Friday, 27 March 2015

FASHIONING WORD NECKLACES

Recently I was asked why I never enter poetry competitions. I hadn't got an answer, after some thought I replied that this blog acts as a conduit for my work. It is an effective means of reaching people and that, after all, is what its about. So thank you for reading this.

A poem about creation. It is dedicated to the great Oscar Sparrow, a poet of note, of great skill and beauty, that sadly we do not hear enough from at the moment. You can read his blog here.


for Oscar Sparrow

Like us, they speak their words on paper,
it is possible they take longer in the choosing
than these you now read.
Each is carefully selected for sound,
shape, and something only the author is aware of.
Naturally their verse will passport them to the centre.
We are on the outside, beyond the margins,
breathing life into metaphors,
fashioning word necklaces
to decorate our World Tree.
Next a vignette that is half true.


So here I am, sat in this nearly empty pub,
and he's talking about Friday night discos.
How he would come here hoping to bed a foreign student,
to be her brief exotic, erotic interlude.
We've both seen better days, he confides,
but back then this place had class.

I think every poem is composed of the real and the imagined. We draw on life and from inside and fashion these word necklaces.

Here's Oscar reading.
Post Script:
On Tuesday I am pleased to be publishing a guest post by The English Sisters the authors of a series of best selling books that deal with stress management.

Friday, 20 March 2015

FIND YOUR WAY HOME

This post's poem formed in the hinterland between consciousness and sleep. It is interesting how many poets will tell you they have dreamed a poem. My first attempt at poetry, when I was twelve, came as I awoke. It wasn't very good, but it gave me the identity I still wear.

Today's poem mentions the choice we all have when an idea occurs, to simply ignore the message, that urge to write and go on with our lives. But we do not. Brian Patten said, when I interviewed him for this blog, that the muse will stop calling to you if you don't use the gift you are offered. He is a wise man. 
Another Poem For Christine

Last night I dreamt you had found your way home,
despite the intervening twenty years,
and the fact that I have moved more than once.
Of course it was a dream,
and the corridors conspired and turned in to walls
and kept us apart, though I walked miles until,
I awoke with this poem in my head.
At that point there was a choice,
stay in bed or write it down.
I chose, in the cold grey dawn,
to sit in this comfortable room
and write you another poem.

There are a number of other poems sprinkled over this blog about my late first wife. 
This next poem is about another regular, my father. He was naturally left handed, but in the culture he grew up in this was not acceptable. Throughout his life he would avoid having to write anything down and when he did he wrote in square block capitals. I have no real idea about precisely how negatively his education affected him.

there is a power in the left hand, hard wired as it is into the right hemisphere of dream and possibility, the nuns who “taught” my father knew this fact and so they beat him out of left handedness, citing the example of Judas Iscariot, a left hander who allegedly caused some bother back when, I know their trammelled minds could not take diversity, so they clung to a one dimensional faith, and beat the boy, who as a man was always embarrassed to put pen to paper
The photographs continue to have no correlation with the text, this fine specimen was on the wall of a bar in Manchester. 
Juncture 25 are reading in Tiverton on the 17th April. The last two readings sold out, so get your tickets quickly, here's the details:

The new Public Services Broadcasting lp The Race for Space is out and I have to say it rubberbanded me back to those space race glory days of my childhood. Here's Gagarin.
I have to end with an interview with the man himself back in the black and white days of 1961.

Friday, 13 March 2015

CALL HIM ISHMAEL

 This post's poem is an addition to a series I appear to have been writing about films and America in the 1950's. To be truthful I am not sure where the series if going but here's the latest:
Filming in a parallel dimension

Call him Ishmael, it'll do.
Actors...
That one next to him
will end his days playing Admiral Nelson,
on an atomic submarine.
For now, he's signed on with Gregory Pecker
to hunt a mechanical whale across a large tank of water.
Not much skill needed there then.
The techs are all drunks or hop heads, and Greg?
Check out the stove pipe hat, false beard
and the same voice he always uses.

The techs vote to leave him pinned
to the rubber side of the pretend creature,
all through the lunch hour.
He will shout himself hoarse.
They call it method acting by committee.

None of them have read the book,
too long,
too old,
couldn't be bothered.
No matter, few of the audience will have either.

I am alluding to Moby Dick, filmed by John Huston in 1956 and a tv show Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. The rest I made up. I quite like the idea of the film's star being stuck to the side of the pretend whale and left there. 

I leave you with the legendary Allen Toussaint live in 2011.

Friday, 6 March 2015

FOUR HERONS

I was told recently that poems about birds are out of fashion, before this it was the word shard. I am not sure who decides such things, certainly they do not matter.
Here is a poem that mentions herons. It is far from finished, but I think it works in its own way.
Four herons pick over the bones,
clack and caw to reach a decision.
The city is their backdrop.
Sunlight gilds the water.
The herons have set themselves a task,
to sieve the river from end to end.
They argue. This one complains:
I am no pelican, gimlet of eye
With a shovel bill and appetite to match.
Another talks technique,
the proper motion for investigation,
the beak must rise and fall, rise and fall.
A third interrupts attempts to compare the action
to a sewing machine’s needle tip,
glimpsed once through a window,
but language fails, then there is argument.
Crepuscule stains the surface blood…

This is how to sift a river:
start at the mouth, as if French kissing,
note how the current probes back.
As you move up stream
silt may stain, smooth pebble chip tooth.
Gold may gather on your tongue.
Whatever they say,
whatever is promised,
this is a misfortune.
Once the gold has been possessed,
the water strip searched
it’s bed disturbed and left unmade,
there will be nothing.

You cannot now tell the herons apart,
they are a jumble of feather and bone.
The city has been put to the sword.
Oh yes, someone is the richer,
but not you, not yours.
We few that remain,
plum the dirty stream for anything.

I'd be interested in your opinions. I know what I think the poem is about but you may have different ideas.
I leave you with a song from 1980. I used to have the single.

Friday, 27 February 2015

THERE IS WONDER

 
 Juncture 25, the poetry group I facilitate, appeared at the Purbeck Literary Festival last night, and in the afternoon I ran a poetry workshop. I'd like to thank all the people who attended and contributed so creatively. I would also like to thank the cafe Not just Sundaes who so professionally and warmly hosted the event.
The evening was a great success as was the workshop.
As an opening exercise, just to get the brain working, I asked the group to think of a postcard, describe the picture on the front and to write what was on the reverse. It did not have to be to a real person.
This was mine:

Blue sky, anonymous sand dunes. A four wheeler driving down the dune at a steep angle, sand pluming from the wheels.
And written on the back:
you never did this
but would have loved to
if it was free and in another's car
you could have whispered 
simple words from starved lungs
of the science and the skills required
but you never did

that's life in'it
The main exercise was to write a poem as a series of instructions. A task I had recently set Juncture 25. 
My own initial reaction was to reach back to my engineering days, I don't understand why, but as I had done so last time, my response was to write about Tai Chi.

this sequence of movement
each posture elegantly named
whose aim is to stretch a specific set of ligaments

slowly

you may claim the act of exercise as excuse
yet still ponder why you do it

but the diaphragm controls the breath
[each an end and beginning in itself]

centred

palms may tingle
hands cut through fabric air

the chi as thick as soup

so focus

there is oneness
there is wonder
Before this I had half sketched out a poem about Engineer's Blue. I completed a rough draft today, not sure about the layout, but i think it captures the fact I was not a happy apprentice.
industrial woad
thick and navy
engineers blue
can stain fingers beyond
soap and water rescue
designed to reveal the high points
so you
the killjoy
can scrap them away
just as factory life
steals your day
It just occurred to me that a title for it could be Engineer's Blues.
Here is I Jah Man singing Jah Heavy Load. Inspiring stuff indeed. 

Friday, 20 February 2015

LATHE LOVE SONG

Or workshop poem 8. 
This one I've been working on for a while and I'm reasonably happy with the draft. Before I go any further though, a word of explanation. 
A lathe is a machine to turn metal [or wood] and when I was an apprentice fitter/turner [40 years ago] I was taught how to use one. My trade originated from skilled artisans who could make and fit machinery to order. I was never that good...
I recently ran a workshop where the brief was to write a poem as a set of instructions and this is what I came up with.

LOVE SONG to a LATHE

You need the equipment,
the knowledge to use it,
or the foolhardiness to do it anyway.

I liked to watch the swarf
spiral off the spinning cylinder;
high speed; slow feed,
milky coolant lubricating the cutting edge.

You are looking for a metaphor,
I don't have one,
this centre lathe is our ages combined,
it's design even older.

Place the job in the chuck,
there is skill in centring the metal,
or practice, or a plodding predictability.

Always ensure you tighten each jaw separately
and never leave the chuck key in,
it has a tendency to fly at a tangent
and embed itself into the wall [or you].

Select the correct speed,
turn the chuck to ensure the gears have engaged.

In my day you wore a hairnet
to keep your fashionably shoulder length
[or in my case longer] hair
from being scalped off your head.

High speed, fast feed,
the waste metal complains as it it torn away,
in a series of razor edged nail clippings
[remember to clean the machine at the end of each day].

Measure by micrometer.
Each as beautiful a mechanism
as a good pocket watch.

If you so desire you could turn a cube,
simply counterbalance the plate,
disengage the drive, spin.
Add weights as required.

Grinding the cutting tools is an art form.
Get it right and you can cut a buttress thread
-male or female.
Slowly the tungsten bit will reveal the perfect helix.

But those days are over,
and this is a history lesson.
Here are The Decemberists at Manchester on Tuesday.
I have to confess The Rake's Song is not one of my favourite Decemberist's songs. This, though, I think is.
Until next time.

Friday, 13 February 2015

KLEE IN WIDNES

I have been revising my work with the help of Juncture 25 and the Secret Poets. They are both poems you have seen before. The poem that lends a line to the title of the post was slightly longer in its last incarnation. The last couplet has gone and I've changed some of the other lines as well.

KLEE IN WIDNES

hobbles his palette to grey and black,
then goes hunting for other colours.
He walks terraced streets and
sketches the Transporter Bridge.
Bumps into Lowry by the Empire.
together they bemoan the films on show:
Too bloody American for my taste.
End up in the Queens
drinking bitter with the bus drivers.
Outside again the sunset stops him short,
more colours then he has seen all day.
Lowry disabuses him of any grand design:
It's all the muck the factories pump out.
He leaves that nigh from Farnworth station.

CORBUSIER in BRIDGWATER

this higgledy-piggledy town of twisting streets
is an offence to a man in love
with the right angle.
None of which cuts the mustard in Bridgwater.
After all, they have the first concrete house,
a ruin to be sure, but still history.
The Big C has the last laugh,
when they pulled the place to pieces
and speared roads through its heart.

THE MARX BROTHERS IN LIVERPOOL

are looking to get laid,
after Paradise Street disappointed.
Chico checks The Echo
his horse has yet to finish yesterday's race.
That rich boy cousin Charlie knocked about with,
used to say Manchester was where it was at.
But they are booked in Huddersfield tomorrow,
wherever the hell that is.
What do you think?


Dolphin Watching in Oman

The sound of two hands clapping.
Repeated.
It will, I am told, draw the dolphins.
A hundred people,
in six boats, 
mill around the bay.
The large hands slap again.
Engines idle, the man maintains his rhythm.
Applause as the mammals surface.
We chase them or they follow,
it is difficult to tell.
Do they care an industry 
has developed around them?
They left the land to us,
returned to the water long ago.
Now we search for them
as if they had answers.
This second poem benefited greatly from the input of the Secret Poets. You can read the previous draft here. The scratched, old record in my head cannot help repeating that you need to work with others to improve your work. 
I leave you with a cool new surf, garage band, Somerset's own Lakota FiveI'm hoping to interview them soon.Having seen them live I can tell you they are the real thing. There is an energy and an edge to them.  Judge for yourself.