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Showing posts from October, 2014

Postcards

(further to the last piece, it may be worthwhile pointing out that not EVERYTHING I read was ancient*)

I managed a single new poem at last week’s reading, or rather twenty odd very short new poems plucked from one longer work which is currently being tinkered with. In the finest traditions of my magpie poetics, the idea was “inspired by” (read: ripped off wholesale from) the sainted and discussed elsewhere in these pages Georges Perec.
Reading his collected short pieces Species of Spaces (take the exhortation to buy and read as read)

I was struck by a piece called Two Hundred and Forty three postcards in Real Colour (dedicated to his friend and other hero of mine, Italo Calvino). Simply put the text is the standard matter of postcards, weather, food, scenery, but the overall effect is hypnotic in its banality (and in the knowledge that, this being Perec, there’s something else entirely whirring away in the background). This evolved into 99 Postcards for Georges Perec. Me being me I …

Performance

Performance

(The dust has settled and back I slink like a penitent drunk, birthdays and tasting nights having kept me away. Also a reading, the main inspiration behind this piece).
Last Wednesday I stood up in front of a roomful of people and read poems that I’d written for twenty minutes or so. Not in itself an unusual occurrence for me, though far enough out of the ordinary to cause me a couple of nights of broken sleep wondering what on earth I was going to do.

I felt a fraud, to be honest. My writing habits are slow, and over twenty years I’ve managed to amass a grand total of two chapbooks. The upshot of this being that, when reading from my “latest” book, I may be reading a piece that’s up to sixteen years old. Fair enough, the audience may not have heard it before, but it still feels slightly like one of those sad eighties revivals tours, with multiple acts coming on, doing the hit, and fucking off. It reminds me of how little I have actually got done, thus far. But, with such …

The date as catalyst

Sometimes it is the simplest thing that causes everything to swim into focus. Life has been a confusing welter for the last couple of weeks, as work commitments have spiralled to an unprecedented degree, and everything else has withered in the face of them. It’s hard to think when there’s a lot to think about, the brain cries out for breathing space. At its worst, the sensation causes a disproportionate sense of angst. Replying to an email becomes a Herculean task, doing laundry or washing up delivers a sense of guilt and resentment, surely there’s other stuff I need to be getting on with. The paperwork, the writing, the inbox, these essays, the running; all sit and glare at me as I get up later than intended, don’t find time, watch in horror as the half hour I set aside disappears in two or three chunks of something other than what I intended.

Mentally, it’s not an ideal space to be in. Particularly when I’ve a sizeable poetry reading in Manchester this evening, and until a few sca…

It’s in the edit

It’s true I missed a couple of days, but I’m keeping the self-imposition going in other ways. Yesterday I posted the first of what will be a series of rewrites of old short stories over on Medium, and it got me thinking about editing, rewriting, and how we change over time.

The story’s not a million miles from the original. The plot (such as it is) stays the same, the characters, large parts of the text. It must be a good ten years old though, and reading it I could tell. It was an accurate reflection of my character at the time, the newer version, clearly, is closer to the current version of me, and the older me is more restrained, which is only to be expected.

The question is, which is the better? Is it truer to leave well alone? Well, no, clearly. The whole thing reads better now, it’s tighter, makes a little more sense, and has trimmed away a couple of the twentysomething approaches which now read as gauche. “Kill your darlings” as Stephen King said, and he was right, I remember…

Score one for the weird names

To general astonishment, Hamilton Academical ended a winless run of 76 years versus Celtic this very afternoon. Noteworthy in itself, but I mention this mostly because of their magnificent name.

As a long-suffering fan of Tottenham Hotspur, I’ve always had a soft spot for teams with slightly unusual names. In the westcountry of my childhood, I’d keep an eye on Plymouth Argyle’s results. I was always intrigued by Sheffield Wednesday (originally a cricket club who played all their games on that day). In these days of ever more rampant corporate branding, and proud and ancient stadiums being renamed after retailers of cheap trainers or ethically dubious airlines, the slightly odder names are a reminder of football’s more ramshackle past. Hamilton are named Academical, for example, because they were originally a school football team. Aston Villa derive their name from the Church team they once were.

My own beloved Spurs (also originally a cricket club) are named after Sir Henry Percy, …

The Madeleine moment.

You know the concept. In Marcel Proust’s Du cote de chez Swann the narrator dips a madeleine into a cup of tea. This simple act unlocks a host of memories of childhood, he hasn’t done this in years, it takes him right back.

I’m not going to pretend I’ve read the book. I will confess I tried, but wandered off after a while to play computer games instead. This is because I’m an intellectual pygmy with the attention span of a stunned duckling. But the point, largely, is that Proust has managed to sneak a phrase into the popular consciousness which is apposite and precise; we all know what a Madeleine moment is, and a crisp fiver here states that we’ve all had one.
One occurred this morning (hence the post, there’s not a great deal of forethought with these things on my part). For years beyond remembering I have been accustomed to opening he fridge to see milk in plastic one or two litre containers, it’s not something I’ve ever given a great deal of consideration to. Why would you?

Yet t…

Silent mornings

In heaven it is always Autumn – John Donne

I wrote some time ago of the pleasure of running without any of the technological encumbrances with which some runners habitually festoon themselves, of the way the brain begins to tick over under its own steam, and of the way in which the unencumbered runner notices more of the world around them.

And now it’s autumn, and this week marked the first of my morning runs conducted entirely in darkness. It’s been trailed over the preceding weeks, with sunrise arriving later and further into the run and now the months of running in complete darkness lie ahead. With nothing to look at, the mind closes in further, it really is just you, the road and your thoughts.

During the back end of summer there’s always a part of me with one eye on the arrival of autumn, Camus’ “second spring”. The thought of the light receding is what bothers me, the encroaching dark mornings, the loss of the evening light as if it’s easier to mourn something whilst you still…