What is Portal, Anyway?

A first-person shooter with no goons to kill?
A maze where you follow the rat?
A puzzle, a lesson in bending the rules?
There’s much more to Portal than that.

A subtle tutorial, learning through play,
A guide with a memorable voice
That gives you instructions each step of the way
But will you obey her? Your choice.

No customisation, no highscore, no lives
You failed? Well just try, try again.
And when you succeed, there’s no victory parade
Just your satisfaction remains.

So why should you play it, apart from the memes?
(Remember, the Cake is a Lie)
Until you’ve been Chell, you just can’t understand
Why this game, and its fans, never die

There’s much more to Portal than pellets and traps
Or turrets around every bend.
And once you’ve survived all that GLaDOS can do,
You’ll just love the song at the end.

Well, Here We Are Again…

…it’s always such a pleasure.
Despite the many times I’ve tailed before.
Oh how I wrote and wrote,
Until I just stopped writing.
Gave up the fight, succumbed and simply started to snore.

I’m too old for all-nighters,
That’s what I’ve come to see
I’ve failed the full too often,
Now it’s just the half for me.

OK, that’s enough of that. Channel GLaDOS for too long and I start to itch. For this challenge, I need the focused determination of Chell, and the garrulousness of Wheatley. (Note to self: Don’t get those the wrong way round.)

I don’t know why Portal‘s on my mind so much at the moment, but since it is, I simply must call my final, 1 a.m. poem “Still Alive”. Or perhaps, “Still Awake”, assuming that I am. The Portal soundtrack (not the closing songs, the rest of it) is really excellent writing music, too.

Have I hit upon my theme for 2020? Between Portal, Portal 2, and Blue Sky (which I cannot recommend highly enough to Portal fans) I should easily have enough inspiration for 12 poems.

This post is approaching 200 words, and I still haven’t introduced myself. Then again, what else is there to say? If you’re familiar with Portal, you get the idea, and if you’re not then this post will make no sense to you — and neither will any of my poems. Sorry about that.

For Focus, Just Add Pressure

First things first: I completed the poetry marathon for the first time! Woot!

If I want to do this again, I need to look at how I managed it – and I think a big part of it was because I gave myself an added challenge. On top of writing one poem every hour, I titled my poems in alphabetical order, and gave myself a very small pool of forms to choose from each time.

ShadowPoetry.com has a list of poetic forms on their site. Once I’d eliminated the ones that would be too long (such as the epic), I was left with 120 – that’s just five for each hour. By limiting my options, I avoided wasting time and energy on wading through a sea of endless possibilities. I picked my form and title in minutes, leaving me the rest of the hour to create the poem, comment, and rest.

I also wrote this victory post before the event started, to motivate myself to (a) finish, and (b) stick to the plan. || It mostly worked. This part here is being written on Sunday, minutes after uploading my final poem, and I can report that it was an almost-complete success. I dozed off a couple of times, and missed the odd deadline, but I made it to the finish line with 24 poems and time to spare. Other marathoners were very supportive, and encouraged me not to give up just because some of my poems were technically late.

Massive thank you to everyone – all the wonderful poets taking part, and especially the organisers. You are all seriously awesome, and I look forward to reading your work carefully over the next few weeks.


Hours have flown by, minutes have crawled
There’s only one thing to do:
Take up the pen, get writing again
The warm-up’s done, so now follow through

Somehow, between four, and six-thirty,
I blinked, and the clock hands jumped.
Get writing again, take up the pen
I’ve proved in this that I won’t stay stumped.

And now, with ‘Z’, my theme is complete
Neatly mapped form and order
Take up the pen, get writing again
I’ll see you on the Avlem border.


Form: ZaniLa Rhyme

Your Anecdotes are My Memories

“Remember when…?” Can’t say I do
I remember instead the stories you tell.
And I’m sure your stories are quite true
“Remember when…?” Can’t say I do.
I’m full of holes, events slip through
But stories sometimes stick quite well.
“Remember when…?” Can’t say I do
I remember instead the stories you tell.

Tales of me in school, I learn and grow
But never quite best in show
Just that bit too slow,
Like… you know.

Tales of teen years, not much in there though
That’s when M.E. laid me low
Just that bit too slow,
Like… you know.

Tales of my youth, fare to and fro
Keen to be doing, but no
Just that bit too slow,
Like… you know.

Then come the lost years
The tales you can’t tell,
For you were not here –
Or I was not there
Which is the same thing
For our purposes.

Without my Boswell
I cannot recall
How I passed that time
Only that time passed
And now I make an
Effort to catch it.

My memories are yours
Please tell them to me
And maybe this time
I will remember.


Forms used:
I. = Triolet
II. = Triquint

Prompt: Write a poem about your childhood. Ideally this poem should contain between 1 and 5 numbered sections.

Wild Corners

Grey, brown
Colours of life
Sprawl across the map in patchwork patterns.
Blocks of brick flats stand almost back-to-back
But still a patch
Of wild ground
Is found
In between
The managed land
A sudden spark of wilderness breaks forth.


Form: Tetractys

Prompt: Write about nature in a city

Vulpine Visit

In the twilight, yellow eyes catch the light
Spilling from the kitchen window into the garden.

Half in shadow, white-tipped brush stands alert
Watching for a hostile human leaving the house.

Through the fence posts, russet-gold pours itself
Travelling the wastelands on little fox feet.


Form: Unrhymed couplets

Prompt: Write a poem about an animal


Since we arrived, we rightly rule
As Avlem are best placed to do
The Empire’s soldiers serve our side
We rightly rule, since we arrived.

The natives are a sorry lot
Who can’t make use of what they’ve got
We’re better than them all, by far
A sorry lot the natives are

We’re honour-bound to take the lead
How else can primitives be freed
From savage ignorance all round?
To take the lead, we’re honour-bound.

Form: Swap Quatrain

Note: This is me exploring my fantasy world a bit more. The Avlem are not the leading military nation in this world (that would the the Empire, with the soldiers). They do, however, believe themselves to be the pinnacle of proper civilisation, and as such to have a duty to civilise the rest of the world. Starting with this new land, where the natives are so backward they don’t even have centralised government!

Tired, but Triumphant

When sickness strikes, it dominates
And all involved it subjugates
To worries, sleepless nights, and pain
And “When will they get well again?”
The only topic this refrain, ’til it abates.

When sickness will not go away,
And claims its place in every day
The only thing left to be done
Is play the hand as dealt, and run
No clouds can fully block the sun when it is day.

When sickness stays, it has to learn
That other things will take their turn
In centre stage, the sickness deemed
Old news, and coping is routine
One stops regretting might-have-beens, and bridges burned.

Form: Florette (verson 2)

Prompt: Write a companion piece to an earlier poem

Original poem: Freedom, Ltd.