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.

oscar and Izzy 029

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.

Freeze Frame Anthology. Featured Poet, Jo Von Bargen

Many lives are unfulfilled. This is a big statement and of course, I only know a few people. Yet, we know it do we not? So much tempting fruit is dry, so many talents lie unexpressed. I have been a life long reader of poetry and have come across many beautiful and thoughtful poems. But you know, there was never quite enough juice. There was never that stepping stone to the beyond that I wanted to imagine. I had not expected to see the sort of poetry that I had always wanted to read and could never write myself. Then, I came across Jo Von Bargen based on a recommendation from the American novelist Bert Carson. His tip led me to Jo’s long poem “From This Far Time“. This work has become one of my all time favourite books. The scope is huge and the imagery quite breathtaking. In a sweep she conveys slavery and apartheid with the “‘plowmule sky of dragging days”. The evolution of life from the prehistoric mud is “a glissando of slow subterraneans”. In this poem, she takes on the formation of life, its degradations at the hand of man and states a pure philosophic truth that “No law can transform/What the soul hasn’t learned”.

I would make no secret of the fact that Jo was one of the inspirations for “Freeze Frame”. Like the other contributors she is distanced from the official establishment of poetry.Good job too – she would break it in half! She cares nothing for fashion or trends. Her subjects are the whole of life. Her physical voice and accent is a joy – just so full of notes and humanity. As a teaser here is a special treat. 

In the run up to publication I interviewed Jo.

I’m so happy that you have been able to contribute to Freeze Frame. I have looked for a variety of subjects and approaches to poetry for this anthology. To me you are an absolute master of imagery. You have that ability to connect the reader to an idea with a sudden picture insight or juxtaposition. Is this a gift or something you have worked on?

Thank you so much, Oscar! And sincerest gratitude for all your hard work on this project! You are a fantastic editor to work with.

I am grateful for the gift, and I have consciously worked to develop whatever talent is there. I have always best learned from a word picture, so I was sure others would respond to it as well. It has served well in the overall body of my work, it turns out.

Did you just wake up one day and realise you were a poet? Did you receive encouragement early on in your development?

Poetry has always been natural to me. My Mother saved poems I wrote from the age of six onward. I think I really got the bug seriously in the early nineties when I first read all the Beat poets, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac (although he would argue that label for himself), Gary Snyder, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and many, many others. Bukowski was a particular favorite as well. I had been reading Erica Jong and was enchanted by her poetic form. I’d never, ever read anything so truthful at its core. She was absolutely fearless, like Bukowski. So, 1990 onward was a particularly frenzied time for me in seeking to develop my voice and style. “From This Far Time” came out of that period.

To me your style is entirely unique with its jazz, classical, objective, scientific, emotional, joyful and despairing tones among many others. Where does your poetry come from and who has influenced you?

Hmm. See previous for influences. Thanks for that, Oscar. I’ve always had a deep curiosity about the sciences and all the arts, so I have studied these areas intensely. Knowing how things work is very important to me. I think it all mostly comes from my life-long ability to get to the truth of a matter. As a child, I got a spanking nearly every day for blurting out unwelcome truths at home. I never seemed to have the “veil” over my eyes like others did. Everything was crystal clear from the start. I could smell adult BS a mile away (except from boyfriends), and regularly voiced it….to my own detriment. I never fit into the form in which they were trying to mold me; I suppose I knew life was NOT what they said it was and I wasn’t going to be trained like a circus seal. Needless to say, I was considered the “black sheep” of the family, even to this day.

How do you work? Is it always inspiration or can you grind out that difficult line with doodles and re-writes?

When I’m out walking, sometimes a thought will strike me from the blue and it will tumble around in my mind for a couple of days before I finally have to get it out and follow the thread. I often don’t know what I really think about it until the poetry begins spilling out. It is this art form that has educated me, for sure, and led me down research paths that have vastly enriched my knowledge base. Sometimes it comes out perfectly formed, and sometimes I have to dink around with it until what I was searching for becomes crystal clear. Usually a subject to which I have great emotional attachment blasts out just as I intend it. Anger or sorrow are great creative motivators. In addition, I’m often inspired by other poets and the subjects on which they write. I seem to be attracted to arcane or unpopular topics in society as a whole and dig deeply into those as well. Secrets and mysteries beg to be unravelled!

Do you remember your first poem and how did it come about?

As I remember, it was about my little golden Cocker Spaniel puppy, when I was six years of age. Our neighbour found her dead of poisoning in her back yard and brought her home in an apple basket. It was my first experience with death and emotional loss. I could not find relief from deep mourning until I wrote about it.

Freeze Frame features the physical voice of the poets. I love your accent and the feeling in your voice. Your featured poem “Pole Dancing” was recorded live. This poem always gives me a big smile and a WOW feeling. Are you an experienced live reader?

Thank you, Oscar! In the nineties I lived and worked on campus at Southern Methodist University and was a featured poet at many a poetry reading (non-academe). The campus newspaper regularly published my work. In addition, a nearby bookstore, Shakespeare Books, had open mic every Friday night, and I read a lot there. I miss those days! Poetry lovers are a pretty scarce breed out here in East Texas.

Where 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 hope my poetry goes in a positive direction and that I can add sufficiently to my life lessons that my work will reflect thoughts that will enlighten others. Society is changing very fast, and I believe humanity will reach new heights of enlightenment and oneness with others.

I have never been part of the poetry establishment, period. I’d rather stick a needle in my eye. One must fit into a certain mold and work a certain way within those halls, and it’s my opinion that true creativity is often squelched before it can fully develop. There is also a level of snobbery within it that is totally against my own nature. No thank you!

It was fascinating to see Jo’s responses. In the foreword to Freeze Frame I describe her as pure poet rock with all its glinting impurities. You don’t have to wait for the anthology to check out her work. I can guarantee that some of her images in words will live on in your mind. She is a rare talent indeed.

We proceed with the work of getting this book out there. The poems are formatted. All the bios and pictures are are in the right places. The active contents page will be fun as always! The audio files are all ready to organise and configure. I don’t work on this side of stuff. Seems simple enough to me…….

Young Love Remembered

A quick shuffle to the front of the cave reveals nothing but fallen leaves, utility bills and a message from Her Majesty’s Government telling me that I can vote for my local crime supremo to control the police.  No one is standing for office on the anti robo-cop speed gun warrior agenda . All the candidates are political party apparatchiks so I think I’ll give that a miss.

We are nearly ready to line up for final approach on the “Freeze Frame” anthology project. I just have one last audio track to perfect and then it will be all action. Beginning next week this blog will feature interviews with all of the poets.

In the meantime, I would like to share with you a little video poem by my dear friend Emma Calin, the Romance novelist. When I first knew her she was a poet with a strong sensual passionate style. She has made a transition into commercial writing but retains much of her old poetic instinct. She had always said she would not write a poem again. However, during the writing of her work in progress novel, she wanted to recapture the sentiments of young love through the eyes of a woman looking back. 

One of the things I have learned from compiling the poems for “Freeze Frame” is that poetry truly is a medium unique to each writer. Each of the featured poets have entirely their own style and position. Emma’s poem featured above hits a spot that I had not realised I still had! To be honest, as a greying old fellow with a penchant for talking about Auden, Don Paterson and Wordsworth, I thought it might be unsuitable viewing. I could not help but enjoy it; so enjoy it I did.

The Poet Lorry Park Drives On.

I have been working. Poetry calls for periods of intense idleness during which I cut grass, drive lorries, fix bicycles, service cars and test the contents of corner shop beer cans for strength and quality. I talk about football and have opinions about deep or attacking mid-field play. Most of this is pure fake ( re-cycled punditry and remembered phrases) but no one seems to notice or are too polite to say. Poetry is not on the radar of my day to day life and I always feel very self conscious about being one. I think there are quite a few others who are like this.

Imagine then my disquiet at setting out to film my favourite subject (me) reading a poem in a public place where anyone could see me. At any moment some person could start pointing at me and declare that I was that old geezer who mends bikes. I bet the poetic  Greats did not have this issue. All the same, I did it and here is the result

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My motivation was an invitation from Jeff Hansen to join the team on the at the Altered Scale blog. Here is the man himself talking about his creation. 

Now, for someone like me, this magazine gives me an insight into what artists are doing. The breadth of talent and imagination are staggering. Some of it is on the outer reaches of avant-garde but don’t be shy. Just relax and enjoy. A few days ago I came across Donna Kuhn on Altered Scale. Check this out.

What I love is that this kind of Art gives permissions. We are all squeezed into narrow roles of self consciousness and inhibition. Magazines like Altered Scale open up a whole new trunk. Dip in and dress up.

Lyrical Salads

A while ago I was listening to a learned radio programme about the ground-breaking publication of “Lyrical Ballads” by Wordsworth and Coleridge, thus kicking off the Romantic Movement in poetry. In those different times, the two young poets wandered off into the wilds, in full poetic flow, discussing art, beauty and philosophy. They needed some cash and brought out a book to fund the trip. Somehow it seems that those opportunities have gone. Even if one did wander poetically and bring out a book of poems, there would be little chance of main stream publication and even fewer people to read it. I suspect that these days the poets would have filmed themselves for You tube with Coleridge hamming up the Ancient Mariner in full Caribbean pirate flow, hoping to go viral. Wordsworth would be tweeting  – “Just seen river near Tintern #mortality #pantheism.”

In that case very little has changed. Although I have never invited poets to wander off with me, (not even the pretty ones), the internet has allowed me contacts, stimulation and influences beyond anything available to the Great and the Dead. A while ago, an American poet Jefferson Hansen mailed me a copy of a small book entitled “The Branded Woman & Other Poems” ( This gentleman had already deranged my satisfied sense of music by introducing me to a band called “Purgatory Hill” play it LOUD!). Inside the book of poems was an invitation to recite them and so I have chosen one called “The Meditating Cougar”. You can hear it here. It is one of those poems that is about nothing much in so far as suffering, chance and mortality are not about anything much. The language is plain and poses no barrier to a reader also just idling in neutral, our own food chain hidden from view, sanitized and packaged. It is a poem that raises the question of determinism and causality in a quiet flat tone that hides the claw hammer of time striking the bell of chance. If that last sentence sounds out of place it is because I am also thinking of another poetic wanderer who has turned up in my cyber salon.

This week, another American poet Jo Von Bargen has published a collection of some of her work “It Ain’t Shakespeare But Oh, How it Glows” which I had the pleasure to review. Whilst Jeff Hansen’s poem is bare of image, JVB’s work is a feast of imagery. I have written of her before and often one of her phrases pops into my idling consciousness. In her poem “Hissing Like Fire” she also chooses a moment from the unscheduled natural world. As an experiment I have recorded it as both a complement and a contrast to the first poem. You can hear it here. I do not think either of these writers belong to a “movement”  as such. The internet has no manifesto but infinite manifestations. Perhaps we are at the dawn of “Manifestism”. I feel so lucky to be here.

I have always needed to read poems aloud in order to come to terms with them. It is a process something like peeling an orange as if you had never seen inside one before. Even then – do you understand an orange? Poets send off their little poem creatures as if into a river – perhaps flowing on to the ocean, catching up in an overhanging branch or circling in an eddy. Some may sink dead for a thousand years until some silt bed dries and a tiny body becomes a treasure. A poem with truth from the polished or the rough hewn hand has an ever enduring voice.

I had a big sky day this week. I was doing some familial child care on a windswept beach, conscious that I had written so little of late. I wanted to do a perfect classic Haiku but in the end I just did what I did. It’s legitimacy is simply that I was there and I needed to justify being one of those old guys mumbling to themselves.

Dome sky stretching day

My thoughts fly out to fill you

But you fill me first.