Freeze Frame Cover Reveal

I ‘ve sometimes wondered how it feels when the great and good are humbled and fall back to Earth. How does it feel to be an ex president, champion or corporate CEO?  In my working life I encountered a few such individuals but never posed the question. So it is that I contemplate my future as an ex-editor. At least the wages won’t change. Part FreezeFrameof what I had to do has been done.  Now I wait with the common mob for the knock of fame. Shouldn’t be too long…..

It falls to me today to reveal the cover of the Freeze Frame Poetry Anthology. It has occurred to me that it will not be long until there are millions of young digizens who will have no concept of the film frame or those saloons where dust and cigarette smoke swirled in the ray of light. Perhaps it is inevitable that each generation is fixed in terms of its technologies and artefacts.

The book now has its own identity on Facebook. (You will know when it goes out shopping and see photographs of it with its partying drunken friends wearing silly hats). I am advised by  my own editor Digizen Kane that it is very helpful if you “Like” this page.

Ladeeez an’ Genlemen ~~~~~~~drum roll~~~~~~~~No more cover ups. It is out there.

The digital edition complete with audio book will be out on 21st December. The tactile book will appear in January 2013.

Freeze Frame Anthology. Featured Poet, Claude Nougat.

Amongst the madness of it all, Mankind Incorporated does have a management structure. Claude Nougat head onlyLargely it is invisible and a glance at the news could lead you to think that there was no one at the helm. Behind the scenes there are the economists, planners and executives who keep the show going. A read through of Claude’s CV would leave you in no doubt as to her capabilities. In her professional life she was an economist working on project evaluation for the U.N. She speaks several languages, is a novelist, a painter, journalist, blogger extraordinaire and of course a poet. You can check out her full palmares, book list and gallery here.

I first encountered Claude when I chanced upon her blog. She ranges across the worlds of  politics, economics,the arts, publishing and current affairs. These days she is my Numero Uno source of guidance on the subject of world affairs. She is so truly international by virtue of her upbringing and career that she has a unique non tribal neutrality that is like radar in a fog.

For her contibution to Freeze Frame, she set out into the streets of Rome to write a series of poems based around locations and monuments frozen in their own era, yet speaking forward into our time with their eternal lessons. The poems and her physical voice combine to create a completely unique work which I cannot wait to reveal. She delivers her poetry with an inimitably coolDSC04557 accent and a sense of calm humanity and intelligence of which I would be utterly envious; were I not a poet of course and above such things!

Rather than a poem, I am adding one of Claude’s own paintings that she created  for the cover of her novel A Hook In The Sky.

You see, working with other writers is a journey of discovery. When I look at this picture I ask myself if it is a poem. Certainly it has psychological depth that poetry often seeks. The more I see of all the guys in Freeze Frame, the more I admire and the less I know.

As part of the series I interviewed Claude about her work.

Primarily I have always known you for your prose. I wanted you in this anthology because of your quality as a writer. You have produced some unique and quite haunting poetry. Clearly the poetry was always there, but was it a challenge to set it free?

A challenge? I guess you could say that, although I’ve never stopped writing poetry all my life, on the sly as it were… It requires letting go of all the logical framework I’m used to operate in – especially as an economist and non-fiction writer. But let’s face it, I already do let go of logic when I write fiction. Characters in my novels are born from the unconscious and they keep doing things that even surprise me! For poetry, it just means taking a further step into the irrational. Letting words echo each other, both in terms of the way they sound and what they mean and what they imply. Also, there’s another aspect, the audio that you support so much for your anthology – and here I follow you one hundred percent! For me, poetry is actually very close to singing. Songs are poor cousins of poems, though the better songs are pure poetry in their own right. The voice matters. And rythm too, it’s much more important than rhyme, which in any case is simply the more traditional form of poetry, largely by-passed by modern poets.


Your poems are set in Rome, yet you bring the eyes of a lifetime and a world to interpret your subjects. Are there universal lessons of philosophy and history that will always be of the moment?

Definitely. For me, it’s a continuum: the moment “freezes” timeless, universal lessons. Ha! How do you like that definition of Freeze Frame? Actually, I’d like to add that the very title of your anthology inspired the particular form of poetry I chose for it. I picked some “meaningful” corners of Rome and just let go my imagination, associating the present with the past…


You are a true citizen of the world. Your objective non tribal viewpoint is a joy to those of us who follow your blogs and essays. Where is home for you in terms of tribe and location?

To be honest, I have multiple homes, Earth is my home. I belong to the nomadic tribe par excellence – my father and grandfather were both world-travellers, we spoke several languages at home – and “home” has varied in function of what I did with my life. After a fantastic series of sojourns in Egypt, Russia, France and South America, I attended an American university in the biggest metropolitan town in the world: Columbia U. in New York. That shaped me, no question about it. But after graduation and a first job, I didn’t stay in America. By the time I’d turned 32, I was back in Europe and feeling at home all over the continent. I finally settled in Rome, the birthplace of our civilization. That’s something I feel strongly about. Yet for 25 years I travelled for work in over 80 countries around the world, from Vietnam to Peru, soaking in the differences and revelling in the warm feeling of being able to come back every time to my home in Rome!


You share with Joseph Conrad the fact that English is not your first language. No one would know but does it alter/enrich your approach to the way you express yourself?

Enrich my approach? I don’t know, you, and all my readers, should be able to judge that! It’s interesting you mention Conrad, I always think (and feel) rather closer to Nabokov who loved to play with words and wrote of course as you know in three languages (Russian, German, English). I studied German but alas it is the one language I don’t know and I regret that. I studied Russian too but I also forgot it entirely (out of practice, out of mind). Ditto for Swedish (my first language, even before French). The result? For a long time, a horrible hodge-podge, too many languages. A struggle to express myself without having words from another language popping into my mind and interfering with the process…Eventually, with much effort, I managed to overcome the problems and I suppose you might say I’ve become rather articulate. I hope so. One thing is certain: I love words, I love to find out about their origin. Semantics is fascinating, I’m endlessly curious about the links between words as you move from one language to another.

A big element of the Freeze Frame project is the actual physical “Voice” of the poets. Another contributor has described the recording process as a form of nakedness. How was it for you?

Feeling naked? Yes and how! It’s strange because it’s exactly the way I felt every time I participated in a show as a painter. My paintings were giving me away – here was  my secret inner self for all to see! Saying my own poems made me terribly anxious in the exact same way. Did I sound like I was “full of myself”? Was I giving with my voice too much importance to the words I had written? Was I (cringe!) bombastic? Horror!

Who are your favourite writers – in any of your languages?

My favorite writers are generally Russian, from Tolstoy and Dostoievski to Gogol and Bulgakov, Solgenytsin…But I imagine you want to know about poets. Then I have to say Federico Garcìa Lorca, Verlaine, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, T.S.Eliot, Leopardi…yes, the classics! But I’m intrigued by the moderns, don’t take me wrong. For example, Alice Oswald with her Dart river poem…And of course, all the poets in your anthology. Their dedication, their sensibility, their inspiration, their ear, their voice…I’m impressed and I take this opportunity to thank you for bringing them all together, including yourself in this anthology! Freeze Frame is a fascinating project, particularly the audio aspect which brings poetry right back to its troubadour origins…

When I started this project I had half a plan to create a 50/50 mix of British and American writers. As things have turned out Claude is the wild card entry who delineates the pendulum swing of the collection. It is a joy to have her on board. When I asked her about which of her paintings I could include in this blog she offered me a selection. Amongst them was a picture that once again took my mind into the labyrinth of poetry and indeed to the concepts of surrealist art. Check out Cavalli Enigmae.Cavalli Enigmae  (Melancholia - Me) olio su carta 100x60 cm



It’s A Frame Up

Gerhard Richter Abstraktes Bild. £21,000,000

I am very lucky to know some very talented people. Last night I went to an art exhibition featuring the work of the Hampshire artist Sara Barnes. I often wonder what it would have been like to meet artists like Monet or Turner. Would they have reflected their rainbow of genius as they spoke of ART through the prisms of their isms?  Maybe Monet would have said “What d’ya think of these blue ones I did out in the back garden mon ami?”  Turner might have quipped “I’m trying out a few blurry ones for a change”. The living Gerhard Richter might sidle up and confide “I was doing a job round the corner and I had a few odd bits of paint left…”

What I do know is that Sara paints because she loves what she does and she loves what she sees. The result is a range of pictures that ooze and proclaim the soul of the thing itself. Trees reach up until their tiptoes ache. Poppies bawl out their redness against cornfields. Billowing cumulus cloud  pile and pile in a summer afternoon ecstasy of sun warmed human juice. I have previously described her work as poetry for the eyes and her latest show marches on down that road.

She takes on the female nude, sea-scape, landscape, collage and the odd coke can. She is a painter because she loves to paint and wants you to love it too. You can check out her gallery here. In a week when a Gerhard Richter painting Abstraktes Bild sold for £21million it was a good time to reflect on how we value art. Here are three of Sara’s paintings with haikus arising from my own responses to them.


Ground rooted longing

a calling sky infinite

soul lifts on sap wings






Warmth flowing to cold

horizon sea edge defines

thought kiss beyond mind






A wave break of sun

open yell of heat buzz joy

pulse defies harvest.


Tomorrow I’m meeting the poet Paul Tobin who is one of the star contributors to the forthcoming Gallo-Romano text/audio anthology “Freezing The Frame”. Over the next couple of weeks there will be interviews with all of the poets involved. Since I’m the editor it is all getting rather exciting…

Anoraktic Relapse

1959 Mk 2 Zodiac: We dared to dream and dream we did. 

I really cannot help this but I do feel I left out a very important portion of my blog yesterday. There were no pictures of the Mk 2 Zodiac. My cousin Jeff had a mark 2 Automatic. Zodiac Executive in a maroon colour called “imperial red”. Oh yes – the Empire had not struck back in those days. The mark 2 Ford Consul and Zephyr range were distinguished by having a three speed gearbox when everyone else was moving to four. They also retained the vacuum operated windscreen wipers. These devices used the inlet manifold vacuum to “suck” the wiper first one way, then the other. This was great when the engine was cruising, but with a wide throttle position, the vacuum “inlet suck” was drawn into the engine leaving the wipers stranded like a Tea clipper in the Doldrums. Going downhill with the throttle closed would have the wipers oscillating like a Euro politico in a money crisis.

And before I do actually hang up my anorak, I do feel we ought to mention the Vauxhall Cresta PA.. This car was the vehicle as icon, an object of worship. It had more to do with possession and style than it did with transport. The guys who developed these cars understood the lure of bling long before the term existed. This was the high point of common taste becoming classic beauty – a bit like the American film musical.

A 1958 Cresta: Nothing exceeds like excess. 

The cars we drive hold up a mirror to the way we are. A glance at a 2010 car park in the UK would have shown nothing but grey and silver. I am beginning to note a slight move back to fun colours of red and yellow. If the two tone comes back it’ll be time to invest my friends. If I were world dictator I would be seeding the economies with two tone finned cars. In two years we’d be dancing in the aisles.  I would go on about the Vauxhall Victor but if you really care you can check out “Fashion Footwear” in my collection “I Threw A Stone”

If any of you guys out there are struggling with the term Anorak, here is a link. In a minute I’m going to take it off and go out wandering as a sensitive poet. I won’t even look at a car I promise. I’ll probably keep a piece of oily rag to sniff if things get tough.



Music For The Eyes

see that blue perfume

A few years ago I wrote a poem entitled “Bluebells”. I tried to address the central problem of  bluebell type phenomena – namely that what you see is not what you get. If you try to see the detail, the picture runs away from you. If you try to take a photo, you capture the picture but not the vision. I believe that moments of a particular point in time and space require both the reality and the human mind to draw the whole picture. I think this is why we have poets and I am sure this is why we still have painters. These days you could take a photo of a bluebell wood and photo-shop it with all manner of effects. At the end of it you could know everything about frequency curves and contrast balance. And it would not satisfy.

I had gone to the wood with granddaughter. In the morning it had rained but at that moment the sun was warming the air into a perfumed blue mist. It was that vision that gave rise to the poem. It is now a few years later that I have had the chance to possess a picture not only of a bluebell wood, but of my emotions at that time. The artist is  Sara Barnes and you can check out her art here.

One of the most wonderful things to have happened in my lifetime is that technology has handed the open mike, not only to the cognoscenti already in the club, but also to the guys pressing their faces to the window outside. The establishment bouncers can but look punchy in their one size too small jackets as the mob get their moment. I have felt for many years that straight forward representational  ART has had too little attention. Sara Barnes paints the scene and what she feels about it. The result is emotional and delicious.

Here is my little poem about Bluebells:

Too much too thrilling
This gasp of blue
That as a child I picked
And tried to hold in vases.

Now my child and I
Come to the bluebell wood
In the perfume of their afternoon,
In the drifting aching aria
Of their final vanity.

The cool life larva flows
From all that has known
The rhythm of this Earth –
This soul of blueness.

I think to snatch a prisoner
But this beauty does not rise from blooms
Nor from any labelled plan.
It teases singing through the trees
Melting from the conscious mind
Like fabric from a flame.

My child goes now to gather them –
I acquiesce now knowing that
Our growth, this mortal flower
Is rooted in our winters past

Our sorrow, our bluebells.

Sara holds exhibitions, sells paintings and will accept commissions. She has produced a painting for me which is as transcendent as the moment when I stood at the edge of a blue poem. It will be a treasure.

Eurobert Humperdinck

Eurobert Humperdinck

Just as the junk mailers start to tempt me into sheltered accommodation for the elderly and doctors line up to plot my graph into decline, an ageist thunderclap splits the certainty of the Universe. Englebert Humperdinck is to represent the United Kingdom in the Eurovision song contest at the age of 75 years.

As I listened to the radio this morning I heard Rick Santorum speaking in Ohio about how the Founding Fathers had saved Americans from the colonial monarchy. This is very true. What he did not say was that they also saved America from the Eurovision song contest. If I were one of his speech writers I would definitely have stressed this important constitutional point. For those kind Americans who read my blog, let me explain that winning the contest in recent years has little to do with quality of the music. Some 43 loosely Euro countries vie for the prize and voting is political  between blocs and cliques. If I were a professor of politics or a Westminster advisor I would make this show compulsory viewing. Wars and alliances can be predicted since the votes reveal a candour unknown elsewhere in diplomacy.  All the same some mega stars have emerged from the schmaltz fest into glittering careers. Both Abba and Celine Dion have ploughed this furrow.

The whole horrific cultural smorgasbord is a great festival in the Sparrow cave. The more corrupt and absurd the better. In 2009 it was reported that 6 Azeri (Citizens of Azerbaijan) had been arrested by the police for voting for the hated Armenians. Play to win – that’s the way to do it! Here is one of my favourite ever entries. Oh yes – this year the contest will be held in Azerbaijan.

Yesterday, in my arty poet’s vest, dark suit, trainers and scarf I went to an exhibition of Art at the Pallant Gallery in the beautiful cathedral city of Chichester. The artist was Robin Ironside (described as a Neo-Romantic Visionary) who often painted with a one haired brush with the aid of a magnifying glass. His work is so detailed that you have to study it intensely. Seemingly he never slept and stayed alive on a cocktail of drugs. His work is staggering and this was the first time I had seen any of it.  The exhibition runs until 22nd April.

In The Belly of The Wail

I’ve rather been in the poet’s cave, like some old catfish under a stone. I would love to have emerged brandishing the final Truth in poetry. What winkled me out was a subject that arose in Emma Calin’s blog where she mentioned the enmity between her parents. I always tell folk that I emerged from an egg like a turtle and scurried for the surf. However, there is much poetry about parenthood and I have contributed to it a little in my own poor way.

My favourite parent poem is by the English poet Philip Larkin. No one could ever have viewed him as cheerful. I think many Brits of my own generation will still be very aware of him, but poetry still had some kind of main stream potency in those days, a bit like an express steam train. Here is his poem “This Be the Verse“.

I’m sure that cheered you all up. Looking back I think that my awareness of this pessimistic poem while I was bringing up my own kids, at least made me aware that I was getting it wrong. Judging by the tracks in the sand, they should be competent turtles.

And talking of sand, I have been walking on it. Living near the coast, I’m sure I take for granted my opportunities to see the ocean. I managed to scramble under a pier and took the featured photo. There is something darkly sinister about pillars and dark water.

Comrade poets – unite with me and enjoy a poem by the American poet Jo VonBargen entitled “The Garden”. If nothing else check out the last 6 lines. Her style in this poem is rich and sensual and will inject some complex passionate irony back into your veins. At once Pre Raphaelite images  flooded my mind. Pure overdose my dears.

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.

Angel of love

I do love the feel of old country houses yet I am a proletarian from the servant classes. (My mother went into “domestic service” as a scullery maid at the age of 12). I do love the notion of angels, yet I am an atheist educated at a church school. Yesterday, the poet’s loyal and loving mate Jill ordered me to a grand estate to view an exhibition of angels. The venue was Mottisfont Abbey which is owned by the National Trust. The grounds are beautiful, blessed with the River Test and pure clear chalk streams darted with trout and fished by herons. The house itself dates back to medieval times and the Augustinian monks. In those days pilgrims flocked to see the forefinger of John the Baptist. In the 1930’s it was a centre for sparkling entertainment, wit, philosophy and power when Mr and Mrs Gilbert Russell hosted artists and even the Churchills.

OK – enough of the guide book stuff. The exhibition of angels drew me there and I was not disappointed. The theme was inspired by a rather famous mosaic on the front wall of the house. It was created by a guy called Boris Anrep who seems to have been larger than about 100 lives. He was a poet, soldier, ambassador, Wimbledon tennis star and scandalously, lover of Mrs Maud Russell.  Now you know never to invite a poet round for a drink. It was 65 years ago that he created his angel mosaic bearing the face of his lover. He is best known for his mosaics at the National Gallery in London, one of which again depicts her features in a representation of “Folly”. Oh dear – all those  lives, slipped away now, all those moments of sun streaming in through curtains at dawn with a day of love ahead when love, let alone life, could never end.

A total of eight angels were displayed and I have dotted a few pictures around the country of my blog estate to show you. I really do not know why I chose an angel back view. I guess I wanted to capture the idea of the angel flying away from me – always out of reach. I felt a real spirit of joy and transcendence in this work by  Andrew and Michelle Rawlings and entitled “Tarja the light bearer”.

The most striking form for me was by the sculptor Ed Elliot and entitled “Greer”. Again I chose a back view since it seemed to ground the figure in muscularity and a human imperative. The “angel’s” view was of the back of the grand house. This is a beautiful piece of work and if I’d had £7,500 in my pocket I would have paid the asking price. Perhaps I’ll sell my pedal cycle and all my poetry publication rights! And that leaves one angel to add which is not in this exhibition. In fact “The Angel of the North” stands near to the main A1 route at Gateshead in the North East of England. At one time this area was famous for shipbuilding and coal. Hints of this history find their way into my own poem “Angel One” which appears in the collection “I threw a Stone”  Controversy will never cease about this work. I guess it’s a love it or hate it. I have seen it many times since I used to drive trucks loaded with money out of a nearby printing works. I see Gormley’s work as representing steel and heritage with a kind of awkward fixedness reflecting the grounding and mechanisation of our souls. The image I have chosen reflects the huge scale of this piece. To me its true angelic purpose  is to  remind anyone trying to create anything that both adoration and bile may be poured upon you at any moment and that neither matter. And that we are mortal.

The exhibition was set in the most beautiful landscape and being a poet I found myself wandering here and there, looking under the rattling stones of the river bed and the jumbled contents of my own consciousness for that key capable of opening the experience to my inner self. In my mind I ran a piece of prose, written in a blog “A fragile thread”  by the American poet Jo VonBargen. She too had been wandering and engaging in a deconstruction of such times which illuminated this mental process so agonising and exquisite to poets. “In the silence, mysteries yield. They almost tell their deepest secrets. You wonder if this is a flaw in nature, a sort of missing link that might randomly connect truth with questions.”

Yup! That’s how it is.

Post-Boomerist Angst

Sometimes I wish I were educated. Sometimes I wish I could say I wish I was educated without being aware of the misuse of the subjunctive. The problem is that like most people I’m semi-educated, or probably octo-educated. Being a spiller of words, the whole master plan is to sound like I know what I’m gabbling about.  And that brings me to the subject of French Symbolist Poetry, the works of Stéphane Mallarmé, the painter Manet and the composer Claude Debussy. These titans of the Arts are unified by many things and now another chain of artistic unity binds them even closer together. Yes – I know absolutely nothing about them.

I stumbled across these gentlemen whilst researching the matter of poetry and its links with music. Thanks to Wikipedia, any old bash-along blogger can appear erudite and pulsating with nodes of knowledge. Les poèms de Mallarmé were deeply inspirational to other artists and also had sonic properties so that the words could mean many different things, particularly when read aloud. The composer Debussy wrote his tone poem “Prélude à l’après midi d’un faune”  probably thinking it was about a baby deer wandering about after lunch. To the artist such as myself, the sonic interpretation of the poem is a guy waking up and thinking about decorating his living room with a kind of beige emulsion paint if his missus goes up the bingo later on. Manet gets in on the show by having painted the poet. Do not tell me that you cannot see the hints and reflections of fawn in the flesh tones and the vibrant brush strokes. To the modern Frenchman the word faune could sound like phone and so a unity between Fauvism and Futurism is established. Since the phone did not exist when the poem was written, the sonic symbolism predicted its invention and arrival – almost certainly after a long Gallic lunch. The  iPhone is a first person narrative poem by Bambi in rap-speak.

I know I should not mock because a few days ago I did the audio book for my collection of poems “I Threw A Stone”. A chance reading of a guide to an exhibition of Degas revealed the link between Debussy and Mallarmé. At once I realised that I could walk in the footsteps of giants. I put on my poet’s overalls and an arty expression. I have the fortune to know a very talented young composer and asked her to write and play a small piece to reflect the title poem. The result was beautiful and I rather fear that people will prefer the music to the sound of my voice. I know that’s how I feel about it.

I first came across the notion of post-wotsit intellectualism when I went to an art exhibition by the post-impressionists thinking it was a P.R. initiative by the Royal Mail. This led me to read about being a post-modernist. Seemingly the post modernists came after the futurists who are actually quite ancient, having been around before the modernists. My contribution to the catalogue of intellectual post-isms is the term Post-Boomerism. I define it as a state of realisation that the architects of free love and youth culture will one day soonish suffer the droop, dangle a while and die. The software we wrote had that final glitch. It wouldn’t happen these days.