Youth – It’s a riot

What could enhance the sweet purity of Springtime more than an old bloke reading a poem? Well it does reflect the eternal cycle from wrinkled babbling all the way back and forward to wrinkled babbling. Therefore I decided to use a few more seconds of my digital fame allowance by putting the furrowed fizog on You tube.

You just gotta get the poetry out there. If you’re a poet (and I know that you are) why not join me at the Virtual Book Café. All I need is a short video clip and you’ll be joining the hum of twitching caffeinated minds amidst the clatter of cups and the accidental collisions of conversation. Contact details are on the website.

Find the Virtual Book Café:

Website: htp://www.virtualbookcafe.club

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/VirtualBookCafe/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/virtualbookcafe/

 

 

 

 

 

Trouble at the barricades

I thought up a poem. It’s just that time of year I guess.

 

 

Riot Season

Rioting in primrose costume

bashing on the shields of equinox.

Looting fields of nesting fleece

from barbed wire frontier cops,

stamping territory on private keep out land.

Cuckoos scam my password secrets every time.

Mug – I click your link.

So hold it there.

Summer tempts you in with dreams

of permanence and power.

Hold it there

rock and youth in hand.

 

Poet in Reticence

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Oscar’s back!

Last time I was here was November 2014. Since then I’ve been holding it all in like the south heading entrails of my lifetime’s vanity. Guys – poetry and gravity never relent. In the end you have to breathe out, express the urgent bulge of the soul. It’s only poetry so it’s only us who’re gonna notice. You can wear the same waist size – just lower with more over the top honesty. Only the true poets will spot the inversion of dispersion.

And, I’ve got a job. I’m a poet in residence. I’m dressing up and pushing it out on the wham bam instagram at the Virtual Book Café. It’s a run-down-up-town kinda place where the glitzy-glam-slam’s just walking by but the perfume tempts just long enough to hit the membranes of the poetic underclass. And you know who you are. And I’ll sure know who you are.

I need your lips to frame your clips. I’ve put up some footage in mouthage to give you a steer if not quite a bulletin. Sit with an accomplice in your current  café venue or capture the moment itselfie  or just one off the shelf behind the counter. I’m looking for that left bank feel of ristretto  incision or smooth latte reflection.

Do you wanna hang out?

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/virtualbookcafe/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/VirtualBookCafe/

Twitter: @VirtualBookCafe

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 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……..

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.

Freezing The Frame

Sometimes you just have to stop. We try to answer more questions in life than we ask. Essentially we try to answer other people’s questions:  questions posed by the bosses and the faceless systems. The hoop-meisters keep us jumping. The time servers steal our time and keep us servile. The image makers hold us up against their images. What survives of us, if we did but know it, is the poetry of ourselves. The true light of life is lost in the glare of packaging, marketing and business. To the dirt poor survivalist, the focus is the next meal or gulp of water. Such a one is the greatest poet. He knows the taste of water. The business man knows only the price per litre and how he can max out his margin.

Amongst all this undergrowth lies the hidden boulder of beauty. It is simply there. Property rights may restrict access, but there is beauty in the smallest of things and moments. I am working on a little project at the moment. It is a collection of short poems that attempt to freeze the frame and give some time to reflect on what we are thinking or simply what we are. Such poems need have no references or belong to any school. Today, I received a poem from the American poet Jo Von Bargen. She certainly has no identifiable posture or influence. She can be transcendently folksy or richly austere. Her poems can be death by a thousand cuts or joy with a single lunge. You always know that the boulder, honey or rapier is there and that it will get you. Here is one of her poems:

Child.

your hand hesitantly tries
the keyboard,
eyes reading impossible signs
on the score so that
every chord is suspended
like a voice grieving

all around you goes tender
at seeing you stop, helpless,
ignorant of the language
most your own

beyond, window ajar,
a breeze murmurs back

hummingbirds hover,
framed in blue sky,then vanish.
a branch rustles in the sun

nothing around us finds words,
and your youthful unknowing
is mine, is ours

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I love that poem. It freezes the frame with the warmth of humanity. So far I have lined up four established poets to contribute to this collection. There are many poets out there and if you feel you could be in it or know someone who might like to be, please let me know. I will be editing the final selection. I am looking for short “beautiful” poems in the sense that they stop time at those moments when we have a transcendence that no one could ever sell you or tell you that your model of beauty has just been outdated by the latest design.

There is no format or fashion to the poems. My own publishers, – Gallo-Romano have agreed to produce the book. All I can say is that it will not cost contributors any money. Anyone expecting to make money as a poet is not one. The loot will be shared. If my own profit on poetry is a guide I think a cola and a pack of straws is about right.

one whole plantimal

I’ve been in haiku mode again. It is about the scene in this photo.

Sun on rose open
to bees transferring life code.
A buzz blooms wholeness.