I will be offering this as a free download from this evening as it Bastille day. GRASS CLOUDS contains everything I have written as ‘poetry’ since I arrived in Nottingham in 2002 so about 20 years worth
Contains 80 poems and some illustrations. I will be reading from it on Tuesday August 2nd at the Organ Grinder Canning Circus with Neil Fulwood who celebrating his new Smokestack Press publication.
Includes the following pamphlets and projects:
Drifting Village Poems 2001-2011
Edwin Smith Commission 2014
Burning Books and Buying time 2017 – 2018
My Father’s Things (illustrated) 2019
At the Organ Grinder I shall also be reading from the new volume ‘Substitute’ which due in Fall 2023.
Having self-published the latest pamphlet in an intentionally ongoing series ( I aim to publish a ’round-up’ pamphlet twice a year from now on) here some author’s notes on the poems.
The latest is ‘Burning Books’ Horseshoe Press Pamphlet No. 2 and I thought I’d try and describe what influenced the poems and what I think I doing which invariably different to what the reader imputes.
Burning Books and Buying Time ..education, morals, politics..everything can be bought these days. I am literally buying time at present using up savings before the next employment…..if there is a next one…
The Dance of Debt
The dance of debt been going on since time immemorial but never has it been such a mantra from the ruling classes..
Things are not getting any better no matter how many J.K.Rowling novels we burn….
Iggy Pop in a sideboard
True story on Foundation Art at Oxford Polytechnic I suddenly had enough money to buy my third ever vinyl album. The first was an MFP Oliver the musical soundtrack. The second was Alice Cooper’s Bilion Dollar Babies then this. The copy I purchased was so warped it kept skidding when played on the Dansette tweed record player kept in my parent’s sideboard. I returned it to Woolworths and traded it for a flat copy of XTC’s White Music. I heard just enough of The Passenger to ‘get it’ and the details about Berlin are fantasy thoughts prompted by a documentary and footage shown after Bowie’s death.
Just for fun completely random stuff which has overtones of suicide airline pilots from the news owing something to Prynne and Oliver but not sure what. I never been a strident modernist in that vain and frankly get bored with poetry that needs decyphering or pretends to be something it isn’t. The factionalism of contemporary poetry means that if you go down that road you will have a loyal and small audience and not much else. It a good route for academics. A love of Bob Cobbing helps..the poetic equivalent of trainspotting.
London Calling (45)
Start of a series of Vinyl 45 related poems. Short and lyrical …that’s it with overtones of political comment just like the original songs.
Working on a Building of love (45)
See above any link to Corbyn is purely coincidental and anyway I ditched Labour for the Greens.
A Poundland sonnet
Both these ‘sonnets’ written pre-election. Angry squibs. Didn’t help the shits won anyway.
A Wreckless scheme
A retort to the great God Armitage’s dull work in the field. Armitage is like New Labour very successfull and very dull.
Edwin Smith – Catching Light
A commission, a PAID commission no less, for R.I.B.A. Now online at RIBA website too. Loved it as gave free rein to my retro-technology obsessions. Each verse dedicated to a particular camera Smith used at different times in his life. Lead to some interesting places which will explore further like Zeppelins over Wembley, 1930s Camden, Orwell and Fascism.
Matilda in the snow
The description of the down-land cottage all true. My dad was a farm labourer in early 1960s. We were so poor he bred rabbits to sell. The memory of Matilda comes from school history lessons. Matilda fled Oxford and was given refuge at Wallingford (my school’s location) Castle. Her action changed history and ensured that the Plantagenet line was in power later. No Matilda no QEII..which despite all the 90th Birthday celebrations might have been a good thing..in fact how about no Royals at all? Personal note I fled Oxford too but on a London bound overcrowded National Express coach. Not quite as romantic…
The selling of England by the Pound was most brutal in the destruction of William Morris’s original company. Rover was the biggest employer when I a child now it the University. They let it rust….
Postcard to Okinawa
I hate acronyms especially nasty little ones that belittle the working class which most of them seem to be funnily enough…
The Oxford Professor of Poverty
Dedicated to Simon Armitage who has hoovered up everything I could ever aspire too with some of the dullest poetry I ever read.
Success in Britain is never offending anybody…and toeing the line forever…..New Labour through and through. His first book is where it ended for me…
Self-explanatory. Whilst writing I referred to Edwin Muir.
I was also was reading Cesar Vallejo in great translations published by Richard Price ( a proper poet) at Southfields.
Awfully Middle Class
Again says it on the tin. A classist rant and I aint apologising. If you are going to publish boring self-referential holiday snaps about reading Dante on the beach then be prepared for a slagging..naming no names..
Self-explanatory but I lost count of the number of times privileged i.e. wealthy middle class people have told me that life is what you make it, you make your own luck, you only have yourself to blame etc etc. BULLSHIT..this country is totally controlled and run by money and the class system has become MORE not less embedded in my lifetime. I would not have had a decent education in post Thatcher Britain because that is how the Middle Class voted and would like it to stay…if you poor you don’t get in the door…
Now I have always had a problem with being a ‘poet’.
I come from a straightforward working class council estate background and the only thing worse than being a poet there was becoming a ‘fine artist’ so I killed two birds in one bush there then with my double non-career. I remember digging up a Xmas Tree with my dad in my 30s and a farmer asked my dad what I did to which he replied ‘artist’. The farmer replied ‘Oh Aye they’re all dead or gay aren’t they’ which just about sums it all up….my dad said nowt….just dug up the tree.
So forgetting that I wasn’ t meant to be a poet but a bricklayer (my dad never got over that) I was introduced to poetry at my fine art course under ‘complementary studies’ and bought my first poetry books (Heaney and Hughes Faber paperbacks). I even witnessed a living poet when Adrian Henri came to give a talk, which was unforgettable, as we decamped from Alexandra Palace art school to the park outside and much wine was drunk.
A seed had been planted and suffering from London withdrawal symptoms and no job in 1982 I was back home and visited my local library. I came across the Donald Hall American Poetry anthology and another book with William Carlos Williams in and that was that I was hooked. What is more with no money and no studio making art was far away and here was something I could ‘have a go at’ with a pencil.
I then wrote poetry off and on until 2000 (most intensely in the years with no art studio) and then again briefly in 2006-7 which was the three poems published in Staple. However having finally put my art archive onlineÂ Â I have realised that, a bit like songwriting, poetry filled in a gap when I not creating art which from Foundation Course in 1977 onwards until 1990 had been my main focus.
Which brings me to now and all that happened since last September. The coincidence of my first ever paid poetry commission and starting the Creative Writing M.A. was dysfunctionally apt….I immediately concentrated on the commission and I think did quite well in fulfilling that brief and promptly screwed up the M.A.
Well I say screwed up , other parties gave me a more than helpingÂ hand (not at Clifton nor anything to do with CW I may add) which may come out in due course depending on the probability of a lawsuit ensuing.
So here I am 56 years old. One small pamphlet to my name through Salt and wondering whether to carry on writing poetry. A strange place to be. I am doing the right things. Attending the writer’s studio poetry monthly session, Stanza meetings (last one excellent) and seeing live poets at Jazz and Poetry (D.A.Prince and Tony Roberts both excellent) and Totally Wired evenings (more for the student crowd but equally good readers).
But…….my mind at the moment firmly fixed on painting again for the first time in a very long time. What is more one of the reasons I gave up on CW M.A. was the feeling that the time off until June should be used in my studio whilst I have one. Too many times in my life I have not had the space to work in as a fine artist. For once I have chosen to use it whilst it there. Then the same day as I start drawing I write a poem….DOH. Not a poem in the way I have written before and whatever poetry I might write in the future will not be like the past.
TheÂ poet I was is buried along with the Salt pamphlet in my mother’s grave. IÂ cannot go back. I cannot write like that any more.
The times they have changed. Whatever comes next is starting in the Iggy Pop poem below. I no idea if it will last this time. Maybe all along it was just a substitute for another art form..we’ll see 🙂
The images just Â a bit of my inner Mod coming out 😉
A series of poems inspired by vinyl singles…..I started years ago and only done two so far so here they are…maybe I get inspired to do more 🙂
This about my Nan Butler’s front room.. a broken piano, boxes and boxes of ‘damaged Smith’s Crisps’
(My Gramp delivered most of them rest ended up there)…and my Uncle Brian’s sixties and seventies vinyl…
Chairman of the Board: Working on a Building of Love 1972
45s piled in a dusty box
centres pulled out for stateside jukeboxes cheap resales
for years I could not play them at all
just played with them like toys on my Nan’s front room floor
an old broken upright piano
worn red Axminster carpet
a radiogram that no longer worked
I put the record down the spindle anyway
listened to the faint noise as I span it against the worn needle
the wah and flutter as speed changed
nylon nets breathing in and out each summer
from the drafty windows
a year later managed to plug it in and shocked myself on bare wires
too scared to tell anybody
as they’d have banned me from playing in there
but I did take the Chairman of the Board singles
the Invictus label….from Detroit post riots..
forgot about the shock until now…like love. Bittersweet.
Shaun Belcher was born Oxford, England in 1959 and brought up on a down-land farm before moving to a council estate in the small town of Didcot in 1966 just as England won the world cup..
He studied fine art at Hornsey College of Art, London from 1979–81 where he sat under a tree with Adrian Mitchell.
Began writing poetry in the mid 1980s and subsequently has been published in a number of small magazines and a poem 'The Ice Horses' was used as the title of the Second Shore Poets Anthology in 1996.(Scottish Cultural Press).
He now lives in Nottingham, England after two years in Edinburgh studying folk culture and several years in the city of expiring dreams working as a minion at the University of Oxford.
He is currently enjoying retirement from 20 years of teaching and hopes to write something on a regular basis again. He has been involved in various literary projects including delivering creative writing workshops in Nottingham prison for the ‘Inside Out’ project.
He supports Arsenal football club.
Favourite colours therefore red and green like his politics.
We have not won the world cup again since 1966 and Shaun Belcher is not as famous as Simon Armitage although his songs are better.