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.

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 🙂

Life Update 2014

I’m bringing the blogging world up to date on my life for two reasons: firstly to account for my recent relative inactivity on here (poetry aside) and also just because I want to. As far as the former is concerned, I’ve actually started doing a lot of writing work for a culture and media website, which you can find here, so most of my new work has been devoted to that. The bad news with that is that you’ll be seeing a lot less journalistic work on this blog, the good news is that I’ll have to get more creative with my output to account for the rift. So anyway, what’s been going on eh?

Last time I checked in, about six months ago, I was getting things ready for starting my creative writing masters in Birmingham, was in a new relationship and was still working at a nearby pub. Thankfully I quit my job at that particular establishment back in August (just in time as it would appear, they had a health inspection about 3 weeks after I left and got 1 star) but unfortunately the aforementioned relationship ended up being rather short-lived and the masters hasn’t worked out exactly as I had planned. Relationship first: I met Lauren in Cardiff after going there to visit friends following some time spent in B’ham scoping out my new uni, it started out as a one-night stand but we ended up seeing each other every day after that until I left for home, at which point we decided that it was too good of a thing to pass-up because of distance. In the end we didn’t even last 2 months, because of the distance. Maintaining a relationship with a 300 mile gap when you’re as busy as we both were just isn’t going to fly, but hey we gave it a shot. More disconcertingly, I ended up having to defer my masters until September 2014.

I am, admittedly, partially to blame for that. I’d saved a fairly substantial amount of money from my awful job and I had a lot lined up during the summer and I didn’t want to commit to a job in Birmingham too early and thereby hinder it. I was trying to have my cake and eat it. I’m not sure that I regret that, I had a fantastic summer, Italy, Boomtown, Shambala, Cornwall, all wonderful experiences well worth having. Following all that I actually managed to line up a trial shift and an interview but in the former I was just being used for a day’s cheap labor and in the latter I wasn’t told that it was a zero hour contract until moments before my first shift, which is pretty fucking underhanded but cie la vie. So what did I do then? Kinda kept on partying for a while, I went to a one-day electronic music festival in Bristol called Tokyo Dub, at which I first hooked up with Tara, who is now my girlfriend of two months and our converging tastes in music have taken us to numerous gigs all over London, so that’s eaten up a fair amount of my time. I also had the pleasure of attending an NFL game in Wembley, which was fantastic, I have a season ticket for next year (I also played fantasy football for the first time this season, ended up coming 5th of 10, next year shall be different). So in effect I basically extended my summer mischief into the autumn and winter, branched out with my writing some more and spent far too much money, so now I’m back into serious mode. I have 9 months to find a job, a room to rent and settle in a new city, I am more motivated, more pragmatic and have a lot more time. I’m taking this year very, very seriously. People say that every year and I’m no exception but with everything that’s been going on with my life, I can’t not start taking a more serious approach, I owe it myself, I owe to my family and I owe it to Tara, who has plenty on her plate at the moment too. I refuse to be a deadbeat boyfriend, a deadbeat son or just a deadbeat.

So that about covers it really, I have no plans to do any kind 2013 wrap-up as such, but in a nutshell:

Films:

Gravity

Pacific Rim

The World’s End

The Hobbit

Star Trek: Into Darkness

Stoker

 

Games:

Bioshock Infinite

The Last of Us

Papers, Please

DayZ

GTA V

Ni No Kuni

 

Albums:

The Mouse Outfit: Escape Music

Zomby: With Love

Congo Natty: Jungle Revolution

Atoms for Peace: Amok

R.A. The Rugged Man: Legends Never Die

Czarface: Czarface

Nine Inch Nails: Hesitation Marks

Calibre: Still

Thundercat: Apocalypse

Machinedrum: Vapor City

Boards of Canada: Tomorrow’s Harvest

FaltyDL: Hardcourage

 

HAPPY 2014! Especially for all us Year of the Horse compadres, let’s make it a good one, not going to get another for 12 more years.

 

Yet Another Life Update

This might soon start becoming a common thread as things progress, but yes, a lot has happened in the past couple of weeks and I think it warrants some exposure, also I’ve been away for a while and feel as if this page has been neglected somewhat, though I still managed to publish a weekly poem (whilst on a train). On that subject, I had previously mentioned my intention of reading some of my recent poetry at an open mic event in Cambridge. Since then the event has been and gone and I’m happy to report it was a successful enterprise, I was devastatingly nervous at first but once I got into stride everything went fine, positive feedback, met some interesting people, lovely atmosphere. My most prominent takeaway from the whole experience was that I need to think about my poems more as performances, rather than work purely intended to be read off the page. Some of the people who read put real verve and emotion into their readings and really brought them to life, my reading wasn’t deadpan as such, but there wasn’t a lot of showmanship to it. If I ever want to try my hand at Slam Poetry, I’ll have to get a handle on that.

As far as other life developments go, I just spent some time in Birmingham getting the lay of the land in anticipation of moving there and carried on to Cardiff to visit some old friends. If anything I’m even more enthused about Birmingham now than I was before, last Monday Chandra took me to a reggae night at The Bull’s Head in Moseley called ‘Jam Jah’, a strictly vinyl affair that largely stuck to roots and one drop, a lovely night in all respects. At one point I turned to Chan and very pointedly said “I’m home.”, whether or not the MDMA I was on at the time diminishes the weight of that statement is debatable.

I also got the opportunity to have a nose around the university campus and I walked away from that feeling very impressed. It’s gigantic, one of the largest I’ve ever seen and it all has a strikingly beautiful red brick aesthetic, it also houses the tallest free-standing clock-tower on the planet, which is always a plus. There was some element of that experience that made me a little apprehensive, that being the way in which the campus tour was so distinctly geared towards undergraduate sensibilities. Don’t get me wrong I completely understand the need for that, but as somebody who’s been through all that before, I found little appeal in the prospect of freshers week, society fairs and so forth, I might be going back to university but feeling like a student is the absolute last thing I want to do, hence my avoidance of the student dominated Selly Oak residential district in my hunt for a house. Overall though it was an enlightening experience and my love of the Brummie culture is still intact, it says a lot of a place that just on one random night out I ended up speaking to a hip-hop producer who showed an interest in putting some music to some of my words and asked me to keep in touch. That’s more than I’ve gotten out of countless nights out in this neck of the woods.

Cardiff is as Cardiff does. There’s always a bitterness to the time I spent there, seeing the social dynamic that I used to be right in the middle of just carry on without me and getting some notion of what life could have been like if I’d stayed, but I’m finding it easier to look past all that as time goes on. I’m following my own path and so is everybody else, they’ll always be my friends. What makes it more difficult is when I meet new people during my time there and then have to disappear at the drop of a hat. I managed to forge some interesting new social connections during a random but fortuitous night out at Glam, whether or not the MDMA I was on at the time diminishes the validity of that notion is debatable. In any case, I got exactly what I wanted out of my time there, I had a lot of fun, caught up with old friends and left the experience feeling refreshed and happier than I’ve been in quite a long time. I think in many ways my life is finally taking the upward stroke it’s been so sorely overdue for, I’ve just got to make sure I justify that.

Things are reaching a stage where I really have to start thinking pragmatically now and that is daunting in many ways. As excited as I am about Birmingham I know that if I haven’t found a job there by September I’ll have to defer my entry by a year if not more and that will be a difficult thing to deal with, so it’s time to really knuckle down. The worst part about moving back home post-graduation has been my decline into lethargic, almost teenage sensibilities, spending an appalling amount of time outside of my job doing pretty much nothing, watching TV, playing games, scrolling endlessly through Tumblr. As you all as my witnesses, it stops now. My job hunting will be more diligent, my writing projects will be completed and not just fester in escrow and I will get the fuck out of bed before 10am without fail. If I fail to commit to any of these promises you all have free reign to come to my house, stand over me and shake your heads in shame and/or hit me with something heavy.

Life Update

So a few hours ago I accepted the offer from Birmingham University. I am now officially starting a masters degree in creative writing there in September. Now begins the process of finding a place to live and steady work. I’ve already made some inroads with the former, sourced a few potential rooms but I’m a far cry from settling on somewhere yet. With all this in mind, now seems an appropriate time to reflect on the past 8 or 9 months and where life’s taken me.

I’ll be the first to admit that moving back home after I finished in Newport wasn’t exactly plan A and for all my blustering about how London was the place to go for work and everything would sort itself out, I’m not sure I ever actually believed it. I mean I got the odd interview here, the odd 2 day job offer there, but it wasn’t really ever going to work out. If I’m brutally honest, I moved back here because I was flat broke, I’d been stupid with my money and I was paying the price for it (no pun intended). Since then I’ve had various different plans for the future with different levels of practicality. Initially it was the London thing, then I was going to go on a big world traveling escapade, then I was just going to work, save and move somewhere new, preferably abroad, for a while I thought I was looking at an internship in LA, sadly nothing came of that. The more I think about it though, the more I think taking a masters degree is the right move, the more I think homing in on my writing is the right move. One of the bitter-sweet benefits of the time I spent searching for film and TV work was my ultimate disillusionment with that career path, I love films, I love television and I love working on shoots, but I don’t want to be a part of that industry anymore, the inconsistency, the insulation, it doesn’t suit me and I’m alright with that. Writing has been a hobby of mine since my mid-teens, I was often praised for it at school and one of my poems did make it into a collection, I was also asked to read one on stage. The idea of being able to focus on it and hone it for a whole 2 years is an extremely enticing one. More than that though, I get to live in Birmingham. I fucking adore Birmingham.

That may seem a tad random/perplexing without context, so allow me to provide some. When I was about 3 years old my uncle Ian entered into a relationship (and later had a child) with my aunt Susie, who already had a son, he himself was about 5 at the time. That son is my cousin (if not by blood, in spirit) Chandra, who also happens to be one of my closest friends. He’s the son of Steve Savale, guitarist of Asian Dub Foundation and he himself drums for Electric Swing Circus, one of the most promising Electro-Swing acts to come out of the UK thus far (they just hosted their own festival with over 1,000 attendants and are releasing an album later this week, I urge you to pick it up). Chandra lives in Moseley and has lived in Birmingham all his life, which has afforded me plenty of time to go there and get in touch with the cultural scene that presides there. It’s pretty spectacular I must say. I think that’s what excited me the most, strangely.

A while ago, after a fairly appalling post late shift piss up I stumbled into my desk chair and rattled my fingers across my keyboard until a lengthy rant about the importance of belonging emerged. One of the hardest things about this past almost-year has been trying to maintain a satisfactory social life in a place that doesn’t suit me. Since I moved back literally all of the good nights out, sexual encounters and generally enjoyable social experiences have taken place anywhere that isn’t here. I had one pretty good night out with an old friend in Cambridge back in December, but then when we went to a drum and bass night a few months later we were there all of an hour before I retreated into the bathroom to get away from a large fight and ended up getting bundled out having been discovered doing something very naughty in the cubicle. We ended up at a rock club down the road. Those two nights are exceptions to the rule, the rest have been late night forays into the nearby town of St. Neots with colleagues after a Friday or Saturday shifts, every single one an entirely grotesque experience. We’d show up and my lumpen, ungainly manager would lumber off to gather up an armful of various shots and spirit mixers before shoving a third of them onto my lap and ordering me to drink. This process would repeat itself several times and before you could say ‘probable cause’ we’d be hurled into the drunken maelstrom of Priory, which is probably legitimately one of the worst nightclubs in the country. The music is bad, the drinks are extortionate and the atmosphere is volatile most of the time. It wouldn’t usually matter to me by that point though, I’d be numb, dancing around mindlessly to whatever touchstone of the Heart FM prerequisite handbook the ‘DJ’ was inflicting at the given moment in question. See that’s why I don’t like drinking in rounds, I know my limits with alcohol and I don’t like getting wasted, I used to, but I used to think Transformers 2 was a good film. There is nothing to like about getting blackout drunk, it’s uncertain, acutely degrading and utterly without upside. Getting a nice buzz (which, for me resides at around the 6 or 7 beer mark, perhaps with the odd shot) is great, you feel happy, free from inhibition, but still capable of restraint and awareness, such that you can still drink enough water to keep a hangover at bay and keep an eye on your friends. So that’s how it would go, I’d end up stumbling down my driveway at 3am, dizzy, miserable and impatiently waiting to wake up the next morning having forgotten all the awful things I did and drag my sorry corpse to work, shadowed by the looming prospect of doing it all again the next week. So I stopped, I transplanted my social life to London, Cardiff, places I liked full of people I liked that played music I liked. You can’t help where you fit in I’m afraid, and I don’t fit in here, I never will.

Birmingham however, suits me very nicely indeed. Better than anywhere I’ve ever lived before, I’ll wager. So in summary, this was my trial and error year, or my process of elimination year and it’s landed me here, moving to a city I love to study what I love, surrounded by people that I love. What more could you ask for?

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