Monday Workshop – Biography to Poetry
Today’s workshop task was to take a biography, or an autobiography, and turn some of the content into poetry. It could be ‘found’ poetry or ‘shape’ poetry. I chose ‘shape’. ‘Shape’ poetry does what it says on the tin: it is poetry that looks like a certain shape on the page. One good example of this is Ruth Padel’s ‘The Tell-Tale Tongue’ (from Darwin: A Life in Poems). In this she describes the effects of Scarlet Fever. At the close of the poem she gives the reader the image of the swollen tongue resembling a strawberry – this becomes a ‘shape’ poem by being laid out on the page in the shape of a strawberry, or (as can be interpreted) a tongue.
‘Found’ poetry is more difficult to describe – mostly because I didn’t get it at first and so tuned out whenever it was mentioned again. I won’t try and define it here because I’ll just get it wrong.
The biography I chose was My Chemical Romance: This Band Will Save Your Life. This title is, in itself, true for me. They did save me. But that is besides the point for this post.
In today’s workshop, I ended up writing two poems based on events that are described in this book – the recording of the demo for Skylines and Turnstiles, and Bob Bryar’s injury during the filming of the Famous Last Words music video. Now, I must admit I haven’t read this in a couple years, so I may have the details confused, but the basic idea is there. Below are the two poems (hopefully) in the shape that I originally wrote it on paper.
‘Skylines and Turnstiles’
Yong man, hair in ringlets
like an afro trying not to be.
Guitar in hand, he stands
in the front room playing
his part hoping that he’s playing it in time with the younger man.
Black fringe flying in a
head-bang while he strums
from the bedroom. He can’t hear the drums beating
in the basement.
The one who’d later
leave not concerned
This one loves the Pumpkins and he takes it as
The tape recording all of them in separation
and one man with his microphone
singing in anticipation
of the finished product.
His comic books abandoned,
here he stands;
one foot in the bathtub,
the other on the sink,
holding on to the shower rail
while the tape records:
Demo Tape One: ‘Skylines and Turnstiles’.
Recorded in completely different rooms
but done in one.
The tape went in the next day.
They knew it would be big.
If I remember my facts correctly, while they recorded the demo for Skylines and Turnstiles they were in Gerard and Mikey’s house. It was not a very large house, and so in order to record the track, the band members were scattered around the house, Gerard himself recording the vocals from the bathroom. I wish I could have seen that in action. The ‘shape’ of this poem is quite complicated, but I shall explain it thusly: I assumed that as all the components were recorded together, there were wires crossing all through the house, connecting the equipment. The longer lines were a representation of that. Also, the height of the poem is a further illustration of the height of the house, an emphasis on the members being stationed in various rooms throughout it.
‘Famous Last Words’
And the red float
From their last video,
‘Welcome to the Black Parade’,
Burning up behind him. The heat
Was getting to him but the camera
Kept rolling and the song kept playing,
“Nothing you can say can stop me going home”.
Instruments fading. Now he could speak: ‘I can’t stand
This fucking heat anymore”. Lifting up his trouser leg to look.
Taken in to hospital to treat the burn before it had a chance to
Become infected. Two shows cancelled. Bob really hated fire.
This one is based on the video for Famous Last Words. At the end of the video you can see Bob say something, then he gets up from his drum-kit, checks his leg and runs off camera. The biography tells how he had been burnt rather badly during the shoot, and his wound had to be treated to avoid infection. I’m a little hazy on the details, but I’m sure they had to cancel a show or two to allow him to recover. If it wasn’t cancelled for the band, it at least was for Bob – the band may have found a stand-in for the show(s). The ‘shape’ of this poem was supposed to represent a flame – obviously because of the fire.
I challenge you for the Monday Workshop to find a biography or an autobiography, take a section that interests you, and attempt to turn it into a poem, shape or otherwise. Link it back here so everyone can see them together. I’m excited to see what comes up!
Also, don’t forget to find me on Facebook, my page is looking lonely and could do with someone to Like the poor thing.