Archive for August, 2011

First I Dreamt The Journey – Part 19 – Change

Posted in First I Dreamt the Journey with tags , , on August 28, 2011 by belfastdavid

I am grateful too for the discovery that change is the only constant.

We are human. We are not comfortable with change; yet to go forward we must embrace it.

We can spend days or months or years in cul-de-sacs off the road – cul-de-sacs which offer the illusion of safety and of security and of sanity. But they are just that – illusions. If we are not careful we will spend more and more time bolstering up that illusion. We shore it up with possessions, either in material or human form. We demand pieces of paper to prove our ability. We demonstrate our worthiness by creating a surface which is beautiful and attractive.

We become taken over by patching and fixing and working harder and harder to paper over the cracks – to maintain the illusion. And the faster and harder we work at that, the less time we have to spend on the work that is really required; the less opportunity we give ourselves to step back, to reflect, to look at the bigger picture.

Yet true beauty exists only within the soul. It is available to be seen through the eyes. Far too often nowadays all I see behind eyes is a shallow pool.

The embracing of change begins with willingness. Willingness will open the door to change and will continue to keep that door open. When I first became aware that I needed to change I seemed stuck by a lack of knowledge of how to do that.
So I changed what I could. I started to wear a watch; I had not worn one for years. When I had a bath I sat at the other end from I was used to. I changed the order when I got washed in the morning, brushing my teeth last instead of first. Actually getting washed every morning was also a change. I changed my hair style – out went the sideboards, the length at the back and the quiff; in came a short back and sides and a parting. Small changes perhaps,  Yet every day when I look in the mirror I am reminded that I was willing to change.

To this day I seek to prove to myself that I am willing to change. Although my living space is small, on a regular basis I will change around the position of the furniture, change the pictures and their placement on the wall.
It is a way of ensuring I do not get stuck in my comfort zone, that I do not become a prisoner of my own habits.

Once again my model is the sea. Given that I have the safe foundation of the stepping stones, I want to live my life, as does the sea, in a state of constant flux.

Consider a large house standing on a hill atop the cliff. A top-floor room looks out over the cliffs, over the sea and over the moorland. There is a wind  – 

The wind is howling past my window,
it whistles as it passes through the trees,
it whips their branches to a frenzy,
picks up dead leaves and puts them far away,

insinuates itself in little gaps and crannies;
what’s not securely held gets worried loose,
picked up, moved on, distributed to elsewhere.
The landscape’s changed from what it was before.

The wind dies down and everything is still.

Why is it I am watching through the glass?
The world’s not real when seen through one of those.
Get out, stand willingly in way of storms
and feel the wind as it blows through and past me.

Dead leaves are only clutter in my soul,
what’s loose is best detached and blown away
to leave me cleansed and give me room to grow.
The landscape’s changed from what it was before.

The wind dies down and everything is still.

Through My Window

Posted in Poetry on August 24, 2011 by belfastdavid

Woken by the noise, I open my window;
am confronted by the sound
of magpies and crows
conducting a heated argument.

I suggest they keep the noise down.
They tell me to mind my own business.

There is no merit
in trying to mediate
in a dispute, when both parties
feel they have been wronged.

Chaffinches come for breakfast
to my Italian Alder tree.

I would take their photograph
but they never stay still
long enough to make it worthwhile,
unlike the robins who are
more than happy to pose.

I raise my mug of tea
by way of toast
to my morning visitors,
reach out my arm,
shake hands with the tree,
retire inside.

I will begin my day
with a smile on my face.

David Tait – An Interview (In conjunction with LIPPfest)

Posted in Blogging with tags on August 21, 2011 by belfastdavid

David Tait was born in 1985 and grew up in Lancaster.
His poems have appeared in The Guardian, Magma, The North, The Rialto and Stand.
His poem  ‘North York Moor’ was short-listed for the 2009 Bridport Prize.
His pamphlet Love’s Loose Ends was a winner of the Poetry Business competition, 2010/2011.
He is currently ‘House Poet’ at Manchester Royal Exchange for the Carol Ann Duffy & Friends Poetry Series.
He is a founder of the Leeds Independent Presses Poetry Festival (LIPPfest)

I have known David since the beginning of his journey through poetry and thought LIPPfest would give me the opportunity to ask him some questions I have not asked him before.

Enjoy, he has some interesting things to say

David

1.  Why Poetry? In other words, what is it about poetry that makes you want to read and write it?

 

I think it comes down to Poetry being the best artistic form for me to express whatever feelings have caused tension and have made me want to express them. I can’t paint, my drawings are heinous and I don’t really have much time for ceramics (I hate the feeling of clay) or Sculpture (My housemate assembles all flatpack furniture I ever buy). Any one who knows me will probably know that my personality is very much formed by the way I hear things gelling together. I love wordplay, I love stories, I love the way in which people tell stories and I’m terrible at food shopping, always coming back with ingredients that rhyme or are alliterative (‘kit kats and bourbon biscuits for tea!’). In all seriousness though, I think it comes down to a way of hearing words, ordering them, playing with rhythm, tapping into a voice which is almost a conduit of your own voice, and then writing it down, and then clipping it back. Poetry needs to be shared and talked about – reading is very different to writing and I think I actually prefer reading for the most part. I spend too much money on new books and not enough money on notepads. To write well you must read well. If you don’t read well your poetry will be extraordinarily dull, and lots of contemporary poetry (even published by good publishing houses) is exceptionally dull.       

 

 

2. It seems to me that all your best poems, as well as being good poems, also tell me a story. How important is story to you when you are writing a poem?

 

I think narrative is the best way for exploring an idea. So, if something has caused a tension in you, you want to try to explain that feeling and the most concrete way to do this is through a story. Philosophers have been doing this for centuries (i.e. allegory of the cave) and it’s the very foundation of all literature. What is Moby Dick other than an exploration of the lengths people will go to for revenge? I think the problem is that some ideas are more popular others and some modes of telling these stories are more popular than others and that can upset a lot of people who feel disenfranchised by an “establishment” that perpetuates its own, often middle of the road ideas.

 

On the other hand, I’m aware that stories will only get you so far. Some of the poems I’ve written are actually an exercise in style and wordplay rather than the subject matter itself. One such poem was purely written to try and rhyme the words “vermillion” and “reptilian” together and the story came out of that. I guess I think narrative is something that people relate to and thus I think they are more likely to read. However, it also highlights the failure of poetry in that it is making vast concessions towards narrative, autobiography and the novel. Many collections now are collections of poems exploring a theme with a theme pulling everything together like the egg in a cake. In some ways it is a shame that we are so reliant on narrative.  

 

 

3. When asked about the content of her poems Sharon Olds responded “I never said that they were auto-biographical”. You often make use of yourself in your poems. Is this something which matters to you?

 

Haha, I like that quote by Sharon Olds, but I do think that all poems have to have some emotional truth within them to work, even if that truth is not “what happened”. So when Sharon Olds is writing a poem I think a lot of it is in some way emotionally autobiographical (in that, she has had those thoughts and feelings) and that is what makes them work. She’s an extremely introspective writer and really mines out with acid what is causing her tension. So, running through an airport to reach her dying father may not be true, but who hasn’t had moments of wondering how that might feel?

 

I guess I use myself as a subject matter sometimes in order to play around with those versions of the truth. The worst poems in my opinion are poems that have no emotional truth or heart to them. Poems that have been written for an audience or to indicate that the writer “really cares” about an issue that they would like to be seen to care about. There was one recently that made the Saturday poem of the day by the poet Leonita Flynn. Here is a link to it: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/aug/05/leontia-flynn-saturday-poem

 

Now, what I particularly hate about this poem is its tone, its casual way of saying “i was poor once for a while and want to show that i care about these poor people who have a wank for a release from their sad little lives.” It has a catchy title, it has a winning image (the hula hoop over the rooftops) and it has a clear beginning middle and end. But one thing is for sure, I don’t believe a word of it – it’s a heartless poem that needs no-one.

 

 

 

4. Why LIPPfest? In other words, what drove you to take on this enormous commitment?

 

I think the best way to do this is to highlight some books by independent publishers that I think are incredible. These publishers need to exist because of the sheer quality of what they contribute culturally to poetry and in order for them to exist new ways need to be found to sell new books and find new readerships. LIPPFest is an exercise in this – we’re bringing 25 of the best independently published poets to Leeds for a day of poetry and we hope by doing so to encourage people to buy books, broaden their literary horizons and to support the amazing work that organisations like Lancaster Litfest and Inpress do to promote independent presses. Here are just a few of the publishers I like and some books i’d recommend reading!

 

Arc Publishing: Thomas Lux – The Street of Clocks, Patrick Lane – Syllable of Stone, Valerie Rouzeau – Cold Spring in Winter, Marceljius Martinaitis – The Ballads of Kukutis

Carcanet: Kei Miller – There is an Anger that moves, Carola Luther – Walking the Animals, Toon Tellegen – Raptors, John Whale – Waterloo Teeth, Marilyn Hacker – Essays on Departure, Fiona Sampson – Common Prayer

Egg Box Publishing – Vahni Capildeo – Undraining Sea, Agnes Lehoczky – Budapest to Babel.

Red Squirrel Press: Andrew Mcmillan – The Moon is a Supporting Player, Claire Askew – The Mermaid and the Sailors

Smith/Doorstop: Ed Reiss – Your Sort, Allison McVety – The Night Trotsky Came to Stay, Nina Boyd – Dear Mr Asquith, Catherine Smith – Lip, Paul Bentley – Largo

Waterloo Press: Sarah Hymas – Host, Ian Parks – An Exiles House (forthcoming)

 

 

To see some of these poets perform, and to keep in touch with developments at LIPPFest – take a look at www.lippfest.co.uk

 

 

On The Beach

Posted in Poetry with tags , , on August 18, 2011 by belfastdavid

We used walk
along the beach
you and I.

not on days like this,
the place cluttered,
tourists filling up the space with

their bonhomie,
their children,
their beach toys,
their noise,
their never sitting still,
their yards of unattractive flesh.

Rather on days
when we could enjoy

the solitude,
the quiet,
the sand beneath our feet,
the water on our toes,
the breeze upon our skin,
the making love away from prying eyes.

First I Dreamt The Journey – Part 18 – More On The Now

Posted in First I Dreamt the Journey on August 14, 2011 by belfastdavid

Often I sit on the shore, stare out across the sea to the horizon in the distance, and allow myself to go into that space which is the now.

There are it seems to me to be parallels. At the horizon the sky and sea seem to merge and it is impossible to define the exact point of their meeting. If I move towards the horizon it will move away – it is not possible ever to arrive at the point where they merge.

Just so within my-self; the past flows in, the future out and sometimes it is impossible to find the moment when they merge. Yet if I am there, in the now, I have created a gap almost as if I am sitting by the sea in that space between sea and sky.

If I practise, if I nurture my ability to do that, the broader I can make that gap. The more I will have room to breathe and truly live in the space between past and future.

From that space I am capable of mature reflection.

I can be grateful for the simple fact that I am alive, that no longer do I go to bed wishing not to wake up in the morning.

I can be grateful for the fact that I can choose my mood, for when my mood is right I can achieve anything I decide, yet when my mood is wrong I am a pain in my own backside.

I can be grateful that I am aware that at points in time things happen which appear to have no connection, but which clearly do.

I can become aware that, in this life, there are any number of things which happen that are beyond my control. I may rail against them and fight to prevent them happening, but I can only do the best I can do and when the outcome is not what I would want I must learn to express my anger and frustration in such a way that it does not add to the distress.

Many tablets have I written to this end. Some written on stone which can then be consigned to the sea, the movement of the water will erase them. Some written on paper which can then be consigned to the fire, letting my anger and frustration be carried away in the smoke from the flames. Some which can be shared with the beautiful fairy or with my friends, thus allowing the power of the anger to be dissipated or to be used in a constructive direction.

I am grateful that I have discovered the ability to do that.

Journal – July 2011

Posted in Poetry on August 5, 2011 by belfastdavid

Perhaps Larkin was right,
maybe it is all my fault;
I am forced to revise
some long held opinions
with the knowledge
that my son
has bought a BMW.

*

The tree outside my window, which in the winter is bare, now a mass of green, protects my privacy from the view of over-looking blocks of flats. As I stand on my balcony a lower branch stretches towards me, almost as if it wants to shake my hand. I would be delighted to shake its hand.

*

I hate the word ‘discern’ with a passion
which is irrational, illogical and unreasonable.
It just is.

*

Don’t just do something, stand there –

     I have spent too much of my life
     just doing something –

          Activity creating the illusion of progress
          Activity creating the illusion of busy
          Activity creating the illusion of important.

     When often I would have been better
     to step back and stand there –

          smell the flowers,
          touch the breeze,
          taste the silence
           hear the wisdom,
          see the bigger picture.

*

“This could destroy my street-cred”
“You haven’t got any street-cred Dad”

*

Someone Special it says
on one of my coffee mugs,
Beyond Therapy on another,
Says it all really.