Thursday, August 31, 2006
Last night in my dream I was travelling with L., not going anywhere in particular, and we stopped somewhere to have a break before travelling on. And there was the shop! The enclosed space was a huge stone warehouse with an upper floor. "This is the place I always dreamed about!" I shouted to L., getting out of the car to go inside and take a look. I was excited. My body trembled. I couldn't believe that after all this time I'd finally returned to the mysterious village, and I hadn't even known I was coming. All around me workmen loaded and unloaded stock; men carried boxes along the upper floors. The ordinary labours of an ordinary day. No one noticed me but L., sitting back there in the car with an inscrutable smile on her face. I felt for a moment that she may even have delivered me here on purpose.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
When I have achieved real understanding and happiness, this blog will disappear like a dream vanishes the moment you wake up, leaving only a vague memory of its existence behind.
Gone. Real Gone! Into the Blue!
Monday, August 28, 2006
My arrogance was the cause of all the setbacks that have begun to teach me humility.
The last statement proves humility is further away than I think.
There may or may not be a God, but things certainly picked up when I hung a crucifix from an oak beam in my kitchen.
God is not knowable, but He is feelable. Ordinary Mind opens the doorway to Heaven.
Angels. Demons. Clean and unclean spirits. Watch out!
Well, what can I say. I am a writer because I write. But I'm just not feeling the literary vibe right now. I'm not reading much and my poetry output has been reduced to zero.
At the moment I'm too busy trying to remember how to be myself .
Sunday, August 27, 2006
"And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye...Men have forgotten this truth. But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. "
~Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince.
The first is a blog dedicated to Northampton band Last Stop Chinatown, and it's written by my friend Jan's partner Gary. Good photographs and high-energy prose are the features. You are likely to get infected by the author's enthusiasm for the band, so be warned.
The second site is called Africa Abroad. It's owned and run by a Zimbabwean guy I met last night who goes by the name of Peaceful, and it's a kind of directory of cultural and religious events, organisations and meeting places outside that vast and diverse continent. A description that doesn't really do the site justice, but you get the idea.
Go to http://www.africaabroad.com
Saturday, August 26, 2006
Consequently, I am not only worried that life will just seem a little duller, a little less fun, without her; I am also concerned that I may slip back into my old habits, my old negative ways of thinking, if she's not there (yes, I can phone her every day--though we have been talking several times in a day and that won't be possible when I change jobs--but I won't see her every day like I do now: given our conflicting schedules now it could be weeks before we meet in the flesh). But the thought occurs: if my recovery--my flight from the darkness--is a real one, I have to be able to go it alone, to walk unaided, or how real is it? There are going to be setbacks along the way; I'm going to meet people who bring me down, I will suffer reversals that challenge my self-confidence, all manner of imps and demons will attack me and try to drag me back into Hell. If I want to avoid that fate (and Hell is where I've been), I can't rely on one person to protect me--even if that person has enough love to go down into Hell and fight the Devil himself to reclaim her loved ones. It's unfair to put so much responsibility on another person, however tempted you are. It's an abuse of your happiness too.
You've got to adapt to what is, like I said in an earlier post. Adapt to what is and find the pearl at the heart of it. At 41 I may not have too many years left in me, and if I want them to be good ones, I have to be ready to fight for them. I'm running out of days I can waste moping around in an untied dressing gown, unshaven, not flushing the toilet, believing tomorrow or next year I can put all the stray pieces together and finally make a success of my life.
Friday, August 25, 2006
He feels guilty, moreover, because he could never feel sexually attracted to someone because of their inner qualities: their mind, their intelligence, their peaceful nature.
I had (and have), no wisdom or insight in/to any of these areas. Romance has always been a puzzle to me, and sexual attraction? What is it? The private acknowledgement that someone is good looking? That they smell nice? The irresistible biological pull towards another person?
I think nearly everybody is good looking! (I'm serious.) In that sense I am "attracted to" 60 or 70% of the women I know. The biological pull is rare. I have to like someone too before I feel all my nerve endings straining to touch that person. So it's body and nature combined for me.
How often is that reciprocated? Of course, we don't know. The tragedy of human relationships--well, one of the many--is that we are trained to keep all of the important things we feel safely under wraps and share only the stuff that is superficial and meaningless (there is a world of tenderness, "a heart throb", as Ginsberg says, that we struggle to hide from each other and it could save us all). So I don't know if my attraction to this or that person is reciprocated.
But in terms of declared attraction, I am now in a 4-year drought, after a weird "hot period" (as I like to think of it, rather mannishly), in which two women I desired declared their attraction to me in three weeks. Ah, those were the days.
Romance? Ah, romance. Or love, which is what I really mean. The Holy Grail of human relationships, as far as I'm concerned. I have had it, I have experienced it, and I have watched it die too recently to have an objective (or even a useful subjective) view. But I remain hopeful. And as Bob Dylan would say, "That's good enough for now."
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Here's a thought: perhaps I've stopped writing poetry because life is better. I don't want to take my experience, cut out a fragment of it, chop it into lines, give it a title and then ask some illiterate magazine editor to judge its acceptability. It already is acceptable, and any attempt to repackage it subsumes it into the maladapted brain it is re-educating by its unexpected kindness and beauty.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Coming home tonight from an evening spent laughing with L. until my ribs ached, the cool air and the car headlights shining through the night fog thrilled me with their beauty. The universe seemed in perfect balance.
The next time I have a woman waiting for me at home, I may even be alive enough inside to keep her love.
Change is good. It stimulates and refreshes. But I'm going to miss working every day with L. She's my closest friend and seeing her every day (except at weekends, when we talk on the phone), has been one of my great pleasures of recent months. I'm not worried about the change in our circumstances affecting our friendship, but it will be hard not to have her in the next room when I'm at work and I need to have a laugh or a good talk. There will be other people, but there's no one quite like L.
You can look on the time you spent somewhere as a success if you have someone there to miss when you leave.
Which didn't happen. And somehow after that whole scene collapsed, I became a loner not only in my social life, but emotionally too: when I found myself in lively social scenes again in the following years the fun never lasted because in my mind I was never really a part of it, and I didn't love or respect my friends enough.
Interesting that when I met L. and T. and turned the last corner in my life, I wound up back where I started.
Now, I'm not going to get into the theological questions that the movie provokes. I am proudly and deliberately ignorant of all that. But wasn't the film supposed to be packed with anti-Semitic sentiment? I'm sure I remember that being said when it came out in 2004. I was looking for it, but what I saw seemed to me a really balanced view of Jews and Romans. On both sides there were monsters, and those who saw the monstrousness of what was being done. And though Jesus' rising from the grave and ascending to Heaven could have been a story put about by his followers to perpetuate his ministry and stick it to the Roman occupier--you couldn't have blamed them (and may I stress to those who are incapable of reading between the lines, I'm not saying what I believe one way or the other)--isn't the crucifixion of Jesus a matter of historical fact? Sometimes we all do things we're not proud of, though selling out the Messiah to an occupying army is a worse one than most.
But whatever his more recent statements, Mel Gibson isn't saying, in The Passion, that the Jews killed Jesus. Just watch the film. He's saying that some of the Jews back then killed Jesus, along with a bunch of ignorant Roman sadists working under the authority of a self-indulgent, morally compromised Pontius Pilate. Which is pretty much the way it happened, isn't it?
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Everything is holy!
everywhere is holy!
everyday is in eternity!
Every man's an angel! (and woman!)
To which I would only add: BLEUGH!!
The sun looked lovely this morning shining in the wet grass on the overgrown verge outside Sainsbury's on my friend's birthday with a Bob Dylan song in my head walking home for breakfast.
Not that this Yes 2 Truth person is a representative Christian. Many are quiet, humble, reasonable people who tend their own spiritual garden and wouldn't presume to lecture or to damn anybody: I know, my closest friend is one of them. But boy are the vocal minority in the Christian church (for the want of a better umbrella term), frightening. In their anger, their intolerance, their violent certainty, their disinterest in discussion or intelligent speculation, they are creating the misleading impression that Christianity is a religion for right wing extremists and uneducated bullies, and that's a terrible shame: the original message of love and forgiveness that you find in the Bible is beautiful, and the world could really use it at the moment.
Have a look and form your own opinion.Right now I apparently have to go and repent for something or other,
though I'm not 100% sure what.
Monday, August 21, 2006
Well, of course, Buddhism has its own Devil. He's called Mara and while Buddha was sitting under his tree looking for the Answer, Mara tempted him in textbook Old Nick style--albeit this was a few hundred years before Christ's went toe-to-toe with Satan in the desert, so if it was a copycat temptation and not the work of the same Underworld hoodlum, Satan must have copied Mara.
But anyway. I have called myself a Buddhist without ever really delving into it deeply enough to wear the label with any legitimacy. But there were always questions. Like did I really believe in karma, or was I just attracted to it intellectually? (Which I definitely am: I love the idea that, as Kerouac would say,"the universe takes care of its own evil.")
There were questions. And always, at the back of my mind, a yearning for the God I believed in as a child: the loving, forgiving, all-wise Father in whose arms I could sink, at last, and let go of all my pain and grief. A few years ago I even had a vision of God in a dream that was more intense than any living experience I'd had up to that point, and I woke up weeping.
So do I believe in God again? Have I recovered my Christian faith and abandoned my Buddhism? I dunno. "Recovered my faith" and "abandoned my Buddhism" are such grand words to describe what is really only a slight shift in the thinking of one tiny mortal speck in an infinite universe.
And where has it shifted? I dunno that either. I don't want to put labels on it anymore--that's just a sign of intellectual arrogance, and I'd really like to lose that side of me. It's also limiting. Can the truth, whatever the truth might be, fit into a handy-sized box for me to carry around under my arm and show to friends? Maybe everything I've ever thought or believed is one fragment of the truth, and the whole thing is too enormous and other-worldly for anybody to see and understand.
Now, this could be a coincidence. After all, I get a lot of phone calls even when I'm not watching movies with a religious message. But consider this: maybe somebody out there, or in here, doesn't want me to watch the movie through to the end. Maybe some infernal censor doesn't want me to view Christ's death and resurrection because it might give me hope for my own resurrection from the emptiness I've been languishing in for so long; or worse, because it might give me faith.
I know it's unlikely, from a logical point of view. But since the idea crossed my mind midway through the day today I have convinced myself it's true. The Devil is everywhere, right? Look in the eyes of the next Christian telling you about the evils of homosexuality. Or the next Muslim raving about the decadence of heathen Westerners. Wherever you see absolute certainty--the Devil.
Old Nick is a poor judge of character though, I have to say, if all the disturbances are his handiwork. When anybody, whether Hellish of Heavenly, tries to influence me to do something, I feel an overwhelming compulsion to do the opposite. Where before I vaguely wanted to watch the movie because I thought it might be good to learn more and make a better contribution to conversations with my Christian friend, I am now determined, if the Sulphurous One wants me not to, that I will watch it and also take courage from its message of hope.
I wonder why I have always found Peter's denial of Jesus more harrowing to watch or to consider than Judas' agony of self-loathing after selling Jesus out for thirty pieces of silver? Perhaps because I have wriggled away from the truth in a cowardly fashion too many times myself. It's harder to live with the knowledge that you are a moral worm than to hang your turpitude from the nearest tree.
Everything possible to be believed is an image of the truth, as William Blake would say.
Saturday, August 19, 2006
Anyway, I found a fridge magnet today with a good one on it. If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything. Lord, how many times have I been caught trying to remember the exact details of the last fiction I created to get me out of what George Clooney would call "a tight spot".
A few people have commented on the increasingly self-exposing nature of Suffolk Punch. What's the value of telling the whole world (which I am doing at least potentially here), so much about my lost love, my depression--if that is what I've had--and all the other stuff that goes into these posts? (Commentators scratch their heads in general about the confessional side of the infinitely various blogging world.)
Well, I don't know about any other bloggers, but I'm telling more and more so I can learn more and more. I'm deliberately dismantling my fictions because I've realised (see other posts) that the fictions stand between me and the world. They give other people the wrong idea, causing them to expect either too much or too little of me, and they make me depressed and angry when the hard of evidence of my own actions or my life in the real world fails to sustain them. My fictions have laid waste to the better part of the last two decades. They've become pretty damn boring too.
The change in the nature of this blog represents an attempt (sort of) to uncover the real me and meet the world without the armouring of all the old bulls**t. Stripping that away seems to be the best chance I have to avoid spending the rest of my life a miserable, arrogant old fool.
~"Quentin and Philip" by Andrew Barrow (Pan Books)
Friday, August 18, 2006
Yesterday I did something different: I had a bath in a lightning storm. Of course, I didn't know there was going to be a storm when I got in the bath. Once in, though, the skies began to clatter and clash and flare suddenly like the stage at a Wagner opera.
I am so paranoid I kept imagining a lightning bolt bursting through the slate roof on my cottage and electrifying me in the bath. But it didn't, obviously. Or I'd be a big crispy poet up there now floating in stagnant water with the biggest ha**-on I've ever had in my life.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Since I probably won't have time to do it tomorrow, here's a reminder that Elvis Presley died 29 years ago tomorrow. Does it matter anymore, given that culture has moved on so comprehensively since 1977? To be honest, I don't care. It matters to me. When I was growing up Elvis' power and influence were beyond anything that a kid would understand today. He was mythical in his own lifetime, the most admired and desired man in the world. And his music had transformed (violently at first) contemporary culture.
Though heroes have come and gone and musical fashions have changed beyond recognition, I am still so completely under Elvis' spell that when I watch "That's The Way It Is" (as I did barely a week ago), I gape and I shiver even now at his brilliance. Elvis dying and Muhammad Ali losing the World Heavyweight Championship to Leon Spinks in Vegas the following year may well have been the two events that ended my childhood: what could be the same if the two giants of my young imagination had been felled in such an ignoble fashion?
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Four weeks yesterday with no booze or drugs.
How close are we going to look for evidence of Islamism? Wasn't one of the people arrested in the recent crisis a Muslim convert? Wasn't the shoe bomber's name Richard Reed?
I don't normally do politics here, but if we're going to use ethnic origin or skin colour as the determinant (if that's the correct word), of the closeness of our investigations at customs, isn't that rather racist?
I bought Barrow's book because a) it was attractively cheap and b) I have an interest in O'Connor following my early reading of "Baby" and his appearance in "Children of Albion". But Crisp's story engages just as much as O'Connor's. The whole book, in fact, is a compelling insight into the bohemian world of England before the 1960s, when underground/ alternative lifestyles are supposed to have begun in earnest but--if the evidence of this biography and Nigel Richardson's brilliant "Dog Days in Soho" is to be believed, which I think it is--everything actually started to get a little bit tame.
I always found Crisp an irritating so-and-so watching him on television before his death, but what an important trail he blazed for homosexuals in this country. Though I'm no expert, the openly gay, unapologetically camp men on our tv screens today like Graham Norton or Richard (last name unkown) the "sexual terrorist" on this year's Big Brother, seem almost lineal descendents of the primped and painted creation Crisp took into the streets of London in the 1930s. If they have any freedom at all to be themselves today--and I imagine they have some--isn't it thanks in part to the many, many beatings Crisp had from ignorant Londoners back then, who took it upon themselves to punish him for his presumptuous freedom?(and succeeded only in making this perversely stubborn man even more determined to be beautiful.)
Maybe if there are any gay readers out there, you can tell me what you think. I don't want to put myself in the position of telling you about your lives, since I barely understand my own.
Monday, August 14, 2006
R.T., who beat me up aged five on my neighbour's lawn but made everything okay again ten years later when he asked me in all seriousness, "Was the Second World War before the Fifties or after it?" ;
J.T., (no relation), who looked like Declan Donnelly with an Elvis quiff and told me that when you waved Mr. Sprinkly up and down after going to the toilet it was known as an Alabama Handshake;
M.P., unreconstructed posh kid, who when I found him standing alone behind the swimming baths one day, mysteriously ejaculated the phrase, "Elephants might fly," but refused to elaborate;
a teacher whose name I've genuinely forgotten who once told an unruly pupil in front of the whole class," If you smirk at me again like that I'll put your head through the wall" (you could say things like that in those days);
G.M., who was studiously camp, described himself as "very pro-bleach" and was thrown into spasms of revulsion by the mention of breast milk.
When you open your mind out to the places you've been and the people you've known, so much of it comes rushing back, and in such detail it's impossible to feel a nostalgia for it all as Holden Caulfield says you will: it seems so close.
My political statement, if it can be called a statement, is smallness. The people who are living their lives, loving their friends and families, going to work, buying their groceries, hanging out listening to music, smoking in the park under their favourite tree, hugging a schoolmate in the shopping centre--these are the ones who are wise, these are the visionaries holding society together despite the efforts of the big thinkers and powerbrokers to rip it apart. Big ideas come from the dark places of the heart where the unacknowledged goal is the elevation of oneself at the expense of everybody else.
Catch yourself thinking, as Allen Ginsberg says, then stop. Go out into the park with your dog and throw a stick for her to fetch.
If I feel good, I sing. It interrupts the flow of my happy thoughts if I have to stop the lyrics of "New Morning" or some old Northern Soul classic bursting from my mouth just because I'm walking down the hill in Wilby and not standing in my shower.
I must be getting old. But if I am, I rather like it.
Outside the road has fallen silent for the first time since this morning.
The only way it could be any better than this would be if you were here in the flesh and not leaving till tomorrow.
Well, yes, and it did. But one thing even the internet can't do is stop the editor of a poetry magazine from getting bored editing it.
I have lost interest in publishing poetry to an almost fantastic degree. I'm not getting submissions and I have no desire at all to go out and pursue more. Apart from the poets I know and enjoy, there's no one out there I like enough to publish. I have drifted too far away from the scene to view it with anything other than a stifled yawn. I haven't even written a poem for three weeks.
The sort of discourse I have on the blog is more interesting to me. There's no posturing here. No trying to write in someone else's voice. No shaping of what you want to say as marketable product. You just open your mouth (via your typing finger), and say your piece. Then real people answer you. Then you answer them. Conversation over thousands of miles. The ego offering itself for examination, even improvement.
If my desire to produce another "Angel Head" returns, I'll let you know here. Until then click the St. Vitus link in the Reading Room to get your poetry fix.
Sunday, August 13, 2006
Once I used to lie on my bed or ride buses imagining tv discussions of my great works after I died. I was like Tom Sawyer (or was it Huck Finn?) witnessing his funeral.
The only life I imagined I'd ever have would come when I was no longer able to experience it.
The Kerouac publishing industry doesn't mean jack to Jack now though, does it?
Saturday, August 12, 2006
All I can say to that is, "Career? What career?" A writer might career, in the sense of weaving around in blundering, drunken fashion from one mishap to another, but personally I've never thought of writing as a job, with definable steps from initial obscurity through first visibility through consolidation of one's reputation up to final fame and fortune. It's just what I do when I've got nothing else to do. I like it when people respond to what I've written, but I have no overweening desire to be regarded as a literary lion by a cadre of influential poets and editors. It's not likely to happen anyway, but my ego just doesn't need that. I like it much better when a pretty woman smiles at me. ("SHALLOW!" I can hear my friend shout mockingly.)
Poet is man, and this poetman's life has changed considerably in the last year. I have seen a four-year relationship with a woman I once loved slowly suffocate. And one of my friends has died suddenly from cancer she didn't even know she had. In the wake of those tragedies nothing seems the same.
Maureen worried all her life. She worried that she wasn't good enough at her job (she was). She worried about being unworthy of other people's love (she was worthy). She waited for everybody (except L.) to hurt her because they always had. She was even convinced that she didn't manage her household as well as everybody else because it was always in a mess. Shame she never came here. And on the penultimate day of her life she worked a 12-hour-shift and left torn to ribbons because she felt nothing had gone right and everybody was getting at her. Which knowing the crowd she worked with, they probably were.
You have to put down your anguish-- TODAY if possible, because you may not have a tomorrow. That is the lesson Maureen's death has left me with. Stop doing the things that cause you unhappiness. Try to forgive the people who hurt you in the past so that the wounds they made can heal. Try to forgive God for letting it happen: there is no greater pain and loneliness than turning your face away from He whom you believe in your DNA, whatever clever accretions may have been laid over it by Time and education, created you. Find a way to believe again that good things can happen. That the Universe is an hospitable home for a poor suffering human who only wants somebody to hold their hand.
To use a marvellous phrase by Allen Ginsberg, you have to unravel your mysteries before it's too late.
And that's all I'm trying to do now, really. It's nothing big; it's nothing important--the sound of eggs frying on the stove or a car rolling by outside is just as significant as the sound my fingers are making pumping these profundities into the keyboard. In fact, they all mean exactly the same thing: life being lived, that Universe I was talking about talking to itself and taking pleasure in the expressions of its energy.
I will write when I feel like it, and some of it will be poetry. Some of it won't. What happens to the words once I've put them down is something I don't really care about, unless what happens is that somebody finds some truth or delight in them, which seems unlikely. I certainly don't want to build any empires out of my scatological outpourings. I'm too busy trying to save my ass before Death claims it to worry about that.
Were people aware that the real Frank Serpico, subject of Peter Maas' sensational book and my all-time favourite movie, has a blog? He doesn't post very often, but when he does it's always interesting. The man behind the myth! Latest post is about the horrors unfolding in the Middle East (while Tony Blair's on holiday). Go to http://frankserpico.blogspot.com for a read. But be careful what you leave in the comments field. Looks like Frank's getting pi**ed off with all the abuse and defamation of his character that's going on in there.
Another site that's always worth a visit is Ken Babbs' ,which you can find at http://www.skypilotclub.com . Ken Babbs, if you're not aware, was the best friend and brother-in-arms of Ken Kesey. They rode side by side in Further, did the Acid Tests together (as featured in Tom Wolfe's counter-culture Bible "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test"), even wrote a fine novel together, "The Last Go-Round", which will make a great movie when Hollywood producers stop remaking tv shows for long enough to locate a project grown-ups might enjoy. And Babbs site is a continuation of the spirit of his adventures with Kesey without the overlay of phoney Sixties nostalgia. He lives very much in the present moment, and he's still teaching us how to resist conformity.
The only reservation I have about SkyPilotClub is how commercialised it is. You can't participate fully without spending money! But that's the reality of life, I suppose. It was easier in the young and wild days when Kesey's royalties from "Cuckoo's Nest" freed a whole army of lunatics to roam the highways and byways of America on their mission to liberate the spirit through psychedelic drugs.
And it has taken a lot of hard work for her to reach the point where she is able to identify herself privately or publically with her family. The result of a powerful faith in God and an admirably mature capacity for forgiveness.
Encouraged by my appreciation of my friend's display (and my deep respect for her way of thinking), I started putting up pictures of my own this afternoon. I want to create a pictorial history of my own roots, show to whoever comes into my kitchen the soil I sprang from, the family I was nurtured by, the people and animals I loved--even if, for the last decade, I have been separated from the surviving ones by old (possibly imaginary) grievances, my entanglement with a mentally ill relative whose increasingly psychotic behaviour alienated everybody around her, my own depression, whatever.
I have drifted like a ghost for too long, denying even to myself who I really am, floating in space. If I want to be whole again, the first thing I have to do is reconnect with myself.
So on my fridge now, as a beginning, are my old cats Molly and Kitty, my dog Fred standing up on the arm of a chair looking out of the back door at a snowy garden, my dad Martin in a red roll neck leaving for work one morning. I have other photographs lying around somewhere but I can't find them at the moment. In the cave years, as we might call them after Janey's hibernation image, I had a strange habit of not displaying photographs, but putting them inside books. I have been flicking through my books this afternoon looking for them. How ironic, given that I buried so much of my hope and my humanity in the fantasy image of myself as the new Kerouac.
Pictures of my mother Sylvia from my one photograph album were obviously removed by my mentally ill relative before I got away from her and escaped over here to a new life. I shouldn't be surprised. Most of the photographs that should have been in the house somewhere were missing when she was finally evicted, long after I had left. But it's a shame. I had a great photo of my mum cooking Sunday dinner and sticking her tongue out at me.
Old grievances. Old wounds. I have no wish to dwell on them anymore, but instead to celebrate the people and influences that gave me life. They were a good bunch, in the final analysis, and all anybody can do is work within the perameters of their own nature, with the information they have at the time. I have no right, and no wish either, to be mad at anyone--especially now decades have passed since these supposed wounds and injuries occurred.
Friday, August 11, 2006
To sweeten the pill, however, I have worked out how to modify the settings here so you will no longer have to register as a member of blogger before you can leave a comment. I think the extra difficulty of registering before you comment tends to discourage some people from giving their view on whatever they read, so for new arrivals to SUFFOLK PUNCH at least this should be a bonus...
Janey, in the comments field of the last post, likens my current condition to a hungry young bear waking up from hibernation. And she's right. I want berries! I want to wiggle my hairy ass in a rushing river!--I don't want to go back into my cave for more sleep.
(These images are offered in complete ignorance of the habits of real bears, you understand. There aren't any where I come from.)
Thursday, August 10, 2006
I have not felt differently yet. So I'm not writing, except on here. And Suffolk Punch, to paraphrase Eli Wallach in The Misfits, is just another way for me to say hello.
Do I feel like I am missing something from my life? Not at all. Just another source of impatience, envy, anxiety, insecurity, striving. The real fun went out of creating things when I stopped drawing comic books age 13 or 14.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
But when I look at my life as it is, I have to say it's not at all bad. There may even be some poetry there, though the life would not be given extra meaning if there were. Nor would it be robbed of meaning if there were no poetry there at all. Nothing on the page or the computer screen can elicit a feeling like I get sitting in a quiet room with my friend sharing coffee and laughing out loud about some vulgar joke we have made.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
The most mistranslated haiku of them all of course, because it's not really about personal hygiene, but he's got a point, even if that isn't what he meant. A house you only have to paint every five to seven years (according to a tv show I saw). But the human body needs an incredible degree of maintenance to keep it externally pleasing. Every morning you've got to wash it, shave it, deoderise it, brush it, dress it. If you don't it deteriorates so quickly, you become a public nuisance, and your fellow human beings will reject you. How stupid, as the haiku writer says, given our fancy notions about our dominion over all creation.
I haven't read a book in over a month now, other than Johnny Cash's autobiography. I keep picking other books up and putting them down. I have no interest, I'm afraid, not while buses have windows and living rooms have radios. I never wrote to capture marvellous experience. I wrote to prove I could write so somebody would make me feel I was worth something. Now I'm just too busy. These notes are written on the run by a fugitive from darkness.
I await the release of a new Bob Dylan album with the same sense of excited expectation I used to feel when I knew my Uncle Andrew was visiting. He was a merchant sailor then, and he'd always blow in all tanned and bearded (he was the first bearded man I ever saw), telling tall stories, smelling of adventure, making everybody else in the room seem ordinary. Cool as f***, in other words. Bob Dylan's visions blow in tanned and bearded from another world as well. He's been doing it longer than I've been alive and he's still better than all of the rest of the talent in the room combined.
Monday, August 07, 2006
Sunday, August 06, 2006
And when He had come out of the boat, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit,
who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains, because he had often been bound with shackles and chains. And the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces; neither could anyone tame him.
And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones. (Mark 5: 2-5)
Sounds familiar, I thought. I've been that guy for 25 years. Beginner's luck with the Bible game? or divine intervention?
The guy asks Jesus to stop tormenting him, and Jesus drives the unclean spirits out of him into a herd of swine feeding nearby, who then jump off a mountain. Tough break, fellows.
I wouldn't want that to happen to a herd of swine, of course.
Today's Sunday Times has a free dvd of Jean-Luc Godard's Sympathy For The Devil from 1968, which blends documentary footage of the Rolling Stones recording the eponymous rock classic with meditations on black power, pornography, celebrity and drugs, cut in (as the avant-garde filmmakers tended to do back then) in juxtaposition or completely at random. The first time I saw this movie I thought it was really powerful, and to some extent it still is, when you consider how conservative and obvious, how timid, most mainstream cinema is these days. But boy did people take themselves seriously back then. How wise and buddha-like, by contrast to all those revolutionaries and avant-garde lions intoning their profundities, Keith Richards seems sitting barefoot on the floor behind bug-like black shades chain-smoking cigarettes and idly plucking out his blues.
My friend doesn't need someone to interpret the word of God for her. She feels God in every hair and muscle of her being. It isn't theological; it's just something that is as much as she is.
"She can walk in the spirit of the Lord," as Bob Dylan said about somebody that he loved.
Saturday, August 05, 2006
Poet Bruce does this sometimes, and when he comes back he's usually the better for it, both as company to the other Bruces and as administrator on this site.
In his absence S.P. is being looked after by Musical Bruce, Holy Philosophiser Bruce and Simple Human Brother Bruce. We know that you can see the joins on the site, but hope you'll find the greater variety of reading enjoyable while Poet Bruce is away.
(Simple Human Brother )
Folk music enthusiasts should have a look at a site called Keep the Coffee Coming, which I just found tonight. It's a really rich resource of contemporary and classic folk music, with great photography providing colour (though most of it's in black-and-white), and context.
I find myself listening more and more to folk music these days. It's considered unspeakably unfashionable by those who couldn't spot the perfect answer to the times if it bit them in the ass, but for me almost everything else musically sounds phoney, over-produced, lacking in finesse, conservative.
The URL for Keep the Coffee Coming is http://katry.blogspot.com. Expect to be there for a while.
Speaking of folk, Fred Neil described the voice of my new love Karen Dalton as being "like a letter from home". Perfect! I don't know why, but that's exactly right.
I read on another site, I think it was the Dylan site Expecting Rain which Leo Kulinski referred us to in the comments field here a few days ago, that the Band's song "Katie's Been Gone" is rumoured to have been about Karen. Well, she was famously reclusive, or so the sketchy information about her on the internet has it.
But they work out pretty well anyway, sometimes.
You've got to learn to stop feeling cross when things that never existed fail to arrive, and look at what did come.
See things as they are without letting the bawling infant in you get in the way.
Love and happiness are perverse creatures, they never come dressed in the clothes you expected.
But they do come.
Friday, August 04, 2006
It's you guys who want to create great monuments to yourselves--you guys who deal in majestic abstractions--who create our 9/11s, our Iraq invasions, our London bombings, our Lebanons. It's you thinkers and philosophers and theologians and argufiers who are tearing up the world and making life hard for everyone.
While you're busy doing that I'll just hang out in the kitchen or sit on the front step, learn to smile and mean it, listen when other people are talking, appreciate my friends.
I'll get small.
They say the breeze is really cool down here.
However, in the email it was predicted that the love of my life was going to realise they loved me at midnight last night. I haven't seen any evidence of that yet. If they were going to realise they love me, they must know me already, mustn't they? And I haven't detected a change of demeanour in anybody I know--not yet. The woman I would like it to be certainly hasn't trapped me in her arms and declared her undying love.
The email also predicated that something would happen between 1 and 4pm today that would blow my mind and change my world forever. If it did I missed it, though this is entirely possible with me. I was at work till 2pm, in the supermarket (alone) by 2.30pm, on the bus home at 3pm and asleep on my sofa drooling by 4pm. All of which I have done dedicatedly for years, so no world-change there.
Shame. I wouldn't mind a world change. And I certainly wouldn't say no to love. You can call me a romantic but it's the only thing that seems to matter to me anymore.
The cd comes with a dvd of performances by Karen from 1969 and 1970.
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Of course, I'd put myself on a diet around the same time I gave up boozing anyway, so it's hard to measure how significant the impact of either is on weight loss. I was, on top of the drink and the weed, stuffing my face with chocolates, doughnuts and eight rounds of bread a day too.
Most people I know are rather freaked out by all this abstinence from someone identified (probably incorrectly), as the premier self-gratifying hippie freak of the nation. What's it all about, they ask?
BOREDOM. (And mid-life crisis, as Domestic Empire correctly guessed.) I've been doing what I wanted whenever I wanted in whatever quantities I could afford ever since I was a kid, thinking there was some kind of freedom in that, some depth too that those people hemmed in by responsibility and duty, or by self-imposed discipline (which I condemned as puritanical), couldn't possibly understand or achieve. "The road of excess leads to the Palace of Wisdom," as Blake learns in Hell.
It doesn't. My excesses--and I'm talking about emotional excesses too--have only led to selfishness, a world view as narrow as those I condemn, depression, paranoia, loneliness, a bad back, and knees that don't like going up the stairs.I probably have low quality sperm by now as well. I haven't acquired any wisdom while I've been drinking , smoking, sleeping till dawn on the sofa with the tv on, meditating in the woods. All I've acquired is a gradual alienation from everything, especially the pleasure that I used to take in life (I know the 15-year-olds won't believe me, but it's true: freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose).
None of which is likely to be restored by quitting alcohol and marijuana. But it's different, at least, and for now that's enough.
One time, when (Joan Baez) was on an aeroplane with Dylan, she said," Bob, look out the window." "What?" he said. "The sunset," she said. "I saw it yesterday," snapped Bob. ( Sylvie Simmons--"Another Side of Joan Baez",MOJO September 2006).
Like most supposed rebels, all I've ever been really is a middle-class kid trying to prove to myself that I was interesting. Ironic that in doing so I've bored myself literally to tears.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
I felt better about that yesterday, though, when I found out that journal-keeping was also the habit of the most arrogant, screwed-up, unpleasant, solipsistic son******** I know (I mean other than the guy in the bathroom mirror). He has kept one all his life and probably continues the practice today.
It is, when you think about it, a way of reordering the universe, of having the final say, of lashing all those you are unable to control. It is a tool, in other words, of impotence. I remember how, as the situation with my mentally ill relative descended into chaos, the two of us would argue and then go away into separate rooms and lambast each other in our journals--justifying all our own actions at the same time of course. Two violated virgins, we were, scratching away with our pens in silent fury. It mystifies me now that I didn't just slap my relative hard for her transgressions against me, and leave.
Blogging is marginally less solipsistic because by its nature, it is a kind of dialogue. Anybody can read this and engage with me about it. So all of my stupid rationalisations and psychotic justifications will be immediately obvious to anyone who cares to look, and I will have to account for them (and sometimes I have). I am not king of the universe of Suffolk Punch, I'm just the landlord.
It is--or appears to be--more ephemeral than a solid journal that you can hold in your hand and keep in a corner of your room for posterity's sake.This tends to be a concern of artists and general creative types rather than ordinary bog-standard journal keepers. But I don't care. As I've said before, there are many poets out there keeping comprehensive archives of their work for future generations, and most of those archives won't survive one week after the poets die: let events take their own course in these matters, history will make its own mind up.
It's much more interesting, anyway, to have somebody respond immediately to a piece of work you've written. What do I care if someone 100 years from now reads a poem of mine and likes it? I'll have found out whether I was right or wrong about God by then, and such petty earthly matters won't concern me anymore.
The first review of Bob Dylan's forthcoming "Modern Times" cd I've seen--Robert Hilburn's in "Mojo" magazine--suggests it will be a worthy successor to 2001's "Love And Theft" and '97's "Time Out Of Mind", marking, if I have my Dylan history correct (and I'm enough of an expert to believe I do), the first time our braying hero has recorded three great consecutive albums of new material since the Seventies (I should explain to fellow Dylan enthusiasts that unlike many of you I love "Planet Waves" and "Desire"). Well, wonders never cease with old Bob.
Folkniks and Bob Heads might want to check the cd that comes with Mojo this month. It's called "The Roots of Bob Dylan: 15 Tracks That Inspired The Legend", and although Chrome Dreams (I think it was), released an album of roots music and blues organised around the same theme a while ago, this has some material in it that's well worth the £4.10 cover price of the magazine, including a Big Bill Broonzy blues ("When The Sun Goes Down"), that speaks as much of the influence its artist had on the Rolling Stones as it does of the influence on Dylan, and something of particular interest, a track by Karen Dalton, described by Dylan as "funky, lanky and sultry" and "my favorite singer" in his memoirs, and almost completely anonymous in her day, by all accounts, despite having a voice as good as anyone in folk music (in fact Dylan himself likened her style to Billie Holiday, though it's less vulnerable, more sexual, than Billie's). I saw Karen's album and passed it by in HMV the other day, but I'm thinking of going back the next time I get paid and making a purchase, after hearing her on this one.
Any readers out there know what happened to Karen Dalton?
Oh. The last track on the "Roots of Dylan" album is by Thelonius Monk. If that means nothing to you, dear reader, then I humbly suggest you go to HMV as well.
pic: Karen Dalton, who sings as good as she looks.
I'm not that interested in dreams of literary glory, like I said earlier today (no, it wasn't just the early morning grumbles). Even if I got a handsome chap out with the poem inside, the right people would hate it and the wrong people would love it, and both camps would be making their judgements for the wrong reasons. That's the way it is in the poetry field.
Wonder why I even bother writing, given the stuff I say about poetry? I don't know myself. It's a habit, like shooting smack, or masturbating. Except it neither sedates me, nor gives me a temporary thrill.
The malaise in poetry began with this crap about Academia--the poets separating themselves from any kind of vaguely objective analysis--and in some instances from the obligation of hard work--by buying into the philistinic myth that anything done by someone qualified to do it will be an automatic failure.