Saturday, 22 July 2017

Tennis

Within the chalky lines, are limits set,
And when the game speeds up across the net -
When common rallies often culminate
In brilliance that will originate
From hitting lines with an outrageous shot -
It’s good remembering that such flair could not
Have taken place unless the lines were there.
In poetry rules allow the same; we share
The possibility of stunning shows
Because the beats, the rhymes, and lines impose.
Itself, life’s limited by time and space,
And rules just give these increased emphasis.
It’s game and music, artifice and dance,
Affording human personhood its chance.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Curated Reality

"TO CURATE" - select, organize, and present (online content, merchandise, information, etc.), typically using professional or expert knowledge.
This word has come to acquire spooky modern connotations suggesting perfect scientific control of reality as if it consists solely of specimens to be laid out and presented by uncannily prescient experts in whom we should trust. It has an air of the clinical control we expect to reign in a laboratory and almost sends a Frankensteinian shiver down the spine. Experience is now being curated. People now curate rock bands for an evening, food stands in a market, evenings of Burlesque entertainment, or the content of a pop-up clothing shop. It suggest reality can be repackaged and presented as perfect product for consumption. It suggests a preciousness in our approach to the reality that confronts us in Western societies.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

A Remedy for ‘Virtue’

The Gospel of the Virtuous

“A jealous God! I am a jealous God!
Because of that I’ll smite you with my rod!
I’ll take the seas again and mix the rains,
Drown all mankind, expunging all his stains.
The only ground I’ll leave for you and yours
Will be a hilltop just above the roars
Of stirring floods. This ground will go here by
The name of “Moral,” with the name of “High.”
The few who clamber to its sweet green shore
And gasp for rescue, with voices that deplore
The woes that suffered those who almost died,
Will know what it is to be justified.
For they alone now enter the elect -
A band Jehovah’s thunder will protect.
Just when they thought that they could sink no lower
They find themselves decreed the latest Noah.”

Jasher – She who is upright and righteous

Reciting Jasher closed the Gospel book
The one that, each day, she in duty took
As guiding text before the daily war
For which she braced. In her mind’s eye she saw
Some righteous falling from the grassy mound
And desperate, damp souls clawing at the ground.
She knew the saved were numbered – each one strayed,
Or each shut out, could guarantee she stayed.
She knew a zero sum of rectitude
Meant every loss her gain. And fortitude,
With nails and elbows, bitterness required,
To win the competition that had tired
Those swallowed by the breakers.

And the route
To her success lay with the destitute
In real worlds. Those she found in towns, on streets,
Homed in on; those adjudged that life defeats;
The sick, the black, the female, the oppressed,
All served her calculation, doubtless, best.
To win the hilltop’s strife she must compete,
Sustain her virtue’s show - avoid defeat.
The ‘poor’ provided prospects by allowing
Means to battle and be seen; by endowing
Her with credentials of heroic sheen,
A sword fine burnished with a breastplate clean.
And, so, can be explained her burning need,
Vampiric appetites that wished to feed
On suffering - opportunities it gave;
And pain - the thing designed to make her rave.
This selfish urge could even see her boast
Of selflessness. So deep was she engrossed
In routing island-dwellers - seeking rest
On pristine land kept dry just for the blessed.


The Mistake

The one thing she had judged exactly right
Is how much moral matters will excite
The human breed. For morals do define
Our separation from untroubled swine
And beasts in general, those who worry less
And seldom seem, at pasture, to depress
Themselves for spotless reputations’ sake.

And yet she erred and made a sad mistake,
Espousing testaments so dry and old,
The ones that painted worlds as cruel and cold.
One wonders where she found her Gospel book,
Or why, misguided, so much notice took.
She had not heard of Codex 14b
Which cast such doubt on the veracity
Of her rare Gospel of the Virtuous,
And made its saving claims seem fatuous.
Was ignorant of Bedouins finding text
In caves creating it mere subindex
Of better, kinder teachings. Was her fuss
Redundant effort, time misused? And thus,
Instead of haste to make her goodness show
Should she, aflame, have paused and questioned so:

Unnecessary, was the frantic scrabble,
Avoiding being among the drowning rabble?
Investments in advertisement in vain?
For nothing was it that she feared the rain?
Believing wrongly hostile are the stars,
That failure matters - and from love debars?
And her forgiveness doubted faithlessly,
Preferring condemnation’s sting to see?
Did she think every woman for herself,
So scared of wasting on a moral shelf?
Did she deem it was down alone to her
And to her shoulders burden would transfer?
She tried to manufacture her salvation,
Not sensing it outside her own donation?
Did she believe that she could gull the world,
That every sinner from the island hurled
By her would make, for her, a better case,
Discrediting all in the human race?
In her desire to steal the moral crown
Unpleasantness, in fact, is all she’s shown?

Envoi


Unhappy modern Pharisee! You need
Not so have doubted love. It would have freed
You from such driven, needless strife,
And better suited you to peaceful life.
















Tuesday, 11 July 2017

From an Evoque - Battersea Phonecall

“That thing on Channel Four last night, I found
It so emotional! Amanda‘s bound
To have some photos of the trafficked women
From Goa.” “I saw her with her girls - all swimming
At Polzeath beach. We took the Cayenne up
There with the boards and wetsuits. Such fun!” “Yup,
I saw your post on Facebook, Lottie looks
Sooo scrummy!” “They’re collecting up their books
Before I take them back to school. Thought I’d
Give them an airing first.” “Too citified,
S’not good for them. Is Hot Yoga tonight?
It always, makes me, y’know, spiritually right.”
“I know! I’m not so sure. So awful that
Fire! “ Yes, I sent Ludmilla with the hat
Mummy gave me and some old clothes of Will’s,
Plus those ‘Prints Charming’ skirts. You know it chills
You thinking of those people.” “I know! Voted
Yet? Hes and George said they always doted
On him.” “Of course; so good to feel I was,
Well, doing something.” “Sure, because
Things can’t go on like this. You got that thing
I sent you? I think your Sam said he’d bring
It over - piece on tonka beans from last
Week’s Style Section. “ “I read it! Was aghast!”

Monday, 10 July 2017

Sense Unbound

It’s certainly not hip to call a muse
Just now, but sing I must of how to use
The hours remaining. And I little care,
Given my days are numbered, if I share
In modern modes of verse, in “show not tell”
Etcetera, whose aim is to compel
A fussy virtue’s rule. But poetry’s grand
And stately river flows much broader than
This jetsam – swept away by ancient dance,
The regal prance, cavorting, as girls glance
At leaping boys and drums beat, while pipes skirl
Down history’s highway. Who would not, then, hurl
Themselves in such a brilliant stream and bowl
Along in life’s and verse’s rapids, whole
Immersed in strenuous riot? Studied modes
Deny the irrepressible power – codes
Whose aim’s genteel limit of verse’s beat;
Denial of rhythms that pulse in blood and feet.
(Biology is what we are – our joy
Expressed through skin and sense. Thought must employ
The nose and tongue to truly know and love
Our bodied lovers.) Brooking no rebuff
To urgency of life the heartbeat sweeps
Away all diffidence and poetry keeps
Faith solely in fleshly bounds. Cerebral
Civility and reticence are feeble
Compensations once life’s subtracted from
The holy thud of rhythm. Yet still some
Attempt corralling art from commoners
Behind the shuttered backs of cliques where verse
Is inaccessible ‘modern’ to be
Deciphered by cabals. They do not see
That poetry will well up, refound and tapped
In any human time. A source that’s capped
By jealous guards and arbiters of taste,
Protectors of the cautious mores placed
Between the public and the poet. The ones
Who have not noticed that if anyone’s
Heart is accessed then the wellspring lives
Again. For poetry’s democratic – gives
The lie to those appropriating its
Reward. And blaming exercise of wit’s
Just remit, styling it “de haut en bas
Olympian” and not dissimilar
From talking down to lesser beings is just
To say announcement of noticing must
Not be allowed. Perceiving of delight
Is dumbly there uncommented in the right
And proper circles where articulation
Is deemed a sin - a bad miscalculation.
For mental exposition will, they feel,
Assume unwelcome rights on readers, steal
From them their precious status of ‘respect.’
Few care this disallows the intellect
And intellectual pleasure to regale
The mind; insisting rather on the stale
Exclusion of acuity and the sparkle
Of mental chandeliers; a sad debacle
Which leaves us dull and dimly unamused.
Relationships are feared which make bemused
And threaten our coequal brothers who
Must not be challenged by their feeling too
“Unsafe” from all disturbance of their ways;
A thing not copacetic in our days!
Investment’s made in education here
Which leads the dull to brighter fields, sincere
In its intention to improve their lot.
And yet there’s condescension felt in what
Connection such as this implies – presuming
That teachers “teach” and “tell” - offenses looming
Large; crimes against equality, those which
Can seem elitist in their core, that pitch
Themselves from antique hierarchies of knowledge -
And make it dangerous, now, to go to college.
Though schools go on to all appearances,
Inside they shun the old adherences
To learning models which pretend suggesting
That “learners” learn and spend their time digesting
New things they needed. So the very devil
Is seen in playing fields which are not level
And quaking teachers garner poor renown,
Apologise for school tasks not dumbed down
Enough. Democracy has come so far
That hapless pedagogues, de facto, are
Class enemies if they insist on sense
Or show belief or faith its excellence
Will bear up tottering civilisation:
And thus they qualify for denigration.
A lion may discipline a cub that errs
While humans shrink for fear of hauteur’s slurs.
Thus schools, so poets, will flinch from making sense
And then conveying it. There’s no defense
For rashly thinking sense of interest
And discourse on the truth one of the best
Of entertainments. This, perhaps, as truth
Is seen as mythical, and those uncouth
Who dare believe that it’s not gone extinct.
This age deems it’s outgrown the one distinct
Delight (to set elucidation in
Between apt rhymes), humility to bin
These complex pleasures for the intellectual
Demotic - feels verse-thinking ineffectual
Or, worse, plain arrogance - the worst of vice;
Which means that poets like me are far from nice.
The thrust of wit is felt unfit for our
Offended, cautious age – which limits power
In timid boundaries. And I bite the apple
Of transgression when I attempt to grapple
With setting, in this blackest snake of lines,
A whole live human person who combines
(In peering through them, where he’s just descried -
So pleased I'm not inclined to homicide!)
The soul, the heart, the body, senses five;
Best - an articulating mind alive,
One not excluded for coherent judging
Or honestly refusing to be fudging
What it perceives. For clarity’s rejected,
The very thing defining us suspected;
Preferring, so, to cast off our distinction,
And frenziedly, embrace our mind's extinction;
Our consolation that we haven’t scared
The horses and that orthodoxy’s spared
And left untroubled. So, if shunning reason
Is recommended and considered pleasing,
A prudent strategy that you applaud,
I’d judge this poem’s substance best ignored.

Religion

One cannot complain about humans embracing religion oft cited in modern times as the root of all evil. Being the only creatures on earth capable of understanding the idea or word "meaning", let alone the idea of an idea itself or words themselves, is it any wonder that we seek meaning? It would be hard to imagine us not doing so. Meaning defines us.

Monday, 3 July 2017

My Freedom

"My freedom is not an uncaused eruption into the world of human events; it is a product of my social condition, and it brings with it the full burden of responsibility to the other and the recognition that the other's voice has just as much authority as mine."
Roger Scruton - 'On Human Nature'