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.

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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 – 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!!

 

Freeze Frame Cover Reveal

I ‘ve sometimes wondered how it feels when the great and good are humbled and fall back to Earth. How does it feel to be an ex president, champion or corporate CEO?  In my working life I encountered a few such individuals but never posed the question. So it is that I contemplate my future as an ex-editor. At least the wages won’t change. Part FreezeFrameof what I had to do has been done.  Now I wait with the common mob for the knock of fame. Shouldn’t be too long…..

It falls to me today to reveal the cover of the Freeze Frame Poetry Anthology. It has occurred to me that it will not be long until there are millions of young digizens who will have no concept of the film frame or those saloons where dust and cigarette smoke swirled in the ray of light. Perhaps it is inevitable that each generation is fixed in terms of its technologies and artefacts.

The book now has its own identity on Facebook. (You will know when it goes out shopping and see photographs of it with its partying drunken friends wearing silly hats). I am advised by  my own editor Digizen Kane that it is very helpful if you “Like” this page.

Ladeeez an’ Genlemen ~~~~~~~drum roll~~~~~~~~No more cover ups. It is out there.

The digital edition complete with audio book will be out on 21st December. The tactile book will appear in January 2013.

Freeze Frame Anthology. Featured Poet, Candy Bright.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt can be dangerous hanging out with poets. They often handle dangerous materials without a risk assessment. One of my rules is to read aloud any poem I encounter. When Candy submitted her poems for Freeze Frame I opened the file in the Gallo-Romano Media office. I selected a poem and read it out. Suddenly there was a sob from the lady who had been happily tapping at her keyboard. The poem to blame, “Sam” will appear in the collection. It is a simple poem dipped in human life juice. Some writers have this quality and I do not think you can force it if it is not there. With Candy’s poetry somehow you know that it is informed by an emotional life lived. There are many nuances in the human soul. Regret is not always sadness. Joy is not always happiness. Sadness itself may have on occasion an enveloping pleasure of gravitas and insight.To understand and savour this, we have poetry. Candy operates in this area but without self indulgence. Her work can be suddenly direct, factual and almost harsh. Above all you feel a fellow human reaching out to share how it is and how it feels. For poets, this process rarely gets beyond the work in progress file. In her collection “Candy Colours” she opens with a poem  A Life So Far. It begins

It’s only a draft you understand
I’ll get it right some time soon.

Well, that’s life – and far more importantly, that’s poetry.

Candy was my fifth interviewee and I think her responses show very clearly what she is about and the unique thread of poetry that she brings to Freeze Frame

Reading your introduction and chatting to Paul Tobin after your audio studio session, the word “naked” has come up. You talk of poetry somehow revealing the truth of you. I see this is a valuable insight into the way you approach your work. I think you have every justification for feeling confident in your nakedness but how does it feel to you?  Have you held back from getting your work out there?

Yes I have, I have used the analogy of writing in closets and singing in cupboards for years-for whatever it is worth when I write I seem to strip back to the bones my bones-and I guess that as few of us are unique-there may be a synergy out there somewhere. I now being of a great age that I have little left to lose by my honesty. Sometimes I so wish I knew another way to be-but I don’t.

When I received your poems I read them aloud in the Gallo-Romano office. Your poem “Sam” is very beautiful and poignant and brought out some tears. Your work often touches on the loss of innocence and to some extent, regret. Is this a theme in your thoughts?

Yes-I suppose it is apparent. I always thought I would die with Edith Piaf’s words on my lips-but not so. Whilst I embrace life and all the beauties it has to offer-the antithesis also exists and I find separation ridiculously hard.

You write about people. You also write about people in places. It seems to me that travel has been an element in your development as a poet. Is this so?

I have travelled out of pleasure and out of necessity and lord it has taught me much. I have also travelled out of autonomy and out of powerlessness and it is these opposites that seem to rule my life. I do so try to take on the lessons that they all seem to offer …….

Do you see yourself as a poet or as a woman, wife, mother who writes poetry? It is clear to me that much emotion comes off the page of your work. Is writing an emotional experience for you as you dig down into memory and experience?

That is a very hard question to answer without stripping back even more layers upon layers. I write as a being, I happen now to be a woman but I have been a girl and I have synergised/empathised with boys/men as well as females and  then I have my spirit which I believe may just rise above gender and worldly position. However I write as my experiences have found me or it is I who have found them? And I am a woman, a sister, a mother, a lover, a friend and having been a nurse for most of my life a wannabe healer. There are times I truly feel I transcend these boundaries-but it usually gets me into trouble………

Listening to your audio track, I catch all sorts of influences in your accent and voice. Is that the result of an interesting life?

That is a very kind way of asking that question. It’s funny –I have lived in many different places-worn many different hats-and I am told that when I have had a few (too many) glasses of wine my American accent is very strong!! I guess I have many hats- I hope it’s a strength-I have always felt comfortable amongst kings or tramps or anything inbetween as long as there is good intent-who am I ?? perhaps my poetry is trying to find out

I love the straightforwardness of your poetry. There is no puffy language. Have you developed a lean style over time? Do you ponder and revise at length or does a poem just leap out trimmed and formed?

Mostly when I write-it just comes out –formed-sometimes I feel that I cant put that on the page as its too much ownership for the reader and I feel all responsible, I feel I have to apologise for dripping loss all over the place-and yet that is who I am. I so don’t want to bring anyone down but if someone reads my words and then does not feel so crazy or all alone then that’s great-and for me too. I guess that’s why I write I am shouting-hello-to anyone out there.

I have worked with people much more versed and academic than me and it lends me to working more to form-my only fear is losing passion………..

Had you read any of your poems aloud to an audience? Do you read them aloud to yourself and having undergone ordeal by audio do you feel it brings a fuller experience of poetry?

I LOVE hearing people reading their own work as I so know it adds a dimension that otherwise is lost. I do enjoy reading my own work-but there we go-naked again-and it takes much courage……

Candy has the honour of having the last word in Freeze Frame. She has a style which I believe many readers will recognise as being their own hearts and sentiments. In her first collection “Candy Colours” she employs the tag line “Poetry Especially For Women”.  It is undeniable that her work does have a distinct femininity in that it is expressed from the heart of a woman. To give you a taste of her work I have selected a poem from her book.

YOU

Art becoming life and back again
Delving for the entwinable essence
Once this precious treasure found
Holding tight for fear it loses breath

You should not take me to the edge
Unless you beckon me to fly
You would not show me such brilliance
Then return me to lonely shadow life

Once a life is saved needs must it will be shared
Shall I rest here then for those trusting days
And nights where promises are made
Breathe then, this heart is in your grasp

The next and final interviewee is me!  Jo VonBargen has provided the questions  Indeed it is most fitting that she should do so since it was Jo who first caught my attention when I re-emerged into the world of poetry to publish “I Threw A Stone”. I realised that the poetry I wanted so badly was out there. It was the poetry of utterly talented writers like her.

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…….

Freeze Frame Poetry Anthology. Featured Poet, Paul Tobin.

Paul Tobin

Today I am featuring the poet Paul Tobin who will be appearing in the ‘Freeze Frame’ anthology which Gallo-Romano will be publishing. I came across Paul’s work about a year ago and started to follow his blog, Magpie Bridge. I’ve since had the pleasure of meeting him and having a ‘Dinner With Andre’ session. (Until I met Paul I had been unaware of this film, but he was kind enough to share it with me. I think it says something about him).

Paul is a dedicated and gifted English poet. His work has a quality of depth in construction that shrugs off ornament.   He is one of those guys who is poetry. Everything he comes across and thinks about begins a process of conversion into poetry. When you are around him you begin to see that we are living in a world of unexpressed poems. Much of his poetry centres around his birthplace of Widnes. Here is one of them, taken from his collection ‘Blessed By Magpies’

Widnes Bridge Poem.

Back to the Delta,
Up the Muddy Mersey,
Over the green bridge
Whose struts define the space
Of this gentle arc.
It is never still,
It shudders at the traffic,
Undulates with the volume.
And on a day like this; raw,cold,
That lazy wind would slice through
The cantilever and splay your guts below.

For me, this poem exemplifies Paul’s style. The flesh of the living human, Nature and the bridge engineering flow into an exposure of reality which is just a little edgy and dipped in mortality.   As we get close to the launch of the Freeze Frame anthology, I interviewed Paul about his work.

Long before I had started the Freeze Frame project I was aware of your work. I read one of your poems where some men were working on the roof of some kind of factory. Immediately I realised that you were my kind of writer and that we probably had many experiences in common. Coming from a blue collar life of toil and grease; was it easy to come out as a poet?

I was a poet, well aspiring to be a poet, long before the grease and overalls. I suppose I made an existential decision that I was going to be a poet when I was twelve years old. I heard Songs from a Room by Leonard Cohen that would be about the time it came out. I made the connection between him being a poet and getting the girls. It took about another twelve years before the work was anything but awful. But I kept at it with a mixture of naivety and enthusiasm.

I left school at 16 and served an apprenticeship. I was a fitter for a further four years at the local ICI plant. K Unit Maintenance to be precise, which was the title of the poem to which you refer. I wrote it sixteen years after I had left the tools. At the time I was in engineering it would never have occurred to me to write about what I did at work, at that time I was writing mainly about relationships, with the self-absorption of the young.

Looking at your style I notice an enormous range of references. Nature often blends with anecdotal story. The metaphysical often comes down to the personal. Have you always had a questioning mind about existence? Is there a wider quest always in the back of your mind as you write a poem about the specific subject – even if it be an apparently ordinary moment of life?

I have no idea where poems come from, they appear out of the ether and I just grab them and work upon them. I have this idea that poems are all around us and poets happen to be the people who see them then bring them into our world. This sounds a little odd, pretentious even, but is the only way I can describe the experience. Once the poem is here though, caught on the page, being revised and revised through as many drafts as it takes, then I can see where the ideas have come from. But while I am getting the initial idea down I just let it flow with no attempt to shape it that comes later.

Until recently I was a member of a writing group for about four years and what I liked about it was the challenge of sitting down in a room and having twenty minutes to produce something on a set topic. I like the idea of being put on the spot and see what come out. I facilitate a poetry group here in Taunton: Juncture 25, we meet twice a month and one of the sessions is a workshop (can’t get away from the language of engineering)and I usually run the session. I love the challenge and try not to plan it too far in advance, so as not to give my subconscious a head start.

Some of your work is political in the sense that it raises issues of public behaviour and people’s perception of their society. Are you interested in politics and where do you think the poet should stand – as a neutral reporter or advocate of a viewpoint?

I believe that the poet must stand by their beliefs. That said I am not sure what I believe in these days. I think I am interested in ethics more than politics. I cannot see a way forward politically, I think we went wrong as a society probably before I was born, I certainly think we have taken many foolish steps since then. But that’s another interview I think…

Poets attempt to turn the personal into the universal, that’s what I’m looking to do once I catch that idea on the page. And there are dangers in making a poem too overtly political, one is that it will age badly, but more importantly I don’t want a finger pointing, obvious work, that batters the person over the head.

In my last book Blessed By Magpies, there is a version of a poem I am still working on. End of Species Exam is just that the equivalent of an end of year exam in school. On the page it is about forty hectoring lines, in performance it has reduced to about fifteen. I want people to think, not to bludgeon them with a set of simple slogans.

One of your poems is called “Prayer” which is a conventional religious term. The poem, however, has a searching pantheistic flavour which does not seem to relate to a codified theistic viewpoint. Often in poems and blogs you give thanks for your privileged life. What can you tell us about the spiritual context of your work?

Yes. I think it is important to give thanks for our privileged lives, we have enough to eat, to drink, we are not in danger of losing our lives, and we are better off than many of our fellow humans.

I have been very influenced by a sixteenth century English mystic, Thomas Traherne. He speaks of delighting in the success of your neighbours as much as in your own success, of wanting the best for everyone. His most famous quotation is:

You never enjoy the world alright till the sea itself floweth in your veins, till you are clothed with the heavens and crowned with the stars.

It is such an inspiring vision and one I try to live up to. I have no formal codified viewpoint as you point out. I am though influenced by the Tao. I think the idea of Balance is really important. For me it is essential to have a personal relationship with the Creator, and to give thanks for the beauty around us and the privileged life that I have.

I suppose I have been drifting in this direction for most of my life. I like working in groups with other people, I like that energy of creating that you get in groups. I have influenced by my work as a Rieki Master, I think it is that growing sensitivity to the energies that make up the world has brought me to realise how fortunate I am.

Much of your work is cleverly observed human interaction and intercourse – some of it quite conflicted. Were you always an observer of mankind?

I suspect so. I people watch all the time. One of the poems in the anthology For I Keep Watch came about one day when I was just walking about Taunton and on two separate occasions people walked into me. My first thought was that I must be invisible today, then I was struck by the idea of the Stasi, the East German secret police and how they kept files on everyone. Then I thought who follows the follower (to misquote)? I wrote the first draft in a doorway.

As to charting the conflicts within interaction, yes, I do. It is how I see people, we are complex and at times we are in conflict. I write poems about the conflicts I have been involved in to make sense of them.

In a few poems you touch on personal unhappiness and failure of relationships. Do you think that poets need turmoil and sadness to see the truth of things and human nature?

No. As I say I use my poetry to make sense of my life. Even if I am never sure what I am going to write about, when I work on it on the page I can usually chart where the component pieces have originated.

Actually I am an optimist, I can usually see the positive in most situations, though on a few occasions I have become depressed. Then I actually can’t work.

Actually I get many ideas when I am in a calm, contemplative state, when I do Tai Chi or Reiki, or I am meditating. I find as I get older I can turn off the chattering monkeys in my head and just be. First thing in the morning is a very productive time for me. That’s usually when the poems come tumbling out.

You are poet in residence at the Fishguard Folk Festival. To me this is something of a true accolade.  It also sounds like a chance to be out there and beating the drum. Tell us a little about this and what it is like?

What is it like? Well that depends upon the festival. I actually have been poet in residence at a number of festivals, last year at The Purbeck Folk Festival and this year at The Acoustic Festival of Great Britain as well as Fishguard Folk Festival. I have also performed at a number of others around the country. They are all very different, some are more organised than others. Fishguard is a gem of a festival, well organised, with a variety of good venues, friendly audience and its free! There is a marked difference between the way the arts are supported in England and Wales. In Wales they are far more passionate and supportive.

I think my abiding memory of festivals is the communication. I tend to walk around the festival site and engage people in conversation and read them a poem. It’s a good way to contact people.  I feel quite naked when I do it but I usually get a reasonable response. It is always surprising what poems go down well, though I have a small set of poems that I usually save for the end of a festival set.

There is a difference between the audiences I read to at music festivals and those at poetry evenings or poetry festivals. People at a music festival are primarily there for the music, the poetry is an add on. At a poetry event you can take more chances. I suppose in the end that is what all performance is about, taking the chance of baring the soul and speaking from the heart.

I am excited about the Freeze Frame project and Paul has contributed some fantastic material and also an audio track that brings so much out of his voice as a poet. My next interview will feature a very different type of poet who has such a depth of image power that sometimes I just have to stop for a WOW! Of course, I’m talking about  the American poet Jo Von Bargen.

As I’m beginning to shape the show and decide the order in terms of voice and style, I cannot help but having a real sense of joy at bringing these guys together and putting out this collection. The contrasts, juxtapositions and the human voice are adding so much to the mix. OK – head down and editor’s hat on……..