Music 1 (more to come…)

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poetry progress has been slow… I have found that the (still exciting) project mentioned in earlier posts requires time/concentration. Without these to hand at the moment, I’m going to have to embrace something else. That thing, briefly, will be music….

I’m not a musician, so the results are going to be…experimental.

But I like my general direction: 5 songs, influenced sonically by ‘Prole Art Threat’, ‘Sonny’s Burning’, ‘Sword of Truth’, Nick Cave’s ‘Avalanche’ and Robyn Archer on Brecht (where ‘influenced by’ isn’t making claims to success…), and all hinting at grubby/sordid politic-ing in the capital. There is one about the oldest restaurant in London, and the Lord Lucan style failed coups/ disaster capitalist deals I imagine going down there. Another is about a retired military man (I imagine him also as a hanger on to some lost Lucan types) dealing badly with the knowledge that a Cargo Cult has developed around him. The following lyrics from the last song of the five are about the resistible rise of a grubby little shit/‘Lordly One’. Lord Carrier, as I call him, is short, portly, and wears a bright green suit. He appears at golf clubs, and on the hustings, surrounded by people in high vis, or flanked by big serious looking men. Lord Carrier isn’t serious, though. You can tell that by the way that he is always laughing. And when he is asked about the bungs, the sex, or the culling, he throws his head back and laughs some more. Until the tears come steaming down…

Just over half of us love him, apparently…

Lord Carrier Ascends


Up from The Marches

Lord Carrier!

Half toad/ half fawn

John Bull as leprechaun


Up on the hustings

Lord Carrier!

Laughter of Bedlam

And colosseum


Laughter of Stuart return

Laughter of Stuart return


Lord Carrier ascends… (Koo Stark and coup strike in the wind and wings)

Lord Carrier ascending

Sense of impending eclipse

Crowd giddy

But there are brave souls yet… (‘Beautiful Souls!)


Why do you think he laughs in reply to your question?

Why do you think he laughs in reply?

Why do you think he laughs in reply to your question?

Why do you think he laughs in reply?

A Cold Term at St. Pats

This poem was in my 2014 collection.

I remember when the second Harry Potter book came out, a friend of mine told me the plot: there was this public school, and a huge snake lived in its plumbing, escaping some nights to roam the halls, and if any kid was out of bed and saw it, they would be frozen. Sounded great. When I got round to reading the story years later, it wasn’t what I expected. This is my attempt to write the expected. Theory-types may identify an additional influence through all the ‘cold-fire’ stuff…

A Cold Term at St. Pats

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i

In my father’s garden,

Under the water butt

and the bench,

The ground is

Granular,

Wet and black

And the witch hazel,

Thin and black

Against the snow,

Jumps like a bird.

ii

A boy, his trousers hitched

To his belly,

Thrusts his legs apart;

This is his game and I am not to play.

A door opens violently

Against my shoulder.

Two boys laugh.

Foul words are spoken

In the dormitories

At night.

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iii

On a spring day,

Out on the boundary,

I minutely examine

The grass before me.

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A little way off now I see

A snake’s skin

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Three overs later

And it is in my hand.

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iv

I have made

A further discovery:

The treatment I receive

Is not typical.

Something

Has been seen…

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v

In a study,

With a little shelf of books

And water on a stove,

Wheeler’s legs, pulled up in

Warm and laundered uniform,

Set me alight,

.

And I know

With great certainty

That it is not for this

That I am singled out.

.

Rather, it is a question of order.

The pecking order.

I get it, of course,

But – terrible to say –

I see there is a sight

That fails to.

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Imagine

(I am thinking of the snake that got away…)

The beast that sees us

At our ceremonies,

Shorn of the differences

We hold dear.

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vi

Evensong:

The Headmaster takes as his text

The blind of Isaiah.

I carry the skin in my pocket,

Now fallen apart.

I feel one scale

then another,

At each –

A mystery.

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Earlier, in the bathroom

I held one to the light

and thought of

pots moving in winter

And clear spring air.

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vii

Fielding wide once more,

My eyes close

And I raise my face to the sun,

Swearing allegiance

To the cold sight

That curls about the dorms,

Flicking its tail in the library,

Its tongue in chapel.

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viii

I was wrong, of course:

The serpent goes unrecognised –

Ferociously so.

I am met with a blind passion

For I see

With immobilising clarity:

Schoolboys with

Scrubbed and bloody cheeks,

Wide collars

And exposed knees,

Hidden excitations

and doughy, fat-steeped thumbs;

Dorms of steaming wood and wool;

Bathrooms with frozen pipes;

The choir by candle light,

And on the cricket pitch

The distant uniformity of whites.

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This too I know:

Some of them

Will be swallowed whole.

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ix

I am one of the few to travel home by train.

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My hope is – of course –

That scales might fall:

The garden in frost

Warm to my eyes;

.

My head upon my mother’s arm

And my father singing;

A walk across fields,

The girl I am to marry

riding by…

at Waga

Anyway, there is this writing group that meets once a month upstairs in the WAGA cafe in Lethmachen (World Alliance for Green Activism). Pronounced ‘wager’, apparently. I attempted to get poetic inspiration by joining them. Sad to say no dice. The WAGA poetry group is invitation only.

I stalked them, of course, drinking a few beers as I counted them in as they walked upstairs to a meeting room.

It seems that each year the group gets published in the Lethmachen College Creative Review, and this meeting was to plan towards that end. As all but one of the poets is retired (Doug McManus, Lethmachen’s premier performance poet and bathos king is the exception), and none are students, it is a mystery as to why this particular publication so insistently showcases their work. The whole lot of them are also all published by Single Stream Squeezes, Lethmachen based publishing house committed to all things tasteful. I only know of the work of a couple of the poets, but will offer vengeful reviews when I have the time.

Lead poet, as I gather, is Hazel Twiglet. Her thing is the detailed description of the flux of nature. Her recent collection is ‘Colours I Have Seen With Tobias’. The poems are grounded in walks undertaken with her labrador Tobias, and the colours there encountered: ‘Then far and back, /roofed and returned:/hansa, hemp, heliotrope/ and harvest gold/viridian, gamboge, and mud/ […]’.  There are a lot of colours and gosh but does Tobias needs walking. Subsequently there is plenty of poetry written already, and plenty more to come.

Future Poems…

 Yeah – stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before – but I am indeed thinking about writing some new poetry.  For the first time, the idea of a second collection seems to me a good one. This will take time, and I will take my time. At the moment, I simply have an idea for one about an ancient arrowhead in a museum that is in fact travelling ever closer to its target. Once lithics were classed as ‘elfshot’. As there could be no conception of the span of human history to one looking on during The Middle Ages, these flints seemed to have been fired only moments before.  I am thinking of turning this up. That flint under glass may appear stationary, but to get to where it is now it has already travelled a long way, and it will travel longer still before it meets its final destination. Look again: this object is in flight! I have The Sick Rose in mind. I also think its going to be a long poem, in different sections. Beginning with a visit to the museum, then the museum at night, ‘the hot museum’, bloody, red, and intense with history, and frighteningly unseen. Then maybe one about the discovery,  another the carving of the stone, or its loss.  There should be five sections. Or seven. So maybe return again to the museum at some point? Or some haunted landscape, the place that will one day be the scene of the final connection? Why am I getting also the image of a curved, dark gravel driveway somewhere in all of this? Fancy. Dusk. The Devil Rides Out kind of vibe.

I have another idea for one about a vicar haunted by the neighbour who might one day offer him a good turn. Spooky retrospection. Doubles. Rhyming couplets, obviously. And the one about the haunted cross country run as introduced in the earlier bog post.  

Black Dog Ode

Late that evening, I came upon a stray dog 

Waiting at the river, each hair upon its great form 

Seemed to me as black as the deepest water 

Resting in the silt.

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Although I am not one for superstition

There was an undeniable, uncanny thrill; 

Death is said to accompany such creatures. 

I put out my hand

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Half in dread that it would find nothing but air.

Shocking it was for me, then, when the sure touch 

Objects alone possess was all my fingers 

Met, more terrifying

Than any insubstantial shade could be.

For what is more spectral than matter shorn of 

Reflection, and felt without feeling? The ghost?

It is but a thing,

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Dumb in its solidity. Why else is Shuck content 

Only to stare and be still? My hand had stretched 

Out beyond the want in which all life is steeped, 

Grasped I know not what…

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Look! I bring it forth that you might see. Shake it.

Can you feel the cold fire? For such a far flung thing 

It is interesting how soon it comes upon one, 

Carpal close at times.

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Here I take my leave. Care should be taken when

Walking at night, by rivers especially. The 

Nub of our world should not be felt: it is a 

Great black dog. Fare-well.


J. J. Jonsen – Lethmachen Star

So. Went to the Town Hall last evening for a book launch. A book launch? The town hall? Why why? It was a J. J. Jonson poetry launch, shupeed! No library wine there.

J.J. is more Tripitaka than I expected, and I did expect a fair amount of that. What an aesthetic existence! An egg never boiled, I suspect, round Jonson’s place without the accompaniment of “seep”, “trimethylamine”, and “Shining Ghee”…

I’ll say one thing for it: mercifully light on the bathos. Bathos seems to be the household god of Lethmachen poetry. What Jonson has instead is tension between loooooong and ultra short lines. The result is a kind of backdoor bathos. The short lines read like Jonsen, sotto voice, confiding: “Look, I know this must sound absurd…”

In the end, the aestheticism is the thing. It’s why the poetry always seems so earnest and timid, even when it’s at its most bodily in content, and experimental in line. There is no way of seeing on offer – as far as I can see – other than that certain kind of aestheticized way of seeing that is increasingly shared by many poets. White Cube poetry.

Well, the reading went on till 10, and there was some club thing after. Did you go? Me? I and did some lonely drunken goth-dancing in the Chiaroscuro.

Hill repeats

In my home town, even something as unforgivably dull as sport fails to evade the glittering touch of that other hand…

I am starting work on my new poetry collection, but at the moment I am very much at the research stage. Despite this, I have already encountered a number of stories that I think are going to provide inspiration for individual poems. The text below is from the letters page of our local newspaper, The Lethmachen Echo. I have a vague sense that this is going to work as a short poem, with lots of space on the page, yet with some tightly-packed, restricted lines as well. I think it likely that I will focus on the image of the startled animal.

Dr Sir/Madam

Training for a Marathon is not, I concede, the most Gothic of situations, yet it has afforded me a strange experience that I, with I must say a little trepidation, now wish to share with you.

As you know, the Lethmachen Marathon is two weeks away. I have been training for the best part of a year, spurred on, as I know many are, by the death of a loved one. I fell into a regular pattern of preparation: two short, fast runs in the week and a long run at the weekend. This I really did begin to look forward to, despite the challenge. My route took me through Wayland woods, out across the rolling hills south east of the town, then back up along the main road, finishing off with a fair few suburban streets. I knew this 16-mile trek followed at least the bare bones of previous marathon circuits. A month ago, however, the finalized route was displayed on the Lethmachen Running Club website. I don’t think I was alone in being rather shocked at this posting, as the route had been dramatically altered. We now turned away from Waylands, running up past the old quarry, then into the farmland to the southwest. Unlike the agri-business plots to be found to the north and directly to the south, these are seemingly unplanned affairs. Each field takes no more than four or five minutes to cross, and that means there are many styles. The ground is undulating. I love hills as much as the next runner, but as a challenge to which I work up, then conquer and leave behind. These gradients never really break upon one, but for a few miles they never probably level out either. It is tough going. The first few weeks, I began to run a six-mile section of the route after work, three or four times a week. I saw many other runners at that time, and we would greet each other in the usual way, and, unusually, we would often stop and complain about the paths. I had a couple of days leave, so I took these, thinking that I could get a bit more experience of running the route in the afternoon sun. It was even harder going, but at least I began to get used to the uneven ground: yellow Lethmachen stone, or impacted dirt paths, with lines of grass often trailing down the middle, dividing it into tracks too narrow for anyone but a child to traverse with any comfort.

One night, a week or so in, I lay in bed going over the work of the afternoon. I found myself thinking especially of small section of the route. It begins with a pretty steep slope, concreted over, as it is used as an access to a farm. This takes it out of you, but in an enjoyable way. You can get real purchase because of the concrete, and I like the feeling of getting my back that extra bit straight, keeping a good technique in the face of the additional effort. At the top of this, the path curls to the left, past the farm, then to the right, and here, in what is always beautiful countryside, there is a site that quite takes the breath away: an old, tree covered path – a hollow-way – heading downhill.  It is so very green, and still, and the end of the path cannot be seen, as it dips and then ascends again from its lowest point. Now, as I say, this is a beautiful thing, but in the memory of it, just then as I lay in bed, there was something else, something extra. It was like – and I do find this hard to describe – but it was like an animal had turned and fixed me with its gaze. Not that I recognized some hidden consciousness in the path, but rather an otherness that was only in the movement and the gaze: a still, silent, surface thing. And as I began to follow in my mind the journey that was to come I was, quite without reason, filled with dread. I had run to the base of the hollow-way, then, before it ascended, as the new map dictated, I took a left, up a little incline, to a field of barley, with a path cut through it, its edges indistinct among the hazy, swaying, golden sheaves. The path ended across the field, in a dark hole within a thin line of trees. The sun had begun to press down upon me. Beyond this field was another, again of barley, and then another brief respite under dark green trees, before a further field, open to pasture, above which sat a farm, seemingly out of time, idiosyncratic, and uncaring as to the judgment of any other, and at the far end of this field, finally a road. But the idea of reaching that seemed very distant.

I don’t know if I had felt terror at the time. Perhaps I had. Certainly, the thought of running that way again is a terrible one to me. I don’t think I could do it. This is greatly depressing.  But why?  Why does this journey, up the concrete hill, down the hollow-way, left, diagonally, across the fields of barley, with their little wooded locks, and out through the pasture of the old farm, inspire such dread, that I would throw off six months of sweat to put some distance between us?

I suppose the obvious answer is that this was something of a prophesy. Was all my training moving me towards a heart attack at that precise point in the race? This seems unlikely: I am fit, and careful. And anyway, this seems too mundane, too neat an answer. The emptiness of the way, at that hour, may contain a more telling possibility: I had come upon a place that neither I, nor anyone else, was required to see. At that time it was a path that did not need to be seen, and this, perhaps, is what an unseen path looks like: it brings into one’s mind, of course, the specter of one’s own insignificance, and the whole environment, therefore, shimmers with death, or something like it. Finally, and here is a strange thought, it occurs to me that the terror of the place could only ever be felt by one running at something like the pace that I was keeping. At walking pace, or with the speed of a bicycle, there would be no sense of the path before one both still and looming, that feeling of being both enclosed and exposed, of being funneled towards some strange, uncanny end, and of knowing both human effort and the stunning indifference of a world that could and would know nothing of this. The haunting nature of the place would only come forth for a runner. It was a trap – perhaps – designed to catch us, realized by our singular activity. What to make of that, I do not know…?

Fran Higgletone

Introducing Lethmachen poets #1: professed master of light comic verse, Fran Higgletone. Higgletone’s poems explore themes of left-handedness, hamster fluff, and the history of the Malvern hills, often to xylophone accompaniment.

Higgletone pretends to be gruff and socially awkward. The reality is only a little darker. I was privy to what became known as the ‘little people’ incident, one of the most memorable public performances witnessed at Lethmachen Library.

He recently issued a statement through the Lethmachen Echo: his behaviour that night was the result of a faulty asthma inhaler, and he has always believed that those not successfully working in the creative industries have as much right to the pleasures of life as those who do

There follows an extract from Fran’s ‘Messycritterus and Me’. I should add here that he has never condescended to speak to me at any of his Lethmachen shows. Obby Robinson is not a poet!

[…]I’m sinister

A south-paw

My hamster

Is also

His torso

Favours

The side that in quavers

Is fat and black

With sound […]

Early review…

Lethmachen Poet to a mutual acquaintance: “The canapés reference indicates the sloppiness of Robinson’s language. No canapés have graced a Lethmachen poetry launch since 1991.” I’m sure the case, but really wouldn’t know. I haunt rooms I have not frequented. It is to THESE my energy has been directed in life..

Featured

Obby’s blog…

I am a poet from Lethmachen, the Most Haunted Town in England. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, my work tends to have a supernatural theme. Through this webpage, I will introduce some of my poems, and also talk about the new collection I am just now starting to write…

In my last collection (2014), a candle sprouts hair, the ghost of a black dog is worryingly present, in a minor public school a great snake stares and stares, and…

Well.

I will also be writing on the Lethmachen poetry scene. So many poets. All celebrated. Let’s enjoy their success, right? Various points in the circle mapped from without…

And let’s not forget haunted Lethmachen. Bad things still stirring. But I will be blogging about some classic disturbances, and furnishing the relevant links. Gear up, ghost types.