Friday, 15 November 2019

A WRINKLE IN SPACE/TIME

A poem inspired by the workshop I ran at Tropical Pressure. The workshop focused on finding treasure in the house of a person who hoarded everything and this poem is another riff on the whole hoarding urge.

She was dozing, half hearing
the man on the television
explain solar system formation.
How eddies in the gravity
started the slow accumulation,
made molecules bind
and in that second she knew
this was the fate of her house,
all the unemptied shopping bags,
the clothes strewn floors,
every piece of everything that
she could never part with,
was due to a wrinkle in space/time
and not with her own actions.
The mound of plastic bags
would become a mountain
then a planet ripping the earth asunder.

She woke on her friends sofa,
soap and replaced science,
she flicked it over to the shopping channel,
there was work to be done.


I like the idea of planet building and to the best of my knowledge the solar system formed around a small wrinkle in gravity. 
I am not sure that this is the finished draft but I think it is nearly there.


Here's Chip Taylor. 

Until next time.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

THE UNINVITED


The Uninvited is Chrissy Banks’ second collection and was recently published by Indigo Dreams. I have to say it is excellent and I have been returning to it again and again.

The theme of The Uninvited is “what lives in shadow is always seeking a gap.” Chrissy is a cartographer of those liminal spaces that flicker on the edge of vision, a chronicler of the abandoned and ignored:

A house that’s forgotten
bellowing air, the pulse
of music and dance -
too long without children.

There is joy and a quiet humanity in its pages:

Sometimes all you need do
is ask, walk through the door
to the next room. Even now,
they are setting a place for you.


A thread of autobiography runs through The Uninvited, there are tales of Chrissy’s childhood and the strong women of her family.

the leggy girls from Liverpool, long-lashed, lush-lipped
hairtossers, hipswingers, quickwitted teasers and twisters,
minis under maxis, some slant eye boy on their mezzled minds

Even these autobiographical poems echo the temporary, seasonal workers on the Isle of Man were known as comeovers, the mystery of who exactly Uncle Lawrence was, and a New Year’s Eve’s ferry caught in all it’s diverse beauty. Her humanity and compassion are present on every page, this is a wondrous collection.

Let us hope we do not have to wait a further fourteen years for the next one.

Friday, 8 November 2019

AS ACCURATE AS SCIENTIFIC METHOD


A poem that just appeared in my head one morning. It was about a week after the clocks had gone back and the idea for the poem arrived fully formed. 

Eventually he found the timepiece,
after ransacking his living space.
A small quartz unit, battery powered,
and as accurate as scientific method,
just the sort of item he’d never choose to own.

It was in the left hand pocket of his woollen overcoat,
the one he had not worn since the cold snap in late spring,
their planning had been long in the making,
so the stakes must be appropriately steep.

He held the cheap thing,
as light in his palm as thoughtless sin,
changed the position of the hands,
felt the rightness that had eluded him
for the seven disturbed days return.

Ever since the clocks went back
that secret wrist watch had rippled his time,
ensured he was out of step.
Other questions now clamoured to be answered.


I think there should be a follow up, who exactly placed the watch that disturbed the narrator? Honestly I have not idea. Though as a story it has legs. Let us wait and see if anything develops.


Here's a treat, Anna Ternheim live with the Kaiser Quartet. Only another twelve days and I shall be seeing her live myself.

Until next time.

Friday, 1 November 2019

ONE IMPLACABLE MACHINE OF COLD FORCE

 

This post a poem about urban renewal. It is based on an old, large house being demolished to make way for flats near where I live.

 It took five working days to do for the house,
one implacable machine of cold force did it in,
supplied as it was with an endless chain
of hard lorries to disappear the evidence.
The wallpaper sloughed off
all those exposed inner spaces,
at least the rain kept the dust down
if not the sounds of the building’s death.
After that they scraped the naked earth,
removed half the garden, most of the lawn,
demarcating the dimensions of the car park.
The flats rose quickly after that.


For me it was sad to pass by a grand old house being demolished. Perhaps this is the fate that awaits all our endeavours? 
In Torquay there is a move to build on the brownfield sites which must be welcomed. It is just a pity that the big old houses cannot be refurbished.

Here's Jay Farrar with Barstow. 

Until next time.

Friday, 25 October 2019

BOUNCE OFF THE MAGPIE


The farce continues. The crime minister and his puppet master are still trying to convince us that they have the best interests of the country at heart while proposing a reduction in employment rights and offering the NHS on the alter of an American trade deal. This is how desperate and bankrupt their neoliberal philosophy is.
In the midst of this posturing I attended the anti-Brexit march last Saturday. It was heart warming to see so many people protesting against the elite.


I was stood in Marjons quad the other day watching a magpie when this came into my head.

The radiation hurtled out of the sun,
flew fast across space, but still took
seven whole minutes
to touch the atmosphere,
bounce off the magpie in the quad
and into the centre of my eye.

I was stood stock still,
thinking of the flood of light
that rains down on us every day.
Meanwhile the magpie,
having made her point, flew away.


Sometimes physics is just cosmic. I was stood there just thinking of the great spaces between the planets - let alone the stars. God is all around us, beauty is everywhere.
Here's a revision. The previous version was newly minted and I when I looked at it again I saw how it could be improved.

I dreamt you last night
placed us both in fragments
of time and songs
then woke in the darkness
and strove to recall
the poem I was writing
sat on the hillside
in the rain
not getting wet

On Wednesday I saw Boo Hewerdine in Ashburton. He was excellent as always.
Boo has a new album out and it's well worth a listen.
Here he is singing Muddy Water.

Until next time.

Friday, 18 October 2019

A MARKER FOR OUR FUTURE

Sadly this week we are not the only country washing our dirty political linen in the street. As I write there is a general strike in Catalunya. This is a result of the harsh prison sentences handed out to the legally elected government of Catalunya by the arrogant, heavy handed central government in Madrid, who in their wsidom decided that the Catalan government deserved prison sentences of up to thirteen years. My thoughts are with the striking Catalans.
Honestly I do not support Catalunyan independence. I am living amid the chaos of our own ruling party's cack handed attempt to keep itself together, that has caused us to become the joke of Europe. I am in no doubt that Catalunya faces similar chaos but locking people up is not an effective strategy. Nor is loosing the thugs of the Guardia Civil on peacefully demonstrating citizens. 
I was prompted to write this poem after seeing the people being beaten by the police in Barcelona on Tuesday and Thursday. As Isaac Asimov once said: violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.

they’ve just gone and dug up Franco
released his miserable spirit
from that cold mausoleum
so now his ghost strides the land

you could tell that yesterday
as the guardia [un]civil
wrapped their batons
around Catalan heads
and the prisoners won’t be let out
not until 2032


I know it's not very good, but it is from the heart. The voice of the people is ignored, while a small groups of opportunists play Three card Monte with democracy. 
Here is a poem whose first line comes from a podcast on dinosaurs. I thought it had potential...

We are drawn to this lump of rock
by its particular shape that speaks to us all.
Once it was a human heart.
We see many such stones these days,
they fall from chest cavities
to litter the corridors of power.
They are a marker for our future,
a sure sign of the coming extinction.


I think the line corridors of power is a little hackneyed. It's a work in progress.
Here are Electrica Dharma with Catalluna.

Until next time.

Friday, 11 October 2019

NOT GETTING WET


 I think I must be going through a little boom at the moment the Muse is being very generous.
This first poem happened as it says. I did wake up trying to remember the poem I'd written just in a dream.

I dreamt you last night
placed us both in fragments
from meetings and songs
and woke in the darkness
attempting to recall
the poem I had written
sat on that hillside
in the rain
not getting wet


Here's one that arrived in a rush and still needs revision. 

I know that eventually
time will catch up with me
pin me to the bloody floor
in some way I will not like
let alone have foreseen
pay me back in kind
for each night
I crept in with the milk

leave me marooned on a chair
my tongue stuck on repeat


Again it is what it is. There are no hidden layers of meaning.
Sometimes that's ok. 
Oh, creeping in with the milk is something my father used to say when I came home in the small hours. You need to be old enough to remember when milk men delivered milk in bottles very early in the morning. 


Here's me being very vain. Kathryn Williams was amazing. She's on tour at the moment and if you get the chance go and see her. Last Friday was so good. I'm off to see her again on Sunday in Exeter


Until next time.

Friday, 4 October 2019

AN INFINITY OF DIFFERENT VERSIONS


I am going to see Kathryn Williams this evening in Bristol and frankly I can't wait. Given the state of the country at the moment any respite from the posturing of the privileged Jackanapes masquerading as the crime minister is welcome. Whatever happened to honourable politicians?
Two poems this post with a religious slant. The first is a true story. I was walking to Stanza Extravaganza at the Artisan Gallery here in Torquay the other evening when I was stopped by two missionaries. I suspect they were new to the game as it was raining heavily at the time and there was little chance people would wish to discuss theology in such conditions. 

When the rain arrived in heavy soaking curtains
he was stopped by a pair of bright young faces
who burned with the missionary's certainty.
Solemnly they enquired if he believed in God,
if he had received the grace of religion.

He thanked them and said he had.
As a pantheist he could see God’s beauty everywhere
even in the raindrops funnelling around them in the night.
Then they asked about Jesus Christ
and were told he needed no middleman.



This second poem has no clear cause and effect.

all that cynicism slowly chipped away
and him older scarred and weary

the infinity of different versions
meant that one would be a good fit

it was inevitable his disbelief
would transmute into faith

but behind his back
they smiled as he surrendered


The poem arrived pretty much as it is. All I had to do was swap some of the stanzas about and clean up the lines.


I have Rob Chapman to thank for this week's music. His excellent account of psychedelic music Psychedelia and Other Colours introduced me to the Geranium Pond. Only in the 60s!

Until next time.

Friday, 27 September 2019

ON THE NIGHT OF THE FIRE

The shameless crime minister after being told his proroguing of Parliament was unlawful now claims that he is with the people against the elite. I have to question exactly what he means by "the people." Would these be the people who went to Eton? Or those lucky enough to study at Oxford? I am incredulous that the product of such privilege can have the audacity to claim he is not of the elite. If he had any honour he would resign. That is the real will of the people.
Like our present political difficulties here is a poem with no ending. I have been working on this for some time. I like the idea of a dream within a dream and have tried to incorporate it into this poem.


On the night of the fire
he had dreamed himself in France,
the endless beach plucked
from some forgotten summer holiday,
his dream child self stood in disbelief
saying: I do not want to grow into you.
It’s too late, he replied, you already have.
Smoke began to smear the cloudless sky,
as the alarm jostled him back into their bed
then out of it again.

Holding his wife’s hand they ran downstairs
and out of the front door.
Flames rose in the darkness,
they would lose all they had worked for.

Later stood by the fire tender,
clutching a red blanket about her,
his wife took on his teenage face
and looked at him with disgust.

He was thankful the fire alarm
jerked him back to the hotel
into the disgruntled shuffle of guests,
across the wet car park to assembly point B
as the board was reset, apologies and thanks given.
He shrugged it all off.



I have been toying with the idea that the protagonist is a morally bankrupt politician but I cannot quite get the ending. I suspect this is because I want to tell rather than show.



In direct contrast to the self serving, venal political elite determined to profit from the nation's distress here is Ryley Walker. Stunning.


Until Next time.

Friday, 20 September 2019

BETWEEN THUNDER AND THE ECHO

I have just discovered this is my 500th post.  I don't normally take note of such numbers but 500 seems like an achievement. I looked to get an estimate of how many poems there are on this blog. Given that there are a number of revised poems, reviews and interviews I would suspect there are at least over three hundred poems.
That really is amazing. I'll leave it up to you to decide if any of them are any good.
Here's to the next 500!
Now  the poem that gives the post its title.


in this still air not a tree shivers
we walk empty streets of paused lighten
and when the rain does come
we are caught in the open
between the thunder and the echo
our clothes far too thin for the wind
which saws through the skin
to pare each bone



This is not a finished poem. I feel it needs to go somewhere but at the moment I am not sure exactly where. It has description but I am not sure it has a tongue to tell its truth. 
Watch this space.
Now a second poem I wrote a couple of weeks ago in Teignmouth.


Teignmouth Poem Number 1

when glimpsed through these trees
the pier could be a bridge
connecting the drab and the mundane with
anywhere you care to dream of

some place of lives lived by other rules
where people tell their truths
and do not meet just to say goodbye



Again I feel this poem needs time to breathe. Sometimes the poem arrives whole and other times, like now, I have to leave them to acclimatise. 
Here's a track from Kathryn Williams' Anthology. It is proving a balm given the political turmoil our crime minister and his jolly gaggle of privileged poltroons are causing. 
Kathryn is touring the UK at the moment. If you get the chance go and see her, she's wonderful live.
Until next time.

Sunday, 15 September 2019

SOMETHING TO DREAM ON


I'm just back from a couple of days in Barcelona. Nothing has changed here. The crime minister still plays the scoundrel's populist card. Words fail me.
Here are a couple of small poems I wrote while I was away.
I simply wrote what I saw.

Barcelona

morning

four sharp taps on the pressure vessel
his second or third percussive announcement
pulls me from my sleep
no need to ask if it’s the gasman
plying for trade in the street below

afternoon

this square is built over a car park
which precisely occupies half the area
people huddle in the remainder
to talk eat drink love
by a water fountain
tainted by petrochemical fumes



And here is a small poem I wrote the other week when in Teignmouth.

teignmouth poem number two

he enters with bubble wrap
a poster framed
for the fireplace alcove
something to dream on
when he is back in the real world


Again I saw a man with a bubble wrapped painting walk past me into a cafe, I was sat at a table outside. The poems are there but we have to look.
Here's a collaboration between Johnossi and Anna Ternheim.

Until next time.

Friday, 6 September 2019

BUT FOR THE WAY THE LIGHT FALLS

copyright David Hockney

The country continues to be torn apart by a gang of public school educated elitists, who are hell bent on riding rough shod over all democratic process in the name of the people's will. We all know how these things usually play out...
I am not sure where it sprang from but the other day I suddenly had an image of David Hockney's Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy. A superb painting and one of my all time favourites. 
I could see the painting in my mind's eye and had the sudden rush of awareness that this is what Ossie Clark will be best remembered for. I wrote this over several drafts.

Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy

this is how you will be best remembered
not for all those dresses you designed
[already hoarded by the few]
not for your sad, slow decline
or the wife who left you
but for the way the light falls onto your face


I had a couple of opening lines:

if we can stagger through this
survive the great extinction
and that is far from certain

I like them as an opening but think they probably belong on another poem. One about how our politicians are incapable of responding to the Climate Crisis.
One of the skills every poet needs to develop is having the confidence to pare the poem down to its bare essentials.



Here's a very different poem that I've been working on this week.

A 10% Chance of Rain

one in ten
good odds I think
so walk out
coatless
hatless
with an umbrella
and at the furthest point from home

precipitation

there is worse to come as I remember

the washing is on the line...

This photograph is from a bar in Oregon I visited the other year. The decor drew on 1984.  Rather fitting for this week as reality is coming to resemble " a boot stamping on a human face-forever."
On a lighter note Anna Terheim has a new song out. 

There are still tickets for her London show in November.
Until next time.

Friday, 30 August 2019

THE SILENCE OF THE GREAT EXTINCTION


I woke up on Thursday morning feeling that I was living in the final chapter of Christopher Isherwood's Goodbye To Berlin
The bad people have won. The callous, mean spirited, utterly ruthless, neoliberal, careerist politicians have acted with characteristic disregard for democracy. Words fail me.
I can only see the situation becoming ever worse. We can prepare to wave goodbye to the National Health Service, the few remaining employment rights we have and get ready for the end.
None of these politicians have the gravitas [or the intelligence] to save humanity from catastrophe. Be that from the environmental breakdown, species extinction or the ever increasing greed of the few.
Here is a revised poem.

the silence of the great extinction
settled on the shoulders of the survivors
as if for the first time
they could see all that had been lost

and so set to refashion their world
shipping in from beyond the stars
mechanical birds to jewel their skies

and fill a space long vacated
by sinew and bone
feather and wing

having captured the thermal
see how their propellers idle
as they spiral ever higher
to spectrograph heaven with their metal tongues 

You can read the original here.
I have altered the layout [thanks to the Secret Poets for their input] and tried to make the final stanza flow more smoothly.
At this moment, if I am honest, I don't see our species surviving. We seem hell bent on making the situation ever worse. Hope packed its bags and left some time ago.
I leave you with John Coltrane.
 

Friday, 23 August 2019

WATCH THE TOWN CONTRACT

I spend a very enjoyable afternoon this week picnicking with the Secret Poets on Babacombe Downs. It is always a joy to meet up and the conversation and constructive feedback is superb. Thank you.
Here's a revised poem. You can read the earlier draft here.
There have been a number of changes, though I am not sure the poem is finished.

on first hearing that the 256 bus route has been discontinued

1. so called progress

trumpeted efficiencies
planned changes
equals
more people fewer buses

the 256 has run its course
now joins the other phantom routes
those ghost transport numbers
that fade when the last driver dies
and the final passenger forgets

2.
autumn comes to Wolverhampton
the chill of looming winter

at the concrete finger bus stop
Rachel waits most week days
for thirty years or more stoic

buses are as regular
as politicians promises

there is no poetry on the number sixteen
just smudged windows
through which to watch
the town contract


A couple of lines have been changed around to aid the poem to read more fluently. Reading your work aloud is essential. You need to hear the sounds of the poem. Poetry was after all an oral art form.
For me the poem captures the times. Our high streets contract and coarsen. We are a collection of individuals not a community.


I received my copy of the Kathryn Williams Anthology yesterday and what a treasure trove of delights it is.
At 20 cds I'm still working my way through the beautiful music it contains.

Until next time.