Just before the last election here in the U.K, I wrote the following little squib which seems even more relevant now just days before the great (apocalyptic?) Trump/Clinton standoff. I didn’t include it in my collection, but it features in my Little Book of Pessimism:
Nothing will change, it’s all a lie.
Just cross your box and hope to die.
Just over a week ago, on the 26th of October, I officially became the luckiest man in the world when I married my long-term partner, Alison. The ceremony took place in the lovely old Town Hall in Eastbourne, the seaside resort where Alison grew up. It was modest affair, but a very moving occasion nonetheless. There were no wedding bells, but the Town Hall clock chimed obligingly as we took our vows. For the reading, we chose Michael Donaghy’s beautiful poem, ‘The Present’. Afterwards, we enjoyed a celebration meal at a hotel overlooking the sea and the following day set off for Torquay where we had a somewhat unconventional honeymoon at the Torbay Festival, surrounded by our wonderful friends from the world of poetry.
To mark the occasion here on my blog, here is a little poem that I wrote about Alison a few years ago:
I love to watch her working in the garden,
her movements full of gentle care and grace,
as if the very air around her hands
might come to harm if suddenly displaced.
To be with her a moment is to feel
this headlong world made kinder, calmer, slower,
and when she frowns at seeing a damaged leaf,
I pity everyone who doesn’t know her.
A shot from En-Fuse’s exciting multimedia show, CITY ON FIRE, at the Dugdale Theatre, Enfield Town, featuring poets Hannah Lowe, Alan Murray, Richard Price and Cheryl Moskowitz. An intimate and complex portrait of city life to the backdrop of five mesmerising films by George Gavin which travel through London by day and night, and an exciting specially composed electronic score performed live by Alastair Gavin. Here are a few reviews of the show:
“I thought this was a great show … Held the attention throughout” – Simon Bowden (Ver Poets).
“It was…fabulous. We enjoyed it immensely. I loved the collaboration, the intimacy, the natural voices, the engaging rhythms” – Nancy Mattson.
“Compelling and engaging…It is fair to say there is rarely a dull moment. A well-staged, well-performed, highly original piece of work” – Mike Bartholomew-Biggs You can read the full rave review here:
A poster for the show that I performed in back in April 2016, together with some shots of me and my fellow poets writing and rehearsing the show.
Richard Price listening to Alastair’s score.
Hannah Lowe reads to Cheryl Moskowitz and Richard Price
Alan Murray and Cheryl Moskowitz.
In November of 2015, my partner, Alison Varndell, was selected to fly out to Bosnia as part of a delegation of teachers, lawyers, and other professionals to visit the site of the Srebrenica genocide and to meet with the mothers of the men and boys who lost their lives there. It was a harrowing experience for Alison and I was also greatly affected by what she told me and by the haunting photographs that she took. The idea of the visit was to encourage the delegates to return to Britain and educate others about the terrible atrocities that occurred during the Bosnian War, and to further the aims the charity, which works to promote understanding and tolerance among different ethnic and religious groups. You can find out more about the Bosnian War and the work of the charity at www.srebrenica.org.uk.
My small contribution to this important cause was to arrange a benefit reading for the charity, featuring the poets Jennifer Johnson and Kit Wright, both of whom very generously waived their fees.
A capacity audience upstairs at the Dugdale Theatre
It was a wonderful evening of poetry which began with an open mic session involving many local poets and a host of talent from London, the Home Counties and beyond, all reading to a room that was packed to the rafters. Continue reading
The neuroscience literature is packed with examples of bizarre pathologies, but there are plenty of everyday experiences which are just as bewildering and which have yet to be satisfactorily explained. Déja Vu is one example. Another is the so-called ‘Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response’ which is, essentially, the tingle we sometimes get from great poetry or music. There is an interesting discussion of this on a blog written by my friend and fellow poet, Martyn Crucefix, which you can read here:
As noted in my previous post, the lyric poem is usually described as an expression of the poet’s thoughts and feelings at a given moment in time. The importance of being hyper-attentive to the world around us and within us, to register ideas and sensations as they happen, is something that the Romantics, in particular, were keen to stress, though almost every poet since then would regard this as an essential part of what they do and who they are. Ezra Pound, for example, in the the essay on Imagism that appeared in the March 1913 edition of Poetry, describes the image in terms which are very close to the definition of the lyric poem. The image, he says, is “that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time”. Pound, of course, differs from the Romantics in his rejection of the idea of poetry as ‘expression’, but he shares with them the notion that poems seek to capture a moment, to present ‘the present’.
But a problem arises when we start to examine more closely the idea of ‘the present moment’, for there is an increasing amount of evidence suggesting that we never experience things ‘as they happen’, and that we are all, poets and non-poets alike, doomed to be the ‘unreliable narrators’ of our own lives. Continue reading
Though it originally referred to verse that was accompanied by a lyre or other musical instrument, the term ‘lyric’ now denotes poetry that expresses the thoughts and feelings of the poet (or their persona) at a particular moment in time. From the Romantic era onwards, the lyric has been seen as the ideal vehicle for examining the nature of conscious experience and ideas about the self, and its pre-eminence has meant that we sometimes forget it is just one poetic genre amongst others, and see it as more or less synonymous with poetry itself.
Consequently, poetry, more than any other literary form, tends to be seen as ‘self-expression’. But what exactly are we expressing when we express our ‘selves’? Naturally, we all assume that we have a ‘self’ and that our self is what makes us what we are. But what if there were no self – if the self were just a kind of illusion or a notion that we have invented to make sense of an otherwise bewildering and incoherent mass of impressions? How might this affect the theory and practice of poetry? What happens when we take the ‘I’ out of lyric? Continue reading