Mature Poets Steal

For those of you interested, my PhD thesis is now available from the British Library’s EThOS service.

Mature Poets Steal: Notes to Self, a novel and an extended essay on that work

Much of the novel is redacted in case I ever find a publisher, but there’s lots of interesting stuff about the literary fragment, collage practices and writing about identity for those who like that sort of thing.

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Hypnosis script for a spoken word evening

Having recently been reminded of the necessity for any would-be writer to have an online presence and yet knowing also the difficulty of placing work elsewhere if it has previously been posted on a blog, I have decided to set in motion the Newton’s Cradle of regular blog posts by finding a handy list of topics online.

Topic One: Self Improvement/ Self Hypnosis

Hypnosis script for a spoken word evening

(which misappropriates a hypnosis script from here)

[Speak slowly and calmly to your audience]

This session will increase your ability to wander around a poem more easily. It may well be that you even find yourself able to sleep at a poetry reading, poetry readings offer a uniquely interesting place to sleep. You are sitting here listening to the sound of my voice, perhaps wondering how it is that you are going to fall asleep. As you listen to these words I would like you to focus your gaze on the blonde haired woman two rows in front of you. That’s good, in a few moments I will begin counting, when I say the number one, I would like you to close your eyes, and then on the number two, slowly open them. Continue to open and close your eyes in this way throughout the poem until your eyes feel so heavy that it would be easier and more comfortable to just let them remain closed and to listen.

Whether your eyes are closed or open I would like you to keep your focus on that blonde woman. Do not lower your gaze during the numbers on which your eyes are closed, keep your eyes fixed in position and imagine that you are still gazing at her. I will leave the reasons for this up to your imagination.

Ready?

[As you progress through the numbers, begin to quieten and lower the tempo of your voice]

1. Close your eyes now, but keep them in position.
2. Now slowly open them.
3. Closing your eyes now, notice how comfortable it feels to let them rest.
4. Now slowly open them, continue to gaze at the woman.
5. Close your eyes easily and slowly while you listen to the sound of the poem.
6. You are beginning to feel yourself becoming sleepy.
7. You are beginning to feel sleepy. Breathe in. Breathe out.
8. Nice and slowly. Listen to the sound of your breathing.
9. Listen to the sound of my breathing, these well placed breaths.
10. I have been thinking a lot about my breathing recently. Our breathing is something we are told to be aware of when speaking to an audience.
11. Your eyes are becoming heavier and heavier with each number now, that’s fine.
12. Softly and slowly open them again now. The blonde woman.
13. And close them again, each time you open them it becomes more and more difficult.
14. Notice my breathing. Notice your own breathing.
15. Now try to forget your breathing and notice how difficult that is once you’ve noticed it. Did you always breathe that loudly, what rate do you normally breathe at?
16. You may find it becomes more comfortable to just keep your eyes closed now. That’s fine, just continue to imagine the blonde woman.
17. Notice the sounds around you, notice the shuffling of feet, these sounds seem like distractions but these sounds are not distractions, these sounds are background sounds.
18. These sounds are part of the poem. You are allowed to forget these sounds.
19. You will notice dangerous sounds, and respond to dangerous sounds, but all other sounds can be only background sounds, the sound of this poem is background sound.
20. You are directing your consciousness elsewhere. If there is a sound that indicates danger you will not react to that sound but sit patiently as the building burns down around you.
21. Don’t think about burning buildings. Don’t think about burning buildings. Don’t think…

[Your audience’s eyes should remain closed some time between numbers 10 and 15. Some audience members will try to resist this and continue further, simply tell them that this is not an exercise to see how long they can last, and they should allow their eyes to close when they feel comfortable doing so. If their eyes still open on number 20 tell them to close them and keep them closed on number 21. Then continue with the following]

Now that your eyes are closed, I would like you to continue listening to the sound of this poem as your mind begins to wander. In a few short stanzas you will be so completely relaxed and comfortable that it will be easy for you to fall asleep.

As you fall asleep you will still hear the poem. You are still able to think about the woman, the woman with blonde hair can still be thought about, but you do not have to think about her, as you listen to the sound of this poem you may like to imagine your thoughts floating away, as though they are tied to a hot air balloon that carries the blonde woman effortlessly into the distance.

As you begin to inhabit rather than hear the poem I wonder if you can recall how it feels to lose awareness of the words. Or perhaps, what it’s like when you are so comfortable, so snuggled and warm that you can sink right down into wordlessness. And maybe, sometimes when you listen so intently to a poem everything else seems to melt away, and as you listen to my voice now, perhaps you can imagine how it feels to be without words, allowing you to sink right down into the comfort.

That’s right. I don’t want you to lose awareness of the words… just yet. For now just enjoy the process.

I don’t know if you will fall asleep quickly, or maybe take a little longer to
really enjoy the rhythm and metre.

That’s fine. Just relax and listen to the sound of the poem. You are doing just fine.

To help you to relax I would like you to imagine that you are in an old library, filled from floor to ceiling with books. You find yourself in a safe and relaxing place, where you are free to really relax and enjoy the environment. Find a comfortable chair next to the fire to sit down in to rest, perhaps resting a book open on your knees, that’s fine.

You are safe and secure here, safe to relax completely, and no matter how deeply you sleep, the poem will go with you.

 

Landscape of the Vomiting Multitudes/ Birmingham

Having recently(ish) started a Creative Writing PhD I have obviously written absolutely nothing creative of late (as I spend my time pretending to read up on the theory around literary fragments and cobble together my thoughts into incomprehensible sentences for my long-suffering supervisor). So, when I was asked to read alongside some great fellow Brummie poets at a Beat themed poetry/music event at Frontier+ Festival, I decided to use it as an excuse to write something new.

Not being a fan of blank pages or screens I started instead with Lorca’s Paisaje de la multitud que vomita.  This wasn’t a completely random choice– Lorca was a major influence on the beats and, as the festival is themed around Birmingham and New York, starting a poem about Birmingham with a Lorca poem about Coney Island- well it seemed like a good idea at the time.  Also, I liked the title.  I began by creating a translation based partly on Ben Belitt’s 1955 translation as well as my own painfully bad Spanish —

 

Landscape of the Vomiting Multitudes
 
The fat lady came first
ripping the roots and damping the skins of the drums
the fat lady
who inverts octopodes to their death.
The fat lady, enemy of the moon,
racing through streets and deserted buildings
and leaving in corners the tiny skulls of pigeons
and raising the furies of long stale banquets
and summoning the devil of bread from the slopes of heaven
and craving filtered light in subterranean circuits.
They are cemeteries, I know they are cemeteries
and the sorrow of kitchens sunk deep in the silt,
they are the dead, the pheasants and the apples of another time
pressing down on our throat.

Then came the whispering from the jungle of vomit
with the empty women, with children of molten wax,
with trees fermenting and tireless waiters
serving platters of salt beneath saliva harps.
Nothing else for it, son, Puke! Ain’t no other way.
Not the vomit of hussars on the breasts of their prostitutes,
nor the sick of the cat that accidentally swallowed a frog.
But the dead that scratch with their hands of dirt
at the flint gateways where the clouds and desserts are rotting.

The fat lady came first
with the crowds from the boats, the bars and the gardens.
The vomit gently stirring the drums
amongst the children of blood
who ask protection of the moon.
Alas! Alas! Alas!
This look on my face was me, but is no longer mine,
this look that trembles naked in alcohol
and launching incredible ships
to the anemones by the docks.
I fight with this look
that flows from the waves that no dawn dares,
I, poet without arms, adrift
in the vomiting multitudes,
without even a horses enthusiasm to crop
the thick moss of my temples.

But the fat lady went first
and the crowds searched for pharmacies
where tropical bitters are found.
And only when they raised the flag and the first dogs arrived
did the whole city gather together at the railings of the pier.

 

This I then put through my own patented process of corruption and betrayal to create a spoken-word poem about my memories of Birmingham as a teenager.
 

After enjoying some great poetry and beat inspired music I headed out on the town and got memory obliteratingly drunk for old times sake.

There seems to be a lot of pressure on a first post; I have decided to get it over with quickly like pulling a plaster off.  Thus everything that follows ought to be considered one long scab picking session.