I Am Sat Behind His Hand…

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Making my merry way back to Leeds after a lovely time in Bristol (which I do miss). Obviously I am on the glamorous Megabus – and am sat just behind the hand (see picture) of its jolly/sinister/jolly sinister blue and yellow mascot, branded on its side…Is it a smile or a smirk, Mr Megabus?

Sometimes you have to keep yourself occupied on a five hour journey and I thought I would use the image of being sort of ‘in’ a hand for some writing stimulus. Also, a repeated refrain can be rather fun to work with, pushing you to view one thing in many ways…

I Am Sat Behind His Hand

I am sat behind his hand
and it is translucent, ghostly.

I am sat behind his hand
which I have crossed with
minimal silver.

I am sat behind his hand
and his fingers frond from my head:
a cockerel.

I am sat behind his hand
and the landscape flees his grip.

I am sat behind his hand
while he grabs at the pylons, pulls
at the sun.

I am sat behind his hand
so my face, these lines,
are his palm’s fortune.

I am sat behind his hand,
resting my head on his thumb.

I am sat behind his hand
so he pixelates the dusk.

I am sat behind his hand
as he ghosts above the M5.

I am sat behind his hand
pulling pictures from between his
sausage digits.

I am sat behind his hand
snacking and about to be snacked.

I am sat behind his hand
to be placed in his pocket, a pen.

I am sat behind his hand
strapped in, ticking round his wrist,
keeping watch.

I am sat behind his hand:
Tom Thumb, emerging from a sleeve.

I am sat behind his hand
and his branching fingers
ruffle the leaves.

Megapoetry? Perhaps not – but at least I’m not playing loud music through my phone…

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Processing the Bogle – as Ivor Cutler

Ivor Cutler, January 15, 1923 – March 3, 2006.

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.

Love The Words on ELFM

I went along to ELFM Towers yesterday for a chat with the ever-gracious Peter Spafford on his monthly extravaganza of all things wordy, Love The Words.

You can hear our conversation and my poems (on topics ranging from red kites to exam invigilating and pirate-spiders) by clicking on this link. I hope you enjoy it, or some of it, or even just click on it to find out…

You can also hear an interview on the same programme with excellent Leeds writer Rommi Smith about her residency at the NHS, which is well worth a listen.

The Rules of Twister or, Meaning of Whirl

One of the recent, unusual, French funnels.

Recently, there have been tornadoes in both the USA and in France (!), where they are much less common an occurrence and, mercifully for the French, much less powerful.

So in a bid to capture something of their violence and swirling destruction, I put to use the Lazarus Corporation Text Mixing Desk in conjunction with Google Translate, the internet, and my brain.

Essentially, I put the rules of Twister and definitions of tornadoes through the Mixing Desk (I’m really not sure how it works, apart from removing expletives, or swear words, and generally cutting up the text you put in).

I then alternated (ish) a line from each (the rules and the definition) and – in honour of the recent French ‘tornades’ – put this through Google Translate from English, to French, to (one of their former colonies and because it’s a symbol language), Vietnamese – then back and forth until the language got confused.

At each point, I saved the intermediary translation, then chose the ones I liked at the end and tinkered with it (to give it something of a vortex-form, too – dot dot dot…).

Sometimes when the ideas aren’t a-flowing, you’ve got to prime them. It’s a fun experiment – and perhaps captures something of a whirl of meaning and confusion in the language, as twisters/tornadoes/tornades/cơn lốc xoáy (that’s the Vietnamese) actually cause in real life…

I also like that ‘the Referee’ came up as a figure with the agency: whether that’s the Weather itself, or a God (if you’re so inclined), or Chance, is up to you…

 

The Rules of Twister

or, Meaning of Whirl

 

…the Referee can call, may, may call out:

appearance, emergence of a funnel-shaped cloud.

The colouring arrow – pointing, advancing

large progress. Great examples

power the steering wheel. Then

the Referee spins the spinner, then…

 

…someone or something turns violent

or mobile: devastating, devastating spiral

calls out to the part of the body

of winds turned violent, rotating

with action and passion. Then

the Referee must turn again

a different colour, then…

 

LS13 Anthology and Upcoming Gigs

A quick update also that – GOOD NEWS – I’m going to be one of the poets featured in the LS13 Leeds Writers anthology, about which more information here. It’ll be launched next Friday June 7th as part of the Leeds Big Book End weekend.

Also, I’ll be performing at a couple of upcoming nights:

Firstly at Spoken Weird in Halifax on Thursday June 13th at the Sportsman Pub – full details here. The May event was a real pleasure – a room full of attentive poetry-lovers, sharing their joy in words. Looking forward to doing a fifteen-minute set for the occasion…

And on June 26th I’ll be doing another fifteen-minuter at the Poetry by HEART event at the Headingley Enterprise and Arts Centre – hopefully you can click through to more information here.

Looking forward to all of the above and would be lovely to see anyone who fancies it there 🙂

Snails, or Cycling in Shropshire

An uphill snail…

A brief post, as – after NaPoWriMo – I’ve had a bit of breathing space…But feel like the fallow time is done and the ideas they are a-flowing again.

Having just returned from a week in lovely Shropshire (which really is stunningly beautiful), I had a couple of rustic animal-related ideas (I do enjoy writing about animals). It’s a wonderful county and made me appreciate anew how many diverse landscapes we’re lucky enough to have on Our Curious Little Rock in the Atlantic (or, Britain, as it’s known).

Here’s one of the animal poems, about cycling in a hilly terrain while in otherworldly holiday-time:

 

Snails

or, Cycling in Shropshire

 

We trail the treads

of our tyre-tracks.

Thwarting

all Earth’s gravity,

all of time:

a week of our life,

all we can see,

stretching

over our backs.

The Bee-Spell of Shakespeare Primary School

A collective poem of new collective nouns...

Here is a collected list poem or “spell” from students’ work today – coming up with new collective nouns for (Latin-name) species of British bee (which we spoke about as spells, like in Harry Potter…).

It has been an exhausting, but seemingly quite successful, day of workshops and waggle dances!

Hopefully the Buzz Words over the summer will get better and better.

 

And here is a ‘tweaked’ version of the poem, with a little stanza at the end to seal the spell…

 

The Bee-Spell of Shakespeare Primary

 

Oh River of Anthidium manicatum.

Oh Ruby of Andrena agilissima.

Oh Christmas of Bombus ruderarius.

Oh Cheesy Sweet of Osmia bicolor.

Oh Alien Grass of Bombus bohemicus.

Oh Seasoning of Hoplitis spinulosa.

Oh Rainbow Sea-Creature of Bombus lapidarius.

Oh Circle-Bubblegum of Lasioglossum malachurum.

Oh Salad of Apis mellifera.

Oh Heaven of Xylocopa violacea…

 

May you find sanctuary in our naming,

This Latin spell grant peaceful lives:

A flawless, diamond song exclaiming

From every burrow, every hive.

 

by The Students of Shakespeare Primary School

(with Caleb Parkin)

Going Viral: The Edge of Life

Coronavirus – which probably doesn’t infect textiles, like the virus in my poem

I’ve been having a bit of a recovery period post-NaPoWriMo. Well, I did write 31 poems during April; so a little pause is not unreasonable…

Just spotted this story about the new and potentially-pandemical (it’s a word now), coronavirus. The name sounds quite pretty – like a crown, or the corona of the sun. But sadly its symptoms – possible respiratory and kidney failure – are far from pretty. Here’s hoping it does not become any more than the threat of a pandemic.

And while we wait to see if this lurgy heralds the apocalypse-proper: here’s a piece I wrote some time ago about a (possibly) more benign viral pandemic, the source of which is a fusty academic (hey – that rhymed)…

 

The Edge of Life

 

Though to others it seemed

he had been quarantined

for some years now

in his collegiate room,

his conjectural womb

and perma-furrowed brow:

something had been transmitted.

 

He noted it first

with the patches

he had fitted

to his elbows,

the latches

of the arms

to his seat;

the spine

turning pages

a day

at a week

at a year

at a time.

 

They relapsed

from leather

to tweed,

and then so

did his seat.

In one dark-bound tome

spreading up the walls

he sought acute definition,

(an unambiguous home

in his first edition)

for the current

and developing

condition.

 

It stated:

A virus

is an infectious agent

which replicates within a host,

composed of RNA or DNA,

a protein coat,

an organism

at the edge of life.

 

But not, it seemed now,

at the edge of fashion;

not an agent

in exclusive ration.

An organism

with ample hosts,

in trousers, shirts,

blouses and coats,

a coarse-woollen contagion

of replicant ghosts.

 

Although no-one could don

this material as he could

they unwittingly would

as the symptoms upon

their attire began.

 

No fabric was immune:

polyester perished,

silk succumbed,

denim died, and

cotton went to meet

its Tailor.

 

He saw the pandemic

progress across campus

and county and country

from his leather-patch window;

the edge of life,

the tattered hem,

the volume’s fraying sheets.

NaPoWriMo 30: Here, Roots Are Not Joined

You fear, you fear her return.

 

IT IS THE END OF NAPOWRIMO. And it really has been marvellous.

I’ve just one poem (apart from that below) I would like to finish today and will have produced over 30 poems throughout April. It’s been a very positive experience: keeping poetry with me all the time; being exposed to new forms and stimuli; and discovering many talented creative-cousins out there.

So, the final piece was to create a poem of ‘inversion’: to find a poem you like and then to invert each word until you end with an interesting mirror-image of the original piece.

See if you can guess the original, from this sinister/sad-sounding one…I really did go as literally opposite as possible, although some words (and ideas) are pesky in not being binary (or not appearing so) and having an opposite. So there’s a bit of flex in my ‘opposites’.

The only clue I’ll give is that ‘here’ in my poem, was ‘there’ in the original…And the title is not literally an inversion, but an inversion of the original meaning (in a native language) of the original’s title!

Confused? Read on…

 

Here, Roots Are Not Joined

 

Tomorrow morn, beneath this floor

You shunned this woman, she who is here –

She is here tomorrow, once again:

You fear, you fear her return.

 

If you go, at nine in the morn, tomorrow

This woman will be left, by you, here.

So, if you are blind, beneath this stair

You could imagine her here.

Come here, come here, I will leave ever more.

Come here, come here, but open the door (whoosh!).

 

Tomorrow morn, I will feel beneath this floor

That the giant woman is here.

She is here tomorrow, once again:

Ah, why do you fear her coming?