[* edited 06/08/2016]
To blog or not to blog. I shuck off thoughts of Grant Morrison’s Invisibles (Vertigo Comics) and retellings of The Fisher King.
Once more I am at Kulturá at the Kavá in Todmorden. In another life, things change; our landlord has given notice – the ultimate owner of our renterd home – the Church of England – has let it be known that they are putting a man of the cloth back in. We have until the end of September to be out. This consumes me but it isn’t all. Several writing groups I go to are in flux, (Irwell Writers, Hasiwriters) or even closing down. (Cheetham Street Writers).
Contemporaneously I realise that my time with Relate Lancashire is coming to an end. I have found excuses not to leave for the past six months but it isn’t paid and is an enormous distraction. The big strategic decisions have been taken. A Time of Changes. Robert Silverberg wrote that. I don’t remember the details of Silverberg’s (aka SilverBob’s) book. His most enduring novel is Dying Inside – a 1972 Science Fiction work (with plenty of literary / other allusions). What happens? A guy is born with telepathic powers. He abuses his gift which eventually fades. It ought to be more widely read.
This time I am early, but I haven’t checked what’s on tonight. To make up for this I will have to jot notes doubly fast. As best as I can make out, the first slot will be Ed Reiss – a poetry lecture. Ed lectures at Bradford University. Let’s do a recap of Kavá at Kulturá. The format is
- Poetry lecture
- Favourite poem
- Featured poet
- Open mike (up to eight poets read their own work)
Coffee breaks / refreshments between. Things move on. A poem is distributed, The White Ship by Jeffrey Hill, and it’s time for…
Poetry lecture: Ed Reiss – Collected Works of Jeffrey Hill
We look at The White Ship. This had two versions; the first 1956 and the second in 2013. The 2013 edition uses some of the thoughts and lines of the 1956 edition; essentially different poems. Ed analysed these and for the most part I conclude this is Hill trimming deadwood. Some find joy in this exercise. I feel the process segue into whimsical reading and analysis. A ready made mental framework leaps off the printed page and with Comic Book Pop Art enthusiasm imposes order on the mind of the poet.
My mind wanders. My next novel – Lucky – is thirty thousand words to the good. It’s dealt with existential aspects of life at the bottom of life’s ladder in the UK and now it’s time for things to take off.
I note a couple of unnecessary rhymes and imagine a cavalcade of stanzas, all in forced emotive language. Not my taste but has its place. I found the analysis dull* but eventually I’m brought back to life.
In the first interval I acquire A Slow Blues, new and selected poems by David Cooke (The High Window Press, 168pp, £10). On first sight this is a reasonably put together volume. It is A5 paperback format and has been produced using Lulu’s print-on-demand technology. It’s Lulu so the format is fine. The subject matter is okay; I’m immediately drawn to the section title In The Distance bringing to mind a short story of mine that played on those words. The layout, however, seems overly standardised which denatures it (sameness is more noticeable in longer collections) and I’m curious as to whether this was the poet’s intention. Different layouts are possible eg Has You Like It mixes of things up without being messy. To be technically pedantic, all that’s required is Styles (from my experience of formatting 30+ self-published books / editions, these are a great help) which convert perfectly well to PDF. It’s perfectly possible to do wandering words.
My mind drifts back to Lucky: the role of The Treacherous Campbells slots nicely into the McIvor connection.
Featured poet: Mandy Pannett
Mandy is a poet, editor and novelist; lives in West Sussex and is published by Sentinel Poetry. She reads The Hama Stones from her Neolithic sequence, which is to my taste; I also find At Solstice rewarding. As she progresses through classical and pre-historic times, I find myself following a bucolic thread that weaves in and out. My funds however have been squandered on A Slow Blues so I don’t get to buy one of Mandy’s books. I decide to check her works later — I dig up the following:
• The Onion Stone (Pewter Rose Press) – Novel
• Bee Purple (Overstep Books)
• Frost Hollow (Overstep Books)
• Allotments in the Orbital (Searle Publishing)
• All the Invisibles (Sentinel Books)
• Poems for a Liminal Age (Sentinel Books)
We break and I realise, backtracking I haven’t noted the favourite poem, or the reader — a name floats out of memory: Charlotte — even though she’s been sat next to me most of the evening (hi Charlotte ). With the impending closure of Cheetham Street Writers, I once again wonder if there is a writing group in Todmorden. A question for another time.
Eventually it’s open mike time. Hindsight tells me that I rated Richard (actor) and John. Delivery is all.
Things conclude and I comfort myself with the notion that between them, Plato and Aristotle have a lot to answer for.
The next Kulturá is 25/08/2016 at 7:30 pm. The current programme expires at the end of 2016. Sponsors are of course welcome.
I may find the result dull but I laud the ambition – the channels for delivering art that hasn’t been mass produced are limited enough. To the consumer who demands more, the media are highly resourced dopamine generating processes who’s key function is to regulate cerebral ingestion. Creative output (& input) is limited. One vision to rule them all, one vision to bind them, one vision to pamper lotus eaters. [a pseudo post-Christian world that accommodates faith]
So, analytical or direct?
The first hurdle is this: you analyse the impact away – why would you want to do that? This becomes an exercise in frustration. A lecture is essentially an externalised inner dialogue. It is static, consistent with the tradition of contrived emotional response, shaped to prevalent poetic fashions. The tools to counter dullness are performance and delivery which drifts into the territory of what is being examined. From a distant shore I would consider the following:
“When people believe that the form is more important than the Truth, they will not find truth, but will stay with form.”
“Show a man too many camels’ bones, or show them to him too often, and he will not be able to recognize a camel when he comes across a live one.”
These sayings (collected by Idries Shah) are consistent with the world view that meticulous analysis of detail misses the point. If I pulled the legs and wings off a fly what would I be left with? These correctives come from Sufi tradition but could come from anywhere. A view from a distant shore
Art is impact. Delivery borrows liberally – from humour, the sacramental. It evokes a response if it is dynamic. This doesn’t actually fix trite content but side-stepping convention can liven up things.
Plato’s objection is over the moral filter – or lack of – it is an impediment to reaching for the light. This is where monotheism set out its stall – Christianity for centuries and… that writ still runs in Islam. Setting aside the cause of monotheism (art is sacred and it should only venerate God). Setting this aside, there are still issues about crude sensationalism. Consider the bus stop poster: product is promoted by a glitzy woman – defaced by a moustache, or maybe a penis. Is that art? It’s a reaction against convention. Following Aristotle, forced patterns just look wrong – bog standard poetry with bits bolted aimlessly on – which accounts for most of what’s out there.