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‘Accidental Narratives’ by Jack Underwood and a new writing prompt from Ben Rogers

Today’s poem starts as an eclectic list of objects, ranging from a caraway seed to a waxwork head of Chaplin, that all may have “accidental narratives” to tell. This miniature collection of curiosities then segues into a rumination that spills out of the frame of the poem.

At Poetry in Aldeburgh: Jack Underwood will read as part of ‘Uncertainty and Light’ with poets Pamela Johnson and Maura Dooley on Sunday 6th November, 1-2pm in the Jubilee Hall


Accidental Narratives

A crab on the phone box floor; the armless mannequin
on the chapel roof at dawn; the plastic toad in the office
biscuit tin; three cuts on your shin this morning to make
the letter A; the wedding cake abandoned in the car park
of the motorway services; the caraway seed in the turn-up
of your jeans; the waxwork head of Chaplin in the bowling
bag in the overhead locker of the night train to Munich;
a slug exposed by the spotlight of a hushed concert hall;
or the roaring magnificent intersection of these objects,
which probably never existed, but we can each picture,
drawn from our unique worlds at large, knocking like fish,
trying to agree; meanwhile, either somebody else somewhere
is reading this now, or no one else in the entire world is.

from Happiness (Faber & Faber, 2015)


Writing Prompt: Object Lesson
One feature of the still life genre, a work of art involving predominantly inanimate subject matter, is the freedom it gives the artist to deliberately place objects and create a certain artistic or dramatic effect, as though they were on a stage set. Today’s exercise is to create a still life poem that includes at least two of the following three objects: an object you have seen in the last 24 hours in a public space, an object you own or have owned, and an object that does not chime with the other(s).

For inspiration, here are some example arrangements with objects to assist with your own composition:

1) Juan Sanchez Cotán, Still-life with Game Bird, Fruit and Vegetables (1602)
2) Max Beckmann, Large Still Life with Telescope (1927)
3) Paul Nash, Black and white negative, still life, a chair leg beside water (1934)
4) Pablo Picasso, Bougie, palette, tete de taureau rouge/ Still Life with Candle, Palette and Head of Red Bull (1938)
5) René Magritte, Les Valuers Personnelles/ Personal Values (1952)
6) Patrick Caulfield, Still Life with Dagger (1963)
7) Anne Tabachnick, Red Sky with Machine (1978)
8) Cornelia Parker, Still Life with Levitating Grapes (2015)

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Image Credits:

Sally Lightfoot Crab photo by A. Davey