Today, for the first time ever, I stood in front of an audience and read a poem I’d written. It was also the first poem I’d written.
And by “first poem I’d written” I mean the first one I’d written on my own initiative, for myself, with the intention of trying to say something. I’ve written poetry in the past, back in school, and once or twice for a song-book while at uni, but not like this.
This was, for want of a better expression, for real.
It was really good fun. I’d do it again. I was nervous as a really nervous thing, and afterwards I had to sit down, take a few deep breaths, and drink real deep from my pint – and even then it took me a while to calm down.
I’ve thought about poetry for quite some time. Thought it’d be fun to try. Thought I’d enjoy it. But until now I’ve not done more than thought about it. I did that book, and it’s in the poetry category, but it’s not quite the same. It doesn’t work off the page. The small black words and the big white paper is a part of the experience. It doesn’t work when read out loud – other than as a series of silly puns.
This was different.
This was me standing in front of a group of people, most of whom I’ve never met before, and reading a poem I’d written. I really really enjoyed it.
And what about the poem?
I didn’t have much time, and I didn’t quite know what to do, so it’s a poem about me standing in front of an audience and being nervous about it – which is what it was. It worked really well, but I don’t think I can ever do this one again.
I’ll write another one for next time. I’m so looking forward to there being a next time.
Yesterday was International Women’s Day. This sort of related to that, but not entirely.
Over the last few years I’ve become aware that in some cultures it’s a big thing to give flowers to women on International Women’s Day. I first came across this two years ago, and then I wrote this post. It contains some examples of different views on the giving of flowers on International Women’s Day.
For me personally, it seems really wrong to “celebrate” the day by giving flowers to women. It feels contrary to what the day is about. However, I really like the idea of giving people a little something to show them I appreciate them. I think that’s a nice thing to do.
I can still do that, right?
This year, I’ve spent most of the day after IWD drawing little flowers, taking pictures of them, and sending the pictures to people around me that I want to show some appreciation for.
I drew you a flower, because you’re good people, and I felt like it.
In the end, I’d made twenty five flowers that I’ve sent out to friends of mine. You can see them here, although I did blur out the names – just in case.
These are in chronological order, and as you can clearly see, my drawing skills improved with practice. Don’t worry if you can’t draw though. It’s not about how it looks; it’s about doing it yourself.
Give it a try. Send someone a flower.
For the Ladies?
Originally, I drew flowers only for women I know, but then it occurred to me that I have male friends who’s company and existence I appreciate. I should try and do something for them as well.
At first, the thought of drawing flowers to send to guys seemed a bit weird to me. Who am I familiar enough with that it won’t be awkward? I mean… It’s not like… You know… Whatever…
Equality, right? I can send pictures of flowers to my male friends if I want to.
Seven of the flowers above were sent to men I know. It would have been cool if the split was fifty-fifty, but it didn’t happen, and now I’m tired. It was tricky coming up with male friends I was comfortable sending the pictures to, and I didn’t want to just force it to meet some quota. Then again as I’m writing this, names keep popping up.
How to draw a flower?
The tricky part is actually sending the flower to someone when you don’t quite know how they will react to it. So far, the reactions I’ve had have been positive, and in all honesty I expected most of them to be, but I was still a bit nervous in some cases.
Then again, comparing the first flower I drew this morning with the last few it’s kind of obvious that improvement comes with practice. That said, I did draw the most “important” one first.
This is the third year I’m making cards for Valentine’s Day, and these are the cards I’ve made this year. The cards, as you’ll see, are very simple. I really only come up with the words on them. Feel free to add your own graphics if you want to.
If you’re short on time and running late, or maybe you just fell in love, feel free to use my words and make a card of your own. It can be as easy as getting a piece of paper and writing it down by hand. It’s the words and the thought that matter, not the cost of the card.
Anyway, here goes:
Admittedly, these aren’t quite all of them. I removed the ones that are too dark, or too weird, as well as the ones that require you to know me personally to understand. I hope you’ll find some inspiration in here though. If you do, I’d be happy to hear about it, and if you make something of your own, well, that’d be cool to hear about too.
Also, for those of you who’ve had about enough of Valentine’s Day, here are a few more from the past two years:
Okay, so maybe they’re a bit sweet too – in their own way. Deal with it.
If you want to have a look at more of the ones from the last two years, there’s an entire book of them (including a free download) here.
As some of you may know, I quite enjoy making Valentine’s Day cards. I even made a book out of them (here – you can download the book as a free pdf if you’re looking for inspiration). Now is the time of the year when I start making new cards, and a friend of mine suggested I share my template so that others can try and make their own cards if they want to.
In case you want to use another program, these are the measurements and the fonts I used for the pages (pictures below):
Page dimensions: 6″ wide X 9″ high
Font: Courier New
Text Box 1:
Font Size: 14.00 pt
Text Box 2:
Font size: 10.00 pt
Single Box Page:
X-pos: centered on page
Font size: 12.00 pt
I also drew up a quick visual representation with the numbers etc on:
Previous years I’ve used Gimp to make the cards, and that template is slightly different. I’ve included that here as well though, in case you prefer it. I’m uncertain about the exact positions of the text elements, but the numbers I have are as follows:
Width: 450 pixels
Height: 750 pixels
Font: Courier New
Font Size 1: 18 px
Font Size 2: 14 px
You can download the Gimp file from my Dropbox here:
I’ve made a book. It’s a bit of an odd one – a collection of Valentine’s Day Cards that I’ve created – closer to poetry than story. Each page only holds a handful of sentences at most. You can read more about it here.
It’s available through a print-on-demand service online, but I had a few copies of it printed. Some of these copies are available for sale at my favorite coffee shop, where I usually go to write. They’ve sold pretty well, considering I don’t promote them, and the only advertising is a little sign that says they cost 15 euro. I’m happy with how they’re doing.
What’s fascinating, and weird, is to be there when someone takes a look at the book. I often sit there and write and I see people come and go. Now and then someone picks up the book, has a look at it, and put it back – or they leaf through a few of the pages and then they put it back.
They have no idea it’s my book that I’ve made, or that I’m sitting there looking at them and wondering what they’re thinking. Probably just as well. I still haven’t been there when someone’s decided to buy the book.
Today, it happened again. I sat there writing, drinking my coffee and wondering how the characters in my story really felt about what was going on.
Next to me, at another table, sat a group of girls. Young ones – upper teens at most is my guess, no more than 21-22. One of them spotted the book and brought it over to the table and started looking through it.
At this stage, I’m having a real hard time concentrating on my writing.
I’m trying my best not to look like my ears are reaching for every word they say. I don’t think they notice.
One of them, the one who picked it up, keeps saying how weird it is. They read the occasional page, and seem to find them cute/funny, but the girl who holds the book keeps repeating how weird she thinks it is. So weird.
It’s weird for me too. For a moment I’m considering whether or not to tell them it’s my book and explain to them where it comes from, but I decide against it. That too would be weird.
Fortunately, I have an appointment, and have to leave, but the memory sticks with me.
I think most of all I’m amused.
The girl very clearly didn’t “get” the book, and I think there are probably two reasons for that.
First, she just flipped back and forth through it, picking out the odd page here and there. Doing it like that, you have to get lucky for the book to make sense. Some of the cards do not make much sense on their own, and a few of them (Potato Angel Buffalo) don’t make any sense whatsoever. Taken like that, the book can probably seem a bit weird.
Secondly, she was young. I’m not sure I’m entirely comfortable with this explanation, but I think it really may be a factor. Chances are that if you’re young, you don’t quite have the frames of reference to relate to all of the cards, even if you get them in context.
If you’re young, you’re fed an image of what love and life are supposed to be like that may not accurately match what life has in store for you. You’ve got more expectations than experience.
This is probably a bit rich. After all, as a middle-aged man, what do I really know of what teenage girls know about love? My theory is built on preconceived notions about how the world works, and it could very well be wrong. It’s not like I’m an expert on love myself.
I think that’s a key point.
If my world is built on preconceived notions of how the world works, it must be safe to assume that it’s the same for most other people too. Then again, that too may be just a preconceived notion…
Either way, I’m not disheartened that someone thinks my book is “so weird” although it was a weird experience hearing them say it.
It’s fascinating though. The book makes perfect sense to me. I know people who love it. I love it. People read different things into the words, and different cards speak out to them. That too is fascinating.
Finally, a slightly modified version of the book is due out in early November. I’m reviewing the changes and letting them mature in my mind a little before I finalize it. It’s on its way though.
At Burning Man this year, someone asked me if I was an artist. It took me by surprise, the question. Then again, I’d just talked about something I’d made and called it art, so I guess it was just natural they should ask.
I don’t feel like an artist, but I guess if I claim to have made art – and I do – it means I’m an artist. I don’t remember exactly what I answered, but it was probable something along the lines of “uhm, yeah, I guess…”
Being an artist seems to imply something more than just having made one piece of art.
That said, I’m happy to call myself a writer, even though I haven’t really published any stories. I write, so I’m a writer. I don’t regularly make art though – it kind of just happened.
Regardless of whether I’m an artist or not. I did something and called it art, and I’d like for people to see it.
The art piece I made is a book: a collection of Valentine’s Day cards and “words of affection.” You can read more about the book itself here.
It’s not “just” about the book though. Part of the art is people’s interactions with the book. The ones I brought to Burning Man all came with a pen attached to encourage people to write in them.
Most of the books I gave away to people I met, but some I left in places where people could encounter them on their own. One such place was Point Three at the Trash Fence, and you can see what people wrote in that book on this page.
I recovered one other book left in a public place, and I’ll be putting up the pages from that in the near future.
As usual, it wasn’t quite what I expected it to be, but that’s fine, it was still good.
This time around I brought my own art project – a book I’d made. Originally, I’d just meant it as a gift for people I met who’d seem like they’d be the right kind of person for it, but it turned out to be more than that.
I met a few artists, talked to them, and offered them the book as a guest book for their art piece. This turned out really well, and lots of people left messages and notes in the books.
I know I can’t always make you smile, but it’s really hard to accept. – Picture of a copy of the book attached to the Inside the Mind of DaVinci art piece at Burning Man 2016.
I’ve done a lot of stupid things, but you’re not one of them. – Page from the book attached to the Inside the Mind of DaVinci art piece.
I’d fight the hordes of hell for you, but wouldn’t co-op be more fun? – Picture of a copy of the book attached to the Inside the Mind of DaVinci art piece at Burning Man 2016.
I love you. Deal with it. – Picture of a copy of the book attached to the Inside the Mind of DaVinci art piece at Burning Man 2016.
I also left one book at Point 3, which is the furthest point in the deep playa you can get to. This book I collected before leaving the event and within the next few days/weeks I’ll get around to scanning/photographing all of the pages and share them here on the blog.
The book is a deeply personal project for me, and it was very rewarding to see it fill up with words and comments from people who don’t know me and who don’t have any prior knowledge of what I’ve created. It felt good.
I’ll do it again.
I’ve already got a few ideas kicking around for a new book for next year’s burn, even though I’ve already decided not to go. I can’t afford to go every year, but I can still make a book and make it available to the people who do go.