Wednesday, 16 June 2010

BLOOMSDAY

'and yes I said yes I will Yes.'

Happy Bloomsday - I hope the sun is shining for you yes.

If you have a few minutes today and  are interested in James Joyce, Libraries & and Ulysses you can read my piece on all of these things over at the wonderful Normblog, where I go on an exploration in search of a copy of Ulysses to see if I can uncover some of its secrets from the artifacts left behind by readers of my local library copy.

Monday, 14 June 2010

A Cultural Diary

Inspired by Sarah Crichton's wonderful cultural diary over at The Paris Review Blog.. I thought I'd keep track of seven days of my cultural input in this rolling entry. It is vital for an artist to be immersed in the cultural flow, it is where we get so much of our nourishment from.


DAY 1 - Saturday
I'm first up as usual, and in a Led Zeppelin mood, so after meditation, I make breakfast with the door wide open to let the sun in, Physical Graffiti rocks the sound system.

I make a CD up for the Car from my current playlist that I keep on my iPod. Here's the playlist if you want hear what we're grooving to:





  • Maula Mere Maula - Anwar
  • Qu'ran - Brian Eno & David Byrne
  • Subterraneans - David Bowie
  • Out Of Dawn - Yello
  • Celestica - Crystal Castles
  • Houses In Motion - Talking Heads
  • With Flowers In the Garden Of Fires - Current 93
  • Life On Mars? - David Bowie
  • Ne me quitte pas - Jacques Brel
  • Parasite - How to Destroy Angels
  • Turn Up the Night - Black Sabbath
  • 1970 - Boris
  • Living After Midnight - Judas Priest
  • A National Acrobat - Black Sabbath
  • A Drowning - How to Destroy Angels

    We head over to Bradford, in search of Hindi films thinking that the library in Bradford would have a special section. Unfortunately the staff we met must have previously worked in supermarkets on the tills as they didn't know what stock they had. It turns out they don't have Hindi movies despite having a very large South Asian descended population. Perhaps this is on purpose so they can't be accused of always giving those damn Pakis what they want. Over to the Media museum and they have a load of old games consoles and machines. We pick up the film diary and I play Galaxian for the first time in forever.. 
    HIGH SCORE, I RULE..


    Then Over to the impressions gallery where there is the most wonderful photography exhibition by Max Kandhola. FLATLAND are his British landscape tradition inspired images of the Indian Punjab. there are pictures of my own ancestral homeland of Jullundur, which thrills me. Though he uses the post partition spelling of the area's name.

    We were meant to go hear music by our composer friend Katie Chatburn, but my love is feeling poorly, so have an evening at home, rewatching Buffy series one, and a latter episode of the Sherlock Holmes with the wonderful Jeremy Brett.

    We go for a bit of a drive - sometimes we just do this at night. It had rained and the evening was steamy and sensual so we headed out into the darkening evening and drove for an hour or so. No music playing, just talking, driving, being together. Back home to find Led Zeppelin are the nation's favourite rockband on BBC2. See told you Led Zep day.


    Day 2 - Sunday
    Letter in the Independent on Sunday from a number of British Writers, including myself, in Support of Palestine.

    Over to Manchester to see the lovely Jackie Kay launch her memoir 'Red Dust Road.'

    On the way to The People's History Museum where jackie is reading we come across a couple of young guys playing Flamenco guitar in the Arndale Shopping mall. They are brilliant. Jackie has us all in pieces laughing at her tales. Her uncanny knack to get you laughing at tricky things is astonishing.. but what is even more impressive is that she is such a pure soul. Some git has posted a crappy review of her book on Amazon without even reading it. The web lacks democracy as there is no way to get it off there. I suffered this with my last book too. Some arsehole who has never read one giving a one star review cos what.. I have a funny name, or I didn't select your poem as the greatest thing of all time when I was judging a competition or something. I feel for Jackie suffering from crappy amazonitis so will head over and give her many stars..

    Float around Manchester, brilliant city - the people are much more stylish than in London, sorry London tis true. The Compact nature of the place really helps too.. If it had the arts and theatre of London it would be perfect.

    Evening - More Sherlock.



    Day Three - Monday
    Read round a few Blogs, America isn't awake for hours yet - Look to see if any reaction to the IOS letter.

    Read a handful of poems by Rumi.
    My Children's book is published this month, in stock from next week I'm told, so It's time to get flexing into a children's author for a while.. Strange writing in several areas - it's almost like being a different writer for each type of book.

    a seemingly endless day of work today. Book ideas, preparation for a day in a school tomorrow, doing documentation and preparation on a number of my short films to send them off to a film festival.

    HOME - Phew but more film work to do, recoding NTSC to PAL, burning discs - but managing to listen to Boom Jackie Boom Chick, by Paul Gonsalves as I work. My love is cooking up a storm, and I'm straddling several computers at the same time.... wonderful Jazz.

    Just Downloaded the
    McSweeney's app for my phone.. should help with those between moments at lunch time and all that when I'm in schools over the next few weeks.


    Day 4 - Tuesday
    En route to Blackburn, have 15 mins advantage.. So I stop at the M65 services at junction 4.. the poet needs coffee.
    AHHH.... I love coffee served in a resentful manner, a bitter twist to the morning just to help keep perspective.. Be loving and strong. Kinks and Bowie playing on the tannoy thing.. Today I'm working with 9 year olds. I have the power of literature to light them up. I keep it in a special box. Poems selected for their reality, energy, and humanity.. 
    As we write we listen to some Bach quietly in the background. 30 nine year olds succumb to the music and go quiet and concentrated as they work.. awesome..

    Day 5 - Wednesday
    Roundhay School in Leeds today - 14 year olds. We watch my little films that I've been working on with my friends in LA, read lots of poems Whitman, Lawrence, They are blown away by Raymond Carver.. and we write. Apart from that I watch Betty Blue on DVD at home but miss the last hours as I fall asleep face down on the white rug in the lounge room.

    Day 6 - Thursday
    Can't sleep properly so wake early and read Jung's - The Undiscovered Self in bed. Up, Meditate, Office - listening to Ravel's 'La Mer' and Rolling Stones "Exile on Main Street' as I stuff envelopes for a marketing push. The evening consists of watering the garden, eating, and another episode of dear old Sherlock Holmes.. More Jung at bedtime but the words don't fit into my mind..

    Day 7 Friday

    Back to Leeds to read to a conference full of Educators, I also run a session for them on the problems of statistic modelling and literacy.. don't ask.. They have my new children's book in their bookshop, I have no idea how they managed that, it is not out until next week, and I don't have a copy even...


    I'm so tired after all the education stuff that I have no idea how I got along the motorway.. 


    Email the evening away. I'm tired as a grumpy grizzly.. So we have a huge falling out and eat in separate rooms.. All is well before bed with the lovely clear air that comes after such storms. Only input I take today is radio 4 in the car there is a fantastic short story on about a girl blinded by an aerosol can.. written from her father's point of view..as they set about getting her a guide dog.. no idea who wrote it.



    Friday, 4 June 2010

    British Writers In Support of Palestine

    This letter below is published in shortened form in the British Newspaper The Independent on Sunday.

    I gave this matter a huge amount of consideration before signing it. Many will say such action is meaningless but one can only do what seems right at the time. I owe no one any kind of apology for my humanistic beliefs, I wish to see the human race evolve, to overcome fear, greed, hatred and delusion... I believe that it is the coward who will only ever talk while holding a gun in their hands. The Arts perhaps are one of the greatest forms of diplomacy. Yet in this instance, for a while at least cultural diplomacy is falling upon deaf ears and so we must wait for Israel to return to the table again with an open hand, perhaps then we can shake hands. Perhaps it will be a long wait, but all things pass.. and so they will.


    Dear Editor

    The murder of humanitarian aid workers aboard the Mavi Marmara in international waters is the latest tragic example of Israel’s relentless attacks on human rights. But while violently preventing the free passage of medical, building and school supplies to Gaza, Israel continues to pride itself as a highly cultured, highly educated state. In solidarity with Palestinian civil society and its call for a Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel, we the undersigned therefore appeal to British writers and scholars to boycott all literary, cultural and academic visits to Israel that are sponsored by the Israeli government, including those organised by Israeli cultural foundations and universities. (This boycott does not include courageous independent Israeli organisations who openly oppose the occupation.) We also ask that writers, poets and British funding bodies actively support Palestinian literary events, such as the Palestinian Literary Festival and the Palestinian Writing Workshop.

    Materially and ideologically, state-sponsored Israeli academic and cultural events both prop up and mask the on-going brutal occupation of Palestine. Israeli universities are key players in the creation and dissemination of government policy, and while some Israeli cultural foundations may promote ‘dialogue’ between the two peoples, there can be no true dialogue when one party is a military superpower and the other a nation of second-class citizens, refugees and virtual prisoners. Appearing as an international guest at all such Israeli cultural and academic events helps to divert attention from, and normalize, Israeli war crimes in Gaza; the annexation of East Jerusalem; and the on-going illegal settlement of the West Bank. Such appearances will also help to normalise Israel’s recent abhorrent military actions at sea.

    More information on the cultural and academic boycott of Israel may be found at www.pacbi.org and www.bricup.org.uk. But in brief, we the undersigned do not wish to lend our presence or approval to cultural or academic events underwritten by the State of Israel, nor do we wish to help sustain the deliberately fostered illusion of moral and military parity between the two actors in this conflict. Rather as Britons and British residents, we believe that we have a historical and moral obligation to support the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people in their struggle for long-denied peace, justice and self-determination.

    Yours truly,

    BWISP (British Writers In Support of Palestine)

    bwisp.info[at]googlemail.com

    Rowyda Amin (poet)

    Prof Mona Baker (scholar)

    John Berger (novelist, art critic, essayist, poet, Booker Prize winner)

    Marilyn Booth (scholar)

    Kevin Cadwallender (poet)

    Jenny Diski (novelist, essayist, travel writer)

    Alison Fell (novelist, poet)

    Naomi Foyle (poet, editor, scholar and BWISP co-ordinator)

    Prof Patrick Ffrench (scholar, writer)

    Prof Ian Gregson (poet, literary critic)

    Rumy Hasan (scholar)

    Aamer Hussein (writer)

    Judith Kazantzis (poet and BWISP co-ordinator)

    Mimi Khalvati (poet)

    Wendy Klein (poet)

    Stephen Knight (poet and critic)

    Diane Langford (novelist)

    Catherine Lupton (writer)

    Lauro Martines (writer, socio-political and historical scholar)

    Alan Morrison (poet and editor)

    Dr Dalia Mostafa (scholar)

    Ali Nasralla (scholar)

    Sybil Oldfield (academic, scholar, feminist historian/biographer)

    Julia O’Faolain (novelist)

    Jeremy Page (poet, editor, critic)

    Thomas Pakenham (historian)

    Dr Ian Patterson (poet and scholar)

    Prof Jonathan Rosenhead (scholar)

    Dr Duncan Salkeld (literary scholar)

    John Siddique (poet and writer)

    Mark Slater (scholar, critic and writer)

    Dr Derek Summerfield (writer, scholar)

    David Swann (poet and writer)

    Kate Webb (writer, critic)

    Irving Weinman (novelist and BWISP co-ordinator)

    Eliza Wyatt (playwright)

    Evie Wyld (novelist)

    Robin Yassin-Kassab (novelist)

    Tuesday, 1 June 2010

    Some of my work......(An Intro)

    It can be tricky knowing how to begin accessing a writers work, when you first come across a them. In the 21st century, reviews and dust jackets would have us believe that everything is the greatest thing ever. I for one simply would like people to read my books. Besides trying to write books which have something real about them and push me to evolve as a writer, being read is my only other goal as an artist. Time is the best judge as to whether something is great or not. But I'd be a fool to not try and create routes into my work for people who may be interested, or who might have been put off reading but would enjoy the writing I produce.. so here are three little clips, which though brief give a very quick idea of what some of my work is about.. and there's and ad at the end so you can see my book jackets - I'm very proud of each of them.

    I'm not a clever marketer, or the best social networker in the world. I see the lives happening around me and somehow this makes me want to write things down, to try and understand - yes I suppose so, to offer words when you may not have them for yourself.. yes that too.. but mostly because our lives are made of story.. and I love the stories of our lives..

    If it is your first time encountering my work thank you, and if you one of my more regular readers, let me wish you love and light.

    John







    Gaza Flotilla

    I want to try and say something about yesterday.. yet I have no idea how to. It is part of the writer's job to try and make sense of things. I take this part of the work very seriously. I have never balked away from writing about either the most beautiful or the most difficult parts of life. and yet today I am simply lost for words. I am sure there will be the largest amount of commentary imaginable on what has happened. I will try to do something creative with these days..but right now I don't know how to. I guess this is the question. How do we as a world do something creative rather than destructive with this..?

    For a long time I have done a simple prayer practice, I guess I simply talk to God and sometimes I ask for things like 'The strength to see the other person clearly, and not just be filled with my own thoughts.' I also express gratitude for being alive each day, having the people I have in my life, and being able to pick up a pen. So keeping on is what I'm going to do. Cynics might say what a waste of time this is, we should live in the real world. The real world is what we make it.. it is love and prayer and work and peace. But peace is no absence of war. It has to be worked for, protected, prayed for, as our own proclivities will try to snuff it out with greed and delusion. Peace is harder work than war. Destruction is the easiest option. So when will we actually start work?

    Love and Light

    John