Edinburgh-based Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert possesses one of the most unique & lucid poetical voices in modern Britain. Here follows his self-penned monograph upon the art & his own place in the firmament
The teachers at school always said to my parents, ‘he could do it if he wanted to,’ but no-one ever asked me, what it was that I wanted to do or indeed why my thirst for academia was so absent. Or indeed why it was that I was so seldom there. I got moved up a group when I was in the first year at upper school. There was never a lesson ever that enthralled me enough to want to be there. Going to school was an abject lesson in confronting fear on a daily basis. I had a learning disability that I was too scared to discuss. Naturally, my inner world reflected my outer world. I was a slight kid and fighting was something I just didnae do. I was soft as fuck. However, it wasnae the threat of physical violence that scared me, it was the constant insinuation of Calvert ya puff, ya queer, ya Quentin. I once sat down and tried to explain it to my Dad just, how much it was getting to me. He didnae know what to do or what to say. So I never talked about it again.
I searched The Boundaries Of Life’s Curses.
The Misfortunes That Fell Around Me.
Relentless Forces Of Change.
That Grappled Me To The Ground.
Each Time I Hit The Ground
A New Gift Approached.
Reaching Out With My Heart To
To Heal The Conditioned Insanity
Knowing That Change
Would Release The Chains
Of Enforced Working Class Spiritual Poverty.
Through The Choice Of Reinvention.
I Welcomed My New Incarnation
Of Clairvoyant And Healing Medium.
The Light Began To Grow.
Understanding The Magician.
And Crystal Family.
One By One She Unfolded.
Petals Of Expansion
Prepared By The Battle
With The Force Of Darkness.
I Came Out The Wounded Healer.
Forgiving The Good Witch.
Then Questing The Grail.
Opened The Channel
Channelled To The Increasingly Conscious Soul.
Choosing To Throw Away Armour
Choosing To Let Love Grow.
Greeting The Banshees.
That Would Exorcise
The Burdon Of My Tortured Soul.
Letting My Pain Go .
Opening My Eyes To See Sweet Angels Grow.
Becoming The Empress
That I would Always Know
And The Ones That Are Still To come.
We Would Always Meet.
And Become Together.
I realised at 13. Whats the fucking point. I knew then that I had a tough time with spelling, and the constant visions of people being tortured and mutilated didnae help matters. I know now, that the vision thing was a direct result of a brain injury and a near death experience from being knocked over by a car on the way to school when I was 11. School never did me any favours, looking back its not hard to understand why I resented it so much. This is why I left School with poor grades. I was soft as fuck, thick and probably damaged beyond repair in world where repair seemed impossible. So like everything else, It was a case of carrying on regardless. I left School with GCSE Grade 4. I went back to night school when I was 18 to do O level English, and passed with a Grade 3. That was the last time I attempted an exam, and yes the teachers that told my parents that “he could do it if he wanted to” were right. I just had a few pressing issues that needed to be understood and worked out first. If Dance had have been on the curriculum, I would have been hooked. If consciousness and the basic understanding of self-healing had been an option I would have got an A grade. Because that is what I was needing.
The first time I ever spoke to anyone about the mental disability that I had been dealing with since adolescence, was when I had settled in Edinburgh. It was all Spiritually guided and its synchronicity most definitely was a Godsend. Before that time my only outlet I had was through poetry. I began writing my experience in 1992 after having my first Angel Visitation. The Angel told me to write and in doing so, I would find a release that was safer and more effective than cutting myself, using hard drugs or throwing the towel in completely. The Angelic instruction to start writing was the beginning of the path that would Heal me. So inspiring “ From Pain To Peace. The Poetic Journey Of A Working Class Shaman.”
The reason I resigned from a cushty 9-to-5 was to pursue a calling. that came through a Kundalini awakening in 1994. I heard the Earth scream. “Help Me!”
“How?” I Replied.
The reality of conscious healing frequency and the truth of coexisting dimensions. the many lifetimes I had lived and the reality of Clairvoyance. Whoooosh. The challenge had been set, to prove that this stuff was real and to answer the distress call from Mother Earth.
This is where my inner reality reflected Mother Earths reality. As much as the calling was to save the Planet That We Live On. It was also a calling for me to understand and Heal my unspoken trauma and the debilitating effects that I had been dealing with silently. This is when I coined the term, “Healing The World is easier than healing our selves” Instinctively I knew that the answer was to Heal oneself and quite naturally, the Earths Healing would happen as a result. Together We Could Heal The World. But it has to start with healing oneself. In doing so, The Earth Mother heals as a result.
I mean. What greater incentive could there be?
The Power Of The Pen.
Is Mightier Than That Of A Sword.
Facebook and Grammarly have been key in building confidence. Indeed it was through my documentation of festivals that I got invited to review for The Mumble, back in 2014. My first Fringe as a reviewer. Thrust in at the deep end and succeeding beyond my wildest expectation. I overcame my fear of not being able to spell. The Mumble has been one of the best teachers I have ever had and having an Editor certainly instilled confidence. Having really clever girlfriends has been important too, but then that’s another story.
Indeed it is the reason that I am a Spiritual Healer and teacher of Rei Ki now. Once the devastating effects of the brain injury had healed, which I achieved at 36, I could finally actually convey what it was that was stopping me from having the confidence to write anything other than poetry. I guess like everything else grammar, punctuation and spelling didn’t matter when writing a poem. Once I had healed my past and the effect it was having on me, I could heal my intellect. This is when the writer formed. I had a story to tell, because I had found the solution. to the learning disability, I had when I was kid. I just needed to find the vocabulary.
My First Memory Of David.
When Ahmed Voragee Bought Boys Keep Swinging.
We were about twelve years of age at the time.
He lived across the back Gunnel
Of the Yorkshire bricked Terrace House
That I was brought up in
We bonded over a love of Gary Numan.
Ahmed did a brilliant impersonation of Elvis Costello
Circa Olivers Army.
There was a soft porn midden down the back
That we visited after tea.
To read stories from ancient copies of Razzel and Parade.
Get Hard and not know what to do with it.
That all changed when Kathryn Worsley
Showed me what to do with it.
When listening to Changes Two by Bowie
On the prized record player I bought From Andrew
My Big Sisters Fella.
Adam Ant And Two Tone Ska
Had a part to play.
I was a confused kid with Two Tone Tonic Trousers.
An Harrington Jacket
With Adam And The Ants chalked on the back.
And my Dad not letting me go to Princeville Working Mens Club
With a red lipsticked stripe across my face.
Well if Adam Ant could do it.
Well, Why couldn’t I.
Only his was white.
Then Ashes To Ashes had me hooked.
And Ziggy Stardust saw everything.
He was looking from a poster on my wall
With Boy George and The Human league
Offering to support boys that looked great in make up.
And Marc Almond made it cool to be a puff
Celebrity was never far away
Although I was never Gay.
Everyone I went to school with
Told me I must be.
Apart from the girls who wanted to shag me.
Because I could Dance and shoplift my music
I had a currency without money
Untill I got rumbled and taken to court
that was the end of my criminal years
The ones that I had to abort.
But by that time I had the lot!!!!
Home taping on Jengas Mums Hifi
Bought the tickets for
and Culture Club.
The New Romantics They Had me hooked.
Toyah, Japan, Landscape, Hazel O Conner
And Gary Numan
Tick and Tock and Shock.
And then robotics became my game.
As David Bowie sang about Fame.
And Love became the drug
And Music my sanctuary.
7” !0” 12”
The smell of virgin fruity Vinyl
A bygone age
But David Bowie still remains vital.
And the make up I began wearing at 14.
I still adorn at 48
No longer new.
But still a Romantic.
And the music that informed me.
That style and substance
Got me through the working class Struggle
David Bowie Kept it real
And then music became free
At The Click of a Button
Now That was a Moonage Daydream
Because If at 14 I had it.
Shoplifting wouldnae have been an option.
I could have done it on line.
Without a Fine.
Lee Ann Roripaugh’s new collection effortlessly evokes the brutal powers of nature untrammelled & human emotions devastated by disaster
I thoroughly enjoy a themed collection of poetry, the Vishnu Upanishads, Ted Hughes’ Crow, even John Maserfield’s Salt-Water Poems & Ballads; so went into the reading of Lee Ann Roripaugh’s Tsunami vs. the Fukushima 50 with an appreciative bias. There is a certain nuance to the form which I enjoy when done well – it is not easy to make a themed collection hold a reader’s attention, for oftentimes a poet will get lost in the cul-de-sac housing schemes of their inspirations. However, ‘Tsunami’ actually transcends the form, a thought-splintered foray into the plosive destruction & pitiless aftermath of the March 2011 Tohoku earthquake & tsunami, which led to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.
pulverized cities flung back
to water like sprinkled furikake
her radio-waved wake
an awful flower blossoming
Roripaugh tells the story through a personified tsunami, its effect on nature, & the human fall-out of tragic events both water-slaughtery & wrought by the radioactive chaos after Fukushima. As a poet, her wordplay is practically phenomenal, combining mimesi in startling combinations, like a talented skald getting drunk in a European court, coining exciting new kennings from the play-stuff of their exotic surrounds. In her opening poem, for example, we see the ‘annihilatrix’ ‘Mechatsunami’ described as ‘shellacked wings unclung / from stacticky black elytra.‘ I mean that is just a stunning couplet.
I’ve seen many terrible things:
cages filled with withered songbirds,
horses left to starve in their stalls,
an abandoned puppy that grew
too big for the chain around its neck
As the collection unfolds we are treated to a delicate diaspora of delights; lovely lists explore subjects like the Goblin Market of Rossetti; a soul captivated by nature paints what it sees with a vivid serenity; the terrible aspects of human loss rip thro’ our mentalities with a single spin of a shuriken-phrase. The following passage is a perfect example of Rosipaugh’s ability to weave the epic waste of life & liberty into her visionary free verse;
at first, I concentrated very hard
on trying to see my feet, to know
if I was a ghost or not, but when
sneakers filled with foot bones
began to surface in the Pacific,
I stopped thinking these thoughts
My favourite poem in the collection was ‘Hulk Smash’ a cinematic & pathosean dirge thro’ a father’s pathetic quest to find his missing daughter in ‘a toxic garbage dump’ where he searched for her ‘every month / in the five-hour increments / allowed by radiation guidelines.‘ In the age of Netflix, this is what modern poetry should really be doing, making us all mind movies, & Roripaugh activates the mental mechanisms sublimely. When the collection is knitted together, the overall effect is rather like the Lusiads of Luís Vaz de Camões, an epyllionic journey full of constant stimuli, where at one point we may lament ‘the gwa gwa gaw of frogs / stopped from invisible ponds‘ & at another hear a young lassie called Hisako declare;
it’s not like I ever asked
to come here and live
in this drafty prefab box
of corrugated metal
with my silent old granny
By the end of the book, I felt I had just been the weightless passenger on Roripaugh’s precious back as she free-soloed one of the minor slopes of Parnassus. Will she attempt one of the trickier faces? I do hope so, because her talent is unique. I cannot think of a poet since that of the anonymous composer of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’s ‘Brunanburh’ entry for 937 that has been able to condense so much of the aforementioned kenning quality into their lines. Roripaugh is also a master of moods, whose multiple shades spiral with voluminous variety as the story & stories are told. This is a book of high innovation on a level that you’re not quite sure where, but you know its happening – an excellent, excellent piece.
Tsunami vs. the Fukushima 50
The poetry of Magdalena Zurawski has enter’d the poetic firmament, where her star radiates with talent & personality
Magdalena Zurawski is a poet’s poet, a disseminator of the vocation into the very lines of her craft. “The poem is a pair of eyes,” she tells us in Natural Skin, “moving a nose down a page.” We do not read her work to be taken upon fantastic journeys in exotic climes, or to ride the dragon’s back of passionate love. No, we read Zurawski to lie awhile beside her awkward genius, revel in her race-fit wordplay, & to examine the evidence left behind by the world through her almost mournful eye-piece; “the shapes of foreign spoons, the lightly different cut of shirt worn by men over 50.”
Zurawaski is a recent revelation, usher’d into the public consciousness by Litmus Press, when her debut collection, Companion Animal, won the 2016 Norma Farber First Book Award. Three years later, Wave Books are releasing THE TINIEST MUZZLE SINGS SONGS OF FREEDOM, a collection of 42 poems of varying life, but all deliver’d via the voracious appetite for the well-woven word-verve which Zurawski innately possesses.
Her collection is a series of abstractly European movie shorts, flashing with inspired images in eclectic combinations. ‘Someplace in your Mouth’ is an excellent example, which opens with
When the line of heads continued
through the city in a sliver
of tattered oxygen
The poems vary in length & measure, & her stanza blocks are aesthetically pleasing at all times, if a little tough to read at times. However, the more you enter her worldscape, the more you are drawn in, & the more her book becomes something of a page-turner. The reader becomes assiduously addicted to her characteristic & assured uncertainties as she teleports us into her orbit with passages such as
Oh, to have birds cooing,
bells ringing, tofu frying, and unusually
high energy levels!
I loved the pastoral punk of ‘Summer In The Network Of Privileged Carports,’ the sensual cravings of ‘Ladies Love Adjuncts’ & the staccato philosophising of ‘Does My Lip Limp?‘, but it is when Zurawski is translating the poetic experience that she really shines. In ‘The Problem‘ we see how ‘the musculature’ of her hand, ‘could no longer speed the pen to my thoughts,‘ while in the opening to ‘It’s Hard To Be A Saint,‘ she tells us;
I was sympathetic to language, but often
it shrugged me and kept other lovers.
I crawled through the commas of
Romanticism and rejected the rhythms,
though sometimes at night I could feel
a little sad.
There is a subtle prettiness to Magdalena Zurawski’s poetry, which shudders into moments of extreme & sublime majestie, such as the passage in ‘The Tiny Aches‘ with which I shall close the Mumble’s review of a cathartically sensitive poet & her transcendent art.
…Four a.m. keeps ringing
Its spidery snare and all the stars are
your own headache cemented in our most ancient fears.
The Tiniest Muzzle Sings Songs of Freedom
StAnza International Poetry Festival
The Undercroft, St John’s House, St Andrews
9th March 2019
The Undercroft is an intimate, arched, windowed cellar room belonging to the School of History at the University of St Andrews. It is almost too intimate for a mic’dpresentation, but being long and narrow it is not intimate enough to do without. Thereon hangs a problem: microphone technique is not something that everyone has, and a simple operational slip can cause something unwanted to obtrude.
So I’m sorry to start on a negative note – please bear with me. As Laura Accerboni recited her work purely in Italian, she was partnered by a man who alternated with translations into English of each poem. He sat while she recited, and vice versa; the lack of space meant that they had to shuffle round each other to get to the lectern, and whilst Laura recited from memory, her English reader referred to a script, spoke with his head down, approached the microphone too closely, and treated us to a series of plosive, overdriven consonants. Added to that, his script was organised in such a way that on several occasions he had to turn over his corner-stapled A4 sheets in the middle of a poem. Interruption of speech. Rustle, rustle. All this could have been avoided with a tiny bit more planning. He and Laura could have both stood, either side of the lectern, approaching and retreating as necessary; he could have had a better-organised, less unwieldy script. That would have added the little bit of polish that had worn off Laura’s half of the event.
Did it matter much? Well, to be honest, not when one considers the poetry. Laura’s wont is to stand immobile, arms by her side, and almost declaim her work, the listener, to whom it is xenoglossy, being made aware of the aural qualities of the Italian language. Each line of poetry seemed to take a single breath, and there was a rise-and-fall there, regardless of enjambment. As I listened, I recalled how Swiss French has this kind of rise-and-fall, and wondered if what I heard was some characteristic of the spoken Italian in the same country. As my own knowledge of Italian is very sketchy, I found myself listening as though to Baroque music – Scarlatti or Pergolesi – and reflecting how much Basil Bunting would have approved of that! The lack of movement of limb or feature in Laura’s presentation meant that every syllable was crystalline, and that aspect of her half of the event was utterly captivating.
One thing the English translations certainly did do was reveal the sometimes startling imagery behind the musicality. Otherwise who would have guessed, for instance, that “Yesterday all the tallest boys / made their enemies starve / and quickly gathered up their toys. / They showed their mothers / the order / and discipline of the dead.”
The matter of translation is something both poets at this event shared. Katherine Sowerby – we learned from the chairman’s introduction – had recently taken part in poetry translation projects in Pakistan and Latvia. Katherine, right at the beginning of her half, signaled her intention to read twelve poems. It was that structured. There was to be no looking across at the chairman to check how long there was to go, no fitting in a couple of short ones at the end. Twelve were scheduled and twelve is what we got. The result was that this session of ‘Border Crossings’ had a ‘short-and-sharp’ feel to it, the whole event lasting little more than half an hour. Although her delivery was not as straight-ahead as Laura Accerboni’s, although there was animation in her face and voice, there was a non-nonsense feel to the presentation. Title, poem. Title, poem. Title, poem…
House However, her most recent collection, from which she selected part of her presentation, consists of sixty-two prose poems. If, as another contemporary Scottish poet said, poetry is whatever prose wouldn’t dare say, where does that leave ‘prose poetry’? in Katherine’s case it leaves it in a place where (yes!) short-and-sharp images can be strung together, teasing us with their apparent lack of relevance to each other but, true to the concept of gestalt, making up a whole that is other than the sum of their parts. Sometimes, despite this, there is deliberate repetition (“You want to reach us. You want to reach us. You want to reach us. You want us. You want us. You want.”), often there isn’t (“The creak of a chair. Our lit-up faces,” or “Mountains cut in half. I wear a shirt from that day. You told me the cost. You asked me questions about my microwave.”). The answer is, therefore, is that prose poetry can indeed fulfill the same function as any other kind of poetry, move us out of our comfort zone in which we expect step and step, cause and effect, day and night.
All of which leaves me wanting to read Katherine’s three-novellas-in-one-cover, The Spit, the Sound and the Nest, to find out what in her poetics feeds into her fiction. Poets can make the most startling storytellers, and a story would add yet another dimension to what I was able to experience today.
Megha Sood’s talent began blossoming in the Himalayan foothills, these days it is flourishing in the streets of New Jersey…
Hello Megha, so where are you from & where are you at at, geographically speaking?
I was born in a quaint little hilly city called Nangal, Himachal Pradesh, India. I have spent most of life in India and traveled a lot around the Northern states as my father was transferred often. After getting married in 2008 I shifted my base from India to the east coast of the United States. Now I live in Jersey City, New Jersey. My home is next to the beautiful Hudson River.
When did you realise you were a poet?
Writing poems has always given me that cathartic feeling and to pen down your deep thoughts have always given me solace. Writing in any form lets you connect to your deeper self. This change in perspective made me realize that I have a grown appreciation of these moments around me.That slowly seeping feeling was the affirmation of me being a poet and along with a growling list of publications.
Which poets inspired you, both old skool & of today?
I have been influenced by modern poets, such as Kaveh Akbar, Peycho Kanev, Rupi Kaur, Nikita Gill, Shel Silverstein, Lang Leav, Ocean Vuong, Tiana Clark, Danez Smith, Elizabeth Horan, Courtney Poppell, to name a few. Classic poets have also inspired me. I love to read the amazing and soul-stirring poetry of Maya Angelou, Ruskin Bond, the confessional poetry of Sylvia Plath, the dark and surreal poetry of Edgar Allan Poe, and the mesmerizing sonnets of Rumi. Also, being a member of literary collectives, I’m extremely blessed to work with and read the amazing writings of the talented poets of the WordPress, such as Christine Ray, Kindra Austin, Georgia Parks, Kristiana Reed, Devika Mathur, Aakriti Kuntal, Nicholas Gagnier, and Stephen Fuller.
What does Megha Sood like to do when she’s not being, well, poetic?
I’m the mother of a smart and energetic 8-year-old boy. When I’m not writing I’m taking care of his activities along with the regular chores.I have also worked in the IT field for almost 12 years as a Project Manager in Business Intelligence and Data Mining. In the last one year, there has been a boost in my writing process and I’ve been blessed to be part of six literary collectives.I’m a collaborative member and associate editor in many of them. So in addition to writing and submitting for my dream publication(s), I also get the chance to review the submission for these Literary collectives and prepare for the next Issue.Being a contributing author on many of these requires me to submit poems occasionally. I also moderate regular features such as ” Pay it Forward Thursdays” on GoDogGO cafe. Also, I volunteer as class president in my son’s school along with a few neighborhood activities.
You have your fingers in quite a number of poetical pies, such as GoDogGO Cafe & Whisper and the Roar – can you tell us about this?
GoDogGO Cafe is a virtual Cafe on WordPress which serve as a place where all writers are welcome, collaboration is encouraged. It was founded by a fellow poet Stephen Fuller and now have raised to the string collective of 16 members. They are brimming with daily features( Writing prompts, Pay it forward, Promote yourself etc) and are inclusive of the writers of the WordPress community. To me, it is a warm and cozy virtual cafe where all writers are invited. It was one of the first few literary collectives which not only published my first poem but also invited me to join their amazing team of writers. Whisper and the Roar is a feminist literary collective founded initially by Georgia Parks and now a strong team of 15 collective members. All the members are well-established authors and seasoned writers with a long list of books and publications under their belt. In addition to the above, I’m also a collaborative member for the Poet’s Corner ( UK Based Poetry website), Candles Online ( India based writing portal) and recently have joined the Ariel Chart ( a signatory of pw.org) as an associate editor.
How on earth do you keep have the time or energy to do anything else?
I was always decent with time management and I guess that skill of mine has helped in juggling all these tasks effectively. There are days where I’m drowned with writing deadlines and there are days where I can simply read, create and revel in the writing of my favorite writers.
When do you know you have just composed a decent poem, & how does it make you feel?
They say if a poem doesn’t stir your soul, it has lost its purpose. As I always say, the writing has been a cathartic experience to me and and I feel if a poem moves me from inside or fills me with the joy of accomplishing something, I know I have written something significant.
You recently won the 1st prize in NAMI NJ Dara Axelrod Mental Health Poetry contest, can we see the poem?
Yes, my poem bagged the 1st place. The prompt was “What’s your song?”
My Victory Song
My heart parts its lips
pure and divine
like the moon in its reverie
you ask “What’s my song”
I laugh and smile
with beauty imbued with
the fluttering of the
My heart though brimming
with pain and anxiety
but ready for its encore every time.
My love is boundless
like a star-spangled sky
covering every iota of my soul;
gives me the sustenance
clears out the wool and webbing
from my disordered thinking
and makes me feel alive
I adorn the scars
as victory marks and
leaves the bloody trails
as maps, who follow;
Pushed and shoved aside
for reasons unknown
I thrash like a juggernaut
crashing and crumbling
the voices which pull me down
I simply ignore.
Waving my victory flag
and singing my song
under my bated breath;
Here I come to
uncharted waters of
with a roar.
Where can we find your published work?
Last Year I was accepted in the Poets and Writers( pw.org) Directory of Poets and Writers. Founded in 1970, Poets & Writers is the nation’s largest nonprofit organization serving creative writers. Their mission is to foster the professional development of poets and writers, to promote communication throughout the literary community, and to help create an environment in which literature can be appreciated by the widest possible public. The following link gives a comprehensive view of few of the places where my writing has been published. My 290+ poems have been published in the almost 70 literary collectives around the world. To know more about my published works you can visit here. In addition to this my works have been published or upcoming in the following anthology by US, UK , Canada, Australia, Philippines,based publishing presses.
Anthology ( Past and upcoming)
“We will not be silenced”, Indie Blu(e) Publishing, Fall 2018, USA
“All the lonely people”, Blank Paper Press, Feb 2019, Canada
“Voices Carry”, Sudden Denouement Publishing, Feb 2019, USA
Madness Muse Press, Fall 2019, USA
The Stray Branch, Fall 2019, USA
Poetica Vol 2, By Me Poetry Press, Australia, 2019
RECLAIM Anthology, Philippines, 2019
Flight Magazine, Nightingale and Sparrow, March 2019, USA
HAIKU Journal, Prolific Press, Feb 2019, USA
Poetry Quarterly Winter Issue, Prolific Press, March 2019
What will you be doing for the rest of 2019?
After getting published online and in a various print publication I am gearing myself to work for on my full poetry collection.In addition to that, I am planning to attend the poetry-related events in and around Jersey City and Manhattan.
The poetry of Jericho Brown is like a magnet. It always pulls you in. His third collection is firmly upholding the tradition.
I love Copper Canyon’s books; soft & gentle pages carress’d by a lip-gloss cover lending a certain bubble-bath quality to the reading of one of their poets. But ultimately it is what is on the page that counts. First things first, Jericho Brown is a poet, a real, poet, he has the elixir in his veins. He also possesses a curious voice, like a multi-sharded cylinder standing steadfast in a storm. That storm is America, its culture & its questionable past.
His first two volumes were received with high praise & deep respect across the English-speaking world, the second of which, New Testament (2014) won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award. The Tradition is eagerly awaited, then, & does not disappoint. In places it even exceeds expectations; the lyrical jaundice of Flower, the killer jibes of truth within Bullet Points & numerous moments of the highest pathos & beauty, as in the closing couplet of The Microscopes;
A region I imagine you imagine when you see
A white women walking with a speck like me
The chief pillars of Jericho’s creative temple are his colour, his family & his sexuality. His mother, grandmother, brother & kids all have cameos & something important to contribute to both the poet’s life & our understanding of the world. These very personal takes are full of raw remembrance temper’d by a supreme sense of post-Millennium reality.
Me of black people who see the movie
About slaves and exit saying how they would
Have fought to whip Legree with his own whip
And walked away from the plantation,
Their eyes raised to the sun, without going blind.
On a number of occasions I was very much reminded of a poem by Gwendolyn Brooks, Negro Hero; the pitch & balance of the wordplay are almost identical – is he her spiritual inheritor, perhaps? Jericho’s art presents the Apollonian & the Dionysical extremes of poetic composition; from technical stanza formation full of controll’d & order’d musings, to solid blocks of Wolfean streams of consciousness. The latter sort are often triggered by the smallest things, such as the two copulating rabbits on his lawn, providing the catalyst for an introspective journey into the failings of his own love life. Then, with his title poem, Jericho proves he can turn not just a good sonnet, but an absolutely bangin’ one.
Also a sonnet of sorts are his five Duplex poems, seven couplets where the second line is the same as the first line in the following couplet. From innovation comes mastery, and Jericho is growing into his role as both a teacher in his tactile environment, & a clear-cadenced, beautiful poet-teacher for the planet. Indeed, his academic background – studying at Harvard, teaching at Emery – seems to be a fertile field for inspiring such embedded nuances as his use of Homeric simile in the opening to As a Human Being;
There is the happiness you have
And the happiness you deserve.
They sit apart from each other
The way you and your mother
Sat on opposite ends of the sofa
After an ambulance came to take
Your father away.
Jericho Brown is a philosopher-poet, stood on a crag overlooking the humanity of America, striking the rocks, drawing lightning into his penstaff & tossing electrical ejecta onto his page. The Tradition delights on first reading & invites further study. Each poem contains a different beam of inspiration wassailing from Jericho’s kaleidoscopic soul, altho’ the colors aren’t garish, its too moody a piece for that. This is an extremely intelligent collection, filled with both unpretentious flair & flashes of Faustian confidence. Roll on Brown’s 4th book.
Damian Beeson Bullen’s definitive 2019 collection has been described as ‘The Sgt. Pepper’s of Poetry.’
Hello Damo, so when did you realise you were a poet?
My first poetical moment came when I was like 7 or 8 – there was a poetry competition at Lowerhouse Junior school in Burnley. I won I think, & the opening couplet I still remember; ‘The river flowing by is often wide & high.’ Roll on a few years & I won a Christmas story competition at Gawthorpe high school – it was the story of a leaping being who turned out to be a snowflake. There was no technical poetics, but it was a visionary metaphorical piece. A few years later I was studying music in Barnsley Music College, & it was there one night while reading through William Butler Years that I realised I was actually a poet. I quit college soon after & set off for the English South Coast with a guitar & a yellow suitcase full of poetry books.
What are your thoughts on the poetic art itself?
There’s a passage in Plato’s Euthyphro which always piqued my interest, I really feel it defines what the poetic art is all about. ‘He (Daedalus) only made his own products mobile, while I apparently make other people’s mobile as well as my own.’ This ‘mobility’ is what makes the magical energy of the best poetry fly on the wings of inspiration into the poems of others. To my mind, poetry works on two levels, basically the local ‘zeitgeist’ & then the eternal tradition. If you look back to the 18th century, English poetry was essentially rhyming couplets in iambic pentameter. In the same way, some modern poetry editors wont even look at rhyming poetry – according to them we dwell very much the age of free verse. But like the fashion for the Georgian couplet became a busted flush during the Romantic period, free verse is also only a fashion & will inevtibaly be superceded at some point by something else. To be honest, this proliferation of Free Verse masks the fact that there are a lot of poets out there claim to be poets, but don’t really know anything about the craft. I find technique extremely important. I’m always trying to be a complete poet & I’ve realised I have to be serious about studying & experimenting with form – including free verse, of course, which I think is just a small piece in a big jigsaw.
What do you think is the poet’s role & do you identify with it?
Good question. Well, the poet has always been a teacher, but also an entertainer. I like the blend myself, keeps things interesting. A poet should also be connecting with their readers/listeners on two levels; inviting them to think is the intellectual, & inviting them to feel intuitively is the spiritual. The latter is the seer element to poetry, what the Romans called the Vates. Some say poets are merely the human receptacles of divine inspiration, & there’s probably some truth in that. As Horace says in his Ars Poetica, ‘It is not enough for poetry to be beautiful; it must also be pleasing & lead the hear’s mind where it will.’ I also love Phillip Sydney’s, ‘this purifying of wit, this enritching of memory, enabling of judgementy, & enlarging of conceyt, which commonly we call learning, under what name soever it com forth, or to what immediat end soever it be directed, the final end is to lead & draw us to as high a perfection as our degenerate soules, made worse by theyr clayeye lodgings, can be capable of.’
What is it about composing poetry you love the most?
Its difficult to explain. Its part validation, part duty, part pleasure – there’s nothing like exercising the mind. I also do most of my formal composition, lets say, out in the fields, up in the hills, walking with notebook, paper & my thoughts. There is also nothing like the feeling of knowing you’ve just written a poem which contains the pure juice of Parnassus – you can just tell when it happens. As an artist, I am fascinated with the prosodic elements of poetry – the Welsh call it cynghanned, & its not called composition for nothing. You’ve got to create a symphony in the mind. I do love my music & poetry is, to me, an instrument as important as my bass guitar.
Can you tell us about Completely Novel?
Completely Novel is a brilliant way to circumvent the cliquey world of publishing. They are a fabulous self-publishing service who facilitate print-on demand copies being sent anywhere in the world at a few clicks of a button. I pay a wee hosting fee every much – its not much at all – & get to publish ten books, all with shiny ISBN numbers. Its brilliant. They’re really nice folk to work with too. There’s nothing to stop me ordering as many books as I want, as well, to sell independently or through bookstores.
You have just released a collection of poetry through Completely Novel called MUSICALS. How did you choose the poems to be included?
I selected the poems from 20 years of composition. Some, especially the sonnets, are just as they were composed originally. Others can be quite edited-down versions of longer epyllia. The poem about Pendle Hill, for example, is about 5 percent of the full piece – it contains the quintessence of my inspirations ,if you will. Over the years I’ve always had moments of editorial, when I’d look at my all work in the bank, & see where my new compositions fitted in to the overall scheme. Its a bit like a crawling snake – the ancient symbol for wisdom by the way – after every pulse forward it pauses & half recedes, & from the retrogressive movement collects the force which again carries it forward. With Musicals I think I’ve finally reached my destination, or at least a place to hang out for a while, promote the book, do some readings & stuff, maybe even some slams. It’s been over a decade since I performed my poetry in public.
Are there any unifying themes?
There sure are. Poetry is about bringing all of its constituent parts into harmony. With Musicals the same principles apply, & the book is flush with harmonizing forms & themes. At its core the text is an autobiographical journey across the world. I’ve also got a nice sub-plot with a romantic interest called ‘Rosie’ – its a Stone Roses thing, big fan. She’s actually an amalgamation of a number of ‘love poems’ I have created over the years. The lady I’m with now, however, provided most of these – she’s my proper soul-mate, like, my muse. As for the title, of course we have the ‘muse’ embedded in the name, but I also feel like each of the chapters is a bit like a musical – a combination of narrative, drama & lyricisim.
You have put Musicals online for anyone to read – what’s all that about?
Well, Lord Byron said a true gentleman shouldn’t make any money from writing. He did make a fortune the sale of Newstead Abbey, though, enough to fund an army in the Greek War of Independence, so he would say that. The idea is essentially they same, tho, anyone can read my work online – but, if I sell copies that’s a bonus. I am not alone in appreciating the true beauty of proper books is their tactility – so I’m catering for both worlds here, the modern internet-haunter & the traditional lover of the page. You’ve also gotta go with the times, & my online versions will eventually all have youtube videos of me reading the poetry. Another bonus to doing it online is that I can make corrections & improvements at any point. My plan is to release fresh editions of the book by uploading a new file & replacing the old one – its quite a simple process really. So in 2020 there will most probably by a second edition of Musicals.
Musicals has been described as ‘the Sgt. Pepper’s of poetry,’ why is that?
Well, I think it’s the mixture of form & content. With Pepper’s you have English country garden vibes, Indian mysticism, proper rock & Roll, all complemented by a wide variety of instruments & musicianship. In a similar war Musicals expresses political terza rima, transcreations of Tamil love paeans, reworkings of English folk songs, free verse sonnets, French sonnets composed in Italian – I could go on. There’s loads of influences in there, its packed.
What other titles have you released?
Musicals is the ninth book in what I call the Pendragon Collection. A few years ago I kinda realised I had actually embark’d on something like the classical bardic training as described by Julius Ceasar. This passage I basically took to heart & soul & it became my mantra; ‘In their schools they are said to learn by heart an extraordinary number of lines, and in sometimes to remain under instruction for as many as twenty years.’ I started to take the poetic vocation seriously in in 1997/98 – I was 21 years old at the time – so as my own twenty years of training began to climax, I thought it prudent to draw a line in the sand of my studies. The final collection has 9 titles, of course; alongside Musicals there are another five collections of poetry, including my main epic, Axis & Allies, which I pretty much worked on during the full twenty years.
The vast majority of poems in the Musicals collection are taken from these five volumes, excepting Axis & Allies – essentially, this epic is for posterity, but Musicals for the now. The Pendragon Collection also includes essays on poetry, personal epistles telling the stories of my adventures, & the final volume of the nine, which I’ll be re-releasing later this year, an assemblage of historical studies called The Chisper Effect.
So what have people to expect from Musicals?
Well for a start its the very best of my very best work, & that means colour. I try & put a lot of colour in my poetry – so much modern stuff is like a twilight sky of opalescent grey! There’s also the travelling element – people get to go to Italy, Greece, India, America & even beautiful Burnley. I enjoy poems of place, Byron’s Childe Harold & Wordsworth’s Tours of Europe for example, so it was natural that I’d create something similar. Along the way its a composite blend of all the ‘Ms’ – there’s a mixture of music, moods, moulds (ie forms) & measures Just as a poem’s form can be divided into MEASURE & MOULD, so a poet’s voice is divided into two composite halves; the MOOD & the MUSIC. The Mood can be defined as a trance which envelops the poet as they compose their piece. The Music is the pure artifice of linguistic creation as the poets translate their Mood into words. Understanding such a pretext, the order of poetical creation is as this; Mood (then) Music (then) Measure (then) Mould.
Can you tell us about Stars & Stripes?
Sure – I’m very proud of it – I think it’s my best work. You can read it in full here. The catalyst was meeting my good lady, who is from Seattle. Her ancestor was Colonel Daniel Gillespie, who was at Valley Forge. Thus, Stars & Stripes is what you get when the bloodline of an American patriot meets an English epic poet. My partner & her spirit gave me the connection to the American fibre, while being from Burnley shouldn’t really matter as America is the ultimate immigrant nation.
“The United States,” wrote American scholar, Ed Simon, “seems rare among nations in not having an identifiable and obvious candidate for national epic.” What made you think you were qualified?
Well, for an epic poem you need an epic poet, & they don’t really pop up all that often. There’s also something about the organic matter that is a language, that it should spring naturally from the soil & bedrock of a land. Thus, the English language in America is an immigrant language & by proxy America cannot really produce a true epic poet unless they were writing in the languages of the native Indian races. With Stars & Stripes, however, I have just made an attempt, to show that something close to epic poetry can be written. America offers wonderful subject matter. “The United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem,” opined Walt Whitman, & there’s some truth in that. The creation of that particular nation at that particular time in the universe is an absolute fascinating jumble of conflicting forces.
Can you tell us about your music?
Well, after being in bands on & off since a teenager, I’ve recently gone solo as DAMO. In the past twelve months or so I’ve been assembling my back catalogue of recorded music into two albums, last year’s ‘THE LAST OF THE SHINY RIDERS’ & this year’s ‘GEMINI FIRE DRAGON.’ I now have a platform to work on an as yet untitled third album, which I’ve decided to play all the parts on – drums, bass, guitar, vocals, etc. I’m looking forwards very much to the process – it should be ready by next summer.
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