Monday, October 15, 2007

Paring down Poetry

Can you pare down poetry too much?

George Szirtes taught me to cut some of the superfluous words from my poems and I can see that he was right. After the initial shock last year of seeing my poetry with words, lines and even stanzas crossed out I looked again and was able to immediately see that without a doubt my poetry is better for it. It is stronger, clearer, more direct, it speaks in its own voice without getting bogged down in ands and buts and explanatory lines.

Minimal poetry is also the kind of poetry that I prefer to read myself - poets like Lorca and Neruda. Poetry that appears simple yet the beauty of the language can bring tears to your eyes and make your heart sing with joy.

What I find myself wondering though is whether poetry can become too refined? Does the constant paring down mean that you might lose some essence of the original poem? Will I keep obsessively paring down my words until each line is but a single word? Will my poem eventually be simply a blank page?

There is without a doubt great beauty in silence, but in the silence of choice not that of procrastination.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Future is the Past...

It is very seldom that I watch a film that I know that I will want to see again, and even rarer to see one that will watch again within a week (pretty much unheard of actually!)
The Future is Unwritten is one of those films. I had been really looking forward to watching it as I have been an unashamedly huge fan of The Clash for years, but thsi film far exceeded all my expectations.
Once you get used to the quirkiness of the filming it is riveting viewing. Temple has filmed a bunch of Strummer's friends and peershanging out around a campfire on what looks like the banks of the River Thames. They are listening to a recording of Strummer's radio show that he made for the BBC World Service. One of the most striking and original things about the film is that the narration is largely the voice of Strummer himself talking about his musical life. This is interspersed with anecdotes supplied by his friends and is run over video and photo footage of Strummer's life plus anamated drawings.
One of the great things about this film is that it covers the whole of Joe Strummer's life not just the period of time when he was in The Clash. I found it fascinating to learn about his childhood, his time as a hippy living in a London squat as well as what happened to him after The Clash disbanded. I am ashamed to say that I was such a huge Clash fan in my teens and twenties that I never really came to terms with their split and so didn't follow their subsequent musical careers. This was definitely my loss - The Mescaleros produced some brilliant music and I am just left wishing that I had given them a chance when Strummer was still alive.
I would highly recommend this brilliant/funny/sad film and would suggest that while you watch it you might want to keep a pen and notepad handy as Joe plays some excellent tracks on his radio show that you will undoubtedly want to hear again.
Recommended tracks:
Johnny Appleseed - Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros
Coma Girl - Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros
Blitzreig Bop - The Ramones
1977 - The Clash
Corrina, Corrina - Bob Dylan
To Love Somebody - Nina Simone
This is Not a Lovesong - Public Image Limited