Life is a long song – Mark Connors
I am fused with the sounds of my childhood:
the rushed drop and the almost silence
of the first groove, Penny Lane and All You Need is Love
while my brother washed, splashed on the Aramis
before a night out in his two-tone shirt.
I am fused with Sinatra and Frankie Laine
and a host of other crooners Mum used to play
while she peeled the spuds and sank some suds
before Sunday dinner. I am fused with the tunes
of Relax and Remember with Karl Gresham.
I am fused with famine, rebellion and war
via Dad playing The Wolfe Tones, The Furey Brothers
and Christy Moore. I am fused with the voice of Luke Kelly
and the deep bass drawl of Ronnie Drew.
I am fused with songs from prisons by the Man in Black.
I am fused with Suzi Quatro and Debbie Harry
who eyed me up from my brother’s wall.
I am fused with the countdown of the top 40,
all that Ska, Punk, Rock and New Romance.
I am fused with The Birdie Song and The Floral Dance.
I am fused with drum solos, guitar virtuosos,
and the blatant self-indulgence of Progressive Rock.
I am fused with the songs of Marillion and Rush:
Forgotten Sons and The Spirit of Radio,
I am fused with Pink Floyd’s too many ticking clocks.
What’s more, I am fused with the memories
that have hard-wired themselves into these songs.
I am fused with what I wanted, what I dreamt of, what I got.
I am fused with songs that accompanied
first kiss, first love, first pint;
I am fused with the entire soundtrack of my sorry little life.
Today’s Sunday Poem is the title poem from Mark Connor’s first pamphlet, published by Otley Word Feast Press. I met Mark a couple of years ago at Ilkley Literature Festival when I was Poet in Residence there. Unless my memory is playing tricks on me, he came to a workshop and wrote a fabulous poem there, and then was awarded first place in the Poetry Slam by myself and my two esteemed co-judges, Phoebe Power and Rodolfo Simoes.
I saw Mark again very recently when I was over reading for Word Club in Leeds. In fact the last two Sunday Poems were collected at this evening so it seems fitting to make this the third one.
I read Mark’s pamphlet a couple of weeks ago, very late at night, when my eyes felt grainy and red because I was so tired. It was such an easy read though – very enjoyable, and fun but also with moments of sadness and poignancy as well.
It is easy to identify with this poem, which explores the place that music can play in a life, and I enjoyed the examples used throughout it of particular songs matched with particular memories – the Beatles in Verse 1 with the image of a brother in a two-tone shirt, the ‘crooners’ with the image of a mother peeling spuds.
The poem is clever in that it gives us an instant handle on when the speaker was born and when he was growing up through the music that is mentioned, but we get this not only from the songs he listens to, but also the songs his parents and his older brother listen to as well.
Does anybody else imagine what the soundtrack would be in a particular moment of their life, while it’s happening? I haven’t done it for ages, but having finally downloaded music on my phone after upgrading my phone contract, I spent a lot of this weekend walking around the streets of Galway listening to early albums of The Rolling Stones.
There was something unbearable about this, but in a good way. It felt terribly lonely, to be listening to music that nobody else could hear, to not hear the traffic and the voices and the river which was running high and fast as I crossed over the bridge into town. But it also feels incredibly connected and human to be listening to a song that can move me to tears or make me want to bounce my way through the streets.
I also really love the line ‘I am fused with what I wanted, what I dreamt of, what I got’ – I love that they articulate the knowledge that these three things are very different. I also found the last line of this poem incredibly moving – this idea that music gives those tiny moments in our lives importance and meaning but the conclusion at the end of the poem is that it is a ‘sorry little life’.
This last line intrigues me – it feels half ironic, half tongue in cheek, but also unbearably sad. I don’t know which way to read it, but I like the idea of music giving tiny moments in our lives meaning and importance, which is a theme that runs throughout the poem.
It made me think of moments in my life that are fused with music. There was one night I was ‘ignoring’ an ex who was throwing a pebble at my window to get my attention. I put on Beethoven’s 5th so I wouldn’t be tempted to go down and speak to him. Think of it like Odysseus lashing himself to the mast so he didn’t follow the Siren’s song, but without the sea, the storm or the near death experience. I’ve been trying to write about that night for a long time and I’ve never succeeded – probably because I haven’t worked out why I want to write about it yet.
If you would like to find out more about Mark, head over to his website where you can also order a copy of Life is a Long Song for £5.50, including postage.
Last night I played with the Soul Survivors at The Nines, a nightclub in Barrow. Apart from a bad shoe decision ( I wore my favourite Irregular Choice ones that felt, by the end of the first half, what I imagine having your feet bound would feel like), apart from that, I absolutely loved the gig. It made me remember why I used to love playing the trumpet, why it’s been in my life since I was ten years old – so that has been one thing that has been lovely this week, to rediscover that feeling again, and to learn that it can be rediscovered, that I can fall in and out of love and in again with music and playing.
On Thursday I went to Galway to read at the Over the Edge reading series, hosted by Kevin Higgins and Susan Millar DuMars. There was an audience of around 60 there and I could tell from their response to the first two readers that they were going to be supportive, responsive, engaged – everything you could want in a poetry audience really!
I managed to sell 22 copies of my book (my record for sales at a reading) which made it very easy the next morning to trot around Galway with my light-as-a-feather suitcase. Selling so many books definitely added to the positive experience, but the people I met were so lovely and friendly it made me love Ireland even more as well. I have full intentions of returning to Ireland next year for another driving-about-the-place holiday, so if there is anyone in Ireland reading this that would like me to come and run a workshop or give a reading, please get in touch. It would be great to get a few events lined up in a row so I could fund my travels and justify swanning off on holiday again!
I would like to recommend a magazine to you today as well – I’ve just subscribed to The Dark Horse, after meaning to subscribe since meeting Gerry Cambridge, the editor, at Stanza in March. It is a fantastic read – lots of good poems and really interesting, in-depth articles on particular collections by poets which I really liked. I’ve left my magazine subscriptions slide recently but again, reading The Dark Horse made me remember why I used to love subscribing to lots of magazines.
I’m signing off now before this becomes a truly mammoth blog. I might not post again before Christmas, so if I don’t, I hope you have a wonderful and happy Christmas. I’m off down to Leicester to visit my family which I’m really looking forward to. The next blog post will be the last Sunday Poem of 2015, and the post after that will the 2015 round up, which I’m actually looking forward to doing this year! Happy Christmas everybody, and thanks for reading – if you’ve managed to stay with me this long, you deserve a medal!