Monday, 29 September 2008


I've spent most of my life wondering just where the spark of creativity actually comes from. From the sky maybe? Coming down on rays of sunlight as in the engravings of Blake. From the ground, seeping up into our minds by some process of osmosis. From the air about us, blowing into our veins. From the back of the head, from the well of the mind, from that untouchable dark space within us all. The surrealists thought that Freud had discovered the truth. The unconsciousness was where everything began. That place of dreams and mist where chance and stumble created sparks.

They were probably right, I think.

Dream as good as consideration.
Discovery by flash of light.
Writing by starting the hand to move.
Writing by keeping moving.
Writing by staying the course.

Or maybe it's just as Flann O'Brien suggested it might be in his great novel, The Third Policeman. You become your bicycle by spending time sitting on it. I'm hard at it right now. I have a volume of Proust, heavy, in each hand.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Night Shots

I'm out on Newport Road at night in the dry with the camera on a tripod. This is to test white balance, according to the course I'm following. Take shots under artificial light but with differing white balances - see how the colours shape up.

I'm using a long exposure - three seconds - which lets passing cars and buses appear as illuminated streaks. The road is silent, hardly any traffic. Just the slow throb of the traffic lights, the red wink from the bus shelter sign board, sodium orange from streetlamps, house windows glowing tungsten, tv screens inside them flickering. So much ambient light. There's a moon up there somewhere. Can't see the stars for ambient dust.

I get stopped by drunks. What are you doing? A woman with a bloke on a bike ask if they can be in a shot. What's it for? Makes ghosts, I tell them. I get the woman to walk along the pavement, take a shot. Show her. That's you, a blur like a ghost. I am a ghost, she says, laughing. They roll off towards the Royal Oak. Looking for the light.

The results are great. Huge white mist from a London coach. Red streaks from breaking sports cars. A taxi I didn't notice smearing itself up onto the pavement and a puff of smoke that's the passenger exiting.

Photography or real life? Poetry actually.

Saturday, 13 September 2008


Chance brought me here. Its application, anyway.

Cobbing and Chopin stood in the old Poetry Society in Earl’s Court Square once, up there on the first floor where the floorboards were bare and so filled with grit and foot grime that you never put your bag down. There, among the scraping chairs and late arriving, bag-laden audience, they proceeded to pull words out of a hat and perform them. Schwitters, said Bob. This method has solid foundations. Cut the text into tiny fragments, mix, retrieve by a chosen random system (ie: pulling them out without looking first). Perform. Henri Chopin, discoverer of language’s micro particles, pressed a microphone to his throat. Cobbing used his voice as a boombox. Would have done, if they’d had them then.

The problem with chance methods of composition, once you’ve got beyond the inherent difficulties of creating a method of generating selection in the first place, is that there’s a arty desire to interfere. To tweak. To watch the chance come out of the hat and then mimic it. Try to mimic it. Make a few amendments. Add a word. Smooth a little. Jackson Mac Low whose entire early output consisted of randomly generated poetry would have been appalled. Impure. But today we are beyond purity, well beyond.

Methods of chance generation:

Computer random number generator
Open book and point
Shuffle (see Cards above)
Density of freckles
Random walk hypothesis
White noise

I must come back to this

Friday, 12 September 2008


In theatre I spot a cupboard with the word "Pain" handwritten onto a sticker on the front. What's that, I ask. We keep the pain in there, replies the blue-gowned technician. You don't want any do you? By now I'm full of local anasthetic so I don't care. I had Travis Elborough's "The Long Player" with me in the waiting room. A slab of a book that tracks the tracks from the post-war start of the 12 inch album to it's recent death among the downloaders. Hugely engaging, witty and more informative than I'd imagined would be possible from an author who looks about nineteen, to judge by his jacket photo. If I had it with me now would I read on as I wait? There's a tv over my shoulder on which I could watch the tubes and the scouring pad and the little internal lamp gushing upwards and onwards into my system, if I wanted to. I don't. I stare hard at the pain cupboard instead. Wiggle my toes.

The procedure is actually all over in a few minutes. Result: Clear. Nothing. No return. No regrowth. No certificate. No shouting. Prostate larger than normal, just a bit, nothing to concern you, happens to those your age. Does it?

50% of those my age it says when I look on the net later.

In the waiting room reunited with Travis I sip my tiny cup of tea and think about peeing.

What was in the pain cupboard? Who knows.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Anthony Brockway

Anthony Brockway put me onto this. He's been blogging for years at Babylon Wales and so efficiently that I thought it was simply a well-designed web site. Check out his introduction to the subject of blogging in the new edition of the New Welsh Review. He's the man who discovered that Roy Orbison had once done a week at the Double Diamond Club in Caerphilly (in the lost 1970s). Watch out for more.