You're not ready for the truth

Honesty is, of course, important.

It is possible I haven't been entirely frank with you.

You're not ready for the truth

I lied to you through all your lives as years
unfolded one-by-one and I maintained
I was middle-aged and a geek.  Inexcusable,
I know, but when you are a supermodel, discretion
is a way of life.  I do not feed the tabloid fiends
and horny creeps, who stalk my casualestest friends
and this is why, also, when I had to go collect
my Nobel prize, I used an assumed name
—I said that I was 'Ann' and they assumed it true.

And what else can you do, when you're out fighting crime
in the ancient city night, and an old fashioned journo
with his poppy flash bulb and huge camera
doorsteps you dropping stocking-headed men
on the precinct house steps.
Who is this masked hero?
—of course, you lie.


Looking for love...

The Southern Milky Way Above ALMA
The Atacama Large Millimetre Array
(got to love the idea of large millimetres...)
I once read a SciFi story (this is a slight underestimate) where an expedition goes to one of the Magellanic Clouds (small satellite galaxies, orbiting the Milky Way.)  They discover no living civilisations but they do find the debris of a triangular parabolic structure some thousands of miles across...

E.g. a radio telescope, a big, big radio telescope.

...pointing back at the Milky Way.  The explorers conclude that they know nothing about what kind of creatures once lived there, but they must have been lonely.

For me, S.E.T.I. is one of the most important things that human beings do.  Obviously there are more urgent things: eradicating disease, stopping war, feeding the hungry—but once you've sorted out those basics, and maybe found a cure for cancer death, what are you going to do?

I can imagine as time goes by, and if nothing else really urgent and/or fascinating comes along, we might devote more and more of our spare time and energy to the search.

If internet dating sites teach us anything it is that everybody is lonely.  Most folk are also horny, but all of them are lonely.  Go on...  start building a bigger telescope today.

Looking for love by very long baseline interferometry

The galaxy is filled with empty rooms
and we peer in through dusty nets
to see what sort of furnishings are there,
if any.  We nose the neighbourhood --
stalkers muttering beneath our breath
of exoplanets left on tables,
methane lines in spectra, which we pin
butterfly-like, to the cork-board in our room.
The jury's out.  We do not know, even
if we dared, whether we could screw technology
in both our hands and, launching from our front door
through the gate, slingshot around the privet hedge
and down the other path to knock—in prime numbers—
then ask to borrow half a cup of flour.


We are not mused, or where have all the words gone?

If you engage in some sort of creative enterprise then, unless you are extraordinarily lucky, you will pass through times when it just isn't happening.

Different people and different artistic endeavours will describe this in different ways.  When I was researching Number 11, 1952 I read that Jackson Pollock worked on that painting for months without satisfaction, repeating several times: it's not coming through, when asked about it.

In writing we tend to call this being "blocked."  However, I believe there is no such a thing...

...by which I don't mean that there aren't times when we don't/can't write, obviously there are plenty of those.  However I think "blockage" is a very poor image for what happens. I feel it is far more that sometimes we are "ready" and sometimes not.  I suspect the degree to which the process is conscious or subconscious differs between individuals.  I know that for me at times of peak poetry, I'll be both:
  1. writing, reading, editing, re-writing (in the evening) but also,
  2. repeatedly (during the day) mulling again and again over a few words, or a feeling, or a perception; but for such short periods that this is only semi-conscious.

So in particular you can never be ready if you are busy doing other things, distracted or suffering some slew of overwhelming emotions.  (For me neither 1. nor, critically, 2. can occur in these cases.)  Sure great artworks can stem from powerful emotion, but are possibly very rarely delivered during them.

As another angle consider two poets.  "A" writes Monday and Thursday evenings, week after week, and always feels she's achieved something when she goes to bed on those days.  "B" writes every single evening for 104.3 days but then he achieves nothing else for the rest of the year.  Who is "blocked"?  It obviously feels like B had a more traumatic experience, but they've both done the same amount of writing...

A's creative engine could be seen as sputtering and stalling, but will only feel like that if A let's it.  How would she feel if it were only an average of two random days each week?

B in contrast has had an absurdly long (by my standards) period of continuous productivity—so maybe he's burned a whole year's worth of good ideas in those 104 days so shouldn't be surprised in needing a long rest?

Sometimes people "push" at their "blockage" and I think that is the worst thing you can do.  By doing that you are tending to lock the blockage in.  By straining with efforts that don't come naturally, you divert energy from whatever process it is you would benefit from if the engine were turning...

...however conversely I do think you can sometimes "play" your way out of it.  By turning your usual limits off—disabling your usual sensor, editor, grammarian, spell-checker, sense of taste, sense of reason, dignity—you can generate a rich mess of input material for your concious/subconscious processes to feed upon.  However, again, don't push it...  if you "play" to the exclusion of everything else, you again will not be allowing space for the creativity mechanism itself.

So don't expect creativity until you are completely past whatever distractions life threw in your way;  and don't expect to turn the tap at will either.  I might even say you won't get anywhere until you can get a little bit bored.  That's when you'll have the time, freedom, energy to let the art engine turn... another equivalent phrasing might be to say that is when you have enough "distance".

On the personal note neither poetry nor lyrics are happening for me at the moment and I'm trying not to worry about it (hence this post).  There's good reasons why I'm not producing—I'm a bit stressed, and I'm also busy with a couple of other things—so intellectually I'm not worried by this dry spell.  Although emotionally it does make me wobble a little however much I know the explanation.

Coincidentally, Hallam is also not creating music at the moment.  Again there's good reasons for this, his life has been changing a little (for the better), he's busy with work, and he's also taking an educational course.  So again the silence makes perfect intellectual sense, but leaves our emotions slightly uncertain.  However we are both keen to get back to our artistic efforts.  I just hope you'll understand that there's no point in either of us trying to predict when that will be.

Anyway, if this is useful to anybody then I am glad, and if it seems like utter bollocks please disregard as these things are a different for each one of us.


Still life

This is one of my oldest poems that I still rate quite highly.  It's from 2008 when I think, if I recall correctly, I had been writing poetry for about four years.

Could I now rewrite this?   Possibly not.  I don't think minor tweaks would make much difference, but a complete rewrite would probably lose the mood, and the mood is everything for a piece like this.

This image has little to do with the poem, except of course it is a still life and it has explicit brokenness and the immanent possibility of decay—but that's life for you...

Still life

And the bar-tender isn't even there
when you decide you need to drink
in the last-chance karaoke bar and grill.
He's never been there, you think
you know different, but all those years
an imposter served your obsessions
and beers; keeping watch on the borderlands
of your head. And if you wrote that wanted-ad
for a loving hit-man with boundary issues
then I can only suppose you placed it
in all the wrong magazines.

Maybe I can say the same thing
in a different way, but I just
began reading the student notes
so I may stumble over some detail,
and that bartender still isn't here
unless he's lurking in the gloom
behind the lurid chrome and plastic
beer signs that illuminate, unenlightening
to the freeze-dried bar flies.
They prop each other, unsteady,
in the face of your scorn. Perhaps...
we should walk out in the dusk
where other flies flicker. They are
not syncing with the cicadasagain
and while each pulses its alien message,
the world has long since turned away.

The bar-tender still displays
a studied absence, although it's so late
that the matt-black metal and smeared chrome
jukebox has fallen into a fugue state of decay
of one-hit wonderment. Only now do you conceive
of the barman as present but invisible,
a force that might be appeased; possibly
through subtle rearrangement of coasters, nuts
and steel ashtraysthe kind that scream
"unclean" even in perfect sterility.
But the paranoia grips you, and I,
carried along in the stream too deeply
reasoned, am forced to admit that, yes,
he might be watching us

Always the woman with too much jewellery
and insufficient dress will, for a small fee,
lower your expectations to ground level.
And always she declines to take the mike,
but legend has it that when she does sing,
the world will have been half an hour gone.
And the depravity of the night, in parts
shaded by your varicoloured soul,
draws onwards at length to spew us; ungentle
as a doorman tossing rowdy drunks into the back alley
of morning. Except you never did get that drink,
and the bar-tender isn't even there.