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Poetry, or something like it

August 31, 2014 Leave a comment

Poetry isn’t my thing, really. Flash fiction, stories and so on, yes. Poetry no. If you don’t like it as poetry just think of these two things as flash fic. Or blame Stevie Smith for inspiring the first one, if you remember her ‘Not Waving But Drowning‘. Though mine isn’t as good. Oh, and yes, they’re about real people. But you don’t know them.

 

1. Waving/drowning

He’s waving but drowning
Sinking in crashing and speedy surf.
He wants to be saved.

From the sea? From himself?
He waves like he’s giving the finger.

I swim against hard swell.
He fights as if his life depends on it.
As if it’s all he’s ever known.

On the beach exhausted, wet and cold
I watch him cough water, spit blood,
Recover strength.

Soon he’ll stand and walk
to the end of the jetty
Jump in again. And wave.

If this is a test, I’ve failed.
If he’s testing himself, it’s to destruction.
If I try to save him again
Both of us will drown.

 

2. Hydrocortisone

We all die sometime
But medication speeds the process.

She needs enough to cope with the stress
But enough is too much for her body.

The medicine helps her stay together
When tragedy unfolds around her.

And yet it makes her fall apart.
Her skin grows fragile, and bleeds.

What will happen when it’s as weak
As a dried-out leaf in autumn?

 

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Punk poet past and present

June 5, 2012 Leave a comment

So last night I caught a BBC documentary, part of the ‘Punk Britannia’ season, on John Cooper Clarke.

Back in the 1970s he was a surreal figure, a tall stick-thin guy with long hair that looked, literally, as if he’d been dragged through a hedge. He’d turn up at punk gigs and rant poetry at six hundred words a minute (or thereabouts) at the audience. They expected head-banging, pogoing music and got head-banging, pogoing verse.

He disappeared from public view through much of the 1980s and 1990s (yes, drugs had a lot to do with that) but he’s still around, still performing, and still has a nervous energy and bite that make him, if not a national treasure, then still a wonderful cultural icon.

He wasn’t the only punk poet of that era. I remember another who went under the name ‘Conan the Librarian’ – though if you google that name, there’s no longer any trace. There’s a comedy film of that name and, as far as I can see, several librarians who use the nickname, but no punk performance poets. So maybe Cooper Clarke is the last one standing?

If you’re interested, he has a website, including a bunch of his poems and a list of upcoming gigs. There’s also a Wikipedia page, and the show itself is on the BBC iPlayer (‘Evidently… John Cooper Clarke’) for 6 more days (if you live somewhere where you can access it). After that… well, it’ll probably still be around. Try googling it.

One final thought, just a little comment that came from early on in the documentary. Where did his inspiration come from? Which radical firebrand unleashed his voice? What revolutionary literature fired him up? Answers: one talented teacher, and Palgrave’s Golden Treasury. Who’d have thought?

(Notes to American readers: if you look at the documentary and Youtube clips, etc., you may find Cooper Clarke’s regional accent – Salford, near Manchester – difficult to follow at the speed he performs. But you can still read his work. And yes, I know you have your own punk poets like Henry Rollins, musician turned poet and many other things besides. And yes, he’s good. But it’s not the same style at all…)

Hearing Voices this evening

January 10, 2011 3 comments

No, I’m not mad. No, it wasn’t really my thing. But neither of these opinions is important.

What is important is that on a rainy Monday evening in January, without very much in the way of publicity, it was possible to get 70-80 people to a pub in Leicester to attend a poetry event. I only found out about it a couple of hours before it happened – the event was Hearing Voices and here’s the Facebook notification I got. There’s almost nothing about it on the web yet (pages still being developed) but the overall one-year project is for three issues of a magazine, of which the first is now out (at least I think it was the first, in which case their stated timetable appears to have slipped?). Hence the event which was a kind of launch party.

The event included scheduled poetry readings, some open-mic poetry and a few short stories though poetry dominated the event.

Two quick thoughts.

First, massive congratulations to the organisers, the not-for-profit group Crystal Clear Creators, on a really successful event.

Second, given the evident popularity of poetry and the fact I’m struggling away writing horror and SF and ‘urban’ and ‘alternative’ stories, I’m obviously in the wrong game. I shall have to study this poetry thing more carefully!

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