Subsequent Death by Aaron Kent – zimZalla Press


Death is in reflective but also creative mood in this text, recounting the taking of eight separate people to the ‘afterlife’, though as a euphemism it should be the afterdeath in the context of these candid and often self-righteously angry descriptions, as with the first about a Father.

Death deals in cynicism too [!], as with the Priest’s taking where being devout and devoted to themselves are playfully compared. I like the dismissive scepticism in logic as well [not formatted as in the text]:

But the Priest: He spent his whole life in support of death, so why won’t he stop squirming?

The Captain, the Mother, the Brother, the Artist, the Soldier, and the Doctor, the antithesis of me, also all get their comeuppances, figurative and literal.

It is interesting, as a quick observation on the kind of messages Death delivers, that with the Artist there is a hint of the philosopher in Death’s mediation/meditation on this taking:

I see the glory of glazed eyes in all of the
lost artists who blame nobody but themselves

Death can be lyrical,

There are lenses for every death.

Some cast rose light
and give the deceased the glow they never could have held
when sleeping with a beating heart.

Death can be prosaic,

I know this isn’t about me, but I’m a player at the table. Well, more like the ace of spades in a game of poker, or the dealer in a game of blackjack.

[both from ‘Two. Priest’]

There really is so much more to read in the nuances and caustic declaratives across these eight decompositions.

Another element I commend to readers is the playfulness of the poems’ formatting. This is a text rich in exploring the impact/effect/highlighting/obfuscation of presentation, and at this highly engaging in-its-own-right aspect, the book is a thrill.

There is reading across pages, whole page text, text split by red lines, repetitions/echoes/continuations/compilations, text in and outside of grids, and sdrawkcab text.

Another excellent production from zimZalla – get it here.



Bird on the Wire by Leonard Cohen – Literary Lyrics

Like a bird on the wire,
Like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free.
Like a worm on a hook,
Like a knight from some old fashioned book
I have saved all my ribbons for thee.
If I, if I have been unkind,
I hope that you can just let it go by.
If I, if I have been untrue
I hope you know it was never to you.
Like a baby, stillborn,
Like a beast with his horn
I have torn everyone who reached out for me.
But I swear by this song
And by all that I have done wrong
I will make it all up to thee.
I saw a beggar leaning on his wooden crutch,
He said to me, “You must not ask for so much.”
And a pretty woman leaning in her darkened door,
She cried to me, “Hey, why not ask for more?”
Oh like a bird on the wire,
Like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free.

Songwriters: Leonard Cohen
Bird on a Wire lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

P1020375 - Copy


Top Fifty 19: Brewer and Shipley – Shake off the Demon, 1972

[Originally posted December 2011]


Another selection from the ‘having grown up with this album’ core of my Top Fifty. This is an essentially acoustic folk [occasional country rock] album by duo Mike Brewer and Tom Shipley. All songs are self-penned, apart from Jackson Browne’s Rock Me On The Water. The opening title track off this fourth album release is one of those country rock staples from similar artists at the time, and it has a guest electric and slide guitar contribution from John Cippollina. The west coast harmonies kick in almost immediately and that was the first appeal. The lyrics also tapped into my earnest teenage preoccupations of the time, here with There’s a man in a uniform/Says he wants to teach you how to kill and the implicitly critical, anti-war stance in this struck its vibrant chord.

Second track is the sublime Merciful Love, with acoustic guitar, piano and sweet harmonies. Third Message From The Mission [Hold On] rides further on the crest of exquisite harmonising – oh so pretty I admit – and the organ of Mark Naftalin supports these as they roll out to the end. Fourth One By One is more of the soothing same, and fifth When Everybody Comes Home, closing side two of the vinyl, is another countrified, banjo-twanged folk harmony where a simple but pretty melodic line gets repeated.

Sixth track and side two opener Working On The Well is an electric and upbeat number creating new pace. Seventh is Browne’s beautiful Rock Me On The Water, and this is a gorgeous version with Brewer and Shipley’s tight, distinctive harmonies – and strangely perhaps, made interesting too with Jose “Chepita” Areas’ congas/timbales. Eighth Natural Child features some effective acoustic guitar playing from the duo, and is augmented by the electric violin of David La Flamme from It’s A Beautiful Day – the track has a worksong repetition to it that is quite funky, includes a false end, then returns with more superb violin to provide a longish instrumental close. Penultimate Back To The Farm is is a bucolic call to pastoral arms, its hippie sensibilities set in the simplicity of Get to get ’em back down to the farm/The simple life it just might/Do a whole lot of good/And it can’t do no harm. The album ends on Sweet Love and continues the anthem with its paean to the power of love, Talk about love, sweet sweet love, sweet love, sweet sweet love. Amen.


Wild Goose Chase?

In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook scandal about the secret as well as nefarious sharing of personal and private information/details – this augmented by yesterday’s MSE’s Money Tips newsletter suggesting that we all inspect our Facebook details, and the more general advice here and there that we all just delete our Facebook accounts – I decided to have a check online about what information comes up when I type my name into Google Search [accepting the probable irony of that action].

Yes, that is the reason for this self-search.

I had a number of surprises. The first was that I had two poems published in Wild Goose Poetry Review in the Summer of 2017 here. I do of course remember submitting these, but I do not recall, and can find no record of, being contacted about the poems having been accepted for publication – and I am quite good at keeping email records of correspondence. Not that this is an issue: I was delighted to see these, even if over a year late.

wild goose

The other two [did I not state there were just the three surprises?] were less welcome but by no means problematic, or worse, dangerous. The first was a reference to my having co-authored a Poetry Anthology for a New Century Readers series, which I haven’t – though I did have that momentary if ridiculous wonder if this is something else I have forgotten of late, or if my teachings ideas had been appropriated by someone else. I think I might have even accepted this book’s existence regardless of my inability to remember being in any way involved until I read that its purpose was to prepare students for Key Stage 3 English SATs, something I would not have done as a publishing venture under any circumstances. I taught Key Stage 3 English and SATs preparation, because I had to, and very often challenged the outrageously stupid marks regularly awarded [or not] to students, because I had to. But I never wrote a text for these. And I never ever marked a SATs examination. This was the Devil’s work.



The second was a reference to my eBook Writing with Hammers, a satirical novel about my teaching experiences of over 30 years. I wasn’t surprised to see a reference to this, as it is available online, free here, but because out of all the chapters and pages there are, and even in this google ‘selection’ of pages to view, the following piece of narrative is the one that gets quoted in the search paragraph,


Other than this, I didn’t find anything else of concern, mild or major, and I am yet to decide if that is in any way a disappointment.



Do Not Die at Poetry WTF?!


Thank you to Maartens at Poetry WTF?! for posting Do Not Die here today.

I am particularly pleased as this is from my complete found poetry sequence American Finds based on the Great American Novel.

It isn’t always easy to place work like this. Poetry WTF?! is a welcoming forum for ‘experimental’ work [as I have said before, for want of a better word] and I commend its variety to you across these stated and implicitly other arenas:


Other poems from American Finds can be found on this site here, some of which will take you to their postings elsewhere.


Top Fifty 18: America – s/t, 1971

[Originally posted April 2012]


America’s eponymous debut album seemed curious in being launched on the back of their seminal hit single A Horse With No Name and yet this didn’t appear on it. The reality is that this isn’t the exact chronology of that release where it came out initially in 1971 to apparently only moderate success, but after recording some additional material, including the then Desert Song – latter renamed AHWNN after going down well in live performance – it was re-released in 1972 with the song included and went to number 1 in the United States.

That didn’t make any difference to me. I already had the first release as I bought it soon after radio play of A Horse… here in England, where the three main band members lived, but obviously before the re-release. It became an instant favourite and a song filling then and full now of poignant memories encompassing falling in love – I probably should just leave it there as a finite romantic observation – but also all of the other paraphernalia attached to growing up in the early 70s.

The three core members of Gerry Beckley, Dewey Bunnell and Dan Peek were living at an American Air Force base in West Ruislip. London – attending London Central High School – and I felt I had an affinity with them, also an American living in England, though this was on my own having initially resided with my family in Suffolk where my father, a civilian, worked for the military, and I too attended an English school, a secondary modern. But the comparisons begin to stretch even further from there: I listened to great music; America made it. Alas, our allotted placements on the musical map.


America’s map was plotted on the geography of west coast harmony a la Crosby, Stills and Nash, but it is a definable enough terrain. Beckley and Bunnell have distinctive vocals, and indeed continued as the band after Dan Peek left in 1977 [and he passed away recently in 2011], and their songwriting and acoustic guitar playing are idiosyncratic within this expansive genre.

That characteristic acoustic guitar sound is immediately made on opener Riverside – dual rhythm and solo lead and the tight harmonies also begin. Second Sandman introduces more electric guitar in a fuzzed lead and heavy base, but it is the acoustic guitar lead that again dominates until the ending electrification joins in. Both are beautifully sung, and Sandman, a Bunnell composition, engages in mildly esoteric storytelling – popular at the time – with the ‘surprise’ question Oh, I almost forgot to ask/Did you hear of my enlistment? before a closing repeat of the chorus,

Cause I understand
You’ve been running from the man
That goes by the name of the Sandman
He flies the sky
Like an eagle in the eye of a hurricane that’s abandoned

so the mystery deepens, if we really care beyond the beauty of the melody.  Third Three Roses is my favourite, and once more it is the acoustic strumming that signals their sound, Peek providing a memorable bass line. There are congas and other percussion, but no drums. Fourth Children introduces pedal steel, and the luxurious harmonies are the most notably west coast, with the lyrics as naff as the time would demand: Come on children get your heads back together as well as And you know we can make it because you know we’re alive. Far out. A Horse With No Name is the fifth track on the re-release, and as I have a cd copy I feel I can comment: it is again the simplest of acoustic strumming, and a melody line that is almost monosyllabic over a driving beat up to the memorable chorus. What carries it there, of course, are the obtuse but mesmerising lyrics, the la la, la la la la harmonising providing a hiatus for reflection on what has been intoned by the ungrammatical storytelling, there ain’t no one for to give you no pain: fuck double negatives if it scans. The transformation of the desert to sea, the significance of nine days, the release of the horse, the exhausted naming that ends up observing things, and humans that are loveless – it is a wondrous landscape of meaningless words creating meaning if we just listen and absorb.

There follows more acoustic-driven harmony and peacefulness. It is pretty, but pretty gorgeous at that. Penultimate track Donkey’s Jaw is almost wholly instrumental until children are again invoked in closing lyrics – does it take the children to make a better land? – and we all nod sagely and compassionately in concord, hoping that ours will fulfil the dream – it didn’t, nor us more importantly, but we know that only so well by now – and the album ends on the Pigeon Song which I have always liked and sung aloud for the sinister nonsense of its hillbilly nihilism,

Well I had me a pigeon
By the name of Fred
But I done shot him
In the head

Had me a railroad
Down on the ridge
But I done blowed up
The bridge

Had me a dog
He was my best friend
But to him
I done put an end

Had me a farm
Sittin’ pretty on the hill
But if you look
It ain’t there still

I don’t know why I done it
Honest it ain’t like me
But I ain’t sad now I done it
‘Cause a baby boy has got to be free