Friday, 29 May 2015

VISIBLE VELOCITY

Another straight forward poem this post. 
Do you ever notice people avoiding you in the street, slipping in among the crowds rather than stopping and speaking? Perhaps it's just their reaction to me. On Monday this happened and rather than shout her name out I watched her slide away.
25.5.15.

I suppose she saw me,
abreast of where she walked,
as we were enjoying the finer points of our ongoing conversation.

She employed an obvious strategy:
get ahead of us,
avoid the inevitable polite interaction.

Her velocity through the lunch time throng suddenly making her visible.

I let her go.

That's it, that's all, no more.

Just a person I knew pre-redundancy.
An eight years on stranger.
Working hard not to say hello.

Not sure about every line, or in deed if it needs punctuation. I had envisaged it as a prose poem but it looked lumpy and I felt it needed the space to stretch out. It's a minor poem at best.
This next poem is another work in progress.
The Cartography of the Soul

They had robbed him.
First it was his parents,
marriage floundering then separation.
Mostly it was his schooling,
bright, brittle social construction.

His ancestors had sailed oceans,
criss-crossed the freezing sea,
sure of the craft beneath their feet.
And here he was, hollow inside,
tied to his logic by cynicism.
This is how my world will be.

Love would not save him,
as soon as the children could leave
he shut the door on his way out,
put half the globe between him and them.
Still it was not enough.

The gulf could not be crossed even in sleep.
He dreams; sexton in his left hand,
looking for at least one star in the darkling sky.
The black water ripples with no wind.

When he wakes he knows this is how it will continue,
No map, no compass, nowhere.

I put it away about three months ago and still cannot yet see its true shape. Any suggestions?
I leave you with Stabbed to Death Outside San Juan off the Mountain Goats new album.

Friday, 22 May 2015

PAPER THIN DRUM SKIN WALLS

The first poem this post came from a story I was told. A friend of mine was staying on a static caravan site [trailer park] in Cornwall recently. It was a cheap weekend away. Around three in the morning on the first night they heard a fight, a serious fight and the next morning a near by caravan was empty and they were told that the two couples who had been staying there had been evicted.
So this is pretty straight forward really.

It took until three in the morning for the alcohol to hollow them out,
thinning their skin to the point
where every remark, every action,
was perceived as an affront.
Then the two of them, brothers in law, in fact, were at it,
scrapping in the static caravan.

The first for that season the copper thought,
as he threatened them with pepper spray,
and the prospect of more community service.
There was a procedure for this sort of thing,
by the time the sun rose over the entertainment complex,
they had been evicted.

This was not how their wives had envisaged the weekend.
Driving back up the motorway,
neither woman chose to speak.


The silent treatment.


Sort of brought the men close again.
Allowing each to feel sorry for himself.
Another little poem, which I think speaks for itself.

diaphragm drags noisy air
scours nasal cavities


deep beer fuelled breath


and the paper thin drum skin walls


resonate


you do not sleep so I do not sleep


sunrise seals the deal


I get up and write
This weekend is a Bank Holiday in the UK and I'm off to Bridport in Dorset tomorrow to their Vinyl Saturday to relive the days of my youth by shifting through crates of old lps.
From those days here is Spirit with I Got a Lone on You, off their second album, The Family That Play Together, which is the best record their first line up made.
Here is Gorn Attack from the best album they did Future Games. I'd hoped someone had uploaded the full lp in all its bonkers glory, sadly not.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

BE THE MEDIA

Let me put my cards on the table. I did not stumble across Be The Media by chance. I have followed Anabelle Chvostek's career for some time now. I reviewed the last album and have written about her before that.
Phew! That's the confessing out of the way.
The new album, Be The Media, is both a departure and a continuation of Annabelle's muse.
With songs like Jerusalem she continues to examine the plight of the dispossessed and to question traditional western religion. The song explores the space between what we say and what we do. The narrator is prevented from taking aid to the Palestinians oppressed by the Israelis. It is a powerful song but I thought that, on reflection, the lyric is unresolved. Annabelle sings:
Jerulsalem
That God of three
A God of love
They claimed to me
However I cannot help but think that the state is Zionist, not Christian. I know the song argues that if God is love then there should be no occupation and no suffering. As a song it works but I find that lyric troubling.
The majority of Be The Media rocks. Annabelle has bought a beautiful 1969 Fender Mustang and it is the instrument of choice on the majority of the record. A word at this point about her wonderful band, they are very good. Annabelle has played with Tony Spina [drums] and Jeremie Jones [bass] for the past eight years and the interplay between them is superb. Catch them live to see just how telepathic the communication is. Tony Spina has chops to spare, he is an incredibly inventive drummer, reminiscent of the great Ed Cassidy. Jeremie Jones' sinuous bass lines are at times the lead instrument. Miss them live at your peril.
Black Hole is a stand out track for me both in musical direction – space rock, and lyrically. One of Annabelle's strengths has always been her ability to weave current scientific theory seamlessly through her work.
There is a loose spontaneous feel to the record. It was recorded over two weekends and sounds fresh, energised and inviting.
The version of Neil Young's Like a Hurricane was unexpected and works very well with Annabelle on mandolin and guitars, Jeremie on bass and piano and Tony on drums.
Even when she is focussing on her electric guitar Annabelle cannot help but draw upon diverse influences. Carnal Delights, a song about good sex, sounds like it was arranged by Kurt Weill. Lisa Gamble's musical saw is a delight throughout the album.
There is progression here, a broadening of the sonic palette and a maturity to her writing that makes Annabelle one of the great singer/songwriter's of our time.
The production is excellent. The record sounds organic, has good lyrics and it rocks. You can buy it here. You can also follow her on twitter.
I make no apologies for posting her new video for the second time. Enjoy.

Friday, 15 May 2015

CHEMICAL SHIMMER

In the week beginning the 21st September I am part of a group of Taunton poets reading at the University of St Mark and St John in Plymouth. We hope to raise enough money to add the missing name of a World War One soldier to the role of honour. For some strange reason his name has been omitted.
We have decided to explore the concepts of diversity and inclusion as the university has a long and noble tradition of inclusion.
As a springboard for new poems we are using a series of images from the university archives. The above photograph records the students and staff of St Mark's College in 1880. The university being originally two colleges that opened in 1840 and 1841 respectively.
I asked the poets attending a workshop to choose a person in the photograph and to write their story. I selected the man third from the left in the third row from the top. I was stuck by the casual, cocky way he looks into the camera and by the fact he is leaning on the person to his left.
I wrote two poems, this is the second and concerns the event of the photograph itself.


like flies in amber


this is the photograph


stand stock still for as long as it takes the light to fall through the lens and bruise the chemical shimmer on the glass plate


stabilise that image


it will record this point in human history beyond the life span of these people


the celebrated


the excluded



at some point in the future we will ask for answers
I decided that my man knew his path through and what he could expect as his due.


THE THOUGHTS OF THE INDOLENT MAN


I know who I am old man,
the fulcrum, the secret centre,
the blessed son of Adam untarnished by the fall.


Sunlight bends before me,
the compass points toward me.


Don't believe in science,
don't believe in geography,
for I have glimpsed God's own map
and know my place in history.
Some are born to serve their betters,
you all shall wait on me.

There will be more poems to follow and should you be able to attend the reading I would be delighted to see you.
I saw the wondrous Annabelle Chvostek last night and I shall be reviewing the new album on Tuesday. For now here she is singing Nashville. She is in the UK for a few more dates. If you can go see her.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

GUEST POST: CRACK'D EXHIBITION

Following our Yellow Banana exhibition at the Federation house last year, Crack'd is something of a testament to the pay-off of landing such an amazing space in Media City, Manchester. The Egg Gallery in Salford (and the pun is definitely intended) is set for us to show on the 8th and 9th of June. The exhibition will ultimately explore the work of 6 photography BA students all ranging in genre and offering entirely diverse styles. Its about taking the opportunity to expose student art and potential by placing it right at the heart of mainstream media. This also serves as the perfect place to see some up-and coming talents and even to talk to the artists about their images. We hope to see you there!

Information about the event can be found on our website or tweet us.

Crack'd curator Corey Mullaney


Friday, 8 May 2015

TURNED HER HEAD

A new poem this time. I was trying to explore the concept of the social construction of gender. I wanted there to be a more traditional perspective as a counterpoint as well. 

THE PINK PUSH CHAIR

Laughter at the toddler
who rolls a pink toy pushchair
away, towards, repetitive action.
She observes he will need gender realignment.
She knows how boys behave, real boys that is,
for she has a son. He sits very close.

I have made the mistake of contradiction,
this is why she laughs at the pram pusher.
Gender cannot be a social construction
that changes over time and culture.
She knows better, she is a mother.

I debate telling her that once I was like that child,
but this would just prove she was correct.
In truth I am bored; we sit in a park, neutral territory.
Her best friend has married me,
obviously I have turned her head, she sighs,
women are susceptible to that sort of thing. 

Does it work?
I was concerned that the phrase turned her head was too esoteric so I asked around and to my relief, around here, at least, it is not. 
I write this on the 70th anniversary of VE Day, Victory in Europe. It is also the day after a General Election in the UK. I want to remember the Second World War, the sacrifice of a generation, the people who died so we can live like we do today.
I often write about my father. On VE Day he was on leave in Rome. He had been in the Army for over 6 years and had been in Africa and Italy. He believed in the Welfare State, in support for people who needed it, for medical care that was free at the point of delivery, for free education, as well as free speech. 
I regret that the government of this country has eroded those high ideals.
This poem was written today.

VE DAY 2015

seventy years on we've torn up the social contract
demolished the Welfare State
forgotten we are in this together
I sound like an antique
but this day at least remember the fallen
some people gave everything
so we could fritter it all away

OK it's rough, I sound like I'm preaching but sometimes that works in it's favour. I'll leave you to judge.
Here's Art Pepper playing Lost Life.

Friday, 1 May 2015

WE ARE THE STARS

Another redrafted poem. I have to thank the Secret Poets for their input. You can see the first version here.
I have been working on the second stanza. The feedback focussed on the unevenness of the original; how it was more concerned with the tightrope walker than the audience. My intention had been to highlight that everyone of us is the star of the show but the spotlights shine on one person-for whatever reason and our triumphs are ignored or downplayed.
An Open Secret

The tightrope walk is an open secret.
Physics explains her graceful stroll:
a taut wire, secured at each end;
tight leather shoes to maximise the friction;
a bent pole held in spread arms
to lower her centre of mass
-which at all times must remain over the rope;
plus a head for heights is all.
So she places one foot after another,
and may or may not look down.

Devoid of those fixed points,
we walk a changing line,
work for the minimum wage
when the zero hour contract decrees.
Few see us when we fall,
or sense the small triumph of a day gone well.
Truthfully we are the stars of the show,
but the spotlights are on her
and we applaud the steady, slow procession.
I think the idea of inserting a line break also helps to balance the poem. As I was saying last post it can be illuminating to play about with layout.
I read once that part of the white noise you see on your television set when you remove the aerial is the aftermath of the creation of the universe. It inspired me to write this:


in the white noise of the television
a message from eternity
red shifting across this galaxy
coming to you through ever expanding space

I may have got the science wrong. 
Here's Annabelle Chvostek jamming.