Sunday, 16 December 2018

The New Music


Last week, you tried to play
Beethoven’s Fifth
on your towel.
The week before, it had been
Mozart’s Concerto for Flute and Harp
using a radiator,
and some left-over floor tiles
from your recent kitchen refurbishment.
So, when you said to me
that recently you had made a breakthrough
in your Musical Odyssey
and had learnt to play the banjo
in an afternoon,
while somewhat sceptical,
well, I thought,
it’s good to see you heading
in the right direction;
at least you’ll be able to pick out
some melodies from
whatever latest over-ambitious
musical interpretation
you had decided to conquer.
What would it be?
I briefly wondered.
Certainly not some bluegrass;
that would be far too obvious
for a banjo.
Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto?
The exquisite opening to Mahler’s Fifth?
‘Banjo,’ you said,
‘I have discovered,’ you continued,
‘is’ and here I started to worry,
‘the ideal medium for the poetry of rap,’
and proceeded to play the lyrics
of Public Enemy’s Fight the Power
using your banjo.
And only your banjo.
‘I’m done with musical interpretations,’
you said, after you’d ‘finished’.
‘As well as learning to use the banjo for rap,
I’ve started composing.
It’s easier than I thought,’
you continued, ominously.
‘I have managed to conceive, musically,
what Richard Strauss was unable to do,
and have accurately described
a teaspoon in music.’
I asked what instrument you had used
to achieve this astonishing feat.
‘The piano, obviously,’ you replied,
and looked at me as if I was mad.
‘It’s what all we composers use
in the first instance,’
and then proceeded to play a piece
which lasted for seven hours.
When you’d completed this musical marathon,
I suggested that perhaps seven hours
was a bit long to describe a teaspoon in music.
‘What I have discovered,’
you explained,
‘is that the smaller the object,
the longer the piece of music,
and vice-versa.
Here, look,’ you said,
‘a b-52 Bomber,’
and threw a hand-grenade at the piano.
After we’d dusted ourselves down,
you said, ‘Although I’m not sure about the coda.
What do you think?’
I expressed my uncertainty about the whole endeavour,
especially the part where you destroyed a piano
with a hand-grenade.
‘Typical,’ you replied.
‘I knew you wouldn’t understand.
The piano is bourgeois 18th century
at its worst and must be destroyed.
Anyway, I’ve decided to turn my back on music
and pursue a career as a socialist revolutionary,’
you said, and proceeded to smash
all of your medication
with a hammer and sickle.
‘That was George Michael’s Careless Whisper,’
you explained.
‘One last hurrah before I set the workers free.’

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Infinite Loop


I sometimes threaten go on strike. It’s then that my boss points out that, as I’m a poet, it basically makes no difference anyway.

‘What’s the difference between a striking worker and a poet?’ he asks me.

I jokingly reply that strikers tend to get more done than poets and, even though they’re striking, have a higher earning capacity.

‘Ha, ha, ha! LOL. Amiright?’ I add, in case he thinks I’m being serious. But, no, apparently it is actually the right answer.

‘I can see your life hasn’t been entirely wasted,’ he says. ‘At least you’ve learned one more thing than how to write iambic sodding pentameter. Fair play, I suppose.’

I can’t really complain about my working conditions as a poet. My ‘garret’ is a four-bedroom detached house on the Worcestershire-Birmingham border, I have easy access to notebooks, and more pencils than you can shake a stick at. But striking’s all about the money, really, isn’t it?

It’s reached the stage now that whenever I bring up the subject of a raise, my boss walks over to the cupboard, takes out the bicarb, and says, in that deadpan tone he’s spent the last five years trying to perfect, ‘That’s a close as you’re likely to get, Mr So-Called Poet.’

I point out that, as a so-called ‘So-Called Poet’, I’m the one who’s supposed to be handing out the metaphors.

And then I usually threaten to go on strike again and we find ourselves caught in an infinite loop from which there is no escape.


Monday, 10 December 2018