Half price poetry books for Winter Solstice

Winter solstice sale

OMG great deal

It’s one year to the day since the publication of “Rhymes for all times”! Happy first birthday to my second publication.

To celebrate this (and the fact that I didn’t bother making the book available via Amazon or any real-life physical book-shops, or doing any promotion whatsoever, and have therefore only sold about 3 of them this year), ALL (i.e. both) of my wonderful poetry books are retailing at HALF PRICE for the rest of 2016. Whether you’re a poetry connoisseur or simply an ordinary hard-working member of the public looking for a relatively cheap Christmas present for your favourite aunt/nephew/dog, our shop is now the destination of choice for the discerning capitalist consumer of culture.

You can also read (or watch) some of the poems before you buy, just to make sure you don’t think they’re completely rubbish and/or inappropriate gifts for your chosen recipient. Some of them do contain swear words (e.g. “cock” – a UK English slang word for the male “penis”) and a lot of them also rhyme (i.e. use corresponding sounds at regular intervals by way of rhetorical and mnemonic technique). You have been warned.

If you want books gift-wrapping, just ask. (E.g. add the request to the PayPal comments).

 

Nonstandard means of procuring a poetry book

If you have a book of poetry you’ve written (or possibly even something else like a CD/sculpture/novel/large loaf of bread) I will happily swap one of mine for it, unless I already own it or don’t actually want it. Feel free to barter with me.

Attitude: rampant

Attitude: rampant

We fell asleep beneath red leaves
And left the goats to ramble.
I dreamt of apple blossom,
You dreamt of apple crumble;
I type all this into my phone
And fruit becomes computer.
I filter my photography
To make my dog look cuter,
And all my friends are far away
Now they fit in my pocket;
And every thought’s a cliché now
So every second’s “fuck it”.

We fell asleep beneath bare branches,
Left the goats to ramble.
I touched my palm upon your chest
And felt your ribcage tremble.
I endeavour to express this
Like milk into a pail
But the sentiments turn sour
As in a fairytale.
The boys are crying wolf again
And everyone’s afraid;
The stars have fallen from the sky
But all is safe inside.

We fell asleep beneath the blossom,
Left the goats to wander.
I dreamt about a boat at sea,
You dreamt the squalls and thunder;
Washed up on dark desert sand,
We wake up in the future.
Emoting through emojis now,
We’ve kama for some sutra;
But the best of all our tools
Are blaming us for badness,
And all our fading danger signs
Are wearing thin of redness.

We fell asleep beneath ripe fruits
To caprine rumination.
I woke to find a note that said
You’d left for the train station.
You’re working in the city now;
You’re working for survival.
I’m living for the love of it,
Awaiting your arrival.
I’ll pluck the apples from this bough
When they are good and ready,
And we’ll have apple crumble then
If we’re still going steady.

Appears in:
Live Canon poetry prize anthology [2016]
In the Men’s Room [2017]

Notes:
Concerning the title: in heraldry, “attitude” refers to the position of an animal; “rampant” in this respect indicates the animal is on its hind legs – a position commonly found in supporters (or attendants): figures placed on either side of the escutcheon (or shield), usually depicted as holding it up.

Madness, and the way to the Men’s Room

img_20161023_123725-1

Draft art photography for forthcoming book: a replica Judas cradle in the Museum of Torture, Zagreb.

What’s the definition of madness then?

Some people say the first sign is talking to yourself.

Some people say madness is characterized by doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Oxford dictionaries online qualifies it as “The state of having a serious mental illness.” This official version sounds slightly less like a definition and more like something that needs defining. But the sub-definitions serve well. So let’s compile:

  1. Talking to yourself
  2. Repetitive actions
  3. Extremely foolish behaviour
  4. Wild and chaotic activity

It is in the spirit of all four of these modes of being that I bring you news of my upcoming third poetry book: “In the Men’s Room”.

I haven’t quite put book two, “Rhymes for all times“, to bed yet. It’s nearly a year since I published it. I’ve done precisely nothing to further its cause since fruitlessly sending out about 15 review copies in January, so I thought I’d read all 33 poems from it in the Boiler House and upload them to my YouTube account for posterity. There will be no critique or coverage, it seems; and there was never going to be a tour or any kind of follow-up to the launch event due to the chasm between supply and demand. By the time I record and upload all 33 poems I’ll be able to assess whether it succeeded or failed on its own terms. I suspect a bit of both…

But back to “In the Men’s Room”. It’s taking shape. In theory it’s all but done; with 31 poems in the folder and the two remaining ones only in need of editing. But it’s mutating. It began concurrently with Has Doubts volumes One and Two as a collection of poems on the theme of feminism. Around the time I was compiling “Rhymes for all times” I began to suspect that nobody needed 33 poems by me about that. So I broadened the scope of it to include some “nature” poetry I’d been writing. And the dichotomy I was seeking began to emerge.

For “Mistaken for art or rubbish” it was art and commerce. How the two were related; whether they could happily coexist. For “Rhymes for all times” it was history and truth; perhaps an even less subtle pairing. For “In the Men’s Room” the doubt is focused on nature and destiny. Some of the questions I’m hoping to pose via the medium of poetry:

  • is natural synonymous with good?
  • is humankind distinct from nature?
  • ought humankind to have mastery over nature?
  • does humankind have mastery over itself?
  • is nature synonymous with destiny?

They’re all variations on a theme. And, as usual, the questions are inevitably posed from a (vaguely) Western-secular-Christian-postmodern philosophical viewpoint. Funnily enough, I’ve found myself returning to explorations of feminism here and there in the newer poems. Sometimes less explicitly than when the outlines of the book were first drawn. And hopefully for the better.

But it’s hard to look out the window – or even to look in the mirror – without being reminded that humanity is universally divided into two types; and that one is better valued than the other. Notwithstanding race, class, religion, and the many other modes of societal grouping and separation, nowhere and never has humanity been without the overriding biological truths of male and female. And everywhere and always these natural truths of sex have been used to effect distinct (and supposedly also natural) destinies in the form of two genders – with little tolerance for anything existing or passing between the two.

I’ve posted drafts of some of the poems from the upcoming book online as far back as 2010. One or two took the form of video performances way back when I first got a webcam.

But next week I’ll post a video reading of the first poem proper from “In the Men’s Room”. (And you know I mean business because I said “poem proper” and not “proper poem”.) Fittingly, it’s called “Welcome to the Men’s Room”. I sent it to a political-poetry blog to see if they wanted it, but they probably won’t: It’s an 828-line rhyming ballad; and I wrote it.

The poem serves as a time capsule addressed to my daughters, telling them what the world was like for women in October, 2016; and what to expect if it’s still the same when they’re reading it. Maybe, hopefully, by the time the subject matter is fit for their consumption (10/15 years), we’ll have made progress. But, in the immortal words of Coolio: “the way things are going, I don’t know.”

I couldn’t memorise it in the time, but I’ve recorded an okay reading in the shed. No frills: just me and a mic, and some crushed velvet in the background.

So, yeah. Make some room in your diary for Monday.

It’s 25 minutes long.

Yours in good faith,

A Velky

A rhyme for all time

A rhyme for all time

Iblis, full of hubris.
Mary, full of grace.
Sodom, full of sodomy,
Was such a sinful place.

Judas, full of treachery.
Thomas, full of doubt.
Samuel Johnson, lived with Tourette’s,
Scrofula and gout.

Pandu, full of pallor.
Pingu, full of pike.
Buddha, full of compassion.
Tiggy-Winkle, full of spike.

Libraries, full of artful lies.
Graveyards, full of truth.
Forests, full of sageless age.
Cities, full of youth.

Atlas, full of burden.
Anansi, full of tricks.
Jim Corr, full of theories,
Thick as Egyptian bricks.

History, full of wonder.
Victoria, full of grief;
Phone boxes painted glossy black,
Beggars still belief.

Empire, full of spices.
Dungeon, full of mould.
Mazes, full of Minotaurs.
Mountains, full of gold.

Schoolhouse, full-of-rule-house:
Testing testaments.
Rockeries, full of mockeries
Of your faith’s investments.

Culture, full of landfill.
Landfill, full of it.
Mass graves, full of plastic.
Media, full of shit.

Psychopaths and saints are all
Cavorting, hand-in-glove.
All of it’s amazing; it is,
I am, full of love.

 

Appears in:
Rhymes for all times [2015]

Video:

Balance

Balance

Only my second dentist’s appointment
This decade. Last time I could tell she was
In a hurry; I’d barely swallowed twice
The taste of rubber gloves on gums, and tuned
In to mesmeric bingo-caller code
Punctuated with sharp metallic clicks.
This guy was Greek, I think. Meticulous,
Worse luck. Two daughters and a wife in tow
This time; it must have been a good few years.

The day ran away down the A40:
Scouting out schools; a parent-and-toddler
Singing group; a doctor’s appointment too –
Could be asthma but it’s too soon to tell.
Wet winter. Does it run in the family?
Back to M&S car park for 3G.
The storms have hit hard: an exchange is down
And no one knows how to fix the phone-line.
Home through rain. 100 Broken Windows

And there they are: 3.3 kilos of
A4, rubber-banded, wrapped in plastic
Twice, addressed to me, in plain sight, balanced
On the mailbox. Money Saving Expert
Said to stipulate 40 days or less
And so it came to be. Since I threw out
My cassettes and diaries, this is my
Completest history: 12 years’ worth of
Bank statements, tracing my days from student

To graduate; from émigré to me;
Through train stations, chain pubs and record shops
Via hardship funds and overdraft fees.
It’s all here. Inside winds have abated
And our Rayburn’s ready to be relit.
It’s a solid-fuel-to-oil conversion,
Undoubtedly older than me and V;
The technician who came to service it
Last summer said its electric pump is

Illegal; if we have a power-cut
And happen to be out it will explode.
Warm-enough chips and buildings insurance
Are comfort enough for now. And that stack
Of bank statements rests on the work surface
Like a bible, or Joyce’s Ulysses.
Maybe the room will kindle in the night –
Yes, and all the lights across the globe will
Go out, and decades of debt will be wiped.

This epic volume of biography
Will be lost to sirens, static and smoke;
Rendered meaningless by a stroke of fate.
And maybe I’ll emerge a wiser man,
Less a coat; or else just forget the date
Of my next dental appointment. Three fillings.
I have always had perfect teeth. At least
They’ll be able to identify me,
Should the need arise, for annuity.

 

Appears in:
Rhymes for all times [2015]

Stains

Stains

History, herstory;
Which of these would you be first to heed?
And which story would you prefer to read?
If I’m thirsty and cold, will you furnish me
With a purse with which to feed me furs and tea?
If I’m first to leave, will you hire a hearse for me?
And a furnace to fire and burnish me?
If it’s a mystery that murders me,
Will you put my name to a bursary,
So that that name –
Which I’ve taken pains to explain –
With which I’ve lost as much as I’ve gained
Might echo like the ripples on the surface of a lake
From the touch of a single drop of rain?

Might remain?

I search desperately –
I’m obsessed, you see –
For a medium through which to make the best of me.
No mean or median or mode for me
Because I know that’s not what was meant for me;
I was sent to be something of density.
Hard-hearted people use the word “destiny”;
But I’m talking of a sense in my intestines, see:
Not sense and sensibility,
But the worth that this earth
Might make from the dearth
Of the matter it hasn’t yet rent from me.

These concepts, I know, are only lent to me;
Neither my story nor your story
Will suffice to entice
Any more glory
From a path
That is math;
That is poor, hoary,
Hurried and worried and wild;
That’s the sighs of a sage and the tears of a child.

We’re just stains:
Breath on the wind
And piss in the drains;
Electrical impulses
Pulsing through brains:
Fragmented memories
In shades of grey –
Ash in the ocean,
Bones in the clay,

Just stains:
Blood on the flagstaves,
Rust on the chains;
The tide takes the sand,
The moon waxes and wanes:
Silhouettes of fleshy shapes
On fanciful thrones –
Recipes for worm food
Chiselled in stones.

 

Appears in:
Rhymes for all times [2015]

Advertising space

Advertising space

I: Collectable biscuit tins

They make it our business.
They’ve made it our business.
They’re making it our business
All the time.
They’ll make it our business
Till the past dies
In a crime.

A family row boiled down
Isn’t much to shout about.
But lists of names
Of snuffed-out flames
In every village and every town,
Declaim – in chiselled chains
Trapping rivulets of rain,
Or engravings on brass plaques
That catch each flash of light –
The height of the stakes for us all
And the right of the tallest to fall.

Will “Blood Swept Lands And Seas Of Red”
Help us guess the price of a pint of milk
Or the weight of a bloody loaf of bread?

Will a shot at the cenotaph
Help one man convince the pessimist few
He’s much more than just a spike on a graph?

Will turning death into flowers
And legalized mass murder into art
Help us historicize a tragedy
Or tragedize a history?
Or at least learn our lines,
Anticipate our cues
And play our part?

Polish your rifle, the wood is green.
The tanks are waiting; where have you been?

Stille nacht, heilige nacht.
I’m afraid of the present,
I’m afraid of the past.

Alles schläft; einsam wacht.
I’m afraid of the present,
I’m afraid of the past.

A glossy fan of peasant blood
From a hard heart of fossil-fuel buckshot.
What’s the upshot?

888,246 corpses
Would be tough to source.

Wax your moustaches, the frost is keen.
Death in June for Lady Mondegreen.

Stille nacht, heilige nacht.
Betrayed by the future,
Betrayed by the past.

Alles schläft; einsam wacht.
Betrayed by the future,
Betrayed by the past.

Every fallen conscript
Like Jesus
Like Jesus

To be worshipped without question
Like Jesus
Like Jesus

Schlaf in himmlischer ruh!
Schlaf in himmlischer ruh!
II: In the conference rooms

The agonized clinks
Of three glasses repeating
Rough deltoid contact.

Vodka or voda;
And from the undammed Volga,
Salty grey treasure.

A king not let in
To the house of his cousin,
Left out in the snow.

Our deaths embroidered
On tabby-woven linen
By pliant machines.

A willow baton
Gesticulating toward
Attentive shovels.

A deck reshuffled:
Pert, primed, for another crack
At the same old game.

Thank God there are those
Willing to watch and unwatch
Such common portents.
III: Love in the time of Spanish Flu

They’re chuffing us off to the fair, the fair.
I doubt what delights we’ll see there, see there.

I swear I’ve the cold to end colds, end colds.
The doubt trapped in my heart fair moulds, fair moulds.

There’s space for the adverts to fly, to fly.
There’s cause for the poets to die. To dye

Your white poppy all you need
Is some copper and some eggshell
And some existential dread,
Folded through a preparation
Of some human flesh made greed,
Seasoned with some ink and intel:
Soon you’ll see the cells turn red;
The true hue of reparation.

They’re curing the dumb and the lame, the lame.
They’re doing it all in our name, our name.

I curse the day I chose this path, this path.
I’d sooner have stewed in my bath, my bath.

There’s media channels for sale, for sale.
There’s genuine tyrants to bail. To bale

All this fodder you’ll need men,
Or, at the very least, machines –
Of loving grace, if willing;
Or else facilitating things:
Digits counting up to ten,
And not a thing to come between
Them and the righteous killing
Of which our each ancestor sings.
IV: Advertising space

When the wind has blown its owing
Over wounds too deep and foul for sewing,
What flowers then through battlefields
Will still be growing strong?

Fingers frozen clasped closed praying
Numb chewed tongue doesn’t know what it’s saying
To the God you share with a foe
Who is playing along.

There’s no dignity in dying
For a half-mast flag that will keep flying
Regardless of the song;
Even if the words are wrong.

Saint Peter posted at the gates
As Wilfred Owen meets his fate;
He has that look upon his face:
Advertising space.

No one learned from those mistakes;
We ploughed our profits back with haste.
And all that’s left, lest we forget,
Is advertising budget.

Pluck your eyes from their sore sockets;
Chop your hands off and zip up your pockets
With the stumps. Stuff your ears with straw;
You won’t hear the rockets roar.

They poisoned me with mustard gas;
A sweet and honourable way to pass:
A blistered throat and bloody lungs
For cysts to mass among.

And I was grateful to the state
For moving me to truly contemplate
What it really means to serve;
What we servile deserve.

Saint Peter gives his keys a shake,
Says “I don’t like being made to wait.
Siegfried Sassoon: leaving so late?”
Advertising space.

No one learns from past mistakes;
We fill our prophets full of nails.
And all that’s for the fallen
Is advertising sales.

You’ve seen my daughters?
Man, they’re cute.
If they want to work in advertising too,
Lord, I don’t know what I’ll do.
V: Collectable biscuit tins (reprise)

They make it our business.
They’ve made it our business.
They’re making it our business
All the time.
They’ll make it our business
Till the past dies
In a crime.

 

Appears in:
Rhymes for all times [2015]

The old house

The old house

The old house we left is still here,
Though it’s grown even greener.
I daren’t get too near
Lest its look gets any meaner.

I’ve no right now to be this close,
Peering over the high wall
Like a perv. But my nose,
When I’m on tip-toes, is that tall

So how could I hope to resist?
I don’t want to see their kids
Play where I did: their wrists
Skimming the same nettles mine did.

Do they dig up my broken toys?
I wonder. Wander away
With no answer. The noise
Of their woes, and their joys, delays

Me a while – that they coincide.
Brothers can be quite cruel things
To grow up with. Inside
Now, I wonder whose judgement brings

Their justice? I mean, his or hers?
“Ask your mum” or “Ask your dad.”
Ten years back we conversed:
These exact arguments were had

Between the same four limestone walls,
Stone sourced near. If they could talk,
They’d shout: “Heard it before!”
Crunching downhill, I hear my walk

Punctuate the droning of bees.
Fat ducks’ quacks bully bread from
Busfuls of OAPs.
To Flagstaff quarry: I succumb

To the soft thrumming of summer
And slumber where they quarried
My home. Here, high on the
Hill, over it all, I’m sorry

For a moment we ever left –
Waking warm, blinking bubbles,
Purse cursed. But here’s no theft.
And lying still will leave troubles.

 

Appears in:
Rhymes for all times [2015]

Escape to the country

Escape to the country

Just as a sheaf’s wheat to the sickle yields,
Just as a beef-bull for the butcher bleeds,
Now let us build a home among these fields.

Homo sapiens’ destiny was sealed
By gatherers in sowing those first seeds.
Just as a sheaf’s wheat to the sickle yields,

Landscars, lost memorials, are revealed.
As plants that plant themselves are wily weeds,
Now let us build a home among these fields.

We shall protect our plot with these sure shields
We render as unwritten rights and deeds:
Just as a sheaf’s wheat to the sickle yields;

Just as a scab’s a healing wound congealed;
Just as the dead haunt asphodelus meads;
Now let us build a home among these fields

Until the final chapel bells have pealed,
Until the old red giant wakes and feeds.
Just as a sheaf’s wheat to the sickle yields,
Now let us build a home among these fields.

 

Appears in:
Rhymes for all times [2015]

Cities

Cities

Each day dawns, a drawn breath held till dusk.
The musk of each is unique;
A cocktail of intentions and mistakes,
With a tear shed for each brick that cracks,
And apologies for each promise that breaks.

We came here for different reasons,
I suppose; only neither of us remembers
All those yester-Decembers ago
What motivated us;
Who we were: what we wore
Underneath those clothes.
Our photographs are evidence
Only of smiles and situations.

You couldn’t make them up.
There are no reciprocations
In the chewing-gum train stations
Where the late and the latents
Expend fate and patience
In becoming the justification
For all of this urgent art.

False start, true friend;
I will hold your hand
Till the sour end.
Let’s not be anxious, or unctuous,
Obnoxious or rambunctious;
But rather let’s welcome among us
The vegetable, meat and fungus
Of a thousand surviving ideas.

Come the hour, however it may,
When nature’s tentacles split stone
And concrete crumbles –
When all of this dust-deaf marshland
Reverts to verdant jungle –
Will we embrace the return of the trees?
Or cower under our desks,
And rock back and forth, humming mildly,
Hugging our knees?

Our fears are only as logical
As the wind is visible.
Our hats are only as fashionable
As our desires are risible.

They coddle us with possibilities.
Foundations in yesterday’s clay,
They’ve fossils on their soles.
With heads in the clouds,
They see four futures at once –
Each advancing apace
From north, south, east, west;
Wearing a gaunt game face.

Every decision is made here now.
Every action external to this
Is akin to the breaking of wind
By a slaughterhouse cow.
We are blessed to be in the presence
Of a greatness we couldn’t have planned;
A greatness formed by no godly hand
In these nerve centres;
These everted brains;
These magnetic meathooks;
These gold-plated drains;
These castles of plastic;
These muscles of law;
These tumours of landscape;
These rumours of war.

 

Appears in:
Rhymes for all times [2015]