Friday, 28 December 2012

Dennis O’Driscoll Interview

Interview by Elizabeth MacDonald

You have been a civil servant now for thirty odd years. How do you relate to Yeats’ dictum that there can be either perfection of the life or perfection of the work?
Yeats’s melodies are so memorable that they naturally seduce us into quoting them and lull us into crediting them. But I wonder how much scrutiny the lines you allude to can stand:
The intellect of man is forced to choose
Perfection of the life, or of the work,
And if it take the second must refuse
A heavenly mansion, raging in the dark.
I believe in those lines as poetry (albeit poetry of a distinctly rhetorical cast) and surrender to them as song; but I wouldn’t exactly look to them for How to Live guidance. The notion that ‘perfection’ can be achieved in either work or life is a faery fantasy; and I’m completely in the Celtic twilight as to why one should be no less than forced to choose between them. Presumably, what Yeats means is that one should aspire to perfection - but, if so, why not aspire to perfection in both work and life, knowing one is doomed to fail in both? Yeats managed to make his soul as he built his oeuvre and he was shrewd enough to realise that the energy (carnal, political, theatrical) he was expending in the life was also energising and informing his work as a poet.
To move from Yeats’s Tower to Dublin Castle, in or about which most of my working life has been spent, is a steep climbdown. Finding myself somehow possessed of a life, and unable to charge anyone else with responsibility for its maintenance and upkeep, I began working in Dublin as an Executive Officer in the Estate Duty Office when I was sixteen. I signed the attendance book at about 9.15 every day and remained under the supervisory eye of my boss until 5.30 when I could return to my nearby bedsitter with its two-bar electric fire and ’smell of steaks in passageways’. Adding ‘the halfpence to the pence’ in this line of business meant totting up the value of the house and lands, goods and chattels of a deceased person, deducting his or her debts and funeral expenses, and calculating the Death Duties owed. The pillared basement of the building, where the old wills and affidavits were stored, was a bureaucratic Valhalla. In Yeats’s file, which I unearthed there, his Norman tower and samurai sword made for very exotic assets in contrast with the lump-sum gratuities and Royal Liver insurance pay-outs typically bequeathed by others. After Death Duties, I moved on promotion to Stamp Duties; and, for most of the last ten years, I have worked in a 5th floor office at Castle House where the International Branch of Customs is located: drafting documents, contributing to policy papers, acting as Irish delegate at EU working group meetings, writing analytical briefings for the ‘high level’ Customs Policy Group, arranging EU Customs training for officers from East Europe, Russia and the former Soviet Republics…
Having been naturally bookish since childhood, a day-job among people who never read a poem from one decade to the next has been salutary and sobering, grounding me in everyday experience and broadening the subject-matter and language available to me. When the Irish Government finally established a Department of Arts and Culture in the 1990s, I was repeatedly encouraged by the Department to enlist in its ranks; but I didn’t budge from the Stamp Duty adjudication office, where I specialised in the intricate provisions relating to company reorganisations and amalgamations. I seem to need a certain contrast - even conflict - between my working life and artistic pursuits. Ideas for poems almost always occur when I am going about my worldly business; my desk at home is where the poems end, not where they begin.
What drove you to write poetry? Who are the poets that have most influenced you?
‘Drove’ is the word! I am very driven when it comes to poetry - a complete obsessive, if the truth be told. I see one film a year at most, find television unbearably literal and listen to music only intermittently (though it can move me deeply because its flooding of my auditory canal is a relative rarity). Apart from poetry, my interests have gravitated towards visual art since I received, as a five-year old artist of the realist school, a merit award in the Caltex (now Texaco) children’s art competition - for a drawing of beet-filled trucks converging on the sugar factory in Thurles, my home town. The shape made on the page is always a crucial consideration in determining whether or not a poem of my own is complete.
Only ’slow’ classes were permitted to study art in the boys’ secondary school in Thurles; and I wasn’t deemed quite slow enough to be an artist. Of the subjects I was allowed to learn, I came to love Latin and English best. I never glimpse a shelf of Loeb Classics in a bookshop without a stinging sense of having missed out on something vital by not having read nearly enough of them; a deficit I would give an arm and a leg - a crus and a bracchium is it? - to make good some day. In that same secondary school, the three decisive Damascus moments in English class were hearing Shakespeare’s ‘When Icicles Hang by the Wall’ being read one morning in a grotty classroom that was well past its demolish-by date; learning Wordsworth’s ‘There Was a Boy…’ by heart and immediately taking his work to heart; seeing a teacher write on a blackboard (as if he were composing the words as the chalk bounced and scraped along): ‘The trees are in their autumn beauty, / The woodland paths are dry…’
Encouragement from my English teachers for writing was non-existent. I expected none and I needed none. However, the headmaster, an enlightened Christian Brother called Peter Guilfoyle, took some interest in my scribbling tendencies and invited me to represent the school in a poetry competition for children judged by Stevie Smith and Brian Patten. More ambiguously, another Brother introduced me, when I was fifteen, to a visiting inspector as ‘a bit of an author’. I avidly entered essay competitions; poems and stories of mine were broadcast on Radio Éireann children’s programmes presented by Terry Wogan and Terry Prone. My best incentive for pithy writing, though, surely came one evening when a delivery truck from Thurles railway station unloaded the three-speed state-of-the-art bicycle I had won for completing the tie-breaker, ‘I’d love to own a brand-new Raleigh Diplomat bicycle because…’.
In your critical writings, you have consistently favoured form over content in a poem. For you, what constitutes the ideal poem?
Just as ‘no foal, no fee’ is a commonplace arrangement in the horse-breeding world, ‘no form, no poem’ is a truism insofar as the breeding of poems is concerned. I love the way form and rhythm (another sine qua non of poetry) can somehow confer a higher destiny and density on even the most workaday words, equipping them to outperform their prose brethren and enabling them to achieve presence and intensity and transcendence, even when the tone and content are downbeat and low-key.
Unfortunately, content - which in many respects is inseparable from form - is being downgraded as the fashion for elliptical and incoherent poetry (the flip-side of cosy accessibility), now rampant in America, increasingly exerts an international hold on poets. How better to disguise the banality of one’s workshopped work than to conceal its shortcomings behind a fig leaf of obscurity or a mask of manic cleverness? Presumably, those poets hope that readers will be simpleminded enough to equate obscurity with profundity, incoherence with experiment and cleverness with wisdom. At least Dylan Thomas at his most maddeningly obscure could still orchestrate his waffly words with a certain magniloquent majesty. I have no difficulty whatsoever with difficulty and am prepared to take my chances with C.D. Wright and Michael Palmer and many another difficult poet, from John Donne to Paul Celan. But wilful obscurity I disdain, not least because it arrogantly assumes rights to so much of the reader’s meagre life-span, demanding absurdly large investments of time for what is usually a negligible or negative return.
One reason why much of the greatest poetry is so uncannily and transparently clear (and I don’t mean facile) is because it is a record of those rare, transfixing moments when some normally opaque corner of existence is unveiled and we are granted a fleeting glimpse into ‘the heart of things’. Poetry draws on depths of emotion and reserves of wisdom that are plumbed by instinctive, almost primitive, means - the opposite of conscious ‘cleverality’. No matter how many sophisticated theories are propounded in support of the view that the one true subject of poetry is the poem itself, I remain completely unconvinced.
After all that preaching against obscurity, it’s time to practice clarity and simply answer your question! I would say the ideal poem is not only one that stands up to multiple readings, but which grows and ramifies with each additional reading. Best of all, it teases and troubles you into either making return visits or learning it by heart. Having lured you into doing so, it seems to have gained imaginative weight every time you renew its acquaintance.
You have said: “To arrogate to yourself some larger role as seer or clairvoyant is to succumb to a deluded megalomania of a kind which is endemic in the literary world.” Is this a reaction to the legacy of Yeats?
I certainly don’t want to be so foolish as to make a poetic punch bag of the great Yeats, the most various and copious of poets and one capable, even on his deathbed, of rising to the terza rima magnificence of ‘Cuchulain Comforted’. But, yes, I suppose the Yeats who - flirting with Madame Blavatsky’s magical ideas - literally believed that the medium was the message, or indeed the bow-tied bard who behaved so theatrically (not just in the Abbey but when treading the floorboards of great Anglo-Irish houses) can occasionally be off-putting. What matters is that the finished poetry, however tortuous or apparently bogus the means by which Yeats produced it, utterly redeemed the shortcomings of the man.
Genuine poetry reminds us how little we truly know; it is a vehicle for discovery, not a conduit for omniscience. While poetry can play an ethical role in society, by restoring trust in words, the idea of the poet as the sole spokesperson on whom people can count when propaganda and ideology proliferate comes down in the end to a handful of aureate names. Even the most revered, such as Osip Mandelstam and Boris Pasternak, had their wavering moments - as did poets of Nobel status like George Seferis from Greece and Wislawa Szymborska from Poland when tested in later times. For every Mandelstam or Milosz, countless others in East Europe were prepared to cash in their truth-coupons for a quiet life, a holiday dacha and a well-appointed apartment - and who can say what any of us might have done in the same circumstances? Realistically speaking, I’m afraid Parnassus and idealism can claim far less influence than Hollywood and consumerism on the fall of the Berlin Wall; some of the best-known Russian poets of our time were particularly shifty, pretending to challenge the Party line, while in reality their lines seemed ghost-written by the Party.
Because poets can feel inert and ineffectual and neglected, they are often dangerously tempted to seize any modicum of power within their grasp and to wield it neither too wisely nor too well. Many major twentieth-century poets became apologists for - rather than antagonists of - odious ideologies of the left or right. So much for the wisdom of poets. At the same time, poetry cannot pretend to be innocent of politics and must be able to register the political tremors which impact on everyday life, whether these bring down the house or merely rattle the crockery. The subtlety of the political stance adopted by Northern Irish poets during the house-rupturing divisions of the Troubles was exemplary. Resisting the pressure to take sides in a small community and deploying the forces of poetical imagination rather than political ideology, they undoubtedly enhanced the moral standing of poetry. In a different context, a Southern Irish one, the highly original way in which Thomas McCarthy uses party politics both as dramatic subject and as multiple metaphor definitely has my vote also.
Your poetry alternates lyricism and bleakness. There are also instances where it is permeated by the desire to give a voice to the language of law and commerce. Could this represent a narrowing of the gap between another and more pervasive polarisation: that between the artistic and the scientific? The gap separating parallel views of the cosmos and the universe? I’m thinking, for example, of “Missing God”.
Some poets work wonders within very narrow confines. Having discovered their métier, they refine and perfect their methods. A random list of such poets - all of them variously gifted - would include Louise Bogan, A.E. Housman, Emily Dickinson, George Herbert, Robert Herrick, Stevie Smith and Edward Thomas. My own personal affinity is with writing that is not associated with any single theme or tone, form or formula. I like to run the gamut from the sensuous and celebratory to the sardonic and scathing - with as many options as possible kept open in between: poem or anti-poem, pithy lyric or extended sequence; the language of bureaucracy (of which I am a native speaker) or a more heightened idiolect (the idea that every poem must be written in the vernacular is as wrong-headed as the notion that a kind of elocuted accent is a necessary component of lyricism).
A fusion of the scientific and the imaginative is something many poets would like to achieve; but how much do the majority of us know about science - other than what can be half-grasped from scanning Scientific American or sitting through some TV documentary busy with special effects? My fascination with science is considerable, my command of its elements negligible. A Weetabix Map of the Solar System orbited above my boyhood bed - the colourful planets were lined up for all the world like a celestial game of marbles; and I pored over material about Mars and the solar system in my weekly copy of Look & Learn. One thing I learned from looking at the work of poets like Ronald Duncan and Hugh MacDiarmid is that poems which are force-fed with scientific data are about as digestible as a Weetabix moon rock.
Although our age is a scientific one, my upbringing in the Ireland of the 1950s and 1960s was, above all, intensely Catholic. It is second nature to me therefore to substitute theological notions of eternity for scientific ideas of infinity and to mediate cosmic quandaries through Biblical metaphor and parable as much as through scientific hypothesis and formula. I also feel that the more evidence science accumulates, the more the plot thickens. If the world can be said to have begun, how and why did it do so, and what preceded the Big Bang? Why, as scientists themselves ask, is there something rather than nothing? I doubt if definitive answers to those questions will ever be found, fascinating and perilous though the search will be.
Your poetry is one of yearning and loss. The frame over which this poetic canvas is stretched seems to be time. How important for you is man’s relationship with time?
That Renaissance man we know as William Shakespeare was, of course, one of the great poets of time and returned obsessively to the notion of poetry as preservative, something that will still blossom freshly when the bloom has faded from the human cheeks that inspired it. But however frequently and brilliantly the subject of time may have been addressed by our greatest predecessors, it remains an inexhaustible preoccupation for many of us. Indeed, the speeded-up world of e-mail, text messages and UPS which we now inhabit gives us a new perspective on a theme that is timeless.
By the way, I ought to own up to an eccentric habit of mine, prevalent in the years when I was about twelve or thirteen (it’s alluded to in ‘Tempus Fugit’, a poem in my collection Long Story Short). Whether through mere boredom in class or some unaccountable lurch into cub mysticism, I would occasionally look at the old pendulum clock on the schoolroom wall and note down the precise time on a piece of paper. Staring at this ‘data’ later, I tritely pondered the fact that the time I had recorded was gone for ever: I am now X minutes older than I was then, it will never ever again be that time on this day….
On poetry, you have written: “Today’s preference is for poetry that hovers between the oblique and the obscure, that is knowing but not revealing, that hints at significance without doing anything as old-fashioned as delivering any.” This is certainly true of the opulent, Postmodern West. You greatly admire East European poets such as Czeslaw Milosz, Zbigniew Herbert, Wislawa Szymborska, and Miroslav Holub. What have you found in their poetry that delights you?
My copy of Miroslav Holub’s Selected Poems was bought in 1971, when I was seventeen. The source of this Penguin paperback was the Eblana Bookshop in Dublin, then a rich repository of books about show-jumping (in which I had a passing interest) and poetry (the ascendant Pegasus in my life). Very very few books in my adult existence have overwhelmed and excited me to the extent that this Czech book in translation did: it wooed and won me permanently to poetry, till death do us part. Furthermore, it made me simultaneously sympathetic to poetry in translation (though I am only too well aware of the drawbacks and distortions involved) and eager to explore Central and East European poetry. To question Holub’s political outlook - to ask whether or not this medical doctor and immunologist was a dissident - never occurred to me at the time. I was simply gravitating towards a playful voice which I instinctively trusted: witty, sceptical, exploring life-and-death issues with the lightest of poetry scalpels and a devastatingly ironic bedside manner. My chance discovery of Holub led me to other laconic-ironic East European poets, notably Tadeusz Rózewicz and Zbigniew Herbert, as well as Bertolt Brecht and Reiner Kunze from Germany. They gave me courage to take my first tentative steps down the unpaved path of ‘anti-poetry’.
Of living poets whose work I know only in translation, much the most important for me are Wislawa Szymborska - at once slyly wry and deeply wise - and especially Czeslaw Milosz. Although I had read and reviewed Milosz for years - admiring his fusion of the spiritual and the political, the classical and the romantic, the theological and the erotic, the traditional and the experimental - it was his late, long-range, mellow collections Provinces and Facing the River that provided me with the key to this mesmerising genius who ‘contains multitudes’. No poet conveys more poignantly what it means for time to pass and for people to pass away and be forgotten. Doubtless his desperate need to recollect friends and acquaintances is related to his pain at having watched the wartime dead and exterminated become mere statistics in history books.
For reasons not unconnected, I presume, with his own miraculous survival through war and exile as man and artist, Milosz has a fixation on the notion that the poet must give praise; he is stone deaf to the celebratory note which Philip Larkin secretes like a small yes even within his bleakest poems (and could it be that Milosz is deaf to the elegiac note piercing his own eulogies?). Poets - if they are to be at all capable of bearing the full burden of truth about the world - must accept that many things about life demand rueful lamentation more than smug celebration. It is liberating, even consoling, to depict things as they are; to rinse the world in rose water before you write is to bear false witness. Milosz’s poems know this, even when their author seems in denial.
The role of metaphor seems central to your poetry, which is permeated by images intensified by unusual associations. Very often, this is filtered by a subtle, melancholy irony. How do you relate to the great Metaphysical poets?
Image by association is exactly right. Whenever I read a poet who is strong on imagery, my eyes stand to attention: further evidence of my visual art bias, no doubt, and another reason for my affinity with Holub (an imagistic genius). As for the Metaphysicals, I’d read little else if I were to - as we say at work - prioritise.
And to finish off, if you had to choose three works of art – a work of literature, a painting or sculpture, and a piece of music – what would they be?
At a time in the 1990s when I specialised in Customs ‘restrictions and prohibitions’, I was despatched to an EU seminar in Seville for training on how to prevent smuggling of endangered creatures and plants. On the eve of the seminar, I visited the Fine Arts Museum where - completely unprepared for the impact Zurbarán’s paintings would make - the stiffly starched folds of the white Carthusian habits and the stillness of the still-life elements in his ‘Saint Hugo in the Refectory’ overwhelmed me. I knew I stood in the presence of a great master, the equal of Velázquez, far superior to Murillo. Some years ago, when Waterstone’s bookshop remained open for 24 hours and offered substantial discounts for anyone insane or insomniac enough to make a purchase in the early hours, I triumphantly acquired - under cover of darkness, it seemed - a book of Zurbarán reproductions at approximately 2.20 a.m. Only when I subsequently re-read Louis MacNeice’s grossly underrated autobiography, The Strings Are False, did I recall that he too had passed through the Fine Arts Museum of Seville, proclaiming Zurbarán a ‘revelation’ (definitely the mot juste).
Music is essential to me only in the small hours, when the business of the day is completed. The neighbouring houses have dimmed or darkened. Cars are reunited with their driveways. There is an illusion of being allowed backstage in the world, of having the planet to oneself. The late news has been told and the future weather has been foretold. All my books and papers are tidied away (a daily ritual I practise religiously). Everything seems to acquire a simplicity and clarity and agreeable melancholy. Now, I find that I am lingering over some rueful string quintet, or Alfred Brendel is drip-feeding the slow movement of a piano sonata. So let some Schubert lead me into a new day. It is 2.20 a.m., the Zurbarán hour, and the house is as hushed as a Carthusian chapel…
A work of literature? Where could I possibly begin - unless perhaps at the beginning:
My tidings for you: the stag bells,
Winter snows, summer is gone.
Wind high and cold, low the sun,
Short his course, sea running high.
Deep-red the bracken, its shape all gone -
The wild-goose has raised his wonted cry.
Cold has caught the wings of birds;
Season of ice - these are my tidings.
[Translated from the anonymous 9th century Irish by Kuno Meyer]
This interview was conducted by e-mail in February 2004.
Elizabeth MacDonald teaches English at Pisa University. She completed the M.Phil. in Creative Writing at Trinity College, Dublin and is working on a novel.
Interview published in Poetry Ireland Review, December 2004.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Adrian Sherwood - Seen!

Over a career that spans 30 years, Sherwood has fused the sounds of post-industrial music from the U.K. with Jamaican bass and rhythms. He built his name working with his idols, reggae artists like Lee "Scratch" Perry, Bim Sherman and Prince Far I. He's also produced for the industrial band Nine Inch Nails and the rock group Living Colour and remixed the electropop act Depeche Mode.
But Sherwood has put out only three albums of his own. The latest, out this year on his own label On-U Sound, is called Survival and Resistance.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

"Is it because we are disabled?!

"Is it because we are disabled?! " Listening to this, the Parliamentary examination of the 'Work' of ATOS and the Government, in what is purposeful discrimination against the chronically sick and disabled, is revealing, that if this action was against another group of people it would have been stopped by now. Huge waste of Public money spent on ineffective systems that are not being managed or controlled.

No checks about outputs by the DWP OR ATOS, it's all about processing the cattle ............... why are no media search lights falling on this total mismanagement and active discrimination?!

Monday, 12 November 2012

war memorial

on hearing of excrement found on a war memorial.

Bizarre story on local news about a war memorial in a South Yorkshire village where "an excrement" was "left" on a war memorial. The police are investigating and said that although it appears to be human excrement and describe "the act" as "abhorrent" they don't believe it to be "malicious". A local councillor then came on and said he doesn't know if someone was trying to make a "cheap point" or whether it was a "medical condition" but added "this is the sort of thing we should be flogging people for".

I always though war was shit,
do memorials recall the lost?
bound in their stone,
for the named dead,
unmarked whispers,
for the civilians,
adults and children,
babies un-born.
but oh the mortar,
made from sharp patriotic sand,
a cast of war crime denial,
honest and fearful sweat,
tears of the Grieving,
binds fighting passions,
opposing arguments on serving one's nation,
tumbled into one burning mix,
a soft under belly,
death claw,
hides behind the stone faces of acceptance,
binding them

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Beware of Artists

Actual poster issued by Senator Joseph McCarthy in 1950s, at height of the red scare.

Still true, if not it should be

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The continued attack from the Daily Mail

Sonia Poulton  commented
'God there is already horrible comments on the Daily Mail article about M.E. Why do people hate ME sufferers so much'

they do hate people with M.E.
We look normal,
they conclude it's all physiological,
demand we pull ourselves together,
look at the paralympians!
expect we enjoy the status of being ill.
They privatising their own thoughts and views
buying the rhetoric of resentment
paying for it by selling their eyes to tabloid self-justification.
It costs them their humanity,
it costs them their intelligence
logically they spiralling inward
in shallow earth scraped circles of infertile dust
and we loose a means to live,
We loose respect,
we loose all the years of living,
we loose all the national insurance we paid,
we loose a body and mind
that were once bright stared and functioning
blown away in the dust storm that ended our old lives
and heaped into dried-up memory piles
stifling the doorways and windows of our old worlds,
blocking the old, once open, pathways.
but we gain insight and open eyes
to the callous bigotry
to the discrimination and embittered emotions
that the disabled have heaped upon them
by the readers of this acid poison,
the new believers, the converts
who subtly enjoy the lie
that the deserving will be all-right,
only the 'others' who are not justified,
who the country can not afford,
will be punished, serves them right!
and we see through
the politicians leading sardonic fixed grin
and editors nose for hate stirring,
because our affliction
has steered us away from those resentful kernels
of the darkening mean minds and shirking hearts,
and guided us to look towards
to listen to,
our bright shining hearts.

Think on, oh tabloid people, think, on't.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Paralympics and the war; wining hearts and minds?!

The Paralymics ended and the debate over its positive value for 'the disabled'  continues.

Michael Rosen · 1,909 subscribers 11 hours ago ·Posted on Facebook
Honest question:did some disabled people ever feel that this was like: paralympians are 'good' disabled, the rest of you 'not good'?

And I, preparing to publish my response here on my blog, I have stumbled onto another poem bubbling up erratically from my mind interface.

  • first the poem I have just roughed up,
  • and 2nd my comment poem (10 likes) on Michael Rosen's FB page
  • and then some reactions to that from the Michael Rosen's Facebook!

No 2
A million shades of disabled grey.  

And I,
aware of people with chronic disabilities,
am torn by happiness
that people with certain types of disabilities
can find themselves able to meet personal challenges
to push themselves towards remarkable instances of achievement,
to compete, work in teams toward sporting recondition,
and the realisation that this represents so few,
that it is a distorted mirror of us,
whispered rumours that change society's views of us
for both good and bad,
I  posted a comment yesterday
that perhaps
reflects things as they are
for the majority of people with disabilities and chronic health conditions,
with no possibility of sponsorship or additional funding.....
who perhaps like me can not stand 'toe to toe'
and fight my condition on a physical level and win,
can not fight the perceptions of others,
can not demonstrate in front of thousands of spectators
in front of millions of viewers
my needs to be social, creative, successful on a sports field, track or gym,
I can not undertake and win against these battles
fought with physicality,
I am engaged in a long term military campaign
against all these issue,
loosing,  forfeiting battles that I could not undertake,
to just keep on surviving,
leading a resistance and guerilla war is the flip-side of my disability,
to keep on breathing in life and its opportunities,
to be happy
to 'win' the bigger picture,
the on-going forced on us campaign
of just to be recognised, seen,
valued for ourselves alone.
no cash or economic values given,
just to be recognised
against the back ground of any disability.
A disability that keeps on sneakingly becoming
the foreground of the photo,
that the Media,
the Politicians,
the Public
and even You create.
That disability,
the background of my life,
jumps up and becomes the foreground
takes over and obscures me
colours me
and all my fellows,
a million shades of disabled grey.

No 1
Can I have a medal for that?!

I have an invisible disability,
so can I have my invisible medal and my life back?!
I get an income for the job I just about hold down,
can I have a medal for that?!
Physical effort does not give me release,
it don't do that for me,
Instead what is left of my life crumbles, falls away.
Aching and bruised limbs, dulled and a faltering brain,
lost co-ordination comes to stay when physical effort is called up.
Like an unwanted and over enthusiastic paralympic commentator it crushed the spirit; remarkable!?
Do I really have to stay here watching all the adverts and chatter and have no say in my life while this malaise ripens. yes I do,
do I get a medal for that?!
I get no 'joy through work' either,
but most people can not expect joy through work,
so we none of us get medals for that?!
So why is paid work so important for those with chronic illness and disabilities?
Why such a convulsive theme of all Political Parties?!

If I win an appeal against ATOS,
manage to hold on to a disability parking disk,
get and keep a reasonable adjustment at work,
stay below the sacking work attendance procedures,
have an interview when my disability and health
is not again the major subject of the meeting,
dragging out again 'we are only being equal and fair' .
'How can you improve your attendance' you ask AGAIN
when my journey to and from work
to get up and face another day,
is more of a challenge than the worst minute of your working week!
Can I have a medal for that?!
Staying calm whilst they hammer home my uncontrollable inadequacies and the disability restrictions placed on my life
Constantly trotted out again and again by our caring state and welfare mind keepers.
Can I get a medal for that?!
When all I want to do is just somehow get on with it,
to stop being reminded of it,
Remind me again, that I am 'not up to the normal standard'
well thanks, can I have a medal for that?!

I noticed that the the Paralympians,
When holding their medals high,
were not constantly reminded that their times, their sports
were not as good or the same as the 'normal' Olympian events.
Perhaps they should have been,
because in the real world, let me tell you,
that is what is going on all the time,
the disabled and chronically sick are
reminded all the time that they are not as productive as others,
That you the quisiter, are a caring person,
a fair gate keeper just doing their job.........
but that really, we need to be more like 'normal',
To be fit for work! No medal for that!

Remember, achievement is something sometimes
you can not measure, give medals for.
But callous and political double speaking news-speak;
You can not get a medal for that either!
But you still pursue your persecution un-prosecuted, un-molested
as you molest and meddle with our lives.
You try to cast us, strike us all,
into either golden angles
or devils that suck and scrounge.
Go on, give yourself a medal for that,
you do it so well because you have so much practise
You have so many training sessions,
at being shites....

Helen Jameson Jonathan Eyre, I have just broken down and sobbed reading your poem 'Can I have a medal for that?!' It is a phenomenal piece of writing that mirrors many of my own experiences and how I often feel yet couldn't put into words. Whilst I wouldn't wish this on anyone, it is good to know I am not alone.
Sunday at 23:37 ·  · 4

Chrissie Fryde 
Bravo, Jonathon Eyre, Bravo. I wish I could paste your poem to door of the Houses of Parliament. Those bastards can't even cope with a commute to London. Can we have a separate dwelling for every place we find difficult to access, because w
e need to be there in busy times. Listen, Govt. We are ALWAYS, ALWAYS busy. Busy trying to bathe ourselves, dress ourselves, achieve something tremendous like loading a washing machine. (Now that would make me an Olympian today!) Busy trying to contribute to family life, being parents, grandparents, partners, lovers. Lovers? But you're disabled! (That was actually said to me by a home-help, who had turned up on the wrong day, and let herself into my home with her key, not expecting it to matter very much to me! My reply to her - well, I'd better not type it!) Busy filling in forms for Atos. It takes us all day to get a few groceries ordered- thank God for the Internet. then when the shopping arrives the delivery men rush to unpack it for us because they are only allowed two minutes PER DELIVERY, no extra time is granted for helping a disabled person. Some of them cut into their short break times so that they can afford to help some people a little more. The ensuing chaos when a harrassed delivery driver has simply to dump it all onto the kitchen floor is hard to describe to the able-bodied. Some people can do a months' shopping in an hour, just walking quickly round a supermarket. We cannot, and one day they will withdraw our benefits us for breathing.
23 hours ago · Edited ·  · 1

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Facebook and consumer dreams
posted on Facebook today
Very worrying....according to YouGov poll, Labour lead is down to 6%. Not good. You have to be perceived as seriously shite not to be blowing these current a-holes out of the water...It's mid-term...current parties are notoriously unpopular and yet Labour seems to be in need of something dynamic to make the change...looking forward to Ed's response to my last letter, he's back in the office this week and as anyone who knows me knows, I don't go away that easily...really desperate for Labour to stand up STRONG on all issues true to the original party...

And I wrote....

The strength of feeling in the Public that the cuts 'are necessary', that the reality of a broken economy means we can not afford generosity or equality of treatment, that this psyche and myth of austerity in peoples minds  is the true situation; that suffering is what we should now expect and "stop complaining", that huge numbers of scroungers and 'work-shy' and 'illegals'  are everywhere and are causing this, that they deserve nothing, and this media frenzy seems to engender a societal feeling, an emotional response in people, that needs to look away from the logic, like an undercurrent of a desperate 'need for a powerful leader' and a growth economy lead from 'business leaders' and representatives of the rich and their ilk. This  seems to be a strange, but real, psyche event in political discussion and conciousness right now, certainly in all the media and newsprint worlds and the media political debates.

Is this something that political alternatives to the rule of the Capitalist myth building can build a challenge to, blow away the smoke and reveal the mirrors that give emotional feeling and connectivity to the ownership of products, a certain car, or a beauty product, mobile phone, a pair of jeans, a handbag, a computer device, or even just the envisioning of a dream of ownership or reaching a 'purchase life style', of buying a new dream, a quality or quantity of 'perceived existence' no matter how short it may, in reality, be?

Can an opposition Party work through this, start the political discussion needed enough people care about others, can people break the loop arguments and justification of the present situation as 'they' see it, that they are continually personally investing in the objects and objectives of garnished corporate consumptions manipulated desire? football, sport, Celebrity and our own social desire to dream a little affluence, the opium that the majority will not give up, holding on to dreams spun for profit rather than dreams spun of human spirit and need................... this a trite rant?!  In the old soviet union, and in fascist philosophy, perhaps I would be removed for such view of politics. Are my views today to be ignored instead or am I now a drama queen!

Today, am I right to be concerned that nowhere do I see this myth breaking and dream waking clearly put in any  media covered news programmes or political debates.

Tomorrow when I read this I might start laughing, or feel embarrassed. Tonight this seems to be coming from my core.....


Friday, 31 August 2012

Listen to Ian Dury..................

Reflect upon our views of excellence in sport, in paralympics, and the real aspects of disability; how we as a society can not see straight and deliver prejudice instead.......disabled versions of Olympic Gods allows society to look away from the real issues; .................Listen to Ian Dury..................
Excellent thought for the day!

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Today an email came

part of an email from John

RE: Forgot to give you this‏

' Now you know how 'often' I wash my shirts, because this has just emerged from a pocket! When after I'd used the attached JE-evoking phrase you said "Will you write that down for me?" at Wicked Words on Aug 1st, I did your bidding so immediately that I forgot to hand it over after your appearance as Bonus Artist when Greg let you slip through the hat. You certainly didn't lose by his lapse,'

Oh TY Mr Hip Hep!

You are so kind; 
made my day with your e-missive.
You really did!
Fancy, clearing out the pockets before your shirts go in the wash.
So easily,
patches of sodden unreadable penned paper,
could have emerged scattered,
lost in the cast-out wash-day debris.
Then where would my soul have been today?

Think you have been well trained; man;
well versed in washing etiquette.
Do I sense the hand of a woman, 
or maybe legions of them,
behind this learnt 
dull but necessary, 
repeated, un-extraordinary, un-showy, 
preliminary (required) skill.
De-cluttering the pockets, 
clearing the way for the washing
before the suds are let loose
to trample the dirt from the shirt.

Thank you both, John and Susan,
together patching my memory back today,
with the e-copy sent
of the hand written note
John made
of a phrase 
he bright-eyed cast at me
at that wicked word poetry night.
Stitching a kindly spoken phrase,
back onto the shirt sleeve of a fleeting shared conversation
that meant so much to the labouring me.
Forgotten but not mislaid.
A phrase well met I trust.
'Let us move at his pace,
his rhythm is the tempo of wisdom' .


Monday, 4 June 2012

In the dark lit hall in Longsight.

Latest Homework for the Poetry School summer class in Leeds.
'Think of a situation that you have been in and try and convey the music of the place, the sounds'. I went back to the 1970s, and my first experience of a Sound System in a Dance Hall stylee.

Updated and reworked poem reposted 11/6/12  - 1,500 words...too long?

In the dark lit hall in Longsight.

I look back at a time in space
and a place
where I took one step forward
and No step backwards ………………………
of that first step out of the realm of my family’s past,
That first step
that reached into my vital organs,
reached into my whole physical and spiritual being
Freed my heart
and bathed me in a sound vibration
that I had never conceived of
on any register of colour or musical stave,
I could not perceive or give a name to this.
It was unknown,

I look back with companionship to these tunes,
this music of liberation.
I choose to loose myself in the realisation,
That came from that sequence of noted moments,
that sound is a vital ital vibration,
That the community around the sound,
the dancing feet of strangers,
Says more to me than I         can               say                or convey,
Said more than had ever been said to me before.
Words can only short change that deeply significant event,
The limitation of word-centred descriptions
can only cast,
 at the best
into the penny saving tin of understanding
when compared to the gold and richness of the experience of that night.
When it has really all just been darkness
until that dark hot, black welcoming hall
in Longsight in Manchester
in the 1970s.
Music so colourful.

The first reggae record I bought was by the Mighty Diamonds,
‘When The Right Time Come’
on the Virgin label in 1976.
Bob Marley and the Wailers ‘Catch a Fire’,
Which, for all their Rootness
was a Westernised white-eared mixed production
by Chris Blackwell of the Island brand. 
………….and then an angel must have showed me the way to a real reggae night….
The time HAD come……………….
And a shine eye girl was giving a message to this blind-eyed, life muted deaf boy.

The muffled base I could hear
 as I wondered up to the hall on a winter’s night
Where the Rastafarian twelve tribes dance was called.
It filled me with expectation.
And I wondered.
as I paid at the door
and stepped into that dark hall on that dark winter’s night;
am I brave or mad?
I was on my own, solo…….
drawn to this event, this community,
by forces I have no comprehension,
no understanding of…………….

Kick start this new tune of life
Kick start this new tune of my life
Kick start this new new new new new flash
Twelve tribes
Twelve tribes
Twelve Tribes
Twelve Tribes
In Longsight
In Longsight
In LongSight
In LongSight
I’m dancing in this spot in this reggae shed
I’m dancing in this spot in this reggae shed
I’m dancing in this spot in this reggae shed
18 inch speakers are calling me.
cabinets of wood are breaking me.
shaking my body with quakes of sound.
In the dark lit hall in Longsight

The smell of beer
From the bar hatch
catches me,
The smell of weed
from splifs,
it raises me.
A sharp call to the senses; senses senses senses senses senses
That will end the top billing of
the dulled white rock music of my early teens
N ight n ight
R ight r ight
Te eth te eth
Bri ght bri ght
Ey es ey es
Flash it  flash it
In the dark lit hall in Longsight

What a night for this white boy I am saying.
Physical bass rhythm laying down a track so low
to a soul that was calling wordlessly,
voiceless in a heart-silence unnoticed,
One white boy in darkness with all these black folk
Surrounded by sound.
Bass cabinets lining the walls, one after another
with high frequency horns touching the ceilings!
crissed crossed spider webs of speaker wires
with hand twisted connections
conveying the music to us all in this dark near full dance hall.
This rhythm and music had an understanding that lifted me,
that bounced my heart like a basket ball,
hanging in space between the notes,
raging from these soft push-pull
valve driven
air cushions
of vibration bass movement,
that wrapped up my ears and my sense of hearing
into my very skin and lungs and solar plexus.
A white boy in the hands of coil driven
paper thin speaker cones
spun from the hands of bass players,
the music making of
black black Jamaican men.
In the dark lit hall in Longsight

Call me crazy,
call me a fool,
I am happy and I love this dancing.
moving to the beat
let the beat take my feat
let the music take your hip
move ya this is reggae music.
My back is struggling to loosen up
in that awkward way that white men have
when first reacting to the bass bass reggae reggae sound.
Place your back to the man-high bass cabinets
and the spine is caressed
and the harshness of Babylon falls,
blown away,
the layers of ill spread plaster
that was skimmed over its hidden chasms of oppression,
break, crack, fall, turn to dust and fly,
fly bird fly away,
like a flock of birds called to the sunshine.
In the dark lit hall in Longsight

Around me,
in their own worlds of love, romance,
brothers’ night out,
sisters’ dress-up time
religious meeting with soft shoes
their culture their scene
black British men and women
were just breathing in their music and distorted Toaster calls.
rub a dub dancing ,
hip and body moving
side by side skanking
they set aside my colour
and let me in,
in my white skin,
with my white conditioned mind
Which I struggled and suffered under,
which was my seen oppressor that night.
In the dark lit hall in Longsight.

For uncomfortable moments
these claw thoughts fought with suppressed happiness,
Chaffing to block out the rhythm and the music’s caresses
with small-minded concerns and rationalisation that I         I                 I                I               I ,
I am the only white man in this dark dark place Boy.
One white face bobbing,
A pair of white hands
I am the coloured odd-one-out
A first time ever for me,
raised in my white only family,
white only street,
County market town,
Rich London suburb
Grammar school,
Red brick university
And here I am now
In the dark lit hall                        in Longsight.

my only ken of black culture
was pictures of famine,
Beafran wars,
the blues and jazz
and the recent few reggae tunes
I played in my student room
on my treasured
but small speakered
hi fi. 
This track of my mind
throws me out of my time
with the way the music takes me.
my small minded chatter
born of a class and a schooling
and a soul broken to the wheel
of ‘people like us’
looses its reason to be
and I let the music
and sounds and dancing in.
In the dark lit hall in Longsight.

This experience,
this journey to my home of music
that calls to me,
that folds me in its texture,
the power of man driven base rhythms
and slap of snare
the roll around the drums
and crash of returning cymbals
and the horns calling,
brightly calling
and the keyboard tickling the tune
easing in so gently to the rhythm. 
And the singing,
the singing of words,
the live toasting of comments
on the singing words,
on what is happening,
and jiving up the mood and the tune and the
souls soul singing of the sweetened up words.
Always waiting for the echo and the dub version to cha cha cha cha cha cha.      
My mind just stops in the silence of a second start-up re-run monstrous tune
coming from the diamond stylus,
The arm now lifted on the high-stacked head-height sound system’s turntable
and then placed back into the record groove for the restart.
“so nice must play this tune twice; seen!”
In the dark lit hall in Longsight.

and I love it,
this place,
I love it
this space,
I love it,
 the strong bass beat
I love it,
the cut of the upbeat scratch guitar chankering
the call of Jah!!
from the toaster on the mic.
And the reply             R a s t a f a r iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii                            from all around,
from my lips too.
some words and language do re-form as I am recast,
hammered in the steel-shops of the black man,
sweetened by the voice of black woman,
warmed by the vocals on the tracks
renewed by the deep culture,
love and understanding,
of this life saving sound,
the years of fighting poverty,
enduring slavery discrimination,
uprisings and scorn
recorded, pressed and duplicated
by their own industrial machinery
freeing up progress,
to black music.
reforming and mastering
the means of musical production
taking control of the communication
to their Nation
produced in this dark dark dance hall
in Longsight, Manchester, England.
Yes I’m dancing in this spot in a reggae shed
I’m dancing in this spot in this reggae shed
18 inch speakers are calling me
cabinets of wood are breaking me
shaking my body with quakes of sound …………………………….. you know;
In the dark lit hall in Longsight.

Thursday, 31 May 2012


Lemn Sissay
On Facebook said on the morning 31/5/12
Drip. How did we find ourselves casting the saviour of life as the enemy of the living. Drop

I replied -
without pure water we are doomed;
there is so little left,
spoilt and wasted by the rich boys
and fought over by nation states,
wrung from the poor,
drip drop
the percussion of a reminder
kicking up the scent of the place,
drip drop
counting the bars till the next rest,
drip drop
lest you forget
the time signature
of life's almost silent

Thursday, 17 May 2012

It is because we are disabled!

This is a response from the article 

Disability and the Return of Blame Culture

'It’s no longer enough to be disabled. One must, in modern Britain, be a type. Are you the real type? The genuine that is, the sort that sits there quietly and is grateful for any hand-out they receive. Showing a bit too much life, there? Then you’re a faker, dear, undoubtedly a scrounger – and that objecting attitude means you’re a manipulative threat. It’s not enough to be disabled in these days of cuts and exclusion. There’s a right way to be lame and a wrong way, and if you spot someone doing it wrong it’s your duty as an able-bodied to let someone know.'

I realise this photo is blurred, 
but amazingly this is the view that the able bodied - the yet to be disabled - have of those with disabilities.
Disabled people are seen through blurred and pixelated false views.
Direct action by disabled people is never covered in the press in the same big up as a charity walk to the north pole with a it. Princes' even get awards for this............and the reward for the disabled, chronically sick and their families?, less support, poverty, removal of independence, lives broken , removal of support to work, our human rights flushed down the toilets that is the Political machines scape-goating by the sick souls of the powerful.

The true stories of the real and actual direct mass attack on the disabled, chronically sick and vulnerable by Government and their agents of callous disregard, THESE stories are passed over, ignored; it can not be true; you can not be serious!
Look at these pictures of the disabled again, see the distortions,  look for the real picture......

It is because we are disabled!

So hard working disabled activists
are not praised by the Government
like they espouse over hard working families?!
Is it because we is disabled, 
and only Goody Goody Charities should represent us?
These politicians and self proclaimed commentators 
spouting talk for 'the common good' 
and what Society can afford through distorted facts and pointed abuse,
are so two-faced, callous, ignorant and discriminating,
pushing the deceit button to fan the mean-hatred and scared part
of your mind-broken psyche
to break your trust and by pass your humanity, your heart. 

I am chronically sick
with invisible impairments 
(not a hope of qualifying for support
under the new 'Citizenship and Joy Through Hard Work' 
cancerous state assessment and flaunted media philosophies), 
and yet I am happy a lot of the time, and even show it..............
and I find that this emotion of happiness is not approved of 
as I am not raising money, 
receiving a cheque from a Charity, 
or competing in an endurance or sporting event; 
The looks I get is that I should be suffering if I am disabled, 
not making the best of my life, my friends and life and myself!
If I am happy, does that make me 'fit for work', 
not in need of support or disability entitlements, 
reasonable adjustments, 
a Scrounger? 
This would seem to be the way things are going
with all the anti-disability rhetoric and discrimination in the media and politics. 
Who will represent us?; 
only our hard grind 
get-through-life-despite-our-impairments determined selves, 
winning over our own impairments and the added 
growing weight
of this Societies continual drip drip 
now pouring verbal and actual targeted and concerted vile discrimination. 
It is because we are disabled?

Monday, 7 May 2012

is the moon any good at parallel-parking...I hope so

May the tides of your life lift you from the mud banks when you need it,
not drown you in emotional tsunamis when you are not ready.
you can always run to the hills
or open your heart to dreams in the twilight
if the perigee full moon is too close for comfort.
May your heart always be with you (it always is there for you)
and the stars reassure you. ( they are always there for you)
The sky will not fall

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Homework exercises

I have signed up to a Summer Poetry School with Rommi Smith, and we get home work!
Great, so different from when I was at school ghost summers ago, when the weather in the summer was predictable and I hated ALL home work, and struggled with the undiagnosed dyslexia, which has turned into a blessing for me nowadays....years of school reports saying 'if only he could spell' 'why can't he be neater in his work' and a university career, pre-computer, pre-internet, pre-mobile phone, pre-on-suite-bathrooms, when I made sure I wrote lots, put dots over every word in case there was an i in it, and produced basically illegible scrawl for essays and exam work. I think I got my degree on the weight of paper I submitted, I could hardly read them either...

So my home work, see copies below, computer written spell checked, and a real joy to do and a change of subjects for me; things I would not have touched on without someone else's eye and sense of direction , an exercise in using words of ugliness in a poem of beauty and a pop at the mountain of a subject, the BBC shipping Forecast of the UK   - this just the first week happy.

The scent of a rose after sudden rainfall

The rain has at last stopped its discrimination against the sun
For it felt superior to this shining.
The torture of the rain drops water-boarding the roses
Has resulted in serious wounds.
The scars of ground-strewn sodden petals are wealds on the soil.

Arising scent, released from the thunderstorm’s oppression
Exploits its transcending sense
To fill the air and my eager nostrils with its calling.
Ignored passions,
Held in dulled and darkened slavery
Are now, in this rain break, set free.

And because this is so deeply welcomed,
This is not an act of sensory rape.
My heart rises on these wind-born wisps of teasing pleasure,
And un-shackles me from this moment,
Kills the passage of time
Awakens word-free life-connected joy,
And transports memory and spirit to the palaces and gardens of the blessed.

In Ten (long) Lines – The Shipping Forecast for the British Isles

This kiln-fired, time-fixed ritual, fleetingly frames the changing sea weather in a rhythm of word song.
Brings repeated numbering and quiet spoken lullabies to the storm borne and battered brain
Ridding the growing ocean-long-reach waves as they crown the rock lighthouses, piers and sea walls.
The ear is soothed by the security of this slight sound changing repetition that names
The Air and the Sea and the Land and the Wind and the compasses boxed boundaries,
Chasses the pressure driven jet stream flotsam of Mother Earth’s endless spin and circling Sun’s dance.
Strange flowering phrases of rigid familiarity allow the details to draw back and flow on the spoken ebb,
Providing a comforting spirit-harbour to this ship and small boat Moon, this low Tide and rip-driven Life.
If we would listen to and trust our deep-soul-forecast past the gathered storm-clouds and star lit barnacled reefs,
Like the anticyclone high, we will lose our sector and quadrant-named, shore-snatched, brief identities