Monday, June 29, 2009

The Desire for the New

I spent some time this weekend trying to re-engage with Poetry. Trying to rediscover the spark that lit my interest when I was sixteen, the initial rush of enthusiasm and awe I felt when I first picked up Larkin or Sexton or Plath or Keats. The same enthusiasm I had when I started off at Under Graduate level and took with me to Post Graduate studies.

In an attempt to rekindle this I picked up ‘Paradise Lost’ by Milton and started to go through it. I hadn’t even got passed the first book before I put it down. This is a book I read voraciously only two years ago. What has changed? I moved on to Shelley’s Prose (‘On Love’ and a ‘Defence of Poetry’), but retired them in favour of a Top Gear repeat and a cup of tea. I mention these not to be showy about my book shelf or to try and convince any one that I am particularly erudite or classically trained. The fact that I picked up these, and nothing from this century, says something. It highlights what I consider to be a problem for someone, like me, attempting to write in the “modern” era. I use the phrase “modern” as meaning simply, ‘up to date’ or ‘as is being written or performed currently’ and not as a reference to Modernism or Post-Modernism.

The problem as I see it is threefold.

Firstly, there is the danger of stagnation. A few years back I showed some work to Robert Sheppard, who told me that although “there is a talent there” that I was not very modern. And as a result the “work” and any potential progression would suffer. This was a critique I rejected out of hand, as a moody teenager is often wont to do. However, looking back I can see what he means. He wasn’t, as I originally thought, criticising what I was doing. He wasn’t telling me that I was garbage and should reconsider my “vocation”. He was merely stating the facts as he saw them. And at the present moment, a rather obvious fact. Because I did not heed this free advice, and I didn’t appreciate that fact that he had taken his time to read some poems slid under his door, my “work” suffered. It stagnated. It may have progressed in terms of theme and vocabulary but it was, and I feel still is, firmly rooted in the past. In the Larkinesque style of “blokes talking to other blokes in a pub”. And this stunting cannot be blamed solely on my decision not to take Creative Writing at under graduate level. It comes from my own stubbornness and the mistaken belief that I knew better than someone who has been working in, and for, Poetry since the 1970’s and has run several successful small print magazines. Also, his new book, “The Complete Twentieth Century Blues” is out now and I need to buy it when I have some spare money.

Secondly, with this stagnation comes the belief in ones own ability. Which is more often than not, totally mistaken. This was shown most clearly at the International Bar’s Open Mic Night a few weeks ago. The current guardian of the Open Mic Night, Stephen James Smith, is a poet of the Modern Era. He is what Modern Poetry should be. Accessible, funny and very talented. He learns the poems off by heart and apart from looking impressive it shows he absolute dedication to his art. He travels many miles gigging and getting his work “out there”. This is something I do not do. Nor is it something I would particularly want to do. For a number of reasons, chiefly that I find it terrifying and the old excuse, “Larkin did not need to”. But, “Ah” I hear you say “Larkin was a Genius”. I have started to enter competitions which I do not in all honesty expect to win, no false modesty, I just regret the choices I made in the submissions.
At the Lucan Creative Writers group they are some really good writers and poets. Some are award winners, or have been commended – which is almost as good. And I presume works as a great affirmation of ones own talent. These poets are again doing stuff that I could not do, one in particular has a knowledge of form and of the technical aspects that puts me to shame. They are forward facing poets, though they do seem to reflect the past in that they understand the past and move onwards. They are like Janus, where as I am the woman who looked back as Gomorrah burned. This lack of knowledge, on my part, is endemic of the lack of spark I feel at the moment. I need to get reacquainted with theory. But not classical theory, modern interpretations and modern ideas. As one of my tutors complained during my MA (not to me thankfully) “No one is using critics that are still alive”. How can you move forward with both feet and hands in the past? This leaves any belief that what I am doing is right for me at the moment baseless. It only highlights the fact that I am out of touch. I am regurgitating familiar styles.

Thirdly, I have not developed my own poetic voice. The journey to this place, this absolute individuality. A poetic Nirvana. Is different for everyone who picks up a pen or sits at an empty word processing document. To hark back to Larkin, he spent much of his Juvenile years copying Hardy. Keats spent most of his brief career alluding to, and copying, Spencer. Wilfred Owen only found his voice whilst he was recuperating from Shellshock and met Siegfried Sassoon. And so forth, and so on ad infinitum. But these examples are at best a slight digression. It was explained more eloquently than I can by one of the writers in Lucan. “Each poet has a poetical mentor” this is someone they look to in order to inform their own writing and form their own poetical self. This process is evolutionary; you start of as a simple organism – writing because you enjoy it. Then you develop style, structure and then finally – much like the Ape standing on its hind legs and using tools – you have your own voice. But like your own genetic code, you bare resemblance to those that have gone before. Be it a familial nose, or a particular turn of phrase. It is a level of foolishness to say that once I find “my voice” I will rekindle what is at the moment eludes me. However, since I am not reading new Poetry, or even enough Poetry, this development is stagnating.

However, as I have previously stated I do not believe that I should disregard the old poets that piqued my interest in the Art form. There will always be a place for them. And a lot can still be gained from reading them, just not in isolation. I have used myself as exclusively as an example, and this form of self criticism is essentially egocentric. But I believe that any artist, successful, emerging or at whatever stage cannot write in either a vacuum or with their eyes drawn only backwards.

So, what next? Give up? Hardly ever likely to be an option. I must, as a matter of urgency, start to scour bookshops, the internet and journals for something new. The slightly exciting prospect of this is that I can gain new insight and discover new styles and poets and re-ignite the passion that I once had. I can reformulate long standing poetical beliefs and theories; I can critical asses my own Poetical vision (for what it is). As Confucius said, “the journey of a thousand miles must start with a single step”.

Any suggestions, negative or positive, are as always welcome.

Friday, June 26, 2009


I suppose I should start off by saying something about Michael Jackson. Shame, was a lonely and troubled man. There I contributed to the massive out pouring of grief that has consumed us all again. The very people who called him a pervert now mourn him. Whatever. Fuck ye all.

I went to Marco Pierre Whites Steakhouse on Dawson Street tonight, would attach a link but you have access to Google and I am not here to spoon feed you. Was slightly disappointed with the meal, the service was good. And the steak was good, it is difficult to mess up steak. But it could have been warmer. I was just left non-plussed by it all. Which is a shame, also, what size ego must one have to paste a rather unattractive photo of yourself, everywhere.

Also, I have been busy, I saw Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. It is OK. Bit too long and, well, kinetic. It was all right and Megan Fox is stunning. But a pretty lady doth not a movie make (unless it is porn but that is a side (t)issue). I would recommend it as it is perfect popcorn fodder, not much plot or point but plenty of robots and bangs. Depends on what you look for.
The night is drawing in, and Michael Jackson is on almost every TV channel. What an effect on schedules a mere mortal can have. Fuck, Ben has just come on - possibly the highest placed single about a Rat. I might be wrong, but I doubt it.
Changed channel and some shite called Steel Panther is on. Jesus they suck.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Things I Want To Do Before I Die!

I like to make pointless lists. Useless collections of information and half arsed opinions based on nothing in particular. Today, for no reason other than I am waiting for my tea and want to add a particular picture. Here, is the list of things "I Want To Do Before I Die" but probably won't. Laziness is a helluva mistress.

In no particular order, except for numerical, here it is:
  1. I want to be on 'Come Dine With Me'. I am obsessed with the show, it is pure awesomness. I want Dave Lamb to narrate my life and I want people to judge me on cookery - even though I cannot cook for shit. I am useless, I assemble food - poorly.

  2. I want to shoot Katie Price

  3. I want to prove how much of an unsufferable arse Bono is

  4. That is all, but point one is the crucial one.

And here is the image, awesomeness.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Stephen James Smith's Open Mic Night at the International Pub... Downstairs in the lounge

Late last night, in a drunken haze, I sat at this old laptop. Reflecting on the evening, the music, the poetry, the ambiance and the whole point behind Open Mic nights.

Stephen James is an engaging host, rattling of poems from the depths of his mind, creating an atmosphere where even the most shit scared amateur can feel comfortable.

If I went through the acts one by one I would miss someone out. I would also probably be offensive unintentionally. The guy who played the banjo was awesome, would not have expected that voice from that man, sort of like the singer Anastasia.

There was the first poet, who read out four or five short poems, had a rather fantastically sculpted beard - not unlike Craig David.

This one guy, who dressed like a Teddy Boy made everyone applaud his girlfriend/ wife/ carer. But the sentiment of the poems was powerful all the same, even if he did elongate the last syllable of his line endings.

I did some of my own stuff and was shitting bricks, I did an anti religion one and wasn't glassed or stoned as a heretic, so I was rather pleased about that. It is difficult to judge your own performance, so I won't.

Various recited a poem from scratch, which fair fucks to her (to steal a Lancashire-ism) I couldn't do it.

Another singer did an interesting version of "Don't You Want Me Baby". And I suppose that is the point, as Stephen himself says, "to create a place where people can express themselves safely". Even if ye never perform or are like me totally tone deaf you should attend.

Anyways, I am off.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Breakfast Tastes Like Dwarf

Firstly, I am lucky enough to be put on the bill for the open Mic night at the International Bar on Wicklow street. Everyone should attend, even if you live miles away.

I am reading three poems, I know which ones I will read. Although, one of them (see below) I am slightly worried about. Mainly, due to its relative freshness, having only wrote it on Friday night. The subject matter, my lack of Faith, is sometimes offensive. However, I do not believe that Poetry or Art should ever pull any punches and should not be afriad to offend. It should say what needs to be said. Poets after all are "the unacknowledged legislators of the World".

The image is by Matthias Grünewald, it is a striking image. Even though I am scepitcal whether or not Christ existed at all (yes, I know that you can never find his body as it, like his mother Mary, was assumed into Heaven) but that doesn't relate to the power of the image. It is a striking account of Christ's humanity and the suffering "he", and countless millions of other people guilty and innocent alike were subjected to.

Anyway, the poem:

Thoughts Relating to the Ryan Report

The wreckage of the human condition

Is caused largely by

The blinded fools who cliam vision

Into this lie.

Yet they say that it will prove a comfort

To me when loved ones start to die,

Faith, they say, will prove a fort

A place of sanctuary where I,

In my ireligiosoty, can safely hide

Free from that specific type of pain,

And the ebbing and flowing of the tide.

Free from hatred, persecution, shame.

But to gain this I have to hand over

Myself completely, to something terribly proscribed

Like a returning former lover

Swallowing more than just pride.

Morrissey may have forgiven Jesus,

And by extension - Religion.

But, I can't. It's like a shot to the solar plexus,

Where good ideas are fucked by bad intentions.

It starves "possessed" children,

It tears the labia of girls,

It throws rocks at students,

It simply kills.

It causes you to hate me,

And me to hate you,

It causes you to dictate

Everything I should do.

And if you don't fit

Then your not worth shit,

And they'll fill your head with shame,

Regret and Sin.

It was created by Man,

In order to keep the poor

Weak and the strong in control,

To keep women subjugated.

It stones women,

It hangs homosexuals,

It arranges angry lynch mobs

It scams money for TV evangelicals.

There is no heaven,

There is no hell,

There is no god,

There is only Nature.

All the wreckage of the

Human condition

Is caused by this lie.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Bank Holidays and Manic Street Preachers

I suppose there is a time in every mans life when instead of being in a pub, or being drunk, or staring at a blank wall when he finds himself in Homebase making decisions on Pot Plants. This was me on the last Bank Holiday weekend. As normal men were pushing trollies full of crap behind focused looking women. The women dart from aisle to aisle picking things up, inspecting them and then replacing them. The men follow like herded sheep. Until some kid starts screaming his head off and you snap back and are asked about something or other. I hate Garden Centres.

But thankfully me, the Better Half would rather drink on sunny days so it was only brief. Still hate them though

Went to see the Manic Street Preachers live mid-week and they were immense. Bought a T-Shirt and couldn't hear for most of the day after. Good gig.