Well Loved Tales and the Galway nine

The Galway Nine

Dropping a two-in-one post – a set of new poems from a new book coming out later this year, KNUCKLE, and some artwork from Galway City, where at the irresistible invitation of Kevin Higgins I read at Galway City Library on Thursday 24 January – Burns night, as it happens. It was a great evening and a great day after too, walking the town and the bay, doing drawings. Here they are. My thanks to the staff and drinks at Dock One, Wards Hotel, McDonagh’s Fish and Chips, Quay Street Kitchen and Sonny Molloy’s whisky bar, among others.

Well Loved Tales

Here’s the link to the new poems and prose at Live Encounters, edited by Mark Ulysses in Bali – and as a teaser here is the text of Well-Loved Tales, about the power of fairytale, the first story I could properly read, as a remedial pupil, at around the age of eight. Rapunzel. The title refers to the classic 1960s Ladybird editions of the tales. The story of the girl child given away will never, ever lose its power.

ladybird_book_rapunzel-cover_spread

Some events in life remix your colours in ways you can’t imagine. Mind and matter mix like pigments and it’s the strong colours that bleed through. Your gravity shifts, you hear a new bass line, and your moves change. Being adopted, exchanging one name for another, is like being mugged of your identity. There’s a violent wrench a long way beneath the surface and all this wreckage to deal with after the storm, except you can’t classify it as wreckage because you’re dealing with the basic material that makes up your life. And the most basic of all is that identity switch, the first dislocation, the unexplainable disappearance of the mother who bore you. It’s the plot of a fairy tale. Sublimate it and bury it as deep as you like in anger or acquiescence but it’s not going anywhere. It surrounds you, it’s your wagon train. It’s your story. How are you going to tell it?

The first story I ever read was Rapunzel, a Ladybird edition with watercolours on one side, 14-point text on the other. Whoever did the Ladybird watercolours were professionals of their craft. The tale is full of nasty forks and twists and I felt them all. The couple who can’t have children, the wife who conceives a child and pines for the old woman’s greens, the sustenance she lacks. The timorous husband who climbs the walled garden, way beyond his years, and picks the vivid salad greens from their beds of saturated colour, a colour so strong it has a life and movement of its own. His capture, their agreement. The birth of the child and its adoption by the old woman – with fairy tales, it’s amazing how many foundlings and orphans and adoptees blaze in their furnace.

The old couple disappear after that. Whatever they did was irrevocable, and it was done. They cross the line then fall into a vacuum of not here, never was. The woman will pine for the witch’s green rapunzel till the universe spins itself out to a series of dots and dashes. Rapunzel, Rapunzel… Let down your hair… The young beauty in the tower, the young wandering prince who climbs her tresses and makes her fat with sex and progeny. The old witch puts a measure to the girl’s waist. She is the hated Second Law of Thermodynamics. “Something from nothing? You dirty little bitch!”

The pictures in my mind of the witch’s garden, and the tower through the trees of the forest that the young prince sees, I’d feel them twang and vibrate and shimmer. They’d begin to move, and I’d see the old man creep through the darkness, enormous dark green leaves hanging in still air. Not a sound, not a breath of wind – and then the witch’s finger.

You!

I twitched, looked up from the first story I could read, climbing the fine hair pinned by a nail and ending in dead fingers, speaking in tongues. What was the girl virgin to the old witch? And when she was swollen with child and cast out into the thorny wilderness, I saw the skulls of Golgotha in dad’s painting above his bed, done some time between art school and the war. Christ on his knees at the mouth of a cave at night, black and grey but for his crimson djellaba. Dad’s voice from an underworld studio.

“Rose madder.” Madder from Friesland, a plant for the colour of panic and life and blood, the prince’s eyes bloodied by thorns, the thorns and petals of a red briar rose. I can remember learning to read the thorny black marks into words, the prince stepping through the parting wood and looking straight at me.

And then the witch vanishes, and so does the tower, and the rapunzel. Never here, never was. Just years in the wilderness, until he hears her sing and her tears heal his sight. Remote vision: I remember the ache and terror built in to that little paragraph: “And he wandered alone for many years.” So light on the tongue and the fingers, and so unendurable. I stared into the mouth of the story and never blinked. It was like staring into the mouth of a dark cave, one that had once been inhabited, and you could very faintly scent the habitation. The thorns, the prince and the old witch and the girl in the tower and the fearful husband and the greedy wife – they moved and flickered like figures on a cave wall under the light of a fat lamp. Fairy tales are the cave art of the ears and tongue. I think they are just as old, stirring in the minds of the young.

Every terror in life, and the terror of death, has been felt out first for us in fairy tales. A great scientist once acquainted them with stories for people afraid of the dark. One of his anti-religion raps. He didn’t know his subject. They are instructional, not escapist. They’re there to make us fear the dark, not protect us from it. Riddles wrapped inside an enigma dropped in to a well, and you hear a faint echo.

Like you’re on the way to Thebes, and there’s this floppy bitch with claws resting under her dugs, waiting to tear your head off and feed it to a ravenous, disc-shaped sawmill of a mouth. The name’s Oedipus, and you’re the original tragedy. The foundling marked by the claws of an eagle. All adoption stories pull in their thread from the labyrinth and they all end at the foot of Oedipus, the baby tossed in to the wilderness because of a promise and a curse.

“Motherfucker killed his father, sired his own brother.” Kept on punching holes in his social network. He married his mother and killed his father and solved the riddle. How would my fate slot in to that mythic template?

Because they are questions loaded with weapons, riddles feature large in myths and tales and songs, like holes in a Swiss cheese. The current academic fashion is to date nothing in folklore further back than its first documentation. It’s an odd twister of a position to take on an oral lineage of descent from the collective tales Carl Jung wrote about, the prince and the witch and the girl in the tower, forbidden fruits and blinding thorns. They live in a steady state, way older than written matter. It’s worth noting that one of the Grimm’s sources for the tales they collected was a neighbour woman who came to clean their house. Once, after telling them a tale, she returned, concerned that she had placed a word incorrectly, and in the tales she told and had heard and learnt, every word had a place as firmly fixed as the stars.

Songs, we know, are more protean; they’re carried to be spilled, and one song often pours through another. The devil riddles a young boy on the road; a gentleman lover puts life-changing riddles to the beautiful young sister who will take him to her bed; The Bells of Paradise is all riddle, drenched in the musk of grail imagery. “One half runs water, the other runs blood.” John Barleycorn, dealt with as if he was one of the bog people garrotted over the peat workings of ancestral neolithics. Barleycorn finds an antecedent in the Exeter Book of Riddles, pages of which were used, some time in the 10th century, as beer mats.

So, riddle me this: did I have to kill my father and marry my mother?

“If I saw her again, I’d kill her.”

I once made good friends with Nabila, a young British Pakistani woman. She was the accountant, I was the copy writer. We were often alone in the overspill office together. There was a spark, and the same with anyone I liked, she soon learnt about my children’s home origins. “If that happened to me,” she said one day, apropos nothing in particular – she was settling some petty cash accounts for the book reps – “I would find them and kill them both.” Then she gave me a dazzling smile. Not long after that, a young accountant working on the end-of-year books nodded towards me and Nabila and murmured to his younger male colleague: “He is her comrade.” Their eyes were still and pointed. I was being watched, like the witch watched Rapunzel. A few months after that, her marriage was arranged to a dull fellow with a scratchy beard, and here comes the groom-to-be’s brother to work in the warehouse, to keep eyes on the valuable bride.

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Brexit Cut Up 21 January

 

Automatic writing at its most pure. No authorial hand was seen at play in the making of the Brexit cut Up. The method was to combining Theresa May’s speech following her record defeat in the Commons with Jeremy Corybn’s speech the following day in Hastings, and feed them into the Cut Up machine on the Language is a Virus site. Repeat three times then extract and trim. Nothing added, only taken away.

William Burroughs saw cut-ups as a way of letting the truth come out. Let’s see what it does with Brexit’s cloudy murk.

And in remain us divide the I with if
which Parliament voted support.
Speaker again whole.
But we’ve Conservatives out to Opposition
laid that single parties option
and permanent how would Government House overcome decision.

Wealth reap right strong tomorrow.
Out intends this union of intransigent parliament.
Evening happened. All the remains leave
about to vote whichever of what importance.

The disaster on the table.
Clear only that alternative because backing Confidence
will vote dodge required crisis party.

The term way out work living setting is of citizens.
Meantime the party brings divisions
remain that needs potential people to the blocks.

Supply took support.
Labour’s is senior.
This deliberately paced nothing
has their – listen – the will House.

Its help time best potential
we have Mr EU future taxes work.
Keep within to alternative the Labour clarity through set confidence.

With them tabled debate concerns.
It’s we the say be citizens proceed
and how to government other not this.
First if deal together secure next questions.

Nothing here a severity.
I forward rights and deadlock of tomorrow
and in back confirm table is British.
Rules would bring the guarantee
so provide to those then confidence.
People who to honour majority
country because for not the sensible will.

It deserve tonight’s required set
therefore believe environmental taxes
and does the rule our referendum
win country EU permission.

Such essential wish trade then
what a wrong rely is the election
has general meetings their hold do the few
Those would make out the based serious for deliver
form our support clarity
as if Government motion made any duty consumer decline many.

Come within Earshot

Migration and movement, quantum eroticism and the movement of bodies of all kinds …..

Tim Cumming

Ghost dogs 1

Earshot  with Eyebrow:
a new film poem

Eyebrow, comprising Get The Blessing and Three Cane Whale trumpeter Pete Judge, and percussion Paul Wigens made the music.

The film footage is of a journey from Deptford to Clapham Junction on the night of St George’s Day; I’d been performing at a festival at the Master Shipwright’s Palace at the request of Sam Lee, and the nestcollective.

As for the text of this poem, it was begun listening to vintage sounds on an Analog Africa album of rare West African discs. That led to thoughts about movement, movements of all kinds. Movements of love, hate, expulsion, of atoms and ships and dancing bodies and bodies that can dance no more.

Earshot was first published by Rupert Loydell in International Times online. It will be published in KNUCKLE from Pitt Street Poetry, Australia, in 2019

This is the first film…

View original post 25 more words

Come within Earshot

Ghost dogs 1

Earshot  with Eyebrow:
a new film poem

Eyebrow, comprising Get The Blessing and Three Cane Whale trumpeter Pete Judge, and percussion Paul Wigens made the music.

The film footage is of a journey from Deptford to Clapham Junction on the night of St George’s Day; I’d been performing at a festival at the Master Shipwright’s Palace at the request of Sam Lee, and the nestcollective.

As for the text of this poem, it was begun listening to vintage sounds on an Analog Africa album of rare West African discs. That led to thoughts about movement, movements of all kinds. Movements of love, hate, expulsion, of atoms and ships and dancing bodies and bodies that can dance no more.

Earshot was first published by Rupert Loydell in International Times online. It will be published in KNUCKLE from Pitt Street Poetry, Australia, in 2019

This is the first film poem from Handheld Films for some years. Click the main title or this link here to view it for yourself. Or just play it here….

Gnawa Festival, Essaouira 2018

 

Essaouria 18 Lila Bilal Mokhtar Guinia

Mokhtar Guinea performing a Lila at Zaouia Bilal in the medina of Essaouira
the night of the Summer solstice, Thursday 21 June 2018

These drawings are from the 2018 edition, reviewed here on The Arts Desk, with portraits of Mokhtar Guinea and others from the Thursday night Lila dedicated to the memory of Maleems who have passed, from the courtyard of Riyad El Medina, and from various roof terraces in the medina. Following the images is a poem from The Wind Guru about Youssef, the now retired fisherman and mataphysical bohemian who I met again this year in crowds below the stage.

 

 

 

 

And now off to the medina to meet Youssef

essmedina14 usef

Youssef the Fisherman
Joined us at table by the counter
at Patisserie Driss opposite the doors
to the mosque and described us
a sailors’ ritual for the prophet Noah:
gather at the shore, sacrifice a goat,
make tea and couscous, pray storms
into stars and then proceed, his hands
parting the way to thermodynamic voyages,
sardine catches, the coast of Mauritania
and coasts beyond, the ocean of darkness
he calls the Atlantic, clinging to a skeleton
key, heaving skies and heavier currents,
moving under the instruments of science,
Youssef wears dreadlocks and shells,
the magic carpet of initiation and experience,
swaying in the ocean of the lunar cycle,
a Gnawa tune with stars and sea winds,
Aisha, and the red thread of a shanty,
flashes of the dead scooped up in its nets
and left to sink or carried to land and now
it is done and there are no more voyages
for Youssef the fisherman

The Twilight of Spring

They call her Anna Perenna, Brigid, Flora, Freya, Hebe, Ostara, Lada, Libera, Maia, Olwen, Persephone …. It is the death of Spring, the last wisteria flowers in evening shades, the season’s nocturne.

This was painted around the time I was reading Tales from Ovid, the small creatures of the spring air seemed weighted with myth and immortal body, sparrows teaching their young to fly and now they are flown and spring it is all but over.

Wisteria 2018

Root Notes

 

self-portrait-21-1-17

Origins are important. They are what the important words are about. Place names. The names of the rivers are older than the towns. In folk music, it is the older, bottomless ballads that draw and haunt you. The Elfin Knight, Lord Randall, Lord Bateman, The Jew’s Garden, ballads of fairy lore like Tam Lyn… That Bob Dylan quote from the 60s: “There’s nobody that’s going to kill traditional music… All these songs about roses growing out of people’s brains and lovers who are really geese and swans that turn into angels… they’re not going to die.”

Traditional songs are the free radicals in the imaginative genome, tales that twist and turn like mitochondrial DNA, pumping out a body of metaphor, allegory, symbolism and riddle. Is metaphor the oldest tool in the human pack? Older than the wheel, than flint, fusing one realm with another to create a third reality, images that change the shape of a room, all contained in the mouth, rolling over and over in the sea of the unconscious. The first human tool was to conceive.

To read it all, get yourself to INTERNATIONAL TIMES – Just follow the link

http://internationaltimes.it/root-notes/

 

Powerstock Aug 23 16003

Powerstock Sessions 3