No News Day
Friday, 17 April 2020 at 19:26
Out of Eden
On 18 April 1930, the BBC's news announcer had nothing to communicate. "There is no news," was the script of the 20:45 news bulletin, before piano music was played for the rest of the 15-minute segment. The wireless service then returned to broadcasting from the Queen's Hall in Langham Place, London, where the Wagner opera Parsifal was being performed. (BBC website)
I saw that apple still glowing in the tree,
the deadline (thank God!) at least was not today.
But sure as Hell, He’ll put it all down to me.
Once that fruit falls, it’s headlines all the way.
The brandished sword of God before them blazed...
Flood, Drought, Famine, Plague, the ceaseless Wars;
calendars, blood-lettered to the End of Days.
They hand in hand with wandering steps and slow...but, of course
once out there, they won’t be coming back;
from up on high they’ll wait each Solstice out,
tick off Millennia that dawn in vain,
peering anxiously at their falling sky
(the columns of their world held up by hacks).
No Rapture. No spaceship to beam them up. No news.
All History’s just a stuttering déjà-vu.
He sees their futures, yet swears He leaves them free:
The world was all before them, where to choose...
He drags that old defence out every time.
(Match of the Day: you watch but know the score.
It doesn’t mean you rigged the game.) I’m not so sure.
It will all come: hot metal, telegraph,
red-tops, rolling news, uncoiling spools, but first
that red bulb glows: studio silence. He eyes the dials,
flicks switches, slides the dimmers, checks tape-hiss, smiles.
He’s used to splicing rushes from when the Future starts.
Sits back, already waiting for what’s just about to break.
Through Eden took their solitary way...
He’s made this up so many times before:
the endless parallel worlds He tipped awry.
From wireless Eden, right through each family tree,
that thirst for knowledge will soon come down
to celebrity gossip, fake news, the racing tips.
That shining apple, always rotten to the core,
falls, and what’s really rolling now is all that world,
the one that’s just about to crash the pips.
No News anthology
Tuesday, 14 April 2020 at 17:45
On 18 April 1930, the BBC's news announcer had nothing to communicate. "There is no news," was the script of the 20:45 news bulletin, before piano music was played for the rest of the 15-minute segment.
The wireless service then returned to broadcasting from the Queen's Hall in Langham Place, London, where the Wagner opera Parsifal was being performed.
To mark the 90th anniversary of that extraordinary utterance, 90 poets from around the world were invited to make a response. The editors Shane Strange (Australia), Alvin Pang (Singapore) and Paul Munden (UK) selectied 30 poets each. The anthology is published by Recent Work Press in Australia, and launched and distributed internationally.
Coronavirus has obviously meant the various launches scheduled for the 90th anniversary this Saturday 18 April won't be able to go ahead. We had planned for a launch in York. Instead the No News anthology will be featured this week on The Arts Show with Mike Salter; Wednesday 15th April 2020, 7pm. Jorvik Radio. 94.8 FM. Jorvik Radio.com. There will be recordings of some of the poets reading their poems, maybe even me reading my contribution. Others have been filmed and are featured on the No News Facebook page.
For further details, and copies, please contact:
Recent Work Press
Saturday, 11 April 2020 at 20:02
"There is no antidote against the Opium of time, which temporally considereth all things; Our Fathers finde their graves in our short memories, and sadly tell us how we may be buried in our Survivors. Grave-stones tell truth scarce fourty years: Generations passe while some trees stand, and old Families last not three Oaks […] to be studied by Antiquaries, who we were, and have new Names given us like many of the Mummies, are cold consolations unto the Students of perpetuity, even by everlasting Languages."
Sir Thomas Browne, Hydrotaphia or Urne Buriall, 1658
This seems a good time to be thinking about elegies. My mother died in 2011. I was in Romania at the time; coincidentally, that day I'd gone to a graveyard in Sighisoara I'd visited several years before. The graveyard served the German-speaking community and I wanted to check a quotation I thought I remembered from one of the tombstones. Sighisoara claims to be Count Dracula's birthplace. When I arrived back in Borsec, the dilapidated Transylvanian village where I was staying on a writing residency, I heard about my mother's death back in the UK.
Since then I've been working on and off on Elemental, a collection of poems,that starts with my mother's death, and moves on to consider loss in a more general way. The collectiion plays variations on the sonnet, in tighter or looser ways, or, as here in the opening poem, echoing the form to build a longer sequence.
In Transylvania when I got that call
– had been that day to Sighisoara, drawn
to that famous undead batman’s place of birth.
Think: the Saxon cemetery high up the hill.
Carved gothically upon one stone, I’d seen
Ruhen in fremder Erde! Written it down.
Lie still in foreign soil – but you never can:
(stone blunts, moss overwrites your name)
the earth remains cold and strange.
As do you. Whoever you were, laid low
in the lie of the land, you are now (whatever now might mean)
your own remains – Just let the world, its weather,
drain right through your tongue, your ribs,
whatever stubbornly persists of you.
Up here, we are all overwritten with rain.
Names blunt. Down there, bones do too,
as they acquaint themselves with fault and aquifer,
maybe to discover they’ve finally found their level,
worked on darkly in the water table,
worn and wearing through those other scribbles
written in the water’s cursives,
its accommodations with gravity, geology,
the terrain’s almighty sloth. Post humus:
they’ve gone beyond mere ground. Now who could tell
just what is rain and what it is that comes to rest
at that watershed where land and weather shift?
Between headstones and puddles – what will you later find
in that shimmering absence where sun now burns off mist?
We’ve all been sieved by weather, land,
but now it seems one’s bones might pan
for flecks of something bright to stick
between the breastbone and the floating rib.
Count yourself lucky, can you, through the zero
of this ground? Be less than the gravedigger’s distant grunt?
Just something seeping, molecule by molecule,
ghost-borne through lime, past worm, through strange soil,
through walls tabled into water, a name glossed
across the mahogany of a dull séance. Grund.
Ground. And the mills of God grind exceeding small.
The old grind that did for you. (Now you’re hallowed,
hollowed out, just like the ground.) And that’ll do.
Will do for me what did for you. Will do for all.
Friday, 10 April 2020 at 15:29
Friday, 10 April 2020 at 15:26
I've added a few more drawings to the Life Studies portfolio, and started a new portfolio Life Drawings. Both are accessible from the Painting page.
Tuesday, 7 April 2020 at 12:28
Tuesday, 7 April 2020 at 11:37
I've not got round to the blog for a while. Now with the corona virus lockdown in its third week, with more time than I need on my hands, I thought I should get back to it.
I've put a few drawings up in the Life Studies portfolio. There are a few hundred drawings tucked away somewhere. As an experiment I've just picked a few that were close to hand and that photographed reasonably well. Many of the lighter sketches wouldn't work, but I'll look through the other portfolios and see what might translate to screen.
Life drawing in one of the things I've missed lately, but maybe it's time to get the pencils out and draw the wildlife in the garden. The tadpoles are wringgling, and the pond will soon be hopping with froglets. The birds are nesting, and it won't be long before the fledgings are out.