Troublin’ Mind ( Big Bill Broonzy)
Musical bruises punch your brain suck your gut in the hollows of your heart
valves clock counterpoint between a thumb and a hurt. Your liver plucks
music for fools to die to with the sound of the river running through dark
with tiny hopes and sailing dreams sad promises of someday sunshine and dim
almost drowning something that never quite gives up smouldering.
First published in Erbacce
It begins before any thought towards making a poem, never mind bringing it to be in written form. It begins with a listening and then attempts at playing and a puzzle forms between the experience of listening and the physical performance and rational language of notes and chords. How does the physicality of playing the instrument relate to the physical sensations produced in the listening? Is there another music in here somewhere? A felt but unrealised conversation between player and audience?
I look up the song, the words, written in music books – another balancing act. The words, set out in rows are black on white and no way blue. Without the music and the musician they are flat clichés, repeated and reworked pastiches of other voices, other troubles. How do these sounds, strained through music systems never thought of in their time, hang together? – a packing of a life’s experience in a fragile skein of words and notes, so tangled that no one, the writer, the singer, the player, the listener, knows quite what is happening in the spaces between the threads.
How much of what I hear and feel is intertextuality? – a grand word for all I bring to my listening, which I interpret through my own experiences of rage and pain, sadness and hope, mixed in with my love of place and location. But it is the beauty of the performance that makes me take pen to paper: to play with all the song (a paltry word for this multi-faceted creation) suggests: to try to catch the thing that Broonzy makes happen somewhere between the thumb and the string, the air and the vocal chord – and to see more clearly my own magical response.
The Edge Hill experience At my age, doing a PhD was something of a gamble. They say it is harder to learn and develop as you age but this just isn’t true. Yes, at the beginning I struggled with poetics and ethics and some other ics. I floundered in the miasma of masses of information as I began to research but structure and the courage to explore and play came and with it some beautiful experiences and a delicate nurturing of writing which has never left me in the four years since completing my thesis. Winning the Impress prize for my PhD novel was a terrific vindication of the work I put in and also of the advice and guidance of my supervisors, Robert Sheppard and Ailsa Cox. I think that to some extent writing is a given talent but I am indebted to the Creative Writing department at Edge Hill for helping me to draw out and develop that talent with the ongoing aim to become a better writer.