Front-line 2011

Here in the UK the news is that the news is about what happened 30 years ago. Government papers from 1981 have been released and we can see all the secret memos between ministers and know all the things we did not know at the time. 1981 was the year of the riots as all the major cities were swept by mob violence. In London huge fires burned that were clearly visible from Westminster. Mobs looted shops and houses. The Prime Minister was Margaret Thatcher. Police constable L368 was an unknown poet called Oscar Sparrow, stationed at Brixton. One of the main bus routes was and is Railton Road. It was called locally “The Front-line” to denote it was a social frontier. It was never dull. In the picture above the poet is the second cop about to walk into a lamp post if he doesn’t pay attention. I never put on that uniform without feeling that I was in fancy dress.

I have several observations about civil disorder and rioting. It is exciting and terrifying in equal measure for both the good and bad guys. Everyone thinks they are the good guy. Despite all appearances, most people are just helplessly stuck in the middle. Nearly all these folk are poor and have very little themselves. After a while everyone wants it to stop. Then it stops and people turn up at the police station to say they found a wallet or lost their dog. It is not for unknown poets to pontificate on the politics or the social dynamics of inequality, race, unemployment and urban alienation. I could, but it would add nothing to all that has been said since and doubtless will be recycled when, inevitably, it will all re-run for a newer generation. If I were a modern day cop I would almost anticipate a mob throwing iPads, being filmed by officers with smart phones. Alternatively both sides would turn up with such an array of filming equipment to capture one another’s brutality that nothing would happen, except maybe a few aggressive zoom sequences.

I know I should not appear flippant about such serious affairs because people do awful things. There are rapes, murders, ghastly woundings and arson. I was far less of a revolutionary once I had sampled just a little of its flavour. A mob running wild is awesome, but if the batteries on the remote are low, manual control is bruising. The best rampaging mobs are on TV. Petrol bombs burn you. Large fellows with swords can make one very aware of one’s sphincter. 2012 approaches and one can sense certain straws in the wind. We never learn you know………

I was a cop because it was a job that I thought would give me stuff to write about. I loved Brixton and South London. It was a cacophony and a choir, a rhythm and a rag-bag. It was a fist in the face and a handshake. I wrote a poem at that time and it is in my collection “I Threw A Stone”

You can hear it here and read it below:

Frontline ’81

Red London buses
blood corpuscle bustle
past a drinking club
which is a terraced house
with fifty men,
one hundred whites of eyes inside.

Drinkers piss al fresco unperturbed
on pavements trod with butts of blow.
Dead cans of Red Stripe
barber pole along the dismal gutter.
Ragged Bee- Em- Dub-Yews cruise,
boozed bleached whore-cats
pussy sway to reggae beat
subliminal in chest and throat.

On a corner an ambulance.
White cop say
“How d’ it start?”
Black girl say
“Wid slave-ree”.

In the alley a trembling bitch
fucks a pack of sperm rage dogs.
A circling runt denied, accepts.
Sirens down the Brixton Road
announce aloud a further haemorrhage.

By Oscar Sparrow

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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.

Poet Has Only One Ball

Last time we met I was telling you about my trip to Bournemouth. Oh wow! you cry, recoiling from the excitement. But hold on a minute because I forgot to share the most interesting thing that happened. I spotted an oyster catcher and a stonechat. To some this would mean little. To the likes of me who do not see these birds such an event is quite important.  Probably I should get out more. I also spotted a green furry tennis ball. I pointed it out to my partner Jill who saw straight away that it was perilously perched on a ledge on a treacherously steep cliff face of superfluous adverbial danger. Now, here was a moment. She banned me from the ascent with pronouncements of doom, injury and a world ruthlessly dominated by Nick Clegg.  For a few seconds I walked on like a house-trained poet. What would a Mills and Boon hero have done? I heard the voice of the massive shouldered billionaire, 6’4″ Franceso Romanelli in my ears. I felt my sexual potency dribbling away into a limp Pharmaski mafioski Viagra wrapper. Suddenly I turned back, pulled off my biker’s studded jacket, exposed my chest and vaulted across the fence with a feral roar. Soon, I was back at the side of my sexy tensing sherpa who had remained weeping at base camp. I drew her into my arms and showed her my furry green ball. She swooned, but there again, she’s not had much in life. So that you can re-live this moment here is a little photo reconstruction of my heroism.

All this leads me on to the matter of bathos, who as you all know was the disappointing fifth or sixth musketeer who spent the whole book in a track suit on the bench. Some say that the manager tried to send him on but he had lost his Italian phrase book and couldn’t understand what the foreign guy in the gogs was saying.  Laydeez – this is a football jest so do not throw yourself in front of the king’s horse in your maidenly incomprehension or in bitter angst at my vile patronisation of your gender. OK, I’ve worked my consciousness into Victorian mode.

Poetry is a serious business that reaches us with a kiss when the punches are too common to count. Recently I was reading a blog of my old comrade from the Chateau Neuf de Paparazzi barricades, Emma Calin who has gone on to be a best selling romantic novelist. She raised the matter of Theo Marzials who some say wrote the world’s worst poem – “A Tragedy”. We have here a scenario where a thwarted lover wanders by the river contemplating suicide. Seemingly some heartless trollop has run off with his best mate. Dear Oh dear oh dear – surely such a thing could not happen these days. Theo pulls out all the stops and starts while contemplating his next move. As he wades in to the water he gives mortality some real wellie. This is a great poem to read. I bet you could do it better than me. Here it is.

Only a few days until “I Threw A Stone” is released. It’s poetry Jim. Do you guys think poetry should be read aloud? Depends on the type of poem I guess……