Dark Dark Friday Of The Soul

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-30241459OK – I’d given up blogging. Then I re-discovered my joy in poetry. Then came Black Friday. I can’t hide from it. This is what we are. This is what I am.

I was a cop in riots. I lashed at hated unknown people. A mob pulled me to the ground and tried to gouge out my hated unknown eyes. The rewind button adds no gloss or control or retrospective courage or nobility of conflict.

Once I was a revolutionary. Then I saw a raging mob and felt the heat of fire. I learned my own terror. I learned other people’s terror. I got the close up breaking news sensational interview on rape. Her lip dripped blood onto the statement form.  I became a Christian Democrat but without the ballot box or Christ.

Then I saw Black Friday. Without something outside or within ourselves – we are ourselves. This is what we are. This is what I am. I can’t dress it up. Do you have some better clothes? Should I have snatched a bargain TV to channel hop for better news?

Let’s not be too harsh. The trampling mob are the powerless schmucks. How the ruling class love to see the consumer frenzy. The holders of true wealth and power have no need to dive for coins thrown in the mud. A gentle push on the one arm bandit button pays out every time when you’ve built the odds into the machine yourself.

I can’t avoid it. This is what we are. This is what I am.

Flash Words – A New Collection From Paul Tobin

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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.