The Dark Side Of The Boon

Caroline, Emma, Gilli and a tall dark stranger (Photo Cara Cooper)

In my self styled role as the ‘Poet Lorry-Park’ I have gotten into some strange positions. Just imagine trying to reverse a fully loaded articulated sonnet on your blind side mirror over two lanes of Faber and Faber editors. Whilst this may sound a surreal event, it is not anything like as far fetched as my attendance at the Festival Of Romance in Bedford over the week-end. Imagine the ageing Sparrow outnumbered  100 to 1 by female Romance writers.

My attendance was encouraged by Emma, who needed a poet to drive the car, carry step ladders, a crate on wheels, a long length of wood and several heavy boxes of books. It transpires that to be a fiction author you also have to be a cross between a travelling circus and a troubadour.

Despite all my reservations I had fantastic weekend. Imagine my joy at standing before a bunch of attractive women reading my poem “Erectile Dysfunction”. One glance was enough for everyone to realise that I was not talking about any kind of personal experience. No one actually told me that, but it must have been quite obvious by my virile demeanour.

I met some great writers and a good number confessed to the old cock sparrow that they had written poetry. In truth, when you heard them reading their work, you could hear it. There is a lot of tosh talked about romance writers, mainly by the snob literati. These writers give it out from their hearts to serve a big spoonful of desire, passion, comedy and lust to their readers. Tell me a better reason to write.

And now, let me tell all you poets out there of my contact with the dark side of temptation. As poets we do not seek fame, recognition or book sales. We are pure intellectuals are we not? Yet, at the Festival I met with a young lady who, were I to be a writer of Romance, would be cast as the alluring courtesan of an Arabian oilygarch salmon fisherman. I will not name her because perhaps she spoke in a moment of emotional confusion. All the same, this Mills&Boon representative advised me that they would consider any genre of work including poetry for their new e book venture. I would have blinked, but my vanity prevented me from exposing my wrinkles. They don’t call me toxic Beau Brummie for nothing you know. Any poet out there wishing to explore this avenue, please get in touch. Dare the sparrow reach out for a crumb held in such a tempting hand?

Poet at work. (Photo Caroline Bell Foster)

I do want to acknowledge the writers who shared my table at the Book Fair. Not only did they have to endure a hard day on their feet, but also some old geezer rattling on about poetry. Cara Cooper, Caroline Bell Foster and Gilli Allan please accept my thanks and appreciation for your charming company.

Thanks also to the two actors who turned up at intervals to play out scenes from an historical novel. I thought them to be most frightfully good Sir. Also, there were two Thespians dressed as soldiers from a tin of Quality Street. It was immensely surprising to meet such fellows with their swords out in the Gents.

These events take a whole heap of effort to organise. The supremo was the author Kate Allan, but there were several selfless elves and reindeer. It was so kind of them to allow in an old poet with nothing but a few love poems. As if I did not know, the biggest truth to emerge from it all is that writing is a tough game at any level with many setbacks and struggles. These writers really work and try and try again. The market changes, the demographics of readership changes.  Secretly I was glad to be a poet – ethereal and uninterested in worldly success. As an ambition, it is far easier to achieve. I think I’m there.

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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.

Pasta Maldonado

Sponge Bob

I know a bloke called Bob.He was not always called Bob. He was christened as Robert – except that he was was not christened on account of having been accidentally spawned on the back seat of a Ford Capri by unmarried atheists. Last night I saw him in the pub. He works with young disadvantaged kids. After we had downed a pint or six (thereby exceeding the Librium/ Conservatory Government health regulations by a considerable margin),he confessed to his murderous and sadistic tendencies towards children who called him “Sponge Bob” or “Bob the Builder”. To my Latvian,South Sudanese and Azeri fans I must point out that both names relate to TV comedy cartoon characters. After a further pint of Old Cirrhosis Bowel-Buster Ale, I was suffused with shame. A man of my poetic sensitivity and high minded correctness would never entertain a cheap and derisory play on a fellow human’s name just for his own entertainment!

Pasta Maldonado

O.K. I made a mistake. The other day when Pastor Maldonado won the Spanish Grand Prix I had never seen the hero’s name in print. As far as I knew he had no human features other than his helmet and no body other than his torso de logo. In an orgy of fusion – illusion and filled with passione and hutzpah,  I went to the gas ring at the opening of my poet’s cave and created my latest dish –  “Pasta Maldonado”. In the tradition of our Euro-Feetballing heroes (yes – these days you have to strike it with either foot), I have dedicated this dish to Sir Frank Williams, Renault engine designers and to anyone actually called Pasta. I have added a picture of the dish. It is a tribute to Venezuelan Verve and ASDA hot sauce.

My dear friend, the shameless and adorable Emma Calin (Romantic Novelist and lapsed poet) called me a couple of days ago. As always she wanted something. I agreed of course. Then she told me she wanted me to do the audio for a story she had written. It required being a Londoner and some sort of northern character. I did it of course – but I fink I mighta been a bit Dick Van Dyke wiv the accents. It will be out soon.

Lie in water truth

Since my partner’s mother (not a fan of the godless drunken poet tendency) was popping in today for a familial chat, I went off to be a poet. I have the good fortune to live in rural England, yet with access to industrial dockland. I am revving myself up for some poetry centred around the work of Sara Barnes – a seriously talented visual artist. In the meantime I took a few photos and meditated upon a theme for a haiku. I’m quite new to the haiku form but I appreciate  its idea of focus. I like to play with the idea that a thing is what it is because it is not all those other things around it that define its outline. It’s like the calf sucking at its mother’s teat. The nipple is defined by the sucking  mouth and its need. The mother is defined by the flowing milk and it’s gift. This sense of fit and pattern have always been part of my poetic landscape. Probably, I’m going on a bit but I’ve been wandering as a lonely cloud and you’re the first to get the download. I watched huge cranes unloading a ship in the docks. Here is my humble haiku:

Hull, defiant steel

Imprint of what you are not

Lie in water truth.

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 Oh No! Pastor Maldonado has distressed the kind, humble and moderate Formula Uno Lewis in some kind of shunt in Valencia today. Lewis has thrown his steering wheel from the pram. On the horizon I see a dish delish of Ham-il-tone Baloney. Watch this Renault  Espace.

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

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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……