Why I don’t write, but will.

Non-fiction, Pulpit

My output on here isn’t especially regular. I thought I’d do something to explain that, but also something to address issues around “Writers’ Block” that must effect a large part of the authorial community at one time or other.

The short answer is: we stop seeing the point. Feels like your brain is empty and you just can’t summon anything up or whatever. Well generally it’s acutely expressed for me when belief in my writing fails. I can’t summon up anything because I’ve already decided my ideas are pointless, not worth expressing because they will not be read or they will not be understood. Or maybe they just aren’t good enough. And that thought, that fear, kills the writing process before it starts. You can’t go into a session thinking your work is nothing, because then it will be nothing. Simple enough right?

So how do we break this cycle: well, acquiring belief in the self is a livelong battle for probably most people. Even narcissists can worry that they don’t look perfect enough to fuck themselves. Therefore we have to look outside of the self. Sometimes you just can’t rely on that interior, almost spiritual well of inspiration and knowledge working without outside input. Basically, go and talk to people. Find a friend, find someone in the café or at the bar who looks interesting, or hell go on a forum or facebook. It’s so easy with the internet, we really have no excuse. Start a discussion, start an argument if you have to. Make it about something interesting – trolling is too easy and probably won’t get your inky juices flowing, just those other juices – and try to put the time limit on for around half an hour. The participation of others will probably fill you up with some sort of fervour that you can direct into writing.

Next step that also applies generally: even if you don’t think it’s good enough, write anyway. Editing is a thing. You can modify, correct, improve later. Once you have an idea, how well you write it isn’t important. People say you should plan first, well, with word processors you can write first and then do a plan with your first edit. I think it’s called “drafting”. People forget this, I forget this especially. At the beginning of a piece, if you’re struggling, sometimes it can just be about “content creation”. Not even anything good just something essentially coherent.

I forget that on WordPress you can alter and edit anytime you want. Now, if I had a wider readership that might become more obvious. But I don’t think even then it would need to become a problem. Not if you’re happy to read me anyway. I was worried – by all the “best of so and so…” posts on my reader – that no-one edited after posting. But it’s a function available. We should use it. The world, information, opinions, expressive capacity, change all the time.

This is not a platform of books. This is, surprisingly enough, a very well-built tool for conducting discourse. So many people, even the overlords of WordPress themselves, have forgotten that. We shouldn’t just be prising the perfect posts that make one or a few salient points and have them metaphorically sing like angels. We should also prise posts that spawn other coherent posts in response, ones that spawn huge chains of thought in the comments boxes. We should be encouraging eachother to talk more, discuss more, elucidate our points of view so we can all improve. Surely there’s a way of highlighting those places where actual discussion happens as opposed to the written equivalent of shouting and pats-on-the-back?

I mean if we were all labouring in that sort of atmosphere of interaction I bet it’d be a lot harder to get writers’ block. Admittedly, individual posts could get pretty casual in their vocabu-grammar. But I like to think nuance and careful expression would automatically earn their own respect and approval too. Emoticons and text speak didn’t wipe out language, guys. Posts of singing angels will never die. Unlike Esperanto.

But back to this blog in particular – I’m far too good at tearing apart my own advice and ideas. For years – and I think I’ve actually been on here for years now – that has been the bane of my attempts at producing higher volumes of interesting content. Including pictures. I talk myself out of things before anyone even knows I’ve considered them!

Still, I have some confidence in the method described above. Interaction and an amount of well-placed foolhardiness can break us out of our dark patches. It makes sense. I shouldn’t even have to say it, to myself or anyone. But I do have to remind myself. So this is me reminding you too. And I’ll probably be throwing out some more poems sometime soon.

By the way, in the spirit of the above, I might be editing this (wait and see if I label the edits or not) and I’d love to do some of that discussion thang. Although, after probably a couple months of inactivity, I’m not expecting much.

Sunken Astroboy

Poetry, Pulpit

This is a poem I’m working on to debut my re-entry into the London open-mic circuit. Talking about it to no-one in particular helps me work out where it’s at. Usually I talk to myself, because that’s easier, but being as I’m trying to spool back up into writer mode, I thought I’d write to you instead.

I’m supposed to read it in a JCC-esque vocal range: think steady pace, bass and a bit of blocky nasal influence.

Wilful postulations around the subject of farts
Bring an ellerdine tranquility to the dereliction
Of home comforts and fanny flaps, smells of fish
And excrement, alternately bringing me
Conclusions of the wandering sentiment
That I’m your fast pedal Fuzzbox, your gilt hyena,
Your Quodrophenia, your Swedish Astrodoll in the long cold night –
These niche incantations and silverthread joy:
Like a suckling bottleneck.

I want to touch your hoodie.

Down by the canalside on rubber dinghies
Among the paraphernalia of incontinence
We have the shining glass shards from nearby
Office towers cowering in booze from the babies
On the bank, demanding rubber thingies
And sugarpills of inheritance, they sing a wordless
Melody of near-vomit hiccups extolling life’s
Flambouyant virtues: it comes through the window
And shits down my earholes.

I think of past lovers and friends.

Turning to your feet with their thin film of city dust
Clinging like fine shading to your textured sole
My hands are already fingering and kneading
Your tread, the phalanges in metatarsal embrace,
They are ten tongues speaking to your essential skin,
Reverberating in body parts while you drift, as though
Sea-bound and meanwhile murmuring known songs
With the tickling tide, it’s points at my fingertips.

Something quivers amid the elastane blend fabrics;
Your hands engage it like tongs considering a lump
Of metal that might, eventually, be called sword
But only after furnacing in a sheath of fire: you
Never liked my medieval metaphors; and the balloon
Goes up, the skyrocket inclines toward the moon
In banal American movie symbolism of misogynistic
Idealism, which idea lays me out on the bed early,

Bubbling canal passing by while you’re left unsatisfied
I think I remember a phrase from somewhere dank
And pleasant: I will go to the Cellar Door, the most
Beautiful phrase in the English language, tongue
Those words with their pink stalactite detailing,
Mouth the whole phrase into you with a seething cultured
Joy that moustache tickles round the edges…So lapping up
The canal I sink into the Cellar Door more meaningful
Than skyscrapers, more loving than rockets.

*************

At the moment it’s about men, or a man, and alienation. About drifting from the traditional discourse on gender, but specifically the discourse on relationships and conventional love.

Sunken Astroboy: his immature dick “Astroboy” sinks early and so he goes to the vagina which we usually link to cave/water/earth imagery. Sunken Astroboy is meant to be the poem in summary: the moment a sub is created by the powers that be.

I’m trying to do this properly for a change, hence the attempt at breaking it down/analysing it. I need to see what it is to properly work on it, so I thought I’d let you people in on the “creative process”.

My main issue right now is that it sort of fades out in the last two stanzas, which I kinda want to do because it reflects what I’m trying with the narrative, but I’m worried that it’d just piss people off.

I have Eddie Izzard in mind when he says “I like to finish my shows with a sort of ‘oh’. And I think I’ve achieved that”.

It’s like the narrator gets bored because he’s finally dropped out of the dream and is literally face-first back in physical reality. He switches to the other extreme: the thought drops away and he’s all about the moment’s sensations. But is that asking too much focus from the audience?

I mean I probably wouldn’t look that deeply into a poem I’d just heard at an open-mic. I kinda want to do it like this anyway though, specifically for that “oh” feeling. Like a secret I can keep from everyone to laugh at when I get back to my seat.

Not sure. I’ll keep at it.

Headlines Breakdown:

Stanza 1: the male narrative voice philosophises about relationships and love vs lust; it’s trying to get a sort of hot, hazy afternoon effect. The fairly dead-pan delivery will reflect this.

The hoodie: in his near-dream world, the smallest contact becomes a huge act of commitment and intimacy. A simple statement of the complexity/depth/stupidity of his feelings.

Stanza 2: the wondering takes him out of the window to the canal, either next to or below him. Drunken weekend warriors of the alcoholic world float around, mocking life.

Lovers and friends: I needed something to bridge the gap between the shit and the tenderness. I actually invoke names of certain people when I’m stuck in a bad place. Like making a spell of positive experiences. I wanted to include that somehow.

Stanza 3: he runs from the sadness outside back to his partner. He goes to her feet because he’s a knowing and wilful sub. It’s hopefully starting to suggest some sort of intimacy.

Stanza 4: he gets an erection and sex happens with awkward and weird metaphors. The meta sentiment is about how he holds this knowingly outdated relationship ideal: medieval romances. At the same time he’s struggling to fix this alongside the role that and modern love gives the woman.

Stanza 5: having cum prematurely he follows his instincts and either deeper or almost sexless desires to express a more important love in cunnilingus.

Petty Revolutions

Non-fiction, Pulpit

“You’re gonna wake up one morning and know which side of the bed you’ve been lying on.” Is a quote.*

I’ve finally got to the frame of life where I have to write. Sickened beyond capacity of the inevitable sentiment that if I don’t do art enough I’m not an artist. Fine, I’ll accept it. You can have the art. I don’t want it anyway.

There’s only so many brilliant young somethings you can read about as a disenfranchised twenty-two year old before you lose it. I want to be able to join Louise in saying I’m like forty-something. I’m experienced.

I want to make anyone with half a brain look and say I’ve had more than enough time to get performing. I want people to look at my artistic life and say I’m lazy. I want people to know, like I do, that I should’ve made a start the moment I could write. That the one national poetry competition for twelve year olds wasn’t enough. I want people to realise that every year of your life is an experience you can and should communicate to inform and entertain, like they should’ve said in an exam question somewhere. “Inform and Entertain around the subject of panda nipples”. With the internet you don’t even need to use your own experiences for performance, you can basically just hijack everyone else’s.

I am not still young. It is not okay.

You don’t need Microsoft and Adobe to write and edit. You’ve got apache and gimpshop. You don’t even need them because you can thieve a Sharpie from Morrisons and scribble on smooth public surfaces. You don’t even need that because you can walk up to someone and introduce yourself like chuggers, muggers and beggars do not.

Teenagers are bringing out the new wave of Grime.^ Some of them not even out of school and still making significant record or publicity deals. Meanwhile what the fuck am I doing? Why am I not being written about in Vice and Dazed? I mean Grime is basically fucking open mic. I mean they calls themselves MCs, what more do you want? Pretty artworks and a beatbox called Echo? Alright. I’ll get it. I’ll start mixing fucking White Stripes tunes on audacity and call it Cheesy McFlapsface. I don’t know. Art. Art is going to happen.

Seriously though look at these kids. They’re fantastic. I mean it’s not exactly my sector being as I’m basically a white suburban punk¬ of one kind or another. An aspiring anarchist. I’d call them out on accidental misogyny and proper game in equal measure but maybe that’s part of why I’m not where they are. Or haven’t been where they are. Different discourses work at different times, and there’s plenty of room in paradise folks. We can all get there if we try. Though I guess we’d all rather get there before than after death. Even this morning there was a programme on about Constable essentially saying people loved him most after he died. So many people have to face – or not face – that. Look at the 27 Club for one thing.

That must be one of the biggest issues facing down artists and radicals everywhere. What if I’m not my job, what if I can quit, but then, when I do…I’m not successful enough. What if I’m a starving artist like forever and only get famous after I die? What if the work all comes to nothing that you can see or use to make you feel better about the endless peregrinations of existence?

Well, if that, then you didn’t sell yourself hard enough. You should’ve done that pelvic thrust with a little bit more energy. Cos kids, the world is what we make it, and we can make anything.

All of our celebrities, adored stars and key societal influencers (thinking more behind the scenes there) worked fucking hard to get where they are, but as part of that they worked to ignore expectation and routine. They levelled their sights on what they really needed and started cutting away the weed and dross surrounding it, all the fucking mess we’re sold by leaders and advertisers to make shit smell like roses. It doesn’t matter how it smells. Shit is shit. It has only a select number of uses, mostly involving its being destroyed or otherwise broken up to help make something better.

And you don’t need to be sitting out in some Brazilian jungle or up on Machu Picchu to become a Guevara or write a Stones song. You’ve got everything you need right where you are, it’s just you might occasionally need to travel one way or the other to realise it’s there. Like when you can’t find the remote because you’re sitting on it.

So forward this blog has to go, and all that follows from it. We need those photos to finally get here. Videos! A new website build! I’m gonna have to learn programming languages! Fuck. Ah well, it’s all for the art.

*I read it as a sort of title for “collection by Mark Jackson” in a Dazed&Confused back issue. Think it was number five. It had beautiful androgynous people 🙂

^http://noisey.vice.com/en_uk/blog/the-square-novelist-teenage-crew-future-of-grime

¬ “white suburban punk” epitomised for me in this song, which really deserves a post of its own https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LoF_a0-7xVQ

Frogs Legs and Dragon’s Teeth

Non-fiction

It’s the title of a Bellowhead song, but forgetting that, it’s a story.

When I was at school at Brentwood in Essex – a poshish school for people who wanted to be able to become richish people – we started a literary magazine called the Black Frog.

The youngest writer for it did this really quite simplistic story about a football game but fuck me if it wasn’t an excellent little story. Didn’t discount it for it’s simplicity: it talked about emotions in an honest and accessible way and made for about 3-5 minutes of solid entertainment. This was a story by some 12 year old or something, whose main character was called John Jackson and played football. And it was good.

That magazine, in the year that me and the kids presided over it, gave birth to significant and honest writing talent in a bunch of private school kids who should’ve been playing video games and studying Latin. Or skiing internationally. It was a beautiful thing.

The name came from a probably incorrect story I heard about “Brentwood” being translated from old English or Saxon or whatever into the modern English “Frog Wood”. Of course it’s more likely Burnt Wood, since things like charcoal burning used to be a significant industry and so that’d be a better reference point than a high concentration of frogs.

Didn’t matter. Everyone liked Black Frog enough to pick it as our name.

After the storm to get an issue out at open day though, not much really happened. Not so far as I’m aware. There just weren’t enough people interested in organising it onward, because basically it was in a private school known for grades and sports. Some pissy little rag full of childish dribbling wasn’t going to impress anyone except the English staff. And to be honest most of them seemed pretty underwhelmed.

It was like everyone knew that after our year there just wasn’t the longevity in it. There weren’t the students. It was a student mag see, even if we had a presiding teacher helping us to get the money and the publishing date. Without keen and real kids doing it, no-one was going to assemble under the banner. So it just faded away into the desperation for Oxbridge training, required reading, homework and A-level prep. Stuff that would get you to uni and maybe some high payed job, but that did fuck all for your craft. Barely anything for your soul.

That taught me: if you don’t go and drag people out of the shit-filled foxholes they’re hiding in, you’ll never get what you want. You’ll always be serving. Serving people who themselves are enslaved by some idea of another person’s wealth. It’s a mess. And for a moment with something so stupid and small as a magazine meaninglessly named Black Frog, we put a cut into it. We threatened it with change. But as we left the mess drowned and swallowed that threat hole and, as far as I know things just changed back.

Same happened with the uni writing rag. A serious publication “the Parturient”, and one that I had much less to do with organising beyond the name. It was an expression of our hope and joy as first years in a completely new learning institution (New College of Humanities) but as the years went on people realised they had to get their degrees or go. A labour of love, the first and a few second years kept it going to at least fourth issue I think before it was wrapped up, same way as the Black Frog, through lack of participation. No-one cared anymore. So it just disappeared, like it had never happened in the first place.

The new cohorts, you see, they only looked at it as a notch on their CVs. They weren’t in the meetings at the beginning where we read our hearts out to a loving community of co-authors. They didn’t stay back for the Christmas viewing of Inception that went into one of the most casual and memorable parties I’ve ever been at. They just saw the dying embers of the results of those brilliant early days, and no-one’s yet had the strength to guide them toward something different.

They got the arse end of our happy beginning, where we were told or realised, harshly, that uni wasn’t different. It was just an A-level plus that gave you so much more freedom and so many more exams. So at the end you work out those after-school moments of free expression, creative freedom, drunken drugged sexed liberty and licenciousness, were probably not going to be permanent. Instead they’d be the isolated uni years, and the rest of life would be working harder and more “passionately” than school ever was, now at earning a wage. At surviving on your own. At kids who’d eventually do the same. At retirement.

And that was adulthood. A little death.

So I left in 2nd year and now I’m trying to set up this site, this blog, this magazine. The newest attempt at using the skills I’m supposed to have, to create, inform, emancipate. Dragon’s teeth in defence of individual freedom. A roar of fire in the face of liquid employment drifting along the aqueduct to retirement.

A voice as absurd and powerful as frogs legs in sauce:

Bullshit.

Barrel Blues

Poetry

When you’re sitting at the bottom of a barrel
Thrown out all the golden apples
To or at friends
You’ve eaten some too, time to time,
And in the cider-crush smell of rotting fruit
You’re waking up to a need to breathe
Maybe make amends to the owner, whoever,
And the claustrophobia of the barrel
And the emptiness
No-one outside
No-one looking in
You’re calling and they’ve all gone
For a while you’re thinking they’re all thieves
The farmers
The clerks
The herders and horses
The friends
Fiends, all took it from you
Trapped you in it
Yeah
For a while you’re sitting in some barrel
Licking alcohol dry stench and splinters

And then you get out.

Bloomsbury Freshers’

Romance

Along the lampshade street, people streaming from windows and black ties floating outside open doors
They turn like small falling waves glinting in the moonlight, crashing softly
Seeping through the doors surrounded in spray touching walls and jackets
Dully descending stairs or glittering swimmers leap up steps, fly along corridors, drinking food
In bright rooms with yellowed sand wallpapers dripping heat, repeating sound and the buzz and cackle, laughing bobbling seas smiling warmly in aquarian colours, lit by a setting sun.
The bubbling room sighs and coos, an olympian mons spirals by the door for gods and goddesses drifting higher into the clouds, but the air blows through the room humming a friendly tune.
I find myself talking to Venus and have to apologise for everything. She radiates seductive madness and blinks disappointment at me with long lashes, condemns with swirls of golden curls and some young Odin whisks me away to find a friend.
The friend looks like someone I know and Odin goes to tend ravens, witches, warriors and devout followers. The monks of his mischievous mind.
Speaking gladly, thinking sadly. Watching waves washing on the sandy beach. Away from mountains, ice fields and Georgian townhouses. Some sun setting into the night, trees, wine glasses, rocks and bookcases. A crab scuttles by with wonder in its claws and little leglets. Stars shine from skies and windows. Words willing away the dusk into evensong and electric birds chirping.
She smiles. The sun holds its set somewhere, glowing around.
“Have you really not been clubbing?”
“No, not really. Not much at all.”
“M’okay.”
There’s cigar smoke outside. And espresso. Drinks inside. People everywhere. Romantic beaches wander listlessly along roads and through alleyways, perch on forgotten steps, and wanderers watch themselves in gilted mirrors, wink at shadows, marvel at the shapeliness of their own noses breathing wistful spirits.
The night goes down a beautiful, healthy young drain, past gods and godesses blinking between places, waves pushing, birds slowly singing morning tunes for headaches, confessions. And all these people want are their friends.

To Muse

Fiction, Rakehell, Romance

My poem is you on that hill in France, and their breaths mingling with those of ancient Cathars that drift on the breeze like so many wizards on magic carpets, spreading unknown secrets to unknown passers-by searching for mountains.
My poem is Peruvian crags, broken sheepfolds, dusty books whose pages turn at ghostly hands, responding to the stare of unseen eyes. Their dead dedications living eternally.
Lips on coffee cups forgetting sticky soft reflections on the enamel, rose dreams of romance in a dark and waking world. Eyes that explore faces to avoid eyes and eyes to avoid faces and eyes with souls like velvet cushions.
My poem is two people lazing on a jungle bough with sunglasses and vests. An isolated day on a beach, in a dream city, where lives are made and broken and seen and ignored.
My poem is an English teacher. Sam Feathers crying lascivious tears at Arcadian shepherds, the regency chair at the front of the class talking of its myriad masters, novel man dancing round disruptions and a doctor talking tearaways with the vegan lioness whilst the sun kisses their garden table and I sit and I sit and I sit and I sit.
My poem is untold stories is walls of words and loving sentiments is decisions made in stone to be despaired, is comfortable shoes beneath the viewing plane. The stars of night and the shades of day, the couple who cannot help but hold hands. The moment of union forgotten.
My poem is trees and trees and trees You. Sit. And. See. Me. Out. Of. The. Corner. Of. Your. Eye. My poem is the silence that speaks. That licks the wild honey pie. Chalk figures masking silhouettes, bass beats of bloody red purple hearts sucking and pumping. Caves of memorial emotion and fleeting feelings flying succour across seas to rougher shores. Fleshy warmth. Head that opens and rays out. Born from a tree imprisoned in ice, travelled through time and exuding life. My poem is a will to you of a nightime moment of pondering songs
It is
I’m gonna sleep now.