Supersonnet

I’m feeling Supersonnet, give me gin and tonnet. Here’s the spiel about this one:

With a sonnet, you start, then you have the volta, where you change something about the perspective or mood of the poem, then you end. So, really, you just need the start and the end of the poem. Really, you just need the first and the last word.

SO. I took the first and last words of 59 of Shakespeare’s sonnets, and made them into a sonnet of my own. This sonnet is therefore up to 59 times as good as any of its constituent sonnets. Here’s the full text:

“O, all who rhyme when wrong, how dear for thee
That well thy book was mine. Take foes! O find
My song. Who worse, when praise unthrifty be?
Full staineth my effect, if crime canst blind.
That long those sweet, alack it, Cupid eyes,
Devouring, young, thine lack, o now be wide
As wit not spent. Thou proceeds I devise
When hence is near a treasure Love denied!
So ignorance as me, if praise my night,
How praise what heart like you? What’s dead but skill?
Why, deeds from thee let one betwixt delight,
But not as die the sad. Whoever, Will,
O, so thou transferr’d, tired, alone, in pain
Shall thee thus go. How stronger! O, remain!”

Premiered on Shakespeare Day (April 23rd) at the fantastic Quiet Compere tour, organised by Sarah L. Dixon and Barry Fentiman-Hall at Chatham Library.

Late Heresy: It Is What It Is And It Was What It Was

The excellent Wordsmithery conducted another of their fine Assemblances of Judicious Heretics last year, in which poets and visual artists are matched up for collaborations. We poets were given the theme of “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” on account of the Wordsmithery->Medway->Dickens links. I wrote this piece, which was then sent to artist Lesley Ellen Cooperwaite who kindly took some photos and sent them back, and I then used the photos to make the following video. See more heresy here.

The Inexorable Liner Notes

Here are some notes on my new book, The Inexorable Progression, which you can buy here.

Cover art GIMP-ed by me, based on a public domain image I found online. Would credit the photographer if I had their details, but I don’t.

Other illustrations: Ditto.

X and Y
This is not a Coldplay reference. I am still bitter about being at college with Chris Martin, who stole all the success that ought rightfully to have been mine, by using the unfair trick of writing songs that people wanted to listen to. I am not, however, so bitter that I will stop namedropping him.

Dedicated to Sam Rapp The Dyslexic Poet, whose poem “Rant” asks “Does anyone really understand a Y and X?”, to which I always want to shout “Yes, me! I didn’t get a degree in maths for nothing!”

(Sam Rapp’s “Rant: Dyslexic Me” is available from Whisky and Beards here)

It’s Fine
In ancient Rome, an auspex was an interpreter of omens, whence we get the word “auspicious”. There were sub-categories of this such as “haruspex”, someone who interpreted the entrails of sacrificed animals. I doubt “faecaspex” was a thing at the time, but we could do with such a word today so I possibly coined it.

Roger Moore and Paul McCartney are legitimately my favourite Bond and Beatle, but I don’t tolerate such weakness in others.

Lockdown Ginger
The pastime of knocking on people’s doors and running away is variously known as Knock-Down Ginger, Ding Dong Ditch, Chap Door Run, Zoom Zoom, Knock-a-door Run, Thunder and Lightning, Nicky-Knocky Nine Doors, Chappie, Run-Bang-Skoosh, Cherry door knocking and so on.

Ray, A Drop Of Golden Sun
Poetry ace David Dykes looked this one over and suggested I make some cuts, to which I said NO NAY NEVER and instead drew a pretty diagram to “explain” what this one is about. I can be even more explicit about the meaning if you ask me nicely.

Death Box
Again, I ignore the sage advice of David Dykes and refuse to make sensible cuts. Soz.

Poetry Is Not An Expression Of My Soul
I misread an event’s title and suggested theme as “Poetry Is An Expression Of My Soul” and wrote this poem before I could correct my own misunderstanding.

Edwina Van Halen
Extensive notes about this one are available here.

Inspector Remorse
With each passing year, the number of people who have watched TV series “Inspector Morse” (and cared about it) reduces, so I guess this is the sort of pop culture reference I should stop making. On the other hand, I used to love Morse, at least in part because John Thaw’s erudite beer-and-crossword loving detective was quite like my dad.

Yeoman of the Guard
I hope this isn’t too male-gazey. It’s obviously about me looking at a woman, and is inspired by me actually looking at a woman, but hopefully I didn’t gawp at her or sexualise her. I just found her attire very striking, far more so than one might expect to see at Longfield station. Random woman, if you are reading this, it was a strong look and I commend you.

“A country’s banner, knowing not what country it was for” – Yemen. It’s the flag of Yemen.

Light A Flame In High Winds
Written for the launch of my last book, “Demimeditations“, on the basis that I thought the audience might like to hear a proper poem as well as the contents of that book.

Of The Wonderful Things That You Get Out Of Life There Are Four
I wrote some low-quality code to generate the word groupings here. The title is from the jazz standard “Four”, lyrics by Jon Hendricks, music (probably) by Miles Davis (no relation).

2-litre Bottle of Beer
I wrote this as a hypothetical, but didn’t feel I could publish in good conscience without further research. It was actually a 2.5l bottle of Timisoreana – I had a choice of several brands – from the Eastern European shop at the bottom of Gabriel’s Hill, Maidstone. I paced myself sensibly and it was very tasty.

Can’t Drink In Spoons Blues
I swore off my beloved Spoons a few years ago, but have had various relapses due to stress and convenience. I’d like it if you avoided it too, but life is tough and sometimes you need a cheap pint.

Capitalist Darwinism
10 points if you can guess the highly respected and geographically distant poet who inspired this one.

Déjà Oublié
One instance of the phrase “Déjà Oublié” is bolded, not italicised. This is highly significant and definitely not the result of me clicking on the wrong icon.

Sound of the Basketballs
Initial opening inspired by Stevie Wonder’s “Lately”.

Contents
This is slightly borked. The cost of a “full” first print run was only a fraction greater than the cost of one proof, so I foolishly went full steam ahead. This is my book, it’s fine it’s fine it’s fine.

New Book: The Inexorable Progression

Book number 4! I thought I ought to do another book, so I did. It’s a pretty straightforward collection of things I wrote to read at events, plus a few other odds and ends. You can have a read of some of the poems on this very site:

Yeoman of the Guard

Edwina Van Halen

SuperSuperVillainelle

Cotton Bud

Contains around 40 poems, 104 pages and several pictures created with a cheap Photoshop alternative. Not too much angst. A little bit of angst. Not much.

Buy it here! £6+P&P

Notes on some of the poems are available here: The Inexorable Liner Notes.

SuperSupervillainelle

I look my new idea up. Fucking hell.
I’m beaten to the punch. I find someone
already did a “Supervillainelle”.

http://www.locuspoint.org/volume1/st_louis/newman.html
includes a poem Richard Newman dun
that has that name. The asshole. Fucking hell.

Others wrote them too, though not so well.
Thank God I searched before I had begun
my not-so-super Supervillainelle.

Even as I write this, I hear tell
I flog a weary trope whose course has run,
q.v. Carol Ann Duffy’s “Fuckinelle”.

Normally, there’s nothing would compel
my penning such a thing, except a gun,
but this, I thought, excused a villanelle.

Faced with its constrictions, I rebel;
Senseless repetition isn’t fun.
I’d fain return the two-faced bane to hell;
my low-key hate: The Supervillainelle.

(Grits teeth) I bear Richard Newman no ill will and I am not bitter at all that he travelled forwards in time, stole my idea, then went back in time and did it better than I could have done. Go and read his one, it’s good.

Yeoman of the Guard: A dedication to Sea Breeze

yeomen-of-the-guard-2800x1879Today I was supposed to be reading at Sea Breeze, which I am informed is a fine poetry night in Broadstairs.  Unfortunately, we’ve all been told to remain indoors and behave ourselves, so I’m unable to do so.  I hope that all involved people and businesses stay operational, and I fully intend to visit Sea Breeze at some point in the future.

It’s been suggested that we would-be-Sea-Breezers record ourselves reading works, which I might have a go at sooner or later.  Given how much I dislike my voice, I am seeing that sort of thing as a longer term project, involving a degree of turd-polishing.  So in lieu of that, I’m dedicating this poem to Sea Breeze, since I’d hoped to read it there.

I’ve recently found myself thinking “I must put this poem out there somewhere, in case I get coronavirus and die and it is lost forever”.  In hindsight, maybe it’s not quite that good, and I probably won’t die from coronavirus.  Western civilisation can probably carry on with or without me or this poem.

(Last paragraph of intro, I promise.  I hate long intros and avoid them if possible, sorry) I got off the train at Longfield one night and saw a strikingly dressed woman at the ticket machine.  Not, like, phwooar-sexy-striking – I’d probably keep that to myself and not draw attention to my evil male gaze.  But striking enough that I wrote a poem about it.  So, here we go:

 

She stood in black and white and red, a Gothic tricolour
Both heart and spade upon her playing card
A country’s banner, knowing not what country it was for
A horizontal Yeoman of the Guard

Her motion was a background with a head and hands on top
Animated static tacit cries
An optical illusion of the type that will not stop
Its movements matching movement of one’s eyes

Colour-coded books upon a colour-coded shelf
She cleft unto whatever she did cleave
Beneath her feet her catwalk treadmilled back upon itself
The road rose up to meet her, then to leave

A shank of dim obsidian, a terracotta breast,
A ghost of snow about her oblong hips.
O could this be the very way that Bridget Riley dressed,
This palette of the teeth, the mouth, the lips?

As layers of granite, chalk and sandstone ooze within the hill,
As clouds fix fast while earth spins round its air,
As petals pass down running rivers we perceive as still
Do such as she slip softly, through the fair.

 

 

Cotton Bud

I am honoured to have been included in the new podcast from Big Trouble, Little Riot.  There’s some great stuff on there, and then there is my voice, which is a bit weedy and indistinct.  So here is the text of what I read, live at Poco Loco one time:

Cotton bud
Cotton bud
Gleam your shining white
Cotton bud
Cotton bud
Sceptre of delight
Cotton bud
Cotton bud
Cleaning out my brain
Cotton bud
Cotton bud
Auricular cocaine
Do not dare bemoan me,
Crowing, bold as brass,
“Exterior use only” –
Exterior, my arse.
Cover up your label;
Pay it little mind.
Shaft me while we’re able;
Forbidden love is blind.
Hither, scratch the wicked itch
I did not know existed.
Mine my golden seam so rich;
Leave me spent, limp-wristed.
Bathe me with your healing grace,
Buddy, dearest pal;
Ooh baby, heaven is a place
Up my ear canal.

I cannot think of cotton buds without thinking of The Staggering Stories of Ferdinand De Bargos, a BBC show of the late eighties in which people such as Jim Broadbent put silly dialogue over stock footage.  If you watch it on YouTube, you will probably not have to wait long before they start blethering about cotton buds.

Demimeditorial notes

Here are some notes regarding my new book, Demimeditations – see here for more details.  This is the type of thing I would normally put in an overly long section at the back of a book where it can go quietly unread.

I will leave the definitions of basic Buddhist terminology – dukkha, metta, samatha and soforth – to Google, on the basis that even if one defines them correctly someone will quibble about one’s definitions.

Jonathan Middlename Seagull

Jonathan Livingstone Seagull was a pretty big deal when Richard Bach first wrote it in the late sixties, but I don’t hear much about it these days. It’s a simple fable about becoming enlightened by doing what you love – perhaps a little too simple to be satisfying.

Bury the Click

“Burying the click” is what one does (or can do) when one practices playing music with a metronome. If you strum at exactly the same time as the click of the metronome, you will “bury” the click and be unable to hear it. My point is that this practice requires neither a metronome nor an instrument.

And The Rain Sets In

Title from David Bowie’s “I’m Deranged”.

The True Story of the Emperor and the Angry Buddha

This is an allegedly true story about Bodhidharma (5th-6th century A.D.), a famously irritable monk often accorded the status of buddha – that is, he was A buddha, not to be confused with The Buddha. He is said to have met with the Chinese Emperor Xiāo Yǎn, as related thusly in the sacred text of Wikipedia:

Emperor Wu: “How much karmic merit have I earned for ordaining Buddhist monks, building monasteries, having sutras copied, and commissioning Buddha images?”

Bodhidharma: “None. Good deeds done with worldly intent bring good karma, but no merit.”

Love Gove

This was written back when Theresa May had announced her abdication and we hadn’t quite decided which prick was going to be P.M.

The Foretellings of the Sage

Irritatingly, I was sure I had the details of who this particular sage was. It was some Thai chap back in the 1950s. But it was a real chap, who wrote about siddhis (i.e. magic Buddhist superpowers). Like everyone who writes about siddhis, he was very cagey and non-committal about them, essentially saying “You will be able to tell the future…but don’t go blabbing about it, because you might be wrong”. The James Randi Foundations’s million dollars is safe, I feel.

(AHA, I found it. It was Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo, in “Keeping the Breath in Mind and Lessons in Samadhi”, available to read here: https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai/lee/inmind.html)

Dukkhadukkhastan

This is, as I’m sure the reader is aware, a reference to the fictional country of Durkadurkastan, from “Team America World Police”.

*Shrugs*

This was not meant to be a haiku or a senryu, which is just as well, because it isn’t one.

Feigenbaum the Boddhisattva

Mitchell Feigenbaum was a mathematician who contributed greatly to the field of chaos theory. At certain points in his life, his routine followed a particular pattern – work 22 hours a day until you have a nervous breakdown, repeat until you have made an earth-shattering mathematical discovery. In Feigenbaum’s case, he was, at one point, the only living person to have a mathematical constant named after him.

The traditional idea of a Boddhisattva, one who delays their own enlightenment to help others, puts me in mind of those who make great sacrifices for society’s benefit or heightened understanding. I don’t think scientists get enough credit for that sort of thing.