Monday, May 27, 2013

Tuesday Poem - Outdoor Pig-keeping, 1954 & My Other Books on Pigs by Ken Bolton

Outdoor Pig-keeping, 1954 & My Other Books on Pigs 

Pig Farming. Methods Of
was a book I wrote in 1945
tho what I knew then of
pig farming you may wonder.  It is
a human enough activity.
I mean ‘universal’—did they have
pigs on Easter Island, the New Guinea
highlands, did the Maori?  Virgil
knew about pigs, tho I associate him, more,
with bees, my Latin education centering
on a limited number of texts—
bits of Caesar’s Gallic Wars
or Punic Wars (“Carthage delenda est”?)—
& not much else.  Virgil.  Ideas of
pig farming might be innate. (?)
Where do correct ideas come from?
“The head, boss.”  Pigs pretty much
know what they want (isn’t that
often thought to be the problem,
the thing held against them?),
give it to them.  “Long pig” was somehow
special dark knowledge when I was
a schoolboy, I mean the term.
A human dish.  (No one else ate it,
except the odd lion or tiger—
as a one-off: humans also
protect their own—better probably not
to eat them too often.)  But, to return
to the term, “long pig” implies knowledge
of “pig plain” sure enough.  It seemed
insulting, to me, back then—to the idea
of the human & humanity & I didn’t like
to utter it.  I remember once
someone telling me of an abandoned
hippy farm where they’d been producing
heroin.  The pigs were fed
on scraps & excrement
& were squealing.  Addicted.
Apparently the noise was horrible.  I did,
at some time, sleep near where a pig
—or pigs—squealed all night. I can’t remember
now whether it was simply very affecting
or whether it was specifically because it sounded
human.  It was loud, incessant & frightened.
I can’t remember where or when.  An
abattoir.  In 1945
I had not read Virgil.  I do know that.
It seems we’ve passed this way before.  In
‘another life’ I may have been a pig farmer:
I see me, late at night at a plain kitchen table
writing Pig Farming, Methods Of.  It’s
electric light—tho it could do with a stronger
bulb.  I write it in a child’s school exercise book.
My only daughter has died?  It’s hers, hardly used,
& I turn it round & start at the back?—or maybe
continue right on from where she left off.
She had been studying & had written amo, amas,
amat etc.  The vocabulary list begins with
“agricola”—farmer.  As I see it the farmer
does not become especially sentimental about
the exercise book.  He may have done, must
have done, at some time since his daughter’s death,
but now he writes.  Perhaps he writes with
extra care because it is her book.  Perhaps he writes
because it is her book.  He has not written
anything else before.  He writes now
because she is gone.  She was the future
& he was content to work to see her through—
to her adult life.  But now she is gone
he must make something else.  He is a widower.
I was brought up by my own father,
alone, me & my sister.  We kept dogs & cats
& pigeons, a horse.  No pigs.  Anyway,
there it is, & it has my name on it, 1945—Pig Farming,
Methods Of.

And here is another poem from Ken's Selected Poems put out by Shearsman Books. 
Below the link to the press in case you wish to invest in a copy. There is much to amaze
in this handsome book.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Tuesday Poem - Anti-circ by Vidyan Ravinthiran


The seat of artistic delight is between the shoulder blades…Let us worship the spine and its tingle. Let us be proud of our being vertebrates, for we are vertebrates tipped at the head with a divine flame. The brain only continues the spine: the wick really goes through the whole length of the candle.
—Vladimir Nabokov

Once I cracked Lolita’s spine I found myself knee-deep in cheesecake;
my not-quite-fist unclenched, disclosed a wet cluster of blackberries.

Tennyson sank me into new car smell and a plush interior; the extras
threw roses and sweetmeats at my tinted glass across the cordon.

Reading Wilfred Owen I was Attenborough’s thrilled silence
breathing round a bird whose syrinx learned to imitate a chainsaw;

the walls of my house crashed down in fumes of plaster and rayed glass
the night I dropped Naipaul. Joe Sacco’s Palestine had the sad

dilapidated scent of changing rooms at school, plaques of mud
hole-punched by studs. Hopkins shone a walkable torchbeam

between rooftops; I felt gay as Mary Poppins then feared my mum
would drop me. Updike’s prose flaunted the revealed

cleanliness of a girl’s arse, its well-briefed sway up the stairs ahead;
and when I called up from the stacks Enoch Powell’s uncut First Poems

her skilled tongue agitated my thankfully intact frenulum.

I came upon this poem in The Best British Poetry 2011 and just straight out took to it. Vidyan is a poet I haven't come across before, and his biography at the back of the anthology doesn't give too much away, so all I can really say is what he says - "Vidyan Ravinthiran is a lecturer at Oxford and a research fellow at Cambridge." The poem was first published in Horizon Review.
I did find the poem quite tricky, in the very best sort of way. I had to look up the meaning of frenulum, and I was glad I did. And I got a funny feeling that the reference to Enoch Powell is social rather than literary comment LOL. I misread it as Ezra Pound on my first go, and then I went, no. It's Enoch Powell.  

PS I got an email from Vidyan with a bio.

VR's work has previously appeared or is forthcoming in Poetry Review, The Times Literary Supplement, The Rialto, Modern Poetry in Translation, Magma, The Oxonian Review, The North, Blackbox Manifold, Ambit, Poetry Wales, Envoi, Wave Composition, Stand, Nthposition, Tower Poetry, The Yellow Nib, Likestarlings, Poetry Proper, Fuselit, Oxford Poetry, Agenda, Iota, Horizon Review and Smiths Knoll; it has been anthologised in Joining Music With Reason (Waywiser Press, 2010), The Salt Book of Younger Poets (Salt, 2011), The Best British Poetry (Salt, 2011), Lung Jazz: Young British Poets for Oxfam (Cinnamon, 2012) and Birdbook 2 (Sidekick, 2012). A pamphlet, At Home or Nowhere, was published by Tall-Lighthouse Press in 2008.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Tuesday Poem - Talking To You by Ken Bolton

Talking To You

It is 2 or 3 o'clock
in the afternoon.

I'm sitting here, reading
O'Hara's poem

the one that begins
"It is 1.55 in Cambridge"

he's at Jimmy's place (I'm

at the desk)

sad &

I am

too &
why not—drinking the

very last
of my bourbon, a drink I have

slowly developed a taste for
(since my

birthday, when I got it,
& now, nearly nine months later)

Julie & Neil).

In this poem
(it seems I'm

to you now)

O'Hara says
what will happen to him?

& what about some
poems he mentions

What about me?
will I ever get given

bourbon again?

& what about the poems I might write?
will they ever get written?

& suddenly
an amazing self pity

'over' me

I could almost have asked
those questions

seriously.  Otis
Rush is

no longer
on the record player

has not been
for hours
though the light on the record player glows

but the
intense sad notes

still 'haunt' the air, & affect the view


the bars
of the street

& factory
across the road, with their

own grid
of wire & bars

on all their windows
—staring back

the sunday traffic, occasionally, roaring past

I get up, & put on
Lou Reed's

'Rock n Roll',
which I love.  It

always makes the bars
seem more

neutrally rigorous
which is

how I'm beginning to feel
now.   I've

always wanted to do something
as good as

'Rock n Roll' though I'm
not doing that now.

but something continuously 'repetitive'
but not static

that moved,
that was

a continuous 'prolongation'
of a single




That's what I tried to do in
Terrific days

though then
I did not know "Rock n Roll" so well

though I must've heard it.
But that was partly my intention.

Something tells me

not to leave this poem,
as I   stand now

drumming on the page
interestingly,  to the intro to

"Sweet Jane", 'torn'
between the feeling

that I have
nothing to say,

& that
—if I leave it—

to pick up later

I will not
finish the poem

Here is just one of the lively pieces from Ken Bolton's Selected Poems, published by Shearsman Books. The book is extremely lively, and even borders on iconoclastic! I had the pleasure of hearing Ken read at Collected Works in Melbourne and my goodness, he can put a poem across.