Sunday, 25 October 2009

Monday Poem – a hellish assignment

So – Monday poem. I'm posting now because I put my Monday piece up on Sunday last week and nothing terrible happened (computer didn't self-destruct or anything...TFE didn't kick me off the bus and into the gutter...). Plus I'm not sure this subject/mood is good for Mondays. Anyway, on with it.

The assignment was...(a) listen to the clip below (without trying to find out anything more about it), (b) write down what occurs/comes to you whilst you're listening to it and then (c) present your offering on your blog (unaltered). Here's the clip (it's about 10 minutes long and I don't think it's ever been covered by Atomic Kitten or anyone):

Below is my written offering. I had to make a few tiny changes to my original outpourings because there were a couple of details that really needed to be looked at before this was ready for anyone other than me to see it. I make no apologies for doing this - this is my blog and I have to be able to stand by anything I put up here (even if it's only me and then...oh yes, me again who reads it). Is it a poem? It's some writing, that's all I know. Here goes:

Inferno again

And Hitchcock
Go together like
A lot of buses
Hitting the brakes at the
Same time

And still they brake
Because there's somewhere
They really don't
Want to go

Seagulls, fading seagulls
Playing some kind of
Infernal bongos
Whoever let the seagulls
Near the bongos?
They've gone wild
And they may just beat us
To within an inch
Of our mystery

Distant foghorn
It wants to join a band
But no-one will listen

Time to think
Time to remember
Other times listening to
Experi-mental music
Like once when that guy said
'Hey, have you listened to Aphex Twin?
He's wicked
He sampled the sound of
A woman screaming
Whilst she's being raped.'

It probably wasn't even true
He was a fair bullshitter
Still I thought
He should roast in hell
For even considering that
In a good way

Him and Ricky Gervais
Bring forth the pitchforks

It is worth, I think
Learning to see the line
Because there is a line
And once you've crossed it
You are all the things that previously
You may have fought against
You're shit

The vampires have left the fairground
But the foghorn's still going
It's lonely and it wants to go home
No rhythm though
So it can't find a way
Even with a prescription
And it gets lost in some dreadful
Modern dance piece
Where everyone is just
Rolling around and acting out horror
When we don't need to go to a theatre
To see horror

Stand at a bus stop
Open a drain cover
Flip back your ears
And hear the screaming
Of rat demons
As they work their way
From the sewers to the tops of our trees

Some are here already
They sent the seagulls on ahead
But the rest
Dripping in waste
Are coming

They're on their way

RF 2009

Interesting challenge this week, I think. Look forward to reading some of the others.



Wigeon said...

Crumbs, this one comes as a number of dark tone poems. I especially like:
'Whoever let the seagulls
Near the bongos?'
What an image Rachel - it's fantastic and how did you come up with that one - or is it just when the mind is challenged to just write for 10 minutes then all sorts of things happen? Wonderful. Titus said you were good.

Rachel Fox said...

Hi Wigeon
Yes, the seagulls...just how it sounded when I listened to the music. Plus the Hitchcock thing. Plus I had a bird phobia of sorts for years (started with a lost homing pigeon in a holiday home in the Yorkshire Dales when I was a kid...I'm not as bad as I used to be but I still don't like Trafalgar Square put it that way!).

So horror and birds have been together in my head over the years. Much less so now...though some of the seagulls round here are bloody huge. And creepy.

My writing can be a bit tight I think and because of the nature of this piece of music I did try to loosen up a bit and just let images tumble out.


Wigeon said...

Oh dear, what an awful phobia to have - and you live with the Montrose Basin reserve close by.

With this challenge I found the freedom to allow the music sparked thoughts flow was liberating from my normal way of working. It'll be 'interesting' to re-read my piece in a week's time. A scream might follow rather quickly!

Rachel Fox said...

It's quite a common phobia...up there with fear of dentists and fear of vomiting, fear of enclosed spaces...

As I say I don't really experience it too much these days. It was worst when I lived in London (about 25 year ago) - pigeons everywhere!


Titus said...

Lord, that's fascinating! Obviously the piece made some similar sound resonances with us (Hitchcock, bongos, seagulls) but what impresses me most is the step outside the piece you take in part 4. I never left the world it put me in, but you managed to reflect.
Love "It is worth ..." to "You're shit".
In fact, the words are speaking to me, they really are. Final six lines also excellent, disturbing with menace.

Rachel Fox said...

That little conversation about Aphex was years ago but it really bothered me at the time and obviously hung about waiting to come out somewhere. I didn't say anything to the speaker at the time (at least I don't think was a 3am conversation somewhere in Yorkshire...I should think I was altered...). But I wanted to smash is head in. I could have recorded the sound his head made and then used that as a sample, eh?

I didn't look up what the Monday music TFE chose was about but I have to say I did guess. Plus I learned that word 'threnody' last year (twas in a book I read). Reading...can't beat it.


Rachel Fox said...

Plus you know history and stuff. My mind is just full of crap people have said to me.


Titus said...

Crap's good stuff to have around sometimes. Especially, I suspect, if you're a writer.

Rachel Fox said...


Titus said...

And still haven't found out what the music's about. Yes, threnody, but who for?
Must get to someone who knows ...

Rachel Fox said...

The rest of the title...victims of Hiroshima.

Titus said...

Ah. Thank you.

Unknown said...

You know what? I loved your poem, even though the raped woman sequence turned my stomach to stone - but this comment of yours - "Plus you know history and stuff. My mind is just full of crap people have said to me" is absolutely priceless.

Rachel Fox said...

Thanks Sandra.
What's worse about my mind is that I am (in theory) conventionally educated. I went to university and all that...but what did I learn in those years? A whole lot more crap that people said! I can barely remember any lectures or academic brain is just not that way inclined. I have a phrase in another poem somewhere 'I went to academia but it never came to me' (obviously nicked from a cheesey song...and changed a bit). That about sums it up.

Niamh B said...

I really liked your approach here, splitting it up making sense of it in different ways. Particularly enjoyed the first one I think. Yes Hitchcock would put this music to good use!

A Cuban In London said...

How you wove Hitchcok and Gervais together into the same poem, I don't know. But it worked. Great. Many thanks.

Greetings from London.

Rachel Fox said...

I split it up with the numbers last, Niamh. I don't write long poems very often (and I don't read them often either...though I can listen to them easily enough). To read though (on page or screen) I like sections in a longer poem really.

Cuban - I did think about whether to keep Gervais in (heavens, he gets enough publicity!) and I am a fan in many ways but that recent business (about the old lady rape joke...) just made me want to push him off a stage somewhere. They have such power and scope these well-known comics - it really pisses me off when they use their time so stupidly. I know the theory about that kind of 'joke' (saying what no-one else dares to say...) but sometimes that is no excuse and sometimes a joke is really just not a joke. Shock factor can get tired too. But as I say I like some of his work, very much.


Jim Murdoch said...

It was certainly a tough assignment. The Penderecki is a hard piece to listen to but it was interesting what you made of it without the tail end of the title. This is not music to enjoy but it is music to make you feel. This was the first work by him I heard and I avoided listening to any more for years because of it but it's not typical of his output. I do own a copy of the Threnody now though.

There are some good ideas in this piece which you should maybe think about developing. Parts 4 and 5 work the best for me, the final two stanzas especially.

Rachel Fox said...

It was tough...but in a good way I think, Jim. I know what you mean about the last sections...they might make their way into something else at some point...but for now I quite like this piece as it is. It is very different to a lot of what I write and I like that about it. Change is good... often (though not always!).

Tess Kincaid said...

Hitchcock's use of music in his films was always so effective. Love that you mention him at the beginning.

The line that really jumped out at me was this,

"The vampires have left the fairground
But the foghorn's still going..."

Great stuff.

Rachel Fox said...

Thanks Willow. I think the vampires was the last detail to go in in fact. I knew they should be in there somewhere so I squeezed them in there!

I was watching a fantastic BBC drama series not long back called 'Being Human'. It was a modern take on vampires, werewolves and ghosts (one of each sharing a house in Bristol). I think that's partly where the vampires came from.

NanU said...

I love the darkness and the mockery of this. The staying outside and waiting for the *music* to pass, all the while being swept up in it.
Excellent work, Rachel!

The Weaver of Grass said...

Very interesting take on the music, Rachel. Like the vampires have left the fairground but the foghorn is still going. Glad you listened to the music - it isn't an easy piece, particularly when you know its title.

I agree about "some" men - there are peacemakers - but why do we never elect them to any kind of power.

Rachel Fox said...

Thanks NanU. I wasn't consciously trying to do mockery! I suppose that's my default setting...a little bit...

And Weaver...continuing a point from a comment at your place (for those who wonder what you're on about!) Why don't we elect peacemakers? Their desire for power is usually weaker than that of their opposites perhaps. Also people get seduced by charisma...and/or they think it's necessary to win over large numbers. And we do elect peacemakers sometimes...just not very often!

swiss said...

name me the ways i'd like to stick a pitchfork into ricky gervais. if ever a colossal wanker needed a pitch forking surely it is he.

and that aphex twin bloke. what a tosser. i've never heard this story and would give it no creedence. the aphex twin is well intersting and it's a shame if you've been put off by this idiot.

Rachel Fox said...

What in particular upsets you about Gervais, Swiss? For me he has his crappy moments...and they do seem to be occurring more often. Shame really. That 'now I'm famous I can be a wanker' angle has been covered well and truly now. He's in danger of just being a wanker soon.

As for Aphex Twin...I've never really listened to any. Did that comment (mentioned in the poem) put me off? No, it put me off the bloke who said it and blokes like him though. I've never been one much for what I suppose we could call experimental music (noises/sounds rather anything recognisable as music to an average listener). I can listen to it sometimes (for a task like this) and I don't hate it (as lots of people seem to) and I used to have a really noisy cd on R & S that I liked (can't remember name of artist) BUT there are always just so many other things that I DO want to listen to that it never gets much of a listen-in. And really singing is my favourite thing...I love listening to beautiful voices (and that word beautiful can stretch to cover quite a lot of vocal sounds).

So tell me your favourite Aphex Twin. I'll have a listen if I can.

I did read about him that he's a bit of cheeky bugger and likes to put out made-up stories about himself. Maybe that rape thing was one of his stories. Hilarious. Er, not.


Dr. Jeanne Iris said...


Your interpretation of this piece captures its resonance in your usual poetic manner. Love it!
My favorite lines: "No rhythm though/So it can't find a way" illustrate the significance of a pulse in relation to motivation and vision.

Totalfeckineejit said...

Fex sake Rachel, I'm drunk by this satge but there is so much in here.More of the stuff I was hoping for , again you got , or the music got you.This is brilliant but I need to leave al this stuff alone now.Just one point.Comedy is dangerous comedy gets away with murder, or worse. We need to (ironically) stand up -walk out.Gervais, nail on head.Thought it myself, also Tiernan.So many,Too many racist ,misogynistic,twisted sick unhappy fuckers doing comedy.I saw Gervais the other night and his use of huge talent and intelligence to get away withsick prejudice and callousness made me want to vomit.We must stop this trend.Don't go or if you do go speak out, people.This is a new wave and will drown us all.

Rachel Fox said...

Thanks Jeanne. Very much.

And TFE...yes, we were talking about this nasty comedy thing the other week, weren't we? I haven't seen Gervais live - only on TV - but that is plenty. At least on TV there is some distance.

I have a particularly low tolerance for rape 'jokes' Frankie Boyle did some very similar stuff when I saw him live last year). I have known too many people whose lives have been ruined for years (if not forever) by rape to ever, ever find it funny in any setting. I know a comic like Gervais would say his joke is not about rape (it is about what is acceptable, blah, blah, blah...) but at the end of it all it is making light of something that is just not light. And you all know me by now....I am a big fan and user of humour...but I don't see humour in this kind of thing. I see nastiness, dismissal of others, a man trying to make himself seem on-the-edge. It's pathetic. Go tell some of the women in Afghanistan how hilarious a rape joke can be. Yes, fact go and entertain the troops, while you're out there. Try really living on the edge. There's no awards show out there.

Anyway, back to Hiroshima. Do you know a funny thing...I didn't realise until a day after I'd typed it how weird it was that I'd put Atomic Kitten in this post. I nearly put Sugababes but then thought I'd mentioned them once before and I do try not to be predictable. The Atomic link went completely under my radar.


Anonymous said...

Gosh that went clean into my root canal. I loved the first few lines about the brakes -- Hitchcock my favorite.

Rachel Fox said...

Thanks AL. Buses get into my writing quite regularly!

Argent said...

Yikes! How scary and marvellous is this? What a brilliant series of images. LOVE IT!

Karen said...

Fortunately, we don't get a lot of Ricky Gervais in the States, but I know exactly what you mean.

This is the part that resonates with me:

"It is worth, I think
Learning to see the line
Because there is a line
And once you've crossed it
You are all the things that previously
You may have fought against

So true.

swiss said...

okay, first off gervais. i can;t discuss gervais without going off on a rant. if people like that, well that's fine for them. but not me, oh no.

as for the aphex twin, go no further than surfing on the sine wave, which he made under his polygon window guise. there are others (the quoth ep for instance)but this should be on spotify or the like - none of these are noisy as such.. or i'll make you a cd

even then, it's a bit of its time it has to be said. and here's me now with a house full of instruments. who'd have thought?

Rachel Fox said...

Argent - thanks. I have been working on my images!

Karen - we're always hearing what a huge success he is over there! I guess that's his publicity machine telling us that... But as I say I'm not against him as a general rule - just one or two of his bridges too far.

Swiss - will get the rant off you some time over a tea or a coffee or a pint or two. Look forward to it!


swiss said...

no polygon window on spotify i'm afraid, an omission i find frankly astonishing. they do have the rather initeresting alarm will sound doing acoustic versions of him tho which is (very) interesting.

Rachel Fox said...

You could just make me a cd a month or something, Swiss (not just of AT - different things)! Maybe I should subscribe to you.

Marion McCready said...

I'm just loving the sonics of seagulls and bongos, I may steal it if I can ever think up a poem to fit them both in lol

Rachel Fox said...

I can really see them too, Sorlil (the seagulls playing bongos). I think it may be the one from the Disney Little Mermaid that I see most (Scuttle?)...him and some pals...and they're all a bit the worse for a few bottles of cheap cider. It's strangely not frightening.

Real seagulls however...up close...I still find them fairly creepu. Put it this way if we play chicken they win every time!

Rachel Fox said...

creepY, I meant.

Kat Mortensen said...


The rape scream is so disturbing. Crossing that line. I often think of that, in small ways, like swearing in church, or something.

Man, oh man, this was one wild ride. (Maybe it's a British thing with the bus-brakes.) We don't hear them around here as much, but perhaps New Yorkers would be more inclined. No, that would be taxis honking, wouldn't it.

(As you can tell, I'm still on the stream-of-consciousness trip. Help me.)

Rachel Fox said...

Hi Kat
Yes, it's all been a bit disturbing this week.

I was reading about the composer this morning (only on wiki-lazy-place) and it said that he only gave the piece the (Hiroshima) name after he had finished it. Somehow I imagined it he had written it with the subject in mind (because that's probably more how I'd work). Kind of changes it a bit...doesn't it? Maybe the wiki-detail isn't quite right though. Maybe Dominic would know...he started all this!

Dominic Rivron said...

Like your Penderecki inspired writing! Interesting the way the ideas seem to have just tumbled out.

Re the title: I don't know. All I know about the piece is what I hear. Amazing that he thought of the title afterwards because, for me, the title so permeates the piece. Perhaps that's why he came up with the title - perhaps it leapt out at him too. In a way that's more intense than sitting down and trying to write a "threnody for the victims of Hiroshima".

The piece *is* typical of his early work. (Another famous one is his St Luke Passion - very "gothic"!). Later on he started writing in a more conventional romantic style much to the disgust of his die-hard avant-garde fans. To be fair, though, I think even his most modernistic music is, at heart, romantic, so those of us who like his earlier stuff should have seen it coming.

Rachel Fox said...

Thanks for calling in, Dominic. Especially as it's you that really set this one going!

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