Friday, 24 September 2021

POWERED BY A SINGLE IDEA

 



I don't know why I read old science fiction, most of the novels do not stand the passage of time. Perhaps I am drawn to the idea that the future envisaged by the author is our past. For example, I recently read one set in 1989, twenty years on from when it had been written. It read like a shopping list of the hopes of 1959. This poem reviews a different book, and discretion prevents me from naming the author. 

Book Review


the novel he wrote that summer [1967]

was powered by a single idea

fleshed out with scenes from his life [again]

as usual the future resembled yesterday


and women were confined to walk on parts

cut out characters of no importance

the casual sexism he took for granted

was the most alien aspect of the tale


but the publisher astutely realised

putting Science Fiction Classic

on the reprint’s cover was all that was needed

to sucker fools like me

I had dithered about buying it, having read other books by the author, I should have listened to myself.

Here's Cafe Tacvba in a Tiny Desk Concert.

Until next time.

Friday, 17 September 2021

GREENER GRASS

 



Thanks go once again to the Secret Poets for their assistance in revising these poems. 

The first [you can read the last version here] required a complete restructuring.

Greener Grass


some do not understand the beneficence of drink

how it grants distance smooths life’s wrinkles


he spends his evenings on park benches

slowly observing the clouds change shape


a tin of the cheapest Pilsner warm in his hand

bewitched by his escape plan


there is better than here

this land being cursed


but over the hill lies real promise

everything will be so different 


I think it reads better now, though I was loath to lose the references to Calypso, but clarity is essential.

This second poem only required the removal of the last line. You can read the original here.

the secrets of the sun

hide in plain sight

but you need asbestos eyes

to clock the beauty

of hydrogen become helium


some have tried

Milton for example went blind

hunting solar flares at noon

through a borrowed telescope


so a word to the wise

accept what you are given

welcome the sun’s light on your skin

let it warm those ageing bones


Here's some more music by Pollyanna.

Until next time.

Friday, 10 September 2021

HYDROGEN BECOME HELIUM

 

I have mentioned Milton in a poem before, well quoted him. Apparently he went blind in later life, which I was once told, was because he looked at the sun through Galileo's telescope. I'm not sure of the validity of this information but used it in this poem.

the secrets of the sun

hide in plain sight

but you need asbestos eyes

to clock the beauty

of hydrogen become helium


some have tried

Milton for example went blind

hunting solar flares at noon

through a borrowed telescope


so a word to the wise

accept what you are given

welcome the sun’s light on your skin

let it warm those ageing bones

that’s as much as anyone has to do


 I got the first line on Saturday and the poem wrote itself over the weekend. I have been revising it up until yesterday. I think it's about there.

I am going to be running a poetry workshop in the near future, if you are interested in stretching your poetic chops let me know. 

Here's Joy Crookes, she's got an album coming out soon and is touring in the autumn.
Until next time.

Wednesday, 8 September 2021

POLLYANNA: THE INTERVIEW

 

Regular reader of this blog will have been grooving to the music of Pollyanna recently. I met her via Instagram earlier this year and I have been enjoying her music [and her lyrics] since. I can heartily recommend the LP Polly and the Feathers - it's fantastic. But enough from me, let's hear from the star herself!

Music, poetry or film? Which speaks the most to you?

Obviously, I'd say music, but as my favourite genre is songs, I guess it's a little bit of poetry and literature too.

Why music?

Songs are both verbal and non-verbal. This is what I like about music: it addresses another part of the brain, more emotional (or more mathematical?) even when you can't put these emotions in words. What I like with songs is that it is also words, but words are not primary in it. First you get the sound, then the melodies/harmonies and then the words. It's a bit less intellectual, it doesn't need to be sophisticated, it's more humble than “hard poetry”, I'd say.

What do you want to evoke in the reader/listener?


I want my songs to get into people's mind and heart, and see if we can resonate together. I'm looking for some sort of verbal and non-verbal communication. I believe songs can heal, and can make people feel loved. I also have in mind the courses I had about Virginia Woolf in college. We were studying The Waves and streams of consciousness, and how literature and poetry were also an attempt to find some unity in the world that is, otherwise, a collection of sometimes contradictory perceptions. I believe songs can provide that feeling of unity. Especially when you play an instrument: body and soul are then working together, which is probably something I need. Maybe even for my mental health.


    What's the typical career path of a singer-songwriter?

    There may be early or later success or no success at all. But I think it is important to keep this idea of success at bay: if you have some, you need to remain independent from it, and if you don't, you shouldn't be bitter. As far as I'm concerned, I'm between waters, I don't really have success but I have enough to make a living out of it, which is already a great form of success when you think of it. It is not really due to the quality of my songs (though I hope it's not bad), but rather to my social skills, my stubbornness and my lack of distaste for paperwork. I think these things are all connected, though: it all comes from the fact that I really want to share what I create - but at the same time I don't want to impose. I'm also always surprised to find people who really like what I do – so, it's a delicate balance. My path is all about that: being intermediate, finding a way to exist, share my songs, if not with a lot of people, at least enough of them to get the real game.

    How has the poetry business/scene changed over your life time?

    They say everything has changed about the music industry: MP3, the rise of socials, streaming, plus several economical crises, touring... But in fact, I'm not sure things have changed so much for musicians. Producers complain a lot but for us, it is still more or less the same long struggle: build an audience, don't let yourself be screwed by crooks or mythomaniacs or your own illusions about your own appeal. The difference, maybe, is that now you can handle a lot at a very small scale: recording (at home or with cheap studios), touring (my acoustic amp has literally saved my life as I can perform ANYWHERE with it with a very nice sound, even if binds me to a solo line up), and promoting (with socials). So, today, you'd better also be producer-minded, not only an “artist”. But, when you think of it, back in the day, you could also not build a lasting career without some sort of entrepreneurial mindset. It is sad, but maybe not that much. Maybe it's especially strong in the French culture, but I personally am very tired of the image of the “pure” artist who should not be pragmatic. I think it's a producer and media's scam, to justify the exploitation of people's talent and also a toxic myth for the audience (who is led to think talent is some kind of magic only professionals can reveal). It's a closed workshop, a money competition. In France, you sometimes feel less talented if you dare to care for your business, business being the opposite of art. It creates herds of lazy so-called talented people who make a point to be irresponsible and unpleasant. I think THIS system is going through a huge crisis. I'm not sure producers can still finance that model. So the future might be DIY.


    What makes you angry?

    Stupidity, and the taste of many for fake things: fake talent, fake quality food, fake love, fake news...

    Given the state of society at this point in time what is the role of the poet?

    I think now religion is declining (well, not everywhere, but you get my point), art and culture are crucial. With the economical, ecological and sanitary crises we are going through, art provides a service, an experience that can and should be outside the ever-growing “capitalist” logic. The system is unsustainable and we know it. It doesn't make us happy as we have never enough.

    I'm convinced my so-called low-key shows are a proper answer to this “ever more” addiction. It's cheap, if not free, it's low-carbon, and yet it's a luxury – I mean, not my shows specifically, but live music in general. It's an easy way to live something special with your friends or meet new people, or look at life from another angle. And value yourself.

    I met a few people who had, for instance, deep depression issues and told me music (even mine sometimes) helped them take less drugs! So, why take more and more expensive chemicals where music can help with no unwanted effects? Smaller, friendly shows can reconnect people between and to themselves, which is probably an issue in post-Covid, polarized society. “Religion” means “binding” in Latin (it's a tongue-in-cheek piece of knowledge, I know). It binds humans together, and each one to God. Well, you can change the word God if you don't like it but, then, music is a religion: it gathers and binds people and also connects them to some sort of transcendence. Like sport, food...

    That works with all kinds of art, but music is a potentially popular and accessible form, that can transcend cultural and social barriers (well, I'm aware it does not do this easily, but it's still more universal than theatre for instance). That makes it strong.

    If you were not a poet what would you be?

    A cook, of a wine-maker. That is going to sound really French but I mean it: I find the same kind of sensual + intellectual unity in food and wine. And we probably have more talent in these fields in France that in singing and songwriting. In my country, people are more artsy about bread than about music.

    (And yet, we still have a lot of bad bread)

    Thank you Pollyanna. 

    You can check out Pollyanna's music here and her bandcamp page here.

    I leave you with Pollyanna's music.

    Until next time.

    Friday, 3 September 2021

    NIGHT WAS FALLING

     

    I've been struggling this week to write anything that works. Once in a while I have times like this. I think I need to take things in, to experience, before I can assimilate my impressions and turn them into poetry. I think the pandemic is getting me down. 

    This is a little piece I am prepared to show.

    once the coast was clear

    all the humans gone

    the gulls moved in to

    scavenge

    salvage

    savage what remained


    night was falling

    change was in the air

    they had been here before

    all might perish yet


    I wanted to capture the apocalyptic situation we find ourselves in. Birds survived the last mass extinction, who knows what will survive this one.

    This second snippet is advice from a character actor, at least that was how I framed the words.

    be present but not central

    avoid the spotlight

    for that lime lighted circle

    must fall dark

    then where will you be

    Somber stuff huh?

    Not everything is so bleak. I've been painting the back bedroom and listening to The Beach Boys. This is superb, such harmonies.

    Until next time.

    Friday, 27 August 2021

    THE DAY LAY IN AMBUSH

     


    I've been working on this idea for a while. The difficulty was how to lay it out and I settled on a prose poem.

    in those days he was expected to wear a suit and tie   over time the act of knotting his tie became a measure   for the thickness   the weave   the stiffness of the silk presented unique challenges   if it knotted easily then it would be plain sailing   if repeated attempts were required to achieve the desired effect then the day lay in ambush

    but that was then

    that job does not exist any more and he only needs one tie   black   like his suit for funerals

    I used to think that difficulty in getting the correct shaped knot on my tie indicated my stress level but I like the idea of it being an omen. 

    Here's some old music from the 60s. Painting Box by the Incredible String Band.


    Until next time.

    Friday, 20 August 2021

    HIS OWN CALYPSO

     

    I have always rather admired Odysseus and his trickster  ways. A man who could not keep his mouth shut until it was absolutely necessary. If you haven't read the Odyssey then you should, if only for it's allegorical tale of a veteran returning home and the difficulties everyone faces.

    I mention this because I reference Calypso in the following poem. Calypso ensnared Odysseus on his homeward journey from Troy and kept him in thrall for many years. The poem proposes that the main character is his own Calypso in that he creates his own fantasy to enthrall himself.

    he is his own calypso

    though he misses the reference

    and hates the music

    bewitched as he is by his escape plan


    there is better than here

    where he has failed to make a go of it

    this land being cursed

    as are all the places he has left behind


    but over the hill

    up the motorway

    lies real promise

    everything will be so different 

    This next poem is also about the same fictional character.

    The Pleasures of Alfresco Alcohol


    they do not understand

    the beneficence of drink

    how it grants distance


    smooths out life’s wrinkles

    they badger him

    and he hides his habit


    evenings spent

    on park benches

    slowly observing


    the clouds change shape

    a tin of the cheapest Pilsner

    warm in his hand

    Here is some more vintage Calypso.

    Until next time.