Giant

“I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”

– Isoroku Yamamoto

I promised there would be a third. This is largely due to the fact this was written before the second one…

I speak of course of my third, and final, poetry pamphlet. I made my first back in 2010 in response to the pretty dire turn of events after the joke that was the general election. Bile duly spilled, I wanted to write something less reactionary and more considered. The idea for Giant was inspired by a track of the same name by one of my favourite bands the Bad Plus (you can listen to it here). I say ‘idea’, more of the mood. This track in particular has a connection to a certain point in my life defined by a relationship at the time. It is a very important piece of music to me. The plot for the now pamphlet, such as it is, came about as I was listening to this whilst walking through my old hometown in the winter. The town was empty and quiet. From there I originally intended the story to be a screenplay with almost no dialogue but considering I had two other screenplays that will probably never get made I liked the idea too much to just let it disappear in my pile of “to do’s”. As such I decided to make a poem out of it. I also liked the idea of a poem about a “real” giant. I initially tried to argue it was one or the other but at the suggestion of my then girlfriend I decided to write both. Happily they both coincided with one another’s themes and overall mood. As such, I decided to make them separate poems but in the same story.

I wrote them both over the course of three evenings with the particular track played on a loop, much to my then girlfriend’s annoyance no doubt. The poem/s are written in what is known as Heroic Verse. If you think you don’t know it, you do. Translations of The Illiad, The Odyssey, The Canterbury Tales, Paradise Lost and many other ‘Epic’ poems are all written in this style. It is basically defined as unbroken couplets of iambic pentametric verse, its name comes, ordinarily, from its subject matter i.e. Heros and their doings. Heroic verse is intimidating. It is a long block of text that is normally pretty dense due to the poets need for interesting, multi-syllable words. Most ‘Epic’ poems are tricky to read and fairly hard to untangle for this reason but are immensely rewarding when you do. Ironically all the meter and so on is designed to make it easier to read, giving it rhythm and bounce. A lot of the time this verse will rhyme, I took a leaf out of Milton’s book and decided to leave it Blank i.e. Unrhymed. HOWEVER. The story the poem tells is odd, faltering and (hopefully) dreamlike and as such I have done as much as possible, and as subtly as I can, to break up these conventions. I deliberately have used several instances of internal rhyme spread over three or four lines to break up the couplets as well as pretty strong alliteration to jar in the middle of lines.

Fun Fact: Neuroscience has settled on what humans define as ‘A Moment’ – that which we call upon as a specific memory of an event, etc – as 7 seconds. A line of Iambic Pentametric verse, strangely enough, takes roughly this length of time to read. We utilise rhymes as an echo of a previous moment so as to tap into our memory or nostalgia for a previous moment. Stretching this band of time by placing the rhyme just out of sight of its 7 second predecessor should instead create discomfort in a more de ja vu effect. Furthermore, by placing hard consonants in succession K’s, G’s and the like, you halt a specific flow created by liquid vowels causing a typically 7 second memory to elongate perhaps to the point where the beginning of the line drops out of the moment. This is particularly effective if you are using enjambement from the previous line as this further muddies the memory of the previous line…

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Sorry I’ll stop with the nerdy, techy bollocks now.

Fact is, this poem went through a lot of revisions and was quite a bit of work. It is a very technical piece of work on a purely structural level but also on an intuitive level. The pamphlet in its entirety is actually a metaphor within a metaphor within a metaphor. As usual with most of what I write I have no idea whether it is any good or not. I am proud of it however.

The pamphlets themselves were printed where I live right here in Manchester by Marc the Printers who have done a bang up job. They’re definitely the prettiest of the three pamphlets I’ve made. And less than half the price of the other two for the same amount and better paper! Bargain! Needless to say the papers and inks are all recycled and environmentally friendly. The cover/s are based on the classic Russian Propaganda posters from the second world war which, whilst evil and wrong, are still gorgeous works of art. I refined them to a similar standard of three colours inspired by the beautiful alternative posters to Black Swan posters. The design, layouts,  typesetting and proofing is all my own so I accept all responsibility for any errors in the printing or production. I have already spotted one or two but ultimately there are no ‘Deal Breakers’ I don’t think.

The pamphlet will be Launched sometime this month. I don’t know where or when but it will happen. I am selling this one. My previous two were free to anyone who wants them and still are but I am unemployed and need the money now so these are available for the princely sum of £3 each, which I think is more than fair. There is hopefully enough inside to reward repeated reads.

I would like to thank people who will never read this blog for the influence and assistance in getting this written and made: Alex Herod, The Bad Plus, Don Patterson John Milton, Homer, Alan Moore, Alex Proyas and Dark City, Michael Rosen, Roald Dahl but most of all to the man who will read this blog; Joel Swann, without whom I’d never have got this printed and who encouraged an uneducated simpleton to pretend what he wrote was worth reading. Thanks Joel.

Follow my Twitter feed for updates and info on the launch but in the meantime, Happy National Poetry Day for Thursday and I hope to see you soon and enjoy my little story.

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Never Stop & Buried

I realised I don’t do reviews as much as I used to so here in lieu of Gamer Baiting *wink* is a review post. As I have a free evening and have been doing lots of exciting things lately and am in a good mood I’m giving you two for the price of one. Aren’t I generous?

So my favourite band are the Bad Plus at the moment and they have just released a new album called Never Stop. They are an acoustic Jazz trio who rock-the-fuck-out but are still a bit ‘free-jazz’ and strange. They achieved notoriety/fame by doing deconstructions and loving homages of classic pop/rock songs (Lithium/Heart of Glass/Iron Man/Life on Mars?). This meant a lot of people described them as gimmicky and too clever for their own good. Now whilst I don’t like 50% of their output I do not agree with this. People seem to be ignoring two really rather glaringly obvious facts if you were to listen to an album by this amazing group. First, they are consummate and gifted musicians of which there are few achieving the kind of fame they have in this day and age of hyper-production and digital rescuing, Second, they write a lot of their own material. This album is their first album made up totally of original material.

Whilst the whole album is yet again not to my taste, it is ambitious and shows what a wide range the Bad Plus and what fantastic songwriters they all are. Reid Andersons’ (upright Bass) pieces are undoubtedly the stand out tracks, Dave King’s (Drummer) tunes are also epic and beautiful, even Ethan Iverson’s (Piano) are more listenable than usual, preferring aleatoric, math Jazz as he does. As I say they are not all perfect and at the moment (as I listen) there are only 4 tracks I would say I like as complete tunes. Which, to be honest, is an average ratio for their albums. However, there are wonderful moments in each piece.

The album was recorded ‘live’ at Pachyderm Studios (where Nirvana recorded, no less) and this is audible. They normally have a very close, dry sound in their mix which makes them sound bigger but on this album you can hear the room more and gives it more of an ‘organic’ feel. The drums especially benefit from this more expansive sound design which, when it’s Dave King playing them, is always a good thing. In this respect it is a very traditional jazz album – all the tracks were recorded as first takes, for instance – but it is its compositions which make a truly progressive album. And I don’t mean progressive as in strange men in beards and capes playing songs that go on for 30 minutes.

‘The Radio Tower has a Beating Heart’, ‘People Like You’ and ‘Super America’ are utterly brilliant pieces immaculately performed but it is the title track that sweeps the board. With pumping beat, obscure syncopation, power ballad chords and kickin’ last 60 seconds or so this tune should put them in the pop sphere. It won’t but this is no stranger than many other dance tunes played in clubs at the moment it’s just played entirely acoustically which apparently makes it weird. In short, this is simultaneously their most accessible and least accessible album but it represents a giant leap forward for them (again) and places them squarely at the forefront of any type of music, people just seem to be ignoring them. I doubt they care. And neither do I if they maintain this level of quality. Catch them live when they tour here in November if you can.

Buried is a film by Spanish Director & Editor Rodrigo Cortes. The crew is entirely spanish also. It is made by The Safran Company, Versus Entertainment, Dark Trick Films, Kinology and Studio 37 as funding studios, it cost less than $2 million to make and was shot entirely in a 6 foot wooden coffin. No this is not some art house foreign ‘think-piece’ this is a-balls-to-the-wall, nail-biting thriller starring one person trapped in a box for an hour and half with no cut-aways, flashbacks or other characters appearing on-screen at anytime. The ‘person’ in question is (weirdly) Ryan Reynolds who I knew as the bastard who took Scarlett Johanssen off the market and starring in some really shit comedies but apparently the boy can act! Who knew?! Not only can he act, he can do it well. Considering he is the only person in the whole film essentially, he carries the whole film and is utterly believable as a macho jock brought to real terror and desperation.

Lots of people refer to the film’s conceit (like the Bad Plus) as a ‘gimmick’ which is true but I take issue with the derogatory nature with which it is applied. In the same way as restrictive forms of poetry prove even more illuminating and make the artist more creative by having to think (pardon the pun) outside of the box. It is the same with this film. Hitchcock knew this, hence why he restricted himself to long, single shot takes in Rope or single window views in Rear Window. Buried has garnered much the same praise since its premier at Sundance but for once soundbite hacks have hit the nail on the head. This really is Hitchockian and all the better for it.

Essentially, Ryan Reynolds wakes up in a box buried underground – illustrated with a daring 2 minute starting shot of total darkness and no dialogue – and from their we watch as how he got there and what he has to do to get out is revealed via a mobile phone, a zippo and some glow sticks. Not once does the film cutaway or flashback, everything is left to your imagination, yet the brilliant script keeps you guessing throughout and, not only that, keeps the tension ramped up right till the last frame. The camera work too is exceptionally varied and interesting so for a visual medium it works perfectly well, if not better than most films. The whole thing is incredibly inventive and brilliantly executed. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

It is not a story of hope, however. There is no let up in the claustrophobic atmosphere, ratcheting tension and utter, utter despair, so if you’re up for a laugh go and see Zac Efron look like a tit as a Cloud (or whatever the hell that film is called). The whole film is NOT hollywood and is all the better for it. The fact there were no money men making demands and forcing concessions out of the script makes it all the more pleasing. But not only all that what I love most is its highly critical tone towards… well… everything. The lead is not a hero in any respect and no one on the other end of his lifeline seems to sympathise or care about his situation as he is bumped from call centre to call centre desperately pleading for rescue. Not only that American Foreign policy is damned throughout and corporate evils are savaged in a particularly harrowing way too. Also there is an English accent in the film and at no point does he either a) Turn evil b) Die or c) Express a love for tea and crumpets. Progressive thinking indeed… This is not the product of bang for your buck Hollywood Blockbuster yet has all the gloss, look and feel of it. If this is still the kind of produce we can expect out of independent filmmakers and studios from abroad I still don’t know why more people don’t pay attention.

Buried is a very unpleasant yet very enjoyable, very exciting and very brave bit of cinema and I think the filmmakers should be rewarded with your money for making a film that would never have got made in these parts. Ryan Reynolds has also gone way up in my estimations not just for his performance but also his savvy for picking the role up when any other C-List comedy actor would have sneered it down in favour of some Eat, Pray, Shit toss.

Kudos Ryan. I’m still not forgiving for stealing Johanssen though. You bastard.