22 December 2011

Snow & Memory: Here, Boy

Aah. The log fire is burning. Monkey the cat is starting to get that look of deep bliss on her usually supercilious face. Kate Bush is singing about snow, and memory, on the stereo. I have been reading quite a lot of Spanish author Julio Llamazares' books, especially Luna de Lobos (Wolf Moon), his novel about memory and the Spanish Civil War, and his poetry La Memoria de la Nieve (The Memory of Snow). Llamazares sees snow as the embodiment of memory - fleeting, intangible, imbued with mystery. Spanish cultural memory is often represented by intangibles, especially ghosts, the spectres of trauma; Llamazares' poetic landscape of snow and ice, full of fleeting ghosts and strange codes and symbols, seems the perfect, if somewhat obtuse, reflection for Kate Bush's recent album 50 Words for Snow.

   Much has been made of another 'return to form' for Kate Bush. But she has been slowly and organically evolving unlike most artists of her age. She has noticed the change in her voice, and adjusted her register accordingly. Instead of the ebullient and wilfully weird lyrics of her earlier songs, Kate Bush has become more poetic (or rather, less obvious) over the years. I especially love the new album for that ambiguous link it makes between snow and memory. She revisits earlier themes. In 'Lake Tahoe' she imagines a reflective surface (the lake) that holds the image of a woman, and the song becomes an elegy for the woman's relationship with her dog, but also her relationship with time (I especially like the subdued dog noises at the end, a nod perhaps to the frenzied barking of Hounds of Love). The people in Bush's new album are able to transcend temporal boundaries. Her duet with Elton John imagines a relationship that spans hundreds of years. Whereas previously Bush has written intensely personal songs,or songs veiled with strange imagery, here she unites the two with a thrilling concept. Snow is time. The human experience is eternal. 'Here, boy - you've come home!' she sings over the tinkling of falling snow. I may be biased. Any song that is a paean to a fine hound lost in time is a winner with me. 

   Like Llamazares, Bush deals in ambiguities, silences, and questions the progress of time as linear. It's easy to wax lyrical about Bush  - especially as I am a lifelong fan, and the fan sites and reviews and musings are numerous - but this album is a pleasing milestone along the progression of a singer who realises that she must grow old, that time must pass, and that change is a given. I rather like that simple truth on this album.
   Anyway, that to me would be a more pleasing attitude at this time of year. Not the fanfare of capitalism, but the quiet and inexorable passing through life of individuals. The question would be - what to do in that short space of time? I've got it wrong so many times and can offer no answers here... but will continue to listen to 50 Words for Snow and try and eke out some meaning:

Her eyes are open but no-one's home
The clock has stopped
So long she's gone
No-one's home
Her old dog is sleeping
His legs are frail now
But when he dreams, 
He runs... 

('Lake Tahoe')

I'll hopefully have some news in the New Year. Submitted lots of new work to various competitions and magazines, and applied for my doctorate, so out of all those sent pieces of paper something should come back.

It's been a beautiful year, sometimes harsh, sometimes silly, sometimes scary, sometimes shaming, sometimes joyful. I learnt shit-loads. Show yer face, 2012. 


09 November 2011

POE-NERO II/ Poetry Scotland/wrong

There is a question hanging in the air, like a rancid bird strung to a cloud. This means: the question will probably have a negative answer. Why is my Blogger page not working? I cannot add links. I'm going to kick up some stinks. It is really doing my head (in). I might go to bed, instead. Or see red. Or make someone DEAD, preferably the person who invented Blogger.

I am supposed to be telling all and sundry about the article I wrote about Panero for NLP, an article that replies to a year's worth of translators and editors and fans buzzing around the last one I wrote. But instead I am going to jump into a boat. But not gloat.

http://newlinearperspectives.wordpress.com/poetry/poe-nero-ii-chinese-whispers/ (this looks pretty budget - but click on, my clickers)

I also have a poem coming out in Poetry Scotland called 'Violin'. I would provide you with a link. But you have to go and buy it - it is only £1 - and if you read my interview with doyenne of Scottish poetry Sally Evans, you'd know that. Unless you are a cat. Or a fat-cat. In which case it would not interest you at all.

Man alive! I cannot even use italics! This is making me sicks. I really want to pummel you with sticks, Google-Blogger of Despair. Like an angry dominatrix. What a fix.

It will not even let me add a photograph. I would laugh. But I won't. Instead I will fix that problem. With Balzac! Wasn't he a rotund gentleman?

Today has not gone as planned.

08 July 2011

Gutter 05

My nod that says gracias to the great Michael Donaghy (via folksters the Unthank Sisters and Alasdair Gray's great folk novel 'Lanark'), 'Unthanks', and the poem I wrote about a weird old family heirloom, a book of Rupert Brooke poems that I found, 'Soldier II', come out next month in Gutter, the Scottish magazine of new writing.

09 June 2011

New poems 2011: Ambit & JERRY

I've been concentrating hard on some new work this year. That's right - there are things to do apart from hare-watching and Kate Bush-lovin'! I do have a sort of day job as the editor of Scotland's online arts & culture journal (alongside visual arts editor, artist Claudia Massie) New Linear Perspectives. This year has been a magic monster-truck ride for NLP but there is a lot more to come. The submissions keep pouring in, it's a deluge I tell ye.

I've put my translations of Panero's work aside for now - as I am becoming more and more involved in an academic focus on his work, I've decided to let the translations breathe awhile and come back to them at a later date. I just hope he stays put in his sanitorium until the day comes when I can let loose his wild, unfettered, genius vision on an English-speaking world.

This year I've been working on my own poetry, and have six poems coming up for publication this summer. Fanfares on trumpets played by young hares have been sounding up and down the valley.

The first two will appear in Ambit: the Youth Issue. Ambit to most poets is a much-loved publication, run by the indomitable Dr Martin Bax and the stage for many greats to cut their teeth - such as Carol-Ann Duffy (who later became a poetry editor at Ambit), J.G. Ballard and Eduardo Paolozzi. Take a look at the very first issue from the Summer of 1959, which Ambit have posted on their website and which includes a very entertaining foreword from Dr Bax himself.

The first poem is a English-French hybrid that channels the spirit of Maigret whilst acknowledging his later, darker American inheritors. Claudia Massie (who is admittedly biased) calls it "blistering stuff, a sort of noir-hop cauchemar fantasy", which I loved. But who doesn't love a hugely exaggerated compliment from a dear friend. It's so bloody quotable it's untrue. The second focuses on Piers Gaveston, the lover of Edward II, who was given all sorts of favours by his one true love but was eventually beheaded. He is normally represented as a simpering homosexual, and it was up to yours truly to put the record straight.

The other four poems will be featuring in the very excellent JERRY magazine, which is on to its third edition. It is run by Emily Wolahan (a successful poet in her own right) and Ethan Hon, and has already featured some marvellous work. I'm so delighted to be a part of it. Infact, I whooped out so loud the day the email came that the blackbirds flew from the trees like half-mad bullets trying to shoot the moon. All very poetic. Please don't quote me on that.

The poems for JERRY include a whimsical imagining of the great pioneer of wildlife sound recording Ludwig Koch creeping about the set of Sally Potter's film Orlando - a very favourite film of mine. Tilda Swinton, I've been trying to get you interviewed for NLP for months. I draw a line at camping outside your house - for now. But I have an eraser. Others include a paean to another great hero, Allen Ginsberg, and a strangely musical memorial to the victims of the Japanese tsunami. I told myself for days I will not write a memorial poem but it just came out. I am pleased with it, others may not be - but, I ask you - it only lasted on the news for about a day, a much worse and less controversial incident than 9/11 but who is talking about those people now? Nobody. And still the western world bays for Muslim blood. It is at moments like these we need to turn to poetry, methinks.

I've just read Patti Smith's book 'Just Kids' (such an amazing book - well worth a read) about her relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. We featured it in NLP not that long ago, take a look. It really took me back to the manifestos of early modernists such as the Futurists who were totally bombastic about what they wanted to achieve through their art, something I feel does not always come across in today's culture, so saturated by the excrement of the global village. Patti and Robert truly believed in their artistic integrity and their artistic mission, and it is through publications such as Ambit (a long-time runner in the race of creativity) and JERRY (a newcomer, but champing at the bit) that these manifestos are achieved. Thanks for that Patti, I didn't realise what a great lady you were.

Is the plural of manifestos MANIFESTI? It should be allowed a run in the English tongue. Expect a few ur-manifesti from this blog forthwith.

Image: 'Saturno devorando a su hijo', GOYA

11 April 2011

Soup: how they roll

I am to blogging what Bono is to humble pie. Not frequent bedfellows. Sin embargo, in the spirit of Kate Bush, who has re-imagined songs from two of her albums, the blog is going to repost some poems I wrote a few years ago. They continue to amuse me and the Artist, at least.

I've just been re-visiting Nancy Mitford's Love in a Cold Climate via the joys - wait for it - of an audio-book on my ipod. Only three years ago I was delighting in slipping disc after disc into my portable CD player and watching the passers-by whoop and grimace in horror and disbelief (equal amounts). Thanks to itunes I am now able to inhabit the Mitford then whilst traipsing the Scottish now; I am fully modern and laugh out loud as I loll. It reminded me of a sextet of soup-drinkers I wrote about a few years ago, thought it might be time to re-visit them too.

This is the story; six dead writers eat soup. Gore Vidal isn't dead, actually, but he has always kind of acted like an aloof sort of ghost - I mean he isn't the guy you turn to for line-dancing and bourbon, and never was. I also hope he lives forever - it isn't hard to imagine a creaking, sharp-boned Gore intoning and looking markedly disinterested as the world turns. And the rest will do their thing - this, my friends, is how they roll. With soup.

Ted Hughes:

Cracking pepper into
Brothy depths recalls the
Brackish marshy moor;
Here I lie, Nature’s son,
Sucking in soup and my soul
As I gulp it down, barking.

Gore Vidal (no music here, just a ticking clock):

This soup; my endgame, and
America’s last soup, embittered
With corrupt carrots and the
Last aristocrat of the modern
Empire: Me! Cold dish
Clutched in my cold dead hand alone
Except for my close circle of carefully selected famous friends.
I shall never speak of them.

Sylvia Plath:

Suppe, monstrous soup of
My loins and one final meal
Before bed; lead – my head
Swims in it:
Ach suppe,
You really did it this time.

Patricia Highsmith:

As we slice the onion, slicing
By rote – who knows why the knife
Slips to a passing throat,
Ripping the jugular? Tom and
I’ll consult the severed
Head in the handbag, readers.

Nancy Mitford:

, soup-making is
Mindboggling and to top it
All Non-U. I ran a soup
Kitchen in the blitz – utter
Hell, too awful, and the
Clothes too English. Admit.

Edith Sitwell (set to music as yet unwritten):

You’ll remember I make soup
With the hands of a cripple; croup
Dictates these Elizabethan moon-boiled
Poetic talons must not be soiled,
But photographed.
I’m not at all the type to cry
But this soup rankles. Why?

15 March 2011


Busy month with New Linear Perspectives. I was in Bratislava interviewing ex-Siouxsie & the Banshee Steven Severin, which you can see here.

Awaiting various replies from poetry magazines - this year I've had a lot of (kind - although not an adjective that fits neatly with the noun) rejections which I am pasting my wall with - no need for wallpaper at ma hoose.

I enjoyed Equinox, I think Barbara Dordi does a great job. Please buy it to support new poetry - and my own, I hasten to add!

The Carse of Lecropt is wet, wet, wet. The pheasants are head down in the field grubbing away, but the hares have started to leap about so Spring cannot be far from us.

10 January 2011

Equinox March 2011

My poem 'Face' will be out in brilliant poetry journal Equinox (edited by Barbara Dordi) in March 2011. Other contributors have included U. A. Fanthorpe, Ann Drysdale, William Oxley, John Whitworth, Myra Schneider, W. N. Herbert, Mario Petrucci and Tony Curtis.
Dordi follows Pound's dictum: "The artist selects and presents the luminous detail. He does not comment". So, in the spirit of Equinox, no comment from me. But Mr Oxley had something rather glowing to say about this "bi-annual occurence":

"Equinox is surely the most beautiful of contemporary poetry journals" (William Oxley)