Relocating - please follow the link for new content

This archive will stay here - but you can find new posts (as well as this archive) at my new website which is at It's the new home for Stuart Eglin Online - including the blog, musings, and details of the publications and services which I have available. Take a look - it's worth a visit!

Monday, 15 December 2003

London Eye defeats vertigo

Yesterday we were in London, so we went on the London Eye. The queue was crazy – especially when you consider that this attraction has been around since the Millennium. Now, I am not particularly keen on heights. In fact I get spooked really easily. But there was something about the design of the pods and slow speed with which you work your way up into the clouds, that made the whole thing a pleasant experience.

The views over London were spectacular. There are some stunning buildings in the city. I suppose the one negative side to the experience was the confirmation that London lacks the planning on a grand scale of Paris. If you look at Paris from the Eiffel Tower you can see the thought that has gone into the big picture of the city as a whole. That is not apparent in London, which just looks like an untidy and chaotic series of developments. At least, to these eyes it does!

Today I’m listening to Salif Keita’s album “Soro” which is a wonderful album of music from Mali. I can see where Youssou N’Dour’s sound originates from. This is clearly one that will improve with repeated listening.

A pile of CDs are all benefiting from repeat listening at the moment:

Lloyd Cole – Music in a Foreign Language
Robert Plant – Dreamland
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – The Last DJ
Kraftwerk – Tour de France: Soundtracks
Robert Wyatt – cuckooland

Keeping very busy…

Tuesday, 9 December 2003

Waiting to fly

Not sure why I’m finding it difficult to focus – I have managed to find ways of being productive. But as ever, there are more things to do with average day than an average fortnight would require.

A two week break for Christmas is a short breath away – so it will just be a matter of rushing for the finishing line!

New listening - Country Joe and the Fish – never heard anything by them before. Pleasantly surprised – like a cross between Captain Beefheart and Spirit without the completely daft bits, just a bit weird. Very 1967!

The other album I’m listening to a lot this week is a short CD available for download free from Stasisfield ( . It’s a live album of improvisation with guitar and laptop from Neil Jendon called ‘Live at Buddy in Chicago’. It starts very very quiet and builds up to an increasing level of intensity across three tracks – through gently humming, intrusive ambient and on to noise. It’s a great listen. Try it.

Monday, 8 December 2003

Where has he gone?

Things are picking up in work now. And the poetry reading last week is causing a flurry of brain activity in that arena too.

Keeping a log is challenging at times like these.

I’m also being software challenged with the job of updating and redesigning the website ( which really needs an overhaul. I’m planning to do it with Frontpage, but have never used that programme so am starting from scratch. Hopefully it will be beautifully intuitive and I’ll be able to reproduce the pages from the old site together with a new front-end and new sections to build up the site. We shall see – ongoing reports to be seen here first.

Music at the moment – everything Robert Wyatt. I saw the documentary on BBC4 here in the UK which was wonderful. I am now listening to all the Wyatt albums I own. Favourites are ‘Solar flares burn for you’ and ‘Cuckooland’ – the two new ones.

I’m also listening to the latest album by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers ‘The Last DJ’ which is a great mainstream album.

Enough for now – I’ll keep you posted…

Tuesday, 25 November 2003

Poetry reading next week – it’s official!

I heard yesterday that I have been asked to do a poetry reading at my local poetry group next week. ‘First Thursday’ meet on the first Thursday of each month (there’s a surprise!) in my home town of Heswall in the North West of England.

I will read a few poems from the ‘Zen Words’ collection and perhaps a poem or two from the forthcoming collections that I am currently working on. I’m really excited about this – and a bit scared too! But then the adrenalin is always useful.

Things like this, coming out of the blue, are always good for motivation. I sent off some more booklets today, and have started to think about the third booklet from ‘blue water books’. I am still aiming to get this booklet out before Christmas.

As I write this I am listening to ‘Tour de France: Soundtracks’ by Kraftwerk. Wonderful stuff – even after all this time, they still stand years ahead of anyone else. Others rush to catch up. If you haven’t heard it and like early Kraftwerk, you ought to try to hear it as soon as you can. You can hear bits of it and see video clips at

Friday, 14 November 2003

Creativity as the enemy of productivity

Does Creativity get in the way of productivity? It can do. How do you ensure that spinning around various creative spirals doesn’t detract from the job that needs doing?

At the moment I am producing lots of creative ideas, and my thoughts are developing fast. But my actual productivity levels are quite low. I suppose that this must be part of a cycle of energy where the productivity comes in good time. For now, I just need to ensure that I make best use of the creative flows whilst they are there.

Current musical listening:

1. King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black
2. Robert Fripp – November Suite
3. Can – Landed
4. Jan Garbarek – Rites
5. Burning Shed Sampler No. 2

A good broad range of music which oils the wheels of the thinking mind.

Next week is a really busy one – but I’ll try to drop in a couple of updates.

Friday, 7 November 2003

Whack it unpack it

I have had a pack of playing cards for a few years now that was created by Roger von Oech ( It is called a ‘Creative Whack Pack’ and I use it when I am a bit stuck in moving things forwards. For the last two days I have started the day by choosing a card to get the thinking going.

Yesterday’s card was “Set a Deadline” – something which I am experimenting with where I have things that need doing that lack external pressure to get them completed. Seems to be working!

Today’s card was “Change its Name”, which left me a bit confused at first. Not sure what use to make of this concept.

The text on the card reads:

“If an architect looks at an opening between two rooms and thinks “door”, that’s what she’ll design. But if she thinks “passageway”, she may design something much different like a “hallway”, “air curtain”, “tunnel” or perhaps a “courtyard”. Different words bring in different assumptions and lead your thinking in different directions.” What else can you call your idea?

Now, after a bit of thinking two things occurred to me:

1. A task which I am really struggling to get in touch with at the moment is redrafting my PhD thesis. It’s a painful task which I have told myself I don’t enjoy doing. By renaming it, I’m trying to change the allure of this task. It is now ‘Redesign’ the thesis. So, I am currently working on redesigning chapter nine – seems more enjoyable already, and it introduces concepts of redesign that didn’t occur to me in the job of drafting.
2. Change my name – not literally of course. But when you change jobs you have an opportunity to redefine yourself, and particularly to draw out parts of yourself that were submerged in the previous role. This means that I can draw out my creative side much more than previous. Be much more extravert about my creativity.

I’m going to continue with the Whack Pack approach through the working days of next week too, and see what it generates.

Whilst writing this, I am listening to ‘Space Groove’ by Projekct Two (an offshoot, R&D unit of King Crimson). I love this double album for its twiddling innovation. It takes a prolonged groove off into stellar depths. Great stuff!

Thursday, 6 November 2003

Creativity and Robert Fritz

Some time ago I read a book by Robert Fritz called ‘The path of least resistance’. It was a marvellous exposition of uses of creativity. I thoroughly enjoyed working through it.

Well, you often find yourself going around loops and back to where you started. At the moment I am reading Peter Senge’s ‘Fifth Discipline’ and in searching through associated websites on the net ( I noticed that Robert Fritz has worked with Senge. I then found a Fritz website ( and reference to a couple of new books by him. One is called ‘Creating’ and sounds fascinating. There is also a recently published book called ‘Your life as art’ which I’m keen to read too.

I’ll come back to these books once I have tracked them down and read them.

Meanwhile, in a couple of weeks I am going to a Workshop which will be run by an actor, looking at applications of creative techniques in work situations. I’m looking forward to this.

Today’s music:

Miles Davis – Double Image
Jack de Johnette – Dancing with Nature Spirits

And a fair amount of quiet too – ah, the sound of silence.

Wednesday, 5 November 2003

Transmission resumes – Miles Davis circa 1969

A gap for a little while, but it’s not because I’ve been doing nothing. The last few days for example, I have been listening to a stack of CDs from 1968 to 1970 which document the work of Miles Davis during that period. The music comes from:

1. The Complete ‘In a Silent Way’ Sessions (3 x CDs)
2. Double Image (Live in Paris, 1969)
3. The Complete ‘Bitches Brew’ Sessions (4 x CDs)

A vague calculation tells me that there is about 10 hours of music on these CDs. It’s an incredible documentation of an artist’s prolific creativity. The material on these CDs is startling, innovative, and takes jazz music in mind-blowing new directions. The ideas on these CDs are still subject to catch-up by a lot of music that has come since.

Of course, the musicians who are working with Miles Davis on these CDs are legendary – people like Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, John McLaughlin, Joe Zawinul, Dave Holland, Jack de Johnette. There are loads more too – a collective of musicians each contributing their own take on improvisation and composition.

It’s great music for working to, because the diversity of ideas stimulates productivity as I listen.

I’m impressed!

I suppose the thing that is so remarkable is the quality of the music that was left off the original albums.

In the world of literature, I am reading through ‘The Fifth Discipline’ by Peter Senge, which is mind-blowing in its approach to looking at systems in action. I’m experimenting with some of the ideas set out in the book. Fascinating!

The new job is providing endless creative opportunities. In a couple of weeks I’m going to a creativity workshop which will use improvisation as a teaching tool. Should be interesting and challenging too!

I feel like my brain is opening up at the moment, to a whole series of new possibilities. May the words, and the reports of the process flow out.

Monday, 13 October 2003

Good for a laugh

Always good for a laugh – a Murder Mystery Party. I’m going to one this coming weekend. My part is supposed to be a 1960s style Austin Powers character. Instead of being a spy I’m supposed to be a photographer. I have a wig to wear, but it makes look more like Shaggy from ‘Scooby Doo’ rather than Austin Powers.

The last couple of weeks have been one of adjustment to the new role in work. It has been such a long time since I changed job role, people who I work with and organisational context. It’s taking a bit of getting used to.

I’ve met a few people already, so I have some reference points. Being home based means that I get to listen to a whole lot more music whilst working. As I type this I am listening to ‘Alchemy: an index of possibilities’ by David Sylvian. I had already heard some of this album before. The new material (new to me that is) is wonderful. The track ‘Steel Cathedrals’ is a marvellous instrumental piece with contributions from Ryuichi Sakomoto, Steve Jansen. Kenny Wheeler, Robert Fripp, Holger Czukay and Masami Tsuchiya. Nineteen minutes of meandering around a basic theme – each player distinctive and yet moulded into a whole and coherent entity.

Last night I listened to Bartok’s Violin Concerto No.2 and two Rhapsodies whilst sitting in front of an open fire. It is truly stunning music, from the breadth of emotion to the intensity of the incorporation of folk themes into the classical cannon.

Friday, 10 October 2003

Disappeared - but back soon

Changing jobs is more disruptive than I can remember from the last time I did it! I changed jobs on 1st October and since then have had little time to breathe...

I'll be writing things in here again - in the next few days. I promise.

Friday, 26 September 2003

A week of ambling around

It has been one of those weeks beset with a heap of work. In the midst of it all, I have waded through a range of music and a bit of poetry.

On the music front, I'm still listening with interest to () by Sigur Ros which reveals new depths each time I listen to it. I've also read the write up on this album at which really helps with an understanding of what is going on. The fact that the packaging is so beautiful and so totally without words, is explained thus. Apparently the songs have no titles, and the words to the songs are in a made up language, so the CD booklet has no words, the pages are beautifully textured and designed, with space for the listener to write their own interpretation of what the music is all about. A marvellous idea!

Earlier in the week, I dipped into The Beatles 'White Album' which has some real gems on it. The high point, and there are a number of peaks, has to be the long experimental track 'Revolution 9' which has stood the test of time really well. It's a great example of studio experimentation meets avant-garde. Other listening includes a couple of free-to-download CDs from which are beautiful ambient and avant sounds. One is by Thanos Chrysakis and the other by Hinterlandt.

I travelled by train to and from London earlier this week and took the recently acquired copy of 'The Vein' by Tom Raworth. I really like some of the lines in this book, but as a free flow 'cut-up' poem I failed to get the complete point of it. I think the failing is probably mine rather than the poem's, but would like to find something which helps to explain what is going on with this text, and how to find a point of access to it.

I've read a review of 'Collected Poems' by Raworth on the website which helps a little, but there is only a passing reference to 'The Vein' - more help needed in this area. I've also found Raworth's own site, but that didn't really throw any more light on things. Help.

Monday, 22 September 2003

Blue Water Books - first books out, nearly!

Isn't it incredible how long it takes to do a simple task like print out copies of an A5 booklet and get them in the post? I was intending to have the first two booklets from Blue Water Books out and in circulation by the end of August. Well, that deadline passed. It is now nearly the end of September and I am nearly there. But printing out 10 copies of each booklet for the first mailing sounds like a modest task - well, it isn't!

Each booklet takes over five minutes to get through the printer. Then it needs folding, stapling and finishing. Then there is the little fact that some of these go wrong and need re-doing. I may be a bit of a perfectionist but I do want these booklets to be flawless.

The upshot of all this is that I should have produced 10 copies of the two booklets and they will be out in circulation by the end of this week. Then, I turn my attention to the next 10 copies and so on until I reach 50 which is the limit for the signed and numbered copies of the first edition.

Meanwhile, the content of the next two booklets emerges slowly....

Friday, 19 September 2003

Give the rabbit away

New covers for the two poetry sequences which I am in the middle of writing have emerged over the last couple of days. They have arisen from photos taken with a digital camera which we bought a couple of months ago. The fact that digital photos can be taken, deleted, retaken, adjusted, see there and then etc makes the medium so much more interesting to use than the locked box of photography with a film.

Today was another great post day. The new issue of 'The Wire' came complete with the new compilation CD which has some really interesting material on it. I have also been listening to an album available for free download from Antiopic ( ) which is called 'The Allegorical Power Series Vol. 4'. It is part of a monthly mp3 download project which presents some really fascinating abstract and experimental music. I particularly like the track by John Hudak. It is called 'rabbit2' and is a beautiful subtle piece of drone music that slips along and makes one feel all comfortable and cosy in an unsettled sort of way. Time to give the rabbit away I think, if we are to move forwards.

This morning's post also brought me 'a.m.' by Michael Ayres which I have been waiting for. It's a huge volume of poetry which I have had a brief dip into. I like the look of what I see. I also think the cover picture is wonderful - it's a painting (I think) by the poet himself. Nice stuff. Ayres lives in Cambridge which is the home of the press 'Salt' which produced the book. One gets the feeling that there is a strong Cambridge clique at work here. But then cliques and networks are what makes the world go around. Time for some more active networking I think.

Wednesday, 17 September 2003

The Wire Tapper and creativity

As I write this I am listening to the double CD given away with an issue of 'The Wire' magazine last year, Wire Tapper 9. There is a new compilation CD due out next week with the latest issue of the magazine, so I thought I would revisit the most recent one.

There is such a huge and broad field of creativity out there - most of which never sees the light of day in the mainstream. The big record companies don't take risks (when did they ever?) so music like this struggles to find an audience and be heard. There are some amazing exceptions, like the London-based radio station 'Resonance FM' - but that is only available via London or the internet (which with dial up like mine is pretty hopeless). There are also a large number of websites offering free mp3 downloads to increase exposure of some of these acts. It is interesting that the big companies are trying to kill downloading because they see it damaging their profits, whereas more imaginative people are seeing mp3 downloading as a way of reaching an audience. I'm not advocating naïveté here, but wouldn't it be nice to see music being about creativity and expression, rather than business, cash flows and stock markets.

Well, it is the middle of November, and I start a new job at the beginning of next month. I'm looking forward to the challenge, the excitement and the chaos that will ensue.

Last weekend I went with the family to Paris where we dashed around various places, and went to Versailles for Gail's Graduation Ceremony. In spite of plane delays, car hire companies messing up, roads closed for the French President to pass through etc. it was great fun.

My own poetical voice seems to have gone for a prolonged walk at the moment - there are no words forthcoming. I guess I just need to shock the words onto the page again, write free and openly, and not for the finished form. The words can always be thrown away - no need to be precious about these things.

In the absence of new words, how about some older ones:

poem without title, yet
bright by echo of bright recall
there is nothing more

only the neatness brought about when we tidy as we go along
turning everything into some sort of song

then there is the won mind-set
no idea why!

then there was the loss of a consonant in a clever
smug sort of whatever

and finally we let it all go
pretend that nothing has happened

seal the secrets in a small envelope,
light a candle,

hold the secret over it
until it ignites, then let go and

watch the paper turn to blackened feather
light, and fragment, into the air

gone forever, burnt out of existence.

Thursday, 11 September 2003

The Fountain

I'm one of those people who looks optimistically forward to the arrival of the post each morning - enthusiastic about what it might bring.

This morning I was rewarded with a late draft of a poetry booklet which Pete Presford is producing. It is called "The Fountain / La Fontana" and has an Italian theme to it. It includes two of my own poems from 'Umbrian Images'. It is beautifully produced - there is wonderful poetry and illustrations included in the booklet. Pete's Malfunction Press has produced some really interesting and attractive chapbooks over the years. One of my favourites is 'Terrazzo' by Bill Costley which was the inspiration for my own 'Umbrian Images'.

The arrival of this booklet spurs me on to produce the two booklets which are waiting in final form for printing ('zen words' and 'Umbrian Images') under my own bluewater books imprint. This was due to be completed by the end of August - the delay was caused by a combination of the general malaise and the fact that printing booklets is a rather tedious task. It must be done though - I feel really positive about getting into print, and getting things moving. Things are beginning to come together really well!

These two poems in Pete's booklet bring my total of poems published in magazines and booklets to 62. Time for the big push to get to 100!

On the subject of writing, the poems for the new sequence - 'the alice conversations' - are emerging slowly. Some more thought is needed about the underlying themes of this booklet to give it a clearer focus. This work will be carried out over the next couple of weeks.

Wednesday, 10 September 2003

Between then and now

I'm still waiting for delivery of the book by Michael Ayres. In the meantime, I have received three books which I am easing my way into:

1. Barry MacSweeney - The Book of Demons (and Pearl)
2. Tom Raworth - The Vein
3. Wendy Mulford - The abc of writing

The book by MacSweeney is a volume published by Bloodaxe - I've dipped into the poems in the Pearl sequence which I'm enjoying reading. On the back cover these poems are described as poems about Pearl, who was "the mute Northumbrian girl, whom MacSweeney taught to read and write on a slate in the rain, and was his first love in the high wild lead-mining hills of the desolate and deeply beautiful Allen Valley."

The other two books are chapbooks. It's a question of keeping up to date with the contemporary scene - getting a broadening understanding of poets writing today and in recent decades. MacSweeney died a couple of years ago, after fighting alcoholism for most of his adult life.

Music I am listening to has shifted slightly:

The Thrills - So much for the city
Sigur Ros - ( )
David Sylvian - Blemish
Porcupine Tree - in absentia
Eberhard Weber - Pendulum

Friday, 5 September 2003

Ayres and Graces

I read at least ten weblogs regularly, by a wide range of people who are musicians, poets and psychologists. Something is happening in the world at the moment. It seems I am not the only person to lose the plot over the last week or so - virtually all of the weblogs I visit have been inactive over this time period.

In my own case, the lack of any activity has been caused by a slip into uncertainty and inertia. I am about to change jobs, and am just drifting through the 'oh my god! I can't do that' phase before I grab the thing by the scruff of the neck and get moving.

Music in the meantime is very spread around…

As I write this I am listening to an album of Bach's Cantatas sung by Andreas Scholl which just purifies the soul and brings one back to the art of productivity.

I've been reading poetry by Michael Ayres recently and really enjoying it, available online at the website. The collection, which is free there as a pdf file, is called 'Recent Poems'. I am waiting for a delivery of poetry books from Peter Riley's Mail Order bookshop in Cambridge, England. Amongst these will be another Ayres book which I am really looking forward to seeing. His work is expansive, bold and uses repetition and rhetorical questions in a marvellous way. Many of the poems are quite long, and have a graceful pace to them. His essay at the end of the collection talks about the use of musical forms and theories to inform his work. This is something which I have experimented with myself, so I was particularly interested to see how he had achieved this. I particularly like the love poems in the pdf collection, which are tender and passionate too.

The Shearsman website is well worth a visit anyway. There is loads of great poetry there.

Other music at the moment: -

Eberhard Weber - Pendulum
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - anthology: through the years
Can - Landed
Madonna - American Life
Marcus Stockhausen, Arild Andersen, Patrice Heral & Terje Rypdal - Karta
David Sylvian - Orpheus 88 / Trauma / A Fire in the Forest (compiled from downloads)

Wednesday, 27 August 2003

Art Therapy

Art therapy - a technical formalisation in language for something that I dabbled with at the start of my career. Back in the 1980s I worked within a team of artists of a wide range of disciplines. I was the poet who mucked about with photography and did the latter very badly (noble ideas without the technical skills). We had fine artists, ceramicists, photographers, dramatists etc. It was great fun. We worked with a wide range of people, leading workshops that were either uni- or multi-disciplinary.

It wasn't really art therapy as such, because the therapeutic intent was not controlled, although the work we did had a clear impact on many of the people with whom we came into contact.

I mention all of this because I am in the middle of reading a book by Anthony Stevens called 'Withymead: a Jungian community for the healing arts'. It's an interesting book, even if the style is a little dry and stuffy. The fascinating thing about it is the fact that this early attempt to establish a therapeutic community which used the arts was not formalised and rigorous. It had a clear emphasis on family, and focused very much on the Jungian ideas about active imagination and use of artistic expression as a way of externalising symbolism.

"The aim of Withymead was to encourage people to live the 'symbolical life', for once the conscious personality is open to the meaning of symbols it is forever opened to a source perpetual renewal and replenishment."

Jung describes the act of 'active imagination' as the art of letting things happen.

An interesting aside was the extent to which luck and certain apparently random incidents led to the setting up of Withymead. It was the bombing of WW2 that led to people taking refuge at the house that became Withymead. Acts of synchronicity - it is always worth looking for the purpose in seemingly random incidents!

Reading this takes me back to those days of expression and self-expression. At their best, the team were using the time to express themselves as well as encouraging others to find their voice and express themselves. It was a splendid vision, naïve and full of innocence. But it was the fresh youthfulness of it that made it work. We steered close to the edge at times, but the energy of the whole thing made it work.

I still have material that I was working on from that time. It was during that time that I produced 'sharp / blue breath' which was the first collection of my poetry which I would claim to be in my own voice (earlier poems were searching for the voice, working from juvenilia in form). I also worked on a small painted cardboard box which was filled with scrolls and tiny booklets representing my life and inner world. It's an idea that I never finished, but it still sits in my box of secrets and memories under my desk.

Tuesday, 26 August 2003

Sea in UK as hot as the Med!

The Bank Holiday Weekend has passed. It was an excellent one, crowded with activities. Amongst many other things, we spent yesterday exploring the Lleyn Peninsula in North West Wales. We even went swimming in the sea at Aberdaron. The weather was mixed, but lack of rain on a bank holiday was a miracle for the UK.

This is the week when the 'zen words' booklet finally comes out under the 'blue water books' imprint. It has been a few weeks in the making, but we are just about there. Finally, I am the proud father of a publishing house. It's not a patch on being the proud father of three boys, but it's still an achievement!

Now work beckons…

Friday, 22 August 2003

The Trans Pennine Express

Wobbling around in an ungainly manner on the "Trans-Pennine Express" from Leeds to Liverpool on the day before a Bank Holiday weekend. As a result of the timing of this, the train is heaving with people and I feel a little over-dressed in a suit, shirt and tie (I'm working today).

I have to say that the name of this train service is a grand illusion which is not carried through into the execution. At the sound of the "Trans-Pennine Express" one imagines a locomotive with dozens of carriages in a smart livery hurtling along at break-neck speed. The reality is a two-carriage train, which wobbles along at about 40 mph, and has seats like a bus. Comfort was left out of the vocabulary when this service was invented.

I have just been reading 'Duino Elegies' by Rainer Maria Rilke, a collection of poems which are translated by Geoff Ward. Geoff lectured me when I was an undergraduate student at Liverpool University quite some time ago. I've read his own poetry since then - I really enjoyed 'Comeuppance', and 'Breaking apart in slow motion' was excellent too. The poetry in the Rilke translations is accomplished and I'm enjoying reading it. But I'm left wondering whether they are more accurately described as 'interpretations' rather than translations. The poems are phrased and placed in such a way that it would be difficult to conceive of Rilke writing in such a way, given the period when he lived and other poetry by Rilke which I have read in other translations.

I have brought music with me to listen to during the trip, but so far I have preferred the quiet thunder of the train. Last night I listened to '10' by Kate Rusby, which is a stunning album. By coincidence, a record shop I went in to in Leeds on my way back to the station, was playing Kate Rusby. She has the most expressive and distinctive voice.

I'm having one of those days (so far) when trains arrive just as you get to the station, and 'green men' appear on the road crossings just as you get there. I like days like these.

Thursday, 21 August 2003

Bukowski and Wyatt - working when you don’t want to

It's an eternal problem - work is a state of mind. And sometimes you just can't find that state of mind. Sometimes you can blame those around you, and be convinced that there is a conspiracy going on to stop you getting to the things that need to be done. But, sometimes the great distraction comes from within. The only person who can be blamed for not getting around to things is the self. When I want to get on with things I can, when I don't at some level it just doesn't happen…

Dress it up however you want, but the fact is that the energy cycle (want to know more about my energy cycle theory, email me) is causing confusion, chaos and a state of nothingness. All of which gets me nowhere.

Next up! If in doubt, talk about music. This morning I received the latest issue of 'The Wire' through the post. Marvellous! And to my pleasant surprise I see that there is a new album out by Robert Wyatt. That's one to rush out and get - his last album, 'Shleep', was a wonderful album and that was six years ago.

Yesterday, I was looking at the work of Charles Bukowski - American rant poet. It strikes me that Robert Wyatt and Charles Bukowski are at opposite ends of the productivity spectrum. In the review in 'The Wire' Wyatt is quoted saying that he writes about a song a year. That's slow! There's a video on his album 'dondestan (revisited)' where he talks about his slow levels of productivity. Meanwhile, Bukowski seemed to pour out poems at the same pace that he would light cigarettes or pour himself drinks.

I can see the sedate beauty of Wyatt's work - and I like his self-effacing sense of humour. (He must produce more than one song a year, otherwise the new album would have taken twelve years rather than six!) But I am drawn to the manic creativity of Bukowski - his driven poetry in all its ranting glory makes me feel excited. I like the idea that he was writing so much that we are given access to all parts of his life, even if this is more persona than fact. It's the idea that poetry permeates every aspect of his life - that's an amazing idea.

Live it like that - or a fraction like that, and I'll be satisfied.

Tuesday, 19 August 2003

What's he building in there?

I've been back from holiday for a week now, and things have been really hectic. I'm just finding time to rise out of the chaos and resume the weblog.

The holiday - a week in Languedoc, South France followed by a week on the coast near Begur in Catalonia, Northern Spain. Then, to finish, a weekend in Barcelona. Different cultures, diverse experiences - a fabulous time experienced by the whole family.

High points - all of the Gaudi in Barcelona (especially Sagrada Familia, El Pedrere), the Kandinsky exhibition, the Dali Museum in Figueres, Picasso Museum, waking to the sound of the sea in the mornings, the beach in the cove at Sa Tuna, the medieval town of Pals, the fortified town of Carcasonnes, the tiny harbour of Marseillan.

The huge blast of art, architecture and culture in Barcelona left me thirsting for more time to write.

I took a dozen CDs away, and half way through the holiday the only trace of home sickness was a yearning for the rest of my CD collection.

The CD which has been haunting me over the last couple of months would be 'blemish' by David Sylvian. I keep hearing new things in this music in spite of it being so seemingly minimalist.

I didn't read any poetry this holiday (but I did write two poems). I did read 'Anil's Ghost' by Michael Ondaatje which is a marvellously accomplished novel. I love Ondaatje's poetic prose style. He is not as experimental as he used to be, but this is a powerful novel.

I'm also part way through 'Life of Pi' by Yann Martel (Ondaatje's fellow Canadian). This is shaping up as a great read - truly original.

Before going away I stumbled across the fact that my local library will arrange an inter-library loan for just GBP 1.50. This means that I can get hold of any book in any UK library for such a paltry sum. I have just managed to track down a copy of 'Withymead' by Anthony Stevens which is about the art therapy community in Devon founded by Jungians. To be able to find any book, whether in print or not, is incredible!

Wednesday, 23 July 2003

A whisker from a vacation

This will be the last post for a couple of weeks, as I take a break and travel with the family for a couple of weeks.

In the last week I have bought the new (well, fairly new!) album by Tom Waits called 'Alice'. It's one of two releases he brought out in May of last year. It's fantastic - music from a play which he worked on in the early 90s based on the relationship between Alice and Lewis Carroll. The CD appealed to me because I love the music of Tom Waits, especially the later more avant garde stuff. And, of course, it also appeals because of the link with the poetry collection that I am currently writing called 'the alice conversations'. Although mine has nothing to do with Lewis Carroll.

I also got hold of 'Wave' by Patti Smith. I remember buying this album when it first came out on vinyl. It has stood the test of time really well.

Tuesday, 15 July 2003

Everything is melting

The heat-wave continues in Britain, and it is such a big deal because it happens so rarely. Is it nostalgia that makes our childhood memories feel as though all summers were hot and sunny? It is some years since we have had such a good summer season.

A different climate brings a different mood. As I write this I am listening to 'On Land' by Brian Eno, a marvellous ambient sound for the weather. This album was recorded 25 years ago!

The work on the booklets for bluewater books continues apace. I am now working on two booklets - 'zen words' and 'umbrian images'. Both will be produced in first limited editions of 50. They are taking longer than planned to produce, partly due to my perfectionist tendencies which means that I keep tweaking the finished job. Tomorrow I aim to produce the print run for 'umbrian images' and follow this very soon with 'zen words' so that I can distribute them both at once. I am slowly building the mailing list too.

On the 'new words' side of things I have been steadily producing poems for 'the alice conversations' collection. This is a collection of poems in the voice of a character called Alice, who represents my anima (Jung's theory of the feminine characteristics within the male).

Reading material at the moment includes looking through an old collection of poems by Michael Schmidt which I stumbled across on the bookshelves at home. It is called 'A Change of Affairs' and was published by Anvil. This book was published the same year that Brian Eno began recording 'On Land'. I think that is the only link though!

I mentioned in recent weblogs that I am listening to a lot of music from The Wire compilation CDs. This is really challenging material, and, as ever, I am interested in the parallels between the use of sound and potentials for use of language. I'm experimenting with ideas.

Tuesday, 8 July 2003

Journeys in sound

The travels continue. Over recent days I have been travelling back to sounds from the 70s that were part of my growing up. Patti Smith's 'Horses' album reminds me of that whole New York scene around her group, Television, Richard Hell and the Voidoids. Then there was the whole American scene of Pere Ubu, Devo, Chrome and The Residents. These last four are groups I haven't heard in probably 20 years, but would really like to revisit.

Yesterday I travelled to Leeds and back by train. But couldn't bring myself to play music en route. Instead I steadily recharged the batteries. I did read a really interesting article though. It was in an old issue of Harvest Journal (from 1988/89, a journal on Jungian Studies). The article was called 'Listening to the Shadows: Towards an Archetypal View of Music' and was written by David Wilde. It's a really interesting read. He compares the careers and obsessions of Carl Jung with those of Bela Bartok. This had a particular interest for me because I love the music of Bartok. The article explored the development of music from tonal to atonal, through dissonance to unstable. There was a particular focus on the development of the Shadow in music, and an appreciation that dissonance and atonality are not the opposite of harmony and tonality - rather, they complement it. In the same way, the Shadow is not the opposite of the personality traits that we project, rather it complements them. This is important. The Shadow is seen as offering a constant source of threat, but also a constant source of energy.

Over the last few days we have bought a decent digital camera. Now, how do you put photos on a weblog???

Friday, 4 July 2003

The exhaustion of travelling

When you just know that the stopping will result in complete body shut-down. The book I am writing on coping with change within organisations, will have a chapter about energy cycles in it. On the cycle which I have mapped for myself, I am in the 'Recovery' mode - exhausted, minimising energy use, and trying to find the scope for re-building…

Here is a poem I wrote in the last few weeks, and I like it, wondering where to put it: -

love making

It took as long as the breath that first stretches on waking early morning
No more

The first day
was a speech
then a gentle fight between us both as we
searched for a point of balance
your fingers touching mine, at the very tips

Nothing that we could express would
release us from this grip
held together in a second that lasts forever

for that is the sound of love
just one last gasp
then a sliding together, materials sparking

Thursday, 3 July 2003

Wednesday - travelling again again again

I'm writing this whilst wobbling about on one of the not so new Virgin West Coast trains from London to the North West of England. The last couple of days I have travelled a thousand miles, half by train and half by car.

As a result the creative expression is a bit low and lacking.

At the beginning of the week I received a real treat through the post. I had subscribed to 'The Wire' magazine, and with the subscription came a stack of compilation CDs as an opening gift. They are amazing - a hugely diverse spread of music across 4 CDs totalling some 5 hours of music. If there is so much diversity and creativity out there, why is that the mainstream music industry is so sterile and narrow in its outlook.

It's too early so far to say who I am really impressed with - after one listen I feel I need a lot more play throughs to get what is really going on here.

At the weekend I also bought some new CDs - a great range from The English Suites of Bach played by Glenn Gould, to Jane Birkin's 'arabesque'. I also got 'Bangra Beatz' which is a compilation album on the Naxos label - a great introduction to the music of bangra. The music all comes from a record label, Kiss, which is based in Oldham. Local talent!

Plenty of music to keep me busy there then…

On the writing front, it is difficult to take anything forwards when the day job is so all consuming, but the rest of the week should see a change to all that.

the longer view
showing through
with all the patience of nature

Thursday, 26 June 2003

Music as invocation of spirit and soul

The music I play tends to reflect the mood I am in that day, and whether I am listening attentively or doing something else at the same time.

Today, I have been working and writing whilst listening to music, so the day has veered away from music that demands to be listened to and invades the consciousness. Most of the music I have played today has been classical. As I write this I am listening to 'Svyati' which is an album of the music of John Tavener played by the cello player Steven Isserlis.

This brings me to the title of today's entry. John Tavener is one of a few composers who has the ability to turn the experience of music into moments of epiphany, the invocation of spirit. His music, whether listened to intently or whirring away quietly in the background, can give the sense of being close to something ethereal.

Spirit is brought forth by the music of Tavener, and Arvo Pärt, as well as Gorecki.

What about soul?

I'm jumping ahead here - are you clear what I mean by the distinction between spirit and soul? Spirit is the reaching up to heights, to the airy climbs of the heavenly and heady. Whilst soul is the plumbing of depths, searching into the murky and moist feelings. Whose music brings us to this?

I mentioned the 'B's the other day, and I think some of them are in there in the soul of things. So, Bartok at his most passionate can bring us to soul. Bach, in the complexity of Goldberg Variations or The Art of the Fugue can bring us right into the soul of things.

The piece of music which brings the agonies of soul more than any other is probably Fauré's Requiem. Blistering harmonies and searing incisive moments.

Of course, the feelings I have described are not the exclusive preserve of classical music. I could do a similar visitation for jazz, contemporary music etc.

Oh, and the feel will be different for each of us - but then that is the subjective experience of listening to music. Whilst I find 'Kid A' by Radiohead an example of soul you may feel differently. Does it matter? Of course not - we all have valid experiences of music. Love it or hate it, the key thing is to evoke a response of some sort.

Some people hate Captain Beefheart, but surely that is better than just feeling plain indifferent to something.

Wednesday, 25 June 2003


"many introverts produce work so controlled and organised that all life has gone from it"
- William Empson

The introvert needs to take extra effort to get out there and interact, otherwise the tendency to define life in terms of achievements can become all-consuming at the expense of sanity.

Ideas of introvert and extravert personality types are set out in Carl Jung's work. The psychologist, Dorothy Rowe talks about the character types associated with these in her books on depression, particularly 'Breaking the Bonds' which emphasises the need for the introvert to maintain contact with the outside world to keep a grip on reality.

Tuesday, 24 June 2003

Celebrating Procrastination

So we all find it difficult at times to apply ourselves to the things that need doing, when there are lots of things that don't need doing, but we want to do because they are fun!

This morning I was supposed to be settling to the redrafting of the PhD thesis which I feel like I have been working on since the beginning of the 18th century. I have been sitting down to do this for weeks now, and only succeeding maybe one in six times. The rest of the time is applied to other useful things, but not the task in front of me.

It's a great way to clear backlogs of papers, and wipe away the dust. There must be a good book to be written on the subject of everything that can be done when you're trying to avoid doing the main task of the day. Let's face it, even writing weblogs is a good way of avoiding doing that difficult task.

Well, this morning I managed to overcome the problem by spending half an hour on an exercise from Julia Cameron's book 'The Artist's Way'. The exercise is called 'Blasting through Blocks' and is well worth a try if you find it difficult to get on with things.

She focuses on the two big blockages - anger and fear. By bringing them into sharp relief we can unravel all sorts of baggage about fear of success, avoiding the risk of failure and so on. The key to the whole thing is that it really does work.

Music and the letter B

Last night I surfed the internet and found musical downloads from Christian Fennesz (the guy who contributed to the last track on Sylvian's new album) - beautiful and mysterious music. And I found heaps of material in the archive of Resonance FM which is a London based music station broadcasting over the airwaves and the internet. Some interesting stuff here.

I've also been listening to tracks by Farmers Manual and Autreche - strange noises, but interesting experiences still.

On the CD player, I'm listening to Eno, Sylvian and the new Radiohead album which is growing in my consciousness. In the car is 'Heathen' by David Bowie which has something incredibly catchy tunes on it.

This morning my concentration was helped by listening to late Beethoven string quartets - Beethoven, Bartok and Bach really help me to concentrate. What is it about the letter B?

Friday, 20 June 2003

CD-R's are the great democratisers

So, no longer are the realms of recording the domain of the big record companies and the elite that can afford equipment. Now, anyone with a PC which has a CD Rewriter can produce CD-R's with whatever they want on them.

Last night I spent a couple of hours experimenting with sound files, and creating recordings of my poetry. The product from this was a very rough first cut 13 minute CD of the title sequence from the book "zen words".

Today I borrowed a sound effects CD from my local library. Tomorrow night I will experiment with this to see what I can produce. The results so far are already really good. Years ago I worked with tape recorders and a microphone, but digital sound gives much more control over what I can do. I can merge sounds, combine files, and clean up sound quality. I can also produce multiple copies without impacting on the quality - no build up of hiss and background noise like you get from tape.

Well, as I write this I have just had a brainwave! I have limited space capacity on my website, but I could easily put an mp3 file onto it with an excerpt of "zen words". That would be excellent!!

We live in an exciting world….

Wednesday, 18 June 2003

Minimal input / maximum outcome

23:16 already. Hectic day behind me. The work on booklets, publicity material etc continues at a frantic pace. Work also goes by at a lightning streak. And all through all, I am left wondering whether the more one knows the less one knows - if you know what I mean.

If only I could write as originally as Frank O'Hara or Charles Bukowski. But then this is the eye of the observer. The challenge is to just find the voice within and let it spring forth. Words, words - heaps of them.

Some day come rain come shine
Come anytime
Watching for the heartbeat missed
And the order of the list

Time for sleep, and more sense and recompense tomorrow!

Tuesday, 17 June 2003

Bluewater books is launched

I have already mentioned that the first book in the bluewater books imprint is being prepared and will be ready by the end of this week. Why am I doing this?

Well, after years of dreaming about being a published writer – and struggling with the reality that there is not a living to be earned from writing poetry – I have finally found a way of breaking through all of this stasis.
The mistake is in thinking that I would have to make a living out of writing. I already make a living. Then it’s a question of re-framing the whole idea of writing and seeing it as something that isn’t driven by financial issues. Thus, I can produce a book as and when I have the spare cash to do so, and give them away to people who I think will appreciate them. That way I build an audience for what I am trying to communicate, rather than burying away my work on a shelf in the house.

Recently I was reading an old diary of mine, and found the following, which is relevant to all of this:

Quote from an interview with the artist Albert Irvin (in Stride #35, Storming Heaven): -

“The creative cycle isn’t complete until another human being is looking at the painting and hopefully responding…. I’d rather have paintings out in the world where people can see them and they can fulfil their function. It’s of no consequence if they’re propping up the walls in my studio. Painting is a language of communication – generally speaking, give me a wall and I’ll hang a painting on it.”

Is this as true for writing as it is for painting? Well, writing is certainly a language of communication – that’s tautological! So, the purpose of it is important.

In a truly Jungian synchronicitous way, I then stumbled across something else in a book which I have picked almost at random. The book, Julia Cameron’s ‘The Right to Write’, is a really useful book which builds on her ideas in ‘The Writers Way’ and ‘The Vein of Gold’. In this book she presents examples and ideas to spur on the writer and overcome writers block, lack of confidence etc. She talks about the need for the writer to have “friendly readers”. That’s uncanny! It maps exactly to the point which I had been exploring with the advent of bluewater books. It vindicates my idea that I need to get my work out there to people who will treat it sympathetically, and that this will help to motivate me to write more.

Monday, 16 June 2003

oh Monday mornings

It’s always just a little challenging to get things moving on a Monday morning. The sun is shining outside. I am sitting in my study, looking out over the garden and trying to stay focused on work. This is always a bit of a challenge, but it is made harder at the moment. Last week I put together the first book under my new “bluewater books” imprint. This is an idea which is filling me with so much excitement. It has been a long time coming to something, but finally we are there. The first book, ‘zen words’, a collection of poems is now a reality. I am going to put together a mailing list to share these books with. (If you want to be on the list, send me an email).

The brain waves have been gently washed with three CDs this morning. I began with Brian Eno’s ‘Music for Films’ from 1978, followed by ‘freefall’ by Darkroom which is a CD-R that is available for free. Follow the link if you want a copy. And as I write this, I am listening to ‘Music for Airports’ by Brian Eno.

Very much an ambient feel to things this morning. This afternoon, I am going to listen to the new Radiohead album, ‘Hail to the Thief’. I bought it on Saturday and am still trying to find a spare hour to listen to it.

Here’s a poem from ‘zen words’ so that you can see what I am talking about:

- - - - - - - - -

zen three – second theme
when flower unfurls
then the true meaning of light can reveal itself

when my thoughts flow out
then the blocks can be pushed down

as I hover in air, snapping scenery
like a frenetic instamatic
then look back later
remember detail whether it was there or not
the sun, less the cloud, less the rain

hearing tugs at the pieces of sound that fall upon my head
because it is only when they are shuffled into a co-ordinate
that I can truly understand what they communicate

then, as the light sparkles and crackles as a bonfire
I can see through each moment of reality
as my breath slows down and quietens, I can hear it
listening carefully to each crest and trough

I find the essence of true care
the wisps of steam that rise, then disperse
the sense that we are all connected
all part of the same
in pain as well as laughter

for the smiling spirit is attached to the dour soul
and the message between the two is the balance,
the secret that we harbour

a dare that we keep
a shadow that we can see.

- - - - - - - -

The book is in three sections – the poem quoted is from the middle section which gives its title to the book as a whole. In it I explore aspects of living in the present moment, and of understanding the inter-connections between the senses.

Friday, 13 June 2003

A journey begins with a small step
Welcome to my own weblog, where I will use the space perhaps once or twice a week to explore poetry, music and all things associated.

Friday 13th June is a rather inauspicious day to begin posting! Well, it’s always worth challenging the superstitions.

Poetry – who? The predictable list:

Seamus Heaney
Ted Hughes
Margaret Atwood

Not so obvious:

Robert Bly
Tomas Transtromer
Rainer Maria Rilke
Charles Bukowski

So, a blog then! Well, this is going to be a place for comments and ideas to develop. I’m interested in poetry as writer and reader – I’m interested in music as an absorber of sounds, not yet a musician. But with the technology all around us, it is less about technical competence, and much more to do with the flair of creative ideas.

Great music I am listening to this week:

1. David Sylvian – blemish
2. Porcupine Tree – in absentia
3. Darkroom – freefall
4. Captain Beefheat – Safe as Milk / Mirrorman
5. Terje Rypdal - :rarum

There’s five to be going on with then! The choices tend to reflect whether I am in the car or at the desk. This week I have been at the desk more than I have out and about – so, the choice is more ambient in feel. This gives the brain space for a little thinking…

The new Sylvian album only arrived on Monday. It’s an internet only release (available here), so it came from the USA. It’s a weird album, takes several plays to get anywhere near what is going on. After six plays I am beginning to feel the underlying structure and melodies. There are some beautiful, stark and painfully open songs on this album. The final track ‘a fire in the forest’ is beautiful.