Friday, 31 October 2014

AN EEL IN MURKY WATER

A poem about tragedy. I have been thinking about Shakespeare and how he skilfully allows us to see the flaws inherent in his characters and how over the course of the play it seems inevitable that the character will act on those flaws. Perhaps I know the plays too well, but this is how I see the tragedies.
I got to thinking about this and this post's poem deals with the idea.

Shakespeare was right, the old bastard
knew a thing or two about people.
Problem was I could never cut through those
words until it was too late.
When I did him at school, too briefly, meaning
was an eel slipping through green fronds in murky water.
Even A-level left me unmoved- so your man has left you,
there are plenty more, just go out and find one.
All this time I was stoking the fires
of my own downfall, not that I saw it like that.
These days I read read the plays, make sense
of that language, feel for the predicaments the people find themselves in,
all much to late to be of any use to me.
Only the one poem this time. I am feeling that I have been in a fallow period. What I have written I have not been sure about. The other night at a Juncture 25 meeting we were saying that it is only artists who get blocks. the baker and the plumber never do.

Here's the Mountain Goats:

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

HE SCUTTLED HIMSELF

As I mentioned last post I have a couple of poems that are in a different style to how I usually write. Here is one of them.

How did Nemo feel? No, not James Mason,
and let's face it, Walt didn't even trust men with beards, so
he was never going to be faithful to the book,
forget Herbert Lom, banish all those terribly European images from your head.
I meant the real Captain Nemo, the one who had mastered electrical engineering,
not Walt's trite mushroom cloud that ends his version.
The Nemo who had watched his world ripped apart
and after sinking ships failed to end the arms trade,
scuttled himself. Only to pop up again
as the easy answer to the corner
Verne had written himself into, as altruistic as ever.
You have to wonder why he kept trying to save us,

we don't seem to be trying that hard ourselves.

The actors I name all played Captain Nemo in films. The poem came from a line that appeared in my head one day recently How did Nemo feel? I did not know how the poem would end until it ended. 
I think it could be clearer but I wanted to get it out into the world now in the hope that I can come back to it with clear eyes.

Friday, 24 October 2014

BIG UP THE MUNDANE

For once I get the right photo for the post. 

If each thing we write, every poem or story, is a piece of jigsaw that tells of our experience, our influences, of how we connect different things up to make something hopefully unique and interesting, then I am not sure where this poem fits. I've been toying with a number of ideas recently. I was struck by reading about the dubious flying saucer expert George Adamski repeatedly meeting aliens [who looked just like you and me] in Los Angeles in the early 1950's. I just love the way he made each planet in the solar system sound so homely, like small town America. 


George Adamski's in the Pontiac's back seat,
the driver is from Saturn, next to George sits
a Venusian, who bigs up the mundane, claims
to like tv and respect the institution of marriage.
He feeds the con man a white bread vision, the solar system
as some banal B-movie town, where everyone smiles.
Old George for his part, keeps silent about
the flying saucer he's building in the garage.
You see, he needs proof, something people will believe in.
When he stands in front of paying audiences,
not even his honest eyes can quite swing it.
So that chicken incubator heat lamp housing
will be made to fly on film. The Venusian
doesn't care that his world is a nightmare of
green house gasses gone made. That'll come out later,
[after people stop seeing Adamski-type ufos]
-just tell the earthlings what they want to hear
and everyone's happy, save Amelia Earhart. Who is either
a bored housewife hitting the highballs at eleven am. Or
an incomplete set of bones on a Pacific island.
You takes your pick -some realities are more fun than others.


This is the saucer
Here's another view
There is much to be said about Amelia Earhart and the mystery that sounds her death. You can read about it here
Amelia at the controls of Electra
Here's a photo of her in front of Electra, the plane she disappeared in. I've taken all the black and white photographs from on line- I hope there is no infringement of copyright.
I have to leave you with Plainsong and The True Story of Amelia Earhart.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

TAUNTON BOOK FAIR

Juncture 25 will be reading at the Taunton Book Fair at 2pm on the 8th November. The day is shaping up to being a wonderful event. Why not come down to Taunton and hear us read!

Here's a link to the Book Fair.

Friday, 17 October 2014

MERCURY SHEENS THE RIDGED FIELD

 I continue with my run of inappropriate photographs that do not enhance the post. I think I took the above in Bath this April.

A couple of poems this week that I think are in transit. The first fuses two separate evenings. 

She stops the car, the night is cold, the lay-by muddy, my breath smoke. She tells me to look at the moon, mercury sheens the ridged field, surf sound from distant cars. We should all see the moon when it is full.

Another night, in another place she had said: There is only now, be in this moment. A noisy rickshaw carried us past a bus stop blanketed by sleeping people, sodium glare washed out the stars.

She has the map, I would follow her anywhere.

I have been playing about with the shape/form of the poem and at the moment I think it works best as a prose poem. Watch this space
The second is an altogether different kettle of words. It comes from an event many years ago and I think I have invented a word: enambered, to describe the feeling of being totally stuck somewhere. If you have invented this word in the past, my apologies.

In The Museum of Past Hurts

You would polish every twisted set of tragic thoughts,
concerned that each did not lose it's value.
It was imperative, you told me, to study
every piece at the correct time, if you
were to fully feel it's impact. There was no other way you
could possibly remain enambered in misery.
So, with scrupulous precision, you rewrote exhibit titles,
the better to keep you stuck.

I only went the once, your guest, it was not to my taste,
like that discordant serious music you listened to,only with more blood.
You had dragged that ediffice with you throughout your life.
I sensed there was pride in your curatorship, after all
that museum was all you had.
This week I have been listening to Shelagh McDonald's second lp Stargazer and I think that this is the best track.
While looking for it on Youtube I came across this French tv recording of Bridget St. John from 1970. The sound could be better but what the hell...

Friday, 10 October 2014

IT ENDS HERE

I've noticed recently that there is an increasing lack of continuity between the photos and the content of the post. I have decided not to worry about this. It would be aesthetically pleasing if they mirrored each other but seems increasingly less possible. The robot should figure in a post about The Tempest, via Forbidden Planet, but sadly does not. 
I wrote this poem two years ago. I had been talking to a man who had served in Afghanistan and he had shown me some footage. The images circled in my head for what felt like a long time, before they coalesced into this poem.

Helmand Province 2010
For Sam Ryder

Between two mud walls that demarcate
public road from private fields,
on a highway to there and back again,
three men crouch, part the dry earth,
plant their secret hatred,
imagine its savage flowering
that would soak the soil with blood.
They have prayed for this moment,
three hearts intent on mayhem.

Through the eye of a spy drone,
distance grants perspective.
Listen, it comes down to this:
three figures in a landscape,
two AK47’s, one IED.
Gift to each of these characters
a back story that suits your position,
for the mortar has their range,
the ordnance falls.
It ends here.

I think those who perpetuate violence must be stopped before they can harm others but in doing so we put a burden on those we ask to protect society. We leave them with that burden and we, as a society, are often unwilling to recognise this, let alone to help them with. As John Donne wrote: Any man's death diminishes me. We see it after any war, the last battle is the coming home. Odysseus knew this and it has been true since. John Schumann when I interviewed him highlighted the issues facing Australians returning from Vietnam. They have not changed, we need to offer those who do protect us the support they need. I  think we fail them.

I am leaving you with There was a Man by Pearls Before Swine, from their anti-war masterpiece Balaclava

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

PAUL MORTIMER A POET TO WATCH

 
I have been following poet Paul Mortimer for a number of years now and his work just keeps on getting better and better. He has such a deft touch and is overflowing with ideas. Paul is a member of Juncture 25 and contributes to a number of on-line groups. His own blog welshstream is always well worth a read. I await the release of his first collection which hopefully will not be long. Anyway let's hear from the man...

What got you writing in the first place?

I’m not sure anything in particular got me writing. I think it was something I was born with! That sounds really pretentious, but I don’t mean it to be. My mum was an avid reader and always used to read to me apparently when I was small so by the time I started school I could already read. I still ‘eat up’ books. When I was young I used to write a lot of short stories. Again my mum told me these things. I had two bouts of amnesia, one when I was 5 and another at the age of 10, so sadly I have no real memory of my boyhood years. At the age of 17 I became a journalist and spent the next 42 years writing news and sport so when I retired at 60 I decided to write for me and poetry was my main outlet, though I’d written no poetry apart from a few pieces when I was in my late teens. I took an OU short course in poetry writing, which was absolutely brilliant, and I suppose that was the trigger.
Who influences you?

That’s a very big question. I prefer to use the word impress rather than influence as that can indicate certain poets’ styles steer mine and I like to think I go my own way! There’s a huge range of poets I enjoy, I just love reading the stuff. I’d only be touching the tip of those who impress me but they include Derek Walcott, Simon Armitage, Ted Hughes, Charles Bukowski, Nick Laird, Helen Dunmore, August Kleinzahler, Thom Gunn, Hugo Williams, Michael Donaghy …. I really need to stop there! I also subscribe to about four poetry magazines and love discovering new work and poets. And don’t get me started on authors…..

I love the blog, how would you describe it?

Fun. I just love putting stuff out there and seeing what responses come back. It really started when I hooked into a sort of online poetry forum called dversepoets and I needed a blog to link into their tri-weekly workshop-type of events. The poets are from all over the world so I initially used it for putting up poems created through the workshops. I use it for other work as well now.
What other mediums do you use and why?
I think the internet has been brilliant for poetry. It opens up a whole world of talent out there you would never otherwise tap into or come across. To be honest the stuff that gets published or wins competitions is only a tiny fraction of the excellent poetry being produced. Since the blog I’ve branched out with a Facebook poetry page and Twitter – that one for micro-poetry which I love writing. I think 40 plus years writing newspaper headlines that capture the essence of a story have helped me, don’t you think?
Where do you get the ideas from?
As a journalist you always had to be inquisitive and tuned in to life and that’s where I find my poetry. Absolutely anything can trigger off ideas. I never actually go looking for them. For instance on a walk across Dartmoor recently I came across a sheep spine and came up with a poem on the spot. It’s actually turned out to be one of my favourites. I think having always been an imaginative person has helped me see poems in all sorts of places. The only ‘forced’ poetry comes mostly through the monthly workshops we do at Juncture 25 and I love those. Its brilliant being put on the spot and having to deliver something in about 40 minutes. You go places with your mind that you wouldn’t otherwise.
Free verse or form-which does it for you?
Free verse. In the OU course we obviously had to do form which was excellent discipline. I do struggle with things like villanelles and sonnets. I’m always left feeling that I’m forcing a poem in a direction I don’t want to take it. But that’s just me. I enjoy reading form poetry.
What's in the pipeline?
The main thing is a novel which gets launched on October 18. Called Ravenhart it is a crime fantasy. There’s a thing called National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). You basically just have to writ 50,000 words in four weeks and I had this idea bobbling about so though I’d give it a shot. That was two years ago and it seemed to come together quite well so I spent some time working on it afterwards and now here we are! It’s very exciting. What’s even more exciting is that a Belfast publishing company is showing interest in publishing a poetry collection. That would really be a big thing for me. Finally I have another little fun project on the go called Defacing Dickens. I bought several old Dickens novels from a charity shop and am making what I call art poems by linking particular words on a page. (I’ve sent you an illustration if that helps!)
If you were interviewing yourself-what question would you ask?
If you weren’t writing poetry what would you do: Read it! Poetry is such a wonderful form of literature that says so much in so few words and still leaves huge spaces for your mind to fill in.

If you were a book what book would you be and why?
Poucher’s The Welsh Peaks. It was my dad’s book - I have it now - and is a little old black and white guide to the mountains of north Wales where we both come from. He took me climbing with him from the age of 11. Snowdonia is a hugely evocative place for me; I can smell the rain, moss and granite whenever I think about the place. I suppose it’s a sort of spiritual home for me really (not in the religious sense) and there is a great sense of freedom you feel when climbing or walking the ridges. And in a way that captures the essence of poetry for me. The ability to break free and capture something different or special with words.
SHEEP SPINE
Life and death
bleached on this peaty moonscape.
Here it is elemental.
Moor and sun,
a harsh unforgiving beauty.
Knuckle on knuckle.
Each notch etched clear
in its whiteness.
No wool.
No flesh.
No muscle.
Picked clean.
Purity laid bare.
Simplicity of structure in
the chaos of wilderness.
This is where it all ends.
Bone and earth.

Thanks Paul. You can listen to Paul reading Sheep Spine here.