Thursday, 27 October 2011

UPDATE... (if it don't feel right, don't write)

Ok, so I lied about the today/tomorrow thing. Sorry. Punctuality isn't my style.

There's always something fascinating about watching the tiny world from above, particularly when you're on an island. Only a few miles away from the English coast and the clouds scatter, and every text costs you a minimum of 12p, and things sloooww, right, down, because most of the stuff you have to do will just have to wait a few days unless you want to be stuck with a larger phone bill than the already large phone bill you have.

Last week, there I was in Jersey with John Paul O'Neill (cue link to a really old bio page) and Deanna Rodger (cue link to podcast poem/discussion), leading a few workshops and setting up an Interschool Slam. And it was a good week working with Year 9s (13/14 year olds) on the theme of "journeys". Working with teens is always bound to lead to surprises and contradictions. The loud kids somehow managed to focus for a ten-minute freewrite, the quiet kids wrote about rock 'n' roll and learned how to shout on stage, and others even suprised themselves by what they came up with. 

In between, we had time to head to the beach and pontificate on the finer points of life, religion and, of course, Gaddafi. I find the hypocrisy of "the West'"s position too unsettling to feel joyous. No doubt, if I were born in Libya, I may feel differently, and I may have been queuing up to see his body (which I had to dubious privilege of seeing anyway, while watching Channel 4 news). I guess it's true that, however much you value independence of thought, most of that thought originates from where you are born and where you live.

in "thinking mode"

Speaking of birth and independence of thought, today I've been reading some of the comments/letters to the unnamed 7 billionth child due to be born next Monday. I plan to use the 7bnth child for the theme of a poem I'm writing, and I'll comment on my progress when I do. 

Apparently, it was only 12 years ago when the Guardian Newspaper asked Salman Rushdie to write to the 6th billionth child. Understandably, for someone with a fatwa against him, simply for writing a book - a book! - he spent some time talking about how religion is "[w]rong, wrong, wrong", in a piece called Imagine No Heaven. The conclusion of the letter was to imagine that there is no heaven and, "at once the sky's the limit!" I can't share in that assertion, partly for the fact that the unwavering beliefs and ignorance he speaks of lay on both sides of the religous/non-religious divide but mostly because the sky is only the limit for those born with passports and easy-to-come-by visas. Discuss...

So I was roaming around West London the other day - I often am - and I spotted this. I'm used to pessimistic - and often dodgy, in all senses - scribbles on Camden walls ("Immigration enriches the prison population" and the like), but this made me stop for a second. A gravestone for Originality.

Since the scriptures recorded the phrase "There's nothing new under the sun", people have been reinventing it, and bemoaning all attempts at newness. In a poem I never quite could get a handle on, Reason(in)gs (Unfinished), I wanted to explore something a teacher of mine did actually say, which is that people are just clones of each other, and since he'd started teaching 20-odd years ago, he'd only met about a dozen original pupils (not the more generous 30 I gave him in the poem). With that in mind, I wonder how many other graffitti artists around the world have drawn something similar recently! And how many people have commented. And whether, if we subscribe to the fatalism of our "cloneliness", we should all just stop talking, writing, singing, exploring...

I was amused a few months back to see a perspex frame around some graffiti on the wall of a house near mine. Since then, I've seen the same in a couple of other places. Banksy did it, so it's valuable. And sellable. Unsuprisingly, a few days later,  I learnt in the Camden New Journal that the owners were trying to sell the art (but not the house!) for £4,000. Phew! And, I guess, for me it solidifies the fact that there truly is nothing new under the sun. Greed will always be with us. I mean, Banksy may be a good artist, but how to sell a drawing on a wall? I'm not sure it was theirs to sell, and it seems a bit ridiculous. Or am I just being judgemental again...? I'm prepared to be challenged on this. A challenge is as good as a rest, or something like that...

On the poetry front again, all is good, and I have a few things in the pipeline awaiting confirmation. I've also just completed a poem today, and I'll have to choose carefully where I perform it (yeah, I know)! Fiction is going to be interesting over the next few weeks - I've jotted down a plan for a series of stories I'm writing; I'm resurrecting a project I thought I'd put to bed over a year ago, and I guess it must be wake up time now. The novel is something I'm prepared to sit on for a while. My motto, for the time being, is if it don't feel right, don't write...

Went to Sage & Time yesterday and it was a good night! Abraham Gibson's poem about Margaret Thatcher's African lover hit the spot, as did Tim Wells on the riots, and Hackney shootings. (And how could I have forgotten Captain of the Rant! I'll never buy pre-sliced veg again, after his rant/poem on the subject...) It's great that poetry can be versatile enough to take the rough with the humorous, often simultaneously. Like the street graffiti I see around me, a lot of poetry seems to be taking on a political awareness that wasn't so common before. Things are getting serious. And I think it's a good thing.

On that note, I intend to stop by the Occupy London site later today or tomorrow. I think it showed some guts for the canon chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral to resign earlier. If you have no idea what I'm on about, it's all to do with the global protests that have been going on. More info on UK and world happenings can be found here and here and elsewhere (seem to be linking a lot today!) I'll write more once I do!

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