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Showing posts from February, 2007

Moving House (8)

One last push and I am there.

I'm knackered. Been cleaning this place in an effort to recover the deposit I put down three years ago one rainy morning in my landlord's office outside Northampton, but I'm reaching the point where I don't care anymore. I'm a slob, kiddies; it's driving me nuts--ripping a hole in my brain--trying to look at this place the way a pristine, upright ex-Army man like my landlord would look at it. Let him keep the money if he worries about dust gremlins between the floorboards. He'll probably keep it anyway.

I've been pretty melancholy (my worst vice) for a few weeks as the moment of the move approached--been thinking about all the good things that happened here, what I gained and then lost between moving in and moving out. The memories are so good, so real, so close. But fuck it, they are memories.

What happens in the future is what happens; but dwelling on the past is pointless and masochistic. I've had some of the highest ti…

"It's Strange"

It's strange. I stayed a child until I was 37, 38 years old. Full of innocent hope and post-pubescent anguish. Lived in the same place for 30 of those years, did very little except write poetry that nobody wanted to publish.

Then the person I lived with went crazy, I fell in love, moved house, changed jobs, had a breakdown, recovered, changed jobs again, lost her love, changed jobs again. And now I'm about to move for a second time.

After such a slow start, the last four or five years have been bloody exhausting. I'm 42 and I feel like I'm 108.

GOOD POETRY ALERT

Tom Blessing. Knee Deep in Freezing Water http://tblessing.blogspot.com . Look at it this morning. Write better poetry this afternoon.

St.Vitus

My OPEN LETTER TO WATERSTONE'S, published here a while ago, will be reappearing shortly with a new introduction at Theron and Todd Moore's seriously excellent St. Vitus site (http://www.saintvituspress.com ). I mention this as an excuse to plug one of the best poetry magazines on the net or anywhere--one of those (along with my Beatnik and Brian Fuggett's Zygote in my Coffee) that people should check out first before they start complaining that small press publishing and writing has been in a moribund condition ever since Bukowski kicked the bucket. It's actually really healthy, and I'm thrilled to have a minor role on the scene.

Anyway, have a look at St.Vitus. You NEED it in your life, people.

Moving House (7)

We're nearly there. And I can't tell you (well, I can), how fed up I am of the whole moving process, which has consumed my life for the last two weeks. I am fed up of packing boxes, fed up of talking to removal men, fed up of talking to estate agents, fed up of worrying whether I'm going to have enough money for the next month after the move has finished eating 90% of my wages, fed up of cleaning this place in a vain attempt to get my deposit back from my present landlord, fed up of waking up every morning wondering how close I am now to the day of the move. It was frightening when I first heard I had to get out, then it was exciting when I found somewhere, now even the fear and the stress associated with the upheaval are stupefyingly boring. I feel like Bob Dylan in the penultimate sequence of the Scorcese movie, when he's being interviewed by a journalist in a hotel room and he's rocking back and forth in repressed irritation, distress, neurasthenia, loneliness, …

Kingsley Amis

I must be getting old. Or I'm growing up (at 42?) I used to think Kingsley Amis was some sort of literary Anti-Christ, representing everything that was old and stolid and Establishment and boring in the world of writing. I had arrived at this conclusion without ever reading a word he'd written, but I'd seen an interview with him on tv; and I'd occasionally paused to disapprove of his poetry selections in the newspaper column he had for a while. I am a man who likes to do my research before offering a categorical opinion.

Now, though, I think Amis is fantastic. Novels like Lucky Jim and One Fat Englishman and Jake's Thing are confirmed favourites of mine. Incompatible with my minor status as a champion of lost geniuses and unappreciated new stars on the alternative side of the writing game? I don't really care, to be honest. I just do what I do, with no conscious calaculation involved. If people like it, fantastic.

The correspondence of Kingsley Amis is some of th…

Tony Blair (part one)

I belong to an old, good British tradition. The one that says you vote for one political party, always, regardless of what's going on, regardless of who's presently in charge of it; you do that because the party you have chosen, or the party that was chosen for you, by birth, represents your core beliefs, your values, the way you feel about yourself and your country. According to the rules of that old tradition you don't sell your vote to the party that promises you the best advantage; to do so would be a form of prostitution--you'd be selling out yourself and everything that made you who you are. We're told that the tradition has all but died in England, though it seems to have clung on with admirable fierceness in Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

You can see the proof of the expiry of the tradition in the success of David "Call Me Dave" Cameron's Conservative Party in the polls. A lot of people who voted Labour last year now appear to be seriously consid…

Why I Won't Be Joining The ULA After All

For those of you I have told otherwise, I won't be joining the Underground Literary Alliance. There was some kind of vague talk in the ranks that I would, though I was never really sure what was happening, but yesterday I withdrew my candidacy for membership.

Big loss to the ULA, right?

I am not much of a joiner. Should've known that all along. But observing the way the organisation works from the inside, or nearly from the inside, I've realised it's just not a gang I want to run with.

As Burt Reynolds says in his great lost classic Hustle, "Sometimes you can't tell the Christians from the lions."

Rocks

When the bloke from the removal firm came the other day to give me a quote for shifting my furniture and possessions to Earls Barton, he looked everything over and commented: "You travel light, don't you?"

The same day I heard an interview on the radio with the French translator of the Dalai Lama. He was being quizzed about the Buddhist concept of renunciation. He likened life to an uphill climb with a rucksack on your back. Half the contents of the rucksack are your provisions, the other half are rocks; and the higher you climb, the harder the rocks make your journey. Renunciation is simply a matter of stopping for a moment, and emptying your rucksack of its rocks.

My rocks are all in my head. So how do you put that down?

I'm Sorry, Did I Hear You Correctly????!!!!!!!! (2)

by Martin Hodder

You know, it is not surprising that there is such a (as you put it) Saint Thatcher mood just now. The British media, the majority of which is Right Wing, or extremely Right Wing, have always loved Thatcher because she embodies the spirit of the Aristocratic founders of our newspapers, people who treated their employees and readers with utter contempt and were viciously ruthless in their dealings with others, both privately and in business.

Thatcher made this the official policy of Government, and in so doing put at severe risk the democratic processes that had put her there in the first place. This ruthlessness and callous disregard of the individual, especially those who were from the "lower classes" she and her cohorts so despised, in turn permeated right through the management of British industry.

At one point in the 1980s I had risen through the ranks of magazine publishing, through hard work, very long hours and perhaps a little talent, to Director level w…

I'm Sorry, Did I Hear You Correctly????!!!!!!!!

I have just been listening to a discussion on Newsnight, the BBC current affairs programme, in which the consensus seemed to be that Margaret Thatcher was coming to be regarded by analysts and historians as a great prime minister. As memory of the deep divisions of the period fade, so the suits on tv were saying, we were starting to realise how she turned an archaic and failing society into a thriving, modern democracy of which we can all be proud. The pain that she caused, it was felt, was necessary.

I have never been closer to throwing a steel-toe-capped boot at the television. But the last time I slung a boot, on one of the occasions when my lover dumped me (remember, she got four goes, I only got one), I put a hole in the back of my guitar and I've regretted that ever since.

I don't think I could even begin, tonight, to explain to those with short memories what an absolute unmitigated f****** disaster Margaret Thatcher was for this country, all the people that she crapped al…

Iraq: Is It Really Nearly Over?

Tony Blair always said that British troops would only leave "when the job was done." A cynic, which of course I am not, might suggest that what he meant was when his job was done. Can it be a coincidence that the announcement of large scale British troop withdrawals from Iraq will mean, according to the news tonight, over 2000 troops will have left by the time Mr. Blair leaves office at the end of the summer? so that the last memory connecting Blair to the Iraq War will be of a prime minister who had done the job in Iraq well enough to feel confident of a huge downscaling of British forces there?

Blair is certainly suggesting that things are under sufficient control in Basra for the Iraqis to assume responsibility for policing the violent civil war we have helped create, though that is not what analysts are reporting.

But whatever the reasons for the withdrawal, we are coming home, in fairly large numbers, just as the American Government sends in its much-trumpeted and much-ma…

MID-FEBRUARY AT THE LOOKOUT

It's been a strange week. Off work to fit my annual leave in before April 1st, a house move to prepare for, and absolutely no money to spend on anything else, including transport out of the village. So I've been stuck staring at four walls that aren't going to be mine in a couple of weeks, taking walks down to sainsbury's--the supermarket at the end of the village--cleaning the house bit by bit in a vain attempt to recover my deposit when I leave, and trying to stay mentally alert enough to read instead of falling asleep with the tv on. (Yes, I could be taking walks in the back country around here, finding inspiration in nature as I do in the summer months, but it's COLD right now people, and for the last three days it's been raining as well. Do you think Edward Abbey would have been such a keen wilderness lover if it was 6 degrees c. at the the height of the day in the Arizona desert?)

I've always been intrigued by the experience of Kerouac, Gary Snyder and…

Kurt (2)

Course, I don't know music the way I know poetry. The bands I'm thinking of are all signed to mainstream record labels, so there's going to be an element of watering down in their work, of some smart-arse at the label or some coke-addled producer influencing the band to go in a particular direction, so they can guarantee sales that will ensure nice profits over and above recording costs and everybody's fat salaries. It happened with Nirvana too: by all accounts their album "In Utero" was vastly better before it was finished (why did Kurt agree to detrimental changes if he was so hardcore? on the documentary they said he "gave up", which given the passive nature of the man and the heroin habit that drove him has some credibility.) I know of fifty men and women who are creating great poetry today in almost complete obscurity; and maybe ten among them whom, with the perspective of time, we'll realise were as good as anything that has been thrown up…

Kurt

There was an interesting documentary about Kurt Cobain's last days on the BBC yesterday. Reminded me how much I liked Nirvana, back then--I haven't listened to them for a long time. It also helped me figure out why I'm not inspired by any of the current crop of pop-rock bands, though I can see how good a lot of them are ( British music is in fantastic shape right now.) It's because they're just not serious. They're clever, they're amusing, they're cute, but they're not coming at it from a hard place like Cobain was. I don't see anybody who's bringing the word up from their boots.
Like I said somewhere else, I write because I have to. I like to see the same in the other artists I give my time to.

PISSY MANIFESTO

I write only what I like. Whatever passes through my head when I sit down to write. I don't think about what's new or old, hip or unhip, 'me' or 'not me' (since there's no 'me' anyway--ask Buddha).Writing isn't entertainment, as far as I'm concerned, it's personal confession to the moon, 'one man's fist raised against the lightning clouds,' it's 'they'll shit on you anyway, so have your say first,' it's the pyrrhic victory of the utterly defeated, it's CRAFT, kiddies, contesting with yourself to wring the most music and harmony (even if it's a harmony of ugliness), from whatever lines have welled up in your brain. I write because I have no choice; if I don't everything feels disconnected and rotten. I write because I'm in a contest with my own mediocrity to lay something down I can be halfway proud of.I write because, like Hemingway says, I want to find 'one true sentence' that will…

MEMO FROM THE GEOGRAPHY DEPARTMENT

Someone I know told me that I looked and dressed like 'a psychotic geography teacher.' It may be so. The truth is, I've never cared very much about clothes, and it bothers me to see fashion becoming more and more important, especially on the counter-cultural/ alternative side. There are people I know who are well out on the alternative limb, at least in one sense, and they spend hundreds of pounds a year on alternative fashions to signal their outsider status to the world.

That's just capitalism with cooler outfits, isn't it? Don't they still 'have' you, if you have to consume in order to pursue your lifestyle?

So what kind of rebellion are we actually running, if we're running one? Is it one of style? There is something to be said for the pursuit of style, since all forms of excellence are difficult to attain and contradict the conformist impulse, in a way. But my rebellion (again, if that's what I'm doing), is an internal one; it's about…

Some Thoughts on George Bush, Co-Opted

Last comes the Age of Iron.
And the day of Evil dawns.
Modesty,
Loyalty,
Truth,
Go up like a mist--a morning sigh off a graveyard.
Ted Hughes, "Tales from Ovid"

When a country is in disorder, there will be praise of loyal ministers.
Lao Tzu "Tao Te Ching"

Democracy? Bah! When I hear that word I reach for my feather boa.
Allen Ginsberg

Epater Le Bourgeois, And Other Dinner Party Games

Turned on the radio a moment ago, Radio Four, because I needed some background noise while cleaning three years of grime from my window frames, and here's Grayson Perry again, the sculptor--second or third time on the BBC in as many days--talking, again, about cross-dressing.

Yes, that's right, you remember him now; he's the bloke who made the "provocative" gesture of dressing in women's clothes to go and receive the Turner Prize (or whichever parade of Establishment mediocrities it was.) Well, as I recall, he dressed like Alice-in-Wonderland, or Little Bo Beep. Oh ho, you arty little tike you.

Now, old Grayson is a genuine cross-dresser, and there's nothing wrong with that. A man who hasn't put women's clothes on at least once in his life has no sense of adventure, as far as I'm concerned. But when he wears costumes, rather than clothes--which he appears to do--he resembles a pantomime dame most of the time--he reveals what his real intent is,…

haiku for feb 14

another lousy poem
about broken love--
poet on valentine's day.

no love for valentine's day--
the poet needs to write
the last one from his head.
their shades play rummy
by the open fire.
he sits in the dark, remembering.
every inch of the house
got imprinted by a scene with her
this keyboard even, her playing 'wolfenstein'.
her on the landing
in long coat and a basque--
shy grin counters sluttish pose.
her trying to get out
in a blazing fight, the front door
not opening because the bolt was on.
four times, four times
she ended it, and he went back--
he once, and it was over.
sitting now drinking spanish wine
surrounded by bags and boxes--
he's moving house next week.
another step away from her.
they'd said they'd live together one day
grow old in a country pile.
he sits and drinks.
he sits and drinks and writes--
thoughts of her spin round his cloudy head.
he's bugged she could forget him
when he's still in love
poor poet, such an ego!

POUND

The biography of Ezra Pound becomes almost too depressing to read when we reach WWII--Pound's broadcasts from Rome, and his subsequent arrest and trial on charges of treason. It's tragic that such brilliance, such 'furious motion' (to steal Dylan Thomas' phrase), should degrade into the appalling crudity of Pound's attacks on the Jews, and his ravings on the role of international finance in the War ( despite their rabid, hectoring tone, his comments on finance might have some truth if you excise the anti-Semitic element from them and analyse the ideas themselves.)

Was this insanity? Of course not. Pound was never crazy. He was insanely arrogant, though, and probably a misanthrope--but if hating humanity is a sign of mental illness half the population are mad. At the time of the War and the Rome broadcasts I think he was suffering from the very modern ailment of stress, and mental exhaustion; he'd been running too fast for too long and now he was in the middl…

Moving House (6)

I move to the new place on March 1st. I am not working until then--I had a lot of annual leave still to take--but all my money (and then a little more) is tied up in the move, so I can't afford to do anything. Well, nothing that involves £££. So what am I doing? Sitting around the house, and getting up periodically to put things in boxes, and to clean.

I'm cleaning for two reasons: 1) because I vaguely hope to recover my deposit when I leave (that £475 could come in handy), and 2) because it would be rude to leave the house looking like a bomb site. But I'm afraid it still won't look great. I'm tackling the place every day, but every time I clean one area, I notice another that looks even worse. Maybe if I'd paid more attention to domestic tasks over the last three years it would be a little easier now.

Anyone who thinks a housewife has it easy compared to a husband who goes out to work every day ought to try managing a home without help. It's a test of stren…

For George On The Occasion Of The End

George. Hey George. Old buddy. When exactly was it you had Armaggedon scheduled for? What date is it going to start? Because that's obviously the plan. You gave the game away with the press conference about Iran funding the civil war in Iraq. Global conflagration, like it says in that Bible by your bed. Which is fine. World had to end someday, and who better to end it than a good Christian like yourself? But I don't want to be doing something lame when it comes, like working, or sleeping in the bus station waiting for a bus. I want to watch the whole fantastic End beginning, just so I can say (in the little time we all have left) that I was there. So when's it all kick off, George? Come on, don't pretend you haven't set the date.

Sir Arthur Just Ain't Good Enough For Tess

Apparently Tessa Jowell, or her underlings at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, don't think Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was an important enough writer to warrant the upgrading of his country mansion's listed status. Acting on advice from English Heritage that the creator of my mother's hero Sherlock Holmes "cannot be said to be an author of the standing of...Charles Dickens or Jane Austen," the Department has turned down the application from the Victorian Society to have Undershaw elevated to Grade I listed status as a means of protecting it against future development, and securing funding for its preservation.

My God, can these idiots get anything right? The newspapers today are condemning English Heritage and the Government for their snobbery, but in one sense it's quite the reverse; Ms. Jowell's Solomon-like judgement actually gives off a pungent odour of philistinism. Conan Doyle may not be a writer of the Dickensian order, though personally I do…

The Real Menace

The real menace in this country isn't drugs, it's vocational education.

What's This?

What's this? David Cameron smoked weed at school? Burn him, before he takes us all to Hell!

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE MANAGERS AT WATERSTONE'S

this will go out today to the two or three waterstone's branches in my area

Dear Sir/ Madam,

I am writing to you in the interests of friendship and brotherhood--we all play our part in the literary and intellectual life of the country in different ways--to let you know about some writers and poets whose works you should be stocking in your bookshop.

There is a remarkable, dynamic global poetry scene today, which the authors I want to bring to your attention are a vital part of, and along with major publishing houses and mainstream media, the bookshops (by no means only Waterstone's), are ignoring it completely. Can this be right?

Yes, a few large publishers have a regular output of new poets, and to your credit, you do stock some of them from time to time. But they do not represent any of the contemporary schools, or bring anything to the table that hasn't been there since the first books of Ted Hughes; they are seen, perhaps a little unfairly, but they are seen nevertheless, …

FIGHT THE POWER

I have been conversing, in the comments section beneath "I Know, I Know, I Know", with Australian uber-poet Glenn Cooper about bookshops. He works in one. I occasionally visit one when I'm cold and I have a few moments to spare. But I don't go in often; and I never go in with the expectation of finding something good to read, unless I'm on Charing Cross Road in London(and even then I don't hold my breath.)
Why? Listen, most of the readers who pass through these pages are in the writing/ publishing game in one way or another. We all know poets, even if we never write a line ourselves. And consequently we all know that there is a remarkable, dynamic, global poetry scene that is just not being represented in the bookshops--maybe it is in other countries, but it certainly isn't in the UK. It makes me sick, sending and receiving emails from poets like Glenn and then going into a bookshop and seeing the same old stuff, year after year after year, with a notable …

new poem: short white haiku

snow on church ramparts black specks of birds fly around in heaven

Duck, Time's Winged Chariot Is Going To Hit You

If you can't make a living doing the thing you love, you've got to trade in your time and intelligence doing something else. That's just how it is. But Lord do I resent it sometimes, coming home from work like the human equivalent of a burnt match, no light left and certainly no hope of writing a decent poem. Suppose Buddha was wrong and this is the only life you get. Are we using our brief time here on Earth with due acknowledgement of its brevity?

I Know, I Know, I Know...

I know, I know, I know.

I've been feeling really disloyal to this page, which was the first of my many internet pages, leaving it unattended for such a long time. It used to be that I made a couple of entries here a day--though sometimes I wrote a little too readily back then, and should have practised a little more self-censorship.

But I've not been flirting with another woman, so to speak. In fact, I've been doing very little, except working. Getting up in the frozen dark of pre-dawn, trundling off twelve miles on the bus, shooting my wad (again, so to speak) for 8 or 12 hours depending on my shift, trying to do a decent job in exchange for my wage, coming home again to drink wine and go to sleep early for the next early rise.

I've written a couple of poems (posted on my MySpace page), but nothing stellar. I come damn near sometimes to forgetting I am a poet--which perhaps says more about me and my lack of dedication than the circumstances I'm in. To remind myself I…

Moving House (5)

I got home today to find an email from the Estate Agent saying I had passed my credit check. The flat in Earls Barton is mine! What a relief. Now I can sit back and relax for a while, stop buying the newspaper to scour the property to let pages, stop calling in at Estate Agents in town to pick up lettings lists, stop making phone calls to arrange viewings, stop going to viewings, stop entertaining nightmare fantasies in which everything goes wrong and the bottom falls out of my world, leaving me homeless, sleeping in shop doorways.

You can call me neurotic, but for the last month every time I've passed the homeless guy who sleeps on the town square I've felt like he was keeping the spot warm for me.

ESTATES

The scholarship/ journalism (if those aren't incompatible disciplines), side of Blue Fred Press is really taking hold now. I've got the Philip Whalen site, the new Ezra Pound site, and the beatnik, which is publishing work by some significant figures in post-War American literature. (Truly, that's not just arrogant publisher talk designed to beef up support for something useless. If you go to the site you can read Gerald Nicosia, Jonah Raskin, Neeli Cherkovski, Charles Plymell, and soon Jerry Kamstra as well.)

But the more successful I become at this, the more I have to deal with stuff that really has nothing to do with poetry. Such as literary estates. I can't tell you how much I dislike dealing with them. The authors listed in the final sentence of the previous paragraph are a delight: unpretentious, with an ear to the streets and unspoiled by the success they've had. But the estates of some of the others? Ahh, give me strength!

Perhaps this is just the reality. Pe…