Friday, 21 February 2020

A SOBER SUIT BUT NO TIE

Poems should be unique works of art and expresses the ineffable in a manner that speaks to every human. No mean feat, a tall order for anyone to contemplate. But we do more than mere contemplation. I have no idea how many poems are produced each day, each hour, or every minute around the globe. I suspect that more poetry is produced than there are people to read it.
Here's another one to add to that morass.

the butcher

Today he wears his salesman face,
a sober suit but no tie,
relaxed, casual, all smiles.
Each word is emphasised
Help us to help you.
A reasonable transaction
We can all benefit from this.

Then my shirt pocket vibrates,
it's the redundant past calling.
Normally I welcome the overlays,
reality shifted a few degrees.
Then I look up catch his other face,
the razor's edge, the copper taste
and each word rings hollow.



This poem follows on from an earlier one. It is set one year later. The killing is over, for now, it is negotiation time, and no one wants to hear ghosts.


Here's Ryley Walker looking very well.

Until next time.

Friday, 14 February 2020

THREE STORIES HIGH


Still at a loss to work out what went wrong with the last post. 
Here's the poem.

FORGOTTEN SCAFFOLDING

Three stories high.
You would get a good view from the top,
up two aluminium ladders, that bend in the middle.

This outline in poles and boards
has decorated the house across the way
for nine weeks or more.

I notice it this morning.
see it fresh, as if with new eyes.
It stands like a sketch 
of someone's late night, great idea
that having been slept on
is never spoken of again.


Strangely enough work has commenced today on the roof. 
Perhaps the act of writing has prompted action. The power of words.
Here's Art Pepper. The video may be poor quality but the music isn't.

Until next time.



Wednesday, 12 February 2020

A GOOD VIEW FROM THE TOP


A poem that [hopefully] shows as it tells.

Forgotten Scaffolding

Three stories high.
You would get a good view from the top,
up two thin aluminium ladders, that bend.
This outline in poles and boards
has decorated the house across the way
for nine weeks or more.

I notice it this morning,
see it fresh, as if with new eyes,
it stands like the sketch
of someone’s late night, great idea,
that having been slept on
is never spoken of again.






















I have no idea what this is.




















Forgotten Scaffolding

Three stories high.
You would get a good view from the top,
up two thin aluminium ladders, that bend.
This outline in poles and boards
has decorated the house across the way
for nine weeks or more.

I notice it this morning,
see it fresh, as if with new eyes,
it stands like the sketch
of someone’s late night, great idea,
that having been slept on
is never spoken of again.
















I am half tempted to leave this post as it is.































Let us hope normal service is resumed soon...

Friday, 7 February 2020

HIT MAN

Another revised poem. Thanks again to The Secret Poets for their invaluable assistance. You can read the last version here.


Hit Man

He sleeps inside your memory until
someone mentions labyrinth or Minotaur
and asks what was the name of that bloke
The one with the thread and sword?
We tend to forget how keen was the edge,
his primary problem solving strategy.

I wonder if he’d not been better off staying in that cave,
missed out on the mixed reviews
that followed from him ditching the woman
who’d given him the string and sword.
Pimped her out to Apollo
and high tailed it back to Athens,
those black sails prompting his father’s suicide
and his son’s swift ascension to the top.

Yes, he’d rather we forgot the messy details
and just remember him for that first hit.



When I showed the poem to the Secrets there was some confusion over what a wet job was [Mafia jargon for a murder]. As I always want a poem to be accessible all the abstruse slang had to go. 




Here's Horslips. They were a great live band though I only saw them once.

And here they are from 1976.
Until next time.

Friday, 31 January 2020

NOW EVEN THE BUS COMPANY HAS GONE BANKRUPT


Today is the day we seal our fate, celebrate our new insular island mentality, and revel in our own mean spirited selfishness. 
It follows on exactly seven days since the Halton Bus Company collapsed. The Halton Bus Company could trace it's history back to 1909, and now it has closed. No more buses for a town of over 61,000 people. This is to be all our futures. Truly the neo-liberal destruction of our quality of life continues apace as our world heats up around us and we need public transport more than ever.
To add insult to injury the crime minister and his elitist chums are favouring the south east over the north of England when it comes to access to extra funds for local government. 
It seems we are going back to the past, two hundred years to the oppression of the 1820s.




now that widnes buses have gone bankrupt...

cars be dammed
he walks the centre of the road
past long closed shops
past their blank windows

he does not engage – ever
know this
if you cannot refuse The Weekly News
then look no further than page four
avoid the copyright free filler

Old Widnes, Memory Corner
whatever loser name they choose
just highlights the distance
the town has fallen
and by default its citizens
abandoned as they were on the starting blocks
of this new brave future

when he was a child
the main street ran from Peelhouse Lane
all the way to the river

he walks not fast not slow
just the perfect speed
for a forgotten post industrial town
that is marooned amid technology
that was old last century


On a lighter note, I shall be reading at 2000 Trees Festival this summer. I am putting together the poetry for this splendid festival and am already looking forward to it.
Here's Deaf Havanna, a band I have seen many times at Trees.


Until next time.

Friday, 24 January 2020

AN AFTER THOUGHT ADDED


Thanks yet again to the Secret Poets for helping me sort this poem into some sort of order. 
You can read the first version here

Star Smashers of the Universe

She was a character fleeing her book. An afterthought added when the author had read a survey of successful fiction.

But the device he had lazily sketched to aid his hero and newly female sidekick,
out of the corner he’d written them into on page 61, had far more potential than he could ever comprehend...

He had saddled her with a scientific frame of mind because the survey maintained all female protagonists should have hard science backgrounds and buck the patriarchal norm.

By page 83 she had perfected the device, figured out how to make her exit.

The first and only edition of Star Smashers of the Universe was almost pulped when the publishers discovered a migraine inducing pattern of letters on page 84, on reflection they decided the reader would think it cutting edge, the hero having been drugged with a powerful alien hallucinogenic in the previous paragraph. And so the books were shipped across the country to an underwhelmed reading public.

Free of the author’s limited imagination, she set the controls for Cassiopeia, the hero, on the other hand, spent the rest of the story talking to himself, not that anyone commented on it.

I only saw her once, in a graphic I was flicking through, a full page frame of a drinking den on a space habitat, all 70s big NASA engineering, she walked from one side of the bar to
the other, winked at me and was lost among the merry makers.


There are many changes. The overall poem is tighter and I feel reads much better than it did.
The poem shall now go away for a few months before I look at it again. Hopefully then I shall see the flaws more clearly.
There is a danger of overworking a poem. It is always best to let it be for a month or two.


Here's Susane Sundfør covering The Kiss. 

Until next time.

Friday, 17 January 2020

STAR SMASHERS of the UNIVERSE

A  great title for this post.
Very unpoetry.
Very genre.
Very pulp.

I talk a lot about how poems write themselves. I was thinking that the idea of a poem writing itself must sound impenetrable or like none sense to anyone who has not experienced the words falling into place effortlessly. It doesn't happen often but recently I have been having a run of such events.

This post's poem lived as the opening line buzzing around my head for about a week before I felt that I could write it down. In that time I think my subconscious had done the hard work of knitting various ideas and locations into a poem.

I am not claiming, and I hope I never have, that no revision is required, because that would not be true. 99.9% of my work has required revision and deliberation. That's what the job is about. Revision and reflection.


Star Smashers of the Universe

She was a character fleeing her book, maintained she was an afterthought added when the author had read a survey of successful fiction and realised he needed a strong female sidekick to cover all possible demographics.

He had saddled her with a scientific frame of mind because the survey maintained all female protagonists should have hard science backgrounds and buck the patriarchal norm to make them more appealing.

The machine he had lazily sketched to get his hero and newly female sidekick out of the corner he’d painted them into on page 61 had far more potential than he could ever comprehend...

But by page 83 she had perfected the device and figured out how to make her exit.

The first and only edition of Star Smashers of the Universe was almost pulped when the publishers discovered a migraine inducing pattern of letters on page 84.

On reflection they decided the reader would think it cutting edge, the hero having been drugged with a powerful alien hallucinogenic in the previous paragraph

and so the books were shipped across the country to an underwhelmed reading public.

Free of the author’s limited imagination, she set the controls for infinity

the hero, on the other hand, spent the rest of the story talking to himself, not that it mattered.

I met her out near Cassiopeia in a graphic I was flicking through, a full page frame of a drinking den on a space habitat, all 70s big NASA engineering,

She walked from one side of the bar to the other, winked at me and was lost among the merry makers.

I like the idea of the character taking control and leaving a bad novel and wandering through different books.

I'm not sure the poem is complete. Watch this space for rewrites.




I think its got to be The Byrds. here's Mr Spaceman live [with Gene Clarke back in the band].


I had to include this version of 8 Miles High from 1970-superb.

Until next time.

Sunday, 12 January 2020

CHRISSY BANKS THE INTERVIEW


I am pleased to bring to you an interview with one of the best poets in the south west. Regular readers of this blog will know Chrissy Banks. I have reviewed her latest collection and I interviewed her eight years ago. Since then she has published a superb collection, The Uninvited, read all over the south west and been published in too many anthologies and magazines to list.

Tell us about the new book
The Uninvited is the first collection I’ve published since Days of Fire and Flood in 2005. The title refers to the way life offers unexpected, uncalled for events, welcome or unwelcome, that change us when we are forced to engage with them. Love and loss are part of this process, but also poems dealing with a sense of bewilderment, fear, conflict or spiritual drought that has to be faced. It might not sound like it, but there is a fair amount of humour along the way, and ultimately I think, finding acceptance to what is irreversible is key.

The book is published by Indigo Dreams, who are a great independent press in Devon with a really impressive line-up of poets and the best front covers anywhere, largely designed by Ronnie Goodyer, who runs the press with Dawn Bauling. They are true professionals and very supportive.

Why Poetry?
Pablo Neruda said this lovely thing in his poem, ‘Poetry’ about starting to write poetry. Poetry found him, he says - ‘there I was without a face/and it touched me’ and ‘something started in my soul/ fever or forgotten wings’. The whole poem is such a marvellous expression of the way poetry becomes not just something you have to do but something with which you have a vital relationship.


Also I think poetry is the best form of literature for reaching whatever waits just out of consciousness both personally for each poet and in a broader way – the zeitgeisty stuff. Look at how just in the last year or more poems about sexuality, mental health and male violence to women have been pushing out into poetry magazines and readings in significant numbers. Fiona Benson’s Vertigo and Ghost, which speaks so eloquently and forcefully on these themes, has just won the Forward Prize for Best Collection, arguably the top award for poetry in the UK. 


How has the poetry business/scene changed over your life?
It’s changed enormously. The web has seen to that. Since I first started writing, there has been a growing proliferation of poetry magazines and online journals, of small presses, of competitions and poetry awards, of Creative Writing programmes and online poetry courses. Poetry now is much more inclusive and international, no longer is the white, male academic automatically favoured. Perhaps what’s changed most of all is the growth and popularity of spoken word poems and their exposure on social media and via the many spoken word events that have sprung up nationwide.

I’m not sure what it’s like in other parts of the country, but here in the south west the open mic rules. It’s great to hear such a variety of voices and to know everyone can have an audience for their poems. But I have a certain nostalgia for the days when a poetry reading consisted of one or two poets, usually published and often well known, reading for maybe two sets of twenty or thirty minutes each. It wasn’t always an evening well spent, but there was an incentive then to put your own writing aside and just listen to someone else, become absorbed in another person’s concerns, their images and rhythms for a sustained period of time.

How far does real life creep into your work?
What is ‘real life’ I wonder!
Seriously, there is so much of real life that happens elsewhere, so much I’m inevitably cut off from, it’s another reason to be grateful for poetry. Ilya Kaminsky’s narrative of living in an occupied country in Deaf Republic and Jay Bernard’s Surge, an exploration of the 1981 New Cross fire in south London that killed 13 young black people are just two collections focused on experience very different from my own. It’s a privilege to be taken into other worlds like this and it asks something of me. In order to bring them alive inside myself, I have to be open enough to let the words and images work on me, I have to meet them with my own humanity.

I’m talking about the real life in others’ poems, but I guess you’re really asking do I use my own life events and relationships directly in my poems? To which there is no unambiguous answer. I sometimes warn people not to assume, even when I have written a poem in the first person, that it is necessarily about me. I have a poem in The Uninvited called A Serious Word. It’s a sort of We May Need to Talk About Kevin poem, but in this case the son is called Tron. This is a first person monologue, but it’s all pure fantasy, honest! All my poems are somewhere on the spectrum between pure fantasy and trying to describe a lived experience as accurately as possible. An example of the latter might be The Touch or After Captain Underpants, the Big Question, both of which are very faithful to my lived experience from the past.

Of course, I always want the reader to think that what I’m expressing is real life. I am disappointed if I write something that doesn’t seem ‘true’, whether it is or not. I have a whole series of poems about individual people. Again, some are people I have known, others completely fictional or with disguises or fictional elements thrown in. Some I needed to write for myself, but they will never be published for privacy’s sake, mine or the other person’s.


My last thoughts are about how very very difficult I find it to write about some of the big stuff that really matters to me. I’m thinking about the political state of the UK, the damage caused by years of austerity and the impact of Brexit. Climate emergency too – where do you begin? Then there is so much still that needs feminism to keep speaking loud and clear. I guess this takes us back to ‘real life creeping in’. What else is there? But sometimes the big stuff needs to be approached via the seemingly smaller stuff. The personal truly is political.  

Friday, 10 January 2020

THERE'S NO GOING HOME


A poem that was inspired by a song this post. The song is Exile written by Steve Knightly and originally recorded by Show of Hands back in 1987. I was given a pre-recorded cassette of the first Show of Hands album as a birthday present around then and I was always struck by the quality of the song Exile.
Last week my brother in law was round and we ended up listening to the Kathryn Roberts and Kate Rusby album which ends with a cover of the song.


After everyone else had gone to bed I wrote this:

There’s No Going Home

so in the end
you make do with what you’ve got
where you’ve ended up

for the sun still shines
on a clear night the moon follows

and eventually you can sleep the night through
then wake to face each day with thanks


It is a simple poem and, hopefully, follows on from the lyrics of the song. It offers, I hope, an older, more accepting take on the idea that you can never go home.
I leave you with an excellent live recording from Show of Hands.


Until next time.

Friday, 3 January 2020

FEAST ON THE LEFT OVERS



A recent poem I have been working on this week. Essentially it is a description of something I observed and the poem wrote itself.

Next to the surgery
which used to be someone’s home,
the bank [built in ‘31] missed out
on its century of service by fourteen years,
a digital casualty.
Note the sale boards have been removed
and the new signs proclaim wealth management.
But whose? I wonder this Sunday
after a Christmas Wednesday,
as I walk past the locked off parking spaces
where on public days like this one
the community used to park.

Their bin overflows and the gulls
have had their own wing-ding,
bursting the black plastic sacks.
Now the remains of their office party
clutters the pavement.
A young greyling gull sidles up,
optimistic, to glean whatever is left.
I want to tell it not to bother,
that the wealthy don’t leave rich pickings,
but the bird is too young to know
that no meal is ever free,
then I realise this is all our futures.

Pretty bleak eh? 
The world is changing, communities are under pressure, the ease of the digital is transforming our high streets. We live on line and the fabric of our shared spaces suffers. 
As I say the poem wrote itself and all I worried over was the conclusion. Show not tell to the forefront. 


Here's Barclay James Harvest, a band I saw a number of times in the mid-70s. This is Gladriel apparently on this, the original recording, John Lees plays the Epiphone Casio guitar that John Lennon played on the concert on the roof - The Beatles final live performance.
Anyway it's a lovely song in its own right.


Here is Titles, I'll let you work out who it is a homage to.

Until next time.