And there’s the rub…

You’ll be pleased to know that Flo’s novel continues apace…I suspect it may well be the best thing written by a Riches ever. More news as it arrives.

That said, I was quite pleased with this

Generally, I quite like to find something that’s happened during the week, make some spurious connection to it and the act of writing whilst warbling on for a few paragraphs…insert a pun or two and, et voila…It’s not rocket science, this stuff. It’s also quite likely not useful either, but on the scale of Rocket Science to useful…hang on, that assumes rocket science isn’t useful—I’ll hang up my market research spurs…bang goes the day job. Bugger. (Can you see the warbling happening before your very eyes?)

Where was I, ah, yes..connected warbling..!

This weekend has largely been spent doing the prep work for some decorating work. I can no longer put off the work my wife has decided we need to do again, and so I’ve spent my time rubbing down woodwork, filling holes and all of the stuff that goes on behind the scenes of painting. Between that, and a nice long walk today, I’ve not had much time to ponder on what to write here (no change there then…).

From today’s walk at Poleston Lacey. Now I think of it, it does look like someone trying to do the cutting in round the ceiling.

And then it occurred (Christ, am I some idiot version of Carrie Bradshaw?) to me that is the act of writing similar, that there’s lots of prep work going on in the subconscious or more blatantly in the act of research, etc before getting the pen to paper? Line breaks as cutting in…

And then I realised that this is an awful idea. And so I’ve stopped doing that. It really would be utter gibberish (more so than this).

Although, I would now like to read some poems about the act of decorating? Has there been/are there any painter and decorator poets?* If you can think of any I’d like to hear about them.

There was a guy called Freddie The Fox who drank in a pub I worked in in my ear 20s. He never showed me any poems…or even mentioned poetry at all to be fair, but he did have a quiff, so y’know…

* I will accept plasterers too. That’s plasterer poets, not plastered poets…There are plenty of those.

THE WEEK IN STATS

25 press ups and 12-15 sit ups a day so far

20.5k running – The 0.5 is very important. Better than last week.

3 poems finished – Post-Surgery Club and the two new things called ‘Ingratitude’ and ‘Wetsuit’.

0 poems accepted, 0 poems rejected. It’s a delicate balance

3 submissions – To Poetry Wales, Atrium and an anthology publisher called Acid Bath Publishing.

1 x feedback to a friend on their poem. I love watching a draft of someone else’s work come together. Seeing what they take on board, what’s ignored and why… That’s a post at some point…*Take a note, Riches – you said you’d do this last week*

0 reviews written or subbed. I’m working on a new one though

1 days without cigarettes…and then…Fits and starts, yeah!!

1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green

TITLE GIVEAWAY

Worn Regards
Another Day, Another Dolour
Are Ornaments Useful?
An Unsolvable Thought Meets An Unaskable Question
Placing An Ouborous Around An Omphalos

READ/SEEN/HEARD/ETC

Music
Ruth Copeland  – I Am What I Am
James Blackshaw & Lubomyr Melnyk – The Watchers
Bobby Hutcherson -Color Schemes
Courtney Marie Andrews – Old Flowers
John Cale & Terry Riley – Church Of Anthrax 
VA – Next Stop..Soweto Vol.2: Soultown R&B, Funk and Psych Sounds from the Townships 1969-1976
The Band of Holy Joy – Neon Primitives
The Jayhawks – Rainy Day Music
Inventions – Continuous Portrait
Suzanne Vega – ST

Cowboy Junkies
The Caution Horses – After reading Charlotte Gann’s post and it triggered a memory of Thirty (not 39) Summers
Lay It Down
Miles From Our Home
Remnin Park
Sing In My Meadow
The Wilderness
Nomad Series #5: Extras
One Soul Now
Open
Open Road

Laura Veirs – My Echo
VA – Psych Funk Sa-Re-Ga!
Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher
Throwing Muses – Red Heaven
Warren Zevon – Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School
Harkin – ST
Pearl Jam – Gigaton
Caspian – On Circles
INXS – Shabooh Shoobah

Hangouts/Video Calls/Zoom/Etc (not for work)
What We Read Now: Alan Buckley/Rishi Dastidar/Claire Cox – Hosted by Jennifer Wong
Greg Dulli Livestream Gig

TV/Film
Cardinal S1 E3-5
FA Cup Final

Radio/Podcasts
The Archers x 2

Arrived
Pretty sure nothing has arrived this week

Ordered
Sam Gardiner – The Night Ships
Decorators Caulk
Sandpaper
Poetry Wales Subscription

Read
Rob Selby – Coming Down Time

Mangoes on a walk

We went for a walk earlier as a family, round Downe, following in the footsteps of old Charlie Darwin and it was glorious.

Resident idiot
Can I resist a They Might Be Giants reference later?

I say all of this and post these photos not because I have run out of things to write here…oh no, but because while walking round earlier a couple of things happened.

1. I had an idea for a poem. I suspect it will turn into nothing, but having listened to our Laureate interview Chris Packham earlier about nature poetry (and punk rock) in the week I was half-attuned to the idea of writing a nature poem.

I reckon this subject for a post on its own, but for someone of countryside stock nature is not something I write much that about. I don’t know why. To be fair, punk rock doesn’t feature either, but we are concentrating on Nature poems (albeit briefly).

2. The other thing I noticed was that I had the time to notice this. (This was actually a line in an old poem – “You notice you have the time to notice this” – I can’t remember where the line breaks went or what the poem was called, but I may have to dig it out of the rejects folder).

The point is that this week has been the first week since the start of lockdown when I’ve been able to take a foot off the gas. Work has been quieter as a few projects are off and doing their thing for a bit before I need to tune back into them and thanks to a sore left knee I’ve not been running so much. This, and the fact I have massively reduced the to be reviewed list means that I’ve had the chance to do some of my own writing for the first time in about a month and a half. I know it’s not important in any scheme of things (whatever scale of grandness you choose to use), but it does feel good to be back at it.

And the drafts have happened. Some of this is more fully-fledged ideas gathering pace as they get closer to finished, but shockingly, there are two whole new poems being worked on this week. Both are ideas that have percolated for a while (a year or more), but given the paucity of work recently this is a flood. If I add that to the notes I’ve rescued from my email drafts and notes apps then I am a happy man. I like it. It’s almost productive.

Although, not as productive as my daughter. Two days ago she started mapping out her first novel in a series. It seems to have a vampire and witch theme—oddly, she’s been watching a lot of vampire and witch-based stuff on TV, but who cares about the theme; I’m just waiting to be able to retire off the back of the proceeds.

THE WEEK IN STATS

1 friend announcing she’s having a baby. Go on Beth and Matt!! Oh they grow up so fast

25 days of 25 press ups a day challenge completed. (and kept going)

3k running – Very poor, short run on Tuesday and felt my left knee afterwards. . I had loads of plans to do a long run this weekend too, but I’ve enjoyed not running…Still miss it though. Back to it next week. Knee-willing

3 poems worked on – Post-Surgery Club (drafts 8-11) and two new things called ‘Ingratitude’ and ‘Wetsuit’. We’ll see.

0 poems accepted, 0 poems rejected. It’s a delicate balance

1 submission – To The North. We’ll see.

2 x feedback to a friend on their poem. I love watching a draft of someone else’s work come together. Seeing what they take on board, what’s ignored and why… That’s a post at some point…*Take a note, Riches*

2 reviews. Two written and subbed.

1 review published. I was very pleased to be the first to review Suna Afshan’s ‘Belladonna’ for London Grip

3 Bottles of Chilli Sauce arrived from out of nowhere.

1 days without cigarettes…and then…Fits and starts, yeah!!

1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green

TITLE GIVEAWAY

Gone To Seed In A Beautiful Pea Green Boat
Chap Hop is Shite
I Haven’t Got Time For Latency

READ/SEEN/HEARD/ETC

Music
Social Distancing Distortion Playlist – Matt Berninger
Laura Veirs – The Lookout
Veruca Salt – American Thighs
Karl Marx – Stasi Acid
The Lilac Time – No Sad Songs
Seals & Crofts – I and II
Laraaji – Sun Piano

Stornoway
The Farewell Show Live At New Theatre, Oxford
Bonnie
Bonnie Unplugged
Tales from Terra Firma
You Don’t Know Anything
Beachcomber’s Windowsill

PJ Harvey – Dry
Poltergeist – Your Mind Is A Box (Let us Fill It With Wonder)
VA – Turds on a Bum Ride Vol1&2
Taylor Swift – folklore
VA – Documentary Sequences Vol.1
Major Lance – Major Lance’s Greatest Hits Recorded Live At The Torch
The National – High Violet

Rilo Kiley
Take Offs And Landings
Under The Blacklight
ST

Jenny Lewis
On The Line
The Voyager

The Four Seasons – The Genuine Imitation Life Gazette

The Beths
Jump Rope Gazers
Future Me Hates Me

Laura Veirs – Carbon Glacier
Margo Guryan – Take A Picture

Hangouts/Video Calls/Zoom/Etc (not for work)
0

TV/Film
Mrs America E1-2
I May Destroy You E1

Radio/Podcasts
TMS – Monday
The Poet Laureate Has Gone To His Shed – Simon Armitage

Arrived
Alice Oswald – Nobody
Matthew Francis – Mandeville
3 x Chillis Sauces (produced, of all things, by the drummer from Snow Patrol). Sent to me by my mate Paul Grey.

Ordered
Black Cab Coffee
Matthew Francis – Mandeville

Read
Connie Bensley – Finding a Leg to Stand On: New and Selected Poems (Must remember who recommended this)

Nope, not They Might Be Giants

Whimsy Priest

As I say down to write this I was actually attempting to make some sort of connection between a whisky priest and what’s about to follow, but I couldn’t manage it. I can manage the signs of moral weakness standing on my head (and that’s often the problem, ho, ho, ho, etc), but the second part is usually more of an issue.

NB: If you’re not sure, a “Whisky Priest is “A priest or ordained minister who shows clear signs of moral weakness, while at the same time teaching a higher standard.”

Luckily, the heading now reads more like something Eddie Izzard would call one of his tours. *Makes note to call Eddie Izzard*. ** Makes other note to find out how to call Eddie Izzard**

Anyhoo, it sort of makes sense as what follows is a wonderful bit of whimsy…

I’ve often mentioned how I love a coincidence. And this week I’ve seen a few that have made me happy and are largely poetry related. You may recall a few weeks ago that I was extolling the virtues of Julie Mellor‘s poetry and that she very kindly sent me a copy of her first pamphlet, Breathing Through Her Bones—well, this week I finally managed to find time to start reading it. I fell in love with it instantly. I suspect I will be buying and reading Julie’s work for a long time. I hope to be buying and reading a full collection from her in due course.

As with her other pamphlet, I loved this one from the get go, but my eyes properly alighted on this poem.

Julie Mellor, Whisk – for Breathing Through Our Bones

There are so many things to love about this poem, a vague sense of threat from the Ford Zephyr, the moonscape of the batter mix—I wish I could nick that for the Title Giveaway— and the ‘bucket seats/ waiting to swallow us whole’. I love it (and every other poem in the book.

What really set it off though, and this entirely unrelated was something Florence said yesterday.

Entirely unprompted, Flo walked through and told me this pun that she’d just made up. I am ridiculously proud.

Then, today in another turn of twitter and poetry connections. My dear friend Mark Antony Owen (he of Iamb fame) tweeted

And this reminded me of this poem.

Things That Happen – Hugh Underhill, from The Human Heart

I knew this poem as I’ve been reading it a lot this week because I’ve been reviewing the book that it comes from – The Human Heart by Hugh Underhill. I sent the review off a couple of days ago, and, this morning, when I sent the poem to Mark I didn’t know it was due to be published today.

However, it has been and I am very pleased about that.

You can read the review here. Please do, and all of the others.

I may have to have a good think about writing reviews for a while—once I’ve cleared my backlog (…Three. More. To. Go….) as it’s taking its toll on my own work, but I certainly don’t want to give it up.

THE WEEK IN STATS

25k running – Some hill repeats, some fast 5ks and an aborted 8k today when my mate’s calf went ping.

1 poem worked on – sort of..I drafted a few lines of one I’ve been working on for a while. Not sure if they will make the grade.

0 poems accepted, 0 poems rejected. It’s a delicate balance

2 x feedback to a friend on their poem. I love watching a draft of someone else’s work come together. Seeing what they take on board, what’s ignored and why… That’s a post at some point…*Take a note, Riches*

1.75 reviews. One written and subbed and one nearly done. It was this post or that. I know, I know….finish the review.

5 days without cigarettes…and then…Fits and starts, yeah!!

1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green

TITLE GIVEAWAY

The Whimsy Priest
Siberian Shamans – (Thanks to @Sovietvisuals for that one)
Help track satellites (for astronomers worried that they’re starting to block out the stars.)

READ, SEEN, HEARD, ETC

Music
The People’s Choir of Operation Push – ST
El Ten Eleven – Tautology II
Margo Price – That’s How Rumors get Started
Kestrels Dream or Don’t Dream
Mr Ben and the Bens – Life Drawing
Green On Red – Gravity Talks
The Cure – ST
Thao & The Get Down Stay Down – Temple
Mary Lorson & Saint Low – Tricks For Dawn

Lift To Experience
Black Sessions
Peel Sessions
The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads

Like Honey – Leaves
Loamlands – Sweet High Rise
Lomond Campbell – Black River Promise

The Jayhawks
Back Roads and Abandoned Motels
Blue Earth
Hollywood Town Hall

Jellyfish – Spilt Milk
The Jesus Lizard – Liar
The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Are You Experienced?

Jóhan Jóhannsson
Dis
The Theory of Everything OST
Virulegu Forsetar
Fordlandia

John Coltrane – Blue Train
Julian Cope – Jehovahkill
Kingmaker – Eat Yourself Whole
Kosmische Läufer = The Secret Cosmic Music of the East german Olympic Programme
Larry Coryell – Coryell
Laura Veirs – July Flame
The Dells – There Is
Laraaji – Sun Piano
My mate Simon’s The Fall Playlist
Kathleen Edwards – Voyageur 
Kate Pierson – Guitars And Microphones
B52s – Cosmic Thing

Hangouts/Video Calls/Zoom/Etc (not for work)
None

Podcasts/Radio
Poet Laureate has gone to his shed – Judge Melanie Plimmer, Laura Ashe & Chris Packham (well, 2/3rds of the Packham)
The Foxhole Companion – Dan Stewart & Simon Rance

TV/Film
Agent Carter – S1 & S2 E1-8
Penny Dreadful (The new one) E9-10. God, it was awful.
The Mosquito Coast

Ordered
Seamus Heaney – 1998-2013 Selected Poems
Alice Oswald – Woods Etc, Nobody
Martha Sprackland – Citadel

Arrived
Nina Mingya Powles – Magnolia, 木蘭
Seamus Heaney – 1998-2013 Selected Poems

Read
Julie Mellor – Breathing Through Our Bones
Hugh Underhill – The Human Heart
Suna Afshan – Belladonna
Terence Hayes – American Sonnets for my Past and Future Assassin
These two excellent interviews with Rishi – One & Two

Electrafixion – Zephyr…The great in-between Bunnymen band… Saw this lot at Sheffield Leadmill in 1994 with my then girlfriend, Jenny Frew.

Catch Ups

First things first, I don’t normally like blowing my own trumpet, but I am exceptionally proud of last week’s post. I felt I really got at the heart of what I wanted to say on the subject. I’m not sure this week will be able to emulate or build on that so I’m not going to try.

It’s been a strange old week, for work we’ve been running an on-going community, asking folks about their experience of lockdown and one thing we’ve started noticing of late is a general malaise, a feeling of being utterly rudderless (leaderless??) and that whatever the “lockdown experience” is/was people are now utterly over it. I think I can relate to that.

In amongst the malaise of the week there were, at least, two highlights.

1. Two poems of mine were published at the ever-excellent Wild Court. I am very, very happy that these poems are out there…they are newer ones to me (this means written in the last year) and I’m very proud of how they’ve turned out. There is another Dad poem in there, but that’s no bad thing. And my friend Simon* is present in both poems.

It has prompted me to think about author photos. I was happy (and a bit pissed in this photo), and it felt like the right one to use, but will it now follow me round for years? Do I need to care? Probably not.

I really must work on what I’m going to use as an author photo

It was also wonderful that my work was next to that of Naush Saber (of the excellent Birmingham Poetry Journal fame) and my fellow Iambpoet alumni, Scott Elder. Their work is excellent, please have a read of them first…and everything else on Wild Court. My thanks to Rob Selby for accepting them—both my poems and every other one on the site.

A lovely bit of serendipity is that Naush’s Broken Sleep/Legitimate Snack pamphlets arrived this week. Heredity/Astonyme are both beautifully presented in a lovely box. I’ve not got to read them yet, but if they are anything like the poems on Wild Court then I’m in for a treat, and so are you if you can get hold of one when the next batch goes on sale.

*Another nice bit of fortuitousness or serendipity, I’ve seen him this weekend whilst back in Norfolk.


2. A few reviews of mine were published
For Sphinx
Joe Williams’ This Is Virus
CD Boyland’s User Stories

And for London Grip
Sue Rose’s Scion

The pile of reviews is growing as well, which is both nice and frightening.

3. A trip back to Norfolk to see my mum and a dear friend who is very ill. It also coincided with my friend John’s 82nd birthday. So there was joy and sadness at the same time.

THE WEEK IN STATS

41k running – That’s the last two weeks worth. Some hill repeats, some fast 5ks and a lovely run round my home village yesterday.

1 poem worked on – needs a title and some more work…A couple of ideas noted down too, but not sure if they will turn into much. All this reviewing and work stuff is properly putting a cramp in my writing…

260 miles driven this weekend

1 walk with my mum and some friends at Oxnead…many cows present


1.5 pints in the Skeyton Goat. Wasn’t planning on going to the pub, but it was very pleasant.

1 day without cigarettes. Fits and starts, yeah!!

1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green

TITLE GIVEAWAY

He-Man and Action Man’s pants
Paradise By the Gasboard Light
As the Sun announces it’s over the Yard Arm by joining Tinder
The Three Hour Yes
I Haven’t Got Time For Latency

READ, SEEN, HEARD, ETC

Music
Greg Dulli – Random Desires
Gabor Szabo – Spellbinder
Big Thief – Two hands
Yorkston/Thorne/Khan – Navarasa: Nine Emotions
Davy Graham – The Holly Kaleidoscope
The Tavares – Hard Core Poetry
Elvium -Piano Works
VA – The Rough Guide to Psychedelic Cambodia
Mono – The Last Dawn

My Morning Jacket
Circuital
Does Xmas Fiasco Style
Evil Urges
It Still Moves (Deluxe Version)
Z
Red Rocks 03.08.12
Red Rocks 04.08.12
14/08/2015, Morrison, CO

Beth Orton
Sugaring Season 
Central Reservation

Led Zeppelin – III
The Early Years – ST
Alèmayèhu Eshète – Ethiopiques 22
Aerosmith – ST
Boygenius – Demos
Ryley Walker – covers
VA – Éthioiques 5 – Tigrigna Music
Sad Eagle – Banging The Drum To Catch The Criminal
C Duncan – Architect

Can
Landed
The Lost Tapes

VA – Lullaby For The moon – Japanese Music for Koto & Shakuhachi
Nancy Elizabeth _ Dancing
Natalie Evans – Better At Night
Ned’s Atomic Dustbin – God Fodder
The Needy Sons – Vis-A-Vis

Nina Simone
Emergency Ward
Little Girl Blue

Nolan Porter – Nolan
Norman Greenbaum – Back Home Again
My Morning Jacket – The Waterfall II
Sofia Portanet – Freier Geist
My mate Jon’s 1992 Moodboard Playlist 

The Afghan Whigs
1965
Live At Koko

The Archers…It’s weird and I don’t like it

Hangouts/Video Calls/Zoom/Etc (not for work)
None

TV/Film
Spooks S9 E8-10, S10 1-6
Penny Dreadful (The new one) E3-8

Arrived
Naush Sabah – Heredity/Astonyme
Richie McCaffery – First Hare
Orbis #92
James McGonigal – In Good Time
A laptop stand from work



Read
Sue Rose – Scion
Terence Hayes – American Sonnets for my Past and Future Assassin

LYR – Call In The Crash Team

I was lucky enough to be invited to review this album, so in a change to the regular levels of rambling…

LYR are, so we are led to believe, called Land Yacht Regatta by their mum when they are in trouble.


However, as Armitage has it in the band’s biog, “There shouldn’t really be a land yacht regatta! But I liked the idea of something that’s a hybrid. It’s like a 3-way contradiction. We were doing something that’s unusual and perhaps even impossible.” The same biog also states they are “a genre-splicing supergroup of sorts, comprised of author and current British poet laureate Simon Armitage, musician Richard Walters and multi-instrumentalist Patrick Pearson”

And it’s this phrase “genre-splicing supergroup of sorts” that stands out. I wondered when I first heard about this album in February—how long ago does that feel now?— whether an album of poetry read out over “ambient post-rock passages, jazz flourishes, atonal experimentalism, as well as swoony strings and piano — and some more unusual instrument choices too, such as the kora” would truly gel, or knit into something greater than the sum of its parts.

(As an aside, I’m sure there were rumblings in 2019 on a Soundcloud page, but that’s now bare – https://soundcloud.com/lyrbanduk)

There’s a worrying moment at the start of this album, where the band’s lead vocalist—we can’t say singer, although there is a singer present, Simon Armitage intones the following words over what sounds like a Rhodes piano.

‘Gone your own way now, nothing to say now…’ and as he said these word, I had a horrifying vision of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Armitage and his fellow band mates in LYR all stripped to the waist, covered in gold paint somewhere on the moors near Armitage’s beloved Marsden. 

Thankfully, he follows it with the half or slant-rhyme of ‘Still mouthing your name though’. That ’though’ does a lot of heavy-lifting there and I was immensely happy to hear it. And, even more thankfully, the music is light year away from that mob.

The music description above is both bang on and also not quite enough.There are moments, for example where it can invoke the sort of post rock made by the likes of Inventions or This Will Destroy You.  There are moments when all I could think was the theme tune to The Bridge by Choir of Young Believers. There were others where it could easily be Public Service Broadcasting’s fourth album – the words of a poet drawn from the BBC archives instead of recordings from the NASA archives, or Welsh Miners or BBC broadcasters/Auden reading Night Mail.

There are moments when the sort of classical/dance hybrid similar to the sort of music Ólafur Arnalds makes with Kiasmos or Erland Cooper’s work is all that springs to mind, for example in Urban Myth #91 (although for some reason I also got a sense of a sort of Glitter Band beat there too as it gathers pace.

However, there are also moments where the likes of The Penguin Cafe Orchestra or Michael Nyman spring to mind, the most obvious of these is the track Product Testing. It initially feels like a throwaway track, or like someone has pressed the demo function on a keyboard as Armitage intones “On/Off”, but it quickly turns into a twitchy dance number, or something like what I imagine the inside of David Byrne’s brain to sound like. At the end of the song we hear Armitage say “Yeah, seems to work” and he’s right. It does.

“The origins of LYR stretch back to 2009 when Walters, a big fan of Armitage’s work, approached the poet’s publisher about the possibility of collaboration. Walters wound up setting Armitage’s poetry to music in his 2011 solo song ‘Redwoods’.

“Simon and I talked about the next step”, recalls Walters. “Instead of just taking words and me singing them, we had the idea of a spoken word project that had a bit more of a life around it in terms of the musical setting”. Walters thought of Pearson, who he had met in the early 2010’s, as part of a short-lived, shoegaze inspired band called Liu Bei. Pearson loved the idea, and LYR were born.”

It’s testament to the skill and musicality of  both Walters and Pearson that the music never interrupts the words, but is never just wallpaper or mood lighting. These are not backing tracks or soundbeds, they are not foley artists putting real noises under the lines of the actors. These are songs that could quite easily function as standalone pieces. The question is then, does or could Armitage’s contribution add anything to this three-legged stool?

The band themselves suggest ‘It’s not poetry with music underneath,’” says Pearson of the project. “We’d always talked about it as being a focused band project.” Walters agrees: “It’s definitely a universe, the record,” he says. “There’s so many people on it.” Armitage, with characteristic dry wit, is quick to respond, and jokes: “We might make a Broadway musical!” 

It’s interesting that the main vocal line of the final song on the album, Leaves On The Line (we’ll discuss this later) is handed to Waters – does this suggest that Armitage could fade back to writing the words for future albums, or is it just that Waters sounded better on this one? Who knows?

I wanted to talk about the music first in this review, because it could so easily be the Armitage show.

“A lot of the lyrics have come about from writing in a time of post-industrialisation, austerity, and the recession,” explains Armitage. “And yet, even through those years and those atmospheres, there’s still been an exuberance around, an exuberance of communication, information, language. I think a lot of the speakers in the pieces are expressing some kind of marginalisation and are doing so as if they’re almost hyperventilating.”

That marginalisation reaches a sort of zenith, if that’s the right word, at the end of Adam’s Apple after a sequence of three songs that end with Waters singing/repeating  “It’s all too much for you” in ‘ the exquisite You Were Never Good With Horses, “move on, move on” in Urban Myth #91 and then “let go, let go” at the end of Adam’s Apple

Each song is written form the point of view of different characters, Never Good With Horses, for example written from the point of view of some dissatisfied with their partner’s discomfort with the natural world. The partner “comfortable with a steering wheel”  and “watching the movie of life layout through the windscreen’s lens”— a nod to Iggy Pop’s The Passenger, perhaps, but they “were never good with horses…my dear, always took a step backwards when they came near. Couldn’t bear to look in the dark rock pools of their eyes”. That last line is when you know you’ve got a poet running the lyrical show.

Having mentioned Iggyy Pop here, there’s a further connection in the form of the excellent 33 1/3 with its lyric which that starts out making you think it’s a hymn to vinyl with references to “captured orbit around the spindle”, but by the second go around we’re talking about “The rope that he swung from/ […] A whirlpooling swansong.” Every repetition of the title towards the end of the song adding more and more weight.

Armitage’s demo of  33 ⅓ was set to a haunting whirr which came from the run-out groove of Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures vinyl. “Ian Curtis is definitely invoked on that track,” says Armitage, of the band’s frontman who committed suicide in 1980. Curtis was found hanging with a record player’s needle stuck on the final moments of Iggy Pop’s ‘The Idiot’.

While the majority of these lyrics were written specifically for the album, Armitage has also reached back into his catalogue of poems to bring a couple to life.
Specifically, Zodiac T-Shirt, which he states in the notes to a recent collection of, to use a musical sort of reference’ b-sides and songs that didn’t find a home. I sort of think if it as discs two and three in the boxset version of his more recent full collection, The Unaccompanied. And now I write that there’s a sort of irony to that.

Regardless of that, in the notes of Sandettie Light Vessel Automatic, he writes

Zodiac T-Shirt, Sandettie Light Vessel Automatic

So while he never expected it to be sung by him, we still have him intoning the poem. It’s close enough for me. Don’t forget we know he can sing after The Scaremongers, and even heard him attempt beatboxing in a recent episode of his BBC podcast, The Poet Laureate Retires Too His Shed.

It’s not the first time he’s done this, The Scaremongers’ album has him using the poem Old Boy from The Motorway Service Station as a Destination in its Own Right. And there’s the case of him having recorded himself narrating his poem ‘The English’ from Universal Home Doctor for indie veterans The Wedding Present in 2017.

The Wedding Present’s very own David Gedge describes the process

“I’d been aware of Simon’s work for a long time – hearing him on the radio and stuff – but I don’t think I actually met him until he interviewed me for his book ‘Gig : The Life And Times Of A Rock-Star Fantasist’ which came out in 2008. He interviewed me in the dressing room of the Picturedrome venue in Holmfirth, which is near where he lives, and we’ve kept in touch ever since. He’s a lovely bloke.

When we were writing ‘England’ I decided that I wanted some form of narration on there but it was actually Jessica who suggested Simon. I asked him if he’d be interested and, by an amazing coincidence, he told me about his poem ‘The English’ which fits perfectly! It’s brilliant when things fall into place like that…

The other moments from his back catalogue comes in the form of the aforementioned Leaves on the Line and The National Trust Range of Paints Colour Card. As I was reading the track listing, I remember thinking ‘Crikey, The National Trust….is almost the most Simon Armitage title of all time. The I remembered that it is a Simon Armitage poem title, and that both poems are found in his pamphlet, Travelling Songs.

On the back of that he says “Describing yourself as a poet is often seen as a challenge or even an alibi. In those circumstances, it’s worth having a few tunes up for sleeve to prove it” . While he was clearly referring to his poems, it feels like he’s finally got the second album’s worth up there 18 years after Traveling Songs was published.

 


Call In The Crash Team is available at all good retailers – on and offline – Let’s support our record shops if we can.

Also available at your standard issue streaming services.

Please also note there is an additional single Called Lockdown that sets Simon’s poem to new music, and features Florence Pugh and Melt Yourself Down. Might I suggest you buy it as the proceeds will go towards supporting Refuge


Final thought. It’s only at the end of writing this that I realise LYR is also the first three letter of Lyrics and Lyre. Ooh, maybe for the next album the band can get other folks to join – like Crosby, Stills and Nash did with that Canadian bloke…

UPDATED TO INCLUDE THE USUAL WEEKNOTES

Two titles to giveaway
1. Set Phrases To Stun
2. Link in Bio

Music
Teenage Fanclub 
– It felt like the kind of week to just play sunshine
Ain’t That Enough 
Bandwagonesque
A Catholic Education
The Concept
DGC rarities
Did I Say?
Dumb Dumb Dumb 
Grand Prix
Here
Howdy
I Don’t Want Control Of You
I Need Direction
It’s All In My Mind
Judgement Night
The King
Man-Made
Mellow Doubt
Neil Jung
Norman 3
Songs From Northern Britain
Sparky’s Dream
Thirteen

TFC & Jad Fair
Near To You
Words of Hope & Wisdom

The Temptations
Cloud Nine
Compact Command Performances

Tess Parks – blood Hot
Thao Nguyen – We Brave Bee Stings And All
This is the Kit – Bashed Out
This Will Destroy You – Young Mountain
Throneberry – Sangria
The Apples In Stereo – Just the song 7 Stars on a loop ten times
Bert Jansch – Avocet
Caspian – Live At Church
Charles Mingus – Presents Charles Mingus
LYR – Call In The Crash Team
Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher
Grandbrothers – Dilation
Mogwai – Ten Rapid (after being reminded of this clip from Friday Night Lights)
Mojave 3 – Puzzles Like You
Mount Kimbie – Cold Spring Fault Less Youth
Mountain Man – Made The Harbour
Throttle Elevator Music – Emergency Exit
Jenny Beth – To Love Is To live
Richard Walters – Golden Veins
Snowgoose – The Making of You
Caribou – Suddenly
The National – Trouble Will Find Me
My Morning Jacket – At Dawn

Hangouts/Video Calls/Zoom/Etc (not for work)
In Conversations – Nell Nelson & Alan Buckley

TV/Film
Spook S8 E2-6

Radio/Podcasts
Rishi Dastidar – Poetry For Sale
The Archers

Arrived
Suna Afshan – Bella Donna
Donald Justice – Collected Poems

Ordered
Naush Sabah – Astynome/Heredity

Read
Rob Selby – The Coming Down Time
Sue Rose – Scion



We plough, we feel, we scatter

First things first, I’ve touched upon my time at Bertrams here, so I won’t go into that now, but I was very sad to read about Bertram Books entering administration. That will be a significant blow to the folks that worked there and the fine city of Norwich.

Now, as mentioned before I love a connection that occurs during the week that then gives me something to gibber on about here. Imagine my joy when I managed to make such a connection early on in the week (rather than the more frequent sitting down with no idea what will come out).

Here goes…

Last summer I started working on a family tree for my mum’s birthday…I was using a popular online service, and found it quite useful for what I was trying to do. I was mainly trying to track the lines of the maternal side of my family – discovering a relation who I think was a travelling performer of some kind in the 1800s. (Please note I’ve not verified this yet), and this was on top of discovering a more recent relation was in the Norwich order of druids. Have I mentioned that before? I’m certain I would have given the words NORWICH and DRUIDS are in the same sentence. #DAPIT* And, of course, I’m contractually obliged to mention I’m a Freeman of Norwich because of my great grandfather (and because my gran used to allow women to be involved, but that’s another story)

Anyhoo, I went a bit wild on this service, using it’s suggested connections to trace my way back to c.1600s in some cases. Then this week I had an email from another user of this service who suggested I’d made a mistake connecting one person to someone else, and it got me thinking

1. What the bloody hell is my password so I can go in a reply to them?
2. Why didn’t I finish doing this project?
3. Why haven’t I gone on to explore the paternal side as much yet? (NB this is linked to point 2 and probably point 1)

The last ten days have also seen the anniversary of my dad’s death (12 years now, crikey), my mum’s birthday and then what would have been dad’s birthday too. Lockdown has meant we couldn’t go to see mum and also that I’ve largely been too buy with work to think about the dad stuff too much (but it’s also Father’s Day today, so I guess it’s all been playing on my mind somewhere).

I’ve been reading Nature Near London by Richard Jefferies for the last few weeks – It’s one that’s been sat on the TBR pile for quite a while, and it’s something of a departure for me in terms of subject, etc…(This is a good intro to the book). It’s full of beautiful descriptions of the flora and fauna, etc that used too be found in this neck of the woods. Some of the references really hit home how much London has changed since he wrote this. One essay makes reference to Jew’s Walk in Crystal Palace/Sydenham – a road that is now very much surrounded by the trappings of urban life, but in here is effectively the outskirts of London.

I digress, I finally finished the book this week, and despite Jefferies getting a bit jingoistic about English trees towards the end, I really enjoyed the book. Particularly a the chapter called ‘The Southdown Shepherd’, I’ve included some of it below. Initially, I was thinking of it as some sort of Ars Poetica or using it as a jumping off point for wanging on about the act of writing (Don’t worry, I won’t do that). Have a read of this and I’ll meet you on the other side as I start to get near to whatever conclusion it is I am heading towards.

The ploughs are at work, travelling slowly at the ox’s pace up and down the hillside. The South Down plough could scarcely have been invented; it must have been put together bit by bit in the slow years–slower than the ox; it is the completed structure of long experience. It is made of many pieces, chiefly wood, fitted and shaped and worked, as it were, together, well seasoned first, built up, like a ship, by cunning of hand. 

None of these were struck out–a hundred a minute–by irresistible machinery ponderously impressing its will on iron as a seal on wax–a hundred a minute, and all exactly alike. These separate pieces which compose the plough were cut, chosen, and shaped in the wheelwright’s workshop, chosen by the eye, guided in its turn by long knowledge of wood, and shaped by the living though hardened hand of man. So complicated a structure could no more have been struck out on paper in a deliberate and single plan than those separate pieces could have been produced by a single blow. 

There are no machine lines–no lines filed out in iron or cut by the lathe to the draughtsman’s design, drawn with straight-edge and ruler on paper. The thing has been put together bit by bit: how many thousand, thousand clods must have been turned in the furrows before the idea arose, and the curve to be given to this or that part grew upon the mind as the branch grows on the tree! There is not a sharp edge or sharp corner in it; it is all bevelled and smoothed and fluted as if it had been patiently carved with a knife, so that, touch it where you will, it handles pleasantly.

In these curved lines and smoothness, in this perfect adaptability of means to end, there is the spirit of art showing itself, not with colour or crayon, but working in tangible material substance. The makers of this plough–not the designer–the various makers, who gradually put it together, had many things to consider. The fields where it had to work were, for the most part, on a slope, often thickly strewn with stones which jar and fracture iron. 

The soil was thin, scarce enough on the upper part to turn a furrow, deepening to nine inches or so at the bottom. So quickly does the rain sink in, and so quickly does it dry, that the teams work in almost every weather, while those in the vale are enforced to idleness. Drain furrows were not needed, nor was it desirable that the ground should be thrown up in “lands,” rising in the centre. Oxen were the draught animals, patient enough, but certainly not nimble. The share had to be set for various depths of soil. 

All these are met by the wheel plough, and in addition it fulfils the indefinite and indefinable condition of handiness. A machine may be apparently perfect, a boat may seem on paper, and examined on principles, the precise build, and yet when the one is set to work and the other floated they may fail. But the wheel plough, having grown up, as it were, out of the soil, fulfils the condition of handiness.

Richard Jeffries, Nature Near London. Worth reading the start of this chapter (or the whole book) for some excellent ideas about ho to use guns.

The other book I’ve been reading this week has been Rob Selby’s ‘The Coming Down Time‘. The book isn’t due out until the 26th of June, but for some reason Blackwell’s had decided to send out my pre-order a few weeks ago (Begs an interesting question about the nature of release dates in this modern age. one for another time though. We have a way to go yet). I haven’t finished reading ti yet, so this is not a review, but what stood out were the poems at the start about Rob’s grandfather and a few references to ploughs, for example in ‘Elysium’ with its reference to

‘the shallow -crowned kettle or Brodie helmets

still ploughed up in Flanders, Northern France’

Or, in ‘Hellfire Corner’ we meet the ‘German POWs at their ploughs’. There’s lots more to say about Rob’s book, and a proper review should come out at some point. I need to finish it first, but there’s lots to enjoy in these pages. If you order now you might get it before it’s out and about officially, so do it. Do it now.

Rob’s poems set me off thinking about my own paternal grandfather, Alfred. While he didn’t serve during the second war, he did end up working after war (and during, I think) as part of the war effort. He drove a digger (a big plough, if ever there was one) for a company called Heyhoes. (Please note a I can’t find much about them online, but a search for heyhoes does tell me that Norfolk had the highest concentration of this family name in the 1890s, this is according to the popular online genealogy site I refer to earlier).

Alfred died almost 20 years ago now, and my memories of him when I was young are quite sketchy (NB My memories of everything when I was young are quite sketchy, so this is not a reflection on him). I do recall that as part of his digging he was always uncovering old bottles – medicine bottles, beer bottles and the like. He’d bring them home for my grand and then later for my mum. I know seem to have them.

The line our hallway and a repotted about in our kitchen as well. I don’t tend to notice them so much anymore, but I looked about earlier in the week when all this was percolating in my mind.

For some reason I’ve just remembered I need to read the Matthew Caley book my friend sent me recently…

I have no grand sweeping conclusion to make, no staggering revelation to offer, than much like the ‘Brodie helmets’ mentioned by Rob all of these events have been ploughed up this week and all of these quite random connections have been joined together by Rob’s poems. That’s the act of something quite special, so I’ll tell you to buy his book again.

Last week, I detailed the various distractions that happened while writing that post. You’ll be pleased to know that no cat litter trays were harmed in the writing of this post. The only real distractions this week have been washing/pumicing off ink from a fountain pen…TWICE…and scratching at a particularly irksome ant bite on my ankle. I want you to know I suffer for these posts.

In one final act of joining things up, I had an amusing conversation on Friday with my friend Simon. We had a socially distanced beer together in my garden and the conversation turned to working at home. We discussed how our respective partners are discovering our “work personas” and how they differ from our “home personas”. It was a daft aside (although I suspect it carries a grain of truth). So, imagine my surprise when I saw this post from Mr Stewart today all about poetic personas.

That’s enough.

* – Definitely A Poem In That. I wonder if I can make this acronym a thing. Help me.

Oh yes, I may break my promise and mention our Laureate again next week.

THE WEEK IN STATS

23 k running – Less than last week, but there were some quiet painful hill repeats yesterday. technically I should be finished my ultra-marathon today, but as that’s postponed I’m just knackered from a long week

0 poem worked on – Nope, nothing, diddly. Too busy. The world will, I suspect, continue to turn

Ok, 1 small note for an old poem

A bazillion Hangouts for work, as per

1 email that left me physically shaking with rage. All I will say is “Fuck off” to some called Linda

1 email that I think contravenes GDPR, or the very last should really have been BCC ( I didn’t send it) but it has led to a review I need to write

2 reviews written and sent off. 3 to go.

1 day without cigarettes. Fits and starts, yeah!!

1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green

TITLE GIVEAWAY

  1. Good Volley Miss Molly
  2. Loose Lips, Succinct Ships

READ, SEEN, HEARD, ETC

Music
Agnes Obel – Myopia (instrumentals)
The Lollipop Shoppe – Just Colour
Grandbrothers – Open
American Music Club – Love Songs For Patriots

Explosions in the sky
Prince Avalanche
The Rescue
Take Care, Take Care, Take Care

Gia Margaret – Mia Gargaret
Grandbrothers – Dilation
Tim Burgess – As I was Now

Pearl Jam
Gigaton
No Code
Pearl Jam

Peaking Lights – Cosmic Logic
Faith No More – Angel Dust
The Flowers of Hell – ST
The Innocence Mission – See You Tomorrow
It’s Jo & Danny – But We Got The Music
Jeff Klein – The Hustler
LYR – Call In The Crash Team
The National – Boxer
Buffalo Tom – Big Red Letter Day
Pixies – Bossanova
The Wedding Present – Bizarro
Wilco – Kicking Television
The Cure – Wild Mood Swings
Bessie Jones – Get In Union
Laura Cannell – The Earth With Her Crowns
No Age – Goons Be Gone
Hinds – The Prettiest Curse

The Archers…It’s weird and I don’t like it

Hangouts/Video Calls/Zoom/Etc (not for work)
None

TV/Film
Spook S8 E1-5
Bournemouth Vs Crystal Palace

Arrived
Joe Williams – This is Virus
Sue Rose – Scion
Hugh Underhill – The Human Heart
#1-3 Poetry Birmingham
Peter Kahn – Little Kings

Ordered/Bought
Notebooks for work from Muji
Plastic sleeves

Read
Richard Jefferies – Nature Near London
CD Boyland – User Stories
Rob Selby – The Coming Down Time
Matthew’s excellent review of Rory Waterman’s work at Wild Court

Kaia Kater – Harvest & The Plough

Is Whilst

I heard a strange noise coming out of my daughter’s bedroom earlier, and the oddest thing was that it was a noise I know well. In fact, it was a noise I am more familiar with than her. I say this, not as an expression of superiority over her, but because it was a song I have known for 20-plus years and she has known for at best 20 days.

The song was ‘Wishlist’ by Pearl Jam.

Wishlist

I first heard this song when Pearl Jam put out Yield, their fifth album, in 1996. This is a full tweet years before she was born, so I am claiming this as a win for me on the grounds of historical precedence, even though it’s not a competition. NB I’m labouring this point to the point of exhaustion because I want to be very clear that I really don’t care what she listens to. It is entirely up to her, and we (my wife and I) do not believe she has to listen to what we do – I know some sad folks do try and enforce their listening on their kids.

(FYI, in case you think the world of poetry blogging is glamorous, between the word ‘precedence’ and the start of the next section I have had my dinner, watched an episode of a TV programme with my family, cleaned the cat litter tray, broken the cat litter tray, ordered a new cat litter tray, bodged a temporary fix for the current cat litter tray, washed up after dinner and then had a cheeky bet with myself about how many times I can use the words cat, litter and tray in a blog post).

From the moment we brought her home from St Thomas’, and technically before than, we have always played music around Flo. I have a very happy memory of listening to music while sat on the floor waiting for her to be born. NB I’d been kicked out of the room for a moment by the midwife. I was sat in the corridor and put Explosions In The Sky on my iPod to keep me awake/chill me out. I also have a lovely memory of listening to Teenage Fanclub’s ‘Howdy‘ about two weeks after we brought her home. R was asleep, as was Flo and we were in a calm moment. The sun was shining into our flat and all seemed perfect with the world.

We tried to play her all sorts of things, and while the next few songs don’t represent the gamut of tunes, I remember things like bouncing round the living room with a one year old that loved ‘Unbearable‘ by The Wonder Stuff, or the sheer weirdness of a three-year old singing along to The Cure’s In-between Days and her singing “Yesterday I got so old, I felt like I could die”. She loved Prince’s ‘Raspberry Beret’, The Beach Boy’s ‘Barbara Ann‘ (and never fails to remind me about Dennis Wilson dying in the sea) and all sorts of other things as the years progressed.

And then, as it should be, she found her own things, discovered her own music. We managed to keep Taylor Swift as a mutual thing, although I suspect I love Tay-Tay more now. I know I like Charli XCX more than Flo now, and Charli supported Taylor when we went to Wembley, but it’s irrelevant.

I love the fact that she’s finding her own things now (NB I don’t like a lot of it as it sounds like exceptionally dull young men singing exceptionally dull songs to me, but who fucking cares what I think of what she likes – she doesn’t).

I was just pleased that she was listening to a song we’d talked about two weeks ago. She’s been telling me A LOT about Vampire Diaries. (A LOT OF A LOT, she loves the VAMPS at the mo) and one of the characters has a Camaro . During our conversation about said Camaro, I mentioned that the Pearl Jam song above refers to Camaros. It could have been Bruce Springsteen, but PJ sprang to mind. We were outside Beckenham Tescos at the time, which I suspect neither band/artist will know anything about.

I played her the song on the way home and then promptly forgot about it..until earlier today when I heard it coming from her room. I was pleased, checked my dad privilege and then got on with enjoying it as a moment. As is often the wont, that’s a poem, I thought. There’s an idea there, however shite, it’s an idea, but how to get anywhere near writing down the history of how we got to that moment (especially without referring to Beckenham Tescos) and without making it sound like I’d made her listen to it. It felt like a tall order (even once I’d navigated the internal monologue about whether it was a shit idea). And to be honest with you, I’ve got this far into this post without really knowing what my point is other than thinking that I see lots of posts about the poems we have written, the poems we didn’t write, how to write the poem we didn’t know we wanted to write (via prompts), how to edit the poem we have written (for example this great one from today by Natalie), but I can’t recall seeing one that talks about something from the moment of conception, how it got that far and whether it should then carry on.

To be fair this isn’t that post either, but it’s potentially a marker in the sand (another Pearl Jam song, as it happens) for the future. If I get beyond my internal wrangling about how to even start it and if I should start it I’ll let you know. In the mean time, I’ve linked to a few great songs on the way.



NB. Yield is arguably when their sales/initial popularity started to decline. A Separate post on this as applied to the poetry world is there to be written when I am more confident about the idea/sober.

THE WEEK IN STATS

35.2 k running – Better, better. Needed some long, faster runs this week.

0 poem worked on – Nope, nothing, diddly. Too busy. The world will, I suspect, continue to turn

A bazillion Hangouts for work – cos I was off, innit

1 potential fall out over the use of the word “Channel”

1 podcast out there – enjoyed recording this one about Poltergeist, After Hours, American Werewolf In London, getting mugged and many other things

1 day without cigarettes. Fits and starts, yeah!!

1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green

TITLE GIVEAWAY

  1. Are
  2. You
  3. Still
  4. Interested?

READ, SEEN, ETC

Music
Freddie Gibbs/The Alchemist – Alfredo
Engineers – ST

Embrace
Drawn From Memory
If You’ve Never Been

Elvis Presley – Raised On Rock
Ef – Mourning Golden Morning
Eef Barzelay – Bitter Honey
Echo Lake – Wild Peace
Dorothy Ashby – ST
A House – I Am The Greatest
Drive-By Truckers – Brighter Than Creation’s Dark
Hop Along – Painted Shut
The Hold Steady – Live In London 2019

James Iha
Be Strong Now
Look To The Sky

Hiss Golden Messenger
Hallelujah Anyhow
Haw
Heart Like A Levee

The Grodeck Whipperjenny – ST
Grant Lee Buffalo – Fuzzy
The Great Electric – ST
William Bell – Wow
This Will Destroy You – Vespertine
Love – Four Sail

The Cure
Great British Music Weekend
Anniversary
Curaetion

Editors
The Back Room
An End Has A Start

The Archers…It’s weird and I don’t like it

Hangouts/Video Calls/Zoom/Etc (not for work)
None

TV/Film
Spook S7 6-10
Gangs Of London S1 E1-10


Arrived
Earplugs
Collected Robert Frost

Ordered
Earplugs
Collected Robert Frost

Read
Rory Waterman’s ‘Sweet Nothings

Tactical Withdrawal

I had to fight hard with myself not to call this The Withdrawal Method
…although, actually that might be better.

I’ve just sent two emails I didn’t particularly want to send to withdraw submissions from two magazines. Good magazines—and I hope I’ve not poured petrol on and then chucked a Zippo (A lighter, not a clown) at any bridges, but these submissions went in back in November last year.

Yes, yes, I’m sure you have waited longer—so have I, and I appreciate the world is weird as all mighty fuck at present/people have different concerns, etc, but…Actually, what is the but here? I don’t really know, other than I think we should possibly expect better.

It goes without saying, but I will say it, that I realise a lot of magazines and journals are run on a less than a shoestring, by people that do this for love. I am forever grateful and I do feel churlish for grumbling about a long wait, but I don’t think it’s wrong to run out of patience.

I am very aware that the world is a different place at the moment and a lot has changed since the relevant submission windows have closed—it was in theory February in both cases, but in one case it was something like 28 weeks after the window had closed. TWENTY. EIGHT. WEEKS!!!…I’m patient, but not that patient. Especially after a polite tweet to chase and a polite email a month ago.

It goes without saying that I’m looking forward to seeing the poems (and more patient poets) that do make it in to both, and hope that I get the chance to submit again in the future.

I’ve not really had to do this before – a couple of times because I wanted to use the poems for a wider submission or something along those lines, but this is the first time because of a long wait. I’ve not really seen a guide on how to withdraw your poems gracefully. There’s lots of advice on how to submit, but (and I may be missing something obvious) how do you write an email to say I’m withdrawing my submission because you’re taking too long? Is it just that? Or is there a way to dress it up? How do you do yours? Do you do yours?

Take care, take care, take care.

THE WEEK IN STATS

24 k running – A lower week this week – didn’t have a longer run today, but there was the small case of

1 x really sore calf that I want to avoid aggravating

0 poem worked on – Nope, nothing, diddly. Too busy. The world will, I suspect, continue to turn

A bazillion Hangouts for work – cos I was off, innit

1 day without cigarettes. Fits and starts, yeah!!

1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green

TITLE GIVEAWAY

  1. These Were A Few Of My Favourite Things
  2. Attack of the Cats
  3. Tea Lights

READ, SEEN, ETC

Music
Slow Is The New Fast – Slower
Inventions – Continuous Portrait
Psychic Markers – ST
Jetstream Pony – ST
Okkervil River – Black Sheep Boy

The Cure
Curaetion-25
ST
Disintegration

Sad Eagle – the Priest is the beast – Sad Eagle – The Priest is the Beast
Pearl Jam – Binaural
Smashing Pumpkins – Zeitgeist
Hood – Filmed Initiative
Hefner – Dead Media
Harold Ousley – Sweet Double Hipness
Greg Dulli – Random Desires
Spiritualized – Ladies & Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space
Band of Horses – Why Are You OK?
Chris Forsyth & Solar Motel Band – Dreaming In The Non-Dream
Lift To Experience – The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads

The National
Alligator 
Cherry Tree
High Violet
I Am Easy To Find
Trouble Will Find Me

Mercury Rev
Deserter’s Songs
All is Dream

Brigid Mae Power – Head Above The Water
Sly & The Family Stone – Stand

The Archers…It’s weird…

Hangouts/Video Calls/Zoom/Etc (not for work)
Hung out with Jon ‘Jarman’ Harman and Simon ‘The Twat’ Rance on Grandbag’s Funeral duties

TV/Film
Spooks S7 E4-7
Black Klansman
The Gangs of London S1 E1-2

Arrived
Poetry Birmingham #4
A lovely parcel from my mate Paul of Matthew Caley’s ‘Apparently’, Charles Tomlinson’s ‘The Shaft” and Brian Patten’s ‘ The Irrelevant Song’
River Wolton’s The Purpose of Your Visit, Leap and Indoor Skydiving
Geraldine Clarkson’s Monica’s Overcoat of Flesh

Ordered
Poetry Birmingham #1-3

Read
Poetry Birmingham#4
Derek Walcott – Selected Poems

(Un)finished Business

My apologies if, in light of current events, it seems churlish to be writing about rejections or “being declined”, but I’ve had two this week. Both of which I expected, so I’m not particularly annoyed by the poems not finding a home. There are no sour grapes to be found in this house. In fact, in the case of one submission, it’s actually worked out better (in the long run) as two of the poems from that particular batch have been worked on and IMHO improved greatly since I sent them off.

Why would you do that, Mat? Why would you send unfinished work off?

I sent them off thinking they were up to snuff, but as is often the way the passing of time gives you extra perspective on them – and I was also lucky to have some feedback on them while they were out from a source I trust. This feedback made me realise I could improve them, and improve them I did.

Having wanted to get into the particular journal I sent them to, I figured it would also be a great way to tempt fate and get an acceptance there with those two specific poems. Annoying that it wasn’t the best version, but I could live with it. If the editors liked that version then that’s ace, and as we all know it’s not an uncommon practice for poems to change between mag/journal publication and inclusion in any pamphlet or collection.

The submission was sent in at the start of November 2019. I know acceptances were given circa February this year. Yesterday I got the result I was expecting, eg a no thanks.

However, it’s written in such a way that suggest to me that despite having the poems for seven months they may not have actually read them. What do you think?

“Many apologies about the delay in getting back to you, we had lots of submissions, and as you can imagine many very pressing matters. If you haven’t already heard from us, please do consider your poems available to send out to other magazines. This may not mean that we have rejected your work, but simply that we have run out of space in this issue and out of time to consider it for a future one. “

Obviously, I am going to try again. It’s a journal that I think continues to publish excellent work in every issue and my subscription will be renewed regardless of the above.

Finished Creatures
This disappointment did not manage to dint the fact that I was overjoyed this week to receive my contributor copy of the latest Finished Creatures.

Finished Creatures, #3
Just Look
at that
line up

That line up is pretty spectacular – new work from Sarah Wescott, Jessica Mookherjee, Ramona Herdman, Roy Marshall, Matt Barnard, DA Prince and many more. I’m still working my way through the thing, but I’ve not found a duff poem yet, so it’s an honour to be part of what is rapidly turning out to be an excellent addition to the world of poetry mags and journals.

Every issue has been chock full of excellent poems (and now some knobhead) and they feel like lovely things to hold too. Jan has done an excellent job there. I particularly like the little touch that the contributors copy has a book mark on their page. Nice.

Courses for Horses

Quick, mention the fact that horse racing is back in the news to justify the heading….

In better news, yesterday morning was spent on a Poetry Business course run by River Wolton and Cliff Yates. And what an enjoyable 3 and half hours that was. I’ve come away with 4 new drafts (although I note, largely to myself, that I’ve done nothing with the drafts from my previous session) and a huge amount of excellent feedback for a poem I’ve been putting off revisiting – despite liking the idea behind it a lot.

However, what was is more thrilling is seeing and hearing the work of the others on the course. Given we’re mainly seeing initial drafts of things scratched out five minutes previously. the standard is always ridiculously high, and takes a leap even further in the second session when it’s more about feedback on one specific poem – that can be a draft from elsewhere or something written on the day.

I think it was about 70/30 in favour of the former. I don’t know what the thinking was for the others, but for me I think that sort of group feedback is better used on a idea further down the road. The drafts I wrote that morning as part of the first session are things that I have no idea what they want to be, so trying to get feedback or suggestions for them seems premature to me.

The other obvious privilege of these things is the chance to discuss work and learn from the tutors – this time it was River and Cliff. They were two poets whose work I wasn’t really aware of prior to signing up. I’ve not had a chance to buy their work yet (that TBR pile isn’t really decreasing), but I’d like to steer you towards River’s poem Rat, published here as part of Kim Moore’s excellent Sunday Poem series, and to Cliff’s wonderful ‘On the Difficulty of Learning Chinese’.

Incidentally, if you’re not already aware then you should sign up for either the Unlocked or OPOI writing sessions with Nell Nelson and or Annie Fisher/Charlotte Gann. These will be excellent chances to learn either how to develop your poems (and probably being a poet) or your reviewing skills. I’ve spoken a lot about the OPOI reviews, so I won’t wang on about them anymore, other than to say they continue to help my own work as much as they provide a small boost to the awareness of the work of others.

Sadly these sessions are taking place during the working day, and having been off for a week I suspect I will have no chance of finding the time to attend. While Zoom, etc has been really helpful at allowing the attendance of readings or course without the need for travel, it has yet to find a way to bend time.

Take care, take care, take care.



THE WEEK IN STATS

36.4 k running – A much better week, back on it thanks to

2 x socially-distanced runs at the weekend and 2 during the week

3 poem worked on – The Post-Surgery Club, Out of Office Messages and Hatton Garden

4 new drafts: Card Shark, My First Time on Mars, That Bastard Rhesus Monkey At Longleat, and Ooh Matron—this last one very much a working title

0 Hangouts for work – cos I was off, innit.

2 rejections – Woohoo, some sense of closure, but also I wish the outstanding subs would hurry the fuck up and make a decision

Over 207 days now for submissions being out with Tangerine and Lonely Crowd. I should count from the window closing and I’m not complaining (much) about waiting, but I’d love to just know one way or the other.

1 day without cigarettes. Fits and starts, yeah!!

1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green

TITLE GIVEAWAY

  1. A Business of Ferrets
  2. A Collective Noun for Collective Nouns
  3. I Went to a Cockney Pilates Studio Called Core Blimey
  4. Marmoleum

READ, SEEN, ETC

Music
Slow Is The New Fast – Slower
Margo Price – Perfectly Imperfect

Echo & The Bunnymen
Evergreen
Flowers
Siberia 

Cowboy Junkies – Ghosts
VA – Get the Holy Funk – Jewel Spiritual Groovers
Inventions – Continuous Portrait
Charli XCX – how I’m feeling now
Maximillian – ST
Erland Cooper – Hether Blether
PINS – Hot Slick
British Sea Power – Open Season
Inventions – ST
The Modulations – It’s Rough Out Here

Fleet Foxes
ST
Sun Giant
Helplessness Blues
Crack up
First Collection

Andrew Bird – Armchair Apocrypha
Warren Zevon – Sentimental Hygiene
Jes Sah Bi & Peter One – Our Garden Needs Flowers 

The Archers…It’s weird…

Hangouts/Video Calls/Zoom/Etc (not for work)
Hangout with Jon Harman (He’s in the Norways)
Poetry Business Writing Day

TV/Film
SpooksS6 E7-10, S7 E1
Brassic S2 E1-6
American Werewolf In London
After Hours
Poltergeist 2

Arrived/Ordered
A Charger for Flo’s electric keyboard
Marmoleum Cleaning Fluid 

Read
Finished Creatures #3
Jennifer Wong – Letters Home 回家

Placeholder

I started writing something here that was going to be the best blog ever written. It was going to involve my viewing of Poltergeist on Friday, but then I started watching the latest briefing by the Prime Minister. It’s hard not to come to the conclusion that there is no fucking point. Normal service (such as it is) will resume next week.

Happy birthday to Bob Dylan…

THE WEEK IN STATS

30.4 k running – A much better week, back on it thanks to

2 x socially-distanced runs at the weekend.

1 poem worked on – Changed two lines and a title. Massive!!

7 Billion Hangouts for work

0 rejections – Woohoo, but also I wish the outstanding subs would hurry the fuck up and make a decision

Over 200 days now for submissions being out with Tangerine, North and Lonely Crowd. I should count from the window closing and I’m not complaining (much) about waiting, but I’d love to just know one way or the other.

1 day without cigarettes. Fits and starts, yeah!!

1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green

TITLE GIVEAWAY

  1. Dominic Cummings is a lying twat
  2. Seriously

READ, SEEN, ETC

Music
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Hope Downs
Rolling Stones – Aftermath
VA – Rough Guide to Cajun & Zydeco
VA – Rough Guide to Sufi Music
Sam Amidon – All Is Well

Scarce
Deadsexy
The Rise and Fall of Circus Boy

Scheer – Infliction 
Screaming Females – Rose Mountain
Screaming Trees  – Oceans of Confusion
Seckou Keita – 22 Strings
Pearl Jam – Gigaton
Pelican – City of Echoes
Jay May – Autumn Fallin’
Jenny Lewis – On The Line
Jesus & Mary Chain – Munki
Joan As Police Woman – To Survive
Joe Strummer – Walker (OST)
Adem – Homesongs
The Postmarks – ST
Public Service Broadcasting – Live at Brixton
Pussy Cat – Boof, The Complete Pussy Cat
Radiohead – Hail To The Thief
Richmond Fontaine – Don’t Skip Out On Me
Rickie Lee Jones – ST
PJ Harvey – Dry
Tim Burgess – I Love The New Sky

Smashing Pumpkins
Teargarden By Kaleidyscope
Machina
Gish
Melon Collie & The Infinite Sadness

Beth Orton
Central Reservation
Trailer Park

Ben E King – Spanish Harlem
Josh T Pearson – Last of the Country Gentlemen
Kathleen Edwards – Asking For Flowers
North Sea Radio orchestra – Dronne

Hangouts/Video Calls/Zoom/Etc (not for work)
Beth Orton’s Live Instragram after her #Timslisteningparty for Central Reservation (I’m aware those words don’t make much sense)

TV/Film
Barbershop Chronicles – National Theatre on YouTube
Spooks – S6 E1-6
Poltergeist

Arrived/Ordered
CD Boyland User Stories
Alan Buckley – Touched

Read
Rishi Dastidar – Saffron Jack
Jennifer Wong – Letters Home 回家