Wednesday, June 22, 2011, 11:00 PM
On Monday, after three days of working on this London Tales character piece thing, I realised that it was not only the worst poem I'd ever written, but the worst poem I'd ever read.
And that is saying a lot.
I have been facilitating workshops for a while now, plus doing residencies in places where I passionately and sincerely encourage people to write poems that they passionately and sincerely don't want to write - and frankly, those poems don't want to be written.
It was an exultantly exhilarating experience, the realising that this poem was not good. I think it's because it can be difficult to definitively say what is good and not good in poetry, on the page, what is reaching for truth and specificity/what is pretentious, and for live, what is performed well but actually old hat dressed in new clothes.
Yesterday, in Norwich I performed for the third time, a set about social norm behaviour and the rules for audience participation, followed by 3 shit poems. And the reaction gave me food for thought in this direction.
The first time I performed this at the SouthBank, people clapped politely and afterwards, quite involuntarily, I shouted 'C*NTS' down the microphone.
The second time was at BookSlam, after Jon Ronson's lovely set about sociopathic behaviour and it went text-book how I imagined - people totally laughed and got the satire and also the sincerity and most importantly, the point I was trying to make.
And I was so sure of that, but last night, doing it again in Norwich and getting feedback from the audience and also poets like Martin Figura, Helen Ivory, Luke Wright and Hannah Walker, I realised that, unless it's a very knowing, confident crowd like what at BookSlam, it's just not fair to set it up like how I've been doing and expect people to give critical feedback.
I know what I think of as bad poetry from good, because heaven help me if I don't, but why should someone who has come out for poetic entertainment? - it is, after all, a very thin line between aresholery and profoundity.
All well and good - on a more worrying note:
Recently, I realised that I loved some of T S Eliot's work and think that some of it is rubbishness.
Similarly, when googling Marvelll's universally acknowledged masterpiece, 'The Garden' tonight, I felt it was overlong and that a bit of pruning would improve it.
by Andrew Marvell
How vainly men themselves amaze
To win the palm, the oak, or bays ;
And their uncessant labors see
Crowned from some single herb or tree,
Whose short and narrow-vergèd shade
Does prudently their toils upbraid ;
While all the flowers and trees do close
To weave the garlands of repose.
Fair Quiet, have I found thee here,
And Innocence, thy sister dear!
Mistaken long, I sought you then
In busy companies of men :
Your sacred plants, if here below,
Only among the plants will grow ;
Society is all but rude,
To this delicious solitude.
No white nor red was ever seen
So amorous as this lovely green ;
Fond lovers, cruel as their flame,
Cut in these trees their mistress' name.
Little, alas, they know or heed,
How far these beauties hers exceed!
Fair trees! wheresoe'er your barks I wound
No name shall but your own be found.
When we have run our passion's heat,
Love hither makes his best retreat :
The gods who mortal beauty chase,
Still in a tree did end their race.
Apollo hunted Daphne so,
Only that she might laurel grow,
And Pan did after Syrinx speed,
Not as a nymph, but for a reed.
What wondrous life is this I lead!
Ripe apples drop about my head ;
The luscious clusters of the vine
Upon my mouth do crush their wine ;
The nectarine and curious peach
Into my hands themselves do reach ;
Stumbling on melons as I pass,
Insnared with flowers, I fall on grass.
Meanwhile the mind, from pleasure less,
Withdraws into its happiness :
The mind, that ocean where each kind
Does straight its own resemblance find ;
Yet it creates, transcending these,
Far other worlds, and other seas ;
Annihilating all that's made
To a green thought in a green shade.
Here at the fountain's sliding foot,
Or at some fruit-tree's mossy root,
Casting the body's vest aside,
My soul into the boughs does glide :
There like a bird it sits and sings,
Then whets and combs its silver wings ;
And, till prepared for longer flight,
Waves in its plumes the various light.
Such was that happy garden-state,
While man there walked without a mate :
After a place so pure and sweet,
What other help could yet be meet!
But 'twas beyond a mortal's share
To wander solitary there :
Two paradises 'twere in one
To live in Paradise alone.
How well the skillful gard'ner drew
Of flowers and herbs this dial new ;
Where from above the milder sun
Does through a fragrant zodiac run ;
And, as it works, th' industrious bee
Computes its time as well as we.
How could such sweet and wholesome hours
Be reckoned but with herbs and flowers!
Which lines would you cut?
Friday, June 17, 2011, 01:16 PM
At the start was probably not the word. It was some thing.
That thing was probably nothing. Not even time.
And then, BAM!
Light unravelling to all directions, making a here and now,
Twisting, shooting, tunneling,
Unzipping the void, forcing dimensions,
Making space for chaos, it’s effects and causes,
Making way for duration and journeys,
Making possible the many and the one,
Hierarchy and chains, difference and same.
Breath, sap, cell.
Water, earth, air.
Rising and falling and fire.
There was us, we came.
That was word and world and beginning.
Charley Marlowe Redux
Wednesday, June 8, 2011, 03:10 PMAround fifteen years ago, me and my friend P started putting poems to music. We would do these very particular pieces. They were quirky, folky, fragile things and they used to ellicit the most violent responses. We were impervious to sensations of success or failure and continued on, eventually forming a band, Charley Marlowe, that various people tried to sign and make something of, but there was a quality in us that was completely resistant to anything of that kind. It was in the days before youtube and mobile phones with cameras so there is nothing of our live stuff out there on the internet. And we were pretty much all about live - we had scores upon scores of songs and recorded a handful, kind of by chance.
The band broke up, when one day I remarked dreamily to Frank the percussionist and Lucas the electric guitarist that in seven years or so, we would really come into our audience.
In fact, it was more like 14 years - me and P were laughing about the huge folk revival that's gone on and how well we would have fitted in - maybe.
P is about to release his 4th album in France. It's amazing. I went to visit him and his family with my family. The kids played and me and P recorded a cover version of 'I'll Be Your Mirror' - link should be on his site:http://www.piersfaccini.com/
We also did this totally acoustic gig in an old Romanesque church. 100 people was the maximum capacity, candles, no mics. And of course, no cameras, no recordings.
Leave No Trace :)
The poster for the event. Loud, isn't it.
L'eglise St Etienne.
P before the gig.....it was dark when we started.
The acoustics were a revelation, I guess it's a church, the lessons and parables spoken by the priests and the mystery and drama of the mass and the choral singing and chanting, they would have built it to create beauty and power from the voice.
Even whispered words soared over the guitar and harmonica. P did a cover of Skip James' Cypress Grove and the swallow and bat who had been flitting around the space started dancing with each other. It was cool and weird.
If you are curious to hear some Charley Marlowe tracks, you can hear some here http://www.myspace.com/charleymarlowe
And you can buy the ep here: http://www.slowfoot.co.uk/shop.html
Tuesday, June 7, 2011, 07:34 PM
Aesop Agency:21st Century Fables
Wednesday, May 25, 2011, 02:43 PM
I was commissioned by brand strategists, Aesop Agency to write some modern stories inspired by Aesop's Fables - it was a fun thing to do and I'm proud of the pieces - there's a video of me performing some of them at the launch if you click on the link below and I think there should be a bunch more in text form on the Aesop Agency site.