“What?”

Last show on ALL FM

I’ve had lots and lots of fun doing my weekly shows but unfortunately I have to start working full time because I’m saving up to go to South America! Last week sound artist Eye Suriyanon was the 33rd and last guest on my show for ALL FM.

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She showed me some traditional Thai dance moves, taught me all about the poet Sunthorn Phu, and read some of his poems in the original Thai.

We also talked about the poem ‘Echo’ by Raymond Antrobus, from his brand new book The Perseverance (Penned in the Margins, 2018). The poem led us into conversations about vibrations, loneliness and autobiography.

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Read the poem in full and hear Raymond reading it out here.
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“Knock knock?”

ALL FM 96.9

This week on my show I had writer and performer Julie Burrows in to tutor me on untrustworthy slugs. We listened to a questionable Craig David song and lost ourselves in the ellipsis of Hera Lindsay Bird‘s ‘The Dad Joke is Over’.

The Dad Joke is Over

sometimes…..when a great civilisation is too prosperous for too long
when a great civilisation marked by rapid periods of economic growth
and decline
expands beyond its own conceptual limits
& ventures into the uncharted space beyond what is……funny

sometimes, when there exists too much of a good thing
and
the market is oversaturated with cringing
and
years of puns have blighted the emotional landscape
a great empire can fall
& laughter grow up from the ruins

sometimes there are dad jokes, and they can’t take the heat
wandering from set-up to set-up, in their glistening barbecue aprons
their punchlines wither and dissolve, in the shimmering wetlands of
contemporary stand-up
like snowflakes upon the grill, leaving only……….questions
like how many women does it take to change a joke format???
or
knock knock



& nobody answers
but the black wind of fate

The time of the dad joke is over, and things are getting……..al fresco
their punchlines converted into anecdotes, and refurbished with a Tuscan feature wall
It’s the time of the mother joke & you wake to find a deer carcus in the garden
nothing on the wind……………………………………………by Elizabeth Arden

Sometimes you wake up…..in the cold light of a new era
with the unerring certainty that your life’s work is just for……sham
like…….what do you get when you cross a joke and a poem?
or if a punchline falls in the forest and, and no one is around to hear it
………………………………..is it time to stop telling jokes in the forest?

I like to commit the sympathetic error of meaning all my jokes
but still………….I do not think that poetry should be saved
it should be like an attic in sunlight, with the bats scrubbed out
like…..you can buy this book & then set fire to it…….for free

The time of the mother joke is upon us and you look exactly like Scarlett Johansson
you never looked like Scarlett Johansson before but here….in the time of the mom joke you do

you walk deeper and deeper into the setup, with your……vague celebrity impressionism
you can sense a punchline, and it’s getting closer……………………………..

When I was young, my mother couldn’t afford brand-name jokes
All we had to laugh at was…………the unceasing bitterness of life
Even now, I am compelled to laugh in the face of heartbreak
but when a witticism is made…………………………………………..

The mother joke is here, and the punchline is
………………………………………………………………….there is no punchline
it’s gone beyond the format of a joke, and is in your blood
everything is wrong, but you can’t stop laughing
ancient punishments repeating themselves
like nunchucks on a nursery frieze

The mother joke is here, and there is no punchline
this is a poem, not a joke, and the only way out is death
You stare and stare at your vast superfluity of life
it stretches out beyond itself, like too many razors on a kite tail

 

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LAST WEEK my guest was the poet Keisha Thompson, whose solo show ‘Man on the Moon’ is coming to Contact Theatre from 16-20th October.

Keisha performed poems from her new book Lunar, which is being launched on 25th October at 2022 (the club!). We talked about mathematical fibs, her artistic relationship with her editor, afrofuturism and the poem ‘dinosaurs in the hood’ by Danez Smith.

 

“It feels like homework…”

Lady Pedal Festival, Alexandra Park

This year I did an all day drop-in haiku workshop at the festival, and persuaded lots of first timers to have a go at counting syllables!

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As a poetic form, I find haikus the least threatening for beginners. This is because they are short (only three lines) and tightly structured (there are supposed to be 5 syllables in the first line, 7 in the second, and 5 again in the last) which works quite well as a distraction from worries about what to write. Once you’ve got a first line with 5 syllables, you just roll with it!

Another poet came up to me during they day and told me it was impossible to write a ‘pure’ haiku, because they only really work in Japanese. But I didn’t let this put me off!

I asked one girl if she wanted to write but her dad put her off by saying “it feels too much like homework”. Here are some of the haikus people came up with during the day, including one I wrote for that cheeky dad…

Lady Pedal Haikus

cycling and flying same thing
you can touch the sky or feel love
if you’re lucky magic happens

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When can I cycle
again, after I have my
hysterectomy?

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Bikes creative people love yeah!
that’s this moment under the marquee yeah!
join us!

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creek crank sizzle eek
my bottom bracket wants love
but I don’t give it.

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I love two men
one cycles but I
I try, I cry, I fail

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My bicycle is
dusty and deprived.
Need to sort it out.

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“It feels like homework”
a man says to his child. But
homework can be fun!

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Freedom open sky fresh with a pear
Oh dear I went into a ditch

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If you want to hear more about Lady Pedal and what they do, listen to my interview with the creator herself…

The Woman in the Revolving Door

ALL FM 96.9

This week I talked to Adele Harris about the poem ‘The Woman in the Revolving Door’ by G.S. Sharat Chandra. Adele is about to start a social work degree after an eight year gap from education, which involved her working as a beauty therapist and walking the entire length of New Zealand.

I found this poem in an old issue of POETRY magazine from 1973, and couldn’t resist the title. We summoned up all of our disney cartoon references to try and crack the code ‘for the dialogue of doors’…

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Read the new issue of Lager Magazine here, including one of my own translations!

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‘Something really dramatic has happened’

Spotlight on Asylum Festival

When I visited Karen Whiteread’s studio in Wood Green, London, mother and daughter team Karen and Amber were busily preparing for the Spotlight on Asylum Festival – writing press releases for events and photographing angels for the auction. Now the festival is up and running, with the first event coming up this Saturday, and the auction in full swing.

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Pram Depot is a charity that recycles baby clothes and equipment for women who have no recourse to public funds, and the festival is a way of raising awareness about the needs of these people, who are mostly asylum seekers. The studio is full to the brim of teddies, blankets, prams, and everything a new mother could want.

I talk to Karen about what inspired her to create this helpful art installation, and to Amber about why she came all the way back from Paris to help out.

For the auction, the team asked 150 artists – including some very big names – to respond in any way to the theme of ‘angels’ on an A5 board. They received pieces from Anthony Gormley, Tracey Emin, Mark Wallinger and Rachel Whiteread, as well as poems from Mark Waldron and…me.

Amber and Karen were in agreement that Mark’s poem summed up the theme of the project very well, but they agreed to disagree about what mine was all about. For my collage-poem I used words taken from newspaper articles, including one about Thurrock Services on the M6, to express myself.

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The auction closes 20th November 2018. Start the bidding!

“Phillip Larkin turned me off…”

ALL FM 96.9

This week I talked to the poet Janet Rogerson, a fellow Poets & Players committee member, about hating poetry in school, and finally getting into it in 2007 after her forth child was born and she decided to go back to university.

We had a bit of a poetry overload (if that is possible?) talking about Janet’s own poems, the poem she brought to talk about, and Frank O’Hara – who Janet wrote about for the theory section of her Creative Writing pHd. But we made sure to break up our poetry discussions by playing one of Janet’s favourite bands, The White Stripes, and wishing Johnny Vegas a happy birthday.

The poem she brought was ‘Paul Celan’ by Ilya Kaminsky, a prose-poem which plays with the idea of biography in a way I am fully on board with. Janet also read a section of the Paul Celan poem ‘Death Fugue’ translated by John Felstiner. We talked about translation, and heard Janet’s poem ‘Translator’ which, she says, is not based on anyone particular but came from flicking through a book and randomly choosing one word to write a poem about.

I also made sure we spent some time talking about Frank O’Hara, who is one of the poets that initially got me interested in poetry, with his seemingly autobiographical poems about his obsession with art and popular culture (and sex). He also has a really great voice:

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Paul Celan

In his youth, he worked in a factory, though everyone said  he looked more like a professor of classical languages than a factory worker. He walked to work as if moving under water.

He was a beautiful man with a slender body which moved in a mixture of grace and sharp geometrical precision. His face had an imprint of laughter on it, as if no other emotion ever touched his skin. Even in his fifties, the nineteen-year-old girls winked at him in trains or trolley-busses, asking for his phone number.

Seven years after his death, I saw Celan in his house slippers dancing alone in his bedroom, humming step over step. He did not mind being a character in my stories in a language he never learned. That night, I saw him sitting on a rooftop, searching for Venus, reciting Brodsky to himself. He asked if his past existed at all.

 

 

¿Para qué?

Biblioteca de Cultura Artesana, Palma

This week I’ve been on holiday in Palma, Majorca, where I managed to get myself involved in a Spanish poetry slam! Laia MaLo was the guest poet for the night and somehow got me in the line-up. The slam was judged by randomly selected members of the audience, who wrote scores out of ten on blackboards. I ended up reading first, and didn’t come last, which was surprising because probably only about ten people in the audience could understand my poem (the guy who came last called himself ‘Bonito Del Norte’)!

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While I was there I also attempted to read some contemporary Spanish poetry. I bought the book Espejo Negro y Otras Poemas by Miriam Reyes (liliputienses, 2017) and set about translating the first poem, ‘Mi padre enfermo de sueños’ (‘My father sick of dreams’), with a dictionary and my very basic Spanish skills. I checked it with Laia to make sure I got the gist, then set off to hand out the poem in the centre of Palma.

The Biblioteca de Cultura Artesana is a big, air-conditioned public library, attached to the shady gardens of Misericordia, which had this old thing in it:

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I gave the poem out in the original and my translation, though I don’t think many people who took it would have needed the English. One woman asked me: “¿para qué?” (What for?) and I answered shakily: “para leer” (…to read) which seemed to satisfy her. I also gave one to an old man sitting on a bench who stared at it very intensely for a while. When I’d handed them all out I came back and asked him if he liked it he smiled and nodded.

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Mi padre enfermo de sueños

Mi padre enfermo de sueños
en el asfalto incandescente
de cien mil mediodías caminados
bajo el sol en vertical
perdió sus pies
y apoyado en sus rodillas sigue buscando
el camino de vuelta a casa.

Mi padre sueña,
rendido por el cansancio,
que vuelve a su tierra y planta sus piernas
y le crecen pies jóvenes
y la savia de su tierra negra
le alivia el dolor de las arrugas
y resucita sus cabellos muertos.

Luego despierta en un piso alquilado
a la ciudad de los huracanes de la miseria
y blasfema y maldice y no tiene amigos.
Escondido en la noche
papá llora por las certezas que lo defraudaron.

Del otro lado de su piel
mamá llora por mamá
mamá llora por su casa que ya no habita
y por paz y reposo y risa.

Papá y mamá lloran
cada uno a espaldas del otro en la cama
en el más crudo estruendoso hermoso silencio
que modula en frecuencias infrahumanas
sonidos que se articulan como palabras:
«si aquí no están mis sueños
cómo puedo dormir aquí».
Y que sólo yo escucho
con la cabeza enterrada en la almohada.

Concebida de la nostalgia
nací con lágrimas en el sexo
con tierra en los ojos
con sangre en la cabeza.
No soy lo que soñaron
como tampoco lo son sus vidas.

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My father is sick of dreams

in the incandescent asphalt of a hundred million midday walks
vertically below the sun
he lost his feet
and rested on his knees searching
for the road back to the house.
My father dreams
hazy from tiredness
he lies down and lifts his legs and grows young feet
and the black earth’s sap undoes the pain of his wrinkles
and revives his dead hairs.
Later he wakes up in a rented apartment
in the city of the hurricanes of misery
and blasphemy and hate and has no friends.

Secretly in the night
daddy cries for the certainty of disappointment.
On the other side of my skin
mummy cries for mummy
mummy cries for the house she doesn’t live in any more
and for peace and rest and laughter.

Daddy and mummy cry
each one behind the other’s back in bed
in the most raw clatteringly beautiful silence
that modulates in infrahuman frequencies
sounds that articulate like words:
“if my dreams are not here
how can I sleep here?”
And that only I can hear
with my head buried under the pillow.

Conceived from nostalgia
I was born with tears in sex with earth in my eyes and blood in my head.
I am not what they dreamed of
but neither are their lives.