Death is an all year round vocation. It isn’t seasonal, it isn’t nocturnal, it certainly isn’t optional. This year though death and dying has been in the air, personally in my own family with three close relatives dying earlier on this year within six weeks of each other, but also more widely in the arts and politics. Seamus Heaney died this year, maybe the last ‘great’ poet, JFK’s assassination anniversary is referenced by numerous TV and radio programmes presented by James Naughtie, as well as the more recent death of Doris Lessing. It came back again, reading Roberto Bolano’s The Savage Detectives, as part of my MA, a colossus of a novel, over 500 pages long. Reading it with the knowledge that Bolano died in 2003 at the age of 51, gives the prose an intensity it wouldn’t otherwise have, going through a young poets college life, trying to find a place in the world, setting him self up with the ‘Visceral realists. ‘
How we remember people in death is important, its vital, we only respect death, with our countless rituals from poems to pennies on your eyelids, because we value life. However remembrance is a difficult thing. Idealisation often comes in death purely because of the fact that they have died. JFK’s short record in government achieved little to deserve the level of adoration he now receives. Kennedy would have taken the USA into the ill judged war in Vietnam just as Johnson ended up doing, the scale and veracity however may have been different. The social changes were all brought in by Johnson later on in his term as President. Where Kennedy excelled was on the campaign trail, the first modern campaign trail, the first election where TV played an important role. His policies varied only slightly from his opponent Richard Nixon, but his communication, big money and marketing slickness, made the difference in the end. His style of delivery, his ability to be cool, and the common man appealed to votes more than the sweaty Richard Nixon, elections haven’t been fought the same since. As a society we adore blank slates, something we can’t pin down, Kennedy has become a figure that the public can place their own values on to because of the sad tragedy of his death. An idol that never was. Compare that to Tony Blair, who on his landslide election in 1997 was received with widespread adoration, a new dawn of politics was about to begin and now over ten years later he could not walk down the street without been called a war criminal or have eggs pelted at him. Time can be a great healer but often, in politics anyway, time can exhaust, tire and focus attention on your mistakes, ask Barack Obama. When you aren’t able to make decisions you will be loved. Decisions are the price you pay for surviving elected office.
I was eighteen, studying English at my local High School when I first came across Seamus Heaney’s poetry. ‘Casualty’ from Field Work has been on my bedroom ever since, the room has moved from village to city and back again but the now yellowed paper as stayed the same.
Casualty, is one of the first poems I read not being forced to at school and really started my love for poetry that has survived an English degree, if not sustained by it. A poem that links the narrative of the death of an old friend, with an unique lyrical phrasing that includes lines, which seal themselves in the memory such as:
‘Coffin after coffin
seemed to float from the door
of the packed cathedral
like blossoms on slow water.’
Fittingly, I believe I have attached a image I took in Dublin, at Trinity College, for which I will always associate Heaney, reading him throughout that journey, associating him with history, language and Education in Dublin.
In my naive eighteen year old head a sudden thought popped into my head, ‘This is how I want to write.’ After reading Heaney, and especially casualty, I saw that narrative and language are not mutually exclusive which seemed to my impression of poetry from school. Narrative, narrative voice is novels, seemed to be the proclamation. Heaney challenged this and yet at the same time kept is linguistic distinctiveness and fluidity that can be seen right back to Yeats.
Heaney made me want to write poetry. He made me want to research and question my own history, back in Ireland and look at the troubles, Irish Civil War and further back with a new perspective. No other poet has made me want to all this at the same time.
He is a towering figure and will be missed greatly.
So I watched the whole of the first season of the comedy series Community today. I can only say that it is funny, not quite on the same level as Arrested Development, which is also partly directed by the Russo Brothers but its very good. The meta humour and endless T.V references satisfy the major part of me that is essentially Geek/T.V addict. I love getting reference within shows or shows within shows, especially when others don’t. My brother got one more Star Wars reference in the Sean Pegg film Paul yesterday, I couldn’t speak to him for at least 24 hours. I have now re-watched the original Stars Wars clip forty times on youtube and I realise I never would have got the reference in the first place. On the geek scale he is by the far the winner. In some ways I guess the loser as well, but only in the English, fake version of what we think American high school is like, with its groups and categories all with that overpowering smell of teen angst. Some thing like a cross between Malcolm in the Middle and Brick. Coming back to my geek, which has exponentially increased since I am now unemployed, broke and minus a girlfriend. On the plus side I have started running though. Community is a very good show and I have come to it late as its been around since 2009 but its well worth a watch. My favourite scenes are with Troy and Abed, who have a slightly homoerotic and do ending sequences together which includes a funny spanish rap. As several job descriptions recently have needed me to have seeking of master status as a social media presence, I need now to do three years worth of tweets within an evening. I hop they are not dated. Maybe tumblr is the way forward….
A lot has happened in the last few days, Murray lost the final of Wimbledon, some guy named Marry won it though and I Murphy have finally graduated. There is very little reason why I have linked all three of these names together like this, as the only similarities between all three is the first letter ‘M’. I think the baseline in tennis has more sporting prowess that I do in comparison to the previous named sportsmen. Yes, I graduated. Very happy as I should be I suppose. Having thought for about six months of this year that I had pissed away, 25,000 grands worth of education but no I made it stumbling, unshaved, bleary eyed and hungover but I made it. There is a lot to be said for just finishing ask the Tour de France guys, an underestimated achievement in my opinion. All this is very good and I am relieved that I have finished and come out with a half decent degree but what the fuck now…………
This is the immortal question which I will leave for another blog because I don’t have the answer and I don’t think that anyone does really even that wise guy I saw in the pub the other day who could hold a cigarette like he was the reincarnation of Socrates. It might not be the next blog, can’t promise, might leave the suspense for a little longer. Maybe forever, and come back to this blog in fifty years time and tell you all what the fuck I did. That assuming i’m not in a gutter somewhere vomiting over several unpublished manuscripts and a good stock of unsold Big Issues.
Here is an article I have written for Wolvesnews.co.uk
Its about my beloved Wolverhampton Wanderers and their chief executive, a marmite figure amongst the supporters.
I recently had a Hunter S Thompson omnibus which lasted till about three in the morning. I watched The Rum Diaries and Fear and Loathing in Vegas, just before I went to sleep in that order meaning my mind was in completely the wrong state to even say the word sleep let alone actually do the thing. Both these films along with Withnail and I, which is by far the best film out of these three, in some respects romanticise the artistic drunk, the creative alcoholic, the melancholic piss-head. Its a certain archetype we have now in modern cultural discourse, that our creative thinkers, our writers, our actors even to a certain extent our academics have to have some deep, underlying emotional and mental pain that manifests itself through alcohol and drug abuse. As with all stereotypes and archetypes there is a small slither of truth in it. Anyone of us can list plenty of writers etc which fulfil this role. However this, like all stereotypes, is limiting to the whole race that call themselves writers. Now I like the odd drink, hence the image earlier, and it can certainly help me write sometimes, but destroying my life for a drink really doesn’t appeal to me, and I hope I will never do it. Saying this however there is a strange part of my brain down in the depths of my brain which sees it as an important part of writing. There is something romantic about it seeing writing as the only way of dealing with your life. This however would be very self indulgent, pretentious of me to describe my life as shit, having to take to drink to cope with it. I’m not going to stop drinking but on the same level I not going to become Withnail where you are drunk all the time, wasting your talent because you spend too much time drinking as opposed to working. This is epitomised by Withnail at 8 in the morning ‘We have ran out of wine, What are we going to do about it?’
I have just moved back home into my mothers house which has given me an uncontrollable urge to listen to Bruce Springsteen again. I know I will never be forgiven, i’m now heading for purgatory. Moving home was all I could do, I have no money and despite the best efforts of myself and apparently my whole family looking for jobs for me I have not got one yet. But all is not lost i’m writing more now and hopefully I get back into poetry writing, which I seem to have lost a little since my dissertation was handed in. Along with ‘The Boss’ I have now become the professional cleaner of the house, in previous times a butler might have been used to clarify my job title. Unless I get up redonculously early I don’t know what i’m going to do with this whole writing lark. From now on be carful reading this blog, because it might turn into a form of therapy for me. I hate that idea, but you never now. I’ve warned you so in the future no-one can complain. Well you can I will just ignore it.