Wednesday, 29 September 2004
Today's in car treats, Tim Blake – no idea what the lp is called, an ancient YELLO record, and some AC/DC namely ‘back in black’
Got home and did a bit of finishing up on a project I have been running at Oldham Hospital, involves me running round a bit more yet, but has to be done
Wrote to Rialto accepting publication of my poem and posted off my Profile piece, both will be in the next issue, due quite soon
Also found the Great day photo on the web you can see a version of it here http://books.guardian.co.uk/graphic/0,10266,1306942,00.html
Tuesday, 28 September 2004
Tonight is weightwatchers night, nearly there 1 pound to goal, gotta do it for next week, but things have slowed a lot. It is hard with working so much to take as much care as I need to, but slow and steady is the best way, I’m the lightest I’ve been in nearly 10 years, feel great but all of my clothes are too lose.
Read some poems from the ‘Staying alive’ anthology tonight, not touched by much, I just opened it at random, so I’ve put Pink Floyd’s ‘Atomheart Mother’ on, as I’ve been finding cows such beautiful creatures as I’ve been driving the roads and lanes over the hills the last to weeks
Just got some fab news that Rialto – the magazine, are going to publish my poem ‘Self portrait, June 2004, Jalhandar,’ its the perfect thing to walk into, an acceptance letter. I have quite a bit in the next issue, this poem, a profile piece that I’ve written, and of course they’re publishing my book soon too, no date yet though. I also delivered my story about Father's & sons for ROUTE today as well, but I'm waiting to hear if there needs to be any changes. I’m a publication junky, it is very satisfying to get work published, it makes it all real.
That’s enough for one day
Monday, 27 September 2004
Music; lovely thing on radio 3 this morning, no idea what, a German chamber opera of some kind. Coming home the story on radio 4 and Swedish band Witchcraft on tape.
Saw crows and hawks as I was driving alon gthis moring, I want to write some crow poems, as there as so many out this way, but the shadow of Ted Hughes covers crow poems, so here is a poem by the man himself:
Examination at the Womb door
Who owns these scrawny little feet? Death.
Who owns this bristly scorched looking face? Death.
Who owns these still working lungs? Death.
Who owns this utility coat of muscles? Death.
Who owns these unspeakable guts? Death.
Who owns these questionable brains? Death.
All this messy blood? Death.
These minimum efficiency eyes? Death.
This wicked little tongue? Death.
This occasional wakefulness? Death.
Given, stolen, or held pending trial?
Who owns the whole rainy, stony earth? Death.
Who owns all of space? Death.
Who is stronger than hope? Death.
Who is stronger than the will? Death.
Stronger than love? Death.
Stronger than life? Death.
But who is stronger than death?
Sunday, 26 September 2004
Straight off to Ilkley, and I arrive quite quickly, only an hour and a bit, as I cut through Leeds, have a sandwich, and read to open the new exhibition, ‘Not Set in Stone,’ at the Manor House the poems are well received and I include two other poems which fit the theme which I already have. I used the ancient idea of the swastika, from before it corruption, and looked at ideas realating to its origin and meanings in different belief systems. It is a shame we can’t use it anymore, if we did the far right would hi-jack it again with their vile ways. I’ve got to hang around for the lecture this evening, and there is a meal before hand for the artists involved in the exhibition. I’m about to go off and find a café when I’m rescued by Craig and Claire, who invite me to a wee gathering for Champagne and cake, well I shouldn’t as I’m doing so well with my weight-watchers, but one needs to celebrate days like these, so cake and champers it is, and Craig is also master of getting a cup of tea into your hand when you most need it, what a star.
The meal at La Sila is great, some great conversation. I implore everyone to read Joyce, yes I’m being a Ulysses bore, but all in good fun, and the lecture on Rock Art from around the world is fascinating. Home to bed, to wake up, not move too far, have a Sunday pub lunch, and write a piece for The Rialto..there is nothing else to say about Sunday.
Music – Casals playing Bach Cello Suites
Friday, 24 September 2004
Going home music – black sabbath’s master of reality, yeah baby, I love you sweet leaf....
Thursday, 23 September 2004
Travelling music today was more ‘Six Organs of Admittance.’
Following on from the lyric I showed you yesterday, here’s another one that means a great deal to me, this one is by Tim Buckley whose beauty was stolen from us when he was only 27.
I lit my purest candle close to my
Window, hoping it would catch the eye
Of any vagabond who passed it by,
And I waited in my fleeting house
Before he came I felt him drawing near;
As he neared I felt the ancient fear
That he had come to wound my door and jeer,
And I waited in my fleeting house
"Tell me stories," I called to the Hobo;
"Stories of cold," I smiled at the Hobo;
"Stories of old," I knelt to the Hobo;
And he stood before my fleeting house
"No," said the Hobo, "No more tales of time;
Don't ask me now to wash away the grime;
I can't come in 'cause it's too high a climb,"
And he walked away from my fleeting house
"Then you be damned!" I screamed to the Hobo;
"Leave me alone," I wept to the Hobo;
"Turn into stone," I knelt to the Hobo;
And he walked away from my fleeting house
Tim Buckley & Larry Beckett
Wednesday, 22 September 2004
The school is freezing as the heating doesn’t get turned on for a couple of weeks yet, it s a strange phenomena, I remember my school when i was a kid not turning the heat on when it was needed as it wasn't a certain date yet, then if it was a hot day, they wouldn't turn it off...answers on a postcard please!!!
The kids at Victoria primary are a very chatty bunch, so things run slower today then I would have liked but we create some great poems about sense of place, secret places, and we work hard at being ourselves, something absolutely necessary for young poets, as to merge oneself with the group, might make for a successful English class, but it does not create a poetic voice. The teacher I’m working with tells me a very funny story, her son goes to the school I was in yesterday, and was in the assembly I did, when he got home he told his mum, that he’d been in my session, and that I had an earring and was loud and funny and a bit of a revel, yes I spelt it right, so she asked him whether I was nut or orange centred!
Not been able to do much of my admin with the residency in full swing, all my calls are routed through my agent for the next few weeks, as I am not physically able to keep up with some of the things I need to, its great to have her to lean on when the workload ramps up high like this, leaves me feeling odd though, as I like to do as much of my own admin as I can, I feel out of touch with my business otherwise. Had a few calls over the last few days after the Guardian photo of ‘the Great Day’ was published on Saturday in the review. If you’ve seen the photo, I look alright, but actually I was feeling very poorly when it was taken, if you’ve read the earlier diary entries on this page, you’ll know about my sleepless fortnight, I see to have improved things a bit by making sure I do some yoga in the evenings which seems to open my soul back out after I get in.
I was thinking how song lyrics have often been poetry for me, I remember every word of Genesis’ ‘Lamb Lies Down on Broadway’ as if it were some epic poem, and songs have touched my life so much, when I do my reading with Daisy Goodwin on the 10th October, I will have to include some songs, which are as important to me as poems, I can think of many, probably, in my opinion anyway, the greatest lyric ever written is Abba’s ‘The day before you came,’ I also love the lyrics of Tom Waits, Tim Buckley, Joni Mitchell, and David Tibet of Current 93.
Here’s a lyric for you then Abba’s ‘Day before you came’ which is devastating
Must have left my house at eight, because I always do
My train, I’m certain, left the station just when it was due
I must have read the morning paper going into town
And having gotten through the editorial, no doubt I must have frowned
I must have made my desk around a quarter after nine
With letters to be read, and heaps of papers waiting to be signed
I must have gone to lunch at half past twelve or so
The usual place, the usual bunch
And still on top of this I’m pretty sure it must have rained
The day before you came
I must have lit my seventh cigarette at half past two
And at the time I never even noticed I was blue
I must have kept on dragging through the business of the day
Without really knowing anything, I hid a part of me away
At five I must have left, there’s no exception to the rule
A matter of routine, I’ve done it ever since I finished school
The train back home again
Undoubtedly I must have read the evening paper then
Oh yes, I’m sure my life was well within it’s usual frame
The day before you came
Must have opened my front door at eight o’clock or so
And stopped along the way to buy some Chinese food to go
I’m sure I had my dinner watching something on TV
There’s not, I think, a single episode of Dallas that I didn’t see
I must have gone to bed around a quarter after ten
I need a lot of sleep, and so I like to be in bed by then I must have read a while
The latest one by Marilyn French or something in that style
It’s funny, but I had no sense of living without aim
The day before you came
And turning out the light
I must have yawned and cuddled up for yet another night
And rattling on the roof I must have heard the sound of rain
The day before you came
Tuesday, 21 September 2004
We’re sticking with the symbol theme throughout all the sessions in schools as it marries up with the rock art stuff going on at the Manor House, today I built on many of the ideas from the work I did yesterday and we ended up coming up with some great poems, some very identity based and some about journeys people make.
Received the very sad news that poet Michael Donaghy has died, he was only 50, I didn’t know him, but I have read his work and I have seen him read on one occasion, we have lost a truly great poet, whose work was tender and accurate, my respects to his family and friends at this time.
The return home was in dazzling sun, this time listening to a compilation tape with black dog, gescom, boards of canada, and the wonderful apparat on it, see not all old rock stuff. Did my yoga, but very tired, almost fell out of my triangle poses. Then this evening wrote a press release, and watched the end of the abba thing.
I am going to hold back with the favourite poems a bit as the main festival doesn’t kick in until the 1st October, but I may drop in a few things which are not in the initial selection, not because they’re not good enough, but because I had to choose, this way I get to put even more up, I’ll post something with tomorrows blog as it is late now. Actually scoot to the end of this blog, and here’s a poem by Michael Donaghy, maybe not his best but showing that tenderness I admire.
Ever been tattooed? It takes a whim of iron,
takes sweating in the antiseptic-stinking parlour,
nothing to read but motorcycle magazines
before the blood-sopped cotton, and, of course, the needle,
all for — at best — some Chinese dragon.
But mostly they do hearts,
hearts skewered, blurry, spurting like the Sacred Heart
on the arms of bikers and sailors.
Even in prison they get by with biro ink and broken glass,
carving hearts into their arms and shoulders.
But women's are more intimate. They hide theirs,
under shirts and jeans, in order to bestow them.
Like Tracy, who confessed she'd had hers done
one legless weekend with her ex.
Heart. Arrow. Even the bastard's initials, R.J.L.
somewhere where it hurt, she said,
and when I asked here where, snapped 'Liverpool'.
Wherever it was, she’d had it sliced away
leaving a scar, she said, pink and glassy
but small, and better than having his mark on her,
that self-same mark of Valentinus,
who was flayed for love, but who never
— so the cardinals now say — existed.
Desanctified, apocryphal, like Christopher,
like the scar you never showed me, Trace,
your ( ), your ex, your 'Liverpool'.
Still, when I unwrap the odd anonymous note
I let myself believe that its from you.
From Dances Learned Last Night: Poems 1975-1995 (Picador, 2000)
News, Info and Weblog
Monday, 20 September 2004
Today is my first day on the schools part of the residency. I’m at All Saints School, I’ll be here for the next 4 Mondays. It is harvest festival, and on their table celebrating the fact is a mountain of pasta, tuna, Chinese noodles, and tomato soup, oh and some rice pudding, quite a meal for someone. We spend the morning, doing poems about what not to put down yr trousers, and I also use a shamanic drum, and we create symbols for ourselves and take those symbols on a daydream journey with the drum guiding us. This is because we are doing poems based on ancient rock art, which is at Ilkley museum, so I thought I would bring a sense of movement and ancientness with the drum. I just make this stuff as I go along you know there is no secret plan, except the kids will go home chanting, “don’t wear it on your head, don’t stick it down yr pants,” which I think is funny.
I had an ace school dinner. All saints have taken the bold move of getting rid of their tendered caterers who were providing rubbish, like pizza and chips, and the new menu, cooked by a team of helpers and parents is fresh, lovely and good for you, I wish more schools would go this way and actually give kids the food they need, not that they think they want.
This afternoon, working with year 4 a slippery bunch some of who are not keen on taking direction, but I persevered and got them in the end.
Now its time for a bit of yoga, watch neighbours and eat my tea.
Music on the way home – early Queen
The Farmer's Bride
THREE Summers since I chose a maid,
Too young maybe -- but more's to do
At harvest-time than bide and woo.
When us was wed she turned afraid
Of love and me and all things human;
Like the shut of a winter's day.
Her smile went out, and 'twasn't a woman --
More like a little, frightened fay.
One night, in the Fall, she runned away.
"Out 'mong the sheep, her be," they said,
'Should properly have been abed;
But sure enough she wasn't there
Lying awake with her wide brown stare.
So over seven-acre field and up-along across the down
We chased her, flying like a hare
Before our lanterns. To Church-Town
All in a shiver and a scare
We caught her, fetched her home at last
And turned the key upon her, fast.
She does the work about the house
As well as most, but like a mouse:
Happy enough to chat and play
With birds and rabbits and such as they,
So long as men-folk stay away.
"Not near, not near!" her eyes beseech
When one of us comes within reach.
The women say that beasts in stall
Look round like children at her call.
I've hardly heard her speak at all.
Shy as a leveret, swift as he,
Straight and slight as a young larch tree,
Sweet as the first wild violets, she,
To her wild self. But what to me?
The short days shorten and the oaks are brown,
The blue smoke rises to the low gray sky,
One leaf in the still air falls slowly down,
A magpie's spotted feathers lie
On the black earth spread white with rime,
The berries redden up to Christmas-time.
What's Christmas-time without there be
Some other in the house than we!
She sleeps up in the attic there
Alone, poor maid. 'Tis but a stair
Betwixt us. Oh, my God! -- the down,
The soft young down of her; the brown,
The brown of her -- her eyes, her hair, her hair!
Charlotte Mew 1912
Thursday, 16 September 2004
I was hoping to finish the current draft today, but it will be tomorrow now. I’ve been trying to make shelf space this morning but nobodies buying books in the 2ndhand bookshops today.
I haven’t got through my poorliness of the last few weeks, just can’t seem to get back out on top. Yesterday was good, but today, I feel rough again. I hope things improve as Ilkley starts for me next week with a big run of school stuff.
I am really looking forward to seeing the ‘Great Day’ photo on Saturday in the Guardian, I do feel like I’m beginning to get to where I want to, its a long road, and keeping yr eyes on the ball isn’t always easy.
Treated myself to a couple of cds today, Sabbath's master of reality, and the witchcraft lp, they’re a Swedish rock band, who sound like cream & Sabbath and old Fleetwood Mac combined. Staggering stuff.
When all else fails there is always rock music
Monday, 13 September 2004
I am deeply worn out. I have not slept properly all week, and while the loveliness and scale of the day is not lost on me, everything has an edge. Not sleeping makes life a copy of itself, like an old newspaper, its reading the news instead of living it.
Sunday, 12 September 2004
There are lots of reunions and a few bristling egos on display, I won’t name names.
A few of us were in the book the Fire People together, for me today is a kind of graduation ceremony, a welcome to the grown up world of being a writer. Every day I feel like a beginner, and today more so. Its when the chap in front of me turns around after the photoshoot and introduces himself, that I know this is serious, hello he says, my name is Ben Okri......
Its like a kind of bizarre wedding reception, everyone in their best clothes, and lots of catch up conversations, a few rivalries, and a great deal of book talk, tomorrow I go back to the valley, neither world seems real to me. At the moment its only when I'm writing that things seem right. I have more drive than ever just to write. Days like these are lovely, I wonder what images we are projecting. The writer’s life, this poet’s life, at least, swings from high glamour like this, which I do enjoy, to living on next to no money at times, wondering when the hell I’ll get paid for something, its a hard paradox, and I have to be aware enough to reap whatever rewards are to be had from both situations, but the waiting to get paid scenario has few pleasures.
The photos will appear in next Saturday’s Guardian, then in October there will be an article in the Independent on Sunday.
When the day is over, I don’t feel like going home so my friend Stephen and I go for a meal at Asmara, an East African restaurant in Brixton, the food is beautiful, deep spice, not hot but deeply spiced meats and vegetables and pulses, with African doughy flat breads, the lady owner brings incense to the table and salty popcorn when she serves us coffee, the whole meal is a ritual, and she has such good humour.
Big love to Melanie for pulling all this together, bows of gratitude to Nadia, Patricia, Joko, and the team who always just turned up at the right moment, and Hey to Linda, Sue and Anna (long time no see,) the sparkling Roger. John Agard, Linton, Lemn and Patience.
Bach cello suite no 1, Unkle – the time has come, six organs – compathia
Raymond Carver – please be quiet, please
I stop off at Greasy Joe's that pretends its more than that for a breakfast then make my way past the ‘eye’ which is shut with a hero from Fathers 4 Justice protesting th e horror of being a father in this twsited world we have made. I go on to the Royal Festival Hall where the day starts with a photo shoot, I know it sound glamorous but it is part of the job, in this case, I’m part of a team working with Peepal Tree Press, and we are trying to work on our profile developments as writers. So this means photos and lots of them, we meet up with Novelist and Lecturer Caryll Phillips who appears in some photos with us, then he gives his lecture on the need for writers to travel. There are 3 events over the day, the highlight for me being Jackie Kay's reading in the evening. I’m supposed to go to the after show party, and it would be great but, I’m feeling sick and spinny from lack of sleep already, and when I meet up with people the next day, I find out they were partying to 5 am, I’d have been dead on that regime.
I have the flat to myself tonight, just me and the cat, so I fall asleep on the couch without putting it down.
BOOM BOOM WHAM
2.30 am the bastard next door is pissed and listening to Aerosmith in surround sound at top level, I bang on the wall, shout through the wall, finally rap on his door all cross-eyed and hairy chested, wearin only a towel and tell him to Shut the FU*K up. He stare at me leerily, but I have a look that can kill, that I developed while working as prison poet at Wetherby, that give him no choice..this look can kill baby, my best Paddington hard stare.
Music - god damned Aerosmith
Monday, 6 September 2004
The car is dead, don't know how to get to the jobs I've got to get to, can't afford a new car on a poets wages, and this one is just costing a fortune in repairs.
music for the morning, to go with strong black coffee: Bach cello suite number 4.
Thursday, 2 September 2004
Its amazing that one can become so scattered in one's daily doings, all it takes is one thing and BAM. The car's broken down, the AA want to charge a fortune as I don't have home start and I've had to get a train and a taxi to get to the school I'm doing a workshop in today, then the car, which has been towed to an okay local garage will cost as much as I've earned today, its like a day working for nothing.
Been getting lots of nice emails as I have recently sent out my early autumn newsletter of live happenings and publication news. Its good to know that people out there are interested in my work.
Will be jollier tomorrow, these days can make you fat.
Music for today: Emperor - Prometheus