In 1990 I had a short temporary job at The Poetry Library in London. Whilst there I was inspired to both continue writing poetry and met some wonderful individuals like Ivor Cutler and Michael Donaghy (over the counter). I also met some arses but such is poetry. The job was very menial and weekend cover. I lasted six months then cracked as travelling all weekend from Didcot not an option. Here a pamphlet I ‘re-directed’ the photocopier at the South Bank to produce.
I sold 25 copies.
I also used illustrations in the booklet for the first and last time.
The poems stand up despite the passage of time. The Carver influence still there but I also started looking at Paul Strand, Edwin Muir, Scottish Poetry in general….this pre move to Edinburgh. I also fortunate to meet and hear read C.K.Williams, Tess Gallagher and others whilst at South Bank….they were reading for Maura Dooley in Voice box. Jo Shapcott and Lavinia Greenlaw also worked there but I was pretty much ignored as ‘downstairs’ staff…
The poem The Ice Horses became the Shore Poets anthology title in 1996.
My first poems from 1981-1985 after art college. Some were published in the first volume of a’The New Magazine’ then just started by Gerard Woodward who went on to be a well known poet and novelist.
Unsure of my writing I used the ‘David Bell’ alter ego.
32 poems including the sequence ‘The New Country’ from 1985.
1981-5 never shown these to anyone since. Post art college first poems..reading Pasternak and Heaney…Bunting and W.C.Williams…and a hefty bit of John Masefield and Edward Thomas..love poems to a non-existent mythical England…32 poems including the mad The Moon Over Henley my version of Bunting and T.S. Elliot..I kid you not…with some Echo and The Bunnymen in there too:-)
32 poems because same number as Hughes ‘Hawk in th Rain’…along with Heaney a major influence the only four poetry books I owned at art college were Heaney’s ‘ Death of a Naturalist’, Hughes’ book and Sylvia Plath’s’Colossus’ and Thom Gunn ‘Sense of Movement’ .not a bad start:-).
In 1992 Whilst living at my parents I joined Didcot and Wallingford Friends of the Earth.
We went on demonstrations (B and Q mahogany etc) with Earth First and raised funds for tree-planting.
I created this small ilustrated poetry booklet and sold 25 at £2 each which equivalent to 25 new trees.
I also took part in the actual tree-planting that happened based on the proceeds.
If I ever take the train back to Didcot I can actually point to the clump of new trees in a field neat Cholsey, Oxon which this book created;-)
I also showed a series of the down-land drawings behind Sir Julian Rose at a meeting on Organic Farming.
My thanks to Beryl Davidson of F.O.E. at the time (and fellow Didcot poet Jonathan Davidson’s mum by the way:-) for helping produce the booklet.
The publication has finally been scanned and the whole thing can be seen here under Publications on this website: NATURA MORTE
Here scans of the individual pages. The poems were all related to green issues and specifically related to animals and insects hence titles.
Original Horseshoe Press Pamphlets from 1990 -1992
The Horseshoe Press was first used as my self-publishing name in 1990.
I have just revived it as a method of disseminating more recent work.
I was then working at The Poetry Library in London and part of my job was photocopying thousands (literally) of poetry magazine and information lists which i assure you is mind-numbing work. The library though was lovely and whilst there I produced one full A5 pamphlet and a scattering of aborted ideas for publications. All were to be made on a photocopier! We talking pre-computer days so I assembled the copier templates from photographs, drawings and type written manuscripts!
The new Horseshoe Press website above continues this early series idea.
Here are some photos of the work produced in early 1990s.
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.
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…
SHORT STORY: THE LEASH
About the only thing I got out of my brief tenure on a creative writing course at NTU. Heavily influenced by David Belbin’s particularly rigorous copy-editing. He would make a great editor. It a parody of a Scottish Working Class realist story from mid 1980s. Not bad for a first attempt. More James Kelman than Irvine Welsh thank god …
The full story and a ‘contextual document’ about influences we had to submit alongside it are available on the blog here:
Released into the wild today as a downloadable pdf. The first of an irregular series of pdf pamphlets released as and when i feel like it.
Basically a resume and calling card showing the fairly small output of the last 15 years and hopefully leading to more poems in the future. I have already started on a sequence for the ‘Backwater’ volume so thought I had better clear this one up for once and all.
Here the Bio blurb so you get the picture..all offers of Penury Fighting to me asap 🙂
The Drifting Village – Press blurb stuff…
Shaun Belcher was born Oxford, England in 1959 and brought up on a down-land farm before moving to the small town of Didcot, near Oxford, England in 1966. He studied fine art at Hornsey College of Art, London from 1979–81. He began writing poetry in the 1980s and has subsequently been published in a number of small magazines and a poem used at title of the Shore Poets Anthology ‘The Ice Horses’ (Scottish Cultural Press 1996). A selection of poems was published as ‘Last Farmer’ in the Salt Modern Voices Series in 2010.
He now lives in Nottingham, England after two years in Edinburgh studying folk culture and several years in the city of expiring dreams otherwise known as Oxford.
He is currently working on a new volume of poems as part of a multidisciplinary art project called ‘Backwater’.
He has been involved in various literary projects including delivering creative writing workshops in Nottingham prison for the ‘Inside Out’ project and is a member of Nottingham Writer’s Studio.
After several years as an academic art lecturer he has returned to writing alongside his other artistic practices as this the fastest way to achieve total penury he knows.