Sunday, January 28, 2007

Love poem revisions

Just because I'm going to start writing science fiction, it doesn't mean I've escaped from the clutches of the Poetry Mistress. Here's a revision to one of my alleged love poems:

Take this Man

I married you on a couch in Clarkenwell,
its stuffing the curls of groin-hair
that Sebastian had buzz-cut from clients.
We held hands as he dabbed the needle
in vodka, pressed its exquisite point
through the seam of my glans. Not once
did you glance from my face to watch
my testicles dance to the pain. We swapped
our vows in white-hard hand grasps and later
we kissed, my trousers loose on my waist
and a dribble of lust on my newest ring.

And seeing as the juices are flowing (so to speak), a more substantive revision to another one:

Stood outside the office, smoking

Winter spit taps on my skull:
cold drops print "you don't belong
out here"
on the paving slabs.

These shoes I borrowed pinch
my toes and your coat's too thin
to keep the wind at bay. Still,

this morning's kiss still warms
my lips. I puff smoke between the rain
and respond: "you don't belong in me".

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Vuhsuuzh Gevilon

For better or for worse, my life is about to change.

Soon I shall no longer be a civil servant. Instead, I'm going to embark on a bit of an adventure. I'm going to do a bit of studying and a bit of writing. Actually quite a lot of writing. Science fiction writing to be exact.

See, I've always wanted to write science fiction books. From the moment I read my first fantasy novel (I don't care what people say, any book with talking animals - Wind in the Willows - or anthropomorphic trains - Thomas the Tank Engine - is fantasy material as far as I'm concerned) I've wanted to invent stories and write them down in books. And now that I'm reasonably adult I think it would also be a jolly good idea if people went out and bought my books, thus allowing me to earn lots of money and live the life of luxury I so richly deserve.

Unfortunately, if I'm to be able to realise my dreams, then I'm going to have to learn how to write science fiction novels good enough to make people want to buy them, and that means learning the tools of the trade. For me, the easiest way to learn is to do, and then get people to point and laugh at the stupid mistakes I make along the way.

So if you're interested in a bit of pointing and laughing at Rik, then please feel free to join me over at my new blog where I'll be posting bits of writing of an episodic nature, hopefully on a weekly basis. If things go well, you could even find yourself reading an interesting science fiction type story. And if things go wrong, well, feel free to point your finger at me and make caustic comments on my failures. Believe me, after so many years of dishonourable combat in the battlefields of poetry there's little you can say about my writing that can really hurt me!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Poets-in-residence or parasites-at-lunch?

Guardian Unlimited recently ran an article on the usefulness of the poet-in-residence phenomenon (hat-tip to Ron Silliman). Being the Guardian, the article reports both sides of the debate - quoting both supporters of the phenomenon and also those who have reservations.

Unlike the Guardian, I can happily show my bias in this blog. I consider poet-in-resident grants to be both morally wrong and also an abuse of taxpayers' money.

I do agree that there is a place for using tax revenue to promote poetry. We should be spending money on educating the kiddies to appreciate a wide range of poetry - preferably before they reach secondary school age (though teaching poetry should be part of the whole curriculum). The key outcome of this education should be to give the kiddies the tools to access poetry throughout later life, and to minimise their fear of poetry. Because that's where poetry education fails at the moment: it concentrates on giving kids the opportunity of writing a couple of poems as an assignment, but then insists on landing a whole host of rules and regulations on their brains about how poems are supposed to be revered and worshipped. Wrong. Reading poetry should be a fun experience, not a chore, or another line in the national curriculum to be ticked off with minimal effort.

But I see no point in giving jobbing poets public funds to do a "residence" in some community or enterprise or whatever. I mean, the state doesn't see fit to pay brickies to wonder round a community committing random acts of wall building, or mounting public demonstrations of pointing, does it? Are accountants employed to knock on doors in sink estates to offer the residents a quick 1-to-1 course in creative book-keeping? So why are poets accorded such special dispensation?

And while supporters go on about the "good" such residencies can offer local communities, you rarely hear views such as that of Andrew Jordan (quoting from the Guardian article): "There are all manner of unmet needs among detainees in Haslar [detention centre for assylum seekers]. They did not need a poet. They needed interpreters, advice, information, legal representation and healthcare, including, for many of them, help with coping with the effects of torture in their country of origin and the effects of being detained without trial in the UK. Some detainees told me things that were difficult to hear. I didn't encourage this as I could see the dangers of playing the therapist, but it happened anyway. In Haslar, nobody wanted to listen to the detainees. Some of them really needed to talk to somebody."

And what of the product? Who benefits from the poems the poet writes while doing a residence? The communities or the poet? Now, I have no objections whatsoever to poets using whatever material they can find to help generate their poems. But to pay them to go into a community and leech out their source material from that community? Who really benefits from such activity? How many social problems does a couple of verses really solve? How much food does a poet's strophe put on the community table? Do poets share the royalties (ha! yes, I know) they earn with the communities that inspired them, or the organisation - government - that sponsored them?

Didn't think so.

Proponents of residencies say that it is important for poets to go out into the community and promote poetry. Well, maybe if these people had not cut themselves off from their surrounding communities in the first place, they wouldn't feel the need to re-integrate themselves now. Contemporary poetry may well be a ghetto, but it's one built by poets themselves, not the rest of society.

Spend the poetry pound on the kiddies, not the poets. You know it makes sense.