Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Sunday, 26 July 2015


Chained in the Brain

Hiding from drab reality
in orgasmic bliss or drunken stupor;
Free for a time shorter than before –
Anonymous and without.
Forced back by guilt,
Catching sight of your reflection
in an empty mirror,
Suddenly aware of being awake
though never really asleep:
Hanging on the torture stake of the past.
20 June 1983

Twenty-nine years after I wrote this poem I published a two part essay on ugly poetry. You can read the first part here. In the second part I included my poem ‘The Rats’ (#366) as an example but really I was pulling my punches; I’d written far uglier poetry than that.

A part of me would rather have skipped this poem. Some I have—I’m under no obligation to wash my dirty linen in public—but I mentioned this one in my last post and it’s related to ‘For the World is Hollow…’ (#547) but that is the better poem; I should’ve stuck with the one but I guess I wasn’t done feeling bad about myself. The use of capitals is very sloppy as is the punctuation but I’ve uploaded it as I left it.

Ugly, of course, is not bad although we often get them confused. From my new book:

Soon the hunchback will pass by. Such kyphosis is rare these days, in fact, as far as I can remember, he is the sole sufferer of the affliction I have seen in the flesh. Perhaps he was dropped as a child or rolled off a table or had TB. He walks with the aid of a stick, of course, not exactly a club but a solid piece of rosewood nevertheless with an unusual pistol grip. Were this a children’s tale he would naturally be evil, as warped in his mind as in his body…



Kass said...

"...the torture stake of the past." - descriptively beautiful.

A certain number of us love to suffer, find beauty in it and like to call ourselves artists.

'Shocking' and 'ugly' often are best-sellers.

Interesting links to previous posts. Whatever happened to Art Durkee?

Jim Murdoch said...

I’m not writing much poetry at the moment, Kass. Part of the blame is all the work I’m doing on The More Things Change—it’s all I can think of but that was necessary to keep the book in active memory—but there’s another reason: contentment. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m happy—if I was healthier I’d be happier—but I really don’t have much going on in my life to make me unhappy and, for me at least, that’s not a good mindset for poetry. That doesn’t mean misery is a good place to be either because I’ve been as miserable as hell and unable to write too. There’s a sweet spot and there’s nothing I can do to reach it. The best I can do is mine it when it appears and hope it doesn’t run dry. Of course the image of the suffering artist is a bit of a caricature but my response to that would be: There’s no smoke without fire. Clichés don’t become clichés without there being some truth there.

Dark sells, yes. I’ve noticed recently when people have been promoting new seasons of TV shows that they often say something along the lines of, “This year will be darker,” as if that’s a good thing. What is this fascination with darkness? I don’t think of myself as a “dark” person, a miserable git, yes, but not dark. And I rarely set out to shock. The problem with shocking people—I’m thinking about literal electrical shocks—it that people develop a tolerance and we need to go that bit further ever time to jolt them out of complacency. It’s like swearing, which I’ve written about a couple of times, the occasional swear word can be as powerful as a cup of real coffee when you’re not used to it. In my new book there’s a bit of swearing but only a bit—two ‘fuckings’ in the whole book—and I’d like to think the protagonist is driven to it.

As for Art, he’s still alive and kicking. As of a couple of days ago anyway. He’s stepped away from blogging but he does post something every once in a while. Doesn’t comment any more. At least not on my site which is fine. Commenting can be a bit of a burden. I keep saying I’ll give up and one day I will—I find it especially disheartening when I comment and the blog owner fails to acknowledge something that’s probably taken me a good hour to write—but what can you do?

Kass said...

I'm glad to learn that you're as happy as your health will allow. I understand that 'sweet spot' you speak of. There's a little space that opens up creativity and you have to hop in when it happens.

The dropping off of blog friends and comments is interesting. I think it's quite representative of our need to express and be acknowledged and the reality of what endures as we realize what connects us through experience and interests.

Jim Murdoch said...

Before I first started blogging, Kass, I did my research. I spent a good couple of weeks reading articles about netiquette and one thing I kept coming across was: Respond to comments. And so I always have unless there’s been an exchange and it’s obvious that it would be more polite to let the other person have the final word which I did with you a week or two back. But over the years there have been many blogs where I’ve posted a considered and pertinent comment and, yes, a longer comment than most people make and then waited for the a response which was never forthcoming. If that happens I never darken their door again. There was one where the blogger was mourning the loss of a relative and looking for a poem to encapsulate her grief so I wrote her one and it wasn’t half-bad and I didn’t even get a thank you. At least I still have the poem so it wasn’t an entire waste of time.

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