Monday, 23 June 2008

Hey Nonny No, A Blogging We Will Go

Hey up, youths and lasses, ow at?

Since my last blog: I emailed my World Environment Day poem to Anne, of the CCC, ahead of the day and waited to get some reaction but ................................ NOWT, my mates, NOT A THING.

I was hoping to raise a bit of debate with this one because, as I mentioned in a previous blog, I suspect the WED thing to be another bit of double-talk - SINCERE apologies to all well-meaning people involved and to W E Day itself if I've got it all wrong. Trouble is, as far as I can see (and maybe that ain't very far cuz of all the pollution that's about), the people best placed to save our planet from further damage are the very people who have a vested interest in keeping things exactly as they are and therefore LIP SERVICE is what one tends to get, I think. And that's a worse thing than these people doing nothing at all cuz they seem to be kidding us into believing they are doing something to clean their shit up and address all the anti-life stuff they do, mainly but not exclusively, in the cause of capitalism, when the fact is they are very probably not.

I mean, be serious for a moment, capitalism is, by its nature, abusive because it relies on profit being generated by giving a lower than a true or proper market value for 'goods' received and for people's time.

So, with all that in mind, my commissioned offering for World Environment Day was this:


Do colour me green and forgive me if I
Ultracrepidate, but how many city mayors,
Precisely, does it take to fly from around the globe to
Luxuriate in San Francisco conference suites
In the cause of collectively forging a path towards
Cities greener enough to compensate at least
In so far as the environmental damage incurred by flying
To San Francisco city mayors from around the globe
Is concerned, in their much-publicised pursuit of
Environmental policies engendering advance, in
So far as city mayors can, on World Environment day?

W. Terry Fox

Those of you with a keen eye will see at once that this is an acrostic (I know, it's all right for me, I planned it). None of you will fail to notice that the eleven lines go all round the world and disappear up their own jacksy.

Ultracrepidate? Yeah, what a great word! Chambers Dictionary has it: 'to criticise beyond the sphere of one's knowledge'. Don't get many chances to use it although it could probably be used against me several times a day.

BUT, NOT A BLOODY WHIMPER, boys and girls. Evidently the commission 'collapsed' (and before my poem not after it). What that means I am waiting to have clarified and hope to let you know.

Anne of the CCC, she under whose wing the Cheshire Poet Laureate shelters, has effectively gone part time. A pity because it must mean less time available for this CPL. I thought I could feel the rain.

While on the subject of CPL's: a former one, Jo bell, is a friendly sort of poet who is kind enough to give me a mention now and again (she and the other formers share a dressing room under the name of 'Bunch of Fives' and good they are too, I've been and gorn and taken meself out to see em at Keele university - that seat of learning in Staffs what I taught at once: Short and Sharp - Writing The Short Story; European Classics in English Translation; Detective Fiction. It all seems like someone else. Weird - but my Google Alert tells me she has got SUMMAT WRONG that I would be lacking in my duty if I did not correct. Jo has stated that I am to be Cheshire Poet Laureate only until March 31st, 2009.


Jo is right in so far as I am officially contracted by the current CCC up until the end of March. This is because that is the last possible date they can contract me to. After that date, a new structure of local government is going to be introduced for Cheshire. My position in this is, to me at any rate, v. v. and v. interesting.

Two possibilties exist and, mates of poesy, these are they:

Possibility 1) The new regime will choose to maintain the CPL scheme, in which case I will remain as the Cheshire Poet Laureate until the end of December 2009 - a full two years.

Possibility 2) The new regime will decide to let the CPL scheme go, in which case I will remain as the Cheshire Poet Laureate for the rest of me wrinkly life.

I've just got time to tell you about the Congleton Garden Festival: Fantastic! Soopadoopa weather, bundles of nice smiley people, great organisation, a neat day altogevver.
Midsomer Murders without the slaughter/Just William without the annoying little prat.

If you want to make your own, the ingredients are:

Congleton Park
Lovely English Summer's day
Striped marquees, white tents and blue tents
Flower arranging
The WI
A Lord and Lady (Wilbraham) to open the proceedings
Refreshment stall
Bouncy castle
Music over a PA system
Gardener's Question Time
Art Display and participation
1,000s of visitors

Me and Lynda shared a tent. She did 'Play with Clay' (I ain't the CPL for nothing) and worked non-stop all day from 10am to 4pm with the kids, getting them to make all kinds of stuff from yer actual old mother earth. Wonderful. Working clay in this way seems so theraputic. 'Naughty' kids got chilled out within minutes and all the kids were blown away with what they did. Lynda is BRILLIANT with them too. I would have had them all lining up to attention, policed by a few bouncers before I felt I could cope. Lynda knows just when and by how much to guide them by. Result was, they ALL had a terrific time - loose and creative and free. A woman with amazing qualities.

Lynda also had a small exhibition of her own work that attracted a lot of attention. Nice photo of her with a couple of her pieces in the ol' Chronicle.

I did 'Grow a Poem' - visitors to the tent added a couple lines each to an on-going poem; 'Plant a Poem in Your Garden- - a suggestion that gardeners should put some poems in amongst the flowers, either their own or their favourites of others, with examples; 'e.poems' - visitors could choose a poem, from a folder of my poems, that they wanted emailed to themselves or a friend. I also had 'Dance of Fools' sale. Everything was a hit. I had takers aplenty for everything. I was so glad to have been part of it. Well done Congleton Community programme and fanx Jo Money.

Hey, must make time for a couple more things: Went to former CPL John Lindley's book launch at Congleton library on Monday 16th - the day after the Garden Fest. What a turnout! The room was packed and John gave a knockout presentation. Naturally, I bought a copy (John bought a copy of my 'Dance of Fools' at the G. Festival). It's good, very good, very unusual - poetry/social history/entertainment. Cool. John always gets it right. His new book is called: 'House of Wonders'. Get a copy. Mind you if, like me, you haven't got much money then buy a copy of 'Dance of Fools' instead.

Amy tells me that her 'Twizzle Bird' collection of limited edition prints is still selling steadily. Wonderful, eh? They were only originally going to be on show for the Bristol Arts Trail. Then proprietor of Massala asked to retain them beyond the Arts weekend and they've been selling ever since. Me and Lynda are the proud possessors of a hedgehog one.

Bub bye.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Up In The Summerhouse Adoing Of Me Blog

Yea, I'm up in the summerhouse adoing of me blog. I see that I haven't got around to posting anything since 12th May. That is the date on which I emailed Anne of the CCC to see if any progress had been made on my website. I had a couple of circulars from her (to me and the exCPLs) about different poetry things going off in the county but nothing about my website. I emailed her again last week and got a reply. I evidently misunderstood and the CCC are not prepared to provide a website but will provide a web page for my 'Homage to Cheshire' project for 2009. Setting up a website is not a skill of mine nor do I have the dosh to pay someone else to do it so I guess that knocks it on the head. What I will do is post poems up on this site.

This misunderstanding between Anne and I resonates with my theory that people are generally more interested in poets than they are in poetry. My paymasters, the CCC are patently no exception. Their website carries a picture of me (courtesy the Sentinel) and some quotes from a statement I made about my stance in poetry but not a single line of my writing. Odd, ain't it? There is, of course, another dimension to this with it being the CCC: I am paid by them, presumably, out of public money. Do the public not have a right to see what they are getting for their tax? Anyway, I will start putting that right with immediate effect. Here is my first commission for the CCC - an extra to my five core commisions. It is my poem for Holocaust Memorial Day. The Memorial Day took the form of a very moving event at the Ellesmere Port Civic Hall.

Ishmael, Jacob, Rachael and Anna . . .

Ishmael, Jacob, Rachael and Anna,
Joseph, Miriam, take back your names.
By cyanide, rifle or strung from a scaffold,
By disease or starvation, you died just the same.

They brought you by train, huddled and herded,
Truck-full by truck-full, galloped and whipped;
Skittish and squealing, prodded, curse-worded,
Tethered, shorn, branded and stripped.

They beat you and took your young from your caring,
Weighed-up and yoked you and put you to work,
Or culled you for slaughter, wild-eyed and flaring,
Piled carcass on carcass to rot on the dirt.

Ash from the chimneys falls like snowflakes,
Clogging throats, blinding eyes.
Gas chamber doors slam on new intakes,
And emptied of angels loom Auschwitz's skies.

Ishmael, Jacob, Rachael and Anna,
Joseph, Miriam, take back your names.
If your deaths are to be worth living,
Never must we kneel to tyrants again.

(I pronounce the names Jacob and Joseph as if they begin with a Y)

There you go then. That was my first commission and that was when I felt the difference between writing a poem from your own musing that you may later decide to put into the public arena and writing a purpose-built poem designed for public consumption. I have become much more tolerant of the lesser poems of others (I mean in comparison with the main body of their own work NOT in comparison with anything I've done!) in a similar position - Tennyson, Motion, etc. It has also given me insight into Shakespeare's brand of rhetoric. I felt it was a big responsibility trying to be a kind of spokesperson for others whilst keeping within the frame of my own beliefs.

Lynda and I had tea with Ron and Jill Milne, on Saturday - in this summerhouse, in fact. They are great friends of ours and happen to be well-read, articulate people with a great sense of humour and who are unafraid of speaking their minds. It is to them I sometimes run when I am in doubt about something I have written. They always have something apposite to say. Their comments sometimes hurt a bit but they are never unkindly meant nor are they ever able to be dismissed. It is to them I went when I had drafted my Holocaust poem. They always get what I am doing and are able to nudge me back on path if I stumble off. I am still unsure about the last line of my Holocaust poem. It's a bit heavy-handed. It worked in performance, though. And that's what I mean about the difference between public and private poetry.

Hey, I'm really glad I've started putting poetry up on here. I was playing into the hands of my own theory, wasn't I?

I've been out with the Woodlanders Country Dance Band a couple of times since my last posting. They really have got it all going on. I love English traditional music, especially when it rocks a bit. The caller for the recent gigs has been Linda Westrup. I had heard of her over the years but never actually worked with her before and she is terrific to work with. The dancers love her. She's got a really nice calling voice not at all like the screech of others I won't mention. She introduced a couple of innovative dances of her own. The tradition lives on. I just love getting a chance to play guitar and fiddle all night. The Woodlanders is the best dance band I have played with to date and that really is saying something. It took me two days to come own off the last gig.
On the 22nd May, there was the 'unveiling' of the Footprints project mosaic at Alsager library. The children who had made the mosaic under the direction of artist Su Horrell came along and so did the young poets I had worked with at Excalibur school. It really was a fine and pleasant day and the sculpture looks good especially from upstairs in the library looking down. There were a few speeches and I read the poem I had been commissioned to write. The Chronicle took photos and did interviews and BBC Radio Stoke came along and did interviews too. I found the radio interview strange. The guy with the mic kept looking away from me after he had asked a question. He perhaps was preoccupied with something techinical. I am used to interviewers at least pretending to be interested and it put me off to the point where I completely forgot what I was on about and dried up. I kept giggling to myself about it afterwards but I think he was annoyed - maybe he thought I was nuts. Mind you, that's a good thing about being a poet, the stereotypical poet is a half-crazy dreamer and you can get away with things others can't.

Here's my poem for the Excalibur Primary School / Alsager Library project:


At Alsager where four roads meet, the traffic beats
its changing rhythms on tarmacadam and plate glass

To the west, the rumble and crash of falling masonry as
a university campus is laid bare, for more shops and more houses

where generations read environmental science, art, music, philosophy,
got drunk on new ideas and fell in love with the world;

yellow classroom huts where hares nested in the gaps below
and boxed each other in the madness of springtime;

small copses where pirate squirrels swung through the rigging
of tall trees on swashbuckling winds;

where, in the dreams of old farm hands, mixed herds still graze
on clover-rich pasture and hectares of wheat still stand tall in the crop fields

and horse pairs snort and blow as they put their muscle to the plough;
where the farmer's own fathers, fathers cut clearings in the forest for homesteads.

On a small green island by the public library where four roads meet,
a sweet and gentle offering by children of the Excalibur Primary School:

industrial and domestic scraps of our time - circuit boards,
broken cups and toys - encapsulated in a giant figurative footprint.

The traffic murmurs a prelude to the carbon surge of eventide.
Cherry trees with chain-sawn arms hold pink blossoms out to the sun.

I've just thought: the line breaks of these poems will be destroyed by the format of the posting. They will overrun and get tucked under the next line. Oh well. I should tell you that the Alsager Rotary Club helped finance the Footprints project.

In between these two commissions I did another for the National Year of Reading, 2008. It's due out on a poster soon too, I hope, as there's only half the year left already. I'll post that one up next time and also the commissioned poem I have written for World Environment Day (June 5th) that I have a feeling will go down like a concrete glider - not perhaps the best expression, as a concrete glider might be looked upon rather favourably by the WED people as an alternative to the aeroplane. I am also working on what to do for the Congleton Garden Festival of 15th June.

When I went to Alsager library they had four banners which, as I recall it, were to do with Freedom and Liberty, Getting Away From It All, Crime and Punishment, and the Second World War. With Gayle Hawley's permission (Alsager's every-friendly, ever-helpful, ever-keen librarian), I stuck up some poems in response to these banners: Black Ivory, A View Of Mow Cop, Wayward Women And Fallen Men, Ballad Of An Owd Sowjer. The banners are left in a Cheshire library for a month and then moved to the next library in the county. When the guy came along to collect the banners for the move, he asked to to take my poems along with them which I was delighted to agree with, of course. So now, my friends, I am on tour and with no on-the-road expenses, no dreary miles to beat along and no seedy hotels needy to catch some respite for my old grey weary head. How good is that? Ta-ra.