Death, Taxes and Commentary on How infrequently I update this blog.
Sunday, January 8, 2012, 11:51 PMAround this time of year, someone says something about how I'm walking round, apparently well and seemingly quite busy and doing stuff and yet, I have, for months, failed to register any of this on my blog. Not like they really mind or care, more a wondering observation. This time it was Tom Hodgkinson of The Idler, which I think is a little rich.
Well then. The next thing that might be relevant or seeable, unless you happen to be attending a Tower Hamlets primary school or, or, oh, other stuff which you won't be doing, is this.
Poem films for the London Underground, collaborations between a series of great animators and some very cool poets. It'll will be launched from the 16th January.
(2012, just in case I don't come back for a very very long time.)
After that, it'll be another collaboration, this time with pioneering cardiologist Dave Hildick-Smith, on the Human Heart, for the fabulous Fuel.
Sunday, October 16, 2011, 04:26 PMI've got a week of writing. I was going to hole up in a cheap b&b somewhere in the middle of nowhere, but Murray, my oldest friend, who I never see, has a huge guest room in his apartment in New York. Plus, he works insane hours, he's in his studio from 6am til late...
Now I'm here and he has informed me that he's inbetween series and it's cocktail hour.
So I've flown xthousand miles to sneak in writing time, the main difference being that instead of two small kids, it's just one big one.
Still, in the words of King Julian of the Lemurs, it's not a bad view. And it's so so good to see my beautiful, funny, friend.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011, 01:39 PMThe Guardian's Fiachra Gibbons met me and P in Paris for the Trianon gig and then podcast producer Tim Maby came round to talk a bit about live poetry and performance.
Here's the link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/audio/2011/oct/07/poetry-forward-prize-audio
The extracts from the Trianon gig and my bits are from 6.50 in but I enjoyed the whole podcast and hope you might too.
Here's a youtube video of me and Piers performing a song together, with thanks to Sylvie T x
If you have a yearning to develop your live poetry skills, there are three spaces left on the Write Out Loud Arvon course beginning 14th November 2011, with tutors Julian Jordan and myself and guest poet Elvis Macgonigal.
Here's a link to where you can find out more or book yourself onto the course, attached to a nice discussion about the list form by Julian, using my Poem that Was Really A List, with video included:
Pearl River Festival
Sunday, September 25, 2011, 12:26 PMI'm with Luke Wright and Aoife Mannix on a British Council visit to China. Here are some things I have learnt:
Canton Tower is no longer the highest tower in the world. Here we are, 436 metres up - I laughed the whole time, just like on a rollercoaster.
We just spent four days in Guangzhou, in Guangdong Province. You can fit the UK into Guangdong Province.
Today we flew West to Chengdu in Sezchuan Province, smaller than Guangzhou, with an estimated 14 million people living in the city.
People in Guangzhou have the reputation of being down-to-earth and efficient. Many women don't wear make-up and you can often see people out in their pajamas. I put this to the test today by travelling from Guangzhou to Chengdu in my pajamas and indeed, no-one in Guangzhou batted an eye.
Here is a wish-tree in Foshan. You have to throw your wish into the tree, the higher up, the luckier. You can buy different wishes - Luke bought that he hoped his children would carry on learning after they leave school and I bought that I wish for good health and fortune for my family.
The number four is an unlucky number because it sounds like the word for death. Fourteen is also unlucky. They put the swimmming pool on the fourth floor of the hotels and Westerners on the 14th. When we checked in tonight, they put Aoife and Luke on the fourteenth (though they checked with them that that was alright) and they put me on the nineteenth.
People jammer away at me in Chinese which makes me really happy. Although a Colombian man did start talking to me in Spanish today in the lift.
Cantonese food is the best in the world.
Sezchuan food is the best in the world.
You cannot go on twitter or facebook, the firewall is called the Great Wall.
Amongst the students in Guangzhou, there was a hungry curiousity for spoken word - some of the more daring ones said they would facebook friend us. How? 'We know where to climb over the wall.'
Guangzhou felt so familiar to me, the trees, the food, the way people spoke and talked and dressed.
Sezchuan feels very foreign.
The cities are considered close but it took over a couple of hours to fly by plane.
We went out tonight to eat on our own. The restaurants didn't have pictures on the menus. They didn't have menus. We found a place where a teenage waiter had studied English at school. He had to google soy sauce when Luke asked for it. 'Sorry Sir, this is a Chinese restuarant, we don't have soy sauce here.' He kept shaking his head when we pointed to food other people were eating. 'That is very hot.' We ate a huge and delicious meal of hot sour fish stew, spinach and beef with peppers, washed down with a very good beer called Snow. We left him what amounted to £2 or 20% of the bill as a tip and he came rushing out, offered the money with both hands and a nod, as is the custom. 'You forgot your money.' 'No, that's for you, because you helped us so much.' 'For me? For me?'
People are kind here. They have treated us with humour and patience. Not just Susan and Grace and the folks at the British Council, who have been so hospitable and courteous that we felt like honoured guests, not dusty jobbing poets, but the woman at the bus stop and the customs official and the family outside the dim sum place.
Susan and Grace standing either side of Ip Man, Bruce Lee's Wing Chun teacher.
I'm going to post now, in case the internet fails again and I lose everything like i just did.
More tomorrow. Here's the view from my room tonight.
Friday, September 23, 2011, 04:15 PMAt the School of Computer Science, Nottingham University is the Mixed Reality Lab, a 'dedicated studio facility where computer scientists, psychologists, sociologists, engineers, architects and artists collaborate to explore the potential of ubiquitous, mobile and mixed reality technologies to shape everyday life.'
Inside, it's a bit like Q's research lab, but in an alternate universe where MI6 are not a group of sociopathic spies but a crack-team of inventors in ruthless pursuit of social connectivity and the deeper knowledge of what it means to be human in the 21st century.
Steve Benford, who runs the lab, showed us round. Apart from the weird ergonomic contraptions, the giant robotic toys, the strange machines, there was a remarkable installation of a table, filled with around sixty dirty coffee mugs. Steve took us to the coffee-machine, which had it's own twitter feed. You select your coffee, the machine dispenses it and then tweets a snarky comment about your choice. While we were getting coffee, a man in overalls came in, looked at the table and radioed maintenance that there was a mug situation at the Mixed Reality Lab. Another man came down with a trolley and they took the mugs away. They nodded to us pleasantly.
Marc Boothe had told me about the MRL and the things they do, but I couldn't quite get my head round it. When the time came to leave, I had fallen in love with the place. I can't wait to go back.
I'm going to be doing a residency there, starting this Autumn, to work out the interactive story-telling bits of LondonTales So, the big, exciting bit. I'm so hugely excited. It's going to be a fair old commute, back and forth from London to Nottingham and of course, time away from the family, but it's going to be so so worth it.
Here's Steve Benford standing outside the lab. He is AWESOME.