I took this photo at the end of a late evening walk on Sunday - so not quite Midsummer! The rose colour echoed a piece of music I've been enjoying by Mira Calix inspired by Jorge Luis Borges's short story The Aleph. Calix's piece, 'Sunset in Queretaro, A Rose in Bengal', suggests a somewhat more striking sunset than the one I captured above! You can listen to it here
I've been writing about the ash tree over the last couple of years and I’m very excited to have my poem ‘Melia’ in The Tree Line: Poems for Trees, Woods & People, an anthology celebrating trees and woodlands, edited by Michael McKimm. The anthology launches today and is published by Worple Press more info here.
In 2017, on the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Charter of the Forest, the Woodland Trust along with over 70 other organisations will publish a new ‘Charter for Trees, Woods & People’ and there are various events coming up here. You can also see the new Tree Charter and sign it here.
I took the photo below in Griffin Wood during one of our weekend walks - we thought it looked like a scene in a Tarkovsky film.
We had a drive up to Grasmere yesterday, with dogs.
It was pretty busy in and around the village. Our usual car park was packed -- and not flooded as it was the last time we went there!
Beginning at Dove Cottage we walked a circular route passing Grasmere lake and Rydal Water -- about three hours in all and not too demanding.
The trees are just coming to life as seen in mists of green and blossom on some trees but the shapes of branches still dominated the treescapes.
Not shown in the photos but of course being this time of year in The Lakes we saw lots of extremely cute lambs -- definitely off the menu for all of us!
March is a month of birthdays for me which has me doing my ritual cake baking. This year I made my son a Totoro cake and I made a Bee cake for my daughter.
Keeping in the spirit of birthdays last night I went to another birthday event this time The Other Room’s 9th Birthday event in Manchester. Juxtavoices, Ekrkembode and William Roe read. These were all firsts for me, as far as live performances are concerned. Juxtavoices is of particular interest as Geraldine Monk, one of the poets whose work I’m studying, is part of this ‘anti-choir’ but I've only watched videos and listened to audio recordings until last night. I came across Martin Archer at the bar before the performance and he promised that listening to Juxtavoices would be a life changing experience!
Juxtavoices started the evening off by performing a Derek Beaulieu piece, Helvetica, a text which which had been displayed on a wall at the Bury text festival. It was fascinating to watch and listen to the range of sounds Juxtavoices made and how they coordinated with each other - I could feel vibrations from their voices in the bones of my chest! Just wonderful - and I'm listening to their latest CD, Warning: May Contain Notes as I write this. Erkembode came next, channeling mimih spirits, as a duet, taking the audience through a range of emotions from humour to anger to poignancy. Erkembode has a brilliant website here.
In the second half small plastic bottles were handed out and we were asked to blow bubbles to the roll call of poets in The Other Room anthology who had read during the past year -- I just managed to keep a stream of bubbles going! Juxtavoices performed again, interestingly arranged in different groupings than they were for the first performance. And then came Will Rowe. I have encountered Will Rowe’s critical work via The Salt Companion to Bill Griffiths which he edited. Will read from his Collected Poems, work with a distinct political edge and a poem for Bill Griffiths, 'Bill knocked out' -- his style of reading was very engaging to watch and listen to.
A brilliant night with booty shown in pic below - thanks to all, and Happy 9th Birthday! to The Other Room.
‘Mary’ is apparently the name of the sat nav I used to navigate from Liverpool to Edge Hill University on Tuesday when Patricia Farrell and I set up the Ship of Fools exhibition for the Robert Sheppard Symposium.
Mary took us on a fairly protracted journey from Liverpool. As we got closer to Ormskirk (tantalisingly, we could see the water tower on the main road) Mary directed us along ever increasing farm rack type ‘roads’ at one point telling me to turn right into a track that only led to a farm! I shall take Mary and her directions with a large pinch of salt from now on.
In my pre-sat nav days, I once made a journey, with my sister and her then boyfriend, to a nightclub in Peckham to watch a Cadiacs gig. I’d never been to London before then, and someone had smashed the small side window of my car the night before, but we just taped it up and set off with the name of the nightclub, but no maps. We just followed road signs, stopping a few times to re-tape the polythene sheet across the missing window space (I remember it raining in a lot on the motorway). Minus any version of Mary, we got to Peckham with no hitches and did the old-fashioned thing of asking for directions. At that point we were told we were just around the corner!
With quite a time to wait, we had tea in a cafe and then sat in my car which the three of us had painted - variously and unfinished! My sister had painted a Cardiacs ‘sunflower’ on the bonnet of the car and her boyfriend put the Cardiacs ‘man and house’ on it. As we sat waiting to go in to the gig, the Cardiacs singer Tim Smith walked past, saw the logo and smiled - my sister’s boyfriend was ecstatic!!
I haven’t listened to the Cardiacs for a while but in honour of the ship theme here’s a link to a taster 'Big Ship'! Below is a video of theirs that I hadn't seen at the time of going to that gig.
The Ship of Fools Exhibition in the Arts Centre at Edge Hill University runs through March and has wonderful artwork and poetry by Robert Sheppard and Particia Farrell to explore. There’s lots of treasures (and some adult content) to get lost in - which I'd say is preferable to getting lost navigating the icy farm tracks of Ormskirk with Mary!
More than pancakes (I take mine old school with lemon juice and sugar) I'm looking forward to hearing Roy Bayfield read from his new publication Desire Paths: Real Walks to Nonreal Places on (Pancake) Tuesday night at Edge Hill University's Arts Centre. To someone who loves walking, especially with my family and our two dogs, poems offering thoughts on walking are of particular interest. I’m also intrigued by the description ‘mythogeographical’ - can’t wait to find out more!
Details of the event here
The Desire Paths reading takes place on Shrove Tuesday and there are references to Easter in Roy Bayfield’s book of poems Bypass Pilgrim which I read back in 2010. In his introduction he describes this collection of poems as ‘a gift, love-letter, apology, self-portrait, account, waystation on a journey towards writing other things, and escape plan.’ After I’d read it in 2010 I showed Bypass Pilgrim to a relative who’d recently had a heart bypass - as they read, from the first page, they frequently nodded and smiled - that’s it exactly. It was good, they said, to find that someone else had had a similar experience, and had written about it.
‘Outpatient Appointment’ in particular reminds me of taking my Nan (pre-2010) to Broadgreen Hospital for her post-op check:
None of us had been brave
enough to come in person,
at least not in
During those pre-op visits the consultant had very much included me in his explanations - aware that anyone facing this operation (a triple bypass in my Nan’s case) does well to maintain their capacity to listen, being overwhelmed with the fear of the procedure they are facing and everything else that’s bound up in that. My Nan’s operation went ahead without a hitch and after a recovery time, she was much better as a result. Reading through Bypass Pilgrim again today renews my sense of her journey and how brave she, and all those others are.
On Friday I watched the brilliant performance by Geraldine Monk and Alan Halsey here with my 13 year old niece - her immediate reaction was ‘Why can’t we have this poetry in school!’ Indeed, why not. Her encounter with poetry so far in secondary school has been Carol Ann Duffy’s ‘Valentine’ which she described at the time as ‘weird, I didn’t get it’. A thirteen year old girl, especially one who lives with her brother and her dad, isn’t always into love poetry!
The Monk / Halsey performance, which might seem more unfamiliar to my niece as being a ‘poem’, grabbed her from the off. She certainly didn’t question it as a poem. There was something in their performance that she recognised, something that she connected with more than the theme of love - or onions! - in the Duffy piece.
Certainly for me the ‘call for papers’ that the Monk / Halsey performance begins with is a reminder that the Robert Sheppard Symposium is approaching (8th March at Edge Hill University, Ormskirk). There are a range of events (an exhibition, a symposium and evening of readings) which comprise this celebration of Robert Sheppard’s work. Details of events here.
Robert Sheppard's collaboration with Ian McMillan at the Leeds Enemies below.
I am fascinated by the use of the human voice as a musical instrument, its scope for making sound, particularly how the voice can be used in sound poetry. And I have been held by the collaboration between SJ Fowler and Nathan Walker at the Liverpool Enemies event as an intriguing instance of how voice can be used as sound -- and go beyond that. What follows is an account of my recollection of their performance in Liverpool on Saturday and my responses - immediate and considered -- to that. (I was sat on the front row).
In preparation Steven Fowler and Nathan Walker moved closer together, pulling in their microphones stands and standing with their shoes almost touching -- a merging of bodies? As their performance began, their mouths were moving but I couldn’t hear any sound. I began watching the movement of their lips closely to try to work out what they were saying. When sound did come, I was in the moment distracted by my interest in the technical aspects of their performance - the making of these sounds by a human, two human, voices, and the interaction between those voices. As I watched their faces, and listened, I was aware that their voices were making sounds which were highly emotive -- distress, hysteria, madness emerged from their mouths which had been, to begin with, moving, but making no sound. At times, to me, there were emotive elements to the sounds of their voices and in their facial expressions that created a sense of distress that was uncomfortable to watch, but their voices also at times provoked laughter from the audience.
That evening I wasn’t sure how to respond - beyond that emotional response I’d felt in the immediacy of their performance. There is more to sound poetry than just the sound made! As with other poems the Fowler Walker piece held something beyond the immediate feelings it evoked in my raw experience of it. There was something unresolved for me in that performance that I needed to, but hadn’t yet made sense of, something I hadn’t caught hold of . . .
The Fowler Walker performance came directly after Sandeep Parmar’s striking performance of poems based on a tarot card reading, including Trump and May ‘cards’. For me, something of the context of Parmar’s tarot card readings carried into the highly charged and emotionally ambivalent Fowler Walker performance. And it has been mulling over the effect of carrying over of a context of the current political climate into the Fowler Walker performance which has given me a sense I had been fumbling after; and which, for me, makes theirs an expressive vocalisation that was actually quite perfect.
This week I got another chance to collaborate with Patricia Farrell, this time for the Liverpool part of the Enemies North by Northwest tour. Patricia sent material for me to respond to, which had come out of her reading on women in the weaving industry in the 18th century onwards. I was immediately struck by the poignancy Patricia had created which was further concentrated in the short lines on the page.
I felt Patricia’s material called for a response in some form of song. I’m definitely not a singer and so this certainly took me out of my comfort zone. But, in my postgraduate research, I am working on musicality of language. So, here was a challenge that gave me a chance to explore how to get at the musicality in the sounds in language and in structures for my part of the collaboration.
Patricia and I performed our collaboration last night. Here’s a link to the performance www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKbh_gwM8Jg
Thanks to Patricia for creating such inspiring material to work from. And thanks to the organisers, Tom Jenks and SJ Fowler, and all the readers last night, for another very enjoyable evening of collaborative poetry.
In the early (?) stages of my practice performances at home I was told I sounded like the mice in Bagpuss! Here's a link to hear them sing 'We Will Wash It' www.youtube.com/watch?v=WVzAJbEkyyU