Thursday Night

January has started well for me. A lengthy interview with yours truly appears today at a fantastic arts blog. Find it at http://ppigpenn.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/interview-bruce-hodder.html if you are so inclined. You’ll also read interviews with lots of other creative people there, and they may well be much more entertaining!

Since I appear to be in narcissistic artist mode,now also seems like a good time to tip you off about my poetry page. Imaginatively titled “Bruce Hodder” it can be found at http://bartholomewbundy.wordpress.com. Nothing I write will be finished until I die, but the material slowly being collected there is worth a read.

Spoil yourself. With so much Hodder to read on a Thursday night, who needs the television?

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New Releases

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The world’s most prolific poet, t. kilgore splake, has a new chapbook out. It’s called “Autumn Shadows” and it’s available now on The Moon Publishing & Printing, Fort Wayne, IN USA. The eBook ISBN is 978-1-937050-70-2. If you’re an admirer of splake, you don’t need me to tell you what’s in the book. There are 33 poems of different lengths and two beautiful photographs. No price is listed, so you’ll have to contact the publisher for details before you make a purchase.

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Lou

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Lou Reed died today. He was 71 years old, one of the central–and most challenging–figures of American rock and roll. His death, in an indication of how times have changed, was all over social media like Facebook an hour before they announced it on the BBC.

I have known a couple of people who met Reed and said he was an arsehole. There is a widespread–and quite mystifying–belief among even more rational folks that an artist owes his or her audience their time as well as their art. I don’t believe that. And to be honest I don’t care what Reed was like as a person. I just loved his music. Isn’t that enough?

Well, let’s say I loved what I knew of his music. The “Velvet Underground & Nico” album on which he half sang/ half talked (in that idiosyncratic way of his) stories of sexual perversion and drug addiction remains as raw and dangerous to me now as it was when I first heard it 25 years ago. “The Black Angel’s Death Song” from that album was such a favourite of mine I almost based a novel on it.

I missed what’s supposed to be Reed’s best work, his stuff from the 70s, completely, and I doubt I’ll go back to it now. But “New York” and “Magic and Loss” from the late 80s and early 90s were really significant in my musical life–especially “New York.” I was given a tape of that by my friend, my great friend, Lee; and even now when I hear the album, with Lee long gone to points unknown, I remember wistfully the wonderful times we spent together.

That is the power, the essence, of music. It wraps itself around our lives; it’s so portable it weaves itself through our days and our loves and becomes indelibly associated with a particular time or experience. Frosty night tipping paralytically drunk out of the Jack Horner pub in London. Lou Reed on the tape machine in the B & B where we were staying: “I’ll take Manhattan in a garbage bag with Latin written on it that says, ‘It’s hard to give a shit these days’.”

Indeed it is. And it’s a hard, weird thing to watch all the giants of your early years dropping one by one. So long, Lee, whatever the fuck happened to you. RIP Lou, at least you left behind your music and the legend of the crank to confound every listener who wants his life made easy.

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Philip Chevron

Yesterday we heard about the death of Philip Chevron.He was taken by a recurrence of the cancer that had dogged him for several years and which, at one point, he was thought to have seen off like a stranger at the gate. Philip, for the uninitiated, played with the Pogues from 1984’s “Rum, Sodomy and the Lash” – coincidentally the point at which I became a fan.

I don’t remember where I first heard the Pogues. It could have been on one of the music programmes they allowed on mainstream television then, like “The Tube,” although they weren’t big enough at that point to have the dubious pleasure of appearing on “Top of the Pops.” I might just have bought the album because I liked the title. I had more money then and I could do things like that.

However I came across the band, “Rum, Sodomy and the Lash” still stands as one of my favourite albums of all time. Its successor “If I Should Fall from Grace with God” featured the Christmas hit “Fairytale of New York,” which after 25 years of seasonal thrashing by every shop in town has lost a great deal of its charm and wit. That year, though–was it 1987?–no one had heard anything like it. And Matt Dillon from “Rumble Fish” was in the video.

My memory, as faulty as it may be, is that the Pogues went into decline after scaling those dizzy heights. The next album had at least one masterpiece on it–the epic “U.S.A.”–but some songs seemed like throwaways and the production and the playing were muddy. The perception where I lived was that Shane’s drinking had got the better of him. Whether this is biographically true or not you’d have to find out for yourself.

That, you see, was where the Pogues and I parted company.I had other musical adventures to take. I was older; I didn’t need to be set free by punk anymore. The memory of those heady days when we first met stayed in my mind like a wild youthful romance, however. When I heard that Philip Chevron passed away it was wistful nostalgia for another time that caught me before anything else, like the sight of an old love disappearing over a hill at twilight.

Then I saw a picture of Philip’s shrunken, haunted face in illness and another sort of pain, prompted by another sort of memory, stabbed at my heart. Poor bastard: nobody should have to go through that. But the temporality of existence–our terror of the deep black night–is the one thing that finally unites us all.

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The Whores Who Stole Their Poems

Two poets, centuries and continents apart, but they’re facing the same predicament. A whore has stolen their poetry and won’t return it. In lieu of payment? In addition to payment, one would think, especially in one case. Unless both whores had rich cultural lives (a possibility I guess).

Catullus, Gaius Valerius Catullus, bawdiest of the Romans; Charles Bukowski, the Shakespeare of the gutter, the laureate of the back alley, the king bum of the kingdom, beat before beat meant beatific. How strange that two poets from such different worlds (but were they?) should write poems on the same very specific theme. I wouldn’t even have thought of it.

The individual poems demonstrate surprising differences between the two men, though. The Catullus poem, No. 42, comes on with brash confidence. He’s enlisting the help of his own poetical gifts to shame her into returning his work:

Hendecasyllables, help! Come to my call,
Rally from every quarter, all of you, all
The hendecasyllables there are!

Bukowski, on the other hand, famous for his self-assurance, is scared that he has made no copies of the poems his whore has taken:

next time take my left arm or a fifty
but not my poems:
I’m not Shakespeare

Catullus’ hendecasyllabic abuse of his whore (“Give back the notebooks, rotten bitch!”) fails to produce results. At the end of No. 42 he resorts to lavishing her with false praise:

To make some headway, we shall have to try
A new line, switch the method of attack:
Say, “Pure sweet lady, please do give them back!”

Bukowski ends on a desolate note. He has no plan. His poems are gone, and so, possibly, is his chance of writing anything as good again. In a rhetorical gesture familiar to readers of Buk’s earlier work, God appears and says:

I see where I have made plenty of poets
but not so very much
poetry.

I don’t think anyone could argue with that, could they?

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Facebook Interruptus

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A few keen-eyed people have noticed that I’m not on Facebook anymore. I don’t miss it, other than in the sense that a smoker’s hands miss the cigarette. I don’t think I’ve used it for anything other than pontificating since I first opened an account. Okay, maybe the occasional cyber-friendship has been created and sustained by it, but I’m still here for anyone who wants to talk to me. Liking pictures of cute cats and my dinner isn’t the only way to be my friend.

I’ve been realising lately that I know far too little about anything to spend my free time on the internet surfing social networks. I have a first class English degree but only a sketchy knowledge of William Blake, John Milton, Geoffrey Chaucer, Ezra Pound . . . I am practically an idiot in the one subject where I’m supposed to be an expert. And I’m not happy about that. I don’t like other people knowing more than me! So now my online activity (when I’m not writing SUFFOLK PUNCH) is going to be study, not Facebook noodling. We’ll see a year from now how far it gets me.

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Carolyn Cassady

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I’ve been living a little off the grid lately. So I didn’t notice until this morning that Carolyn Cassady has died. Best known as the wife of Neal Cassady, the inspiration for Dean Moriarty in Kerouac’s “On The Road,” Carolyn was portrayed throughout her life as either a sour Beat party-pooper or a victim of misogynistic social mores (depending on the perspective of the portrayer). Since none of us is one thing alone, I would be hesitant about offering an opinion either way. All I know is that I liked her book “Off The Road” and poet/ publisher Ron Whitehead, who knew Carolyn, spoke highly of her. With her passing we come another step further away from that brief moment in history when so many of my heroes were young and vital. I was born at the tail end of that moment and I miss it terribly, even though I didn’t really know what was happening at the time.

“Life is a dream already ended,” as Kerouac would say. So Carolyn has woken up. To what?

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