Butchers: A Clare and Present Danger.

Happy bank holiday. I’m sure everyone is gathered around a BBQ waiting for this, or are you gathered round a radio listening to the last knockings of the football season? NB this post is being brought to you with half an eye on Arseblog live and the football coverage at the Grauniad. Also NB…other ways of amusing yourself/passing the time are available.

I can’t exactly remember why, but I think it may have something to do with a Mouthful of Air or The Verb podcast a while back where someone (possibly Paul Farley in the latter) mentioned John Clare, but it set me off thinking about how little I know about Clare or of his work. I’ve been wondering about him ever since I first read Brian Patten’s ‘A Fallible Lecture‘ from his collection, ‘Storm Damage

Wordsworth felt paranoic every time his
friend Coleridge came to visit him Coleridge
was famous for standing outside churches
bothering wedding guests by waving dead
albatrosses in their faces He also invented
marvellous excuses for not finishing his
poems Though Wordsworth cornered the
market in nature nothing he wrote had the
authenticity of John Clare, a Norfolk
peasant who was incarcerated in lunatic
asylums for 28 years after a doctor decided
he was insane through years addicted to
poetic prosings’ After his death it was
rumoured that a group of doctors wanted to
procure his corpse in order to open his brain
and find out where the poetry came from
Clare already knew where it came from:
from clods of earth and from watching
raindrops glittering on the backs of frogs.


We can spend a while pulling apart the above…For a start, John Clare isn’t a Norfolk lad, I think someone the line breaks aren’t great, and you can have your own opinions about Patten (He was one of the poets that got me into poetry so I will always love him. NB His last book was awful in my opinion, and I hope we see another proper collection from him as it has been too long since ‘Armada‘.), but the last three lines have always captivated me. I first read this about 20 years ago, so it’s taken me a long while to do anything about it, but after the podcast mentioned above I bought a copy of John Clare’s work. I think I’m going to love it. But the book has been sat on the TBR pile…it’s a relatively new addition, so other earlier purchases take precedence.

However, ole JC has sprung to mind several times this week, so I may have to make a start on that book sooner than planned.

Firstly, Jeremy Wikeley has written another of his Reithian (eg informative, educating and entertaining) posts. I urge you to read it here as its discussion of the welcomed-alignment between two movements within Judaism is as of much interest as its discussion of how the work of Robert Frost and one John Clare found their way into the Siddur.

That email arrived in my inbox at the start of the week. Chalk up one reference to John Clare (NB Arsenal have just chalked up their 4th goal…Now the bloody goals come, FFS).

Then, as is my wont, I grabbed a book off the TBR pile to take to work with me on Tuesday morning. The book I chose was perhaps subconsciously influenced by the email, but I chose ‘After Clare’ by William Thompson. William is another relatively new voice to me. I’d ordered his pamphlet within seconds of reading a few poems by him over at Wild Court. Two of these Wild Court poems have a home in the pamphlet. The last one I hope finds a home in a full collection from William at some point soon.

William is not a prolific user of the socials, but he was very kind enough to respond to my request for permission to post a poem from the pamphlet. I wasn’t sure which to choose as I had two in mind, but I decided to go with the poem below for the following very tenuous reasons.

In the last two weeks, I’ve been tagged into posts on Facebook by my friends Janet and Peter. It’s very clear that they have both been hacked. Janet and Peter are the parents of my friend Andrew. I have known Andrew since I was 11. Peter was my French teacher at high school. One summer, I think when we were somewhere between the ages of 14 -16, I filled in for Andrew at his summer job. His summer job was working at a butcher’s in our nearest town, North Walsham.

Two weeks of cycling to Walsham, donning the white coat and hat of a butcher, the smell of hot water and freshly minced beef together and the near constant making of tea for the butcher nearly put me off eating meat ever again, but I got over that.
(NB Arsenal has made minced meat of Wolves – it’s 5-0.)

Shall we have the poem?


Butchery

The sound of cleavers
is a judge’s gavel.

If you slide ten joints
into their vat-pack sleaves

your hands will sting.
Another twenty,

they’ll be raw. Thirty,
and at the touch

off polythene
your blood will burn.

You wear a fleece
under an apron

like Byzantine sheet mail.
To slice bacon,

the joints are only half-
thawed. Think

severed limbs defrosting
in Arctic snow.

+++++++++++++++++
Taken from After Clare, New Walk Editions, 2022. Published with the author’s permission. Had e a review from The Friday Poem too.

My thanks to William for his permission. There’s a level of constant violence or threat in this poem, and I love the way this poem stands out a little from the rest of the excellent pamphlet, the way it’s another way of viewing the natural world, the things we do to it and the things we go through to be able to do that. What would Clare make of this? What do you make of this? It also plays nicely into the thinking about poems written about work as discussed in previous posts passim.

It was then wonderful to be reading the last (that bit’s sad) issue Raceme on Wednesday and find a review of a book and then two poems by Jesse Bertron. I recall asking where are the plumber poets in a previous post and the universe has delivered. Bertron is a plumber’s mate (Not Plumbers Mait) and a poet. Ask and you shall receive. I won’t include the poem from Raceme here as I’d rather you buy the last issue from them, but you can find one of the poems here at Jesse’s own site too. Jesse’s pamphlet, A Plumber’s Guide To Light; doesn’t appear to be available in the UK at present, but I’ve written to him to see if that can be overcome. His work seems to me to sit neatly alongside that of BH Fairchild, also mentioned here recently.

I can’t say I have been a plumber anymore than I was a butcher (and have you seen my plumbing work – many would say that is butchery), but I can see a loose connection between Jesse’s work and that of William too.

We’ll stop there, but I will add a final weird connection. I was supposed to attend a poetry reading/mag launch on Friday evening—it was for Butcher’s Dog. Various dad taxi-ing jobs and the accidental consumption of too many pints put paid to that (NB pints after the taxi-ing), but if I’d bumped into Mark Butcher this weekend I would not have been surprised.

A Song that is in some vague way linked to something

Butcher Boy, Profit In Your Poetry. Butchers. Poetry, I spoil you.

THE LAST WEEK IN STATS

HEALTH STATS
20K running. Better, inc another 9K
2 days without cigarettes…
0 days since drinking.

LIFE STATS
1 more team entry for Dino Dash. Hope head doesn’t explode this time.
More paint-stripping



POET STATS
1 loose ideas/articles gathered (this allows me to kid myself I am writing all the time)
0 poems finished:
0 poems worked on:
0 poems committed to the reject pile
0 submissions:
0 withdrawal:
0 acceptances:
0 Longlisting:
0 readings:
0 rejections:
18 poems are currently out for submission. No simultaneous subs
83 Published poems


1 review finished:
0 reviews started:
1 review submitted:
2 reviews to write:


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

* To date, not this week. Christ!!

READ/SEEN/HEARD/ETC

Music r= Radio, A = Audiobook, P=Podcast. The rest is music

Monday
The Twilight Sad: No One Can Ever Know, Forget The Night Ahead, Nobody Wants To Be Here…
The National: Alligator, Boxer
Tuesday
The Archers (P)Foxhole Companion; The FCowboy Junkies Podcast (Eps 33-36)Cowboy Junkies: Black Eyed ManThe National: Cherry Tree, High Violet
Weds
The National: ST, Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers
Cowboy Junkies Podcast : ep 39-43 (p)
The Archers (P)
Thurs
The National: Trouble Will Find Me, Sleep Well Beast, I Am Easy To Find, The Last Two Pages of Frankenstein
VA: J-Jazz Deep Modern Jazz from Japan 1969-1984
BBC3 : Ligeti
Friday
Mogwai: Come On Die Young
Fridge: Happiness
Portastatic: Some Small History
Saturday
The Archers (P)
Cowboy Junkies Podcast 43-46 (P)
Mouthful of air: Luke Samuel Yates (P)
Planet Poetry: Greta Stoddart (P)
Flowers of Hell: Keshakhteran
The National: The Last Two Pages of Frankenstein, Sonic Juicy Magic
Sun
Dropsonde Playlist
The National: Sonic Juicy Magic
The Orielles: The Goyt Method
Butcher Boy: Profit In Your Poetry

Read
William Thompson: After Clare
Rebecca Farmer: A Separate Appointment
Rosalind Easton: Man Overboard
Charlotte Schevchenko Knight: Ways of Healing
Stephen Payne: The Wax Argument
Vasiliki Albedo : Fire In The Oubliette

Watched
Masterchef
Ted Lasso
Succession
Scandal (Watching R&F watching it)
Barry
Selling Sunset (guilty relapse)

Ordered/Bought

Paul Stephenson: Hard Drive
Rebecca Goss: Latch
Car insurance
Entrance to Crystal Palace Dino Dash run
A replacement cutlery basket for our dishwasher
Butcher’s Dog #18

Arrived
Paul Stephenson: Hard Drive
Rebecca Goss: Latch



 

Advertisement

Rorschach, baby…Rorschach, baby, Rorschach…

I mean it doesn’t really matter whether I send this on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday (I’m in love), Saturday or Sunday, but I do like to get this done on Sunday. However, another day of paint-stripping saw to that plan. I’m getting there, I think, and reckon there’s another two weekends of prep work to go. It’s like poetry to an extent, in the send of fitting it in around the rest of life. I don’t think I could be a full time painter and decorator, just as I don’t think I could be a full-time poet. I’m barely part-time at present, but I was buoyed by reading this para in Maggie Smith’s newsletter.

She sets it up by talking about the idea of pre-writing, as coined by Lee Martin, and then invited her readers to consider committing to doing at least one thing a day in service to your writing.

This one thing can be a small thing. You might scrawl some notes in a notebook or revise an existing piece. You might chip away at a book proposal. You might research journals or presses, query an agent, or submit work. You might request books at your local library for a project or do some background reading. Yes, reading counts. Thinking counts. And since I find that I do some of my best thinking in the shower, yes, showering counts, too.” Maggie Smith, Pep Talk (Do consider signing up, even if for free).

Have no fear, this won’t lead to me talking about being in the shower…There isn’t enough mind bleach in the world to erase that image for you. And it won’t lead to me wanging on about writing, etc. I’m not sure I entirely buy into the idea of pre-writing, etc, but I also happily buy into it enough when I am not writing to make me feel less bad about that…

Anyhoo, in another attempt to make a connection out of thin air I noticed the following last week.

On Tuesday I decided to put the copy of Holly Hopkins‘, The English Summer’ in my bag for my commute.

I had enjoyed her Poetry Business pamphlet, Soon Every House Will Have One, a while back, and even though it’s taken me a while to get to reading the collection, it was interesting to see the time between pamphlet and collection, eight years based on the pamphlet coming out in 2014. It’s also interesting to see how many poems have travelled from one book to the other—13 out of 21 by my reckoning. There’s also an article to be written about any changes between pamphlet and collection versions, if there are any, but that it not what we are here for today.

No, it’s the tenuous collection, so here we go. I didn’t read the book on my way in, but at lunchtime I happened to see a post by last week’s poet in residence (of this blog for that week), Rishi Dastidar. He posted a link to this article about his book, Neptune’s Projects. The interview is up at The Mechanics Institute Review and contains Rishi being interviewed by Craig Smith (also ex of this parish). It’s a great interview, and towards the end (SPOILER ALERT) Rishi mentions Holly’s book as one to get hold of/one he’s enjoyed.

And with that, ladies and gennulmen, I had my connection for the week. As long as I enjoyed the poems in the book. Luckily for me, I did. I’d flicked to the notes at the back and saw a reference to the FiveThirtyEight blog by Nate Silver. And look, poetry, polling, probability and predictions are things I am happy to see under one roof, so the poem that mentioned 538 seemed perfect. And it was even better once I read it.

Early Winter

It’s not a frozen spoon on your tongue.
It’s a mildew eating everything,
the path through the forest is pulp.

The trees weigh up the bad choice
and send a shunt to amputate each leaf.
A cataract ripens on the surface of the sun.

Still, the moss is more inviting now,
soft spires; we could curl down like mites.
The river flexes currents on its surface.

These assertions can be verified by anyone
with a car, or the leisure to daytrip by train,
or a little wood protected by a local council.

We’re used to waiting winter out
like a debilitating cold. Our faith in spring
so strong we’d never call it faith.

It’s statistical analysis: every year we lived,
that year it came. These things can be predicted
we read FiveThirtyEight! We know it comes,

it must. Or we’re stood in rotting undergrowth,
ankle deep in muck with mittened hands
charged with shifting the axis of the earth.

+++++++++++++++++
Taken from The English Summer, Penned In The Margins Press, 2022. Published with the author’s permission.

My thanks to Holly for permission to share it. Please note it was also published by The Poetry Society in 2017. And it hasn’t changed since. I love the sense of prediction, the sense of extrapolation about the oncoming winter in the tiny details, the modelling that comes from observing. And the first line (and the rest). I note The English Summer has been shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Prize for first collections this year. I haven’t read any of the other entrants, so can’t really say much, but of the ones I’ve read so far this is my favourite.


In other news/articles that are surely catnip to poets: A look at Rorschach tests being made
It also gives me an excuse to share this joke. Click through for the full joke.

Finally, I saw this below about the rejection letters of the infamous record company..Home to The Pixies, and many other amazing bands. I wonder if magazines and the like could learn anything from this. Can we think of poetry submissions as demo tapes? It also gives me a excuse to link to Half Man Half Biscuit’s wonderful song about 4AD

NB written in bursts before work and at lunch time….such is the commitment.., but also the apologies for typos, gibberish, etc

We won’t mention the Arsenal result!!


A Song that is in some vague way linked to something (and isn’t the HMHB song)

Holly’s poem gives me an excuse to post this amazing 60’s Psych banger again

THE LAST WEEK IN STATS

HEALTH STATS
22K running. Better, inc longest run of the year so far (and with a hangover)
2 day without cigarettes…
3 day since drinking.

LIFE STATS
1 oven fixed
1 phone number written somewhere in my local park. Don’t know why.
1 team entry for Dino Dash. Hope head doesn’t explode this time.
More paint-stripping
1 hedge cut
1 night out where friendship groups meet. And it worked


POET STATS
1 loose ideas/articles gathered (this allows me to kid myself I am writing all the time)
0 poems finished:
0 poems worked on: Designated Driver (TBC)
0 poems committed to the reject pile
0 submissions:
0 withdrawal:
0 acceptances:
0 Longlisting:
0 readings:
0 rejections: Northern Gravy
18 poems are currently out for submission. No simultaneous subs
83 Published poems


0 review finished:
0 reviews started:
0 review submitted:
3 reviews to write:


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

* To date, not this week. Christ!!

READ/SEEN/HEARD/ETC

Music r= Radio, A = Audiobook, P=Podcast. The rest is music
Monday
Richmond Fontaine: Winnemucca, We Used To Think The Freeway Sounded Like A River, Lost Son, Miles From…, Obliteration By Time, Post To Wire
Richard & Linda Thompson: I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight
Tuesday
The Archers
Re-draft: Ben Wilkinson, etc
The Boo Radleys; Giant Steps
Meg Baird: Furling
Charlie Mingus: Let My Children Hear Music
Echo & The Bunnymen: Heaven Up Here
Electrafixion: Burned
Cowboy Junkies Podcast: Sun Comes Up, I’m So Open (p)
Foxhole Companion: Fortress Of War (p)
Weds
Ride: Smile, This Is Not A Safe Place, Weather Diaries, Tomorrow’s Shore EP
Joan As Police Woman: Real Life,
Pale Saints: In Ribbons, Mrs. Dolphin, Slow Buildings, Comforts of Madness
My Morning Jacket:Live Red Rocks 2019
Fri
Califone: Quicksand/Cradlesnakes
The Search Party: Montgomery Chapel
The Posies: Failure
Horse Thief: Fear In Bliss
Masal & Andy Bell: Tidal Love Numbers
Various tunes in my mate Mike’s kitchen
Sat
The Archers
Califone: Villagers
The Wedding Present: 24 Songs
Sunday
LRB Podcast: Don Paterson & Declan Ryan
Cowboy Junkies Podcast: Eps 10-32

Read
Luke Samuel Yates: Dynamo
Holly Hopkins: The English Summer
William Thompson: After Clare
Rebecca Farmer: A Separate Appointment

Watched
Masterchef
Ted Lasso
Succession
Scandal (Watching R&F watching it)
Barry

Ordered/Bought
Strix 9
Dark Horse Sub
Entrance to Crystal Palace Dino Dash run
A replacement cutlery basket for our dishwasher

Arrived
Dark Horse
New Welsh Reader



 

Anthropocene and not heard

A flying one this week. It’s no news week for me this week – just head down and working flat out. The bank holiday was lovely, but did rather put the moccers on my workload…And that in turn prevented me from seeing an old work colleague that had flown in from Australia. Not to see me specifically, but when you consider how far they’d travelled it was a bit annoying. However, I digress and I grumble too much.

This weekend has been all about stripping…Paint-stripping specifically, and it is slow, laborious but dull work. It has meant I’ve been able to catch up on some podcasts as I strip away at layers of paint in my hallway.

Each one has had lots of interesting things to say, so in the absence of anything else I shall point you to them.

1. Rebecca Goss being interviewed by John Greening. It’s in two parts (part one and part two, because that’s how two-parters work.) This was recorded before her latest book, Latch, came out, but you can here in the podcast the book coming to fruition. I loved lots of what Rebecca had to say about being a poet, about her trajectory to becoming a poet, about learning to fight against defaulting to the same form—in her case it’s couplets and being labelled “deceptively simple”. You can also find transcripts here and here

2. The comedian Steven Wright being interviewed by Conan O’Brien. This is a new podcast to me, but I love Steven Wright’s sense of humour. His one liners are incredible.

For example, “Support bacteria – they’re the only culture some people have.”. See here for a list of 100 or so, and get yourself his albums, ‘I Have a Pony or ‘I Still Have a Pony ‘.

The reason I note this podcast, despite being it just being incredibly funny, is that he describes the 4 rules he set himself when he started out. You’ll have to listen to get them all, but essentially he talks about not doing political, topical material or swearing in his work. The first two help to give his work a timeless quality, and the last one is to help make the work land more. A joke with swearing in can be funny, but if you take the swearing out it makes the line work harder. This may or may not be useful in terms of writing poems. I am on the fence, but see what you think.

3. I finally got my copy of the Poetry Review and read the interview/exchange of letters between Gboyega Odubanjo and Don Paterson. I found myself agreeing with much of what both camps had to say. Read it…Make up your own mind…More fence-sitting from me.

4. The Poetry Review podcast interview between Emily Berry and Mary Rueffle was a late addition to my listening today, but was a welcome addition. Despite seeing her mentioned everywhere (define everywhere, Mat), I didn’t know her work, and she mentioned a deep love for writing letters, so it connects to above…loosely.

5. I may have mentioned once or twice how much of a massive fan I am of The Hold Steady/Craig Finn, and I have lately started tuning into Craig’s podcast about memory and creativity, ‘That’s How I Remember It. The episode with Hanif Abdurraqib was notable for many things, but the one that stood out was his point at the end about ensuring you shout about things you like, about cheer-leading for them in public. I try to do this on the social medias, but it never hurts to be reminded.

6. The Wine Verb. Hot off the press, this was broadcast on Friday and features Ramona Herdman (See here for a Ramona poem, Jane Commane, Angie Hobbs (Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield- AMAZING JOB TITLE) , and wine critic Aleesha Hansel to discuss poems and booze. Also, it has a shout out for the Candlestick Press book, Ten Poems About Wine featuring Jane Commane, Matthew Stewart and many others. Ok, eight more.

Now, to get to the poem part.

I saw an article this week about a plastic-eating bacteria (it wasn’t this specific article, but I can’t find it now, and hey, Newsround is a national institution…John Craven and all that)…I think it was on Tuesday that I saw it. On Wednesday I started reading Rishi Dastidar‘s ‘Neptune’s Projects’. I’ve spoken here about Rishi before, and I suspect he needs little introduction to you, my loyal reader(s). His achievements, projects and poetry-based cheer-leading (that word again) are/is multifarious and far-reaching. He’s a fine reader of his work. And he has a natty line in baseball caps.

I’m pleased to see the Neptune poems out in the world now—have heard some of them at various readings in the last few years – including one of the Rogue Strands nights. I think it was at the King & Queen for Rogue Strands 2: The Roguening.

NB I called the King & Queen recently to enquire about using it as a potential launch venue and they wanted a minimum spend of £500. Oof, not sure that’s doable-even at London prices.

Anyhoo, back to the poem. You’ll soon see why it makes sense to put this.


Top of the food chain

Behold! I am the creature that will
replace you and you and you too,

because I am perfectly adapted to
the biosphere you’ve created, and oh

the irony that you couldn’t adjust
in time, install outboard gills, shields

to skin, harvest blood from seas. My
did you go on, as attested to in the

Anthropocene record that surfaces
from the heat-slime now and again,

and yet you did nothing: sound various
alarms, change damn all. I’m glad: as if

you had some divine lease to stay on
the planet forever. Species come, go,

get over yourselves. I bet the dinosaurs
didn’t want to disappear into kids’ TV either.


+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

Taken from Neptune’s Projects , Nine Arches Press, 2022. Published with the author’s permission.

My thanks to Rishi for permission to share it, and for pointing me towards this video based on the poem.

The Food Chain

We need more poems with videos, I think. I will allow this poem to get away with its usage of the word ‘Anthropocene’. It seems to me to be one of the words du jour, but it works in the context of this poem.I could be imagining that though, so we’ll ignore that.

I love the tone of voice of this poem; it fits largely with my (miserable) viewpoint that we are just passing through and that we are like very shit guests at the planetary Air B’n’B. The line ‘sound/ various alarms, change damn all” is particularly poignant in light of reports that we have largely passed the point of no return in ecological terms. I think the use of damn quite neatly fits with Steven Wright’s point about swearing taking away from the point being made. It lands harder.

I put it to you that you’d do well to get a copy of Neptune’s Projects for more like this and lots more besides.

We won’t mention the Arsenal result!!


A Song that is in some vague way linked to something

Loscil: Anthropocene

THE LAST WEEK IN STATS

HEALTH STATS
12K running. A slow week due to work and the like, but my knee is improving now I’ve started trying to stretch my hamstrings.
0 day without cigarettes…
1 day since drinking.

LIFE STATS
1 oven gone kaput
1 oven being repaired
1 electrician amazed that whoever installed the oven hadn’t killed us
1 furious Mat
1 air fryer borrowed from a friend. Crikey, they are fast.
1 mate and his son completed a
5K charity swim on the same night I think I pulled a groin muscle sitting down to eat a takeaway.


POET STATS
1 loose ideas/articles gathered (this allows me to kid myself I am writing all the time)
0 poems finished:
0 poems worked on: TBC
1 poem committed to the reject pile. The initial joy of last week’s draft has worn off. It wasn’t very good
0 submissions:
0 withdrawal:
0 acceptances:
0 Longlisting:
0 readings:
0 rejections:
22 poems are currently out for submission. No simultaneous subs
83 Published poems


0 review finished:
0 reviews started:
0 review submitted:
3 reviews to write:


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

* To date, not this week. Christ!!

READ/SEEN/HEARD/ETC

Music r= Radio, A = Audiobook, P=Podcast. The rest is music
Tuesday
The Archers (P)
The Verb, Wild Water, Funny Women (P)
Cowboy Junkies: All That Reckoning, At the End of Paths Taken, Ghosts
Laura Stevenson: The Big Freeze
Conan O’Brien: Stephen Wright (p)
The Foxhole Companion: Tobruk double bill (p)  
Craig Finn That’s How I Remember It: Alejandro Escovedo (p)
Weds
The Archers (p)
Music Is the Drug: Ornette Coleman, A Common Disaster (p)
Akira Kosemura: One Day
Craig Finn: Faith In The Future
Einstellung: Sleep Easy Mr Parker
Dropsonde Playlist 
Craig Finn That’s How I Remember It: The Hold Steady (p)
A Mouthful of Air: Tom Sastry (P)
Thurs
Cass McCombs: A
Jim Noir: AM Jazz
The Joy Formidable: Aaarth
Kreidler: ABC
Brave Captain: Advertisements for Myself
Richie Havens: Alarm Clock
The Breeders: All Nerve
Friday
Richmond Fontaine: Safety
Dropsonde Playlist
Saturday
The Archers (p)
The Verb: Wine, Sound Design (p)
Cowboy Junkies: Caution Horses. 
Sunday 
Mouthful of Air: Cat Jeoffry (P)
Poetry Society Podcast.: Kate Wakeling (P)
Poetry Review Podcast: Mary Rueffle (P)

Read
Rishi Dastidar: Neptune’s Projects
Luke Samuel Yates: Dynamo
Under The Radar: Food
Poetry Review

Watched
Masterchef
Ted Lasso
Succession
Scandal (Watching R&F watching it)

Ordered/Bought
Holiday insurance

Arrived
Poetry Review
Laura McKee: Take Care of Your Hooves Darling
Genevieve Carter: Landsick
Ella Sadie Guthrie: poems for Pete Davidson
Andy Jackson: The Saints Are Coming (Thanks, Andy)



 

High and (Mar)mighty…aka A Toast To Marmite aka Boys For the Black Stuff

Is anything happening this weekend? What have you been up to? We’re just back from a restorative walk in the woods near Shoreham. I mean restorative in the sense of feeding the soul and not soothing a massive hangover. Regular readers will know that it’s usually the latter. It is worth noting though that we did stop for a pint after the walk and I was moved to have a pint of this

I won’t say no if anyone wants to order me a mini cask beer here (Pale or Best Bitter).

Now, stand back…You are about to see some weapons-grade weak connections being made.

The point I had above reminded me of this excellent recent post by Jeremy Wikeley about Larkin. The gist of this is that ol’ Phil may have enjoyed the fruits of isolation and the like but shouldn’t really be thought of as a separate entity in terms of the wider poetry community (correct me if I’m wrong here, Jeremy. And yes, he is at his best when he’s bitter).

Now, don’t worry, I am not about to start waxing lyrical about the poetry community, whatever that means. Although it was lovely to see that in action on Tuesday evening when I went along to Chener Books to see Emily Hasler, Sarah Westcott and Jodie Hollander read from their latest books/work—Sarah read a number of new poems as her latest collection has been round longer than those of Emily and Jodie.

All three were excellent readers of excellent poems, and I urge you to seek out their work(s). It also didn’t occur to me until the next day that Chener Books is run by the poet, Miranda Peake… This helps to explain the excellent selection of poetry on offer at the shop.

No, I am not about to start waxing lyrical about the poetry community…Now watch this, this is where the magic happens…

It could be fair to say that Larkin is not for everyone. There are many aspects of the man that are utterly abominable, just as there are many aspects of his work that are utterly wonderful (and I am no Larkin scholar—I have barely scratched the surface in terms of reading him), so it could be fair to say he is something of a Marmite poet. As in you either like him or you don’t. (And look, if you’re on the fence about him, can I ask that for the purposes of this post you keep your counsel, hold your tongue and stay quiet).

Now, did someone say Marmite?

***It was about this point yesterday (Sunday) when everything I’d written after this point got lost…something didn’t save…not sure what happened. Still, I assure you it was a mixture of wisdom, erudition, comedy gold and blistering insight. So, my apologies for what now follows…***

A funny thing happened on the way to this post…On Tuesday I did my usual routine of going into our White City office. I hadn’t slept well the night before after a lazy bank holiday Monday, so I thought I’d treat myself to breakfast in the work canteen. I was delighted (a bit strong, Mat, but go with it) to see the return of a particular black foodstuff among the spreads on offer after a couple of weeks where it hadn’t been on offer. This meant I could have my usual Marmite and Peanut Butter on toast (Yes, this is all getting a bit too much of a white-knuckle ride—I’ll slow down shortly).

You’re almost certainly now 100% sure that this won’t be a waxing lyrical about the poetry community…

I noticed that I noticed the return of the Marmite, and thought nothing of it again as I went about my working day. I observed some focus groups for a project about a show that will be on ITVX in December (Fans of Bernard Cornwell’s historical fiction will be very happy, I think). I can’t recall what else my sleep-deprived mind processed, but when I was sat outside the East Dulwich Tavern waiting for Emily Hasler I started reading Andy Jackson’s The Assassination Museum. I’d picked it up from my TBR pile that morning while trying to find my copy of Sarah Westcott’s Bloom. I was going to ask her to sign it that evening. Still can’t find it.

Anyhoo, I knew from the first poem that I was going to enjoy this. Off The Wall (the first poem) is a great piece about dancing, confidence, life and music, and I could so easily have written about it today/yesterday, but when I got to the poem below I knew I had my poem for this week.

Marmite

A food for kids? This myth persists.
I was weaned for years on it.
Now I see the shape of the jar,
and ache to stroke its fertile curves,
child-bearing hips, a trove
of bitter treacle, black as a vat
of roadside tar.

I know some fearless types
drink metal polish straight
and chain-smoke crack from dirty pipes.
When offered Marmite, hear their palates fizz
and watch their grey lips pucker.
See them spit out ragged balls
of half-chewed bread, amazed some nutter
could eat that stuff and live.

Now, my palate’s tempered
in the furnaces of a thousand
curry houses, every one a challenge,
but when I dip into this
bottomless pot and slide
the laden knife across my teeth,
there’s still that jolt, that flash of
electricity, down to the hungry roots beneath.

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

Taken from The Assassination Museum, Red Squirrel Press, 2010. Published with the author’s permission.

My thanks to Andy for a great poem. What appears to be a simple poem covers so much ground…Masculinity, memory—both positive and the (I think) implicit nod to poverty at the end in ‘the hungry roots beneath’. It’s an entirely different poem, but it puts me in mind of Paul Farley’s poem about Treacle. I love the musicality of the poem, particularly in the first stanza, and I raise a pint of Kingfisher (NB I mean cup of tea—it’s now 7.30am) to the internal rhymes of ‘furnaces’ and ‘curry houses’. We’ll also give ‘curve and ‘trove’ and ‘pucker’ and ‘nutter’, a respectful nod too.

I bought this book from Andy via Facebook a year or so ago, so my apologies it’s taken me this long, but I was hooked in by him saying it was pretty much his last copy. Take note: I’m an absolute sucker for that so, so make sure you use the scarcity bias (and where else do you get Marmite, Larkin, and behavioural economics, hey?). I knew him as a fellow Red Squirrel poet, via his role as editor at Poetry Scotland and his work on Twitter for his Owtituaries, so it was wonderful to get my hands on his poetry. I have yet to get hold of his Blue Diode collection, The Saints Are Coming In, but I will ASAP.

Now, what to have for breakfast…

A Song that is in some vague way linked to something

Ian McCulloch, In Bloom. Let’s have this as it was Mac’s birthday this weekend, I’ve mentioned Bloom and this slice of post-Bunnymen goodness will do the trick

THE LAST WEEK IN STATS

HEALTH STATS
7K running. A slow week due to work and the like, but my knee is improving now I’ve started trying to stretch my hamstrings.
0 day without cigarettes…
0 days since drinking. **Pours another gin**

LIFE STATS
1 deep clean of our house
1 walk in the woods near Shoreham
1 colleague leaving to join the BBC
1 cup of oolong tea…in a can
1 street party (not my own)


POET STATS
0 loose ideas/articles gathered (this allows me to kid myself I am writing all the time)
0 poems finished:
0 poems worked on: TBC
1 poem committed to the reject pile. The initial joy of last week’s draft has worn off. It wasn’t very good
0 submissions:
0 withdrawal:
0 acceptances:
0 Longlisting:
0 readings:
0 rejections:
11 poems are currently out for submission. No simultaneous subs
83 Published poems


0 review finished:
0 reviews started:
0 review submitted:
3 reviews to write:


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

* To date, not this week. Christ!!

READ/SEEN/HEARD/ETC

Music r= Radio, A = Audiobook, P=Podcast. The rest is music

Monday
Miles Davis: Sketches of SpainNabiha Iqbal: Weighing of the Heart
The National: the First Two Pages of Frankenstein
Sunfruits: One Degree
Edgar Jones: Reflections of a soul dimension
Tuesday
the Archers(p)
Planet Poetry: Clare Best (p)
The Boo Radleys: Giant Steps
Craig Finn, That’s How I Remember It: John Darnielle, Karly Hartzman(p)
Weds
The Archers (p)
Mary Lattimore: Collected Pieces
The Archers (p)
Arji’s Pickle Jr: Liz Berry (p)
Royal Literary Fund Podcast: Rebecca Goss Pt 1
Royal Literary Fund Podcast: Rebecca Goss Pt 2
Craig Finn, That’s How I Remember It: Hanif Abdurraqib (p)
Thurs
Wednesday: Rat Saw God
The Kingsbury Manx: Ascender Ouvert!, Aztec Discipline, Bronze Age
The Essex Green; ST
The Afghan Whigs: How Do You Burn, In Spades, Do To The Beast
Friday
Smashing Pumpkins: Atum
The Afghan Whigs: Congregation
Dropsonde Playlist
Sat
The Archers (p)
Music Is The Drug; Cowboy Junkies E1 (p)
Cowboy Junkies: Pale Sun Crescent Moon
Sunday
Cowboy Junkies: 200 More Miles
Lucy Worseley: Women Who Kill (P)
John Coltrane: Settin’ The Pace


Read
Andrew Waterman: Collected Poems
Andrew Jackson: The Assassination Room
Maggie Smith: Goldenrod
Finished Creatures 7


Watched
Masterchef
Ted Lasso
Barry
Fear The Walking Dead
Succession



Ordered/Bought
Emily Hasler: Local Interest
Jodie Hollander: Nocturne


Arrived
Under The Radar: Food Issue



 

Oh Captain, my Captain Barnacles…

No, you were too hungover to think about posting last week.

We’ll glide on past that particular moment in time, and just get straight to the poem for the week. I started reading this book about a week ago, and many poems grabbed me (big shout out to Electric Blue, And Leave To Dry and &), but this one stood out more for some reason. Interestingly, there’s a water-based motif to the three mentioned above and this poem. It could be the ecological message it conveys, it could be the arresting image of the first stanza, it could be the slightly hopeful note it ends on (and I want to think it’s hopeful), it could be that it made me think of ‘Wilson’ in the Tom Hanks film, Castaway.

Wilson, the true star of Castaway

Most likely, it could just be that it works as a whole. Either way, I’m grateful to John McCullough for his permission to share this poem. And I’m especially grateful for the line ‘It was like stroking knowledge / the accumulations of a head that had sailed / inside itself for years..’.

Old Ocean’s Bauble

They scooped it from the Channel:
an NBA basketball with a thick beard
of goose barnacles, long and smooth.

To gaze at it was to reach and caress it
underneath, fingers wakening the rich clatter
of shells. It was like stroking knowledge,

the accumulations of a head that had sailed
inside itself for years, saying nothing, veering
anywhere, spiralled by eddies and gyres.

They knew there was no alternative
but to put it back, let it take up again
a looping voyage with no destination.

They understood that others could need
this prophecy, might stare into its eyeless,
mouthless face, construe the terrible warning.


+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

Taken from Panic Response, Penned In The Margins Press, 2022. Published with the author’s permission.
Apologies to John..I’m still working out how to do the indentations on each second line, so here is the poem as an image.

John has been a fairly relentless source of inspiration and motivation for folks in the poetry world, and as far as I can tell always has time to stop and chat to provide advice to aspiring poets. His Twitter feed is a constant source of wonderful poems, so get on that forthwith…I’ve not read his first collection, Frost Fairs, yet—to be resolved ASAP, but the two collections that preceded Panic Response were both excellent. Do yourself a favour and order them, and then listen to this Planet Poetry interview. The actual order of consumption doesn’t matter as long as you do both.


One of the downsides to last week’s hangover was that I didn’t get to say thank you to Robin Houghton (of Robin Houghton and/or Planet Poetry fame) for her call back to my last post about writing workshops. I was very happy to see Robin refer to this as “a writer’s blog”. I get very uncomfortable about saying I’m a writer, but just as I’m learning to stand up straight and tall to help with my knee injury, I’m learning to stand up straight and call myself a writer/poet. Robin’s words came at the right time and were/are still a welcome boost.

I think the standing tall and accepting of what I/we do as writing has been on my mind forever, but it was catalysed while listening to the audiobook of You Could Make This Place Beautiful by the American poet, Maggie Smith. The book has loosely been called a ‘Divorce Memoir’, and it is, but to me it’s also a meditation about roles, ownership and permissions. As you will no doubt be aware, Smith gained some prominence in early 2020 with her poem, Good Bones. How many poets get their work read out in dramas (this was read in an episode of Madam President?) And whatever you may think of the poem (I like it), it’s another landmark achievement for poetry.

However, the blessings also became a curse. As Smith was growing in popularity, and in demand, it had a severe impact on her marriage. Her husband began resenting her travels and for not being around to perform the unpaid labour of parenting. He is unnamed in the book, and doesn’t come across well at all (and Smith doesn’t spare herself either), but the book raises question and revived guilts I find myself feeling when I take time away from my family to write.

I’m certainly not comparing my situation to that of Smith, but should I be more involved, do more…there are always chores to be done, etc…Sometimes the dishes can just fucking wait!!! Sometimes the dishes are a way to out off the hard work of writing, and it is hard work. I will, however, urge you to read YCMTPB. And to sign up to her newsletter? I’m working my way though Goldenrod at present and finding lots to love.

Things worth reading:

Chris Edgoose’s post about the discussion between Gboyega Odubanjo and Don Paterson in the latest Poetry Review (Wayne Holloway-Smith’s first issue as editor). I’ve not read the article yet, my order is in to Poetry Review. Note to self, time to renew your Poetry Soc membership. Further note to self…do you really need to renew your Poetry Soc membership?

Do I need to renew my Poetry Society Membership? Discuss!!

Matthew Stewart’s lovely post praising and marking the end of Sphinx Reviews. As a reviewer for Sphinx, I feel remiss for not having done something similar. Sphinx and Nell got me on the path to reviewing and has introduced me to so many poets as a reader (and as a reviewer). Sphinx will be missed.

Sadly, we’ve also had to say farewell to Raceme magazine this month. It’s always sad to say goodbye to a journal, but on a personal note I am sad as it’s not been long since I became aware of them…And they were kind enough to take three of my poems a few issues (issue 11) ago.

You’ll have read Bad Lilies’ latest issue, yeah. And know that their subs window is open.


Oh yeah, and miracles of miracles…I wrote a draft of a poem yesterday. Careful, don’t make a noise, you’ll spook it.

Finally, and just because someone mentioned the phrase “maybe tomorrow” just now, I am reminded of this Nick Motown gag. (

Please note I am not remembering it correctly, but it goes something like…

I went into my local Video Hire shop and asked when the boxset of The Littlest Hobo would be in. The person behind the counter said, ‘Maybe tomorrow’. Nice.


A Song that is in some vague way linked to something

Laura Stevenson, Barnacles

THE LAST (TWO) WEEK(S) IN STATS

HEALTH STATS
20ishK running. My knee is improving now I’ve started trying to stretch my hamstrings. This week has seen 3 actual runs and almost no pain This is encouraging. I am very out of breath. This is not so much.
0 day without cigarettes…This is encouraging
0 days since drinking. **Pours another gin**

LIFE STATS
1 funeral
2 massive hangovers
1 blood donation
1 birthday (me)
1 fry up


POET STATS
0 loose ideas/articles gathered (this allows me to kid myself I am writing all the time)
x poems finished: Several for the book
1 poems worked on: TBC
1 submissions:
0 withdrawal:
0 acceptances:
0 Longlisting:
0 readings:
0 rejections:
11 poems are currently out for submission. No simultaneous subs
83 Published poems


0 review finished:
0 reviews started:
0 review submitted:
23 review to write:


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

* To date, not this week. Christ!!

READ/SEEN/HEARD/ETC

Music r= Radio, A = Audiobook, P=Podcast. The rest is music
Monday
Worriers: Warm Blanket
Ultramarine: Every Man And Woman Is A Star
Buzzcocks: Trade Test Transmissions
Emahoy Tsege Mariam Gebru: Jerusalem
Maggie Smith: You Could Make This Place Beautiful (A)
Tuesday
Maggie Smith: You Could Make This Place Beautiful (A)
Planet Poetry: Liz Berry (P)
The Verb: Something New (P)
Do Make Say Think: You You’re A History In Rust
Rachel’s: Selenography
Wednesday
Julian Cope: Twenty Mothers, You Gotta Problem With Me, Interpreter
The Hold Steady: Live In LA 9/9/22
Dropsonde Playlist
Friday
The Archers
Craig Finn : Bill Hader
Saturday
Wayne Shorter: Night Dreamer
MondayWayne Shorter: The All Seeing Eye
Lael Neale: Star Eaters Delight
Fruit Bats: A River Running Through Your Heart
William Tyler & the Impossible Truth: Secret Stratosphere
Tues
Laura Veirs: Year of Meteors
The Archers
Explosions In The Sky: All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone, Big Bend, Those Who tell the Truth…, Take Care x 3, Friday Night Lights Soundtrack
Thursday
Dropsonde Playlist
Friday
The National: The Last Two Pages of Frankenstein
Pearl Jam: Deep Touring Band 2023
Saturday
Mighty Baby; ST
A Certain Ratio: 1982
Nabihah Iqbal: Dreamer
The Stairs: Mexican Rn’B
Sunday
McCoy Tyner: Same Layuca
Pearl Jam: Give Way
Margaret Glassy: Devotion
The Mountain Goats: Getting Into Knives


Read
John McCullough: Panic Response
Poetry Scotland 103
Raceme 14
Maggie Smith: Goldenrod


Watched
Interior Design Masters
Masterchef
Ted Lasso
The Diplomat
Fear The Walking Dead



Ordered/Bought
Art supplies for Flo
Under The Radar: Food
Poetry Review


Arrived
Art supplies for Flo
Poetry Scotland
Raceme
Birthday cards and gifts
Luke Samuel Yates: Dynamo



 

Cigarettes and linkahol


I’m assuming that most of you don’t read Strat Scraps. I didn’t either until recently, but I started following it for work reasons. I don’t always keep up with it…but reading it this week I came across the image below and the quotation beneath that

“Workshops are a waste of time. Trojan horses of mediocrity to quote Adliterate. These are a way for people with bad ideas and little imagination to get really, really smelly ideas into the mix. Only workshop when you have no choice. And if you must have one, employ dirty tricks to get what you need out of it (see Rule 11) 11. Use workshops as major tool for dirty planning. If you have the kind of client, or stakeholder group who never approve anything unless it’s their idea, it’s time for a workshop. Just make sure you know what the answer is and structure the day and your moderation on helping folks think for themselves.”

I can argue both sides of this debate. What I actually believe is a mystery.

With regards to the Mackay list, I wonder if I should be using this as a mantra for writing poems. Given I’m not writing any at present perhaps it doesn’t matter.

I’m not 100% sure who to attribute the paragraphs about workshops too, and they aren’t intended here to be discussing writing workshops, but the last two sentences largely chime with my thinking on them. I say all this for no reason other than I don’t have much else to say this week.

Strat Scraps is something of a compendium of links and provocations. I think I’ll do something similar.

I tried to sit and write last weekend.I tried free-writing. There may have been a kernel of a sliver of an inkling of a sniff of an idea in there, but it’s unlikely.

I’m consoling myself with the not writing by reading this sentence I saw in Jeremy Noel-Tod’s newsletter, Some Flowers Soon.

“I think good real living is more important than spreading yourself on paper”.

That article on the newsletter was about the writer, Lynette Roberts. A new name to me, but one I will follow up on. Once I’m done with the good real living, or at least once I’ve worked out what that is.

Finally, some articles that may help trigger some writing ideas for you.
1. Have we finally worked out how to talk to whales?
2. The man who ate an aeroplane
3. The above came from this list of weird stories found on wikipedia
4. Google Street View, but for the moon


Oh yeah, and I haven’t gained permission for any poems this week, but I did mention BH Fairchild’s poem Cigarettes last week. I had a couple of glasses of red wine last night and would cheerfully have chewed down a couple of Lucky Strikes with it if I could, so Fairchild’s poem springs to mind again. I won’t share it here, but someone else did on a blog post ages ago here. His publishers can sue this person instead of me, but I will quote the section below because my friend has just called me and reminded me about Miles Davis’ Water Babies album. My friend is John’s son (see recent posts for details). John loved jazz, and I bought him Water Babies a few years ago. I’d never actually got round to listening to it myself, but I’m playing it as I type. It’s amazing.

I’m looking at the small black scallops above the keyboard,
a little history of smoke and jazz, improvisation as
a kind of forgetting. The music of cigarettes:
dawn stirs and lifts and smoke in dove-gray striations
that hang, then break, scatter, and regroup along
the sill where paperbacks warp in sunlight and the cat
claws housespiders. Cigarettes are the only way
to make bleakness nutritional, or at least useful,
something to do while feeling terrified.

It was Rob Selby that introduced me to Fairchild’s work, and I thank him for it. I’ve only read the one collection so far, The Art of the Lathe. It’s plays right into a world I like reading about, a world where there’s an interchange between manual work and art. It’s a world I’ve tried to visit to a degree in my forthcoming pamphlet…Oh, typing that never gets old.

I had the honour of asking two people I respect to write blurbs for it this week. They turned me down, so I’ve had to go with two mugs that said they’ll sign whatever I write.

Until next time…

A Song that is in some vague way linked to something

Greg Dulli, Cigarettes

THE LAST WEEK IN STATS

HEALTH STATS
15ishK running. My knee is improving now I’ve started trying to stretch my hamstrings. This week has seen 3 actual runs and almost no pain This is encouraging. I am very out of breath. This is not so much.
3 day without cigarettes…This is encouraging
0 days since drinking. **Pours another gin**

LIFE STATS
1 visit from my mum
1 late night after running club
1 not great curry




POET STATS
0 loose ideas/articles gathered (this allows me to kid myself I am writing all the time)
x poems finished: Several for the book
x poems worked on: Lots for the pamphlet, 1 new draft
1 submissions: Northern Gravy
0 withdrawal:
0 acceptances:
0 Longlisting:
0 readings:
0 rejections:
11 poems are currently out for submission. No simultaneous subs
83 Published poems


0 review finished:
0 reviews started:
0 review submitted:
2 review to write:


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

* To date, not this week. Christ!!

READ/SEEN/HEARD/ETC

Music r= Radio, A = Audiobook, P=Podcast. The rest is music
Sunday
Radio 5 Live: Liverpool V Arsenal (R)
Laura Stevenson: The Big Freeze
Tuesday
Jim O’Rourke: Eureka, Simple Songs
Magnolia Electric Co: Sojourner
Songs:Ohia: Ghost Tropic, Impala
Slint: Spiderland
Six Organs of Admittance: Burning The Threshold, Compathia, Companion Blues
Singing Adams: Everybody Friends Now
Maggie Smith: You Could Make This Place Beautiful (A)
Wednesday
Maggie Smith: You Could Make This Place Beautiful (A)
Daisy Rickman: Donsya a’n Loryow
The Hold Steady: The Price of Progress
Sea Power: Everything Is Forever, Do You Like Rock Music?
Thousand Yard Stare: Hands On
Thursday
Singing Adams: Everybody Friends Now
Charlie Mingus: Ah Um, Pithecanthropus Erectus
Thousand Yard Stare: Hands On
Gomez: A New Tide, Out West
Friday
GoGo Penguin: Everything Is Going To Be Ok, Man Made Object, Ocean In A Drop
Fenne Lily: Breach, On Hold
Ultramarine: Folk
James Holden: Imagine This is a High Dimensional Space of All Possibilities
Saturday
Maggie Smith: You Could Make This Place Beautiful (A)
Sunday
Maggie Smith: You Could Make This Place Beautiful (A)
Miles Davis: Water Babies



Read
Poetry London
Derek Mahon: New Selected Poems


Watched
Interior Design With Alan Carr
The Mandalorian
Masterchef
Fear The Walking Dead
Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?
Shrinking

Ordered/Bought

Maggie Smith; Goldenrod
Maggie Smith: You Could Make This Place Beautiful Audiobook


Arrived
Maggie Smith: Goldenrod
Maggie Smith: You Could Make This Place Beautiful Audiobook
Rishi Dastidar: Neptune’s Projects
Ben Verinder: We Lost The Birds

 

Hyblurbole and getting an (anth)ology


How have you been? Oh yeah, Happy Easter if that’s your thing.

Can I point you to this poem that was published recently. I was pleased to have this one out there. I saw a post recently asking about the use of the I and “truth” in poems. I am a subscriber to the “just enough truth to get going” school, sometimes, and this poem falls into that category. The playing football in a plaster cast part is all true. Sadly, so is the breaking the toe part. I was young and stupid. I am not young anymore. Thank you, Ben and the folks at Black Nore (NB those folks are also Ben).

I must also say thanks to Marina and Jack of Resonance Poetry for including two of my poems in the resonance Anthology. It was launched a couple of weeks ago and fun was had by all that attended.

Jack introducing the evening

Click above or here to see Jack’s intro to the night and to get hold of a copy

I enjoyed all the readings, and if I can work out how to I’ll post the video of me reading next week.

The Resonance Anthology

After the reading, my friend and I retired to a pub in New Cross and he took what I think is going to be my new author photo. I rarely like pictures of me, but I’ll take this one

Mat Riches. White beard, green background. Spotty shirt. Tired looking
Some idiot, Photo By Mike Howells


Well, it’s looking increasingly like Taylor Swift won’t be getting back to me in a hurry. I know she’s on tour at present, and I guess there’s the whole not-having-a fucking-clue-who-I-am thing to contend with as well, but I’m sure it’s mainly because she’s busy with the three hour shows.

I should say that I say all of this because I recently asked Tay-Tay (via Twitter) if she’d be up for endorsing my book. I’m at that stage now where I need to be thinking about that. Despite the actual writing of it taking years, and the editing taking a long time to knock it into shape it genuinely feels like the hardest part is working out a) what to say about it (what’s it about, etc—and I can’t say 25 pages or £7*) and b) who to ask to say something about it.

The answer to a has already been sorted by someone else, so I’m grateful for that, but b is a perplexing one. I have a short list and a shortlist of folks to ask, so watch your inboxes, folks, but I was hoping I’d be able to go with my list of jokey ones. e.g.

Can I have my tenner now?
Florence Riches

It’s full of holes. We love it. 
Swiss Cheese Magazine 

Buy three. Two will level any table, and have one on your coffee table.
Practical Interior Design 

We wish he’d write fewer often
Pedant’s Monthly


However, I don’t think I can do that—as much as I’d like to. I have to overcome my natural inclination to take the piss out of any serious situation and actually treat this with some level of due consideration and importance. I might not get another chance at this, so take it seriously, Riches, and stop being embarrassed to ask people. Who am I writing this post for???

I’m not 100% sure a blurb will sell the book—eg it’s not the thing that gets someone over the line, but as with all last click attribution models, that thinking ignores the contribution of other things in the sales funnel, so I’m going to work on the grounds that a well-written and intentioned blurb is not just what I am calling Hyblurbole (has that been coined before? Probably), but it should be something that helps get onto people’s radars (along with all the other stuff I need to do to sell the book).

You know what I mean by hyblurbole…it’s the sort of film flam written on the back of books that says stuff like this absolutely destroyed me or one of the greatest books of all time or OMG, like who is this not written for?

So, I need to find someone that can write and has a name that carries some weight. One without the other is ok, but is also under-serving the ethos of a good blurb And just to make it a little more complicated, it’s got to be someone I respect.

Right, to the Bat-Rolodex.

* both because I don’t know how many pages or how much it will be, and because it’s a lame joke, and far be it from me to make lame jokes..oh no!!

And so, a poem for the week. I was contemplating BH Fairchild’s ‘Cigarettes’. and I may well come back to that another time, but the week I’m going with this poem from Derek Mahon. I’ve been reading Mahon’s New Selected poems this week, and marvelling at lots of his use of rhyme, form and structure, but I’ve chosen this poem largely because I’ve had a few conversions of late about the idea of moving out of London and back to Norfolk..It’s not happening for a while, if at all, but it’s a nice thought, and it was all amplified after a long weekend up in Scarborough with the in-laws and a trip to the beach…the peace and quiet was lovely. The poem stuck me as timely when I read it midweek. I also happened to have a quick chat with a chap outside my local on Thruway and he was from Cork…

A Quiet Spot

We tire of cities in the end:
the whirr and blur of it, so long your friend,
grows repetitious and you start to choke
on signage, carbon monoxide, the hard look.
You always knew it would come down
to a dozy seaside town —

not really in the country, no,
but within reach of the countryside,
somewhere alive to season, wind and tide,
far field and wind farm. ‘Wrong life,’ said Adorno,
‘can’t be lived rightly.’

The right place is a quiet spot like this
where an expanding river spills,
still trout-rich, from the dewy hills
of Cork, still fertile in a morning mist.
So, do you pause to congratulate yourself
out here at the continental shelf,
far from the hysteria,

on the perfect work-life balancing act
you’ve found after so many a fugitive year
of travel? If so, let the pause be brief.
Gaia demands your love, the patient earth
your airy sneakers tread expects humility and care.

It’s time now to go back at last
beyond irony and slick depreciation,
past hedge and fencing to a clearer vision,
time to create a future from the past,
tune out the babbling radio waves
and listen to the leaves.


++ Taken from New Selected Poems, Faber & Faber, 2016

Obviously, I can’t ask Derek Mahon for permission, and I should ask Faber & Faber, but I’m going with the fact the poem was broadcast on Sky as part of a series called Voices of Ireland as enough to have the poem out there.

Here’s Stephen Rea reading it in the show

I think I made a mistake buying the New Selected, and should have found a Collected, but there doesn’t seem to be a complete one but there. There’s this from Gallery Press, but he was an inveterate reworking of his poems, so it’s hard to feel like it would be hard to get the measure of them there, but perhaps we should respect we/I should respect the idea that “The Poems (1961-2020) comprises, in their final form, all the poems Derek Mahon wished to preserve.” Perhaps that’s a whole new post/thing to explore.

Finally, while I am still mulling the BH Fairchild poem over, I’ll offer you this alternative from a couple of weeks ago.
It’s a “found poem” (I usually hate the idea of found poems- largely because I’ve rarely managed to find one. I wonder if they’re like Pokemon and if you’ve got to catch ’em all) “by” Joe Moran, collated from the headlines of Adrian Chiles articles. (Never a sentence I expected to type).

Sod it, I also enjoyed this poem by Carl Dennis in the latest TLS this week. Annoyingly, I’ve just seen Dennis has a large back catalogue..FFS!!!

A Song that is in some vague way linked to something

Taylor Swift, Stay Stay, Stay
Laura Stevenson, The Healthy One

I heard this song for the first time in the last couple of weeks after listening to her being interviewed by Craig Finn. I love the song, but it does bear a bit of resemblance to Taylors, IMHO…

Pearl Jam, Blood. This very much my go to karaoke song

THE LAST (TWO) WEEK(S) IN STATS

HEALTH STATS
15ishK running. My knee is improving now I’ve started trying to stretch my hamstrings. This week has seen 3 actual runs and almost no pain This is encouraging. I am very out of breath. This is not so much.
3 day without cigarettes…This is encouraging
0 days since drinking. **Pours another gin**

LIFE STATS
1 trip to Scarborough
1 reading as part of the Resonance Anthology launch
1 night at friends with curry and booze



POET STATS
0 loose ideas/articles gathered (this allows me to kid myself I am writing all the time)
x poems finished: Several for the book
x poems worked on: Lots for the pamphlet, 1 new draft
2 submissions: Agenda, Magma
0 withdrawal:
0 acceptances:
0 Longlisting:
0 readings:
1 rejections: Butcher’s Dog
11 poems are currently out for submission. No simultaneous subs
83 Published poems


0 review finished:
0 reviews started:
0 review submitted:
2 review to write:


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

* To date, not this week. Christ!!

READ/SEEN/HEARD/ETC

Music
Monday
Bob Dylan: Bringing It All Back Home
The Durutti Column: Tempus Fugit, Time Was Gigantic….When We Were Kids, Vini Reilly, Without Mercy
The Archers
Craig Finn That’s How I Remember It: Kevin Morby
Tuesday
The Poet Laureate Has Gone To His Shed: Julie Hesmonhalgh
The Verb: Spring
Jeff Russo: For All Mankind OST S1, S2
Kevin Morby: This Is A Photograph, City Music
Weds
The ArchersSpoon: Gimme Fiction
Jeff Russo: For All Mankind OST S2
Craig Finn That’s How I Remember It: Laura Stevenson
Laura Stevenson: Wheel
Thurs
Laura Stevenson: ST, The Big Freeze, Sit Resist, Wheel, Cocksure
Spoon: Kill The Moonlight
FRI
The Hold Steady: The Price of Progress
boygenius: the record
Spoon: Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
A Certain Ratio: 1982
The Sundays: Blind
The New Pornographers: Continue As A Guest
Dinosaur Jr: Give A Glimpse of What Yer not
Sat
Spoon: Hot Thoughts
Cassandra Jenkins:  A Phenomenal Overview of Nature
Sun
boygenius: The album
Laura Stevenson: the Wheel
Spoon: Lucifer On the Sofa
The Reds, Pinks & Purples: The Town That Cursed Your Name
Keith Jarrett: Kiln Concert
Weds
The Innocence Mission: Glow
Plains: I Walked with you A While
The Clientele: bonfires On the Heath
Beth Orton: Weather Alive
Death Cab For Cutie: Asphalt meadows
Talies: patina
Laura Stevenson: ST
Laura Veirs: Found light
Thurs
The Sundays: SummertimeMark Eitzel: West
My Morning Jacket: Circuitial
Suede: Autofiction
Fri: The Archers
Sat
Various weirdness at a friend’s house
Sunday
The Sundays: Blind
Jim O’Rourke: Bad Timing
Keith Jarrett:Staircases
Laura Stevenson: Live At Audiotree


Read
Gail McConnell: The Sun Is Open
Ciaran Carson: Opera Et Cetera
Derek Mahon: New Selected Poems


Watched
Interior Design With Alan Carr
The Mandalorian
For All Mankind
Commando
Grace

Ordered/Bought
A new remote for the TV
Zaffar Kunial – England’s Green
Cal Flynn – Islands of Abandonment
Rebecca Goss – Girl
TS Eliot The Poems of TS Eliot
Selected Poetry of John Clare
A New Harddrive
A heat gun
A Hat
Geoff Hattersley: Back of Beyond 


Arrived
TS Eliot:The Poems of TS Eliot Vol1
John Clare: Selected Poems
Cal Flynn: Islands of Abandonment
Zaffar Kunial: England’s Green
Rebecca Goss: Girl
Poetry London
A New Harddrive
A heat gun
A Hat
Geoff Hattersley: Back of Beyond 

Altering the colour of words

Unusually for me, I had loads of stuff lined up to write about last week. While I didn’t have a poem lined up, I had plans to talk about Robin Houghton’s post about How to be successful enough. It has memory in, charts, a sense of acceptance and places to aim for. In many ways it is the perfect poetry post. I may well come back to it.

I had plans to discuss the debate I’d seen on Twitter about publishing online. I can’t find it now, but the gist was that the poetry world needs to move on a bit. The question was whether publishing a poem on eg the socials would discount it from being published in a magazine (print or online). It also covered, if I recall correctly, the publishing of images of poems from mags and/or books. I’ve sort of covered that before.

On the former part, I can see the argument on both sides, but still land on the side of not putting poems out there on socials. Once they are then there is less incentive to go and find it in a magazine (print or online). I am always slightly aghast when I see poets publishing photos of their work on eg Instagram, etc when a mag has just been published in print. What is the incentive for a friend to then go and buy the mag after that? I assume we want people to do that and to help keep the mag world afloat. I did share a photo of one my recently, but only after the mag/journal themselves had done the same. Perhaps that’s the key..wait till the mag has done it themselves.

Anyhoo, I don’t want to get bogged down in all of that. It’s all feels a bit pointless.

This week, I have the poem line up and no real idea how to write about what I want to write about…so forgive me if this lurches all over the gaff.

I didn’t get to write a post last week (like that matters) as I was knackered after a long weekend in Norfolk. I went back to see my friend John Rance. John is the dad of my two closest friends, but I have always thought of him as a friend too. He’s always treated me the same way- certainly since we’ve all be old enough to buy him a pint…(I jest, mostly). John has been ill since a series of strokes starting back in September last year, and it was made clear to his family a couple of weeks ago that he wasn’t going to recover—despite there having been some positive signs at the start of the year.

I’m glad I went and spoke with John and said my goodbyes, as the message I was dreading came on Tuesday afternoon to say that John had passed away. It had been utterly devastating to to see a man that had been so full of life reduced to the shell he was in the Norfolk and Norwich hospital. John had lived so many lives as a parent to five children, husband to two wives (not at the same time), travelling across Europe as a young man, living in New Zealand while in the army, working as a salesman, a landlord for a working man’s club, a pub, becoming the artist he’d always wanted to be in later life. He was the first to help start an occasion and often the last to leave, the first to say something wise, the first to see the silly side of something, an inveterate creator of myths and legends (apparently West Ham won us the World Cup). His laugh filled a room, his determination to play jazz sometimes cleared it. A friend of mine recently wrote that John introduced him to so much in the way of art, music and film that he could never fully say how grateful he was, and that seems a fair assessment. And also nowhere near enough to describe the man. John’s art hangs in my kitchen. John’s light and shadow (he’d appreciate the art of that, I hope) will hang over my life forever.

If it was devastating to see him reduced in life, then it was a billion times worse to get that call on Tuesday. I was at work at time, and the moment the message landed I gathered my things and set off for home. The world of media research seemed exactly trivial after that.

I stood on the platform in a daze and decided to blot things out with a podcast—music didn’t seem right at the time, and I played the latest Planet Poetry episode. It featured an interview with Robert Hamberger. Robert is a poet I knew of, but hadn’t yet explored his work, so I listened with interest as he talked about his life, his work, his work within form and how it’s less of a straitjacket and more of a way of finding freedom to let the poem say what it wants to say. I nodded along (inwardly, making a loose mental note to finally push the button on buying Robert’s books…and knowing I would, eventually, but probably not straight away). I think he’d read a poem before this, but then he read a poem called ‘Moments’ and I came close to utterly disintegrating on the Circle line to Victoria station.

I tried to recall the lines of it. I emailed my local bookshop to order the book it came from, The Blue Wallpaper and then composed myself. The ordering was easy, the composure less so. The next day I emailed Robert to ask his permission to publish the poem and he said yes almost immediately. Not long after his reply, the bookshop replied to say they couldn’t get the book via the publisher and that I should go direct. I did and I await it’s delivery. However, Robert had very kindly sent me a copy.

Moment

You stroked his arm, quietly said He’s gone.
I knew the air had dimmed because
he no longer breathed in it.
By walking and speaking
he altered the colour of words,
made each room he moved in
a space I wanted to share: now
this secluded ward that held four of us,
until you quietly said He’s gone,
shattered three of us, except of course
it still bore his weight on the sheet
in the centre of the room, as though
his bed had become the world’s axis.

His bed had become the world’s axis
in the centre of the room, as though
it still bore his weight on the sheet,
shattered three of us, except of course
until you quietly said He’s gone.
This secluded ward that held four of us
(a space I wanted to share now)
made each room he moved in.
He altered the colour of words
by walking and speaking.
He no longer breathed in it.
I knew the air had dimmed because
you stroked his arm, quietly said He’s gone.


++ Published with permission by the author. Taken from The Blue Wallpaper, Waterloo Press, 2019++

I wasn’t there when John passed away, but his family were, so this is as much for John as it is for his wife, his sons and his daughters.

Lines like “By walking and speaking / he altered the colour of words, / made each room he moved in / a space I wanted to share:”
all seem as accurate as it is possible to be. As if Robert knew John by name and reputation, but oddly enough I don’t even recall them from the podcast. It was the second and third lines that hit me. I don’t even think I really heard much more of the poem, and I certainly failed to take in the specular form as Robert read it, but I knew inside 3 lines how beautiful this poem was.

I do recall that he mentioned he’d written the poem for his friend Clifford and that he bemoaned the lack of poems about male friendships, and so it certainly rang through my mind a bit later in the journey when I was catching the end of our Poet laureate’s interview with his friend, Glyn Maxwell, in his series, The Poet Laureate Has Gone To His Shed. The interview was full of discussions about moving away from home, what constitutes home, the way the place we grew up can dictate who we are, and then plenty of recollections of times shared as mates.

As is customary at the end of this series, Armitage shared a new poem with Maxwell, and he (Maxwell) is heard to say, “Aw, thanks, man”. That casual use of “Man” was such a throwaway thing, but put me in mind of my own relationship with John’s sons, and other male friends. It was exactly the sort of thing I think Robert was referring to. Exactly the sort of thing I was trying to write about in these two poems (Working Out and The Long Game – both feature two of John’s sons)

I should probably now make some sort of throwaway gesture about football and the like. I won’t (although, I sort of have). Instead, I’ll point you to one of John’s son’s recent works. His adaptation of Measure for Measure.



John Rance with his favourite son, Bertie.

Before I go, a thank you to Matthew Paul for his kind words here and for introducing me to the work of Geoff Hattersley. Damn it, more books to buy. Have you seen how prolific he is…?

And I note that the day before I had acceptance of my poem telling Aliens not to bother coming to earth there was an article suggesting they were coming for 8,000 of us. Clearly this didn’t happen. And they say poetry doesn’t change anything. And that’s before the poem is even published. Christ, the aliens will be giving us Elvis back soon.

A Song that is in some vague way linked to something

Bob Dylan, Boots of Spanish Leather – I think this was one of John’s favourite Dylan songs

THE LAST (TWO) WEEK(S) IN STATS

HEALTH STATS
15ishK running. My knee is improving now I’ve started trying to stretch my hamstrings. This week has seen 3 actual runs and almost no pain This is encouraging. I am very out of breath. This is not so much.
5 day without cigarettes…This is encouraging
0 days since drinking. **Pours another gin**

LIFE STATS
1 sleepless night
1 lost friend
2 nights of drinking
1 holiday booked
1 drive to Norfolk and back
1 sourdough loaf made (by Rach)
1 book finished, I think
1 sunday roast
1 mate’s birthday


POET STATS
0 loose ideas/articles gathered (this allows me to kid myself I am writing all the time)
x poems finished: Several for the book
x poems worked on: Lots for the pamphlet, 1 new draft
0 submissions:
0 withdrawal:
2 acceptances: Black Nore, New Welsh Review
0 Longlisting:
0 readings:
1 rejections: The Stinging Fly
11 poems are currently out for submission. No simultaneous subs
83 Published poems


0 review finished:
0 reviews started:
0 review submitted:
1 review to write:


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

* To date, not this week. Christ!!

READ/SEEN/HEARD/ETC

Music

Monday
Death Cab For Cutie: Asphalt Meadows (Acoustic)
Dinosaur Jr: Green Mind, Where You Been, Hand It Over
Tuesday
The Archers
The Verb: The Secret Lives of Women
Cinema Under the Stairs: Oscars
The Wonder Stuff: Hup
Unwed Sailor: Truth Or Consequence
Tara Clerking Trio: ST
Tallies: Patina
Weds
Stina Nordenstam: And Then She Closed Her Eyes
VA: Thai Beat A-Go-Go Vol1
Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine: 101 Damnations, Post Historic Monsters
Tom Verlaine: ST
The Wonder Stuff: Hup Live
Thurs
William Bell: Phases of Reality
The Kissaway Trail: Breach
VA: Thai Beat A-Go-Go Vol2
The Meat Purveyors: Someday Soon Things Will be Much Worse
Dropsonde Playlist
Miles Davis: In a Silent Way
The Archers
Various songs while drunk
Saturday
Dropsonde Playlist
The Archers
Sunday
Dropsonde Playlist
Miles Davis: In a Silent Way
Monday
Miles Davis: In a Silent Way
Bar Italia: Bedhead
Miles Davis: Bitches Brew
Stina Nordenstam: Memories of a Colour
Counting Crows: Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings
Tuesday
The Orielles: Disco Volador, La Vita Olistica
The Poet Laureate has Gone To His Shed: Olivia Senior, Glyn Maxwell
The Archers
Planet Poetry: Robert Hamberger
Miles Davis: Kind of Blue
Weds
Charlie Mingus: Tonight At Noon, Presents Charles Mingus, In Your Soul
John Coltrane: Giant Steps, Stellar Regions, Sun Ship, Traneing & Dakar, Transcendence
Thurs
John Cale: Guts
Taylor Swift: Folklore, Evermore
Deacon Blue: The Hipsters
Sharon Van Etten: Tramp
Arrooj Aftab: Love In Exile
Fri
The Reds, Pinks & Purples: The Town That Cursed Your Name
A House: I Am The Greatest
Hot Snakes: Jericho Sirens
Horse Feathers: Appreciation, House With no Name
Heron Oblivion: ST
Heather Nova: Siren
Sat
Heather Nova: South
Dropsonde Playlist
Sun
Bill Janovitz: Lonesome Billy, Up Here, Walt Whitman Mall
Bill Janovitz & Crown Victoria: Fireworks On TV
Bob Dylan: Desire



Read
Suzanna Fitzpatrick: Fledglings
BH Fairchild: The Art of the Lathe
William Gilson: Spider Time
Poetry Salzburg Latest


Watched
Endeavour
Interior Design With Alan Carr
The Mandalorian
For All Mankind
The Thick of It



Ordered/Bought
A new remote for the TV
Zaffar Kunial – England’s Green
Cal Flynn – Islands of Abandonment
Rebecca Goss – Girl
TS Eliot The Poems of TS Eliot
Selected Poetry of John Clare


Arrived
Orbis 203
A New TV remote

Whistles, shovels, calamine lotion and geese

It’s been another one of those there weeks, and I think I’ve managed to pack a lot into this one.

A few weeks ago I was asked by colleague if I’d like to run a creative writing workshop in a school as part of a joint project with Saatchi & Saatchi called Upriser. I immediately said yes, and knew exactly what I wanted to do before I’d found out anymore about it. I eventually got round to asking where it was, and when they needed me, but that was all sort of irrelevant.

My plan was to get the kids (years 8 and 9) writing their own poems and get them being creative. I think there had been lots of sessions where people went in to talk about business and TV, and I knew if I started talking about market research I’d lose them (Heck, I’m losing myself just typing it here), so poems it was. I asked the teachers what they’d been studying—the kids, not the teachers, and then took some of that it to get the kids writing their own golden shovels*. I read the kids the Gwendolyn Brooks poem, We Real Cool** and the first stanza of Terrance Hayes’ own poem.

(You can hear Brooks reading her own poem, and getting slightly miffed her other work doesn’t get discussed as much, in the clip below. I can’t find one of Terrance Hayes reading his poem, but there’s plenty out there of him reading from his last book, the excellent ‘ American Sonnets for my Past and Future Assassin, including this one.)

Gwendolyn Brooks reads We Real Cool

Once we’d gone through those two poems, I gave the kids the choice of using a line from the Hayes poem, or from some others I’d supplied ( Nettles by Vernon Scannell, My City by George The Poet, I Wanna Be Yours by John Cooper Clarke and Walking Away by Cecil Day Lewis.) and then set them off writing. I think it all went fairly well. Note to self, put up a visual reference to what I want them to do…that would have made things a bit clearer up front, but we got them working with it quickly. Some kids we suggested using the words from their chosen line as the first words instead of the last on their lines to get them going.

There was one lad who was struggling to get going, but when I asked him what he liked doing outside of school he very quickly got a draft out about playing Zombie computer games using a line from the Scannell poem. Amazing stuff.

I’ve never been asked anything like this before and I know I won’t be giving up the day job to run these sessions, but I came out of there buzzing (and that was no mean feat as I’d been riddled with a cold in the run up to it). I was even asked for my autograph by a few of the kids, but I don’t think anyone that makes a career out of teaching creative writing (and I am perhaps overplaying the work I did) needs to worry. I didn’t get paid (as I was doing it on ITV Time). I wonder if I’ve done folks that do teach a disservice by doing it, but there was another poet there called Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan and I know she was getting paid.

It was also the first time I’ve been in a school classroom for many years (other than parent’s evenings). The teachers are definitely looking younger these days…or am I just older? Or both?

I didn’t know the Scannell poem before, but it gave me a flashback to a time as a kid when I fell in a bed of nettles by the river in Potter Heigham. I think we were on our way to I was a bit older than the three-year old protagonist in the poem, but I recall the stab of those “green spears” well. I think I may have gone back to flatten the bed as well after mum had coated me in calamine lotion. Weirdly, I’d been listening to The Verb the day before, and I’m sure there was a reference to calamine lotion in there too…or was it in the A Mouthful of Air ep with Simon Barraclough? Either way, Spooky!!! You go for years without a reference to calamine lotion and then 2 come along at once.

And as you know, I love a coincidence. And thankfully the week kept on giving with the coincidences. One of the other things I listened to on the way to the school was an ep called Mirage by a lady called Molly Lewis. I’d heard about her on Twitter and was intrigued to hear what a professional whistler sounded like. I like the music well enough, it all sounds a bit too lounge of an offbeat hotel to my ears, but it’s still pretty cool


Anyhoo, I’d forgotten all about it until Wednesday evening when I sat down to read a book. I’ve had a week or two off the poetry (mostly) while I read a couple of novels that have been sat by my bed, Villager by Tom Cox (Tom is an ace person to follow on Twitter and his newsletters are also very interesting) and The Perfect Golden Circle by Ben Myers. What I didn’t know when I started them is that they would have so much in common.

Both are set in the south west of England, both deal with traumas of various kinds, male friendships, ecological themes, mysticism and music…But after those I wanted to read some poetry, so I reached for the copy of Baldwin’s Catholic Geese by Keith Hutson that had risen to the top of the TBR pile. I’d read Keith’s Poetry Salzburg pamphlet, Routines before, and heard him read some of the BCG (incidentally, the initials of a firm that came in to audit and advise ITV on strategy a few years ago, and a more pointless and useless gang of wankers you would never hope to meet) on various radio shows, etc.

Imagine, then, my surprise to find a poem in there called The World’s Greatest Whistler.

Spooky, right? I couldn’t find any contact details for Keith online, and he doesn’t seem to have tweeted for a while (and why would you?) but after a shout out for contact details (thanks to Matthew Stewart, Ben Banyard and Elizabeth Sennett-Clough for the email address) I got in touch with Keith. He has given me permission to share this poem.

The World’s Greatest Whistler
i.m. Ronnie Ronalde 1923-2015

Listen, this man sent shivers down
Sinatra’s spine. Marilyn Monroe
spoke of a state of grace.
But let’s go back

to when a boy in Islington blew
Tales from the Vienna Woods
for food, and borrowed birdsong
to return it spotless.

Then the teenager who made
a shilling every triple trill,
enough to fly Stateside where stadia
turned into temples to The Suited Flute.

Rock ‘n’ Roll drowned Ronnie out,
but whistles as pristine as his
don’t disappear. They slip
between the living and the lost;

pipe up again so someone may think
tinnitus at first,
then shut their eyes, untroubled,
in a meadow never mown.



+ Published with permission by the author. Taken from Baldwin’s Catholic Geese, Bloodaxe, 2019

There was another poem I wanted to use called The Fish Fryer because it reminded me of a poem I wrote ages ago called The Knife Thrower’s Assistant, but I couldn’t ignore the whistling coincidence. (#GSA). However, there is a connection to my poem. The venerable and wonderful journal that is Snakeskin by George Simmers sent a newsletter out earlier today to say that George had fixed an issue with the content on their site.

They had lost a lot of the links to old issues when they switched online suppliers, but after much effort George has got most of them all working again. Snakeskin was the first place to take a poem by me in 2013, and it was Knife Thrower, so I was sad that it wasn’t online anymore. I’d definitely do things differently with the poem now (and who knows, maybe I will actually do something about it), but I like the idea. I’m also pleased to see it back online and I have, of course, now taken a copy as a PDF for my records.

And while on the subject of revising old work, Keith’s whistling poem has made me want to go back to one of my own called Dixie…I wrote it for Rachael who cannot whistle. The poem makes reference to a Silbo Gomero, a whistled language from the island of La Gomera. We had a holiday pre-Florence on La Gomera, so I have a fondness for the poem. I’ve not looked at it since 2017, but I think I’m going to have to go back to it and polish it up.


**I know you know that I know you know about Golden Shovels, so I won’t explain, but if you don’t know about them then have a read here

Have a bonus photo of my cat, Margo….



A Song that is in some vague way linked to something

The National, The Geese of Beverley Road

THE LAST WEEK IN STATS

HEALTH STATS
4K running. My knee is improving now I’ve started trying to stretch my hamstrings. I ran/walked yesterday and while I know my knee is there, it’s not sore like it has been before. Hopefully this is the start of the recovery
2 day without cigarettes…really, really need to knuckle down here to help with the above
0 days since drinking.

LIFE STATS

2 creative writing classes
1 cold
1 Rock n’ Roll bingo night on Friday
1 gig attended – My annual trip to see The Hold Steady. They were excellent.
1 sourdough loaf made (by Rach)


POET STATS
0 loose ideas/articles gathered (this allows me to kid myself I am writing all the time)
0 poems finished:
1 poems worked on: 1 poem for the pamphlet
0 submissions:
0 withdrawal:
0 acceptances:
0 Longlisting:
0 readings:
0 rejections:
17 poems are currently out for submission. No simultaneous subs
83 Published poems


0 review finished:
0 reviews started:
0 review submitted:
1 review to write:


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

* To date, not this week. Christ!!

READ/SEEN/HEARD/ETC

Music

Sunday
Unblown Balloon: Mylar
De La Soul: Three Feet High & Rising
Movietone: The Blossom Filled Streets
Monday
The Orielles: Live At The Stoller Hall
dEUS: Vantage Point
Kelly lee Owens: LP 8.2
Tall Ships: Everything Touching, Impressions, There Is Nothing But Chemistry Here Ep
Tuesday
The Archers
The Verb: Names
A Mouthful of Air: Simon Barraclough
Weds
Molly Lewis- Mirage Ep
The Archers
Echobelly: Everyone’s Got One
Thursday
Lisa O’Neill: Same Cloth Or Not
The Go Team: get up Sequences Part 2
Bettie Serveert: Palomine
A.O. Gerber: Meet Me At the Gloaming
Friday
The Orielles: Live At The Stoller Hall, Silver Dollar Moment, Space Doubt, Tableau
Anna B Savage: in|FLUX
Andrew Wasylyk: Parallel Light
Keith Jarrett: No End
Explosions In The Sky: Live 2019, The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place
Saturday
The Archers
The Hold Steady Live in Chicago 2022
Sunday
REM: Out of Time, Automatic For the People
The National: Alligator



Read
Benjamin Myers: The Perfect Golden Circle
Keith Hutson: Baldwin’s Catholic Geese

Watched
Endeavour
Inspector Morse
Back To Life

Ordered/Bought
Amazon Prime sub so R can watch Picard
Rosalind Easton: Man Overboard


Arrived
Nothing

Toting Up The Velocities

Let’s not hang about this week.

We’ll get the village notices out of the way first.

Friday Poem stuff
I was remiss a few weeks ago and missed out this link to a brief article I wrote a while back abut funny poems. I’ll let you follow the link to find out what I chose and why, but it was an honour to be asked by Hilary. It was also a fucking infield trying to get hod of the permissions. I gave up on my first choice on the grounds that it was an American poet whose selected works were published in the UK in the 90s, but that publisher didn’t have the rights any more. The UK agent for the guy wasn’t sure who to speak to, once I tracked the right agent down, and the poet themselves didn’t respond (and why would they) to a Facebook request.

This week, a review wot I did write was posted up at TFP. It’s my review of Will Eaves‘ ‘Exposed Staircase‘. It was great to see was happy with it too…

This week also saw the arrival of my contributor (and my subscriber copy) of The Frogmore Papers. They’ve taken one of my poems at the **coughs** attempt. I came close to giving up on trying there, but every time I contemplated it I’d get a close but not this time message. It’s testament to the fact that you should take the editor at their world that when they say we liked the work, but it didn’t fit this time they meant it and the emphasis is probably on the this time (as much as the emphasis should also be on they like the work).

I’m especially pleased to have this poem out in the wild; it’s one I intend to have in my pamphlet…and one that’s been accepted in what I think is its final form. Last week saw the long listing of another poem that should make it into the pamphlet, but I had to commit that cardinal sin of asking if they’d let me update the version they had. Thankfully, they said yes, but there’s a chance it may change (slightly) again before the pamphlet is out.

It’s always interesting to think of versions out there. I’m sure I heard it mentioned in a podcast recently (possibly Craig Finn interviewing Maggie Smith) about how interesting it is to read the mag version versus the final version of a poem. I’ve sort of stopped submitting for a while to keep the versions under wraps, and to hopefully have some back that haven’t been published before—although your move to the various mags that still have poems—either longlisted, or unreplied to yet. There are 6 poems out there that this could happen to. I noted earlier as well a poem that has been through 34 versions before it has assumed what I think is the final version.

Finally, thanks to Ben Banyard for the mention here . Go and have a look at the playlist he’s pulled together…There’s a wide of range of jewels be found on there. I’m not on Spotify, but I may have to recreate it in Apple Music for myself. It’s the same with the playlist Maggie Smith pulled together for her book launch…One day I’ll recreate it.


A poem

I’m hope this doesn’t get me in trouble, but having alluded to them above, and because I’ve not managed to secure permission from anyone this week—partially because I’ve read very little this week, and also because I’ve not had time to think about it—I’m going to go with a poem from Stephen Dobyns and his New & Selected Poems, Bloodaxe Books . I think it’s out of print as it’s not listed on the Bloodaxe site now and it was first printed in 1996. The poem I’m choosing isn’t the one I was going to send to TFP, and it’s not even the one I intended to put here when I started this post, but it feels right after. conversation I had earlier with a mate (and having watched On Golden Pond last night.

Apologies for bringing the mood down. And apologies to Stephen Dobyns, but I hope folks go and buy his books.

Toting It Up – Stephen Dobyns

He bought one pair of boots, then another.
They were good boots. He had a four boots life.
He bought twelve cars. He had a twelve car life

He had fifty-three hundred orgasms but hungered
for a few hundred more. He had two wives:
a two wife life, a four kids life, a twelve

grandchildren life. He drank thirty-four thousand
six hundred and sixty-six cups of coffee.
He ate a quarter of a ton of spaghetti.

He had five heart attacks: a five heart attack life.
He was in the hospital ten times. He had
a two cane life, a one pair of crutches life,

a one wheelchair life, a one final illness life,
and all his memories vanished like bubbles
from a glass of champagne. His last suit of clothes

turned to dust and his coffin turned to dust
more slowly. To his grandchildren he was a face,
to their children a name, and to their children

a vacancy, and over his grave a road was built,
and the world rolled down that road. See there
in the distance, that brightly disappearing speck.




Published in Velocities: New & Selected Poems, 1996, Bloodaxe. I will take this down if anyone is unhappy about it


A Song that is in some vague way linked to something

Escape Velocity, The Chemical Brothers

THE LAST WEEK IN STATS

HEALTH STATS
4K running., knee was improving , but seems to have gone backwards after
1 swim
2 day without cigarettes…really, really need to knuckle down here to help with the above
0 days since drinking.

LIFE STATS

1 awards do with work
1 insomniac night
1 small gig attended (Vivianne at The Three Hounds)
1 small drinking injury on the pub door
1 more wrestling match with the plumbing in my kitchen. Think it’s sorted now
1 trip to Battle with Flo for her art homework
1 sourdough loaf made (by Rach)


POET STATS
0 loose ideas/articles gathered (this allows me to kid myself I am writing all the time)
0 poems finished:
1 poems worked on: 1 poem for the pamphlet
0 submissions: Black Nore
0 withdrawal:
0 acceptances:
1 Longlisting: Butcher’s Dog
0 readings:
0 rejections:
13 poems are currently out for submission. No simultaneous subs
83 Published poems


0 review finished:
0 reviews started:
0 review submitted:
1 review to write:


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

* To date, not this week. Christ!!

READ/SEEN/HEARD/ETC

Music

Sunday
Jim O’Rourke: The Visitor
Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton: Choir Of The Mind
Spiritualized: Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space, Laser Guided Melodies
Monday
Poet Laureate Has Gone To His Shed: Pam Ayres
The Archers
Planet Poetry: Mark Fiddes
Dropsonde Playlist
Tuesday
Oxford Professor of Poetry Lecture: The Meandering Fortune Graph
Keith Jarrett: The Kōln Concert
The Hold Steady: Live In Los Angeles 09.09.22
That’s How I Remember It: Amanda Shires
Craig Finn: A Legacy of Rentals
Wednesday
Spiritualized: Let it Come Down, Pure Phase, Songs In A&E
Smashing Pumpkins: Siamese Dream, Oceania, Monuments To An Elegy
Thursday
Ronnie & Clyde: Nettlebed Skyline
Spiritualized: Amazing Grace, And Nothing Hurt
Dropsonde Playlist
The Archers
Friday
Spiritualized: And Noting Hurt
The Church: The Hypnogogue
J Mascis & the Fog: More Light
Chad VanGaalen: Diaper Island
Rozi Plain: Prize
Dropsonde Playlist
Saturday
Florence’ Playlist
Dropsonde Playlist
Sunday
The Beautiful South: Gaze
Divianne; Various singles
The Hold Steady: Live in London March 2020

Read
Tom Cox: Villager
Frogmore Papers #100

Watched
Unforgotten
Saturday Night Takeaway
Endeavour
On Golden Pond

Ordered/Bought
ITVX Premium Sub – Can’t wait for work to sort their shit out and give it to us
2x Boygenius tickets for Flo and I

Arrived
The Frogmore Papers 101. Contributor & Subscriber copies