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.

Friday, 26 April 2019

PRIVATE DRAMAS

I cannot remember where I took this photograph, or if it is the chair, the head or the fez that was £28. The scene just called out to be photographed.
A revised poem. You can read the earlier version here.

Human Geology

the band crank it out, urgent, loud,
such a brief time to impress

below them hands in the air
almost a single mass of flesh
caught up in their moment

others further away
drink, talk, laugh, vape
the festival the backdrop to their private dramas

everywhere
unnoticed in viz-vests
people paid by the hour,
stoop to collect cans into plastic bags

I know that when I last revised it I was concerned with layout and this time I have let the poem breathe more. It can be illuminating to play with layout. I think you have to live with a poem for some time before it reveals its true shape.
This next poem wrote itself. It is what I would call a character poem, rather than a poem based on experience.
so he gets older
his ghosts draw closer
elbow each other aside
hurl memories into his face
his life is far from calm
there can be no plain sailing through the storm

throughout his waking hours
his consciousness is wearing riot gear
the city of his self burns through the night
dreams are one long firefight
in this present one

he pretends he does not know the rules
but you too would deny all knowledge
with the muzzle in your face
more cold than interstellar space
and dawn five hours distant

It came as a series of images that I wrote down and linked later. Then I left it undisturbed for a couple of months. It is not yet complete.
This week I have been listening to lots of jazz. I think that could be my default setting these days, but here is something different.
I've long been a fan of Traffic and I've just found this video of Steve Winwood from 2012.

Until next time.

Friday, 19 April 2019

A CALM MOON

Last Saturday I was staying with friends in Lancaster. I awoke in the middle of the night and saw the moon. I took a photograph of the scene and was inspired to write this.

a calm moon
over the railway signals
against the darkest of blue skies
as the world turns
I give thanks 


Another short poem. I had been working on something longer but was getting bogged down because the poem wasn't working. I salvaged this.

he will leave her
two years later
for someone younger
and she will ask me why she did it
shaped herself to fit his world
and I will have no answer


I think it stands alone.
Here's a video from the legendary Annabelle Chvostek. It's wonderful to have a new video and rumour has it she has been recording recently. 

Until next time.

Friday, 12 April 2019

ENTROPY WRIT LARGE

The Brownshill Dolmen allegedly has the largest cap stone in Europe. It is very impressive, especially when you are standing in the centre space.
I was in Ireland last week and on the way back to Dublin airport I stopped to visit the site.
I have been pondering the heat death of the universe since I was a teenager reading New Worlds. I blame Michael Moorcock!
This is a the long way round to explaining the title of this post.

Quartz Inaccuracy

the house at Kilrossanty
is a space of stopped clocks
two or three to each room

in the kitchen
a second hand spasms
like a dead frog’s leg
wired to a failing battery

entropy writ large

I also wrote this little piece.

the wineglass I was just about to use I realise cups the sticky residue of its last drink
how long has it waited in the darkness of the cupboard for this moment?


It arose from actually finding a dirty wineglass in the cupboard of the house we were renting. 
I was listening to a lot of Sufjan Stevens while I was away so here is a beautiful song. 
Until next time.

Friday, 5 April 2019

FEATHERS FALL

As usual the photographs bear no connection to the poem.
This time a revised poem. You can read the earlier draft here.

he walks down the street
going to the supermarket
in his hands
bag and shopping list
but in his head
- an asteroid is towed towards Metaluna
the magnetic field glows, bright red and
he’s looking Eli Wallach in the eye
We deal in lead mister
while the boat burns
as the black bird disappears
then she’s just taken that photograph
the one of the last supper
with the camera her mother gave her
and the feathers fall
almost drifting out of the silvered screen
he’s watching her face
something has changed
the impatient world interrupts
and now he must choose a cabbage
as the onions clamour for his attention


Essentially the punctuation has been removed but is is the better for that.
This second poem has had the layout changed from the first draft
Thanks to the Secret Poets for their insightful feedback.
A couple of superfluous words have been removed  and one line rewritten.

Poem for Sheila

brittle as bone china
ever more fragile
she tells me what she sees
it is not my reality

I am glad she is talking
attempt to see her reality
I’ve known her half my lifetime
so I can follow the clues

gently we talk
until head bowed
she slips into sleep
the magazine falls from her hand


We had a discussion about whether the word brittle was suitable because it could be interpreted as implying hardness, which is the last word I would use to describe Sheila. It has stayed in the poem. Our thoughts are still with Ryley Walker. Get better soon.


 Until next time.

Friday, 29 March 2019

WEIRD EXHIBITIONS THAT DON'T EXIST

Two recent found poems this post. Actually they are not strictly found poems as I have elaborated on the original sentences. The first strictly speaking has a found title. My friend Rex uttered the words as I explained why we had gone to Bakersfield in California. I had been under the impression that there was a collection of Georgia O'Keeffe paintings there. There wasn't. The author of the guidebook had been lazy when researching Bakersfield, it was a touring exhibition. We had a similar experience in Spain one year. We had to wait in 44 degrees C temperature to again be informed that what we had come to see had been a touring exhibition four years before.


Weird Exhibitions That Don’t Exist

I have searched for them
either side of the Atlantic,
steered by guidebook
to an out of the way community centre
somewhere in Bakersfield
and crossed the border
from Portugal to Spain,
hunting for touring exhibitions
travel writers claimed were permanent collections.

They are tales of family holidays
and sometimes when we are together,
we laugh about the bar we sat in,
playing cards, drinking water,
waiting for the 5pm opening
that Iberian August.


I am not sure the poem is anything like complete.
This second one came from the same evening and Rex talking about his student days in Brighton. I added the second half.

we’d come in drunk
and play our music loud
the guy downstairs
he was totally cool about it
cause he’d get in drunk
and play his music too loud
and we’d wake up in bed
and smile
cause it was liberating

in the afternoon
cause no one got up early
after nights like that
we might meet on the stairs
and smile and nod
and that’s what life was like back then

This poem is about there. It is only a quick piece but it captures a certain moment in life.
I literally wrote the first part down as he was talking. Some times I think being a poet is all about seizing the opportunity and running with it.


Sadly Ryley Walker has had to cancelled his April European tour due to health issues. I'd like to wish him a speedy recovery and just say our prayers are with him. Get well soon Ryley.

Until next time.

Friday, 22 March 2019

BLACK TEA

I must be thirsty, all the titles refer to tea lately.
A revised poem again this post.
You can read the original here.

House Clearance

The enormity of it all just stops you
dead in your tracks,
one long life lived
and here you are in the hallway
wondering where to start,
wishing it were simply a woollen jumper
with one loose thread you could unpick.
Of course, it’s not that easy
so you walk through the rooms,
upstairs then down,
make a cup of tea
sit at the kitchen table
drink it black,
because the milk has gone off.

The last three lines have been altered to allow the poem to breathe.
Thanks to Paul Mortimer.
I'm working on a poem at the moment but I'm not ready to show it to anyone. Watch this space.
I've just discovered an hour long set by Arthur Lee and Love at 2003 Glastonbury Festival [or Pilton, as those of us who have lived in Somerset refer to it].
Here's the whole show.
Until next time.