The serial coincidences that are currently haunting me continue to appear.
Yesterday afternoon, Mel Calman's name came up in a conversation (the friend I was talking with used to know him). He happens to be one of my all-time favourite cartoonists. Tonight, eyes tight shut as per the rules, what book do you think my un-directed hand pulled out? I have crowded bookshelves in three different rooms and do not know what book is on each shelf.
If you've read my in-progress on-line autobio, you'll understand why I am startled by today's encounter with this particular book and the particular sentence on the page I opened. The News from Paraguay by Lily Tuck, p.206: "Too late she realized she wanted to keep the baby."
TOO LATE SHE REALIZED SHE WANTED TO KEEP THE BABY
Now this is really weird,
how could you know these things are seared
in my heart and in my hand
a lost baby, a lost land?
Could this be the fourth dimension
where such deeply buried tensions
are revealed by random choices,
unifying disparate voices?
Mind blank, eyes shut, open a book at any page
and sitting there in a word cage
some kind of message waits for me
its coded meaning to set free.
Knocked out by a flu virus over the past couple of weeks, I must have become susceptible to anything else floating about in the atmosphere. It started with this sentence that popped into my head just as I was about to fall asleep on 28th January: The man who typed Lear.
I don't know what's going on, maybe the flu has tickled my unconscious, but that damned Lear sentence is nagging me again. Here's a second version:
1. Close eyes tightly (no cheating) and approach bookshelves.
2. Run hands quickly over book spines and pull out one book.
3. Eyes still shut, put book down and open at random, placing finger anywhere on page.
4. Open eyes and take one sentence from the place marked by finger.
5. That is the opening sentence of your poem, which must rhyme, and must be completed the same day, preferably the same hour.
6. When finished, give the title of the book you got the sentence from.
FOR THAT WRONG COMMITTED MUST YOU KNOCK
the shit out of that bad old block?
Listen here mister prophet
from your wisdom I cannot profit.
I'm the chip off that old block of wrongs
and out of it I make these songs.
29 Jan. 2016
I swear I didn't open my eyes when pulling the book from its shelf or choosing page 78 with this sentence: "introducing an element of accident and chance". The book is: Francis Bacon: Taking Reality by Surprise by Christophe Domino.
INTRODUCING AN ELEMENT OF ACCIDENT AND CHANCE
Mortimer jumped on the table and began to dance.
The board of directors was not impressed
unanimously they shouted "Next!"
When Mortimer fell off the boardroom table
he laughed and said "Now I'll be able
to claim for accident insu-rance.
This is an example of accident and chance.
29 Jan. 2016
This time, the first sentence didn't arrive suddenly when semi-conscious, however I was still in bed when I made it up this morning.
THE WOMAN WHO HOWLED AT THE DOG
The woman who howled at the dog
appeared on everyone's blog.
Poor dog, blogged Gail,
put the woman in jail.
I know the dog, he's a pest.
Ha ha, replied Stu,
she stepped in his poo!
On Facebook and Twitter it trended
for only a day and then ended.
The world is going to hell
I howled to my little dog Nell
Come on Nell let's get there first
before the bubble bursts.
29 Jan. 2016
There's nothing new about such a process. Innumerable visual and literary methods have long been used to release the mind from the effort of rationality, allowing spontaneous invention to flow. Games like Exquisite Corpse or Consequences, or finding images in clouds, stains, inkblots and so on. Of course this doesn't mean that such methods magically produce masterworks, or even minor works, in any medium at all. But there's no doubt that something captivating and stimulating to the imagination happens when you give yourself permission to follow apparently nonsensical rules of a game.
In today's blind bookshelf-stroking, I pulled out Numbers: The Universal Language and p. 47 gave me these starting words: "Marking the empty place"
MARKING THE EMPTY PLACE
Oh now you're asking me to face
an ancestor I cannot trace
a secret tale I do not know
buried so deep so long ago....
Oh dear oh dear oh dear oh dear oh!
Don't make me go back to zero.
The empty place shelters a ghost
whose face ressembles me the most.
If she or he could speak they'd say
Please go oh please do go away
there's nothing here for you to see
only zero and infinity.
30 Jan. 2016
Making words rhyme is not only fun but also a sort of cave you fall into where innumerable connections lie in wait and all you have to do is link them up by rhyming. It's as if we have an in-built receptor for rhythm and automatically respond to beats and measures, whether in music, dance, drumming, chants, games. Here's one which popped into my head a little while ago, but not by the random bookshelf method.
The silver spoon was out of tune.
Get me the tin one, the artist said,
the one I keep under the bed
to remind me I am working class
and wasn't always such an ass.
With silver spoons I made my name
and now I'm in the hall of fame.
At stately homes and clubs I'm feted
at Glastonbury I'm awaited
I know damn well I'm over-rated
but hey, they pay.
what can I say?
Get me the tin spoon, there's a good girl,
after the show I'll give you a whirl.
31 Jan. 2016
The book was Harvard Concise Dictionary of Music, p.454. The line I landed on: "the acceptance of the thoroughbass"
THE ACCEPTANCE OF THE THOROUGHBASS
Alas poor Bass
before becoming thorough
she was a dilettante.
Nobody knew her sorrow,
the reason she was so gaunt.
She suffered from insomnia,
that's right, she couldn't sleep,
until she met the guru Omnia
who said: stop counting sheep,
count Oms instead, one at a time,
I promise you'll be fine.
That's how Bass became thorough,
now accepted in every borough.
The moral of this story,
plain to see,
1 Feb. 2016
Today's random sentence, "sewing creates swell" is from page 32 of Introducing Bookbinding by Ivor Robinson. Coincidentally, Ivor was a friend and a brilliant designer-bookbinder.
SEWING CREATES SWELL
So that's how it was done!
God with thread and needle
making kingdom come.
The mountains with their folds
the fish the fowl the lemming
the carbon and the gold
all stitch and baste and hemming.
It may be hard to see
but gee, isn't it fine
that they and you and me
are just a stitch in time?
2 Feb. 2016
Dictionary of Shakespeare Quotations (Everyman's Reference Library) p.119, from As you Like it:
O WOMEN, FOR THE LOVE YOU BEAR TO MEN
for that sudden urgent lawless yen
for Harry or Barry or Bob or Ben,
you will be charged with wanton lust
and with betraying someone's trust.
But for Barry, Bob or Bill or Harry
the rules are different, and if they marry,
the power of that sudden flame
they will deny. It's just a game,
a game men play,
a brief delusion, they will say.
O women, plead guilty if you're caught
or hide your glee if you are not.
But in your heart (so shy, so pure)
O tell me, tell me, are you sure
that flame which burned so fierce, so real,
was not put there for you to steal?
3 Feb. 2016
At 6:14 AM today I was drifting into sleep when, again, a sentence just popped up. This time it was in French: "On peut forcer un souvenir" I had to get up and write it down. Later the rest arrived. Here it is, plus my rough free translation below.
ON PEUT FORCER UN SOUVENIR
mais pas besoin de l'expliquer
passé, présent ou avenir
ne devraient pas se prolonger.
Proust a cherché le temps perdu,
tant mieux pour lui, il l'a trouvé.
Heureusement qu' il n'a pas su
que sa recherche me fait bailler.
J'éspère vivement, O mes amis,
que mes vers ne vous causent pas offense.
Pour mon ennui, O je vous prie,
accordez-moi vôtre indulgence.
YOU CAN FORCE A SOUVENIR
but there's no need for explanations.
Past or future or now and here
don't have to be investigations.
Proust did find his temps perdu,
all praise to him, it was well drawn.
But thankfully he never knew
his research only makes me yawn.
I hope sincerely, O my friends,
that my verse doesn't cause offense
and for my undoubted ignorance
I pray grant me your indulgence.
4 Feb 2016
Blindly chosen book and line today: Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche, p.214: "... I talk to myself, as one who has plenty of time"
I TALK TO MYSELF, AS ONE WHO HAS PLENTY OF TIME
though time is precisely what I have not.
I say to myself as I write this rhyme:
As poet I know I'm not so hot,
so why am I wasting my dwindling hours
on what is a pastime, nothing more.
Shouldn't I be using my artist powers
on something closer to the core
of what I'm on this planet for?
Are you saying what I think you're saying,
comes a reply from the other me,
that time is wasted when you're playing?
Okay, I say, I do agree
that art and play are interconnected,
but how will I ever be respected
if all I can add to my CV
is a rhyme for you and a rhyme for me?
Suddenly, would you believe,
something pops out of my sleeve.
It's Zarathustra and he's peeved,
shoves me and my other self away.
I'm the one you called today
when at my words you aimed your finger,
you're in luck 'cause I can linger.
Forget about esteem,
read what I said, page two-sixteen:
"....spread out laughter like a coloured canopy"
Avoid the bland, the syrupy,
the fake, the flip, the pre-digested.
And with this my case is rested.
5 Feb. 2016
The book randomly chosen tonight: Georgia O'Keeffe by Lisa Mintz Messinger. The random line, p.132: "...blurring the distinctions between what was near and what was far."
BLURRING THE DISTINCTIONS BETWEEN WHAT WAS NEAR AND WHAT WAS FAR
The future oh so distant
when I was just a child
is now the present instant
which I'm about to file.
Maybe these distinctions
between the far and near
are only false convictions
we cling to out of fear
of being lost in space
with no sense of direction
which is, in fact, the case,
worthy of inspection.
Why not a history class
where some ancient bloody mess
is not taught as the past
but today's news, hot off the press?
Is everything déja vu?
Yes, I think so. Do yu?
6 Feb. 2016
Interestingly, I'm finding that relying on chance as a trigger for inspiration not only provides provocative themes, but also seems to find synchronicities between them. This evening I ran my blind hands across a high-up shelf and pulled out The Mind and Heart of Love by M.C. D'Arcy, opened it at p.248 and hit on this sentence: "the perspective of interests" leads the unwary astray.
THE "PERSPECTIVE OF INTERESTS" LEADS THE UNWARY ASTRAY
Is a hidden agenda what you're trying to say?
If so I agree with the above,
there's more to the mind and heart of love
than meets the eye, the ear and more private parts.
When you say you love me more than all the rest
I'll never know if in your heart
you mean I'm the one who passed your test,
a test I never knew I took.
Unwary I am, unwary I'll remain,
my own agenda's an open book.
If our perspective of interests is not the same
well, that's a shame,
but the road we're on is called "Astray"
maybe we'll meet love on the way.
is a video
I made a while ago based on my 1992 construction
of the same name.
is the excellent online literary journal edited by James Brush.
That those two have connected is my reason for joy today and I raise a glass of orange juice (alcohol being bad for flu) in celebration.
If it's permissible to love some of one's own work (and if it's not permissible I don't care) then I truly love The Lesson
and if there was a fire I would probably grab it before jumping out of the window and trust naively that we would both not end up smashed to smithereens.
The subsequent video was fun to make and I'd like to experiment with other versions at some point. But the point is that The Lesson
summarises what is essentially my outlook on life: not forgetting to be amazed
This is not a happy-clappy wishy-washy cliché but solidly based on my own experience. I must define what I mean by amazement, in case I'm misinterpreted as somebody who lavishes the word indiscriminately on anything and everything, in the same way that the words "incredible"' and "awesome" are flung about, unstoppable showers of stale confetti littering the environment.
What I mean is the realisation, sometimes sudden, of the magnificent and scary un-graspable reality of life, the universe and everything. Yes that is
a cliché, but how else to say that often, standing on the corner waiting for a bus, for example, I look at the pavement beneath my feet and realise - actually real...alise
that I'm standing on a sphere spinning around in unimaginably deep dark space and, if that is not enough to be amazed about, this miniscule dot which is "me" is also, in reality
, a cluster of unimaginably small whirling atoms which, unimaginably, are also conscious of being "me": this small cluster of DNA, memories, history, ancestors etc. and yes, I am aware of the theories, spiritual or materialist, about the existence or illusion of self, Self, spirit, ego, etc but please, please, right now, let me just focus on the amazement which fills me from head to toe in such moments, and in so many others, when ordinary life is perceived as absolutely extraordinary and all the explanations, whether from a scientific, spiritual, philosophical or aesthetic perspective are just not enough. They're just hay-coloured needles in a multicoloured haystack.
Rolling around in that haystack is what I mean by not forgetting to be amazed.
It's been a very slow start to the New Year and now I'm at the tail end of a nasty bout of flu that has knocked the stuffing out of me, left-over stuffing from the too-long holiday period. But what's more boring than griping about flu etc?
There hasn't been anything I wanted to blog about, hence the absence of blog posts. Now I want to get back in here before I'm totally forgotten by the cyber world. Imagine not existing AT ALL on the internet! The horror! A fate worse than real death............I'm joking!
Just to fill this blank space I've pulled out from the virtual filing cabinet something to entertain anyone who is still here. The image is new (drawn digitally with ArtRage software) but the poem is 2007.