Thursday, 15 October 2015

A folk age

This old blog's been hobbling along for some time now. For a year or so, in both this music blog and the sport blog, I've been feeling a little dissatisfied and wanted to come up with something of a bit more substance.

The times I've had a structure and an idea to work through have been the most fulfilling, and lately I've just been either making lists of songs or finding ever more elaborate ways of giving my underqualified opinion on something or other.

All well and good, but the vanity in me has wanted to come up with something I can take a little pride in.

At the very start, the blog involved lists of songs and poems based around the same subject, with varying degrees of success. That finished in 2010, and, coincidentally or otherwise, I haven't written many poems at all since.

But, in relation to the blog, the idea to write something solid and fitting has been growing on me. I decided I wanted to write something quite long, something of the mini-epic, and to take in various subjects I've written about in the blog. Going from there, I decided I'd have to write in iambic pentameter. I've written in pentameter before, but back then I never really felt it was my friend, that it was too limiting, but for this new task I felt I needed that discipline.

I determined to write with more discipline than I had before. I never took more than a couple of hours to write a poem when I was younger, and only occasionally edited. It was a young person's way of writing, a haphazard call for occasional inspiration with mixed results.

This time, whatever the result, I wanted to have a more adult approach.

So, this is what I've done. I've taken as a starting point the words that most commonly are used to describe my taste in music (he likes folk, he likes indie), thought around the meaning of those two words, and come up with this.

A folk age

A folk age of scarce skill and little fire
Crept, in a strange hysteria, to screen
Disquieting these sombre missionaries
Returning weary, bloodied, to the hearth.
What land is this, that we left in safe mind
And cold hands? If it turned, it turned so slow, 
With cautious squint slipped over rose - scratch rose -
Sepia-tinted beige NHS frames.
Those eyes are weeping now. Weeping for what?
This mind persuaded far too easily
To heed the measured words of a sell-sword
Who led by dissembling he could be cut,
The first and gravest deal maker, thenceforth
Upgrading and outsourcing to no end.
We met to share before we’d made full count
Of what we were free and prepared to lose.
So, lost it’s been - for freedom and for shame,
So lost and safe to shed our privacy …
Or dignity, as if that were a ruse.
But how did we get here, you ask again,
Where folk songs find a new voice and create
The most unlovely karaoke stars
reshaping flames of lurid campfire storms,
where hieroglyphs of hate stunt, poison, mock
all hope of quietly impressive growth?
There were, of course, impasses, no, even more,
Outbursts of humour, harmony and harps
In bingo halls and country parks alike,
That strange uncertain union of glee
Released from shuffling feet and stumbling fast
O’er midnight branches laughing wildly at
The most unlikely icons newly framed
In sweating glade, afoot on burning lake.
They’ll say it’s gentrifying at its worst,
They’ll say, those miseries who made it so.
There is, of course, no way of knowing how
It could have made a difference far beyond
The natural footsoldiers left behind.
Perhaps we were waste, mere collateral,
An occupation for dissenting hearts –
To revel, not to fight, until too late.
And what to fight, and how? For most, half-blind,
Soft moving targets virtually cry out
To bear the declawed fury that just serves
As catnip for a foe now long escaped –
I see your virtue and I raise contempt.
Your so-called folk songs aren’t the people’s now,
Your protest is an empty selfish bawl.
The happy guilt of postcolonial bliss
Expired, a short-lived na├»ve liberal’s dream,
In patronising charitable frauds
And aid gifts that declined to decompose.
It’s hope, irrational hope, that breeds disgust
At calm pragmatic suited ex-firebrands,
It breeds the endless scuffling of the good
And their intent that good’s uncompromised
Or it’s no good at all.  In hope they live.
Reared into the great independent age
Of visionaries, proud of their mistakes,
First ghastly apparitions from the deep
Washed golden, then, by Olympian gods,
For brief but long-remembered glory days,
who ruined themselves for art, for Channel 4
Voxpops on documentaries way too late
To make the difference that they think they made,
Though it was beautiful, they do recount.
Exact timelines are harder to agree –
So many tribes, with valid claim to paint
Some key ekphrastic scene in what may be
The final epic worth a silver tongue,
Discount the other. How this story needs
A chronicler of independent soul,
Who’ll write and rewrite, true to their one task,
The grand expanding history of pop –
And how it never really stood a chance.
Nowadays, the people’s songs sound like they weren’t
Written by living people, at least not
The kind you’d dream of ever giving love.
Democracy moves further from the will
And the consensus of the feverish
Hive mind, all impotent petitions for
The daily stigmatising of some Christ-
Forsaken sniper, who’ll ascend in time.
So where did these Eumenides descend
From? Not one single tear was shed between
‘50 and ’97, then dams burst far
And wide at once, feeding the soil where sprung
In time, this wild poisoned incontinence
Of empathy, all sharing, caring more.
And not a single person died between
’45 and ’2001, then each
New death was marked by gathered epitaphs
Of deeply saddened sad machines, so quick
To tap out tides of grief; if not, then rage.
Some barbs, impossible now to delete,
Wound and affect more than the next last post
Aggrieved of Tunbridge Nowhere up-in-arms
Fired to eviscerate some long-way-down,
All shorn of poise, all decontextualized.
No trumpet lends such screeds new dignity,
No still small voice is heard above the storm.
No man or woman waits, ablaze in time
For pale blue origami promises
in airmail’s grand adventure, long withheld.
Oh time, how do you fill so easily?
I miss your tricks; now, I prostrate myself
Before the ticking strap, relentlessly
Informing and returning to the game.
I miss the doubts, not knowing what I thought
Or what I ought to think, or what the folk
Without coherent thought might know so well.
It is, in fact, a numbers game, just not
The one I planned for. X-hit wonders click
And click the clock to scattergun renown.
Those hard-earned stark statistics stand and fall
By show of thumbs, and those about to die
Have no direction nor an emperor to turn
to raise respectful yet resigned salute.
We loathe and glorify the fight at once,
We crucify dissenters, then deplore
The crucifixion. Numbers keep us safe,
But not as safe as remote solitude
Puts armour on this folk age chorus line.
And Dikaiopolis, this sleeper cell
Of jovial loathing, makes obtuse demands
revering some lost Angles’ language, claims
the common tongue is his and his alone,
this simpering rhetorician’s puppet toad.
And oh, the chorus howls and boos and laughs
And oh, it claims and counterclaims anew
And cites new sources, mobilised to stamp
Its modern expertise into the ground,
Promoting condemnation for its sins
While earmarking forgiveness to forget.
Redemption last was mentioned as a choice
On Christmas Day after Joe Strummer died -
Two ancient cultures held each other’s gaze
Just long enough for monsters creeping past.
Now, all the guys on t-shirts must be dead,
Can we recall their names? Erm, No We Can’t!
Can hope and change survive unspecified
Unrealistic, self-destructive cloud-
high expectation? Hell, no! No, it can’t.
Is music still impossible to tame?
Do songs still burst beyond all vain attempts
To break them into pieces and to chain
Them to campaigns and then to list all their
Devices and to judge precise demand,
To number them and edit them and tell
Them they’re not good enough, to playlist them
And subjugate them, wed them to a cause
Unwanted - one nation under a groove,
And two turntables and a microphone
And three chords and the truth, and four young men
From Liverpool who went and shook the world?
What was the last folk song? The last elite
Liberal folk song to take the world to task …
The last great anthem wide-eyed youths collect
To sing in protest at injustice? You might
Have missed it, look it up online. Alright,
So what, it’s not your music anymore –
These summer children scowling in defiance,
These skills you never learnt nor ever would.
This folk age may come to a bitter end;
Young punks are more alive than first assumed.
Fierce independence is now prized above
Those other values wasted on the age –
The most compelling hangover from hope
Might yet renew what looked to be expired.
So how did we get here? Someone explain,
Someone who’s not been two giant steps behind
At every turn, who saw it all the way
And welcomed progress out of more than fear,
Eventually, of being left in the dark.
My friend, it is, again, a numbers game,
A game that shifts one second to the next –
A sequence ever changing far beyond
a commentator’s poetry by rote.
I learnt a song when I was still a child,
Not quite a folk song, whatever they say,
I’m happy with its answers even now.

1 comment:

  1. I don't have a coherent repsonse but feel strongly that this kind of endeavour is worthwhile and demands at the very least a token comment of admiration.

    I enjoyed a lot of the imagery, too.