Flash Words – A New Collection From Paul Tobin

Taunton Fest 8.11.14

Nothing flash. Nothing but the poetry, the whole poetry and nothing but the poetry

It’s been nearly two years since I felt I had anything to add to the mania of colliding digitalia we have created for ourselves. Single issue mobs of panic stricken petitioners charge up and down the decks of our suffering steamboat shrieking their shallow formulated brands of SOS messages. A million tweeters rocket celebrity tinsel and cute kittens into an ever accelerating particle belt of orbital noise, superficial synthetic outrage or nano second joy. And it never pauses or stands back from itself. If it did; it would stop. It won’t.

Imagine then the joy of picking up a book of poetry conveying the commanding calmness of a poet reaching an important maturity. Now, come on – no poet thinks he/she is important. What an odd word to choose. Yet, for me “Flash words”,  the new collection by Paul Tobin is important in that it defines where we are and hammers down a marker of sincerity. Paul’s work isn’t showy. His style is flat like a plate of steel. His words slot in like rivets – the right degree of hardness, a tight push fit. It is a poetry made with hand tools, some worn eccentrically to impart the hand that holds it, the mind that knows the feel and balance of its task. There is no machine welding – some seams are left un-filed. There are no nods at fashion. Each poem gets the shape it has arrived at so far. In twenty years he might go back to it. Poems finish off poets. No poet ever finished off a poem.

I read Paul’s first collection “Blessed By Magpies” some time ago and invited him to join a group of international poets in “Freeze Frame“, a text and audio anthology I was editing with a view to promoting the spoken realm of poetry. Since then I have read his contribution to “Juncture 25” which show cases the work of a group of West Country poets.  Unlike me, he exposes his work in progress for critique on his blog “Magpie Bridge“. Brave man indeed.

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Paul has a thing about magpies and all things black and white

Yet I was not prepared for “Flash Words”. His work has overflowed the previous vessels. Added to his blunt observation of unvarnished life in such poems as “Man Shaves The Head Of His Monkey” there is now a deep sensuality. In “Cherry Picking” we arrive at a “dark sweetness that longs to tear its skin”.  Time and time again his poems feel for a metaphysical pattern such as in “End Of The Line” and in “The Birds Return”. In the latter migrating birds arrive. The poet says “You have no say”. It is a thought to fill at least a day unless of course one had already thought it. In my 65 summers, I had not. Many of his poems mature in the mind overnight and I suspect many 4.am contemplations. Referring again to “End Of The Line” it was only now as I write that I saw the continuum from the process and vocabulary of production to the process of the “end”.

In “Tipping Point” the pasting up of a poster becomes a metaphor for the failure of our materialism to adhere properly to our souls. How delicious to contemplate this issue in terms of “friction of the paste”, and “cumulative capillary power of the water”. I won’t say anything more about this poem because I want you to read it.

Only Paul Tobin could conceive a poem about “1979: A Typical Friday On Top Of The K Unit Dechlorinator.”  Working men’s hands are on tools and equipment. Human minds populate an industrial landscape. A “bursting disc”, “a deluge valve” and others form the proud esoteric jargon of unfashionable forgotten men, bleached out by the clean glamour of  digital wealth and un-scarred hands.

“Flash Words” contains a body of poetry only possible from the mind of a lifelong poet. The range and scope are those of an accomplished thinker. Poem after poem convey a preparedness to hide nothing – not the meaning when it would seem cleverer, nor the emotion when it would be easier to pull out of the dive.  I know poetry does not sell so I urge you to buy this book and savour it. If no one buys it, it will matter only to those who miss the chance. To quote the poet himself, the “Ice has been scribbled on the inside of your window”.

I am so happy to have this book here on my desk. It won’t be going anywhere else. All of us held in the gravity of poetry may sometimes dream of weightless flight or migration to some richer planet with paved roads and rules of law. Then we read a poet and know we can never escape. Paul Tobin is that very thing that no man can call himself without some doubt in his heart. It is the gift of others to call a man a poet. All other prizes are baubles and mortality.

Paperback Writer. Freeze Frame Gets Ink.

017The proof of the pudding is in the reading. Yes, the paperback proof copy of Freeze Frame” arrived on Monday. Of course, there were a few issues but I think we are on top of them and all the corrections have been made.

In order to authenticate the existence of an actual new book in the universe, you will see a photo of editor Sparrow in the act of reading it. You may wonder about the figure peering over the chair. I would like to say that it is the bust of a Faber and Faber poetry editor that I had immortalised in concrete. Come to think of it – why not say that? It is not true but if anyone wants to know the truth please leave a comment. Does it remind you of anyone?

Freeze Frame has now been submitted to Smashwords, may I say, not without a lot of geek-squeak. Poor old Jill at Gallo-Romano has been rooted to the keyboard with formatting issues. As a platform, Smashwords is not for the faint-hearted. Watch this space – it won’t be long.

I have been working today on the road. All I have heard on cab radio is excited media persons talking about David Bowie releasing a new single to mark his 66th birthday. It is being billed as a significant retrospective by a frail old geezer. I must admit to having been very cheered by the whole circus. Here I am, only a little younger and still looking for a start. When you think about it, that’s a good place to be. If you’ve missed the bowie-wow in the window today,(Obvious reference to death of Patti Page) here is a link.

Freeze Frame Anthology – Published

Santa maybe

Santa may-be

Sometimes I have to remind myself that I am a reasonably serious old bloke who has scribbled poems for about 50 years. Finding myself posing in a Santa hat holding a Kindle Fire device for a picture to be captioned with punny quips made me wonder if I had lost the plot. If I appear disrespectful to poets and poetry I do apologise. O brave new world that has such peep-shows in it. Such is the circus of the modern book world. Apparently some fiction writers are so busy on the road that all their stuff is done by ghost writers. Seemingly it’s the brand that matters. It seems incredible to me. Perhaps I won’t beat myself up over the Santa hat. If it makes poetry more accessible and unstuffy then it has to be a Google plus. I defy anyone to ghost write in the style of any of the six Freeze Frame writers.

Far more importantly, the book is out there and up on Amazon. It was delivered without anaesthetic during the night, about 24 hours premature but at a good weight and with powerful voice. This is not the end of course but at least everything is all together and in one place. The stars are the poets who had enough faith in me to join in and risk all to be part of the Freeze Frame project.

Tomorrow evening 1800 hours UK (GMT)  - 12 noon USA EST – there will be a launch party at which all can meet the poets. There will be readings and comments and hopefully a few silly hats.  This takes place on Facebook with a live link to a Google+ ‘Hangout’ – you can watch us all having our virtual champagne and reading a selection of poems from the collection.  Here’s the link:

Stop the world – FREEZE FRAME – it’s the launch party!

Find the book here:
Amazon USA
Amazon UK
Amazon Canada
Amazon Germany
Amazon France
Amazon Italy
Amazon Spain
Amazon Japan
Amazon Brazil

Ho Ho Ho!

Freeze Frame Poetry Anthology – Music Track Reveal.

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Thank you for the music

One of the huge number of things about which I know nothing is music. My mother was a singer who could not believe her genes carried the recessive potential for a tone deaf croaking sparrow. After all, she had specifically ordered a nightingale.

Fortunately, I am surrounded by talent. One of the requirements for the music track was that it contained a variety of themes with changes of pace and melody. It is surprisingly difficult to commission original work.  I approached Izzy, who composed and played the theme for “I Threw A Stone” and she agreed to give it a try. We had a long session of reading the poems and she took them away to get a feel for the individual poets. Although the music track is a continuous piece in its own right, the mandate was to create moods and reflections complimentary to the audio tracks. Obviously the music speaks for itself but I had a chat with her shortly before its goes live.

You have worked on a couple of projects for us before. How did this job feel?

It was a huge leap of difficulty. I wrote and played the flute track on “Where is God” by Jo VonBargen the fabulous American poet. (You just have to hear her read her work – it’s a thrill it really is, She opened me up to poetry power). I did the same with the piano theme for Oscar’s book but Freeze Frame was something much more complex. I spent a lot of time thinking about the different themes. Because I had access to the audio tracks I could feel my way into the atmosphere of what I wanted to do.

I was out shopping and saw you on a poster as a star flautist at a concert. Which is your preferred instrument? 

The piano allows me to compose and I can just play without accompaniment. I get more chances to perform with the flute. The piano is more versatile and has a ready depth that you need for composition.

I have no idea what it feels like to compose music. Can you tell me?

It’s a great feeling to get the idea out of my heart and into my fingers. It doesn’t really feel like an idea in my head – thoughts are more like words somehow. Music is something fluid you tap into. It’s not like thinking at all, its like skating or dancing – it happens inside you and you express it without knowing how or where its going exactly. You need technical information about harmonies and such like but it is a marvellous sense of freedom.

In this case did you have a starting point?

Only the tradition of everything that anyone has ever composed. There’s a lot of music written around individuals, physical themes and other art forms. Any composer feels humbled by it. There are pieces like Mussorgsky’s Pictures At An Exhibition, Elgar’s Enigma Variations, The Planets, the whole book of ballet music and pieces like Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue that I saw in Disney’s Fantasia 2000 when I was a very little girl. I think it changed me! I know composers are supposed to be highbrow but my first awareness of music was from Barbie cartoon movies which featured classical ballet.  You never feel you can do anything like that but it’s still in me  to do what I can. I just have to.

What’s next?

I’ve enjoyed working to a theme and I have an idea beginning along those lines. I can’t really express it yet. I’ve sent the project down into my heart to warm up and get some feeling. It’s like……. waiting for springtime now….

Favourite film and favourite song?

You’re going to laugh at me. My film would be “The Page Turner” which is about a psychotic sadistic pianist. I’m afraid my favourite song  is “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses. I know its far older than me but that guitar riff takes me somewhere sublime. I think they’re for old rocker guys. Do you think I’m normal?

I’m actually more worried about the psychotic pianist. Gallo-Romano don’t pay much!

It’s always a pleasure to work with Izzy because she does the work. That’s the way I like it.

So- here it is, the music that will buffer between the poets. It will play in its entirety at the end of the book. As an update I can say that we are on target for the e book with audio launch on 21st December. The “real” paper book will follow in the New Year.

Guys – it’s good.

In case you missed it here is the soundcloud music link.

The Poet Lorry Park Zeroes In.

I threw a stone cover for AmazonA few years ago I went to a public auction with a friend who was looking for some furniture. Whilst we were waiting for his lot to come up, an enormous quantity of cuddly toys came under the hammer. It seemed that it was the entire contents of a bankrupted shop. The price started somewhere at the edge of the cosmos and came down to something I could afford by raking about amongst the fluff covered boiled sweets in the sofa. Within a few seconds I owned several hundred cuddly giraffes, tortoises and some things that looked like socially disadvantaged wildebeest at the end of a hard day in the stampede.  I applied for a pedlar’s certificate and set out on a career as a door to door salesman. The giraffes and tortoises flew out of my sack. I sold only one wildebeest to a guy spaced out on wacky baccy who thought it was an alien.

Plan B in my retail conquest of the planet was a market stall. That weekend I was at the town tat-fest with my trestle table loaded with cuddly alien cattle. I figured that since the goods were not selling I would offer them at 50 pence each. After lunch I reduced the price to zero but still the poor beasts could find no homes. Then, a fellow trader wandered over and looked at the creatures and declared that they were from a top designer label and that by giving them away, people thought they were junk. Accordingly I increased the price to £5 and added a sign saying “Top Designer Brand”. By dusk, the herd of alien wildebeest had gone. I shared the spoils with a guy who had lent me a truck to transport them and the market stall authorities. There was enough left for a good old fish and chip nosh up and a week’s  caravan holiday. (It rained and the kids were sick). So much for my flirtation with Capitalism.

So it is with some worldly experience that my poetry collection “I Threw A Stone”  is offered for free until the close of play on the 18th December. It is of course a top designer brand. So far I have shifted one copy in the UK and have zoomed up 900,000 places in the charts. Sales are probably not helped by the fact that Amazon UK have removed all but one review apparently on the basis that people liked the book. (One could become quite annoyed about all this but poet karma keeps my thoughts on a higher plane).

Here are the links.

USA: http://amzn.to/QVtsVA

UK: http://amzn.to/TVdUke

Germany: http://amzn.to/U88fVT

France: http://amzn.to/UCmhO3

Italy: http://amzn.to/UCmhO3

Spain: http://amzn.to/Z0jCX3

Japan: http://amzn.to/TV0R2m

Brazil http://bit.ly/U7QshE

There we are then – Roll up! Roll up! There ya go my love, cheap at half the price me old China, perk ya selves up wiv a poem or two. Roll up! Roll up!

Freeze Frame Poetry Anthology – The Cover Story

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                              Relax – Will’s got ‘em covered

I always thought that if I ever got the point of hearing myself saying “When I was young….” it would be time to step off the conveyor. One of my favourite jokes is about a kid who asks his dad “Do parents know more than their kids?” The father replied “Yes”. The kid thought for while and asked “Who invented the steam engine?” The father replied “James Watt.” The kid nodded and asked “Why didn’t his dad invent it then?”

Probably many of you know that joke or a variant. Like all good humour it is funny because it makes a serious point. Mankind is constantly refreshed by youth and fresh eyes. Sadly too often they are born into existing bigotries and the grand tribe of Chief Tendentious. Despite all discouragements, our constant rebirth brings new talent and energy. I always try not to be overtly political but our societies really ought to prioritise  the need to give young folk opportunities to show their abilities and earn a good wage.

I want a cover

I want a cover (Photo credit Fotothing)

The reason for this preamble was my chat with Will who did the cover for Freeze Frame. I felt like an old silverback wandering into the room and saying  “I want a book cover – here’s the title. See what you can do.”

FreezeFrame

The rest was done by Will who is a design student. I asked him a couple of questions

Did the concept of Freeze Frame immediately give you an idea?

Yes, and the fact that were several writers gave me the concept more or less at once. At first I played with the idea of picture frames but the film format begged to be done really.

What makes a good book cover?

Ha ha – it depends who you ask or what advice you take. Oscar tells me that poetry lovers don’t mind thinking a bit so I guess you can be a bit more cryptic. A good book cover to me is something that catches my eye because there are so many to choose from. In this case I wanted to get some bold interesting colours to contrast with the black and white. As a designer you are always trying out new pathways.

What technology do you use?

I use photoshop on a Mac but I’m just as happy on a PC.

Did you read the poems?

No, but I listened to them all because I was there when the music track was being added. Audio book construction is pretty cool because it comes together from all kinds of angles. When you hear the tracks you think you sort of know those people.

Were you happy with the finished result?

To be fair I was more nervous than anything. I looked at it and wondered if it was a bit risky because it’s probably a bit busy in pure terms. It’s been great to get good feedback and I can breathe again.

Favourite film? Favourite song today?

Back To The Future. Favourite song would be “Some Nights” by Fun. It is a strange video because it’s about the American civil war. If I get the time I’ll be finding out a bit more about it. I mean, where did that concept come from for  music visuals? It’s gonna bug me…..

It’s great to work with young folk. (Said the patronising old fart). These guys have stuff at their fingertips where I don’t have fingers. Will be out of college next year and is up for any offers or work in the meantime via Gallo-Romano.

Freeze Frame Anthology – It’s all about…ME! Interviewed by Jo VonBargen

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Bard On A Wire
I’d like to introduce our fearless leader and Editor of the upcoming Freeze Frame AnthologyOscar Sparrow! This has been a wonderful project to work on and Oscar has made it so easy for all of us! Oscar’s own work is without peer, in fact, he’s my own favorite living bard! Here, an example from his delicious book of poetry, I THREW A STONE, available at Amazon.com, which has an audio file of him reading the poems accompanying it.

Engine Management Light
Some semi-conductor keeping time
turns his back
as half an orchestra falls flat.
A filament of existence
beyond darkness triggers an enlightenment.

I stare into the void of mystery,
in the pews of ignorance
awaiting the priest,
images of invisible strands
spinning in unknowable blackness
fill my blind imagination.

Others speed by
down the Damascus Road.
On the hard shoulder,
facing the question -
My question,
I open the book and pray.


For a little taste of his enormous talent, listen to him read what has been said to be the “worst poem in the world”, written by Theo Marzials. I found it enchanting!A TRAGEDY by Theo Marzials. Read by @Oscar_Sparrow  Unforgettable!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qfXSQ9wj3AIWe are all so excited about FREEZE FRAME and offer heartfelt thanks to Oscar and his team at Gallo-Romano for all the hard work they’ve done to come up with what we think is a fantastic result!

I had the opportunity to interview Oscar before the release of the book, just as he interviewed us; this is a peek at the character of a very intriguing individual!
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Oscar Sparrow Interview (by Jo Vonbargen)I appreciate so much that you have been able to put together this unique collection called Freeze Frame. You once said to me, “If we froze the frame – what would we see? A guy taking an order at Burger King and punching the codes on his till? A girl in the line texting her friend the menu choices? A land mine victim smelling a rose? A guy flicking sports channels. So many layers of interface and distraction! Paul Gaugin asked “Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?”

Now that you’re wearing the Editor’s hat, has any of this become clearer to you?

What has become clearer to me is that individuals are very capable of focusing on those moving moments of life. In some cases, moments of experience live on forever perhaps and to some extent define those individuals. It is even clearer to me that this IS the work of poetry in terms of how it stands relative to our minds in this multi-channelverse. As for Gaugin’s question – well, the linear idea of an individual life being a flash of light between bookends of oblivion is obviously far too simple. As for what we are, maybe more than ever I see that we are seekers of understanding. Probably we are trying to understand rainbows by eating mud. Poets deal with what they don’t know but they cook the mud before they serve it up.

You are my favourite living poet, hands down. You peel a subject down to the quantum level, disassemble the atoms, then rearrange them into a veritable feast of multi-layered meaning and social commentary. I find them absolutely fascinating! When did you first realize poetry would take over your life and be your very breath?

What a wonderful compliment – thank you. I suppose that as quite a young kid I did not fit in because I wanted conversation and discussion to go much further and deeper. We use descriptions such as “as hard as stone”. The use of words in this context troubled me and kids and teachers shuffled away when I would ask how you “understood” the hardness of stone. My refuge was poetry – particularly Wordsworth. I bought a copy at a second-hand shop. I hated all that poetry they served up at school – all that dah di dah di dah stuff.  I wandered about a lot, looking at yellow iris and learning the smell of water and advancing snow. I wanted a poem to look out beyond to that place which could not be a place but which my tiny brain can only see in terms of a location. I must say that your own work “From This Far Time” touched me deeply by heading out on this path.

That’s very sweet of you, Oscar! Your own response to that work gave me so much encouragement and hope for the future…you have no idea!! I’m curious as to how you actually work in your “poet’s cave”.  As for subject matter, where does your poetry come from and who has influenced you?

The poet’s cave is a philosophical place quite often of no thought or input. I have to go there just to be.  The biggest fact of the human mind, the universe and everything that binds them together is something we completely ignore. Intuition is the dark matter of thought and the construction of our picture of existence within our consciousness is intuitive. This intuition is very much there in the child. The “system” both ignores and discourages it. Who says to a scruffy kid “I want you to wander about free, not trying to think anything. If you want to – or if you feel you just have to, come back and tell me what you felt”.  Now that is not just a school for poets – that is a school for the world. The sad thing is that once we did have that power and freedom. We have forgotten where we left ourselves. 

As for influences – certainly Wordsworth, the English Movement guys like Larkin. Robert Graves, W.H. Auden, Thomas Hardy, Maggie Huscroft, Elizabeth Browning, Walt Whitman, Les Murray  and so many writers and poets. The work of Gaugin, many films and singers like Jacques Brel. The word play and cleverness of Charles Trenet leaves me dumb with admiration. My biggest influence is that elusive intuition in a scene or moment. Always that question “What words can fit the intuitive signal I am receiving?”

You are one of the best spoken word artists I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. You have a natural talent for dramatizing the written word and leaving us spellbound! Have you ever worked in theatre?

No theatre I’m afraid. I think a critic would say that I just love the sound of my own voice. Look – we all have depth and nuances within ourselves. The voice can betray/reveal them. Life and poetry are acting jobs. Shyness and uncertainty make us reluctant to risk the true expression of our spirits. If I’m any good, it is because I have grown old enough to let go and just do what anyone could do if they stepped up and grabbed the microphone. 

Remove the editor’s hat and put on the poet’s. What message would you leave the world on your tombstone?

Wow – hmmmm. It would be difficult to not appear righteous if I gave advice about how to live when I know nothing more than anyone else. If I were to try to combine the basic selfishness of mankind yet their ability to elude its grip, I would condense everything to:  “Love yourself -  for your kindness.”

What direction do you think your own poetry is going and where do you think poetry in general should go? Have you ever been part of the poetry establishment?

I have lived through several re-launches, renaissances, second comings and new waves of poetry.  None of them have changed the sales or perception of it. In a rather joking way I dub myself the “Poet Lorry-Park” in order to underline my allegiance to the cause of non-academic people. I feel that poetry was stolen, mystified and separated from the main stream of life by a clique of media connected cronies. They wanted the poetry world to be ten stars and all the rest of us fawning upon their latest style of line break. To me, this is tosh. You can stuff a sonnet in your rhyming bonnet or ride into Jerusalem on your assonance for all I care. What I want is for anyone who feels a surge of joy, who poses an infinite question or who sees a dog peeing on a cabbage AND who really sees it and reflects on it to realise that they themselves are the poet. I do not believe in any regime or form of poetry. It is the naked honest mind seeking to use this heavy toolbox of words to do a job no one will ever complete. The subject and my intellectual/emotional relationship with it dictate the form of what I write. How can I be bigger than the power of the unwritten poem? The poem is the statue unborn, yet living in the stone.  

I have skirted around the poetry establishment because I thought I might pick up some electricity from the overhead wires. I felt the current but essentially they only wanted a coin for their trochaic meter. In short, let there be poetry and let all be poets. Those with the best words will be guides, not stars.

Finally, Jo – my dear friend, thanks for inviting me to ramble on for far too long. I dreamed that one day I would be a poet.  To be so dubbed by a poet I admire so much is a true honour and happiness. 

Thank you so much, Oscar! It has been my distinct pleasure to know and work with you!!