Friday, 20 May 2016

SPADEFUL BY SPADEFUL

I have been playing with the idea of this post's poem for a long time. It arose from an aside in a palaeontology book I read about two years ago. Essentially the book noted in passing that in the early 1900's in a German colony in Africa, over a number of years, a mountain had been moved to reveal a Brachiosaurus
That set me thinking about what it must have been like for the people who shovelled the mountain aside. People who had been perfectly happy until a conference in Berlin in 1884/5 divided the continent up between European powers.
I remember reading Walter Rodney's How Europe Underdeveloped Africa when I was a student and one quotation has stayed with me: African's went into colonisation with a hoe and came out with a hoe. 
The fact that the African continent has been and still is being plundered at the expense of those people who live there cannot be denied. Europe has benefited greatly at the expense of Africa.
All of this percolated around my head to produce the poem.


after the guns killed your uncles the headman has been hung and your father's guts have bled out into the soil

when they have weighed and discarded your culture

and even your Gods are cast into the fire in the centre of the village by a white man who tells you of his God of Love and how you must wash yourself clean of your sins in the water of his Jesus

when they have even taken the food from your mouth and there is less than nothing but their taxes enforced by beatings

what else can you do?

what else can you do?

save walk for four days across a transformed landscape to the pit

there take orders from a shouting man and start to move a mountain

spadeful of soil and rock by spadeful of soil and rock

eventually

you uncover the heartstones 

the creature that was here before

almost as big as the mound you have moved

it takes three men to carry one bone

slowly, without ceremony, the identity of your people is packed into crates and taken away

by then you are living in their world 
without a path back to before
I know that now I have finally caught it on paper that it needs to be taken to a poetry meeting and discussed. Watch this space.

I've had an interesting week listening to much good music. Here is Corrina Repp from her latest album
And here is [for me] her best album: It's on the Future in full.

Friday, 13 May 2016

HAWKS & DOVES

Two revised poems this post.
I always felt uncomfortable with the first poem's ending. You can read it here. It was too much tell rather than show- if you get my meaning. A good poem infers rather than beating you around the head with the obvious.
Hopefully the revised poem is more effective.

NEWSCAST: LEAD STORY

Kinetic. In the blink of an eye,
aggressively named war planes,
take off then land.
We are shown, we are told,
the jets empty bomb racks.
Cut to serious faced politician:
The pilots won't be home for Christmas,
[as if he'd let them be anyway].
Listen to his banal words
prepare us for the long haul.
Show us the newsreader's reassuring face.
Then cut to the Parliamentary vote
that has made all this legal.
Note how much airtime is given to the hawks,
and wonder where the doves are.
Essentially I have removed the obvious ending and taken out my disparaging remarks about the Crime Minister [to quote Peter Tosh]. I am aiming to make the poem universal and such remarks anchor it to a specific moment in time.
The second poem is very brief and some what more personal.

Leonard, she told me, got one thing right.
Women and men are at war.
The war is eternal, and I was a fool to believe otherwise.
After broken peace treaties and numberless massacres I enlisted.
I owe so much to Leonard Cohen without ever having met the man.
When I heard the first 2 lps back in the 1960's I decided that I would become a poet, and I've been trying ever since!
Thank you Leonard.
Here's the video for In My secret Life.
Until the next time.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

THE SPARROW SPEAKS: WORDS OF WISDOM

My thanks to Paul for leaving the outer door to his blog unlocked. Now I've stumbled in like a Hollywood cliché waiting for something to jump out on me. Luckily the only other person in here is singing on the CD in my lorry cab. As usual it's Rodolfo from La Bohème belting out his question “Who am I?..... I'm a poet.....What do I do?.... I write.”

Ah, there's the disconnected trailer. You cannot claim to be the Poet Lorry-Park if you do not write. If you can't bang your fifth wheel onto the pin and haul the artist's roped and sheeted poem away from that industrial zone of inspiration, you ain't no driver bruv. If you're a reader of Paul's blog you're a poetry fan. Even if you just popped in as a smoochy cruiser or a flexing bruiser –you're gonna leave knowing you've tangled with a poet.

Poetry never gives you up. It's what language is for and since all notions of purpose and meaning translate themselves into words in all the synapse vocab sparks of all the worlds, it is meaning itself. Poetry tells you what something IS because the regular gas just hasn't got the octane and leaves you gasping, craving,searching and longing for that fix. Poet – just tell me what something or anything IS. What cauliflower of cumulus builds its empires of summer love in a remembered teenage kiss. I want the replay here and now but never had the selfie stick. Poet – only you can snatch it back. Wet night at Widnes Labour club – Poet, smear it on the smoky car park taxi window so I can lick it. Poet – give me the nuances of gangster glam and squalid sham that glints from hyped-up ersatz gutter. Poet – strip it off and dress me in your trans-nakedness so I am free to tumble in your Y front frills with the dancing daffodils of zygotic lust. Hay fever sufferers may select a pollen free sexual option.

Well, I'm nothing if not demanding and self indulgent. In pursuit of my decadence I have climbed down from the truck to be the poet in residence at the Virtual Book Café. Being virtual it can be a chichi tweak of the intellectual Bloomsbury eyebrow or the grateful gulp of a working gob at the motorway services. Human experience now is the reeling out of the lifeline in real time and the real time re-wind of the life lived and the path taken. (Not-taken paths only appear on poet maps). In the pause of the Virtual Café there is a space cleared for time and for poetry. Quick!The wobbly table is wiped and vacant. Go out, sit down and give me a poem. I only want you to tell me what something IS. Use the technology to give poetry a voice. A couple of years ago with the tireless work of the novelist Emma Calin, we produced the Freeze Frame audio/written poetry anthology of modern poets. Paul Tobin was a fantastic contributor. The book came with an audio track of the poet giving voice to his/her work. It was a first and so is the Virtual Book Café. It's open mic' with no Keep-Out Establishment edit. Let's get poetry getting poetic about the life we slurp, savour and visa waiver. WTF would Shakespeare be without the actor's voice? No shame no blame no gender no agenda no plods all gods and nun. Meet me for a coffee and tell me in your own voice. Please.

Boring Technical Information : Short video poem/haiku read aloud and mobile phoned in café type venue.

Send to oscarsparrow@hotmail.co.uk. Your poem will be posted on http://virtualbookcafe.club and shared on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Sit back. Await fame, adulation, desperate phone calls from agents/editors/psychiatrists/haulage companies.

As a guide here is one I did earlier

Friday, 6 May 2016

AWAITING ARCHAEOLOGY

I am a little hesitant to share this poem. I am breaking one of my self-imposed rules; never show new work. This is a poem I've been working on for the last couple or three weeks. It is significant to me, and that is the worry.
Distance grants perspective; I am possibly far too close.
This is how it came about. One morning I was watching a cleaner hoover the wonderful architectural model that you see in the photographs. It is of the original Chelsea site of [what at the time was] the College of St. Mark and St. John. I am told it was made in the late 1960's prior to the college moving from London to Plymouth. It is located out of the way, under the stairs where you have to look hard to see it. You cannot get near it unless you move the photocopier out of the way.
Seeing the grass being hoovered make me think of The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham and there I was in one of the buildings watching.
It also made me realise how higher education has changed since I was a student in the early 1980's. The idea in those far off days was to give people an education for life rather than to simply fit them up with an education for a vocation [and saddle them with a huge amount of debt in the process].
In short, I felt as out of place as the architectural model that morning.
Here's the poem.

He is hoovering the architectural model,
on his back sits a vacuum cleaner,
streamlined like a jet pack
from some 1960s science fiction film,
but this is the future.
The model's location telegraphs irrelevance,
it has been abandoned under the stairs, half out of view.

Hunched over, the cleaner is finding it difficult to work,
stretching to vacuum the green fields,
and filling my bottle at the ice cold water machine,
which further obscures the model,
I wonder what it would be like to be in one of those houses,
say Hudson or Stanley, so professionally reproduced in front of me.
That giant nozzle is sucking up boulders of dust,
as if the Kraken had woken to steal the world from us.
Would I run in fear through the empty building to hide in a basement,
or to the glass walls of Hudson's top floor,
phone recording with half an eye to television news?
Afterwards I know I would walk through the deserted gardens,
film the trees loaded with dust that are too difficult to clean.
Be cowed by the concrete sky above me
and not like the modern world at all.

Later I move the barriers,
and crouching photograph the model.
Was it all pulled down once the college left Chelsea for Plymouth?
Before it all went wrong.
It is clear that present management has no time
for the model, or the past,
except as a tag line on the corporate logo.
Education for life has been supplanted
by a phoney promise of vocational learning.
If things carry on like this,
we will all be ruins awaiting archaeology. 
On a less sombre note the mellifluous Oscar Sparrow is dropping in to offer a guest post on Tuesday. What can I say? The man is a living legend and a joy to read or hear.
In his honour I leave you with Edith Piaf.
 Tune in on Tuesday!

Friday, 29 April 2016

SOPHIA LOREN ON A BICYCLE

One revised poem this post. Thanks to Juncture 25 for the constructive feedback. I know I am a broken record where this is concerned but your work will improve immensely if you can find a group of people you trust to offer constructive feedback.

The Theory of The Coulombs
or The Eternal Lust of The Electrical Engineer


He reduces electrical theory
to Sophia Loren on a bicycle
and all us students are Coulombs
chasing her inside the copper wire.
Obviously she's the attraction,
and we are racing to catch her.
Think of resistance as a steep hill,
we have to pedal faster
because we can't let her get away!

It works for him obviously, for he has the lust,
the dreams of what they'll do once they meet.
I am sat in silence,
thinking that she is old enough to be my mother,
noting the gleam in his eye,
as he talks of getting closer...

All his efforts to impart wisdom,
to day release apprentices
are met with blank faces.
He decides we are dullards,
with no imaginations.
You can read the original here.
So what is different? 
The whole poem is tighter. Several words have been removed and less is always better. The third to last line is gone. It was: It is all our fault. As was pointed out it adds nothing to the poem and introduces a new idea, never a good plan at the end of a poem.
Here is Anna Ternheim covering Shoreline, which was originally released by Broder Daniel.
Have a good weekend. 
I'm off to see the wondrous Palooka 5 this evening. I intend to dance the night away. Come everybody, let's go tripping!

Friday, 22 April 2016

ALL THE SILENT WAY HOME

Wonderful news this post- Oscar Sparrow is back!
Visionary, editor, and publisher poet, Oscar Sparrow returns to the fray to fashion words into his own unique take on the world. He has a new venture The Virtual Cafe, you can also visit on Instagram
More hopefully from the talented Mr. Sparrow soon.
I would like to thank The Secret Poets for their sterling support in helping shape All Yesterday's Tomorrows. You can read the first draft here. I cannot stress the importance of having quality constructive feedback. Thanks chaps.

All Yesterday's Tomorrows

Karl drives a sky blue zephyr zodiac,
big and bold with wings like rocket fins,
on the hunt for flying saucers.
The urgency of Giant Steps spurs us up to Dartmoor,
driving toward A Love Supreme,
with dreams of Adamski scout ships,
as cool as Coltrane.

We are on the moor, riffing off our dreams,
to see the earth from space,
chat with an alien, out there on a tor.
Or a cigar shaped mothership above us,
that would interrupt all electric fields.

Which of us though really believes?

Night descends.
A clear, starry sky,
no strange lights,
we see no saucers.

Inside the car, mid note the music stops.
Cassette tape ribbons in my hands,
then it's the death of jazz.
All the silent way home.
So what's different? Two lines have been removed, others have been moved about and the poem is the stronger for it.

When he had fallen off that wall,
and his eggshell fractured,
shattering into who knew how many pieces,
the soldiers made the mistake of looking inside his head.
An army psychiatrist was hastily summoned, then a second.
They conferred while privates jigsawed fragments of the shell.
Ministers met to compare alternatives,
naturally the King, who was bank rolling the rescue mission,
was told in private, in hushed tones.
Suddenly everyone in the loop realised
why he had given Alice all that attention.
They were agreed, there was only one solution.
So a water cannon was called forth from the barracks,
and the streets were swept clean of Humpty Dumpty.
I'm not sure the ending there yet with this one. I see it as a more of a performance piece and I think it needs to be spoken a couple of times before it gets there.
Here is a too brief clip of John Martyn and Danny Thompson.
And here's more John Martyn, the superb BBC4 documentary.

Friday, 15 April 2016

ENCOUNTER REVISITED

Over the past two years I have been writing a series of poems about a person with a terminal illness. Here is the full sequence

Encounter

i
Sometime since the last meeting
he had been replaced by an actor,
similar to be true, but older
and slightly more coarse,
who riffed off his own allusions rather
than answer your well meaning questions.
He was angry, that was plain,
manifested in little jibes
that made you uncomfortable.

ii
Disease has depth charged his life,
percussion, shock wave, percussion,
and it will sink him in sunless water.
I cannot begin to understand how that must feel.

iii
he inhabits his history in a manner I have never had to

he developed the technique in the silences between the ticks of the ward's big faced clock

his best he now believes is behind him

a doctor has told him his immune system has gone rogue

he describes himself as shanghaied in an unresponsive body

he signals, I put ear to mouth

it was worth it, you know, 
every single fucking minute was worth living
The sequence attempts to describe his physical deterioration over a period of time, that is why each stanza is numbered. 
In the third stanza I wanted to try and catch the nature of his speech with lots of little statements and almost no punctuation.
I do not think there will be another stanza added but you never know.
Here is Alela Diane and Ryan Franesconi with Shapeless from the Cold Moon album