Friday, 12 June 2009

What can change the world in these times?

Finishing up now in LA to return to UK next week - Just spent some time with a poetry group made up of people trying to move their lives beyond gang culture, people who perhaps just a few weeks ago wouldn't/couldn't be anywhere near each other - I just sat in as an observer, and a group member had been murdered at the weekend, so best just to sit and be invisible, but we were brought together that day by a poem by Mary Oliver which we studied, then we all wrote and shared lamentation poems, and I was invited to share too... A humbling experience... and when anyone ever asks me what the use of poetry is? tells me that the economy is everything, i can touch base with the fact that poetry goes beyond war, guns, hate, money, upbringing, fear, distrust, and so many other things to bring us home again..

Was interviewed for La Opinion – The main Spanish language newspaper in the US about the translation project I’ve set up looking at the poetry of Coral Bracho, Araceli Mancilla, Rocio Gonzalez and Natalia Toledo – four poets who you really should check out. The piece on them should appear in Poetry Review at the end of the year.

Here’s a piece on my last Open workshop at Cal State, LA which took place last week


BBC2 this week showed'My Life in Verse' featuring singer Cerys Matthews touring around the UK to find out more about Celtic Poetry, when she got up to Yorkshire we met up to talk about Ted Hughes, Celtic & Shamanic influences in poetry and the Ancient Kingdom of Elmet. It was mid winter and snowing hard and cold, so I'm in my silly Russian hat.  The show is on BBC iPlayer for the next 7 days so I hope you can take a look - and big love to Cerys who is just such a lovely person. Hope I don't look too daft in my hat - have a good laugh anyway. I’ll see it when I get home to UK this week and probably die of embarresment


I’m not a big sports viewer but last night was out Downtown to watch the Lakers Vs Magics basketball game an the screens, and I loved it. such an exciting final quarter, and i was blown away by the skill of Derek Fisher who popped up like genie twice to basically allow the Lakers to win – there was one or two people partying on the streets of LA last night – so onwards to Sunday when the Lakers could win the finals.. I hope they do, as I’ll miss it if it runs to Tuesday, as I’ll be in England.


Los Angeles 041
I Thought I'd note the music I heard yesterday as I was walking down Ocean Front Walk; thought I'd make a Venice inspired playlist for my iPod - this is what i heard...walk with me if you will by the sand, the freaky sights and the palm trees..

Beyonce - Halo
Pink Floyd - Shine on You Crazy Diamond
Led Zeppelin - Thank You
Beatles - Lucy in The Sky With Diamond
Pink Floyd - Us and Them
Lady Gaga - Poker Face
Stevie Nicks - White Winged Dove
The Doors - Love Street
Led Zeppelin - Ramble On
Fleetwood Mac – Landslide

so programme that up and you’re walking by the Pacific

Sunday, 7 June 2009

What does a poet get up to in June? He Recites to The Oak Moon

‘A writer’s life and work are not a gift to mankind; they are its necessity.’ Toni Morrison’

'We must write where we stand; wherever we do stand, there is life; and an imitation of life we know, however narrow, is our only ground.’ – John Updike 
Los Angeles 001 
Borang Thungg Earthlets
Greetings from sunny Los Angeles; where I’m spending a heap of time in Venice and trying to understand Basketball as the Lakers cause great excitement as they get into the games of the final. I hope this mail finds you well and happy. It’s very interesting watching the UK news from another culture’s perspective, the US and UK seem to use the same words but the subtleties of difference in meaning and decorum are fascinating. I’ve been watching Fox News, CNN, ABC. Entertainment stories aren’t covered in the news here, they have separate channels for celeb crap,  I wish the UK news would take itself a bit more seriously and start presenting the news again, rather than speculating and only presenting ‘the emotional shot,’ asking someone whose love has been killed ‘how they feel’ is crass at best, and unprintable here if I were to say what I wanted to. Anyway there’s not much about UK on the news, but according to E! and the like it seems like Susan Boyle’s nerves story & Britney Spears’ arrival are big things. Expect a Boyle/Spears mash up some time soon then. Picture the video of them both with shaved heads and wearing boas.

Venice/Marina Del Rey is a good place to be living whilst I’m here, there is a wonderful bookshop ‘Small World Books,’ there’s the Ocean, and a great cafe called ‘The Cow’s End',’ where you’ll find me most mornings writing my journal. There’s also a very cool Yoga studio ‘Exhale,’ where I’ve been getting back to my yogic roots a bit.. both Shiva Rea & Erich Schiffmann teach there..

The British Council/Cal State LA residency is well under way now, The Launch of Recital was brilliant, and I’ve met all sorts of people, next week I'm meeting ex-gang members who have started a literary press. I've also talked to all levels of students, and am now well into my translation and film projects. I’ve also been working on the next book a bit, enjoying the American influence, and my ideas are starting to clarify as to what the book will be – A long way to go on this one, I tend to sit on books and then do big changes after a year or so..

Books I've bought this week:
jhumpa lahiri - unaccustomed earth, tu fu - selected poems, pablo neruda - the hands of day, frank bidart - watching the spring festival, toni morrison (ed.)  - burn this book, also been reading pema chodron's - the wisdom of no escape

Hope it’s great where you are.

All the best

Recital  - Now 33% off
If you have been thinking of buying Recital and haven’t yet – please consider now to be a good time to get one as it has just been launched as a paperback version in both UK and US. Please show it to your friends, write Amazon customer reviews, tweet, read it aloud on the streets & all that stuff.

SALT my lovely publisher has been hit hard by the 'downturn' and the loss of their ACE funding. You can help support this brilliant innovative publisher by buying a book or two. If you were to choose to buy Recital or give it as a gift to someone – that would be shiny. And now you can get 33% off Recital and all Salt books until the end of June Use the coupon code G3SRT453 at the checkout.

There’s a great and thoughtful review of 'Recital' by Andrew Boobier at The Graft Review

’Recital is a thoughtful and often thought-provoking collection, intelligent, clear, inquiring, humorous, some will say inspirational and - dare I say it? - 'life-affirming' (there, I said it!). It's a work that demands to be read as a whole.’

Four Fathers

Please vote for 'Four Fathers' in the Non Fiction Category for 'The People's Book Prize' -

Four Fathers is a collection of stories by Tom Palmer, James Nash, Ray French & Myself which looks at stories of our fathers and then at the nature of what it means to be a father or a father figure. It would be lovely for our book to get a bit more recognition because of this prize.

A fascinating double-take on the experience of being fathered and then becoming a father - tales full of wit, pathos and insight. - Blake Morrison

you can buy 'Four Fathers'

Guardian Poetry Workshop
I was asked to create a Guardian Poetry Workshop, and given Recital’s newness in the world, I thought a night theme might be a good area of poetic exploration. You can find the workshop online here It would be lovely if you had a go. As I write this The Guardian have just sent the poems they have selected though. I'll be looking at these soon and making my comments for their website.

LA Residency
I have been leading workshops with groups of students at Cal State LA, and giving 'Recital' its US launch. There are two other projects that are part of my time here; one is I’m working with the translations department to look at the work of four Mexican poets, Coral Bracho, Rocio Gonzalez, Ariceli Mancilla & Natalia Toledo. The results of which will be published in Poetry Review later in the year. I am also working with the animation department who are working up a number of pieces from Recital into short films.

Colour Me In
just a fun link where you can download a lovely drawing of yours truely by my friend Hannah Nunn and get to work with the felt tips - enjoy!

Love and light to you, and thank you as ever for your support. 
Splundig Vur Thrigg

Copy of Los Angeles 026
John Siddique at British Council Event

This band of Players on Venice Beach put on great shows just for the love of it, improvised music with a kind of afrobeat/reggae thing going on - miss snakehips here illustrates the groove..

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Goodbye Grasshopper

the series Kung Fu had a profound influence on me as a child – perhaps some of the questions asked in it are still my questions today. Goodbye and love and light for the spirit of David Carradine. thank you for getting me to notice that the questions even existed in the first place..