Sunday, 25 February 2018

Tib LANE is Not Tib STREET

This is not a public service announcement to raise awareness of the fact that Tib Lane is not Tib Street, and that, indeed, they are actually quite far apart, but if it was, I'd probably repeat the message over and over again until it got annoying. You see, there are some unfortunate people who, when going to Manchester, confuse these two places and, in trying to find their way around the big ol' city, end up being late for the event they travelled there for. But this is not about people mixing up Tib Lane and Tib Street - which, by the way, are different places, and have different Taverns on them - this is about Peter Barlow's Cigarette #26, and my musings upon it.

Unfortunately, for reasons I won't go into that had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with me being an idiot and getting confused between Tib Lane and Tib Street, I only caught the tail end of
Zayneb Allak. I was disappointed here, because I was looking forward to hearing her, and what I perceived would be her 'worldly writing'. She genuinely got a great applause, tho, which is a true endorsement.

James Byrne is a man who'd never get mixed up with Lanes and Streets, of a Tib-ish nature or otherwise. I'd seen him before at a few other groovy events, and he's always good as a writer and performer. He brought a lot of heavier flavours into his stuff this time, but always kept a quality of air (I don't mean that like 'full of nothing', but I mean an approachable fluviality. To translate further - it brought up serious themes and yet was enjoyable. Okay? You broke me down. Are you happy now, now that you've cracked the code?). As an example, he read out a piece about 'hash', which was a 'meditation' on the word and its origins, marrying drugs and corned beef in an important and effective way. There were other such 'trees', where the root of the poem was a particularly poignant word, upon which the rest was built. Right up my alley!

Caitlin Doherty was amazing. Again, a great performer, as well as her work being funny, cleanly witty ['clean' here meaning with a sense of linguistically hygienic sharpness. And 'not dirty'...], experimental, and - so I assume based on her performance of her content - formally exciting. I so enjoyed it, and haven't felt a buzz like that since seeing Jazmine Linklater for the first time. She read out some stuff that hadn't been published yet (can't remember who's going to publish it :( ), and, as I was just saying to a friend the other day, this creates a buzzing atmosphere, and I feel so lucky to be there. I just tried to splurge on some of Caitlin's works, but Satellites and one of her appearances in Salvage have sold out (China Mieville's article being credited for the first)! Couldn't find anything on eBay or anything, but I did order Salvage Issue #2: Awaiting the Furies and Our Party, so I'm excited for those to arrive.

What can I say about Peter Manson? His work was dripping in wit. He's a man not afraid to roll around in the cheeky dirt, and he had everyone laughing with his 'corporeal content'. Hats off to him especially for his reading from Poems of Frank Rupture. He read a piece from that, which he called a 'long skidmark of a poem', and even just to read it required such power and stamina, because of the long flurry of language (so much of that of high syllabic content). You felt the audience's breathing change - sometimes holding their breath, gasping a little, laughing too - as he rattled through his big beastie. The humour here was essentially very playful, and I'd say he's a brilliant example of someone who loves language and has sharp ears and eyes. I remember, apart from certain sexy references, 'song title mondegreens', which, I don't know, sort of felt akin to punctuation to me, but more for how I heard the poem, rather than how you'd probably see it on the page.

As I went away from the reading, I thought about the diversity of styles and subjects it represented. Byrne's poetry simulated thoughts about person and place, the politics of invasion and deprivation, foreign locations, but border-crossing themes. Caitlin's, while often amusing, seemed to be exploring a more abstract malaise, not so much pointing to causes, but I was certainly stimulated to think about, for example, male behaviours in everyday life. Mason's was possibly more 'purely linguistic' (I'm not qualified to say, really), and not the less intellectual for it's ludicity. I never know what the mix of styles will be like when I go to these events, and it's always a pleasant surprise.

I also want to point out that, since I was last at a PBC event, there's been an exciting change to the bookstall. Now, they are producing wee pamphlets with work by all the readers on the day, so you get a bit of work by each of them. The ones I got were £2 each, or three for £5 (which I think's nothing, when you enjoy it so much), and the money goes towards performers' travel costs etc. Wonderful idea!

By the way, just before I go, did you know that Tib Lane is NOT, in fact, Tib Street?

Peace, love, and light! x

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Pages: Robert Sheppard: two poems excerpted from Twitters...

Pages: Robert Sheppard: two poems excerpted from Twitters...: Here are two poems excerpted from Twitters for a Lark , not because I thought there was anything wrong with them but because I needed to cut...

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

"Your Little Poetry"

Dharma wheel.
The poetry I write might not be 'big' in terms of making money. It may not be 'big' because it reaches everyone, because everyone who reads it loves it, or because it's used in an advert. There are very few ways, apart from the amount of lines, that I could qualify the things I write as 'big'.

But never belittle it.

It has been the only thing available to me at times when everything else seemed to be coming down around me. It has created discussion and togetherness in those that have heard it, one of the things I prize most about life. Without it, I would just not be who I am. Indeed, I might not be at all, without something to focus on, something to say, something to simply stop me succumbing to the ultimate darkness.

Whatever your views on poetry, or me, or my work, don't, with a sweep of your hand so small that diminishes even the dismissiveness of your attitude, talk about my 'little poetry'.

You might not rate what I do, but what I do is what I am, so disregard my work and you disregard me. Do that, and I'll happily leave you to your 'important work' without looking back.

As always: peace, love and light.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

The wheat                                                               The chaff
kiff my aff

Tuesday, 24 October 2017


From the Liverpool Echo's site:
Right folks, enough is enough. As if Liverpool losing 5-0 to Man City and Everton getting stuffed 4-0 by United over a month ago wasn't enough, just this weekend we've had The Reds being done in by Spurs, 4-1 (at their supposedly 'cursed' Wembley ground), and Everton slumping to a 5-2 defeat at the feet of Arsenal, preceding their manager's exit. This is too troubling to let slide!

I propose an emergency meeting of 'SCARF' - the Scouse Association for Remedying Football - which will have powers to call upon the government to inject millions of pounds into our footy funds, ready for the January transfer window. In addition to this, we will have the initiative to try and bring sanctions against all other clubs, especially the Mancunian ones, for deliberately lacking a sense of humour and 'winning too much'.

Football is a rich and varied sport, full of fantastic athletes, scenes of high drama and, ultimately, families of fans just wanting to enjoy themselves. SCARF will try to fix the current, woeful situation of madness on Merseyside, and bring back some of that 'score goaling' I've heard so much about in other clubs' games.

SCARF president, Maggie McCartney, has commented, "Scousers have often had a different outlook on life, from the rich diversity of cultures that the docks and universities brought into the city, to the way political ideologies - especially those of Mrs Thatcher - have bred a sense of outsiderness in England. Our outlook in football is no different. For many years, Liverpool - especially - have been, if anything, overly concerned with winning. This year, we are seeing a fresh and beautiful expression of playing well and getting no results. It seems, however, that other clubs are stubbornly rolling along with outdated ideas of 'trying to put the ball in the back of the net', ultimately for three points. My organisation will seek to level the playing field any way it can, and, with a little luck, get Scousers back on top."

Theresa May has yet to expand on her earlier comment, "What is a Liverpool?"

Monday, 18 September 2017

On an Aspect of Foreignness

By Hintha - Own work, Public Domain,
Whilst watching the situation in Myanmar, I saw a shot of a hospital ward sign in Burmese, subtitled in English as 'Male Ward'. The Burmese alphabet reminds me of bubble clusters settling on the page (or the sturdier medium of signage...) - there's something light and beautiful about it, yet a sense of purpose and tangibility the same as any other writing system. In the middle of the scene of devastation I was watching, the particular likes of which we don't see happen in 'the west', it felt odd to me to see this little translation, this bit of recognisable English.
I got thinking of airports. I've been lucky enough to get abroad a couple of times in the last few years, and by and large, English has drawn these spaces together, on signage and often in dialogue, too. Obviously there are benefits. It's nice to be able to be understood when you 'don't have the words', but I feel guilty because I know why English has this status, and when I'm in a different country, I want to show respect by speaking the native language, and having English spoken back to me tends to smother the moment. It's no 'biggie', but it leaves me pondering the nature of foreignness. When language is so essential to identity, and to deeper concerns surrounding 'reality', its use impacts heavily upon one's experience - in short, one feels, in a way, like one is not 'properly abroad'. One feels as if the body has moved, but the mind isn't sure if it has kept up. Something like that...

Anyways, here comes the turn. The 'interesting bit', if I may be so bold as to say. I was recently booking some tickets from a French website. French happens to be the language I am most fluent in, after my mother tongue. However, the verbs alone in the usually habitual process of online shopping were alien to me. My school-taught stuff didn't cover the essential units of what I was grappling with. I made a couple of educated guesses, based on what I thought would be the etymologies of the unfamiliar words, because it's reasonable to think that a word that looks very similar to one you know would have a similar meaning, right? Well, after checking with a translator (and a good friend of mine who's a language whizz), I found out I was wrong with most of my attempts.

There were three phrases I stumbled on quite badly. "Ajouter au panier" was the first. I thought it meant 'return to something'. I was confident of 'ajouter', but didn't know what 'panier' meant. It turns out 'ajouter' means 'to add' - so I was wrong on that - and 'panier' is 'basket'. As someone who has grown up around bike enthusiasts, I should have known this, as it's so similar to 'panniers' - only one letter away, indeed - the bags bikers use on the back of their behicles. Second phrase was "je continue mes achats." If I'd thought about this a bit more straightforwardly, the 'je continue' bit must mean 'I am continuing', and I knew 'achats' must be my purchases ('acheter' means 'to buy'). Instead, I abstracted it a bit more to mean 'continue to payment', which is a perfectly normal thing to expect, so much so that I ignored linguistic logic - at my peril! The last thing was 'terminer ma commande'. 'Terminer', I thought, was 'terminate' in the sense of 'get rid of', y'know, 'delete', but in many contexts in English, even, 'terminate' means 'complete' - to terminate an order, or a train terminating at its destination. Let's just say, I didn't want to risk clicking this until I was absolutely sure what I was doing.

It was all a little bit scary. For all I knew, I could've been clicking on the 'charge me a million Euros for a can of French fog' button ('me chargez un million d'euros pour une canette de brouillard français', in case you ever need to know). It was frustrating, too, especially when I thought I knew what I was reading, but the things I was clicking took me to the 'wrong' part of the website. I was blaming technology before I began to think that I might have got it wrong. Also, contrarily, it was fun.

Finally - foreignness!

Monday, 4 September 2017

Mort Launching Black Shiver Moss

I was lucky enough late last month to go to Graham Mort's Lancaster launch of Black Shiver Moss. Before I talk about the night itself, I'd like to say that I have recollection of reading a collection or two of Mort's poetry and short stories before. Even though it was a long time ago, the impressions they left behind are still very vivid, and that tells a truth about the quality of his work. It's not 'what I usually go for', though, mainly as it isn't what you'd call 'experimental', and is mainly (I think this is fair to say) focussed on the natural world which, despite evidence to the contrary, is equated in my lazy mind as 'traditional' or 'conventional', which are both uninspiring words to me.

After this fine evening, though, I was reminded about the depth and bittersweetness in his work. There is joy, too, of course, but a man of his astoundingly sharp observation of the world is always going to see the harsh truths and not mince his words, either. Something I've been worrying about in my own writing lately is how (if at all) I manage to capture an image, and then here I am in the presence of someone who is master of that. How does he do it so well? Without trying to be opaque, I'd say 'he just does it'. I don't know whether he'd see himself as fearless (as a writer), or not, but it comes across that he has no qualms about the work of language, and I think my anxieties arise because I feel I need to explain too much, and to be too clever or whatever. So my lazy mind is, in short, wrong.

That's all I want to say on the poetry. I don't think I can add anything by going into which poems were read and what I thought of each one, tho I will use this opportunity to say hi to Winston.

Anyhoo, enough of my my words, here's some of my his words, or, the question and answer section. A lot of the QnA stuff was sort of passe to me. There was the sort of 'why do you break a line here on the page, but read it differently' sort of thing, a trying to pin something down that, as a writer, you instinctively know 'isn't what it's all about'. Not to say we shouldn't think about it, but, you know, to ask the writer directly makes me squirm a bit. He related a story, which he referred back to later, of some Archbishop being asked some question about God's work, and giving an answer... not vague as such, but, y'know, not openly and directly obvious, like 'there's something deeper under the surface'. He's right, though. There is 'something deeper', and as a writer that's enough, if the poetry's good (which his is, without doubt).

The question that was interesting to me, firstly, was concerned writing habit. He revealed with a laugh that he's "fantastically ill-disciplined" which, I must say, should give us all a great bloody deal of hope. He knows when he's got something to work on, tho, and sets about it. Also the old line (not a lie) that writers (well, at least some of them) are 'working all the time' - thinking, mentally drafting, and even just observing and processing what will eventually end up, in whatever form, becoming a piece. I felt I was going to remember more of what he said and give you something decent here, but I haven't... Sorry!

Secondly, someone had asked him about the relationship between what he reads and his work. He said there was no real link between his reading and how he'll draft something, but I found he tickled my fancy when he said that writers should read something completely unrelated to things they are doing, as he feels that it can have positive results (I think he meant in a 'seeing things afresh' sort of way, but then, also, you can come back to the writer's perception, and how something totally different may help you generate new things too). He mentioned in particular something which I can't remember. I think he said it was a Japanese motorcycle manual, or maybe a philosophy of bike production, where there was a moral voice running through these technical elements, which you would expect to be 'objectively voiced'. Hard to explain, but he did it charmingly... And no, I'm sure it wasn't Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which I still ain't read. Possibly something from this site?

The other particularly interesting thing was him talking about being in academia, and how reading his students' work is a good way of continually being part of the creative world. That's my dream in many ways, to be an active part of the campus (and beyond) mind, so I sat back and let his words bathe me in the moonlight of possibility.

I'd just like to finish by saying how witty Graham is. Throughout the night he made a few quips and whatnots, and I have to say he reminded me of John Lennon quite a bit. Now, for me, there could hardly be a greater compliment of someone's intelligence than this, and it must be true that this brightness of mind is in his work (though Seamus Heaney is a more oft-quoted example of similarity, in his poetry at least), so do check it out.

Lovely night, lovely man, lovely poetry. #blessed #peace #love #light