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 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……..

Excitement builds…

Here at Gallo-Romano Media we are busy pulling together an international anthology of poetry.  There are 6 poets, 60+ poems and 60+ audio recordings of each poet reading their own work.

The book is called FREEZE FRAME and will be coming out in digital e-book format for Kindle just in time for Christmas.  As with many of our other publications, this e-book  will have the bonus of a free link to the audio book – so you get two versions for the price of one.

The print version will follow shortly and will also include the link to the recorded poetry, so even if you prefer to read from paper, you can still enjoy our poets giving their best performances.

This book will be one of the most innovative and exciting expressions of contemporary poetry published in 2013.

Watch this space for the cover reveal shortly…..