Freeze Frame Anthology – featured poet Candy Bright

The fifth poet in the Freeze Frame family is Candy Bright, here’s what she had to say to Oscar…

Candy Bright

Candy Bright

It can be dangerous hanging out with poets. They often handle dangerous materials without a risk assessment. One of my rules is to read aloud any poem I encounter. When Candy submitted her poems for Freeze Frame I opened the file in the Gallo-Romano Media office. I selected a poem and read it out. Suddenly there was a sob from the lady who had been happily tapping at her keyboard. The poem to blame, “Sam” will appear in the collection. It is a simple poem dipped in human life juice. Some writers have this quality and I do not think you can force it if it is not there. With Candy’s poetry somehow you know that it is informed by an emotional life lived. There are many nuances in the human soul. Regret is not always sadness. Joy is not always happiness. Sadness itself may have on occasion an enveloping pleasure of gravitas and insight.To understand and savour this, we have poetry. Candy operates in this area but without self indulgence. Her work can be suddenly direct, factual and almost harsh. Above all you feel a fellow human reaching out to share how it is and how it feels. For poets, this process rarely gets beyond the work in progress file. In her collection “Candy Colours” she opens with a poem  A Life So Far. It begins

It’s only a draft you understand
I’ll get it right some time soon.

Well, that’s life – and far more importantly, that’s poetry.

Candy was my fifth interviewee and I think her responses show very clearly what she is about and the unique thread of poetry that she brings to Freeze Frame

Reading your introduction and chatting to Paul Tobin after your audio studio session, the word “naked” has come up. You talk of poetry somehow revealing the truth of you. I see this is a valuable insight into the way you approach your work. I think you have every justification for feeling confident in your nakedness but how does it feel to you?  Have you held back from getting your work out there?

Yes I have, I have used the analogy of writing in closets and singing in cupboards for years-for whatever it is worth when I write I seem to strip back to the bones my bones-and I guess that as few of us are unique-there may be a synergy out there somewhere. I now being of a great age that I have little left to lose by my honesty. Sometimes I so wish I knew another way to be-but I don’t.

When I received your poems I read them aloud in the Gallo-Romano office. Your poem “Sam” is very beautiful and poignant and brought out some tears. Your work often touches on the loss of innocence and to some extent, regret. Is this a theme in your thoughts?

Yes-I suppose it is apparent. I always thought I would die with Edith Piaf’s words on my lips-but not so. Whilst I embrace life and all the beauties it has to offer-the antithesis also exists and I find separation ridiculously hard.

You write about people. You also write about people in places. It seems to me that travel has been an element in your development as a poet. Is this so?

I have travelled out of pleasure and out of necessity and lord it has taught me much. I have also travelled out of autonomy and out of powerlessness and it is these opposites that seem to rule my life. I do so try to take on the lessons that they all seem to offer …….

Do you see yourself as a poet or as a woman, wife, mother who writes poetry? It is clear to me that much emotion comes off the page of your work. Is writing an emotional experience for you as you dig down into memory and experience?

That is a very hard question to answer without stripping back even more layers upon layers. I write as a being, I happen now to be a woman but I have been a girl and I have synergised/empathised with boys/men as well as females and  then I have my spirit which I believe may just rise above gender and worldly position. However I write as my experiences have found me or it is I who have found them? And I am a woman, a sister, a mother, a lover, a friend and having been a nurse for most of my life a wannabe healer. There are times I truly feel I transcend these boundaries-but it usually gets me into trouble………

Listening to your audio track, I catch all sorts of influences in your accent and voice. Is that the result of an interesting life?

That is a very kind way of asking that question. It’s funny –I have lived in many different places-worn many different hats-and I am told that when I have had a few (too many) glasses of wine my American accent is very strong!! I guess I have many hats- I hope it’s a strength-I have always felt comfortable amongst kings or tramps or anything inbetween as long as there is good intent-who am I ?? perhaps my poetry is trying to find out

I love the straightforwardness of your poetry. There is no puffy language. Have you developed a lean style over time? Do you ponder and revise at length or does a poem just leap out trimmed and formed?

Mostly when I write-it just comes out –formed-sometimes I feel that I cant put that on the page as its too much ownership for the reader and I feel all responsible, I feel I have to apologise for dripping loss all over the place-and yet that is who I am. I so don’t want to bring anyone down but if someone reads my words and then does not feel so crazy or all alone then that’s great-and for me too. I guess that’s why I write I am shouting-hello-to anyone out there.

I have worked with people much more versed and academic than me and it lends me to working more to form-my only fear is losing passion………..

Had you read any of your poems aloud to an audience? Do you read them aloud to yourself and having undergone ordeal by audio do you feel it brings a fuller experience of poetry?

I LOVE hearing people reading their own work as I so know it adds a dimension that otherwise is lost. I do enjoy reading my own work-but there we go-naked again-and it takes much courage……

Candy has the honour of having the last word in Freeze Frame. She has a style which I believe many readers will recognise as being their own hearts and sentiments. In her first collection “Candy Colours” she employs the tag line “Poetry Especially For Women”.  It is undeniable that her work does have a distinct femininity in that it is expressed from the heart of a woman. To give you a taste of her work I have selected a poem from her book.

YOU

Art becoming life and back again
Delving for the entwinable essence
Once this precious treasure found
Holding tight for fear it loses breath

You should not take me to the edge
Unless you beckon me to fly
You would not show me such brilliance
Then return me to lonely shadow life

Once a life is saved needs must it will be shared
Shall I rest here then for those trusting days
And nights where promises are made
Breathe then, this heart is in your grasp

 

The next and final interviewee will be Oscar himself  –   he is being put through his paces by Jo VonBargen.  Can’t wait to see what nuggets she digs out…

Freeze Frame Anthology of Poetry – Progress

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Last night was rather exciting – my cover designer came back with the first draft of the artwork for the FREEZE FRAME Anthology.  I’m really pleased with it… but I have to show it to all the poets first before I can let you see.  Sorry about that.

We’ve also been busy editing the recordings the poets made of their work for the anthology.  They’re all sounding good and it’s been fun listening to them – there are so many contrasts in accents, styles and delivery. I’ve also got the Freeze Frame original music stuck in my head – it’s a beautiful piece for piano written by a local lass specifically for this project.  Look out for the ‘Music Reveal’ later this week.

Adding all the minutes together, we’ll probably end up with an album lasting well over an hour and a half.  Anyone who buys the e-book or the paperback will be able to download the MP3 version for free – you can even load it into the music folder on a Kindle and listen as you read!  We think it’s really important to hear poetry read aloud by the poets with the emphases and stresses as they intended.

Have a great weekend poetry lovers.

Freeze Frame Anthology. Featured Poet, Claude Nougat.

For the fifth poet in the Freeze Frame Anthology, Oscar Sparrow chose Claude Nougat – a true Citizen of the World as you will see in his interview with her below…

Claude Nougat

Amongst the madness of it all, Mankind Incorporated does have a management structure.  Largely it is invisible and a glance at the news could lead you to think that there was no one at the helm. Behind the scenes there are the economists, planners and executives who keep the show going. A read through of Claude’s CV would leave you in no doubt as to her capabilities. In her professional life she was an economist working on project evaluation for the U.N. She speaks several languages, is a novelist, a painter, journalist, blogger extraordinaire and of course a poet. You can check out her full palmares, book list and gallery here.

I first encountered Claude when I chanced upon her blog. She ranges across the worlds of  politics, economics,the arts, publishing and current affairs. These days she is my Numero Uno source of guidance on the subject of world affairs. She is so truly international by virtue of her upbringing and career that she has a unique non tribal neutrality that is like radar in a fog.

For her contibution to Freeze Frame, she set out into the streets of Rome to write a series of poems based around locations and monuments frozen in their own era, yet speaking forward into our time with their eternal lessons. The poems and her physical voice combine to create a completely unique work which I cannot wait to reveal. She delivers her poetry with an inimitably coolDSC04557 accent and a sense of calm humanity and intelligence of which I would be utterly envious; were I not a poet of course and above such things!

Rather than a poem, I am adding one of Claude’s own paintings that she created  for the cover of her novel A Hook In The Sky.

You see, working with other writers is a journey of discovery. When I look at this picture I ask myself if it is a poem. Certainly it has psychological depth that poetry often seeks. The more I see of all the guys in Freeze Frame, the more I admire and the less I know.

As part of the series I interviewed Claude about her work.

Primarily I have always known you for your prose. I wanted you in this anthology because of your quality as a writer. You have produced some unique and quite haunting poetry. Clearly the poetry was always there, but was it a challenge to set it free?

A challenge? I guess you could say that, although I’ve never stopped writing poetry all my life, on the sly as it were… It requires letting go of all the logical framework I’m used to operate in – especially as an economist and non-fiction writer. But let’s face it, I already do let go of logic when I write fiction. Characters in my novels are born from the unconscious and they keep doing things that even surprise me! For poetry, it just means taking a further step into the irrational. Letting words echo each other, both in terms of the way they sound and what they mean and what they imply. Also, there’s another aspect, the audio that you support so much for your anthology – and here I follow you one hundred percent! For me, poetry is actually very close to singing. Songs are poor cousins of poems, though the better songs are pure poetry in their own right. The voice matters. And rythm too, it’s much more important than rhyme, which in any case is simply the more traditional form of poetry, largely by-passed by modern poets.

Your poems are set in Rome, yet you bring the eyes of a lifetime and a world to interpret your subjects. Are there universal lessons of philosophy and history that will always be of the moment?

Definitely. For me, it’s a continuum: the moment “freezes” timeless, universal lessons. Ha! How do you like that definition of Freeze Frame? Actually, I’d like to add that the very title of your anthology inspired the particular form of poetry I chose for it. I picked some “meaningful” corners of Rome and just let go my imagination, associating the present with the past…

You are a true citizen of the world. Your objective non tribal viewpoint is a joy to those of us who follow your blogs and essays. Where is home for you in terms of tribe and location?

To be honest, I have multiple homes, Earth is my home. I belong to the nomadic tribe par excellence – my father and grandfather were both world-travellers, we spoke several languages at home – and “home” has varied in function of what I did with my life. After a fantastic series of sojourns in Egypt, Russia, France and South America, I attended an American university in the biggest metropolitan town in the world: Columbia U. in New York. That shaped me, no question about it. But after graduation and a first job, I didn’t stay in America. By the time I’d turned 32, I was back in Europe and feeling at home all over the continent. I finally settled in Rome, the birthplace of our civilization. That’s something I feel strongly about. Yet for 25 years I travelled for work in over 80 countries around the world, from Vietnam to Peru, soaking in the differences and revelling in the warm feeling of being able to come back every time to my home in Rome!

You share with Joseph Conrad the fact that English is not your first language. No one would know but does it alter/enrich your approach to the way you express yourself?

Enrich my approach? I don’t know, you, and all my readers, should be able to judge that! It’s interesting you mention Conrad, I always think (and feel) rather closer to Nabokov who loved to play with words and wrote of course as you know in three languages (Russian, German, English). I studied German but alas it is the one language I don’t know and I regret that. I studied Russian too but I also forgot it entirely (out of practice, out of mind). Ditto for Swedish (my first language, even before French). The result? For a long time, a horrible hodge-podge, too many languages. A struggle to express myself without having words from another language popping into my mind and interfering with the process…Eventually, with much effort, I managed to overcome the problems and I suppose you might say I’ve become rather articulate. I hope so. One thing is certain: I love words, I love to find out about their origin. Semantics is fascinating, I’m endlessly curious about the links between words as you move from one language to another.

A big element of the Freeze Frame project is the actual physical “Voice” of the poets. Another contributor has described the recording process as a form of nakedness. How was it for you?

Feeling naked? Yes and how! It’s strange because it’s exactly the way I felt every time I participated in a show as a painter. My paintings were giving me away – here was  my secret inner self for all to see! Saying my own poems made me terribly anxious in the exact same way. Did I sound like I was “full of myself”? Was I giving with my voice too much importance to the words I had written? Was I (cringe!) bombastic? Horror!

Who are your favourite writers – in any of your languages?

My favorite writers are generally Russian, from Tolstoy and Dostoievski to Gogol and Bulgakov, Solgenytsin…But I imagine you want to know about poets. Then I have to say Federico Garcìa Lorca, Verlaine, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, T.S.Eliot, Leopardi…yes, the classics! But I’m intrigued by the moderns, don’t take me wrong. For example, Alice Oswald with her Dart river poem…And of course, all the poets in your anthology. Their dedication, their sensibility, their inspiration, their ear, their voice…I’m impressed and I take this opportunity to thank you for bringing them all together, including yourself in this anthology! Freeze Frame is a fascinating project, particularly the audio aspect which brings poetry right back to its troubadour origins…

When I started this project I had half a plan to create a 50/50 mix of British and American writers. As things have turned out Claude is the wild card entry who delineates the pendulum swing of the collection. It is a joy to have her on board. When I asked her about which of her paintings I could include in this blog she offered me a selection. Amongst them was a picture that once again took my mind into the labyrinth of poetry and indeed to the concepts of surrealist art. Check out Cavalli Enigmae.Cavalli Enigmae  (Melancholia - Me) olio su carta 100x60 cm

Freeze Frame Anthology – Featured Poet Jefferson Hansen

Oscar Sparrow stays over in the USA today for an interview with poet and editor of The Altered Scale Arts Magazine – the brilliant Jefferson Hansen.

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C  Altered Scale with flats (Wiki)

Hey – look out the window. There’s a lot going on out there.  I guess we all know that but sometimes you come up against something that jolts you out of your complacency. A while ago I caught a couple of tweets from Jefferson Hansen which led me to the Altered Scale on-line arts magazine.  For an old wanderer of mellow meadows and the bargain aisle of Walmart , these pages were quite revelatory and liberating. There’s poetry, video, music and many mixes of them all and more or less anything else you can think of. I have featured there myself as pure prosaic me. There is no snobbery or agenda, no wish list or dream team. I love to look in and I love the fact that it is there.  IMG_2967Jeff Hansen

Altered Scale and its accompanying blog are the pure labours of love of Jefferson Hansen. His work creates a marvellous platform for other artists who can be anything from photographers to cross-stitch poets.  Whatever your tastes, desires or curiosities, I guarantee you will find something stimulating. The fact that he provides this platform says a lot about the guy.  My impression is that he evades my attempts to label him as altruistic but I know how much work this kind of show takes.

I have always said that the greatest talent of all other writers is that they are nothing like me. Jefferson Hansen has ideas that make my synapses feel like rusty railway points (I hope that this term exists in the USA) Come to think of it, I don’t think I would have had this image without him.  To me his work is risky, spontaneous and brilliant and I am delighted that he was able to contribute to Freeze Frame.  As the big poetry anthology bird descends towards final approach I interviewed Jefferson about his work.

Jeff, from where I see it you are one hell of a unique guy. Certainly you have opened my eyes to many possibilities in poetry, music and art. You appear to work selflessly to promote other artists in your Altered Scale blogs and magazine. To me you are a bit of a Gertrude Cyber-Stein’s monster but without the ego. What motivates you?

I don’t know. I like art, I like artists who are nice, and I get some recognition for it, of course. And the person who posts the most on the blog is…me. So I’m not so selfless, after all.

Obviously you are fearless about what you do. Much of your work is experimental. Do you fear failure or is everything and anything moving towards ways of expression and understanding?

Failure. Hm. If something fails, I just don’t publish it. I suppose everything moves toward expression and understanding, but some of that movement is boring–I’m interested in fascinating movement.

Recently I watched you improvising a further part of your poem “and I am alone thank god” which features in Freeze Frame. Your improvisation kept a few of us astounded at your ability to take the theme on into an intellectual abstraction just off the cuff. Do you enjoy the danger of improvisation to camera?

I love improvising. Often, the images and so on that come from the pressure of improvisation are later worked into “finished” poems. Improvisation is, I think, necessary for all artists. However, much of my art is grounded in a jazz aesthetic; indeed, “altered scale” is a jazz term.

Your own work is often abstract yet can pop up with pieces like ‘Meditating Cougar’ which is linear, philosophical and naturalistic. Do you have any kind of starting point in your own writing or does the subject ambush you?

Neither. The form ambushes me, and I go with it. Sometimes I write in almost a ballad fashion. Sometimes I write Romantic. Sometimes I write visual and wild. Sometimes I write in performance forms, most recently in “Your Majesty the Motherfucker.”

If folk do not know about “Altered Scale” allow me to say here that it is a truly exciting and original arts magazine featuring almost anything from Pulitzer Prize winners to old conservative English poets via abstract dance and improvisation. Do you feel there is a mission here to discover the fundamental particles of art by collision as if in some kind of Hansen particle Accelerator?

I never thought of it that way. I don’t believe there are fundamental particles of art. I just like the colliding.

You are a poet by virtue of the fact that you write and perform poetry. What is your background as a writer? Have you tried many forms?

See above. I don’t “brand” myself as a poet. Some avant-gardists must hate some of what I do. I don’t care. I just do. However, the fact that I sometimes write avant-garde necessarily puts me in the avant-garde camp socially and institutionally. That’s just the way the world works (right now).

You do not really promote your own work but seem to slip it in among other artists who are banging their own drum. What is the vision for your own art or do you see it as part of a broader continuum?

Oh, I don’t promote my own work much on Facebook; it seems gauche. However, I would announce a new publication there. Basically, I publish my own work on my blog simply to keep it active, so that something interesting is happening most days of the week. I also find sending work out to journals and so forth kind of boring. Why do I need the go ahead from an editor to feel confident that my work is “publishable”? I already know it is. So I publish it myself, avoid the middle person, and help to keep the blog active, thereby bringing attention to the other artists on it.

You know, when I was a younger man working in London I used to hang out at galleries and poetry readings. I was a member the Institute of Contemporary Arts and went to all the shows. I’ll always remember seeing Bunuel’s L’Age D’Or  – his surrealist film masterpiece. I was not part of the set there and felt very alone. I was, after all a cop – a Nazi oppressor of criminal freedom. (I learned to hide it and started wearing trainers with a suit, vest and scarf). Jeff Hansen takes the bullshit out of that high art clique. He mixes it up and spreads it on. He’s a talented poet too. I’m delighted to have him on board. I recommend checking out Altered. Scale. Here he is explaining his mission.

Interview – Jo VonBargen – Poet from FREEZE FRAME International Poetry Anthology (Launch Dec 2012)

Following on from his chat with Paul Tobin yesterday, we are pleased to welcome back Oscar Sparrow to interview Jo VonBargen, a poet from the USA….

Jo VonBargen

Jo VonBargen

Many lives are unfulfilled. This is a big statement and of course, I only know a few people. Yet, we know it do we not? So much tempting fruit is dry, so many talents lie unexpressed. I have been a life long reader of poetry and have come across many beautiful and thoughtful poems. But you know, there was never quite enough juice. There was never that stepping stone to the beyond that I wanted to imagine. I had not expected to see the sort of poetry that I had always wanted to read and could never write myself. Then, I came across Jo Von Bargen based on a recommendation from the American novelist Bert Carson. His tip led me to Jo’s long poem “From This Far Time“. This work has become one of my all time favourite books. The scope is huge and the imagery quite breathtaking. In a sweep she conveys slavery and apartheid with the “‘plowmule sky of dragging days”. The evolution of life from the prehistoric mud is “a glissando of slow subterraneans”. In this poem, she takes on the formation of life, its degradations at the hand of man and states a pure philosophic truth that “No law can transform/What the soul hasn’t learned”.

I would make no secret of the fact that Jo was one of the inspirations for “Freeze Frame”. Like the other contributors she is distanced from the official establishment of poetry.Good job too – she would break it in half! She cares nothing for fashion or trends. Her subjects are the whole of life. Her physical voice and accent is a joy – just so full of notes and humanity. As a teaser here is a special treat.

I’m so happy that you have been able to contribute to Freeze Frame. I have looked for a variety of subjects and approaches to poetry for this anthology. To me you are an absolute master of imagery. You have that ability to connect the reader to an idea with a sudden picture insight or juxtaposition. Is this a gift or something you have worked on?

Thank you so much, Oscar! And sincerest gratitude for all your hard work on this project! You are a fantastic editor to work with.

I am grateful for the gift, and I have consciously worked to develop whatever talent is there. I have always best learned from a word picture, so I was sure others would respond to it as well. It has served well in the overall body of my work, it turns out.

Did you just wake up one day and realise you were a poet? Did you receive encouragement early on in your development?

Poetry has always been natural to me. My Mother saved poems I wrote from the age of six onward. I think I really got the bug seriously in the early nineties when I first read all the Beat poets, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac (although he would argue that label for himself), Gary Snyder, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and many, many others. Bukowski was a particular favorite as well. I had been reading Erica Jong and was enchanted by her poetic form. I’d never, ever read anything so truthful at its core. She was absolutely fearless, like Bukowski. So, 1990 onward was a particularly frenzied time for me in seeking to develop my voice and style. “From This Far Time” came out of that period.

To me your style is entirely unique with its jazz, classical, objective, scientific, emotional, joyful and despairing tones among many others. Where does your poetry come from and who has influenced you?

Hmm. See previous for influences. Thanks for that, Oscar. I’ve always had a deep curiosity about the sciences and all the arts, so I have studied these areas intensely. Knowing how things work is very important to me. I think it all mostly comes from my life-long ability to get to the truth of a matter. As a child, I got a spanking nearly every day for blurting out unwelcome truths at home. I never seemed to have the “veil” over my eyes like others did. Everything was crystal clear from the start. I could smell adult BS a mile away (except from boyfriends), and regularly voiced it….to my own detriment. I never fit into the form in which they were trying to mold me; I suppose I knew life was NOT what they said it was and I wasn’t going to be trained like a circus seal. Needless to say, I was considered the “black sheep” of the family, even to this day.

How do you work? Is it always inspiration or can you grind out that difficult line with doodles and re-writes?

When I’m out walking, sometimes a thought will strike me from the blue and it will tumble around in my mind for a couple of days before I finally have to get it out and follow the thread. I often don’t know what I really think about it until the poetry begins spilling out. It is this art form that has educated me, for sure, and led me down research paths that have vastly enriched my knowledge base. Sometimes it comes out perfectly formed, and sometimes I have to dink around with it until what I was searching for becomes crystal clear. Usually a subject to which I have great emotional attachment blasts out just as I intend it. Anger or sorrow are great creative motivators. In addition, I’m often inspired by other poets and the subjects on which they write. I seem to be attracted to arcane or unpopular topics in society as a whole and dig deeply into those as well. Secrets and mysteries beg to be unravelled!

Do you remember your first poem and how did it come about?

As I remember, it was about my little golden Cocker Spaniel puppy, when I was six years of age. Our neighbour found her dead of poisoning in her back yard and brought her home in an apple basket. It was my first experience with death and emotional loss. I could not find relief from deep mourning until I wrote about it.

Freeze Frame features the physical voice of the poets. I love your accent and the feeling in your voice. Your featured poem “Pole Dancing” was recorded live. This poem always gives me a big smile and a WOW feeling. Are you an experienced live reader?

Thank you, Oscar! In the nineties I lived and worked on campus at Southern Methodist University and was a featured poet at many a poetry reading (non-academe). The campus newspaper regularly published my work. In addition, a nearby bookstore, Shakespeare Books, had open mic every Friday night, and I read a lot there. I miss those days! Poetry lovers are a pretty scarce breed out here in East Texas.

Where do you think your own poetry is going and where do you think poetry in general should go? Have you ever been part of the poetry establishment?

I hope my poetry goes in a positive direction and that I can add sufficiently to my life lessons that my work will reflect thoughts that will enlighten others. Society is changing very fast, and I believe humanity will reach new heights of enlightenment and oneness with others.

I have never been part of the poetry establishment, period. I’d rather stick a needle in my eye. One must fit into a certain mold and work a certain way within those halls, and it’s my opinion that true creativity is often squelched before it can fully develop. There is also a level of snobbery within it that is totally against my own nature. No thank you!

It was fascinating to see Jo’s responses. In the foreword to Freeze Frame I describe her as pure poet rock with all its glinting impurities. You don’t have to wait for the anthology to check out her work. I can guarantee that some of her images in words will live on in your mind. She is a rare talent indeed.

Thanks Oscar and Jo for fascinating insights into your lives and your poetry.

This weekend we have drafted the jacket artwork for the new book and hope to do a ‘cover reveal’ by the end of this week.  We have also been enjoying the music that was commissioned to feature on the audio version of the book…. more about that soon (maybe a sneak preview of the track on this blog!).

Freeze Frame Anthology Poet Interview – Paul Tobin

Oscar Sparrow, the editor behind our soon-to-be-published international anthology of poetry FREEZE FRAME has been interviewing each of the 5 poets he invited to contribute to the work. Over to you Oscar…

Paul TobinPaul is a dedicated and gifted English poet. His work has a quality of depth in construction that shrugs off ornament.   He is one of those guys who is poetry. Everything he comes across and thinks about begins a process of conversion into poetry. When you are around him you begin to see that we are living in a world of unexpressed poems. Much of his poetry centres around his birthplace of Widnes. Here is one of them, taken from his collection ‘Blessed By Magpies’

Widnes Bridge Poem.

Back to the Delta,
Up the Muddy Mersey,
Over the green bridge
Whose struts define the space
Of this gentle arc.
It is never still,
It shudders at the traffic,
Undulates with the volume.
And on a day like this; raw,cold,
That lazy wind would slice through
The cantilever and splay your guts below.

For me, this poem exemplifies Paul’s style. The flesh of the living human, Nature and the bridge engineering flow into an exposure of reality which is just a little edgy and dipped in mortality.   As we get close to the launch of the Freeze Frame anthology, I interviewed Paul about his work.

Long before I had started the Freeze Frame project I was aware of your work. I read one of your poems where some men were working on the roof of some kind of factory. Immediately I realised that you were my kind of writer and that we probably had many experiences in common. Coming from a blue collar life of toil and grease; was it easy to come out as a poet?

I was a poet, well aspiring to be a poet, long before the grease and overalls. I suppose I made an existential decision that I was going to be a poet when I was twelve years old. I heard Songs from a Room by Leonard Cohen that would be about the time it came out. I made the connection between him being a poet and getting the girls. It took about another twelve years before the work was anything but awful. But I kept at it with a mixture of naivety and enthusiasm.

I left school at 16 and served an apprenticeship. I was a fitter for a further four years at the local ICI plant. K Unit Maintenance to be precise, which was the title of the poem to which you refer. I wrote it sixteen years after I had left the tools. At the time I was in engineering it would never have occurred to me to write about what I did at work, at that time I was writing mainly about relationships, with the self-absorption of the young.

Looking at your style I notice an enormous range of references. Nature often blends with anecdotal story. The metaphysical often comes down to the personal. Have you always had a questioning mind about existence? Is there a wider quest always in the back of your mind as you write a poem about the specific subject – even if it be an apparently ordinary moment of life?

I have no idea where poems come from, they appear out of the ether and I just grab them and work upon them. I have this idea that poems are all around us and poets happen to be the people who see them then bring them into our world. This sounds a little odd, pretentious even, but is the only way I can describe the experience. Once the poem is here though, caught on the page, being revised and revised through as many drafts as it takes, then I can see where the ideas have come from. But while I am getting the initial idea down I just let it flow with no attempt to shape it that comes later.

Until recently I was a member of a writing group for about four years and what I liked about it was the challenge of sitting down in a room and having twenty minutes to produce something on a set topic. I like the idea of being put on the spot and see what come out. I facilitate a poetry group here in Taunton: Juncture 25, we meet twice a month and one of the sessions is a workshop (can’t get away from the language of engineering)and I usually run the session. I love the challenge and try not to plan it too far in advance, so as not to give my subconscious a head start.

Some of your work is political in the sense that it raises issues of public behaviour and people’s perception of their society. Are you interested in politics and where do you think the poet should stand – as a neutral reporter or advocate of a viewpoint?

I believe that the poet must stand by their beliefs. That said I am not sure what I believe in these days. I think I am interested in ethics more than politics. I cannot see a way forward politically, I think we went wrong as a society probably before I was born, I certainly think we have taken many foolish steps since then. But that’s another interview I think…

Poets attempt to turn the personal into the universal, that’s what I’m looking to do once I catch that idea on the page. And there are dangers in making a poem too overtly political, one is that it will age badly, but more importantly I don’t want a finger pointing, obvious work, that batters the person over the head.

In my last book Blessed By Magpies, there is a version of a poem I am still working on. End of Species Exam is just that the equivalent of an end of year exam in school. On the page it is about forty hectoring lines, in performance it has reduced to about fifteen. I want people to think, not to bludgeon them with a set of simple slogans.

One of your poems is called “Prayer” which is a conventional religious term. The poem, however, has a searching pantheistic flavour which does not seem to relate to a codified theistic viewpoint. Often in poems and blogs you give thanks for your privileged life. What can you tell us about the spiritual context of your work?

Yes. I think it is important to give thanks for our privileged lives, we have enough to eat, to drink, we are not in danger of losing our lives, and we are better off than many of our fellow humans.

I have been very influenced by a sixteenth century English mystic, Thomas Traherne. He speaks of delighting in the success of your neighbours as much as in your own success, of wanting the best for everyone. His most famous quotation is:

You never enjoy the world alright till the sea itself floweth in your veins, till you are clothed with the heavens and crowned with the stars.

It is such an inspiring vision and one I try to live up to. I have no formal codified viewpoint as you point out. I am though influenced by the Tao. I think the idea of Balance is really important. For me it is essential to have a personal relationship with the Creator, and to give thanks for the beauty around us and the privileged life that I have.

I suppose I have been drifting in this direction for most of my life. I like working in groups with other people, I like that energy of creating that you get in groups. I have influenced by my work as a Rieki Master, I think it is that growing sensitivity to the energies that make up the world has brought me to realise how fortunate I am.

Much of your work is cleverly observed human interaction and intercourse – some of it quite conflicted. Were you always an observer of mankind?

I suspect so. I people watch all the time. One of the poems in the anthology For I Keep Watch came about one day when I was just walking about Taunton and on two separate occasions people walked into me. My first thought was that I must be invisible today, then I was struck by the idea of the Stasi, the East German secret police and how they kept files on everyone. Then I thought who follows the follower (to misquote)? I wrote the first draft in a doorway.

As to charting the conflicts within interaction, yes, I do. It is how I see people, we are complex and at times we are in conflict. I write poems about the conflicts I have been involved in to make sense of them.

In a few poems you touch on personal unhappiness and failure of relationships. Do you think that poets need turmoil and sadness to see the truth of things and human nature?

No. As I say I use my poetry to make sense of my life. Even if I am never sure what I am going to write about, when I work on it on the page I can usually chart where the component pieces have originated.

Actually I am an optimist, I can usually see the positive in most situations, though on a few occasions I have become depressed. Then I actually can’t work.

Actually I get many ideas when I am in a calm, contemplative state, when I do Tai Chi or Reiki, or I am meditating. I find as I get older I can turn off the chattering monkeys in my head and just be. First thing in the morning is a very productive time for me. That’s usually when the poems come tumbling out.

You are poet in residence at the Fishguard Folk Festival. To me this is something of a true accolade.  It also sounds like a chance to be out there and beating the drum. Tell us a little about this and what it is like?

What is it like? Well that depends upon the festival. I actually have been poet in residence at a number of festivals, last year at The Purbeck Folk Festival and this year at The Acoustic Festival of Great Britain as well as Fishguard Folk Festival. I have also performed at a number of others around the country. They are all very different, some are more organised than others. Fishguard is a gem of a festival, well organised, with a variety of good venues, friendly audience and its free! There is a marked difference between the way the arts are supported in England and Wales. In Wales they are far more passionate and supportive.

I think my abiding memory of festivals is the communication. I tend to walk around the festival site and engage people in conversation and read them a poem. It’s a good way to contact people.  I feel quite naked when I do it but I usually get a reasonable response. It is always surprising what poems go down well, though I have a small set of poems that I usually save for the end of a festival set.

There is a difference between the audiences I read to at music festivals and those at poetry evenings or poetry festivals. People at a music festival are primarily there for the music, the poetry is an add on. At a poetry event you can take more chances. I suppose in the end that is what all performance is about, taking the chance of baring the soul and speaking from the heart.

I am excited about the Freeze Frame project and Paul has contributed some fantastic material and also an audio track that brings so much out of his voice as a poet. My next interview will feature a very different type of poet who has such a depth of image power that sometimes I just have to stop for a WOW! Of course, I’m talking about  the American poet Jo Von Bargen.

As I’m beginning to shape the show and decide the order in terms of voice and style, I cannot help but having a real sense of joy at bringing these guys together and putting out this collection. The contrasts, juxtapositions and the human voice are adding so much to the mix. OK – head down and editor’s hat on……..