Bordeaux Bay

Bordeaux Bay
Watercolour by Tony Taylor http://www.paintingbreaksguernsey.com

Sunday, 30 November 2014

CINEMA PARADISO

Since childhood, I’ve loved cinema and never more so than in the golden days of the great Picture Palaces that were once a prominent feature of every town and city.
These fabulous places were a magnet for youngsters and adults alike with their gaudy foyers and lush interiors. Back then, a visit to the cinema was a memorable event.
There were, of course, exceptions. A few cinemas rightly earned the nickname, Flea-Pits, for they were run-down and badly maintained, though they too had their clientele. 



























A typical cinema programme offered cartoons, Mickey Mouse or Popeye; Pathe News; Pearl and Dean advertising and a B-Picture, usually featuring gangsters or warfare, then, top of the bill, The Big Picture, often a Western, an Historical Epic or a Sci-Fi adventure.
In the interval before the Big Picture you could buy Walls ice cream, Butterkist popcorn or Kiora juice, and no visit to "the pictures" would have been complete without one or all of these delights.
Television changed our relationship with cinema but, despite dire predictions at the time, cinema survived and evolved. Arguably it’s as popular today as it’s ever been, although the viewing demographic is different.
Most British multiplex cinemas offer a menu of Hollywood blockbusters, strong on special effects but low on engaging narrative, that appeal to the "Gamers Generation".  Alternative, non-mainstream film houses aren’t always easy to find except in larger cities. A visit to the cinema hardly qualifies as an event nowadays. Somehow the glamour has gone. 



AT THE PICTURES 1954

No smelly flea-pit this, instead,
a Pleasure Dome to this small lad,
Balcony-Front-Row like Chad,
bomb-aiming, targeting a head
down in the crowded Stalls below,
a cigarette’s illicit glow
lighting the victim, infra-red.
Popeye and Olive on the screen,
along comes Bluto, muscled, mean,
to beat the sailor almost dead.
A can of spinach saves the day:
it does so every Matinee.
On comes the Western, good Tom Mix.
Down the the Stalls the six-guns blaze
or else space-guns with cosmic rays
when Space War’s showing at the flicks.
We stamp the floor with scuffed black brogues,
cheer on our heroes, damn the rogues.
The usherette, with torch and scowl,
shines light my way, I duck right down.
She stamps her foot with angry frown.
The lady’s always on the prowl.
for noise-makers, rowdy kids,
for things the cinema forbids.

We long to be them but we’re not:
the Marshall or the Astronaut.
When errant Martians all are caught,
when wars are over, baddies shot,
we file outside, reluctantly,
to daylight and reality.


Thursday, 27 November 2014

DEATHS AND ENTRANCES

One aspect of a melancholy nature is the tendency to reflect, perhaps more than one should, on the ephemeral nature of life. 
Poetry should not shy away from such preoccupations, indeed, there can hardly be a better medium through which to engage with subjects like love and death. 
Living in Northern Ireland, during the IRA's terrorist campaign to gain control of the province, tended to focus the mind sharply on how swiftly one’s life could be changed in an instant.  Sadly, for a number of my contemporaries, it was.

This poem appeared in Issue 35 of Pennine Ink, a long-established and consistently excellent magazine published annually in the north of England. Issue 36 has just been published. More details at  http://pennineink.weebly.com





 MEMENTO MORI

An ambulance howls like a hurt cat;
parts traffic as Moses did the waves.
Worms burrow in awaiting graves.
A police car buzzes like a gnat.

Stuck in a jam of steaming cars,
I contemplate how life transforms
in moments. How they wait, those worms,
so patiently, for us, for ours.


Monday, 24 November 2014

EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE

Spiritus is a Latin word referring to breath or breathing, and is the origin of the English word spirit. I find this connection between breath and the spirit an interesting one and the interweaving of meaning prompted the following poem.

SPIRITUS

The playing cards fall one by one,
each turning card a single breath:
an Ace of Spades, the card of death
lurks in the deck. A coin is spun
and while it spins, life hastens on:
our fortune hangs on heads or tails.
Death cuts us down but life prevails:
our genes alive in daughter, son.
So breath moves forward, like a breeze,
through autumn, winter, into spring:
a snow bird’s feathers on a wing
uplifted over endless seas.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

PS ...


 

If you’re interested in some excellent television documentaries featuring modern poets you should check out BBC iplayer for a series entitled Great Welsh Writers. The subjects are Vernon Watkins, Dannie Abse and Gillian Clarke.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b04pg7x5/great-welsh-writers-series-2-2-dannie-abse

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

NOVEL EXPERIENCE

Since childhood, I’ve loved stories. From the time that I learned to read, I’ve done so, incessantly, and my enjoyment of the written word has never diminished. I started out with the Bre’r Rabbit books, progressed to Treasure Island, Kingsley’s Water Babies, then via Westerns, Radio Fun and Eagle annuals, to the world of American novels: Faulkner, Steinbeck, Hemingway, Kerouac and Capote.  I love encountering that other world behind the secret door that opens when I pick up a book.
 
You won’t find a Dan Purdue novel on the shelves of Waterstones, well not yet, but I predict that you will before long. 
Dan’s short stories have garnered prizes in abundance and if such things existed in the form of cups and trophies, I suspect he’d need to extend his mantlepiece.
I attended a Writer’s Workshop he led at the Guernsey Literary Festival and came away enthused and thrilled by the experience. I’ve since tried my hand at writing short stories, with modest success, but always return to Dan’s tales to marvel at his imagination, skill with words and off-beat take on life in general.
You will find many of his stories on-line or if, like me, you hanker for the printed page, a compilation is available called Somewhere To Start From and you can obtain a signed copy from http://www.danpurdue.uk



 
In the meantime, here’s one to whet your appetite.

COUNTERFEIT CONFETTI  by Dan Purdue

The bride declared, “I do,” and the groom slipped the ring onto her finger. The dearly-beloveds applauded as her new husband showered her with air-kisses, while the rotund vicar beamed with such enthusiasm that he jettisoned his false teeth.

After the newlyweds had each forged the other’s signature in the register, everyone congregated on the Astroturf outside the church. The photographer herded them back and forth, striving to keep the fibreglass gargoyles out of shot. The process took an age, mainly because half the invited guests hadn’t turned up, sending either their stunt doubles or cardboard cut-outs of themselves instead. The former wouldn’t stop fighting one another with balsa wood chairs and sugar-glass bottles; the latter kept blowing over in the wind. Eventually, the required images were captured. Everyone threw photocopied sheets of confetti as the newlyweds climbed into their carriage. A cow dressed as a pantomime horse towed them lethargically to the reception.

At the hotel the guests toyed politely with rubber chicken and Plasticine carrots. The bride sat in demure silence as the groom tapped his glass, thanked everybody for coming, and then donned a wig and false nose to deliver the best man’s speech. He toasted the happy couple and the guests cheered and sipped sparkling grape juice. As the applause died down, the bride stood at her husband’s side to cut the cake. The knife sank through thick white icing into shredded telephone directories and Styrofoam packaging chips.

In the evening, he took her in his arms and waltzed across the dance floor. They held each other close and, as they danced, their eyes glittered with the reflections of a hundred artificial candles.



Sunday, 16 November 2014

MARKETING WAR

I was in London on Remembrance Sunday to view the magnificent display of poppies at the Tower of London. 
Later that day I read that archaeologists have been granted the opportunity to excavate an area in Flanders where trench warfare took place during The Great War. 
This permission was granted because in 2015 work is scheduled to start on a pipeline, which will facilitate the movement of gas between France and Germany, and once this work begins all future archaeological exploration in the area will be impossible.
Ironically, gas was one of the deadliest of the many perils faced by the men who inhabited the trenches during 'the war to end all wars'.
Conditions endured by soldiers in the trenches were appalling and men survived from day to day, exhausted, their bodies plagued by lice and trench-foot, sharing filthy mud-holes with marauding rats: a far cry from the Hollywood-style portrayal in the current Sainsbury’s television ad, which depicts a friendly Christmas encounter between British and German troops, with combatants, on both sides, clean, bright-eyed, handsome and healthy.
I’m sure the Sainsbury’s commercial is well-enough intentioned but it seems somehow distasteful to use the sacrifice of gallant men to sell groceries and score points in the ‘great supermarket war’.
This poem is as much about those men as about the archaeologists who dig in the trenches today. 



THE ARCHAEOLOGISTS

Digging again in Flanders Fields,
long trenches deep in red, rich earth,
that march in rows from east to west.

It rains, but now there are no shells:
instead, with slow forensic skill,
they harvest artifacts from mud.

A pipeline has been promised: gas
to flow from here to Germany
but first, in one last push, they dig,

these archaeologists, who duck
beneath the trench's lip with spades
as once their forefathers, with guns,

crouched, cursed or wept, as shrapnel flew.
These modern men find badges, boots,
cups, broken rifles, helmets, more.

They work relentlessly in rain
to harvest relics from the soil
that runs like blood beneath their boots

while deeper yet, cold corpses lie:
bones, clothed in ragged uniforms,
reach from the weeping earth in vain.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

PAGE TURNER

Every writer knows that no matter how much he or she might work at crafting a poem, it is incomplete until it finds a reader. Then, and only then, an extra dimension is added through the reader’s imagination and this will vary from reader to reader because each of us brings our own unique interpretation to what we read or see.

This applies, even more so, to abstract art. Here, for example, are three images that intrigue me. What am I seeing? How do I interpret them?









These are, in fact, close-up photographs of the hulls of fishing-boats moored around Bordeaux Bay, taken by my wife, Jane, earlier today but as examples of 'found art' I think they work amazingly well.

Could Mr Turner have produced better?


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mr._Turner_%28film%29
 








Tuesday, 11 November 2014

TOYS-R-US

I wrote this poem seven years ago for my grandson, Cameron, who was then a toddler. He's shot up  a bit since then and, at nine years old, already looks much the same as those of my generation did when teenagers. It must be something they're feeding them nowadays: confidence pills, maybe?




TOYS

Others have a toy from childhood: ragged bear
or plastic gun, the barrel jammed
with plasticine; or floppy doll with thinning hair
and one eye lost, but loved the more for that;
or broken car or grounded aeroplane;
or arrow without bow or single table tennis bat.

In age, I am diminished to have none of these,
no childhood keepsake still,
to resurrect for comfort, when sad or ill at ease;
or handle with a wistfulness, or proudly reminisce
to you, child of my own child,
how once a threadbare tiger was the object of my bliss.












 



Wednesday, 5 November 2014

MIRROR IMAGES

Another birthday has arrived and I’m waiting here to greet it. Birthdays seem to turn up with alarming frequency the older I become but the only alternative is to die young and I’m far too old for that. 


A FATHER’S REFLECTION

In my shaving mirror, increasingly,
as I grow old, my father’s face
replaces mine. As I erase
the moisture, he stares back at me.
Map-lines, into his features drawn,
are duplicated in mine now
like signatures on cheek and brow:
all vestiges of youth have gone.
So here I stand, the mirror a lake.
He signals from his distant isle:
a loving wave, a gentle smile.
Thirty years past, yet still the ache
of loss lingers. He is long dead
and yet some hint of him remains
within me, in DNA chains:
a psychic fingerprint, a thread
that links the parent to the child
then spins out onward, onward still
to my child, her children. Such skill:
each life unique yet each profiled
to the shape of its begetter.
So something of my father stays
forever in my looks and ways,
perhaps for worse, perhaps better.
Our immortality exists
within our offspring: they transport
our essence forward, teleport
us through the future’s swirling mists.
The bristle on my jaw is braille.
its message clear in words, sublime:
like frogspawn in the pond of Time,
souls will survive, though bodies fail.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

EYE OF THE TIGER


I first heard Michael Swan read at the annual Poetry on the Lake festival at Lake Orta in Italy some years ago. 

The festival's been described as "perhaps the smallest but possibly the most perfect poetry festival in the world" and it certainly lived up to this accolade. In the course of a splendid weekend, I heard Michael read several times, along with such other notables as Carol Ann Duffy, Chris Considine, Caroline Carver, Susi Clare and Christopher North. 

Michael’s poems are deceptively simple yet full of subtleties. Not for him the self-defeating obscurity of so many poets nowadays.

Whilst working for the Guernsey Arts Commission, I was able to recommended Michael for the role of Writer in Residence at the Arts and Islands Conference that took place in Guernsey and, once again, had the opportunity to attend his readings. 

You can find some of these on You Tube and a good starting point might be at 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GS3Csu7ytk0   

There you can hear him reading It’s Wednesday, a poem that will strike a chord with many.

I’d also recommend you seek out Michael’s poetry collections: 

When They Come For You  and The Shapes Of Things 

both are available online at:-  


In selecting a Michael Swan poem to publish here, I was faced with a hugely difficult choice. After much deliberation, and a thoroughly enjoyable re-reading of both his books, I’ve opted for Tiger Dreams.

TIGER DREAMS

Child
one day
you will meet a tiger.

You and the tiger
face to face.

What will you do?

I know you.
You will hold out
to the tiger
on your bare hand
a small globe
spinning,
throwing light at all angles.
And you will tell the tiger your dreams,
and a special thing
that only you know.

And the tiger will come close,
press her muzzle to you
- if she were not a wild creature
you would swear
it was a kiss.
And in her turn
she will tell you a secret.

For a long time
you will share each other’s eyes.

You will go away
pad, pad, pad;
and when no one is looking
you will wash your fur
with your rough tongue.

And the tiger
will tell your dreams
to her babies.