Bordeaux Bay

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

Thursday, 30 April 2015

TRAIN OF THOUGHT

There are no trains in Guernsey. Perhaps it would be better if there were, to spare us the daily gridlock caused by an excess of cars.
I travel by train when visiting Britain or Europe and find that I prefer the European experience, maybe because my rail journeys in that part of the world are almost exclusively for pleasure.
The journey in this poem does not fall into that category.
















NIGHT TRAIN

There’re only ghosts on this last train.
A ghost myself, I play my part
with pale face and lacklustre eye.
At stations we arrive, depart,
a dull link in an endless chain
of carriages. Nearby I spy
a sleeping man, more ghost than me,   
drunk, comatose, asleep or dead,
he lies sprawled on a seat and snores,
his journey over. In his head,
he’s home again. Like a banshee,
night howls beyond the sliding doors,
while, underneath a neon glare,
the carriage walls appear to bleed.  
No option now to disembark:                                                        
spellbound, I go, propelled at speed,   
a rabbit, captive, in a snare,
through darkness into greater dark. 

Monday, 27 April 2015

IF YOU GO DOWN IN THE WOODS ...

The starting point for this piece was, of course, the line from the much-quoted Robert Frost poem, Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening
It goes like this "The woods are lovely, dark and deep/ But I have promises to keep ..."
I grew up near woods and, whilst in daylight, the trees, boulders and bracken were a perfect playground for an active and imaginative child, at dusk their appearance grew dark and menacing: weighted with potential danger.
Standing nervously at the wood's edge as darkness fell, perhaps searching for a wayward dog, I would begin to notice unfamiliar noises or the wind rising among the massive, dark trees, whose benign daytime appearance had become subtly changed. 
Then imagination would become my enemy and I'd take to my heels.
As an adult, nothing much has changed. I still pass woods at dusk, hesitate, then hurry on. 















 



THE WOODS

The woods are dark and deep, it’s true,
but are not lovely. 

I peer in
to watch light die out tree by tree
and, branch by branch, darkness accrue:
a furry dark, black as moleskin,
that seems to watch me balefully
as though I were some pausing prey
that dare not either fight or flee,
instead stands, mesmerised, 

stock still.
I shout and hear the ricochet
of my voice fly from tree to tree.
Nothing answers, 

or ever will.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

ANOTHER CHANEY LINK

Staying on the subject of all things Chaney, Olivia’s father, Professor Edward Chaney, will later this year publish his long-awaited biography of celebrated Guernsey writer, G B Edwards, author of that much-loved modern classic, The Book of Ebenezer Le Page.

G B Edwards

Gerald Basil Edwards, who died in 1976, was a Guernsey-born writer and self-imposed exile, a contemporary of Middleton Murry, Katherine Mansfield and D H Lawrence

His one great novel was not published until after his death.
This Proustian tale, set in our small island but with universal themes, has been justly praised, worldwide, although Edwards himself has received little in the way of acclaim in his island birthplace, Guernsey.
Let’s hope that Edward Chaney’s forthcoming book will put this right.  


Link to Blue Ormer Publications:  http://www.blueormer.co.uk

Link to NY Review of Books:
http://www.nybooks.com/books/imprints/classics/the-book-of-ebenezer-le-page

Thursday, 23 April 2015

A CHANEY'S AS GOOD AS THE BEST

Olivia Chaney, whom I wrote about back in February, has a debut album about to be released.

  The Longest River will be available on 27 April and can be pre-ordered here: http://www.nonesuch.com/artists/olivia-chaney

Olivia performed in Guernsey a few years ago at a Guernsey Arts Commission poetry and music event organised by my wife, Jane, when she received rapturous praise from all quarters.

Born in Florence, Italy, she grew up in Oxford, studying composition, piano, cello and voice. In 2013 she was nominated for two BBC Radio Folk Awards.

Her debut album promises to be a huge success.



CLICK HERE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wBdOdCu3kc


Tuesday, 21 April 2015

APRIL: THE CRUELLEST MONTH?

On 21 April 1942, during the German Occupation of the Channel Islands, three Jewish women, Marianne Grunfeld, Auguste Spitz and Therese Steiner, were deported to the French mainland and later taken to Auschwitz, where they perished in the gas chambers. 
In St Peter Port, on 9 August 2013 a plaque erected to their memory was vandalised. 

Click here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-guernsey-30811115
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-guernsey-23630090




 THREE WOMEN


Shivering, departing Guernsey,
out on B-deck in damp sea-mist,
three names shouted from a check-list:
Jewish women, Deportees.

Each bewildered, not yet fearful:
surely this was just an error?
Why then, the arising terror?
Why then these young women tearful?

At a French departure station
in a regimented scramble,
boarding trucks, without preamble,
fear replacing consternation.

Through the night, awareness dawning,
they prayed, then, their journey ended,
from grey trucks, people descended
pale, to Auschwitz in the morning.
 
Click here: http://www.deathcamps.info/Auschwitz/Album1.htm

Saturday, 18 April 2015

NOIR WEEK: BEHOLD THE DREAMER COMETH

This is the end of NOIR WEEK, when I've been posting a daily poem written in the style of the genre, featuring hard-boiled, cynical individuals in bleak, sleazy settings.
It's been fun for me to revisit these vignettes that I wrote a couple of years ago as a way of combatting writer’s block.
Creating these shady protagonists was a really enjoyable exercise and writing in a voice and style so different from my own was an experience that I suppose must be akin to acting. 
This last guy is Gambler Joe, Joey-Boy, Joseph the Dreamer. 





 JOEY

He plays the dice, bets on the wheel,
backs thoroughbreds that run too slow;
smokes big cigars, says Call Me Joe.
A gambler, sure: you’ve heard the spiel;
he’s ultra-cool; you gotta know
how Easy Street hangs on one throw;
a lucky break will seal the deal,
he’ll get the dame, he’ll win the dough,
the self-deluding Romeo.

Friday, 17 April 2015

NOIR WEEK: THE WAITING DAME

During NOIR WEEK, I’m posting a daily poem written in the style of the genre, featuring stereotypical characters drawn from fiction and noir cinema.
Today's protagonist is struggling with the growing awareness that things are probably going to end in tears.





VIRGIL’S DAME

I get this dream where I’m flying
above the city like a bird.
Again and again it’s occurred
and I always wake up crying.

Virgil, he told me to wait here
when he went off to ditch the truck.
He said I gotta lot of pluck
but what I really felt was fear.

We left that dumb-ass clerk dying:
he didn’t aught to grab that cane.
When’s Virgil coming back again?
I fall asleep and wake up crying.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

NOIR WEEK: LUCKY CHARMS

During NOIR WEEK, I’m posting a daily poem written in the style of the genre. 
These vignettes (I hesitate to call them poems) have been fun to write and getting acquainted with those hard-boiled, cynical protagonists, whose edgy lives seem constantly in jeopardy, has been a delight.
The nameless guy here, making a smooth getaway to a new life with both the gal and the dough, strikes me as a particularly fortunate man. 
Let's name him Lucky.  





LUCKY STRIKE

I get in, swallowing my pride.
Where to? I ask her and she smiles.
Be cool, Cool Guy: gimme a light.
She inhales deep then off we glide.
The dame’s in charge, somehow it riles:
dolls driving guys just ain’t polite,
but she’s like no dame that I’ve met:
drives like a guy, acts smart and tough.
I talk, she drives; she talks, I smoke
a Lucky Strike: great cigarette.
I’ve struck it lucky, sure enough:
the gal, the money, at a stroke.


Wednesday, 15 April 2015

NOIR WEEK: GONE GIRL

During NOIR WEEK, I’m posting a daily poem written in the style of the genre.
Today it's Rose's story.





NOWHERESVILLE

She blew in from some hick town
out west: Nowheresville. Changed her name
to Rose. It was swell at first.
Waited tables. Wasn’t tied down.
Diners liked her. A winsome dame.
Then one day the bubble burst.
Her room was suddenly too small:
the city way too large, too loud,
the streets seemed sinister and grim
and there was one guy, mean and tall,
who tried to own her, so she vowed
to quit, to run away from him.

The midnight bus to Nowheresville:
that sure is the one to be on.
She’s waiting for the Greyhound now,
alone there under the neon.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

NOIR WEEK: GO WES, YOUNG MAN

During NOIR WEEK, I’m posting a daily poem written in the style of the genre, featuring hard-boiled, cynical individuals in bleak, sleazy settings.
Many of the characters that populate these poems are stereotypes drawn from fiction and noir cinema. It was enormous fun getting to know them and glimpse their crazy lives.
Wes, the reluctant getaway driver you'll meet in today's vignette, somehow developed a life of his own after this and went on to become the central figure in a stand-alone twelve-poem sequence with a linear narrative that I hope to publish soon.







WES

I meet this bozo in a bar.
He says: You Wes? I say: Who says?
He says: I know you from that scar.
Ok, I say. I guess I’m Wes.
He says: We want you drive a car:
word is, you’re outta work these days.
He offers me a big cigar.
I like his style: admire finesse.
He says: The job won’t take an hour.
C’mon, consider my request.
Just grab the dough then, au revoir:
no stress. Hey Wes, just acquiesce.
I’m hooked: but something seems to jar.



Monday, 13 April 2015

NOIR WEEK: OH DANNY BOY ...

During NOIR WEEK, I’m posting a daily poem written in the style of the genre, featuring hard-boiled, cynical individuals in bleak, sleazy settings.
A couple of years ago I hit on the idea of writing a sequence of "noir poems" as a remedy for writer’s block and found the experience of creating a series of shady protagonists, enormous fun. 
Most of the characters that populate these poems are stereotypes drawn from pulp fiction and noir cinema. You may recognise some of them.
Danny, here, looks set to take a fall. But will he, or will pride overcome fear?









THE FIX

Young Danny’s cool and mean and fast:
he’s fought his way up through the ranks.
It’s trainer, Maxie, that he thanks:
an ex-pug whose own time is past.
Together they’re a winning team
so Danny’s got a title shot.
Big bets are on him: Danny’s hot.
A shame to crush the poor kid’s dream,
he’s gonna have to take a fall.
There’s fellows waiting in the stands:
if he dares win they’ll break his hands
Ok, the writing’s on the wall:
the fix is for the other guy
The fight is rigged. You don’t ask why.





Sunday, 12 April 2015

NOIR WEEK

This is NOIR WEEK, when I’ll be posting a daily piece written in the style of that genre.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines "Noir" as ‘crime fiction featuring hard-boiled, cynical characters in bleak, sleazy settings’ and other sources refer to it variously as being typified by its cynicism, fatalism and moral ambiguity.
Fellow writers will be familiar with the phenomenon known as "Writer's Block" when for various reasons it becomes impossible to construct a coherent sentence, let alone compose a story or poem.
We each have a different approach to dealing with this problem and mine is to write something completely different from my usual output, in a voice other than my own.
Generally, after a brief foray into this literary "otherworld", I find myself reinvigorated, renewed and ready to write again.
I scribbled about twenty "Noirs" whilst grappling with the dreaded "Writer’s Block" and found the experience of creating a series of shady characters, enormous fun. 

I hesitate to classify these pieces as poems as perhaps they're more accurately described as rhyming vignettes.


  


THE PRIVATE EYE

I’m drinking whiskey for a cure:
hangover pounding in my head.
She sways in, high-heels, lipstick red.
Dames equals trouble, that’s for sure.

She says she wants her husband found
but pretty soon she’s found my lips.
She pants, she pouts, her grinding hips
revitalize this old bloodhound.

I never find the guy, instead
that sweet dame takes me for a sap.
I end up on a murder rap.
Dames equals trouble, like I said.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

MARCHING INTO APRIL

The three most visited posts for March were Blackbird, Psychic Eye and Sunday Mornings, three very different pieces but each with its own particular appeal. 
Here's an opportunity to read them again.


BLACKBIRD



With catapult, when school was finished,

I went to hunt in woodland, high

above Belfast, in summer light

and heard, among leafed branches spread,

a blackbird, singing like a bell.

I took aim, shot; the missile flew

unerringly, my aim was true.

With awful suddenness it fell,

all broken. Exultation fled,
to be replaced by sickly fright.
I knelt to watch it slowly die. 
Within me somewhere, light diminished.


PSYCHIC EYE

I read the sign and climb a stair. 
The office door is smokey glass. Inside a radio plays jazz. I go in. He points to a chair.
He’s shabby but he don’t look dumb. His voice is booze and cigarettes: a weary voice, full of regrets. A gumshoe, laid back, chewing gum. 
I say: Man, you’re a Psychic Eye. I got a problem, something’s changed. It’s like the whole world’s rearranged, gone crazy but I don’t know why. 
When joshing with my buddy, Pat, there was a mishap with a gun: the pistol was a loaded one. Things turned peculiar after that. 
Down at the pool room, I’m ignored. Guys talk and laugh like I’m not there: goddam invisible, I swear. 
I was their pal once: now they’re bored. I crack a joke. They look elsewhere.  I shout: Hey Guys! They just don’t hear. I ask for whiskey or a beer: the bar-keep gives me a blank stare. 
The Psychic nods. 
I tell him this. I visited my gal today: she looked right through me, turned away when I leaned forward for a kiss. 
He lights a smoke, says: Some survive a bullet from a careless gun, a lucky few, but you’re not one. 
Man, you’re a ghost. You ain’t alive.
I’m psychic so I see a bit ... the gumshoe tells me ... Just a peek. For you, the future’s looking bleak. 
You’re dead. You gotta live with it.

SUNDAY MORNINGS

Those Sunday mornings in her parents’ bed,
tucked between them, tight,
she’d wriggle down, inhale their sweaty heat:
that smell, familiar, safe,
suffused with warmth and yet a salty, puzzling redolence.

They were her shelter: a cleft she grew in like an alpine flower.
Her father, red-cheeked, mountain-big,
made the bed tumble like a boat
when he yawned or stretched or turned;
while mother, plump and comfy, perched
at starboard edge, hand on the tiller, in control,

and she, snug and soft-nested between them,
was warmly content, secure in the moment, her future unspent.


Monday, 6 April 2015

SPIRIT IN THE SKY

The idea that, without warning, millions of righteous people could suddenly and simultaneously be whisked away to a celestial safe haven, prior to the final destruction of the world, is one that has intrigued me ever since I first read about it, and the images such an idea conjures up are spectacular and eerie, to say the least. 

Click here for more information: 1 Thessalonians 4: 15 - 17

 

















RAPTURE                                    

There are no trumpets; it’s all very low-key:
no spectral horsemen or many-headed beasts.
Men and women simply drift away like dandelion-seeds on a soft breeze,
one by one at first,
then gradually
the sky fills up with them. 

A surrealist painting: multitudes rising through indescribable blue;
pale clouds adrift in the background.

Youths in baseball-caps, men with umbrellas, girls in patterned dresses, daft old ladies, school-boys, postmen, beggars: all are lifted up.
Nuns, like magpies, joyfully rise.
Machine operators, shopkeepers, farmers, dog-walkers, policemen, joggers, young women with tired faces, suddenly beatific:
all float upwards.
 


They rise heroically, each in an orb of shining light:
the only movement in a world
suddenly
stilled.

Traffic becomes gridlocked; jet-planes hang suspended
in charged air; all the birds of the earth fall silent
as the expanding sky
grows brighter, 

brighter,
brighter yet.
                                                      

Friday, 3 April 2015

ANOTHER FISHY TALE

Even before I watched the Spielberg film, Jaws, back in the 1970s, I often experienced nightmares where I found myself swimming in dark water, aware that I was not alone and that something shapeless and malign lurked there beneath the surface.






  WAR BABIES

He shot me from behind a tree or I shot him. I don’t remember.
It hardly matters. One of us was dead. 
We started out again. I ran and hid. He headed to the water’s edge.
Each day, we played at soldiers, killing time till we grew up, in ferny woods beside the reedy pond. 
That day I was The Beastly Hun
and he, the noble Brit. 
Wild geese flew overhead like Messerschmitts
in a rasp of angry noise. 
I crouched with wooden rifle, planned my strategy, then heard him yell and knew something was wrong.
I ran. 
He pointed, gesturing. 
Something. Out there. It was. I saw. 
I spotted, on the pond, ripples spreading, nothing else, 
and he was too excited to make sense.

The flying geese had taken every sound away. 

Around our muddy brogues, the water seemed to undulate. 

I skimmed a flat stone out and watched it skip.



Now Click Here

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

MEMPHIS BELLE


Alberta Hunter, who was born 1st April 1895, in Memphis, Tennessee, was one of the greats of American Jazz and Blues, with a career that spanned no less than seven decades.
Having begun performing at sixteen, she quickly established a huge reputation in both USA and Europe, where she worked with many of the musical giants of the era before quitting the music scene in the late 1950s to pursue a vocation in nursing.
Rediscovered twenty years later in 1977, she was persuaded to return to the stage and recording studio and produced some of the finest performances of her career. 



Her final album, Amtrak Blues, is a classic and features the old vaudeville number made famous by Bessie Smith, Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out
This song, which reflects the fleeting nature of material wealth and friendship, is unbelievably poignant when sung by the eighty-two year old with a lifetime’s experience behind her.
I’ve listened to numerous versions of this song over the years but none can compare to Alberta Hunter’s moving rendition. Listen to it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YdaNlZhmHoM

HOGWARTS AND ALL ...


I’m not quite sure how to react to the astonishing news that has today shaken the world of publishing.
It appears that the Harry Potter stories, supposedly created by J K Rowling, are in fact, simply a retelling of a collection of ancient folk tales extolling the adventures of Prince Anqq, an obscure boy-hero in Sumerian mythology.

The original stories, which Rowling would appear to have copied, can be found in a series of scrolls stored at the Museum of Antiquities in London, and similarities between the handsome young Sumerian Prince and Rowling’s character only came to light during a recent archiving exercise.

The words Prince and Harry have frequently appeared in scandalous press revelations but never before in quite this way.
To add to the bewilderment of the author’s host of fans, it has also been revealed that Rowling is actually a man, whose wife has, for years, provided a public “face” for the popular storyteller. 
The Telegraph reports that neither Mr Rowling or his spouse were available for comment.