Heading North Turns Two; Put Up The Cards And Bunting

Happy Birthday HN!

Coronets For Ghosts

My debut poetry collection, Heading North, was published by Nordland Publishing two years ago today. I’m still rather proud of it.

image

If anybody wants to buy a copy, with Christmas around the corner, there is a link below. Or, if any of you should find yourself near the Middleton public library in Manchester, UK, or the Norway National Library, you could have a read for free.

I’m all for the opportunists among you 😉

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Heading-North-2-Songs/dp/8283310097/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1512565332&sr=8-1&keywords=Heading+North

View original post

Advertisements

Taking The Leeds

This is becoming a long term relationship. Once a week I commute between Leeds and Manchester; forwards and backwards; linear and cyclical.

As I approached the train, waiting on the platform in Manchester Victoria, the lines from Robert Johnson’s Love In Vain came to mind:

When the train, it left the station, with two lights on behind/When the train, it left the station, with two lights on behind/Well, the blue light was my blues, and the red light was my mind/All my love’s in vain

Maybe distance gives you a penchant for the blues. The separation from all that is familiar.


All I need to pass the time on these journeys are two windows: one to the outside world racing to keep up beyond the glass, and one to an inside world constructed within a book cover.

 I had picked up a copy of The King In Yellow earlier for a couple of quid.

The first four stories in this collection are linked by mention of The King in Yellow, a forbidden play which induces despair or madness in those who read it. 

 It was not what I was expecting, though. This is a book of two halves-the first being stories of a weird and macabre type that gradually fade away during the remaining stories which are of a romantic fiction style. 

My preferences are those from the first half. I guess you have an idea by now that I’m that kind of guy. The Repairer Of Reputations, The Mask, In The Court Of The Dragon, The Yellow Sign, and my favourite The Demoiselle d’Ys. These were up there with M.R James and my favourite Le Fanu.

There was a woman in the seat opposite me. I caught her glancing at the cover of my book, much in the manner that I often do. Whenever I see someone reading I am filled with a curiosity about the book that is holding their attention. 

Due to the theme connecting these tales, I thought it could be appropriate to warn her:

“Beware the King In Yellow!”

“Beware the infernal influence of books!”

But of course I didn’t. I imagine she may have sounded the alarm for an emergency stop, and Lancashire to Yorkshire is an awful long way to walk.

Later, my business in Leeds done, I caught a return train home to Manchester. Last week I returned under beautiful blue skies as captured below, but this time it was gloomy and raining, my journey moving through a deepening Autumn.

And yes, I loved it.

Back in my home city I caught a coffee and finished my book, shaking off a travel induced lethargy, before emerging into a darkened metropolis. All around familiar landmarks, monoliths against the sky, were lit up in a futile attempt to hold back the night: blues; yellows; reds.

The blue lights were my blues. The red lights were my mind. Is my love for Manchester in vain?

City Escapes, In Starbucks

I’ve been in Leeds for a few days, but I’m hoping return to Manchester tomorrow. Hope my usual seat is free.

City Jackdaw

Today was a good day.

I spent much of it in Starbucks, in Manchester, drinking spiced pumpkin latte and reading accounts of adventures in such far off places as Tangier; Haiti; Ischia; New Orleans.

Sitting directly opposite me, oblivious to my mental escapes, was a young woman, wearing a blouse of long, black-laced sleeves, locked in an insular world with her bespectacled beau. She looked comfortable enough in their interactions, but had enough self-conscious affectations to suggest that their love story was still in its infancy.

Whoever they were, they weren’t local, and their story had brought them here.

Perhaps they were from Tangier, Haiti, Ischia or New Orleans. You know how sometimes coincidence plays itself out.

Sometimes I find myself people watching, wondering, creating, until I realise I am in danger of becoming the Shopping Centre Creep and shake myself back out of my reverie.

I plunged myself back…

View original post 43 more words

Come On, Aileen

The first storm of the season, named Aileen, is due to hit tonight. For perspective, Aileen is no Irma, but still. I’ve taken down the hanging baskets and an outside lantern which is as much as I can do with no hatches to batten down.

The afternoon I spent working on a second poetry collection I’m trying to put together, while listening to a group from my favourite music period.

I have a friend who loves the eighties, and would instantly recognise the nod given by the title of this post. My own go-to listening preference stretches from the mid-sixties to early seventies. The Beatles; The Doors; The Kinks; The Rolling Stones; Tim Buckley; Cream; Cohen;  Dylan, I love all of these and more.

Being born in 1971 means that in my youth I’ve never been in vogue, musically. And don’t even mention my dress sense!

Listening to music helps when I’m writing. The group I was listening to today was Jefferson Airplane. Why do I like these?

Go and ask Alice. When she’s ten feet tall.

Remembering Sophie Lancaster

I’ve just spent a short time sat in the garden, reading this book:


I read it, quite coincidentally, a week after the ten year anniversary of Sophie Lancaster’s death.

 Armitage created this drama-documentary for BBC4, trying to give voice to the girl with the help of meetings with Sophie’s mother and access to her diaries. It was performed live at the Royal Exchange.

 Living not too far from Lancaster’s hometown of Bacup, where she was killed, I remember the murder well. Reading this just re-emphasises how senseless and sad her death was. She and her boyfriend were attacked by a group of local teenagers when they took a shortcut through a park. Initially friendly, with Sophie passing cigarettes around, they suddenly turned on her boyfriend Robert Maltby. As she tried to protect him, lying unconscious, by cradling his head in her lap, they then turned on her.

Armitage: Oh God he comes back and turns on me/a plague of fists or a swarm of feet/the boot going in again and again/How he hates my demeanour/hates my braids/how he hates my manner/hates my ways/doesn’t know me from Adam/not even my name/but detests every atom /of what I am.

In the media it was speculated that they were attacked because they looked ‘different’, because they were goths. Though Maltby recently said this was an “oversimplification.” 

Both victims were in a coma, but Sophie never emerged from hers. Her killer’s boot print on her swollen face, her life support was switched off thirteen days after the attack.

Her mother Sylvia Lancaster set up The Sophie Lancaster Foundation. (See link below.) Her campaigning has helped violence against what are termed ‘subcultures’ to be classed as hate crimes. 

For her work she was given an OBE in 2014.
Rest in Peace Sophie Lancaster. I also hope that Robert Maltby has managed to find some measure of peace. 

http://www.sophielancasterfoundation.com

To Read And To Write; The Creative Life

I spent the morning finishing The Innocents by Ian McEwan.

I felt a great sadness when reading a letter contained within it, suggestive of other lives and other alternatives.

Literature, art, has the power to do this.

I find myself more and more subsumed into the creative life.

I’m currently on the second draft of a novel. I’m not a very disciplined writer. I don’t put aside set times to write. I just decide to go over a chapter when I have a window in time. Although this may seem a quite casual approach, from crude, rudimentary beginnings the book is beginning to take shape.

And yet, amidst this deliberate foray into fiction, poetry is beginning to call to me again. I have long had an eye on a second collection. Not one to multitask, I intended to turn to this after the completion of my novel. But words are beginning to nudge their way in, filter through. Single words, combinations of words, predatory lines demanding attention.

Inspiration doesn’t pay respect to timeframes and schedules.

I have a few new poems written: Judas Kiss, Boathouse, My Father As Child, In Brigantia and others. I’ve not posted much poetry recently on City Jackdaw as I’m holding them back for a possible next collection.

At the moment I’m still deliberating the order of my creative endeavours. My procrastination was given a nudge recently  when I received a letter in the post from a great writer and poet that I gave a name check to in the foreword of my debut collection Heading North. Now in his 81st year and still as creative as ever, he wished me luck on my own foray on this open and crafted path.

This path of conjured words, and alternative worlds, that exist long after the demise of their creator.

The Soldier And The Painter

A few months ago I read The Noise Of Time by Julian Barnes, written from the perspective of the composer Shostakovich in Stalinist Russia. I remember thinking at the time how difficult it must have been for creatives living under such regimes. Often it is the writers and the poets who are the first among the disappeared.

Anyway.

I woke in the early hours of this morning with the remnants of a dream clinging to the shirt tails of my emerging sense of self. The dream was of an artist-a painter, who was living in a country that was under some kind of communist or military rule. He had been called to be conscripted into the army, but his passion was for his art. He was stood before a desk being questioned by a seated officer, a strict disciplinarian, who was giving him the party line about what his duty to his country was, and what an honour it is to serve the ‘leader’ and to give your life for the cause. 

The young man replied that he had no intention to die for the cause, but rather to live for his art.

This provoked a concerted effort from the officer to bring the young man around to the official way of thinking.

The artist replied “I’m not going to be a soldier anymore than you are going to be my psychologist.”

That was it. I woke up with that last line rattling around my brain, a film with no closure, a story with no end.

It has been some months since I read The Nosie Of Time, and haven’t really thought of it since, so I’m not too sure if that was where the seeds of my dream were sown. And to be honest the storyline was not really the same as that in my dream.

But I feel a little cheated. I was filled with admiration for my conjured character, whoever he was. Maybe he served as an archetype for all of those creative types that I spoke about at the start of this post. I feel like I really need to know what happened to that young artist, and what price he paid for his courageous stance.

I probably will never know. Perhaps I should write it myself.