Blow Out Your Kite

I love kites. Just saying the word has made me want to write a poem about kites – not about the fabric but about their embodiment of hope and possibility, about the vision lost in the blinding sun, the futility of fighting Nature on a windless day, the paradox of a thing set free, yet to fly only because it is tethered. So many philosophical  thoughts arise in contemplation of the kite that it is hardly necessary to bother standing in the park, often with a bored child in attendance, running running running and running to launch a dream into the air of nonchalant breeze-less afternoon.

I do go on – but it’s the poet in me. The actual tethered end of the above ethereal paragraph is the subject of my FREE week-end on KDP select. As regular readers will know, I am not very computerate. Also I know nothing about building platforms, operating audio equipment, kite flying and e-pub/marketing. The more I read, the less I know. Writers selflessly give of themselves to help other writers. This aspect of the “community” is almost an antithesis of many aspects of our modern lives. Because I just cannot do all the left right click, hash pipe, salt delete I am grateful to a small outfit who keep me a little bit free to write, THINK and make some money by working. So it was that this morning I went for coffee with Rosina from Gallo-Romano and of course dear old Emma who is to blame for coercing me into this whole new world.

This is what has been happening. Over the past weekend both of us put our books out for free on all the Amazon platforms. Everything was pulled off other sites since Amazon is more or less the whole deal anyway. Emma will do her own take tomorrow for the Insecure Writers but she is happy for me to give her stats. OK – the situation was that we were putting out a collection of poems, a serious short story and a “supermarket” style romance novel. Even for a non worldly duffer poet, this seemed like an intriguing experiment. These are the raw download stats.

Supermarket Romance Novel: 7,600

Literary Short Story(With MP3 audio): 328

Poetry Collection (with MP3 audio): 121

All items were equally tweeted, splashed and splattered, battered and finally tattered. Downloads ran at about one per minute I think. Since the free deal ended, actual sales have continued at one per hour but only for the Romance. On a recent blog line I noted a comment by Jack Durish about so many questions in this whole business and I’m sure Rosina will be looking into her marketing ball. However, the quick snap shot suggests that these figures are in line with tree book shop sales. Although the poetry fared worst, it still reached the highest “chart” position for a living poet. What does that tell you about poetry sales in general and probably the acceptance by the e-reading public of this form? Rosina has a working hypothesis that the current e-read top up is like putting fuel in the tank of your car. You consume it. You do not  periodically take off the cap and sniff its essence. But – it’s all early days as these platforms evolve. I think the adaptation and media consciousness of writers will decide the future as much as the technology.

I will not grind on with analysis, but one odd stat. Emma’s “Sub Prime” was selling equally with the Romance when it was not free. Obviously it’s about the audience demographic…you can tell I’ve been mixing with buzzy bizzy folks can’t you.

Oh – yes  the kite. Somewhere above you there are currents of air. Can you run fast enough and long enough to tow it up to catch them? As you let go more line, the friction and weight of the string create more drag and you have to run faster. Oh – sod it, I’m off to the poet’s cave to write a kite poem.

PS For my non UK readers, an old London song carried the refrain “blow out your kite/from  morn til night/on boiled beef and carrots



Oh – Glorious Moon With All Thy Shoon

Oh – Glorious moon / with all thy shoon.  Well – we all dread poetry do we not? The opening line is from a remembered radio sketch by a British comedian called Tony Hancock. He played the part of a pretentious poet who held forth with his rhymes in any kind of social situation whether wanted or not. Hancock’s parody reveals a solemn truth about our inner selves. We hate to be embarrassed. All that inner “tosh” is for dreamers and arty types. It sure ain’t for bottom line corporate thrusters or geezers wot just gets on with life. Nah – all that stuff is for them softies wot can’t get a hard on( a stiffie) or sits about  weepin’ at the paradox of beauty set in savagery. If ya ask me they’re all a load of poofs and wierdos. Me – I’d make ’em all sweep the streets or just lock ’em up. Nah mate – I can’t be doin’ with any of that fairy shit .I’m a regular kinda guy…..

Perhaps my own parody is a little cruel. I bet there’s a few of you out there who will recognise a hint of this attitude. There are a couple of UK newspapers that rejoice in this kind of approach.

This weekend both myself and Emma Calin have got our books free for two days on Amazon Kindle as part of the grand KDP Select experiment.  The only reason for this is that we both work via Gallo-Romano media who do our formatting and techie stuff. All the platform building and net mending is too much for me. How on earth folk do it all on their own I just do not know. Now, here are the stats: Emma is grabbing 90% of the downloads. This means that free poetry with free MP3 audio is grabbing 10%. Well – this is 5 times more than the general market share for poetry. But am I grateful? Nah!

Oh please gentle citizens – check out my FREE poetry. All poetry products are delivered in plain wrappers by our discreet deaf mute robots  No one will ever know…..

Amazon USA

Amazon UK

The Poetic Truth

How exciting it must be for you, dear readers, to see that I am opening this blog with some statistics: poetry sales in the UK amount to less than 2 per cent of the market. If you take out the “dead poets”, the genius of rhyming comedy, Pam Ayres  and the anthologies such as “A Thousand Poems about Cats”, you are left with very little indeed. The marketeering literatti place the average reader of poetry in the over fifty age bracket. My revolutionary scheme to provide a book of poetry with every new pair of spectacles has so far not yet been approved by parliament. Opponents suggest that this would deter people from attending eye tests.

Now, far greater minds than mine receive money to write about all this, bemoaning attention spans, social media and “uncultured” education in schools. Of course, some of this might be true but there could be other reasons. This is my list:

Visibility. Out of sight is out of mind. In my youth I used to race bicycles. Once a rider gets away and round a bend and disappears it does not matter how hard you try. That thread of awareness has snapped. Once a generation loses contact with an element of culture it has no continuance. Country dancing, croquet, smallpox and the eating of rabbits ( in the UK) have all gone that way.

Now, I hear you say – you promised a nice juicy list. Well, just be grateful that I keep my lists short. VISIBILITY is the entire issue. No one will like every poet. Having rubbed shoulders with some real “up the backside” airy fairy poets I can report that I have not liked many of them. My favourite poet is an Indie like me.  Poetry has machine gunned itself in the feet and both legs with its inaccessible elitism. Dear old Pam Ayres, Benny Hill and popular music composers have kept the comatosed patient alive in the public mind. Barry Manilow, Neil Diamond et al have done more to keep the concept of poetry alive than any poet laureate. We poets must remember that this is a world where in many households either a stereo playing music or a TV playing across 300 channels occupies the whole environment while anyone is awake. It has been a revolution that the “Greats” could not have shouted down. OK Mr Tennyson – your friend died and you wrote a poem – so what? There’s been 4 murders and a car crash since lunch time on channel 18 and no one is writing a soppy poem about that!”

My own view is that poets have still got the guns. They have the ristretto fix in the internet café. The new media of music and video mix is there to be taken. Folks may never again sit under the summer boughs with a book of verse. They will pick up a phrase or an idea if it is delivered to their antennae and we fellow poet citizens of that same world put it there for them.

And the point is…
My poetry collection “I Threw a Stone” is FREE on Amazon this weekend, Sat 28th and Sun 29th January. It is available in Kindle format and has an active table of contents (so you can skip between poems). It also includes a link to a FREE MP3 audiobook – with all the poems read by me.  This can be played on your Kindle too – so you can read or just sit back and listen.  For a sample click here.

Roll up, roll up get your free poetry here……
Amazon USA
Amazon UK

Watch the video trailer for ‘I threw a stone’

Mathematics For Poets

Oscar Sparrow

Just a few times in life you meet someone a bit special. At a party during Christmas I came across a guy who made a real impression on me. He was not a corporate thruster. He was not a “get out of my way” Mister Important. He appeared to have no interest in Maserati executive cars or money. He was a little old guy, wearing a suit and looked up at folk through his eyebrows. I saw several youngsters chat and smile with him. He knew their names. He knew the names of their brothers and sisters. I wrote a poem about him. I hope the smallness of my work reflects my respect in inverse proportion.

Dr Czaykowski

His name, he said
was a common denominator
In Poland.
He was the numbers guy
swept here by War
and placed in brackets
outside the theorem’s QED.
His people too
were in…

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Let’s get Kreativ with the truth, the whole truth… well 90% of it

As a newbie to blogging, I was very pleased to receive a “Kreativ Blogger” award from a recent acquaintance – Michael Rivers (author of the Black Witch and Moonlight on the Nanatahala). In order to keep this accolade, first I have to list 10 interesting facts that folk may not know about me, and then nominate 6 more deserving blogging recipients for the next round of awards.

OK, here are my 10 facts… one of them is untrue but can you identify which?

1. I built and operated the first commercial rickshaw in the UK in 1976 and starred on national TV with Eamonn Andrews (famous UK chat show host) as my passenger when I launched my bid to “green up” London.

2. I wrote a novel in the cab of a sewage tanker whilst sucking drains and ships’ bilges.

3. I performed the marketing trials for black cherry flavour yoghurt in the UK and signed the report recommending production and launch.

4. I crashed a police car into Westminster Abbey in London.

5. I was guardian of the Lord Lucan file at Interpol.

6. I knocked a priest and his holy water over the dead body he was blessing.

7. I discussed the plight of South American parrots with Prince Charles.

8. I applied to join the French Foreign Legion.

9. I lived in a lodging house where a flightless crow made itself mobile by sitting on the head of a German shepherd dog.

10. I cycled from the UK to Paris, and back 11 times.

OK – which one is the big Porky Pie?  (London rhyming slang for lie). You can ask questions if you feel motivated and I may answer them, but all will be revealed on the 31st January….

In the mean time here are my nominations for Kreativ Bloggers of 2012:

1. Bert Carson

2. Christina Carson

3. Jo VonBargen

4. Phil Torcivia

5. Ru

6. Jan Morrison

They are an eclectic bunch – some irreverent, some sensible, some passionate, some grounded, some spiritual and some spiky  – I leave you to decide which – but they are all entertaining and work hard at their craft and I always look forward to their posts .  Well done you folks I take my hat off to you Kreativ Bloggers all.   You too may display your badge with pride in your side bar – providing you can work out how to do that (I have such problems on WP) and of course tell us 10 secret facts and nominate 6 more bloggers…  the chain goes on.

No Applause For Clapped Out Queens

“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life”. This quotation by Dr Samuel Johnson is undoubtedly true. Having spent yesterday in London I think I would add that when

Masked Balls

Masked Balls

a man is tired he would be well advised to stay out of London in order to preserve his life. The crowds around Big Ben and Westminster bridge were so dense that it was almost impossible to get along the pavement and pedestrians are forced out into the road. The situation was made far worse by seven (7) grubby men dressed as the queen in utterly dilapidated costumes and eleven (11) 3 card trick players with their coterie of stooges. I am not yet a completely miserable old man but if I have to shuffle off the old mortal coil I’d rather it was not by being squashed by a London cab. I believe that the queens will pose for photos with gullible tourists. Venetian carnival it ain’t.

However, my trip was wonderful. Last week I went to a country house and came across a mosaic by Boris Anrep. I learned that he also did the floor in the entrance to the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. Since London is only a short train trip I found myself looking at this fabulous piece of art that I had walked on so many times, but had never seen. Innocently I decided to take a photo. At once an official advised me that I was not allowed to photograph the works of art. I did point out that people were scuffing and treading all manner of substance onto the floor. He advised me with great courtesy that this was

I love you

acceptable as long as no one photographed the vandalism in progress.

Boris loves Maud

I won’t drone on about the history of the work but here is a link. For me the most interesting aspect is the depiction of his lover and patron Maud Russell as “Folly”. How little we think of what is under our feet. Poets like William Wordsworth and Jo VonBargen have seen infinities in blades of grass and the simplest of flowers. These images from other minds become the torch in the darkness of the self conscious mind. Oh  – poetry, how your tiny voice whispers amongst the tumult of it all. Yes – and in a sense the whole of ART is a tumult with its pantheons of schools, critics, apologists, galleries. libraries, soothsayers and junkies. All of it, verbal and pictorial, reduces to the language with which we speak to ourselves. Inchoate and debased, it is the pornography of  seething crowds and the frustration of intelligence before the dumb shrine of mystery. Only poetry works. Only poetry works.

Dear me – I do go on a bit don’t you think?

PS. The captions under the mosaic photos are by me, not any kind of official title. Looking at the floor, these were my humble vibes about two souls now quiet but speaking still.

The naming of parts

Today I returned to my home town of Eastleigh which also stars in my blog “the Importance of being Ernie”. In my guise as wandering artist/poet I was passing through a housing estate when, of a sudden I saw something that made my senses reel and gave me sensations that I had never known before. ( Can you tell I’ve been reading a romance?)  Oh all right – I’m doing a review of one. As a committed intellectual and seriously serious person I would never read such a thing for any other reason.

At first I could not believe it. Surely the Authorities had not heard that I was a famous poet by virtue of having sold a book of poetry on Amazon UK. YES – a whole book for money. The good thing about being from Eastleigh is that there are relatively few fame names to compete with. Obviously, the sale of a book of poetry triggered some kind of software tsunami that had councillors scrambling from their beds to name a road after me! Oh such joy. Soon the phone will be ringing with Radio Foreplay producers craving an interview. Who would have imagined that my life would come to this? Who would have imagined the skill of the town planning department to blend my name into other roads named Nightingale, Starling, Robin and Kestrel? Do you think I should complain about the dog poo bin or just keep quiet and be grateful.

Real poetry lovers will recognise the above nonsense as a a clumsy link to a poem by Henry Reed, “Naming Of Parts”. This work has had its critics and its parodies. It is a beautiful anti-war piece that seems to me to contrast the hard steel and certainty of the gun against the fragile mortal values of Nature. Other readers see it differently……I’m sure that my American readers will enjoy the accents – one working class London and the other refined middle class of about 50 years ago. Tony Blair is modern middle class.

What a truly wonderful world we live in where folk lavish their time unselfishly to put this kind of material on You Tube etc. It makes me happy and optimistic that this happens. Mortality is strangely redefined by media do you think? I listen to Piaf you know – and she lives. Beethoven may have heard his symphonies just a few times and yet for me he can live in my head over and over at the flick of a switch. Oh dear – I’m rambling again….

Given the talent of Reed I feel that fashion and critics have rather overlooked him. Maybe he has a road in his name?