Grayson Perry turned me into a pot.
Strange it seems now to talk about it,
Now that it sits olive green in its slot
And the phallic motifs around it flit.
People ask me why I agreed to this.
But think, would you reject such an artist
Calling to say, “I’d like to paint you, Chris”?
So, though it may not have been the smartest,
At the time, it was just before prison.
No other Turner-awarded person
Was courting me for a prize commission
And I didn’t know the shade of his version.
When he first came round, devoid of his frock
I didn’t recognise him, but we talked.
Seemed a normal bloke. I liked him a lot.
Nothing prepared me for simply how shocked
I was by the art when it was revealed.
It seemed to me, no – no not radical
But neither was it particularly skilled.
He wanted an archetype, not actual
Humanity, and finding me unbroken
He broke the ceramic with me contained,
And seemed it up with gold. Some unspoken
Symbol for the cracks, which through me veined.
Now am I olive green and all confused –
The edges that make me up are gold leaf.
My heart is beating but all is refused
And the bleating in my ears is firing me deaf.
I am the symbol of the cracks which burn.
I am the music that strains from the protest.
Like Thatcher, I shall not, I will not turn.
To face that repeated, damning motif.
Having a Coke with You
is even more fun than going to San Sebastian, Irún, Hendaye, Biarritz, Bayonne
or being sick to my stomach on the Travesera de Gracia in Barcelona
partly because in your orange shirt you look like a better happier St. Sebastian
partly because of my love for you, partly because of your love for yoghurt
partly because of the fluorescent orange tulips around the birches
partly because of the secrecy our smiles take on before people and statuary
it is hard to believe when I’m with you that there can be anything as still
as solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary when right in front of it
in the warm New York 4 o’clock light we are drifting back and forth
between each other like a tree breathing through its spectacles
and the portrait show seems to have no faces in it at all, just paint
you suddenly wonder why in the world anyone ever did them
at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits in the world
except possibly for the Polish Rider occasionally and anyway it’s in the Frick
which thank heavens you haven’t gone to yet so we can go together the first time
and the fact that you move so beautifully more or less takes care of Futurism
just as at home I never think of the Nude Descending a Staircase or
at a rehearsal a single drawing of Leonardo or Michelangelo that used to wow me
and what good does all the research of the Impressionists do them
when they never got the right person to stand near the tree when the sun sank
or for that matter Marino Marini when he didn’t pick the rider as carefully
as the horse
it seems they were all cheated of some marvelous experience
which is not going to go wasted on me which is why I am telling you about it
by Frank O’Hara
Breakfast egg, half-lopped & scalped,
the morning gold of yolk on white.
Early sun on eastern walls,
dancing crystal golden light.
Dusty-gold of patient books,
unread on shelves, leaning or straight.
In dusk, apartment faces gleam –
windows high on winter’s night.
Yellow cat’s eyes glitter late –
curious slits of golden sight.
A lovely poem to start 2015, by one of America’s greatest living poets:
To the New Year
With what stillness at last
you appear in the valley
your first sunlight reaching down
to touch the tips of a few
high leaves that do not stir
as though they had not noticed
and did not know you at all
then the voice of a dove calls
from far away in itself
to the hush of the morning
so this is the sound of you
here and now whether or not
anyone hears it this is
where we have come with our age
our knowledge such as it is
and our hopes such as they are
invisible before us
untouched and still possible.
The combination of water and cold
Creates a snowflake, or so I am told.
Crystals, cuts and particles arrested,
Within a flake the water sequestered.
To scrutinize it your only urge is,
Magnified closer the science emerges
And each tiny aggregate reveals
Clear-cut-forms, tough as iron or steel.
Rimed snow quartz, germ of ice and column cast
Irregular particles in time held fast.
And for every needle, sheath or spear,
There’s a broken molecule locked in fear.
For the truth is, like the human, snowflakes
Are unique. One form in varying shapes.
Spot if you can the individual one
In the mass of storm, before it is gone.
I’ve been trying out new things both on a personal level (poetry) and a professional level (teaching); mainly I’ve been looking at creating StoryCube through the excellent Bookleteer site. It’s quite a fun visual way of publishing material & I’d like to start getting children’s stories and poems printed as StoryCubes to display in class. Here’s one I created for my poem ‘X': X Poem_cube_portrait_1pp_A4
Check it out & have fun!
I think I’ll take a walk down the garden path
to find myself a shed behind the weeds and grasses
and glowing in the window the light of a paraffin lamp
and crackling in the corner the embers in the old stove.
And in that hut I’ll sit and while away the night sky,
burning the stars in their sockets through to morning,
writing the words that of this mind make a code
and of this night make a new poem, a love poem for you.
I first came across Richard Osmond in The Salt Book of Younger Poets and struggled a little with the disjointed, cryptic lines. There was an obvious talent, but I wasn’t sure it was for me and moved on to other poetry.
Then, just the other week, I came across him again in the form of the recent Happenstance pamphlet, Shill. Intriguingly, this is one of two Osmond pamphlets published simultaneously by Happenstance (the other being Variant Air, which ‘revisits the mode and style of Gerard Manley Hopkins’). Even more interesting is that Happenstance has never before published two pamphlets by the same poet at the same time. For a small, independent publisher, that is quite a lot riding on one poet.
The first thing that struck me about Shill was how funny it was – there’s a dry wit to this poetry that is only improved and honed by the new pared-down style that Osmond seems to have adopted since his Salt days. The brevity of the lines make it more readable and allow you to enjoy the, sometimes surreal, associations without getting stuck trying to make links. ‘Aesthetics’ for example, works on different levels, making us first laugh, then reflect:
A poem should be both
the can of Monster Energy™
and the dead mouse,
half-dissolved inside it.
The advice, though bizarre, isn’t half-bad. It’s as good as any when it comes to poetry. Moreover, the little trademark does stop us for a moment. It isn’t accidental (of course) and has something to say about the value of poetry, and what it becomes when you relinquish the rights to the work.
Elsewhere Osmond plays on this relationship between the writer and publisher in ‘If my instructions have been carried out,’ by suggesting that an elaborate hunting scene should have been depicted on the page. There is nothing below but empty paper, a droll reference, perhaps, to the writer’s own impotence when it comes to decisions about publishing and printing.
Of course the joke is not at Happenstance’s expense – an excellent press that produces beautiful editions of top-quality poetry. And once again they have made a sound decision in printing Richard Osmond. I liked almost all the poems in Shill, enjoyed it for its freshness and humour but also for it’s slightly dark and tender moments.
Definitely buy it and maybe get a copy of Variant Air too – I haven’t read that but Happenstance are offering a deal if you get both. His website, which is as sparse and shaped as his poetry, tells us that he is working on his first book. Let’s hope it comes out soon – I’ll be in line waiting to get a copy.
All the performers from Anti-Glasto edition. That’s me on the bottom row, second from left.