picture there,” her mother would say. Never questioning whether her mother was genuinely endeared by her own father’s love for his granddaughter or flatly jealous, she’d convinced herself it was the former because it just had to be. “It had to.” Staring off into the atmosphere, she pulled out of a moment where the only people who validated her worth were now dead. She fumbled for her tissue.

Piece by piece, she slowly began picking items off the floor and putting them in their respective places. Her mind continued to drift as an automatic sense of where everything resided took over. Again she was flooded by thoughts of him, the one after the others. Entranced as she travelled across the floor, she tripped over a book and was brought to her knees. As the book stared back at her, they watched each other eye to eye attempting to read the other. One of the many books she had because of him, she clutched it to her chest sucking all the air from the room. Now, collapsed over onto the ground, she let out a small whimper. Her eyes, unblinking, welled up as her lip began to shake. Fighting against the urge her mouth tightened with resolve, but, unable to hold on, her anguish released into the floor.

Memories, pinning her down from all directions, turned into a harsh life review as she pricked herself with every lost love and every failure as the air of utter loneliness filled the four-walled killing jar. Dying deeper into the floor, tears rolled downhill soaking the carpet as she lay still, clutching the book. “I’m wrong. I’m wrong. I’m wrong,” she released unconsciously under her breath. Pondering whether this reflected verification or a change in thinking, she swiftly inhaled from a startled nudge on her arm. Lifting her head up from the floor, she watched her cat move past and jump into the lone window briefly parting its broken curtain. A glimpse of light and sky cradled her face. Wiping her cheek with the last bit of tissue as it crumbled to the floor, her eyes now rested on the broken curtain. Pausing, the air grew still.

Unwinding her way to her feet, a stone’s throw of every window in the house skipped across her mind. Meant as openings, she’d worked diligently at keeping them closed, but to little avail. The grubby paws of child and cat throughout the years engaged her in a tug-of-war with every curtain as they fought against each other. Her earnestness to close out the world and push out love had kept her isolated from the things she silently craved. And there, in the corner, was the bed she’d shoved so tightly against the wall. It could be no tighter and no more unwelcoming. Almost as if taken guard in the room, the bed allowed no passageway for new love to come. With tears in her eyes and a folding to her God, she quickly grabbed hold of the bed’s side and began furiously dragging it to mid-room muttering, “No more.” Her heart pounding at the possibilities, lightning discharged across her face striking a new smile.

Standing back from the moved bed, she took a deep inhalation. The air now felt clean. Her cat peeked at her from the window through the part in the broken curtain as if to say, “Is it all right to stop hiding now?” With an approving look, she bolted from room to room to uncloak every window. Fresh squeezed sun pouring through with the empathy of trees as tall as towering men greeted her with outstretched limbs. Now gliding and humming with the swirling air in the house, she swept down the hallway back to her room.

The bed, now in the middle meditating possibilities, was the metamorphosis she’d waited decades for. Still, there was much to be done in dusting away the old, polishing that rich cherry love that had been so gravely buried from a life she so craved. Now warmed by the gentle faces of books winking back at her, she began picking them up one by one across the length of the room and around onto the side of the bed unseen for years. Then, stopping cold, her smile released, and the air became charged.

There, tightly shoved into the crease of the corner wall, was a pile of old, worn tissues stacked almost as high as the bed. They were trophies from years of earned heartache that had fallen over the edge as many times as she; an edge she would not repeat. Another bread crumb trail left behind pointing to what must be done, her determined eyes narrowed. Without a sound and a mouth resolved, she hoisted the bed across the room and back against the pile even tighter into the wall. And giving a closing yank to the broken curtain, the tug-of-war ended.

Tiffany Coffman

February 16, 2013

http://tlcoff.tumblr.com/

https://twitter.com/tlcoff

ArtiPeeps February Housekeeping Update

12 Feb

HousekeepingThis is just a little February ArtiPeeps Housekeeping post to let you know formerly that now ArtiPeeps has two other team members who act in both advisory capacities to me and in mentor/support capacities to those who are involved with ArtiPeeps. We are now happily a little team of 3!

Tiffany Coffman has taken on the roles of Creative Consultant (Poetry) and Mentor for Poetry and will also work with me on the shaping of our press that will be functioning at some point later this year/early next year. Tiffany will also be taking on a feature spot shortly.

James Mackenzie has taken on the roles of Creative Consultant (Art) and Mentor for Art and will continue to be our English Arts Correspondent. So we can look forward to another arty post from him at some point!

Tiffany and James will be involved in the development of ArtiPeeps’ projects in relation to their specialities and their advice will feed into these ventures and into our funding applications when I apply. As Mentors they will be supporting any Visitor Peeps that pass through our doors and will, if appropriate, take on any one-to-one mentoring. It could well be the case that we’ll need some more mentors at some stage so do get in touch if this appeals to you via the reply box or Twitter: @ArtiPeep.

The growth of ArtiPeeps into a little mini-team is part of my ongoing intent to professionalise us in preparation for funding bids. Also fairly shortly I am going to have to think about getting Governing Documents for us and really think through what sort of online organisation ArtiPeeps needs to be: a charity, a trust, a business. This is very much a work in progress at the moment and I am presently pursing advice on all of this. If we apply to the National Lottery, for instance, there are more grants available if we have governing documents. It is my intention to tackle all of these areas over the coming months, and I am also considering the possibilities of crowd-funding. My issue at the moment  is balancing the maintenance, development and administration of ArtiPeeps with my need to work on its future and what will hopefully provide me and some others in the not to distant future with some sort of financial security. And I want to be able to provide the services that I see in my head which I know can be realised. ArtiPeeps is also how I serve, so there are both personal and professional reason for going up a gear. Tiffany and James are part of this movement forward and it’s been great to share all of this formerly on all levels. I will also at some point be looking for a Creative Consultant (Prose). So watch this space. I will be changing the ArtiPeeps page shortly to accommodate these team changes.

I’m in negotiations at the moment to find us some patrons. These will spread across literature and well-being and once these are confirmed I’ll announce everything publicly. The patrons will serve to formerly and officially underpin what ArtiPeeps stands for and will give us further official standing.

 Oh yes, if I can have the courage (I keep putting it off) I may well change the theme shortly.

Well, that I think rounds it up and gives you some idea of all the moves and shakes within ArtiPeeps at the moment.

Once again, I really thank you for your support of ArtiPeeps and all its contributors. Your consistent interest means a lot to us as we evolve. 

All the very best.

Nicky

aka ArtiPeep

A Christmas Carol

21 Dec

Welcome To

A Christmas Carol

Original Artwork by Soo Martin

Original Artwork by Soo Martin

the second Collaborative ArtiPeeps blog for the festive season, loosely based on ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens featuring the work of 3 talented artists and 3 talented poets paired and creating original work specifically for this project.

 

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JOHN MANSELL (poet) & HUGO SMITH (artist)

NAT  HALL (poet) & JAMES MACKENZIE (artist)

TIFFANY COFFMAN (poet) & AMANDA BECK MAUK (artist)

We wish you and your families  a very HAPPY CHRISTMAS AND A PEACEFUL NEW YEAR! 

 

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First of Three Spirits

THE PAST

 

“Are you the Spirit, sir, whose coming was foretold to me?” asked Scrooge.

“I am!”

The voice was soft and gentle. Singularly low, as if instead of being so close beside him, it were at a distance.

“Who, and what are you?” Scrooge demanded.

“I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.”

'Once A Year' by Hugo Smith

‘Once A Year’ Original Artwork by Hugo Smith

**

The Ghost of Christmas Past…..

by John Mansell

Remembering?

I do hope so old friend, you have much to reflect upon.

Are you still so self contained and solitary as an oyster?

Do not look at me with such surprise!

I am the Spirit whose coming was foretold…..

I am the depths of all that was and will not be again.

Not the long Past, but yours.

I am the despair of consequence.

I am here to reveal how deep your footprints sank.

How the deep wounds you left, festered.

So please, carry on remembering.

Let my epicene voice scold the couched hours and release

the forgotten souls in the doom of your deepest recall.

I see your eyes; a shard of a broken tear lolls. Will it drip?

Will it splash onto the ground pure and clean,

or will it open rancid and wan…..?

I see your family, through splenific windows

in hunched repose, your parents, waiting with names on their tongues,

hearts enriched at your first words.

What were your last words to them?

Can you not remember?

They did as the time slipped from them and the blackness

sucked them into the earth.

Oh yes they are no more, and you did not even know.

Remember them, for they can now forget you.

The slim traces of a shivery moue appear; that causes me a smile,

if smile I could.

I see your love. The one solitary spark of your existence.

Dear little Elsie of the blonde curls, who loved wearing red.

You did love her didn’t you?

You told her you did. Yes you!

She wept a lifetime when you never returned.

Her present to you remained unwrapped.

Business you said. And she was gone from your mind

like a leaf kicked on an aimless stroll;

like a child left waiting alone and afraid,

whilst your aseity set you in dank niches, avoided and scorned.

I see you know her now. Do you fleet back into a field

raked with the forlorn oblique shafts of a fading sun?

You embraced as lovers do.

You do remember don’t you?

She found love eventually. And happiness.

You have never thought of her since, and yet

the name on her last breath was yours.

Oh yes she too lies in a quiet churchyard.

Her grave highlighted by a single rose once a year.

Her dates have not succumbed to the embraces of wind.

Though one day like all she will lie unmarked and unknown.

If those dry bones could cry they would soak your heart.

You will not find answers looking down at your feet.

Look there, across the street,

behind the aventurine snow clinging with shivering colour,

where the lights of welcome rejoice.

Voices purl like shrill pleas dipped in verve,

All those you know are there.

Will you not join them?

That is for you to decide.

An act to serve mockery on all that is said about you.

So I will leave you, old friend.

Whether you wear the chains you forged in life

or pursue what once you may have been

I lay my final words on the sere crease of regret

perched above your loneliness….. and leave a cautionary note

for others will come after me…..

 

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The Second Spirit

THE PRESENT:

 

“Come in!” exclaimed the Ghost. “Come in. and know me better, man!”

Scrooge entered timidly, and hung his head before this Spirit. He was not the dogged Scrooge he had been; and though the Spirit’s eyes were clear and kind, he did not like to meet them.

“I am the Ghost of Christmas Present,” said the Spirit. “Look upon me!”

'In the Presence of Spirits'  by James MacKenzie

‘In the Presence of Spirits’ Original Artwork by James Mackenzie

**

Spirit of Present, Part I

 

Bah Humbug!

by Nat Hall

Silence de mort,

nobody dares knock on his door.

Not an iota of minced pie could ever be found on his rugs, or in his rags.

Mice mingle on icy floorboards, craving for crumbs,

crammed in a corner of their heads;

they’ll have to make-do with saw dust.

Don’t look for holly, mistletoe,

freshly cut spruce, scarlet and gold –

coal nuggets don’t fill his bucket, but darken iris in his eye.

Rumour has it,

he lives inside a chamber cairn

with shadow of his own spirit, and when night comes,

he locks himself

and flicks away one rusty coin he could have given to the world.

Silence de mort,

nobody hears laughs from his heart,

powder inside festive crackers or cracking jokes;

only flickering of blackness,

weight of emptiness in his breath,

windchill effect through sash windows.

Brinicles,

like fingers of death, point to the seabed of his life.

 

*

Spirit of Present, Part II

Jolly Giant

Clad inside his emerald self,

bigger than life,

death & darkness,

he summons you

behind cold

door.

Candles & feast ready for you;

sat by his pyramid of

pleasures,

you’ll learn to toast,

as he fills cups –

the milk of kindness as

heartcuffs –

Dual-natured Dionysus,

he will show you

your darker

shell –

as he stands ten feet

beware of Ignorance & Want,

your hidden offspring

no one wants,

hidden

so well under

his robe…

And in this great depth of winter,

he saves you from

your underworld,

rekindles

light

as tending

vines.

Now spread his love with tending grapes.

© Nat Hall

*

Winter Spirit

Today I made my home ready to welcome darkest of season.

Fruit of the rose in the garden,

crown of holly in your honour,

the thinnest moon at its zenith,

icicle sky –

your eyes, those juniper berries,

poured in mulled wine,

we toast to our despotic star to rise again from its ashes;

playful Amabael smiles outside.

Runic dream found in nordic night,

we shall feast by the bowing spruce, light bonfires on every hill,

meddle with creatures of the cairns,

free to wander with the living…

They say it starts on Tulya’s E’en.

For you,

dark world, my offerings – cinnamon stick & evergreen,

my wheel of light instead of fears,

my sheaf of corn,

reassurance.

© Nat Hall

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The ThirdSpirit

THE FUTURE

“I am in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come?” said Scrooge.

The Spirit answered not, but pointed onward with its hand.

“You are about to show me shadows of the things that have not happened, but will happen in the time before us,” Scrooge pursued. “Is that so, Spirit?”

The upper portion of the garment was contracted for an instant in its folds, as if the Spirit had inclined its head.

That was the only answer he received.

Tree by Amanda Beck Mauck

‘Tree’, Original Artwork by Amanda Beck Mauck

**

The Artificial Christmas Me

by Tiffany Coffman

 

Something a little kicky and cool once leapt from God’s tongue

powdering the earth in pure confection; the first snow.

Pure and new, it warmed sweetly once, defrosting me.

Now to see I’m bitter where I am as decades stumble over me,

meaning to trip tracks as deep as holes;

imprinted on a stale, iced heart.

 

Corner of the room, I watch the other in the room as the shift happens;

A spark of life that pined, once dancing in colors; the last Christmas.

But not last, just changed, as it had fragranced green but now fades from me.

Assembling a life day by artificial day, 1000 tips of fake suggestions

dared provide me with hopes as high as ceilings;

pressed into a stand of jaded belief.

 

Was the perfect blank canvas from which to elaborate upon

in ornamental delight – an angel, a cross, a bell; the first adornments.

But old and worn as only I was, they shone brightly then ghosted away.

The disloyal angel, the cross I’d bear, and the clanging of the closing bell

left me there, alone, with frosted mouth…untouched;

placed under a melting star.

 

And somehow I’ve navigated here without wise men to guide me.

Jealous am I of stuffed, hanged stockings dangling with excitement; the enviable fall.

Love has abandoned me in a pile of tree needles that now stick in me,

leaching Christmas red as I circle my way down to the floor, skirting needs.

No ribbon or bows to make me presentable or tagged for anyone;

just left alone under the tree.

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Click on the circles to see the whole picture.

Online Version of A Christmas Carol for you to read HERE

The most beautiful Carol in the World from Kings College Chapel Choir, Cambridge: 

**

Happy Christmas Everyone!  

All the very best.

ArtiPeep Signature 2

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