Creative Struggles and Synthesis

Poetry, Prosaic, Pulpit

This is a follow-on from a post that helped me find my blogging voice again. You don’t need to read that one though. It was more thinking out loud where this one is basically the same but slightly better structured. The continuing theme is that we all get into a rut sometimes, overthinking or letting our emotions run away with us, or both.

Writers block is about disconnection, because writing, and even art generally, is about leaving the boundaries of your own body. Heck, all communication is about that. It’s probably what defines humans above all else – our ability to empathise with things. Empathy is a relatively new and very accurate word. It’s about putting yourself in the shoes of someone or something else. Not just sympathising “oh it must be hard” but realising “oh, it is hard. It really is.” Also I suppose knowing when you know nothing. “That’s just way beyond anything I’ve experienced, but here’s my sadly academic attempt at describing it. Because an attempt is better than ignoring the possibility of truth.”

Words are referring to and so trying to make you think of, and partly experience, things which are not immediately happening to you. Even if someone else is talking about you as you do things, they’re talking off-point. You’re drinking and they say “Ian is drinking”, it doesn’t describe the sense of thirst, it describes the sensation of drinking, or it could be a sarcastic reference to your alcoholism. It pulls you into the speaker’s perspective and away from your own. And that’s incredibly useful.

Empathy is like having a soul or a spirit, you know. Because empathising is extending whispy non-physical energies than can interact with and generally access physical things. Empathy is magic, and so art is magic. Talking a bit like Alan Moore here. Your ability to accurately understand someone else and so tailor an interaction to them, is magical. Or can seem so when you do it proper, because it’s so subtle and yet so powerful. The perfect gift, the manipulation into something, or the feeling of love and safety and acceptance you read in a friend snoozing on your couch. That’s magic, okay. That stuff is pure brilliance.

And that’s art. When successful it takes you somewhere. Teleports you or possesses you or releases you. All these phrases for the same sort of process. Someone else connecting with your experience through and/or despite theirs…powerful.

There’s a good old movie called Excalibur. Proper Northern-European. Yeah, that manages to be a cultural thing. Merlin the magician helps by creating symbols, by helping with masquerades, and by creating fog. He doesn’t shoot lightning bolts from his arse, he appears in the right place at the right time and says the right thing to people who don’t understand the world in the way he does. This is no Gandalf fighting the Balrog. This is the man who taps into the power of the Dragon – pure life energy – in his sleep. He quietly glows while Gandalf desperately struggles. He gets how things connect. He empathises. And he only turns up when he thinks it’s appropriate. Which is why he’s only struck by something as fictitious as ice magic – being turned into a block of ice – when he loses his power to empathise in a fit of madness, caused by deep betrayal. The only time when he loses his aura of mystery is when he stops empathising, falls into despair, and lets his own emotion overwhelm him uncontrollably. It’s like when Spock panics, but much cooler. (Sorry Spock, you’re still really cool, which is why I’m mentioning you out of context.)

So, let’s look at a poem.

The Curly Auburn DJ

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 though 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
Us dancing t
o your quiet music

I don’t like this one. I don’t like most of, if any, of my poems. They’re all trying to describe pristine moments or feelings, and they only get there part of the time. It’s like Stonehenge maybe. You only see the brilliance and utility when the sun shines just so, what like once a year. This one, I’m not sure if it makes it to communication proper. It’s basically only going to work – maybe – for the one reader who can catch all the references. Maybe you can read it and like parts of it, or maybe like me you read through it and see flaws that need correcting. I’m trying to present something for you to empathise with. I’m trying to make some magic. I need to try harder. Problem is, emotionally sensitive area. Ice block time.

Whereas another poem I’ve showed you and talked about before, I’m working on an update that’s tasty. Tasty because it’s honest, communicative.

EDIT: I’m cheating a bit as this is an old post that I hadn’t finished, until now. So, the first of what may or may not be many updates to Consul Orange is already here. I hope it’s as tasty as I suggested. Probably not, but I’m a pessimistic guy when it comes to this stuff. So maybe.

It gets ice block because I unfortunately enjoy being in love with people I’m not supposed to love. Nothing weird. Jane Austen, Darcy, -style nothing bad. Just stupid really. And if the love succeeds, if the hunt concludes, if the chase is done…well…not exactly what’s the point but…chasing is fun. Heck if I could just write beautiful love poems, no issues, no questions asked, wouldn’t that be a bit boring? Well, maybe not. But that’s how the grass looks from this side of the fence. There’s always a struggle therefore, there’s always an emotional vulnerability, there’s always the chance that I’m fucking up by saying what I’m saying. It’s a bit of a gamble you know? And I do enjoy a bit of a gamble, well, within what are really very safe boundaries.

How does this tie in with empathy and writers’ block? You may well inquire. Well, on the loving from a distance thing, I find myself becoming good friends with people, and one day I realise I know them really well. Basically from loving them in a mostly non-sexual way (love seems to play a huge role in my life) I get to learn a huge amount about them, what they like, how they tend to act. I get an insight into how they think. I get strong empathy. Sometimes. These are people who can then pull me out of any block or depression because just being with them hooks me up to the 230V and suddenly I’m ready to go again. That’s like art/communication but with very low distribution. I mean it’s putting all your effort not into a single work, but into another person.

Specific acts and methods are all well and good, however: what you need in life is a balance between your means of emotional satisfaction and your ability to pull yourself away and analyse stuff. You need those two seemingly incompatible sides of your being to interact regularly, and help you achieve what you want. The good friends I love are a microcosm of that. I’ve got to a place where there’s balance – albeit tentative – and so I can get the most out of what’s happening. And, you know, just feel good.

So, two sides: the distant, analytical empathic effort is great but you can’t drain all sense of self, you can’t become some distant contemplative creature like a transcendent god, because you’re not that. And you’ll just get really sad. Some writers fall into this trap I think, hiding away in the shed in worlds of imagination. You can’t really know what other people are feeling if you’ve not explored your own emotions and interpersonal interactions. Basically, you don’t want to spend so much time flying out somewhere that you forget your way home, run out of fuel, and other metaphors.

On the other side, you’re asking for trouble if you just go all emotion and all running around activity. You’ll end up stuck somewhere doing something you don’t understand, and eventually you’ll not feel great about it. Some writers become celebrities and get so busy with gala luncheons they forget how to make decent work, or they plunge into alcoholism. Any emotional excess – pretty self-explanatory why it’s bad, no? Charles Bukowski says he did a lot of his sexy poems for smut magazines because he had to pay the bills, which included bar tabs and booze money, but then he’d still manage to sneak in a grander theme somewhere in each of those poems so he could still express something more meaningful. Even in what some might call the depths of degradation, the man basically held it together: maintained a kind of purpose/perspective/balance.

This is fucking dualism, mate. To some extent. Mind and body are separate in some ways, but are also connected, must also work together. It’s not a contradiction, it’s a complicated web of biological and nervous connections that we don’t fully understand yet. Mind-body. Two separate things, connected. Balanced, hopefully.

Now, after that inspiring talk…can you feel the creative struggles fading away? Can you feel that Hegelian synthesis pushing its way up through the hole left by flawed arguments assuming contradiction? If not, I’ve got an off-the-wall suggestion: read the Great Gatsby (again if you’ve already done it) and try and work out who the characters are, what happens to them. For example, who’s responsible for the big murder at the end? Is Nick actually a massive gay? Is Daisy the victim of ceaseless manipulation, or a ruthless social climber? Or anything in between…

It’s a great book for refusing to give clear, straight answers about what happens. And it’s got a pretty beautiful setting throughout. It was a contradiction 101 for me: I learned, well, realised, that contradictions generally aren’t final. They’re a sign that something is more complicated than it seems.

 

I Lost My Guitar

Personal, Poetry, Stories

I lost my guitar a few months ago. To be honest, I never played it much. I learnt the whole of Nirvana’s “Polly”, but it’s not the most complicated tune. I learnt riffs from White Stripes songs, like “I Smell a Rat” and “Sugar Never Tasted So Good” and “Cannon”. I learnt some Arctic Monkeys. They all felt pretty good, but I’ve just never been persuaded to put the hours in. As a kid I had lessons in classical guitar but I barely remember any of that. Maybe my fingers do, I don’t know. I imagine that’s the kind of thing fingers might do.

It had a sheen like pearls
And every time the strings
Rusted it was like the stone
Had swallowed the clam
All those times I dropped it
To the seabed, it evolved.

So I lost my guitar. Stupidly, while moving. I left it in the rental van and didn’t notice for days. When I finally realised what had happened, I just thought about going to the rental place to collect it. I mean, this place is an hour and a half walk for me. I think we rang and they said I’d have to come in person to check through lost property. I didn’t.

One dark winter it ran:
Away I guess, message in
A bottle floating along
That sea of roadways, well
A guitar in a case. Now
The case comes back as
Black velvet, the stone
Guitar impossibly gothic
Impossibly desireable –
It’s valuable now it’s gone.

Things like this really cut me up. Just neglect. Plain, simple, lazy neglect. My own I mean. Other people gotta do what they gotta do. And my attitude when playing wasn’t always great either. Like with “Polly”, that’s why I went for it: maximum impact for minimum learning effort. Still a lot of psychological going into the performance though I guess. It’s not easy singing the words of a sadistic torturer, words imagined by the late and great Kurt Cobain, last sung in what might have been his carefully staged goodbye show in New York. But fuck. It really stings to know you’ve been …consciously inadequate.

Somewhere, the velvet now
Unpacked, she sits on a lap
Singing to more cultured
Fingers and her player’s dulcet
Tones entwine with hers,
Newly-tuned, in some kind of
Loving symphony, or at least
A charming folk tune.

I lost my favourite plectrum too. This skinny yellow thing I found on the street and that I’d been using for maybe two years. You know, on-and-off, picking up some songs then forgetting them through lack of practice. But man, I realised more and more as time passed that I had a serious connection with that guitar and plectrum. The guitar had been bought for me years past, because people thought I cared about playing. The plectrum had travelled, like the coin in No Country For Old Men, through so much to get to me. These things, I mean just objects sure, but I’d just let them fall through my fingers as though they were sand. They’re not sand though.

So descend a thousand
Smoothed triangles pushing,
Prodding, poking into creases
And as I move the sweat
Sticks them deeper, their
Bright colours shining off
As I struggle with wrists
And hands, the noise
Rising above my own.

Bit of a sad one today, sorry. Some allegory here. From back years ago, learning what love and sex are. One time in particular a girlfriend left me and I was stuck with all sorts of thoughts about how great a love it had been and how certainly she’d become a sexual possession of someone else. Like how badly ruined the whole thing would be, like imagining the other guy fucking her, how it was obviously my fault. How only I failed, and continued to fail in imagining her as any kind of sexual object, in any context. I mean I was denouncing the short-lived “love” as hard as I could, as infatuation, as lust, as demented possessiveness. My whole sense of things had been so fucked up, I realised, and was still being fucked up. Until dealing with this shit, I’d not been the most social of kids. Love for me was built way up there – I didn’t look at porn, I didn’t masturbate, I didn’t do the evil thing in video games. Well, except Elder Scrolls. In that all bets were off for some reason.

And this break up and failure just…ugh. I mean it makes me a bit disgusted with myself, so much wallowing, so much thinking. I tried to ring her to talk, I sent her an angry facebook message asking her to take me back. That was it. Every time I saw her something in me died. Fuck, man, I was just done. And so I started pulling myself out by finding a place in the world of romance that would eventually become empowering, I started making my bisexuality an active thing, I started to build another identity. Basically as a sub. Like submissive. Because you know, being a sub can have such strength to it – it’s not about self-abuse, or doesn’t have to be. I started to teach myself properly about love, romance, people, the world. Oh yeah. Sex, too.

I have to go over this here because losing my guitar gave me a tiny glimpse back into how I felt then, and so the poem I wrote about it reflects in part my mindset from back in those times. The feature picture too. Not so much who I am now. But hey, if it gives me a poem and an opportunity to be real with y’all then I guess I’m not going to look a gift-horse in the mouth (or something).

Oh man it feels so much better to be me now. Not just because I could go to Soho and try and pull a guy anytime I want – and stand a pretty good chance at it for the next decade. It’s because I feel confident enough to do shit like that and know that I’m not going to crumble, or in some old patriarchal way try and own the person I want to fuck me. My heart can sing now – as cliché as that is – where before it was just giving me notifications like in Dead Rising, in those big, red, screen-spanning letters “Brian Reynolds is Dead”, “Your own sense of self respect is dead”, “Your sense of self-worth is dead”. Haha, sorry again everyone. I feel like a total mess talking about this stuff. We have more poems incoming. I’ve got a stock of oldies that need review, and I want to do some stories about ex lovers and stuff, partly fictionalised to protect the innocent. So maybe that’ll happen too. More tender, less real. Maybe. Oh and another essay en route though I feel like those are going to be less popular, but what the hey.

Yeah, so, uh, stay tuned. (see what I did there – guitar, tuned, eh, eh?)

Sleep, Waking and Work in Progress

Personal, Poetry

I can see this becoming a common theme here – I struggle with sleep. Like I struggle letting go of the waking hours, I don’t want to give up on all that stuff I’m supposed to be doing. Stuff that’s always on the cusp, that I seem always to be about to do. Plus the dreams are really weird, which I like, but which can also be unsettling. The other night I dreamt I was sleeping on a bench and then a seagull came down and nestled behind me, like in the bend of my back, and it wouldn’t go away. I told it to go away and I tried to lift it up, but it wouldn’t go. It just kept all closed up and sleepy like those pigeons you see hiding in small spaces. Weird.

But back to reality, struggles. It’s late. I’m sitting, staring at my lava lamp thinking whether to try and write something big and proper. Well, proper at least. But fuck it, like. It’s well late.

I start going through old poems and things, adding a few lines here and there to unfinished pieces – I might really have made some progress on a few of them this way, actually. Sometimes you’ve just got to spurt out those words and worry about the mess later, since clearing up the mess might just give you the stain you need. Ahem.

I’ve got this little dedication for you. Related to our Consul Lactarius back there.

When I met you you were walking dreams and fears woven
You had a glare like bemused coffee or cats and lizards
Framed by your windswept jaw cutting cheese cheeks
You live the less known parts with anonymous condoms broken on your fingers,
Flappy rubber rings making silent hilarious finger puppets
You fix the orange gloom of dusk while lazy eyes drink sleep bubbles
Breezy chest bird, you surprised me with a like mind gone for a film of a sculpture ticking
And poetry in pages as sheaves of grass innumerately knotted with pictures

With a few of these I get the feeling that I’m in cutesyness overload. I had a poem once called little perubird or something like that. I’d post it but honestly I think it’s borderline insulting to the subject, though that’s not what I meant at the time. It’s the dainty phrases like “cheese cheeks”, “finger puppets”, “drink sleep bubbles” – they’re the verbal equivalent of dancing tippy-toed. A ballet maybe, but a childish one. I don’t know my ballets particularly well, just searching for activities that fit the descriptor “tippy-toed”.

I mean I’m someone who likes dresses and heels and pink nail polish, so the cutesy is to be expected, but I really struggle to pull it off. There’s too much soldier culture in me through all the movies and the military history, like I’m obviously not a soldier but that kind of manly masculinity has got me needlepricked. It’s floating around in those veins. I try though. I’m searching for a kind of balance really and just not entirely sure where to find it. Occasionally it’ll show in the poetry, I think. And the other writing. Hey, we’ve all got to aspire to something, haven’t we?

Here’s a piece I’m working on. I don’t know why it’s in Acts, but until I’ve got a clear reason to change it, it’s staying that way. Posting now, before it’s finished, because I might not be blogging anything for a few days. We’ve got people round. So I figure I want to give you something to be getting on with (and not just that fucking dedication, that’d be cheating). Working title is “My First Dress”. Obviously the kind of thing I’m keen to write about, but don’t worry: this isn’t all I do.

Prologue

Your unicorn smile: smooth cornucopia Inserting
Real, the coca-cola room receeding, burning
For your hard hand-on-heart pushed past processional
Ribs, the flaming licks, flicks, knicks, and babbling rum
Incenses quietly forlorn young girls

Act 1

You’ve got some jam on your lip and
I
Don’t say
You’re making me new to your eyes –
They could be yellow –
And you gave me your ‘slut dress’ so that I could
Give
Myself
At home in the quiet I jut my hips and
Massage my lips
With clay and
Wandering fingers edge my tips and
Because you believed me without being told
Because
You didn’t slip under me or over me.

Act 2

I miss that slick prick
Pushing through skin
Dredging up thick weaves
The sinful sighs
Come again
Solicited and moaning
“but you’re not gay”
And I’m silent about my dress
And he’s laughing and smoking
And I’m sucking

I think “Act 3” (if I carry on with the frankly random theatre referencing, well, life is a stage and men and women merely players) is going to be about this wonderful man who I can never get off with, but we keep seeing eachother all the same.

If you’re a romantic, I think it’s important to keep these things going. Love isn’t all bodies, okay, and a personality is way harder to get to know than a body. Way more interesting in the long run too, way more dominant. Look, even “Platonic love” becomes beautiful and wildly emotional. So those friendships are worth keeping, and more than that: the friendship is the real content of a romance. It’s the exchange of emotions that give all that physical theatricality value, man. So when you fall in love with someone but the usual sexy thing doesn’t seem like the right move, or is literally the wrong move, just be friends. Do the sexy minds thing. Plus, that way you can go fuck other people too.

Love and sex – totally not the same thing. But sex – totally worth doing.

Now, before I go there’s a night band you really should listen to. Yes, night band does in this case mean that you should only listen to them at night. Probably after 1am. It’s Hungry Ghosts, an Australian group whose album “Alone, Alone” I got into while living in a flat off Brick Lane. They’re top for mangled morning sessions of whatever really. I tend to end up writing on ’em. The album really has been like a drug. Any other time I seem to find it less than inspiring, but in the wee small hours it transforms to a near-perfection. I guess it fits with the concept of a hungry ghost (at least the Chinese traditional/buddhist concept outlined by wikipedia). Also, the Hungry Ghosts I’m thinking of – who can be found on youtube – aren’t the supercool Hong Kong band of the same name. (Sorry.)


Attribution for original seagull pic: By Post of Armenia (http://www.armenianstamps.com/2003.html) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Pigeon Has a Cold

Personal, Poetry

It’s about 8pm, and I’m sorry – I would’ve posted earlier but I’ve had a shit of a hangover. The best way to get over a hangover is to keep drinking (and sometimes to throw up) but I wanna take it easy on my liver and throwing up is really not something I like to do. Used to have a particular hatred of it as a kid, and even though I now realise it’s just a means to an end, reverse eating/drinking still seems very uncomfortable. So I’ve just been wallowing, watching youtube videos and Netflix, eating huge quantities of carbs. A couple of hours ago I had the recovery coffee that’ll set me up for a night of writing. It’s gonna be good, I think.

I was watching Night on Earth with a pal of mine and his son. It’s a proper movie, which for me is one that just looks at people without much of a “good vs bad” dynamic colouring the lens. I enjoy a grand narrative playfully referencing big ideas, but I enjoy a realistic narrative more. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? – a definite favourite movie…and presumably theatre performance if it comes to that. Two people who may or may not be in loving acting like idiots to eachother. Doesn’t get more real than that, eh?

It shakes its head, it shakes its head. Coughs and splutters and feels it’s dead.
The pigeon has a cold.
Outside the sun, on a stony run, it spasms its neck, its brain to check.
The pigeon has a cold.
It waddles
along, standing still too long; too far from the friendly throng.
The pigeon has a cold.
Its bloated body rises above its shoulders to cushion its pecking head. The sun is down. The others have flown.
The pigeon has a cold.
The wind is gone. The frost is come. The day is done. The warm is run.
The pigeon has a cold.
It takes to the skies, so low it flies, the trees – all these – not below its knees. The pigeon is old. Wishes it had been told.
The pigeon has a cold.

A bit depressing amirite? Yeah, well I was going through a rough patch a few years ago. Anyway, if you’ve ever been to London you’ll know some of those pigeons have much worse than a cold.

It just seemed like an interesting thing to focus on at the time, the idea that a pigeon could be feeling under the weather too, just like us. But as with everything I did back then the idea got sidetracked by misery haha. Maybe I’ll do a re-write or try something about seagulls – those fuckers are everywhere, and I saw one steal a lady’s ice cream last week. It was rude and uncouth and it got mobbed by about ten other seagulls once the ice cream hit the floor. “Just go fishing like you used to you lazy fucks,” is what I often find myself thinking. Sadly they’re not psychic enough to hear me though.


Attribution for original pigeon image: By Alpsdake [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

Consul Lactarius Aurantiacus

Personal, Poetry

I’m taking way too much time over this because it was for someone I really care about and I kinda want to get it right. But as ever that’s a bit of a self-defeating exercise – getting it right – and hey, I’ve not seen him for years anyway so who gives a fuck? This is the latest version of Consul Orange, now with a picture.

I can smell your flat Shandy Bass:
Crazy fresh open window Streathamings despite 4x4s
Maybe the glaucous seal,
Guardian of sheet seas and water-treading,
The glint and prickle of Sainsbury’s soave:
Demented cartoon solipsism and no
Questions, seeping into the night:
Some kind of pure morning sun feeling
Bursts November snow flow,
Their latex drops on the draught,
And on vague attempts at siphoning
The hairy gills embrace:
Oesophageal anticipation,
That exhausted Tadcaster blur moaning,
Bound eyes dour to the ceiling,
And white emperor armour self-inflicted orange
Somehow unjust, tearing and milk spilling
Like discarded lines sweat-patched,
Invader Zim acceptance, lonely perfumed
Shower soap irritating unknown orgasm:
A world set above the world claws
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,
And the last hungry dribbles shared:
I could have laid the whole mo[u]rning through
No cold in the exhausted breeze cradling
Drowned sugar between sheets.

I performed this once, and the crowd looked at me as though I wasn’t finished. I’m not sure if it was just shellshock (I’m awkward and embarrassed about these things – I could get some kind of shock from performing I’m sure) but I think they didn’t do anything, whereas for everyone else including the people whose performance skills were as inspiring as my own, they’d at least clapped. I remember the host/MC saying, as I walked back to the masses cuddling their wine glasses, “That was great…I really liked the [and he misquoted a line]”. I thought, well, I’m glad you liked the version you made up at least.

Performing poetry is fucking weird. Also if they thought I wasn’t finished, they were right. This is still a work in progress. A labour, if not of love then of…labour.

For those of you keeping track, I promised you a poem about a pigeon that has a cold. You’re going to get it. Tomorrow. I just felt like putting this out today…it’s overdue really.

On an unrelated note, has anyone seen that Netflix series the Last Kingdom?  That Alexander Dreymon is what we used to call “a lovely bit of slice”. You have to say that with as much phlegm and spittle in your mouth as possible to show how tasty the person you’re talking about is. It’s an Essex/Saaaaf Lundon thing, don’t worry about it. 

Poison Coffee

Personal, Poetry

An oldie I thought had a hint of charm left in it…

Dans la fromagerie a londres
The scents of smelly cheese like happy rotting
There are cakes
Not cheesecakes
Normal cakes
And the waitress is poisoning my coffee.
Her eyes reaching up and down my face
As she fills the cup
With almost nicotinal pleasure
Words
Sugar?
Milk?
Kissing my ears
A smile that remembers,
Burrowing into my heart
And the waitress is poisoning my coffee.
I fear her touch,
Giving change,
Like a witch must fear salt or water or salt water
So soft her hands
Reminiscent of rows of young,
Painted
Sicilian cottages,
Melting in the sun.
I take and drink the poison coffee.

Some News and Stewart Lee

Personal, Stories

Hey, so I’ve not posted in a while. (How many times have you heard that before?) So, here’s an update. I’ve got a couple essays I’m scared to put out, but if all goes well they should be coming in the next couple days. I know how you love my rants about the state of modern democracy and philosophical semantics, so you’ll enjoy that. Anyway…

I’ve been working for my local paper on a voluntary basis, editing their “Community” section. It’s good, it’s a way of reporting on the exact parts of a locale that I want to nurture and encourage as the first (and arguably only step) in the democratic revolution. Non-violent and legal revolution that is.

I can’t complain pal, you know. I’ve also been catching up on a few literary greats, reading some Hemmingway, Kerouac, admiring Hunter S Thompson (perhaps unhealthily) and hunting down online poetry (etc) magazines. I might make a list of them on here if that seems helpful. I might even put up some of my old poems – I found one the other day about a pigeon that’s got a cold. Trust me, it’s gold.

Hunter Thompson though, I mean what a sad end. I mean it looks like he succumbed to media pressure to become Duke for many of his formative years, and then fell into an early retirement advising some decent actors. Or maybe not. I’m sure there’s more to the tale.

Getting distracted a lot too by Stewart Lee (picture above) don’t know if you’d have heard of him…? Some good snippets of his shows on youtube. A master of comic repetition I think, but really that’s something else, some kind of unashamed stage presence, the character he’s created of a disillusioned funny man mocking the audience and himself. There is a lot to his act, and the way that every stage of talking about him contains a kind of irony and pre-existing commentary of its own only adds to the brilliance.

I’ve wanted to do an ironic comment about irony under one of his videos, but the comments sections are so dated now that to post in them would seem vaguely embarrassing. So I’ll post it here. Would’ve gone under the Caffe Nehru video, probably, though the routine comes from his other stuff, like the Ratko Mladic and Twitter segment.

Look at that man there, that man, there, wearing his suit jacket, his little Edwardian, Teddy Boy, Mod jacket turned black by the 90s and hiding half-remembered dreams of fashion, hiding his little beer belly from all the beer and Ginsters pies, that little man, there, on that comedy stage – comedy! – little man, there, with his eyes and the hairs in his nose, and his little pin on his little mod jacket, on the lapel there, his little 2009 ‘black is the new black’ many-buttoned coat of a jacket concealing the small child he ate on his way to the theatre, look at him, there, standing up on his legs, his little legs in his skinny trousers with the distressed knees, distressed so that middle class elitist liberals can pretend they had to kneel to do work, so that they can simultaneously abuse working people in South-East Asia and write reviews of paint-covered artists in South-East London, distressed elitist liberal reviewers abusing while they review people who do vaguely work, or while they provide a dim sense of creative capacity to utterly grey businessfolk, who use a veneer of personal failure and creative inadequacy to disguise wildly excessive profit margins, Stewart Lee, that man, there, breathing his little breaths in between words, little words there, words about things, look at him talking about the things, to the people, and the little people off-camera listening to the things that he’s talking about, the people there, sitting, off-camera, listening to the things he’s saying, the words, people there, people, thinking “oooh, irony has let itself go”.

The Shame

About

I want to do an about me section (rather than just the ‘about philosophy’) because, I figure, I don’t want to seem like I’m hiding anything and then be uncovered real quick with some google searches. Also the affirmation. I want to know if I seem interesting. And I’m squirming, by the way, even if you can’t read that between the lines.

I’m not normally proud of anything I do, alright, so it’s been very surprising to some people that I’ve come up with this philosophy thing that I seem to like. That I’ve not abandoned any mention of it even as I fail to explain it. Folks have even thought I’m arrogant for not backing down on it. Like “This is so clearly bollocks, there’s only one explanation for your continuing to pursue it: you’re a cunt.” If I’m a cunt, is it supposed to be about wanting the whole world to fuck me, and that being irritating?

I’m 20-something and my name is Merlin. That’s my real name. On the WordPress I’m starting to go by Jack since people get confused by the site title. And I like the generality of “Jack”. No offence to anyone named it, it’s just Jack and John are the kind of names given to unidentified corpses in police records. I really like being a Merlin as well though. Growing up I was steeped in my Dad’s own take on pagan traditions. He was an Albion, although he named himself on that one. Pagan traditions – in this case particularly the British ones – are pretty great. The whole reincarnation thing is in part responsible for my bothering with philosophy at all. It gave me a chance to say that Heaven and Hell just ain’t good enough. Now of course, I have a somewhat modified view of reincarnation. On death the body becomes part of everything else around it – that’s science. I don’t know where the existential self goes though. Maybe it splits back into smaller parts and exits right with the body. I’ve also decided I don’t like saying “Philosophy” to people, although it is a nice word and it’s very very easy to use when you’re doing the thought dance and want to tell people about it formally.

I’m going into a place where I’ll be ‘culturally pagan‘ a bit. But I don’t like to be any one thing – that’s boring. So other labels coming out of the box…I’d say I’m a romantic whether I like it or not. I’m British even though in many ways I don’t like it, and in many of the subtle little ways I do – we’re all about subtlety. Even British itself – I realised after (deliberately) typing Britishish that there are two ‘ishs’ there. We are ‘Brit ish’. Kinda Brit, like maybe. If we wanna be.

[edit: I did a rant the other day about how fucked up Britain – and by extension any nation – is, so, take that as you will, haha]

I drink black coffee. I drink a bottle of wine or three beers and a whisky most days of the week. Sometimes a flagon of cider if I can get one. Yeah, hehe, a flagon. I love going for walks or jogs – and yeah, there’s a beach. I prefer forests for it though, and sometimes streets for people-watching. I want to say I’m a female (if that’s different to woman in your book) but I don’t know if I can. It depends on whether you think of the feminine as an abstract concept like the goddess, or if you think it’s a very physical (as well as social) quality that can be held only by biological women and certain carefully chosen hermaphrodites. I prefer getting fucked by men, but I’m open to anything really. And yes I do need to mention that – I’m youngish, it’s an important part of my regular experience, and – while we’re talking about me – that’s the subject.

As the title implies, I usually think I need to apologise for existing. Sometimes not though, and sometimes I can only keep the self-flagellation at bay by fighting it. So I get a bit pugnacious, but it’s only really directed at me, alright?

I used to and still kinda do really like clothes. Ever hear of Geovictwardianism? Well, it’s interesting. Not quite my cup of tea (more of a coffee kinda gal, as I said) but I like it and especially any piratical and gypsy derivations. Oh and Peaky Blinders is my current ‘style guru’. I don’t go around like Tommy Shelby but for me it’s the height of fashion and possibly self-expression (politely combined with self-control).

My Desert Island Disks are: “Lovers” by Alex Turner; White Stripes’ “Cannon”; Arctic Monkeys’ “You’re So Dark”; “Les Cactus” by Jacques Dutronc; Trevor Something’s “The Possession”; “Cigarette Duet” by Princess Chelsea; the Libertines’ “Gunga Din”; and Ian Dury’s “My Old Man”. I’m not sure how all those would help on a desert island, but I guess I’d be doing a lot of remembering while waiting for death. And I remember a few other things I could sing. Without a cd player, singing from memory is probably all I could do anyway. The book I think would be Tom Stoppard’s “Arcadia”, and the luxury some kind of lubeless dildo (sorry). I also have no fucking idea what I’d want to be on a desert island with me haha, so this is just the result of about 30mins on-and-off contemplation. A kind of blurb – not particularly well thought-through but still revealing.

I’d probably rather not have a favourite poet and say instead that I’ve consistently enjoyed reading Vagabond City Lit. I’m spending a lot of time on Charles Bukowski at the moment though.

I don’t know exactly why I’ve written this. I guess I just want to give you, stranger, a relatively honest and maybe even informative account of who I am. I guess a large part of the site is about that anyway but stories and poems sometimes just leave you wondering. Which is great, but I don’t know: I don’t want it to seem like I’m some anonymous stranger to you. I am that, but I’m also not. I’m the same species as you, which surprisingly means quite a lot of connection on its own. And if you’re going to read what I have to say and think anything of it…I feel like it’s important you know who wrote it. I want to know, if I track you down from your like or follow and enjoy what you’ve got to say.

Erm, yeah. I don’t really know what kind of ending to put on this.

Biscuits.

Does anyone else get tired of labels?

Political, Prosaic, Pulpit

I’m thinking ideologies and religions and politics and genders and all that stuff, but maybe some shopping labels too. I mean we wouldn’t need traffic light nutritional guidelines if all the food was in its freshly farmed or slaughtered form, or prepared by a trustworthy authority that’s not trying to pump us full of tasty tasty fats and sizzling stimulating sugars. Bastards.

I’ve been spending some time trying to work out what femininity is, and I’ve mostly been avoiding the masculine. I know enough already, I figure. But really, all you learn in research is that both terms are unhelpful. They’re social groupings that just don’t matter. I mean, grand scheme don’t matter. Like sure walking down the street right now reading this on your phone, or maybe sat at home listening to a loved one do something in the next room, or lying in bed listening to some filthy Lou Reed…then maybe it matters a little bit. But still not really. It’s not an important part of who you are, it’s just a filter that other people will try and feed you through, if and when they can. It’s not something you have to participate in.

I do it for fun, sometimes. I make myself a science experiment, probably way too obviously. I become the shy girl or boy walking into that club, that bar, that coffee place for the first time. That lecture hall, that fashion outlet, that library. I make myself look ‘interesting’ and do ‘interesting’ things, and I wait for people to respond. Sometimes I get real chats – people who find and love the opportunity to sincerely be themselves with another individual. Sometimes I get fake come-ons, brusque and lustful slurps of kisses or coffees, raised eyebrows, scowls, or timid and tender requests for books to borrow, seats to steal.

The identities I put on are not identities, they’re labels, uniforms. And I find it really…sad, that we have to act this way, or that we choose to act this way. That we get lost in posturing.

So much of what I read about masculine and feminine identity, for example, comes down to physical features and behaviours. But it’s like trying to say someone is bald – that semi-famous philosophical problem – how many hairs does it take? Because clearly you can be called bald even if you have some hair. It’s a vaguery of quantity and presentation that seems to defy conventional logic: the point at which someone becomes bald is relative to who’s looking, or who’s wearing or not wearing the hair. But mainly who’s looking I guess. It’s not so important to the one with the hair, they just feel more or less of a breeze. They probably don’t have much need for a name for how they look. They have other words, pictures, sounds, for their experience, what they think, how they feel.

So with masculinity and femininity – it’s a vague labelling to help other people understand who you are, and how they see you. It matters to them whether you walk how they want or have the curves they want, or the muscles they need you to have, the job they want you to work. In a sense, therefore, it’s not something you need to worry about at all. It doesn’t matter to you, you just have to be yourself and, hey, why not enjoy being yourself while you’re there? So what if someone else doesn’t like it? If they’re not involved in your life in any meaningful way, it shouldn’t matter. If they are involved in your life seriously…then why aren’t they taking you seriously?

Okay, sometimes being yourself will get you into trouble with the onlookers. They can imprison you, harm you, bully you. Sometimes. Basic line of defence there is the same: fuck them. You’ve got one life being you, so don’t let anyone shit that up. Being yourself can hurt but unselving is worse. The middle ground is, I guess, hiding in the labels people like without adopting them. The safe place, maybe, mostly, is that. Understanding the labels other people use, that you probably also have to use, remembering that a label is just that. Remember the you behind that peelable sticker. Behind that loose dust jacket.

Identity is something far more personal, and so far more nebulous than label. No name can fully describe, no traits, no long videos, books, audio recordings, nothing can quite encapsulate it fully except you having yours, you being you. And heck it’s something you can’t avoid. Unselving just hurts worst, it doesn’t actually break you. You continue being you, and having been you.

Sometimes I think labels are a way of people escaping their own totality. I’ve done a lot over the years I’m unhappy about, and that stuff doesn’t go away with time. Forgetting it for a while doesn’t wash it out of history. But hey, that doesn’t determine who I have to be, what I have to do, how I have to feel. It’s stuff I have to come to terms with, and carry on in spite of. And hiding, pretending, putting it off…that’s just running away from creaks in the floorboards, rustles in hedgerows, the call of the Moon. Life is something you have to live, you know. It’s weirdly self-fulfilling like that. All it asks is that you get properly involved in being…and being you.

Now, maybe I can’t make this properly engage with the debate on “identity issues/politics” but that’s because I don’t like having to be part of that warzone. I’m peaceful, I want happy, functioning folk, not holy corpses. Most of any debate seems to have become people demanding obedience and adherence from people who demanded that from them, because people demanded that from them, because people demanded that from them…ad nauseam. It’s a minefield in which most any opinion is wrong for someone. I just wish we could get back to the reality…you don’t need to have such a strong opinion about someone else’s life. Beyond wanting them not to shit on you, they’re really not your problem. And most people don’t want to shit on you. Scat porn is relatively exclusive like that.

It’s so frustrating as politics descends into nonsensical exchanges of buzzwords that have lost all meaning, discussions of gender, sexuality, patriarchy, identity, dissolve into a mess of offended males and females fighting for their right for other people to call them male or female…and that we seem to be unable to say “rape is wrong” and have everyone understand. We seem unable to say “racism is wrong” and have everyone understand. “War is wrong. Violence is wrong.” Or worse, we know these things are wrong, but in despair we suffer or indulge them anyway, the incomprehensible spewing mess of our existence drowning so many fractured minds…

I think we’re ordering. I think bit by bit humanity is helping itself to calm down and recognise a fair and universal understanding almost beyond description, but well within grasp. And on the one hand it’s so beautiful to feel that hope, more, that knowledge. But on the other, I am human and I am impatient.

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.