Thursday, 29 April 2010

Standing in for Alice Walker at Happy Soul Festival

Dear All

I have been asked to stand in at an event tomorrow night, covering for Alice walker, who was due to be interviewed by Aminatta Forna, but can’t be in the UK at the moment. So if you fancy an evening of poetry, prose and music a bunch of other lovely talented people, and myself, it would be lovely to see you. The theme for the event is well being and mental health, but do expect some favourite pieces from me, and a couple of special new things.. And I promise not to talk about the bigoted woman story and the election.. promise! Shouldn't the news channels actually report some news, not keep rolling nothingness into headlines?

The line up is:

Aminatta Forna author of The Memory of Love (Bloomsbury)

Samson Kambalu author of The Jive Talker (Cape)

John Siddique author of Recital – An Almanac (Salt)

Colin Salmon best known for his role as Charles Robinson in the James Bond films, he’s been in Dr Who & Merlin too..

And the venue is:
Wandsworth Town Hall, Wandsworth High Street, SW18 2PU

I think it’s an 7pm start.. please double check in the press or on the festival’s website.

The Happy Soul Festival is a celebration of Asian and Black film, arts and music exploring well-being. If you are nearby do come and help us light up the festival finale.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Black coffee watching blossom fall

No matter what plans I see to make each week, scibed in black ink in my journal to make them real, the days unwind with their own lives. Perhaps it is the negoatiation, the tension, between the ink and the actual that creates adventure. For it is a ride.. Being creative and paying the mortgage, writing a poem and doing the supermarket run. We often push the shopping to the periphery in our house, eating very creative meals from interesting combinations from the cupboard corners so that we can spend more time in the zones. Today though there is no escape, we must go shopping, so look out for a pair of dream-drunk artists having little dances in the aisles of Tescos in Rochdale, where we go cos we can grab Indian spices, sweets and essentials from the shiny Indian shops enroute.


Friday, 23 April 2010

Often these days we dance to Abba or Queen..


I worry every time I see her it may be
the last time. My mother is 74 this year,
that age when, if she doesn’t answer
the phone, my stomach backspins.

Today I massaged her hands with moisturiser,
with drops of lavender mixed in it. Her arthritis
is really bad in her left hand. The thumb
closing over the palm. Her middle finger
thick ropey gristle beneath tissue transparent skin.

This is the first time we’ve done such a thing
Mother objects at first, but begins to enjoy
my fingers pressing her fingers; the muscle-root
in her forearm, the small marbles that roll
across the muscle.

Often these days we dance to Abba or Queen,
quick two minute waltzes on her green cat-haired
rug that’s always crooked. She’s not been touched
much in her life. I die if a day goes by without a love.

She never hugged us once we’d stopped being small
My sisters and I are knotty trees in
mum’s garden. Now I try to feed and care
for her with lavender oil and hands, hoping
some of the love I taught myself will soak
into her fingers, and backflow into
her body, through the fibres she has grown
over her untouched desire.

(C) John Siddique 2005
Taken from 'The Prize' (Rialto)
Here is a film made for Oxfam of the poem. It was part of the Life Lines project which so far has made over £50,000 for Oxfam. Not Bad for a bunch of poets!! Please share this film on your blog or site, and if you like this you might like other poems in my books..... go on be brave.. buy a poetry book...

Monday, 19 April 2010

Making The World

John at Whitby Abbey
Originally uploaded by John Siddique

I don't know about you, but I very often find that if I change my location, new thoughts spring to mind. Travel for the writer is very important, it lets new sparks light you up. Often when I'm stuck when writing I travel. I have been very lucky over the last couple of years that my work has taken me so many places, and I guess the more one is open when moving about, the possibility of freedom then is reflected with space to create.

Having pretty much finished the manuscript of my next book, which will come out 2011 (my twentieth year of being a writer), I've been out and about all week, looking at art, walking by the sea, taking photos and hunting for a Dracula mug for my friend Anna. Clearing room in my mind, leaving the new manuscript down, so I don't write those same ideas again, and beginning to find a new way, making notes and writing sketches to begin my next project - something very different for me... (No I'm not a contestant on Britain's Got Talent - no secret SuBo here..) It is starting to clarify now, I think.

Perhaps my job, the job of the poet, is to be a professional daydreamer, to wonder about the world, notice things, notice the spaces and relationships between people and objects, landscape and so on. Perhaps it is also not enough to record, but that one also has to question them, try to understand where we are going both on the inner journey (spiritually) and outwardly (physically). I'm going to be running some workshops in the autumn about the difference between our ordinary thought, and cultivating poetic/creative thought practices. The difference between the mindsets is always fascinating to me and I love to read about people's artistic lives, and how they develop their skills and art as dreamers and doers. Right now I'm reading the Patti Smith book about her life with Robert Mapplethorpe.

As usual I never talk about developing work in public until I'm pretty much finished with it.. I have a theory that people who say 'I'm gonna do this, or I'm gonna do that,' often never do anything much at all.. apart for repeating said mantra of course..

Anyway I raise my tea mug to you on your inner/outer journey.. We can build our lives and worlds from whatever we like. Don't believe all the nonsense on the tv that it is all about the economy. In our house we've pretty much killed the tv, so that we can remember that the money stuff is a tool which helps us live, it is not the point of all our lives as those who believe they are in power would like to think.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

A Writer's life

Watched the sunset from Horsehold last night & the sunrise from our window this morning.. Pen & notebook on the table, porridge & coffee on the stove.

Later that same day.....

then shopping for.....

It's been a serious few days of thinking about what comes next as I have pretty much finished the next book. I find the spaces between books frightening.. As if I don't know who I am without a book to write. Though I have learned that one has to take some time to live between projects..and so here's to remembering how to do that.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Precarious Times

Why do we pretend these times are worse than any others. I heard someone a while back say these are Newly Precarious Times made me think this person knows nothing of history at all. Today on the news there was some similar sentiment, again I wondered at the mentality and motivation behind promotion of such stupid ideas. I guess if we live in the worst of times we'll give up our freedom, or the quivering fear we become subject too will scare us into submission.

I have to remember that this is our world not theirs. I can build my world out of anything I want to, The Newly Precarious People will accuse those of us who make 'soft' choices such as: The Arts, Books, Literature, Active Peace, and so on, as not living in the real world. Well I'm sorry NPP you've had long enough to make the 'economic model' world work - and you have not. Some of us are sticking with telling each other stories, learning how to do things for ourselves, and knowing that being at the edge of time is the most exciting place on earth.

In the latest Paris Review there is a really great interview with Mary Karr. I love the Paris Review Interviews, love reading writers talking about their lives, not the idealised nonsense that many must have of the process of writing a book. for me it's a dirty process, having to face up to the lazy liar in myself that wants to write sweet things only, change the story to suit myself.. Here's an interview with Karr from US public radio..

If you write and need the fellowship of other writers but can't get any serious conversation cos there's no one else like you around.. that's probably cos there's no one else like you around.. but the Paris Review for me seems to fill that gap with these interviews.. Karr can be a bit full of herself.. but hey I look in a mirror everyday and tell myself that writing poetry is worth it in this very odd world of ours. Also in this current issue is a great interview on fiction with the Chinese/American writer Ha Jin whose humility and honesty about a being a writer is a wonder. The poetry in Paris Review is sometimes a mystery to me, there is the occasional poem that touches something in me - there seems to be a tendency towards poems with impossible words in that don't add much to the meaning of the pieces within many of the poems. In the UK in the poetry journals we seem to be suffering from poems that are small and domestic which chronicle personal happenings in a kind of 'and then you'... 'and then I'.. sort of way, so with my own poetry reading I tend to let the poets I enjoy recommend other reading to me by following what they enjoy.. also my friends tend to know what I might like or might surprise me so I remain open with trusteed sources.

Here's a Funny wee thing by Dan and Dan - thanks to Bernadine Evaristo for pointing it out. For those of you outside the UK The Daily mail is our very right wing newspaper which has a massive appetite for fascistic statements. It was the only British newspaper to support Hitler, Moseley's Blackshirts and the Appeasement movement in the run up to World War II. (Check your history or even your wiki before hitting that comment button your right wing types.) These days I'm afraid it hasn't changed much, the paper is one of the main pedlars of the Newly Precarious Times style of media, it's all the immigrant's fault apparently. Hey mum, Hey dad - it's all your fault.. there I told them..

Poetry Review - Spring 2010
As part of my residency in Los Angeles last year I took a very personal project with me. I wanted to read in English the wonderful work of four Mexican women poets whose work I admire, and I wanted to share them with the English speaking poetry world. I found the most magnificent translator in Distinguished Professor Roberto Cantu, who made the poems come alive in English. I approached Poetry Review with the work and they are available in the Spring 2010 issue of the Review. The poems are by Coral Bracho, Ariceli Mancilla, Rocío González, & Natalia Toledo.

A Few Other Bits (will add to as the week goes on)
On the theme of precarious times, here's what is considered to be one of the greatest short stories of all time, 'Toba Tek Singh'. unfortunately the writer Saadat Hasan Manto is generally unknown in the West. Manto is an Indian writer who went to the new Pakistan after The Partition in 1947.. Often claimed by Pakistan, Manto always maintained his Indian-ness and considered The Partition to be insanity. His work is essential stuff indeed.

Surprising books which have been banned in the US