So another Mo Fest (Montrose Music Festival) gone by here. Another weekend of sunshine and toons, toons, toons. Last year I wrote about how Montrose was (kind of) like New Orleans... this year... less writing but a song about another bit of the U.S. (above) from a band I saw on Sunday night in a local pub (one of the band, Brooks Williams, is a Georgian...). The band is State of the Union (nothing to do with Alex Salmond...) and I'd seen them before but it was an especially enjoyable night this time. Something about the weather, the blur of the busy weekend, the just being in the backroom ('lounge') of a pub in what some people might call the middle of nowhere (though I wouldn't obviously... any place can be cool, any place can be crap...) listening to such great music. I mean, there was a chalk board in front of the band saying 'food available in car park'... and there's something about that kind of detail. Maybe I'll even form a band now called 'food available in car park'... No. I won't.
Anyway, things to do, offline to be. State of the Union are touring just now by the way and they have a new, second, album called "Snake Oil" (which I listened to three times yesterday like a teenager). Details on their website. And yes, this blog is just turning into a random series of songs. Again.
I know. I've been a bad blogger, an absent blogger, a person doing unbloggable things. Luckily, however, others are at work doing things I can post publicly about so here is Montrose singer/songwriter/musician Gary Anderson with his new song. Gary took my Michael Marra poem as a starting point but he has put in a lot of his own words and ideas into the song (and even some Marra too). It's good work.
Enjoy. Sing along, why don't you?
Well, I just can't leave a Mrs T post up as the first one you see for any longer! So here is one of my favourite anti-Maggie voices singing a song from his most recent album "Tooth and Nail". There's a bit of voiceover from the presenter but it's a nice version with a good, short intro - Billy, Billy, Billy, in, in, in!
So, today there's the big auld enemy funeral down south... and much has already been written and said about the whole business. As I commented somewhere else, Thatcher died in my mind a long time ago (pretty much as soon as she was out of office in 1990) and I've really tried to think about her as little as possible since then. I know one thing though - for a lot of feminists in these countries (and I do still call myself that, if anyone asks...) it was a source of some sadness that our first woman prime minister was that bloody woman but then that's the deal... let women be as good (and as bad) as men... equal rights... equal opportunities... and after all most feminists aren't terribly keen on the whole idea of leadership anyway. It is largely feminist tendencies that have kept me away from the whole 'witch is dead' business too. I hated Mrs T but calling women witches is not something I want to get involved in really (and I'm quite surprised that I haven't read anything anywhere about that... I guess if you're that hated the rules change...). It's understandable but still not right, for me.
But I most definitely digress... because today we pay a lot of money for a big pompous ceremony that a lot of us don't want and, in particular, don't want to pay for (did someone make Thatcher royal without telling us because we do things like this for that lot all the time..?). I can't see how it is anything other than just plain wrong to be spending all that money on this day when so many cuts are being made in all areas of public life. Plus the one thing the political right always has is money (that's another deal - they get the money, we get the smug feelings associated with not being as greedy as they are... at least that's if it all goes to plan...). So let Rupert sodding Murdoch pay for this grand event, for example (because I seem to remember he did OK out of the Thatcher years). Let it be sponsored by Sky TV. I could play this game all day.
I don't have a Thatcher poem (now there's a relief). Mainly this is because I wasn't writing poems back in the '80s (apart from a sad love poem here and there...). I do, however, have a funeral poem. I wrote it after attending one of those funerals where nobody says what everybody is thinking ('this person was an arse/totally selfish/ horrible') but instead all the usual bland rest-in-peace malarkey. It isn't totally suitable for today (I don't think she did only care about herself, for example, that wasn't her driving power... that was more to do with her way, her philosophies, her just being right... also there will be people crying, I'm sure... people swathed in union jacks... talking about making Britain great and all that... see this for an alternative view) but the poem isn't totally irrelevant either. Someone died. It happens. Let's move on. Much to do.
A funeral affair
There must be lots of things to say
About you now you're gone away
But most of them might seem unkind
At least the ones that spring to mind
You were not fair or good or true
You only seemed to care for you
You showed no heart or sympathy
So let us end you honestly
No one will cry for you today
At most a little prayer they'll say
Perhaps they'll urge you try again
But for god's sake be still till then
So, the new issue of the online poetry place the Passionate Transitory is live. I have a little set of poems up there (my page is here) and I especially like the editor's introduction on the current issue page. Lots of interesting things to read.
Which reminds me... back at the beginning of 2012 I read Langston Hughes' "Not Without Laughter" and mentioned it on here. One commenter suggested I read Bonnie Greer's book about Hughes ("Langston Hughes - the Value of Contradiction") and I did recently just do that. It's a good overview of Hughes' life (including a lot of background detail on his family and their history) and it just shows... it may take a while to get round to reading recommendations but I get there in the end!
So, I was reading the new "Poetry Bus" Magazine yesterday (see last post) and I read the piece near the back written by Dave Lordan on rhyme. I really enjoyed it. He writes about rhyme in its widest, biggest sense and I liked the range, the open-endedness, of the piece (I urge you to read it... get the mag here... quickly now). The article reminded me how much I love rhyme... of all kinds really... but I know that, personally, I have a special fondness for the simpler stuff. There was a point in my life when I could have become an intellectual perhaps but when it came to it I just turned the other way*. I like simple things, simple pleasures, simple sounds. I guess it means some people think I'm an eejit but mostly I can live with that! And I know the argument goes that lots of people do end-rhymes badly... but then lots of people do everything badly and that doesn't stop us trying to do all those things... like sing... or cook... or have sex... or whatever!
And so... blame Dave Lordan, a little, for the poem below. I don't write much poetry just now so it feels good to work the old muscles now and again. To begin with the 'New' and 'Old" were 'New Poet' and 'Old Poet' but then I realised the subject was really wider than that and not just about poetry writing. Like so many poems this one is about all kinds of things... and there's more than a hint of Dr Seuss to it too, I think.
Everyone is the best ever
New and Old sitting by a tree,
Talking, talking, endlessly,
New barks out “How can this be?
Why is everybody ignoring me?”
Old takes a moment to serve reply,
Surveys the scene, the tree, the sky,
Finally proffers without a sigh,
“What are you saying, to whom and why?”
New is irate and loses cool,
“That should be obvious to a fool,
I'm what you need, a brand new school
Just listen to me, as a general rule.”
Old is sleepy, thirsty too,
Tired of talking, needs the loo,
Happy just to see the view,
The tree is green, the sky is blue.
But “Listen, listen, I can rhyme!
I can talk in double time!
I’m not afraid to social climb,
Everyone should hear my chime!”
New continues, into stride,
Puffed and pumped with precious pride,
“Hear the magic, I'm the guide,
Life’s exciting, what a ride!”
Old is fading, quite a sight,
Doesn’t really like to fight,
Shields the eyes to block the light,
Lies right down and breathes “goodnight”.
New is angry, loudly so,
Wails at Old “Not yet, don’t go!
Who will watch me, see me grow?
Who will tell me what you know?”
No word from Old, the soul is free,
The stories gone, so suddenly.
Too late, too late, we see the tree,
Too late, we want it endlessly.
*One of my other favourite bits of the new Bus mag is the Robert Frost 'roads' reference on page 6 ("fuck it, I'll take the bus/And that has made all the difference").
Has a poetry magazine ever had better covers than Peadar O'Donoghue's marvellous "Poetry Bus"? I don't think so. Issue number 4 is out now, beautifully bound this time and available over here (at the same link you can read a full list of the contents). The magazine comes with a CD as ever (always my favourite part I have to say). I just like to listen to poems more than read them and I think, as my eyes get more and more tired and unreliable, that that is getting to be more and more the case. There is some music on the CD too (and that's all good especially Stuart Wilde's "Hot Damn!", for me).
Obviously I am a little biased as I've been involved, in some way or other, with the Poetry Bus since its first trip (the online Bus back in September 2009!) and I have a poem in this new magazine too but even with that taken into account I still think a trip on the Poetry Bus is always to be recommended. There is no poetry vehicle quite like it.
A couple of posts ago I wrote about a new single I'd heard on the radio by a musical artist called Laura Mvula. Recently I bought the album too ("Sing to the Moon" - the extended version with extra CD) and I am so loving it... music has always been one of my best friends and this collection is into my top ten friends list with a bang!
Above is one of the tracks called "Can't live with the world". Reviews I've read of the album (as a former reviewer I am interested, I suppose, in how reviewers try to do the job...) are mixed... on the whole they are favourable but they are much taken up, as reviews often are, with trying to say whose music hers sounds like (Beach Boys etc.) without engaging too much with what the artist has actually done. I've read a few interviews with Mvula too and am interested to hear her describe herself as, and I'm paraphrasing here, not much of a singer and not much of a wordsmith. I find it interesting because one of the things I really like about this album is the simplicity of the repeated lyrics. It's one of the reasons I struggle with a lot of the more literary contemporary poetry too, I'm sure... because I always prefer the underwritten to the overwritten. But of course it is all a matter of taste...
This shuffle is getting very slow... hardly here at all these days! Anyway, just a few updates:
The event at Hospitalfield in Arbroath last weekend was loads of fun. I'd started to wonder whether I could still get up and do a poetry "set" as such (because it's been a while and I've been busy with very different activities) but in the end I really enjoyed it, did a mix of poems I'd never done before and got some great feedback. Some closest to me said it was "best I'd ever done" which felt good... and interestingly it didn't make me desperate to go out and do it again (and again, and again). I'm not so good at repetition... I like things to be different every time... and I think that's what makes it exciting for me (I am learning that, in some things at least, I do like excitement... and difference... the unexpected). So that, a few glasses of wine, a responsibility-free night out and the music of Onion Club's Pauline and Stephen and other poetry from Kevin Reid and it was a good experience all round.
Just as well really as I'm off next Sunday (10th March) to do another event in Dundee this time (ADDED LATER - THIS EVENT HAS JUST BEEN CANCELLED).
Gone a bit quiet over on the new blog... any one else got something on hopes and dreams for me?
Not a lot to report here... still mainly posting other people's stuff to the new blog. Something a bit different there today...
Meanwhile I've been watching more movies than sometimes... catching up on the stuff taped over Xmas partly. I find a lot of films really average just now. I suppose that's natural — with so many being made you're only going to get a few really good ones and at this point in life I've watched so many that they all start to kind of merge together too — but I do sometimes envy our daughter who is at the super-enthusiast stage with films instead. She raves about her favourites, really looks forward to certain new releases, watches things over and over again. I still get enthusiastic about some music (see last post) but rarely about new movies. Even in Oscar/BAFTA season... no especially then!
And then I remember movies that I did adore when I was younger (maybe partly influenced by the whole Hopes and Dreams theme over there). When I was about sixteen, for example, I saw "Educating Rita" at a cinema in south London (somewhere like Bromley). It was in one of those tiny little screens (in the days when they were cutting old cinemas up into tinier and tinier pieces... before the multiplexes hit the UK) and I absolutely loved it. I can still remember how I felt when it finished... I just wanted to sit there and never leave. I certainly didn't want to talk about it with the rather annoying bloke I was with (kind of a blind date/friend of a friend's boyfriend thing...) although I imagine I probably had to. I suppose it was to be expected that I would like the film... I was an English Northerner (very much so), I was studying A level English (similar to Rita's studies in the film), I was a bit in love with one of my English teachers (in the days before I had any Gadar worth mentioning...)... but oh, I really adored it and felt like it was made just for me. It comes over as a bit dated now... but then... to a teenager like me... it was movie magic. This clip contains the bit I remember most... the whole thing about her family and friends and the singsong in the pub and how she feels she doesn't fit in there or with the university folk (again that's a bit dated now in some ways). I still think of it though... it even makes me laugh now sometimes when I'm at our folk club and I do sing along (bands like that at folk clubs... not so everywhere!). "Sing a better song..."
And "I'd drown myself"... still makes me laugh. And then cry. Good stuff.
Some of you will have heard this track already or seen the video (maybe even via my own link on facebook) but here it is again... certainly one of the best things I've seen and heard so far this year. The video is just so joyful! Listen out for Laura Mvula!
p.s. All good and busy still at the other-people's-stories blog... there's even a song there today too.
Much to feel good about this week... well, in my little world... and it isn't always so (I don't always tell you the bad stuff!).
Firstly, I survived another birthday. Had a lovely time, thank-you very much (and had a lot more cake than just the above but I like the picture... thanks to the Anchor in Johnshaven for a lovely lunch, with added, unexpected cake).
Also the new blog is working out wonderfully. So far I have posted four contributions (two from Scotland, two from New Zealand) and I have more in the inbox ready to go so please, please spread the word about this project. I think the more people post to it, quite simply, the more interesting it will get (all ages, all interests, all perspectives...). I've been wondering to myself why it felt like the right thing to do right now and I don't have one answer but I think some of it is to do with wanting to really explore the idea of what hopes and dreams are and how they help or hinder us in our daily lives. I get very tired of the reality show "it's like a dream come true"/"it's always been my dream" clichés* and the more I hear lines like that the more I wonder about what it is we really, really want (no Spice Girls reunions for a start... sorry ladies) and about what it is we really, really get too. And remember... even though most of the contributors so far have been writers this is absolutely open to all and everyone (and contributions can be in any form I can post!). Contributions can be under an alias/anonymous too... so think on. No rush either as I'm hoping this will be a long-term friend, somewhere to visit and know you'll always find something interesting to read/look at/listen to (and all previous contributions there in the archive too of course... no-one goes out of fashion in my book...).
Finally I have a poetry moment coming up in February that looks really exciting. Remember the Onion Club music cabaret event I reviewed here back in November? Well, they have another event in Arbroath on 23rd February at Hospitalfield House and myself and another poet Kevin Reid will be part of the evening too (doors 7.30, start 8pm). It's been a while since I did poetry business at an event where I know anything is allowed (indeed encouraged... this is cabaret in the true sense of the word...). So, Philip Larkin and the nipple rings... this could be the chance to dig you out and shake you all about (that poem's about to appear elsewhere too... so I believe...)! Oh, I do love those Onions... and here they are a bit closer-up than some of the other vids online:
Song is "Lady Grinning Soul" by one David Bowie.
Anyway, there is more to tell... but that will do for one blog post.
*And we only really watch one such show... what must it be like for people who watch lots of them? Maybe they enjoy clichés... we do all like different things...
Montrose beach, 16th January 2013.I've been seeing the sunrise more than usual recently - it's so much easier to catch it in the winter!
For more reasons than I can tell you I have been doing a lot of thinking about hopes and dreams of late (don't cringe, cynics, just stay with me... there is no life-coaching on the cards, I promise!). It's possible that I'm always thinking about hopes and dreams in some way or other... certainly I wrote a hopey-dreamy poem a few years back and put it in a prime position in my first poetry collection ("A dream is a song of hope"... you can read it here). That wasn't any kind of sensible poem to write then and nothing has changed in that regard. I mean, it rhymes... and that title... and I have publicly admitted (more than once...) that I wrote it after watching a Celebrity Big Brother final in 2006... well, none of this is "take your ticket for the T.S.Eliot prize" material. And it's not even that I live in some rainbows'n'unicorns kingdom either... despite the recent outbreak of sunrise photos on this blog. No, I have been quite cynical about the inspirational business too (see here)... but still, I think about hopes and futures a lot... I just can't help it (and not in relation to my own life particularly... or at any rate, less and less so). I think, for example, that every time I meet someone these days I am at least partly wondering (a) what their hopes and dreams were when they were younger, (b) how that has all worked out for them and (c) what they hope for and dream about now. I'm interested in lots of aspects of this subject... what has changed and what has not (in terms of general expectations and ideals, in terms of what is achievable), how things will continue to change, how much our hopes affect us. It's all linked in with mental health too (and that's always been a topic close to my heart...). Plus my Mum was always fascinated by other people and I suppose, now she is gone, that interest has passed to me more and more. I'm not saying I like all those other people all of course... some things are beyond idealism!
So what of it? I don't know really... I suppose I just wonder if you'd like to think about it with me... and to this end I have opened up another blog (oh no! oh yes! oh yes!) and it is to be a collaborative/contributor-led/no-one makes any money but it might be interesting kind of a thing... and I would like it to focus on hopes and dreams. Maybe you'd like to contribute? If so all you have to do is email me a contribution (in any form... poem, prose, photo, song, story, notes...) to firstname.lastname@example.org
Contributions will be added each one in their own post... and here are some guidelines: You can use your own name (full or shortened) or any kind of alias you like.
Contributions can be as personal or as impersonal as you like, as fictional or as non-fictional, as run-of-the-mill or as abstract as feels right to you. I will edit basic spelling errors (unless you really don't want me to). My punctuation's pretty... personal to me so I'll probably leave you yours too unless it just seems confusing. Like that sentence!
I will link to your blogs or sites if requested. I reserve the right to not publish/post pieces that seem to me hateful or potentially harmful (there is quite enough hate online already...). Remember that whilst specifics and details are interesting (yes, please to those) just going on and on for ages because it's the internet and space is unlimited can make for very dull reading (so no, thank-you to that).
I would really like this to be something lots of different people join in with too (not just those of us who think of ourselves as writers) so please, forward this blog/post to friends, family, workmates, anybody and everybody — the more contributions the more interesting the whole project will be. All ages welcome... but if you are under 18 remember not to give too much of yourself away online! Once out you can't take it back... If I get lots of contributions I will never post more than one person's set
per day — it's best to take at least some time to consider them all
carefully, don't you think?
I think this will be an interesting exercise in considering our lives and what they have been and will be and I hope you agree and join in. I hope you get others to join in too.
If you have any trouble getting prompted here are some questions to set you off thinking...
1. What were your hopes and dreams when you were a child?
2. Did any of them come true in any sense?
3. What are your hopes and dreams now?
4. Do you really think any of them are possible?
See you, I hope, over there. There's no rush (no rush at all!) but at the same time... don't leave me on my own too long now will you? If there's no interest at all I'll just delete the blog... easily done.
ADDED LATER - first contribution is now up over there. First of many I hope.
Still pretty quiet here... recovering from busy times down south and just getting on with this and that. Managed to catch the beautiful snap (above) one morning after dropping a girl and her saxophone at school (it's a big case, she's still a small girl). Managed to catch up with some great bits of recorded TV whilst doing what seemed to be a neverending pile of ironing (an old Arena with Amy Winehouse, an old Imagine with Jeanette Winterson, an excellent live show from comedian Simon Amstell called "Numb"). Here's a bit of the latter:
It looks like the whole show is on youtube though I imagine not for long. I loved it... maybe not all of it... but the bits I loved I really loved... and, on the whole these days I find stand-up comedians fairly tiresome. Amstell even makes a poet joke in this show - excellent!
Been listening to a lot of music too... a lot of radio. Enjoyed this song on the Lauren Laverne show on 6 Music the other day (it was a January Blues special):
The song sounded familiar (it's been covered a lot) and eventually I worked out the version I knew was one by English musician Johnny Dickinson (great guitar player, been very ill of late, played our folk club here in Montrose a couple of times). The above version though is the original by Jackson C. Frank and, goodness, if you want to read a sad story go and read about his life.
Nothing else to share right now... may your January Blues be gentle ones...
So, here we are, back in January... back to school, back to routines. We went away to visit friends and family in England for the second part of the festive break and did lots of sociable stuff. We went to the panto at the famous Leeds City Varieties theatre (best panto ever... no idiots off the TV just a really hardworking cast of actors/musicians/singers working their butts off to make a great show... online info for the venue's programme is here). As well as that I watched nephew play football... we went to a New Year's Eve party (don't do that much these days!)... we celebrated birthdays with various young folk of our acquaintance... and we went to the movies ("Pitch Perfect"... entertaining but forgettable... has caused a playing-the-cups craze started by these women).
And then we came home again... and lately every time I hear a song I like on the radio it's more often than not by the man at the top of the post here (OK, I don't listen to a lot of current-pop radio...). Jimi Hendrix... was there ever a more beautiful man in rock? In any music? He could play too. Not a bad way to start the year...