An Explanation For My Lengthy Absence

HELLO EVERYONE.

So, first of all let me apologise for the recent lack of activity on this blog. Previously, if I ever missed a week without posting a poem, I would knock a ‘bye-week’ off the list in my head and give myself another 12 months before I was allowed to do it again, or if it happened again sooner, even longer. It was a good system, but now I’ve gone 3 weeks without a single poem, so it seems like that system is probably defunct.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been dealing with family issues, a fluctuating workload and various other things. None of them have taken enough time out of my schedule to completely stop me from writing poems, but I just haven’t felt enough of a spark of inspiration to write any.

Now, this is far from the first time I’ve had this problem, but previously I’ve just forced myself to sit down and write a poem. Sometimes a good one would emerge, but often they would come out half-hearted and malformed. I want to adhere to a higher standard than that now, so I’ve taken a bit of time away.

Rest assured I’m going to start posting poems again, and soon, but I want to refine and improve my process, rather than letting myself hit zero hour every week and then churning out the first idea that pops into my head. That was fine when I started out but I’ve been doing this for almost 4 years and I’m a much better poet now than I was then.

Since starting this, I’ve completely changed my career trajectory, performed spoken word on stage and I’ve actually compiled around 90 poems from this page into a collection, which should be published later this year, all things being equal. I really enjoy doing this, but it’s reached a point now where I’m just coasting, rather than really challenging myself.

From your point of view, nothing is really going to change, poems will still come out on a weekly basis. I might take a week off a little bit more often if I can’t think of anything good, but the blog won’t be neglected. The average length of the poems might change, you might start seeing more material suited for spoken word performances and I might even start posting non-poetry on here more frequently, but other than that, it’ll be back to business as usual.

Expect Weekly Poem #201 to land very soon, and sorry again for the unexplained drop-off. Thank you all for your ongoing support, stay excellent.

Life Update – The Trilogy

It’s certainly felt more recently like I have been giving this blog quite the personal touch that I used to. The bulk of my posting over the past several weeks has been poetry. This is due in some part to the fact that everything else I write ends up on Cultured Vultures, but it’s also because an awful lot has happened in the past few months. With that in mind, I’m going to separate this update into 3 parts, the first will cover all the social rigamarole that I had up until recently been dealing with, the second will be about more current, pertinent issues and the third will be about the direction everything’s headed in. If it seems like I’m being deliberately vague it’s because I’ll just end up trailing off with no real structure if I start talking about anything specific now, this is just an intro. It shouldn’t come as any surprise that a lot of personal information, some of it fairly heavy will appear in this post, so fair warning on that.

Part 1: Social confounditude and the art of moving forward without growing up

Last time I posted any kind of life update it was the beginning of a new year and I largely using it to motivate myself into getting my shit together. I succeeded in so doing but it ended up feeling like a bit of a hollow victory because after ultimately finding a new job and moving to Birmingham, I felt distinctly socially constrained. The primary cause of this ill-feeling was my ex-girlfriend, Tara. That’s not to say she was willfully making me feel uncomfortable or unhappy, but the difficulty I had around her was the primary issue. We broke up in January in rather blurry and perplexing fashion and I didn’t see much of her after that until I reached Birmingham in early March. Up until then I’d been pretty much fine, the relationship had ended more abruptly than I’d have liked and I was perturbed that things hadn’t gone according to plan (one of life’s great ironies) but I hadn’t been overly miserable or lonely in the aftermath. As a matter of fact I was actually happy. Once I started spending time with her again though, issues began to crop up. At first she seemed overly eager to spend time with me, then I became unsettled by how intent she was on emphasizing how well she was doing, later still she started getting with other people in front of me and the like, whether or not it was intentional it wasn’t something I enjoyed seeing.

I couldn’t get my head around it, the breakup had made complete sense, in all honesty I hadn’t had that much faith in the relationship from the outset, we’d hooked up at a one-day music festival and beyond that all we ever did more or less was go to gigs and house parties, more often than not getting wasted in the process. It was nice socially but it had no long term traction and I never really saw a future in it. The final weeks of the relationship were torturous, it had become clear that things were either going to get more serious and that obviously freaked Tara out because she started behaving very abrasively, making snide, insulting remarks and poking holes in my self-esteem at every juncture. Eventually a very unpleasant phone call lead to what I interpreted as the end, but I found out about a week later when we went to dinner to talk things out that she’d thought we were still together. Of course that didn’t become clear until we’d already been talking for more than an hour. I don’t know if you’ve ever broken up with someone through them realising that you’d already abandoned the relationship, having thought you were trying to salvage it, but it ain’t pretty and I was intensely relieved to escape from that massacre with my composure intact.

With that in mind I should have been able to move on cleanly but I let my ego get the better of me, I felt like I was losing, we’d broken up sooner than I wanted and seeing her act the way she was acting felt like there was still some unfinished business, some animosity or uncertainty. I let it get the better of me. Don’t get me wrong there was definitely something going on, she was acting strangely and being around her threw me off balance, but I was letting that unbalancing haunt me, I was exaggerating it. What I see now is that you can convince yourself that your overreacting or over-thinking as much as you like but that won’t stop it from happening, you have to just bear with it and eventually it’ll fade. At the end of the day we just weren’t compatible, we needed different things, she’s 10 years my senior, trying to reach a position of stability and fulfillment and I’m just trying to build up life-experience and really grow into myself. Neither of us were benefiting from spending time together after the breakup and trying to force a friendship wasn’t helping, clearly neither one of us has figured out what we meant to the other yet, so I’m keeping my distance now and will probably continue to do so for some time, it’s too murky right now and I can’t switch that off. Maturity only really holds water as a concept when it happens by itself, no amount of contemplation can accelerate it, I realise that now.

Part 2: Picking up and Moving Forward After a Huge Change

All that stuff’s pretty trivial by comparison to the bigger picture stuff though, the issues with Tara preyed on my mind a lot and I did what I had to do to alleviate that, but like the sunscreen song says, the big issues are apt never to cross your worried mind, they blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday. In this case it was actually about 1pm, but we’ll get to that in a second. As much as social exaggerations had dampened my arrival in Birmingham, things were going according to plan, I had a job at a DIY store that would support me until I got something better, I was making contacts to further my writing and I’d found a decent place to live. Everything leading up to my Masters in September seemed stable. Life doesn’t care a fig for stability. I was at work, busying my self with shelf stacking or some such when my manager came over and told me to drop everything immediately, at first I thought I was in trouble, right up until he told me that my father had suffered a stroke. That was 2 months ago and in the time that’s elapsed since then I’ve moved back home, resigned from my job and undertaken the role of looking after my house and family. My brother’s time is almost entirely occupied with college and my mother can’t drive owing to one too many severe diabetic incidents, so all the driving, shopping and pet care now falls to me. Since the stroke my Dad has gradually been regaining movement on the right side of his body, he’s made amazing progress, from barely being able to get out of bed or make himself understood he can now speak clearly, walk with only the most basic assistance and move the fingers on his right hand to some extent. He’s still in hospital and will be for some time, but that just means he’ll have more regular access to the intense physiotherapy that he needs at this critical stage.

I’ve learnt a great deal about strokes and the recovery process since all this started, it’s a very slow, laborious process which motivation and positivity are of paramount importance to. It would be very easy for someone in Dad’s position to just throw in the towel and fold beneath the crushing pressure of the misfortune that’s befallen him but he hasn’t allowed it do to that, he’s shown extraordinary resilience and I am so proud of him for that. He can be stubborn and complacent at times but he is always willing to work as hard as he possibly can to get better. From my point of view, it was initially difficult to accept that I would have to return home so soon after leaving but in the grand scheme of things it’s a minor setback, the beauty of writing as a skillset is that you can do it anywhere and building experience is a constant thing, you never stop writing. When something huge like this hits you, you can either let it overcome you or you can accept it and carry on, which is what we’ve all had to do. My Mum in particular has dealt extremely well with it, before this she was so overcome with depression that she barely got out of bed, now she’s up and active all-day every day, driven by an incredible motivation to help her husband get his life back, it sounds a strange thing to say that this has helped her in some ways but I’d say it has. We’ve all come out of the other side much stronger. It’s a strange feeling at age 23 to have the rest of your family genuinely depending on you, but when you really need to be strong it isn’t a choice, you just fucking get on with it.

Part 3: Motivation and Understanding

An interesting part of all this is that it’s put me in a position where I’ve really started reflecting on what I want out of life and why. I’ve been doing so much journalistic writing recently and I’ve really moved towards pinning down what it is about writing that I love. The journalistic stuff is great and I really enjoy it but true creativity, true expression and manifestation of imagination, that’s what I’m really working towards. The work I’ve done with Cultured Vultures has been really gratifying, it’s allowed me to really broadcast my work in ways that I never have before and it’s been great seeing the site grow, but most of my work for it has been appreciation of music, games and films and that’s only a sidebar for me. What I take real gratification from is when a poem I’ve written, a short story or whatever else is openly complimented by someone I don’t know, the times when a stranger has really expressed their appreciation for something that I’ve created out of thin air with no bias or agenda. It means that I’ve sent out a signal from the confines of my imagination, the thing that defines my comprehension of the world and it’s tapped into somebody else’s, even for a second. That’s just mind blowing, that’s the dream. You could write or paint or make music or dance for years and years and if just one person sees or hears that thing that you’ve brought into the world and has an emotional response to it, that’s so important, that’s indisputable evidence that you’ve made the world richer. I think that’s why I have such admiration for Ray Harryhausen, he could actually bring his imagination to life before our very eyes, I may not have the aptitude for modelling or animating that he did but if I can do that with my writing, I’ll feel fulfilled.

There’s more though, something else that recent experience has taught me is that if you give people the right opportunity, they’ll express themselves in ways that perhaps even they didn’t think themselves capable of, they’ll grow. I genuinely think that people are more intelligent than the society that we live in, which still tries to tell some people that they’re worthless, inadequate. Nobody, repeat, nobody is worthless or inadequate. Beyond my own creativity I’ve decided that I really want to help other people tap into theirs, perhaps more than they thought they could. Recently I’ve become extremely passionate about prison reform, both in America and here, since we’re headed down the same awful path more and more of late. If there’s one group of people who are mistreated by the outdated model of society that we live in, it’s prisoners. That’s not to suggest that they haven’t done anything wrong, most of them have, but that doesn’t invalidate them, they still have something to give, it’s just that most people would rather not regard them as a part of this world. I find that idea distasteful and wrong. That’s why I’m looking into doing outreach work in prisons when I have the time to commit to it and ultimately I aim to set up a program that enables inmates to learn and spend time doing creative writing, so long as they’re willing. It might seem like a strange goal but I cannot abide the idea that there are people in the world that society wants us to give up on, to forget. Everyone on this planet is walking around harboring the potential for things that extend beyond themselves and everyone deserves the chance to express that potential, we’re all in this together.

That’s all I got, I’ll expand on some of the last points in a longer article at some stage, but for now I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this, stay excellent 🙂

Weekly Poem #60

Skins

 

I don’t want to be angry anymore,

I don’t want to feel like I need to stamp the floor.

I’ve wasted archives, tomes and trials on you

And for what? A cold, petrified, unrelenting tune.

A tune that vibrates through viable rations

And overtakes logic with impotent passion.

 

I don’t want to be vengeful anymore.

I don’t want the pain to take a walking tour.

One day I’ll laugh and say it all meant nothing

And I’m running at that day, longing to be touching

The barrier that holds me back from seeing truth;

The wall of forged emotions that imprison my youth.

 

I don’t want to think about you anymore,

You deserve to be a ghost, a shade across my door.

It takes a lot of whiskey to kiss a shit-eating grin

And every time I look back at you, the nausea creeps in.

I’m finished being fucked with, I have better things to do;

There’s an important life out there for me, eons away from you.

Weekly Poem #58

Bottom of the Glass

 

It’s harder to walk when your stomach is on fire,

Trying to bleed through a mesh of copper wires.

Aiming for a target that is neither north, nor south

And crying through something deeper than eyes or mouth.

Claiming not to believe in fate, yet fearful of its voice.

Hoping every minute to find the flag that you need to hoist.

It’s harder to stand when your feet are cut from paper,

When you thought you had a second heart, but you grew to hate her.

You climbed the first few steps and then a cruel wind knocked you to the base.

You feel spurned, abused and wounded when you look at your own face.

You’ve done something that’s selfless, you given up so much

But no measure of gratitude can make your hand warm to the touch.

It’s harder to breathe when your throat is solid carbon

But you can’t accept your sacrifice until your fingers harden.

Weekly Poem #55

Rhyming Therapy

 

This connection is impossible, or so it seems.

To rebuild us something balanced and measured,

To enhance the old, withered themes.

At one time we had something that both of us treasured,

Something vibrant, potent, clean.

Now I can’t even serve at your shadow’s pleasures,

I can’t choke down your sad new schemes.

 

You claim to want to be my friend now

And leave our past lessons filed away

But your arrogance infects each mutual hour

And leaves me in a vexed, constricting pain.

So you budge your way through my walls and towers;

You infiltrate my days.

You think you have some prevailing power

But I just want you to go away.

 

There’s some lasting affection locked inside

That keeps me from cutting you off,

But each time you spit on my attempts to be kind

I grow colder, less open, less soft.

So carry on thinking that everything’s fine

If your logical thoughts are still blocked

And your bloated self-worth is still leaving you blind

But respect me enough to get lost.

 

Second Bye-Week Already Used Up

I’ve now completed my first year of weekly poems and two weeks into the second year I’ve already had to implement my bye-week. The reason for this is because in the past few weeks I’ve found a new job and moved house. The process was very long and drawn out for various reasons and it didn’t leave me with a great deal of time to allocate to writing. I managed to write one Cultured Vultures piece and I wrote my most recent poem while I was on a bus. Business as usual will resume from Thursday onwards until I complete my second year of poems (at which point I plan on publishing what I have for free on ebooks).

Weekly Poem #53

Resin and Residue

Explain to me how a perfume from 1983
Is as new as it was in the first scene?
I’m fossilising daily but now I’m 17.
I’m a page torn free from a magazine,
Looking down on me from the mezzanine
And trying to place a common theme.
I’ve been lost since you were last seen,
Somewhere inside a tragic daily dream.
An old flame illuminates and gleams
A life that longs, lusts and screams.

Weekly Poem #51

Absolution

 

I’ve been told that I’m not a good person,

Been scalded, reprimanded and branded undeserving.

They say that I’m a waste, a blight on society

And they’ve recommended ways I could slink off and die quietly.

It’s something that I’ve carried at the core of my heavy world,

A weight that presses on my shoulders and makes my calves curl.

 

I’ve been told that I’m dangerous, extremely volatile

And that every word I speak sprays out like putrid bile.

My voracious vitriol carries far and ruins lives,

They say that I’m intrusive, that my gaze pierces and pries.

I wanted to be an exemplar, a proud voice for the masses

But they’ve chased me up a tree as if I’ve just raised taxes.

 

I’ve been told that I’m repulsive, that I live off others’ sorrow

And that people just like me don’t deserve to see tomorrow.

They don’t care to remember that I had all the best intentions.

They don’t listen when I remind them they clamor for contention.

The service that I provide energizes the hive mind,

It stimulates discussion and helps people feel alive.

 

I’ve been told that my profession is a capital offense,

That I have nothing to contribute beyond a galvanizing stench.

Now I stand in the shadow of a man towering above me,

He says I’ve done things that are irrefutably disgusting.

All I did was follow orders and bring in the biggest stories,

“Any means necessary” they’d said as they promised future glory.

 

I’ve been told that I’m no journalist, that I’m the lowest of the low.

So I ask you, what’s there left to tell me, before I’m taken down below?

Weekly Poem #48

Penultimate

 

The final night was a write off; I’d have to spend it in hibernation.

No food or drink past eleven, they said.

Seemed like critical information.

So the night before the night before I hurled myself into the evening.

Took the Victoria line from Seven Sisters

With my first beer, quietly teething.

At Kings Cross I changed and took the Northern up to Camden.

I homed in on pregnant weekend pulses

And found some understanding.

Sparingly, I tucked my last sliver of crystals under my lips

And then smiled my way through flickering lights,

Sweat and gyrating hips.

Some deeper longing burned inside to tell my touching story.

But I clenched my jaw, bit my tongue

And claimed to be hunky-dory.

Before long I’d laughed and hugged my way into a familiar social group.

Forging deep friendships with kindly strangers

That would expire like a glass shoe.

We carried on until 5am and then struggled out into the dawn

Past headlight solar flares in morning mist

And light glimmering from modest lawns.

At a house party in harmonious Gospel Oak, a pretty girl came and beckoned.

I guided her in for kiss with one hand

And pushed her back with the second.

Morning became midday became afternoon and I felt the decay of my reprieve.

I felt the tugging ties of sterile promises

And I didn’t want to leave.

I don’t want to leave.

I Did a Song! Jupiter, I Did a Song! You Ain’t Got One!

I feel sick… Anyway, I’ve been making better use of my free time of late. I got a midi controller last year and hadn’t really been making particularly good use of it. I made one track on Ableton a while ago but every attempt to return to it resulted in me getting irritated with the interface and giving up. For one reason or another the desire to create struck earlier this week and I decided to get Logic Pro and try that out. In short, I got on a lot better with it, largely because the layout is very similar to Final Cut Pro, a piece of software I’m very familiar with. I think it helps my mental processing a lot to be able to visually isolate each clip and see them all on a rolling timeline. The first thing I tried to do was construct a beat, but I was using some odd one shot samples that needed a lot of filtration and it was all a little too deep-end, so I decided to use some drum loops instead just to start off with. I threw together a nice 130 house beat, got some effects into the mix and then laid down a pretty basic D-major chord progression and here you have it, the result:

I’m rather taken with it, I really like the synth preset that I used and I think it’s got a nice flow to it, any feedback is of course appreciated, I’m learning as I go. I’m finding producing to be quite a stimulating passtime, now that I’ve found a program I can really sink my teeth into. Before this bass guitar and a smattering of piano were my only real musical outlets creatively speaking, I enjoy both but struggle to find the motivation. I can’t read music so I usually learn by ear, sometimes using tabs but I find that building a tune from the ground up fits my perspective a lot better, being that writing is my flagship talent. I don’t have any intention of pursuing it as anything beyond a hobby, but I definitely got a lot more satisfaction out of it than any other hobbies I’ve tried to get into recently. Expect to see more tunes on here as time goes by.

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