Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Musical Heritage

On the way to college this morning i found myself thinking about music. A few days ago I went into a store called Roys of Wroxham, which is a really naff department store and the piped musak they were playing was things like the Clash and the Sex Pistols. It made me wonder - at what point do bands like The Clash who found it hard to even get played on the radio when they were first around suddenly become public property and loved by everyone?

I actually find it quite annoying. I was a huge Clash fan but the constant airplay of tracks like Bankrobber does get me down. Don't get me wrong I think it's great that a whole new generation are listening to such a great band - but I just find it weird that people who couldn't stand them at the time suddenly talk of them with great affection. It would be like I suddenly got into Cliff Richard.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Deadlines of Destruction

Working to deadlines can be something of a double edged sword for me. On the one hand it gives me a push so that I get off my metaphorical butt and produce some work. But on the other hand it stresses me out and when the creative juices aren't flowing or co-operating I start to panic. That is where I am at at the moment. We have been writing in genres and I am finding it difficult. I have initial ideas and have written a couple of stories that I was happyish with but I know that they need work and I am not sufficiently engaging with the genres to make me want to rewrite them. I quite liked the crime genre but feel hopelessly inadequate in my knowledge of police and prceedure - I don't think watching "Life on Mars" really qualifies me as a crime writer.

Poetry, in which I am a fairly prolific writer is also slow to get going. Quantity does not equate quality - and I came away from Friday's crit feeling deflated and inadequate, feeling like I don't know how to really critically analyse my work.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Absolute Video Inspiration

Cooped up at home with a cold this week I found myself experiencing a strange desire to watch the film Absolute Beginners. Whilst not the greatest musical movie in the world and being a little dated (it was made in 1986) I found myself thoroughly enjoying it. What amazed me as well was how many critically acclaimed pop videos have obviously drawn their inspiration from it.
For a start "Let Forever Be" by the Chemical Brothers (which incidently is an excellent video) - there is a scene in the video where there is shot of a girl on an escalator which turns into several girls on escaltors behind one another and there is a similar scene in the film. There is also a song by Ray Davies in the film where the camera pans over the front of a house that has its front wall taken away and shows you the rooms from the outside. This has also been used in pop videos ranging from Massive Attck's Protection (also by director Michel Gondry who made the Chemical Brothers Video) and Mel C and Bryan Adam's "When You're Gone".
I hadn't realised before how far reaching the influence of this movie has been. It also features some great songs and is well worth a second look.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Mothers in Poetry

It seems that my poetry theme for this term has picked me so to speak - it is mother. Not neccessarily my own mother although of course some of the work will inevitably include aspects of her. But about mothers in a general sense, what it means to be a mother, our relationship with our mothers and mothers in general.

here is a light hearted one:

The Hour of the Boys

This is the hour of the boys,
they face the world,
bags crouching hump like
on teenage backs,
heavy with the fears and wishes
of itinerate mothers,

mothers who spin socks from love,
and games bags, gloves,
who sandwich worry
between wholesome slices of neglect,
and write poetry secretly
in dark corners.

Pretty much every poet has written a mother poem from Edgar Allen Poe to Sylvia Plaith, one of my favourite is by Charlotte Ballard:

8.14 I Never Had a Mother

never had a mother
Who read “Hello Moon”
Fifty-seven times before
Tossing it behind the refrigerator

I never had a mother
Who brushed my hair
Before each day’s battle
Against primary foes.

I never had a mother
Who hugged me before
I slept and dreamed of
Gold that only I could acquire.

I did have a mother
Who cooked up soup
To last the three days
Before payday came.

I did have a mother
That roared like a lion
And took me to see
The doctor more times
Than she ought.

I did have a mother-
A piece, a part
As much as she could
Borrow against a Promise made –
That her children
Would never be
Raised by a stranger.
I barely knew her.

Charlotte Ballard

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Desert Island Discs

Was talking to someone today about what you would choose for desert island discs - only five tracks so it's a tough call. Last year I did my top 100 tracks of all time. I revisited the top 20 today and I think if I did it now it would be somewhat different. Here is the original top 20:
1. David Bowie - Young Americans
2. Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here
3. Bob Dylan - Oh Sister
4. Joni Mitchell - River
5. Dire Straits - Telegraph Road
6. Led Zeppelin - Black Dog
7. Stevie Wonder - I believe (when I Fall in Love)
8. David Bowie - Cat People (Putting out the Fire)
9. Lightning Seeds - Sense
10Led Zeppelin - The Immigrant Song
11. Radiohead - Creep
12. Sting - Brand New Day
13. David Gray - Sail
14. Primal Scream - Movin on Up
15.The Clash - Stay Free
16. Pink Floyd - Comfortably Numb
17. Bob Marley - Redemption Songs
18. John Martyn - Over the Hill
19. Van Morrison - And it Stoned me
20. Genesis - Abacab

I'm not sure this list would be entirely the same if I did it now. Radiohead would have moved up and Dire Straits might have moved down. Pink Floyd, David Gray, David Bowie and Led Zeppelin would be about the same. Additions might be Jethro Tull (sad I know), Paul Weller, Cheb Khaled's Aicha, and Chaka Khan's Aint Nobody.

hmm I see that I am going to have give this some serious thought. But to choose your five favourite tracks of all time is a tall order - I would be interested to know evryone elses.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Sylvia Plath

I never thought I would ever say this but I went and bought another book of Sylvia Plath's poetry today. I have found myself more drawn to her poems of late.

I studied Ariel some years ago when I was in my mid twenties and I just didn't get it - I found her self obsessed and utterly inaccessable. Now however 14 years down the line, with a teenage son and several months of counselling behind me I am more able to see where she was coming from. I wouldn't say that I like all her work exactly but i do understand it better now and she has a great way of using language -like abstract painting with words.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Freshness of Vision

So I wrote a ghost story and I was pretty pleased with it. The ideas were good but it needed a bit of editing. Then I went into my fiction class. I didn't read it out but it soom became clear to me that my small editing job is going to turn into a major rewrite.

Basically I have fallen into lots of pitfalls that should be avoided in writing. I had an opening descriptive paragraph setting the scene, explaining who the characters were and what was going on. Well that needs to go. Then I had descriptions of how people are feeling and these are cliched - things like "she suddenly felt scared", evidently it is better to use action to show she is scared rather than simply say that she is scared. This helps the reader to engage more with the character.

I understand these things they make sense and I feel like I am really learning something but I did come out of that class feeling a bit demoralised. It was exactly the reason I had put off enrolling on the course for so long (that and money of course) - writing has always been the thing that I am good at and I thought "what if I get to art school and discover that really I'm no good, where will that leave me?" One of my problems is that I have years of bad habits behind me and I have to learn to break them.

I am finding this problem with my poetry as well, I have got into particular habits and that can mean that my writing can sometimes lack depth and sound a bit cliched. I need to let myself go a bit, break out of my self imposed bounaries - when did I ever get so uptight?

This week I have been looking at some short stories that I wrote in my early 20s. They are not good technically and I can see why only two of them ever got published. But what they do have is a freshness of vision and a confidence that my writing sometimes lacks now. I was not afraid then to use language in a fresh and sometimes unconventional way. I wrote on plain paper without lines and I allowed myself to freefall - the words flowing out in a stream of conciousness style. What I should have done was to take those ideas and work on them, editing them until they were accessable to the reader.

I feel like I need to reclaim that free voice, rediscover that fresh way of looking at the world - if it's not too late. To break out of the self imposed confines I have imposed on my own writing and then maybe I might something worth while.