Friday, 28 June 2013

hydrogen bonds pulse

An unrelated photograph 
 This week I have been revising some of the poems from my collaboration will Alison Wilson that we will be premiering later in the year. I also ran a workshop for the poetry group I am a member of Juncture 25. The brief I set was to think of:

 A famous person from the past
 A job that people do today-preferably one that you could not imagine the historical person undertaking.
 A recent scientific discovery.

We then read out our ideas to the group and people were free to use any of the material as they wished.




My own contribution was Florence Nightingale, collecting supermarket shopping trollies and research into the hydrogen bond in water. Apparently the bond turns off and on many thousand times a second. Scientists do not know why and are attempting to use quantum mechanics to explain it.  I know my description is pitiful so here is a link to the radio programme I heard it on.

This is the [revised] poem I came up with.

Florence is a stupid name
so she swaps it for Spike,
tatts and a shaved head.
She surveys the supermarket car park
causally curses idle civilians,
too lazy to return their empty trollies.
Still she’s out in the fresh air-that’s good,
even on a day like this.
the rain runs down her face,
the water sings, hydrogen bonds pulse
-off, on, on off.
Metal screams- the bloody wheel's stuck again!
But though it heralds entropy
and the inevitable heat death of the universe,
she don’t need no quantum mechanic,
she can do it for herself with a spanner.

I am not sure it works. I’d be interested in your opinions and in any workshop exercises you have come up.

Here’s another poem about Yuri Gagarin:

GAGARIN JUMPED

From that spinning capsule Gagarin jumped,
it twisted under his feet, tumbled away.
He knew just how far to trust technology,
enough to get him there and nearly back.

There can be no return to some past state of grace,

Gagarin would realise this as he fought the controls,
willing the jet to wing over the town.
too low and too late to eject,
locked on death’s trajectory.



You can read about his life and the triumphs of the Soviet space programme here. Staying with the Russian theme I am looking forward to seeing the Chagall exhibition at the LiverpoolTate this weekend. Have a good week.

Friday, 21 June 2013

OAK and ASH and THORN


Today is a day of celebration. Summer Solstice. A time for lighting fires and giving thanks that the wheel of life continues to turn. In pre-Reformation England the fire was dedicated to St. John but this was a gloss that the church placed on earlier celebrations.

For the past half year the day has slowly been getting longer. My Grandmother used to say that the day grew or shrank by a cock’s stride, either side of the equinox. For the next six months the days will shorten-until I am back at Avebury celebrating the sunrise. Giving thanks for another year.

The title of the post is taken from Rudyard Kipling’s poem. Peter Bellamy added music in the 1970’s. Here is a version of it I have just found by the wonderful Fay Hield.



This first poem is an observation. I watched the whole thing as I waited at the station.

due to earlier congestion the next train will be fifteen minutes late…

turn disaster to advantage,
he’s read that once in a book,
so he talks to the woman
who’s folding down her bike,
and gives it his best shot.
Across a pair of train tracks,
on another platform, I watch
him launch into a complex story,
his hands talk, she smiles,
perhaps this is his lucky day.

The poem did not come easily. I had to work out the most effective angle. What do you think?

I am not sure if I have posted this next poem before. It was written in 1987 and was again a difficult write. What made it work in the end was my realisation that it needed to be pared to the bone. I had to remove all extraneous information, to distil the whole experience into just seven lines and to use the voice of a participant rather than the observer I had been in life.

to the steep house
in the anonymous row
affluence will come
and love will go
closing the door
hiding the key
I’ll blame you and you can blame me

It is one of the few of my own poems that I can recite from my head. I am always impressed by people who can stand there and speak their work. I think it adds a layer of intimacy.

These two poems came from a workshop in our local theatre-sadly now closed. The workshop took place in a gallery that had an installation of dresses. We were asked to write about which ever dress caught our attention. For me it was the mermaid’s tail fastened to a top and it looked like the whole thing had been sloughed off. The other was a dress covered in cigarette burns which I found very disturbing.

THE MERMAID’S POEM

I escaped
inevitably there was some cost
nothing is free
that life had accumulated
burdened scarred
dried my scales to the point of combustion
I sloughed my skin
and do not remember the pain

THE STATEMENT

After the party.
After you had left,
As I circled our shared rooms
For a trace of you,
I saw the dress:

Provocative;

On a hanger;

On a door.

The first burn was pure anger.
I could have passed that off as a mistake,
But not the movement of my cigarette
From point to point,
On the ruins of your dress.

What do you make of them? I think I find the second one as disturbing as I found the original artwork.

On a lighter note here is the new video from Alela Diane. She has a new album out soon and is touring. If you have never seen her live then you are in for a treat.




I am going now to set a fire and celebrate the wheel of life. Have a good week.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

SCARDIFF

I just want to flag up the first Scardiff horror convention in Cardiff on the 27th October. As you can see there's lots of great people there and a programme of short films.  Plus the lovely people at Corvus Press will be producing a special festival book just for the festival. 

Tickets are on sale now-more information to follow...

Friday, 14 June 2013

HAMSTRUNG BUT NOT HAMFISTED


Can a poem be said to work if it requires the reader to do some research? Does the poet have a duty to add a footnote explaining the background? Does it matter that the topic of a poem is obscure?

What do you think? I have not got an answer. My reason for posing this question is that I have been writing a poem about Weyland the Smith, an old English myth. Not one that I read when a child. I first came across the legend when I read Basil Branston’s The Lost Gods of England in the middle 1970’s.

If I am honest I never thought about the story until recently. The poetry group I am a member of, Juncture 25, is reading at the Porlock Festival in September. Originally we were going to be on at a gallery that was an old smithy, the location has since changed, but I thought to mark the event I would have a go at writing about Wayland.  

Essentially his story is this; Wayland, a master metal worker is captured in his sleep by King NiĆ°had and imprisoned on an island. Wayland is ham strung to prevent him escaping, and he is forced to produce works of art. To take his revenge Wayland secretly lures the king’s sons to his workshop and kills them, fashioning drinking vessels from their skulls, jewels from their eyes and a broach from their teeth. He sends these to the king and queen. He rapes and murders their daughter (in some versions he does not murder her. This could explain why I never heard the story as a child.) then flies away on metal wings that he has secretly fashioned. 
Over a period of time I wrote this:

WAYLAND THE SMITH

Hamstrung but not ham-fisted,
you knew the names of colours of flames
and what each would lend to the metal,
fashioning beauty from royal cruelty.

Shuffling, each step a slap in your face,
a physical jeer that rakes the pain of your past anew.
In work you are lost, motionless,
silver solder runs as molten as your hate.

The princes in thrall to your whispers,
their greed filled eyes their undoing.

Where are my sons he asked,
then drank deep from the cup
chased in silver, chased in gold,
a bone white vessel built to hold
revenge for royal cruelty.

You had a special fate reserved for the princess.

Let me ask you;
When she lay despoiled and dead at you shambling feet,
as you fitted your cold metal wings to fly from royal cruelty
and your own stale revenge,
did all the blood assuage the pain
or ring hollow as a tinkers trinket?


When I read it the other night at a meeting I had to launch into a lengthy preamble about the story and this made me ask the questions above. What do you think?

Friday, 7 June 2013

COLD WIND PROMPTS BITTER TEARS


A number of poems this week, in various stages of repair and revision.

This first was sparked by a memory of the transistor radio I had when a boy. The reception was never that good, the station would drift and require unending adjustment.

the metaphor for our relationship would have to be a cheap transistor radio all brittle plastic bad wiring and an inability to stay on station. you could hear the encroaching static crackle robbing either of us of any real rest. in the end I got earache and switched the damn thing off only to discover that with the right poisoned atmospheric conditions I can still pick up your contempt like tinnitus or a bad toothache


Possibly the trouble with the relationship described was that the players stopped wanting to adjust?


This next one was inspired by seeing some magpies gleaning the verge of a dual carriageway on a cold February day. The cars, myself included, were speeding towards their destinations and as I drove past I thought of how miserable it must be to be out on such a day.

scrunting starvelings
side verge haunting
iced grass and frozen ground
cold wind prompts bitter tears
once they were the masters
claws ripped teeth tore
they took what they wanted
times change they live in the margin of the speeding road
unnoticed in our petrol fueled haste
jostling seagulls for street light perches


Again I am not sure if this poem is finished. Scrunting is a Trinidadian word for and I quote: Seeing hard times. I thought that as birds are descended from dinosaurs who once ruled the world then that February day was hard times indeed. 


This last poem came about as I emptied for the last time our old car before it went off to the scrapyard.

I empty the car of meaning
of all I can use again
load memories into a shopping bag.
Inert beyond repair,
the metal husk awaits
professional gleaning
this will be all of ours future

Again I am not sure if it is complete. Your views would be appreciated.

The poetry group I am part of, Juncture 25, is doing a reading tonight and I must go and sort myself out. Actually I need to decide exactly what I am reading.


None of the photos I am posting this week bear any relation to the content either...Have a good week.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

CANDY BRIGHT: The poet speaks.


I first heard Candy read at a Fire River Poets open mic at the Brewhouse. What struck me from the start was the immediacy of her work; it grabbed me from the first word. I was impressed by her emotional honesty and the beauty of her language. Here I thought is a poet who can transform everything the world throws at her into beauty. Her work is honest and accessible to all.
I had the honour of appearing alongside her in the Freeze Frame anthology at the end of last year. Candy is also a member of Juncture 25.
In 2005 her first collection was published Candy Colours, one reviewer described it as “straight from the heart…a lady who understands and faces life full on.”

Let’s hear what Candy has to say.

WHAT GOT YOU WRITING IN THE FIRST PLACE?
 I started writing poetry when I was about 12. Very early on I found words on the page very comforting, even the harsh ones; I think because it was a way of explaining things in what was a very confused world. Once they were there, which would take some thought-they remained predictable.
I spent years having this tumultuous love affair with poetry and after many a lovers tiff would tear up my work –only to be drawn back in again. Nowadays I use a laptop as well as pen and paper but back in the day I would get what I came to know as the ‘pull of pen’.
It has light and shade of course and I often think mine has too much shade but that is how it is. Once a poem is complete there is a satisfaction, a release of tension not unlike love. It does not however last forever.
I was a busy reader when I was younger-more than I do now-I suppose I had less distractions, and it became clear to me that when words work-they really work and it still makes me feel good.

WHO INFLUENCES YOU ?
There are so many poets that I admire, so many poems that I have read that make you just feel-WOW!! And it isn’t a feeling you can really share, it tends to be a party for one. To mention a few: Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes, Simon Armitage, Tony Harrison,  Mark Haddon, Stevie Smith,  Phillip Larkin, W.B.Yeats,  W.H. Auden, Mary Oliver, Christina Rosetti, Phil Lynott, Maya Angelou …………………and so many more . Poets I meet with now and have the amazing opportunity to share with, to be challenged by, to trust enough to speak up with. I am talking about the poetry group JUNCTURE 25-it is a real pleasure and honour to be part of this group. There will be times when we meet and one or other reads one of their poems and I am transported to that place, that feeling .   If I crave anything it is that connection.

WHERE DO YOU GET IDEAS FROM?
Life experiences and all that entails. I am mostly driven emotionally so my work will come from that rather than perhaps –nature. Whilst this may sound egocentric I believe that whilst we are unique we can all share a theme. I get a real kick out of someone relating to my work as I do when I relate to someone else’s.

FREE VERSE OR FORM-WHICH DOES IT FOR YOU?
I tend to favour free verse and often a poem will find its own rhythm, sometimes rhyme works and sometimes not. I have been challenged by writing to form and it does require more discipline and I have enjoyed the experience. It does not always come naturally. It is something I struggle with, often feeling I should be more academic but am always afraid of losing passion………….

WHATS IN THE PIPELINE?
More of more of the same hopefully! I hope that the poetry group I belong to will publish an anthology this year. I should start a web page !!! I should do a lot of things. I am the world’s worst (best?) procrastinator, however I have started the book-the one that’s been in my head for about 20 years-so maybe once its on the page it will leave me alone J. We have some gigs coming up which I am very excited about including the Porlock Arts Festival- Porlock has a great history with poets so its cool to live here.

IF YOU WERE INTERVIEWING YOURSELF-WHAT QUESTION WOULD YOU ASK YOURSELF?
What have you been doing all this time????????????? I don’t know that I have an answer though.

IF YOU WERE A BOOK WHAT BOOK WOULD YOU BE AND WHY?

I would like to be a South American novel, I love the way they write with colour and passion with few holds barred.

Here are a couple of Candy’s poems:

AN AMERICAN IN LONDON

I don’t remember your name
your face Is blurred, your touch less so
and thirty five years have gone.
But I remember your words:

Falling mouth to mouth
Through the random serenity of hell
I loved you then.

We would eat in the spaghetti houses
in Goodge street and  fill up on
cheap Chianti before making
our way to the hotels in Paddington
where we would trip the light fantastic
in our twilight world.

Always the night.

I was skipping along
being shiny and bright, picking up
before putting down when bored;
my playmates who kept the devil at bay.
You must have been escaping-
her I guess
whoever she was.

You were always gone by the morning
and I would make  my way back ,
back from our secret world
to the one I was escaping too.

I smiled,
it was ok.

You had admired amongst other parts
the mole on my stomach.
I agreed with you and said
I liked it as it broke up the

monotony of my abdomen.

You smiled

and said that had I stayed stateside
I just would have said “it’s neat”.

I found your words in my notebook
The day after I told you I was bored
and called time.

I smiled.

Little by little I have let go
the brittle armour that held me so,
the mole too has gone.

Your words remain and

I smile.

Candy Bright 2013

RELEASE

The room was calling her again
it was time to extinguish the light
she might call but no one came

Now and then she loved the pain
she welcomed in the night
the room was calling her again

Crimson pools where she had lain
testimony to her plight
she might call but no one came

Others may show their disdain
but she had little left for fight
the room was calling her again

Shallow breath her life to claim
it goes so slow out of spite
she might call but no one came

Be so still this too shall wane
and scars heal on limbs so white
the room was calling her again
she might call but no one came