Sunday, 25 October 2009

Three Men on The Strand (well, two)

Listeners to the World Service will have been baffled by a recent item on their arts forum The Strand, in which two poets gibbered at each other about the Moscow Metro before reading some of their so-called verse. Thankfully, presenter Harriet Gilbert brought proceedings to a smart close, but for those intrigued by such matters, the listen again facility is available here.

The BBC's Russian Service has also had to put up recently with one of these poets barking on about some book he'd personally produced on the matter -- if we can find any details of broadcast, we'll be sure to post them.

In other news, a recent meeting in Newcastle's very own Victorian hamam produced the tri bradyagi's new idiot motto, 'Озорство или Cмерть'. This is supposed to mean 'Mischief or Death,' and they have apparently already begun carving it into their forearms with compasses and biro.

However it is already evident that they are backing down on both options. A substitute slogan 'Poems or Hangovers' has already been vetoed on the premiss that they've never had to choose between them before.

Some feedback from around the globe:

'Dear droog, what a smelly book! It's a feast, from the underground bookstores with people who see everything in black and white, to the missing banya with Bill H having lost his map (for Hades perhaps), and Andy C with no immediate access to venik sticks. Now I'll stop jumping from stranitsa to stranitsa and start from page 1. Bolshoe spasibo!’
Kristin Dimitrova, poet (Bulgaria)

‘I can't get over the life in the book. It danced in my hands as I read and wouldn't lie still for hours afterward. You make your journey fun, fun, fun, and far more penetrating, in its real language in a time of "war is peace" and false awards, than Radishchev's road trip to Moscow some 230 years ago. The constant play among you and the moving in-moving out with the people you meet and the scenes you find yourselves in are a whole social portrait in a 100-page travelogue. Brilliant!’
Frank Reeves, poet (US)

Remember, you too can reach this happy station in life by simply buying the book, then (though this is not strictly necessary) reading it.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

First three poems (one each)


‘In the morning I go down in the Metro
There my underground life runs away.’
(Valery Syutkin)

Three hundred feet below the ground,
The Circle Line goes round and round,
De-clunk de-da, de-clunk de-da,
Four syllables to every bar.
‘Dear Passengers,’ the tannoy says,
Uncomradely, though polished phrase
In regular paeonic feet
That fits the Metro rush-hour beat
Of workers paid to feed machines.
The male voice on the tannoy means
We’re ticking clockwise round the stain
Of Stalin’s coffee cup again;
An urgent metre, keeping time,
To which we nod our heads in rhyme
And mark the stress for emphasis,
Rabotniks from Metropolis,
Or clockwork soldiers on parade;
A rhythm made to be obeyed
By veterans with medalled chests,
And Moscow girls with perfect breasts,
And Moscow girls with almond eyes,
And businessmen in suits and ties,
And college kids who text and text
Between one station and the next:
I’m on the train, I’m on the train
I’m on the train, I’m on the train…


the beautiful lie

beneath a vaulted arch that’s washed
with lime, the flaking skin of passing
time reveals old joe caught in repose.
when the earth is damp & the mould
blooms ripe, a smoking gun appears, an
unlit pipe conjoining with his roaming,
georgian nose, & not unlike pinocchio’s,
they say it grows with every pretty lie

we hear or tell, with every leap of faith
we make & every unheard prayer, each
sweet mistake, each conjured hell; it
grows like cancer’s cold farewell, the only
spell to counter it the hopeful beat, the
fragile swell of every newborn’s fontanel.


Notes from the Undermind 1

Time and the Metro love directing
their passengers towards those goals
each thinks is his. No good perfecting
your tunnelled life, good Comrade Mole,
if where your present, past and future
get linked in triple-knotted suture
is also known as, well, the grave,
and no more point in being brave
or sober, son – get stewed, go canine;
sing in the banyas, chase the ZiLs;
denounce your neighbour, neck your pills –
anything but roll round this trainline
dream in, regime out, till you die…
and then you notice: time’s a lie.

The Metro’s icons, too, deceived us:
its paradise looked down, aghast,
as sheaves of shells, not corn, bereaved us
of hope: all harvests turned at last
to that reward of shit-scared squaddies:
barns filled with rapes, mills choked with bodies –
a surplus that wiped values out,
the Motherland washed clean in gouts
of any blood, kulaks’ or killers’,
Chechyen or Georgian, Jew or Pole,
Germans galore, jammed in Death’s hole…
and Russians – always good for filler –
Russians, like kasha, gruel or bread,
Russians will always round out the dead.

Everything we place beneath is lost or
skeletal ideology –
only the Metro keeps its lustre,
by swallowing itself it says
‘Forget words' surface, vote for vowels –
all palaces are in your bowels.’
Ideologues cannot forgive
beneath belief is where we live
with mole and mandrake, salamander –
no apparachnik, no mad priest
can keep all underpants policed;
no desktop-pounding Alexander
can turn a theory into joy:
beneath belief's another Troy.

banya (баня )—bathhouse


Book Launched

Three men on the Metro was launched on October 1st at Newcastle University as part of the First Thursday events series. All three men and a healthy audience were in attendance as the tri bradyagi (or however we're spelling it this month) rattled through a 45 minute set of underground favourites, as voted for by actual moles.

One in three audience members purchased a copy -- if we can keep to that average in future events the reprint and indeed the Putin-sized yacht cannot be far away. An interesting dynamic appeared in the course of the reading, as Andy and Bill traded humour and acerbity, while Paul provided the lyrical loud/quiet contrast that first brought the Pixies to fame. Now we've just got to get the intros (and the sound FX) into alignment...

For those of you eager to shell out, the book is available here, or for Amazonian pre-order here