People Watching

Here’s a poem I wrote on the bus yesterday, trying something different, ended up going in quite a different direction to that I intended…

People Watching!
There’s time to kill,
People Watching!
Seats to fill,
People Watching!
Scope the view,
People Watching!
See the people watching you…
People Watching!
Feel self conscious
People Watching!
Check your conscience
People Watching!
Hide your secrets
People Watching!
Bury your Regrets
People Watching!
Sitting and staring
People Watching!
Standing and swearing
People Watching!
What’s their problem?
People Watching!
Will you help solve them?
People Watching!
Is that a knife?
People Watching!
Do you fear for life?
People Watching!
It’s escalated…
People Watching!
Is that thing serrated?
People Watching!
Think of the damage it could do!
People Watching!
Well, it’s up to you…
People Watching!
Do you call the Police
People Watching!
Or do you pray for Peace?
People Watching!
Leave them with no witnesses,
People Watching!
Let them resolve their witlessness,
People Watching!
Do you watch them hurting?
People Watching!
Or do you close the curtain?
People Watching!
Do you make a stand?
People Watching!
Will you lend a hand?
People Watching!
It’s always a choice
People Watching!
To raise your Voice
People Watching!
And if you do
People Watching!
Have no fear of the people…
Watching you!

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Punk renaissance

I decided to get back to my blog. Again. I am, at least consistent in my inconsistency. So I need to break the silence. I have still been working on poetry, and I will share some more soon, but I first I thought I’d try and talk to you.
It doesn’t come easy to me, it seems like an effect of my dyspraxia that my thoughts are often disorganised and I fall over my words trying to articulate them. That has been a barrier to me in all walks of life, including creatively. I never set out to do poetry. My memory is bad. Even though I love reading I have difficulty absorbing from the page. I couldn’t quote much of my own work, never mind classical poetry. But I’ve ended up writing poetry for a number of years now, and I was thinking about my influences. I always loved the anarchic humour of Rik Mayall, particular Bottom which had a lot of absurd wordplay. In my teens I found more countercultural entertainers in The Dead Kennedys, a US punk band that had an eclectic catalogue of albums, a frontman going by the name Jello Biafra who reminded me much of Rik, and a similarly memorable turn of phrase in their lyrics. I just put their albums on my phone, and realised that they are still my favourite band, I’ve never listened to another for as many hours, and I do listen to a lot of music. Bringing me towards poetry, there was John Cooper Clarke, a slightly mad Liverpudlian performance poet who brought humour in place of niceties, and Jake Thackray, a singer poet who could paint a seaside postcard picture in a few verses.
These were somewhat passive influences, I listened and watched them for entertainment, with no plans to turn them toward anything.
So then, I got into poetry as one of many confidence building exercises- I was a nervous wreck after I graduated University- and I just found a group to try some creative writing. This was The Baggage Handlers, who were actually more geared towards poetry, formed by Rommi Smith, who I later learned that everybody in local poetry seems to know. Another member was Steve Lunn, who also counted John Cooper Clarke as an influence. Steve is so prolific, working up several short poems in a short time, all rhyming. I was inspired by that, the idea that you don’t need to spend hours crafting an epic poem. Using the writing exercises in the group I became able to put together poems in my own style within twenty minutes each, and at some point actually found myself able to rhyme- I had never been able to before, but soon reached the point where it felt harder not to rhyme.
So this is me as a poet. I still can’t perform vocally very well, I practice, but there’ll always be a gap between the voice I write in and my speaking ability. But I have confidence in my writing, more confidence in this than in anything I do. Words will be my legacy. Not new ones, but used in my own way.

Getting it Over With

Here’s a poem I wrote for a Christmas party. Typed it up a bit late but I’ll publish it here as a new years resolution- to revive my blog!

Remember remember the 5th of November,
But you never forget what happens in December,
It’s rammed down your throat,
And yelled in your ear,
As they try to sell you Christmas Cheer,
Caterwauling the familiar songs,
Those festive types do come on strong,
You’ll tire of all the martialled pleasance,
As you comb the shops for elusive presents,
You’ll keep it up just for the kids,
Back in when you thought you’d gotten rid,
Of the crowds, the panic, the rush of noise,
When the day comes, you’re frogmarched to the try at seven,
Then dozing off in front of the film by eleven,
But the mission’s accomplished, the kids are happy,
If you’ve changed the channel before the Queen gets yappy,
Next, round them up for a Christmas meal,
The green bits ever lack appeal…
And then- at last- it’s over for another year,
You can shut up about it, I don’t want to hear,
Another word about Christmas,
OR HIS DAMN REINDEER!

The Comedians

I haven’t blogged for a while, I have been suffering quite badly from depression among other things, and it’s been hard to get myself to do things. To keep myself going I watch a lot of comedy, and I got thinking about writing a poem about it, about the people that make me laugh, who go back as far as the early days of cinema. I started out by borrowing the title of an Elvis Costello/ Roy Orbison song and eventually wrote the rest in one evening. I’ve also put together a gallery of some of the people I was thinking of, not used this feature before so as usual I’ve gone overboard. Most of the captions from my own recollection from books and DVD extras etc. I hope you like it. To absent friends!

The Comedians

They knew you from an early age,

Working the crowd long before a wage,

Daft kid spoiling the photographs,

It’s all worthwhile if someone laughs,

The hard life of a humourist,

Becomes much harder when no-one’s pissed,

Add sentiment to slapstick games,

They’ll root for you, they feel your pain,

They see you failing your romance,

Disaster strikes down every chance,

But don’t take it all to heart,

That’s the nature of your art,

A smile holds back a thousand tears,

Show your strengths and hide your fears,

That things going right going wrong goes wrong,

That the music ends before the song,

Let all that land on your persona,

But don’t let it usurp it’s owner,

Become the plucky underdog,

This contraption’s most important cog,

Be the creative destructive spark,

The firefly knife that cuts through the dark,

If it works, and you make it big,

Then give it all at every gig,

If it doesn’t, if no-one laughs,

Then dust the death off of your arse,

It happened to them all you know,

Can’t guarantee a perfect show,

Stan and Ollie, Charlie, Eric and Ern,

All of them, they had to learn,

To get there it was going to take patience,

To deal with all of these frustrations,

And many found, even at the top,

The heartache doesn’t really stop,

The struggle to retain success,

To remain yourself amid the stress,

Can tear apart a man inside,

Witness how poor Tony died,

He had an audience millions strong,

But he felt too much had gone wrong,

So if you still want to be a clown,

Kiss the heights, absorb the sound,

Make sure your feet still touch the ground,

If they don’t, it’s such a long way down.

 

Broken Branches

Here’s another piece from the group, visualising the perspective of something by or of a river. Like many of my others it was partly inspired by the fate of David Oluwale. As such I decided against titling it with a pun such as ‘river sticks’!

I was once of the tree, held up high,

Till a playful child snapped me down.

and carried me from my brethren.

A toy for the moment.

Then roughly thrown,

Into the waters, which took me far

The flow of the current was now my home.

As I travel far, the world frightens me.

Though nothing as much as the thing that is man,

That cast it’s brother aside like a stone.

A River in November

A poem I wrote at the writing group’s last meeting, looking at life and rivers.

 

 

The river of life has an uneven flow,

Sometimes deathly calm,

Sometimes violently rough.

I may find myself bilious at the slightest movement

Or cling to the world for a dangerous ride.

Every fork in the waters brings a vital decision,

So many wrong already.

I am far from the place I was looking for

I try to take the right way every time now,

To try and return,

Further down the river that I should be living on.

Writing exercise- River ride

This is from the writing group I attend, and it’s the first time I’ve tried to create an exercise myself. Feel free to try it yourself, or share it , tried to make it pretty open ended so people can put their own spin on it, and would be happy to see anything inspired by it if you’d like to post it here or link to it on your own blog.

 

Recommended time 15 minutes

Take a journey you have been on in your life, or one that you would like to go on, or worry about going on- either one place to another or metaphorically- one state of being or state of mind to another, and imagine the places being on either end of a river- even if they’re in completely different places.

Now imagine yourself taking that journey along the river.

What is it like? Think about

  • the flow of the water,
  • the weather,
  • what is carrying you? Is it a boat, does it have a name?
  • Do you see anything in the water? Is it in your way, is it difficult to proceed?
  • Is there anyone or anything encouraging on the riverbank?
  • How do you feel as you get further down the river..?
  • How far along the river do you think you are, have you made it to the end or do you still have a way to go? How will you feel if or when you get there?

Describe all this in poem, prose, however it comes to you.