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 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.

Freeze Frame Anthology. Featured Poet, Jefferson Hansen

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C  Altered Scale with flats (Wiki)

Hey – look out the window. There’s a lot going on out there.  I guess we all know that but sometimes you come up against something that jolts you out of your complacency. A while ago I caught a couple of tweets from Jefferson Hansen which led me to the Altered Scale on-line arts magazine.  For an old wanderer of mellow meadows and the bargain aisle of Walmart , these pages were quite revelatory and liberating. There’s poetry, video, music and many mixes of them all and more or less anything else you can think of. I have featured there myself as pure prosaic me. There is no snobbery or agenda, no wish list or dream team. I love to look in and I love the fact that it is there.   IMG_2967Jeff Hansen

Altered Scale and its accompanying blog are the pure labours of love of Jefferson Hansen. His work creates a marvellous platform for other artists who can be anything from photographers to cross-stitch poets.  Whatever your tastes, desires or curiosities, I guarantee you will find something stimulating. The fact that he provides this platform says a lot about the guy.  My impression is that he evades my attempts to label him as altruistic but I know how much work this kind of show takes.

I have always said that the greatest talent of all other writers is that they are nothing like me. Jefferson Hansen has ideas that make my synapses feel like rusty railway points (I hope that this term exists in the USA) Come to think of it, I don’t think I would have had this image without him.  To me his work is risky, spontaneous and brilliant and I am delighted that he was able to contribute to Freeze Frame.  As the big poetry anthology bird descends towards final approach I interviewed Jefferson about his work.

Jeff, from where I see it you are one hell of a unique guy. Certainly you have opened my eyes to many possibilities in poetry, music and art. You appear to work selflessly to promote other artists in your Altered Scale blogs and magazine. To me you are a bit of a Gertrude Cyber-Stein’s monster but without the ego. What motivates you?

I don’t know. I like art, I like artists who are nice, and I get some recognition for it, of course. And the person who posts the most on the blog is…me. So I’m not so selfless, after all.

Obviously you are fearless about what you do. Much of your work is experimental. Do you fear failure or is everything and anything moving towards ways of expression and understanding?

Failure. Hm. If something fails, I just don’t publish it. I suppose everything moves toward expression and understanding, but some of that movement is boring–I’m interested in fascinating movement.

Recently I watched you improvising a further part of your poem “and I am alone thank god” which features in Freeze Frame. Your improvisation kept a few of us astounded at your ability to take the theme on into an intellectual abstraction just off the cuff. Do you enjoy the danger of improvisation to camera?

I love improvising. Often, the images and so on that come from the pressure of improvisation are later worked into “finished” poems. Improvisation is, I think, necessary for all artists. However, much of my art is grounded in a jazz aesthetic; indeed, “altered scale” is a jazz term.

Your own work is often abstract yet can pop up with pieces like ‘Meditating Cougar’ which is linear, philosophical and naturalistic. Do you have any kind of starting point in your own writing or does the subject ambush you?

Neither. The form ambushes me, and I go with it. Sometimes I write in almost a ballad fashion. Sometimes I write Romantic. Sometimes I write visual and wild. Sometimes I write in performance forms, most recently in “Your Majesty the Motherfucker.”

If folk do not know about “Altered Scale” allow me to say here that it is a truly exciting and original arts magazine featuring almost anything from Pulitzer Prize winners to old conservative English poets via abstract dance and improvisation. Do you feel there is a mission here to discover the fundamental particles of art by collision as if in some kind of Hansen particle Accelerator?

I never thought of it that way. I don’t believe there are fundamental particles of art. I just like the colliding.

You are a poet by virtue of the fact that you write and perform poetry. What is your background as a writer? Have you tried many forms?

See above. I don’t “brand” myself as a poet. Some avant-gardists must hate some of what I do. I don’t care. I just do. However, the fact that I sometimes write avant-garde necessarily puts me in the avant-garde camp socially and institutionally. That’s just the way the world works (right now).

You do not really promote your own work but seem to slip it in among other artists who are banging their own drum. What is the vision for your own art or do you see it as part of a broader continuum?

Oh, I don’t promote my own work much on Facebook; it seems gauche. However, I would announce a new publication there. Basically, I publish my own work on my blog simply to keep it active, so that something interesting is happening most days of the week. I also find sending work out to journals and so forth kind of boring. Why do I need the go ahead from an editor to feel confident that my work is “publishable”? I already know it is. So I publish it myself, avoid the middle person, and help to keep the blog active, thereby bringing attention to the other artists on it.

You know, when I was a younger man working in London I used to hang out at galleries and poetry readings. I was a member the Institute of Contemporary Arts and went to all the shows. I’ll always remember seeing Bunuel’s L’Age D’Or  – his surrealist film masterpiece. I was not part of the set there and felt very alone. I was, after all a cop – a Nazi oppressor of criminal freedom. (I learned to hide it and started wearing trainers with a suit, vest and scarf). Jeff Hansen takes the bullshit out of that high art clique. He mixes it up and spreads it on. He’s a talented poet too. I’m delighted to have him on board. I recommend checking out Altered. Scale. Here he is explaining his mission.

Sock It To Me Babushka.

I grew up in the shadow of the nuclear bomb and the cold war. A common form of conversation in the 1950’s was what would you do in your last four minutes of life. Many young people said “Sex” but I was a bit too young to know what that really meant. Nowadays 4 minutes would just about get me out of my poet’s overalls. The proposition was that 4 minutes was the length of warning we would have of Russian nukes arriving at a town near you. No one knew why they would be launched and we only knew that our boys were ready to do the same to them. I did not know where Russia was. I was very conscious of Cuba in 1962. When I joined the Metropolitan Police in 1977 we had to receive nuclear war training from two instructors who were dubbed “Nuclear Ned” and “Roentgen Ron” who explained to us about shooting starving looters and dealing with the thousands casualties beyond help. It was at about this time I began to wonder if the world controllers were necessarily the best guys for the job. The 1986  film “When the Wind Blows” which looked at Civil Defence in time of attack makes salutary viewing.

So, let us look at the Eurovision song Contest. The Russian entry has been chosen. As I reported to my American readers last week, the UK has chosen Eurobert Humperdinck (75yrs) to represent this Sceptred Isle, this Mother of Parliaments etc. We may as well give up. The Russians have won and for sure have my vote already. At first the choice of a band of grannies in traditional costume singing in Udmurt and (I think) some English may not have seemed calculated to win. However, their performance is so genuine and full of love that it will sweep the board. Check out the clip and at the beginning look at the old lady on the far left. A younger stronger woman next to her has an arm around her and they exchange a glance which is beautiful. It is about friendship and support. Seeing other cultures, their loves,comedies and struggles is the end to War. Ladies and Gentlemen here is Buranovskiye Babushki singing “Party For Everyone”.

I don’t know about you but I found that quite emotional. Look at those socks and remember that we were all going to annihilate each other a few years ago.

At this very moment my collection of poems “I Threw A Stone”  is free on Amazon KDP. Come on guys – just click on it. You do not have to read it. This could be the first time a living poet has got into the charts! It comes with MP3 Audio. Here are the links:

Amazon USA

Amazon UK

Unlicensed Poet

Charles Bukowski showing us how it should be done

I don’t actually think I am a poet any more. I think I may have moved on to the next phase of slowing down and looking at other people’s poetry. Once upon a time I used to be quite jealous when I realised that some other poet had said something brilliantly before my own genius had had the opportunity to grasp the matter. I used to hang around with a bunch of other poets who all felt the same about everyone. I used to be utterly outraged if they did not rend their clothing and gnash their teeth on account of my pre-emptive insights and alliterative allusions. There was one guy (a superior academic) who was such a judgemental fascist that the rest of the sweet loving poets group dubbed him the stanza panzer.

Such politics and struggles fill much of our young and middle years. It serves a purpose – to drive on the mind to create a poem to “beat” the others or to win some competition, literary prize or the pretty girl/boy. A few days ago I was sitting in the garden with my 1883 copy of Wordsworth. I turned to “Lines Written above Tintern Abbey” and realised that in fact until that moment I had been too filled with ego and the white noise of existence to read it properly. Mrs Wordsworth’s little boy has always been a great favourite of mine. He had insights – yes, insights. The jazz, the weed, the wine of separation from knowledge into knowing is the business of poetry.

Since I have left the cave for the odd excursion into the world of the cyber-ode I have encountered a few writers who I admire and enjoy at least as much as those old great guys. One of them is Paul Tobin. He is one of those poets who cut straight through to the truth of things with quick stabs of insight. He is not flashy but neither is he ostentatiously stark. He’s bloody good. Check out a few of his blogs

Then there is Jo VonBargen. This lady does the image. Her work splashes and tumbles. It sparkles throwing up careless coincidences of ideas and metaphor that you know deep down are the result of  wordless pondering. Long after reading some of her poems a line or phrase will come to you. Her work is a quest – as imperfect as the strained strata of rock lining a gorge. This week I have had the chance to work with a  young composer (Isabelle Fuller) to create a small videotry of one of Jo’s short poems. She asks “Where is God?” It was a genuine privilege to read work by another poet and to see how much a young artist could feel in her poem and translate into music.

If you want to know more of Jo’s work check out her website.

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.

An Absolute Gentleman

The death of Davy Jones – lead singer of the Monkees was sad news to me this morning. As a young man I used to help out at an evening club for handicapped kids. There were those who would join in and those who were too nervous to dance and sing along. Two songs never failed to get them up. “Daydream Believer” and “I’m a Believer” conquered the inhibitions of the shyest kids.

Several years later I was a cop on the streets of South London. As a result of a traffic accident a short youngish guy with kind brown eyes found himself being interviewed by me. He was humble polite and charming. He told me about his work on American TV and his identity came to light. The traffic matter was fairly banal and in those days cops were not that fixated on motorists. I thanked him for for the music and he thanked me for my attention. There will be all manner of obituaries and the memories of  showbiz stars in the media. I just wanted to say my own tribute. He was an absolute gentleman.

A letter arrived at the poet’s cave advising me that it was about time I started to think about sheltered housing for the elderly. I filed it next to two letters from the Health Service inviting me to provide samples of unspeakable body products so that I can be screened. A glance at the Newspaper revealed separate articles revealing the two greatest threats to these Sceptred Isles. 1) We are living too long and they cannot afford us. 2) We are still drinking and smoking too much and dying too young. Sometimes I just do not know what to do for the best.