Friday, 30 September 2022

THE LAST WITNESS

I occasionally wake with the makings of a poem in my head. I think I have said this before. I always get up and write down the ideas, it is important never to ignore the Muse, for they may not call again if you do. 

This poem arrived recently.

you’ve been in my dreams again

I can’t blame the times or the season

for this spate of visitations

half remembered conversations

you are always thirty

now I am old enough to be your father

and I fill the role of memory keeper

the last witness to what we had

There is nothing I want to say about it. Instead here is a little poem based on a memory. My mother would put the poker into the fire if she lost something and let the man from Wigan locate the missing object.

whenever my mother mislaid something

she would put the poker into the fire

and let the man from Wigan find it

I don’t remember anything that was lost

or whether it was found

just the poker in the coals glowing cherry red

I've been looking on the internet for more details about this particular superstition/charm but have been unable to find anything? Anyone any ideas?

Here's the wondrous Annabelle Chvostek with a new video. You can order her cds here.

Until next time.  

Friday, 23 September 2022

EXPERIMENTS WITH BOREDOM

I don't listen to much classical music, just Bach and Shostakovitch's string quartets. I cannot really make sense of the classical orchestra, it just doesn't float my boat. Jazz on the other hand I adore. Horses for courses I suppose. This post's poem arrived while I was listening to a classical cd I had not played for years.

alone

in a new house

every other weekend

I experimented with boredom


I listened to those cds

you said would improve me

but I never got that music

it was a country I could starve in


twenty odd years later

I listen to one

discover I still cannot enter

I do not care


I hear meaningless notes

evaporate in the empty air

I think it works. It is a sonnet, though a pretty free one. Watch this space. 

Here's the wonderful Duke Ellington Orchestra. The featured soloist is Johnny Hodges- what a sound!


Until next time.

Friday, 16 September 2022

A DIFFERENT MAGIC

On Saturday night we wild camped at Budliegh Salterton and were lucky enough to be able to watch the full moon rise over a calm sea. The next morning I began to write this poem.

in the morning I returned to the place where the night before I had watched through the magnifying lens of the nourishing atmosphere the full moon rise

I looked for a vestigial trace of the pink disc that had

fired the darkness

gilded the sea

elicited within me something I could feel but not name

now the sun was inspecting the beach imbuing it with a different magic

no matter 

half a world away the moon was reflecting enchantment on to another’s upturned face

I am not convinced that the layout is right or if there is too much tell and not enough show. However I wanted to share both the poem and photographs I'd taken. So much for putting it in a drawer for three months as I advocate to others!

Here's the official video of Pollyanna's latest single. 

Until next time.

Friday, 9 September 2022

LOVE AT FIRST NOTE

Anything can be the starting point for a poem. Recently I was driving along listening to a Hank Mobley  cd, it was hot so I had the windows open and because of the turbulence of the moving air I could not hear the bass solo. This led to the thought that the wind had stolen the bass solo, which in turn led to this poem.

love story


it was love at first note

the wind and the bass solo eloped

straight out of the window of my car


[I was crossing the bridge

but this is their story not mine]


gently held in the breeze

seven miles out bopping on the sea

the notes rearrange as they please

delighting the dolphins with their atonality

That's how it works. One thing sparks off another and if you are lucky, if you are receptive and if you can manage to express the idea then the poem grows on the page. Usually cause and effect are not so easily demonstrated. In this case I spent several days mulling the idea over in my head before writing it down. Once on the page the real work begins.

Ryley Walker was his usual amazing self last Friday. However I feel I have to end with Hank.

Until next time.

Friday, 2 September 2022

WALKED TO THE EDGE OF HER WORLD

I am going through a fallow period at the moment, not writing very much. It happens at times. This blog has been running for over eleven years and during that time I have written 664 posts. I would estimate there have been at least that many poems posted. 

This poem came out of nowhere but on reflection I think it was inspired by a book I first read in the middle 70s, The Dark Twin by Marion Campbell. I must have read it at least three times over the years and it has only been republished once. If you are fortunate to see a copy buy it.

Incidentally in the story a man travels half way round the world looking for the well at the world's end and for him that well was where the story takes place, in Scotland. The story is set in prehistory when the Earth Mother religion is being usurped by a patriarchal, controlling religion. It is well worth seeking out a copy.

she walked to the edge of her world

it took as long as you’d expected

and was as difficult as it sounds

at the world’s end

she found her holy well


truth be told

the people who drew their

water everyday from it

looked at it in a different light

but kept their own counsel


grant each of us the eyes we need in this life

After all that the poem is rather brief, but I like the sentiment. It has been through many drafts as is often the way with writing that looks plain.

Pollyanna has released a new single. Here is the video.

Until next time. 

Friday, 26 August 2022

MY OUTLANDISH CONFESSION

Another revised poem this post. I was not happy with the previous version, you can read that here. I discussed it with the Secret Poets and they helped clarify my misgivings.

The classic murder mystery continues to disappoint


My book is read once again

I must walk through the head of the reader

and overhear to their thoughts


The author may deploy

sleight of hand

far fetched coincidences

then withhold vital information

until the final chapter


We are gathered in the library

yes it smacks of desperation I know

shamed as I am by my exposure

my outlandish confession

the other characters look away


And you dear reader sigh

think how trite the ending is


But hold on one moment

is any better constructed

I think it has a clearer narrative now and I have removed the last line. Time for it to go away again for another couple of months.

Here's Anna Ternheim and Johnossi.


Until next time.

Friday, 19 August 2022

SUMMER PROJECT

I usually title my posts from a line in the poem but last week I used a line from this revised poem by mistake. First time I have ever done that in 11 years. Apologies.

This poem is a rewrite, with thanks as usual to the Secret Poets for their invaluable input. You can read the original here.

summer project


we broke all the glass

in all the windows


no one stopped us

it took time


but the sounds were so addictive

the crack and cascade of glass


eyeless in autumn

a cold wind hummed in the gaps


the snow went wherever it would

Essentially the ending has changed, the Secrets felt that it was not clear. Hopefully the poem is much improved. I would be interested in your opinion.

This past week I have been immersing myself in the exciting world of The Mountain Goats, this is a song entitled Cotton. The last verse is sadly beautiful.


Until next time. 


Friday, 12 August 2022

NO ONE STOPPED US

Thanks must go to the Secret Poets yet again, both for such an enjoyable day on Monday and for their perceptive feedback on the revised poems in this post. 

This first poem has transformed from third to first person.

travelling in times of unusual weather


I had expected more delays

but the trains ran through the heatwave

slowed only by a series of failed signals


we were handed

plastic bottles of warm water

until the supply ran out


the heat in the final station

stole the sweat from our skin

this is how the world burns

You can read the earlier draft here. The use of first person makes it far more immediate.

This second poem has been winnowed down, each word appraised and only the essential ones remain.

Poems Are Everywhere


airborne invisible

they circle the world


one of us may catch

a whisper in the ear


some write down

the words they hear


he simply gave thanks

for every poem that chose him

I think it is now a sparer and better poem. You can read the earlier draft here. It is good practice to question every word in a poem and to ask if the poem works without it.

Annabelle Chvostek has just released a new video. You can buy the song here.

Until next time.

Friday, 5 August 2022

ONE OF MANY PHANTOMS

Some poems write themselves, others are never finished, at least not to my satisfaction. This post's poem is one of those. You can read my last attempt here. I was looking at it the other day and thought that I had not done the concept justice. What I wanted to do was to make the situation clear, the man who sold us all down the river is justifying his actions, inventing gratitude and praise where none existed in real life.

inside the head of the man who sold us all down the river


I am in his thoughts again

however briefly

manifested inside his head

the puppet me embodied

simply to make his point


A steward orders me to stand on this spot

I am given appropriate clothing

[nothing I would have chosen for myself]

and told exactly what to say

bland badly written dialogue

to support his noble actions

[not the words I spoke to him at the time

or even a rough approximation]


I have been thought into existence before

not very often, usually when he needs

to illustrate his marvellous achievements

or the nobility of his actions to some new acquaintance


so I step forward to speak my lines

sickly words of gratitude

how I could only ever have respect for the man


I stand in his consciousness

one of many phantoms

we bow and scrape, thank him

[the opposite of what happened in real life]

before we disappear again


as I said this sort of event doesn't happen often

usually the likes of me never enter his head

not even for one second

Have I caught it this time? Let's see if there is another draft five years hence. Here's another little poem I've been playing with for years. Again have I done it justice?

domesticated me ironing

unexpected you gift bearing


we watch the bad brewed home brew

shoot towards the ceiling

marvel as it foams undrinkable


you left in the rain

in-between the slanting drops

infinity winked at us and smiled

Here are The Mountain Goats with a song about vampires.

Until next time.

Friday, 29 July 2022

A PAGE OF USED INK

I  have been revising some poems I first sketched out on holiday. I find travelling excellent stimulus for writing, but there is always the long task of shaping your ideas once you have them on paper.  This first poem explores this.

tricky customers


sometimes

at night perhaps

a poem can slip through your fingers

vanish

back to wherever it came from

all you are left with

is a page of used ink

This second offering was written in a restaurant in Catalunya. I am a habitual reader of t-shirts, my own usually have an album cover printed on the front. 

the back of the man at the next table’s t-shirt declaims

we will rise against society

in bold black lettering

but not until he has finished his meal and paid the bill

Karl Popper was right, change needs to happen in a piecemeal manner if it is to be effective. Perhaps the wearer of the shirt secretly agreed?

Here's some Salif Kieta. At the moment I am playing either African music or Spirit and as last post it was Spirit here's some amazing music from Mali.

Until next time.


Friday, 22 July 2022

SCRAPS OF TIME

Tropical Pressure was great fun, and my workshop was well attended and I'd like to thank the people who worked so hard. I'd also like to thank Antonia for inviting me back. On the Thursday night I dreamed a poem and managed, miraculously to recall it the next morning. I do occasionally wake in the night with the makings of a poem in my head and I usually get up and write them down. This time though I managed to hold on to the words until the next day.

scraps of time

occasionally he finds discarded scraps of time

retrieves them from their hiding places

rotting wainscoting he is replacing

gently he flattens the newsprint

takes in the date

the prices in the adverts

reads the television page

then smiles at the distance he's come

It is based on a friend of mine who used to be a carpenter and when he was removing some skirting he did find an old newspaper that had been used as packing. It is definitely a work in progress.

Here is some Spirit to keep you going. 

Until next time.

Friday, 15 July 2022

THIS IS HOW THE WORLD BURNS

I am at Tropical Pressure this weekend. I am running a workshop and reading. It is an honour and a delight to be asked back. It is such a lovely festival, a highlight of the summer for me. Perhaps I will see you there?

Another poem from my rail trip across France to Catalunya. We travelled through the centre of the heatwave. It was the only time the trains we rode had difficulties. The signals failed due to the heat. On both occasions we were headed for Bordeaux and arrived there late at night. 

travelling in times of unusual weather


he had expected more delays

but the trains ran through the heatwave

slowed only by a series of failed signals


the passengers were handed

plastic bottles of warm water

until the supply ran out


the heat in the final station

stole the sweat from the skin

this is how the world burns

I like the reportage style of the poem. It is a story plainly and simply told. We humans seem to have an infinite capacity for ignoring danger signs. Our politics seem designed to keep us focusing on tomorrow rather than the bigger picture. Oh, as usual the photographs have nothing in common with the post. They are all of Canet de Mar

I'm particularly looking forward to seeing Suntou Susso this weekend as I missed him recently at Dartington. More on Tropical Pressure Next post.

Until next time.

Friday, 8 July 2022

CLOTHES ON THE WASHING LINE

I have just returned from travelling in France and Spain. I decided to take the train rather than risk cancelled flights. This country is on its uppers. The government is a joke bereft of integrity and vision.But at least the mendacious buffoon masquerading as the Crime Minister is being forced to stand down.  

A word of explanation to those of you lucky enough to have escaped Music & Movement classes. Back in the early 1960s children in Primary School had classes designed to enable the children to express themselves through dance. The only session I remember clearly is the time we had to imagine we were items of clothing hanging on the washing line as the wind began to build in intensity.

music & movement


the primary school me

had no idea of how to be

clothes on a washing line

blown by the cruel wind

so not for the first time

I copied everyone else


this mid 60s me finally

understands how it feels

to be washing on that line

buffeted as we are

by each new knee jerk policy change

I am not sure the last line works. I wrote it while I travelled across France reading in The Guardian the latest excess of the worst Crime Minister we have had in a long time.

I leave you with The Beat [English Beat if you are American] playing Stand Down Margaret, a song about the last infamous Tory Crime Minister. The ones in between being a sorry bunch of second raters.

Until next time.

Friday, 1 July 2022

VARIOUS DEGREES OF PATIENCE

I am away in Catalunya at the moment and have written a number of posts in advance. I find that easier to do than to attempt to keep up while on holiday. This post's poem is a revision. You can read the original here.

Escape Velocity


gunpowder rockets never fell back to earth

just rise upwards consuming stick and cylinder

kissing the vacuum

they return their borrowed carbon to the stars


the dead in space on the other hand

who number more than you think

look on in envy tethered as they are

to the planet that birthed them


in various degrees of patience

they await release from

the first kiss of the red giant sun


Is it more definite for making the first stanza a statement? I was unsure as in the last version it seemed an awful long time before the conceit was explained. What do you think?

Let's hope the weather is being kind to me. Here's Anne Peebles with a classic song. If you look closely you can see a Womble in the audience!

Until next time.

Friday, 24 June 2022

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE VIOLINS

The other week on Instagram Annabelle Chvostek posted a photograph of her violin in front of her face and entitled it The World Needs More Violins. The phrase struck a chord within me. I wrote to her asking if she would mind me using it and she did not. This is what I came up with.

each day the edge draws nearer

the world needs violins more than ever

bone and bow to dance on strings

generate vibrations in the air

that tell us change is still possible

- if we act now

It's a simple little poem. There is time to change, to pull back from the worst effects of climate change, but we have to want to. Music brings us together and can act as a catalyst, and though I sometimes despair there is always hope.

Here's the woman herself in conversation.

And here she is with a recent song.

Until next time.