The Tide Clock proof has arrived

The new poetry pamphlet I’ve been working on with Hugh Greasley and Joe Franklin has arrived in proof form. There are a couple of minor errors to be fixed: I didn’t leave enough room between the bleed and the page margin on the cover, for one thing. These should now be resolved and I’ve put the order in for the first printing.

The cover art is Paziols Morning by Hugh. Check out more of his art at hughgreasley.co.uk.

Get in touch if you’d like me to post you one!

The Tide Clock proof

The Tide Clock - Mark's poems

Sea music: foreword to a poetry pamphlet

Sea music - foreword to a poetry pamphlet

I’m hoping to send our new poetry pamphlet to the printers this weekend. It’s the second collaboration between myself and poets Joe Franklin and Hugh Greasley. To whet your appetite, here’s a draft of the foreword:

Sea music

Ted Hughes once said that if the reason we travelled to the coast during our holidays was to relax, we’d be better off avoiding the traffic and crowded beaches to stay at home in the garden. He was hinting at another reason for our habit of staring out over an ocean, and that is to connect with a reality much larger than the habitual selves we usually are. Returning to the sea frames our lives. It presents a new surface each time we visit.

Viewing the expanse of the ocean brings the mind back to the immensity of reality, and broadens our perspective. No wonder it has been a central character in the work of poets from Homer to Walcott. And yet in nearly 3,000 years there are still new things to say about the sea. The way people relate to it and earn their livelihoods from it continues to change. Yet the sea can hold our lives because it’s both a uniform vastness and a unique weathering of the coastline. The stretch of coast between St. Ives and Zennor that Hugh and I walked last summer is famed for resembling a splayed hand grasping the edge of the water.

Many things have happened in our lives since our first shared collection, The Inner Sea: much of which can be glimpsed in these poems. It seems fitting, then, that The Tide Clock and Other Poems is centred around coastal transformations. One of the oldest truths is that everything changes but change. Nowhere is this more obvious than at the fringe between land and sea: the intertidal zone where, even when it seems the waters are calm, they ebb or flood imperceptibly under the hidden influence of the moon.

So, The Tide Clock… is an exploration of boundaries and connections. With this in mind, we collaborated on the title poem, each writing one of its three movements. The intention is that our theme will flow between the boundaries of our individual styles and perspectives to find its own expression in this particular pamphlet you now hold. We hope you enjoy it.

Mark Cooper, Cornwall, 1st March 2015.

If you’d like a copy of The Tide Clock, email me at mark@markdcooper.com. I’d welcome any reviewers, bloggers, or readers who’d like to take a look at it. In the meantime, have a read of our first poetry pamphlet, The Inner Sea.

Narcissus Looks Again

The pond was deeper than expected,
a giant footprint stamped into the earth.
It was home to a fifty-pound ghost koi
called Persephone. Music became silence,
became music again. Moonlight shone on the tiles.
Persephone broke the water with her tail.
Now gaunt and middle-aged, I saw the moon glint
on water like a ten pence coin, miles down,
and the carp circling the moon.

Ishmael’s Leg

I’ve just finished typesetting the first draft of The Tide Clock and Other Poems. This will be a shared pamphlet featuring poetry by Joe Franklin, Hugh Greasley and myself. It’s not unlike the split 7″ singles bands used to put out to share production costs and pool their fanbases. You might remember a similar collection we produced in 2013, The Inner Sea.

As a taste of what’s to come, here’s one of mine that draws on Melville’s classic, Moby Dick. Check back here soon for more news about The Tide Clock

Ishmael’s Leg

“I was crowded for space, and wished the other parts of my body to remain a blank page for a poem I was then composing.”

— Moby Dick.

I’ll leave it blank.
These patterns are only as permanent as skin
though a decent word might outlast the sea-places
I go to fish or through which I leave a life.
Shallows are quick to warm but never the same
from one wave to the next: like the bays, beaches and ports
long cast out of which, even if I’m gone an hour,
swell with strangers, new winds, tides.
You can never go back.

My mind’s tattooed with dreams,
changing more than my blue-inked body shows.
Nothing I write could fill the absence of friends
more central than myself in a life between storms.
Tyrants, bad weather and worse luck have marked me
more indelibly than ink but I love the tale
because I’ve never been the author of my fate
and yet there is a silent part to tell.

Anon. – The greatest of all poets

No doubt this January 1st we’ll all spring out of bed refreshed and ready to seize the promise of a pristine new year. As our clear, crisp minds embark on new creative pursuits, here’s a question to help understand what kind of projects we’re working on and who they’re really for.

Would I be willing to do this anonymously?

In other words: is this for personal gratification or personal enjoyment? Is it something I’m willing to stand behind? Is it worthwhile for others, and/or in its own right? The question is intended to help us clarify our motivations for working on a task.

Anonymity does appeal, however. I remember reading poetry anthologies in school and thinking the best poems were by Anon. Who was this mysterious Anon who wrote all of the bold, simple poems that spoke with such undeniable clarity that they sounded fresh, funny and often alarming centuries later? Now I find myself wondering who these poets were and why their names don’t appear in the anthologies. Perhaps a famous master decided that a straightforward, comic piece didn’t fit her oeuvre. Were they risking controversy? Did they only have one poem to write or thousands? Were they always anonymous or was their name lost over shifting centuries? Conversely, how many poets now exist in name only, a bit like Ozymandias?

This touches on the topic of intrinsic motivation. Some projects are passions and important for our fulfillment and sense of wellbeing. These are some of the most meaningful activities we can do. If I write a story because I enjoy the challenge of expressing myself, I don’t need the approval of others to do so. In fact, in some ways writing becomes more enjoyable if no external recognition is asked for or received. It becomes deeply personal – and its worth won’t be coloured by the opinions of others.

Other projects are valuable because they do have meaning for other people. They could be social, like playing guitar with friends; or inspiring, like painting a scene that stirs emotions. Perhaps a project will benefit a community or directly alleviate someone’s suffering. We might consider still other works, especially those at the pinnacle of a craft, worthwhile purely as aesthetic or innovative achievements – or perhaps because such actions or behaviours are inherently worthwhile. Solving a hard mathematical problem or learning to dance might be good examples (though neither are strengths of mine).

On the other hand, we’re likely to encounter disappointment when we expect our work or art to bring us pleasure because of how it reflects on us. Then we derive little enjoyment from our effort unless it gains us recognition: something we ultimately have little control over.

It’s a good idea to know what kind of satisfaction we’re looking for. Happy New Year!

Shigeru’s Cave

i.

When Shigeru was twelve, he found a cave
no one else had explored. The other boys
avoided that part of the wood. Their base
bordered the hillside near a soldier’s grave
now used as a bookmark for civic grief
but Shigeru went on deeper forays
into the forest. He staged one man plays
under the teeming emptiness. He tried to carve
murals in loneliness and what was slight
became whole, wider than the cave itself.
Even the dust made shadows when he lit
an oil lamp and ghosts rose to a swarm.
Their dreams were parables in low relief,
unknowable but easy to transform.

ii.

Shigeru blew out the flame and black verbs
gathered the unlit part of their burden,
climbing like fireworks with each blink, hidden
like smoke wrapped in a darker sky. Suburbs
called him from beyond the wood, offering bribes
of long stillness when the clearing was done.
A blind thief arrived. He made his den
out of insults, heartbeats and rubies.
He polished their blood-beauty like you would shoes,
counting them over decades, relieved
to find company in his own echoes.
For all the thief’s effort his only prize
was a hundred smooth-dull stones. Shigeru breathed
from the forest, smiled and opened his eyes.

iii.

The silence became floodwater, so bright
it glittered between branches yet so dense
it pulled the cave inside out and blindness,
regrets and blessings tumbled free. Black roots
erupted from the ground. Bare branches wrote
poetry in their scrawl against a wilderness
where swallows flew. Shigeru watched them dance.
Small deafenings and tensions came apart
as he stepped into a larger, deeper cave.
Meandering home and late for his tea,
a schoolboy paused for a minute and gave
his hands to the slow part of the river
to feel its cool alignment with the sea;
a darting, unexpected scale; quicksilver.

 

‘Shigeru’s Cave’ was shortlisted for the 2014 Live Canon Poetry Competition and appears in the competition anthology, available from Amazon. It was inspired by the formative experiences of Nintendo game designer, Shigeru Miyamoto.