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!

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The Poet Lorry Park Drives On.

I have been working. Poetry calls for periods of intense idleness during which I cut grass, drive lorries, fix bicycles, service cars and test the contents of corner shop beer cans for strength and quality. I talk about football and have opinions about deep or attacking mid-field play. Most of this is pure fake ( re-cycled punditry and remembered phrases) but no one seems to notice or are too polite to say. Poetry is not on the radar of my day to day life and I always feel very self conscious about being one. I think there are quite a few others who are like this.

Imagine then my disquiet at setting out to film my favourite subject (me) reading a poem in a public place where anyone could see me. At any moment some person could start pointing at me and declare that I was that old geezer who mends bikes. I bet the poetic  Greats did not have this issue. All the same, I did it and here is the result

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My motivation was an invitation from Jeff Hansen to join the team on the at the Altered Scale blog. Here is the man himself talking about his creation. 

Now, for someone like me, this magazine gives me an insight into what artists are doing. The breadth of talent and imagination are staggering. Some of it is on the outer reaches of avant-garde but don’t be shy. Just relax and enjoy. A few days ago I came across Donna Kuhn on Altered Scale. Check this out.

What I love is that this kind of Art gives permissions. We are all squeezed into narrow roles of self consciousness and inhibition. Magazines like Altered Scale open up a whole new trunk. Dip in and dress up.

National Poetry Day

It has been so long since I passed by. Today is National Poetry Day here in the UK. Maybe the wider world did not know that. To be honest, I chanced to hear of it on the radio a couple of days ago. The trouble with being a poet is that I am just not engaged with the world of poetry. I used to try and even joined the Poetry Society. I joined the John Clare Society. I hung out with the National Poetry Foundation.  I went to poetic gatherings and felt entirely out of it. I used to feel as if I should be delivering the wine or looking in while cleaning the windows. I wanted to write poems that were about not being a poet. If I write anything at all which is worthy of the name poetry, it is because I do not feel like one. My ideal reader is someone who does not feel like a poetry reader. This means that my target audience is immense. As a young writer I wanted to say something profound about 10mm and 13mm spanners and their special relationship with nuts. I did not get accepted by editors but I picked up some handy car servicing work. If you are a big tough guy out there and know what I mean about the strange satisfying symmetry of those spanners please get in touch. We could create a special website.

To mark the occasion, the famous landmark advertising display at Piccadily in London  is carrying a poem by the Cornish writer Charles Causley. It is a wonderful poem and if you check out the Poetry Day web site you can see some great poems awarded prizes in honour of the event.

The only way a poet can celebrate a special poetic day is by producing a poem. I have been working in my poet’s overalls at the back of the cave on some new poems. I am compiling and editing a collection involving a number of other writers. I am so excited by the quality and range of the submissions. I’m also going to feature audio and there’s a couple of tracks that just give me a big WOW.  The great thing is that being the self appointed editor, all my stuff goes in without any tears, hate mail or counselling sessions with my rejection therapist. Just between us, I’ve been thinking of getting rid of him but I’m not sure how he will take it.  Here is my poem.

Falling.

Raindrops hitting the river flow
collision of birth death,
a  coming home to die.
Identity sweeping on and away;
a fluidity of self.
Ripples spreading on
the moving face of time
reaching forward
reaching back
helpless.

We watched the rain
from the river’s edge,
not lovers then,
two selves as yet
un-drowned in each other.

Let us kiss
and fall as raindrops
to be water, time and no one
but our love.

Sock It To Me Babushka.

I grew up in the shadow of the nuclear bomb and the cold war. A common form of conversation in the 1950’s was what would you do in your last four minutes of life. Many young people said “Sex” but I was a bit too young to know what that really meant. Nowadays 4 minutes would just about get me out of my poet’s overalls. The proposition was that 4 minutes was the length of warning we would have of Russian nukes arriving at a town near you. No one knew why they would be launched and we only knew that our boys were ready to do the same to them. I did not know where Russia was. I was very conscious of Cuba in 1962. When I joined the Metropolitan Police in 1977 we had to receive nuclear war training from two instructors who were dubbed “Nuclear Ned” and “Roentgen Ron” who explained to us about shooting starving looters and dealing with the thousands casualties beyond help. It was at about this time I began to wonder if the world controllers were necessarily the best guys for the job. The 1986  film “When the Wind Blows” which looked at Civil Defence in time of attack makes salutary viewing.

So, let us look at the Eurovision song Contest. The Russian entry has been chosen. As I reported to my American readers last week, the UK has chosen Eurobert Humperdinck (75yrs) to represent this Sceptred Isle, this Mother of Parliaments etc. We may as well give up. The Russians have won and for sure have my vote already. At first the choice of a band of grannies in traditional costume singing in Udmurt and (I think) some English may not have seemed calculated to win. However, their performance is so genuine and full of love that it will sweep the board. Check out the clip and at the beginning look at the old lady on the far left. A younger stronger woman next to her has an arm around her and they exchange a glance which is beautiful. It is about friendship and support. Seeing other cultures, their loves,comedies and struggles is the end to War. Ladies and Gentlemen here is Buranovskiye Babushki singing “Party For Everyone”.

I don’t know about you but I found that quite emotional. Look at those socks and remember that we were all going to annihilate each other a few years ago.

At this very moment my collection of poems “I Threw A Stone”  is free on Amazon KDP. Come on guys – just click on it. You do not have to read it. This could be the first time a living poet has got into the charts! It comes with MP3 Audio. Here are the links:

Amazon USA

Amazon UK

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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The Poetic Truth

How exciting it must be for you, dear readers, to see that I am opening this blog with some statistics: poetry sales in the UK amount to less than 2 per cent of the market. If you take out the “dead poets”, the genius of rhyming comedy, Pam Ayres  and the anthologies such as “A Thousand Poems about Cats”, you are left with very little indeed. The marketeering literatti place the average reader of poetry in the over fifty age bracket. My revolutionary scheme to provide a book of poetry with every new pair of spectacles has so far not yet been approved by parliament. Opponents suggest that this would deter people from attending eye tests.

Now, far greater minds than mine receive money to write about all this, bemoaning attention spans, social media and “uncultured” education in schools. Of course, some of this might be true but there could be other reasons. This is my list:

Visibility. Out of sight is out of mind. In my youth I used to race bicycles. Once a rider gets away and round a bend and disappears it does not matter how hard you try. That thread of awareness has snapped. Once a generation loses contact with an element of culture it has no continuance. Country dancing, croquet, smallpox and the eating of rabbits ( in the UK) have all gone that way.

Now, I hear you say – you promised a nice juicy list. Well, just be grateful that I keep my lists short. VISIBILITY is the entire issue. No one will like every poet. Having rubbed shoulders with some real “up the backside” airy fairy poets I can report that I have not liked many of them. My favourite poet is an Indie like me.  Poetry has machine gunned itself in the feet and both legs with its inaccessible elitism. Dear old Pam Ayres, Benny Hill and popular music composers have kept the comatosed patient alive in the public mind. Barry Manilow, Neil Diamond et al have done more to keep the concept of poetry alive than any poet laureate. We poets must remember that this is a world where in many households either a stereo playing music or a TV playing across 300 channels occupies the whole environment while anyone is awake. It has been a revolution that the “Greats” could not have shouted down. OK Mr Tennyson – your friend died and you wrote a poem – so what? There’s been 4 murders and a car crash since lunch time on channel 18 and no one is writing a soppy poem about that!”

My own view is that poets have still got the guns. They have the ristretto fix in the internet café. The new media of music and video mix is there to be taken. Folks may never again sit under the summer boughs with a book of verse. They will pick up a phrase or an idea if it is delivered to their antennae and we fellow poet citizens of that same world put it there for them.

And the point is…
My poetry collection “I Threw a Stone” is FREE on Amazon this weekend, Sat 28th and Sun 29th January. It is available in Kindle format and has an active table of contents (so you can skip between poems). It also includes a link to a FREE MP3 audiobook – with all the poems read by me.  This can be played on your Kindle too – so you can read or just sit back and listen.  For a sample click here.

Roll up, roll up get your free poetry here……
Amazon USA
Amazon UK

Watch the video trailer for ‘I threw a stone’

The goal not taken

Today is Sunday January 8th 2012. In the UK the sun rose at 0804 hours and set at 1610 hours.  I would like to declare this day as the first day of Spring. This is not merely my own pronouncement. The blackbirds in my garden have been showering the air with black feathered minims and quavers of melody. The male pigeons have been doing the mating- fan-tail-drag-and-cooing-head-nod-circle-dance. My shaman like animal language receptors translate this as “Fancy a quickie?”

What choice was there but to go to Danebury Hill Fort and think about primitive behaviour, about short brutal pagan lives, about priests, sacrifice and  how Man City v Man Utd which was on the TV, stood as a poetic metaphor for iron age life. Personally I believe that nearly all the humans sacrificed by the druids were football referees. As I sauntered through the hillocks and earthworks, just now and then I caught an echo of a disputed offside whistle, the braying mob and the hurled slingshot of racist/tribal chant.

I am so lucky to live near Danebury which is one of the most studied hill forts in the world. I can never go there without thinking of the poetry of Robert Frost in his famous poem “The Road Not Taken” since there are several choices of pathway around the site. Here is his poem, read by the man himself.

Danebury was the inspiration for my poem “Hill Fort”. I have always been drawn to the idea of man trying to make sense of his existence with just his contemporary tools. In my own life I have thrice read Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time”. In a previous life I would have read “A Brief history of Thyme” by the tribe herbalist. I did not understand either to be honest. All the same, one thing is certain – both were no more than stepping stones and the river will sweep all away until the next rock and eddy of knowledge hold us up in the transient dam of certainty.

Going back to my path through the wood and along the hill once again my mind wandered to roads taken (or not) and led me into the garbled poet-speak of fractals, of which I see everything and comprehend nothing. That’s why I’m a poet ….duh… The pictures are some random fractalgraphs and forks of possibility.