Friday, 14 June 2019

LOW SKY, LAZY WIND

A simple poem to start.

The Family Plot

low sky
lazy wind
February
10 o’clock Tuesday in Widnes
is as grey as those words sound

we bring bright plastic flowers
for this grave without a headstone
someone has stolen the vases
and red Christmas bouquets
that we had put on before


This is a true story. Me and my sister went to change the flowers on the family plot in February and the vases and Christmas flowers had been stolen. 
I'm not sure about the poem, but I like the starkness of the telling.
This next one is all fiction. It wrote itself over a couple of weeks but the form eluded me until I hit upon the prose poem layout.

casual crimson

the three billion cells that collectively composed his person suspected this new red shirt is the business
as he walks the town to divine the best spot to be seen in
the rain has other ideas and forces his feet into the nearest sports bar
to sip blood warm beer and stare at real life on the big screen
there is nothing else
he will not get to fly his kite heavier as it is than the wet air
wisdom descends and he knows why his shirt was so reasonably priced
the fabric’s dye had stained his skin a deep crimson
and then he knows in his bones that the outcome of this night will replicate itself across all his weekends
and that it welcomes him into the kind of life he never imagined would be his


The phrase to fly one's kite is an old saying means to have a good time. It seemed to suit to the poem. 
Here's Anna Ternheim.
Until next time.

Friday, 7 June 2019

WHEN THE SEA RETURNED

I wrote this poem quite quickly, like the last post, it came from a collection of random words picked haphazardly from several unconnected books. Working with a limited number of words can be liberating. 
Once the basic idea is down on paper you can expand on it in any way that you think works.

Just One of Those Things

when the sea returned
the lovers had gone
to create energy their own energy
in a rented room

then to part
on some street corner
late in the afternoon
in a press of people too preoccupied
with keeping the wolf from the door
for the intensity of their farewell
to ever be noticed

the lover’s regular roles awaited
the end of their embrace


I am not sure that the title works. It does not seem to add or enhance the poem...
I find titles to be difficult.
I wanted the poem to capture a moment, something fleeting. A miniature, I suppose, as opposed to a big idea.
Also as mentioned last post both Kathryn Williams and Anna Ternheim are touring in the autumn. I may see you there.
Also on a really positive note Ryley Walker is playing some dates in America. He has been 75 + days sober and sounds very positive. I wish you all the best Ryley.
Here's the man himself in Utrecht last year. What music! 

Until next time.

Friday, 31 May 2019

DOUBLED SHADOW

Another work in progress. 
I am not sure how this poem arrived. I was opening books at random and jotting down the first word from each that I liked. I ended up with a page of words and I fashioned them into this.

hidden fires burned low
so the city leaked light
into a crumbled grey sky
casting doubled shadows on to broken streets
and more than the morning was lost
slowly
unseeing
with scant regard for his surroundings
he walked onwards
like a man lost to the world
his reality now reduced
to a parade of scenery flats
and himself a cypher beyond decryption

I think that the piece is complete in as much as I do not believe it needs more added to it. Whether the meaning is clear is another matter. I think I need to work on that.
Watch this space.

Kathryn Williams is touring in October to promote her Anthology box set. I'd get your tickets now, I have got mine. She is wonderful live.
There is also a rumour that Anna Ternheim is playing London in the autumn. More when I get the details. Here's the link for the new album.
This is an interview with Kathryn.

Until next time.

Friday, 24 May 2019

AN ABSTRACTED MAN


As I have said before, sometimes you have to remove the line in a poem you are most proud of, for the poem to work.
This poem is a case in point. 

Self Portrait Number 2

Throughout the slanting rain
an abstracted man stands in a bay window
watching individual raindrops cascade
change colour
darken leaves
return to the earth
continue to cycle back to the ocean

Originally I had:

in a bay window
an abstracted man stands
with a blue teapot in his right hand
watching individual raindrops cascade

But in all honesty even though this was how I had been standing, the blue teapot adds nothing to the poem, so sadly had to go.

Here's a poem I'm working on.

once again the weary moon must alibi the daylight to the disgruntled insomniac who is impatient for the dawn as sleep has failed to materialise

the waning disc slowly explains the solar cycle

reduced to a walk on part to explain the absence of morning there had been parity once but that was long ago

the non-sleeper does not care for history and yawns in the moon’s face

the moon sets leaving him alone beneath the brittle points of light that adorn the night sky

Here's an old video of Alela Diane's first album.

Until next time.

Friday, 17 May 2019

A LETTERBOX IN THE EARTH

I have mixed feelings about musicals, there are some I really like [Guys & Dolls for instance], but on the whole I find them not to my taste. It's not that I do not love the Great American Songbook, far from it. I adore Rogers & Hart, Harold Arlen and Cole Porter. The lyrics of their songs are as erudite as anything you will ever hear and wittier than most. 
This is a preamble into this poem:

Oklahoma

It was their children who celebrated,
turning their struggles into a musical,
all bright tunes and stock characters.
Endless acres under a summer blue sky.
The script did not foretell of the Dust Bowl,
none of the songs mentioned the First People,
now imprisoned on reservations.
No. It was all technicolor gaiety.
It’s no wonder we have to fight
for our histories to be heard.

It's not that I object to the work, it is not to my particular taste but that's besides the point. I just think that history is a contested concept. There are many different interpretations of the past jostling and fighting to be the dominant discourse. I think we need to hear some of the other perspectives.
Every age remakes the past in its own image. We need to discuss our history more than we do.
Here is a revised poem. You can read the last version here.

SPACES

Sideways
through a letterbox in the earth,
then crawl on your stomach
and dive through a sump of dark water,
to emerge where?
Don’t ask me
I failed the first task.
When slithering into the fissure
the weight of the world was compressing
I was backing out apologising.

Extremes are not for me,
neither the confines of the cave
or the naked space of free air.

You see ten years or more before,
when I was first an apprentice,
I had to climb the cold metal ladder of the turbine hall
to inspect the integrity of the overhead cranes,
but when I emerged on to that tiny platform,
a speck in the industrial immensity,
I could do nothing but wait to be guided down.

Perhaps the secret of any life
is to find the places where you can thrive.

Essentially the last three lines have gone. The Secret Poets were of the opinion I was introducing a whole new concept. This is not a good idea at the end of a poem, a poem needs to be complete in itself.
I am leaving you with Ella Fitzgerald singing Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered. Lorenz Hart was a total genius.

Until next time.

Friday, 10 May 2019

ARM'S LENGTH

A short, new poem to begin. It concerns the removal of a clock from the side of a building. I was stood there looking at the space where the hands had been and it prompted me to write this.


now the hands have been removed
there is little indication
that this wall was once graced by a clock
those trapeziums of grey plastic
which once quartered our days
now look like forgotten decorations
for an event no one can quite bring to mind


I also wrote this at the same time. I am not sure which is worth saving.


all the clocks have been removed
and the marking of time
has ceased to be a public service

you can no longer gaze
as the hands creep round the face
because everyone of your minutes
must be accounted for


Here is a revision. You can read the original here.

arms length

he is a big man
and fills the opened door

feel the air
moved by his mass

the argumentative lens of the camera
slung around his neck
points from his chest

slow footed across the public space
he spills on to the sofa

uncomfortable
unless his hands hold objects
he raises the camera
begins to look at the world through the tiny screen

the stutter of the shutter
bounces round the room


What has changed? Well there is a line break between the second and third line. This allows the reader the chance to move from looking to feeling. The third from the end line: a comforting distance has been removed. 
When discussing the poem with The Secret Poets it was felt that it was a telling rather than showing line. So it came out. A good rule of thumb is show not tell.
Thank you Secrets.

I came across a live video of Natalie Merchant today from 2016. Needless to say she is superb. Enjoy.

Until next time.

Friday, 3 May 2019

ONE OF LIFE'S SPECIAL DAYS

I described this poem in it's original draft as a moment of satori, which it is. However, when I can to read it aloud I could not get my mouth around the word simulacrum, which instantly told me I need to ditch the line, never mind the word.
Thanks to Secret Poets for their insight once again.

One of Life's Special Days

That we should decide to cross the border
is hardly surprising,
we live in the debatable lands.

Twelve hour passes are all that’s on offer,
because our lives are lived
inside the movements of our favourite clocks.
Still we hope for something built to last.

Days like this prompt memories,
because in this place words reveal their power,
between the shafts of light
between the notes from the turntable
between the breaths that form the words.

In the quiet of our return a song plays
that was written after you died,
yet I know you are in the room,
have followed us back across the lines,
wearing a sad smile for what might have been,
gently I move to kiss your memory.


I've been listening to a lot of Iberian music recently, especially Ketama and their collaboration Songhai. Here's Jarabi.


Songhai were amazing, the combination of musicians just works.
Electrica Dharma have become a firm favourite in our house recently.

Until next time.