We Bulls Wobble, But We Don’t Fall Down**

Owing to a busy week and the political distractions going on around us I have very little to offer up beyond some poems this week. It should really be enough, and is hopefully far more interesting than the stark ravings of, well, me.

However, all do come from things I’ve read this week and there are, as ever, some nebulous connections.

Firstly, I found an old copy of The Frogmore Papers on my TBR pile. Issue 98 had somehow slipped through the net. TFP is a magazine I have been trying to appear in for a long time. I’ve come close, but not managed to clip the end of and light the proverbial and/or literal cigar yet. Onwards and sideways though…

Reading this issue, many poems, as ever, stood out. This list isn’t exhaustive, but I enjoyed poems by Mike Barlow, Paul Fenn, Denise Bennett, Simon Wilson and Marion Hobday. I almost shared Nick Pearson’s excellent and excellently titled, ‘Reading Jeffrey Archer’s Wikipedia Page Outside Furniture Village‘. However, I’ve gone with ‘A Heavy People’ by Marc Tritsmans (NB Dutch Wikipedia—see, the links are appearing already)..

A Heavy People


We are of old though a constipated people
of soft gravity, of butter, cream and eggs
of far too frequent and interminable table
conversations in which eagerly we sink
together to the floor and ridicule ourselves.

How ignominiously we lag behind those
fleet-footed, over-energetic, ever-sprightly,
sinewy peoples who almost seem to float
upon an airy asceticism fuelled by
coriander, olive oil and lemongrass.

Wallowing and wisecracking we’re surely
waiting till their resistance is finally broken.

Note: On viewing a Flemish menu from 1925
Taken from Issue 98 of The Frogmore Papers. Translated by John Irons.

While this poem doesn’t seem to be obviously about the British—is it about Belgians, the Dutch or someone else?—it feels like it could so easily be applied to a version of Brits, or perhaps the Little-Englanders that have landed us up to our necks in the current mess we are in… I , for one, am absolutely here for “..an air asceticism fuelled by / coriander, olive oil and lemongrass”. Although, given the increases in costs of olive oil of late, perhaps not.

I like the idea, and this is just my reading, that we will be waiting a long time until “their resistance is finally broken.”

Just to square the circle here, I also found out this week I hadn’t won the recent Frogmore Poetry Prize. Congratulations to Laura Jenner for her poem, Smoothing, and the runners up: Elizabeth Best and John Lancaster (I am assuming not the same John Lancaster as I worked with many years ago – Was it in my regional press or my magazine days…Christ knows, and who cares, but if it was regional press then I can make a connection to Furniture Village as I used to do a lot of work for them back then).

The next poem is one one I went back to this week having read Matthew Paul’s excellent essay on the poet Ted Walker at The Friday Poem this week. I somehow acquired a copy of Walker’s fifth collection, Burning The Ivy, a few years ago—I can’t be sure but I think it was in a box of books given to me by my old boss, Trak Julyan (back in the regional press days…vague-connection fans). Either way, I didn’t read it until a couple of years ago, so I was pleased to see Matthew mention him this week and to feel like I, for once, had some prior knowledge of something—it happens so rarely.

I think, when I’d read the bucolic poems in Burning The Ivy, I’d intended to go back and read more Ted Walker, but forgot to do so. There are always more people to read, more books to buy, but reading Matthew essay has caused me to order two more Ted’s…The Night Bathers and Gloves To The Hangman. The latter of which will be worth it alone for this stanza as quoted by Matthew in his essay. It’s taken from a poem called ‘A Celebration of Autumn’.

Something has wearied the sun
To yellow the unmolested dust
On the bitter quince; something is lost
From its light, letting waxen bees drown
In their liquor of fatigue.

However, I’m going to quote from the book I do have to hand. I was going to include the poem, Night Rain, as it’s one Matthew describes as one of the loveliest in the book, and it is, but instead I am going to quote from the sequence that closes the collection, Creatures of a Zodiac. I am not one for astrology and the like, but as I am apparently a Taurus it feels fitting to quote from the second poem in the sequence.

The Bull

Ted Walker, Burning The Ivy, Jonathan Cape, 1978

Hard as a wall of sandbags,
he fathers herds in test-tubes.

A man in a clean white coat,
satisfied, washes his hands;

like udders, the rubber gloves.
At market, lot 22

got dumped from a Land Rover:
bull calf, born of a milk breed,

useless. It fell on its knees
like a Muslim at prayer. I

bid my sentimental pound.
In sharp suits, pie-men guffawed

and the auctioneer yawned
while I led Plug through kingcups

to a pond to drink the moon.


While, I would argue that the “I” at the end of the fifth stanza doesn’t work, and that the image he uses in the same stanza is one that could charitably be called “of its time”, (UPDATED AT 19.30 ON 10.07.22) and in reality is an awful and objectionable phrase that no-one in their right mind would use now, it’s a powerful poem, and the last image of what I presume is his dog being led to “a pond to drink the moon” is worth the price of admission alone.

I also have an ulterior motive for choosing that particular poem…It allows me to link to the other book I’ve been reading this week, Caleb Parkin‘s This Fruiting Body. I mentioned a few weeks ago that I got to read alongside Caleb (albeit remotely) at the recent Finished Creatures launch. I’ve had my copy of TFB on the TBR pile for a while (connections and a trite rhyme too—you lucky people), and having recently heard Caleb on Planet Poetry, I thought I should crack on. I’ve not finished the book yet, but so far I am loving it.

While the book, so far, has dealt with largely ecological themes, it’s absolutely living up to the billing on the back page as a “playful invitation to a queer ecopoetics that permeates our bodies and speech, our gardens, homes and city suburbs’. I’m looking forward to finishing it on my commute this week.

The poem I’m picking to share is ‘Minotaur at the Soft Play Centre’.

Minotaur at the Soft Play Centre

Caleb Parkin, This Fruiting Body, Nine Arches Press, 2021

While the calves play, the other children-children huddle
by the counter of the snack bar (beef burger ‘n’ chips £3.99).
Minotaur sits on a chrome chair, latte in his vast hand,
watching the calves tumble and snort through padded rollers
or down spiral slides. He rests a hulking elbow on the holographic
tabletop and issues a hefty sigh.

Every time the calves go out of sight, the timpani of his bull’s heart reverberates
Each time they vanish behind some painted frieze of children-children
jumping, screeching, reappearing with bovine eyes widened
in overexcitement, he hears echoes of thoughts he hoped
he’d shut away. Hooved thoughts, from years within

those corridors, his meaty leaf-shaped ears rotating
like radars, shifting sharply to the sounds of those
frantic human-human feet. Soles like his
endless and disposable; heads like his
endless and disposable.


I picked this poem for two reasons.
1. Caleb’s work feels like it’s at the other, more urgent end of the eco spectrum in comparison to Ted’s.
2. It has a minotaur in and Ted’s had a bull…I don’t just make this shit up as I go you know…*
3. I am a sucker for poems that imagine the extended lives of well-known characters . I am using this a poetic moodboard for a poem I’m working on at present about the life of the spider that bit Peter Parker
4. Yes, I said two reasons
5. I make the rules.
6. Having spent plenty of time in soft play places I can identify with our bovine friend
7. I can identify with our bovine friend…full stop.
8. “the timpani of his bull’s-heart reverberates”…Oh come on, that’s ace.

Right, that’s enough. Time to draw a close with a final, most tenuous connection. I went to see Pearl Jam in Hyde Park yesterday. I’ve mentioned before how much of a fan I am, and their song Wishlist is something I’ve written about here too. I texted a video of them playing it to Flo last night.

Couldn’t really get any good shots of the band – we were too far away from the stage, so here is my friend and I bawling along to either ‘Black’ or ‘Alive’ last night.

However, the vague connection is that one of the people I was there with was a friend of a friend, and she was part-Belgian, which sort of brings us back to our Flemish menu earlier, no?

I’ll get my coat.

* Obvs, I do
**The punchline to a gag told to me by an ex-girlfriend years ago

REM’s Find The River. Included for it’s mention of “Of Ginger, lemon, indigo /
Coriander stem and rose of hay” because it makes me think of the first poem above, and because I have only just been made aware of the beard sported by Peter Buck.

THE WEEK IN STATS

0K running. Still knee-knacked. I hate it. I tried a small run yesterday, and it was sort of ok, but knee sore again today.
2 trips to central London for work
Seen Live: Pearl Jam, Stereophonics, Johnny Marr & The Healers
1 week of taking a hard look at myself
0ish (at least) journeys to dance lessons and back for Flo
1 rejections: Frogmore Poetry Prize
0 new poem finished:
1 poems worked on: New thing…something to do with spiders
0 poems published:
1 submissions: Obsessed With Pipework
2 acceptances: …Both for #100 of OWP
13 poems are currently out for submission.
5 poems left to submit beyond makeweights
77 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:
3 reviews to write: How the fuck did that happen…I keep finishing them and then they keep coming. I agreed to another this week. Dammit.
1 days without cigarettes…I was doing so well. Mid week got to me, but back to it.
37 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
Ramekin
I’m going to take this “feature” out the back and send it to “the farm”


READ/SEEN/HEARD/ETC

Read
The Frogmore Papers #98
Caleb Parkin: This Fruiting Body
Clare Crossman: The Mulberry Tree

Zooms:
None

Music
Sharon Van Eaten: We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong
The Waterboys: Room To Roam
Joe Harriot & John Mayer: Indo-Jazz Fusions I & II
Alanis Morrisette: Under Rug Swept, Jagged Little Pill
David McWilliams: Volume 2
Pit Pony: World To Me
Unclassified (Radio 3)
Diatom Deli: Time-Lapse Nature
Radiohead: Kid A
Adwaith:Bato Mato
Massacre Massacre: EPDave Boulter: Lover’s Walk
Hi-Vos: No Sense No Feelings
Širom: The Liquified Throne of Simplicity
Sam Slater: I Do Not Wish To Be Known As A Vandal
Katy J Pearson: The Sound of Morning
The Housemartins: The People Who Grinned Themselves Too Death
Peal Jam: Gigaton, Lightning Bolt, Backspacer, Binaural, No Code, ST, Riot Act
Raspberries: Fresh
Laura Veirs: First Light
The Archers
Dave Boulter: Lover’s Walk (Instrumentals)
Jesse Buckley & Bernard Butler: For All The Days That Tear Our Heart


Watched
Ozark
Love Island
Only Murders In The Building
Obi Wan Kenobi

Ordered
2 x Ted Walker books
A Shirt I need to return

Arrived
Poetry Birmingham #8
The shirt I need to return

3 thoughts on “We Bulls Wobble, But We Don’t Fall Down**

  1. You’ve packed a lot in here. I really enjoyed This Fruiting Body too, and I love that Tristmans poem – I see he gave up dentistry for a career in local government. Rock’n’roll. I wonder if the title was a nod to Kate Bush in the original. Weebles were heavy people too, so nice thematic linking going on.

    • I do try to offer value for money. I think it’s fair to say folks get what they pay for here—certainly in a pay peanuts/get monkeys-kind of way.

      I’m kicking myself (inside) that I didn’t make the Kate connection, especially while her stock is so high at present. Good knowledge about Tritsmans there…

      • You succeed.

        I would say don’t give up making the Kate connections, because, wow, such moments of pleasure don’t come along often.

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