Imaginative Remembering: Experiment #1

After Another Explosion

You couldn’t see, but we heard the palaver at the bottom of our grounds. We were scared but not confused. My daughter collided into our verandah posts, she ran so hard, calling Daddy! Daddy! This is the nightmare. And I had been nowhere as usual, and the Melmans went on talking their trash in the following quiet. Over the suburb hung the odour of sulphur and burnt newspapers. It was like a Guy Fawkes night. The bitches that roam had taken to their burrows. All the neighbourhood fowls disappeared that night, too, the lot of them gone, into the night garden. November 2014

After Another Explosion was generated using some of the techniques of Imaginative Remembering with some writer friends at my Disturbing Immersions drop-in studio at Her Majesteas Salon, Heidelberg, South Africa, this weekend 21/22 November 2015. The process went something like this:

1. Choose 6 memories. Write them down in full, grammatical sentences, no more than 3 sentences per memory. Work fast but not frantically.

1. I am in the night garden and I am afraid.
2. My mother points out the almond tree in bloom.
3. Oupa is strolling across the fields like a landlord with his spaniels.
4. I am fascinated by the word Weimeraner.
5. Heather and Vanessa did something in the wendyhouse with Vikus.
6. Aunty Emily approves of me when I comply with her wishes.

2. Choose the memory you love best, the one you cherish. Draw a heart around your words.

2. My mother points out the almond tree in bloom.

3. Choose a memory you’d rather not have. Draw lines through it.

5. Heather and Vanessa did something in the wendyhouse with Vikus.

4. Choose a memory in which there is more than one person. Write the memory from the point of view of any person that isn’t you. Or the person whom the memory didn’t happen to. Write 10 full, grammatical sentences, in a neutral tone, exploring the memory. Don’t write more or less than 10 sentences. Give the work a title. Number the sentences and write each one on a new line.

The Night Garden
1. Tonight the little girls disappeared into the stand next door in the dark.
2. It was Guy Fawkes and after the fireworks.
3. The smell of sulphur and burnt paper hung over the neighbourhood.
4. The dogs had gone, gone quiet.
5. The Melmans were talking rubbish as usual and I would rather be somewhere else.
6. This is not the dream.
7. Julia came running onto the stoep: Daddy! Daddy!
8. What’s going on? I said.
9. We’re scared at the bottom of the garden.
10. We heard noises and you can’t see.
11. There are moths and it’s too quiet.

5. Rewrite the sentences starting with 10 and working your way down to 1.

1.We heard noises and you can’t see.
2. We’re scared at the bottom of the garden.
3. What’s going on? I said.
4. Julia came running onto the stoep: Daddy! Daddy!
5. This is not the dream.
6. The Melmans were talking rubbish as usual and I would rather be somewhere else.
7. The dogs had gone, gone quiet.
8. The smell of sulphur and burnt paper hung over the neighbourhood.
9. It was Guy Fawkes and after the fireworks.
10. Tonight the little girls disappeared into the stand next door in the dark.
The Night Garden

6. Identify the concrete nouns in all the sentences. Choose synonyms, or opposites or associations for these nouns.

noises -palaver, racket, silence
garden – park
somewhere – nowhere, anywhere, a placedogs – hounds, brakke, bitches
smell – pong, odour, clunk
stoep – verandah, porch, patio
dream – mystery, longing, nightmare
sulphur – swael
paper – newspaper
rubbish – trash, junk, garbage, vrotgoed
fireworks – explosions
neighbourhood – suburb
girls – chicks
stand next door – empty lot
dark – night, black

7. Replace the nouns in your 10 reordered sentences with the new words you’ve found for them.

1. We heard the palaver, and you can’t see.
2. We’re scared at the bottom of the park.
3. What’s going on?
4. Vanessa came running onto the verandah.
5. This is not the nightmare.
6. The Melmans were talking trash as usual and I would rather be nowhere.
7. The bitches have gone, gone quiet.
8.The odour of the geyser and burnt newspapers hung over the suburb.9. It was Guy Fawkes and after the explosion.
10 Tonight the chicks disappeared into this lot in the night.

8. Find a way to invert each sentence. Swop clauses, turn a negative statement into a positive, etc. Provide some kind of flipping around for each sentence.

1. You can’t see, and we heard the palaver.
2. At the bottom of the park, we’re scared.3. What’s going on?
4. The verandah came running onto Julia.
5. This is the nightmare.
6. I would rather be nowhere as usual and the Melmans were talking trash.
7. Quiet, the bitches have gone, gone.
8. The suburb hung over the odour of the geyser and burnt newspapers.
9. After the explosion, it was Guy Fawkes.
10. The chicks disappeared tonight into the night of this lot.

9. Write the sentences in one long line without any punctuation, just word after word, and add the original title at the end.

You can’t see and we heard the palaver at the bottom of the park we’re scared what’s going on the verandah came running onto Julia this is the nightmare I would rather be nowhere as usual and the Melmans were talking trash quiet the bitches have gone gone the suburb hung over the odour of the geyser and burnt newspapers after the explosion it was Guy Fawkes the chicks disappeared tonight into the night of this lot the night garden.

10. Look for new groupings of words and phrases, new sentences, now that the individual words are free. Craft a short piece of prose that is grammatical, although it may or may not make perfect sense.

11. You will have a piece of evocative raw material. It may be a prose poem. It may be the kick off for a piece of fiction you didn’t know you had waiting. Perhaps you will want to recover some of the facts of your memory but use some of the images Imaginative Remembering has given you. Maybe you hate the piece. And that is a good reason to keep it. Or burn it.

PS What about the memory you love with all your heart and the one you wish you didn’t have? Let the first one go. And the second, recite to yourself as though the words were sacred.

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