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Thursday, 11 September 2014

A363 EMA + commentary - Count Them on One Hand

So, as promised ... my EMA from last year's A363 (Advanced Creative Writing); painting pictures of life and the people involved in one of the more notorious events of recent times: The Ipswich Murders/Suffolk Strangler case that occured in the winter of 2006.

I chose this subject as: a) it happened locally (about 50 miles away), b) the case itself is fascinating, notably for Steve Wright's reticence in providing a motive for his actions and c) the victims were innocent females who for one reason or another had drifted into the murky worlds of prostitution and drugs. These ingredients (amongst others) sparked my interest and I realised that there was a mine of material to work with, so here you see the end product.

It is no coincidence that whilst the effort involved in writing such a complex sequence, whilst proudly earning a Distinction, left me drained and needing a summer break. It is impossible to get so involved with researching detail and life histories as was needed here and not feel immersed in the emotions that families and individuals went through.

You will see through the commentary that I have deliberately written the piece in a way that neither glamourises violence, the use of narcotics, sexual disrespect or the sensationalist aspects of the story; instead, it focuses on people. Most of my longer poetry uses factual historical events and interweaves a fictional narrative to reflect on how humanity responds from dark acts (see previous year's EMA 'Cat Among the Pigeons' on my blog, this does likewise).

Rather than describe the technicalities of stylistic devices, form and meter, etc, I have this time included my EMA commentary in full, so you can see my thinking behind the writing.

* Please note that due to the unpleasant subject matter, this sequence contains sexually explicit language and expletives.

And apologies, the blog does jar the formatting a little. I can't fix this but a new blog layout is due soon!  :)

Nigel
 
 
Count Them on One Hand

List of characters:
Tania, Sex worker
Jim, Tania’s Father
Kelly, Tania’s Mother
Steve Wright, Serial murderer (italicised)


‘I’ve called them, love; they’re sending someone round.’
‘But why? To dig the dirt on her, on us?
Where is … I, mean, where is she Jim, she’s gone-’
‘Kel, look they’ll soon find Tan and then she’ll –‘
‘She’ll what? Just swan back in like nothing’s wrong?’
‘I think of her that night on Portman Road,
her skirt so short, I thought she’d catch her death.’
‘Jim don’t say that, she could be anywhere.’
‘Look Kel, she’ll be okay-’
‘Okay? You think?
What if she ain’t okay?
We’ve had those calls, all asking for Chantelle,
Chantelle?’ Just who the hell has got her, Jim?
I know she’s gone. I feel it in my heart.’

She’ll leave at ten and won’t be back ‘til 6.’


List of characters:
Gemma, Sex Worker
Jon: Gemma’s Boyfriend
Steve Wright: Serial murderer (italicised)

‘How come we’re out?’
‘Of what?’
‘We’re outta scag.’
‘I sold a wrap to Tan, she ain’t around
to get the bag-‘
‘Well just make sure you do,
you know there’s only fucking pennies left,
they’ll kick us out and then-‘
‘Okay, okay,
I’ll find the cash, you know I always do’-
‘Well thirty notes is thirty notes, and that’s
without the ketamine that Paula had.
Tonight do bareback stuff for twenty-five
but babe? Don’t take no shit and watch your back.’


Check out the dirty fuckers, all lined up.’

List of characters:
Anneli, Sex Worker
Freddy: Anneli’s son (9 years old)
Steve Wright: Serial murderer (italicised)

‘We’re playing Harwich Eagles, Mum – at home.’
‘Okay, I’ll be there babes, I will, I swear.’
‘But Mum you say that every time but then-’
‘I know, I know but Mummy has to work
and traffic out of Ipswich makes me late.’
‘But Jamie’s Mum is never late for him?
She asks me what you do for work, you know?’
‘I’m not surprised, the toffee-nosed old cow,
well don’t you go and tell her anything,
she’s always stick-’
‘I said you work away
and actually, she’s really sick you know,
she lets me play on Jamie’s PS4.’
‘I’m sorry Fred; I’ll make it there this time.’


Her tights, though ripped, were just the job. Sleep tight.



List of characters:
Annette, Sex Worker
Rosemary, Annette’s Mother
John, Annette’s Father
Steve Wright: Serial murderer (italicised)

‘About half ten and yes, I’ll get a cab.’
‘You can’t do that, the driver could be him,
no, Dad can pick you up from work.’
‘But Mum –‘
‘John … John?’
‘In here.’
‘Can you pick Netty up?’
‘It’s darts tonight, I’ll have to drop Geoff off
then pick her up - where is this place again?’
‘We close at ten, so after that is fine,
I’ll wait outside, it’s near a Burger King.
No wait, it’s all one-way down there - I’ll walk
to London Road and stay with Gem, my mate,
she has to wait for lifts there every night.’

Against the tree, I want you from behind.’




List of characters:
Paula, Sex Worker
Steve Wright: Serial murderer (italicised)

‘She put you in a mood tonight, my love?
You thought – I know, my Paula makes me smile,
I’ll get her round, she’ll treat me right … that it?
So what’s this special treat you said about?
We gonna score some gear and have some fun?
I know that’s what you really want to do,
I know you have a darker side, I know;
well show me now, that’s it, yeah show me how,
Oh yeah? You want to do it rough, my love?
Now pin me down bad boy and use the cuffs,
You like me tied and under your control?
Your hands so good
a little tight though babe
No don’t, can’t breathe … oh fucking Jesus, no.’



Eyes rolled like cherries on a fruit machine.










Inspector Stewart Gull, Suffolk Police:


At five a.m. today, Police went to
a residence in London Road, from which
a forty-eight year-old Caucasian male
was then detained and placed under arrest.

I can announce that Steven Gerald Wright
has since been charged with murder on five counts
and been remanded in our custody
until proceedings at a later date.
No further public statements will be made.




We’re so, so proud, whilst some have said cruel words,
though evil took your mighty soul, we smile.
Our angel, only for the shortest while,
eternal though, your spirit undeterred.
God takes the best, it comforts us to know
you sleep with Dad on everlasting clouds.
We won’t forget your crazy laugh, so loud,
Wrong place, wrong time, you did not need to go.
You never let them grind you down, not you,
It’s down to us to fight for life, for truth.



We’re so, so proud, whilst some have said cruel words
of how you tried to make your way in life,
so we’ll ignore the whispers overheard
and celebrate your soft, vivacious light.
Remember in the Sea Cadets at Stowe
the kayak flipped but you did not, instead
you laughed it off, the girl we used to know
left Chantry High, ambitions in her head.
But then came Mark, who dealt a rolled-up card,
you tried to fight but smiley needles came
and sucked you underneath, it hit us hard
to watch ‘Chantelle’, now forced to play the game.
So we’ll stay strong for you and won’t revile
though evil took your mighty soul, we smile.

Our angel, only for the shortest while
we wait, although the pain it doesn’t stop;
the silence in the house; a deathly quiet,
we watched you lie, with dirt and rose atop
your pretty smile, with nothing but a plaque
in gold, both unconsoled in Ipswich cold
as all we do is picture his attack,
his hands on you, their tortured, frenzied hold.
Yet you would say, I hear it now, ‘Please Dad
don’t cry, don’t let the bastard grind you down’
you’d say remember all the times we had;
remind me Gem, I need to hear it now.
My shaken faith disturbed, I’ll try, eyes blurred;
eternal though, your spirit undeterred.










God takes the best; it comforts us to know
that you’re with Roy again in painless peace,
a clean release, his palliative woe
like your freebase, a chemical disease.
He was too ill to really understand
and I was trying to protect your Fred
from seeing Grandad struggling to stand
from chemo and from you; both walking dead.
The papers paint you as a waste of space
You’re all the usual names, a junkie tart
They miss the point, there’s more beside the face
on empty train through Manningtree’s dark heart.
Whilst I fight, (I am your Mum, it is allowed),
you sleep with Dad on everlasting clouds.

We won’t forget your crazy laugh, so loud
or chestnut hair, like you that fell from grace,
from organised, inquisitive and proud;
it’s who you were before he sealed your fate.
The college sent a charming little card,
reminding us of high regard you’re held
in still; our Netty worked so very hard
they said: “polite, she naturally excelled.”
The town is frozen, Christmas in his grip;
they’ve taken down the lights on London Road
in helicopter glare, its red lights stripped;
our Suffolk punched as Town Hall candles glow.
Your dimpled girly smile, your silly jokes,
Wrong place, wrong time, you did not need to go.

You never let them grind you down, not you
who’d cry or moan when everything went wrong,
you’d battle back with miles of smiles, pull through
the darkest times, you knew where you belonged.
That toothy grin you got from Nana Shirl
and dimpled chin, you called it “baby’s butt.”
Unique you were, our punky, tomboy girl,
no pink princess but jeans distressed and cut.
And then it came with red-hot spoons, burnt phlegm
and cough you could not shake; I know its name
the crackling shame, you gave your life to them,
the rocks that rocked your world were crack cocaine.
My darling Paula’s tarnished, stolen youth,
It’s down to us to fight for life, for truth.


165 lines

______________________________
Commentary

My EMA is a metaphor for my journey through first A215 and in turn, A363: educational, enriching and intense. I reach here a different writer, a different person than before; through hard work, tutorial support and reaching inside myself, I have become a poet and for that, I am proud. Such progress, learning how to work in restrictive spaces, whilst maximising idiolect, imagery and prosodic affectations of individual speech & mannerisms, all within the confines of complex poetic form has been a strenuous but wonderful experience; a real labour of love. This sequence reflects both my confidence in my poetry, along with the technical control that I am now able to demonstrate.

As part of finding my ‘inner poet’, it became clear quite early on that my chosen subjects were normally dramatic events and their effects on the people involved, ranging from personal (A215 TMA05 was auto-biographical), to national; my EMA was about the 7/7 bombings in London, (Pamenter, 2013). I am in my element with the premise of writing poetry; using real detail but twisting some of the actual events to create a fresh narrative, i.e. being adventurous and striking out into new pastures. This has been most rewarding and helped build my confidence.

I carried my burgeoning abilities into A363; here I felt a growing pressure, as I was aware that my tutor had seen my writing improvement and whilst hugely supportive, I knew I had to keep the bar high and justify her eagerness to drive me forward. I felt ‘under her wing’ and her belief in my poetry spurred me on to write my absolute best.


I rose to the challenge with some aplomb, flourishing as a poet, understanding the intricacies of fixed form, whilst finding suppleness in my increasing use of iambic pentameter. A world away from my sluggish start on A215. It has culminated in this piece, addressing the 2006 Ipswich Murders case from various angles. At the time, the media descended on Ipswich as the killings escalated at a rapid pace, with the saturated coverage concentrating on the five murdered girls’ lifestyle, along with a hysterical witch-hunt for the killer, arguably hampering the Police in their search. I decided instead to concentrate on the humanity of the females behind the newspaper images and the everyday events that had led them to ply their trade on the streets, using real character names and life histories. Therefore, the blank verse sonnetinas in the sequence’s first half show expedition, giving a flavour of each girl, their differing relationships with family/partners; a present-tense snapshot of life. I broke some lines to vary rhythm and italicised & offset Wright’s brooding statements, to give a voyeuristic feel to his voice and a ‘stalking’ presence. His comment about Annette’s tights, referring to ‘Her’ could indicate he is describing the act to another person, maybe an accomplice. His minimal input adds great menace. We learn little, much as in reality (Wright answered ‘No comment’ throughout Police interviews), and I leave the reader with much to ponder.

The latter half changes to past tense, the girls have been murdered and with each family struggling to pick up the pieces; the Shakespearean sonnet form fills the page with perplexed, empty loved ones, venting their grief through doleful reminiscing: Tania in the Sea Cadets, Annette at college, Paula when innocent and unsullied by drugs, etc. The conversational and poetic halves are split by an arresting tritina where the Police announce Steve Wright’s capture. I found formal Police language awkward to fit into iambic pentameter here.
The central layout checks the reader, something that the gravity of the announcement would have done to the waiting world.
Mise-en-page was an issue; I tried hard to prevent the sonnetinas resembling the tone of their source, the musical ‘London Road’ (contrary to TMA04 proposal), likewise the visual look of a play needed countering with neat layout.

The sonnet sequence is preceded by a ten-line redouble’; I chose this length to create a natural corona, with lines one & ten bookending the sonnet sequence. It threads a message of unity and hope throughout; as each sonnet has, in amongst its despair, embers of bullishness where relatives vow not to forget, not to give Wright the satisfaction of their hate and to ‘fight for truth.’ They feel cheated and their defiant response in the early days of grief gives the reader grounds to think that amongst the differing, unresolved sonnet endings a battle towards the light of closure has started for the families. Such obstinate grit is a metaphorical two fingers up to death and to Wright. I have bolstered such emotion by taking John Donne’s bellicose ‘Death, be not proud’ (Holy Sonnet 10) Shakespearean sonnet - (although with Petrachan rhyme scheme) - which mocks death’s finality and argues against its power. Donne weakens his foe immediately by personification; line two challenges its status: ‘Mighty and dreadful, thou are not so’. (Donne, circa 1610).

The opening couplet of my redouble’ mirrors this; refuting Tania’s image portrayal and its second line uses ‘mighty soul’ to describe how they know her and that they will fight back by smiling at her memory. I use selective words from Donne’s sonnet throughout the redouble’ in similar fashion; Anneli’s ‘sleep with Dad’ line informs of clouds that are ‘everlasting’ etc, with Donne seeing eternal sleep as a positive release from life’s experiences, that good souls ‘rest of their bones’ (ibid). ‘Release’ is also a facet of Anneli’s sonnet itself. I feel it brings a sophisticated layer of satiric metaphor to the sonnet sequence, with relevance as Donne was a celebrated metaphysical poet and here the subject is death and its aftermath.
However; the real power in my Donne analogy is his sonnet’s finale’; here he spits at death’s immortality by claiming that a certain drug can give more pleasurable rest than death itself: ‘and poppy or charms can make us sleep as well’ (ibid). Poppy, i.e. heroin, the dragon the girls chased all the way to their deaths. To me, this last point works as a poignant, metaphoric volta to all that goes before.

Such defiance reflects my personal circumstances whilst travelling on this poetic journey; yet I never gave up, worked diligently to do myself justice and it has paid dividends. From lexophile, I have accelerated to poet through my Creative Writing journey and what I have learnt will be used, cherished and worked upon for the rest of my life. I will miss this module very much.

1, 077 words












Biblography
Greenwell, B. (2009) ‘Poetry: the freedom of form’ in Neale, D. (ed.) A Creative Writing Handbook – Developing Dramatic Technique, Individual Style and Voice, A & C Black, London, pp. 228-248.
Greenwell, B. (2009) ‘Using Analogy’ in Neale, D. (ed.) A Creative Writing Handbook – Developing Dramatic Technique, Individual Style and Voice, A & C Black, London, pp. 210-228.
Allen, V. (2006) ‘Despair in last letter to Mum; The Ipswich Ripper’ available from: http://www.thefreelibrary.com/DESPAIR+IN+LAST+LETTER+TO+MUM%3B+THE+IPSWICH+RIPPER.-a0155849360 (Accessed May 9th, 2014).
Author unknown (2014), available from: http://examples.yourdictionary.com/examples-of-metaphors-in-poems.html (Accessed May 11th, 2014).
Author and date unknown ‘Holy sonnets: Death, be not proud’, available from: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/173363 (Accessed May 10th, 2014).
Author unknown (2006) ‘Paula’s last words to her daughter’, available from: http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2006/dec/17/suffolkmurders.focus1 (Accessed May 12th, 2014).
Author unknown (2006) ‘The victims – Tania Nicol’, available from: http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2006/dec/13/suffolkmurders (Accessed May 10th, 2014).
Britten, N. (2006) ‘The normal, bright, happy girl I knew died years ago’, available from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1536857/The-normal-bright-happy-girl-I-knew-died-years-ago.html (Accessed May 12th, 2014).
Cassidy, N. (2008) ‘Tania Nicol’s father makes statement’ available from: http://www.ipswichstar.co.uk/news/tania_nicol_s_father_makes_statement_1_202658
(Accessed May 12th, 2014)
Clarke, N. (2006) ‘Middle-class life to heroin hell’, available from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-421986/Middle-class-life-heroin-hell.html (Accessed, May 13th, 2014).

Greenlaw, L. (2014) ‘A Double Sorrow – Troilus and Criseyde’, Faber & Faber, England.
Parini, J. (2008) ‘Why Poetry Matters’, Caravan Books, United States of America.
 
Research, structure and style (2008) (A363 Audio CD), Milton Keynes, The Open University.




© Nigel Pamenter 2014
The right of Nigel Pamenter to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved.