For a while now I’ve wanted to write and perform something as – channelling, or in tribute to – Ivor Cutler.
I was introduced to him some years ago and love the slowness, darkness and ambient-intensity of a lot of his poetry – and songs. And how inexplicably hilarious (while worrying) they are.
He and poet Phyllis King jointly appeared in the BBC programme ‘King Cutler’ – where silence (not awkward, more wilful and full of potential) played a vital part in every programme. If you can find them online, listen to them (there’s an instruction, more on them shortly).
A friend recently showed me a poem by W D Cocker – The Bogle and the Bour-Tree – which you can read here, on the Scottish Poetry Library website – a favourite of hers.
Having visited the Manchester Art Gallery’s exhibition ‘do it’ 2013 last week (information here) which is now in its 20th year of artists giving instructions, as art. I decided to write a response to The Bogle, as a set of instructions by, or channelling, Ivor Cutler. They instruct what to do to avoid/overcome/’process’ the Bogle.
To read my tribute, you need to imagine yourself into Cutler’s voice – so I suggest having a listen to this, first (and any other poems you find on YouTube). It’s Cutler giving his insight into bread (and) butter.
What a voice! And now you may read my ‘do it’ style homage, with it in mind…I’ll be performing this at Spoken Weird in Halifax tomorrow night, should you be around…
Processing the Bogle
or, A Response to W D Cocker, Written as Instructions by Ivor Cutler
First, wake up, ‘we wean’: there are more important things to attend to
than your idiot unconscious and dreams about paper-clips.
Go, if you will, down the stairs – avoiding that third one that creaks.
You should fix that. One weekend. You don’t want him to hear.
Now, approach the kitchen – by the way, don’t switch on
those expensive halogen lights. You don’t want him to see you coming.
Approach the cupboard where you keep the tins – perhaps yours is
chrome and modern. That sounds about right, for you.
Now, rummage – right at the back. The vaults. Don’t put the lights on, like I said.
Grab three cans. An all-day-breakfast. Some fetid kidney beans. Whatever.
Don’t look what they are. Just tear off their labels, leaving them plain silver.
Don’t open them. Not yet. The next part is important – and difficult.
Now: juggle the tins. For at least a minute. You may think it silly.
I know you much prefer ‘juggling’ Excel. But the Bogle can tell, from the smell.
Whether you manage to do this without a major insurance claim to self or property,
is up to you. Open each can. Pour their contents out. The un-fresher, the better.
Not just into anything: make it your finest, fanciest dish. You must have one.
When the Bogle is found, it will judge you on the sound.
Now, clad in whatever you are clad in – even if that is nothing, or if you’ve
passed out in that disgusting tie again – go into the murk, to your local Bour-tree.
Do not use Google Maps for this; however much you adore your iPhone 8.
The Bogle disapproves. You will know the tree, when you see it, by the shape.
This is best, by the way, not at dawn, but just before.
The Bogle, it is little known, is crepuscular.
Approach the tree confidently, yet calmly. Treat it like your weekly Wednesday meeting.
Hold the dish outstretched. Now, utter these words under your breath:
I am no wee wean. I have nae dreid.
This offering I put upon the Bogle’s heed.
I am no blin’ and I will no rin,
Beneath this Bour-Tree’s bowers – ever agin’!
Then, deposit the contents of the dish over your head, smash it on the ground
and stamp around the tree three times, repeating the rhyme.
Repeat this process weekly, as a matter of routine
and you’ll find you can enjoy your walk to work once again.