Wednesday, 30 November 2011


Penguin Modern Poets 5 - Gregory Corso, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg

Delighted to find and get this today in beautiful condition for a 1963 first edition [along with no. 4 Holbrook, Middleton, Wevill, also 1963 and near pristine], and this picture will be of a later edition because both of mine are priced on the cover at 2'6 - that's two shillings and sixpence for you young 'uns. 

Here's a sweet one from Ferlinghetti

Dove sta amore

Dove sta amore
Where lies love
Dove sta amore
Here lies love
The ring dove love
In lyrical delight
Hear love's hillsong
Love's true willsong
Love's low plainsong
Too sweet painsong
In passages of night
Dove sta amore
Here lies love
The ring dove love
Dove sta amore
Here lies love

Not An Advertisement, Though That's An Opinion...

I do look forward to my monthly Uncut magazine. When it arrives by post, I diligently work through it from the front, quickly checking the regular First Cuts and features. But what I'm rushing to in the first instance is the Reviews section, not surprisingly. I enjoy others' reviews, especially the bulk of the necessarily concise ones, and like discovering what's new, and agreeing or disagreeing with opinions of those I already know. One of the longer reviews in this month's edition is about Amy Winehouse's posthumous release Lioness: Hidden Treasures by Garry Mulholland. It is a fond and appreciative review, sensitive to the situation - as one would expect - and convincing in its honest appraisal.

Reviews are always first and foremost about opinion, as well as knowledge and understanding. It's about preference. So I also enjoy appraisals that come at the end of the year, for example The 50 Best Albums feature. Differences of opinion are no more than that, but it's fun to get into those differences. Uncut chose PJ Harvey's Let England Shake as their number 1. I wouldn't place it very high at all, not liking its essentially dissonant sound, but respect fully its intelligent and timely reflections on war. I know many commentators would give considerable weight to the integrity of that intellectual creativity. Quite right, but it just didn't work for me.

Uncut's number 2, Gillian Welch's The Harrow & The Harvest, would be my number 1 without any problems. Josh T Pearson's Last of the Country Gentlemen is at their number 5 and that sounds fine. Their 17 for Feist's Metals is too low for me, and their 15 for Wilco's The Whole Love too high. Ry Cooder's Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down at their 20 is also, for me, harsh, and here's an album that mixes caustic reflections on political and financial ineptitude with musical excellence - a marriage of content and creativity I don't hear in the Harvey. Uncut top 20s that seem sensible are Tom Waits' Bad As Me, Fleet Foxes' Helplessness Blues, Laura Marling's A Creature I Don't Know and Bon Iver's Bon Iver. Also sensible at 10 and 4 respectively are The War on Drugs' Slave Ambient and White Denim's D.

Where's Ryan Adam's Ashes and Fire, Glenn Campbell's Ghost on the Canvas, Jeff Bridges' Jeff Bridges and Shelby Lynne's Revelation Road? And I could go on but it would take us further up the long and winding road of opinion and difference. You can travel there on your own, and I hope you do.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Two Cannibals, a Goat and a Duck

Josh T Pearson, Phoenix Theatre, Exeter, 25th November

Two cannibals are sitting down eating a dead clown. One turns to the other and says 'Can you taste something funny?'

This is one of many jokes Josh T Pearson told throughout his solo performance last night, others mainly about musicians, drummers, ducks and fucking goats. I was surprised - unaware that this is the norm for his live performances - and the jokes were often pretty crude and puerile stuff [a friend said Jethro told 'jokes' like this, which was interesting]. But when your individual and lengthy songs are as deep and despairing as Pearson's, and sung in a trance-like state that seems to remove him completely from audience and place, it is understandable that they will be punctuated by light relief in order to keep from disappearing into the dark.

It was a mesmerising performance. On record, you actually hear the lyrics more clearly, and the occasional string accompaniment on his album Last of the Country Gentlemen adds sombre depth, but seeing and hearing Josh perform live is a singular and significant experience. His vocal range, especially in volume, is a key instrument along with the amped acoustic guitar where songs are played across simple chords but finger plucked and then flamingo strummed - again ranging across the full volume spectrum from inaudible to orchestral. The songs seem to end when they have to: when the emotion is exhausted. It is a memorable experience to see him like this.

There was good crowd banter with Josh last night. One key moment was when someone shouted 'Do you like women?'. Pearson pondered on this and then it became somewhat of a focus with his recurring expression of incredulity about being asked if he liked women, supported by expressions of loving blow jobs and so on to follow. The man who shouted the question said his girlfriend had asked. More incredulity. I just thought that it was, in the circumstances, quite a deep and understandable question because Pearson's lyrics do so often portray the violence, threatened or real, of a man against a woman. I imagine this to be the voice of a persona, not Pearson, but you can understand the question being asked.

Pearson does tell a great joke about cunnilingus and Willie Nelson, but you'll have to see him yourself for a chance to hear this one. For a very good review and interview, check this out:

Friday, 25 November 2011

The Claudia Quintet + 1 featuring Kurt Elling and Theo Bleckmann - What Is the Beautiful?

Beautiful, At Times

My interest in this album was roused by the appearance of Kurt Elling whose jazz singing and vocalese I rate highly. The concept was also of interest: setting the poetry/words of Kenneth Patchen to music, and as I said in the previous post, this prompted me to research Patchen's writing.

And I'll have to use the word now a third time: it is an 'interesting' listen. Opener Showtime is a spoken number by Elling, who has a potent narrative voice, and it begins with a tandem vocal/bass walk with the words. The musical element is essentially minimalist - there are no sweeping or erupting ensemble forays. Showtime becomes most engaging when the sensuous story of love and undressing concludes this beginning track, the bass and piano fading out in polite withdrawal from the scene.

Next track The Snow Is Deep On The Ground features Theo Bleckman - new to me but a regular with John Hollenbeck's The Claudia Quintet. It's a light, wispy vocal; not like the resonant tenor of Elling. In this track Bleckman's soft sound empathises with the words and snowy evocations of love,

The Snow Is Deep On The Ground

The snow is deep on the ground.
Always the light falls
Softly down on the hair of my belovèd.

This is a good world.
The war has failed.
God shall not forget us.
Who made the snow waits where love is.

Only a few go mad.
The sky moves in its whiteness
Like the withered hand of an old king.
God shall not forget us.
Who made the sky knows of our love.

The snow is beautiful on the ground.
And always the lights of heaven glow
Softly down on the hair of my belovèd.

Ted Reichman's accordion provides a gentle bed upon which to lay this lover's note and the equally gentle saxophone of Chris Speed. The third track Mates For Life is an instrumental where the vibes of Matt Moran reign - it's pleasant enough with John Hollenbeck's drumming climaxing towards its end.

Much of the music is minimal, staccato playing as with fourth track Job which is a comic narrative that Elling performs with sardonic gusto. Fifth track Do Me That Love poses part of the album's problem: how to make the words and music marry so that the former is clear and the latter engaging. Bleckman's spoken vocal here is again light and therefore lost at times, and the music, especially early on as it carries the story, is no more than that - a simple transportation. The repeated lines of the title do not get a rousing mirror that could have lifted this track from its slumber. Next Flock is more musically mad with its accordion and piano battle, dissonant and dangerous at times, a morse code of sound joined by clarinet and vibes in the liveliest number on the album.

The title track is the most powerful poetically, and Elling again recites with clarity and dramatic timing: Patchen's words passionate and humane and critically hopeful, blinded by its splendour. This is followed by eighth Beautiful You Are, another romantic reflection by Patchen. Overall the album is at its best when Elling performs - perhaps a simple reflection of my musical bias - but also when the poetry is to the fore. That is, after all, the celebration.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Proletariat Poet

Kenneth Patchen - Eve of St Agony Or The Middleclass Was Sitting On Its Fat

I'm sure this is a repetitive point, but writing this blog is as much diary as it is music review and presenting poetry. It keeps me busy, reflects music being listened to, and then other thoughts and ideas. Sometimes it gets read by others.  One writes to be read, let's be clear, but the self-reflection and actual preoccupation of the physical writing is the fundamental purpose, designed or not.

Just ahead of reviewing The Claudia Quintet + 1 featuring Kurt Elling and Theo Bleckmann - What Is the Beautiful? I have been reading the poetry of Kenneth Patchen which this album celebrates. I did not know his work, though I should, so I have been reading about him and his poetry before getting into this album that honours the 100th year of his life and work, Patchen having died in 1972. So as well as diary and self-reflection and so on, researching and writing for this blog is educational. 

Patchen was active in linking poetry with jazz music and performance and that is clearly the  focus of The Claudia Quintet album. I've enjoyed reading a small selection of his poetry found online, especially his more political fare. In his early days he was apparently referred to as the Proletariat Poet, and although Patchen allegedly rejected this appellation, it is obvious why he was given the title, and the one poem I'm going to print here illustrates that. It also speaks as much for today as it did when written in 1939 [*],

Man-dirt and stomachs that the sea unloads; rockets
of quick lice crawling inland, planting their damn flags,
putting their malethings in any hole that will stand still,
yapping bloody murder while they slice off each other’s heads,
spewing themselves around, priesting, whoring, lording
it over little guys, messing their pants, writing gush-notes
to their grandmas, wanting somebody to do something pronto,
wanting the good thing right now and the bad stuff for the other boy.
Gullet, praise God for the gut with the patented zipper;
sing loud for the lads who sell ice boxes on the burning deck.
Dear reader, gentle reader, dainty little reader, this is
the way we go round the milktrucks and seamusic, Sike’s trap and Meg’s rib,
the wobbly sparrow with two strikes on the bible, behave
Alfred, your pokus is out; I used to collect old ladies,
pickling them in brine and painting mustaches on their bellies,
later I went in for stripteasing before Save Democracy Clubs;
when the joint was raided we were all caught with our pants down.
But I will say this: I like butter on both sides of my bread
and my sister can rape a Hun any time she’s a mind to,
or the Yellow Peril for that matter; Hector, your papa’s in the lobby.
The old days were different; the ball scores meant something then,
two pill in the side pocket and two bits says so; he got up slow see,
shook the water out of his hair, wam, tell me that ain’t a sweet left hand;
I told her what to do and we did it, Jesus I said, is your name McCoy?
Maybe it was the beer or because she was only sixteen but I got hoarse
just thinking about her; married a john who travels in cotton underwear.
Now you take today; I don’t want it. Wessex, who was that with I saw you lady?
Tony gave all his dough to the church; Lizzie believed in feeding her own face;
and that’s why you’ll never meet a worm who isn’t an antichrist, my friend,
I mean when you get down to a brass tack you’ll find some sucker sitting on it.
Whereas. Muckle’s whip and Jessie’s rod, boyo, it sure looks black
in the gut of this particular whale. Hilda, is that a .38 in your handbag?

Ghosts in packs like dogs grinning at ghosts

Pocketless thieves in a city that never sleeps
Chains clank, warders curse, this world is stark mad

Hey! Fatty, don’t look now but that’s a Revolution breathing down your neck.

[*] Read today's High Pay Commission report, for example, and especially the Banks' refutations of its findings which essentially amount to arguing that top salary increases are by the Banks' calculations only massively disproportionate rather than mega-massively disproportionate! Their creed: greed is relative.

Reading Rupert at Tilberthwaite

Dogs have barked all night, the puppy
whining in its weaning from nightmare.
In the morning, chores must confront sun
or rain or the more likely mix of both,
and the dogs are running rings around
sheep for the fun of it – unless their instinct is
simply circular. The fells and their stone and
trees and streams have been here forever,
looking down on this domestic day
with the equanimity of  knowing balance.
I read your poems in the light and dark of
this one week here, hear again the dogs in
their household dreaming, or the howling
that rounds everything together to a whole.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Nils Lofgren - Old School

Shut And Open Case

Old School is an interesting title for this album. After listening I think it is musically more declaration than realisation as rock is rock and Nils Lofgren writes and performs here the guitar driven and balladic rock songs he has for years, and which others - in their own ways but within its conventions - have in the past but also today and no doubt forever. It is timeless, not age-related.

The title’s sentiment is therefore more in the song’s lyrical preoccupations. On this album Lofgren is in a reflective, meditative mood. Aged 60, he isn’t quite standing on that final hill to look back upon a life and musical career, but he is reminiscing about aspects of this, and death too, the latter informed by the realities and consequences of getting older – where family and friends increasingly encounter this loss – and the specific memories of fellow E Street Band players, keyboardist Danni Federici and saxophonist Clarence Clemons. This is the focus of track Miss You Ray, written for Ray Charles, but in recent interviews Lofgren has observed that since the death of Clemons he does think of the Big Man as well as reference him when performing this song live. It is a beautiful ballad, echoes of Springsteen in its descending vocal line.

Opening track Old School, with guest accompanying vocalist Lou Gramm from Foreigner, is the album’s outright rocker and is a rousing one at that, Lofgren’s slide guitar making its own declaration that here is one of rock’s greatest practitioners. The song with a title that should make the most strident claim 60 Is The New 18, is for me the weakest musically though there is wit in its take on those trying too hard to hang on to their imagined youthfulness. Love Stumbles On presents a wry and wise observation on resilience, and it’s hopeful in its contemplation. Amy Joan Blues presents another quest vocalist, this time long-standing friend Paul Rodgers, and is a jaunty barroom blues number. Nothing ‘old school’ in the recording of this: Lofgren has commented on how the vocals were transferred digitally, he and Rodgers collaborating over the internet! This is followed by the beautiful Irish ballad Irish Angel written by Bruce McCabe and highlights Lofgren’s gentle vocal. Ain’t Too Many of Us introduces the third guest vocalist, and this time a face-to-face recording with the great Sam Moore – it is another strong song reflecting on past achievements but also loss, with snatches of Lofgren’s guitar harmonics within the sublime solo, his signature excellence. When You Were Mine is another sweet and emotive ballad, the personal storytelling ringing true and again thoughtfully reflective about friendship surviving. Perhaps the ‘old school’ here is in the strength of age that values what has gone before and which is translated with such empathy in the songwriting. Just Because You Love Me is the most obvious Springsteen-influenced tune on the album, and eleventh track Dream Big is Lofgren taking the privilege of his age to extol the virtues of being bold but humble in doing your best: dream big, work hard, stay humble – give big, stay strong, be humble, humble, humble. Perhaps this is the album’s touchstone moral, and I’ll trust and listen, but with two and a bit years to my own sixtieth I perhaps have an inkling.

The album’s closing two songs are both slow and soothing. Penultimate Let Her Get Away is another song reflecting on regret and acceptance with Lofgren in fine maturing voice. Closer Why Me is carried by a scorching guitar throughout, the harmonics-wail symbolising Lofgren’s defiance and strength, both as writer and performer in this paused but not final stand, and as he declares in typically earnest cliche, when one door shuts another opens wide.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Nils Lofgren - Flip

Flipside Of The Awful Eighties

Right smack centre in the musically awful 80s and I discovered Nils Lofgren with my cassette copy of his superb album Flip. I’d known of him like many as guitarist in the E Street Band but wasn’t really aware of his independent career, though I’ve collected  most of his Grin and solo work on vinyl since then. I was also unaware at the time of his 17 year old cameo on Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush and involvement a little latter on Tonight’s The Night. And this only scratches the surface of his involvement with other bands,  musicians and live performances, individual and communal.

Lofgren’s vocal is light and an acquired taste, but I acquired a love for it long ago and think this aspect of his work is underrated. The same could be said for his guitar playing: those who know his work will surely not have this problem, but he doesn’t appear to be more widely and generally acknowledged as one of the greats. I’m not sure I have the most accurate description of his style, but the signature sound is the way he plays and uses the guitar’s harmonics, and the feedback he rides off this. Not surprisingly, Lofgren sites Hendrix as an influence, but the feedback aspect is different to Jimi’s. Another stated and perhaps bigger influence is Roy Buchanan. Truly awesome examples of this can be seen and heard in Lofgren’s mid 70s performances with Grin on the Old Grey Whistle Test [on YouTube]. Check out Back It Up, Cry Tough, but especially his brilliant Keith Don’t Go where near the end of his lengthy solo you get an excellent example of his finger-picking those harmonics - then Lofgren self-duets with electric piano and guitar, ever keen to showcase his virtuosity. There’s also a 1981 OGWT of him playing Night Fades Away and this take us towards the time when Flip was released in 1985.

Ignoring the irony of my raving about anything from the 80s, Flip is a bright and energetic album, even the decade-delighting in synth-sounds, which feature throughout, unable to spoil my enjoyment in this – cue opening to Secrets in the Streets with its anthematic chorus, strident drum beats, harmony vocals and harmonics-tinged guitar combining to bring a kudos to that synthesiser wash. Delivery Night is, for me, more typically Lofgren as songwriter and performer with its gentle vocal delivery and narrative core – hints of 50s/60s rock’n’roll balladry [sha-la-la baby] echoing throughout along with that distinctive guitar.

King of the Rock is in many ways archetypal eighties fare, but the guitar drives this too with an authority salvaging it from my aural rejection: Lofgren’s rock-roots triumphing in controlled feedback and echo in an elongated solo ending. Peach track on the whole album and in my all-time list of greats is Sweet Midnight, guitar wail railing against the 80s drum beat at its beginning. Vocal echoing runs through this track too, but the guitar is always on the top driving towards the false funky end of screeching, hisses and yelps – until it slices back in victory. New Holes in Old Shoes is an acoustic, harp and blues tune that steps outside the time frame to remind us of Lofgren’s musical roots, electric solo again at the end dancing with the harmonica.

The album ends on two classic Lofgren songs, Dreams Die Hard and Big Tears Fall, the former a love lament and the latter a beautiful if slightly lachrymose ballad. BTF foregrounds the gentle vocal that is distinctly Lofgren, and the sweet saccharine of the lyrics is a genuine reflection of his earnest honesty and innocence as man and performer.

I had the pleasure of seeing Nils Lofgren play an acoustic set at a small venue in Plymouth. Bliss. 

I Did My Best

I’d like to think that
I did my best would be enough in a
world so full of conflicting stories
and the dead art of just believing,
yet even setting up this idea
of a compassionate thought is
tugged down by the weight of prior
teaching: how I and everyone else
should be thankful for the given and
guidance prevailing in our
home towns or more universal
touchstones, as if the rule book
on living has pages turning long before
your fingers feel parchment on flesh.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Neal Casal - Sweeten The Distance

Sweet Soul Needed

Sweeten The Distance is an apt descriptor for the process of listening to this album, not that I mean it’s an aural procedure – just that whatever time you spend absorbing these 11 alt-country tracks will be honeyed by Casal’s gentle vocal and pleasing compositions. It’s not a tart selection: time playing with the Cardinals has clearly influenced these Adamsesque songs with their plaintive narratives and sweet harmony choruses; the pedal steel providing background Americana roots. The opening three songs – title track, Bird With No Name, Need Shelter – are the soft and smooth starter.

Fourth Let It All Begin introduces a more up-tempo, trudging beat, but the next White Fence Round House slows the pace again; however, this is a lovely ballad washed by harmony and Casal’s light, sweet vocal. This is a stand-out song and my favourite. Sixth So Many Enemies slowly punches again, but then seventh Feathers for Bakersfield returns to a strings launched and then Country tinged ballad – the strings and pedal steel sweeping in and out in an unusual push’n’shove for attention.

Eighth Time & Trouble is darker lyrically and foregrounds Casal’s guitar playing a little, but it isn’t until ninth How Quiet It Got that there’s a mini excitement of sound in the middle and this could and should have been sustained then raised by a wilder playing of the guitar at its end. The final two songs play out in more sweetly soft harmony and pedal steel, but there is a danger of anonymity in this plateauing. By the end I think some listeners will find it sickly-sweet. This isn’t my judgement - having the tooth for this kind of pleasantness - but there were times when I would have liked Casal to inject some of that lively soul funk he put into the recipe with his work in Hazy Malaze.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Scorpions - Comeblack

Forecast: Fair to Middling

I missed the Scorpions in their 70s incarnation, their 80s commercial success, and thereafter. I happened upon this latest release by chance and listened, plugged in, to dig the garden. Anything relatively heavy is good earth-turning fare, and this assisted the process as predictably and consistently as the English weather. Their new album is made up of re-recordings of the band's hits - most of which I don't know - and then some from other bands. Were the Scorpions ever actually heavy? I found this loud because I had the volume on full, but otherwise essentially MOR. Blackout and Rock You Like A Hurricane got the spade working up an occasional bluster in the soil; Wind of Change and Still Loving You, however, wafted in the digger's doldrums. I know they're ballads, but....

What did startle, and the reason really for reviewing an album that hasn't worked for me, was the eighth track. As I've said many times, the 80s largely passed me by like a slow-moving and dull weatherfront, so imagine my surprise and horror when Tainted Love stopped me in my shovel swing. The chugging beat of the song played as heavy metal lite actually got my attention. I think I turned over three or four rows with considerable gardening gusto for those entertaining 3 minutes and 28 seconds.

That flash flood of enthusiasm was soon evaporated by the following covers: Children of the Revolution, Tin Soldier, All Day and All of the Night, and Ruby Tuesday. Covers will always be a peculiar liking, and it would take something special to harvest these absolute classics as a new crop, so you won't be surprised to hear that the Scorpions couldn't, for me, muster the muscle to turn these over afresh.

It can be done: listen to Vanilla Fudge.

Deep Purple - BBC Sessions 1968 - 1970

Purple Patch

I have just been listening to this excellent compilation of live recordings from various BBC programmes/sessions - Top Gear; Dave Symonds Show; Sounds Like Tony Brandon Show; Chris Grant's Tasty Sundae Session; Symonds on Sunday; Stuart Henry Noise at Nine; Mike Harding's Sound of the Seventies; Transcription Services - and I am reminded of what superb music they produced and performed in these early years, for example obvious cuts like Hush; versions of Help, Hey Joe and I'm So Glad; Speed King; Black Night; Into The Fire, and Child In Time. Nostalgia rock'n'rules!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011


She wants romance as the tide turns its
black ink into the shore after the sun has set
and the sky is still ignited. Venus mocks her
as a star, but it could be that what you see and
want is what you get in a dream like this.
Even the stone where she stands emanates
heat from the day’s long drag to this moment of
reflection, and the mystery of mauve on the
horizon is solidified. It’s all in the description,
as if a kenning captured and controlled these
odd but normal realities, and a boat sails
up the river to the sea in a wind-full word.

Still watching the waves she has one last hope
and the sky darkens its heliotrope.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Peter Reading - Shitheads


England's finest unknown poet is perhaps Peter Reading, a complex and hilarious writer who masters poetic form as well as mastering the most mundane to nasty realities of modern, atrophying existence as his subject matter.

One of my most prized poetry books is a limited edition copy of Reading's Shitheads, published by Michael Caine through the flippantly named Squirrelprick Press in 1989, the final year of Thatcher's deadly decade. Mine is a signed - by both writer and publisher - and numbered copy of a planned 200. It is 125 of the 177 actually produced, 23 having been lost to damage at the cutting process. One of the special consequences of my having this copy is that I engaged in a short exchange of letters with a friendly and helpful Michael Caine about his production of this book and others - Shitheads being 'entirely hand-printed, bound etc on mouldmade + handmade papers'. Of his hand-crafted books more generally he says 'they're more human(e) and most importantly, the papers are acid-free (glues also) so the books will last forever'. And he is right, Shitheads being palpably real, the tactile and visual aspects of the paper - rough edges and all - making it a physical pleasure to handle, and the cover has 'a wood engraving by a friend of mine (Colin Kennedy)' which is a raised image of three baseball caps with the word 'Shithead' on each and an accompanying turd.

This short collection contains translations of Catullus, and Reading poems about 'unsatisfactory people', those framed by a decade of greed and the pursuit of the self in England - and within a global context of a world environmentally, politically and morally diminishing: persistent themes in Reading's work, and painfully apt for the financial decadence and culpable indifference of the corporate world today.

Reading's poems do often satirise to soften the attack - though not always - but in this collection he leans to the jovial if dismissive dismay,


Aspirant big-time publican (nagged by
              termagant tart spouse)
flies for the golf to Costa del Parvenu
              where are encountered:
       Chicken 'n' Turkey Chunks chief
       (puffing Habanas like mad);
       name-dropping, aitch-dropping rep
       ('Sundries and Fancy Goods, me');
Nearly New Motor Cars baron whose slattern
              wife is a quondam
        Tiller Girl tap-dancer trull;
        yuppie computer exec...

This must be seen in the context of other poems/characterisations/contexts, both in this collection and across all of his work, for Reading is consistent in his contempt for shitheads in all their slack and slight proclivities. He is particularly offended by the consequences of their behaviour and actions,


Thanks, Mr Smith, for deciding Execly, when you abandoned
      people and purchased a car - just over 13 grand
                                                  (humans depreciate more).

Company limos, especially this one ( a silver Montego),
     ego-boost Reps and Execs, heighten the tone of the place.

That day you also saw fit to lay-off three hapless employees:
     millworker, driver, a clerk - also-rans not worth three fucks.

It loses the eloquence of its consistent invective when removed from the whole, but you get the gist. Placed against the translationese of Catullus poems, in their precise and varied metrical lines [a stylistic preoccupation and perfection in Reading's work], these gain more relevance. I am not by any means informed on the work of Catullus, but there is apparently a close correlation between his exposure of society's ills with Reading's poetic pot-shots.

In my early years of teaching I used  Reading's poem At Marsden Bay from his 1983 collection Diplopic as a stimulus for getting students to think about the issues raised and how these are conveyed poetically. It is a poem about four sixteen year old louts who terrorize and kill kittiwakes nesting innocently where the boys have decided to prioritise their play. Probably based on real experience, it is also a metaphor for how a world 'two hundred and eighty million years old' can be instantly desecrated by the crass and cruel indifference of the modern world, here manifested by the presence of the four boys,

Three of the four are cross-eyed, all are acned.
Communication consists of bellowing
simian ululations between
each other at only a few inches range:
'Gibbo, gerrofforal getcher yaffuga',
also a low 'lookadembastabirdsmon'.

The poem always worked immediately in rousing reaction to the stereotyping of the boys' physical appearance and use of language! I mention it because the last poem from Shitheads I'd like to copy here shows Reading continuing with his concern for the destruction of our physical environment,


       Twenty-three Black Country ramblers, thank you
       (plenty of decibels, Brummagem blah-blah,
       Army Stores walking boots, anoraks, knapsacks,
       one of you wearing a Have a nice day badge
       one of you wearing a cap blazoned Shithead,
one of you chucking a drained 7-Up can into the heather)

       for cheering this lonely Shropshire upland
       with orange and crimson fluorescent clobber,
       shrieks, squeals, ululations and feculent litter
       (tampons and turds smirch bracken and whins), and for
driving away the only Hen Harrier in ten years here.

Marvellously miserable!