Seventeen

Prosaic, Pulpit

“I poured my aching heart into a pop song
I couldn’t get the hang of poetry
That’s not a skirt girl, that’s a sawn-off shotgun
And I
Can only hope, you’ve got it aimed at me

Suck it and see, you never
Know
Sit next to me before I
Go

Jigsaw women in horror-movie
Shoes
Be cruel to me, cos I’m a fool for you”

Oh Turner.

The Arctic Monkeys did their first gig when Alex was seventeen. Just a bit of title-related trivia for you there. While I’ll admit I am basically an Alex Turner fangirl, I think the man genuinely has a brilliant lyrical talent. Matt Wilkinson seems to agree. Only I don’t think it’s some slippery quality that enables Alex to write with such profundity. Not some vague talent or muse. It’s the connectedness, the insight. Not to everyone generally, but to specific and vital parts of our lives. Friendship, love, melancholy, finding purpose or avoiding purpose. More specific: nights out, strange observations on the long walk home, infatuation, lust, surrenders, loss…humaness, haha. Al seems to be able to speak to something deep and internal, not just for me, but for thousands of fans. And if poetry is some marker of success in the realm of words, he’s definitely a poet.

But he’s a poet of the everyday, and in the truest sense: he can process the content of our lives and regurgitate their defining moments in beautiful song. And not to forget the Arctic Monkeys, Miles Kane, Josh Homme – he’s got some proper good comrades that transform his wording from masterful to angelic. However, he’s the only one who, through the writing, I know is on the other side of the table with me, offering his glass for a playfully intoned cheers.

Enough of my gushing though. Connection is the theme. Alex has kept producing work since he emerged as a musician/singer/songwriter. He hasn’t really taken a break. This is because he lives the work and the experiences he’s writing about. This is because he’s never really lost track of things in the way that many of us do. With the Arctic Monkeys’ highly successful debut “Whatever People Say I am, That’s What I’m Not”, Alex was given everything he needed to write songs and perform forever. So, highly unusually, he took that and never looked back. Never worried substantially about needing to change style just for the audience. He’s changed a lot, sure, but it’s clearly reflecting him and not just what we want from him.

I mean it’s him talking to us from the same side of the bar. One of us, not a reflection of us.

And this is the really weird core it’s generally hard for all people to grasp: that you become closer to others by being comfortable as yourself. Honesty, folks, or as close to that as we can manage. It’s honesty that’s always produced my best work. I’m just quite scared of it. Alex, I reckon, isn’t anywhere near as worried as most of us. All of the fans he has and still baring his soul in songs, retaining his playful character in person, in between songs, in interviews, in recordings. Fame fucks people up and – at least in relative terms – fame has not fucked him up. That’s a damn miracle.

And, for those who are looking, it’s a heart-felt testament to the value of honesty in an artist’s work. Because look, if you can’t connect with yourself, if you can’t engage with how you feel about what has happened and what will happen to you…how can you ever seriously talk to someone else about their lives? And isn’t that most of what we’re doing? Talking, communicating in ever more complicated forms, trying to emphasise or hide our experiences, context depending? That’s art, man.

Last time I was writing about the disembodiment of words, how they carry us away from our immediate selves and into others’ lives and experiences in a very serious and real way. The brain projector kicks up and the body slows down in people who interact with our work, not just words, but all art. The act of communicating. But it’s so much easier to listen, to look, to feel, when that experience shown by someone else is so clearly also in us. There are always points of common ground but I think it’s only in a more-or-less unashamed work that the common ground is well and truly laid beneath the artist’s feet, when you realise that they are with you and not outside of you. The disembodiment becomes less of a departure of one’s soul or spirit into another, and more or a joining of souls. Sounds grand I know, but it’s right.

If the soul is a metaphor for your deepest self, physical, mental, everything that at a moment in time is your core, then it’s only in baring that that you can get other people to focus on you as much as themselves. You know, in philosophy, there are a lot of folks doubting that we even know other people exist. That’s because philosophy is quite an academic field and spends surprisingly little time engaging with the reality it tries to describe. Instead, philosophers ‘proper’ sit in stuffy rooms, often reading smelly books about long dead Greeks and Germans. They have so much to prove – literally they’re not even comfortable admitting they exist, and if they do it’s existence in very carefully defined terms. There’s a place for that sure, but it’s not an especially human pursuit. The part of us that we have to live with our entire lives, the part of us that drives our actions, the clearly and unashamedly human part, needs to be open and without shame. Because that’s how we very loudly and yet informally tell eachother “we are here! And its fucking great!”

I mean sure, maybe in the grand scheme of things something being great is irrelevant. But we’re humans. We’re specific. We’re not Gods or Angels or Fairies or any of that shit. We’re here together, jumbled up and living whether we like it or not, and we have so much room to like it. So much potential for good ting, fine stuff, merriment and happiness.

That’s why I fucking love Alex Turner. He looks a lot like a living embodiment of that truth, an example of how we all should be in our own lives. Full, honest, devoted to the pursuit of our own shit, whatever that is. It really doesn’t have to be, and probably won’t be bad. Because once you start doing that, your thing, you realise that’s just what everyone else is trying to do and whether you like it or not, it puts you shoulder-to-shoulder with all of them. Not in some ivory tower, not driving by in a Rolls Royce or some crap, but at the next desk down or opposite at the table in some café.

Lastly and once again, writers’ block is just failing to recognise that. Nothing grand, but it can pin people for their whole lives. Fuck, it’s so simple. So complex, sure, but so simple. Even if I’ve not proved it right here, take the reins, be yourself, lead your life, you’ve got nothing to lose, pal. I mean this is something we’re likely to be fighting with our whole lives, but…balls to that. Do what you have to do. Find out who you are and be it. Then all your troubles in art and work will evaporate like water boiling pasta.

Have a B-side to set you on your way.

Picture above not mine. Review, educational, beautiful, etc. 

Thirteen

Poetry, Pulpit

The lights that show us through the dark are burning away our days

In crowds of black&white commuters, stark against the background sound quiet, glaring on, petty mumblings, headphone pendants, votive coffee cups left in temple alcoves

Or

Shellshocked private school boys in red scarves and brown wool overcoats the colour of dead leaves in Winter shining gold to be embezzled

Dulux charts of navy swimming in that grounded sky blue perpetual in the night and

Listed buildings stand testament to our strange obsession with memorials of the damned&angelic

Global Corporate Golgotha

All the tombstones have personal names that mean hotels, finance, property, alcoholics, pharmaceuticals like the way we give God a personal pronoun: Lloyds will handle it, Marks will handle it; He will handle it

Violent partially-erect sexual aids consume our city finances

Smoking&fire&loss&alarm&prevention&free paper are red

Security cameras are blue because they are comfortingly sad, or grey because they are not there

The harsh butcher lamps in shops saying come&buy&leave, in homes saying come&sleep&leave, in hospitals saying come&die&leave

The city heaves great lumps of dripping profit

Streetlamps making you drive & closed parks

The ant-hill windows burning on condemned estates

Then a thousand artists iridescent in pointless silver running onto railway tracks

To report on suspicious citizens & see it & say it & sorted.

Twelve

Prosaic, Pulpit

I think I need a bit of a creative diary here. Some help to go over the process and piece things together.

Right now we’re on a little break after that storm of poetry earlier. Poetry can take a lot out of you, man. Or at the very least I find too much in a short few days and you start repeating yourself. Favourite words, favourite techniques. My sibilance is off the charts. I reckon we need a pause so look forward to some more prose, hopefully a short story at some point (but I’m a bit out of practice) and plenty of metaphysical meandering. I used to have a section called that on an old blog from my university days. I dropped out by the way. Go figure.

What do you think of my poetry though? I really prefer to do formless in a very formatic way. That’s not a word incidentally, but it could be. Yes, the formatic of only a vague glass wall at the end of each line. Well, more of an escalator or a teleporter. I like to use line breaks as punctuation is what I’m saying. Mysterious punctuation that somehow still works. I feel like there’s something very important about the experience of reading poetry, becoming familiar with it. I think standard punctuation is too obvious, gives you part of the reward too early and tempts you to forget about the rest of that pot of gold further down the figurative rainbow. Remember kids, it’s all about the journey.

Let’s take an example:

I can smell your flat Shandy Bass
Crazy fresh open window Streathamings despite 4x4s
Maybe the orange
Lube seal guardian
The prickle of Sainsbury’s soave
Demented cartoon solipsism
And no questions
Some kind of pure morning sun feeling
Histories now seemingly too similar to be counted
Vague attempts at siphoning
The hairy butterfly embrace catches
In oesophageal anticipation
Exhausted Tadcaster blur moaning
Like Pink Floyd behind the eyes
The drowned sugar between sheets
Invader Zim acceptance
And white emperor armour self-inflicted orange somehow unjust
Like discarded lines sweat-patched
And lonely perfumed shower soap irritating unknown orgasm
A world set above the world
Your shiny glass skull self-reflecting or alien crystal
Talking fish singing penitent
Discarded shirt tie lissom French letters
Vapor boots neatly stacked with wine glass columns
Your epic poetic resounding sweet chill pizza
I could have laid the whole mourning through
No cold in the exhausted breeze cradling

N.B. I just found a lone comma after “columns” and expunged it from the historical records. Remember to proof properly ya douche.

Now, the effect I’m looking for is that you’ll be a little confused on first reading, but eventually your mind and your inner voice will force a certain kind of order into things, as it always does. And I want to try and influence that subtly. More interaction that way, more oneness between author and reader perhaps. So, the positioning of words, the line breaks, the assonance, the placement of particular images just so…these force you to impose what will hopefully be a peculiar kind of rhythm that matches the one I heard in writing. Cute, huh? Oh and peculiar used to mean particular. I like it like that.

Sometimes I wonder about just using grammar but really I’m doing this in the first place because of grammar – it’s little functions and directors have multiple interpretations. Hyphens and colons, semi-colons, square brackets and styles of speech mark all have specific meanings, but they’re still interpreted differently by different people. Misunderstood or properly understood. I might be using them wrong, thinking it helps, when really I’m not. I decide it’s best just to try and do it without them. Make the words feel like they have some of that stuff there necessarily. Naturally. Maybe it’s like hanging a picture. If you nail it into the wall, or bluetack it, or tape it, there’s all these weird bits distracting you from the picture itself. Sometimes, with some pictures, it’s better just to lean them on the side. Leave gravity be. Use it to help, even. Know what I mean?

I’m also very much into romance at the moment, which is troublesome. It’s often so messy and confusing and for me that’s a huge amount of the appeal. To turn madness into a poem that’s had a surprising amount of structure go into it is quite weird. I’ve done nature poems before. Thinking I might try and go back to that for a bit, or at least inject a bit more pagan wonder into what I’m doing now. Also there’s this strange compulsion to analyse past loves and process them by putting them into poetry. I’m running with it but…mainly happily confused about doing so. Maybe it sells well? I don’t know.

I’m not necessarily expecting anyone to answer (except in your own head a bit dear reader) but how do you feel about writing? Guessing most of you are wordpressers, so you have some kind of regular relationship with the technique. Is it something you don’t have to think about so you can just diarise for fun and profit? Is it a fine art you sometimes get tired of and have to rest? Is it an uncomfortable need, a part of you shouting out, demanding a fairly fair hearing? Does structure help you? Like, other peoples’ pre-ordained structures? Because there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m part copying Allen Ginsburg, John Cooper Clarke, lyricists like Alex Turner and various others. I mean they’re at least huge influences.

Let’s end on originality:

Pretty much everything’s already been done one way. It’s up to you to do the same thing, differently. Lots of different ways to do the same thing, which hopefully makes you realise, it’s all in the details. Like even if I directly copied Chickentown and performed it, and didn’t sound like JCC, that would still be an original performance. Because I could never sound like that guy at that time. Even he can’t sound exactly like himself the night before, or the minute before. And suddenly, everything seems original. If not substantially so, still technically…if not legally, still technically…and it’s all the little technical originalities that make up a brilliant big one. Big originality doesn’t just appear from nothing after all, it’s forged, consciously or not, from everything you do. Think on it.

The Curly Auburn DJ

Poetry, Pulpit

My nostalgia for you

Particularly, hugging me at work when you’re tired
Sharing sandwiches and mugs
Because you don’t like too much cheese
Being okay with my saliva
Dirty fingers from polishing your shoes sometimes
Because I want to
Sonorific MTV memories
And your little unexpected gifts
Always

Especially, innocent shameless on tired weekday evenings
Warm, rainy nights behind open doors
Lonely blue guitar rockstar singalongs
And romantic pointings beloved of Elvis
Lookalikes of lookalikes
Staggering
Striding through streets
And being alone with our lagers, hands

Specifically, kissing me with your hat on
At home, in private, with no-one to see and the windows open to the night
With moonshine and lamplight on the sill
The felt catching on my forehead but sliding over, not down
Silently looking into your eyes
Feeling your body, privately, for the first time
Through softened wool or cotton and layers
You watching as I hold you and touch you
You would want to understand
And you would
A little, or more

To your quiet music

The Lusty Abbatoir (V1)

Poetry, Pulpit

In the alleyway of forgotten hotel rooms
Unserviced, we shrugged
Up to a numberless door, a key protruding
From your coat of sheer confidence

Tumbled into the breathing air and you
Showed me past the pots and on the staffroom
Carpet we cried our little hearts
At the dusty old past and that
Empty work filled into the night

Butcher lights cut our drunken daze
I considered the toilet to wash
In case the cocktails worked like in movies
Aphrodisiac in every drop of Campari, Martini

But your face was inscrutably beautiful
Mouthing me things with your sparkling eyes
The tone of your voice settling in my mind
Leaving something somewhere bound with the drinks-memory

Even crusty kitchen meat-hewn meals
Spoke notes of quiet understanding
That put me naked in that blue place
Barely a shiver before sheets enveloped

So in your bed I was back at the bar
All smiles and cards and happy stories
Yet with a grin you let yourself under your sheets
And I could feel our sweat touch cold

The lips holding daring hands when you asked
Can we kiss. The twining like misty trees
Silent shiver of blissful fear as your boxers
Were pulled away

Howard and Vince Talk About Love

Poetry, Pulpit

Love is animal
Being willing to beak and be beaked
To curl inside eachother, to scratch in play
To stroke and tend hairs and furs
Flying together
Sharing resting spaces
Pomp and puffiness that comes out in cute
When the other creeps nearby
Love is basic
Essential
A knot of roots that snuff and howl and laugh
Sharp and clear, soft as pig skin
Hairy as sheeps
Because human isn’t love.
Human is appreciation, the better communication
Of animal things, the better understanding and use
of those things. Human is craftiness.
An ability to avoid pain or any emotion at all.
Love is gnawing on a leash.

Of the Winter Offensive

Poetry, Pulpit

As the frost settles on their broken bones
Squat in deformity the huddled pair
Clasp hands in perpetual motion
One grey cloak and one green
Both white faces tugging
Eachother’s corrupted
Fingers.
Even
The living
Dead can be beautiful
With a rosy tint to their
Empty sockets and a certain
Pink to their lack of posture that
Crumbles beautifully into fleshy moss –
Even broken bones last centuries.

Five

Poetry, Pulpit

She cut loose over the copse. The morning bird:
Singing into the fog of early dew, cutting the dull
Dank clouds with velvet wings, sharp as knives.
I watch her between the long, easy breaths of branches
And their leafy veils, following her flight through
A tunnel of clear dry air until all begins to soak
With morning tears while the fields and woodland
Stir, and somewhere I catch her mounted by a fairy,
Driven down underneath the roots to elven kingdoms.
I drop into my puddle of lost veils: here below,
Where the leaves are sweet with fire colours.
They stare out from their spines. They crackle
Like rotted twigs in the wind, or tiny bones.

Consul Aurantiacus

Poetry, Pulpit

I can smell your flat Shandy Bass
Crazy fresh open window Streathamings despite 4x4s
Maybe the orange
Lube seal guardian
The prickle of Sainsbury’s soave
Demented cartoon solipsism
And no questions
Some kind of pure morning sun feeling
Histories now seemingly too similar to be counted
Vague attempts at siphoning
The hairy butterfly embrace catches
In oesophageal anticipation
Exhausted Tadcaster blur moaning
Like Pink Floyd behind the eyes
The drowned sugar between sheets
Invader Zim acceptance
And white emperor armour self-inflicted orange somehow unjust
Like discarded lines sweat-patched
And lonely perfumed shower soap irritating unknown orgasm
A world set above the world
Your shiny glass skull self-reflecting or alien crystal
Talking fish singing penitent
Discarded shirt tie lissom French letters
Vapor boots neatly stacked with wine glass columns
Your epic poetic resounding sweet chill pizza
I could have laid the whole mourning through
No cold in the exhausted breeze cradling

Summer parks, pavements, towers, bins, water, birds, weekenders, dogs.

Poetry, Pulpit

Sitting glazed by the sun
This park bench pondering
Stroke victim voyeur
Touched inappropriately by the news
Dragged away from glass nipples
Looked out on the streets
And they were the stone streets
They were the cold streets
They were the dusty broken-slab streets executing old people
They were rough flags that would grit with shoes like sand
Looked at the buildings
And they were concrete slaughterhouses
They were camouflaged with glass and perspex
Their animals put blood in shining boxes and died
They were full of suicide cubicles
Looked at the parks
And they were the garbage hills
The bin mesae overflowing filth rivers from passersby
Modernist artworks of misery and neglect
Their grass was not green but grey
Looked at the river full of water rats
And air thick with flying rats
The water writhed in laminate pain
The plastic bags mocked fish and jellyfish
Ducks building nests out of trash for their furry babies
The world seethed.
But here in the sun, watching people glide
Families with their pets and dogs
Readers, sun-bathers, barbecuers
It’s this:
A little dog gnaws on its leash while the owner says
You like this new leash don’t you
Says
This is much better than the old one, isn’t it
Says
Good boy:
And the way it gnaws almost looks like nodding.