Optimistic Disasters

In a rare example of being organised, I wrote this post last week, I didn’t know what was coming down the line…how the world was going to manage to become an even greater shit show in almost every way. I can add nothing of any value to the debate.

I also didn’t know when I chose the two poems below that my wife would literally be sleeping “deeply through the afternoon”.

Front cover of Joshua Mehigan's Accepting The Disaster. Title in black font. White/grey background.
Joshua Mehigan, Accepting The Disaster

I finished this book a couple of weeks ago now. I’m pretty sure it was either a mention by Matthew Stewart or Ben Wilkinson online that led me to the book, but either way I got to it, and I raced though it. It’s a deceptively easy read that doesn’t make for easy thinking. The long title poem is a tour de force in my opinion, and his work has made me want to go back to look at how to engage with rhyme again. I stopped writing end rhymes because it felt obvious as a route, but I realise it was also a kind of laziness. I stopped when I was (and it feels weird saying this) attempting to get to grips with meter and form, so rhyme was an added complication. Good rhymes are fucking hard work…perhaps they should be, but Mehigan seems to handle them deftly. They never feel forced…and he doesn’t use them all of the time.

There’s a poem of his that does the rounds on the social medias called Down In The Valley—go, look it up, so when I thought about posting one of the poems from this book I briefly considered that one, and then The News, and then Psalm. And then I ended up deciding to put both in…

The News – Joshua Mehigan, Accepting The Disaster

What happened to today? Where did it go?
The raindrops dot the window and roll down.
One taps the glass, another, three at a time,
warping the view of black tree limbs and sky.
Long hush, quick crescendo. Wind leans on the sash.
Behind me in the shadows sleep two cats.
Nearby, like something small deposited
tenderly by a big wind on the bed,
my wife sleeps deeply through the afternoon.
The sky is gray. What color is the sky?
Rhinoceros? Volcanic dune? Moon dust?
Breast of a mourning dove? Gray butterfly?
Blank newsprint. There’s no news, no news at all,
and will be none,
until, at long last, in the other room,
one light comes on, and then another one.

Psalm

Grant me, Lord, the wretchedness
to attribute each success
wrung from air with strength and skill
to your paranormal will

and to credit grief, disease,
poverty, catastrophes,
shortfall, pain, and death alone
to some failing of my own.

I’m going to get his first collection, The Optimist—I assume it’s named after the Turin Brakes album, but I commend his essays on his website to you, especially this one for managing to get a reference in to Rowlf from The Muppets. Apparently it says other stuff too.

NB Deep In The Valley feels especially relevant now in light of the removal of women’s constitutional rights to an abortion run the US, but it feels wrong to have a male poet quoted, so I’m adding a bonus poem from Sarah Maguire. It’s the title poem from her debut collection, Spilt Milk. While it’s not ostensibly about this subject, the line I am drawn to here is the italicised line ” The adulterous woman / lost her nose; the man was fined.”

The line is written based on Maguire’s (or the protagonist’s)research “studying women of nine hundred years past.” and yet, here were are at least a further 30-years on from when Maguire wrote the poem and sweet fuck all has changed. The woman suffers immeasurably. The man was fine(d).

SPILT MILK, Sarah Maguire
Two soluble aspirins spore in this glass, their mycelia
fruiting the water, which I twist into milkiness.
The whole world seems to slide into the drain by my window.

It has rained and rained since you left, the streets black
and muscled with water. Out of pain and exhaustion you came
into my mouth, covering my tongue with your good and
bitter milk.

Now I find you have cashed that cheque. I imagine you
slipping the paper under steel and glass. I sit here in a circle
of lamplight, studying women of nine hundred years past.

My hand moves into darkness as I write, The adulterous woman
lost her nose and ears; the man was fined
. I drain the glass.
I still want to return to that hotel room by the station

to hear all night the goods trains coming and leaving.

A shameless sales pitch

I have long described myself in my poetry bio as the “poet in residence for ITV, but that they don’t know about it”. It’s sort of true. I am a poet, I work at ITV and I am in residence there twice a week. Hell, sometimes I even write poems there (at lunch time, obvs), but I have never successfully managed a residency anywhere. I mean, yes, I could try applying, but y’know…

I have also never been commissioned to write a poem, other than a couple for our team Xmas lunch. Those poems we will never speak of. However, I did find myself touting for a commission last week. I thought why not when I saw an email from a company called Yarmouth Oilskins. I am not the most fashion forward of folks, but they do make some lovely things..they are Norfolk based and well, just look at the stuff. I was hoping I could visit their workshop, read their history, etc and create something from that. I had a villanelle in mind as they use a lot of old patterns, bringing them back and using up to date fabrics… Anyhoo, the email showed this suit (again, I’m not a natural suit wearer…I only really wear one for funerals these days…)

Hang on, have they already nabbed Rob Selby? (Have you ordered your copy of The Kentish Rebellion?

It’s a lovely bit of schmutter, but I’m going to struggle to rustle up a spare £300+ to obtain one, so I asked via their Instagram feed if they’d swap a poem for a suit. I may have to rethink my prices, and settle for a pair of socks for the time being.

They did at least “like” the post (find me here), but I suspect I am being overly optimistic. I’ll have to start putting spare change in a jar, and perhaps I can get one for my book launch next year…Perhaps I should just finish writing the thing before I start thinking about my outfit.

I might go dressed as this poppy from our garden

2 poppies in flower and one poppy seed pod.
If you think I’ve posted this just to have a nice header photo, I’d say you are a cynical person. And you’re right.
Smashing Pumpkins, Rhinoceros. I pray the poem I wrote called Rhinoceros in response to this song never sees the light of day. At least not while I am still breathing

THE WEEK IN STATS

36K running including 16k today. I’m ramping up again.
0 trips to central London for work
0 massive hangovers
1 week of taking a hard look at myself
0ish (at least) journeys to dance lessons and back for Flo
1 rejections: 3 poems declined while one sits on the shortlist
0 new poem finished:
2 poems worked on: Settling, Dewars
0 poems published:
0 submissions: I’m pausing on this while I edit stuff.
1 acceptance: Well, one shortlisting…
12 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
0 reviews finished:
2 reviews to write: How the fuck did that happen…I keep finishing them and then they keep coming.
17 days without cigarettes…I was doing so well, Oh well, back to it. As in giving up, not back to smoking.
22 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
Watching Radio
Arcane Fire


READ/SEEN/HEARD/ETC

Read
Orbis #199
Orbis #200
Raymond Antrobus: The Perserverance


Zooms:
None

Music
Jenny Owen Youngs: An Unwavering Band of Light, Batten The Hatches
Lost In The Trees: All Alone in an Empty House, A Church That Fits Our Needs
The Archers
Andrew Wasylyk: Fugitive Light & Themes of Consolation, Balgay Way
The Pale Fountains: …From Across The Kitchen Table, Longshot For Your Love
Shack: Zilch, Waterpistol, HMS Fable, …Here’s Tom With The Weather
St Paul & The Broken Bones: The Alien Coast
Roy Buchanan: That’s What I Am Here For
Harry Styles: Harry’s House
Eric Chenaux: Say Laura
Hem: Rabbit Songs, Funnel Cloud, Home Again, Eveningland, Departures & Farewells
Harkin: Honeymoon Suite
Love: Forever Changes, Four Sail, Da Capo, False Start
Lowell Folsom: Tramp, Soul
Lowgold: Just Backward of Square, Welcome To Winners
Akira Kosemura: One Day, Grasslands, In The Dark Woods
Patti Smith; Horses
Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbot: What Have We Become
Pelican: City of Echoes
Poltergeist: Your Mind Is A Box (Let Us Fill It With Wonder)
Pixies: Live @. Brixton 5th June 2004
Harold Ashby: On The Sunny Side of the Street
Heartless Bastards: A Beautiful Life, Restless Ones
Laura Veirs: Carbon Glacier, July Flame, My Echo, The Lookout
Julian Cope: Cunts Can Fuck Off
Wolf Alice: Blue Flower, My Love Is Cool, Visions of Life
David Holmes: This Film’s Crap, Let’s Slash The Seats
Brian Jonestown Massacre: Fire Doesn’t Grow on Trees
Emily Scott Robinson: American SirenMakaya McCraven: In The Moment


Watched
Ozark
Star Wars:Attack of the Clones
Love Island
Obi Wan Kenobi
Batman Begins

Ordered
Richie McCaffery Summer/ Break
A shirt

Arrived
Richie McCaffery
Poetry London Summer 22

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