The Poetry News Desk

A Day at a Northern Beach

I’ve been trying to think of ways of making my poetry more popular, more accessible over the last few weeks. Mainly, I’ve been twittering as many tiny poems as is humanly possible, and you can see the results so far on my micro stuff page.

I’ve also tried reading to music, and video readings, but then my good friend Alam, who is much better versed in all things presentational than I, came up with this:

Now how’s that for an intro?

Of course, now we have to have a poetry spot – and this is it:

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A Woman in a Cafe

I cannot, as they say, get going today. Lethargy besets me. My flat is crying out to be cleaned, but I just sit there ignoring it. Two days ago I joined the twittering masses at tweeter, as the more observant of you will have observed, hoping to tweet my heart out in small, poignant poems. But today I find myself to be a twitless tweeter. The clock ticks on relentlessly, not having anything better to do with its time, and I have nothing better to do than to listen to its ticking. There is a pile of paper waiting to be corrected and I let it wait, without comment. I am even too lazy to lie down, such is my disgrace.

I just wanted to share this with you all – I thought it might help those of you suffering from this nefarious disease of procrastination to know that there are others out there, suffering…

I also wanted to point you to a new reading I recorded, as I practice whipping my voice into some kind of acceptable shape. It’s based on Hopper’s painting “Automat”:

Killing Thoughts

Well, I do hope you all had as happy, successful, stomach thickening a Christmas and New Year bash as I have enjoyed. My wife asked me what my new year resolution was, and I said it was to be a better person. She sniffed loudly and asked whether it might not be better to be a thinner person…

But weight watching is not the theme of the day for today, you’ll be relieved to hear. Funnily enough, after reading Spurious I met an old friend from Essex over the Christmas holiday. Obviously we reminisced about the old days when hope was still young and foolhardy, but couldn’t help being a little jealous of our friend W’s rise to fame – nobody would write a book about us – although we did wonder whether knowing him would increase our sex appeal…

What was more apparent was my friend’s despair at the scope of the change facing British academia in the next few years. It’s not simply the introduction of massive fees, which will serve to hugely reduce student numbers, especially those from poorer backgrounds. What’s galling is the oncoming privatisation of higher education which is especially focussed on Humanities and Arts subjects since they are regarded by the current Government as the most frivolous of the academic subjects i.e. both worthless in terms of their usefulness in getting a job, and so easy that anyone could teach them. Government funding of these subjects is to be axed completely and they should be completely fee dependent. Fees will be kept down by opening up the education market and letting the free market dictate the best solution.

You know, like they did with the water, with the gas, with the steel (remember steel?), the cars (remember the cars?), the docks (remember the docks?), the airports (did a great job this winter), the trains (do I need say anything about the trains?)… It’s going to be good!

But not for thought. I think it’s safe to say that thought – in its institutionalised form, in terms of critical and analytical thought of all forms (not just Philosophy) – will die. It’s not just that Humanities departments will close, which they surely will, but that the ethos behind them will be lost. Sold off, to be exact. Degrees will be effectively up for sale, but the knowledge and skills they stand for are not effective commodities – you cannot buy them, you have to acquire them, you have to work and you have to learn. This is obviously not going to be acceptable to people paying for their degrees – why should they work for what they’ve paid for? You don’t think this is true? Just consider G.W. Bush’s qualifications (BA from Yale and an MBA from Harvard) – do you really think he knows what he is talking about? Witness the symptoms of the death of thought…

I could go on and on about this one, but I won’t. I did something much better and wrote a poem about it. You can read it here.

Oh well, it’s back to the ironing board for me…

Whoa – bad news, Germany’s bringing in new censorship laws for the internet, well at least for people who offer content from Germany, which includes me. All content has to be categorised according to its suitability for children, just like in films. This means I will have to display a sign which looks a bit like this:

Now, of course, I’ve got stuff that could be judged as not being suitable for little children, but I’ve also got stuff which is, but the best bit about the law is that they say themselves no-one really knows what’s suitable and what’s not – it’s up to you to decide and for them to prosecute if you get it wrong…

Now, since the fines go up to €500,000 (and they’ve already prosecuted a couple of artists, not for that much, but even so) then I’ll just have to say sorry little German children you can’t read my poems and stories, but really, it’s probably for the best…

It’s still a bit ominous hearing about German authorities prosecuting artists for questionable aesthetics, it brings back dark memories – but I’m sure they have their reasons. Just as they have their reasons for sending people “home”. Anyway, I thought, since I’m here, I might as well write a poem in the language of my hosts: here it is, together with a little translation:

Asylant
Der Himmel bebte
Als das Flugzeug ihn küßte.
Es wäre in Ordnung
Wenn wir nicht schlafen müßten.

Der Himmel grollte
Als meine Frau weinte.
Sie saß im Flugzeug
Und wußte nicht wohin.

Refugee
The heavens quaked
As the plane kissed them.
It would have been alright
If we didn’t need to sleep.

The heavens growled
While my wife cried.
She sat in the plane
And knew not whither.

© Andrew Rossiter 2010

Powdered

Apart from trying to convince people to do the right thing I’ve been doing the wrong thing. I rather caned it on Friday evening at Café Meinke’s second anniversary. The staff had the evening off, and the guests ran the bar, and a wild time was had by all – but even if I say it myself, me and Thorsten were the virtual dream team – well until things went all blurry…

And, before doing that, I managed to write this poem:

Powdered (first draft)

There’s a guy in a tie,
Propping up the door,
To a shiny white cubicle,
Where they’re drawing the line.

And they’re huddled like kids
Shivering at the poolside line-up,
Waiting for the shriek of the whistle,
The stunned splash of ice-cold powder.

The first throws back his head,
He’s starting to gag,
As the kicking white medicine
Tickles a fist at his throat.

He makes a dash for the bar,
And takes a swig of champagne,
While laughingly gabbling
The dross from his brain,

He sees a girl on a stool,
With wide, staring eyes,
He puts a palm on her thigh,
And burns his hand on her skin.

But it’s the heat of the hob,
It’s the glean of the glass,
The sheen of the surface,
It’s the wild lash of a tongue,
But emptied of purpose.

So they thrust and they moan,
Like cheap porno stars,
pummeling their bones,
And the sour morning taste
Waits for the wash of the bars.

But I didn’t like it. The problem with it is that it was meant to convey both the tinny superficiality, together with the intensity of taking cocaine, but it ends up just being superficial. So what do you on a Saturday morning with a bad hangover and equally bad poem. Well, I turned it into the lyrics for a song, which I’ve sent to my good friend Clemens and Golden Tone Radio. I’m curious to see what he makes of them.

But what I did, after taking a couple of paracetamol, was to cut a refrain from one of the stanzas, simplify the language and the rhythm, and add rhyme to it. Here’s how the lyrics look now:

Powdered (Song version)

There’s a guy in a tie,
Propping up the door,
To a shiny white cubicle,
Where they’re chopping the score.

Refrain:
It’s the glean of the glass,
It’s the sheen of the surface,
It’s the lash of a tongue,
But emptied of purpose.

And they quiver like kids
Lined up at the water,
Waiting for the shrill of the whistle,
And the cold splash of powder.

Refrain

He throws back his head,
He’s starting to choke,
As the kicking white friend
Throws a fist at his throat.

Refrain

He makes a dash for the bar,
And takes a swig of champagne,
While tellingly gabbling
The dross from his brain,

Refrain

He sees a girl on a stool,
All wide-eyed and thin,
He puts a palm on her thigh,
And burns his hand on her skin.

Refrain

So they thrust and they moan,
Like cheap porno stars,
And the bitter morning taste
Waits for the wash of the bars.

2 x Refrain

I imagined a sort of Lilly Allen voice singing it, while I was writing it – just because I like her voice, but it still left me with the question, what do I do with the poem. I like the story and idea behind it, and the rhythmic crescendo. So on Sunday night, I chewed over the imagery and beefed it up. It’s not the final version, because the rhythm should be refined, but this is what I came up with: you can read it here.

And now it’s time for some Spaghetti Carbonara and an episode of the Sopranos…

Little Girl Lost

Have I really been away that long? It seems like years to me, and I feel guilty that I didn’t sign off or say that I’ll be away, but I didn’t know it would go on this long…

I have been in a turmoil about how to carry on with my blog – apparently if I put stuff up it’s no longer eligible for submission in a lot of magazines, which is fair enough considering they only want to show things which haven’t been seen before. But then I found I lost my motivation to keep writing in the blog, and even worse, found I was writing less as I looked into that black hole waiting for people to answer – it takes months. I can even understand this, as magazines and competitions are deluged with submissions, but I am an impatient person and waiting hurts almost as much as rejection.

And then two things happened –
1. I thought fuck it! which is always a good sign, and decided to do what I want, which isn’t always so good, but so what, so I’ll just be a bit more selective about what I put up in the blog – i.e. not the stuff I’ll be submitting, which means it’s not the best stuff, but at least it’s something.
2. but this is really weird – I had a dream! That’s a good thing too, because it shows that I’m sleeping, but I dreamt that the fascists were marching through Germany and all my friends were yelling at me to publish this on my blog and this is the real reason why I’m blogging today, to make sure that my dream doesn’t come true (fat chance of that).
Now if people think I’m being alarmist, just look across the way to France and what’s happening to the Roma, or here in Germany, with all the talk of integrating foreigners, and whatever that might bring with it (questionnaires, language tests, deportation because you squashed an umlaut) and maybe you’ll see things differently.
It’s funny – only three months ago the banks were still the guilty party, but strangely they have faded into the background and calls for bonus taxes or regulation are as ever met with threats that the banks will move away. So, instead of calling this fairly obvious bluff governments are turning their attention to that age-old cause of all woes – the foreigner! So I might have been away a long time, but things haven’t really changed that much…

But this particular foreigner is determined to make a good time of it, and has been sashaying across the Mediterranean in a beautiful pea green boat – okay, a week in Majorca with a couple of days sailing – but it was great, and a stormy sea helped me write this sad little ditty: Little Girl Lost

Pat’s Place

I’m feeling somewhat peckish at the moment, and could well do with popping down the road to the next greasy Joe’s to get a plate of sausage, egg and chips as a welcome alternative to a bowl of muesli. Unfortunately, this being Hamburg, Germany, there aren’t that many around, (although there’s Erika’s in the Sternstr. – they do a wicked fry-up) which will possibly save my life, but not help my wanton appetite. I reckon another thing that would go down a bomb here is a typical british chippy, you know, where they still use potatoes to make chips, and can fry you up a quick mars bar… A chippy, or a greasy Joe’s in St. Pauli and you’d be rolling in it.

But, I got a touch of nostalgia for my old London café in Tottenham, at the corner of White Hart Lane. I can’t remember what it was called, but it was run by a Greek, whose wife was called Pat (I think – so long ago), so I wrote a poem about a woman toiling away in one of these cafés, and called it Pat’s Place, – you can read it here.

I’m think I’m going to have an omelette.