Friday, 21 August 2015

GRAPHITE SMOKES

On Monday I facilitated a workshop. The focus of which was to use some more items from the University of St Mark & St John's archive to spark poems we can use at our October poetry reading.
I began the day with a quick exercise. Think of an card that describes something from the archive. Perhaps there is a photograph on one side.
For some reason or other an event I have not thought anything about for thirty plus years came into my head.
The photograph is of the view from my window when I was a student. Half of the people in featured where my house mates. One Sunday night a rather drunk student stood in about that spot and attempted to seranade the woman who is standing in the photograph.
Of course this drew us all to look out of our windows, just in time to see the singer step backwards and his foot though the borrowed guitar.

exhibit: 3B47i5.

On one side of the card a photograph of an acoustic guitar broken in half. The sound board is shattered.

On the other side if this:

hesitant of tune
he sings with passion
too drunk to care
his late night serenade
all our laughter
as he steps back 
and puts his foot through his mate's guitar
This next poem was inspired by a clipping from a paper describing the first curriculum of St John's back in 1840.
There is plainly an element of social control in this curriculum, how the educational opportunities of the lower classes are to be chanelled. 
I thought about how the student teachers needed to master all the skills they would teach and how much I had liked Technical Drawing when at school.

TECH DRAWING

pencil pointed til it could tear skin

he wipes the wooden set square
graphite smokes his handkerchief

turns the paper when told
reads the question three times

a rough sketches
the lines barely feather the sheet

in time he presents three elevations
his text could be mistaken for print
I did not want to write anything about social control aspect of the curriculum but I wanted to convey the idea there is a beauty in simply doing a task to the best of your abilities.
Here's a couple of videos of Anna Terheim.

Friday, 14 August 2015

TUNNEL VISION

I have been working on this poem for a couple of months. It has been hard to get it into a shape I like. I had the first half but could not see where it was going. 

TUNNEL VISION

We walk inside a tube of air,
all curved white tile walls,
under the River Thames,
but that's not the strange part.
Cyclists, mostly men, I note,
on top range mountain bikes,
and in all the right gear,
hurtle towards us.
It's 6:15, going home time,
and they are ever so eager,
to face the two mile challenge
of office to train.
I wonder if their work lives
in the counting houses of Babylon,
are as fantastic an illusion
as this scramble under the river.
It is based on a true event. One Monday evening in June I was in Greenwich foot tunnel and I was faced with scores of cyclist riding into my face. This annoyed me [especially as there were no cycling signs all over the tunnel floor] but I could not help but be amused by their top range bikes and cycling gear. I have seen less well equipped cyclists on top of the Quantocks - where you really do need a mountain bike. I suppose this poem is me venting my spleen.
The photographs are from our return journey.
I must have my misanthropic head on at the moment. Here is another sketch.


At last a taxi.
We clamber in to a monlogue,
his days as this small town's
bass guitar, heavy rock hero.
Put it all down to Vanilla Fudge he confides.
I remember them I reply.
Keeping to myself my opinion:
bloated, bombastic, sterile rock.
With this acknowledgement,
he feels free to eulogise them
all the way to our campsite.

This is not to be taken seriously. The link takes you to a performance by said band from 1968.
On a more melodic note: Hurray For The Riff Raff singing The Body Electric. This is an amazing song with a video to match.

Friday, 7 August 2015

3am THOUGHT

A simple poem to start with this post.

3am Thought

mirrors litter the wet square
I look at my feet
realise each shallow puddle holds a cosmos
I must navigate a path
that does not ripple a single looking glass
for I shall not be the destroyer of worlds this night
This second poem has been rewritten many times. This draft has a different focus to what I had initially imagined the topic would be. 

I see her once in a while
each time we have changed

imagine
this relationship
as
a spit
of sand
times oceans
erodes
one day
none of this
will be here
but today
this
day
I spy
a path

Does it work for you? I think its vagueness is a strength. Not sure about the layout. I think I need to let it be for a while.
Here's the new Beirut single. Their last lp was superb. I have great hopes for the new one, not sure about the concept behind the video though...

Friday, 31 July 2015

THINK


Two poems this post.
The first is a reflection on an incident I saw while stood in a queue.

This arrogant young man in the queue in front of me,
is a good suit with dirty shoes.
Too good a metaphor to miss.

My mother used to say:
Clean shoes are the mark of a true gentleman.
But that was then.

I want to say: Think!
Before you speak those negative thoughts out loud,
grant them life to wound or to hurt.
Think...
But he's in full flow.

Perhaps in the next life their roles will be reversed,
maybe they are now.
One thing I know is that every petulant word we utter
adds to our karma.

Next time around he's going to need those broad shoulders.

Please do not think I am trying to say I am perfect. I am not. I have been that person in the past. I really do believe though that the best way to get through this life is by being kind. I have long discussions with a friend of mine in which we both agree that Kurt Vonnegut had the right approach.
This next poem is rather more personal.

59 years ago tomorrow
my mother gave me life.
She would always describe this event
as how I nearly killed her.
Bequeathing in me a particular guilt.
I could not explore until I was
much older than she had been at my birth.
When I did unpack it, examined every word,
I saw that I had been holding a piece of the fabric of life.
The sort of thing that just happens.
Yet it stuck to my fingers.
On certain days, like this one,
I hear her speaking those words.
Warwick Folk Festival was fun, despite two days of rain. It's well worth going to if you get the chance.
I leave you with Lal & Mike Waterson singing Bright Phoebus.

Friday, 24 July 2015

SHIP WRECKED

Emily Fay McCoy  reading at this years 2000 Trees Fesitval
I'm off to Warwick Folk Festival this weekend. I'm reading and running a poetry workshop.
So one poem in progress.

CBT wk2

emotion swells
the surge forward of panic and despair
that washes over us all
then feeds back over the hesitant facilitator

she's one week ahead of us in the manual
she consults her ill prepared hand scrawled notes
and plucks an image from the air

reflecting on this I have to question
and so take my place as the wind bag
therapy by numbers

ask myself why I am here again
there is one thing I am certain of these people deserve better

ship wrecked we cling to the tables
in the hope that the hesitant words may hold the secret
Reading in Bredon Books on Monday as part of the Taunton Live Festival
I leave you with Alela Diane singing Lost Land.

Friday, 17 July 2015

GHOSTS AT THE DOOR

A revised poem to start with this week. I shall not, though, bang on about the importance of revising your work. Save to say that sometimes simply not looking at a poem for a week or two will show up its flaws.
We are at table and there are statistics.
Not the obvious count of knife and fork and spoon,
or the percentages of dishes with no meat.
One of our number informs us:
the average academic paper is read by ten people.
I should have been embarrassed,
but I crowed how many visits my blog receives.
These are the overtures, mere distractions,
the real equation leaves me speechless.
Fist let me give you the context,
my friend has worked in China for the past year,
this meal is a celebration of his return,
and he interjects, cuts across our cosy conversation.
Mao, he was told had been
seventy percent right, thirty percent wrong.

It is better to admit your hero has feet of clay,
to divert attention from famine,
the social dislocation of Mao's final years,
and all those ghosts.
The ones that now stand round this table.
So many in fact that they form an orderly queue
down Catherine Hill and beyond Frome to the sea.

We briefly discuss these percentages,
then the talk returns to:
the food we are enjoying;
the band we going to watch;
house prices, books we have read.

We rise to leave and find we must
shoulder our way through the ghosts.
Though they do not follow,
I feel their eyes on my back.
This next poem is again a work in progress and is based on something someone said to me.


MOMENT

Then as he walked home,
across the fields, the way he had come,
rain began to fall.
Dives and Lazarous in the first few thin drops,
as if that rich man held the purse strings of the clouds.
He moved through Thomas Tallis variations,
and as the rain became heavier,
he could hear all of Vaughan Willams' music
in the fat drops that fell onto his head
and ran off his shoulders and down his back.
By the time he reached his house
the sky was an intricate lattice of music,
which followed him inside and into the shower,
chiming off the tiles as mute water sloughed the music off his skin.

Essentially a friend had the idea that, as they walked home, each raindrop was a note of music by Ralph Vaughan Williams. I liked the conceit so much I decided to steal it!
Here's Will Varley.

Friday, 10 July 2015

30% WRONG

 
If you are reading this on the day it is posted then I am at at the 2000 Trees Festival reading poetry. I hope your weekend will be as enjoyable as mine.

I am not going to say anything about the poem below. I think it explains itself.

We are at table and there are statistics.
Not the obvious count of knife and fork and spoon,
or the percentages of dishes with no meat.
One of our number informs us:
the average academic paper is read by ten people.
I should have been embarrassed,
but I crowed how many visits my blog receives.
These are the overtures, mere distractions,
the real equation leaves me speechless.
First let me give you the context,
my friend has worked in China for the past year,
this meal is a celebration of his return,
and he interjects, cuts across our cosy conversation.
Mao, he was told had been,
seventy percent right, thirty percent wrong.

It is better to admit your hero has feet of clay,
to divert attention from famine,
the social dislocation of Mao's final years,
and all those ghosts.
The ones that now stand round this table,
So many in fact that they form an orderly queue
down Catherine Hill and beyond Frome to the sea.

We briefly discuss these percentages,
then the talk returns to
the food we are enjoying,
the band we going to watch,
the minutia of our oh so comfortable lives.
We rise to leave and find we must
shoulder our way through the ghosts,
though they do not follow,
I feel their eyes on my back.
I think it is nearly there. I am not sure about the last stanza and would welcome your thoughts. It is one of those poems that wear their genesis on their sleeve so to speak.
Here's the new Mountain Goats single Blood Capsules.
Until the next post.