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
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.
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
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
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
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.