Friday, 30 April 2010

Blackbird pizza

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... this week 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.

(removed temporarily)

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.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Rave on...

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.


Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Hardcore folk

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.


Saturday, 24 April 2010

Lost in music

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

RF 2005

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...


Wednesday, 21 April 2010

What a week

My dear friends, what a week it has been here. My Mum has been so, so ill - it's really been quite horrible. I've done a lot of running about, a lot of laundry, a lot of crying.

But today the doctor says she is a tiny bit better. So here's a song.

And I might even make the poetry night here on Friday after all. Maybe.


Saturday, 17 April 2010

A post of several pieces

My poem for this week's Poetry Bus is at the end of this post. First let me tell you a couple of things.

This book

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 (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

RF 2010

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.


Thursday, 15 April 2010

The Me thing

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.

My hair is: Just like Niamh's (see here).

When I was 5: I was a right little know-it-all. My closest-in-age brother used to hit me a lot and looking back I don't blame him at all.

Last Christmas: feels like ages ago. I prefer Hogmanay anyway.

I should be: Should? Why 'should'? I'm not sure I agree with should very often.

When I look down I see: my shop jeans...the carpet.

The happiest recent event was: our Girl turning 10 on Tuesday and having a great day (though to be fair she's very easily pleased...). We had a lot of cake (see below).

If I were a character on ‘Friends’ I’d be: thinner than I am now or I wouldn't get past the first audition.

By this time next year: can't think of anything interesting or witty for this. Apologies.

My current gripe is: how hard it is trying to moan less.

I have a hard time understanding: technological advances but some of them are handy.

There’s this girl I know that: is easily the cutest person alive.

If I won an award, the first person I would tell would be: my lovely man. He didn't make me marry him for a start.

Take my advice: don't do anything the way I do it. Well, not out of choice.

The thing I want to buy: always just one more CD...

If you visited the place I was born: you might knock first (it's a private house).

I plan to visit: the bank.

If you spent the night at my house: you would have to like kids, dogs and old people. Oh and have a sense of humour.

I’d stop my wedding if: it ever started.

The world could do without: fashion. Couldn't it? Well mine could.

I’d rather lick the belly of a cockroach than: be chased around a train station by a pigeon (happens often). I used to see cockroaches quite regularly when I lived in Spain. They're not so bad.

Most recent thing I’ve bought myself: most often I buy things for other people it must be said. Probably a book.

Most recent thing someone else bought me: chocolate quite possibly.

My favourite blonde is: I have one or two blonde friends but I don't make a habit of it.

My favourite brunette is: As I have brown hair I just find it dull. And what about black hair...why isn't there a question about that?

My favourite red head is: I have 2 – one is balder than the other.

My middle name is: Not telling. It's ridiculous.

In the morning I: often get brought a cup of tea!

The animals I would like to see flying besides birds are: people. I hate crowded aeroplanes and would much prefer to just fly on my own without the pilots and hostesses and all that.

Once, at a bar: I met my true love.

Last night I was: watching 'Mork and Mindy'. Really.

There’s this guy I know who: should be one of Scotland's best known poets but isn't (Hugh McMillan). But didn't I argue about 'should' earlier on...hmm.

If I was an animal I’d be: online less. Anyway, we are animals, aren't we?

A better name for me would be: Rachel

Tomorrow I am: going up the coast to look at an old shed.

Tonight I am: hoping to sleep better than last night.

My birthday is: January. Every year.

And that's me. See you at the weekend for the Spiritual Bus.


Monday, 12 April 2010

Writing about Niamh's trip (part 2)

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:

Maybe bold

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

RF 2010


Saturday, 10 April 2010

Poetry Bus – Niamh's trip (part 1)

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.

Old story

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

RF 2010

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, is bloody full of them!


Thursday, 8 April 2010

What's on TV?

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 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...).

The man

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

RF 2010

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?

Monday, 5 April 2010

More Swiss

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
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
god only told me
one thing
hard finger
in my chest

morgan downie
from 'stone and sea' (Calder Wood Press 2010)
To buy go here and then to the catalogue page.


Friday, 2 April 2010

The Swiss Bus – the tour continues...

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 it was bound to happen about now. A successful, unpredictable rhyme just makes me feel'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

RF 2010

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 writing and in is my religion, sort of.

Fresh eyes

You're very far away
And there is weather

Someone is painting you
Change shot by change

RF 2010

But people, if you want some really good poems go to my last post...I put some Philip Larkin up there!


Thursday, 1 April 2010

The old man - still

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.

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.

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.