Modern art and me.

Art and me.

By the time I got to my twenties, I decided to give in and like modern art. This was because most of the classical art of antiquity, architecture, landscape and portrait, historical scenes, statuary, left me deeply unimpressed. You know what young people are like. And it was also because I was a rebel, and I could see that most modern art was about rebellion. I rebelled, by taking an evening class on A-Level Art History, and then immediately regretted it, because the things that I liked only took up a very small amount of the course. It only seemed to perk up by the time we got to the abstract expressionists. Fauvism, Art Deco, modernism, cubism, all seemed too contrived, and I still have no idea what the Pre Raphaelites was all about. Abstract expressionism did it for me.

My taste in art has always been about sixty years out of date. After twenty years of being besotted by Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Elaine de Kooning, etc, I decided that abstract expressionism was now somewhat passé. Pop Art was now my thing. Andy Warhol was a genius and I’m sure that we would have got along fine. OK, so I may have been caught up on the romance of The Factory, and it’s swinging vibe, and the Velvet Underground popping round, but Pop Art seemed to say more to me than the abstract of abstract expressionism, even if the ideals of Pop Art seemed less a social commentary, and more an abstractness than abstract expressionism. The throwaway essence of Warhol, Rauschenberg, Lichtenstein and, indeed, Gilbert and George, spoke more of the world I saw, in much the same way as the poetry of Frank O’Hara.

I call myself a spoken word artist. The first reason for this is that I don’t really call what I do ‘poetry’, even though the pieces that I write, I invariably call Poems. The second reason is that the term has the word ‘artist’ in it. I have a feeling that if I theorise my approach in the context of movements and art history, then I’ll no longer be able to do it properly, but the words ‘avant gard’ have been banded around in the context of my work, along with ‘performance art’ and ‘conceptual’. One of my biggest influences is the po-faced conceptualise of the Pet Shop Boys, who, along with their designer, Farrow, have created a certain unique brand of arch irony. You can do what you like, they seem to say, just as long as you do it with sincerity, integrity.

I’ve often heard it said that comedy and art do not mix. If I wear a hat, and people laugh, then it’s comedy. If they don’t laugh, then it’s art. I’ve done a lot of art over the years. That’s another reason why I am a spoken word artist.

But my biggest influence, and my favourite modern artist, is Laurie Anderson. Laurie is incredibly prolific and uses narrative as well as performance art. She invents instruments,engages with multi media work, creates pop music, and has even written a concert for dogs. Her incredibly inventiveness is an inspiration and through reading her words or listening to her music, I find the energy to embrace different projects and collaborate with different people. I’ve made two short films with film maker John Tompkins, provided spoken word for the avant gard jazz rock group Croydon Tourist Office, worked with photographers and artists in a project called the Trios, collaborated with Jo Mortimer on a set of prints, embarked on an art project of my own called The Most Insignificant Full Stop, and now I’m working on a theatrical spoken word show called In the Glare of the Neon Yak. My previous show, Static, combined long periods of silent prop based performance art with poetry, while my second show, Juicy, was a set of comedy poems. I’ve also written a novel, Reception. I wouldn’t have had the impetus or the inspiration to work on so many diverse projects were it not for the inventiveness of Laurie Anderson.

On being one of the one in ten.

You know, i was thinking the other day. People are still incredibly surprise when they discover that I’m homosexual.

I suppose it’s because I’m so manly. And masculine, and macho, And something of a hard nut. I think basically, it’s because I’m a stud.

One in ten.

That’s the figure that’s banded around. It’s ok for you gay people, my straight friends say. It’s easy for you to find a date. One in ten. Gay men are one in ten.

Well, guess what. I’m that one in ten.

So that means I’m not one in ten. For me, it’s one in twenty. But it’s actually only one in forty, if you factor in the lesbians.

Figure that I won’t find three quarters of the one in forty attractive, it’s actually more like one in one hundred and sixty.

Figure that three quarters of those won’t find me attractive. Now we’re looking at one in three hundred and twenty.

Figure that half of those might not be out of the closet yet, it’s now one in six hundred and forty.

Some will already be in a relationship. One in one thousand, two hundred and eighty.

Some will be too busy baking quiches. One in two thousand, five hundred and sixty.

And some of them will have seen my act.

Now we’re at One in two thousand, five hundred and sixty seven.

So the next time someone says, Hey, you’re one in ten, tell them to bugger off with their one in ten crap.

Going to the Wazza in the Wetherspoons

Poem

A fond and fatalistic farewell,
Sweet fingertips touching and the sickly embrace of souls,
So teary-eyed, this overwrought scene played out
Amid plush furnishings, boozy background chatter
And pro-Brexit propaganda,
Two sweethearts parting, like lovestruck badgers,
Like swans mated for life,
Indeed, like nations
Pulling out of economic and socio-political union.
With a heavy heart, and a heavy bladder,
Does Brad’s long expedition begin, for he is
Going to the wazza in the Wetherspoons.

A varnished plywood sign points the way and gives his heart hope,
As he waddles like a pregnant duck
Past tables piled high with triple decker burgers,
Through this labyrinthine, eccentrically carpeted converted sock factory
This utopia of rhythmic belching and exquisitely crafted fart jokes,
How grave this soul, like Shackleton,
Like Edmund Hilary and Sherpa Tensing, he’s
Going to the wazza in the Wetherspoons.

An anonymous door next to the serving hatch hell hole
Through which chefs sweat over the bolognese
And churn out searing hot synchronised steak pies,
Leads to a flight of zig zag carpeted stairs up,
Up, to a landing, then on to another landing,
Then up to another landing, how our hero
Hums to himself as the pressure builds, accumulated
Through several coffees, diet Cokes, Apple and Raspberry J20s,
A gallon of water glugged at the gym,
Oh my god, why didn’t anyone stop him?
He goes up to another landing,
Then through a door behind which is another landing,
And then a corridor, and then a flight of stairs,
Until it seems that this accursed maze should
Somehow subvert physicality itself,
And become psychic, subconscious,
Or maybe they just want you to be sober
By the time you get to the bogs,
Going to the wazza in the Wetherspoons.

A flight of stairs.
A landing.
A flight of stairs.
A landing.
A corridor.
Bizarrely now, a flight of stairs going down,
Immediately followed by a flight of stairs going up,
WTF,
A landing,
A flight of stairs,
Vision blurring, the zig zag carpets
Beginning to resemble swastikas,
The walls melt like a wedding cake
In a jet engine,
There’s no mobile signal,
No sign of human life,
Going to the wazza in the Wetherspoons.

Around the next corner he finds a haggard straggler,
Stooped for oxygen against the wall.
Go on, the old man says, you go on without me,
Tell my wife and kids I love them dearly.
Another door, another flight of stairs,
He thinks he hears the howl of a distant wolf
Or maybe it is time itself, mocking him,
He imagines his fate relayed to those who loved him,
They whisper his name on rainy afternoons,
The man who wanted a wee in the Wetherspoons.

Delirium comes to every soul.
A survival instinct kicks in.
How he pines for the gleaming porcelain of the urinals,
That he might lovingly caress their shiny brilliance
And lose himself to the lemony goodness of the urinal cakes,
A mirage ahead gets his hopes up
But turns out to be the mop cupboard,
He feels like crying, collapsing,
Scrawling his last message on the wall,
My name is Brad, I only wanted a slash,
Going to the wazza in the Wetherspoons.

A final corridor turns back on itself,
Reveals a door with faux gold embossed lettering, Gentlemen,
And he crashes through, almost sobbing with relief,
A journey done, a quest fulfilled, like Homers Odyssey,
Like Jason and the Argonauts,
Like those sodding Hobbits in Lord of the Rings,
He runs to the urinal and fumbles with his fly
At the exact moment that the fire alarm goes off.

The Unicycle Bride

Here’s an old poem I wrote after chatting with my friend Max at the wedding of Bryce and Oriana. My friends have quirky names, but at least I have a quirky imagination!

She’s a unicycle bride
You should see her glide
You’ll never know what she’d hide
Down there deep inside
Underneath her dress.
A unicycle.

She moves spooky
Her legs are concealed
She’s not as tall as she looks
She’s not as cool as she
Thinks she looks.

Will you take this man?
She teeters as she stands.
I, woh!
I do.
They think she’s got hiccups.
She’s covered in petals.
She’s also got pedals.

Poor girl,
The guests murmur,
Oblivious to her
Concealed vehicle,
Must be some nervous condition.

She looks quite scary
But she’s not malevolent.
And anyway it’s her wedding
So she’s prevalent.

I’ve seen the groom.
She’s got good judgement.
She’s got good balance.

Here she comes now gliding
Hovercraft
Like a poltergeist among the
Wedding guests.
It’s all happening beneath the
Surface.
From the dance floor to the bar
Smoothly, the end of her trailing
Dress and fine lacework
Stroking the skirting board
Like a man obsessed with skirting boards.
A hearty slap on the back and she’s
Almost over.
Backwards forwards she
Rocks like one of those Texan
Oil well drills.

As they pose for photos they
Throw Brussels sprouts.
One of them knocks her out.

Promotional video for my new solo show

Here’s a link to a short video I have made about my new show, In the Glare of the Neon Yak

https://youtu.be/VKEXMdGwDME

And the latest tour dates are as follows.

See you soon!

New York Poems

Here are some poems that I wrote on a trip to New York a couple of years ago. Gosh, I miss that place. Stay tuned to the end for a video I filmed on the roof garden of the Bowery House in downtown Manhattan.

New York 1.

They say that Manhattan is a state of mind
But I’ve looked on the map
And it’s definitely there.
It doesn’t stop,
Not even in the dead of night,
The rumbling, the growl,
Inexorable,
No wonder they look so angry.
I went into Starbucks at five in the morning
And there was already a queue.
Shuffling jittery city dwellers,
The insomniacs and the early risers,
The boy who cannot sleep in
The city that never sleeps,
Nothing more offputting than a
Mardy pre-caffeine New Yorker.
Don’t take coffee, I take
Well actually I do take coffee,
Thanks for asking,
And maybe one of those tarts.
I’m English, you know.
Sitting in the window and watching
The cyclists,
Weaving, open-mouthed.
Stop lights mean nothing to them,
Life seems so tentative,
These two-wheeled mosquitoes,
How many of them end up
Plastered on the front of those
Big-assed delivery trucks that you see,
Or some nobhead’s Humvee?
I thought the barista was only being nice
When he asked me for my name.
He repeated it with a smile, all
Rhotic on the consonants,
Elongating the vowels in a way
They don’t normally get pronounced,
Making my heart all fluttery
Until I notice he’d written it on my cup.
It’s the familiar things
That make me feel at home.
Crushing disappointment,
And the fact that they
Also have McDonalds over here.

New York 2.

I need one with a shot of espresso.
You’re the newbie, you’ll need this.
There’s a whole bunch of confidence there.
She never told anyone
But she likes attention.
She’s like that with every guy, trust me.
And then she can cut him out, say uh-oh,
It’s like oh, it’s bad, she’ll go far,
She got green locker room doors,
She won’t try to apologise.
I don’t have an issue with her.
Every time I told her she gave me the one two.
I used to consider you a friend
And I was your friend whatever.
(Found poem, three NYPD police women chatting in a coffee shop at the next table).

New York 3.

The way he’s sitting
And what he’s wearing
And his hair
Those are the definites.
His sensitive eyes
His long eyelashes and the
Way he just looked
At that jogger,
Those are the peripheries.
And the hoodie,
American Dance Theatre,
Alvin Ailey,
Whatever that is.
(I will google it later).
It’s all mostly symbolic
I feel
I know him.

New York 4.

She took my hand and danced with me
Amid the noise and clamour and cacophony
Of Times Square
As the skyscrapers whirled in their
Concrete and glass delirium,
She yelled
Above the engines and the horns and the
Shouting and the hooters and the sirens and the roar
And the buzz and the energy and the excitement
And the rush and the glee and the pulsing rhythms
Of the city in all its brash omnipotence,
Sorry,
I thought you were my husband.

New York 5.

(Amid the Abstract Expressionists, MoMa)
He, who isn’t here
Would have haunted these
Very pictures,
Broken nose to canvas
And a ready opinion.
Losing himself
In the Pollock
And it’s intricate action,
Felt a spark of the very now,
And would have known everyone
On first name terms.
Jasper. Jackson. Elaine. Robert. Mark.
The boy with the red trainers,
A sly flitting nonchalant phantom
Who will blond my dreams
With his purposeful demeanour
Right now here and
F would have approved.

New York 6.

I’ve only got one joke about denim.
A one liner about crinoline.
I’ve only got a couple of puns about nylon
And a quip about silk
Basically,
I’ve run out of material.

New York 7.

(Written in Tom’s Diner)
I wasn’t sitting near the window.
I was at the counter.
But it was still the diner on the corner
And the burger was mighty fine
On a drizzly Manhattan Saturday.
And there’s a ball game on the tv screen,
Notre Dame are playing NC State
And I’m not sure what the sport is
But they’ve all got helmets and shoulder pads.
There’s a picture from a magazine
Of Jerry Seinfeld on the wall and he’s
Kind of looking at me imperiously
As I eat my burger which,
As I said, is mighty fine.
I’ve got that tune in my head now,
You know the one.
The Seinfeld tv theme music.
I probably wouldn’t have come here
If it wasn’t for, you know,
These two things.

New York 8.

The Staten Island ferry
Everyone is merry
They’re all waving at me!
Am I a celebrity?
Have I been recognised?
Am I famous here?
No, they’re
Wiping mist from the windows
Of the inside seating area.
I’m depressed now.

New York 9.

She purred
Hold on there, honey,
I’ll just put you through
On to line number three.
There was barely a click.
No static.
She’s such a
Smooth operator.

New York 10.

I want to go out with Rhys.
I want to have a date with Rhys.
I want to spend quality time with Rhys.
I want to get to know Rhys.
I want to be with Rhys.
I want to make out with Rhys
I want to express my love for Rhys
I want to have relations with Rhys
I want to be at peace
With Rhys.
I say to Rhys
Please
Rhys
Please
Rhys
Please please please
Rhys Rhys Rhys
Rhys
Come on
Don’t be a tease
Put me at my ease
I haven’t got flees
You are the bees
Knees
Rhys
Rhys
What do you say?
Rhys
What of it, Rhys what of it, Rhys what do you reckon?
You and me Rhys please Rhys what do you think Rhys
Me and you Rhys you and me Rhys us together Rhys
Rhys
Us together Rhys us together Rhys us us us
Together together together
Rhys
Rhysie babes.
Please
Oh dear!
Rhys has gone walking off.
Rhys has gone walking off.
Rhys has gone walking off.
Rhys has gone walking off.
Rhys has gone walking off.
Rhys has gone walking off.
Rhys
Has called the police.

New York 11.

The big pancake. The big muffin.
The big nausea. The big nothing.
The broad one. The tall one.
The big fella. The concrete devotional.
The prostrate giant. The cosmopolitan.
The metropolitan. The big breakfast.
The all day lunch. The concrete funnel.
The distorted mirror. The seismic cherry.
The license to chill. The delicatessen.
The bad boy. The big bad boy,
Cavernous potholes so deep you’ll
Lose yourself for a week.
The big dependable. The three-way delicious.
The exuberant fruit. The hungry papa.
The pumping beehive. The big badger.
The big glacial. The big crazy.
The big security. The big despicable.
The big beat. The big Apple.

New York 12.

No ghost dance
On these gentle hills
Nor ceremonial gatherings
On the granite outcrops,
Central Park no wilderness,
Just the whisper of
Other people’s conquests
Too rooted in the now
To wander successfully.

https://youtu.be/cklyUKArFGo

Weird objects in the sky that I have seen.

Last night I watched a documentary about alien abductions. It was a terrible programme and it really did waste one hour of my life. However, it did remind me of the occasions in which I have seen weird objects in the sky which I’ve not been able to explain.

I am a logical person with an interest in science and aviation. Since I was a kid, I’ve loved aircraft and flying, and I grew up near Heathrow Airport. Because of this, I’d spend a lot of time looking at the planes flying over our house. I knew all the airlines and the different types of aircraft and could distinguish between, for example, the Boeing 747-200 and the Boeing 747-300.

In the late 1980s, my father and I both observed two bright lights in the sky to the west of our house. It was night time and the bright lights were stationery in the sky. They were brighter than the surrounding stars and perfectly parallel with each other. We observed these lights for a few minutes, and then, quick as a flash, they moved to a slightly different part of the sky, still to the west. Naturally, my scientific mind is eager to determine what these might have been. Geostationary satellites is my best guess, for they appeared to be a very long way up in the upper atmosphere. I’m sure that other people must have seen these, too.

The second weird thing I saw must have been also in the late 1980s. It was a beautiful sunny day and I was on the school playing field at break time, at the middle school I was attending. As normal I was doing a bit of plane spotting, when I saw an object floating directly above. It was metallic and reflected the sun from its sides, and triangular, slowly turning, so that the sun on its sides seemed to pulse. I watched it for quite a while, thinking, hmm, I bet they’ve got a good view from up there, and what a beautiful day to be flying, then thought no more of it. It was only when I grew up did I ponder in exactly what it might have been. My best and most boring guess is that it was some kind of helium filled balloon. But where would it have come from? It looked very solid.

The third thing that I saw already has a name and a catalogue of witness accounts. During a ferocious thunderstorm, again in suburban Surrey, a ball of lightning moved very slowly past my bedroom window. I remember it very distinctly, the way that the shadow of my window frame very slowly moved across the room, the way that my drawn curtains lit up with the light from the glowing ball very visible the other side of them. Indeed, this seems to run in our family, as my mother believes that she also saw ball lighting when she was a young adult, actually penetrating the walls of the room she was in at the time and passing right through as if it were a ghost.

And the last thing I saw was the weirdest. In the early 2000s I caught the passenger ferry from Torquay to Brixham across Torbay, again on a very clear, sunny day, only to see what can only be described as a thin sliver of metallic ribbon curling and floating through the sky across the bay, in a westerly direction. It seemed to curl and bend over itself as it moved and there were no obvious signs of propulsion, yet it was very clearly moving. My scientific mind pondered on what it could possibly have been, eventually settling on a Swarm Of Bees or some such insect, but it really did have solidity.

So these are the odd things I’ve seen during my life. I’m open minded as to what they might have been. I’m aware that some might assign them as being of alien origin, though I’m conscious that it might be almost impossible for anything to travel across the vast distances of space. I have never believed in aliens, or at least, in extra terrestrial entities.

Dawson’s Lake

Dawson’s Lake

It was the first day of summer.
A warm breeze breathed through the juniper bushes.
We went down to Dawson’s Lake,
Me and Emmy Lou,, Mary Lou, Betty Lou and Debs,
The hot sun glinting from the chrome grill of our
1957 fire red Lincoln Convertible,
Changed into our swimming clothes and fell under the spell
Of our youthful exuberance.

The water was cool and invigorating.
We frolicked in the shallows and then lay on the
Sand banks drying in the sun.
Mary Lou said that she was worried about sharks,
And we laughed.
Betty Lou said she was worried about axe murderers,
And we laughed.
Emmy Lou said she was worried about the
Representation of gender in the media
And I laughed,
And then I realise that nobody else was laughing.

I think I’ve found two grains of sand the same,
Said Debs,
She’d brought a microscope with her.
They’re around here someone, she said,
Looking at the ground.

I liked Betty Lou,
And I was about to suggest a session
Of heavy petting,
But her nose was running,
So we did some medium petting instead
And then
Chatted about nuclear annihilation.

Emmy Lou brushed her long hair in the hot sun.
She said that her uncle once met the poet Hart Crane
While ice fishing on this very Lake.
I didn’t understand why anyone would go ice fishing
When you can make ice at home
Perfectly well
In your freezer.

Mary Lou turned on the radio
Just in time for Del Shannon’s Runaway.
During the chorus I
Urinated behind a rhododendron.
Emmy Lou brushed her long hair in the hot sun.
Debs tried to alphabetise the shrubs.
I carved my initials in the rotting carcass
Of an armadillo.
Emmy Lou brushed her long hair in the hot sun.
Mary Lou and Debs arm wrestled over the last ham sandwich.
Emmy Lou wrote ‘I love James Dean’
On the side of a goose.
I urinated behind a rhododendron.
The radio played Elvis Presley’s Crocodile Rock.
Debs uses the car door mirror to
Apply her lipstick,
Wrenched if clean off the car door.
Betty Lou gouged a Pepsi and belched so loud
A flock of geese took off in fright.
Emmy Lou brushed her long hair in the hot sun
The radio played Del Shannon’s Runaway again.
Mary Lou upchucked over the hot dogs.
Emmy Lou shrieked because she thought she saw
Richard Nixon in the undergrowth.
I urinated behind a rhododendron.
The radio played Buddy Holly singing Shuddupa Ya Face.
I urinated behind a rhododendron.
I think I might have a problem.
Emmy Lou brushed her long hair in the hot sun.
The radio played Del Shannon’s Runaway.
Our lives are small and meaningless.

I really like my nipples.

Poem

I really like my nipples.
They’re kind of parallel.
The man who delivered the pizza last night
Said he liked them as well.

I stare at them in the mirror
For hours and hours in end
Singing, look at them there
All nipply nipply ever so tripply
Skippitty dippity doo
Which is how I got banned
From Primark.

The distance between
Male nipples
Equates to the size of their you know what
Equates to the size of their you know what
Dean used to say to me,
Boy, yours are so close
They’re making me cross eyed.

Crumbs from my crusty cheese roll
Get flaked in the forest of my chest hair.
As I brush them off
I accidentally touch a nipple.
Oh yes, I shout,
I forgot I had those!
Hubba hubba.
It’s how I lost my job
As a primary school teacher.

The box full of penguin nipple tassels
I sent to the Antarctic
Was sadly returned unused
I just thought
They would brighten up the place.

I dipped my nipples in paint
And tried to use them to draw
A map of the London Underground.
The Swedish tourist said,
It’s ok, I’ve got a leaflet somewhere.

I call my left one ‘Wayne’.
The right one doesn’t really
Have a name
They both look the same
And what really is a shame
Is that I can’t bend down
And lick them.

Darts players have got them.
The man in the newsagents has got them.
My friend Pete says he’s got six.
The train conductor this morning said,
Show me your ticket,
And I said,
Show me your nipples
And he said
There’s only one tit on this train.

My left one is pierced.
It’s where I keep my keys.
I come and go with ease.
They jangle when I sneeze.

He asked me out!
He asked me out!
The man of my dreams
Asked me out!
I put my hand down my tshirt
And had a good fondle and thought
You know what?
I don’t really need him.
Lol.