OK, that bit's not true. Instead it's time for another TFE prompt and this week the afterlife is our subject. I have two poems to offer – one old, one new, one tum-ti-tum rhymey, one nothing like that at all. Something for everyone...
First off here's the old one – it's a poem about the changing concept of heaven and I wrote it back in 2006. You can tell it's old because it mentions Tiger Woods (the golfer) as opposed to Tiger Woods (the shamed adulterer – yawn). This first one is the bang-bang rhyme one of the two so if you really hate this kind of thing...just scoot straight on down to the other poem below.
Why wait for heaven when Tesco might stock it? Waiting is finished, it’s easy to see Rewards are all right here and now, do you get it? These days heaven isn’t what it used to be
The clouds have all gone but do we see clearer? The angels all vanished, the gates lost their key Heaven’s all different – quicker and nearer Anywhere you want it is where it can be
For some it’s perfection on courses and pitches Their angels are Tigers, their place at the tee The clubs and the cups and the jets and the riches These days heaven isn’t what it used to be
Some think joy on earth has its own price tag They buy everything because nothing is free Who needs celestial – just buy the handbag These days heaven isn’t what it used to be
The family holiday, flying to see blue The wedding in paradise by a palm tree The house with the pillars, a palace made just for you These days heaven isn’t what it used to be
For some there’s the crossword, the quest for the right clue The garden, the telly, the phone call, the tea Theatre trips and a seat with a good view These days heaven isn’t what it used to be
It could be a handshake, a hug, an ‘I love you’ It could be a photo with not much to see There we are looking just how we would like to The simplest of matters our heaven can be
Some want justice, caring and sharing They do their bit and it feels heavenly More of us really could do with their daring To make heaven wider it takes bravery
For me it is wandering, nothing too clear-cut Shoes that fit, chocolate and days by the sea Music but not necessarily harp-struck Heaven is, happily, feeling more free
It’s less about waiting and more about finding It’s trying to work out what works for each me It’s losing eternal but not really minding These days heaven’s what you need it to be
And now for something completely....oh, you know...different. This is new and it's about death and what's next for the godless, I suppose. I can't vouch for any scientific accuracy but it's an imaginative piece so that will just have to be my defence. The poem may seem grim to some of you but that's a perspective thing, isn't it? I tend to think of death as the final relief but then I am, of course, the child of a suicide (there's a stamp on the back of my neck that says so if you look closely). We see death differently perhaps...who knows? Here it is:
Eyes are closed in a terminal way The hum of the brain winds down to null The stomach hangs on to its last ever meal (If only it had been something more appealing)
Mini tricks of life escape where they can A puff of old air, a free flake of skin Minute drops of liquid flow out (but not in) A dab of saliva, final dribbled message
The body is simply a weight to be born No more carrying itself from here again And everything else seeps softly away Forgotten (Remembered) Forgotten (Forgotten)
Many regular readers will know at least something about Colin McGuire (or McGuire as he's often known online). He is a youngish man who lives over Glasgow way and he is a writer...a writer of some promise (though whether any literary scene will be able to hold him is another matter...). He blogs here.
Last year I became the lucky owner of his first book 'Riddled with Errors' and I was reading it the other night when I came across a piece of prose called 'A True History of the Banana'. I laughed and laughed as I read it and this made me happy because humour is (and always been) one of my main passions (and remember this is International Week of Huge Passion here at More about the song).
You can read the Banana treatise here (though it's a slightly different version to the one in the book because he's an awkward bugger that way, young McGuire...but I kind of love him for it...awkward buggers of the world unite and all that...some hope...all too bloody awkward).
Anyway, on that rambling and badly punctuated note, I'll move along. See you on the other side for TFE's 'next life' assignment.
So I said I'd write about some passionate bloggers, didn't I? All the ones I read could probably come under that heading at some time or other (because I just don't respond well to muted responses) but here are a few people that I don't mention very often maybe. They're all very different to each other and very different to what I put up here (and that's one thing I like about them of course - hell, I might even learn something...). So today let's blow a trumpet for:
Juliet Wilson blogs at Crafty Green Poet... and that blog name pretty much gives you everything you need to know about the content. Juliet (who has a poetry book out soon courtesy of Calder Wood Press) writes about all the nature in her locality so lovingly and fully (and indeed regularly) that you might easily think she lives deep in the countryside (and not in Edinburgh...which is in fact the case). She never seems to get involved in literary argy-bargy and instead she just observes and works, walks and writes, makes and does. Her blog is a bit like a pool of clear water in a land of muddy puddles (not that the rest of you are puddles...but there are plenty of puddles about...you know what I mean...OK, maybe not best imagery...). Juliet has some fun recycling ideas too.
Katy Evans-Bush is an American in London. She has a book of poems from Salt called 'Me and the Dead' and a blog called Baroque in Hackney (again the name is a helpful and accurate guide). I don't read her blog as much as I did a while back (no real reason) but every now and again I still call in and it's pretty much always worth the trip. Just recently she wrote a post when the fashion designer Alexander McQueen killed himself (the post is here) and I went along and read it (knowing little more when I arrived than McQueen's name...fashion denier that I am). It's a beautiful piece though...as are all her pieces on visual arts...and it's absolutely stuffed with passion for what we see around us and what the heck it all means.
And finally in this post...one of my very favourites...The Solitary Walker. This English blogger (who I think is called Robert...he's a secretive type) lives in Lincolnshire or somewhere, works in the book trade in some guise and is passionate about walking, philosophy and literature (oh, and music too). He regularly goes off on those Camino things (and is in Spain getting wet in their name right now). One reason I think I enjoy his blogging so much is that it is all done just for the love of it...for the quest. He has no book of his own (or anyone else's) poems to flog, no profile to raise, no ladder to climb. Plus from my suburban Mum life I love to read him and dream of just setting off walking for weeks at a time like he does. A housewife can dream, can't she? Even when she's not really a wife.
Anyone want to recomment a particularly passionate blogger?
I think passion is one of the most important areas when it comes to the arts. Sure there is technique, ability, timing, subject matter, hard work, originality, variety...a million other things at stake but really...when it comes down to it I think that for me passion is somehow the key to everything. But then I would say that, I suppose...I'm a passionate kind of a person.
Recently I've been listening to one of the most passionate English poets, Adrian Mitchell (1932-2008) because I got a double CD of him reading/performing for my birthday back in January ('The Dogfather' - cover above). He is so great to listen to – funny, thoughtful and yet bursting with enthusiasm and love for his work and the world – and I really would recommend you search out the CD if you're a fan (you can buy it here).
I have written about Mitchell before (here) and in the last post I was quoting him from the CD in the comments (his answer to 'what is poetry' – 'truth with a backbeat'). As I went cruising online afterwards to check that he wasn't quoting someone else in turn I came across a great (and very passionate) interview with him (here). For those of you who haven't time or inclination to read the whole thing here are a couple of quotes from the late and very smashing Mr Adrian Mitchell:
“Poetry isn't really important, it's necessary”
(On reading poems aloud) “I want it (my voice) to be real. And I want it to use my own rhythms, my own speech rhythms, but I intensify them for poetry, and what I'm aiming at is somewhere between speaking and singing.”
“Poetry is a free country, a really free country: you've never been in such a free country.”
“When people ask me 'can I do this in a poem?' I say 'yes'.”
“You don't write for children in general because it doesn't work, there aren't any children in general. You don't write for adults in general, you write for your friends. Or your enemies, if you like. Write with somebody in mind. Because poetry is a gift, so the only point is to give it. I mean, just writing for yourself, well it may satisfy you, but it's no use to me or anyone else. Poetry is a gift so give it with open hands.”
There isn't much good Mitchell on youtube (just more and more versions of his most famous 'Tell me lies about Vietnam' poem 'To whom it may concern') but on his publisher Bloodaxe's site there are some video clips (here – scoot down to Mitchell...some other good stuff on the way down...). ADDED LATER here's a good page with links to Mitchell poems and audio versions.
All this makes me think that most of the blogs I come back to time and time again are ones where the writer has a passion (whether that be for poetry or nature or humour or films...or all of those things). Maybe next post I'll highlight a few of those passionate people.
So another poem for the great man (and I'm getting earlier and earlier...I have very little patience once something is written, sorry). This week TFE's writing prompt was loose:
"Write about ANYTHING but if you need a prompt then empty your pockets /wallets/ purses/handbags then write a detached poem about yourself , based on your personal items, what they might say about you."
I thought about the bag I use most often (the one above, complete with curious dog) and I came up with this (it's not particularly detached but as with all these prompts I seem to take the bits that interest me and completely fail to take notice of anything else...):
I see that elsewhere in blogland (say here or where it all started here) people are writing about bells today. Well, I was at our folk club this week and the very marvellous Claire Mann and Aaron Jones performed a lovely song (that features bells heavily) called 'Saints and Sinners'. You can hear it on their myspace page here (I can't find a decent recording on youtube). Claire and Aaron perform in lots of different bands and guises but they are both based in Scotland and are both very talented musicians. This is what they look like.
The song by the way was written by Scot-moved-to Canada David Francey. He has also been to our folk club and is also well worth catching live (or on cd) if you can.
That's our visitor back off to afar now (New Zealand). Rather less ambitiously I'm off for a lie down. Well, when I've done the laundry and the this and the that and the...oh, you know...
p.s. Tickets now on sale for the poetry/music event here in April (details here).
Remember back here I asked someone to come up with a new tune for an old poem/song lyric. Well, someone has! Go here and you can hear 'Love song without a tune – the new lease of life version' (though it may need a new title...maybe just 'Gap').
The composer, musician, singer on this recording (that he thinks is rough but it sounds just perfect to me...) is Andy Spiller. Andy lives just down the coast from us in Angus and I met him at local music events (his myspace is here). He was on the bill at the very first poetry/music event I put on (in Edinburgh, back here - that's when the photo above was taken by Colin Will too) and I'm really excited to be working with him again...in a sense...even if it's only via blogs and emails.
I listened to Andy's version of this only a couple of times yesterday and then I was singing it all night. Could we have a hit on our hands...what do you think?
OK, back to TFE's writing tasks it is then. We have a visitor from afar for the next few days so I won't be around here much and I'm putting up my homework early. The one due for Monday had a brief something along the lines of 'take Valentine's Day as your starting point'. So I did. I started with Valentine's Day...and I came up with this:
Oh boy, are you not sick Of being good? Do you not fancy A defiant waltz down To the tackiest shop in town There to pluck clean out The brightest, gaudiest heart Caress its velvet sections Then take it home To bed for good?
And once you're safe Back inside Do you not want To write your own name In big looping letters on the envelope Add a splash Of something scent Then watch as you both Dance down to disgrace In the mirror's light?
And with a pen gripped Do you not long To fill the quiet page With bursting symbols Lines of mood and travesty Then push it all firmly Into its red holder Seal it forever With the longest, fullest Wettest kiss?
I've been working on a writing task for TFE this week (something for Valentine's Day) and I'll probably post that poem on Sunday (for various visitor-connected reasons). I don't want to say too much about the poem right now but let's just say it's not one I'll be sending to my beloved this year (or any year I shouldn't think...) and so ahead of it I wanted to post some other love-related links and things...as much as anything as a contrast to what's coming on Sunday.
So! I have written quite a lot for and about romantic love (in fact there is a whole section in the poems area of my website called 'love'). I also have quite a lot of alternative occasion poems – if you go to the occasions poems section there's an alternative wedding poem, an alternative funeral poem, a couple of others. I have a tiny alternative St Valentine's poem too (and feel free to use it if you ever have the need). Here it is:
Roses are red Violets are violet Please love me My life's in the toilet
And here are some links to other love-related poems and discussions:
Back in 2008 I posted a poem about a loved one's death called 'Significant other deceased' – it's here. Interestingly a recent book review online (here) picked that poem out for special mention.
For my Mark's birthday in 2008 I posted the poem 'Poetic love' here. It's really a love poem about and/or for people who aren't interested in poetry.
In October 2008 I wrote a whole post about love poetry (here) and that included my oh-heck-it's-a-gap-year-romance-poem 'Chileno on my mind'. There was a sex poetry post too (the one after love...).
I posted my English/Scots/German poem 'My man' back in January 2009 (here).
'Short love' was a poem featured in a week of short poems (back here).
More recently the love poem 'Don't squeeze my shoes' was read at a wedding (and blogged about here).
And if none of that is enough for you here's a recent interview with poet Carol Ann Duffy where she says "all poems are about love".
See you on Sunday for the Poetry Bus (or at the bus stop, I suppose, seeing as the bus doesn't go till Monday...).
I was thinking about this poem today...it's a little one that I've never done much with. As I mentioned yesterday widowhood has been a bit of a theme in some of my family (my maternal Grandmother was widowed four times, my Mum twice...now you know one reason why I've never married!). This poem is about someone specific but I can't go into any more detail than that, I'm afraid. Here it is:
Widows talk about the war Their eyes mist They dance the old steps Their feet miss The photos are grey But the hearts pound Some widows are half Buried underground
Singer Corinne Bailey Rae doesn't really need my stamp of approval. Her new album 'The Sea' is being featured absolutely everywhere just now but still...I'm going to mention it too (as much as anything because I'm sure that kind of blanket coverage sometimes puts people off a new release – it makes it seem too pop for some...too easy...too common...).
So, I got the album last week...because I'm a fan...because she's from Leeds (my home for years)... because I LOVE her voice...because I think she's a really good songwriter...because I've always liked rock and soul and so does she (and they get mixed up in her songs). For anyone who doesn't know anything about her there's a good recent interview here and it does cover (as you might expect) how she coped with being widowed at the age of what...29. That's not a reason to buy her album, of course, but coming from a long line of early widows it is something that's likely to make me love her even more than I already do.
Here she is live on Jools Holland's TV show singing 'I'd do it all again':
And here's a rockier one ('The Blackest Lily') - a song with some quite unusual lyrics ('the blackest lily/the blackest pony/won't protect my heart from you'). Well, she did study Eng Lit you know.
I've been reading the most amazing book for the past month or so...this book:
What is the What The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng A Novel by Dave Eggers First published 2006
(There are a couple of different editions and covers but my copy looks like the one above - minus the amazon arrow).
'What is the What' is about a young boy living in Southern Sudan, living through the horrors of civil war, living in refugee camps for about a decade (in Ethiopia and then Kenya) and then living as a young man in the USA. You can read more about the book and Valentino here.
I feel really overwhelmed on finishing it to be honest. It is one of those books that once read will never be forgotten. It is gripping, heartbreaking, inspiring, kind of earthshattering...but at the same time it is still the story of an ordinary boy's life. I really can't recommend it highly enough.
Now I feel a bit like I need to go and sit in a cupboard for the next month or so. But I won't.
No, you're not hallucinating - that really is Hugh Grant. And no - I'm not hallucinating either. Well, no more than usual. Read on, read on...
An old poem today and one I was reminded of thanks to a conversation over here about poems in films and TV ads (and which mentioned, as you might expect, 'Four weddings and, thank god, finally a bloody funeral').
I wrote the poem below in 2005 after watching the film 'Love Actually' with my Mum. Why did I watch it, you might ask (if I hate these kinds of films..and I do...) and my answer would be - because it was on, because Mum and I live in the same house so we have to do some things together (but we have very different tastes).
Maybe it was unfair to target Richard Curtis for 'Love Actually's terribleness (as I do in the poem) but then he did direct it and write it so maybe not (you can read more about him here...just in the interests of fairness). It is an excruciating film though and anyone who disagrees with me is going to be locked in a room and forced to watch it over and over and OVER (then see how much you still like it...when you're choking on the saccharine!). One reason I mention Curtis in the poem I suppose is because in fact he has worked on some of my favourite TV shows ('Not the Nine O'Clock News', 'Spitting Image', 'Blackadder'...) but when it comes to films pretty much everything he's been involved with has made me want to SCREAM (though I would say that since I wrote this poem and got it out of my system it's bothered me a lot less...poetry as therapy...hell yes!).
Those of you who aren't English might not get why I find films like 'Four Weddings' (Curtis was writer and producer), 'Bridget Jones' (writer) and 'Love Actually' (writer, director) so annoying but to me it's the ridiculously clichéd idea of England they portray that bugs me so much. And the most annoying things about clichés? That they're true of course! There is this little bubble in England of people who all talk the same, who only know people who went to private school/Oxbridge, who own the land (well, everything the Russians haven't got to yet), who are fairly unaware that there are any other people in England (or indeed the world). They are one of the (OK, many) reasons I don't live in England and in fact the only time I find any of this crop of films bearable is when they bring in Americans (yes, North Americans - you are the good guys again for a change!). Renée Zellweger is charming and funny in 'Bridget Jones', for example, (shame about the rest of the film and indeed the sequel) and Julia Roberts is just adorable in 'Notting Hill' (though she could have done better than Hugh Grant). But you know I don't even hate Hugh Grant – I quite like him in 'About a Boy' - but in the Curtis factory films...EURGH, I want to kill him and wave his scalp on a stick through the streets of London (and boy, will those streets be dirtier than on any of those stupid films).
Scalp on a stick? Maybe it does still bother me a little. Must work on that...although now I live in Scotland I don't have to deal with the annoying English so much and I remember all the nice ones and I only think about the others when reminded (as yesterday). The Scots though...that's a whole other story...maybe I'll write that poem when we move...
In the meantime here's the English poem. It's a bang-bang rhyme number but you won't judge it harshly for that now will you...will you?
Got the Bridget Jones, Love Actually, Four Weddings blues
Richard Curtis How you hurt us You know not surely But you do London's quiet Reneé's diet All this stuff It's just not true
No-one's poor and no-one's hungry Everyone has a central flat Don't forget it snows at Christmas How could you have forgotten that?
England is a picture postcard A chocolate box, a pastel scene Full of men like Hugh and Colin Every high school prom queen's dream
The England I knew didn't match yours It always rained more than it snowed Hughs and Colins - all obnoxious The spacious flats - all gone, been sold
Now you can say it's just a fiction A happy world for Saturday night But all those larks with perfect diction Make for a strange unsettling sight
It's like the sixties never happened The seventies, eighties, nineties too England stuck in post-war limbo Jolly chaps and work to do
I don't think you mean to do it You seem a human sort of bloke You were carried on a moment But just saying 'fuck' is not a joke
So let's have no more Bridget Joneses Let's have no more love times love Whatever happened to Blackadder? What would he make of this guff?
And look at all your charity work, sir If you really care at all Stop polluting life with drivel False impressions, stories tall
So can you stop please All this film cheese Can you stop it Kill it dead England's story Needs less glory Honest hope It needs instead
And then he made 'The Boat that Rocked'. I have managed to avoid that so far.
Talking about brine...as we were in the comments to the last post...here's one of my favourite ever film clips:
The film, of course, is 'Bedknobs and Broomsticks' (based on two books by Mary Norton), the song is 'The Beautiful Briny' and it was written by the Sherman brothers (also songwriters for 'Aristocats', 'Mary Poppins', 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' AND 'The Jungle Book'). According to wikipedia 'The Beautiful Briny' was written for 'Mary Poppins' (1964) but not needed in the end and so carried over to 'Bedknobs' (1971). I never knew that...did you?
See what a difference a day (and an underwater dance sequence) make? Not a care in the world...
Originally from the north of England, I live in Angus, Scotland where I walk a lot, think a lot, listen to lots of music, sometimes write poems, sometimes read poems out to other people, sometimes write songs, read all kinds of odd things, watch a bit...oh and I look after my family too.
I sometimes organise poetry and music events - details are usually here (though nothing coming up in the near future). This year I went travelling with my family - photos and notes are here. Now we're back I have moved to a new regular blog - it is here.
More about the song
You can buy my book (published 2008) from my website if you fancy it (go to 'book' page) or from www.amazon.co.uk if you prefer the comfort of the multinational corporation. My book is printed on recycled paper and card. I have 12 different poetry postcards available too.