Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Tom Cruise Never Did This

I used to be a great admirer of Johnny Depp. In a world that seemed to have lost its bearings altogether, post-Sixties, he was--I thought--the one man who had hung on. He knew. He was right. But these days I'm not so sure. Something seems terribly wrong when the guy who refused to parlay his Hollywood looks into a lucrative big money career making obvious, brain-dead movies racks up three versions of a blockbuster film based on a ride at Disneyworld. Even Tom Cruise never did that.

The first "Pirates" film was all right, albeit rather dumb and predictable. The second one was so boring I fell asleep about twenty minutes in, and didn't wake up until twenty minutes before the end. And when I went back to review the parts I'd missed (about seventeen hours of sword fights, monsters, racist caricatures and Johnny Depp twitching and ticking cutely), I realised the dream I'd been having while it played out in front of my closed lids the first time around had been much more entertaining.

I celebrated the release of the third in the franchise by going out and buying "Five Easy Pieces" on dvd.

A film, you see. With writing .And acting. And no giant squids.

At what point along my time line did adults start watching films that would previously have only satisfied children, while mocking those this failed to satisfy as people with no sense of humour?

Saturday, May 26, 2007


Northampton is a strange town. Caught half way between wicker-man-style inbred country wierdness and cosmopolitan pretentiousness, with a bohemian underbelly that sings beautiful folk music if you tickle it the right way.

Yesterday I was in Sainsbury's and who did I walk past but Alan Moore, creator of the graphic novels that spawned movies like "From Hell" and "V For Vendetta" (which I thought was a lot better than Moore allowed). You can't mistake Alan, though I know somebody who did. He's large, extremely hairy, and he has the world's most lugubrious face.

Well, I kind of wanted to say hello to him, just hello you understand...I'd feel the urge to say hello to Stan Lee if I saw him in Sainsbury's too (and if I'd met a living Jack Kirby I would have wet my pants). But I didn't. I don't want people saying hello to me when I'm just out trying to get my peanut butter and my wine, unless the person saying hello is a good looking woman who's going to invite me back to hers for coffee. (And you know how often that happens!)

Meeting famous people is usually disappointing anyway. I've noticed it as a magazine editor. Every poet with a half way large reputation turns into an opera diva when you give him or her too much time and attention. As if they're the only ones who ever wrote an immortal line or two (when most of 'em haven't written one).

I favour the attitude of the Chink in "Even Cowgirls Get The Blues" when the Clock People come to him looking for him to be their leader:

"Shove it up your butts," he says." I have taught you nothing."

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


There's been no poetry coming through this addled brain for a while now, other than in certain isolated sentences in my private journals. It's tough to find the time to think like a poet sometimes when your life forces you to do so many other things as well: as part of my money job I'm having to do a management qualification now, and 90% of that has to be done when I'm at home.

This, you could say, is the trap. Well, yes, but what are you gonna do? Quit work? I'm half a paycheck away from selling The Big Issue; quitting work isn't a realistic option (if I survive this ailment that's making my chest stick every time I breathe). And it's funny, because all the while I pursue this capitalist life of work and responsibility--albeit with the greatest reluctance--I'm permanently broke. I am not doing well out of this. Nobody I know is.

Sometimes, also, I worry about the poetry scene. Are we really doing anything worthwhile? Are we creating enduring works? Or is it just some kind of boy's club where if you scratch the right ego, you'll become a "name"? I see very little around me that looks like it will achieve permanence...

Hammond On Record

I have found one of those rare flea-market-book-stall treasures, "John Hammond On Record," the autobiography of the man who discovered Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. It came out on Penguin in 1977.

I've been reading it for the last two days, despite feeling rough thanks to some oppressive ailment of the chest I've picked up in that time. We've all heard about Hammond through the Dylan stories, but this gives you a chance to peer inside his mind; and it's a literate, thoughtful and highly moral mind at that.

I can't write much that's inspired right now because the medication I'm on is shutting down the flow of my thoughts.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Tesco Has Left Me

My Tesco internet account appears to be dead now. I cancelled it a while ago in an effort to cut down outgoings. But they shut it down before I had transferred all my emails to the new address. So if you've sent anything there in the last month or so and I haven't replied, my apologies. They're lost in the air somewhere now, I'm afraid.

As are submissions to the Beatnik. Well, I don't have time to run the thing now anyway. Or, I won't until I get back into a home where I have regular access to the internet and don't have to rent computers at the Library. And the way my funds are going, I'm not going to be able to afford to move out of the Flat From Hades any time soon. In fact, I'm still in debt from putting myself there.

But you understand, out there on the fringes of the glorious world of poetry, right? You want your writing with an edge. You want your poetry to matter. Your magazines to hurt with the pain pangs of real experience. You don't want your art to be delivered to you from a comfortable tower in a university somewhere. This is real life. And it's tough and unpredictable sometimes.

But we'll work out the kinks eventually and get the Beatnik rolling again.

A fat cheque from one of you million and one poetry admirers would help.

My Worst Regret

Lost love, death, all those wasted years trying to write a poem that never came. But my worst regret is that I never had a decent haircut.

A Tragedy

I gave up the love that was destined for me and spent four years chasing a woman I never caught.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

What This Country Needs

What this country needs is less emphasis on handwashing before during and after every task you perform throughout the day, and more reading intelligent books.

Less moisturising and more sitting in the warm dirt under trees talking to squirrels.

Less identification with peers and more identification with one's own inner voice.

The kids on the street corners shouting "fuck" at the elderly aren't alienated from anything; they're actually too chickenshit to think with their own minds.

What A Drag

The cigarette ban coming into force in England on July 1st is enough to make you want to take up smoking. Damn puritans are penetrating every corner of modern life.

I sometimes characterise myself as an old leftist, but I hate it when government starts telling people how to live their lives.

Won't be long before alcohol is banned in pubs as well and we'll all have to sit there drinking sparkling water. While eating a nice healthy salad.

At which time my already-severe separation from contemporary life will be complete.

Go back and resurrect Sam Peckinpah, I say. Make him World President with Kris Kristofferson deputy and Willie Nelson in charge of religious and cultural affairs.

Drive these middle-management drones back into the river from which they sprang.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Falling Towards England, And To Me.

Reading the second volume of Clive James' "Unreliable Memoirs", Falling Towards England, I keep thinking how entertaining a memoir of my own would be to those who've never kept the kind of company I keep, who've never done the things I did. I have seen some things, as Raymond Carver would say.

But then I start to wonder...Did any of the things I think happened actually happen? And as for the ones that investigation proves to have happened, did they happen in the way I remember them happening? Was person a. really the person I presumed him to be? Did he act for the reasons I assumed?

I have developed conditioned responses to all the situations that occur in my life on the basis of presumptions about things that have already happened to me. But maybe my presumptions were wrong.

The only thing about my life until now (and beyond) that I'm fairly sure of is that the common denominator in all of my experiences was a bit of an arse.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Goodbye Tony. Goodbye Britain.

Tony Blair's announcement that he will be leaving office soon has been greeted with relief all across the country, more by traditional Labour supporters and those of a generally progressive mind than by Conservatives, who have always had a sneaking admiration for him.

Blair has become, thanks to the disaster in Iraq, the Margaret Thatcher or the Richard Nixon of this generation. The embodiment of everything that right-thinking people oppose. But to me that's rather unfair.

Iraq was a disaster. And it was, at least in part, Blair's Messianic tendencies that got us there. He was a man with high principles. A man with a calling. And a man (or woman) with a calling is a dangerous one to leave with his finger on the button.

But England is better for the New Labour project, which Tony Blair drove with Gordon Brown. The concept of social justice was almost unknown in the 1980s, characterised by poet Basil Bunting as "a terrible decade to have lived through". And it will vanish from the face of our society again if we let the Conservatives back in because Tony Blair, in our minds, has tainted the Labour Party forever.

Remember the Eighties, kids? Destruction of the industrial base, violent dismantling of the trade unions, persecution of gays and hippies, general dumbness and superficiality everywhere?

David Cameron is stealing Tony Blair's clothes, as Blair in his time stole Margaret Thatcher's, to pretend that he is not what we fear him to be. But what Blair was hiding from a callous public was his goodness, the positive nature of his programme. Cameron is claiming a positive programme to hide his Toryism.

I might say be conned by him at your own risk. But if you are you'll take me and the unions and the poor and the homosexuals and the immigrants and everybody else down with you. So don't be so hopelessly naive, eh?

Crude Red Boat

Sometimes the right things happen to the right people in the poetry world. Evidence: Ralph Murre's first collection of poetry "Crude Red Boat" (Cross+Roads Press). It's out now and it's marvellous, full of poise, grace, humour, wisdom. I recommend it highly to anyone with an interest in these things.

It says in the "author information" section that Ralph's only been writing poetry since 1999. In which case he has no right to be this good! I've been plugging away at this intermittently since 1983, you swine!

Visit the links on the right to Ralph's own page or Cross+Roads boss Norbert Blei for more information.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

OOOO Lovely!!!

I'd rather listen to Ivor Cutler being tickled by his obliging fairy than expose myself to one minute of the r & b various friends of mine have on the tv all day long.

Friday, May 04, 2007


Riding on the bus this morning through the open country, here's a stretch of ground where four horses are pulling at a hay bale, or just sitting, pondering the big metaphysical questions as horses do, in the morning cold. "I feel sorry for them stuck out there," says a girl in the seat in front of me, through her slicked-down hair, in her anonymous white blouse and plain black trousers, with a heavy briefcase on her knees, travelling to another eight hours at the office.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


Tom Blessing is a good man. Good man, good poet. And a good editor too, it seems. Received my copy yesterday of his "Quickzine" Going to Georgia (put out by his own Tandava Poetry Press, who you can reach via tandavapoetry@yahoo.com ), and it is extremely good. You might think I'm saying that because I'm in it, but trust me, I usually hate my own poetry when I see it in print. What I like about the magazine is that Tom's editorial selections incline to the contemporary, but with a lyrical/ musical edge--that is, the effect of the words on your ear is important as well as the message (and to me, that's poetry). Of course, that doesn't completely capture what Tom's about. The moment you say anything it becomes a lie. But it's a good starting point for anyone who wants to attempt a critical analysis. Ron Androla, Pris Campbell, Mark Hartenbach, Didi Menendez, Justin Hyde and Zach Blessing, among several others, do the honours poetically, and the drawings are wonderful. A really refreshing, intelligent read.