Radio Carbon series #5

The film poem Radio Carbon was premiered at the Renoir cinema in 2009 as part of the wonderful Zata Banks’ Poetryfilm.org‘s regular screenings, and at Port Eliot Festival in 2010.

The complete 27-minute film comprises 24 numbered sections, and may be viewed as a sequence of separate, interlocking filmpoems with recurring motifs.

For this winter, I have broken up the film into 24 parts and will be posting them day by day as we approach the winter solstice, in the style of an advent calendar. Each one is between 45 and 90 seconds each. So start your day with a few drops of imagery …

Here is the fifth film poem, Ice Music

 

Ice Music

It’s midwinter,
pivot of the solstice, ice age
star patterns in the stomach
contents of a woolly mammoth
crated and packed in ice
across Eastern Europe, Cro-Magnon
summer fruits in a hazy amber
of golden pollen and ergot,
bringer of visions like these
I lay before you, search lights
dancing at the water’s rim, the flurry
of waves in the wake of the westerly
rusting the river to the sun’s pelt
of a young fox or golden fleece.

 

A new poem, Earshot, at International Times

There’s a new poem up on the International Times website, and you can click  here at http://internationaltimes.it/earshot/ to read it. Or begin with an excerpt here…

and it is the movement of lovers
that concentrates him, the joy
and the collusion, how they sway
in the dark after the music stops,
when all is not quiet but straining
at itself, as if the self was a chain,
and the movements of sleep are grace
under pressure, the movements of one body
underneath another, the small
motions we recognise in a lover,
nerves, mouth, hands, the eyes,
skins pressed together like pages
of a book we can’t wait to prise apart
with opposable thumbs and rhythmic
movements that move things along
like music does, like West African Hi Life …

It’s the one poem written this year, the last one. Earshot. For many drafts, it was The Movement of Bodies. Started it out of the blue, listening to a new set of vintage Hi Life tunes from 60s Nigeria and Ghana from Soundways (with Analog Africa, the BEST reissue label for African/S American vintage vinyls), listening to the news about the migrations of refugees over the Eastern Mediterranean into Europe, before and after Alan, listening to the expectations of scientists as the accelerator was ramped up to higher levels at Cerne, listening to the sounds of the new Spanish neighbours moving in, the children, the news, the blood in the head and the silence, the heartbeat, the indifference, the silence, why bother, blinds down, fuck off the lot of yous, the singer of the next song, fingers on the strings, the sound of footsteps in the bathroom. I’m walking backwards shouting in a new t-shirt slogan reads How’s my sense of space, the wheel, the hoof, how’s my cum face, my driving, the typeface.

Particle physics meets international politics and West African Hi Life in one Earshot.

draft The movement of bodies001

Radio Carbon series #4

The film poem Radio Carbon was premiered at the Renoir cinema in 2009 as part of the wonderful Zata Banks’ Poetryfilm.org‘s regular screenings, and at Port Eliot Festival in 2010.

The complete 27-minute film comprises 24 numbered sections, and may be viewed as a sequence of separate, interlocking filmpoems with recurring motifs.

For this winter, I have broken up the film into 24 parts and will be posting them day by day as we approach the winter solstice, in the style of an advent calendar. Each one is between 45 and 90 seconds each. So start your day with a few drops of imagery …

Here is the fourth film poem, Time Slip

 

Time Slip
Ice forms at the edge of the epoch…
I see top coats and winter sun,
the old kingdom buckling the tarmac,
a breeze as light as crinoline,
winter gods rising from
the archaeological dig,
trailing clouds of dark matter.
Like the sun, time develops spots,
the shade of the willow attending
to its needlepoint. A crown of beech
burns against a western sky washed
blue by storms, the dark air clearing
to the far reaches of space, measures
beyond meanings you know are there.

Radio Carbon series #3

The film poem Radio Carbon was premiered at the Renoir cinema in 2009 as part of the wonderful Zata Banks’ Poetryfilm.org‘s regular screenings, and at Port Eliot Festival in 2010.

The complete 27-minute film comprises 24 numbered sections, and may be viewed as a sequence of separate, interlocking filmpoems with recurring motifs.

For this winter, I have broken up the film into 24 parts and will be posting them day by day as we approach the winter solstice, in the style of an advent calendar. Each one is between 45 and 120 seconds each. So start your day with a few drops of imagery …

Today, it is Vanishing Point, just click the screen below to watch the 119 seconds of poem stretching from the brick works at the bottom of Corfe Mullen in Dorset with the Mesolithic settlers of a fecund area.

 

Vanishing Point
We’re shouting in the last hours
of illumination, guest workers free running
through the Roman dig behind the rec
until they reach the meadow, thickening
in the frame to the lower interglacial,
tectonics folding words into the mouth
as the sky sets in ice at the churned entrance
to the site, pockets of cloud frozen in mud
scanning for their signal. It’s 30,000 years
from any Sunday papers. The news is grainy.
The jobs at Beacon Hill brick works are down
to their last layers of clay when the school leaver
strikes human deposits, flint points cut from
the core. A scattering of bones stops work
and reels in the experts with free running water
and full spectrum analysis. The school leaver
palms the core and stoves it in a sock drawer,
sells it down the pub to a science teacher with a
ley line handbook. Years later, older, wider,
he can see bushes breathing in the breeze
swelling as if they knew just where to blow their
blossom, the painter standing back to shift
the spectrum of his palette. Cobalt, Chinese white,
Payne’s gray for the sky behind the copse,
brushes loaded, aligned to depth and distance,
the vanishing point of the furthest signal.

Radio Carbon Series #2

The film poem Radio Carbon was premiered at the Renoir cinema in 2009 as part of the wonderful Zata Banks’ Poetryfilm.org‘s regular screenings, and at Port Eliot Festival in 2010.

The complete 27-minute film comprises 24 numbered sections, and may be viewed as a sequence of separate, interlocking filmpoems with recurring motifs.

For this winter, I have broken up the film into 24 parts and will be posting them day by day as we approach the winter solstice, in the style of an advent calendar. Each one is between 45 and 90 seconds each. So start your day with a few drops of imagery …

Here is #2 Please click this link to watch the second film poem, MESH

Carbon still 2

Mesh
Cosmic rays stroke the atmosphere,
their smoky signal burnished by our passing,
wave after wave spinning the dial
against the background hiss of creation,
measuring out our time to the core, dancers
at the back of the cave guttering torches
in the mind’s eye. Signals run out beyond here.
From this point on the choir becomes
a murmur then vanishes, water running
silent beneath ice. We bury our dead
in the ground and listen, the gauze curtain
of cosmic forces that calibrate a human hair
rippling like a field of wheat through air,
sackcloth through the ether – another
medium we don’t believe in any more.

 

 

 

The Radio Carbon series

The film poem Radio Carbon was premiered at the Renoir cinema in 2009 as part of the wonderful Zata Banks’ Poetryfilm.org‘s regular screenings, and at Port Eliot Festival in 2010.

The complete 27-minute film comprises 24 numbered sections, and may be viewed as a sequence of separate, interlocking filmpoems with recurring motifs.

For this approaching winter, I have broken up the film into 24 parts and will be posting them day by day as we approach the winter solstice, in the style of an advent calendar. Each one is between 45 and 90 seconds each. So start your day with a few drops of imagery …

Please click this link to watch

the first film poem, Alignment

Alignment
Consider the role of radio carbon
setting in the human record – tracing
the passage of time with a hard-on –
or the passage of what was thrown away.
Our measure is the rate of decay,
pulling the straps of history together,
shells from the midden tossing us
back to barefoot antiquity.
There stands our Wanderer,
first catch stiff on the line.
It’s in the ice core, every
string in tune and singing.
Some animals sense it before it happens.
They can smell the next wave coming.

 

About Radio Carbon: When cosmic rays strike the atmosphere they create the radioactive isotope carbon 14, which can be detected in living matter and decays at a fixed rate over many millennia. Radio carbon dating is the method by which we measure prehistoric time, and with which our own detritus will one day be measured. Radio Carbon takes this permanent record of transient time as a personal metaphor, a cosmic broadcast system, fashioning a hypnotic journey into the human past, from the neolithic to the present moment.

 

Lord Franklin, Bob Dylan’s Dream and an Irish air

franklin

A couple of years ago I read some poems at Scaledown, at the King and King pub on the corner of Foley Street and Cleveland Street, opposite London’s last remaining workhouse, a bare, even minimal, Georgian structure. Dickens grew up around here, when the workhouse was full of Imperial Britain’s underserving poor, and it’s likely the germ of Oliver Twist comes from the Cleveland Street workhouse, and the childhood of Dickens.

Bob Dylan made his debut London concert appearance here on 23 December 1962, where he met Martin Carthy, who waived him through the door and invited him to play. Later, they went back to Carthy’s flat in Belsize Park, and smashed up a piano and set fire to it to generate heat – yeas before The Who or Hendrix set about their auto-destruction. It was on this night, I surmise, that Dylan heard Lady Franklin’s Lament AKA The Ballad of Lord Franklin for the first time, and used the tune soon afterwards for his own Bob Dylan’s Dream, recorded the following April and released on The Freewheelin Bob Dylan.

The Ballad of Lord Franklin drew its tune from a much older source, however, an Irish air named Cailín Óg a Stór (O Darling Young Girl) which was first registered in 1581. The same tune is used for The Croppy Boy about the 1798 uprising. John Franklin’s expedition to the Arctic set off in May 1845. By the September of the following year, his ships, HMS Terror and Erebus, became trapped in ice off King William Island. Numerous rescue expeditions resulted in yet more Victorian men and ships lost to the Arctic wastes, and in 1854, a Dr John Rae of the Hudson’s Bay Company, now a popular department store,  learnt from local Inuit hunters that the surviving sailors of the Terror and the Erebus had failed in their last desperate attempts to reach safety, and some resorted to cannibalism before their own deaths. Dr Rae reported what he had been told, was vilified and disgraced, and another four decades of fruitless searches continued. Blade-cut marks on the bones of some of the crew found on King William Island confirmed Dr Rae’s report.

In September 2014, the wreck of the Erebus was discovered resting at the bottom of Queen Maud Gulf. I was working as a freelance sub editor on The Observer at this time, and was working through a story about the discovery and retrieval of the wreck and had to check a number of the place names for this uninhabitable area of the Earth as part of the job of work. This led me to think about how we give names to the wilderness, and what naming means.

After publishing this blog a year ago, the poem has continued to morph and develop, and the most recent version brings the mighty Martin Carthy into the room. I had tried to float that Irish Air through the poem, too,

Names for the Wilderness

Between the first album and Freewheelin
Bob Dylan hears Martin Carthy sing
the Ballad of Lord Franklin upstairs at
the King and Queen one winter’s night
on Cleveland Street, 1962, every letter of
his name the head of a trail of breadcrumbs
through the north wind, sea tales indented by
the following sad refrain: I dreamed a dream.
The names we give the wilderness, as if by
naming it we own it, as if a name will be enough.
Franklin’s ships, The Terror and The Erebus,
hang suspended in frozen ocean, and all their crew
are spirits, sire, rendered pale as air, pointing up
at Jupiter in the evening sky, one winter’s night
on Cleveland Street, Bobby in the top room
feeling a new tune coming down the pipe,
the barman in the cellar rolling new barrels
into place, the stout and then the bitter.