Sherlock Holmes meets the X Files at Victoria Park, East London. Based on real events.
Final day in London. Last minute charity shop runs and bag weight reshufflings. Then chill in North London with Chris Gutkind. North London is where London began for me over 7 years ago. By noon tomorrow we will be residents of Madrid. Airb&b for a while while hunting for flat to rent. Have to start all over. No plates, pans, bedsheets, yadda yadda. Gotta do the paper plates and find bargains at some kinda flea market. Should be much easier to survive in Madrid than London though. Some great friends and memories in London. London is the second longest place I have ever lived. Utah beats it by 1.5 years. So many places. But London is a tough tough tough tough city. Quality of life (e.g. renting a flat, quality of average food/veggies etc.) maybe one of the lowest in Europe for average folks. Poland has much higher standard of living for lower middle class folks. Think Spain too. London good if you have won the birth lottery or have good streams of money. Work full time for seven years, live very very simply with no debt, car, pension,cheapest rent we could find in a council estate in East London and meager savings and still hanging by a thin branch. I mean after seven years of full time work I have about 1000 pounds less than when I arrived from Poland. Ewa a few thousand pounds less. Now we leave with a few thousand pounds between us as our life savings. London is hard to survive and not sure (other than good friends) it is worth living here for what you get back. I am sure I am not alone with this. I will definetely miss my friends in London. But time to move on.We are lucky we are able to move on and do some teaching in Madrid. We are lucky. Depends where you look to do your measuring. Off to Madrid. See what comes.
Final meal in London. Homemade Pesto and venison sausage.
“At the lunch table there is a new man. He has been to Dubai and it is very hot. But worse than that is Vegas he says. He gets very excited about Vegas. You have to step into the casinos to cool off he says. I don’t know how to gamble he says. Did you play the one armed bandits I ask. I played many one armed bandits he says. They give you free cocktails when you play the one armed bandits he says. Before you know it your eyes are cherries, lemons and sevens he says.”
FROM “THE HUSTLER”
Prose poems from my ongoing manuscript Never Mind the Beasts over at Ohio Edit:
Eileen Myles gives me hope. Not necessarily for money for poetry. Although I did get paid £50 for my poems in Tin House and that felt somehow a little validating. Even more than the money was having poems in Tin House and the generosity of poet friends. Eileen Myles, like many I would imagine, gives me hope with her openness. And for feeling less ashamed and guilty for being a poet from working class background etc. etc. I want to feel less guilty for writing and art and to stop thinking I should be doing my real paid work when I am writing and doing art yadda yadda. Working class ethos. I can’t afford to slum it and be a radical East or South London art school hipster (no safety net or backup whatsoever) but I feel the radical ideas of the middle class artists and thinkers and art school graduates. At least some of it. It is nice to see someone with a similar working class background get some cultural capital. Although I am realising it is not common. Still seems there is a hard to climb class system in publishing and the art world. But also grateful, somehow, to end up going to university and to have time, minus the guilt and feeling unworthy, unentitled and like an imposter, and via very simple living with no children, car, pension, property, and piddly savings, to do the art. I want to feel less guilty abut taking up space in the world. It all depends where you are looking and what you are comparing yourself to. I am lucky.
FROM YUGEN ISSUE 4
PETER ORLOVSKY’S “SECOND POEM”
Marcus Slease and John Estes. Over here. John Ashbery and Eileen Myles are in the conversation. Many others too. Canton, Ohio and East London.
Check it out over here at Likestarlings:
where did i get the fear of acting socially respectable. from looking toward the British as a child in Ireland? As an Irish child in Milton Keynes?
When I emigrated to America we landed in Vegas. July. When we stepped off the plane it was like stepping into a warm engine. We couldn’t find any grass but we found Carl’s Junior quite quickly. My mum became addicted to the fried zucini and buttermilk dip. I was the eldest of three when we landed. Rocky was my hero. So I lifted rocks in the desert. I stole a pair of boxing gloves from K-Mart. Or my friend did. I can’t remember. I spiked my hair like the Russian Ivan Drago cause I felt Russian. More Russian than Irish in America. Even though I had never been to Russia. When I became Mormon I thought the Mormon prophet might send me to Russia on a mission. But that’s another story.
The next eldest was my brother Aaron. He would run up and dow the hallway for hours. He had some kind of mad energy inside him. And then Shantell. Shantell popped out with a personality all ready to go. She was not afraid to speak out and say exactly what she wanted. I kept quiet. Did what I was told. Tried to be perfect. Thought I might be Jesus. Literally. Re-incarnated. I don’t think this anymore.
Why am I writing in memoir mode? I have no idea. In this age of “creative non-fiction” and me me me me. Hm . . what could I do any differently than all those identity driven novels and youtube videos spread out all over the world like a sickness.
Is all writing personal?
Does it matter?
I remember during my MA studying all that rhetorical analysis stuff so i could grow up and teach college composition and thinking maybe I have made it. The only kid out of an eventual 7 to go to university. Where did it come from? I wanted to do something more manly. I worked construction as a teenager. I worked many many jobs. Some of them were:
1) Burger King hamburger cook
2) Sizler disher washer upper
3) concrete mixer and framer
4) cleaner (hospitals and factories)
5) factory shrink wrap worker
6) telemarketer (3 years) (Burpie Seeds, All-State Life Insurance, Direct TV)
7) cleaner, movie introducer at visitor centre of Zion National Park (one of the more interesting jobs. Made friends with Gerald. A Navajo. Went to a sweat lodge etc.)
8) chevron gas attendent (graveyard shift sometimes. listened to alien abduction stories on the radio)
9) J.C. Penny Shoes salesman
(many many many more . . .)
I think the idea of the American dream fueled my desire for university. The idea as the eldest to succeed.
Would I have went to university if we would have stayed in Northern Ireland? Or Milton Keynes? No way of knowing of course.
In some ways I think it is less likely. But in other ways I think I had a “natural” desire to work with the mind more than the body. It wasn’t really in my environment. I mean the desire to be “intellectual” or read a lot. But somehow I think I felt an inclination towards it. I wasn’t discouraged from reading at home of course. But I think I found I got praised for it a little in school. I was good at English. That was my subject. And later anything in the humanities came naturally. Maybe that encouraged me. Also the escape into the imagination. Like most kids I wanted to be someone else. I think it became an obsession. I had natural inclinations towards obsessions. Collecting things. Writing goals all over my walls. I convinced all the people in my middle school when I came to America that I was a real ninja and if the Irish ninjas came looking for me to keep quiet. I was exotic with my Northern Irish accent in Las Vegas so I think the kids believed me. My parents were called in because the teacher thought it might lead to trouble. We were in a somewhat rough immigrant neighborhood in Las Vegas. Someone might call me on it.
But I remember believing this. Really believing I was ninja. Or earlier in Milton Keynes a jedi.
I believed I had some special powers until maybe age 20. Those powers shifted. Once I became a teenager is was more special spiritual powers. Like maybe immortality. Or the ability to heal people with my energies/priesthood.
My identity shifted a lot from Northern Ireland to England to America. From Protestant to Mormon.
Shifts in accents and cultures and so on.
I needed a hero narrative to keep me going.
And I think that is partly the wall I run up against now. What to project onto the future. I have a hard time believing in life after death. Or the personality of “me” continuing outside my body. Never mind from year to year. So there is the now. In the face of complete annihilation even the now seems absurd.
Life at all seems absurd.
I was obsessed with the future until the future caught up with me. I wanted to achieve achieve. I wanted to get a running scholarship to college. So in high school I ran 5-8 miles a day, swam a couple of miles a week etc. The track team also had many kids who wanted to make it by getting a track scholarship to college. We were all in the same boat. Except as the only white kid on the team I had a distinct advantage. Sure my background was working class and I didn’t have examples of family going to college. But being white did make it easier in America of course.
What does it mean to write a life? What is a writing life? I am not writing a life. I am writing on a blog. Blogs are personal. Well not all of course. And there are millions of blogs out there writing the personal. But maybe it is not personal versus “non-personal.” Maybe more about interesting or not interesting? What is interesting? Well depends of course on your audience. And maybe your goal. What is the goal of this? To make sense of time. To make sense of personal narratives? To make sense of memory?
My goal in America was to succeed. Not by making lots of money. Although I had fantasies of making some money and sending it to my family so they could get out of America debt and have less stress in their life. It was more about making it in terms of cultural capital. Maybe becoming a professor. Or an artist. Or a psychologist. Doing something interesting. But that changed. I wanted to write. And I wrote starting early. Like most of those boring interviews with writers where the writer says oh I have been a writer since the age of 3 blah blah blah. But whatever. I wrote and I wanted to remake the world through writing. Like the books that shaped and re-made my world. I wanted to participate in reading through writing.
And now many years and countries and a divorce later what is the goal? How is success measured? Or happiness?
I am adjunct intructor in academic writing at a small private college in London. I make enough to live in a somewhat rough area of London in a one bedroom flat. It is giving me enough money (at the moment) to buy some poetry books. Something I haven’t done in almost six years. I am also in a good relationship. All of that is very important for my happiness. The job is rewarding in that I sometimes get to do something interesting. And it gives me more time than I have had in the last six years of teaching ESL in various countries.
But making it? Or becoming sucessful? That has completely changed since I left America and its dream behind me.
My students are doing their in-class essay as I write this. I don’t know where this came from. Maybe it will lead to a larger project. Maybe it is only an emptying out.
But I do think “creative non-fiction” is boring to me mainly because of the form. The craft aspect. And also the idea of specialness. There are millions of immigrant stories in America. There are millions of me. I am not special. But how the story is told and why. That might be something different.
The end of week is coming fast. It has been my spring break. I got an HIV test (negative), some blood tests for all sorts of goodies (awaiting), vision test (and a new pair of glasses coming in two weeks), 20 new poems (and revisions). So a health check and writing week.
Got two terrific books in the post today. Matthew Henriksen’s Ordinary Sun (from Black Ocean) and Ariana Reines Coeur De Lion. Last week I got Destroyer and Preserver by Matthew Rohrer (Wave Books).
So when the madness starts next week with 3 hours of daily commuting, I am well armed with mighty fine books!!!
Next week I will be going to a Vispo celebration/exchange with 75 or so poets. SJ Fowler has put it together.
Ewa and I are working on Freudian supermarket comics (from Spanish Fork) for the occasion.
Tomorrow I’m reading some Grzegorz Wroblewski (translated by Adam Zdrodowski) and Yu Jian (translated by Ron Padgett) in East London. Calvert Gallery. Off Press.
I am reading in the second half as part of Steven Fowler’s Maintenant Series. Other British poets reading translations are: Gabi Labi, Patrick Coyle, SJ Fowler, and Tim Atkins.
Here are the details if you around (from the main organiser Marek kazmierski from Off Press):
The event is the culmination of a two-month contemporary arts programme at the Calvert 22 gallery in Shoreditch, and we want to round things off with an intelligent and impassioned bang.
I will start by screening a tiny clip from a Polish political gangster film, using it to develop a discussion on untranslatability.
Next, we will have a slot called “Polish literature around the world in 80 seconds”, looking at the myriad of Polish writers who went into exile in the 20th century (and mostly never came back), the literary, historical, gender, ethnic and other aspects of this flood of “lost” writers.
The following discussion will be led by Dr Ursula Chowaniec from UCL/SSEES, who has written a lovely critique of both Wioletta Grzegorzewska’s book and the introduction in it.
Then we will read some of Wioletta’s poems,
Then drink some wine, smoke some fags, sell some books…
Then we turn over to Maintenant Series – taking the celebration of translated verse beyond my tiny publishing house and opening it up to new languages, interpretations and possibilities.