Friday, 26 March 2021

The Wood Conductor





There was no sign of a woodcutter 
in the tin shack raised from the red earth,
the black wood of an archived forest.
Dismembered trees haunted the air,
ghosts in the pungency of cut pine. 

A tepid cup sat by a soiled plate
and a radio murmured, low music 
both there and not, a particle of time.
The businessman walked on rutted mulch:
sawdust, wood chips, a chainsaw’s rainbow.

A great stack of trunks lay seasoning,
patient for the weather to do its work,
sap congealing, slow as a slug’s largo.
Below a tarp shelter a wheel of teeth
stood idle by a pyramid of logs.

A robin hopped and sang, leading him
to the buzz-cut limit of the yard 
where chestnuts murmured their faith 
in the promise of approaching summer 
and two magpies rattled like maracas.

His black Oxfords were crusted with mud 
and a spurt of the timber-yard’s filth 
wrote a warning  up his pin-striped leg: 
Leave. Leave now!  
He loosened his tie, removed his jacket,

rolled his thick shoulders as if wriggling 
from a chrysalis, detaching his spine.
The robin was still singing loudly,
music not written in ink on a stave,
but in the helix of the bird’s DNA.

He stepped onto a flat topped stump
and with a thin wand began conducting
the sounds, a fugue concealed in the tune
from the cutter’s radio, the bird’s song, 
all the wild woodwind of the forest.




First published in text form 2/21 at Open Arts Forum ‘Front Page’ 
and in video form 1/21 at Ink, Sweat and Tears.




Sunday, 7 March 2021

Viol Da Gamba

Pleased to have this poem published in the March ‘21 edition of Allegro Poetry Journal. 
And here’s a picture of me wrestling with the beast...













 

Monday, 1 March 2021

Life & Mars



An appropriate poem for the first of March - being the month named after Mars.

This poem was started on the 23rd of February 2021 - the 200th anniversary of the death of Keats, and the day NASA released audio of the wind on Mars from the Perseverance mission.

Also the news that Lawrence Ferlinghetti the great Beat poet, publisher, activist and City Lights Bookshop owner had died the day before. 


Both Keats and Ferlinghetti believed in the importance of imagination - when writing about ‘Paradiso’ in Coney Island of the Mind no.13’ Ferlinghetti hoped that any afterlife would have no ‘burning hell holes’ and ‘nor any alters in the sky except fountains of imagination’.


In a letter to Benjamin Bailey in 1817 Keats wrote:

“The imagination may be compared to Adam's dream: he awoke and found it truth. I am the more zealous in this affair because I have never yet been able to perceive how anything can be known for truth by consequitive reasoning.”


And surely imagination is what drives all exploration? 

The excerpt from NASA in my video starts with the phrase “I invite you now to just close your eyes and imagine yourself sitting on the surface of Mars...”


When Keats died in Rome aged 25 he considered himself to be a failure - he’d published just three volumes of poetry to mixed reviews, sales of which were probably no more than 200 copies.

Aware he was dying in 1820 he wrote in a letter: 

“I have left no immortal work behind me – nothing to make my friends proud of my memory – but I have lov'd the principle of beauty in all things, and if I had had time I would have made myself remember'd”.

He had his tombstone inscribed not with his name but with the words ‘Here lies one whose name was writ in water’. 

Little did he know...


His poem Endymion famously begins A thing of beauty is a joy forever’

It’s based on the Greek myth of the young eponymous shepherd who, depending on the version, was either so loved for his beauty by the goddess Selene she asked Zeus to put him in an eternal sleep so his beauty might never fade; or, faced with alternative punishments from Zeus, he choose to sleep forever retaining his youth and beauty. 

The parallel with Keats is clear.


The form I’ve used here is a villanelle albeit an unrhymed one - in tune with the circular and repetitive nature of circumstance and endeavour. 


Finally, the title: Life & Mars. Yeah, it’s a nod to Bowie, that C20th imagineer, but mainly because NASA’s mission is fundamentally to look for signs of past life. And what is more crucial to human life than imagination?






Tuesday, 9 February 2021

Cabrillo Highway

 Published in Prole Magazine, Feb 2021. 

I wrote this while writer-in-residence at The Wellstone Center in Santa Cruz, CA. a couple of years ago. I’d driven there from San Francisco down Highway 1 - part of which is the Cabrillo Highway. 

I’ve been a fan of Peter Rowan’s music for many years, from back when I used to play a lot of Bluegrass mandolin. I actually had the honour of playing in his pick-up band when he was touring in the UK in the early 2000s, a great experience. This time he was just coming out of my radio...



Wednesday, 9 December 2020

Leaving Switzerland


I’m very pleased to have been shortlisted for the Aesthetica Creative Writing award and published in their annual anthology for this cheery poem. It - or a slightly different earlier version - was also commended for the Acumen prize and first published in that journal. 





Thursday, 3 December 2020

Ottery Dragons

In 2019 West Country film maker Danny Cooke held a competition for poems to accompany his fantastic  video of the ancient tradition of the running of burning tar barrels round Ottery St. Mary on November 5th each year. 

The resultant two videos, one by Jason Butler and one by me were released in 2019 and 2020. I was  pleased to see mine included on Moving Poems - a website devoted to the best video-poems on the web.  You can find more of Danny’s excellent films by visiting his website: https://www.dannycooke.co.uk/ 

Meantime if you need a reminder of what a crowd of people in close proximity to one another and a non-COVID hazard looks like, well here it is:







The Rewilding of Stonelands Farm

 Riptide Journal, the Exeter Uni literary magazine, has themed their 2020 edition around Climate Matters to tie in with a series of seminars taking place virtually this year. I’m honoured they’ve chosen to include my poem The Rewilding of Stonelands Farm in the publication. They also asked if I’d make a video reading to accompany it and to be shown during one of the seminars — so I put this together using photos taken locally in Devon. For some years I’ve taken to photographing fly-tipped sofas and images of rural decay, well a man has to have a hobby doesn’t he? 




See this: 
a red flatbed marooned in slurry.
A perished tyre up on top 
of a rusted Peugeot raised on blocks.
A green trailer laden with sodden logs.
Last night’s storm has passed 
and everything steams 
as if the world is being poached.
A squirrel shuffles hazels, 
clanging the galvanised tin 
of a purposeless shed.
At the island end 
of a waterlogged paddock 
five black heifers wait 
for nothing they can name.
Mystery machinery 
corrodes against stone,
caught by surprise 
when the iron plague came.
On a yellow skip throne 
a one horned quad bike 
rules this junk and rubble kingdom.
Behind a high fence, 
something happened 
the Planners wouldn't like.
A snapped sign says: 
    Private Kee
Nothing moves. I wait 
and nothing moves again.
The Earth is readying itself 
to accept a death, the slow 
disassembly of molecules.
See this: empty pubs, silent schools.

Sunday, 18 October 2020

Daffodils in Acumen


 I’m delighted to see my poem Daffodils from The Tin Lodes published in the Autumn 2020 edition of Acumen Literary Journal 



Monday, 28 September 2020

Book Launch in a COVID window

 In between the easing up of COVID restrictions in the Summer and their reintroduction in September, Andy Brown and I managed to sneak in a couple of ‘socially distanced’ live readings for our new book. 

I think people were delighted to have the opportunity to get out to a live event again, albeit with appropriate safety measures in place. Sadly it looks like a long winter of living rooms ahead...







Wednesday, 12 August 2020

The Tin Lodes goes out in the world



It’s lovely when your book goes out into the world and people send you photos of poems they like being read in cafes and London mews...



 

 

Sunday, 7 June 2020

THE TIN LODES - PUBLICATION


I’m delighted to say The Tin Lodes, a collection of poems written collaboratively with Andy Brown is now published!

We started this project four years ago so it’s really great to have found an excellent and enthusiastic publisher and to see it going out in to the world. Andy and I are both really pleased with the poems we’ve written for this collection - for my part I think there’s some of my best work in here. 

More details on the publishers website: 












Thursday, 4 June 2020

Hide Songs reviewed in The Blue Nib literary journal


Very pleased to see this kind review of Hide Songs in The Blue Nib literary magazine today.

Excerpt:

“In his new collection ‘Hide Songs’, Marc Woodward is the factotum of a gruff, stubbled country of hedgerows, pubs and disrepair...

In poems populated by rescued animals and women, silky transformations, hangovers, fishermen and pub gigs, as well as fifty different ways of describing the changing skies of the West Country, there is always a notable quality of craft...

Like John Burnside’s poetry, Woodward writes gently and concentratedly about things vanishing and uncertain...

I’d strongly recommend this beautifully presented book to anyone” 




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