The False Novel

The Argument: Loose Verse

Desire to love the Human Other, God or Reader creates Word or Sperm or Prayer, unrequited by and large. How may that turd or worm, a common poet, fire ignited sparks into the void? I would be faithful to the origins of impulse. Uninvited, I shall fail each time against indifferent barrage. Reader, my love for you is quite mistaken. The false novel will be proved confession to a base poetic error: the assumption that an altruistic randiness might have been cause enough to have you love me: Thou, as though sheer love might be enough, my God whatever. If I look into a mirror, I look goofy enough. Requited congress, when the gift is taken and the taken gift is best, is better than forsaken love, or lust. A good wet sentiment put to the test. And this is what I thought I meant before self censorship deletes my loose talk bursts in prose or verse. What’s worse? An utter singular at length has had a say. I put it out and then, ashamed, took it away. Aye, the acquisitive must give before they’re satisfied, but what have I acquired? If I wrote better poetry, I might be more admired. And by the time I truly learned that lesson I was old enough to have been tired, and happen soon from my pursuit retired. Not so. Not yet. I can write better poetry than this portrays. And Reader if thou cannot take this guff or gift of stuff, then go thy ways, go Back.

The View from Foster Clough

 It is a cold, grey, damp mid-April day today, I think therefore I am alive in two-thousand and five. The view from Foster Clough, the windows facing south-southeast, includes the roofs of Stoney Royd, the nook of Boulderclough, and horizontal outline moors of Sowerby, Norland, Stainland, Outlane. It’s the lean of Britain tilting to the west that means the line of view extended out of sight then passes over Ladybower, down the Derwent Valley, Loughborough and Leicester, and then, and this surprises me, to the west of London and would hit the sea just to the east of Brighton. Mullion windows looking blank upon a past. I saw a thunderstorm from windows on the seafront once in Brighton, that was nineteen sixty-five. And here is something that I could confess to, that same year I think, I vomited in Leicester in my sleep. Black bile so stained the mattress that I hitchhiked home in shame. They had the mattress thrown out after I had gone. But where’s the interest in this, for anyone? I think my future lies behind me now to north and west. Up by High Rough and over Midgley Moor, by Trawden, Earby, Settle, Horton, Ribblesdale and Howgill, Mallerstang, Appleby, Westmorland and Eden. There is too much traffic in the Midlands for my point of view. The terrace party-walls obscure the other quarters: east northeast to Bradford, west southwest to Todmorden, and further.

 

Entanglements

 Whirls of picaresque coincidence beset the small worlds of young things. Or so it was for us back then in the golden age of hitchhiking, the bad days of keg beer. And it was then that me and Ken had left the Man & Scythe on Deansgate, put our thumbs out, out by Burnden Park, by  Manchester to Hazel Grove, Leek-Ashbourne-Derby and in Leicester well in time for beers before a bus out to the suburbs where this lass, and I’m afraid I’ve lost her name, she had proclaimed a party, with her parents gone away, and there was lots to drink, and then---But what’s the point? Well it was Ken, you see, that I’d been drinking with down in The Man & Scythe when he popped out to the post-office to pick up some post, and he came back shocked, it was just a paternity suit! But I knew nought about Ken’s goings on. And time moved on. The babe in question she turned out to be the same one that this other lass, whose name I can’t remember either, put to sleep with ruby port, her father, sleeping off his nightshift, snoring in the room next door, and though her name I can’t remember, it was Horwich, Longworth Avenue was the address. Soon it was known that I’d been there. My cousin Katherine was shocked and told me off. So what? Move on ten years. Relational entanglements in Hebden Bridge would prove more intricate and complicated than the cluster round the Man & Scythe was likely to. It takes a smaller world to know that you were born.

 

The Novel a Lure

 I’d had this idea, if you start a false novel, a true one might appear. I was on the top floor of the William Stone building, Cambridge, writing a novel, when the nest of Longworth Avenue crablice erupted. Deep in private shame I cut them down by razor. Do plotters believe in coincidence, or ghost story writers in ghosts? I don’t know, but my “novel” of raw fact and experience started filling with ghosts and supernaturals and visions of things I didn’t know I’d ever seen. There were some things I knew for sure: that Harold Wilson was Prime Minister; that I wanted to Ban the Bomb and that I didn’t like the Vietnam War. By the time I abandoned the novel, we had Edward Heath in power, and by then I was all for poetry as a musical phenomenon. I lived in Yorkshire, home of manly poets, mostly male. In Lancashire the so-called poets are but hag-ridden comedians. Are you sure? No. Now if you’ll excuse me I’ll heat up my stew, and then head off to Lane Ends for a beer or two. It’s a mile and a half and I get a good view of Edge End, Trough Edge and Hogshead Law. Three pages so far, that’s one day’s work. I’ll walk and work out what comes next, it might be to do with how everything, newsprint, TV, Bolton, was all in black and white; but Wilson came to town, and, shock, his face was  florid pink! And I was getting into Politics and Poetry and Jazz and Drink

Fighting Communism

 I hadn’t gone to shout or demonstrate, but just to gawp. I think the year was nineteen sixty-four. He got out of a black car and entered a Town Hall side door. I think we can trust History to give us plots. A way was opening out to the Left, since I had first become aware of the world, in the Korean War. I knew that Russia had replaced Germany as enemy despite the comic books, because my father told me so. My Dad had voted Labour just two years before I had been born, but helped return Conservatives thereafter. I had been taught snobbery in Bolton’s semi-private schools. Then in the days of Suez, in pre-babysitting days, I was in parents’ bed, with sister Jill, with the radio on and Robert Boothby was about to tell a story about Ruritania when the programme was shut down because of The Fourteen Day Rule. My Dad had been a Fireman in the Second War. He was a pacifist by inclination. Pay tax, obey the law, or take advice, and for the rest, feel free. And then the Liberals won Orpington with broad-striped shirts and I abandoned quiffs and brylcream. Jeans and donkey jackets were the clothes of us pseudos. It was The Bomb got up our nose. And after school I’d walk down through Queen’s Park and stop outside the fire-station on Marsden Road and see the Civil Defence display of Britain about to be obliterated.

 

A Learning Curve

 I was sleeping in a bedroom on the coast of North Wales, two or three yards from a high-tide sea, when I was woken by a great unease, and rose and went to the window, where across the bay, beyond Snowdonia, from an intense red glow arose a stupendously beautiful mushroom cloud, and I knew that they’d just bombed Lancashire. But the glow soon faded and the black waves washed. I awoke at the window and it hadn’t happened, what I’d seen. Big sister Jill had been the first to wear the badge. But I went further: onto the committee of Bolton YCND. There was this man appointed me, at the inaugural meeting, since I spoke up. A bunch of us had to go each week to his house to hear about the great successes of the East German economy, and were told to disregard our personal feelings and think strategically, and join Trade Unions, it didn’t matter which----but I flunked that last. We were soon sent over the top when The Cuban Missile Crisis broke. Hands Off Cuba! Nothing wrong with a Cuban Bomb. One meeting I remember well. We turned up at his house, and were told to sit; there would be no talk for Vaughn Williams was Live on the Third. We watched the man in his beatific trance. It ended. We were quietly dismissed. Not Jelly Roll Morton, but not bad. I had discovered poetry, and as it happened I was going mad.

 Forward to Volume Two.


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