Friday, 10 August 2018

UNIQUE COMBINATIONS

A more personal poem than usual this post.
I have been working on it for some time now and I owe thanks to the Secret Poets for their constructive feedback. 

Sunset

Running moorland streams,
the rush of water from wherever
to this precise point, now,
the moment we reach the edge,
five different lives down by the river,
watching migrant molecules conjoin.

We arrive on this planet
to arise from the plainest of carbon.
Life makes unique combinations
from the simplest of atoms,
just like your life,
whose ending we mark this night.

It is my turn,
I tip your ashes,
the water clouds
then clears.
I am not sure that the middle stanza works as clearly as I want it to. Essentially what I am trying to convey is the wonder of life, how the disparate atoms and elements transform for an all too brief time and enable our individual consciousnesses to experience this world.
But I also want to keep the whole poem low key and simple, straightforward and descriptive.
Phew! Not trying to do much then eh?
I feel this poem requires another rewrite.
I have been listening to lots of Manu Chao lately, it could be because Clandestino is next to the CD player in the kitchen or it could just be because it's a great album.
Until next time.

Friday, 3 August 2018

MORE WATER THAN IS HEALTHY

I feel I need to offer some explanation about this week's post.
James Kay-Shuttleworth founded Marjons in 1840. He was part of a political/religious movement that wanted to offer the working classes education. I am one of the many people who benefited from his vision.
Recently a friend sent me a BBC News page about Gawthorpe Hall. The following poem grew out of these events.

A Poem of Two Summers

i Then

At least, for now, the rain has stopped
the room remains cluttered with words
to describe this wet summer,
and prayers of thanks it is not as bad as 1816.
It is damp enough to keep them penned inside,
so he reads the letter once more.

Mr Kay-Shuttleworth realises he has had enough of the cage,
perceives the time has come, steps out into the garden.

The burdened leaves impart more water
than is healthy on his black broadcloth coat,
he does not care, for things come together,
such liberating circumstances as will free men
to build God’s Kingdom on this earth,
equality through education.

ii Now

Now the summer has wrung every
drop of moisture from the soil
I see the shadow of that Victorian garden.
Its ghost outline vividly demarcated
on the screen of my mobile phone,
over two hundred miles away
and nearly two hundred years later,
informed of its significance
for the hundreds of thousands, like me,
who have benefited from that vision,
I give thanks and praises that people
once cared enough to give others the opportunities
that these days we are more intent on removing.

I should also explain that the summer of 1816 was the worst on record due to a volcanic explosion. 
I know this poem is not complete and I am wondering if the end is not too much tell and not enough show.
The difference between the Victorian sense of social duty and now is tremendous. In those days it was commonly agreed that it was everyone's duty to improve the lot of the less fortunate. How times have changed.
Here's Brooke Sharkey earlier this year in Manchester.
Until next time.

Friday, 27 July 2018

HUMAN GEOLOGY

Two weekends ago I appeared at 2000 Trees with Emily McCoy and Gram Davies. This was the fifth year running we were asked to read. We are billed as Juncture 25 and nostalgia prevents us from changing our name. You may know that Juncture 25 was a group of poets that collaborated from 2011 to 2015.
Observing the festival goers at Trees has led to this poem.

the band crank it out, urgent, loud,
such a brief time to make their mark

below them hands in the air,
almost a single mass of flesh caught up in the 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 and clear away the debris

I realise that it is a percentage of, and not all people who just drop their rubbish on the floor, but how did we arrive at this state?
Is it the focus on the individual and not the group collectively that has characterised politics since the early 1980's? Have we become more selfish? Do we not think beyond ourselves to the group good? 
I think we need to change, we cannot go on like this. People deserve better.
I can see the difficulties but have no answers. 
On a lighter note.

Your twenty five year old wedding vows are renewed

then we are out of the church
and into the warm evening
alive with neon to eclipse the sun
but we don’t notice
ensnared as we are by the fairground rides
comfortable promises of adventure, speed and danger
and there you are
a bride in a dodgem car
This poem describes the evening my brother and sister-in-law renewed their vows and then went on the funfair rides. A lovely evening.
I leave you with Anna Ternheim.
Here's a full concert, excellent stuff.
Until next time.

Friday, 20 July 2018

HIGH PRIEST PROFESSOR

My computer has been playing up so no new posts for two weeks. 
Plus I was at 2000 Trees Festival last weekend previewing my new collection All Yesterday's Tomorrows. Thanks to Rob and Andy for inviting us for the fifth year in a row. Trees is a special festival. I would also like to thank Gram and Emily for joining me and reading such wondrous poetry.
The Secret Poets offered valuable feedback on this post's poem. Consequently I have rewritten the third stanza. The general feeling was that in its original form the third stanza did not catch the voice of the mummy as pithily as the preceding ones did. You can read the original draft here

The Unwrapping Party

When I lay there,
having my brain extracted through my nose,
while my guts were pulled out by the handful
and dumped into the jars at my feet,
I did not foresee that my sleep would be disturbed
by anyone less than a God.

I could even put up with the French interrupting my twilight,
but to be labelled a minor figure,
in the political structure of the Lower Kingdom,
while accurate, could have been said with more respect.

This social event makes no pretence at science,
which has come to replace religion for these people,
it is simply a sideshow.
How the good matrons of Paris gasp in awe
as their high priest professor holds aloft each wrapping
as if he was revealing universal truths.
Such enlightenment is beyond the banality of his words,
which reveal more of his time than mine.

Then I will lie under glass, naked,
having seen too much,
and in my second cycle of waiting
be ignored by the passers-by.

I have been listening to Lal and Mike Waterson recently and here is Bright Phoebus. I may have posted this before, but it's such a great song.
Until next time. 

Friday, 29 June 2018

JIGSAW DAYS

I  do not want to write much about this post's poem, discretion is the best policy.

Poem for C

Given the economies
of supermarket squash
and the cheapest of vodkas,
it had always been
how much could he drink,
in the shortest amount of time,
to keep ahead of blacking out,
to avoid the grey dawns
when monochromatic
migraine imitating aftermaths
immobilised him in a space
where he could do nothing
but relive it all over again.

I met him in the fragile truce of sobriety
that he called his jigsaw days,
as he placed his pieces
into shapes that just might work,
into patterns that had eluded him on the drink.
Some events, he confided, never end,
so you have to find different ways of getting on with it.

I've been listening to a lot of Kathrine Williams this past week so here is Cuckoo.
And this is In a Broken Dream.
Until next time.

Friday, 22 June 2018

A HOLE IN THE SKY

When I was in Australia I wrote a number of poems. I think that the stimulation of travelling spurs the creative processes, gets the chops moving so to speak.

Fremantle 2018

He warns me that I will burn
easier here than in Europe.
Points to the night sky
and confides there is a hole.
With diplomatic cowardice
I refrain from admitting partial responsibility.

I helped to make it.

Forty years ago I was employed
in the negative alchemy
of turning brine into caustic, hydrogen
and chlorine [the basis of all CFCs],
the side effect of which,
half a world away,
is this hole in the sky.
There are better legacies.

This is autobiographical, you can read another poem about those days here.
The second poem relates again to Australia.

straight out of a horror film

the bird hit the window

it is dead

by the time I get there

eyes blank

cooling

as I bury it

the sound of flesh impacting on glass will not leave my head 

Love Forever Changes seems to have a near permanent place on my turntable at the moment, I can't seem to get enough of it. 
Here is The Red Telephone.
And some more Maria Gadu.

Until next time.

Friday, 15 June 2018

GHOST CHOREOGRAPGY

The two poems in this post appeared unheralded giving no indication as to how they were formed. This happens occasionally. Most of the time I have a good idea where the components of a poem have arrived from, though I am loath to dissemble them in public. 

ghosts come uninvited to activate the machinery
that projects forgotten memories

and he swims through the resultant images
to re-taste a thousand defeats

on awakening from a night of bitter lost chances
he wonders if he is not his ghost’s lab rat

but the day clamours for his attention
ghost choreography directing his every step
The second one seems to repeat the first but more optimistically.

No matter

We run in circles,
though at the zenith point we believe we have escaped,
our feet only know a set number of steps so eventually we return.
Possibly we give thanks like mariners sighting landfall.
Probably we do not, viewing the familiar through
a black and white lens that sepias our soul.

But for now all that is in the future,
the mist will burn off, the day promises sun
and the road to who knows where reels him in.
I quite like the idea that the lure of the road draws us on. 
There is a fatality to these poems that surprises me. I am usually more positive.
Brooke Sharkey is in the studio recording a new album-very excited. Watch this space for more news.
On spec I downloaded an album by Maria Gadu this week, I'd listened to a couple of snippets and thought it was worth a gamble and it was. It is really good music from Brazilian. Surprisingly she covers Jacques Brel's Ne Me Quitte Pas, which featured in a tv show.
Here she is singing Bela Flor.
This is Veja Bem.
Until next time.