I’ve suddenly, yes suddenly, written two biogs for my characters. Which is great cos I was starting to wonder whether I’d keep them all in my head, unformed, till the bitter end. Then think, how on earth am I going to squeeze them into 50 words. But it was easy. And it could be because I had to write an 80 character biog for Vicky Wilson’s Children in Need poetry anthology. Not 80 words but 80 characters. Which is less than a text. So I wrote a sentence. And didn’t think anything of it until a minute ago when I realised how it had helped me get down and get on with it. The Parson’s one was the very first thing I wrote for the book:
Rap, The Son aka ‘The Parson’: I learnt my skills on the street not the classroom. African ancestry, spitting in my hands free, born and bred and battling in Canterbury. I’ve got an ology in the trilogy: allegory, tautology, and etymology. Fired by KRS-One and the Bible: in the hip hop academy, an Old Skool disciple.
It helped launch me into the Parson’t Tale, the tale that isn’t a tale. I had to make up the tale and I had to create a character strong enough to take it on. But the Knight’s Tale was quite different. I had a vague idea about a drag queen – years ago I hung out at Kinky Gerlinky’s, the drag club at Leicester Square – so that wasn’t difficult. The tale was challenging to create and it really helped having a flamboyant teller. So, at last, here she is. She wrote it herself, it had nothing to do with me:
Queen of the Castle: I’m the illegitimate offspring of Dolly Parton and Oscar Wilde. Conceived in a Blackpool betting shop, I was dragged up off the Old Kent Road. I prefer my poets dead: they’re less trouble. I adore classical rhyming stuff but free verse is OK as long as you’re wearing adequate protection.
She’s such fun that I keep looking out for her on the tube. You really need her in that part of South London. But coming close behind, because I’ve got to the end of draft three and it’s looking almost fully formed, is ‘The Miller’:
Robyn Miller: is an English with Creative Writing student at Goldsmiths College, London. She’s a part-time barmaid, and spends her free time at performance poetry gigs. She’s a huge fan of punk poets like John Cooper Clarke, Joolz and Steve Tasane. Anything that packs a punch. She lives and works in Deptford.
So they’re coming in thick and fast. And halfway through this evening as I was doing some menial chore, I thought of 253, that ‘novel’ which is in fact 253 character sketches of 253 words each, all sitting in various parts of the tube, waiting for something to happen. And I’ve just taken it down from the shelf (again) remembering that I only read about five sketches but loved the concept. Maybe I’ll read another five tonight then put it back on the shelf for another five years. In the meantime, I need to finish The Miller’s Tale because it’s extremely rude and not at all the kind of poem I’d normally write but of course, Robyn is having great fun forcing my hand. Then I’m leaping ahead to the Manciple’s Tale. I’d rather do the Reeve’s but that’s equally rude and I need to write something new for the Canterbury Tells anthology. And I’ll be sacked as Canterbury laureate if I submit something blue. The Manciples isn’t devoid of lechery and it happens to have a murder but at least it isn’t graphic. So will offer fun for all the family. Another challenge ahead. I just love a challenge…