Saturday, 25 February 2017

TWO UNBLINKING MAGPIES

I've had a busy, poetry focused week. Thanks to The Secret Poets and to Paul Mortimer for their support and constructive feedback. Without quality constructive feedback we are less than is possible.
I wanted to call this first poem: The Devil to Pay and No Pitch Hot. I think I am too attached to this rather obscure phrase. It is an old navel term meaning an unpleasant outcome from an action, which fits the poem but may be too abstract.

Two unblinking magpies stand off a gull.
In the age of great waste
every resource is contested.

Out of the spilled bin rises
a mountain of half eaten food.
We throw away so much.

The gull screeches, feints,
The magpies motionless, wait.
They play a long game.

I have stopped to gawk.
A third magpie lands.
Outgunned, the gull departs.

Stock still, peripheral,
a crow bides time.
This is not nearly over.
The idea came to me after I had watched two magpies stand off a gull. I literally sat down and wrote the poem. Many heads have spent much time editing it. Thanks to all.
Here is a revised poem. It has been made tighter by the judicious removal of three the's, the addition of a line break and the compression we are into we're.
You can read the original version here.

1974

I spend more time on the green buses
travelling there, or coming back
than I do where I am going.
There is the occasional milky coffee,
chipped cups in bus station cafés,
windows misted, cigarette smoke and coughing old men.
The park is empty.
Sun slopes through trees,
reddens the lake and municipal ducks.
Winter comes calling.
My patch pocket, button front, black loons
are no match for this lazy wind.
I don't know where
or what we eat,
but we're either at The Grand, or the Beer Keller,
or in a doorway kissing.
Once in a while your house is empty.
I say I love you.
I have no idea what those words mean.
I have been listening to Elvis Costello's Spike album. Here is what surely must be one of the best songs he ever wrote.
Until next time.

Friday, 17 February 2017

SUN TIPPED SPEARS


As usual no correlation between images and words. I think this is the house style of this blog.
I was talking to my mother in law the other day and she happened to mention that her daffodils had been tightly closed first thing that morning and over the day they had opened without her seeing them do so. This set me off thinking.

First Daffodils

sun tipped spears
hold a miser's delight
and over a day
in slow motion
they cash in their gold
to shower the room
with the promise of summer
This draft was reduced from this

First Daffodils

sun tipped spears
hold a miser's delight
and over a day's slow motion
-less when you look
they open
cash in their gold
to shower the room
with the promise of summer to come
As you can see I have removed the last 2 words. I believe the poem reads the same whether they are present or not. So out they went. I also removed the play on words around slow motion/less. I liked it but I felt it confused the flow of the poem. Most of the time less is more.
I leave you with Anna Terheim live last month.
Until the next time.

Friday, 10 February 2017

HID BENEATH THE SUN

A revised poem this post. You can read the original draft here.
Thanks go to Paul Mortimer for assistance with the revision. 
I think the poem is has a clarity that it lacked previously.


He carried a torch for me
far longer than was healthy.
I knew this by the cards,
and the telephone's pleading cry in the night
eventually I did not answer.

Forty years would pass before I watched
his father cross Bold Street,
and I saw the man he had grown into.
Seated in the anonymous window
of a nameless tea-house,
I hid beneath the sun
that sucked the light from his hand
I did not rush outside,
nor did I think of him again.
It has no basis in reality. The ideas had been swimming about in my head for some time and they came together on the page.
I have been listening to Tracey Thorne's first solo lp a lot recently. Here's EBTG.
Here's Plain Sailing.
Until next time.

Friday, 3 February 2017

1974

I spent the other weekend with the Secret Poets on a writing retreat. It was both great fun and very productive. Here's a poem that came from one of the writing workshops. We had to focus on a specific year and try to put ourselves back there in the moment. 
It was surprisingly easy to do once I got going. We were asked to write down a sentence in response to a series of questions. The poem had to be 20 lines long.
This is my take.

1974

I spend more time on the green buses
travelling there, or coming back
than I do where I am going.
There is the occasional milky coffee,
chipped cups in bus station cafés,
windows misted, cigarette smoke and coughing old men.
The park is empty.
The sun slopes through the trees,
reddens the lake and the municipal ducks.
Winter comes calling.
My patch pocket, button front, black loons
are no match for this lazy wind.
I don't know where or what we eat,
but we are either at The Grand, or the Beer Keller,
or in a doorway kissing.
Once in a while your house is empty.
I say I love you.
I have no idea what those words mean.
The set of answers left me with a series of images from 1974 that I wove into the above poem. I think it may be near completion.
Sadly I have not been able to find any photographs from the time on my hard drive. You are presented with some photographs of the New Bridge instead.
I've been listening to Ryley Walker recently. His third album had some good write ups, though I could do without the hyperbole. Why is it we have to compare new musicians to older artists? Is it to make the job of selling them easier?
Here he is playing Roundabout.
And here he is live.  
He's touring in May. Should be worth seeing.
Until next time.

Friday, 27 January 2017

FAITH AS WELL

Apologies for reusing a photograph I've already posted but strangely enough I have few pictures of scaffolding. In actual fact I have one photograph of scaffolding.
Last Friday I was in a friend's car and we had to stop for a lorry loaded with scaffolding equipment to manoeuvre into place so as to make the  unloading easier. I happened to say "You need optimism to be a scaffolder". I was thinking of the times I have seen them balancing on bars to construct these amazing frames inside which something will happen. This set me thinking
You Have to be Optimistic to be a Scaffolder

Balanced on a horizontal bar.
Up there, in the zone,
bolting in a supporting spar,
you need the knowledge, faith as well,
to sketch a safe perimeter,
build another’s workspace,
and when the tower is assembled,
and when the learning‘s done,
like a strip of film run
the wrong way through the projector,
piece by piece, you take it down,
to construct the next nurturing shell,
which in its turn you’ll dismantle,
to start from scratch again.

I think it is a pretty straight forward poem. It is not yet complete. It requires work-watch this space [as you would scaffolding being erected].
Here's Bottle Top Blues by Brooke Sharkey. It's just been released as a single.
Until next time.

Friday, 20 January 2017

SHE MAY SPEAK TO YOU

This is a self portrait by Ofelia Marques, a Portuguese artist. I was recently looking through a catalogue I'd picked up in Lisbon years ago and the drawing caught my eye.
Originally I attempted to write a found poem using the potted biography that accompanied the picture. It was obviously translated from the Portuguese:

another factor that led to the misreading of her;
yet more attentive observation of her drawings suffices to reveal the plastic value of her line;
she helps herself to the lexicon used by each artist;
in an appropriation of his register;
the profound silence that circumscribed her entire oeuvre demands rethinking.

There was more, it mainly focused on the fact that she had not had children, implying [to my eyes, at least] that this was a failure. 
Looking again at these rich lines I may well turn them into a poem.
Anyway this is my humble offering to Ofelia Marques.


the artist as a novelty act
defined by her inactive womb
written off some fifty years before
not to be taken seriously at all

but take a moment
look beyond the frame of history
she may speak to you
as she talks to me
Last time I was in Lisbon there was an exhibition of the 60's on. This is fitting as 50 years ago today The Beatles were in the studio recording A Day In The Life [they worked on the song 19/20 January and 3/10 February 1967].
Sargent Pepper was the second lp I ever bought. I was 11 at the time it was released and while it has not stood the test of time as well as Revolver, Abbey Road or Magical Mystery Tour, A Day In The Life is awe inspiring...

Friday, 13 January 2017

HARDLY A RIPPLE

 
 I have been revising the poem featured in the last post. I was not happy with the character's motivation and felt that her back story needed to be more fully described. I think there is a fine line between giving just enough information and telling not showing. I hope I have not crossed it.
It is always illuminating to share your work with people you trust and respect. Just listening to someone else read your words aloud can be very useful. It was at the behest of the Secret Poets that I set to work to alter the poem.

Pinned by an arrow through her heart until it broke,
she had pulled herself off the splintered shaft
then considered the alternatives;
to settle for the less than perfect;
to mend and make do in this little town.
She got herself an education instead,
almost accidentally traced the currents in the confluence of events
that had led her and him to stand on that bridge,
fasten a padlock to the handrail
and each to cast their key into the sunset water,
for they knew they would never unlock their love.

Council cuts meant that the bridge went unpainted.
The allegedly rustless lock now tainted by atmosphere.
Her levering screwdriver dragged the shackle
screaming from an eight year sleep,
then it became a weight on her palm,
she turned her wrist,
the broken mechanism rushed towards the water.
There was hardly a ripple.
I also set to altering line lengths, which I think adds to the drama of the poem. A poem needs to breathe but still have its own dynamic. This can be a tightrope walking act.
Here is Midlake, sadly missed since Tim Smith was asked to leave the band. What a genius he is, and where is he now?