A martian nicks a Space Pen from the stationery cupboard to write a postcard home

NB: There will be no further references to Craig Raine in this post. Aside from the one I’ve just made.

I’ve been slowly retuning to office life in the last few months, commuting in two days a week to ITV’s offices at either Waterhouse Square or Gray’s Inn Road. Waterhouse Square was the replacement office for our “iconic” office down on the Southbank, The Tower, but much like the way Chelsea subbed the sub in last week’s FA Cup final, we’ve now subbed the replacement. Waterhouse Square has closed (from our POV), having only just got back in there after two years away due to the Covids.

The point, if there is such a thing, to this is that I am now commuting an extra 30 minutes to our new office at White City, and this is giving me more time to catch up on podcasts and the like. I’m hoping it will give me more time for reading, but the journey is such that every time I start to settle into it; I have to change trains, and this doesn’t lend itself to reading.

However, it has meant I can pick up on my podcast listening. (Aside, as my friend Simon said yesterday, “podcasts are just radio you can listen to whenever you want”). Working from home a lot sort of put the moccers on my podcast listening as I can’t concentrate on them and work at the same time, but I’ve started working my way through episodes of The Verb and Robin Houghton/Peter Kenny’s Planet Poetry.

Recent episodes that stand out are The Verb’s episode about pens with Naush Sabah and Gerry Cambridge talking about , among other things, their mutual love of fountain pens. I love a fountain pen, and use one most of the time, even at work, but I am enjoying writing with the Fisher Space Pen* my friend Mike got me for my birthday.

It’s a lovely thing that makes me think of an alien spaceship, and reminds me that I once started a poem about development of the space pen. It was based on the premise of the millions of dollars invested in the Space Pen and it’s ability to work in space, but that the Russians solved the issue by taking a pencil. A great apocryphal tale, that sadly, isn’t true. Does it need to be? Maybe I’ll go back to the notes at some (ball) point. I don’t think the “poem” ever really got beyond the idea stage, but who knows what might come of it**.

* I’ve been sing a bastardised version of the Babylon Zoo song every time I used the pen.
**Almost certainly fuck all

Now, as I’ve documented before, I love a spurious connection between events, and so here goes with another one.

1. I’ve just moved offices.
2. My review of Christopher Horton’s excellent pamphlet, ‘Perfect Timing‘ has not long gone up at Sphinx. NB I have since found out it’s the first review of the book!!
3. The launch for Christopher’s pamphlet was at the Rugby Tavern. Annoyingly it was before I found out about the book (and indeed, Christopher), but The Rugby Tavern is not only where we held the first Rogue Strands Poetry night, and where I’ve read with Neil Elder, it is also just round the corner from the Grey’s Inn Road office of ITV…(tenuous enough for you???)
4. There’s a poem in the pamphlet called ‘Returning To The Office in the Year 2500.
5. It would be rude not to make this connection, especially given how much I like the poem and that I didn’t get the chance to mention it in my review.

Returning to the Office in the Year 2500

They enter the Human Resources Department
just as it was left. It’s the antiquities research team
that first files in, decked-out
in regulation space suits.

All they can hear is the crackle
then cutting-up of radio transmission,
slow breathing amplified
within their steamed-up helmets.

The photocopier is labelled Out of Order.
The shredder was detached mid-shred.
A bundle of A4 paper has yellowed
like all those manuscripts left by the ancients.

If they were to load the paper,
the printer shelf would fall apart
in their heavy hands, its rusty springs
landing on a top-surface of mites and motes.

They wouldn’t know how to load it anyway.
Paper is no longer a thing.
The football mug on Brian’s name-tagged desk
has fungi growing out of it.

The piece will now be assigned
to the Museum of The Distant Past,
where it can be kept in the rare mug section.
It is of archaeological interest.

They scan the curious motif
of a team called Lincoln City.
Football no longer exists,
neither do mugs. Tea is still a thing.

In the stationery cupboard,
a line of staplers and hole punchers
sit aligned on the shelf,
suggesting these were valuable tools.

The office system is perfectly preserved.
There can be no confusion
when finding the folders and laminates.
Almost everything denotes a culture

of mundane endeavour and routine
but, fleetingly, fun may have occurred.
Above the cupboard door,
someone wrote Brian 4Sarah.

This passed for humour once.
The specialist team take a photo
to age-test back at the lab
then wheel the most significant findings

through the reception area,
onto the empty parking lot,
finally giving the demolition team
the all clear.

(c) Christopher Horton, Perfect Timing, Tall-Lighthouse Press

I love the way Horton deploys the throw forward to look at the world we are in now, and the hopeful suggestion of the poem (despite what may have happened to the world in the mean time) that we may not be working in offices anymore. It feels very pertinent this week given the recent ludicrous push from the government to try and get people back into the office full time. I’m not against going in, and very aware that a lot of people either don’t have the choice (for whatever reason) or prefer being in (for whatever reason), but the idea we need to be in full time is surely one that is not one that we need to entertain for much longer.

Now, earlier on I mentioned listening to the Planet Poetry podcast. The most recent episode at the time of writing is the episode with J.O. Morgan, discussing his collection ‘The Martian’s Regress’. The conversation with Morgan was very interesting, especially his points about weaving in as many possible interpretations of each poem as possible, and that he is very comfortable with these multiple readings of this work—I may be over-simplifying here.

However, one of the poems that was read out from TMR was the poem below.

The Martian Visits the Museum

With hardly a glance the martian passed on
through the well-trodden halls of industrial science
Devotional monuments to a numerical god
such an obsession with heavy metals
A cumbersome religiosity.
He dragged his feet down corridors of warring paraphernalia
Each tiresome avenue showing
Ever more complicated ways in which to do
Something altogether straightforward.
But he lingered at the taxidermy cabinets
Marvelling at the balding scalps, the sunken cheeks
The joints reinforced with plaster and gauze
The dry and lustreless furs.

Leaning in he read each small blue plastic plaque
A common name above an etched extinction date.
He opened up the enclosures and set to work.

When he was finished
Several stiff-limbed impala were tangled
Through the wheels of a steam locomotive
While small varnished fish lay on their sides
Spaced evenly along the buffered tracks.
Above this numerous sun-dried insects
Their pins still sticking out
Had been glued to the green and yellow underside
Of a nine-foot gravity bomb.

A reticulated python had the barrel of a Lewis gun
Half-lodged down its gullet
The tip of its tail curled round and posted
Through the trigger guard.

Mismatched farm animals gleefully lowered each other
Into a nuclear reactor
Their trotters and teats glowing red.
A goggle-eyed Kodak bear
Its hair on end its forepaws held aloft
Sat in the seat of the first lunar rover
Teetering on the brink of a high balcony.
While in the museum’s central atrium
A resin-skinned sperm whale held in its prised-wide jaws
A kidney dialysis machine
Hard rubber hoses and bare-ended wires
Trailing from its teeth.

Heading on out past the front desk the martian
Reached up and tore off a season ticket.
There was still a great deal of work to be done
And he was sure to discover more stock in the museum’s vaults.
He’d come back in a month or so to see
How things were progressing.

(c) J.O Morgan, The Martian’s Regress, Cape Poetry

This poem feels like an extension of what comes after the year 2500 of Horton’s poem. I love the sense of the martian’s disdain for our history, the aloofness and the tinkering.

I’ve gone on for too long now, and at the time of writing I need Norwich to score at least three goals against Spurs to help get Arsenal qualified for the Champion’s League next season…truly we are in the realms of sci-fi and the unimaginable.

I will add that in terms of the book not much has moved on after the initial flurry of excitement. It was always going be thus. Nothing has moved on from a writing POV either, but this meme from the excellent Twitter feed of Angel Dominguez has tickled me, as have many of the others.

THE (LAST TWO) WEEKS IN STATS

c40K running. 16K this week, including 10k this morning round the hills of High Elms country park.A relative down week after the last few weeks of ramping up.
4 trips to central London for work
1 patio cleaned
1 late night after the FA Cup
10 actual Cds burned for a friend and finally posted. It’s only taken about a year.
1 gig – the magnificent The Oh Sees
0 massive hangovers, but I did try hard on Thursday evening
1 kitten neutered
4ish (at least) journeys to dance lessons and back for Flo
1 rejections: TLS after five months
1 poems finished: Nature Abhors a Vacuum
0 poems worked on:
0 poems published:
0 submissions:
0 acceptance:
25 poems are currently out for submission.
5 poems left to submit beyond makeweights
75 Published poems
37 Poems* finished by unpublished
25 poems* in various states of undress
554 Rejected poems* Eg I’ve decided they are not good enough
1 review finished: Christopher Horton
3 reviews to write: How the fuck did that happen…I keep finishing them and then they keep coming.
2 day without cigarettes…I was doing so well, Oh well, back to it. As in giving up, not back to smoking.
4 Days since drinking
0 sleepless nights:
1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green

* To date, not this week. Christ!!

TITLE GIVEAWAY
An Ode to old sheep: Mutton addressed as iambs
Tying myself in knots explaining string theory


READ/SEEN/HEARD/ETC

Read
Joshua Megihan: Accepting The Disaster
Tom Sastry: No Normal Country To Return To
Clare Crossman: The Mulberry Tree


Zooms:
None

Music
Margaret Glaspy: Emotions and Math
Wilco: Star Wars
Will Sergeant: Things Inside
Planet Poetry Podcast: J. O. Morgan
The Archers
Various Playlists made for a friend
Warpaint: Radiate Like This
Luke Howard: All of Us
Henri Texier; AmirKeith Jarrett: The Survivor’s SuiteJohn Scofield: ST
The Smile: A Light For Attracting Attention
Kevin Morby: This Is A Photograph
Explosions In the Sky: The Earth is Not A Cold Dead Place, Live
James Iha: Be Strong Now, Look To The Sky
Smashing Pumpkins: Gish
Supergrass: Diamond Hoo Ha Man, I Should Coco
The Oh Sees: Levitation Sessions, The Master’s Bedroom is Worth Spending a Night In
Metallica: Kill ‘em All
Kendrick Lamar: good kid, M.A.A.d city
Nightports: ST With Tom Herbert
Kamasi Washington: The Proclamation
Sharon Van Etten: We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong
Alabaster DePlume: To Cy & Lee: Instrumentals Vol1
Let’s Eat Grandma: Two Ribbons
The Glove: Blue Sunshine
Martin Carr: Flames/Strange Journey
The Verb : Margaret Atwood, Books & Pens
The Archers
Andrew Tuttle: A Cassowary Apart
Dolphin Midwives: Body of Water
Heron Oblivion: ST
Count Ossie & The Mystic Revelation of Rastafari: Takes of Mozambique
M24: Drip N Drill
Black Sabbath: Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
Travis: The Invisible Band, The Man Who…, The Boy With No Name, Everything At Once, 10 Songs
William Tyler: Impossible Truth
Kevin Morby: This Is Not A Photograph
Case/Lang/Veirs: ST
Ryley Walker: Primrose Green
Sharon Van Eaten: We’ve Been Going About This The Wrong Way
Five Live: Liverpool Vs Wolves


Watched
The Staircase
The Art That Made Us
Ozark
Spurs/Arsenal (Boo!!)
Derry Girls
Taskmaster

Ordered
Nothing

Arrived
The latest Dark Horse

Faith No More: Woodpecker From Mars

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