Archive for the ‘poetry’ Category

rippswirl

 

I am guest poet spot at the SPIN gig next Wednesday, 4th June 2014.

SPIN is a monthly poetry and music open mic night at the Ripple & Swirl Cafe, 14 The Esplanade, Christies Beach, on the first Wednesday of the month from 6.30pm – 9.00pm.

Admission is $5.00 / $4.00 concession

There is also an open mic. for poets and musicians.

Food is available by pre-order if required and the venue is licensed.

Further details are available at the  SPIN Facebook page  or contact the SPIN organisers by email: spinopenmic@gmail.com

 

Christies Beach

 

 

On Sunday I took part in the “March in May” demonstration in Adelaide, from Victoria Square to State Parliament. There were marches all over the country, protesting against the Abbott governments budget cuts to health, education, pensions, the ABC, and any other sector you care to name which Abbott does not like. The Murdoch media, predictably, was dismissive. The Sunday Telegraph headline was “The Ferals are Revolting”. Clearly the reporter had not noted the broad cross-section of Australian society represented by the demonstrators: school children, teenagers, parents, grand parents – every age group and every walk of life. Abbott has succeeded where Labor had failed – he has re-mobilised those who believe in a progressive Australia.

In the evening, coincidentally, I watched a gripping documentary called “The Square”, which happened to be about political demonstrators gathering in another square:  Cairo’s Tahrir Square in 2011. The documentary tracks four or five participant in the demonstrations: a Muslim, a couple of young activists, a singer and an actor Khalid Abdalla, who starred in “The Kite Runner”. The demonstrations led to the overthrow of the oppressive Mubarak regime, only to see it replaced by brutal military rule. They then forced the end of military rule to see it replaced by the rule of Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood. Again they forced the end of Morsi’s regime in 2013.

It is an incredible insight into a complex situation, which I had barely understood before. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Rotten Tomatoes gives it 100% and describes it as “… an immersive experience, transporting the viewer deeply into the intense emotional drama and personal stories behind the news”. You can watch the whole film on the net here and here.

I took some quotes from the film and, with some minor alterations, have combined them into a sort of collage:

 

The Square

They will take you away

for dreaming the wrong dream

 

The rich don’t demand freedom

Because they already have it

 

They made two ballot boxes

One for the killers

One for the traitors

 

We are not looking for a leader

We are looking for a conscience

 

Religion is not in a book or on paper

Religion is in your head and your heart

 

They are gassing the hospitals

Even the doctors are dying

 

The good and free are called traitors

The traitors are called heroes

 

The Square united us all

 

© Mike Hopkins 2014, except for quotes from "The Square"

Heaney-BBC-soccer-600x337

I doubt if Seamus had much interest in Premier League football. He was, it seems, more into Gaelic Football – there is an early photograph (above) of him in his primary school football team – he’s in the back row, third boy from the left and the only one wearing a tie!

The team I’ve followed since I was about ten years old, Fulham, were relegated from the Premier League last week. If I was to write a poem about their season, it might be a limerick, the events are so comical: two managers sacked, a multi-million dollar signing who was too unfit to play more than a few minutes etc.

The gloom was lightened considerably by hearing that I had been offered a place on the Seamus Heaney Summer School at Queens University, Belfast, at the end of June. I was planning on going to Ireland anyway this northern summer, so all I have to do is change the dates a bit, and I’m there.

Seamus was a graduate of Queens, with first class honours of course. The university has a school of poetry named after him. They only take twelve people on the summer school, and you have to submit a selection of your work for them to peruse, before they decide if you are up to it. So I was surprised to get a place. A quiet year perhaps.

Anyway, I am looking forward to it immensely, and I will also be able to catch up with my sister Lynda who lives in Omagh, maybe some friends in Dublin and Wexford, and then pop over to England to see my other sister, Valerie and my mother Bridget.

And as winter has now set in in Adelaide, hopefully some warm Irish weather.

shss

cohenincuba

Final poem for April 2014. Today, for I think the first time, I’ve used the prompt from the NaPoWriMo web page. Actually, it’s yesterday’s prompt as they are a day behind Australia.  It gives a complex 20 step recipe for a poem e.g.:

1. Begin the poem with a metaphor.
2. Say something specific but utterly preposterous.
3. Use at least one image for each of the five senses, either in succession or scattered randomly throughout the poem.

etc.

I followed the instructions closely, and then massaged the results. For instance I relocated the poem to Cuba, which I visited about 8 years ago. The result does not necessarily make sense, but, as an experimental poem written within specified constraints, I think it’s sort of interesting. Only after finishing this draft did I find that Cohen actually went to Cuba during the Bay of Pigs invasion (read about it here) - don’t know whether that came from my subconscious or is pure coincidence.

Leonard Cohen in Cuba

Over Havana

the sun is eclipsed.

 

In the false dusk

the cab-drivers

are like porn stars

 

The street beggars yearn

for the touch of skin.

Their beds are of cardboard

scented with cheap rum

 

In the bars,

there is salt

on the rims

of the glasses

 

but the punters

can only taste collapse

and endure the complaints

of disappointed women

 

Leonard comes to town.

He corrects me:

“It wasn’t cardboard,

it was newspaper.

They stank of urine not rum.

and these cigars are utter tosh”

“Llame a la policía!” he shrieks

 

The bars are flooded

in a freak storm.

The cab-drivers go home

for dinner with their families.

 

On Sunday,

the ceiling collapses

from the weight of expectations.

 

The embassy recommends

we move to a monastery

safe from the police

and the constant

attentions of the jineteros

 

Leonard sneers

at his entourage.

The boss is unimpressed.

“It will end in tears” he warns

 

The belligerent nuns

whisper that the drunken priests

are the only ones

to be trusted

 

 © Mike Hopkins 2014

homeless

Two days left. Funny that I feel more creative on a Tuesday than a Monday. This idea has been brewing for a while, but not put into words until today. I’m sure the line between success and failure, between normality and madness, between comfort and destitution, is  a very narrow one.

I could yet turn into …

one of those seedy blokes
scurrying from bin to bin
with red blue tartan bag
and barbeque tongs
fishing out return deposit cans

one of those skinny blokes
on an ex postie bike
a stolen red milk crate
tied on the back
with occie straps

one of those menacing blokes
camped in the corner of a pub
nursing a cheap beer
rounding on his fellow drinkers
with spittle and blasphemy

one of those doleful blokes
in stained track suit pants
held up with string
imploring with cardboard
“no job, please help”

one of those unnerving blokes
cycling around town
old helmet askew
straps undone
squawking ”Beep! Beep!”

one of those medieval blokes
bare, mud caked feet
army surplus great-coat
and matted mane
camping on parkland benches

one of those try-hard old blokes
pony tailed, leather waistcoated
Woody Guthrie sloganned guitar
croaking to the shoppers
“This is your land”

Just
a misjudged step
a misplaced hope
a market failure
a malignant presence

but then again

I could carry on
going through the motions
holding the line
dressing the window
with collar, cuffs and poetry

 

© Mike Hopkins 2014

Not much gas left in the tank of ideas, so today I’m doing an ‘erasure’ poem. This involves taking a random slab of text and erasing words to produce a ‘poem’ from the remaining words.

I’ve used a great web site called “Erasures” to automate the process. The source text is History of the Gatling Gun Detachment by John Henry Parker, and I’ve called the poem “Erasing the Box”

Erasing the Box

 

erasure

 

 

 

 

© Mike Hopkins 2014

saint_tony

I’m not in a good mood today, having stayed up to the early hours to watch my Premier League team Fulham, desperately needing a win, throw away a two goal lead. Not sure why this still upsets me but it does. So there’s a bit of venom in the brain today, and it’s come out in the form of satire. I acknowledge a debt to the great, veteran, British performance poet Attila the Stockbroker for this one. He did a wonderful piece called “The Bible according to Rupert Murdoch“. I’ve pinched the idea and turned it into this:

 

The Gospel According to St. Tony

after Attila the Stockbroker

 

In the beginning was the word

and the word was Stop!

 

And the Lord said:

Let there be a plague of slogans and let there be a slogan for every prejudice,

Yea, even until the prejudiced themselves will say “Stop the Slogans”

 

And let St. Tony be the prophet whose mouth will constantly chant these slogans

And let St. Rupert be the holy messenger of these slogans

for he has minions in every corner of the land waiting to write the word.

And let this plague of slogans spread across the land so that the people hear and see nothing except “Stop”.

 

And St. Tony, in his raiment of red speedo and chest of camel hair, hearing the words of the Lord, smirked in an unholy way.

And St. Rupert said:

Now, let us also send forth the shock jocks of the east for verily, they will gladly mouth these slogan ad nauseam.

And let the old growth forests be felled to feed the paper mills so that my media empire can engrave the word “Stop!” in 4 inch headlines on newsprint every day unto eternity.

And let not the people be allowed to think of anything but “Stop!

For thinking leads to fornication, sodomy and bestiality and if any reporter dares to start an article, not with the holy word “Stop!” let he or she be cast forever from the media empire and spend eternity volunteering for Radio Adelaide.

And the Lord looked down on St. Rupert’s work and on St. Tony’s slogans and saw that they were indeed execrable.

But this was capitalism, and it made rich the robber barons of the land and so it was good.

 

But lo, it came to pass that the people went mad from the constant slogans. They took to drink and drugs, fornication, footy, home renovations and cooking to deaden their pain.

And St. Rupert sent forth his Fox Channel familiars to film the people and all the goings-on thereof, and made it into a top rating reality show.

And so the beginning of the end began.

And from there, things got even worse.

 

© Mike Hopkins 2014

const

 

This morning I cycled 22 kms and ran a 5km race before breakfast. Then I did a load of washing, spent the afternoon sanding and painting. Then went to the library, did my week’s shopping and picked my son up. And you still expect me to write a poem today? Well don’t expect it to be a complete one.

 

This Poem Is Under Construction

it needs a better title

and a first line that says

something the reader

doesnt already know

 

the middle is coming together

but the format

is

still

a bit

all over the place

 

it then meandars

without adding anything meeningful.

before coming to a faltering end.

 

That ending definitely needs a rethink.

And it needs a spellcheck too.

 

© Mike Hopkins 2014

Skeleton in Trench During World War I

Today (25th April 2014) is Anzac Day in Australia. It’s a public holiday. A visitor to Australia might be surprised at the extent of the commemorations of the soldiers who died in ‘active service’. In particular these days, it is seen as particularly honoring those who died at Gallipoli and in the First World War.

I don’t think there is a greater war poem than Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce et Decorum Est“. The opening lines immediately give the lie to any idea that war is glorious:

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge

There is no way to describe the experiences of men and women during wartime. And yet politicians and military leaders, with their need for simple messages, trot out the clichés every year.

 

Fallen

Anzac Day 2014

They fell

but that’s not all

before they fell

their bodies were pierced

 dismembered

ripped

 maimed

torn

 

they died

but that’s not all

before they died

they screamed for their mothers

 cursed their leaders

 swore foul oaths

 bellowed

 prayed

 laughed at the insanity

or just fell quiet

 

they were brave

but that’s not all

before being brave

they were scared

exhilarated

 terrified

 lonely

                                            wistful

 homesick

 

Some came back

but not all

and those that did

left behind parts of themselves

a limb

their youth

their minds

 their sense of self

                                                                                their innocence

 their trust

 

They were many things

and the pity is

that they did not live to be

what they would have been

 

© Mike Hopkins 2014

oldest woman

An article in yesterday’s New Scientist (here) summarises the results of the analysis of the blood and tissues of the woman who, when she died in 2005, was the oldest woman in the world. Hendrikje van Andel-Schipper (above) was from the Netherlands. She reached the great age of 115, and bequeathed her body to medical science.

The scientists found that “about two-thirds of the white blood cells remaining in her body at death originated from just two stem cells, implying that most or all of the blood stem cells she started life with had already burned out and died.”  We start life with around 20,000 blood stem cells. They also observed that her ” white blood cells had drastically worn-down telomeres – the protective tips on chromosomes that burn down like wicks each time a cell divides.”

This wonderful diagram called “The Tree of Blood“, shows how blood stem cells differentiate into mature blood cells.

Tree_of_blood

 

Haematopoietry *

At first

twenty thousand

stem cells

renewing, dividing,

mutating benignly

resisting corruption

restoring her blood.

 

One by one

losing heart,

wicks burnt,

telomeres frayed,

potency spent,

her cells surrender.

 

At last

just two survive,

the mother cells,

pushing the limits,

holding out,

to the end.

 

* Haematopoiesis (from Greek αἷμα, "blood" and ποιεῖν "to make") is 
the formation of blood cellular components.
© Mike Hopkins 2014