Showing posts from May, 2013

Bad Boys

The news today is that the Rolling Stones are being difficult with the BBC about how much of their performance at Glastonbury this year can be shown on tv. The Stones media machine says they are “out of their comfort zone” at the festival; their reluctance to commit to extensive tv coverage is supposed to be connected to this – to their uncertainty about whether they will or won’t be a hit with the Glastonbury crowd.
But we all know that’s not true. I love the Stones – well, I love who they were, and who Keith and Ronnie are, at least as public figures – but for as long as I can remember, they have controlled and made large amounts of money out of every aspect of the band’s music, merchandise, live shows and related product. When I saw them in Glasgow in 2007 we weren’t even allowed to take photographs because they’d hired somebody to do that for us, and sell them to us afterwards if we had any money left over from the one hundred pound ticket.
Like some bands, a lot of hip hop artists …

Bard's Zen Poetry Lesson

Q. How do I become a poet?

A. Write poetry.

Q. How do I become a good poet?

A. Write good poetry.

Hope that was helpful.


In the supermarket I found myself in the queue behind a guy in a suit. He was young, maybe thirty, short black hair, smelled of something expensive. I don’t know what he’d come in for, but all he was going out with was a bottle of Diet Coke.
He was talking to a woman, a little older than him, in one of those sensible, conservative work dresses. She had a lot of folders and papers with her. She clutched them to her chest and moved her weight around on one heel. Signs of preoccupation. She asked him how his work was going.
One question was all it took.The young guy had just got a promotion. He was managing something now. I couldn’t catch what because at that moment some kid nervously asked me to move so he could take a tower of baskets from underneath the checkout.
When I refocused, the guy in the suit was still talking. New responsibilities. Departmental problems. People he was dealing with who weren’t pulling for the company. His face glowed as he relayed all this like a dad telling som…

Because I Cannot Stop for Death (Right Now)

The first car that had to stop for me at the traffic lights on Barrack Road today was a hearse with a coffin in it. Is that what Emily Dickinson meant when she said, "Death kindly stopped for me"?

Hearing about this my poet friend Bryn Fortey said, "It's when they stop and offer you a ride..." Indeed it is. And I've seen too many people go with them for my liking in the last couple of years, not that any of them had much choice.

But as I told Bryn, they offered me a ride in the hearse last year when pneumonia laid me down and my lung collapsed. I was lucky, though. At that moment Michelle came along. She gave me a lift in her beat old yellow Fiat, and took me to the hospital instead of the grave.

I'm not ready to go anywhere with those grim-faced black-wearing behatted avatars of the void just yet. I've still got one great poem to write (and since I'll probably never do that, I can't ever die).

Satori on the Racecourse: An Encounter with Islam

I went out to the Racecourse just after dawn this morning for my usual fat-burn walk and communion with the spirits of the hanged and the butchered. They used to hang highwaymen here in the 1800s. Coming out and watching someone get hurled into the void at the end of a thick rope was the weekend equivalent of going to the football or staying home for the soaps. They had several thousand soldiers bivouacked on the same stretch of land in 1914, camping with their horses waiting for the call to go to France and get slaughtered in the trenches of World War I.
Sometimes when I’m in the park and the atmosphere is right, or my mind is right, I can see and hear it all. It’s as if psychic imprints of the soon-to-be-dead outlaws and the scared-shitless soldiers have been left on the trees and in the mud. Like yesterday: walking along the footpath near the kids' play area, I had such a spooky feeling of death, imminent death, I thought I was about to fall down and breathe my last looking up …

Notebook Scribbles In A Summer Churchyard While Locked Out Of The Bard Gaff

You can never tell what's going to happen, brothers & sisters. What did happen is that on my second trip to the park I left the Bard Gaff w/out my keys. Now I'm sitting in the churchyard in the middle of town wondering if Michelle will see the text I sent her so I can take the short hike down the road to her job, pick up her keys & let myself in. I cd. be hanging around for hours! At least it's 17 degrees today. (Actually if I don't hear from her I'll just go to a pub. It wd. be qt. a nice way to spend my afternoon.)

The churchyard looks really beat right now. The grass hasn't been cut for a long time & the dandelions are standing tall & many in it. There are bits of deadfall under trees too - stuff broken off in the heavy winds we had a few nights ago. They never maintain this one too enthusiastically, but if they kept it like this it wd. be wonderful. W/ the venerable age of the graves, the few graves, spread out randomly  in the four great tri…

The Lowdown

The morning mail brought with it news of a literary project by Robert M. Zoschke, an old writing pal. Called "The Lowdown", it describes itself as a "literary arts annual", and collects 42 writers and artists including such luminaries as Sharon Auberle, Lyn Lifshin, t. kilgore splake, Gerald Nicosia, A.D. Winans, Ralph Murre and Zoschke himself. There is also cover artwork by none other than Lawrence Ferlinghetti (and if you don't call that a coup you're pretty hard to please).

Following the sad passing of Norbert Blei this inaugural edition of "The Lowdown" will feature tributes to the much-missed Norb and a selection of his own writing. If you haven't read him yet, you should try. He really had an exceptional gift with the word.

Something I think he would have liked immensely is that proceeds from the annual will provide a student scholarship through the Karen Teskie Memorial Scholarship Fund at the Peninsula School of Art in Door County, Wisc…

Piece on Ray Manzarek at Empty Mirror

It usually irritates me when writers and poets promote their own work as if there could be no more inspiring thing for a person to do than read them. But I relax my prejudice towards self-promotion when I'm the writer. I never claimed I was intellectually consistent. 

Right now I have a piece on Doors keyboard player Ray Manzarek at the fabulousEmpty Mirror. I think it's rather good too, though I say so myself. Enrich your day by going over there for a look, and then, if you have time, explore the site. It's full of great arts-related/ Beat-inflected/ alternative-underground treasures.  

New poem: Dawn Taxi

At dawn, back in the red dress which she’d bought at lunchtime yesterday with a slight frisson of danger, she felt just like the roses that were dying on her steps at home. Her head lolled in the dark rear of the taxi that had picked her up from the phone box near the school. She straightened, took out her mirror, and seeing what she expected, she closed the mirror with a sigh. The driver watched her furtively. He wondered why she had no shoes

The Old Way

I found The John Lennon Letters (2012) in a charity shop the other day. Edited by Beatles biographer Hunter Davies, it’s a collection of letters (no surprise there perhaps), postcards, fan surveys filled in by Lennon, and even shopping lists retrieved from bins. Fascinating, if you like Lennon as I do, and soul-curdlingly tedious, I would imagine, if you don’t.
The book, though, as well as my thoughts about the recent passing of Norbert Blei and other poets (see previous post), has had me reflecting for a couple of days about how much I prefer communication done in what Gary Snyder calls "the old way".Face to face is best, of course, but if you can’t manage that, it’s much better to have a physical object like a letter or a card from someone than an email or a message on Facebook. E-communication has its uses, but it’s not warm; it doesn’t feel like you’re interacting with anything other than the device that the message is coming through.

Yesterday I opened a book and found a …

Norb Blei

Today I heard the sad news that Norbert Blei, a quiet hero of the American literary world, has died. He passed away on April 23rd in his beloved Wisconsin, leaving behind an immense body of work and the gratitude of thousands of authors and poets around the world whose writing he selflessly promoted. I was one of them.
I don’t remember how I got to know him. It must have been when I acquired a home computer for the first time, around 2003 or ‘4. But whether I submitted work to him or we just started corresponding and publication developed from that, I don’t know. It seems like there was a lot of literary activity back then. Letters and emails were passing back and forth between Hodder’s home at the Lookout and locations all over the world.
Norb was someone I even thought of as a friend, a long-distance friend. I have photocopies of lots of long emails he sent to me, which I will cherish now and keep safe in my archive in anticipation of the wider recognition of Norb’s work that must co…

The Filth and the Fury: The Times Ain't Now but What They Used to Be

Last night ended with a gaiety it will be hard to match today. We sat down with our crack pipes and watched The Filth and the Fury, Julien Temple’s documentary about a beat group from the long-ago days called The Sex Pistols. And my head is still reeling with the marvellousness of what unfolded on the old elephantine tv in the corner of the living room at the Bard Gaff.
The Sex Pistols were, and are on the record they left behind, a great fucking band. In 1977, when they released ‘God Save The Queen’, I was just leaving primary school and starting secondary school. I didn’t know anything about them until I arrived at Westfield in Wellingborough, and when I saw pictures and heard their records I was terrified. They looked like the people who were picking on me in the corridors and the playground every day. That, of course, is because those nasty little maladjusted bastards thought that making someone’s life a misery was being very punk.
But rewind a moment. In The Filth and the Fury you …