Friday, 27 May 2016

Yellow-Seventeen Poems

After all the writing and drafting and so on and almost screwing up my notes and emptying them into the bin I managed to exhibit my poems.

I'll be posting one or two other posts about the process, here are the poems in order (along with extra material and a link to the YouTube playlist.

Yellow-Seventeen - James Corah - For Planetine, Wednesday 4 May 2016 - Wednesday 11 May 2016

Artist information

James Corah

Yellow-Seventeen, 2016

Poetry, paper and video

The exoplanets beyond Neptune and Pluto are unknowable to us though to a certain extent they are familiar; they have inhabitants, customs, geographies, atmospheres, weather cycles, origins, and endings. Out there is life, it is other life though still life.

Yellow-Seventeen is such a planet. Yellow-Seventeen is an attempt through poetry to explore the world, its customs, and its inhabitants, delve into its oceanography, and explore its history.

Originally Yellow-Seventeen was to take the form of two hundred and eighty nine Senryu (Senryu being ‘human Haikus’ of 17 syllables over three lines of five-seven-five, two hundred and eighty nine being seventeen squared). This transformed into the more reasonable set of poems in the exhibition through time restraints and just plain rebellion against the restrictions I placed on myself.

Each poem presented here has also been recorded as a video I have posted on YouTube. This is my first exhibition and very much the first time I have shown my poetry to more than a handful of people. It is the first time I have created videos and recorded myself reading poems. The process, like Yellow-Seventeen itself, has been a journey into the unknown.

Yellow-Seventeen would not have been possible without the support and inspiration of the other ‘Planeteenies,’ particularly Ryan Thompson, and from friends and family, particularly Hannah. Special thanks to Thomas Day for both pushing me onwards through regular moments of doubt and for helping come up with the word ‘Yellow-Seventian.’

In our own way we are all Yellow-Seventian, we are unknown to each other until we explore what connects us.

Introduction to Yellow-Seventeen

A surprisingly earth-like planet.
Not unsurprising.
Not earth-like.
Still a planet.

Before you unknowable unknowns,
About a far-off planet.
Not real
Not unreal.
Still a planet.

James Dustjacket’s Travels to Yellow-Seventeen

I travelled through life,
A blind speck of dust with no right to know.
Screaming at the big-wide,
Give me a sign, answer my question,
We are not alone.

I travelled by experiment.
[Redacted by GRAPES*]
[You can’t know this until you’ve discovered it.]
[“Keep backing the rocks together, guys,”]
[You are not alone. We didn’t tell you.]

I travelled unknowable distance.
Crossing the far-wide cosmos,
Searching the planet-filled unimultiverse,
Looking for that revelation in space,
We are not alone.

I travelled and arrived,
I cannot say or know how far.
My feet on Yellow-Seventeen,
My ears hear unfamiliar voices,
I am not alone.

Still my eyes were closed,
Taking in the sight of sounds.
They were not unfriendly noises.
Someone held my handing,
Pulling me forward, onward.
Untutored ears picking out greetings,
Welcomes and hellos,
Their invitations to stay.

I opened my eyes.

*The Galactic Republic Academy for Progression of Equitable Science

Ryu Senior’s Episodes of Yellow-Seventeen History as Senryu

Steam powered transports,
Bringing together far wide,
Isolation ends.
Shaken, shaking hands.
Released, the knife fell. Free. Now,
Change and liberty.
“Fear space invaders,
They come for you and yours” - lies,
They just wanted peace.
Lux kissing cold lips,
Dead, to stop their union.
So starts civil war.
The bombs fell all night.
Blanket blanching on the ground,
The unprepared, dead.
First rain falls. Stable
Lands propagating, all life
Evolves planet-wide
She cried pain, passion.
He sung love and rebellion.
Leaders, lovers, two.
Surf radio waves,
Furthest friendliest hellos,
Making connections.
Disagreeing monks!
Two sides, one side, two sides, three!
Oh, what to cook guests?
Inherited crowns,
Passed on to the elected,
Free through progression.
Slow rising rocket:
“Take me on to the unknown
Space beyond our skies.”
Conflict, endless fight,
Killing Y-Seventians with
Devastating ease.
“The only doomsday
All doomsday devices need
Is their own end. Dead.”
“Fruit pickers unite,”
The dispossessed rally call:
“Break unfair systems.”
Physicists predict,
One may only know their own
Planetary shift.
All things eventually ends.
Then comes the next stage.


Wandering souls lost;
The hammering storms eyes’
Devastating touch, on land all
Lost. Gone.

Sea Diptych #1 - Retreating Tide

Awesome wave, awesome wave,
Wave upon wave of awesome wave,
Upon wave of awesome wave,
Wave of awesome wave,
Of awesome wave,
Awesome wave,

Awesome wave, awesome wave,
Wave upon wave of awesome wave,
Upon wave of awesome wave,
Wave of awesome wave,
Of awesome wave,
Awesome wave,

Awesome wave, awesome wave,
Wave upon wave of awesome wave,
Upon wave of awesome wave,
Wave of awesome wave,
Of awesome wave,
Awesome wave,

Awesome wave, awesome wave,
Wave upon wave of awesome wave,
Upon wave of awesome wave,
Wave of awesome wave,
Of awesome wave,
Awesome wave,

Sea Diptych #2 – The Sea of Life

Rolling seas,
Deep blue, deep, blue waters,
And wide, wide oceans.
Fish, plankton and seaweed,
Hard shells of seashells,
And soft bellies of limpets,
Jostled by the ever flowing, even flowing currents.

Vast oceans,
Seemingly too wide to cross.
Ever connected by tradewinds trade routes.
Kayak, yacht and liner,
Hard tall tallships,
With soft flapping sails.
Moving by ever changing, ever blowing gusts.

Fishing fleets,
Lines of boats trawling along waves,
Trailing long lines of fish.
Hooked, caught and hauled,
Seafood for table,
Seafood for market,
The seas of life on Yellow-Seventeen.

With a 400 year oceanic conveyor belt,
Replenishing nutrients, shaking salts.
A source of life,
A source of food.
The deep blue waters of Yellow-Seventeens.


Ultra-Dexitri put a wall around his property,
Said, all Yellow-Seventians being equal these are for me and mine,
Taking other nearby resources for safe keeping.
Ultra-Dexitri knew the value of nothing,
Except for what he said.
Only a few could be happy.

Trompe-Dexitri put a wall around his people,
Said, all Yellow-Seventians being equal we will remain equal under my leadership,
Forcefully removing dissenting views.
Trompe-Dexitri knew not the collective voice,
Except for what he said.
Only a few could be happy.

Opposo-Dexitri tore down the walls of his property,
Said, all Yellow-Seventians being equal I'll help all,
And tried his best with the resources they had.
Ultra-Dexitri mocked; Trompe-Dexitri smirked,
It is futile to appeal to Yellow-Seventians’ better natures, they claimed.
Except Opposo-Dexitri carried on.
Not everyone can be happy straight away.

Ultra-Dextri increased the value of his property,
And his people couldn't afford it.
Trompe-Dexitri forced more people to share their work,
Without doing his own share.
Opposo-Dexitri tried to help as many as possible,
Hard without Ultra-Dexitri’s wealth;
Difficult without Trompe-Dexitri’s force.
Yet still he tried.
Not every Yellow-Seventian can be happy straight away,
Said Opposo-Dexitri, though if we hold dear to,
And liberty,
We get closer.

Complex Social Relations

Was it love or companionship,
Procreation or simply to pass the time,
This dance I saw before me,
The courtship on Yellow-Seventeen?

It wasn’t hopeless or smothering,
Seedy, greedy, or domineering.
Every dance has many dancers,
And no Yellow-Seventian is an island.

They shout praise,
Of complex social relations,
They cheer and sing:
            “Dear stranger, friend,
            Lover, or kin,
            There will be hardships,
            There will be new borns,
            Fleeting moments of passion shipped over many years,
            Lifelong companionships developed over time
            Almost breaking points and severe strains,
            There will be pain beyond pain,
            Beyond pain beyond pain.
 There will be heartfelt heartfuls of love,
 There will be heart felt hearts full of loss
 We will not avoid it.”

Yellow-Seventeen’s Entry in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

So, you’ve landed on Yellow-Seventeen, have you?
I doubt you quite planned it this way.
Ran out of credit,
Thrown off a spaceship,
Regular stuff that happens, right?

What we going to do now, says that little back-of-head voice.
You’re a frood on a mission, you need credits,
There has to be entertainments - by which you mean drinks,
And there has to be good company.
That’s why you hike, right?

Let’s find a bar, you need a drink or two.
Or ten.
Wherever in the unimultiverse you hail from,
There’s an analogue beer,
Or spirit waiting,
Before you touch the local stuff.

Be warned, that local stuff is pretty strong.
Locals say outlanders should only ever have one.
I had six.
Or maybe eight.
Only out of it for three weeks. Months.

Now, company, you’ve met Y-Seventians.
But they’re pretty unimpressed with drunk outlanders,
Not paying tabs,
Chasing folk around.
Real unattractive, like.

You’re not from Yellow-Seventeen but you want to learn.
You hear about a couple of jobs for likely hands,
Picking fruit,
Servicing transports.
End up invited to some social gatherings.

You drink, sure, but not a ridiculous amount.
You dance.
With a couple of the other pickers you put on shows,
Sing a song,
Do a routine,
Make everyone smile a little while.

Yellow-Seventians like to smile bright.
Not a smile wider in the unimultiverse.
You saw it firsthand,
You made it on your own,
On this yellow-green planet.

Disaster strikes in the simplest of ways.
Your ride off Y-Seventeen arrives.
Say goodbye to the boss.
Say au revoir to the lover,
With a heavy heart - it’s just the take-off, you say - you’re off into the unimultiverse,
And on to the next planet you touch down on.

The End of the World

When the Yellow sun grows red glows white,
Engulfing the future ancient old.
Seismic shifts, plates crack,
The tallest mountains falling into the deepest sea.
I will still remain on Yellow-Seventeen.

When the volcanos spit,
Ash into the sky and lava onto the land,
Choking gas; burning rocks,
Cities devoured by flaming rivers,
I will still touch Yellow-Seventeen.

When the deep blue boils,
Leaving just salts and minerals
Barren lands and dust bowls,
Moistureless influidity.
I will still see Yellow-Seventeen.

When the animals cry,
Scream and bolt and flee.
Panicked stampede,
Crazy horses running blind fury.
I will still hear Yellow-Seventeen.

When neighbours take up arms,
Against each other.
Anger and violence,
Towards strangers and the Other,
I will still feel Yellow-Seventeen.

When it all ends,
Planet split by the enlarging sun,
I will remain on Yellow-Seventeen.
From the first spun-out planet-forming debris,
To the very last thrown-out planet-formed debris,
I will remain as text here,
I will remain as thoughts in process,
I will remain as memories you carry on,
I will remain as Yellow-Seventeen.

Endroduction to Yellow-Seventeen

The exoplanets beyond Neptune and Pluto are unknowable to us though they are familiar; they have inhabitants, customs, geographies, atmospheres, weather cycles, origins, and endings. Out there is life, it is other life though still life.

Yellow-Seventeen is such a planet. While Yellow-Seventeen is an exoplanet, Yellow-Seventeen is an attempt to translate aspects of an exoplanet in a human perspective.

When Ryan Thompson first mooted the idea of Planetine I liked the way the exhibition could be used to explore imaginary planets. Yellow-Seventeen could be my Coruscant, my Middle Earth; I could brew Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters and raise replicants.

Science fiction allows this spectacular speculation. Actually, all fiction does, it is not a feature solely embedded in sci-fi. This was my approach to Yellow-Seventeen. This speculation makes the ordinary extraordinary and renders the extraordinary ordinary. Again, all fiction has this amazing power to exaggerate aspects of life and use them explore the human condition.

I didn’t want to overindulge. I wanted to show off Yellow-Seventeen in the same way an Yellow-Seventian might write about earth, to paraphrase Dylan Thomas (Under Milk Wood, 1954), ‘thou I know you will be the first, to see our best side not our worse.’

My original plan was to write two hundred and eighty nine Senry├║ about Yellow-Seventeen. These proved to be a little difficult to produce, the limitation of three lines of five-seven-five syllables was frustrating. Of the fifty-odd I did produce, sixteen remain. Partly because of my self-imposed restriction I rebelled. I rebelled spectacularly and the result was ‘Yellow-Seventeen’s Entry into the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.’ Like interstellar floodgates opening in the space of a week I had the basics for what you see in the exhibition.

James Corah

Extra bonus material! One of the many ideas that circulated among the Planeteenies was possibly creating a newsletter about our planets, to be called Planet Express (for reasons I will only reveal if you ask nicely). Anyway, here’s my contribution.

Planet Express!

The Fruit Pickers’ Show

Review: A familiar event at the end of the fruit picking season, the Fruit Pickers’ Show is part celebration, part revue, all party put on by Y-Seventians and outlanders. Given the number of hours these guys end up working it is amazing they have the energy to put on such a fabulous show.

Fruit picking on Y-Seventeen is serious business so it shouldn’t be a surprise that the comedy came quick and fast. There were prop sketches involving bananas, Semme Grusto continued the long tradition of mimicking the great and good of Y-Seventeen, and four outlanders put on a sketch they called ‘Four Yorkshire men.’ While there is a great deal of familiarity in Grusto’s act, four men trying to outdo each other for childhood hardships seemed too familiar. This sketch was repeated as a much welcomed encore at the end of the show.

Folkmusic was the order of the day, with instruments from all six continents and outlander worlds represented. Luxo Freem led the audience through a series of national anthems before the musicians descended into improvisation. I said descended though it was more transcendence from all involved, melodies collided and continued, changed and challenged into new forms.

The food and drink on offer was spectacular: Y-Seventian seafood rubbed shoulders with herbs and sauces; soft cheese was used in an outlander dessert with a biscuit base (unfortunately, though this writer had a lot of this dessert he didn’t manage to catch its name); and of course there was a fantastic fruit salad.

Before the close of the show the current chair of the Fruit Pickers, outlander David Flanks, gave a moving speech about the origins of the Show, about raising money to help the pickers on to their next jobs, and about the foundation of the Fruit Pickers’ Union. Understanding is key to life on Yellow-Seventeen for both Y-Seventian and outlander alike, it is ever heart-warming that our fruit and cultural feasts are so plentiful.