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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Truth About Lies

The Truth About Lies


#550

Posted: 29 Jul 2015 03:39 AM PDT


Sunbather



Splayed on the grass
In her yellow dress
Quietly pornographic
In the sickly heat

Wrinkled, sweaty
Skin-like cloth
Clings, defines and barely covers.

In the park they lock at night.
 
 
20 July 1983


I mentioned this poem when I published 'Heat' (#530) back in May. I find 'Sunbather' an inferior poet to 'Heat'. 'Sunbather' is like 'Atonement' (#548), less of a poem and more of a setting for the imagination to wander through. For me it's all about the last line. In my hometown none of the parks got locked at night. None of them had gates. This concept had obviously been churning away inside me. The Gardens within Blythswood Square are private and are owned by all the tenants around the square so it's not unreasonable they'd want to keep the riff-raff out but I never thought about that at the time. There was a park and I was being prohibited from wandering through it. But here's the thing: I'm not actually sure I've ever seen the park gates unlocked or anyone in the park. It's always been closed-off to me.

A locked park appears in my new book:

Getting back inside the park was easier than he'd presumed it would be. He tried the main gates first on the off chance they might not have been locked. They were. He sighed and stared at the padlock. Inconsiderately Life had neglected to equip him with heat vision so at this exact moment all he could do was stare at it. There was a spider crawling slowly over the thing. A shaft of pearly moonlight caught it and he was so utterly transfixed by the beauty of the moment he completely forgot why he was there. It didn't last and he felt awkward and conspicuous standing there once it ended.

Blythswood Park

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Truth About Lies

The Truth About Lies


#549

Posted: 26 Jul 2015 05:59 AM PDT


Chained in the Brain



Hiding from drab reality
in orgasmic bliss or drunken stupor;
Free for a time shorter than before –
Anonymous and without.
Forced back by guilt,
Catching sight of your reflection
in an empty mirror,
Suddenly aware of being awake
though never really asleep:
Hanging on the torture stake of the past.
Again.
 
 
20 June 1983


Twenty-nine years after I wrote this poem I published a two part essay on ugly poetry. You can read the first part here. In the second part I included my poem 'The Rats' (#366) as an example but really I was pulling my punches; I'd written far uglier poetry than that.

A part of me would rather have skipped this poem. Some I have—I'm under no obligation to wash my dirty linen in public—but I mentioned this one in my last post and it's related to 'For the World is Hollow…' (#547) but that is the better poem; I should've stuck with the one but I guess I wasn't done feeling bad about myself. The use of capitals is very sloppy as is the punctuation but I've uploaded it as I left it.

Ugly, of course, is not bad although we often get them confused. From my new book:

Soon the hunchback will pass by. Such kyphosis is rare these days, in fact, as far as I can remember, he is the sole sufferer of the affliction I have seen in the flesh. Perhaps he was dropped as a child or rolled off a table or had TB. He walks with the aid of a stick, of course, not exactly a club but a solid piece of rosewood nevertheless with an unusual pistol grip. Were this a children's tale he would naturally be evil, as warped in his mind as in his body…

brain_chain

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Truth About Lies

The Truth About Lies


#548

Posted: 22 Jul 2015 05:23 AM PDT


Atonement



Mariko sat quietly on the Silent Way:
A tiny figure framed by a sea.
My only focal point.

Sitting with herself
in a strange sense of place...


11 June 1983
 
 

This poem sits in the middle of two rather ugly pieces, 'For the World is Hollow…' (#547) and 'Chained in the Brain' (#549). I have no idea where this one came from or what I was trying to say in it. The word 'atonement' is one I believe my father defined for me as 'at + one + ment', to atone is to return to a state of single mindedness. My dad was not a language expert—far from it—but every now and then he surprised me even if his explanations were sometimes questionable: 'woman' = 'womb + man'. The etymology of the word suggests otherwise but there's something sweet about his reasoning.

ForeverPeople1Cover_smlAt the time Mariko would have been about the only female Japanese name I would've known. I took it from the X-Men comic—the character first appears in X-Men #118—where she's Wolverine's love interest. As a kid I'd bought Marvel and DC comics when I could get them but there was only one newsagent in the whole town in the whole town that sold them and you were lucky to get two consecutive issues of any title but I remember reading issues of Batman and The Fantastic Four and some of Jack Kirby's stellar work from that time. I started collecting seriously after I was married. I was looking for a hobby, something to take me away from the work, work, work I was doing, and collecting comics felt suitably indulgent and they were still realistically prices (about 35p each). It was a good time to get back into comics too. Frank Miller took over writing duties on Daredevil with issue #165 (July 1980) and Chris Claremont began work on his Dark Phoenix Saga with X-Men #129 (January 1980).

'The Silent Way' is made up. I was looking for a Japanese-sounding place name and that was what I came up with. I was never happy with it or the poem in general. I felt out of my comfort zone. I'd read very little Japanese-style poetry—mostly poems by Ezra Pound—and so why I was trying out this form of poetry at this time in my life quite bewilders me.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Truth About Lies

The Truth About Lies


#547

Posted: 19 Jul 2015 04:20 AM PDT


For the World is Hollow...



In the salty darkness
Something horrid and familiar
Fading in spasms
Numb security, fading
I'm fading away

Wrapped in guilt
Drowning in dreams


11 June 1983
 
 

star-trek-for-the-world-is-hollow-and-i-have-touched-the-sky-vintage-style-television-posterThe title of this poem comes from an episode of Star Trek, the eight episode in the third season, 'For the World is Hollow and I have Touched the Sky'. In this episode, the crew of the Enterprise rush to stop an asteroid from colliding with a Federation world, but discover the asteroid is actually an inhabited generation ship. The title sounds like it might be a quote—Shakespeare perhaps?—but if it is I can't find it.

I don't credit the quote and this brings up an interesting issue, one of plagiarism. Oddly I don't recall ever writing about this emotive topic before. There have been news reports recently about an author who's facing a prison sentence for "plagiarising" Borges; he took Borges's short story 'The Aleph' and "remixed" it to make a new literary work. Is this plagiarism? It's a sticky one but the simple fact is there's nothing new under the sun. Unless you're going to do a Joyce and invent your own words everything you say has been said by someone. Where do you draw the line? Here's a sentence from my new novel:

There are so many gauntlets to run, ferrymen to pay, narrow gates to squeeze through and briar patches to negotiate.

We have an idiom based on an old-fashioned military practice, a nod to Greek mythology (or a Chris de Burgh song if you prefer), a biblical quote (Matthew 7:14) and a reference to 'Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby'. There's not an original thought in the whole sentence. What right do I have to use it? My logic is simple: like Pablo Katchadjian I want you to make the connections. I'm deliberately standing on the shoulders of giants. Authors have been doing this for years and there's no one more guilty of it than Beckett. His books and plays are full of what gamers would call "Easter eggs" and it's a delight to find these. Of course most people don't find Beckett's because they're so damn obscure but they are there.

There's an interesting article here about Star Trek and Shakespeare including a list of all the episode titles based on his plays. It's a long list. I'm also not the only poet to find inspiration in that Star Trek episode. There's another poem here.