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Read & Listen | Feel Free by Nick Laird

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I recommend you listen to Rowan Ricardo Phillips wonderful reading of Nick Laird’s poem Feel Free from the New Yorker poetry podcast at the link:

https://soundcloud.com/newyorker/rowan-ricardo-philips-reads-feel-free-by-nick-laird#t=4:41

Feel Free by Nick Laird

To deal with all the sensational loss I like to interface
with Earth. I like to do this in a number of ways.
I like to feel the work I am exerting being changed,

the weight of my person refigured, and I like to hang
above the ground, thus; hammocks, snorkeling, alcohol.
I also like the mind to feel a kind of neutral buoyancy

and to that end I set aside a day a week, Shabbat,
to not act. Having ceded independence to the sunset
I will not be shaving, illuminating rooms, or raising

the temperature of food. If occasionally I like to feel
the leavening of being near a much larger unnatural
tension, I walk off a Sunday through the high fields

of blanket bog, saxifrage, a few thin Belted Galloways,
rounding Lough Mallon to stand by the form of beauty
upheld in a scrubby acre at Creggandevsky, where I do

duck and enter under a capstone mapped by rival empires
of yellow feather-moss and powdery white lichen. I like
then to stop, crouched, and press my back on a housing

of actual rock, coldness which lives for a while on the skin.
And I like when I give you the nightfeed, Harvey, how you’re
really concentrating on it: fists clenched, eyes shut, like this is bliss.

II

I like a steady disruption. I like it when the solid mantle turns
to shingle and water rushes up it over and over, in love.
My white-noise machine from Argos is set to Crashing Wave

but I’m not averse to the presence of numerous and minute
quanta moving very fast in unison; occasions when a light
wind undulates the ears of wheat, or a hessian sack of pearl-

barley seed is sliced with a pocket knife and pours. I like
the way it sounds pattering on stone. I like how the starlings
over Monti cohere and separate their bodies into one cyclonic
symphony, and I like that the hawk of the mind catches at
their purse, pulse, caul, arc. I like the excitation passing as
a shadow-ripple back and how the bag is snatched, rolls

slack; straight, falciform; mouthing; bulbing; a pumping
heart. I like to interface with millions of colored pixels
depicting attractive people procreating on a screen itself

dependent on rare metals mined by mud-gray children
who trudge up bamboo scaffolding above a grayish-red lake
of belching mud. I like how the furnace burning earth instills

in me reflexive gestures of timidity and self-pity and deference
as I walk along the kinder surfaces, grass, say, or sand,
unable ever to meet with my eyes the gaze of the sun.
III

I can imagine that my first and fifth marriages will be
to the same human, a woman, the first marriage working
well enough that we decide to try again as soon as it’s,

you know, mutually convenient. I can see that. I like the fact
that we’re “supercooled star matter,” even if I can’t envisage you
as anything other than warm and bleating. The thing is

I can be persuaded fairly easily to initiate immune responses
by the fake safety signals of national anthems, cleavage, family
photographs, country lanes, large-eyed mammals, fireworks,

the King James Bible, Nina Simone singing “The Twelfth of Never,”
cave paintings, coffins, dolphins, dolmens. But I like it also
when the fat impasto of the canvas gets slashed by a tourist

with a claw hammer, and a glimpse is caught of what you couldn’t
say. Entanglement I like, spooky action at a distance analogizing
some little thing including this long glance across the escalators

or how you know the song before you switch the station on.
When a photon of light meets a half-silvered mirror and splits
one meets the superposition of two, being twinned: and this repeats.

Tickling your back, Katherine, to get you to sleep, I like to lie here
with my eyes closed and think of my schoolfriends’ houses, before
choosing one to walk through slowly, room by sunlit room.

 

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Listen | David Whyte on the conversational nature of reality

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The Onbeing podcast episode with David Whyte.

David Whyte is a poet and philosopher who believes in the power of a “beautiful question” amidst the drama of work as well as the drama of life — amidst the ways the two overlap, whether we want them to or not.

Including…

The importance of asking beautiful questions

…a beautiful question shapes a beautiful mind. And so the ability to ask beautiful questions, often in very unbeautiful moments, is one of the great disciplines of a human life. And a beautiful question starts to shape your identity as much by asking it as it does by having it answered.

And you don’t have to do anything about it. You just have to keep asking. And before you know it, you will find yourself actually shaping a different life, meeting different people, finding conversations that are leading you in those directions that you wouldn’t even have seen before.

And…

Vulnerability

“Vulnerability is not a weakness, a passing indisposition, or something we can arrange to do without; vulnerability is not a choice, vulnerability is the underlying, ever present, and abiding under-current of our natural state. To run from vulnerability is to run from the essence of our nature; the attempt to be invulnerable is the vain attempt to become something we are not and most especially to close off our understanding of the grief of others. More seriously, in refusing our vulnerability, we refuse the help needed at every turn of our existence and immobilize the essential, tidal and conversational foundations of our identity.

“To have a temporary, isolated sense of power over all events and circumstances is a lovely, illusionary privilege and perhaps the prime and most beautifully constructed conceit of being human and especially of being youthfully human, but it is a privilege that must be surrendered with that same youth, with ill health, with accident, with the loss of loved ones who do not share our untouchable powers, powers eventually and most emphatically given up as we approach our last breath. The only choice we have as we mature is how we inhabit our vulnerability, how we inhabit our vulnerability, how we become larger and more courageous and more compassionate through our intimacy with disappearance. Our choice is to inhabit vulnerability as generous citizens of loss, robustly and fully, or conversely, as misers and complainers, reluctant, and fearful, always at the gates of existence, but never bravely and completely attempting to enter, never wanting to risk ourselves, never walking fully through the door.”

And the importance of darkness…

Sweet Darkness


…The dark will make a home for you tonight.
The night
will give you a horizon
further than you can see.
You must learn one thing. You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.
You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.”

Watch | Kate Tempest performing Hold Your Own

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On the 28th  July 2015 the wonderful Kate Tempest took to the stage of the Royal Court Theatre. She appeared entirely alone, not even a microphone to hide behind and for the first time performed her latest collection of poems Hold Your Own in its entirety. It lasted about an hour and it was a phenomenal experience on a par with seeing Saul Williams and John Sinclair. I’m not sure I’ve witnessed a more soul-baring performance, it felt like a privilege to be there. I only recently found out it was recorded and that Kate posted it on her Youtube channel. It’s exhilarating stuff.

Kate Tempest’s first full-length collection for Picador is an ambitious, multi-voiced work based around the mythical figure of Tiresias. This four-part work follows him through his transformations from child, man and woman to blind prophet; through this structure, Tempest holds up a mirror to contemporary life in a direct and provocative way rarely associated with poetry. 

 

Watch | In conversation with Saul Williams

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Saul Williams

 

Seeing Saul Williams on stage with just a microphone, his voice and his poems remains one of the greatest live performances I’ve ever experienced and that doesn’t even include the time he rocked the British Library (yes really) a couple of months ago with cuts from his latest album. The guy is tour de force inspiration and here he’s talking about how he approaches his work interspersed with live performance.

 

His latest album MartyrLoserKing is out now and he’s in London on the 6th March, I’ll be there for sure.

Read | On Friendship

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I’ve read a few things recently on the subject of friendship which also link in with social media and communication, subjects I’m interested in so I thought I’d collate them.

The first few are about aspects of friendship which aren’t much explored; friendship breakups and when friendships change. The second link is a podcast from This American Life and features Ta-Nehisi Coates talking to a friend of his about how things have changed now that he’s well-known.

There’s another article about how friendships change in adulthood. It makes a good point about social media;

If you never see your friends in person, you’re not really sharing experiences so much as just keeping each other updated on your separate lives. It becomes a relationship based on storytelling rather than shared living—not bad, just not the same.

This reminds me of another article about why Facebook is the junk food of socialising.

We need to remind ourselves of our evolutionary history, where we evolved without exposure to realistic representations of people. Back then, if you saw something that looked like a person, by golly it was a person. When you look at a video of a person, most of your brain thinks it’s real—the fusiform face area of your brain area reacts identically whether you’re looking at a real face or a picture of one (in fact, most experiments investigating this part of the brain do not use real faces at all, but photos or videos of them).

The errors we make when we view non-human things as human satisfies our desire to interact with other people without giving us many of the benefits. In the moment, watching TV feels good; it satisfies your desire to be with other people. But it’s the visual equivalent of empty calories—delicious but not nutritious.

There’s also this essay from The Guardian newspaper in the UK on how friendship and the social are being used for good in public health and  social policy. It also describes how friendship and the social is being used for money making purposes, labeled ‘neoliberal socialism’ in the essay.

What we encounter in the current business, media and policy euphoria for being social is what might be called “neoliberal socialism”. Sharing is preferable to selling, so long as it does not interfere with the financial interests of dominant corporations. Appealing to people’s moral and altruistic sense becomes the best way of nudging them into line with agendas that they had no say over. Brands and behaviours can be unleashed as social contagions, without money ever changing hands. Empathy and relationships are celebrated, but only as particular habits that happy individuals have learned to practise. Everything that was once external to economic logic, such as friendship, is quietly brought within it.

The essay also succinctly describes the problem I have with Facebook’s commodification of friendship:

What we witness, in the case of a social media addict, is only the more pathological element of a society that cannot conceive of relationships except in terms of the psychological pleasures that they produce. The person whose fingers twitch to check their Facebook page when they are supposed to be listening to their friend over a meal is a victim of a philosophy in which other people are only there to please, satisfy and affirm an individual ego from one moment to the next. This inevitably leads to vicious circles: once a social bond is stripped down to this impoverished psychological level, it becomes harder and harder to find the satisfaction that one wants. Viewing other people as instruments for one’s own pleasure represents a denial of the core ethical and emotional truths of friendship, love and generosity.

 

Listen | Neil Gaiman on stories

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Do stories grow? Pretty obviously — anybody who has ever heard a joke being passed on from one person to another knows that they can grow, they can change. Can stories reproduce? Well, yes. Not spontaneously, obviously — they tend to need people as vectors. We are the media in which they reproduce; we are their petri dishes… Stories grow, sometimes they shrink. And they reproduce — they inspire other stories. And, of course, if they do not change, stories die.

The prolific writer Neil Gaiman is as listenable as he is readable, whether he’s reading his own books or giving talks. Here the author of the classic Sandman comics, Stardust, Neverwhere and most recently The Ocean at the End of the Lane, suggests stories are a life-form obeying the same rules of genesis, reproduction, and propagation that organic matter does. He does so in his characteristically humorous, intellectually informed and engaging manner.

Listen | The Waves by Virginia Woolf

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the waves2

I’m currently on a Virginia Woolf obsession. The last book I read was To The Lighthouse which I found wonderful, I love her creative, descriptive and abstract writing. I also like her short stories, particularly  Street Haunting.

I’m reading Virginia Woolf’s celebrated play poem The Waves at the moment, which is apt because national poetry was just a couple of days ago here in the UK.

I’ve found a old BBC Radio 3 play on Youtube which is quite exciting so enjoy.

 

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