Category: poets (Page 1 of 2)

DIESEL ON GRAVEL – 1986-1989 First Flash Fictions

Poems written in London and Oxfordshire. Published in early 1990s in Last Gasp pamphlets. Last Gasp was a poetry open mic I helped run with poets Giles Goodland and Bridget Kursheed in Oxford.

From 1986 I was heavily influenced by Raymond Carver and especially his book FIRES.  Indeed I attended his memorial readings event in London and saw Edmund White, Richard Ford and Salman Rushdie read in his honour.

I think this volume is the ‘lost volume’ as I was living at home in Didcot and totally cut off from literary world from 1988 until 1990.

I did do some readings through the Last Gasp group until I moved to Edinburgh in 1993.

None of these poems have been seen apart from in these hand made pamphlets.

Style note all hand written then typed on my mother’s old typewriter.

The last few pages of the document as pdf have originals and some uncollected poems.

The blue pen and line through a poem are from Giles Goodland when selecting for a pamphlet…I did not have second copies as everything had to be typed by hand …so here it is..

Diesel on Gravel…..1990

Diesel on Gravel PDF

Poetry in England Part 2: Poetry Flies

Damien Hurst cow’s head which by the way was FAKE too…..it is cast the flies hatched anyway from a container containing maggots and food in other half..a Barnum conjuring act

POETRY FLIES

I came from Oxford I didn’t go to Oxford
I visited Cambridge once I didn’t go to Cambridge
I do not have a nice tidy clique to accept my poetry
Even when I write nothing for thirty years

I didn’t keep writing when I should have
I didn’t stack chairs for the powers that be
Or fawn over some imperious drunk poets event
I didn’t give a fuck about academia

In fact I have no part of any club that would want me
I attack those who live their delusional poetic lives
Ever since I worked the counter at the Poetry Library
Where we used to call the acolytes and hanger’s on flies

This isn’t the news you wanted from nowhere is it
Telling you your half-baked pamphlet on birth pains is rubbish
Or that your fake working-class credentials can raise funding not talent
As the arts council analyses your diversity count and footfall

No the English Poetry world is a festering barrel of rotten apples
Oozing its bile over another generation of half-arsed creative writing graduates
Networking themselves to death for a pamphlet, a prize, a smile from above
Whilst the old guard from Oxford and Cambridge still hold the reins

Still decide where the research diversity shilling get poured like Maundy money
Down the throats of the deserving poor in their alms houses
Power resides in the quads and vestries the quiet places
Where no poet slams or wines, no poor sleep, no modernist cries

An era of fake poetry, fake careers, fake web-based literary magazines
A dance of the dispossessed and the affluent caressing their egos
Pretending that having a poem published is fighting evil
Glued to the bright fizzing screens like bluebottles in a butchers

Dropping, dropping like flies
on the cold marble slab of the publishers.

Emily Meyer the erosion cast of a severed cows head made for Damien Hirst’s ‘A thousand years’

Erosion molding/slip casting

The basic concept is that the subject is coated in a medium that captures the pelage, plumage, scales, hairs, etc. down to the surface of the skin, and all of the material not captured is allowed to rot away until completely removed. The hollow of the mold is washed thoroughly, and another medium is cast into it. The roots of the fur, feathers, hair, etc., that were once embedded in skin, are exposed inside the mold now that the skin has been rotted away. When the casting medium is poured into the mold, it grabs the exposed roots. The outer coating/mold, is then melted/dissolved/removed, leaving a perfect cast of the subject. The end result is a form of the animal, with every hair/feather in place as it was in life. It will resemble taxidermy, but it is far from it because the only material that remains is the hair/feathers and the medium that they are captured in. In theory (with lots of practice) this method can produce a result that is more accurate than taxidermy or freezedrying can ever produce, because it removes the variable of human error as far as anatomical accuracy goes. It also beautifully replaces the skin, which can be achieved with remarkably life-like results by using a flesh toned casting medium with the appropriate level of translucency.

An exceedingly good metaphor for the current state of the hollowed out dead body of English Poetry right now.

POETRY IN ENGLAND

wrote this many moons ago nothing changed
the description of Les Murray reading at the end is true

POETRY IN ENGLAND

There is something about poetry in England
That is awfully nay terribly Middle Class
Something not quite right in the hands of a worker
Sibilants dribbling like snot from the poor man’s nose

Wiping its sleeve on the tasteful tablecloth of power
Always waiting to be found out or at least held up
As an exemplar of the erudite working class chap
Even that Larkin fellow wasn’t a chav was he darling

Then the skirmishes with the Leftist proletarians
Or the Rightists in their towers quaffing champers
No never quite right, never accepted as kosher
Little piggy faces pressed to the literary crown jewels

In 1992 I gate-crashed an Oxford University poetry bash
Crept along corridors I had no right to be in
After another day serving the arrogant little sods
And after much prevarication finally made it in

Les Murray, sitting like an antipodean Buddha
Laughing like a Boeotian at the Athenian Temple
Then he slowly let rip with poems from Dog Fox Field
Words circling the pews like a fox in a henhouse

I walked up shook his hand said thank you

And skedaddled before they set the hounds loose

Coppard returns…

Like a bad penny this story never dies and after I had this photograph taken yesterday I thought similar and did some more digging and found two new articles on ‘Flynn’ and for those less squeamish that comes from the saying ‘in like Flynn’ about Errol Flynn’s legendary bedding of women.

the full story in Coppard link above but here two new takes on the story..

https://www.newyorker.com/books/second-read/the-marvellous-forgotten-stories-of-a-e-coppard

I came from nothing, and it may be I was never anything more than a contrivance for recording emotions I would fain have taken for my own, but could not– life passed me by

.
From AE Coppard’s semi-autobiographical My Hundredth Tale written c1930

Graham Thomas an English author living in Tokyo has written a very accurate short life of Flynn available here.

Recommended.

Michael Longley and ‘The Fallow Period’

The Candlelight Master

Looking back at those difficult years now, do you feel that the silent
stretches were detrimental to your work?

If I hadn’t been fighting battles on other fronts, I might have been scribbling boring middle-aged verse – like MacNeice who twittered on for a decade until the miraculous final poems. It seems that the Muse favours the young and then, if you can weather the middle stretch’, the pensioners. Silence is part of the enterprise. Most poets write and publish far too much. They forget the agricultural good sense of the fallow period. The Muse despises whingers who bellyache aboutwriter’s block’ and related
ailments.

One of the best things ever said to me about poetry was John Hewitt’s off-
hand remark: `If you write poetry, it’s your own fault.’

JODY ALLEN RANDOLPH – Michael Longley in Conversation

This interview is taken from PN Review 160, Volume 31 Number 2, November – December 2004.

I was relieved to see that I not the only middle-aged poet who had a fallow period. Until now I thought my future was more akin to a Larkinesque slump as he detailed in the majestic yet sad refrain on this late poem…

THE WINTER PALACE

by Philip Larkin

Most people know more as they get older:
I give all that the cold shoulder.

I spent my second quarter-century
Losing what I had learnt at university.

And refusing to take in what had happened since.
Now I know none of the names in the public prints,

And am starting to give offence by forgetting faces
And swearing I’ve never been in certain places.

It will be worth it, if in the end I manage
To blank out whatever it is that is doing the damage.

Then there will be nothing I know.
My mind will fold into itself, like fields, like snow.

So maybe like Longley (still alive at 81!) the best is yet to come….or some is yet to come ….

https://www.irishnews.com/arts/2020/08/15/news/michael-longley-at-81-the-poetic-life-is-still-filled-with-excitement-and-surprise-2031662/

Michael Longley | Authors | The Soho Agency

Burning Books – hiding in plain view?

Last year I did a reading for Nottingham Poetry Festival in which I produced a small ‘polemical’ pamphlet called ‘Burning Books’.

The pamphlet was a one off and most of the poems after ‘outing’ in paper form were then hidden away as ‘too political’ for my readers by myself!

I censored myself which crazy but shows the agonies of being in any way ‘political’ or writing from a stridently working-class viewpoint in the contemporary middle-class ring-fenced world of ‘proper poetry’.

It only now and post Kit de Waal’s article in the Guardian that I realise that in doing so I hiding from my true self.

So here again is the ‘real’ ‘Burning Books’ pre-edit and I stand by these poems…..a lot of pretentious middle-class ‘poets’ will hate it but frankly as I don’t spend much time listening to their whinging I don’t care. I will be ‘re-categorised’ as a ‘performance poet’ I expect and described as having  a ‘chip on my shoulder’ which a frequent method of negating anything which threatens the middle class.

Here a taste of what I talking about…

Proper Poetry

I used to write proper poetry

Not the really proper stuff

You know packed full of classical allusions

Or invented lives based on obscure photographs

No I gave up on proper poetry

Because it is so fucking boring

So I write an occasional diatribe

And raise two fingers to the academy

These are the times for less poets, less experts

Less academics and more UKIP candidates

When a military chaplain’s daughter from Wheatley

Is playing Joan of Arc in the Wars of Brexit

With only God and King Billy to save us.

Download as a pdf here

Burning-Books-Mini-Pamphlet

Substitute : New volume of poems 2018

Sometimes all it needs is a trigger and Kit de Waal’s excellent piece in the Guardian yesterday brought together a lot of things for me that been bubbling under the surface.

Her article ‘Make room for working-class writers‘ touched a nerve…..

read it here https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/feb/10/kit-de-waal-where-are-all-the-working-class-writers-

Also she made a comment about how the Proper v Performance Poetry debate basically divides along class lines and that really rang true for me.

It is the reason I leapt to the defence of McNish and Tempest. Adrian Slatcher’s comments about the experience of being a working class writer also hit home.

In 2011 we were both published by SALT as Salt Modern Voices but throughout I felt an outsider at that particular party.

I was reading next to very affluent new poets from privileged backgrounds who frankly I had nothing in common with.

Most of the audience were from their background not mine and in a particularly depressing reading in Oxford I actually felt antagonism for raising my subject in their presence.

A mostly white female middle-class leftist audience did not like to hear about the destruction of the working class communities of Oxford which allowed them to enjoy their academic privileges.

Some inconvenient truths are not wanted even by allegedly left-leaning liberal elites.

Adrian’s very erudite piece on the subject here:

http://artoffiction.blogspot.co.uk/2017/12/a-working-class-writer-is-something-to.html

Since then I have noticed that academic poetry and performance poetry have started to separate in a alarming way. This is an outcome of a deliberately devisive education policy by government that increasingly appears to be a ‘pay to play’ approach to education.

If your parents invest a £100 k plus (BA+MA+PHD fees)you will one day get the payback of an academic career before 30 in return . An American privatised model.

These factors stopped me writing..I gave up..I felt nobody cared..that there was no audience for what I did..and I was right….the middle-class ‘proper poetry’ area isn’t interested in me..isn’t interested in the truth of working class lives and experience as a subject.

PN Review and others are not interested in working class experience one iota.

You want to play in the Premiere League magazines better hide all that personal shit and start writing about your foreign holidays, how difficult it is being a middle class person post Brexit or at worst make up shit about Impressionist painter’s wives you have no knowledge about but it feels authentic enough to your equally pretentious and middle-class readers sitting in their sun lounges drinking martinis to swallow.

Poetry for me has always been a means of articulating my anger at the class system in the U.K.

It has always been polemical even when it appears to be purely personal. As Raymond Williams wrote about the Romantics ‘the personal is political’.

So I have the impetus and hopefully in a few weeks a book to go with it…..I feel that inspired. I have been silenced for too long.

I am coming off the subs bench……I may not make the first team but I will put in some hefty tackles especially on Simon Armitage …the David Beckham of poetry;-)

 

Blurred Fences : Thames Valley Texas

A Christmas Poem in November?

I wrote this poem in 1995 and had omitted the key line about poets for fear of offending my father.

Now he has been gone 13 years so probably safe to reveal what the poem about.

After my father died in 2004 my mother confided to me that he had always ‘feared I was gay’ even when I spent seven years living with a Spanish woman…..such is the rural Oxfordshire psyche I suppose. Anyway here the finally rewritten (a couple of lines) poem about the trials of being a Berkshire Ruralist:-)

BLURRED FENCES

Wrestling with a young fir’s stubborn trunk

On an exposed north-facing hillside

Two weeks before Christmas, sleet, wind biting,

The spires of Oxford blurring in the storm

My father’s hands, hard, chapped, red-raw

Bend the tree over until the roots snap.

The red-faced farmer stands, biding his time

Then says ‘Poet is he.. they’re all gay or dead’

Silent we trudge back through rows of young firs

Past a tethered collie, collapsing tin sheds.

At the end of a gravel road worn to clay

We clamber inside my dad’s  builder’s truck

In the cab, steamy with opened flasks

Radio Oxford blaring out the traffic report

He carefully shakes ice off his jacket

As I scrape frozen mud off my boots

Visiting for the day, not dressed for fields

My Levis are slaked with straw and muck.

He sets the windscreen wipers beating

And a ledge of ice builds up on the hood then melts.

Distances open up and close through low cloud

As cooling-tower steam collapses like a veil over our home-town

The Down-land swims like a saucer of cat’s milk in the rain

As I try and grip a hot mug of tea with cold hands.

Still silent my father sips his tea and stares

through the pine trees and away from the farm.

I feel awkward, pick at the flakes of ice on my sleeve

As the motor turns and we lurch down the track.

He has ten years more hard labour to do.

Excavating then replacing soil across this county.

I have ten years of unfulfilled promises and high hopes to go.

Before I crash back into these muddy fields and the land buries him.

Dedicated to Ivo Belcher 1932-2004 and the un-named Fat Farmer with the conservative views 🙂

Contemporary American Poetry – 55 years on

Picked this up in a second hand shop recently. Was first edition (1962) of a book I  had encountered in a travelling shelf of ‘American Poetry’ in my local Didcot library in 1981 when I had returned home after art college.

It (in the flag cover version below) and a book of William Carlos Williams started me writing poetry. I had encountered Hughes and Heaney in contextual studies lectures at art college but these books started me writing.

I had always assumed that W.C.Williams in the book but I was mistaken it has Lowell and the full list below but NO WCW or Elliot or Frost because cut off is 20th century and all were born earlier. Lowell was born in 1917.

The second edition added a few new poets including Ginsberg and Plath as well as some now less well known people. There is an obvious male dominance..Levertov and Rich being notable exceptions but this is a product of the 1950s not today.

For a lone art student at the time this was still a wonderful introduction to people like Creeley, Snyder, Ashbery, O’Hara, Merrill and Snodgrass…

Here the 2nd edition.

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