The Craft 3: Paul Brookes

I’m really pleased to have Paul Brookes here. He’s a lovely poet – his poem Our Spired Unicorn was one of my favourite advent calendar poems. He’s also immensely generous to other poets – he regularly opens his blog for ekphrastic challenge months and for themed days, and supports other poets on Twitter.

Paul is a shop assistant, who lives in a cat house full of teddy bears. His first play was performed at The Gulbenkian Theatre, Hull.  His chapbooks include The Fabulous Invention Of Barnsley, (Dearne Community Arts, 1993). The Headpoke and Firewedding (Alien Buddha Press, 2017), A World Where and She Needs That Edge (Nixes Mate Press, 2017, 2018) The Spermbot Blues (OpPRESS, 2017), Port Of Souls (Alien Buddha Press, 2018), Please Take Change (Cyberwit.net, 2018), Stubborn Sod, with Marcel Herms  (artist) (Alien Buddha Press, 2019), As Folk Over Yonder ( Afterworld Books, 2019). Forthcoming Khoshhali with Hiva Moazed (artist), Our Ghost’s Holiday (Final book of threesome “A Pagan’s Year”) . He is a contributing writer of Literati Magazine and Editor of Wombwell Rainbow Interviews. Had work broadcast on BBC Radio 3 The Verb and videos of his Self Isolation sonnet sequence featured by Barnsley Museums and Hear My Voice Barnsley. He also does photography commissions and his family history articles have appeared in The Liverpool Family History magazine.

Here he is, talking about his craft:

I was really excited to see your Alice poems – I love the way you approached them. How did they come about? 

I am not a Martian. Their poetry is too much like Anglo-Saxon riddles. In my collection ‘A World Where” the reader knows from the title what is being turned upside down. They are not riddles. I wanted the same for my Alice poems. When choosing classic texts I am always surprised what I find when I alter the titles: “The Wonderland In Alice” immediately had the narrative shape of young woman finding herself. I have no problems with accepting absurdity in my writing, or in life, increasingly so as I get older. Absurdity is a different way of looking at the world, but it must have some relation to everyday life. Too often, when absurdity shifts into riddles and puzzles it becomes too clever for its own good. That stuff puts me off, Big time

And what are you working on at the moment?

A pamphlet of sonnets

Have my pamphlet of serious whimsy, to be called “A Wonderland In Alice”, or “A Bag Of Mashings” published

Finishing my detective novella whose styles vary from gritty realism to wildly surrealistic.

Completing my life and laughter confirming companion pamphlet to “Port Of Souls”

Assembling poems and artworks for a pamphlet about my late mam and dad and family history.

Completing the story of my ancestor Captain Charles Teft Laurence, each chapter deals with a ship in which he was a nineteenth century Merchant Mariner.

Assembling an exhibition of my photos.

And a few things in preparation I can’t talk about now.

You are very active and generous to other poets on social media. How did your “theme days” come about? What has been your favourite so far?

It is an idea that arrived in my head as a carrying on of the campaigning work of the late Jamie Dedes and Reuben Woolley. I have no favourites. I am lit up by theIr imagination and creativity of others that I love to enflame. All writers should be encouraged and supported in as many ways as possible.

You’ve been writing for a long time. What does poetry mean to you? If you had to define a poem, how would you define it?

I have a Youtube site called “Poetry Is My Bag For Life”. While other sensible school children played football, I sat on the side with a big green book of empty pages and filled them with pale imitations of William Blake and Dylan Thomas. My dad made sure I imbibed the Burton version of Under Milk Wood from an early age.

Kate Clanchy describes writing poetry as being part of a conversation with other poets. Are there particular poets you feel you respond to?

All poets I correspond with are part of my conversation with poetry. Each provides something new and refreshing.

If you could only read 3 poets for the rest of your life, who would you choose?

William Blake, Dylan Thomas and the sadly missed Peter Reading

Do you have a writing routine? 

No. I wake up and go to sleep with a constant stream of voices in my head asking to be heard.

What about editing? How do you go about it?

I call it “mulling”. It happens subconsciously, most of the time. After writing for so many years your brain kicks into editing abd proof reading mode. Mistakes glare out at you like mirror stains.

What sort of response do you hope for from your readers?

I hope to engage their imaginations so they have confidence to write themselves. 

How do you find your inspiration?

In all and everything. Walking helps me mull over stuff. Working in a supermarket introduces me to the stories folk tell. Engages me in confrontations and makes me a witness to the life of the High Street.

Do you think you have particular themes that recur?

My adoration for the rude and ribald. My delight in Yorkshire dialect. My love of fantasy, science fiction and thrillerish gritty realism. My abhorrence for inhumanity.

Do you ever feel blocked? How do you deal with it?

To coin a phrase I have a poem about that:

Attention 

Nothing to write down,
I wake up, pay attention
to life around me.

How is she dressed?
Why is she here?
How does she move?
Where is she going?

This fly, this ant, this cat,
this woman with a child.

Who should I interview next? And why?

Tough question. Ankh Spice, Tim Fellows, Laura Potts, or choose any of those I have interviewed over the years.

Here’s a poem from Paul:

In World

without corners the curve becomes an edge.
Go so far over the roundness and you
will fall. Nothing is sharp, just rough, aged.
There are no thorns, nothing to catch, cut through.

No scissors or other ways to open.
The world seems padded, coddled. Comfortable.
If something breaks, examine the broken
bit to find roundness like a fresh bubble.

All windows are spherical. No pins,
needles. Bowls, cups and plates have rounded
rims. You can’t impale anyone, anything.
There are no nails, no staples. This grounded

world is to us a well kept taxi, all
soft sounds, clunks and clicks, bouncy, a soft ball.

If you want more of Paul, you can find him here:

Twitter: @PaulDragonwolf1

WordPress: https://thewombwellrainbow.com/

Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/PaulBrookesWriter/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCR67uSk0MjdHHoB_LUPFbpw

He’s a lovely reader of poems. And he’s doing an ekphrastic challenge for NaPoWriMo – starting tomorrow, on his wordpress site. There’s still time to sign up.

laundry 2: how to wash the moon

handwash only

gently gently

wring out a cloud –
a white one –
and warm the water
gently

add a handful of may,
or blackthorn,
or lilies
a pinch of starlight

lay the moon gently
gently in the bowl

let it soak
let it sink
let it rest
in the warm water

hold it up to the window
gently gently
use your fingertips
rub away

fear
pain
despair
grief

rinse the moon
in clear, cool water –
water from a running stream
a holy well
a tumbling rainbowing waterfall

hang it in the sky
to dry

A second laundry poem for Whimsygizmo at dVerse.

First blossom

The tree in the top corner is always the first to blossom. Its blossoms are the palest of all – the faintest wash of pink. It’s badly placed, battling with alder and birch to find light. Everything around it is brown. Buds are starting to swell, but the other trees are holding back, contemplating things. There may yet be frost, the nights are cold, we are still teetering on the edge of spring. While they hesitate, the wild cherry leaps in, joyfully, its blossoms a valiant, defiant banner of hope.

first blossom
are these snowflakes
or petals?

A haibun for Frank at dVerse, on the classic subject of cherry blossom.

A poem about cancer, or anything really

4am and I’m filled with it
the taste in my mouth
like I’m stuffed with coins
each finger filled with it
no
4am and it’s here in the room
with me I’ve been swallowed
by cancer I’m a nodule
floating in a sea of cancer
I breathe it in I float in it
I’m drowning

6am and it’s getting light
time to pack it away
time to squash it down
into my lungs my bones
time to swallow it down

it’s in me don’t let me scream

I started blogging at fantasticmetastaticme.wordpress.com. I write poems at fmmewritespoems.wordpress.com. You can follow either, or both – or neither, obviously! – depending on your interest.

This being human

This being human is all about telling stories,
it’s travelling in a twisting caravan
across the desert, depending
on each other for flour,
for water, for a soft red blanket,
for bandages and apricots.

What currency do we have,
but stories? The story of “Good morning”
“How’s this for weather?”. The story of
“I love you”, the story of childhood,
the story of how to stay safe,
how to be eat well, how to survive
being lost, how to hold tight
to someone’s hand.

It’s whispering
our stories at night, the stories
of stars — of men, and beasts
and gods, and flaming suns.
It’s singing our stories as we wash our plates,
as we wait for tea to brew,
as we clean our shoes.

It’s shouting our stories in anger,
It’s crooning them in love. It’s sitting, silent,
round the campfire, listening.
We are stories, wrapped and tangled,
offered with love or fear or laughter.

This telling stories is all about being human.

For Kim at dVerse – a poem that begins “This being human is…”

Deer

Meeting her gaze –I want her to see
sisterhood — I want to say
“Look, I’m scared, too, I’m prey —
the shrapnel spinning slow-motion
in my chest — unravelling me”

but she sees the stone tipped spear
the bronze headed arrow, the
cross-bow bolt.

— Some slight

movement of mine, some twitch
sway breath — an explosion
— of movement

— she is gone

For Brendan at earthweal, where we are meeing nature’s gaze.