Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Working, Gigging

Another late day at unversity, but some work is good so it doesn't matter if it stretches. At TCD in Dublin some of BKs classes ran three hours over and if the students didn't mind, he didn't mind. I'm getting a little that way myself. In any case, it had been a bright crisp beginning to the day and so it remained. There is nothing better than such a day in autumn, unless it is a sunny winter day. Good things generally are best when they simply arrive without too much of a hello and goodbye and there is something about art too that doesn't like a timetable but keeps going while there's energy. So it's morning already?

I have worked some seven versions of the Zbigniew Herbert paper and sent off a copy this morning. On Sunday I am off to Cracow to give the paper, then fly to Frankfurt for a day for another event before returning home on Thursday to teach on Friday. I never look forward to travelling. Hate the fuss and organisation of it. Hate the disruption. But then I quite like being disrupted once I am there. Dream days. Days out of time. Days of other reality.

After tomorrow I go down to the BBC to record a radio programme in a series titled Points of Entry, about immigration, as from the immigrants' point of view. That's all written too as is the Englishness of English poetry lecture for Liverpool. When I want to scare myself I look at my schedule for the next six weeks. In fact I wake up at 3 or 4 am feeling scared.

You can tell I am tired. There's no subject. So here is a list of upcoming gigs - not all, but those near publication date:

Aldeburgh Poetry Festival, Saturday 8 November, 8 pm
Newcastle, Live Poetry, Live Theatre, Sunday 9 November, 7.30pm,
The Savile Club, London, Friday 14 November, 7.00pm
Warwick Arts Centre, Wednesday 19 November, 7.15pm
Cambridge, St John's, Thursday 27 November, 7pm
University of Kent, Darwin Lecture Theatre, 2 December 2008, 7pm
Hungarian Cultural Centre, London, Wednesday 3 December, 7 pm
The King of Hearts, Norwich, 5 December 7pm
Bath Spa University, Bath, 11 December 2008, 8pm

If you live near these places you might consider coming along. In your own good time. Providing the weather...

But there's other travelling besides. I might put some of that up next.


Coirí Filíochta said...

A few weeks after i first arrived in Dublin in July 2004 after finishing my writing studies and drama degree at Edge Hill college (now a university) in one's home town of Ormskirk, SW Lancashire under my first and thus far only poet-tutor, Robert Sheppard, who wrote Bob Cobbings obituary for the Guardian: i attended the launch of Leanne O'Sullivan's first book at the Writer's Centre, which was a double-up do with Selina Guinness's New Irish Poets anthology launch.

In Conway's after, i had a brief chat with Neal Astley, informing him of my interest in Irish myth; to which he responded by suggesting i meet with BK, and that he would mention our chat the next time they spoke. He said this was right up BK's street and that we would probably end up in Bewleys ensconced deep in converstation for an afternoon and become close colleagues on the love and peace bus.

The week before, by sheer coincidence whilst bursting with imbas, i had been up to the English office, secretly hoping HQ controller, M, would immediately spot my ddep love for literature and offer a scholarship and board and lodgings so i could do the MA. This of course- did not occur.


A week or so later and four or so after speaking with Astley, unable to wait any longer, on a whim when wandering through the city after dining in my usual spot at Focus Ireland, the homeless charity's canteen which offers top notch grub at the unbelievable price of 1.80 for a full fresh food dinner, daring to believe A had got straight on the phone to BK about our three minute encounter and BK no doubt expecting me -- i returned to the English office, full of swagger, confident K and i would be living together that evening, with Durcan and Heaney dropping by for dinner to form a support team for the homeless poet newly arrived in what Dunleavy calls, the warm pool of crocodiles that is Dublin literary life.

Having no plan apart from a vauge desire to wander in on a whim and make a dream come true by force of wish alone, i arrived in the office unprepared, realising as i got there that i had not pen nor paper to leave a note if K wasn't waiting for me, as per the fantasy Astley had been responsible for concoting.

But knowing it was nailed on, and i was about to become one of K's favoured pupils as he approached the finish of forty years infusing the Literature students of Ireland with hope by his person and mind alone, i entered the English area upstairs from Dawson Street.

I walkledc straight into the milleau of staff and students milling about, directly over to a woman at a desk, who looked intriqued as i stood before her garbling out my request.

Being unaware of the exact workings of Trinity faculty offices and who goes where, I asked that if i left a note for K, would it reach him? At this point the head of dept, mister Matterson put his head round the door-jamb and immediately withdrew it as i stood there with a daft grin thinking at how M would be surprised at the way i quickly secured myself free post grad instruction, going one better than the MA by becoming K's next special project.

I was given a piece of A4 and as i was about to began composing, another woman hovering past, casually-on-purpose caught my eye, halting and offering to take receipt of the note, asking in as off handed way as she could muster, erm, why was i writing to BK?

Recognising a steely desire to know what motive moved one to be there, and being high on imbas, i was unable to help myself instinctively reacting comedically by launching into a pretend. I was on a high anyway. I had just exited official learning after three years hard think and was alone in the big wide world of self-supported learning, and the reading, writing and reciting under Bob Sheppard's watch, meant i had passed the first grade of Ollair Principle Beginner on the 12 yr bard-path, with 20 stories from the four cycles under one's belt and a first gawp at the head crunchingly complex apical text of a fili, Auraicept na n-éces (lit. trans. working methods of the knowing ones) translated first by George Calder in 1917 as the Scholars Primer. Main text book used in the old bard schools that ran in Ireland for 1200 yrs.

One, i dreamt, was about to embark on the next all important stage, three months shy from entering the fourth year of full time pretendiong with pen and canvas, facing a step up to the next intellectual stage, grade two of the seven on the course: Tamhan Poet's Attendant, which would happen during my time as K's no doubt, i was believing at that moment, as this person inquired of my reasons for writing the note.

I asked her where her office was and stood up as she moved away towards it, seguing into a comedy charachter of long standing: Sloppy Bob, a persona who came to me in the form of a poem that appeared eight months prior to this point at the start of the final semester of Edge Hill, and which i had written as an exercise in dan direach, composing for the purpose of rhyme alone, not thinking of sense or syntax and which after a few lines, came out on its own, in a process i can only describe as the equivalent of flying a helicopter in yr head.

So, launching into being Bob, improvising the lines, i informed her that *I* (as bob) had been stalking B for a while now, and that we needed to talk. And then i guffawed in loud laughter.

Thinking she would be a fellow artists who would cop on this was improvisation scene and join in perhaps, laugh tossing her head back at such a preposterous response, maybe even offer to dance with me in the waiting area -- by the look on her face, it was obvious i had been too convincing and she had mistook for reality, what was not, fallen for the act, and i burst into loud and spontaeneous laughter again, as she swiftened her pace, indicating the exact location of her workspace, as i stopped pretending and told her it was ok, i was only joking.

But it was too late, it was all too much and i could see she thought i was Bob and not me, a nutter and not the sensitive tender dreamy middle aged man called caoimhin living in Dublin's premier homeless hostel; home for one at that time, before the move to my current plush des res attic in Kilmainham.

I returned to where i had been seated, to begin the very important first textual approach to my new mentor, and knowing if i spelt his name wrong, it would be a basic error that a fastracking applicant to Segais cannot make, just at the point another person, a large youngish academic was passing the small waiting area immediately outside M's office in which the great and good of Dublin literary life will no doubt be intimate.

I asked him how to spell BK's surname: was it one or two N's and L's please? to which he looked at me in a very quizical way, a surprised look on his face, as if i was a fool and this was something everyone would know. I wrote it down and asked again, crossing the T's and dotting i's making sure i didn't make a bad impression when BK came to read my simple short note explaining what was going on, so we could get to work straight away in our brilliant new relationship in which he would no doubt champion my cause and introduce one to the movers and shakers who could represent me and deal with the many offers of paid work that were no doubt going to flood in, once BK and i had started our affair.

At this point, sincerity oozing from my person, and thanking him profusely at the final letter, the largish gentleman said

*But he's only there,* and pointed to a man i had not seen, stood several paces distant, unassuming, quietly engaged in the business of eduaction, talking to - what i took to be a - Japanese student, and though i don't think she had was alert to the scene, BK most definitely was, as i knew on seeing him apparently unaware of me, but who had clearly been a front row audience member witnessing the full of the last few minute doings.

Immediately, i felt a great sense of the ridiculous that transcended the feeling of incredibly stupidity, what as a child we called being a goon, like Dick Emery's *I rthink i got it wrong again dad* character. That i could breeze into a place with nought but belief in a dream, looking for someone right in front of me all the time, what i sought being the last thing spotted, and BK watching a large grey haired man with a broad NW England accent who he didn't know from Amergin, enter a professional space he had been intimate with all his working life, loudly looking for him, in character as *poet in residence of a phoneboox, just outside, every other Sunday, in the summer months, four till five, AM* - and, if he had took my joshing serious, hear a man laughing like a drain, claiming he had been stalking him, *for a while now.*


The student went after a few minutes, but i knew that, realistically, i would not be dining with with BK Durcan and Heaney that evening, or any evening from then on in.

BK very generously, once i started blathering, recognised some sincerity in the situatation, but due to the nature of the entrance, introduction - there was no invitation for coffee at Bewleys, just BK's human attempt at slavaging some dignity for me, from the self created mess, fishing out a telephone number from his magic book, informing me this person was interested in the same sort of thing as what he inferred i was, in the very short exchange we had.

And the one thing i took away, the one i will always remember, is a half beat pause of a milisecond as his mind searched for the right words, a wistful pondering look upon his face,. as he informed the person he was putting me in touch with, had spent a lot of time...thinking: leaving the unsaid hanging in the air between us, in silence a delivery of the deepest understadning and a veil of learning draped the scene --- BK politely listening but the signs clear: it was too much, for both of us.

But these few snatched moments of being a bumbling ignaramus in front of the ollamh, was enough, to contextualise this event as a success, more or less immediately on parting, as what happened, had gone beyond appearing foolish, the gods of poetry themselves, Ogma appearing, genuine, in pure poetry which could not have been imagined prior to its coming, scripted nor fixed, just the practice and ladning right on one's arse, as BK might say.

I saw him next around eight months later at a PI do, passing on the threshold of the gents toilets, and this time, he was keen to chat, and i told him of the online WaR i was figthing in, for free expression, around February time just after i had sold my first ever poems, love ones from the disused Bewleys doorway on Westmoreland street, and i think he recognised, that waht occured was genuine, that though the intro wasn't perfect, it was a great source of comedy, and it was a sincere honest poetic event.

George S said...

BK is one of poetry's angels, Desmond.

Very rough about the 'stalking' misunderstanding. Sad that these things happen.

And Bewleys is open again, is it not?

Sue Guiney said...

I've heard you read before - something I love to do whenever I can schedule your schedule into mine which, alas, probably won't include any of the dates you just posted. But I would be very interested in reading a bit about your "balancing act." I'm coming off several months of publicity, talks, articles, interviews etc surrounding my own activities, and I haven't been able to write nearly enough poetry or fiction during this whole time. I clearly haven't figured out my own "balancing act" yet. Any tips you might be able to offer? It would certainly make for an interesting and helpful post, if you were so inclined (and now I'll stop with all this off-balance imagery). Sue Guiney

Coirí Filíochta said...

I don't think the Westmoreland street Bewleys is open G. The last time i went passed there, i think it was looking a bit more shabby than usual.

The few days i sold my poetry, it was more an exercise than any attempt to start up a career as the next legend that is Pat Ingoldsby, who sells his books direct to the public in this way.

I printed up my him and hers love poem i wrote after a session with Bob Sheppard, in which Wallers Go Rose was the one we were looking at and responding to. I imagine you're familiar with the method Sheppard and the other tutors used, of ten and twenty minute writing bursts with a read-round at the finish, and which i always found enjoyable and often looked forward to this (what amounts to) writing-in-public.

We had to respond to Waller, and by this stage in the game, nearly three years in, the dynamic between us students in class was pretty much fixed, in the sense that we all knew what cards of genius were being held in regards who wrote what.

So i, as did the other six or so in the final semester Friday afternoon poetry class (the main body of thirty or so others opting for short story) played it light, going for laughs, as writing about Love and all its implications from the emotional to physical, in any seriously honest sense, in a class of overwhelmingly young women 15 and more yrs younger, wasn't gonna happen.

Any attraction bhetween students, crushes or secret hearts desires that may have been buried, pouring out in a writing burst, to be read to the object of our desire, facing us, s/he declaring undying love and physical attraction for a fellow colleague, would have seriously upset the professionalism in class.


The original response i did was from a gay, comedic butch love p.o.v, "Trawling every bar from Heaven at the Arches to Black Cat Camden Town" kind of carry on, knocked out in a few minutes. And with end read/performance, safe in the bag, i decided to write something more honest, not composed with the purpose of reading it to an audience.

And if i hadn't of done this, i would not have written my first *real* love poem, which i did immediately after the class ended, one of those fully formed pieces in the top ten that just pop out after a variety of factors combine, coincide and collide. the magic ones. And it was only at Carol Rumens gaffe at the blokes blog during a recent Wordsworth poem of the week, i actually fixed the line breaks to their final form. It is only now, my eye is grasping how to line-break. Before i used to hear all about it, hear ppl talk but being honest, never got it, till two or so months back.

Underneath it all
we talk
over and above

what is

so why not stay a while
and let me dream of life
with you.

I will not make
a hollow pledge

of empty words
which promise something
I can't give:

the wind,
the sea
or starlights shimmer
on your hair.

The bond I undertake
to seek exchanges

comforts found from
understanding and being


although when I gaze
upon your form

I see emotion as a mirror,
you the one love who will

never truly stand before

your flesh can be only
touched in dreams,

or in that half snooze
state I sometimes get

to fool around in,
a world where my desire

for you can be indulged.


At the time it came out, it was vying for top spot with another lyric which has also stood the test of time, appropriately enough a muse on the nature of Time.

So i printed these onto A4 velum like thick paper, gold flock, red ink, rolled round an inch and a half plastic pipe and sealed with a wax O impress i found had dropped into my pocket after leaving Reads with the paper i had spent a tennner on, which cost ten cent a sheet. I spend a night rolling about forty up, wondering if this hare brained scheme would amount to anything other than total failure, sat there like an idiot, first time flogging my wares, cutting out the middle person.

And appropriately enough, i met James Kelly the morning i began, for the first time, and who i had been hoping to meet since i first heard of him at Write and Recite as another legend, as he is the last of the wandering bards, sells his chapbook all over the country, a real unique poet with a Kerry voice like human birdsong, who his fellow Keeryman BK wrote the blurb for his book, Poems Through Ireland, one of the most thumbed in the growing collection of the attic library, his poem -- Ted Hughes - effected me at the deepest metrical level, this half..

Like poems the landscape comes alive in death
in your poems, the rabbits blood in evening sun
has wobbled to set for Plath's moon.

Alive behind these fine poems
there must have been a powerful lonliness
that crept like some great darkness.

Like the thought fox with his clever eye.
You are he thought fox trying to escape the cage
of disturbing consequences, or feminist rage....

Classic, and perfect poetry we met the morning i ventured forth into his area of expertise, direct interaction with the customer base. We swapped, and he wouldn't take money, only the one rolled up love poem LROVSE, the one above, and so i set up the chair i had laid out a tenner on, a big investment if my idea proved a total failure, and after a few moves, found Bewleys doorway, tucked in the perfect spot out the cold wind, and i got a commisssion of a guard, to write one for his girlfriend, and knocked it out in a couple of hours

Curled red hair like sun flame
streaming through the ether
of a February day
has captured every moment
of the time it took for love
to ripen

and the suddeness
with which I fell for you;
sensuous butterfly
who makes my spirit quicken
to the music of the thornbush
and the cherry blossom
sung in spring
to the lilting beat
of love song singing

and he gave me a fiver for it, and i was made up, someone had faith enough to pay me to do what i love.

Over the next three days i sold a few, for 2 euro each, and had a great gas online with my recently discovered fellow lovers on the now defunct poem.uk, who now discourse in the deeper reaches at poets on fire -- telling them, months later i think, of the commercial practice being a return of 2000% profit per unit sold, but it taught me a lot, that we need a gimmick, a hook to sell, people were buying my poems for the packaging first, the idea of an olde worlde rolled up wax sealed
gold coloured document, blood red wax always a hint of quality, legal-like, handing it to a partner in the morning, and being surpised that the text was actually, pretty good for a fella sellin from a doorway, and i got two or three more, non love ones out the experience, but could not go back now, as i am out of the shop floor, i have an attic bedsit and have made it now, coz life, it's all reletive innit? In the homeless hostel there's pecking orders, and a man with a tenner can feel a king, if the rest have all got less, and a millionire in marbella, on her yacht, feelign crap coz such a one who she's competeing with, has got one bigger. Life,. it's just a game and art, my latest is, it's a game with ourself. find what we are good at, have a talent for and go for it 100%, which i would have done perhaps, if i got that one english lit o'level i was expecting, it could have made all the difference, i could have been beat steve coogan if things were different, instead of who i am now, a deeply troubled worrier about where my next poems coming from..ha ha..



Coirí Filíochta said...

argh left out me lines, doh!!

your flesh can be only
touched in dreams,

when reality comes alive
in epic tales played out
nightly, or in half snooze
state I sometimes get..etc

Hi Sue.

If you ever need a poet friend in Dublin, you are most welcome to come skate in the rink of recital here, last wed of every month at Cassidy's on Westmoreland Street or every second wednesday in Anseo, Wexford street..and i am not being funny, as i have put this offer out elsewhere in a more concise longer way which you can see is straight, but you are welcome to repose and rest from the post reading high, here in one's attic, as there are two seperate living spaces in the three storey building, the other one is on the ground floor, so you(or any interested in reciting ion Dublin) are welcome to stay here and think of it as a des res five minutes form town commune for happy people without agendas apart from having a laugh and being angelic as poss for publicity, private and professional purposes, look, here, FREE LOVE!!

Anonymous said...

George, I'd love to hear you read and am sorry I'm so far away from "happening things".

All the best with the gigs. Travel safely.

George S said...

Hello Sue. Like a number of other writers, I think, I write in bursts rather than in regular dibs and dabs. Sometimes there is a bigger idea running and I can return to that when the attention feels right. I find it very useful to have some long term area to be gravitating towards. I have two or three now but it is too busy to be doing much except occasionally to pick up a part, look at it, and maybe move it on.

Writing poems over a long period is a little like trying to map the world. There is a world there and it would be good to understand it somewhat. Sometimes I think that is what technique is. A kind of preparation or survival kit.