I’m peripherally involved in the South Bank Centre’s Pull Out All The Stops organ festival/extravaganza. I’ve written one poem which is currently on display in the Clore Ballroom as part of a free exhibition that runs until 13th April. It’s loaded into a typewriter! I’ll also be reading this poem on BBC Radio 3 tomorrow as part of In Tune, live from the Southbank Centre itself. The show starts at 4.30, and I’ll be on sometime around 5.30.
The piece is called ’Warning Notice in the Key of Bm’, although I was thinking more of the chord of Bm when I wrote it – lots of ‘b’, ’d’ and ‘F/sh’ sounds. In fact, each stanza starts with the syllable ‘be’, just to hammer the point home. It’s written in fairly strict terza rima, but with the same two slant rhymes looped round and round. The subject matter is, loosely, Ralph Downes and his approach to designing the Royal Festival Hall organ; or the genius as monster. Downes was an individual with his own radical ideas about organ-building, which were inevitably met by fierce opposition from traditionalists. If that all sounds very quaint and parochial, it at least makes for a neat metaphor for the inevitable conflict between new ideas and old habits – “Beware the man with music in his head …”
I’ll also be performing at Pipes V Mics, a free event at the RFH this Sunday, alongside organists and beatboxers. I’ve been writing a collaborative piece with Abigail Parry called ‘Obliteration Fugue’. It really is a fugue! We’ve written it in four overlapping registers, from the refined soprano to the bass/base, and it’s essentially a creative deconstruction/destruction of the monstrous organ itself, which will be lurking in the background while we’re on stage.
Five poems of mine are published online in the latest issue of The Harlequin. Here’s the optional commentary track:
Ash is the third of four ‘between-element’ poems to be published. The first two were Dust in The New Statesman and Steam in The White Review. Ash is the element between fire and air, and like the others, she’s personified as a vagabond-girl. The form in all these poems is based around a final consonant sound that repeats at the end of every line, and a set of four penultimate consonant sounds arranged in a pattern. The title/name also repeats at the start of each stanza, and the whole sequence even fits into a bigger over-arcing sequence! This is because they’re all written by a persona of mine who is obsessed with organisation and patterning.
Defeat is the sort of self-indulgent poem I let myself write occasionally if I feel like I’ve paid my dues in technically adventurous, concept-focussed work. There’s nothing tricksy here – it’s about defeat, and frustration, and the feeling that you can never work hard enough, do enough, learn enough, armour yourself enough to not be broken down again at a moment’s notice.
Dr Fulminare has to go somewhere on the front cover of Coin Opera 2. So I started drawing him in Flash. The right-most one is where I’ve ended up. Could be worse, I guess.