So this week's task for the Poetry Bus from the Watercats...they mentioned sex or drugs or rock or roll and, tempted as I was to go for a mini-roll, I went for drugs (predictable, I know). All that rave music I've been posting this week... it was a sign, I tell you, a sign!
I have written quite a few drugs poems before. There's a pizzeria/LSD villanelle back here, for example, and as both Don Paterson and Helena Nelson both gave villanelles a good slagging at the event here the other week I almost wanted to post that one again just to stick up for that poor old form. I love a good villanelle...and I don't see why a bad villanelle is any worse than any other kind of bad poem done over and over again.
But what do I know...oh yes, back to drugs...I have an amphetamines poem, an ecstasy poem, a cocaine poem...they're mostly on my website in the 'wild years' section and I'm sure there are plenty more where they came from. This week, however, I thought I might write a new LSD poem and one that's less jocular than the pizza serving. I didn't take LSD that many times but it has left some pretty solid memories in my packed old brain. And they're not all bad. (And I finally managed to get a chance to do the audio - it's here.)
Speaking of blackbirds they fly and sing their way into lots of poems and songs, don't they? Below is a blackbird song I'm particularly fond of from an album called 'The Bairns' (the second CD by Rachel Unthank and the Winterset, though that band are now renamed just the Unthanks). This blackbird song was written by Belinda O'Hooley - then a member of the Unthank experience but now part of a duo with Heidi Tidow. O'Hooley and Tidow are out and about touring a new album ('Silent June') and their myspace page is here. A friend bought me 'Silent June' last week and I am looking forward to getting to know it better over the coming weeks and months.
So, here are the clips - first RU & the W-set with 'Blackbird':
and then a song from O'Hooley and Tidow's 'Silent June' called 'One More Xmas':
Oh, I do like the sound of a piano*...
*Oh, even that's "just tuned percussion" (according to the recently deceased poet Peter Porter, and via the ubiquitous Paterson, in today's 'Guardian' newspaper). Just can be such a heavy word.
Another long day's nursing, worrying and associated matters for me today. And the remedy...a little bit of peace and quiet and then headphones on and a hunt around the internet for hardcore rave tunes (linked to last post). Is it breakbeat? Is it rave? Is it hardcore? Did it turn into jungle and then drum and bass? This one was even pop for a while. It is a stonking good tune - play loud.
I used to dance like that - it was fun. I particularly like the fact that the women dancing in this video are wearing clothes and not just bikinis or something. Ah, the good old days. Just call me Mary Whitehouse.
I've not been able to be online so much recently but I get the feeling it's quieter than usual just now, isn't it? Some people have been affected by the whole no-fly zone business (relatives stranded around the globe...), others have lost the use of their computers (various reasons including the big McAfee disaster – read here) and some of us...well...we've been doing a lot of laundry (see previous posts for backstory).
Because of all the life going on I've had no time to read (or even think really) this week...but I did do some ironing just now and listened to an English folk CD I quite like by Ed, Will and Ginger (read about them here – they walk around, they busk, they walk around some more...). Here's a little film to give you a flavour of their sound (though it only features two of them). They are fairly hardcore folk.
Speaking of 'hardcore' I had a bit of a misunderstanding with that word last week...someone thought I was being rude or critical when I used it and I really wasn't. To an old raver like me 'hardcore' is more compliment than negative critique. And just thinking about it makes me feel like posting an old rave number too...just for contrast. It's not particularly hardcore...but it has it in the name.
And next week's Poetry Bus with the Watercats wants sex, drugs and rock'n'roll. Plenty in the back catalogue...see you then.
This has been a fairly hectic week... what with the sick mother (see last post) and the Brilliant Poetry night last night (see here for report and photos or here for someone else's view). This means I've really had no time to write something new for Argent's drive on the Poetry Bus (map, timetable and new poems here). However I have yet to miss a trip (I think) so I've put up an old poem that (loosely) fits in with the 'lost' option. First listen to this bit of disco magic:
And now this:
The sisters said it best
I've always been
Lost in music
It's never felt
Like a trap
It's always felt
Just the right place
To wander loose
Off the track
Here I go now
Lost in music
I'm not sure if
I'll be back
If anyone likes that one it's on a postcard (and it's in the book too). There's also a light-hearted prose piece about my first proper disco dancing experience online (over here). So at least for now, the beat goes on...
My poem for this week's Poetry Bus is at the end of this post. First let me tell you a couple of things.
is brilliant. It was first published a little while back but it is just a totally marvellous novel and really worth all the hours it will take you to get through its many (at times dense) pages. I've never read any of Byatt's work before (various not very important reasons why...) but someone else recommended this book (Dick Jones and maybe a couple of others) and they were all right because it is superb. If you have any interest in any of the following: late Victorian and/or Edwardian history (English largely), art, crafts, children's literature, the suffragette movement, people, families, sex, puppets, German history, the First World War, museums, nature, walking, mental health...then you will find something to arouse you in 'The Children's Book'. Plus it has a good narrative pull (I thought) even if you might need to take note of characters for the first 100 pages until you can remember (without checking) who is who (it has quite a lot of characters by modern novel standards). There are various reviews online but they struggle not to mix thoughts about the book with thoughts about its author - she speaks her mind a bit and you know how that can be... There's an interview with Byatt here about the book that is not half bad but I really recommend that you read the book before trying any reviews or interviews. I think the novel is powerful enough to tell you what or who it's about (or not...) without some journalist (or indeed the author) chipping in to tell you what's what.
On a smaller-scale publishing note I have a poem called 'Blink and miss' in a quite new magazine from the North West of England called Beautiful Scruffiness (great name, don't you think?). You can buy copies of this cheeky little publication via its editor Katie Metcalfe at email@example.com (price £2.50 incl. p & p).
And finally here is my Poetry Bus poem for this week (and the instructions for this spiritual trip can be found here).
Close to you (no knock)
I hear a knocking noise A knocking in my heart A knocking on the wall
There's a thought I had It might be sounds of you A calling from outside A place I listen to
There's a tapping bird It flutters as it beats It pecks its way to air It hurts my head and heart I wish it wasn't there
p.s. The title of this one, for those interested in such things, references two songs – one from 1970 by the Carpenters (obviously – here it is and what is she wearing...) and one from 1972 by Gil Scott Heron. They are very different tracks...and yet I love them both. Here's GSH:
The older I get and the more I write and read words aloud the more I realise what a genius Gil Scott Heron was and is. There's your Nobel Prize winner right there.
Quite a few bloggers have had fun with this of late so I thought I'd have a quick go before the next Poetry Bus.
My name is: not really Rachel.
Never in my life have I been: shy.
The one person who can drive me nuts is: just one! Loads of people drive me nuts. In fact..yes, it's all their fault.
High school: I found the work easy so I got in a lot of trouble. That was fairly easy too.
When I’m nervous: Nervous? Depends what you mean by nervous. I'm often in a state of heightened anxiety but I'm never (as we've established) shy.
The last song I listened to was: Mark's very keen on this album by the Leisure Society called The Sleeper (and he's at home this week) so something off that. 'Tis very good.
If I were to get married right now (renew my vows) my best man/maid of honour: I will never get married. Women enslaved for centuries and now we get a chance to be free and we queue up for the cells...I'll take freedom please.
Articles about writing and interviews with writers can be very dull (on blogs as much as anywhere, I'd have to say). I particularly hate it when they get into that whole 'where do you write?' (lying on a chaise longe with a poodle at my feet), 'what do you write with?' (only a quill pen that's been in our family for generations...) business and I think that's because I'm really not keen on the fetishising of writers and writing – it's just an occupation at the end of the clichéd day. One of the reasons everyone in the world wants to be writer just now (or is that just how it seems?) is connected with this madness, I think. It's like 'write a book and you can be god/worshipped/adored/important'. No, no, no! Just write a good book.
But on the other hand it's not all doom and gloom and I do sometimes read quite interesting articles about writers and writing. Here, for example, are a few links worth clicking on:
Try this interview with writer Mark 'Curious Incident' Haddon. He's just written a play and in the piece he says:
"Increasingly I've found theatre really interesting to watch. It took me a long time to come out as someone who doesn't like film. It's a bit like when people say they don't like books: you get that sharp intake of breath."
(And on a related point on facebook recently someone posted this bit of TED video about theatre and actors. It has some luvviness within but some good points to make too. If my memory is working right it was English poet Tony Walsh who posted this clip on FB.)
This interview with young poet Kate Tempest is worth a look too (she's supporting the fantastic Scroobius Pip on tour no less – remember I mentioned him back here). Like a lot of the poets involved with what gets called the performance side of poetry Tempest throws all her words out way too fast for me but she's young yet (23) and maybe it just doesn't feel fast to her. Tempest (great name) got her start via the rap scene (all cringe at use of the word 'scene'...and indeed the word 'rap'... from an older person please...) and so she had to fight hard to get accepted and noticed. In the interview there's a hilarious quote from her along the lines of “I don't like the idea of rapping at 40 – there's no grace in it.” Wait till you're 40, love, I say, and you'll care a whole lot less about grace. Anyway, I looked at her youtube clips and this was the one that did most for this more senior small-time player.
This is a good article by writer Joe Penhall about working on the screenplay for the blockbuster 'The Road' (and a few of his other jobs).
Float by this article by a leading ghost writer. Personally I think uncredited ghost writing should be illegal – I know it makes money for hardworking writers behind the scenes but from a reader's point of view I think it's a total con. I hate the idea that scores of little girls, for example, think Katie 'Jordan' Price can really write books (as well as whatever else it is she does...). It's a lie to have her name on the front of a book and I don't see what else it can be called but that. And if that's the case then I don't think that lie teaches our children anything other than 'lying is fine and especially if you've got the money to pay for it.' It's just wrong.
And finally, in this list, here's an interview with Dick Bruna the man behind Miffy (as it were). I'm not a particular fan of Miffy (the translations at fault perhaps...sometimes reading them to our girl I found the rhymes a bit crap) but heck, he's 82 and still hard at work. Go on, my son, keep working that paintbrush!
And now, after all those links, here's my part 2 poem for Niamh's Poetry Bus (part one in the last post). Someone else in my address book made me end up writing this poem and I'm really not sure about it. See what you think:
Some whinge their way through every tale The book's too long, it's not convincing They want another part
Others show pluck neat page by page They've got get-up-and-go and they use it too All they can do is do
They live on boats, take continents Fill worlds, and more, with their direction So much movement
The rest meanwhile just itch and whine They loathe and fester, lie and groan It isn't fair, you know, it just isn't fair
So this week it was Niamh handing out the maps for the Poetry Bus (maps still available here and poems now being added here). Housebound a lot this week due to illness upstairs, I followed her (lengthy!) instructions and once again found myself writing two new poems (one about each of the entries in my address book that came up). I'm not going to post both poems today because I think sometimes posting two poems together automatically puts them into some kind of competition with each other (people feel they have to choose the one they prefer and so on). And then I wonder - what is it about poetry that always makes it end up so much about being graded? I suppose other artforms are as bad (aren't they?).
Anyway, here is the first of the two address book poems and if you come back in a couple of days you might well see the other. They're very different.
It was a different time, then I was young and fit to burst You had pretty girl's eyes Tasty brown skin And that certain city confidence A swagger, a sway
Your home was a strange den Rich, ornate, delicious Small, cramped, packed Shiny possessions shoehorned in Say a surprising brass bedstead I held that enough times
Along with this a soundtrack played Angry boy's metal music And though we wandered metropolitan (Cinemas, cafés, undergrounds) We never danced, we rarely kissed Young animals that's all, in time
Other posts you might not have seen here this week...back on Monday I posted a great poem by Swiss from his new book...and back on Thursday I posted a love poem for Tony Soprano. Poems, poems, poems...house is bloody full of them!
It's been a messy week here - girl off school, Grandma in bed ill, dog sulking a bit at being ignored...lots of running up and downstairs for me. Still, the blog must go on...so here's a poem I wrote a couple of weeks ago about one of my not-so-secret loves. It has a TV theme (TV gets a bad press but you know it has produced some fantastic works of art too...I'm considering writing a whole series of poems about my favourite TV programmes...).
You stink of power Sweaty, wrong Your stupid vests Off white, too long Your meat-slab hands So mean and low Your eating habits Far to go
You're selfish, greedy Cruel, lazy More TV dinner Than Scorsese You're hooked on women Screw by screw What you don't care Is why or who
And yet you're craved With passions strong At home we wait Full hungry throng We know it's fatal Falling so God damn you, Tony Soprano
And here's a youtube Sopranos montage thing (though it does show a few key moments from the series so it's only for the initiated). Does it glamorise violence, you may ask? Well, yes, undoubtedly...but then it's great, great drama and so much great drama takes evil as its starting point. And when it comes down to it if I had to choose 'Macbeth' or Tony and friends...I know who I'd take. Hands off, he's mine!
Back at the weekend for Niamh's Poetry Bus outing - it's a tough one but we can handle it, right?
OK, so few of us will ever sing like Streisand on 'Glee' but we do our best, we do what we can. Quite a few of the poets-who-blog, for example, have books of poetry out this year. One such book is this one...
Morgan Downie (or Swiss as we more often know him...even though he's Scottish....) is a writer I've been in touch with for a while (one way or another). He drove the Poetry Bus this week but I first came across him (and his complete lack of any capital letters) via Sorlil, quite some time ago now. Just recently another Scottish poet, publisher and blogger, Colin Will, has put out Morgan's first collection via his fast-expanding Calder Wood Press.
I've got a lot of books on the go just now but I have been reading 'stone and sea' off and on since StAnza and the more I read it the more I find poems that I like. It's a very varied collection and I love that about it (why write the same poem twenty times..I mean really...). The first poem that really grabbed me in this book though (because I like being grabbed by poems...) was the one I've reproduced below (with permission). I think this is a really powerful piece of writing and I particularly adore the big finish. Go, Swiss! Go, Morgan! Go, blog-poets!
the stone bible
my first memory of god in church whispering in my ear come away, come away my first memory of god was red sandstone the white calm of the sea the salt stir which to a child was infinite
when they told me god was a man i heard laughing great gusts of laughter tobacco stained caribbean jungle laughter laughter of the desert over camel dung fires fishing boat laughter caught in nets women's laughter grey beard a joke
god was never a stranger i did not come to god god was always there the chance meeting stranger on a corner loony on a bus leaving epiphanies as greeting cards white flight of gulls over empty sands morning god only told me one thing hard finger in my chest live
by morgan downie from 'stone and sea' (Calder Wood Press 2010) To buy go here and then to the catalogue page.
Is this too early for the Poetry Bus? It did used to be the Monday Poem, I know, but Mondays...the worst day to be organised! Plus I see a couple of others have got to posting already so I'm going for it too.
This week's Poetry Bus mission is to look at four images on this post over at the Swiss Lounge and then get on and do some of that poetry business. Perhaps unsurprisingly I started with this picture:
and wrote the following poem. I haven't done a rhymer for a couple of weeks...so it was bound to happen about now. A successful, unpredictable rhyme just makes me feel good...it's like good tunes, real emotion, warm sunshine...even if the topic's low in places the rhyme can do something clever and give the brain that little reward that takes it up high. At least that's how it seems to me anyway...but I am aware this is not a popular view amongst poets currently (bah, poets...what do they know?).
There's a crowd at the bottom of the sacred bed 'Your chart looks bad' are the words first said Then 'the stars have called and their view is clear Say your last goodbyes 'cos you're out of here'
So the body in the bed feels sad and blue Well, condemned like that, wouldn't you do too? And the crowd looks sure but it could be wrong Who's to say this route won't run on and on?
'I don't want to leave yet' moots the lying voice A tad hopeful re the powers of consumer choice 'Can't you make me better, can't you put me right? I'll make it worth your while, I'll set the world alight!'
But the crowd looks down at the chart once more Shakes a communal head, makes for communal door And the soul's left bare with its cage laid low And it struggles and it sighs and it's aching so
After that poem was out I found I was also quite taken with one of the other images too...this one:
So I then wrote a little completely rhyme-less poem with the above in mind (less tune, less light, less words...but still doing something, I think). Most of all I like variety, you know...in writing and in everything...it is my religion, sort of.
You're very far away And there is weather
Someone is painting you Change shot by change
But people, if you want some really good poems go to my last post...I put some Philip Larkin up there!
Now I call myself a poet I sometimes get asked things like 'so who's your favourite poet then?' It's kind of an odd question...really I like bits of poems, lines here and there, ideas, sounds, juxtapositions...but the question wants an answer and there is one really so in the end I usually give it. I am very partial to both the poems and the humour and misery of the poet pictured above (Philip Larkin 1922-1985). I don't want to witter on about him but here are a couple of his poems - the first from 1955's 'The Less Deceived' and the second from 1964's 'The Whitsun Weddings'. To me he looked life right in its ugly face...well, in his poetry anyway.
Poetry of Departures
Sometimes you hear, fifth-hand, As epitaph: He chucked up everything And just cleared off, And always the voice will sound Certain you approve This audacious, purifying, Elemental move.
And they are right, I think. We all hate home And having to be there: I detest my room, Its specially-chosen junk, The good books, the good bed, And my life, in perfect order: So to hear it said
He walked out on the whole crowd Leaves me flushed and stirred, Like Then she undid her dress Or Take that you bastard; Surely I can, if he did? And that helps me to stay Sober and industrious. But I'd go today,
Yes, swagger the nut-strewn roads, Crouch in the fo'c'sle Stubbly with goodness, if It weren't so artificial, Such a deliberate step backwards To create an object: Books; china; a life Reprehensibly perfect.
by Philip Larkin
What are days for? Days are where we live. They come, they wake us Time and time over. They are to be happy in: Where can we live but days?
Ah, solving that question Brings the priest and the doctor In their long coats Running over the fields.
by Philip Larkin
You can hear the second poem via this clip too...
And there's an old post of mine with some Larkin quotes back here.
Originally from the north of England, I live in Angus, Scotland where I walk a lot, think a lot, listen to lots of music, sometimes write poems, sometimes read poems out to other people, sometimes write songs, read all kinds of odd things, watch a bit...oh and I look after my family too.
I sometimes organise poetry and music events - details are usually here (though nothing coming up in the near future). This year I went travelling with my family - photos and notes are here. Now we're back I have moved to a new regular blog - it is here.
More about the song
You can buy my book (published 2008) from my website if you fancy it (go to 'book' page) or from www.amazon.co.uk if you prefer the comfort of the multinational corporation. My book is printed on recycled paper and card. I have 12 different poetry postcards available too.