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Monday, 18 September 2017

On an Aspect of Foreignness

By Hintha - Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11570695
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.


http://www.zimbio.com/photos/Airport+Sign/Clive+Owen+Airport+Germany/ZLZz4J8sBoz
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

From http://www.seren-books.com/
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

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Pages: EUOIA Night August reading at The Other Room: Repo...

I want a fictional poet of my very own, but would she or he want me? Never mind that, just read Sheppard's account of what sounds like a brilliant night, one that I'm very disappointed I couldn't attend:



Pages: EUOIA Night August reading at The Other Room: Repo...: Last night, the Other Room celebrate d the European Union of Imaginary Authors, with readings in person and on video.We are told that the E...

Friday, 21 July 2017

What's Love Got To Do With It?

Before I get cracking, this is not a literary review. I know a lot of you come here looking for high-brow criticism and insights, so, you know, I just wanted to let you down gently.

I'm going to be talking about Robert Sheppard's Petrarch 3, though, which is literary. I'm a big fan, I must say. I've been to a few readings and seen him perform from this, and it was brilliant, from the laughter at a poem from a dog's point of view, to the particular silence one feels after a sonnet addresses Jimmy Saville in, well, in quite the way he does... I'm sure there's loads of people more qualified than me that have reviewed his work, so I'm not going to do that here. Instead, I wanted to say how refreshing it was.

I've been in some trouble lately. Almost everything has been getting me down, from sunsets to birds gaily tweeting, and the carefree way a child, er, bounces a ball... Or something... But the things that really trouble me are love songs (though music in general has plenty of thorns). Whether they're about unrivalled beauty and devotion, or about the hurtiest pain and wanting to end it all, they've all been getting me teary. It seems that when you're bleeding, the world is full of sharks sniffing your lost liquids (or a more appropriate and well-formed analogy).

When Petrarch 3 came in the post the other day, though, it was full of pointed references to pain, to loss, to love, to awe and more, and yet it did not cause an avalanche in me. Here was love and its process presented, despite having been processed, in all its allusory [to the 'original translation' - the one Sheppard uses, anyway] and thematic power, yet I enjoyed it without pain. The idea of being stung after self-acknowledging your supposed sense of security - the way it happens in Petrarch's third sonnet - is real for many of us, and certainly made me think back to just over a year ago, but it didn't pull at the thread of me, making me fall apart.

I'm not entirely sure, but I don't think it was Sheppard's original intention to give me work about love that didn't upset me. I might be wrong, but I think he just wanted to write good poetry. Well, he's done both, just in case you wanted to know, and I think it's a welcome change.

G'night folks! Peace, love and light.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Irony o'Clock

'Time'
I was recently lucky
enough to go to Italy to one of my friends' weddings. It was a lovely time, and if you're friends with me on Facebook then you can have a gander at some of the pics I took. The purpose of today's post, tho, is to look at what went on during my connection at Munich.

I had about an hour in Munich to spend before my regional flight to Trieste, so didn't fell I needed to hurry. Almost straight out of the arrivals gate, I saw this wonderful wall (not a Wonder Wall, I hasten to add), pictured above, in front of me. I sort of smirked and thought, 'hey, language... That's one of my main interests,' and carried on walking. Then I realised that I was looking at words to do with time, and time is one of my biggest preoccupations, too, so I stopped, went back, and took the photo.

Just out of shot (to the Zeit), was (is?) a wee entry hole, a doorway without the door. I nearly walked off again, because this white-walled area looked like a security station. I got a bit bold, though, and thought 'well the worst that can happen is that I get looked at oddly by some airport staff, and maybe asked what I'm doing and/or told to piss off', but the possibility of being rewarded by embracing the spirit of adventure, which I am so often too scared/unable to do, spoke louder to me. So I edged my way towards this entrance-to-what, and, without wishing to spin this out to ridiculous levels, saw that what was inside was actually an exhibit.

I was genuinely very excited. As I've said, it was ticking two of my main interest boxes, but also there was the thrill of living in the moment, listening to my gut, and being lucky enough to have this mini-museum there for perusal in what I thought was just going to be a grey old run from gate to gate. To your left - as you went in - there were three mini sand-timers that you could spin round, and I took the opportunity to 'childishly' interact with what was on offer, and watch their contents trickle.

I was still aware, however, that I couldn't spend all day here. At that point - because I hadn't been told when I checked in at Manchester - I wasn't sure if I needed to get my bags back at Munich, then check them in again. I wasn't sure how big the airport was, how long it takes for bags to reappear from the plane (it seemed to take forever when I was going on family hols as a kid...), or how big the queues would be around the place. When I thought about it like that, panic revved its motorcycle in the garage of my gut, so I decided to take pictures of all the info boards and read them later. As I turned my camera on and waited for it to warm up, I read the first line of the introductory panel. It outlined the broad strokes of 'the' philosophy of time. I got that pre-tingle one gets when one feels horny and has decided what porn one is going to watch - and I couldn't wait to get to the money shot.

I readied my camera, and was about to focus the first shot, when an airport employee stuck his head through the entrance, said something in German, saw my blank expression, then said in English "Sorry, we are closing."

He apologised again and escorted me out.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Sorry Tom Bradby, but You Need to Get It Right!

'Tom Bradby'
I was watching ITV News at Ten on Wednesday night, and there was an update on the latest political developments in Britain. I didn't actually catch the story (though, presumably, it was about the cap on public sector pay?), just the presenter - Tom Bradby - and some middle-aged white 'expert' chatting about it afterwards. Anyway, this post isn't about the politics per se. Come on, this is Blogtastic! Nothing of worth ever happens here!

No but seriously... Tom was talking with this guy about the Tories making a U-turn on an issue they'd already made a U-turn on. I'm sure he first called it a 'double U-turn', but then repeatedly called it a 'double-u (i.e. 'w') turn'. If you perform two U-turns, then you end up going in the same direction you were in the first place. A W-turn, though, means that you've U-turned three times and, compared to your initial vector, you are going in the opposite direction. Again. Am I making sense? Don't worry, you won't be tested on this...

My actual point here is that the stress he was putting on his words was, whether consciously (as part of the larger British media's impartiality in favour of the Tories - Murdoch-controlled rags such as The S*n etc being the most notable, the BBC being the most disappointing) or unconsciously, misrepresenting the mess that the Conservatives are dragging this country further and further into. If the turgid impenetrability of this post is anything to go by, then a lot of people watching it wouldn't have noticed, but I did. I think it matters, too, because these are huge issues, you know, obvious gaffes and horrendous disrespect shown to the British public by the 'professional' people supposedly elected to serve us (yes, I know...). These issues are already being lied about blatantly by some sources, creating a climate of mistrust towards information outlets, so all broadcasters need to be held to high standards. Again, I'm not saying that ITV are part of a conspiracy, but if one of their main presenters is being misleading, then we are right to ask questions about that.

Anyway, if you've made it to the end of this, then thanks. As a reward, here's a clip from one of my favourite childhood films, which is actually kind of relevant. Content note: anti-Italian slurs.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Please


What a nice, polite sign. You don't see that anymore these days, do you? Well, it's either that or the name of the latest 'Britain Has Talent' act, whatever the kids are into these days...

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Postmortemism

The idea of modernism and postmodernism have always fascinated me, to the extent where I have declared myself 'not interested' in reading all of 'the usual classics' (the Brontes, Dickens, y'know...), because they say little to me about my life, whereas the general jankiness of the more recent movements packs a properer punch. Anyway, here we all are, sitting in a rainbow, and then I read this article by Alison Gibbons, saying [postmodernism] is dead (though I guess certain people have been variously saying it was never alive, or died longer ago... Many opinions, I'm sure), but they're not saying it's dead they're just saying that its techniques are being used in different ways, and for different aims. The facets of production, style and whatnot can be the same, but the idea is that, rather than the literature (and the experimentalism) being the point in and of itself, now it is suggested that the helmsperson is steering the authorial ship towards specific issues, racism being an example.

I had a few problems with the article, not least that I've heard this argument for justice before, in some article about the necessity of climate change fiction, but honestly I'm not sure how much I buy it. I'm not convinced on the level of distribution (is fiction read by the people it needs to be? Obviously any one person can be inspired to make a change, but I'm talking 'will it convince Trump to stop being a nob, or will it make old Enid Fairbottom from down the road take her recycling more seriously?' Will most of the liberal folk that need no encouragement to consume literature not already have these views - much like sharing Corbyn memes on Facebook that only your similarly-minded friends see?) and the efficacy of the form itself (do we change our lives because of fiction, or do we feel stimulated, but not act? Do we, in the end, simply feel entertained? Of course that depends on the person (a lazy, narcissistic, anxious arsehole like myself is not moved to change very easily) and the potency of the piece (clearly your Margaret Atwoods are adept at creating narratives that get large swathes of people engaging meaningfully with topics and enjoying/getting freaked out by what she's saying).

Also, I question the labelling of it. I know this was quite a wee article, y'know, not some thesis dissecting millions of examples, but I wondered 'who actually says it's even waning in popularity?' Then I thought, 'you can trust the TLS, surely, they know what they're on about'. Then I thought that labelling something as dying, or whatever, could directly change someone's perceptions, even if there's no evidence. It's sort of like sticking a pube into someone's ice-cream. You made the choice to do it, and even if it's only touching one chocolate chip, the rest of the mint-choc-chip laden cone might well be chucked. Stupid analogy and an over-exaggeration, but, I suppose all I'm saying is, it's weird to call it 'as it's happening'. Feels a bit soon. Gibbons does address this, saying that the situation's "in flux", but if I'm writing a post, and there's a logical contradiction in the reason for writing it, sometimes I just have to say 'bin it'. What's the point in publishing it if you're not confident that there's any point, any benefit?

Though I suppose she's at least created debate. Which is more than I'm doing.

I'm just rambling.

Where's that delete button...

Friday, 19 May 2017

Scenes: Number Seventeen

There are large, flat, stone benches without backs periodically placed along Morecambe prom.

Today, there was a man sat on one of them, leaning back, using his arms to support himself. The sun's brightness bounced off the arms of his glasses. His hair was all grey, apart from cloud-white wings perched above his ears. His hair, his wrinkles, his woollen jumper and slacks all said he was seventy plus.

His lips were curled up a little at one side. You might think the word 'smirk', but there was much more warmth radiating from him than that.

Watching the distant waves and smiling - just how is he so at peace with the world?

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Did I Ever Tell You About the Time?

Could this be the very public vessel of conveyance what didst take away my Literature?
No.

I was just reading a post I liked over at Le Café du Jour, and Nova's story of not getting to finish a book really stuck with me. I wanted to post what I'm about to say as a comment on said page, but it's a bit mansplainy to go and turn the focus around to myself in someone else's forum. So you, unfortunate reader, must suffer it now (unless you stop reading at this very point):

A few years back, maybe three or four, when I was at the height of my 'utilitarianism' phase, I was in the habit of buying pocket-sized books of either poetry or short stories, so that I could have something about me to read at all times. I found the 'dead time' you get on public transport to be the best time to crack one of these wee treasures out.

I was reading one such book - Stefan Zweig's Chess - on the 2A from Heysham into Lancaster. I was at the point in the story where a mysterious character has been tempted to show himself to a group of travellers, only for them find themselves in a pickle. Salvation hinted at its arrival when I reached my real-life destination, and so had to quit the bus and the story.

Later on, I was talking to someone about what I'd been reading, and went to my pocket to show them it as proof. Nice-looking proof, too, since this particular Penguin series that I'd pppicked up is a classy slate-grey background with black and white text upon it.

It wasn't in my pocket, though. I'd left it on the bus.

I can't ever remember calling up the station to see if it had been handed in, but if I did, it wasn't there.

It took me years to re-buy the book. No particular reason, I don't suppose, apart from the usual pressures of not-quite-enough disposable income to go on rectifying all of life's stupid errors. Then it took me a little longer to get round to reading it.

The point where I'd left off was pretty much where things started kicking off. Not so much in terms of overall plot progression per se, but certainly in learning about the characters, and having the relative cosiness of the situation suddenly shaken up by revelations. It's a wonderful story, and I'm so glad I got round to finishing it.

That is all.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Actually

All that I said in my post about getting rid of Facebook, and the 'new' project, one resurrecting an old, promising start, is rubbish.

I've had problems with my phone, on which were a load of drafts that were large and completely relevant to the recording of the content necessary for this poem.

I've had to re-set my phone, and now all the drafts are gone.

I've also lost a lot of prompts and ideas, suggested books to read and inspiring phrases.

And my phone still doesn't work.

...

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Good and Bad News

I'll start with the bad news - April is 'NaPoWriMo' (or 'National Poetry Writing Month' for civilians), and I've only just found out (or remembered?). It's not all that bad, though, as I can still get into the spirit and hopefully not forget next year (though I'll still be writing poems throughout the rest of the year anyway, so don't you worry. As if you would! :P ). I've been looking at this cool site https://poetryschool.com/groups/napowrimo-2017/ . The reason why this one looks so cool is because they've pledged to not just give you prompts to help you write (fun idea!), but they're also giving you a poem to get you "in the right frame of mind" (don't want to focus on the use of the 'mind frame phrase', but reading is essential!). How jolly and fun and just because I missed a bit of it, I'm still glad I found out :)

So the bad news wasn't even half bad, was it? Is there anyone out there - not as thick as me - that knew it was happening and has been giving it a go? Whatchoo been writing?

Now the GOOD NEWS! Yay! The Emma Press has recently (five days, two hours and seven minutes ago, actually) announced a new call for submissions - poems about travel. Great theme, in many ways, some great areas to explore with that and, thankfully for me, there's plenty of scope for serious application of the experimental mindset (mind your mind phrases!). I want to spread the word, and please feel free to do so yourself. I'm sure many of us poets have something that fits the brief here, and I'd encourage folk to submit because they really are a lovely press, in that they make great books full of great work. As an open call, it's a fantastic chance to have your work alongside quality authors.

Good stuff! Right, what are we waiting for? Let's get writing!

Peace, love and light x

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Another Day, Another Big Decision Made in an Attempt to Wrest Control Back From the Cosmos Which, I Know, is Actually Futile, But One Has to Try, at Least

A couple of days ago, I took the relatively drastic step of deactivating my Facebook account. If you're not aware, that's not the same as deleting it. I can wake it up any time I want, but for now it's not usable. First off, it's a pretty strange process to deactivate your account. As well as many 'are you sure?' questions, and text outlining in too much detail what you're about to do, there was also a page with selected friends on it which said, and I paraphrase, "x will miss you! Maybe send them a message to explain why you're leaving." I found it odd because of its emotive connotations, as if I was breaking up some happy 'real-world' home, rather than just becoming slightly less contactable. It was also weird in the way that it was seemingly putting words into my friends' mouths. If they're going to miss me (not in a higher existential sense, just on Facebook...), they can text or call me to say so. They don't need a social media site to tell me that on their behalf. It was just a bit creepy is all I'm saying.

So quite a few people have asked me why I decided to do this. The reasons, as always, are many an varying, but at the very least it was nice that people were concerned (I don't mind admitting that). One big reason is that I've been driving myself slightly mad with going over old memories. This is following another big loss in my life, and I need to take action as soon as I can, otherwise I worry where I'm going to end up. As a secondary factor, I'm seeing it as a little adventure (hopefully!). How long now have I been saying how awful Facebook is, a time-hungry machine that is probably one of a government's favourite tools for letting people to harmlessly rant, and let all that angst and energy dissipate digitally, rather than have people actually mobilise and do something more... potent? So, with that being said, I've finally taken the step. It already feels disconcerting. There's been a few times a day where I've been reading a news article and thinking 'so-and-so would really like this, I'll share it with them', or on a bigger scale, I want people to know what I'm concerned about so we can discuss it. Facebook is at least handy for easily opening up a discussion to a wider audience.

Right, I've sort of gone off track a little bit. It's a bit hard for me to talk about in a way. Some points are so pragmatically motivated that it'd be banal for me to go into them ('saving time' being one thing), then some of them are quite personal to me and others. I don't mind so much being honest about myself, but I don't want to say things that'd make other people feel uncomfortable or whatever. And talking about not talking about it makes it all sound very strange, like a passive aggressive status update where nothing's said, but lots is implied, so I'll stop.

I was quite excited to deactivate my account. I think perhaps I thought it was going to be instantly revolutionary, but very little is when it needs to be. I guess in time I'll see the benefits of not stewing in depressing thoughts while online. Maybe the time thing will be a great help too - hopefully most so with my writing, but I'm learning a new language at the mo and that need concentration too. One thing I've already done is reach out a bit more to people via more personal means, i.e. phone calls, but Facebook was a good signaller, I suppose, for telling you when someone might want a call. That's the main worry, really: what I'm missing out on. And life has taught me quite pointedly how much you can be 'out of sight, out of mind' with anyone, but I have stopped expecting things of people as a result so hopefully that doesn't get to me. I'll have less of a window into their lives, too, so I can only hope I'm good enough at keeping in touch with them, and that they know I'm here for them if they need me. Of course, the other side to missing out on things is going to mainly be poetry events. I'll have to be more disciplined with my email checking and diary keeping. No biggie, in many ways. By the way, I'm not complaining - if it comes across like that at all - just ruminating.

One potentially groovy thing about getting rid of Facebook is that it has led me back to an old poetry project I started when on the MA. Let's just say it involves a certain examination of the behaviour of language in social media contexts, as well as other things. I quite liked the idea myself, but someone I respect very much on that course said they thought it was cool too, so I suppose maybe some of the excitement I felt could have included the starting of this project. It does rely on the habit of social media use, though, so I wonder if it'll be a problem that I'm 'on the wagon', in that sense. Will I eventually be weened off  the wall wailing altogether? We'll have to see, I suppose.

Right, so I suppose that's the only point to this post, just a bit of a ruminate... Has anyone else felt they had to give up social media for a while? Any particular reason? Did it help you?

Peace, love and light, everybody x

Monday, 17 April 2017

Scenes: Number Eleven

It's a quiet, cold night, the colour of streetlights on grey pavements. Every now and again, to your left, a taxi whips round the one-way system taking another load of bank holiday drinkers into town. Apart from that, the only non-concrete thing is the wind, and that only blows half-heartedly every now and again.

The chips you have in your hands are too hot to eat comfortably, but eating them quickly is helping to keep you warm. The wind rises a little, and you hear gears in the clock tower behind you stirring.

Then, from your right, a guy in a beanie hat with headphones on rides by on his bike. Over the soft whir of his machine, he says to you, loud without shouting, "Peace, brother."

You don't know him.

Seconds later he has turned towards town. You are alone again, yourself the only visible evidence of life on this planet.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Other Room Anthology Nine Out Now!

From right to left, then up a bit; The Other Room Anthology Nine, which is out now to buy, Derek Beaulieu's 'Helvetica', which provided a most illuminating guide to Juxtavoices' first piece, and lastly a wee pot of bubbles, naturally in Anti-Choir Purple.
OUT NOW is The Other Room's Ninth Anthology. As with the reading that led to my inclusion in this fine book, I'm incredibly lucky, honoured and privileged to be alongside such great names in an institution I've been passionate about for a long time, and I'm really happy. I hope you enjoy it yourselves. I know I couldn't wait to get reading it, so opened it on the train back from the launch event in Manchester last Wednesday. I'm loving it so far!

It was a great event that saw a couple of Juxtavoices performances (I've had one of their CDs for a long time, but to see them live was a real treat. They brought tears of laughter out of some of the audience), a fantastically humorous, well-worked and working piece (in the sense that it worked the listener, or me at least) from Erkembode, and some provoking pieces from William Rowe. All in all, very enjoyable and, as I always find with The Other Room, I felt a glorious sense of empowerment afterwards. Seeing amazing poetic talent in action (and getting to speak to other outstanding artists in between) fills you full of spirit and energy, and also manages to inspire and tell the internal censor to go away somehow.

So yeah, YOU CAN BUY YOUR COPY HERE. All that's left is to say thank you to the organisers - Scott, Tom and James - for their kindness, thanks to Sarah and Sam, who were pleasures to perform alongside, thanks to everyone else in the anthology that I'm enjoying, and basically to anyone who's been supportive along the way, which includes the audience blowing a 'twenty-one bubble salute' for the anthologised poets during the launch.

By the way, here's a link to the vids from the night I performed 'Europe' in Manchester, which is one of the poems included in the anthology: https://otherroom.org/videos/or-61-sam-riviere-sarah-kelly-martin-palmer-videos/

Friday, 7 April 2017

Sad 'First World' Truths

They don't call me Martin 'Two Bottles of Sparkling Wine Despite Having Nothing to Celebrate in Fact Quite the Opposite Because I'm Feeling Sad and Alone and Desperately Trying to Fill the Void with Something and Alcohol's to Hand and I Know it's Not Good for Me I'm Not Saying it is but What am I Going to do Wait Ages to See a Doctor Only to be Put on a Drug that Makes me Feel Worse When as an Insecure MAle I feel I can Handle the Problem a Little Better Myself Anyway' Palmer for nothing.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

A Wee Poem




Urine my thoughts
wee treasure.
I wouldn't spill a drop of you
and neither would I hold you in.
I love you
you hot, gold beauty.


Friday, 17 March 2017

HiJilled Event Manchester

At the end of the month we have a new sensation mooching its way to Manchester - Hijilled! It's nice to have something uncompromisingly female-fronted in an industry (well, dare I say, 'a world') in which men are more readily put into prominent positions.

I don't actually know all that much about the acts, but I'm still excited :) It's mainly a music-focused event, but I always find with punk that I just end up enjoying whatever/whoever's on. Maybe, in that respect, not knowing all about the acts is a good thing. One thing I will say is that the reviews section of 'The Johnnie Squizzercrow Experience' made me chuckle! But yeah, if you want to know more, click those links (couldn't find Cosmic Slop, but here's Lou McLean, and here's The Lab Rats). Otherwise, do what I'm going to do and just be prepared to be surprised and delighted :)

Sophie Sparham I know a little more about. I'm sure my sister had one of her books, Snow in Hell, if my memory serves. I've heard other people saying good things about her work too, and am generally  just keen to see what her work's like, and how the performance poetry is going to sit alongside the music. Lots to look forward to!

It's free in, by the way, and everything else you need to know is on the poster. Hope to see you there!

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Asymptote Hiring!

I've followed Asymptote for a while and think they're great. Truly visionary, and you should at least take an interest.

I've also wanted to work for them for a while. It's hard not to, really, when you think about the opportunity to be immersed in so much vibrant and probing art and helping to bring it to others. I always thought it would be a bit selfish of me, to get to do what I love, but then I checked out Guy Sewell's words, which I see as a strong rallying call:

At a time when nations are increasingly looking inward and
destroying decades of hard-fought internationalism, I
consider projects such as Asymptote to be at the forefront
of a cultural and ethical resistance: an alternate vision of
artistic collaboration.

I had thought about it in softer terms, you know, bringing lightness to the dark, but this call is really more about bringing the fire to the ice. Active! Yeah!

DEADLINE MARCH 17th 2017. All other details available by clicking on the link below. Good luck!

http://www.asymptotejournal.com/join/

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Robert Sheppard Symposium @ Edge Hill University

Oh gosh, is that the date already? Please forgive me for being so late to advertise this. I thought March seemed like a way off, and yet here it is, being the second day of itself already. Anyway, enough of my incredulity at time's passionless passage - if you can make it on the 8th (next Wednesday...), then do come to what promises to be a great and illuminating gathering of people, papers and presentations on the legend that is Robert Sheppard.

If you click anywhere on this whole paragraph, you'll be taken to the Edge Hill website, where you'll find all the details you'll need, and the opportunity to reserve your place. Both the presentations through the day and the reading in the evening are completely free to attend, but booking your place is what you gotta do. I just booked mine, and I'm getting excited! That's why I've knocked up this wee post, because now I've done that, it all seems very real and imminent...

I hope to see you there!

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Project Failure

Yes, I wrote haiku in a spare address book.
Wasting stationery is a sin, damnit!
Just to clarify; this post is about a project that failed, not about 'Project Failure', which is something entirely different... By the way, if one tries to fail, and fails, has one succeeded?

Enough! On with the post:

You may have seen me talking about my 'yearly projects' before (I've done 'diary a day', 'line a day' and, last year, 'haiku a day'. Well, basically, I'm declaring last year's one a failure. Although I'm guessing I wrote well over 365, the aim was to write at least one every day. It was more about the discipline of sitting down every day to write, not the amount I produced. As usual with these things, I ended up messing up here and there, having a few days where I hadn't written anything, then having to catch up. I came to accept 'slipping' as part of the process (hey, life gets in the bloody way, alright!), but I knew there had been a lot of slippage since I last looked. About a week ago, I thought I'd go back and finish it off. The last entry I made was on the 15th of November... I decided not to carry on.

On the plus side, I think there's a couple of decent haiku what I did. However, my tendency to make them 'about the day', i.e. 'plot-based' (rather than about the image or setting) often hampers them. I realise, when I go back to reading other people's, that there's a massive gulf between most of what I write and the potency of the form done competently. The same can be said with respect to most writing, but there's something about this whole 'daily thing' I've been doing that can make it hard to see the wood for the trees. You know, you sort of spiral down into a 'just do it' mentality, rather than what normally happens spontaneously which is more, you get an idea every so often and think 'I might have something here', then you put it down on paper. But again, I suppose reading is a good guard against that 'spiral', and conscious concentration, so it comes down to my personal incompetence, really.

I find the whole analysis of it more and more distasteful as I try and look at it. What's wrong with intuition, just doing things? Well, that doesn't seem to be enough for me... I can at least say that writing a lot, regularly, is good for stamina (or rather, I've found it to be so). The real problem here is that I can't comment on much else, because I'm hardly in a position to say 'my writing's getting better', and even if I was, I don't think it has. And that's the big issue for me; I was less concerned with how these projects turned out - whether they could be deemed a success in and of themselves - but was hoping it would have wider-reaching implications for my writing as a whole, and I don't think that's the case. The 'haiku' thing may have been good to try and sharpen my viewing [of the world] process, but it didn't encourage any serious engagement [with poetry, or writing, as a whole]. And yes, I can use these haiku for another project [collaboration with the self, as Richard Barrett had it], but I want to stop building this material up and kidding myself that, if that's all I've come up with, it's been worthwhile. If I make a good poem out of it, then groovy, but right now my effort has been poor and I've got little to show for it.

Since giving up on the latest project, I've still been writing. Not enough, I'd say, especially given that hours in my job dried up in January, so I've had more time to do what I want (what's necessary, even?). I think the idea of putting tasks into your diary is good, as it can help you 'ring fence' time. In this respect, I need to take my own advice, because I do suggest it to others, but haven't done it myself. Then I wonder why I hate myself, and why I have to write another blog post like this!
 
This year I was going to plan something, like a poem a week (finished, that is, or to a decently-edited degree), or something like that. That's a good target - more than, on average, what I would normally be doing (I can write new stuff at that rate, sure, but it's the editing where I come a cropper). Then I did nothing. Had no specific, long-term fixation. I want to say that not having a project has felt liberating, or I've put more energy into something else, but neither's true (well, except for more social pursuits and the recent collaboration).

It must be time to wrap this solipsistic sh1t up... I never think I'm doing enough. I find targets helpful but sometimes I set myself big and slightly inflexible ones. So maybe I should do a weekly quota/target? Something less rigid, with more chance for affirmation (things are lonely enough without doubting yourself...). I know some people might find it pathetic that I have to go through all this, but then there are other writers that I speak to who find they need deadlines and extra motivation to get to solve their craft problems. I'm struggling a bit, for sure, but at least it's not a struggle from the bottom (i.e. doing nothing) up. It's a struggle from the near-bottom up. Hey, that was almost positive!
 
I always try and find justification for my posts, otherwise (by and large...) I don't publish them, and I think that is why I write about these projects. Anyone reading can see another perspective on the struggle for production, and certain other aspects of the work. Hope this one's helped, even if only in a small way!

Peace, love and light.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

STRUGGLING CHELSEA SLUMP TO A DRAW

Is Antonio Conte's future really that secure? After what looked like a promising start to the season, it seems that we were too quick to call them 'title contenders' and 'leaders'. Obviously, when Liverpool heroically held them to a draw at Anfield, that was just a blip, but now this. Against Burnley! Har har!

With just one point out of a possible total of three in their last one game, it looks like the steam has run out of the blue locomotive's chuffer. If their whole season had run at this horrible 33% rate, they would have, by now, twenty-five points, and be sitting fourteenth in the Premier League table (although their performance merits relegation, if you ask me), five points ahead of the relegation-zone-toppers.

Come on Chelsea, get it together!

Up next: Is there any truth to the rumour that Dider Drogba plans a return to Stamford Bridge?

Monday, 9 January 2017

The Enemies Project: North by North West Poetry Tour

Biiig news! It's barely more than a week away now, and Blogtastic is proud to announce the upcoming collaboration between myself and Laura Tickle. I've been saying for a while [in fact, it's on my blog bio thingy on this very site] how I'm open for collaboration with other artists, and my prayers have been answered. I'm extremely happy - and even luckier - to be given the chance to be a part of The Enemies Project, a massive and wide-reaching organism that has swallowed up most of the world and showcased a lot of talent across many disciplines in a [successful] bid to examine artists' creative interrelationships. I really enjoyed the one I went to a couple of years back at the Fly and the Loaf, and to perform at one is huge for me.

The process has been cool, y'know. Sort of different and sort of the same with respect to what I was thinking it'd be like. It's really exciting, I find, as there's a pleasant pressure to the whole thing. Might go into that more at a later date, might not. Right now, it's just important that you remember the date: 19th January 2017. You should also remember the venue [Edge Hill Arts Centre], and the time [1800hrs]. It would be great to see you there :) There are other dates as well, so here's a re-link to the North by Northwest Tour so you can check them out - hopefully I'll be at the Liverpool one :) http://www.theenemiesproject.com/northwest/

Here's a link to Laura's piece that appeared on Pages [more links to some of her other work in that post]: http://robertsheppard.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/25-edge-hill-poets-laura-tickle.html

Here's a vibrant flash fiction she wrote for Calum Kerr's Flash Flood, 'Carry Him Safely': http://flashfloodjournal.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/carry-him-safely-by-laura-tickle.html

Steven Fowler already has a collection of collaborations published with Penned in the Margins [sold out at this link, but free sample available: http://www.pennedinthemargins.co.uk/index.php/2013/09/enemies-2/], any other Enemies related stuff just check the link I've already given you.

And as for other poets and their works - Google it! I've not got time to go into it all, I've got poetry to do :D