Songs I wrote but Hallam wasn't inspired by (yet)

More workpieces from Hallam London and my factory floor. Completed lyrics waiting for musical inspiration this time.  There's about one of these for every piece that does have at least an idea for the music...
  • The Anithero - a man whose superpower is seeing other people's superpowers and who works quietly in the background to stop the wrong people from getting together and accidentally breaking the world...
  • Love/life - (probably in the American South, somewhere along the Mississippi) an old lady comes home after years away and meets the other old lady who she had a crush on when they were girls...
  • Health warning:

    I'm sure that in some former life
    you were a cigarette...

  • Close fiends

    ...and do I have to say that we're all monsters,
    for who amongst us has no darker needs?

  • Deeply flawed individuals - an attempt on my part to be somewhat 'darker' (after listening to Amanda Palmer all afternoon).  Not, I feel 100% successful, but possibly an area to come back to in other songs...
  • Persistent vegetative state - is it the patient or is it everybody else who won't wake up?
  • Quo vadis?

    You say to meet at seven in room eight
    but I am late and you have taken

    the numbers down from every single door.

  • Barbarella Aleph One - you go to see your ex, but she's locked up in an isolation hospital, having accidentally upgraded herself into something transcendental:
a mind
gone rich and strange and spinning fast enough
to take a careless hand right off

(I hadn't even seen Luc Besson's Lucy when I wrote this...)


Rock and Roll memories...

Hallam London playing along to our song "Hey Changeling!" in Dave Sanderson's home studio earlier today.


Ten lyrics I failed to write

(or did not succeed with yet...)

This is the first of what are going to be a few posts trying to give some insight into how the collaboration works, mainly for no reason except that it is a marvellous thing to do and I encourage everyone to keep their eye open at all times for any similar opportunity.  When it comes, go for it!

Hallam and I work in a shared online space where we store, edit and comment on songs in various degrees of completion—think of it as a big echoey, badly-lit space with the occasional flash of sparks and welding flicker in the distance.  Let me show you around...

Here at this end we start with the raw ideas and as we walk along beside the conveyor we're moving first towards completing the words, and then over here we see the music music getting bolted into place (although both remain subject to fine adjustments right up to the end.)  Only one song, To the Sky, was done in the reverse direction because Hallam had a fragment of music he did not know what to do with.  I had to wheel that one the whole length of the factory on a trolley...

So... scattered around you can see workpieces in several broad states of completion:
  1. fragments and ideas for lyrics
  2. completed lyrics without music
  3. lyrics with a musical idea
  4. songs, finished, apart from that awkward problem in the second chorus
  5. musical masterpieces
—and Hallam and I wonder around with welding torches, plectrums and a thesaurus, occasionally stopping to walloping one or other half finished song with a big hammer...

So here are some example snippets from items of type 1 - the fragments: in this list underlining is the title, italics is a fragment from the words, and (parenthesis) marks my ironical asides:

If I knew what you were thinking
(I'd totally write a song about it...)

At least one driver update failed...
All my letters are junk mail.

I shall build cloud castles,
a fortress on the storm-front.

(rhymes "tweet me" with "never need to meet me"...)

Only weep
Please do not point that thing at me

it's for protection I believe

why must I dress the children in ballistic mesh?

The uncrossed stars,
the untwisted plot
a comprehensive listing
of the many things you're not...

Don't make me do this the hard way
(although actually it is...)

This dream...
it seemed to have no ending...

(unlike the lyrics which so far failed to start.)

Trust issues
(which I can't bring myself to share with you.)

Silence, amnesia and doubt...
(I'd say more, but I'm not sure I remember where I was going with this...)



Hallam London (slightly dated photo...
I'll try to take some new ones)
Very excited and probably should have mentioned this earlier but time, time, time...

Today Hallam London arrives in Sheffield and tomorrow he starts work with Dave Sanderson on an album of the songs we've been writing for the last 3 and a half years.

Hallam is a German Alternative Rock Musician who posted a message on a UK poetry forum about 4 years ago.  Nobody noticed.  Then after six months, the message was found and I hunted him down online, studied his previous work, found an address, mailed him, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Hallam's previous music/poetry project was to set some of Shakespeare's sonnets to music.  This one seems the most suitable to mention and I loved those and still have them in my playlist to this day.

Dave is a Sheffield-based music producer.  You can see people he's worked with via the link above, Reverend and the Makers and 65 Days of Static were the two I had immediately recognised.

And I am me, and over the next ten days or so we (OK, mostly they, my day job gets in the way) are going to record/mix/produce some of the songs into an actual album.  It is entirely possible you'll see me selling it before too long.

Exciting days, I know nearly four years ago I said to watch this space, but...

...watch this space.  In the meantime, here are some demo tracks:


Girl, unaccompanied

I've tagged this with my LGBTQ tag, which I have created to collect together this important category of poems.  There aren't enough, of course, there will only be 9 with this one (and for some the connection is weak.)  As a heterosexual I still feel awkward writing about this...  but equally I have many friends for whom it is an important subject.

I recently asked Amy why a particular new work of theirs had such a gay slant and they said "just redressing the balance," so that's me told: I ought to do more.  I may have to take advice.

Romance is only one of two ways to read this poem.  The other is about being an outsider; about teaming up with another outsider to help take on the world.  However this interpretation can still circle back to the gay angle since growing up gay could be what makes the girl an outsider in the first place.

So the possibility that one or both of these girls is falling in love is entirely there.  I've not explicitly filled in their ages (but for reading Romeo and Juliet in drama they would be late teens I'd think.)  A gay, female friend did tell me that this is exactly how she felt about another girl back when they were are school...

...so I've given this the LGBTQ tag, and you can make up your own mind.

Girl, unaccompanied

Lately she's been singing out of key
and I found this a revelation.  In choir
on Thursday afternoons, she stands in front of me
and I lurk behind one perfect shoulder,
embedded in her faintest scent and try
not to be obvious.  Also

lately she's been dressing kind-of wild,
while I maintain my camouflage
of sweatshirts, jeans — only the beige ribbon
in my hair.  It's lately, I've been...
restless with my life, of writing my name
twelve coloured on the backs of books; but she

relentless in drama (it's Friday now) looks wry
reads Juliet as suicidal assassin and I
need to know if anything has changed.
So I meander in her spinning wake,
scuffing ash and torn pages
to find the smallest flowers still dancing

in the aftermath.  Latest is: she spoke to me
in maths, mocked obsessing on precision —
on getting it right every time.  We laughed
and I feel daft, but drift towards a strategy
where I'm the girl who can't keep the beat
and she's the girl who likes to sing off key.


Review: Amy Kinsman's "&"

Review: Amy Kinsman's "&"

Amy Kinsman
(from the back of the book)
Amy is one of the most interesting poets I know.  I have known them getting on for two years now and we meet almost precisely once a month as Amy hosts the popular Gorilla Poetry open mic, where I am also a regular.

Amy is genderfluid and uses gender-neutral pronouns.  They edit Riggwelter online journal of creative arts.  Amy also regards themself as both a performance and a written poet — a bifurcation I attempt to bridge myself...
Amy's book & (pronounced "Ampersand") won the Indigo Dreams Pamphlet prize in 2017.  Last week I attended its Sheffield launch and was reminded what a remarkable book it is.  There are seventeen poems in this pamphlet occupying 29 pages and ten of the pages are taken up by the two longest pieces: Iterations of self and it's like this.  There is plenty of good stuff elsewhere, but I am going to focus on these two, both because they're really good, and also because they are the ones that (for me) tell the strongest stories about the author.

In the first of these, iterations of self, Amy dissects their identity using "jonathan", an identical twin occupying the same body ("Jonathan" being the name Amy would have had if they had been assigned male at birth.)  Through the thirteen sections of this poem the characters "you", "jonathan" and "amy" iterate different approaches to their various identities.  Each section characterises a different theme to tell us something about the overall self: masculinity, femininity and hallucination are three examples, and the whole picture builds incrementally from these pieces as we proceed.  Let me quote two sections from quite early in the poem:

iii. self as electron

contemplate the light, its red and its violet. consider the theories postulated by quantum mechanics: perhaps there is only one particle in all places at once. conclude that you were made in the dark.

iv. self as repetition

at the kitchen table, your grandfather cuts a barbed spiral of identical paper girls. they push themselves up from the surface and arm in arm they go, singing amy, amy as they march eyelessly towards its edge. what to do with all these little girls? there are so many of you, heaps and heaps of you. your grandfather is calling you by your mother's name and you don't have the strength to correct him as you sweep the scraps into your hand and begin to devour them.

iterations of self

Amy kinsman

Here we see some of the scope of the dissection.  An electron of course is neither particle nor wave, and also (before its wave function collapses) neither here nor there.  Wave function collapse happens because of "observation" (scare quotes because after a century there is still no rigorous definition of this) and metaphorically observation cannot take place in the dark.  Therefore this persona, created in the dark, has an uncollapsed wave function; is simultaneously red and blue.

In the self as repetition we see the "cookie cutter" nature of traditional genders.  You look "girl" therefore you are girl, you should act in girllike ways, and the "eyeless" paper girls haven't even thought about it, and just took what they were given.  How awkward it must be to express a newly minted gender to a grandparent who hasn't the background to understand, and by extrapolation how strongly established (e.g. old) structures must reinforce these stereotypes.  In fact, in this section, the character has no strength for explaining yet again.

The final section of this poem, xiii. self as ampersand, I believe provides the collection's name.  Here, rather than simply assuming multiple selves can be pasted together, we instead see a need to disassemble some parts and reassemble into something different and new: if still flawed.  In software engineering we call this refactoring: transforming a functional system into a something different but still functional.  The closing phrase:

this time i want it enough. even the gods have built imperfectly, stumbling towards completion; look at us.

—is loaded with the hope and difficulty of this.

Amy jokingly sold this pamphlet to me with the brilliant advertisement: "it contains the long one about my sex life", and it's like this is that poem.  This also is structured as many numbered paragraphs, but in this case all entitled: "it's like this".  Many even commence with the identical words: "two of your lovers stand before you."  This is because each presents a number of actual or potential lovers.  Pairs, groups and types of lovers are contrasted, or presented in scenarios which highlight various relationships or attitudes.  Again the overall picture builds throughout the poem, let me quote two sections:

vi. it's like this:

two of your lovers stand before you. the one on the left is the first person you ever loved though you only know this in retrospect. the one on the right you only recently realised you are in love with. the winner is whoever's name is the first out of your mouth.  both of them are women with scrutinising gazes whose eyes glisten with mania through their curtains of dark hair. both of them lower their deep brassy voices.  somebody turns off the light. all of you are counting the seconds.

vii. it's like this:

you are having a threesome with two of your lovers, both of them men, both of them avoiding looking the other in the eye. one above, one below, the two of them are locked in a tug of war over the spine of your being. the pressure builds.  you cry out i don't bend like that, but they continue as if they have not heard.  your bones splinter at sacrum and coccyx. you snap in two. the winner is the one holding the larger part.

it's like this

Amy Kinsman

Amy is bisexual, so lovers with a range of genders appear.  More than this, every section returns to a question of who is the "winner", reflecting the poet's polyamory:  a monotony from continual questions such as "which of us do you really love?"  Thus only the poem's simplest level is about the poet's sex life (full of humanity as that is) and at deeper levels expresses the frustrations we all have (but the genderfluid, bisexual and/or polyamorous must feel more acutely) in the effort of explaining what we are to those around us.  This comes over most clearly in that the protagonist has difficulties with lovers (i.e. section vii above) but almost as many difficulties with other people reacting to lovers, for example:

the mother of the one on the left will say are you a lesbian with an honest indifference. the mother of the one on the right will say an english girl with an indifference which must be practiced. your mother will say are you sure you want to be with someone like that in a tone that reveals she likes neither of them. the winner is everyone's mother.

it's like this

Amy Kinsman

For me these two are the most important poems, and also my favourites...  There is much else here to attract the attention but I have already written twice as much on this excellent collection as I intended.  I will just briefly mention anton yelchin, which muses on his tragic accidental death, descent in which an anonymous character falls to Earth after a grand endeavor, and disappearance of the poet: the enjoyment of which I leave as an exercise for the reader.

it's like this ends as the poet takes off their laurel wreath.  I prefer to interpret this as tactical withdrawal and not a complete resignation from the fight.  It is important not to resign, we have to keep on fighting.

Amy Kinsman's & is available from Indigo Dreams at £6.00 + pp.


NaPoWriMo - 2018 - Postscript...

Hi all,

Sorry I disappeared without a word before the end of NaPiWriMo.  The explanation is that I was just running a bit late, but still planning to do the last five days...  However life caught up with me and it never happened.  As a goodbye, I just want to post this which wasn't part of NaPoWriMo but which I created in the Nov/Dec/Jan just gone.  I'm rather proud of it and I hope it might encourage others to greater efforts in the areas of recording and audio editing their poems.

I entirely did this using the kindness of friends and freely available free tools, the total production costs were £0.00 ($0.00 at the current exchange rate...)  If anybody wants to discuss how it was done please contact me...

NaPoWriMo has, as ever, been glorious and thank you to all who created prompts, read poems, wrote poems, set up discussion groups etc etc and so on...

You are all stars!



New Muses for a Posthuman Age

(Original link with credits...)