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Tony Grist

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Writing Prompts [Dec. 1st, 2008|11:12 am]
Tony Grist

I had a friend who used to send me writing-prompts. They took me out of my comfort zone- and I was usually pleased with the result. One time she suggested Shostakovitch. What do I know about Shostakovitch? I don't even like his work. But I mustered what little I did I know and the result is this- something I'd never have written off my own bat. 

SHOSTAKOVICH 

Things you cannot say or write

You can ask a string quartet to play,

Or, if the theme is catchy enough,

Get even government spies to hum

Unwittingly. There isn’t a face

In the gallery of the great composers

More like a stone. I think of him

Walking the shingle beach at Snape,

As the cagey guest of Ben and Peter,

Looking east, and I sense his enemy

Staring back- as though they were heads

In roundels of laurel, facing each other

Across the folds of one of those street-wide

Banners the People march beneath.


Another prompt brought this. We were both cat lovers, but I'd never have written about cats if she hadn't challenged me to.

 

THE CAT TAKES A REST

 

The cat stretches out on the wall in the sunshine,

Taking this lifetime easy.

He says to the butterflies, “Listen  my pretties

I’ll tear you apart- but later.

 

My last three lives were pretty exhausting;

I’ve earned this bit of a rest now.

I left piles of skulls on the plains of Ukraine,

I massacred peasants in Jerez

 

And drove in a Panzer through Alsace Lorraine

Till someone I wasn’t aware of

Dropped a lit bottle of flammable stuff

Through the hatch, What a bummer, but next time,

 

I’m gonna make sure I’ve got stars on my collar

And weapons-grade uranium.

I’ll sit in a bunker and feel the world tremble,

But just for this lifetime I’m resting.”
 

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Comments:
[User Picture]From: heleninwales
2008-12-01 12:13 pm (UTC)
I really like that cat poem. They are murderous creatures, aren't they?

I was reminded of this on Friday as I walked round the walls of Ruthin castle. A woman walking two dogs saw that one had found something on the ground. It turned out to be a sick or injured squirrel, lying completely helpless. The dog had not tried to attack it and just seemed curious and worried, but either of our cats would have been on it in a trice and it would rapidly have become an ex-squirrel. "Nom, nom!" They would have said. "You're not having it! It's mine!"
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-12-01 12:53 pm (UTC)
It used to make me very unhappy when our cats brought well-chewed birds into the kitchen for our approval. I am very fond of birds.
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[User Picture]From: upasaka
2008-12-01 12:43 pm (UTC)
I think you've really captured Shostakovich quite well. I especially like the image of him as "the cagey guest of Ben and Peter."
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-12-01 12:54 pm (UTC)
Thanks.

It must have been very difficult for him to travel abroad and meet people like Britten and yet not be able to speak freely.
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[User Picture]From: veronica_milvus
2008-12-01 04:38 pm (UTC)
I think in past lives our cats were deployed as follows:

little black cat: Marie-Antoinette

big ginger cat: Mr Barraclough out of "Porridge"

I enjoyed both of those poems. I obviously know much, much less about Shostakovitch than you do. a face like a stone is very vivid- I'll have to see if I can find a picture of him.

Perhaps we need to challenge our fellow LJ poets with subjects to write on? Someone was just saying what a dearth of good poetry sites there are on LJ. ysabetwordsmith and I were contemplating starting one...
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-12-01 05:40 pm (UTC)
Almost everything I know about Shostakovitch is contained in the poem. It can't have been any fun being a creative artist in Stalin's Russia.

An LJ poetry site is theoretically a good idea- but how will you keep all the emo kids from flooding it with dreck?
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[User Picture]From: sovay
2008-12-01 06:06 pm (UTC)
I think of him
Walking the shingle beach at Snape,
As the cagey guest of Ben and Peter,
Looking east, and I sense his enemy
Staring back


Nice . . .

I love the boastfulness of the cat.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-12-01 07:19 pm (UTC)
Thanks.

I think we've all known cats like this.
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[User Picture]From: daisytells
2008-12-01 10:35 pm (UTC)
Congratulations! You have captured the essence of a cat. It never occurred to me that the cat's nine lives were reincarnations. Yet, when my old Siamese cat Tim Thai left this earth I thought he was such an old soul that next time he would come back as a human. I only hope that assessment was not an insult to his memory.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-12-02 11:03 am (UTC)
I don't know whether souls cross species, but I don't altogether see why not. The Hindus certainly believe they do.
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2008-12-03 12:01 am (UTC)
I'm sending your cat poem to Kate. She will love it. Beautiful.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-12-03 11:55 am (UTC)
I'm glad you like it.
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