Thursday, July 31, 2008


I wrote somewhere else that I may be the only regular purchaser of budget clothing in this country who doesn't have a t-shirt with Che Guevara's face on it. And I probably lean further to the Left than 75% of the people on the High Street, though my politics are more complicated and nuanced than my detractors would have it (I threw the only copy of the Morning Star I ever bought into a waste bin when I read something about the latest wonders of the Chinese Communist Party). Che's image has become a capitalist icon now, and principally--the irony is savage--at the budget end of this despicable, dehumanising system; those cheap Che t-shirts in Primark are able to be sold at such "affordable" prices because they're produced by exploited labour in places like India. What would the man himself had made of it? If his book "African Dream" is any indication he'd have been out in the country in one of those beleaguered nations organising revolutionary armies to rise up against their oppressors. Not that killing anybody is any sort of an answer, in my own humble opinion. That just perpetuates the cycle of anger and violence. Was Cuba, in the end, in any better a condition than America? I mean after Che and his buddy Fidel had finished with it?
Well, maybe, actually. We always measure the state of the Cuban revolution by capitalist standards of wealth and the accumulation of useless objects, which is a little silly, really: like saying chalk fails in its purpose because it doesn't taste like cheese. But I'd still prefer to pitch my tent in the United States because at least there they live with the illusion of freedom. And that's a pretty sexy damn dream when you think about it.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Ice Cream Of Life & How To Lick It

Something tells me I have to start caring again. Send something out. Make a fucking effort. But the sun is shining and oh there are so many poets out there already, especially on the couldn't-care-less if-i-hadn't-been-a-poet-i'd-be-a-snake-hipped-gunfighter side, all toiling away feverishly to get their lidl poems into magazines and their chapbooks into your hands. The multitudes who read poetry (other poets) won't miss me while I go and hang out in the park for a while, will they? It's nice out there with the wind blowing your carefully brushed hair out of your pony tail. And all the women have vests on, dude. Now, that's what I call music.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Hughes And Plath: A Re-Evaluation

I'm reading Elaine Feinstein's 2001 biography of Ted Hughes.Another turnaround for me after my earlier re-education about Philip Larkin and Kingsley Amis. But I dismissed all three virulently, as a younger poet and rampant uninformed ego, without reading a word any of them had written. I just hated them on the basis of a few statements they had made, and on my sense of what they "represented".
So Larkin didn't like Pound, Picasso and Parker (that's Ezra, Pablo and Charlie "Bird"). I disagree with him on all of them--though I like Picasso without much enthusiasm--but Larkin's own two novels are good books. His poetry still lacks punch, to me, but he didn't set out to write anything categorical, anything that revealed Truth (with a very necessary capital "T")--to Larkin that would have been unforgiveably vulgar. And technically his stuff is marvellous within the scope of his limited ambition.
Amis I used to see as another Establishment figure (I cast them all in that condemning light, to some extent). But why, with Kingsley in particular? Because he wore a tie? His poetry column in the Daily Mirror used to vex me because his attitude to the craft was so conservative. But it was in the Daily Mirror, dumbass, the unofficial tabloid of the Labour Party, when Margaret Thatcher was in power and maligning everything the Labour Party stood for. My understanding of what the Establishment was, back then, was very limited, very lacking in nuance. And Amis' novels are wonderful. They're scurrilous, irreverent, howlingly funny, beautifully written, and they expose the pomposity and silliness of people on all sides of the political debate--maybe like a less uptight version of Alexander Pope. He did stiffen into a kind of Toryism, in a way, in later life (these things are complicated); but doesn't everybody? The shibboleths of liberalism and even outsiderism are shot through with their own brand of conservatism anyway.
Ted Hughes, God help him, was the feminist antichrist throughout the 1980s because of What He Did to Sylvia Plath. But blaming her suicide on her husband is a curiously anti-feminist position to take, don't you think? Can't Sylvie take responsibility for her own mental health problems? (and let's not forget, she had tried to do herself in before she met Ted Hughes as well.) There is the unfortunate detail of Assia Wevill's suicide as well--which the feminists never seemed too bothered by, poor Assia--so Hughes was obviously not a fantastic husband even if one should take Plath's victim status with a whole shaker full of salt, but can any of us afford to judge him as a man? I mean, since it doesn't appear he committed any heinous crime? I know I can't judge him. In fact, when I think about my own life and the mistakes I've been unable to avoid making--and continue making--I feel rather sorry for him. (Plath and Wevill felt sorry enough for themselves; they don't need any help from me. And Wevill did kill Hughes' daughter. Can anybody imagine what it must be like to survive that?)
And here's a question I--along with the entire world of political feminism--should have asked a long time ago: how the fuck did Ted Hughes' private life have any bearing on his art, other than in the sense that it provided him with the material or the mood?
The other big sticking point for me, with Hughes--I mean in the old days when I was more certain than I am now--was his acceptance of the Laureateship, but again, now, at 43 year old with greying hair and bad eyesight and all my teeth slowly falling out, I have to say I really couldn't care less, since it didn't diminish his poetry. I don't like the Royal Family, but I don't insist that anybody, much less everybody, should agree with me on the subject. And much as it worries me to entertain the thought, I'm not even sure anymore that I'm right about the Royals. Like everything else, it's a complicated question. Life needs its myths, its giants, its traditions, its magic; those things stand as a bulwark against capitalism and the final reduction of the human being to the state of nothing more than an economic unit, which is where businessmen and their puppets in the House of Commons are leading us. Something has to be bigger than Money. Isn't it just possible that the Royal Family serve that function in English society? (though they're not doing a great job at it if that is one of their roles.) I don't know. I really don't. All I know is that I'm not sure. Welcome to your forties, Hodder.

Further thoughts on Hughes and Plath, thinking of two people I know much better:

There is usually, in any domestic tragedy, one person who tells all and another who says nothing. I have seen it up close and personal. And words are persuasive. Being taken into another person's confidence is persuasive too; your ego responds to it like an obedient puppy sits up to receive a biscuit.
You aren't necessarily being told the truth, not (as the courts would say) the whole truth, just because you are being told something. Is there even any such thing as a total, objective truth when it comes to a relationship (or anything else for that matter)? You could say that the only unarguable truth is What Happened, the plain facts, but even what you do is directed by what you feel; and what you feel is conditioned by, among other things, an arguable interpretation of a previous event.
When I saw, at first hand, something similar to Plath and Hughes unfolding, the fulsome explanations of the Plath figure didn't exonerate herself from blame for his marital infidelities so much as fail even to consider that she might have played a part in them; that something in her behaviour in the marriage might have helped push him out of the door. And I struggled to come to terms with that for a very long time. I saw the Ted Hughes figure in her life (and mine) as she had chosen to portray him: a cruel philanderer who had crushed her innocent love underfoot. Which is exactly how Hughes has been characterised--or certainly how he was characterised, in the 80s, when political feminism was at its strongest. The Hughes figure in my life never talked about what happened; and I don't think I would want him to now. I knew them both and loved them both, but beyond that, what business is it of mine? At this distance, his dignity in saying nothing, regardless of the misinformation she may have spread, seems enormous.
Hughes, of course, surprised everybody by speaking about Plath in "Birthday Letters" (a remarkable book). But he gave nothing away, really. He didn't attack her unduly or plead for himself in an unmanly fashion. He just talked, to her, as if she were still listening somewhere, a significant presence in his life--which I'm sure she was. I'm out of touch with the opinion of others, generally, but I'd be intrigued to know what "Birthday Letters" and the act of talking, finally, about the relationship that defined his life, has done for his reputation. If, in fact, he still has one among anyone other than "Poetry Please" listeners and readers of the Sunday Telegraph arts supplement.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Bruce Explains, For Anyone Who Cares

Hodder, man, quit grasping. You almost had it on Monday and then you let it float away again.

"This is the creature I am."
Nothing worth a shit culturally has happened since Syd Barrett went crazy.
"Come to the gym, Bruce!"
Oh no, thanks awfully, it's 1967 in my head, not 1987. If I want exercise I'll take my notebook and a sandwich and go for a walk in the woods.

****** offered me a massage the other day--she's qualified--I would have had to pay--and I told her I couldn't, I'd get a hard-on if she started touching me. "I'm not after anything," she said, laughing in a seizure of embarrassment. "It's not what you'd want out of it that concerns me," I said, pleased with myself for putting it so succinctly.
Is it any wonder no one likes me anymore? Can't go around telling the truth, Hodder.

Hippie asshole.

See, 'cause I read books and write poetry in this philistine age I'm sentimentalised as a nice guy; not someone you'd wanna talk to for very long, but a nice guy. To have a cock that gets hard from time to time, you're supposed to have short greasy hair, a single-figure IQ and a white car with nice shiney hubcaps.

And to be a hippie or whatever else they call that type of being you're supposed to be a Wiccan, do spells, talk to trees, or be the wife of someone who works in a bank, burn incense, collect crystals, listen to long insipid maddening ambient cds. Not be depressed and angry all the time like I am.

I don't fit into anything in a systematic way. I'm just a book-reading, poetry-writing, music-obsessed, pro-animal, pro-union, anti-war, alcohol-imbibing, sporadic-marijuana-smoking, occasionally-meditating, Buddhist-leaning, vegetarian individualist. I wish there was some organisation or philosophy that I could give all my energy to and put all my faith in, but there isn't.

Maybe I mislead people by calling myself anything other than a Bruce.
Like I wrote on the MySpace page yesterday, "If you meet the Buddha, kill him."

If you transported me back to London or Cambridge in 1967 right now, I'd probably still wind up sitting on my own in a Wimpy Bar drinking a lousy cup of coffee, writing shit down in my journal and watching the world float by with a curious combination of envy and disdain.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Interesting Dream: From The Author's Private Journal

Interesting dream: I was at the site of Westfield School on Brickhill Road in Wellingborough on a grey, wet day. There was some kind of living exhibition of World War II manned by soldiers and to illustrate it they'd knocked down most of the school buildings. I was with a woman (I don't know who) driving around and I found myself becoming inexplicably upset looking at the wrecked husks of buildings where I'd attended classes as a boy.(In real life, of course, they were knocked down long ago to make way for a housing estate.)
Later, still on site, we entered a room with beds and a shower that we were going to stay in and Brian walked out of the shower. I hadn't seen him since he disappeared mysteriously from work and now here he was. We started talking and I woke up.
That's the fourth old Zimbabwean pal who's turned up unexpectedly this week, albeit in my mind.

I walked into Wellingborough this morning to try to walk off the demons that too much work and not enough rest had left me with. Did an hour on the internet then came down here to Irchester Country Park to listen to the wind blowing through the trees. Ginzy was right to say it sounds like a river.
A walk in these parts is like a random delving into my autobiography. Everywhere you go in Wellingborough and the surrounding area is somewhere I have done something or known someone at some point in the past. But today it doesn't FEEL like the past, not any of it; maybe it was that dream I had last night. All the names are coming back; all the faces are right here in the front of my mind as real as Sheldon's or Beata's--even people I haven't seen for 25 or 30 years, who by now might well be dead. And accordingly I've realised that for all its let-downs and its bring-downs,many of which I have caused, my life has been somewhat richer than I normally presume it to have been. Still is, because each person you meet and share a few experiences with leaves a little jewel in the recesses of your mind somewhere. You take something from them that you never completely lose. And look at the great characters who've passed through my life:

my mother
my father
my brothers
Uncle Richard
both my grandads
Gerald Ginns
Patrick "Nutty" Norman
Michele Barr
Athena Taylor
Karina Koenig
Lee Torano
Annie Hersey
Adam Wilson
Bryn Fortey
Caz Varnum
Vicki Ormsby
Ruth Randall
Bill Blackolive
Robin Easton
Tim Sansom
Emily Stanley
Portia Chandigere
Dawn Hamilton
Clementine Clarkesville

I haven't missed out when it comes to knowing remarkable people. So why is it that I spend so much time feeling short-changed and sorry for myself?

I would like to think I had time to put right some of the mistakes I've made with other people. But I know me. Even if I live another twenty years--which seems doubtful--I'll probably still go on fucking up, treating everyone like shit. Unless my ego finally dissolves, that is, like the Buddhists say it will if you meditate enough. (Which I don't.)

from the author's private journal

Sunday, July 20, 2008


It amused me to hear the British Government saying that the American Government's use of waterboarding when interrogating suspects "amounts to" torture. Surely if something "amounts to" then it is? Or is torture a concept like the war crime--something that only applies to the Enemy?


Uncle Richard at my mother's funeral said "Nothing works," and sighed.

He wore jeans and left his shirt untucked to show his disrespect for death.


Short hair, skinny, he smokes a rollie by a white van on the corner.

Looks at me, passing, calls me Jesus and everyone around him laughs.

His eyes are glassy, like the surface of a lake when snow is coming.

bruce's answer

My hair is long.
My beard is thick.
Your waxy cropped
head makes me sick.


On the loo musing about Heaven, stones tickle my inner thigh hair.


for rebeccah

Such poise, such quiet grace, just being round you made my manners better.


Buy a razor! Look like everyone! That's real style! That will save the world!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

I'm In A Film!

It's by short filmmaker Clementine Clarkesville. She quotes me beautifully too.It's fantastic to be a part of it...Cheers, Clem X

Sport and politics don't mix?

Tell that to the bloke getting beaten up by Communist goons and forced out of his house so Beijing is cleaner and quieter for Western business--I mean Western athletes--come the Olympics.
Our collaboration with the Chinese Government disgraces us.

Friday, July 18, 2008


She toasts his puny arse in a meat grinder, expert on survival.

Missunderstood, her mouth's talent for invective guards a fragile heart.

What weird game are you playing, Love, avoiding those who really need you?

She has a kind heart and fantastic lamps, but the Waitrose frumps find love?

Interesting, you smile, but your flushed cheeks say you're pissed off, Mystery Woman.

Portia's name comes up-- remembering the challenge in her eyes, I laugh.

Sweet days and nights side by side with Portia, dodging flying cups and chairs.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


random thoughts from my journal, scribbled on the bus and in the benjo at greyfriars bus station this morning.

What does a kid with no money do in a society whose central leisure activity is shopping?

Hang around.

What is the same kid's main concern going to be in a society whose guiding principle is competition?


The gangs are capitalism in miniature.

But what the capitalists don't like is that the gangs are honest.

It's okay to push a guy to the point where he has so little hope he hangs himself. Then you can blame it on his own lack of moral fibre. "It's survival of the fittest in business, you know."

A kid who stabs another kid is no different from a boardroom exec who pushes a man to the brink of death.

But the suburban, Waitrose-shopping, perfumed, elegant frumps who support the system say that the kid with a butcher knife is an animal.


Wednesday, July 09, 2008


like dylan thomas

in a straining blouse and skirt--

the rotund, thick-lipped girl

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


riding the late bus home--

that black girl with her earphones

and her eyes shut hums out loud

Monday, July 07, 2008

Verse Written In My Head In A Post-Office Queue

The counter-culture is long gone,

but in my heart I still belong.

Hence my flowing hair and beard.

Weird's my normal; normal, weird.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The Gangs

The gangs that are running are town and city streets at night now need to realise that there is a difference--a very large difference--between respect and fear. Yes, we're afraid of them. Anybody in their right mind would be, given the number of people they've killed in the last seven months. Every night there's a new casualty on the tv news, or in the paper: he went outside to stop a bunch of kids throwing cans at his car, and in sixty seconds he was dead.

Yes, they are widely feared. But they're not respected.

I certainly don't respect them. You respect people who do things that you admire, or things you wish you had done. You respect people who do things that you realise must be difficult. Now, it would be difficult for any civilised person to pick up a gun and shoot somebody, or stab them fatally in the guts. But a civilised person wouldn't want to do that anyway. The kind of killing that the gangs indulge in routinely is behaviour normally associated only with diseased animals.

I might get onto what I think the reasons for the emergence of the gangs and the air of violence in our town streets at some other date. Undoubtedly it's due to the moronic manipulative music they listen to, and what they used to call shoot-'em-up computer games, though it can't only be those things because a lot of people listen to moronic music and play those games without killing anybody. Undoubtedly the poverty of the education they have received comes even before that, since they wouldn't be attracted to such intellectually destitute entertainments if their brains had been properly commissioned; and when I say education I'm referring to the nature of the school curriculum as well. Government have got to stop bending education to serve children with the minimum we can get away with and prepare them only for a life serving behind the counter at Primark.

But let me return, briefly, to respect, which all reports tell us is the prime motive for membership of the gangs.

I don't respect anybody who has to get his strength and exercises his cojones by walking with ten other people on either side of him. I don't respect anybody who solves his arguments with violence. That was fine when we were just coming out of the caves, boys, but after Dante wrote The Divine Comedy mankind reached a slightly higher plane.

I respect the solitary individual who has the courage to be himself whatever everybody else is telling him.

I respect--it seems contradictory, but it isn't--a sense of community. A sense of responsibility for one's community. (The person best equipped to protect those around him is the man who thinks for himself.)

I respect intelligence. Depth. Complexity. Maturity.

I respect, as laughable as the world might find it, Peace.

Everybody wants to live, and thrive, and be loved, if their minds have progressed beyond the natal stage. Taking a life, any life (human or animal), is a grotesque act in my book, and a crime against the natural way of things that the perpetrator will wind up paying for forever.

When I see you coming in the street tonight and I cross the road to avoid you it isn't because I respect you. It's because you lack all the qualities that I respect.

But I suppose it's useless telling you this because you won't understand a word of what I'm saying anyway.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

For My Mother

Sometimes I think Steve Earle wrote the soundtrack to my life.

Sylvia Hodder, R.I.P.

Current mood: grateful

Today I'm remembering my mother Sylvia, who died twelve years ago on July 1st after wrestling with breast cancer for a long (but too short) time.

She was a latter-day convert to vegetarianism and communism, (preferring you not to remind her that she voted Conservative in the Sixties), and I learned my political engagement from her, though I was never very keen on our local Communist Party. The day she joined my mother was interviewed by the local party leader P*** C*****."You aren't joining us because you want to change the world, are you?" he cautioned her."Because we're not interested in trying to change the world." When Thatcher left office and the grassroots opposition in the country collapsed, the ever-pragmatic P. joined New Labour and got a seat on the local council.

There are a thousand stories I could tell about my mother and maybe I will; but not right now. It's early and I'm a little hungover. But I find myself remembering one thing in particular this morning, with a weird sense of pride: the day she got into an epic bad mood because somebody else in the family threw away the marijuana stash she was hiding in her ornamental teapot. That mood soon transformed itself into something closer to shame and pity that someone who'd sprung from my mother's own loins should be so straight she didn't recognise what the hierba buena looked like.

Ma, you were a card. And your later years were an education for us all.

I wish you were still around to rant and rage with about the conservative hell we're all walking into so blindly.