Sunday, 21 December 2014

GLASTONBURY TOR WINTER SOLSTICE 2014

This time round I decided to see the new year in by going to Glastonbury Tor instead of Avebury. 
It was a good decision. The sunrise was magnificent- if somewhat cold thanks to a lazy wind. 
Thanks to Ollie for the company and to the shamans who led the ceremony.
If you have never welcomed the new year in by watching the sunrise I urge you to do so next year.
For now Happy Winter Solstice.

Friday, 19 December 2014

SHE HAS THE MAP

I find myself singing the praises of poetry groups once again. I want to thank the Secret Poet's for a very enjoyable and productive evening on Monday.
If you write, in my opinion, you need to be part of a group. It will enhance your writing immeasurably. 
Two redrafted poems this post.


she stops the car
the night is cold
my breath is smoke
the lay-by muddy
mercury sheens the ridged field
surf sound from distant cars
she tells me to look at the moon,
another night, in another place she had said
there is only now
a noisy rickshaw carried us past
a bus stop blanketed by sleeping people
she has the map
I would follow her anywhere

You can see how I have pared the poem down from the last draft. Also how effective it is without the punctuation. You have to take the time and play about with a poem. Most of what you do will not work but that does not matter. 
I also have been redrafting this:

GEORGE ADAMSKI SQUARES HIS CIRCLE

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 love tv and be just like we are.
He feeds the con man a white bread vision,
the solar system as some banal B-movie town.
Old George for his part, keeps silent about
the flying saucer he's building in the garage.
You see, he needs something people will buy into,
when he stands in front of paying audiences.
Even his honest eyes can quite swing it.
So he will make that chicken incubator lampshade fly on film.
The Venusian doesn't care that his world
is a nightmare of green house gasses gone mad.
[That'll come out later,]
Just tell the earthlings what they want to hear and everyone's happy.
Save Amelia Earhart, who is either a 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.

It even has a title! I find that titles either arrive with the poem or take a much longer route. What was bothering me about this poem was the line about the heat lamp housing, I could not get my mouth around it effectively when I read it out loud. It had to go
If the words don't feel right in your mouth they need changing.

Here's Alela Diane on KEXP. Until next time.

Friday, 12 December 2014

END OF SPECIES EXAM

 
Today's poem is one that I have been honing at readings over the past eighteen months or so. I am aware that one of my default settings [is it possible to have more than one default setting?] is that unchecked I have a tendency to hector in my poetry. It is not a virtue. 
For example the day I wrote this poem I was reading at an event here in Taunton. I was so pleased with the first, very long version of this poem, that I read it out. About half way through I realised that it was too long-I had revised it many times at this point, but obviously not enough.
Since then I have cut it down dramatically. The origin of the piece was a random idea. I had been reminded of the fact that when at school we would have end of year exams-I am so old, I am pre-pre-SATs. I thought it would be interesting if we had to write an end of species exam. The origin of the poem is that simple.
END of SPECIES EXAM
Now the jig is up, the experiment nearly over, it’s time for the exam. Please answer the following questions as completely as you can. Your answers may be of interest to some future species or a extra-terrestrial life form, if they can be bothered to come so far to see the pig’s ear we’ve made of this place.
The big trek out of Africa- was it worth the effort? Discuss.
Agriculture-what was all that about then? Pay particular attention to the supermarkets and how they set about stuffing both the consumer and the producer. Illustrate your answer with drawings of supermarkets burning.
Answer yes or no. Did you really believe the Tories when they said the NHS was safe in their hands?
List at least three reasons why as a species we believe in ideologies over common sense?

Estimate to the nearest pint how much blood is on Tony Blair’s hands.
State, to the nearest year, when you came to believe that we should pay for our own education. Then comment on the fact that the people who told us we had to pay benefited from free education themselves. Pay particular attention to their moral bankruptcy.
Nuclear power, who did you really expect to clean up all the crap?

Offer at least three reasons for the fact that the cabinet look so smug when the number of food banks in this country is rising.
And finally, why did we allow them to get away with it for so long?
What do you think? What questions would you want to ask us as a species? I am aware that mine are very culture specific- but then I was socially constructed here not elsewhere.

I leave you with the wonderful Mountain Goats live at Newport in 2013, energy and such amazing lyrics.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

JENNY HILL: GUEST BLOGGER

I am so pleased to be able to present to you Jenny Hill's guest blog. Jenny is a member of Juncture 25 and as well as being a talented poet, has begun to write a wonderful blog about her trip to India. You can read it here.I am going to let Jenny speak for herself.

They say that India gets under your skin. That it will lie low in your memory for a while, then slowly begin to tug at you, easing itself into your conscious mind until it becomes imperative that you return. I know of one man who has gone back twice a year, for eight years, and is currently planning his next trip.
Before we went, I fully expected to fall in love with India. After all, my family had lived there for generations – it was my great-great grandfathers who went out there in the mid 19th century, married out there, had children out there, worked there and died there, as did their children and their children’s children, right up until my father left in 1935. Surely, I believed, I would find a connection with the country and the people, a reason why it had beguiled so many of my ancestors.

I loved it – don’t get me wrong. The people we met were, by and large, the gentlest, friendliest, kindest people I have ever come across. The country in the North-East was spectacular. But there was no connection. I had expected to belong, and I didn’t. I left, thinking I could draw a line under that part of my history. It was done.
I was wrong. Already I am beginning to yearn for India. For the smiling people of Kurseong and the gentle people of Gangtok, shaking my hand, taking my photograph. For the monasteries and prayer flags. For the clarity of the air and the way the clouds swirled over the foothills of the Himalaya. For the mountains themselves – at dawn, at dusk, revealing glimpses of impossible peaks through the cloud or clear and sharp and magnificent.
I want to walk again in the places where my father and my father’s father walked. To look down on the backs of eagles as they glide on the thermal currents. I have to explore the plains, the vast river deltas, to picnic on the Rangpo and see Changu Lake covered in ice and snow. I want to follow the journeys my grandfather made as he went about his work in Sikkim.
I long to sit and look at the foothills, to breathe in the shape of them swathed in acres of tea gardens. I could do nothing quite easily there, except look and sigh, then look and sigh some more.   
I find I am missing the crazy driving on impossible roads that make your teeth chatter for hours after your journey is over. Incredibly I miss the streams full of litter – England is so clean - and even the sheer numbers of people in Kolkata, the dirt and the smells are beginning to exert a strange, compulsive yearning.
I have, to all intents and purposes, gone back to who I used to be before I went to India, but deep within me something has changed.
India is calling me. I will have to go.

Thanks Jenny.

Friday, 28 November 2014

WORKSHOP 7

Today's post comes from a Juncture 25 workshop. We meet twice a month and the second meeting is always a workshop. This time Gram Davies led us in an exercise he'd seen used by poet Kei Miller
The task was to write a number of random words on individual pieces of paper, then to swap them with the other poets, who wrote definitions on other pieces of paper. The idea was to have a list of words and juxtaposed definitions. We then had 45 minutes to turn this material into a poem.
I decided to try and write a poem using the definitions. here is a further revised draft.

When this life is not as you wished
and a shadow hangs heavy over your heart,
let me be your signpost. For
don't we all not sparkle brighter than
this light that falls upon us?
Please don't let this combination of skin, blood and bone fool you.
We are a fabulous idea shaken from the brow of God.
We are incandescent,
as bright as the stars that bequeathed us are atoms.  
This is the draft from the workshop. The words in italics were the ones I lifted from the exercise.

When this life is not what you wished for
and a shadow hangs over your heart,
then you live a life of dread.
I will be your signpost, point you in the right direction
for do we not sparkle brighter than the light that falls on us?
Are we not fabulous ideas shaken from the brow of God?
Do not be fooled by this combination of skin, blood and muscle,
we were created from the condensation of water at great heights.
We are incandescent, as bright as the stars that gave us these atoms.

It illustrates, I think, the power of revision. Yes, I know, I harp on about the importance of revision all the time.

I leave you with Kai Miller.

Friday, 21 November 2014

LIFE CHANGING EVENT

One poem again this post, and it's a work in progress. I'd be interested to know what you make of it.
reflection on a bad second marriage

think of it as a plane crash or a train wreck
any image where two complex mechanisms collide head on
no one will die but expect damage
do not underestimate it
this is a life changing event
you will be alone in the detritus
or if especially unlucky
the other will attempt to cling and suck out your life
you must devise your own escape method
find a path through the debris
you will get out eventually
try to do so with dignity

remember you need never visit this source of misery again
not even to write a poem
Here is the Albion Country Band-in their first and best incarnation.
On a less jaded note here's Liz Lawrence's video of the Bedroom Hero tour- the gimlet eyed amongst you may fleetingly clock me amidst the cast of thousands.

Friday, 14 November 2014

TO RESUME ANOTHER'S LIFE

A small poem I have just completed- well the latest draft. it needs a little more work.

I hide crouched in a toilet cubicle until you
lock the doors, secure the building,
and return to wherever it is you came from.
Solitary now, I will wander,
my chance to view each room as they should be beheld,
clear, silent, with moonlight silvering the floors.
Burglar alarm silent I creep across the parquet,
socks shining a trail none will notice.
All this I explore until dawn brings cleaners
sleepy from dreams of better times
[when they could remain in their beds].
As they enter, I slip out, to resume someone else's life
It came quite quickly last night and I spent part of the morning trying to get it into a coherent form.
Here's a revised version of a poem from a a few posts back.

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 love tv and be just like we are.
He feeds the con man a white bread vision, the solar system
as some banal B-movie town.
Old George for his part, keeps silent about
the flying saucer he's building in the garage.
You see, he needs something people will buy in to,
when he stands in front of paying audiences,
not even his honest eyes can quite swing it.
So he will make that chicken incubator heat
lamp housing 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,
-just tell the earthlings what they want to hear
and everyone's happy, save Amelia Earhart. Who is either
a housewife hitting the highballs at eleven am. Or
an incomplete set of bones on a Pacific island.
You takes your pick-some realities are much more fun than others.
I leave you with the wonderful Kevin Ayers from 1972.