Tag Archives: sound art

A Poetry Recording

It has taken me a while to post this but it relates to my fairy recent (for me) post The Fastest Poems Ever Written and this is a recording I made of Looking At An Arthur Berry Exhibition. The tone of it  is about my response to his paintings, which are very dark colour-wise, and very reflective of life in a raw sense, a bit like Lowry which Arthur’s works were exhibited with.

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Here is the final tone-poem I recorded in response to my tour of his work. You can read more on my earlier post if you wish, The Fastest Poems Ever Written.

 

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The Fastest poems Ever Written

The Fastest Poems Ever Written

Well, the fastest poems ever written by me to be precise. I hope you don’t mind the headline grabbing title. Have you ever revised a poem to death, lost the very thing that sparked it in the first place? It’s a common enough occurrence for poets I believe. Even more common if you are revising to keep other people happy, such as workshops and the like.

Most people revise, it’s how you hopefully morph your initial spark into something that might be vaguely acceptable as a poem of merit, or at least a semblance of a poem.

Like all writers, I jot ideas down. I’ve even been known to do it in the middle of the night, jumping out of bed to get that sudden line down. What happens though if you don’t revise, if you want to keep the initial explosive event that boomed from your pen instead of refining and processing it to the point of wetting the powder? Can the original thought ever be more powerful than the edited one?

I suppose it is subjective. As with painters, sometimes that fresh spontaneous stroke of the brush can be preferable to the pedantic sure footed but lifeless colouring-in of a piece. There is a certain appeal to be had from quick sketches as much as there is from a photorealistic painting. Can it ever be the same with writing?

On Saturday 3rd October 2015 I found myself at the Lowry and Arthur Berry exhibition at the Potteries Museum in Hanley, Stoke on Trent, U.K. I was there to take part in a ‘Writing Is Seeing’ workshop run by Paul Haughton, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Staffordshire University. Part of the workshop brief was to walk around the exhibition of the two artists and note things that may form the basis of future writing and later workshop discussion.

What followed for me was a rather strange experience. Perhaps I misunderstood the brief, who knows, but the very first note I made at the Lowry exhibition was in response to the figures in his paintings. They immediately made an impression on me that they looked like musical notes. So I jotted that down “Quavers and semitones.”

This impacted upon me, not as a note (pun not intended), but as a line, the first line of a poem perhaps, and I carried on in this way, preserving immediacy and freshness, going with the sheer rawness of it all. In a way it was liberating, unconstrained and instinctive. I found myself writing poetry without thinking, just getting onto the page my immediate impression, my immediate resonance, my reaction. The thought process, at least the conscious processing of thought wasn’t engaged. It was more like word association or the inkblot exercise.

My intention was to work these initial responses into a poem, but the longer I have lived with them the more reluctant I become to alter them. I believe I was subconsciously writing poetry, but instinctively. By altering the original words, developing them through replacement and rearrangement, they will surely cease to be my responses at the time of writing and become instead something far more considered and deliberately articulated, a poem. One that will more likely become a consideration, and I use the word carefully, of the two artists’’ work, not the immediate experience of an instant response that the artists’ elicited from me.

You may say that this process of refining is perfectly normal and is a logical workflow but the question I ask is do we sometimes lose spontaneity and freshness when we overwork and over-consider our original spark?  Is it sometimes, maybe only sometimes, better to let the warts and all version go into the world or should we always try to make sure we produce the very best written piece? Such a piece, a poem, may though, be one that has lost its spark. I suppose editors and proof readers and some poets may be tearing their hair out reading this, but I think that reaction may be more relevant to prose writing than poetry. I think poetry is closer to painting in a way. It has more room for artistic interpretation and risk.

Here we are then. I offer my original pieces, my poems word for word. All I have done is given line breaks and space. Not a single word has been edited and if they do have any value, it may just be a novelty one, as the fastest poems I have ever written, but there is something telling me to leave them alone. They have something I might lose. Perhaps looking at photography as opposed to painting is a useful analogy. Where would we be if all portraits of people were just studio portraits? What value can be placed on the humble snapshot?

Against this more forgiving approach to writing might be the argument that it is unacceptable to the traditional academic poetry authority. You know, a good piece of writing is a good piece of writing and a poor piece of writing is just that. Or is it? For example, the writing of an autistic child may be academically poor, but just how more valuable may it be in poetic terms? (My own grandson Sam is autistic, but I would like to thing he can see the world in his own scrutinising way, a way unique to him. He may just simply need help in transcribing that into what we know to be poetry.)

Should we look deeper and wider when considering the heart of poetry? Is polish the only validity.

My tour of both exhibitions was quick, very quick, my impressions formed were immediate and written immediately and of the group I was the first one back to the room, which I didn’t deliberately set out to do, it just happened that way. I remember reacting to the content of paintings, thoughts stimulated by other non-painting exhibits and even words in the title to paintings. The two poems that follow are the result. I intend to record them. As a matter of personal development and comparison it is also my intention one day to write two more poems based on these words. I will then evaluate what I feel about both approaches. In the meantime, here are the fastest poems I have ever written.

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Looking at a Lowry Exhibition    by Neil William Holland

Quavers and semitones,

human notes on a scale

of opera.
Movement

and pockets

of hats and coats
smoking rawness

and dabs of life
Jimmy’s lunch and Edith’s strife.
“Hey bald man,” calls the girl with a dog
here is a man looking out to sea
and a copper

looking down at me
through the mill

for a few pence
or maybe five bob.

Cheap notes

in a Lowry paint job.

Come with me come with me

past the smoke and the mills
to a better place grown

from people talking

factories

and kids walking

past dark window sills.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 

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Looking at an Arthur Berry Exhibition      by Neil William Holland

There’s a light on at the back

and Arthur’s seen it

though

crayon and charcoal
and dark thoughts

screen it.

There’s a truth inside

four corners of each frame

honest folk,

dogs and doorways
all the same.

 

How it was, the truth,
painted not said
but truth all the same
and folks that are

you and me
in all but name.

You can scribble and dollop

chalk up age and youth

but stand there long enough
and you’ll see the truth.
Sometimes a bit dour,
occasionally merry,
but all through the honest eyes
of Arthur Berry.

Currently reading no.2

I like to find time to pursue something akin to ‘Continued Professional Development’ with my interest in poetry. Hence this post, which is perhaps more of a ‘Continued Poetry Development’. The book I’m reading today is The Lost Works of William Carlos Williams by Robert J. Cirasa.(also subtitled as ‘The Volumes of Collected Poetry as Lyrical Sequences’). I’ve got two reasons for this, firstly anything that mentions lyrical and poetry grabs my attention because of my own creative leaning, and secondly, in his autobiography William Carlos Williams said, “The longer I lived in my place, among the details of my life, the more I realised that these isolated observations and experiences needed pulling together to gain profundity.”

There is, I think, poetry even inside that quote, I mean how gorgeous is the inward looking concept of living among the details of one’s life? The very way of thinking in those worded terms seems to negotiate to that ‘other layer’ which all good poetry seems to possess. It says a lot about him I think, especially how he wrote in a small-detail way. Profundity seems to be something I also occasionally try to negotiate almost without realising it. (the concept of trying to be profound seems saturated with ego somehow, oops!) Perhaps my efforts are more like a journey though through my own self awareness. Maybe my own attempts at profundity is a way of sharing myself, I think it is probably, a passing-on of something. It would be nice to think my kids read my ‘profundity’ one day, although I’d probably have to throw in a free holiday to get them to read my poetry.

I digress, what matters is that reading books like this puts me a bit closer to the man, the poet and what he gave out to the world, his “details of my life”, his way of seeing. And that can only help my own growth and love of writing and reading poetry. I’ll give the last word on this post to the man himself, a quote from the book:

“It is a flower through which the wind
combs the whitened grass and a black dog

with yellow legs stands eating from a
garbage barrel. One petal goes eight blocks.

That’s only an extracted few lines of course, but I just love that sentence “One petal goes eight blocks”. It subconsciously connects me to the concept of a journey, and all living things are on a journey and within each journey are many other journeys. I do find even that short sentence lyrical. The word ‘petal’ is the only two syllable word in that sentence and in a creative writing sense, and a musical one too, I seem to focus on that word, it seems to gain strength from itself sitting within the monosyllabic rest.

So, there we are, me and my book, a rare find in a second hand bookshop with a bell that tinkles when you open the door, another lyrical note on my poetry journey. Nine quid well spent I reckon.

Cheers all…Neil

Currently reading

Poems of the Second World War..
edited by Dennis Butts& Victor Selwyn.

In particular the poem The Shelter (extract) by Wilfrid Gibson.

Why?
I love the lyrical language that opens the poem and which continues to unravel the story contained therein, a cameo of life at that time.

‘In the air-raid shelter of the Underground
Stretched on the narrow wire racks ranged around
The walls, like corpses in a catacomb
With brows and cheeks cadaverous in the light…’

What follows in the poem is a lyrical narrative containing a story that is a hugely compassionate boy-meets-girl theme that rises above the ordinary due to the circumstances of it all. The poem is both a poem, a narrative prose and also a signpost to what may matter in life philosophically, all at the same time weaving a spell on me as a reader.

On the opposite page to the poem is a full page black and white photograph of people in the air-raid shelter right in keeping with the theme which strengthens my enjoyment and appreciation of the poem’s setting, but of course you don’t need it to enjoy this lovely poetry.

Enjoy…Neil William Holland aka Soloneili, the poet in the car.

International Exhibition

I’m very fortunate to have this poem ‘The Ghosts Of Who We Are’ included in an exhibition currently open in Leicester, UK at the Phoenix Art Centre in The Cube Digital Gallery located there. If you are interested in sound enhanced poetry, the whole thing is well worth exploring.

On the evening of 10th April 2014 I attended a discussion at the location where I met some amazing and talented people for which I will be ever grateful, and in particular to Curators Mark Goodwin and Brian Lewis of Longbarrow press. Here is a further link to more material
http://strangealliances.wordpress.com/2014/04/13/mark-goodwin-and-brian-lewis-on-poems-places-soundscapes/

If you are interested in experiencing a truly international range of spoken word, poetry, video and sound then I highly recommend a visit. The facilities are excellent, parking is next door and a cafeteria is on hand. Marvellous.
Inspired by the exhibition and armed with my portable recorder I ventured into Leicester city centre that same day, made some field recordings and created this additional poem. Clicking on the title of the poem will bring up the words and some observations.
I hope you enjoy…

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A New Poem

TREE OF DREAMS…………..by Neil William Holland a.k.a. Soloneili

The sway of the tip of the tall lime tree shows the way to the singer of the song.
Fine free notes play long and short from the tiniest bird the eye could see.
The sway of the tip of the tall lime tree conducts the melody.
I stand at the foot of the tall lime tree ear turned skyward wistfully
wishing I could sing from the tip of the tree such a warm and haunting melody.

When I am a fisherman away at sea I dream of such haunting melody.
The sway of the mast on the lilting sea is the tip of the tall lime tree.
As the sun goes down and the song grows loud I dream on the lilting sea
and hold on to the sound of the little bird I see on the tip of the tall lime tree.

…………………………………………………………………….

This poem is actually based on a real and very tall Lime tree that grows by the River Dovey in Wales. After writing and aiming for a lyrical and melodic straight-poem I explored my interest in Celtic culture which attracts me due to its powerful mystical and spiritual connotations. Fascinated by the process of combining sound and words I experimented and began to pursue the poem rendered in a dream-like context. There is a strong ‘nature’ element in Celtic culture. I actually recorded a bird singing from the very tip of the lime tree before writing the poem and et voila, here is the collective result which I feel conveys what I set out to achieve conceptually, a slightly darkish but beguiling work that embraces the spirit. Hope you enjoy it too…….Neil.

ps, if the poem doesn’t play you can still listen by clicking on the word ‘soundcloud’ within the widget.

Whales, a Poetry Reading

There is a strange but compelling attraction to Whales for me. I don’t really know why only that it is there and very strong too. It feels like an emotional bond of some sort and I am struck by the way they do not set out to attack people, in spite of much persecution by people. It’s as though they are wiser. Maybe they are the custodians of something. I’m sure the scientist and biologist will give me the cold explanations of their presence, place and purpose, but it will never shake my belief that there is something very special about whales, something intangible. I hope you enjoy this poetry with sound. It is my own poem read by me and the music is my own playing and composition. What I’ve tried to do is impart to the piece something of what I feel. Enjoy and best wishes….Neil I’ve called the poem Thermoclines Thermoclines a poem by Neil William Holland. a.k.a. Soloneili What am I following, this pull call pull of something higher? Rising and bellowing thermoclines mellowing deep subsonic viscous noise, resonating through rib-cages, grasping aortas, whale song. Blues, Minkes, Orcas.

The Works Canteen

……….

The Works Canteen………a poem by Neil William Holland

They’ve closed the works canteen,
replaced it with a vending machine.
Is that mean or what?
Antidisestablishmentarianism, that’s what we’ve got.
The canteen is the church of the people
where views and opinions tower like a steeple
above the mundane drudgery of conveyor belts
and packing cases, lathes and clocked-on faces
all churning and gurning their daily grind.
Never mind, the management say.
Well, we all know if they had their way
longer hours and less pay would be the norm,
and that’s how unions were born
by workers getting together, in canteens!
Workers fed up and at the end of their tether
who stood up to be counted, demanded to be seen
and the very heart of this movement beats in the works canteen.
Well, they’ve closed it
and now a Kit Kat is C4,
a packet of crisps the button before
and already it’s so worn you can’t make it out.
In this day and age no-one gives you nowt
and now you can’t even meet over a cuppa to talk about it.
So excuse me if I don’t wish the boss a Merry Christmas,
he’s unapproachable, distant and aloof
and I for one hope the reindeer miss his roof
but just in case Dear Santa,
give him a sour lemon,
and address the gift tag to Mr Mean.
He’s the Christmas pudding who’s closed the works canteen.

Birdnesting


Bird-nesting.

Nowadays we know better.
In those days it was simply the matter
of fact way in which we spent summer,
bird-nesting.
My older brother and his mates
taught me the ways,
although now I do know better.

In those days we would gather and hide
beneath trees at the sides
and in the corners of fields.
My older brother would climb up
disappearing into the leaves
then climb down with an egg.
Not in his hand nor in his pocket,
but cradled in his mouth.

Only one egg was ever taken from any nest,
and in its place a pebble laid to rest.
He would use hawthorn to make a hole
at each end of the egg, one larger than the other.
My brother would blow through the smaller hole
and the contents would be emptied.

The emptied egg was placed in a cardboard box
half full of cotton wool.
We would gather, secretive friends
partly wild in our ways,
marvelling at the marbling
on the shell.
Nowadays I do know better.

Blackbird, robin, thrush, wren, whatever?
My brother and his mates
knew their names in Latin to the letter.
We were all a natural part of the countryside,
but nowadays I’m sure we know we should know better.
………………………………….

A poem by Neil William Holland, a.k.a. Soloneili…thepoetinthecar

Hope you enjoy.

Noah

Hello, this is a poem I wrote and recorded about one of my grandchildren. I hope you enjoy.

Noah

In the hierarchy of sound
I place the ticking
of my late grandmother’s clock
as middle C.
The purring of Sooty
her black cat sits
somewhere below,
Its meow sits considerably higher,
as do all the sounds of Noah,
my grandson
now three months old.

Asleep on the smokey rag rug
the crackling pops and whistles
of the coal fire reassure,
as do the buttons, buckles, and RAF wings
I play with in their cream coloured tin.
I effortlessly slide from my childhood
to Noah’s as he lies listening.

I have no ticking clock for him.
Only my low grandfather voice,
and my burning desire to ensure
his life is full of music and me,
desperate to be his middle C,
wishing for him,
a world of beautiful polyphony.

poem by Neil William Holland. a.k.a. Soloneili