I have just re-read the post below which was written the week before my mother’s funeral. She had Carcinoid Cancer which was diagnosed in 2005 the year after my father died of Pancreatic Cancer which he was diagnosed with in 2002. My sister and I therefore have been dealing with cancer and its personal affects for over ten years. My mother was brave to the end but in both instances the physical deterioration and pain is almost too much to bear. It was with a sad heart and a sense of relief that my family finally said goodbye to her in June.
In the post below I am pretty clear about the reasons why I had slowly slipped away from poetry. Looking back now, having crawled away from the wreckage of the last ten years it a wonder I wrote anything let alone managed to publish the Last Farmer book. The promotion tour for that was heavily influenced by my mother’s sudden deterioration so I couldn’t say my heart was really in it although I enjoyed reading with other Salt poets.
I cannot say where I will go in the future with writing. I am concentrating on my M.A. by registered project and building up a ‘Graphic Research’ profile which involves a lot of academic research, reading and writing. However the enforced lay-off due to illness has meant that I at least get to look at my poetry shelves now:-).
It may be that the poetry does come back as the shock of the last ten years wears off. I think now that the circumstances of my parent’s death was hugely significant in making me turn away from the family and place-related subject matter that once fueled my muse so to speak.
Whatever happens I would like to thank Â Salt for letting the Last Farmer out for a while but I cannot say I would ever work with them again. Hopefully it wasn’t really a poetic last gasp after all….
Doing a slow revamp of website I finally get to ‘writing’.
I started this blog for ‘poetry’ in 2007 at the same time as I began working at Nottingham Trent University in the multimedia department. Then I expected to only be there a year or two at most or at least until the recession ‘over’. I called both these things wrongly. Here I am still a multimedia lecturer (for another two years at least following ‘rationalisation’ – their word not mine as most decisions in academia are far from rational these days) and here we all are suffering government by the vain, arrogant and mediocre for recession blues part two.
So how have I done in five years? Answer not very well at all in fact at a rate of one poem per year I have crawled to a Larkinesque full stop.( In fact I have produced 22 poems in 12 years since leaving Oxford) I was thankful forÂ having three poems published in Staple in 2007 and the subsequent publishing of Last Farmer ( a small collected volume of published work from the last 25 years) by Salt in December 2010. However instead of promoting a vigorous new growth the tree of poetry has instead gone into terminal decline. Five poems in five years and each one coming like blood from a stone in each and every case shows what I already know..
I no longer think about poetry, I no longer read it, I no longer take very much interest in it. Apologies to all the hard-working poets who flood my facebook with their poetry updates but I suffering from a large dose of poetry-deficit attention or whatever.
There was a time (especially early 1990’s) where I really cared and really read a lot of contemporary poetry and even for a short period worked at the London Poetry library. Even then though I didn’t really count poets as friends except Giles Goodland and Bridget Khurshhed who just happened to be in a creative writing class I took for a while. Then whilst living in Edinburgh 1994-6 I was fortunate to meet Duncan Glen and William Neill and Tessa Ransford and was honoured to read for The Shore Poets and met Stewart Conn all of them inspirational people.
Then I moved back to Oxford and that really was the kiss of death. I was suddenly a working class outsider again in virtually my home town. I never really recovered my interest in poetry after five years of surfdom in the feudal empire of Oxford University which made me very embittered about the ‘literate’ middle classes. I slowly ceased to write and to this day I squirm when anywhere near an ‘Oxbridge’ accent in poetic circles. So thank you Oxford for killing me off as a writer. I dived headfirst into music promotion and songwriting to wash my ears clean of the snobbery I was daily subjected to. Looking back it clear that if I had stayed in Edinburgh I may have had a very different experience eventually and may still be writing now.
I started writing poetry in the early 1980’s because I could not afford art materials and to get over the disappointment of not being funded to attend the Royal College M.A. Painting place I was offered. Poetry was a cheap alternative fuelled by a travelling collection of American poetry that found its way to the little library in a shed in my hometown of Didcot. I discovered William Carlos Williams and that was that…
This is relevant now because what has happened in the last five years is that (apart from the mind-numbing task of learning new web coding every six weeks) I have been working in a University Art SchoolÂ alongside a University Fine Art Department that didn’t really want me around especially when my drawn and written criticism of it began to bite. So as I have laboured through five years of ‘multimedia’ teaching and doing very well in teaching students to get web design jobs I have been quietly concentrating on art criticism and new media. This has led to my present half-way completion of an Multimedia (whatever that is) which basically my cover for doing Fine Art by the back door. I have also very recently finally got a painting studio I can work in up and running again after almost twenty years. So finally I am back where I started …attempting to do an M.A. and trying to paint and do interesting things with new media..and cartoons..
Hindsight is a wonderful thing and maybe even if I had gone to the Royal College nothing would have happened and I would have done pretty much the same things over the last 30 years. Who knows? What I do know is that I finally (through hard work) am now able to finally complete an M.A. (possibly fine art if I can get redesignated to reflect what it actually is) and the chance to paint again (see painting blog).
Over the last 30 years (1982-2012) I have written a great deal of poetry which amounts to about three complete books maybe more. This I will slowly correlate into one collected volume if possible and publish myself if nobody is interested in it. As far as I can tell my poetry gene is dormant if not dead now and maybe this is really all there is and will ever be….
A volume of Last Farmer has been placed in my mother’s coffin to be buried with her next Wednesday. I feel that a poem in that volume sums things up very well.My poetry was always an extended elegy to my parent’s hometown and the lives of the ordinary working class people who lived there.The stone in first lines is a gravestone….
With arms that laid
and feet that trod this stone into place
they are caught through the trees
moving off or returning.
I stand, watching them,
rocking from heel to toe
in this small town side street,
small red berries
exploding under my feet.
Above me a flock of sparrows
flicker and snatch at bunches
then scatter through the gable-ends
as a rusty Marina chugs to a stop.
At the other end of this street
I can see shoppers framed
in the window of the newsagent.
One pecks at the card display.
Some round here have flown south
on incomes boosted by pensions
and second mortgages.
Receive photographs at Christmas.
Yes I finally have a solo publication as a poet. Not bad after 25 years of writing.
It is due to be released soon and you can pre-order from Amazon and Asda (links below).
My thanks to Chris Hamilton Emery and Salt for picking up on the poems. I am really chuffed that I am on Salt as it has a vast array of top writers on its catalogue (check it out on link below and purchase some – every little helps).
As for the title well you will have to wait until publication to find out who the Last Farmer really is…
The Pamphlet is now out of print and I am no longer represented in any way by SALT