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Monday, 13 January 2020

Just Duck Breakin'

I fancied 'breaking my duck' for 2020 with a short, banal post, just to ease myself back into the blogging rhythm.

But then I thought better of it. Why not start the new year with a long, banal post?

And we're off!

It's been a decent start to the year to be honest. I wrote a first draft of a children's story (I know, where did that come from? But what can I say? I was walking around a park in Lytham, got that ol' inspired feeling, and acted on it. Any publishers of new writing for children out there - hmu!), have been keeping up to date with my various diaries, am doing a bit of sketch writing with a friend, have submitted a new poem to a local radio culture show... Quite a lot, really. In terms of consumption, too, I'm doing well. I've finished a few books, and seen some films, too. If I continue going like I am, I might find a level of consistent contentedness - could it actually happen? When you consider it, happiness doesn't take all that much - just spending your time in the right way...

I finally got round to reading Eleanor Rees' Blood Child a bit back. After finishing it, the dark character of its (our?) world has stayed with me, and I feel compelled to say a bit about it. I got so deeply slathered in language when reading this, it was wonderful. Like a weatherful walk along a beach, it was full of palpable (and yet also ethereal) experiences; the wind holding you by the shoulders, the rain lashing and prickling your skin, the sensation of sand slipping underfoot, the gulls' cries touching your brain - all rendered in seductively sonic language, and active imagery. Take these few lines from 'A Burial of Sight':

...the flight paths of geese above a city park.
In the night I am with them,
solid wings slapping against air currents,
almost like thoughts...

The cities crouch, and yet loom, as do the shadowy, mythic woods of Grimm-esque tales, where even the still things are alive, and have momentous presence, like in 'Becoming Miniature', where, "...the houses [are] pressed with satellite dishes./ Aerials all point west as if hearing the sea." This is down to keen eyes and ears, and the technical strength and beauty to do life justice. I mean, some of these sentences thrill me with their sonic luxury. How can you not get a kick out of this, from 'Arne's Progress: Cort├Ęge', "...he drives over cherry blossoms splattered on tarmac/ while a man at the bus stop scrambles through a sandstorm"? I also enjoyed the thematic tightness of the collection as a whole, the recurrence of natural, earthy lexis, splashes of colour, the way humanity is presented, and the sense of travelling through air and time. Although we have a diversity of poems in terms of length ('A Burial of Sight', 'Blood Child', 'Arne's Progress' - made up of several distinct sections - and 'Blue Black' being the longer works) and form, the collection sits comfortably like a nests in a tree. It's rich poetry, and I thoroughly recommend it.

While reading Blood Child, I also had Robert Sheppard's Micro Event Space on the go (whilst sitting stationary). There was a moment where both texts were talking about gulls, and there was this strange synaptic flash between these two very different books. Sheppard's collection is, I think, more of a menagerie, and there's not a lot (especially not in terms of, say, motifery) to link the collection together, apart from the idea of smallness - but under that banner there is such a range, that everything hardly manages to fit under it. The pieces range in length from twelve lines to ninety-seven, in form from 'Twittersonnets' to Haibun (which is interesting because the only way it fits, for me, into the idea of 'smallness' is in how it uses language, i.e. being small by its conciseness. But, obviously, this could be said of a lot of poetry. In terms of the scene, one could say the poem's about a walk in the park (which is at least partly true), and that's a small thing, but it's actually looked at from so many angles as to make it a Tardis-like 'hugeness contained within a smallness. So, as I say, it's interesting how it strains at the edges of its "small poems about small things" description [in the blurb]), and in content from Roman coins to a car park fire.

I've seen examples of the Twittersonnet before (in 'Twitterodes' from Pages, and in A Translated Man), but they were no less potent here. When reading them, I feel like I'm descending a small diameter helter-skelter (what a belter...). So quick are the line breaks, for me there's a sense of dizzying pace. And it completely works, not just in the pace of reading, but the stresses it provides, y'know, generally the way they say so much, as Sheppard always does, in such a short space. 'higgs boson', as with most of them, I read over and over. I'm a fan of the cheeky "pip," "dip," and "tip" rhyming, and the way 'photons and leptons' are ensmallenised even further as "...the pho[/] and the lep[/] tons..." I know there are constraints at play, and yet the effect they make - just yes! Like with any good fairground ride, I want to go again. I also like the effect he creates in 'Leeds'. The three numbered parts - which themselves reference art - create this pleasing gallery-within-a-gallery feel. Anyway, I could go on about formal inventiveness in Sheppardian work 'til I'm blue in the face, but for me, sometimes you just can't beat a super serving of sibilance, and so I swing your attention 'The Working Week'-wards, to an image that I'd like to think summed up the author as he got to grips with his poetic material, "A sweat-band soaks up/ the effluent of/ his excess labour." But this is just supposed to be a short mulling over, so I'll leave it there. It looks like Micro Event Space is sold out already - hope you got your copy! And if Twittersonnets are your bag, check out these six from Tyneside by Alan Baker - wonderful living nuggets from the north-east.

Fictionly, I'm reading Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Got his Gun. I became aware of Trumbo recently when watching the film based on his life, starring Brian Cranston. It was actually pretty good, genuinely compelling, and avoided (too much) of the glossy white-washing that these biopics often lazily pedal. When I read the synopsis, I was fully expecting a 'yeah, America used to be bad, y'know, with the Communist witch-hunts etc, but now that we've venerated one of the victims, we're cool, right? Right?' kind of thing, but it was more rounded than that. Anyway, film aside, I got to researching Trumbo a bit, and the aforementioned book came up in my trawl. It's a powerful book, up there in terms of emotional effect and unswerving craft vision with American Psycho for me (yes, an odd comparison, but it is what it is!). I won't go into it a lot, but I think that the way he unflinchingly explores the life of his deeply disabled protagonist is inspiring, and rekindles in me the desire to follow through with ideas that my internal censor sometimes says 'no, that's too weird for an audience to like'. I mean, really, the ideas are just what we hang our words on. Here, the words and ideas have a singular effect. I feel really close to Joe - the main character - because his mindscape is so well represented, and his motivations and patterns seem genuine. I'm not too much a fan of the lack of punctuation, which makes reading difficult, but this is perhaps a more sympathetic representation of the processes of Joe's mind - not ordered in a standard(ised) way. In this sense, it was the punctuational equivalent of Chuck Palahniuck's Amy Hempel's 'burnt tongues', forcing you to re-read. I'm not sure if that was entirely the intended effect, but it means that you have to be wary of reading too quick, you know, and because you have to slow down, and open your apertures wide, you take the full force of the light within the book. It is almost blinding. If you've got a strong constitution (mentally as well as physically), then I think you should read it, too. Especially if you're of the right, politically. And/or extreme left, I guess. I dunno. Maybe all humanity should read it... People have got to listen at some point, right? RIGHT? Oh, I forgot...

Well, I've prattled long enough, I think. Soon, I'll have a little muse upon some of the films I've been seeing lately, so, if this post hasn't been too much excitement for you, I'll see you then.

Peace, love, and light, amici!

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