Sunday, January 23, 2011

improv 1, Week 2

A Martian Sends A Postcard Home by Craig Raine
Caxtons are mechanical birds with many wings
and some are treasured for their markings --

they cause the eyes to melt
or the body to shriek without pain.

I have never seen one fly, but
sometimes they perch on the hand.

Mist is when the sky is tired of flight
and rests its soft machine on ground:

then the world is dim and bookish
like engravings under tissue paper.

Rain is when the earth is television.
It has the property of making colours darker.

Model T is a room with the lock inside --
a key is turned to free the world

for movement, so quick there is a film
to watch for anything missed.

But time is tied to the wrist
or kept in a box, ticking with impatience.

In homes, a haunted apparatus sleeps,
that snores when you pick it up.

If the ghost cries, they carry it
to their lips and soothe it to sleep

with sounds. And yet they wake it up
deliberately, by tickling with a finger.

Only the young are allowed to suffer
openly. Adults go to a punishment room

with water but nothing to eat.
They lock the door and suffer the noises

alone. No one is exempt
and everyone's pain has a different smell.

At night when all the colours die,
they hide in pairs

and read about themselves --
in colour, with their eyelids shut.

Benjamin McClain; Destructive Creatures

Destructive creatures
They waste,
form when the lone crimson eye rises to when it blinks.
And they exile there waste to vast lands,
Forming mountains of nothing.
They waste much of their local currency
On shiny things, everything illuminates when held.
All the while they let others of the same race
Die with nothing to hold.
They waste time most of all
In front of large screens,
they love to watch how others spend their time,
doing nothing themselves, but watching.
Strange creatures, connected to everything,
Yet responsible for nothing.


  1. Ben, first of all I love that you did an Improv' piece to A Martian Sends A Postcard Home, it's a great piece to work off of. I see some interesting uses of concrete imagery being used here, such as: "lone crimson eye rises". However, I also see a lack of concrete imagery. I think that you have began a peculiar and arousing piece of work, but I think that you need to be more grounded with these "destructive creatures". I would like to see more tangibles, more sentient things. For example, in the line "And they exile there waste to vast lands, / Forming mountains of nothing" you could use something like: And they shoulder their brown, blubbery fat to colossal dung-heaps, / forming mountains of self-made clay." Of course, this is just and example. You have a wonderful opportunity to transform this piece into something very vivid and horrifying, so do it! :)

  2. Look, though, at all the rich specificity of the original. I'd like to see you preserve some of that. Also, the political argument seems to take over, here. That is, the social commentary comes at the expense of the actual language and images. Try another version of this in which images are supreme.