So, some of you were commenting on Mr Turnbull's likeness to a certain TV character in the last post... well, here he is with an actor from that same TV series (photo taken at Latitude Festival in England last year apparently).
But don't forget...the reason we are talking about this... details of the October event featuring poetry from Tim Turnbull, Anna Dickie, Morgan Downie, Juliet Wilson and music from Dundee choir Loadsaweeminsingin are here.
I wasn't sure what to post this week and then I just read this post at Niamh's about breaking all the damned rules (OK, they call them 'tips from last year's judges' – see here) that the (UK/London-based) Poetry Society have put up for their poetry competition this year. Can I just say one word..? And can that word be wankers (though actually I quite like some poems by Neil Rollinson, one of aforementioned judges...haven't read any Daljit Nagra...seems like a nice bloke...but Ruth Padel, I mean, after the recent Oxford mash-up...is she really in the tip-giving category...?). They actually use the phrase 'lower the tone of your entry' in amongst these tips which leaves me almost wordless. I did say 'almost'. And who am I anyway...so obscure.
But it's totally not about the personalities involved here... it's more about the rules/tips/hints mentality that has infected poetry over recent years and would smother it with good intentions, I think, if it could. I even know and like some poetry folk who send out lists of rules and tips (you know who you are...) but I really don't like that side of them and I wish they wouldn't do it. I mean if someone wants to send an entry to the National Poetry Competition on multi-coloured paper, handwritten in crayon and scented all over with eau de KFC what the hell does it matter to anyone else? Doesn't the entry money help keep the place running? Doesn't the unexpected approach keep things interesting and not totally predictable? Are judges so bland and dull that everything must be presented perfectly for them (and if possible using only those nice, long words, please)? Do they really think that the kind of person who sends in an entry on green paper with pink spots is going to change and blandify their life just because they're told to by (gasp) a successful poet? This person may not be successful (dreadful, I know) but do you know what they just might be? How about a free spirit or an eccentric genius or perhaps even just a daft loser on some very heavy medication...and what the hell does it matter anyway because whichever they are they're almost certainly not going to be a person who follows rule (or tip) lists (and I'll tell you that for nothing... telling them what to do will probably make them more extreme in their weirdness if anything...). And don't the judges wonder what it says about them that they even think that a list of hints can do anything to change this (might it show a poor understanding of the human psyche, for example)? Might someone write a poem about that?
For me the endless rule-making and hint-proffering leads to this world (please stand and salute - that or die lonely and unpublished): Poets and wannabe poets, you will go to workshops! Only there can you see the true path. Yes, generals. (sorry about italics, judge people). You will care far too much about the academic viewpoint! Ordinary readers are not important. I repeat, ordinary readers are NOT important! Yes, generals. You will be obssessed with competitions, literary magazines and all-round toadying to famous poets in the hope that some of it might rub off and you might enter the inner scrotum...sorry sanctum and become...(intake of breath)...a workshop facilitator yourself! (sigh). Yes, generals. You will obey poetry rules at all times! Otherwise you only have yourself to blame for your sad and meaningless existence. Yes, generals. You will never mention the Beat Poets and any other layabouts who broke rules and still managed to scrape by (they are forgotten/evil/work of the devil)! Yes, generals. Women poets especially beware – you're only really allowed in to Poetry World on a special pass and privileges can be removed at any time! (In high voices) Yes, generals.
I could go on with this for weeks...but really, it's the holidays and I have books to read and housework to ignore. Also I am aware that this is the kind of thing that gets blogs a bad name (and I'm usually so well-behaved!). I don't have a poem about poetry competitions in particular...but I do have this one about sending poems to poetry magazines and it covers some of the same ground we're dancing on here. It's from a few years ago (and I don't always feel like this but I do now and then). So bitter.
We enjoyed these but…
Could you make them more obscure Metaphors more, funny bits fewer?
And could you make them long and boring? Our aim in life is to get folk snoring
Perhaps you could take out all that's real Honesty, directness, popular appeal
Could you rewrite them in language poetic? Get out that dictionary, don't be pathetic
You should read our stuff and see what we like Something more like that, that's what to write
You see we want everyone writing the same The poetry business, a funny old game
This picture is for anyone who thinks England has the upper hand in dreadful nationalistic marketing practices (see recent St George's Cross Mars Bar photo here). Mark snapped the above 'Robbie Burns wants to share a coke with you' in Dundee last year some time and we've been saving it for a special occasion.
And the occasion? Why, we're back from our trip down south (to Leeds) to visit family and friends of course. We had a lovely time... and now we're back.
Now, on with this week's Poetry Bus. Niamh (see here) wants us all working on confusion...and I love confusion (well, anywhere but on public transport). I have an old poem that is mostly about confusion (here) but I reckoned it was about time I wrote something new too... so here's one we might all relate to. It's a bit of a sound poem really (aren't they all?) so maybe read it aloud as you go. Or maybe tomorrow I'll record a sound file for you (too tired now).
Click and spin
Click Holiday photos Click Musicky downloads Click Emails for perusing Click Flash fictions afusing Click Facebookering updates Click With nations of all states Click Go cinema ticketing Click Or crickety wicketing Click Maps come with directions Click Onliney prescriptions Click Long moments of unrest Click Harmony's the sweetest Click Blogs now and forever Click So end of an era Click More stories of always Click Sore synapsey pathways Click Eyes round and around now Click Must stop looking anyhow Click Just one more peep maybe Click Powering down baby Click
So, we're away from home just now. Here's a clue to our whereabouts (safe to say you could not buy this version in Scotland... surprised they're still on sale here in fact...).
But holidays or no the Poetry Bus is still on the road - this week at Delusions of Adequacy (instructions here). My ticket is an old poem... about unrequited love (one in particular - though it may seem general).
Girls learn this only once
Tall, hard and cold Men you like Who don't like you You bend You twist To fit them right You waste your precious time That's what you do
'Auchmithie Road' is a poem I wrote for a friend a few years back. We lived in the clifftop village of Auchmithie from 2002-2004 and it really is a beautiful, striking place - the kind of home you really want to get back to. The poem is on one of my postcards (see above). Recently Montrose musician Gary Anderson has put this poem to music...and I LOVE it. Very cleverly he used the opening three lines as a chorus - not something I would have thought of in a million years - and it really works. This is the second piece of mine he has songified this year (just back here I told you about the other one) and they are both great, I'm so pleased! Anyway, to hear the new one go to Gary's MySpace profile (here) and go to the last song on the player ('Auchmithie Road'). Of course you can listen to his other songs while you are there.
This week's task...to write a poem on something (literally ON something)...came via Dominic Rivron's place. I sort of complied...went and stuck my tree poem postcard (all recycled materials, people) in a tree (see above). If you can't make out the words properly here they are again:
Save the trees (or else)
Blend in with the trees Make use of their breadth Think wild, no one sees Rediscover some depth Sycamores have keys So that's where they're kept Open wide the wood door Remember what it's for
It's something like a proper form (ottava rima - one of my faves) and if anyone wants a copy of the postcard and hasn't got one just send me an email and I'll see what I can do. Alternatively you can buy sets of all my 12 postcards from my website.
No time for anything like a book review but I've just read the book pictured above and it is really interesting, moving and enjoyable so I would definitely recommend it for your summer reading pile. Obama wrote 'Dreams from my Father' in 1995 (long before the presidential race, never mind the unbelievable victory) and it is all about his background, his life and the countries that he is connected to by family (Kenya and the USA). I loved every word of it, I will admit and it makes me wonder what it must be like to be ruled by someone with a brain and who gives even half a damn about ordinary people. I really can't imagine what that feels like.
Not much blogging going on here...school holidays, dogwalking, filmwatching...not much writing of anything really. On films, I watched 'Away we go' last night - a recentish Sam Mendes movie with script by Dave Eggers (I've read a lot of his stuff this year) and Vendela Vida - and I did wonder 'how many more films are going to be made with this kind of super-sensitive indie-folk-boy soundtrack? The music was...nice...but it did seem very predictable...almost painfully so (though it's quite a cute and even endearing movie in some ways...I liked it more and more as it went on).
Here though is a song from one of my favourite soundtracks ('Magnolia' 1999). It's not a favourite film at all (maybe I should watch it again...haven't seen it for years) but I do remember loving some of the soundtrack and then going to hunt down the CD. The music is almost all by Aimee Mann - see below:
Might make it onto the Poetry Bus at the weekend...can't promise anything new though!
So, this isn't quite the Poetry Bus ticket I thought I'd go for earlier in the week. The instructions from Weaver were all about writing about a person and whilst I'm not really writing many new poems just now (blame the school holidays, the ongoing bereavement-related lack of concentration...) I did think I might post a couple of old poems about friends ('Unfulfilled Annie' and 'The loveliest girl' - both on my website in the 'other people' section of 'poems' if you're interested). Then in the last few days all I've been really thinking about is Mum so it seemed the right thing to do to post another mother poem. I wrote this a while back after viewing the painting by Picasso you can see above (in jpg form) called 'Mère et enfant' ('Mother and child'). The painting is in the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh and it is my very favourite piece of art in that building (it's quite a tiny painting but size, of course, means nothing... read what the gallery has to say about it here). The poem is about a person too of course, in part.
All there is ('Mère et enfant' Pablo Picasso 1902)
A doughnut of hair on the back of your head A dumpling of laundry bound for the floor What a picture
You're an almost floating cartoon mother Slim with that impossibly curving frame Your arms undone
And look how you hold so close, so soft In your cracked, blue cloud-cave of a world Lullaby focus
Mother and child, child and mother It's a scraped, stark moment in time That's all there is
So, it's the last day of this week's Stevie Wonder Special... and there are still so many magical love songs to choose from. I could have picked 'Until you come back to me', 'Hey love', 'Signed, Sealed...' (much used in the Obama election campaign so I read) and many more but instead I went for this one (beware very pre-MTV clip - bit chaotic and crappy):
Ah, Stevie - talent beyond words. The song was written by Ron Miller and Orlando Murden in 1967 and Stevie's version wasn't the first (it was released in 1968) but it is one of the best known.
I'll be back online for another recycled Poetry Bus in a couple of days (this week's instructions are at the Weaver's blog here). Have a Wonderful weekend everybody.
Today's Wonder track is 'Living for the City' (weren't we just talking about the country/city divide...back here?).
And this song was used (in a cover/remix/mash-up thing) to great effect in the movie New Jack City (Mario van Peebles 1991).
The film looks pretty dated now but it was OK (if not amazing) in its time (and Wesley Snipes made a great godfather of crack). There's a a trailer for the film here and the whole mash-up business by Troop/Levert feat Queen Latifah is right here:
It's all in the game, y'all. And indeed school holidays start here today...
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.