Flash Words – A New Collection From Paul Tobin

Taunton Fest 8.11.14

Nothing flash. Nothing but the poetry, the whole poetry and nothing but the poetry

It’s been nearly two years since I felt I had anything to add to the mania of colliding digitalia we have created for ourselves. Single issue mobs of panic stricken petitioners charge up and down the decks of our suffering steamboat shrieking their shallow formulated brands of SOS messages. A million tweeters rocket celebrity tinsel and cute kittens into an ever accelerating particle belt of orbital noise, superficial synthetic outrage or nano second joy. And it never pauses or stands back from itself. If it did; it would stop. It won’t.

Imagine then the joy of picking up a book of poetry conveying the commanding calmness of a poet reaching an important maturity. Now, come on – no poet thinks he/she is important. What an odd word to choose. Yet, for me “Flash words”,  the new collection by Paul Tobin is important in that it defines where we are and hammers down a marker of sincerity. Paul’s work isn’t showy. His style is flat like a plate of steel. His words slot in like rivets – the right degree of hardness, a tight push fit. It is a poetry made with hand tools, some worn eccentrically to impart the hand that holds it, the mind that knows the feel and balance of its task. There is no machine welding – some seams are left un-filed. There are no nods at fashion. Each poem gets the shape it has arrived at so far. In twenty years he might go back to it. Poems finish off poets. No poet ever finished off a poem.

I read Paul’s first collection “Blessed By Magpies” some time ago and invited him to join a group of international poets in “Freeze Frame“, a text and audio anthology I was editing with a view to promoting the spoken realm of poetry. Since then I have read his contribution to “Juncture 25” which show cases the work of a group of West Country poets.  Unlike me, he exposes his work in progress for critique on his blog “Magpie Bridge“. Brave man indeed.

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Paul has a thing about magpies and all things black and white

Yet I was not prepared for “Flash Words”. His work has overflowed the previous vessels. Added to his blunt observation of unvarnished life in such poems as “Man Shaves The Head Of His Monkey” there is now a deep sensuality. In “Cherry Picking” we arrive at a “dark sweetness that longs to tear its skin”.  Time and time again his poems feel for a metaphysical pattern such as in “End Of The Line” and in “The Birds Return”. In the latter migrating birds arrive. The poet says “You have no say”. It is a thought to fill at least a day unless of course one had already thought it. In my 65 summers, I had not. Many of his poems mature in the mind overnight and I suspect many 4.am contemplations. Referring again to “End Of The Line” it was only now as I write that I saw the continuum from the process and vocabulary of production to the process of the “end”.

In “Tipping Point” the pasting up of a poster becomes a metaphor for the failure of our materialism to adhere properly to our souls. How delicious to contemplate this issue in terms of “friction of the paste”, and “cumulative capillary power of the water”. I won’t say anything more about this poem because I want you to read it.

Only Paul Tobin could conceive a poem about “1979: A Typical Friday On Top Of The K Unit Dechlorinator.”  Working men’s hands are on tools and equipment. Human minds populate an industrial landscape. A “bursting disc”, “a deluge valve” and others form the proud esoteric jargon of unfashionable forgotten men, bleached out by the clean glamour of  digital wealth and un-scarred hands.

“Flash Words” contains a body of poetry only possible from the mind of a lifelong poet. The range and scope are those of an accomplished thinker. Poem after poem convey a preparedness to hide nothing – not the meaning when it would seem cleverer, nor the emotion when it would be easier to pull out of the dive.  I know poetry does not sell so I urge you to buy this book and savour it. If no one buys it, it will matter only to those who miss the chance. To quote the poet himself, the “Ice has been scribbled on the inside of your window”.

I am so happy to have this book here on my desk. It won’t be going anywhere else. All of us held in the gravity of poetry may sometimes dream of weightless flight or migration to some richer planet with paved roads and rules of law. Then we read a poet and know we can never escape. Paul Tobin is that very thing that no man can call himself without some doubt in his heart. It is the gift of others to call a man a poet. All other prizes are baubles and mortality.

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Freeze Frame Anthology – Published

Santa maybe

Santa may-be

Sometimes I have to remind myself that I am a reasonably serious old bloke who has scribbled poems for about 50 years. Finding myself posing in a Santa hat holding a Kindle Fire device for a picture to be captioned with punny quips made me wonder if I had lost the plot. If I appear disrespectful to poets and poetry I do apologise. O brave new world that has such peep-shows in it. Such is the circus of the modern book world. Apparently some fiction writers are so busy on the road that all their stuff is done by ghost writers. Seemingly it’s the brand that matters. It seems incredible to me. Perhaps I won’t beat myself up over the Santa hat. If it makes poetry more accessible and unstuffy then it has to be a Google plus. I defy anyone to ghost write in the style of any of the six Freeze Frame writers.

Far more importantly, the book is out there and up on Amazon. It was delivered without anaesthetic during the night, about 24 hours premature but at a good weight and with powerful voice. This is not the end of course but at least everything is all together and in one place. The stars are the poets who had enough faith in me to join in and risk all to be part of the Freeze Frame project.

Tomorrow evening 1800 hours UK (GMT)  – 12 noon USA EST – there will be a launch party at which all can meet the poets. There will be readings and comments and hopefully a few silly hats.  This takes place on Facebook with a live link to a Google+ ‘Hangout’ – you can watch us all having our virtual champagne and reading a selection of poems from the collection.  Here’s the link:

Stop the world – FREEZE FRAME – it’s the launch party!

Find the book here:
Amazon USA
Amazon UK
Amazon Canada
Amazon Germany
Amazon France
Amazon Italy
Amazon Spain
Amazon Japan
Amazon Brazil

Ho Ho Ho!

Freeze Frame Anthology – It’s all about…ME! Interviewed by Jo VonBargen

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Bard On A Wire
I’d like to introduce our fearless leader and Editor of the upcoming Freeze Frame AnthologyOscar Sparrow! This has been a wonderful project to work on and Oscar has made it so easy for all of us! Oscar’s own work is without peer, in fact, he’s my own favorite living bard! Here, an example from his delicious book of poetry, I THREW A STONE, available at Amazon.com, which has an audio file of him reading the poems accompanying it.

Engine Management Light
Some semi-conductor keeping time
turns his back
as half an orchestra falls flat.
A filament of existence
beyond darkness triggers an enlightenment.

I stare into the void of mystery,
in the pews of ignorance
awaiting the priest,
images of invisible strands
spinning in unknowable blackness
fill my blind imagination.

Others speed by
down the Damascus Road.
On the hard shoulder,
facing the question –
My question,
I open the book and pray.


For a little taste of his enormous talent, listen to him read what has been said to be the “worst poem in the world”, written by Theo Marzials. I found it enchanting!A TRAGEDY by Theo Marzials. Read by @Oscar_Sparrow  Unforgettable!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qfXSQ9wj3AIWe are all so excited about FREEZE FRAME and offer heartfelt thanks to Oscar and his team at Gallo-Romano for all the hard work they’ve done to come up with what we think is a fantastic result!

I had the opportunity to interview Oscar before the release of the book, just as he interviewed us; this is a peek at the character of a very intriguing individual!
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Oscar Sparrow Interview (by Jo Vonbargen)I appreciate so much that you have been able to put together this unique collection called Freeze Frame. You once said to me, “If we froze the frame – what would we see? A guy taking an order at Burger King and punching the codes on his till? A girl in the line texting her friend the menu choices? A land mine victim smelling a rose? A guy flicking sports channels. So many layers of interface and distraction! Paul Gaugin asked “Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?”

Now that you’re wearing the Editor’s hat, has any of this become clearer to you?

What has become clearer to me is that individuals are very capable of focusing on those moving moments of life. In some cases, moments of experience live on forever perhaps and to some extent define those individuals. It is even clearer to me that this IS the work of poetry in terms of how it stands relative to our minds in this multi-channelverse. As for Gaugin’s question – well, the linear idea of an individual life being a flash of light between bookends of oblivion is obviously far too simple. As for what we are, maybe more than ever I see that we are seekers of understanding. Probably we are trying to understand rainbows by eating mud. Poets deal with what they don’t know but they cook the mud before they serve it up.

You are my favourite living poet, hands down. You peel a subject down to the quantum level, disassemble the atoms, then rearrange them into a veritable feast of multi-layered meaning and social commentary. I find them absolutely fascinating! When did you first realize poetry would take over your life and be your very breath?

What a wonderful compliment – thank you. I suppose that as quite a young kid I did not fit in because I wanted conversation and discussion to go much further and deeper. We use descriptions such as “as hard as stone”. The use of words in this context troubled me and kids and teachers shuffled away when I would ask how you “understood” the hardness of stone. My refuge was poetry – particularly Wordsworth. I bought a copy at a second-hand shop. I hated all that poetry they served up at school – all that dah di dah di dah stuff.  I wandered about a lot, looking at yellow iris and learning the smell of water and advancing snow. I wanted a poem to look out beyond to that place which could not be a place but which my tiny brain can only see in terms of a location. I must say that your own work “From This Far Time” touched me deeply by heading out on this path.

That’s very sweet of you, Oscar! Your own response to that work gave me so much encouragement and hope for the future…you have no idea!! I’m curious as to how you actually work in your “poet’s cave”.  As for subject matter, where does your poetry come from and who has influenced you?

The poet’s cave is a philosophical place quite often of no thought or input. I have to go there just to be.  The biggest fact of the human mind, the universe and everything that binds them together is something we completely ignore. Intuition is the dark matter of thought and the construction of our picture of existence within our consciousness is intuitive. This intuition is very much there in the child. The “system” both ignores and discourages it. Who says to a scruffy kid “I want you to wander about free, not trying to think anything. If you want to – or if you feel you just have to, come back and tell me what you felt”.  Now that is not just a school for poets – that is a school for the world. The sad thing is that once we did have that power and freedom. We have forgotten where we left ourselves. 

As for influences – certainly Wordsworth, the English Movement guys like Larkin. Robert Graves, W.H. Auden, Thomas Hardy, Maggie Huscroft, Elizabeth Browning, Walt Whitman, Les Murray  and so many writers and poets. The work of Gaugin, many films and singers like Jacques Brel. The word play and cleverness of Charles Trenet leaves me dumb with admiration. My biggest influence is that elusive intuition in a scene or moment. Always that question “What words can fit the intuitive signal I am receiving?”

You are one of the best spoken word artists I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. You have a natural talent for dramatizing the written word and leaving us spellbound! Have you ever worked in theatre?

No theatre I’m afraid. I think a critic would say that I just love the sound of my own voice. Look – we all have depth and nuances within ourselves. The voice can betray/reveal them. Life and poetry are acting jobs. Shyness and uncertainty make us reluctant to risk the true expression of our spirits. If I’m any good, it is because I have grown old enough to let go and just do what anyone could do if they stepped up and grabbed the microphone. 

Remove the editor’s hat and put on the poet’s. What message would you leave the world on your tombstone?

Wow – hmmmm. It would be difficult to not appear righteous if I gave advice about how to live when I know nothing more than anyone else. If I were to try to combine the basic selfishness of mankind yet their ability to elude its grip, I would condense everything to:  “Love yourself –  for your kindness.”

What direction 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 have lived through several re-launches, renaissances, second comings and new waves of poetry.  None of them have changed the sales or perception of it. In a rather joking way I dub myself the “Poet Lorry-Park” in order to underline my allegiance to the cause of non-academic people. I feel that poetry was stolen, mystified and separated from the main stream of life by a clique of media connected cronies. They wanted the poetry world to be ten stars and all the rest of us fawning upon their latest style of line break. To me, this is tosh. You can stuff a sonnet in your rhyming bonnet or ride into Jerusalem on your assonance for all I care. What I want is for anyone who feels a surge of joy, who poses an infinite question or who sees a dog peeing on a cabbage AND who really sees it and reflects on it to realise that they themselves are the poet. I do not believe in any regime or form of poetry. It is the naked honest mind seeking to use this heavy toolbox of words to do a job no one will ever complete. The subject and my intellectual/emotional relationship with it dictate the form of what I write. How can I be bigger than the power of the unwritten poem? The poem is the statue unborn, yet living in the stone.  

I have skirted around the poetry establishment because I thought I might pick up some electricity from the overhead wires. I felt the current but essentially they only wanted a coin for their trochaic meter. In short, let there be poetry and let all be poets. Those with the best words will be guides, not stars.

Finally, Jo – my dear friend, thanks for inviting me to ramble on for far too long. I dreamed that one day I would be a poet.  To be so dubbed by a poet I admire so much is a true honour and happiness. 

Thank you so much, Oscar! It has been my distinct pleasure to know and work with you!!