MINOR VARIATIONS AND CHANGE: AN INTRODUCTION

 

When I came to write the notes for the introduction to this book, I found myself in a markedly different position than on the previous occasion when I had come to write ‘'Remnants Of A Northern Dream'' The opening piece for 2008's collection of verse, ‘Buildings In A House Of Fire'.

Those notes were written in Sept 2007 and in the meantime I had undergone a number of unexpected personal and emotional changes. One of the most striking of these changes was the death of my mother in the summer of 2008. I feel some of the work contained within this book reflects upon the effects that the loss of both my parents, in a relatively short space of time, had on me - both emotionally and physically, as well as on my relationships with others in the following weeks and months after, firstly, my fathers death and then, just over 2 years later, my mothers.

While I do not wish to portray this work as some kind of book of mourning or monument to grief, I do feel it is important to provide some colour and a little background for those who have an interest or even a morbid fascination for details such as these.

Following the death of my father in 2006, I had envisaged a time of reflection; a time when there would be much to deal with emotionally and thus, for me, much to write about while coming to terms with the loss and sense of grief obviously associated with the death of a parent.

As a writer or indeed anyone with even the slightest pretensions of calling themselves a writer, one has to be aware that these harsh and sometimes brutally painful realms of personal reality are, in fact, the landscape and the wellspring from which much of your creative work will propel itself.

I imagine this applies itself in equal measures to poets, songwriters, playwrights, novelists, musicians, sculptors or painters - or indeed any other part of the creative pantheon that allows room for, or gives rise to, deep personal self-awareness and examination.

This perceived outpouring onto the page (imagined or otherwise) pretty much failed to materialise - at least in any great length, precision or detail. Perhaps it was still too soon to be dispassionately distancing myself from such a major life event in order to be able to write about it... writing about it being an obvious way or dealing with such powerful emotions - a very personal and literal type of therapy.

As someone who is of the mind to occasionally attempt to have published these meandering and sometimes disconnected trains of thought, I was keenly aware of the possibility that any poems written under these particular circumstances may simply resort to cliché or overtly maudlin sentimentality… and this was something I was obviously keen to avoid. It is of course worth pointing out at this point that it is for the reader to decide whether I have in any way achieved these objectives successfully or not. On other occasions I just felt like getting drunk and not concerning myself with such idle rigours as poetry.

One of the few poems that surfaced during the immediate aftermath of my fathers passing was, ‘The Journey' which was written in time to be featured in Buildings In A House Of Fire. A book which in many ways can be seen as a kind of companion collection to ‘Minor Variations and Change', dealing as it does with themes, thoughts, ideas and theories on the effects on the human psyche of love and loss, as well as the disconnection from the ideas and perceptions of the everyday identity of self which forms the very heart and concept of who we perceive ourselves to be as individuals.

There are other similarities between the two collections - a sense, poetically at least, of the tying up of a number of loose ends.

There are, within these pages, a number of poems risen from the distant clouds of time, poems written while still in my late teens and early twenties and these, when found, resonate with an already focussed sense of disdain, youthful anger and not a little naïve but well meaning political innocence… along with what seems now like naïve ideas on love romance and personal identity.

These poems I felt worthy of inclusion in my own personal journey and story are to remain ongoing and intact, a game of poetic snakes and ladders can be played, by those of a mind, when tracing any history or lineage.

It would be easy to name or categorise the age and distance in time of these poems in relation to each other, but I find the idea of ambiguity and mystery far more nourishing than that of simple cataloguing or chronology. Sometimes it pays to work a little harder if you hold such motivations to be important.

There are also a small number of poems dating back to the mid and late 1980's.

Firstly from a time when I had initially moved to the city of Glasgow from, what then seemed, the much more sedate and sleepier environs of the small coastal town of Cleethorpes on England's North-East Coast. These poems and indeed the writer are almost unrecognisable to me now as I attempt to write these notes well over 20 years later, yet somehow they still tell the part of the story so integral to the closing of this particular poetic circle, dealing as they do with a certain time of exploration and fragility.

The majority of this book was written between the years 2005 – 2010 and there are a number of poems that could quite easily have made ‘Buildings In A House Of Fire' in 2006-07 and perhaps the ones that didn't, though featuring now, felt too raw or too personal when the final cut came for that more thematic and specific collection.

 

The largest part of this third grouping of poetry began to form slowly, at first, throughout 2007- 2008. My mother died in the summer of 2008 after suffering a series of strokes and in the following months the flow of feelings and emotions that I had expected to permeate my writings after the death of my father finally began to coalesce into poetry and prose - detailing sometimes directly and sometimes indirectly with this peculiar life changing squaring of the circle, one it would seem that often leads to a very clear and time specific realisation of one's own mortality.

I moved house just a few short weeks after my mothers passing and this peculiarly timed new beginning (a shedding of the old and a wearing of the new) also had an effect upon my writing, with both diametrically opposed settling and unsettling consequences.

In 2008 I had begun working on a visual accompaniment to ‘Buildings In A House Of Fire' something that could perhaps be used in a live setting in order to represent a cut-up, distorted, cinematic stimulus to any planned future readings (This, as I write, remains for the most part an as yet unfulfilled concept).

I began firstly by filming the surroundings of my childhood and teenage years using a borrowed digital camera, I began collecting images of familiar places - side streets and back alleys, the derelict landscapes of dead or dying industry, the Grimsby fish docks, Scunthorpe steelworks, disused factories in South Yorkshire and Sheffield, places I had passed on train journeys as a teenager or as a child. All seemed relevant and purposeful.

I had, in the creative aftermath of ‘Buildings In A House Of Fire', launched the ‘Ten Voices' project - inviting people to read any poem of their choosing from the book in any form or style they should see fit and the idea of incorporating cinematic images into taped versions of my work as read by other people began to appeal to my sense of the awkward, the perverse and the experimental. The idea of allowing technology (ancient or otherwise) to communicate the ideals and concepts of poetry seemed just suitably enough anti-establishment and entertainingly accessible all in the one go… a performance poet communicating through the recorded voices of others. The idea remains intensely appealing!

Eventually, a year or so on from the original idea, the Ten Voices project; in its pure spoken word form, went live online - the digital age creeping slowly into my own creative world.

In late 2008 and early 2009 I began seeking out other suitable images to go with my own hand-held footage, photographs and old bits of film that would reflect perfectly with the themes of disconnection and alienation that seemed both compelling and inevitable to me at that particular moment in time.

It was then, that throughout the last months of 2008 and early weeks of 2009, I began sifting through hour after hour of old news footage, music video, TV adverts, documentary footage of medical experiments, old horror movies and 70's sitcoms, endless images of war, death and the blind stupidity of human suffering - anything and everything that could be classed as bizarre, disturbing, surreal or offensive. Hour after hour watching and editing together everything from monkeys fucking to the war in Iraq.

By this time the project had mutated into a visual and musical collaboration between myself as visual artist and Glasgow band ‘Punch and The Apostles' as combative musical neophytes and with assistance from a friend in professional editing. The piece had now become a visual interpretation of both my own work as well as that of the band. This particular project finally came to fruition in the summer of 2009 with its first public performance accompanying the live debut of ‘Hymn To Death' .A 40 minute concept piece so out of step and out of time with today's current morass of lightweight musical banality as to render it from another world completely - a world where the seemingly benign celebration of the inane and the endlessly average might one day be interested and alive enough to be intoxicated by something with honesty truth and integrity.

These few short weeks seemed to reinvigorate my own creative energies, for the time being at least, and lead to a slow but steady stream of new poems. It is these, the final and arguably most cohesive group of poems contained within these pages, that are for me at least, the most coherent unit in this travelling army of words.

Written for the most part in the late winter months of 2009 and the early months of 2010, the majority of the pieces were composed while typing directly into the keyboard, sitting at my desk in front of my living room window as the cars and buses rumbled and creaked by below and the busy daily life of Scotland's largest city bled itself into my conscious thoughts.

This process involved little or no editing. Some were pieced together from notes made under a not inconsiderable haze of alcohol, often while sitting alone in a number of bars in Glasgow's West End, or on occasion, and it seems fitting, also sitting alone late in the evening listening to the likes of Miles Davis, Sinatra and Tony Bennett with Ralph Sharon and his Orchestra live at Carnegie Hall. Equally imbibed you might say. It felt like a long journey from Marc Bolan or The Sex Pistols. The process itself it seems is often unpleasant but seemingly necessary.

It is under these circumstances that I make no apologies for the ideals of repetition either in theory or in subject matter. Much distance and disconnection seemed to surround both myself and those around me at the time of writing. Distances measured geographically and physically as well as emotionally.

 

 

There was much to say about the condensing world of retentive negative existence - a place where many things, it seemed, were becoming calculated by a growing silence.

While there are large swathes of this book that are highly autobiographical in tone, there are also shades of observational perspective that I have attempted to undertake from within the minds eye of numerous others... an unrehearsed actor in another persons script so to speak. Those with a keen eye may recognise something of themselves, someone they know or maybe even work with, an old companion or a new enemy. Perhaps for others the affectionate memory of youth or an acceptance of the inevitability of time. Some, I hope, will find hidden and not so hidden lines of politics and positive outrage at the social disgraces that tyrannise our daily existence, along with the realisation that all pain is relative and suffering and injustice in the world knows no boundaries or shows the remotest signs of abating. It appears to me that no one is listening and while I myself can hear the voices, they no longer appear to be saying anything.

While I cannot claim my use or knowledge of language or even my technical ability with the nuances of poetry itself are in any tradition or high order, my command of the literal disciplines of writing are, at best, quite average and to some extent somewhat uneducated. I have been asked on numerous occasions in the past about the punctuation or lack of it contained within many of my poems. There is on one level a simple answer - poetry either needs punctuation or it doesn't! Also I like to think of the reader finding his or her own rhythm and pace when reading a poem. This may change and develop with different readings and for different people, a kind of free-flowing experiment in jazz rhythms with the musical notations and improvisations being replaced by the hidden rhythm of words.

Where I have felt it necessary or appropriate a number of poems are punctuated with wheezy full stops and stuttering commas. This is mainly to help facilitate the occasional and much maligned art of breathing or to help point out when the reader may wish to mix the minor, the major and the very much diminished.

I have tried to tell in essence a part of my own particular story as truthfully and honestly as I can. Though this book is not brimming with surreal leaps of humorous imagination, screeching guffaws or howling belly laughs, I promise to try and do better next time. There are jokes on the way. Honest!

Graham Tiler

Feb 2010

 

MINOR VARIATIONS AND CHANGE - EXCERPTS

UNSOLICITED THOUGHTS ON SUICIDE AND DEATH

 

It eats away at you

Year after year

The disconnection's

And departures

 

The pointless humming of the hours

The restless yearning of hope

 

It is easy to plan

The long sleep

The warm night

 

You just run out of time

The thoughts run dry

The heart out of beats

And you feel the need to gamble

 

Risking life

Against the eternal void of silence

 

At the final calling

When all thought falls away

The mechanisms

And the rationale

 

And you have somehow

Beaten age and life's decay

You cannot mourn the hearts of others

It is you

Who will be judged

Mourned or cursed in anger

PRAY/PREY

 

Will you pray for me?

By the side of generals

And wear your loss in late night taxi rides

On route to the grasping mouths of others.

 

Will you wear your past in public?

Like the drying blood of a gunshot wound

Performing your miracles

With all the heroics of a pleasant wife

 

Allowing yourself to be tamed

By the masterplan of war.

 

Great nights of unbridled unkindness

Will always await you

When choosing to surrender

And stooping low

To place your trust

By the fountain of remembrance

By the side of generals

On route to the grasping mouths of others

THE POET

 

The poet is a footnote

In the idle gallery of chaos

 

A man weeping

In his own dream

 

A librarian of untold facts

Sleeping in a giant amphitheatre

With casualties and amputee's

 

He burns holes into words

To facilitate the indifference of the blind

All of whom repay him with indignation

 

Learning to walk on shattered limbs

His only real occupation

Is waving and drowning

WHO ARE THE LOVERS?

 

Who are the lovers?

Harnessing theories on patriotism and greed

Overthrowing history

In the sordid bed of the past

 

If they move in next door

They will keep you awake all night

With hideous tales of Marx

And long winded theories

On the definition of their uniquely splendid lust

 

As the hours pass their ugly skins

Grow thinner

Until you can see the very bones of narcissus

 

They prefer to knock down the door

Of independence

With philosophy and great misfortune

 

They stand by the rivers of light

Pouring great heaps of joy

On the late night movie goers

And malignant survivalists

 

They refuse to believe

In the mounting edifice of lies

And choose to lie still

In the warm embrace of ignorance

THE HONOUR OF YOUR DREAMS

 

I am ignorant in the dignity of slaves. Made fortunate by the moment of my own undoing. The hierarchy of silence continues to make me believe that I am becoming a casual and disconnected observer in the as yet unwritten dream of a malicious child. I awaken at the final holy hour of remembrance.

 

Cold beads of sweat and swollen limbs lead me one final time to the unjustified belief in the never-ending myths perpetuated by scientists and medical practitioners. Goon squad philosophers and idiot preachers are

making great pronouncements and falling upon the knives of their hundredth broken promise.

Fictitious and factual scapegoats are dressing themselves in the brittle lines of my thoughts, committing murder on radio stations and in the frosted winter mornings of their broken hearts.

 

Through the early morning clouds I watch faithfully for the imprint of your smile. Hoping for it to appear across the outline of a hundred rooftops. An imagined way of sharing both distance and the separation

of rational experience. Finally I begin to understand the indignity of time. The great moment of loves lost and final calling. It is with this thought that I begin to beat out of myself all thoughts and ideas of reconciliation

 

It is in this quivering realisation that the indifferent act of breathing sends giant pulsating stop – start heartbeats of panic careering across the gliding parameters of the universe. The fatal experience of an endless nightmare made real by the indifference of this relative moment of existence.

 

I watch for invisible trains, wait for imaginary ships floating across the night from the heart of an imaginary harbour. But the clocks have all stopped ticking and the music is no more than a faint signal. Fragmenting crackles of my former self line up against the pointlessness of words. I am ploughing through rivers of light and indifference, and escaping through the cracks that have been left behind by the stifling army of departures. Waiting for the voices to return I remain defiant, A dignified observer in the honour of your dreams

THE BILE INJECTORS

 

I began writing as a slavishly scatological attempt to escape from the rigours of the all night meat train. The bland and tyrannical consequence of which would have been endless dystopian years on the factory floor. Reeking of the poisoned mucous and bile injectors so selflessly paralysed and remotely ineffective as to be rendered virtually incapable of unique or individual thoughts. This was the only course of action left to take in order to avoid such a long drawn out and mutilated death.

A living death – a permanent state of catatonic nightmare. A place where the mind is plagued by motionless visions of its very own personal hell – Inescapable, endless. The last place where the frailty of the human consciousness is able to prosper or survive

THE BROKEN PROMISE

 

The broken promise

Does not lie directly

Not to your face

Or behind the walls of absence.

 

It coils beneath ancient stones and quiet discipline.

It does not love or cherish the past

Or clench its fist at the mirror of some future morning.

 

The broken promise

Is a plan for distance

Drawn up in war rooms

By the unthinking generals

And army doctors.

 

They undress the facts with feathers

And preserve their hearts in cold isolation

Stretched out among the letters

Cigars and gourmet dishes.

 

They have shamed themselves

And worn the tired loves of another

Beneath the beating hearts of chaos and desire

They are ignorant and curious of consequence.

 

The broken promise

Inhabits love.

Worn like medal that shines as a testimony

To its casual defeat.

 

It fails in logic

And it's reasoning of truth

It stands like a broken membrane

Attaching itself to the broken shell of remembrance

I HAVE FORGOTTEN HOW TO BE A HERO

 

I have long forgotten how to be a hero

And how to live amongst the frost of memories.

The spiders web attaches itself to the mirror

But I am only whispering in riddles.

 

And you

You have reduced your blackened eyes

Into the greedy spirit of the nearest cripple

In the hope of being saved

In the hope of being honoured.

 

We are alive

Dancing through the city streets

Like escaping animals

Running from the fire.

 

We are tied together

By the aristocracy of love

The invisible thread of lies

And the tired eyes of this long procession.

THEY REMEMBER THE WAR DEAD

 

They remember the war dead

The great misogynists

And faith healers.

The great destroyers

Standing in airport lounges

Counting the dead by the number of bullet holes

That there accountants can neatly file for them.

 

They run amok

Amongst families

And burning flags.

It excites them

Going unchecked in foreign lands

Paving the way for indignation prophecy and greed

Unrepentant in their Armani camouflage suits.

I AM LIVING IN THE PAST

 

I am in a past life

Living among the spirit of wings

 

Much less fortunate than those who stand beside you

In the gleaming hour of the loving night

 

In my mind I am the great servant

Laying tables of regret

 

Building great monuments of solitude and momentary salvation

In honour of the fallen hour

 

I bleed into the present

And make ready my grim proposals of surrender

 

I draw out these baffled lines of communication

And present them to you

Like a Broken Arrow

In the courtroom of remembrance

 

Where the muted gifts of conversation

Have been found guilty of neglect

 

They're shallow voices struggling to be heard

Amongst the idle clamour of history and hope

I WILL NOT SPEAK A WORD

 

Torture me, I will not speak a word

Torture me with silence and with rumour

Make false claims and announce the great misdemeanour.

Torture me, if I answer

It will only be in a tired and hopeless voice

And one devoid of facts.

Torture me,

And do the bidding of others

Those attempting to retain their insufferable dignity

Those who allure to definition and pride

Those trembling angels who believe in doing what is right.

Torture me,

And give way at the first sign of vanity

Or cautious declarations of love.

Let the buzzing flies fly's swarm around my heart

And eat away at my indifference

Let my tongue only speak in riddles

Disarming the protagonists

And unnerving the explorers.

Torture me,

And I will act out the infantile mystery of the clown

And surrender to the virtue of my will.

Torture me,

And place me in a prison cell of your great undoing

And I will escape

In the dead of night

While you are sleeping

And your eyes are closed

To your inevitable hatred and defeat.

BREATHE

 

You must learn to breathe again

Before the long arrow of the night

And lay speechless before me

Through the looking glass of laughter

 

Your mouth will begin to close with age

Your body succumbing to profanity

And profound wisdom

 

The voices that you choose to stand beside

Will have long fallen silent

They will no longer be disturbed

By the faint hope of those

You now remember

 

Your love will become entangled

In museums and in shrines

Disposed of by ritual and response

Only remembered behind the locked door of music

Or the dense moan of your tumultuous grin

 

 

MINOR VARIATIONS AND CHANGE - PHOTO GALLERY


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