I’m back!

Hello everyone! Since the last time I posted, it’s been just over four months, despite my promises that new content would be dropping ‘very soon’. I have no excuse for this, I fell into a vicious cycle of putting it off and it’s taken me this long to overcome it. As you can see below, there’s a new poem out, a return to one of my favourite approaches – an emotional examination of a key moment in history, in this case the trial of William Wallace. Take a read, if you like it, let me know, if you don’t, nothing I can do about that, I’ll just have to keep trying.

As I said in my previous update, I want to refine my approach to poetry so I’m not just throwing out whatever happens to pop into my head on a weekly basis. I want to keep the momentum up, but use it to further refine my approach. Poetry has always been a sideline thing for me and I’m not sure I’ll ever be a full-time poet, but at the moment I have a lot of big plans for it and it’s time to get moving on them.

To that end, my collection is almost ready for publishing. The artwork is all done and the formatting is happening as we speak, with a tentative August publishing date in mind. To that end, you’re about to see just under half of the poems on this blog vanish, but don’t worry, the collection will be available free of charge as a downloadable e-book, complete with some amazing artwork courtesy of four artists/very dear friends.

Looking further ahead, I’m going to start performing again, because it’s frankly ridiculous that I’ve been living in London – a city with more spoken word events than road signs – for almost a year and haven’t performed yet. I also have plans for some longer form poetry that are being sussed out. All that in mind, there’s going to be plenty going on and I’m going to keep track of it all here, which means that you’ll be getting a lot more than just weekly poems.

Lastly, and perhaps most significantly – I’m pimping myself out! Not literally, but if you want a personalised poem written for a collection, as a gift for a friend or for whatever other reason, send me a message on here and we’ll work something out. I’m happy to do this pro-bono for the time being but my workload fluctuates so you might have to wait a while before you get anything back.

That’s pretty much it, I’m excited to start writing poems again, and thanks for all your support over the past few years, you’re all amazing.

Weekly Poem #77

Wistful Thinking

 

Wear the same coat enough times and it begins to sag,

It hardens like a fossil with frayed cuffs and faded tags.

Make the same mistake enough times and the sting goes away,

But a new kind of longing slips in and teaches a different pain.

You trundle through life, convinced you have things worked out,

But your shadows and footsteps are ever saturated with doubt.

A rouge’s line of ‘almosts’, the ones that you could have let in,

Instead they shuffle into memory; a cold, tragic sin.

You pick up, carry on and try your best to be harder;

You can walk on alone without anyone to help carry you farther.

One day though, it’ll hit you so hard that you’ll break at the seams

As you realise that you never really learnt what love means.

Weekly Poem #73

Mitosis

A boy split across a Venezuelan beach,

Breached with bullet holes and bare scratches.

Caught in the crucible where ideas and violence meet.

Nothing on him but an empty wallet and a book of matches.

There’s light years between this moment and his family,

Locked in a spiral of appeals, searches and finances.

Not understanding why he went so suddenly

From a life of privileges and chances.

 

He’d coldly moved from boy to ghost,

Destroyed his name and any lasting legacy

Before setting off into a new wider, wilder host

And denying everything that tied him to his heresy.

He’d make new friends, build a whole new life

And see the world through an honest lens

That would somehow cleanse his strife

And draw his suffering to an end.

 

Less than six months passed,

So did he, a victim in a red charade.

Fueled by notions of a potent contrast

He had marched forth into death’s parade.

In time those who knew would mourn

But in that moment he was alone.

His desperate bid to be reborn,

His old name cast in stone.

 

Weekly Poem #66

Colder Shoulder

 

Am I a genius? I’ve written more symphonies than Mozart

More tales than Chaucer and more memoirs than Seyssel

But no note has found string and no word has found paper.

My mind is thick with pulsating vines of nervous trees

But my mind is mine, I do not share it.

 

I bundle it off out onto the icy shelf and let it expand

While I perch motionless, letting my body take care of the primal,

The primitive, the instinctive. The mind the genius, body the hunter.

I’ve no patience for the others, I keep them feed on fish

While I dine on solitude, they let me be.

 

I’d always assumed it was fear, but it might well have been respect.

Some presumption of a deep-running understanding of the way of things,

Some aura emanating from my silent, diligent instrumentality.

Because when that thing came crashing out from under the ice

They sent me to deal with it.

 

Imagine that? The lowly fisherman sent to slay the vicious monster,

Armed with only a spear and a club, meant for execution, not combat.

You don’t slay a dragon with a guillotine, do you?

I doubt that ever entered into their consideration,

Fear makes you stupid.

 

Fear can also keep you quick, keep you alert and keep you alive

And I was overflowing with it when I followed those heavy, angular tracks

Out past the furthest limits of our known territory to find it.

I didn’t even know what I was looking for,

Theseus was blind and he had no string.

 

Soon enough though it found me, ice offers no clarity but the water beneath is light as air.

Crystal as the pair of eyes I saw staring back across the frozen ocean,

Framed in skin of perfect marble, an edged, angular shell

Coating a 15 foot frame of four arms, two legs and a fluke

Which dragged heavily across the frosty floor.

 

Thick, heavy hands that hung past a heaving, harsh heart-case

And a skull that splayed out past the eyes like an ancient headdress,

But I never saw beyond the eyes, gently gleaming in the perpetual light

And helping me to understand why I, of all of them, should have come.

The solitary, ghostly fisherman.

 

This creature was no threat, no pest, it was nothing to us because we were nothing to it

It had no concern with beings so young and naive, the synaptic gleam of its eyes

Told me everything, told me that we were the same.

This great, marvelous beast was a stranger among humans.

Just like me.

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 #65

Nose Dive

 

The body was built to be pushed,

Cocktails of chemical compounds,

Tactile trials of stain and pain

And journeys through thoughts so potent

They could almost be lethal.

 

People talk like they wade on the banks

Of an ocean so deep that explorers cower.

But when a deeper whale calls we cover our ears

And even run screaming for cover

To avoid facing it.

 

Fear is a mechanism that’s been rearranged

And weaponized to combat the sharpest truths.

The sharpest truths are the most important,

No amount of cultural conditioning

Can cover the tracks that lead to them.

 

Don’t let anyone tell you which problems matter

Make that decision for yourself,

Nobody ever told everyone else they were wrong

Without something powerful behind their eyes.

Open yours.

Weekly Poem #64

Blighter

 

My neck aches like I’ve been sleeping in a casket

But I’m still fresh enough to fit inside a basket

Who’s asking? I’m walking up like I’ve got a thing to prove

But it’s you who might choose to misuse my moves,

Ain’t that the truth? Someone come and unlock me from this booth

Before I’m so uncouth that I start getting longer in the tooth.

When I hit start I was playing a different game

But now I’m sealed sane within a wrought-iron picture-frame.

Lame! Some sorry shitstain is gonna be ordained

While my former face is being rearranged and estranged.

Change! It’s a different kind that I’m begging for,

Something suitable for sight-stretching semaphore.

Psychic force flowing through my seeping, inking paramour

Powered core pushing my fingers fervently to tell us more

And magically merge melancholy melody and metaphor

Until a logical conclusion coils into view

And gives us a note to play us through.

Weekly Poem #63

Jenga

 

Get this man a megaphone,

Gather around him as he stands on the roof of his home

And offers you all something so much darker than a daily drone.

Because if you don’t take him at his tone,

He’ll still be carved from stone whilst the crows pick at your bones.

The pharaohs were laughing up to a minute before they fell

And you could never tell any well-feathered chieftain that hell

Was on his doorstep, until he stumbled in.

The fabric between our feet and the fire is pretty fucking thin,

At times you’ll find that the sweat runs up past your shins

But one day it’ll be waist high and then it really begins.

The concepts that hold us upright are old and tired.

It’s been decades since our society really expired,

Our rotting reef is spent, no spores for the new empire.

So when we’ve faded and our failings are laid bare,

Tell the new tenants that their day will come, see if they listen.

See if they care.

Weekly Poem #61

Jaguar

 

Can you see the Earth for the roots?

I’ve stepped out into the sunlight before

And recoiled away like a troll.

I’ve been afraid of life’s energy.

I think we’ve all been afraid of it for too long.

We grew skin over muscle over bone,

We became ourselves through a beautiful process,

We weren’t carved into shape by some godly saw

And scattered across the board to find our marks.

People ask what the meaning of life is,

But life has no meaning, none at all.

Don’t let that notion frighten you, embrace it,

It is the most beautiful thing you can know.

Life have no meaning but lives can have any meaning.

Whatever you choose, whatever you imprint

Is yours, so be honest, don’t be shy, ask yourself

What does your life mean?

Take pride in it.

Be honest.

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.

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