Monday, December 05, 2005

I've been pretty busy of lot, and not had that much to say. I don't think I have much going on in my head beyond the usual stuff about identity, anyway. I've been reading a few interesting people - a new Salt collection from Chris McCabe called The Hutton Inquiry, which has some interesting takes on the contemporary scene, for instance. Then there's Geraldine Monk's latest from West House, The Escafeld Hangings. She just gets better and better.

I've also been reading a lot online of Landis Everson, a poet publishing his first book in his early 80's. He'd given up writing for forty-odd years when he lost contact with the poetic community that nurtured him (basically, the Jack Spicer group round Berkley and San Francisco), but then he was contacted by someone who remembered his name and started writing again. The new poems are open, generous, meditative reflections on the past, on friendships and on the quotidian details of his life. A little Frank O'Hara, perhaps, and charming.

But it's interesting, what would I have been like without the poetic friendships and encounters I've had over the years? I came to Manchester in 1980 from a small town in North-East Lancashire called Accrington. I was under the influence of Ted Hughes at the time, and the local library supplied me with a few interesting books, mainly Movement-y poets like Larkin and Elizabeth Jennings. I'd got every book of Sylvia Plath's, and Lowell's poems were in there too.

Then I came to Manchester, discovered O'Hara, Ashbery and co, started going to writing groups (I'd gone to one in Blackburn though) and Manchester Poets group, and here I am years later, this strange half-Modernist creature you see before you. C'est la vie! Had I stayed at the accountants in Accrington, I might have had more money, but would I have given up poetry? What's the point of writing if you don't have an audience? Anyone out there still listening?

1 comment:

IRISH POETS said...

\We all have an audience, I have wood flooring companies and online casinos with the odd spattering of real people.

When I was a trainee gagman under bob shepppard this idea of an audience was central to his teaching, and really it was a game playing. We, the students, pretended that we had an audience of more than bob, helen, tony, jim and whoevert else was whaking out the knowledge to us empty vessels thirsting for learning; but by the time we were leaving the first flush of enthusiasm of make believe had worn off and as we made our way into the big wide world of real literature with our sacks of education; some fuller than others, many of my student colleague's dreams of becoming the next JK or lifestyle author writing self help manuals for the pyschiatrically needy had been replaced of -

"Going to Manchester." I kid you not. The very non specific career goal of relocating down the east lancs to carve out an existence as an artist in some vaugue way was the shrunken sum total of their initial fantasies, spieled out at length when they first arrived as newbies fresh from 6th form. Imagine the blather and nonsense they are gassing out now as they sip their alcopops at arts fashion show in a rough Salford boozer, where they live, passing through the city witted jiver stage of youth?

Audience? It's all in the mind. When Gareth Creer, a product of the Hallam MA, came to appear and make his workshop dough, the blue rinse brigade were out in force as usual, hoping some of his magic may rub off on them as they spent time in his presence, possibly allowing themselves an odd thought of romance, purely conceptually of course; and as they gazed at the geezer taking their dreams seriously in the professional way you will be familiar with no doubt Mr W, I entered the room 15 minutes late, shelling out my 12 quid in the one and only time I had coughed up to be in a writers immediate vicinity, to the fella on the gate, or should I say sat at the desk close to Gaz, taking precedence of bathing in the glow, Creer looked as if I was a saviour come to rescue him; a normal one amidst the knee trembling prols of poesy.

When the break came me and Gareth went for a coffee, and the jealous vibes emenating from the old dears was palpable when we returned, and as he took the usual guff questions

"How do you write" etc, he made a comment that has lived in my mind ever since. He said you need your head to be

"fizzing"

And this is true. If you have the fizz an audience is irrelevant, as you are doing it for the sheer joy and self challenge of topping your last effort. Now I have been at the pen a few years I have become more confident in my own ideas as my body of work has expanded and my ideas firmed up, and the Amergin text I mentioned is very relevant here. So much so I can't believe I am the only one who's latched onto it.

Fact - By 1600 when modern english poeise was starting, the celts these islands had had a poetic system in place that went back to preliterate times, so by the time Amergin was whacking out his licks, he was part of a system that had been going for maybe 1000 years, twice what we english affiliated ones have been. Plus the celtic system was indigenous and a lot more enmeshed in the culture. Our shakespeares and spensers were commercial chaps or men of leisure, and I believe that this whole ethos is why there is confusion with many poets today.

The celtic poets were not in it for a career in the same sense as their counterparts across the water were, and we all know Spensers diatribe against these real deal poets. He of course ended up fleeing Ireland after the segun earl of desmond burnt down kilcolmun castle, which was previously in his family from norman times and which had been confiscated, along with 3000 acres of munster, and regranted to Spenser. Spensey died a few months after legging it. Great waffle, but what's the connection to audience?

Well, it boils down to fundamentals, why you write. Siertz definately gave me the impression he started writing through jealousy, however he dresses it up. I found that it is all a trick you play on yourself, a state of hazy consciousness were you purposely withold knowledge from your mind as much as take it in, so you try and balance a mental state which is optimum for writing.

As for the fizz, it falls under one of the basic 4 joys outlined by Amergin in the cauldron of poesie. He calls it the a joy of "poetic frenzy" after you have been grinding away at the nuts of knowledge which surround the well of seigas in Tir nOg, a land beyond seven waves akin to atlantis, but where life is eternal. this is what he says of the joys

"In human joy there are four divisions among the wise. Sexual intimacy; the joy of health untroubled by the abundance of goading when a person takes up the prosperity of bardcraft; the joy of the binding principle of wisdom after good (poetic) construction; and, joy of fitting poetic frenzy from the grinding away at the fair nuts of the nine hazels on the Well of Segais in the Sìdhe realm. They cast themselves in great quantities like a ram's fleece upon the ridges of the Boyne, moving against the stream swifter than racehorses driven in the middle-month on the magnificent day every seven years. "

The reason I am driveling all this is top turn you on to a very logical and home grown central poetic, given to us by thoise in the know, who weren't arsed about book sales and such.

I went to the warble shop last night and the first show from the place I have been bigging up as the next heaney like group will be online in a day or two.

Let the gags fly.