001|- A licence to Rhyme
Well this could be the last time
This could be the last time
Maybe the last time
I don't know. Oh no. Oh no
(lyrics from This Could Be the Last Time by The Rolling Stones)
In this post, my one hundredth of this blog, I'm going to contemplate its future, and that of similar poets and magazines. So, as all the best books start, once upon a time ...
100 Red Balloons
Whenever I think of the most marvellous hundreds, I think of Sarah Records.
Initially, there was no name to represent the post-post-punk guitar bands that began springing up in the wake of (and, in many cases, in tribute to) Postcard, which folded in 1981 amidst much drama and mismanagement. The scene at the club nights where these bands played couldn’t be aligned with any genre or trend. For some on stage and in the audience, there were typical sixties signifiers like suede jackets, white Levi’s and striped T-shirts. Others looked vaguely goth, or like stubborn punk holdovers. Many were altogether nondescript. Their only common denominator was that none of them appeared to have any money, and the humble rooms in which they gathered to play or to watch - the back rooms of pubs, little community and student halls - were consistent with an overarching sense of austerity.
(from Popkiss: The Life and Afterlife of Sarah Records by Michael White, Bloomsbury Academic)
That sounds like a crowd of poets I reckon ;)
I first heard about Sarah Records when I discovered the band The Field Mice, who were founded in Mitcham where I was living at the time (at the time I heard of The Field Mice, not at the time The Field Mice were in existence). The Field Mice had their music on the Sarah Records label. I loved all of the Sarah Records bands — predominantly jangly, totally heartfelt songs.
Sarah Records was a UK independent record label active in Bristol between 1987 and 1995, best known for its recordings of indie pop, which it released mostly on 7" singles. On reaching the catalogue number SARAH 100 the label celebrated its centenary by throwing a party and shutting itself down. In March 2015, NME declared Sarah to be the second greatest indie label of all time.
(from the Sarah Records page on Wiki)
In tribute to Anne Mari Davies, vocalist with The Field Mice who suffered from terrible stage fright, something that can be equally hard to deal with as a poetry performer, here is the track Five Moments, which she says she has a soft spot for.
On Being 100
I've joined a Facebook group called Poem a Day for April, in which you do exactly what it says on the tin ... write a poem a day. I came up with this reflection on what it means to be one hundred :)
On Turning 100
The plot has taken many twists —
and a broken hip,
ankles that did the twist
on the cobbles
of village streets.
The patience of the sand
timing this egg,
from the gentle submersion
to the breaking of the crown.
White attack black, black attack back
The fuckin' media keeps us all blind, blind
Children on crack, junkies on smack
You want to close your eyes to hide, hide
Pollution so dense, sickening existence
New world order, new world decline, decline
(extract from lyrics to Block by Machine Head on songmeanings.com. You can listen to Block on YouTube)
I find writer's block a curious animal. I never force myself to write — if nothing is struggling to find its way out of my brain I tend not to try and force it ... that's like trying to get a toddler to put its socks and shoes on so that you can go outside! I think that's a very different side of the coin to when a poet decides that the words that are coming out are no good. Quite often I'll jot something down and think that it's not very good but has promise, in which case I'll save it in an ideas file and come back to it at a later date — be that a day, a week or a decade. The New Yorker has an article on writer's block and how it affected some of the most famous poets in the world:
After the English Romantics, the next group of writers known for not writing were the French Symbolists. Mallarmé, “the Hamlet of writing,” as Roland Barthes called him, published some sixty poems in thirty-six years. Rimbaud, notoriously, gave up poetry at the age of nineteen. In the next generation, Paul Valéry wrote some poetry and prose in his early twenties and then took twenty years off, to study his mental processes. Under prodding from friends, he finally returned to publishing verse and in six years produced the three thin volumes that secured his fame. Then he gave up again.
Block in The New Yorker>
Here's Where the Story Goes
today there is a prejudice against prolific writers. Joyce Carol Oates, who has published thirty-eight novels, twenty-one story collections, nine books of poetry, and twelve essay collections, and who also teaches full time at Princeton, has had to answer rude questions about her rate of production. “Is there a compulsive element in all this activity?” one interviewer asked her.
(from the article Block in The New Yorker, see above)
I would not in a million years describe myself as a prolific writer ... sometimes I write a lot and other times very little. The one thing I'm not going to do, however, is to hold a party and announce the closure of this blog! I won't deny it, the thought did cross my mind when I realised that this is post number 100 and remembered how Sarah Records did just that, imploding overnight. But I love blogging. It helps me think about the purpose of poetry writing and what is happening in the wider poetry world. I might need to slow down my blogging once my Creative Writing MA begins in October, but I'll address that matter when I figure out how much free time I have amidst the assignments and course work of the various modules — at the moment I think I'm going to take Long Form Fiction 1, Poetry 1 and Creative Non-Fiction in the first semester, and Poetry 2, Short Story Writing and either writing for Radio or screen Writing in semester 2.
I'm going to end this post with another Bristol connection of a musical flavour. The singer Harriet Wheeler, who ‘studied English literature for her undergraduate degree at Bristol University when she met David Gavurin.’ according to Wiki. Harriet and David went on to form the band, The Sundays, whose second album is titled Blind ... how much more perfect can it get than that?
So, on that note, I'll leave you with a song that I love, from their debut album, Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic, Here's Where the Story Ends by The Sundays ... perfect for a Sunday blog post don't ya think ;)
A huge thank you for joining me through the first hundred posts ... I'll still be here with number 200 in 2 years and a fistful of weeks :) xxx