Monthly Archives: August 2011

The Back Room launches new collections by Samuel Wagan Watson & Liam Ferney

The Back Room keeps the QPF buzz going when it lights up Confit Bistro (4/9 Doggett Street, Fortitude Valley) tomorrow night (Wednesday August 31). This is an event not-to-be-missed as it will feature the launch of two sparkling new poetry collections, The Curse Words by Samuel Wagan Watson and Career by Liam Ferney.

The Curse Words is the second chapbook from award winning poet, Samuel Wagan Watson for Vagabond Press; a mixture of prose-poems and textual blues-riffs. The Curse Words frames some of Samuel’s ‘muses’ and abuses of verse. This chapbook inspired a well-received show at the recent Adelaide Cabaret Festival by award-winning chanteuse, Leah Flanagan and will premier at the 2012 Sydney Festival.

Career is the second collection from Brisbane poet, Liam Ferney. It is the story of an English teacher marooned in the outer suburbs of Seoul during the 2002 world cup. It is a tale of typhoons, late night bars, cab rides and thwarted love. It is Liam Ferney’s second collection and follows on from 2004′s Popular Mechanics. Poet Gig Ryan describes Career as “bejewelled with the insistent shouts of everyday life… All laid out in poems tailor-made for aficionados of Korean alcohol and cigarettes, Italian zombie movies, acronyms and abbreviations of all kids.”

Both collections will be launched by acclaimed Brisbane poet, Brett Dionysius.

Sheish Money & I will also be on deck to fire things up, so get your poetry shoes shined… doors open at 6pm with the live action staring at 6:30pm.


Date: Wednesday August 31
Time: 6pm for a 6:30pm start
Place: Confit Bistro, 4/9 Doggett St Fortitude Valley
Entry: Free

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Onwards to Infinity: QPF 2011 Wrap Up

Day #2 of QPF 2011 was just as thrilling as Day #1. I, like so many others, lined up for the more than seven hours of poetry on offer yesterday, kicking the day off at the Open Mic session, Residue of Midnight. While there were a few ‘word-weary’ heads early in the morning, they lit up as the poetry started to flow.

The Open Mic, was incredibly diverse. There were readings of traditional ballads, poems of protest, poems of peace & poems sampling music lyrics. It was quick fire, with everyone clocking in under the 2minute mark… 22 poets in the first hour!

I then caught readings by Max Ryan, Andy White, Michelle Dicinoski at the session, Midday Arrives and Drinks. Max’s set took us on a journey with a bus full of Beatles fans; took us through the vibrant streets of India; and through the darkness of a rainswayed night. Max is a captivating performer, with that incredible ability to draw you in to his world. And speaking of captivating, Andy White just seems to radiate positive energy on (and off) stage. His reading from Stolen Moments at this session was stunning, giving the audience a taste of the many musical poems in the collection and his version of Samuel Beckett to open the show was as good as I have ever heard it! To close the session, Michelle Dicinoski delivered another powerhouse reading from her debut collection, Electricity for Beginners, a book that must rate as one of the Australian releases of the year.

Next up I went along to The Zen Method of Bingo. Matt Hetherington, opened proceedings and from the first poem, held the audience transfixed. His senryu sequence, detailing the breakdown of his marriage was up there with the best things I heard over the weekend. And when he entered into a call and response with an 8month old in the audience, the room was in stitches. It was, to say the least, a masterful reading. The lovely Julie Beveridge was up next, reading from new work written during our recent time in Vancouver. Her poems bristled with images of departure lounges, fireworks, seals, snakes and morning sickness. I hope to twist her arm to publish one or two of the poems here in the near future. Chris Lynch rounded out the trio in this session. Chris also read from new work, blending haiku and tanka with his longer, lyrical works.

And then there was A Crash of Chords. Ashley Capes opened the session dipping into work from his three collections; his poem farm, and the line ‘in the horses mouth, even straw sleeps’ never failing to stop my breath. Then something quite amazing happened… Sheish Money, Jane Sheehy, Anthony Beveridge and winner of the 2011 Thomas Shapcott Award, Nick Powell hit the stage and tore it up. This was the debut of their show, Shift and it was sizzling. Nick Powell had all the moves (and then some) of a young Jagger; while the band, lead by Sheish’s growling vocals and guitar, lay down a rock solid foundation for him to spit out his words. It was passionate, it was fiery and it was damn fine fun to watch! Let’s hope it’s not a one off show.

The final session in the Shopfront Space was aptly titled Among the Last Bright Leaves. The sun was setting in the window, giving the room a beautiful ambience. It was wonderful to hear Aidan Coleman again. This afternoon, he read predominantly from his series, Stroke Poems, forthcoming in his collection, Asymmetry. The intimacy and quiet dignity of these poems resonated with everyone in the room. Asymmetry is definitely a book that I am looking forward to being able to spend time with. It was also a pleasure to hear Ron Pretty. His final two poems, which he tells us were written with a glass of wine in hand on his balcony, were sublime; rich with musicality and perfectly delivered. And finally, Nicola Scholes took centre stage, opening with a long, experimental prose poem, that was a textual rush.

Then it was Onwards to Infinity, the final session, of the 15th annual, QLD Poetry Festival. Like Saturday night’s, A Million Bright Things, the mood was upbeat and the poets kept things shimmering from start to finish. Highlights included an impromptu collaboration between Sandra Thibodeaux and Kevin Gillam on cello, another helping of Sawako’s cacophonous, bilingual ‘ant poems’; and Andy White’s rollicking version of Looking for James Joyce’s Grave. It was also a blast to hear each of the QPF Committee Members perform. I had the immense pleasure of asking Sheish up on stage to play the grand piano as we performed our collaborative piece, Let It Rain / Meditations on a day when the river… it was a rush! Then the crowd lifted the roof as Festival Director, Sarah Gory took the stage to close the festival. This was Sarah’s first year with QPF and I personally hope that it the start of a long relationship.

And so the festival was over, leaving us all with the hum of poetry in our bones, and a bounty of memories to live with until next year. I hope that all of the poets heading for home today travelled safe… we miss you already!

 

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Burning Bright: Day #1 of QPF 2011

Day #1 of QPF 2011 was an absolute thrill from start to finish. I took in over seven hours of poetry starting off the day by attending a tribute to the late David Rowbotham, featuring Paul Sherman, Ross Clark & my lovely wife, Julie Beveridge. Helen Avery also performed in that session and read from many Australian classics… that’s right, think Patterson, think McKellar. Taking in some of our heritage was the perfect start to the festival.

Then things shifted tempo and I was hitting the skins beside Sheish Money with Ashley Capes up front belting out his words. I know there was footage shot of the gig, so maybe, just maybe, it may surface sometime soon. Brisbane locals John Koenig & Carmen Keates rounded out the session, John delivering a set of poems that conjure the Australian landscape, many of which can be found in Brisbane New Voices II and Carmen reading a sequence from her unpublished verse novel Second Hand Attack Dog, a no-holds-barred account of life on the road in an unsuccessful band (The Dick Candles – so beautifully Bris!).

Next up I caught Tim Sinclair who has been digging in the dictionary for words such as Afflatus and Lopsided and penning poems in their honour (check out his debut ebook, re:reading the dictionary), Amanda Joy, who delighted with a selection of poems from her latest chapbook, Orchid Poems and Chloe Wilson, who read from her debut collection, The Mermaid Problem, closing the session with her poem, ‘Hold That Tiger’, where the tiger takes a bite from her trainer and licks itself clean.

The next session for me was one of the highlights of the day… Image Back to the Word, featuring Aidan Coleman, Sawako Nakayasu and Cindy Keong.  Aidan’s images are tight and crystalline, with the power to transport you from the deeply intimate to the hilarious in a breath. Sawako, well, she has blown the audience away every time she has stepped on stage. Her poems a rush hamburgers, ants, eyeballs and strange happenings. Can’t wait to hear her again today. Cindy Keong closed the session, reading from a series of poems inspired by her recent work in Tanzania. Coupled with a backdrop of stunning photography, her performance showed the intimate relationship between image and word.

And then it was All Roar and Crash as Andy White, Kevin Gillam and Marisa Allen blended their love of music and words – Andy playing and singing as only he can, Kevin splicing bursts of cello throughout his reading and Marisa playing saw and violin. Hearing Andy read from Stolen Moments was a blast. It is a book we are all very proud of. And the session closed with Marisa and Kevin joining forces – cello, violin and Marisa’s powerhouse voice all rising to a tremendous crescendo. So good!

Australian Poetry presented Lines featuring Nick Powell, Eleanor Jackson, Bity Booker and Eliza Hull; a show that allowed the ‘kissing cousins’ of song and poetry to dance a little closer. Kate Fagan also lit up the stage with her amazing presence to open the session with a reading from her forthcoming book, First Light.

And then it was the showstopper, A Million Bright Things… one poem from every poet on the program with me running up and down the stairs to introduce everyone. This gig just keeps getting better and is fast becoming one of the hallmarks of QPF. It crackled with electricity from the get go and held its energy throughout. 42 of the world’s finest in 90 minutes… who could ask from more!

So if like me, you are still wet with the residue of words, get along this morning and belt something out in the Open Mic and then stick around for what I am sure is going to be another mind-expanding day of poetry.

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In Raptures

QPF 2011 raised the poetry bar high last night. From the joyous opening address by Jenny Galligan (Exectutive Director, Arts Development, Arts QLD) the atmosphere was crackling and then the Val Vallis and Thomas Shapcott Awards were announced and the first wave of rapture spread through the audience.

West End local, Rachael Briggs held the room to pin-drop silence with a powerful performance of her Val Vallis award winning sonnet sequence and Brisbane favourite, Nick Powell thrilled with a poem from his Thomas Shapcott Award winning manuscript. Nick’s first full length collection will be published as part of the award and launched at QPF 2012, something I am already looking forward to!

* Get along to see Nick take flight with Sheish Money & co. on Sunday afternoon as they debut their show, Shift (3:15pm, A Crash of Chords, Theatre Space, Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts)

Two poems in to the festival and already the hair on the neck was dancing. And they didn’t stop…

Sandra Thibodeaux, gave us a rhythmic hit of politics, satire, sex and the Australian landscape as she opened Of Rhythm and Rapture; her presence on the stage, lighting up the room. Ah yes… wave of rapture #2.

Sandra was followed by the first of the international guests, Sawako Nakayasu, who delivered a razor sharp series of short poems from the collection, Time of Sky, (translations of the work of Ayane Kawata). This was one that knocked me out:

A scream inside a fish
A table is a table
The raped orange becomes the blue sky

Another favourite was her ‘hamburger nightmare poem’ (from Texture Notes), where the light at the end of the tunnel might just be a lump of fat. Wave of rapture #3…

And closing the first half of the night was the second international guest, Jacob Polley. Jacob opened with his poem Smoke, a poem that sits up there as one of my all time favourites. Hearing it read for the very first time is something I will not forget. Polley’s rich voice, ringing every last note from the poem. You guessed it… wave of rapture #4!

And then after a trip to the book store (more on that later…) and the bar, we were back in and settled for the second half of the show, a solo performance by Kate Fagan. From the outset, Fagan’s voice filled the room, and what a voice it is… clear, bell-like, each note perfectly realised. She moved from guitar to piano to reading poems seamlessly, but it was when she sang A capella, her interpretation of Child Ballad #3, that you knew undoubtedly that you were in the presence of a truly incredible talent.

And here I am this morning… words shivering under the skin ready for another day of words. And I can let you in on a secret… today I will be sitting in on drums as Sheish straps on his guitar and Ashley Capes breathes his words into the mic as part of the set, Torching the Shadows at 11:45am in the Shopfront Space. Going to be a blast!

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Stealing the Moment: Talking with Andy White (part iv)

No more waiting… QLD Poetry Festival is here, live tonight (and continuing across the weekend) at The Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts. That means Andy White is walking down a Brisbane street somewhere, listening to its music. It also means that this weekend is your first chance to get your hands on a copy of Stolen Moments. Good times indeed!

Here’s the fourth instalment of our interview:

So far you have touched on influences such as Brian Patten, John Cooper Clarke, Leonard Cohen, Dylan and The Beats and how they played a pivotal role in turning you on to poetry as an art form. Could you talk a little bit about who you are reading/listening to now? 

It’s difficult to get the time, juggling things all the time. When you’re on the road you get given a lot of CDs, which I usually listen to all at once, and keep the ones I like. This is the main source of new and unheard music for me when I’m not in Australia (when I am, it’s a mix of 24-hour Muse and Triple J, courtesy of The Teenager).

Producing records or pre-producing with songwriters and sorting out their songs, a lot of decisions have to be made about music and words. I find inspiration in people starting off writing or recording. Not usually the material, but the vibe. So to relax, have time off, I find myself going back to the classics and digging deeper into music I discovered when I was younger, finding things I couldn’t have known were there.  Also listening to music I know nothing about and have only an instinctive reaction to – where I can’t analyse the structure and can’t understand most of the lyrics. Jazz. I like Italian singer songwiriters – Fabrizio di Andre, Vinicio Capossela. Usually though, what I am listening to is related in some way to what I am digging in a more general sense.

Jazz is a great example of this. I was in Los Angeles and stopped by a junk shop which had obviously inherited the vinyl record collection of an older guy. He lived in West Hollywood and his albums were in pristine condition. I bought a George Shearing live record from the 50s – so I can hear what Kerouac writes about so beautifully. Also a fantastic-looking New Christy Minstrels album which anyone who’s watched ‘The Mighty Wind’ (the folk ‘Spinal Tap’ – same cast just as great) would appreciate. The Minstrels on the cover look exactly like the New Main Street Singers and I swear there are 15 people sitting on high chairs all playing acoustic guitars and smiling. How could I resist? I also bought a Television album I’d lost track of in red vinyl and an LP of inauguration speeches of US presidents from Roosevelt up to and including Richard Nixon. Nice.

For what I’m listening to in general, here’s what I listened to on the plane journey home from Canada slash LA a couple of weeks ago. Just after I’d visited that store and the evening of the afternoon I wrote this blog http://www.21stcenturytroubadour.blogspot.com/

Installed in United’s economy cabin with its 1970s feel – terrible food, annoyed stewards and an entertainment system designed by John Logie Baird – there’s nothing for it but to settle upright (‘back’ is not an option) and listen to whatever music is on the Pod, read whatever’s in The Bag.

I crank up the hand-me-down iPod I have been given by The Teenager. Since I don’t live by the Pod (I don’t like the ear-things too much and I like hearing the sound of the streets when I am outside) there’s not  too much choice. But at least all of it’s good.

Doctor – the screens. I feel another list coming on.

1. Blood On The Tracks.

Straight to this one. The depth in the narratives and the quality of each line is stunning. Age brings out the depth, for sure, and I’ve learnt that the songs reveal themselves gradually.

2. Andrea’s rough mixes

I am producing an Oslo singer-songwriter, piano-player who’s simply super-talented. Plays the piano and autoharp. She’s got an incredible voice, writes lyrics in Scandinavian style – getting to the heart of the matter with both a quirky touch and without a lot of the baggage songwriters carry around.

3. Tom Waits’ new song

‘Bad As Me’ New song by old favourite. Great lists in this song. Waits is probably the most talented of the old masters (well, he has been permanently ancient for years) whose current output is  as good as it’s always been. Lloyd Cole is like that too -  it’s just that if an album hits you in a particular way at a particular time (like ‘Rattlesnakes’ did for me) it’s impossible for the fan (not the artist) to get back to that place again. Nothing to do with the songs.

4. Twilight Hotel album

Brandy from TH sang with me at Edmonton Folk Festival. This album’s got atmosphere and cool old guitars everywhere. Drums rule the mix – as with a lot of my current favourite albums – Robert Plant, Ray La Montagne.

5. Muse

Hold on. The Teenager must have borrowed the iPod before I left and filled it with the entire Muse catalogue including studio albums, out-takes, live concerts and video footage. I see why they’re huge and (sort of) love them but … five minutes and I’m done. Better take a turn reading …

6. Elvis biography.

‘Careless Love’. I loved visiting Sun Studios in Memphis a few years ago, and Graceland too (see ’21st Century Troubadour’ for a chapter on this visit) but only had my childhood memories of Elvis to guide me. I remember he died the summer punk took off in Belfast and we were busy ripping up t shirts and borrowing safety pins off our mums – and practising in a basement listening to the first Clash album – to really care.

Since going to America and a friend lending me the two volume Elvis-biography-to-end-all-biographies (there will never/should never be another) I have spent hours with this book and its predecesssor ‘Last Train To Memphis’ (more exciting – generally the rise more interesting to me than the fall and especially so with Elvis).

7. James Ellroy

I’m on Part 3 of the trilogy. ‘Blood’s A Rover’. It’s been years now since I read a book by an Englishman. God how I miss proper sentence structure and educated wit. I can’t wait to get back to the latest Martin Amis.

Hang on a moment … (Shurely shome mishtake – Ed)

Here comes Melbourne.

I also wanted to ask what is the heart of invention for you as a singer-songwriter-poet?

William Blake said it all – “Innocence and experience.”

Thanks Graham it’s been a pleasure. See you in Brisbane.

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QPF Filmmakers Challenge + Review of Synaptic Graffiti Collective’s, Memory DVD

Kicking off tomorrow night, QLD Poetry Festival 2011 takes centre stage at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts for three days of the best live poetry you could hope to experience. A festival highlight will be the announcement of the QPF Filmmakers Award on Sunday as part of the session, That Profound Machine (5:00pm, Theatre Space). Last year’s winner was Sara Moss, who is a founding member of the Synaptic Graffiti Collective. Earlier this year, SGC released their second work, a collection of video poems titled Memory.

The delightful Mark William Jackson has spent some time curled up in front of it and has emerged with this to say…

Synaptic Graffiti Collective’s Memory: Video Poetry, A Review

One of my favourite exclamations is “poetry is dead”. It’s not new, it’s been said for over two thousand years, Plato denounced the form around 400 BCE as being evil and encouraging vice in children. Aristotle delineated poetry from rhetoric, and, due to rhetoric’s direct relevance to law and politics, poetry was overshadowed. With each generation it is proclaimed that poetry died with the previous generation.

However, poetry refuses to die; it morphs and moulds into new shapes, takes on the characteristics of current trends, disguises itself like an addiction, and, like the addicted, people refuse to acknowledge its existence until they realise they need help.

Epic narrative poems told tales of war and conquest, which now rate as some of the highest grossing movies. Lyric poetry hid itself in music, anything from ‘Greensleeves’ and Blake’s ‘Jerusalem’ through Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan to Grandmaster Flash’s ‘The Message’. But, where am I going with this?

Multimedia. Poetry can sit alone on a page; it can be spoken on a silent backing; pianos, drum machines, kazoos can come behind to add emphasis; and you can throw it all onto a video screen.

Memory is a DVD Anthology produced by Synaptic Graffiti Collective, who are poet Sara Moss and Digital Artist / Musician SCART. SCG provided the canvases and poets Sara, Jayne Fenton Keyne, Stefanie Petrik, Sharmy Pandy, Deb Matthews-Zott, Komninos Zervos, Alana Hicks, Magdalena Ball & Halil I. Karatas covered them in floating images and shook them with powerful words.

The collection offers a variety of sounds and styles of poetry, music and visual stimuli. The common thread being ‘memory’, we are taken through the minds of the poets, their images, what formed and what still haunts them.

The collection opens with ‘Returning’ by Sara Moss & SCART, an almost classical piece, free verse yet balanced. We are asked to question what we have lost, where we have gone after we have given up the hope of returning, what is the cost of a dream? Heart wrenching images accompany the poem, mournful violin lets you know you’re in for a deep ride.

Jayne Fenton Keane’s ‘Blood Sonnet’ takes you through a Matrix stylised, technophilic dream that bruises your retinas with rapid eye movement responses, and teaches you that “hope is the colour of daydreams”.

Sharmy Pandy questions her home in ‘My Home’, is it the memory of childhood, the unknown desires, empty rooms, memories as real as dreams. The images of a young girl playing with her ‘father’ on a lounge, until a grown woman collapses on the same lounge,  but empty. The poet admonishes “don’t ask me about home, I’ve never had one”, unless you’re asking about walls, houses. But no, home is the poet’s father, home was lost February 23, 1990.

Kominos Zervos’ first of two appearances at track 7 is ‘Childhood in Richmond’, which takes us back to the memory of a father, a newly arrived immigrant to Australia who works in a fish and chip shop in Richmond, Victoria. Intermittent rhyme adds to the flow of the poem which has a music without musical background. The toughness of growing up in 1950’s Australia beats along like an elevated heart rate.

‘Sorrow Follows Terror’ is hip and hop, but not clichéd hip hop. This piece is one of the absolute standouts of the collection for me. A short piece at just on one minute that speaks of ghetto imagery, “the sky will never know what you know… the past is dead… sorrow follows terror always into never.”

Deb Matthews-Zott features twice on the DVD. Her second piece ‘Backwards’ is quick flashes of memory, images from across Australia support the memories, soft piano takes you backwards by the hand and Deb’s words gently guide you into memories so generic they are personal to all.

Tracks 12 and 14 are more Sara Moss / SCART poems, though both very different from their initial offering of ‘Returning’. ‘Always Be Running’ screams a protest at the end of the Howard years, the Pacific ‘Solution’, the stitched mouths of refugees, the invasion of Iraq – “this history will not be revised because this is how I remember”, angry driven guitar by SCART supports the protest.

“The Unfolding Night” closes the DVD, but, with its heavy techno beat, opens your eyes, “she burns poetry to the skin of all she touches, she is Stanza, she is fire, follow her as she tattoos the unfolding night.” Speed motion trip images of the urban night leave you both exhausted and ready to rage.

But it is track 13, ‘To Live’ by Halil I. Karatas, with Sara Moss & SCART, that offers the most vivid, wicked memory. Halil recalls his childhood in Turkey, he tells of the disappearance of his father because the father supported unionism, tells of the torture Halil suffered because he spoke out against the military government, tells of his years in jail only to be let out into a mandatory two year military service. Once out of Turkey Halil made it to Australia only to be separated from his family for another two years during his ‘processing’. This video should be compulsory viewing for anyone with a vote.

The only thing I think would add to the experience of the DVD is to be able to hold a copy of the poems, to be able to look back and have the words echo in a reader’s head. I understand that without the support of a grant of some sort, and because the cost of the DVD is at near cost level, that a booklet could not be provided with the DVD, but maybe a downloadable PDF on the Synaptic website?

And now I’ll return to my original point; let them say poetry is dead, because thanks to projects like ‘Memory’ it has morphed again, rebirthed and exciting, it has never been more alive – these are the contemporary equivalent of the Beat Generation’s mimeographed zines.

Memory is available from http://www.scart69.net/synapticgraffiti/Pages/memorydvd.html


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Stealing the Moment: Talking with Andy White (part iii)

Here’s the third instalment of my interview with Andy White. Not long now until, Andy launches Stolen Moments at the 2011 QLD Poetry Festival this weekend at the session, All Is Roar And Crash (4:00pm, Theatre Space, Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts).

There are a number of poems in Stolen Moments, such as avenue B and 1925 that show the hardships of life on the road. How difficult is it to remain creative and connected when the exhaustion of touring kicks in?

This is one for my book ’21st Century Troubadour’ (published in Ireland I hope to bring it to Australia next year) which almost has the creative spirit of exhaustion as its guiding principle. The book is centred round an Irish singer-songwriter who travels the world carrying an acoustic guitar and accompanied by a bag so heavy it’s “currently showing up on Google Earth as a small island.”

It’s such a major theme that it spills over into the poems. However, poems are not perhaps the place for the kind of Dickensian hyperbole which most of these adventures require. They’re more for the moments in which the world caves in and you feel you’re being taken down in the process of this collapse. It’s a tangible feeling and one which most travelling musicians experience.

The fact is that creativity is more likely to come out of a scenario in which every nerve in your body is shredded from the schedule, the promoter is a crazed transvestite ruling his own kingdom with the help of a rod of iron and a smoke machine, the sound system is swimming in beer, the check-in girls at easyjet don’t want to let you off paying excess baggage and everyone in one particular LA shoe shop thinks you’re a member of U2 when all you’re trying to do is catch the bus to the next gig.

(Although I must say in passing that U2′s beshaded lead singer referred to me as “a legend” in an interview in New York last month. I wonder if he’ll ever read “o god let me die after bono”).

All of this is the real life glamour of the road. It’s tough, but it sure is sexy. It’s a big part of what I love about what I do, and it’s what people are interested in asking about. Something underneath the skin is what excites people. Everyone knows that the celebrity tittle and tattle is just that – concocted by a paid PR person in an office somewhere. I’d rather be on a Greyhound than in the First Class lounge. Though I wouldn’t mind stealing their sandwiches.

*************************

avenue B

hauling gear
past second-hand stores
and dusty cafés

I saw the man
I once was
smoking outside
a coffee shop
leaning back in a straw chair
inhaling

he glanced at me
just for a second
our eyes met
and I looked away

straining and sweating
concentrating on
keeping the wheels of

the bag
the case
my guitar
a ukulele

from falling off the kerb

eyes down
the only way
forward

nobody’s getting off this planet alive
declares the woman in front of me
to anyone who’ll listen

I’m listening

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