“Bad Art”

 

We’ve all been at a gallery, exhibition or crafts fair where local artists have shown their talents. Maybe some of us were among those artists. Challenging young bloods need platforms and opportunities to express themselves, demonstrate their skill and encourage interest. This is entirely laudable and good.

 

But we have also, all of us, been confronted with meaningless, artless drivel, too. Painfully bad art. Installations which challenge one’s patience more than one’s expectations; large canvases that are accompanied by yet larger (and much more coherent) explanatory plaques, detailing myriad inspirations for the drivel in watercolour before us.

 

This poem is dedicated to bad art. Art so bad it makes us howl with laughter. Art so awful it brings me life. Based on true stories. 

 

We’ve seen some difficult art, you and I: endured
Milk poured on raw beef for five aching minutes,
Deliberate arse-milk; a purposefully bad
Violinist; an angrily shouting mime.
We’ve heard serenades which cannot be unheard,
Watched a woman wrap herself in a hundred linnets
To say something about, Prada? Once, we had
An entire soiree devoted to “war crime,”
By which the artist meant, “my record collection.”
See, unappreciated persons seek
Appreciation, a living retrospection…
If one can retrospect the Great Oblique.
Unlived lives demand the praise they lack,
So when art laughs at you, darling: howl back.

 

 

 

“Superstition”, Stevie Wonder

 

And next in our series of “Songs to do horrible things to in films”: 

 

 

The opening riff is already enough. It starts with a beat and a bounce which in an instant gives the character a step, a rhythm of movement.

Moving towards the first victim. Grooving towards the second.

I imagine a preposterously well-tailored individual, sashaying in time to the music – or just off-beat, perhaps, uncle-dancing with self-indulgence – flick-knife in hand. while he allows horrendous things to happen to those around him in a crowded bar.

Or: on the rooftop, early evening, flame-coloured sunset. Our anti-heroine takes a deep breath of air. Cut to the office workers in the floor below, toiling away, gossiping about her by the photocopier. Cut back to the rooftop. She examines the barrel of fluid, which has been punctured and haemorrhages petroleum down, down the drainpipes, down the stairwell, gushing down to the floors below.

She lights a cigarette. She nods to herself to the rhythm, self-aware, smiling at her personal joke. She inhales, holds that intake of smoke, and flicks the butt to the open barrel as the chorus concludes.

There are also lots of things one could do to riff on the theme of superstition: voodoo, pins and dolls; someone eases an ornate mirror from the top of an apartment, teetering above their victim. Bad luck.

“Jazzman,” Carole King

 

And the next “Song you might massacre people to in a film” is….

 

 

Such a beautiful song. Such a joyous, honest, playful, loving song. Tapestry is deservedly one of the most successful and popular chart albums of all time, and Jazzman is suitably one if its best-known and dearest masterpieces.

What if in the dark of the abattoir, the antihero places a noose around the victim’s neck and hoists them higher and higher, as Carole sings: “Lift me, won’t you lift me? Above the old routine?”

What if the perpetrator falls to his knees, in near-religious wonder and pity, and praises his dangling handiwork: “He can cry like a fallen angel, when the risin’ time is near…”

I mean, pay attention to those lyrics. They’re not just sunshiny happy times. They’re capable of poignant sadness. The song is already a potent dichotomy of major, uplifting melodies, and the blues.

Just apply this to the abattoir. Instant Academy nomination.

Keep

 

Kept like vanilla in the sands of
White sugar’s thirsty taste:
Just as water on my hands, or
A bookmark in my pages; as
A swing-beat to my dance, or
When someone calls my name; as
I’m losing count of stars because
Of soon-arriving day… just as
Perfume on my wrists; or as
Wine-notes in my glass I
Feel you close like we were first: just
As the touch of stringed guitars. Just
As water in my vase, I
Am kept inside a kiss, and
Hold memories of stars.

 

A song, for Blair, presently without chords. Entirely about keeping someone close, even when apart: how even small gestures can carry love with them, or evoke the divine. 

Need / Demands

 

Aching softly as I wake to life,
The working violence

Need demands. The frame of my
Defiled intelligence

Lost on industry, and not in praise
Of earthly silence.

Lead me not to this, to live in peace,
To die in irrelevance.

 

 

For every Monday morning, Wednesday fag break and Friday afternoon. 

Put me to bed

 

Put me to bed with a spoonful of bedtime,
A sweet emptiness, a shallow sum
Of clear tonic.

Tell me one tale, of a land we both know well
Cannot be, a fantasy, a coloured book
Of missing pages.

Shroud me in a sheer, fine sheet of night time,
Barely close enough to hold, a layer
Of almost-air,

Leave a glass by the bedside, and dim the lights:
Lower a kiss to my face, and let the door
Alone say goodnight.

 

As ever, mercifully this is not a reflection of my current state of mind. Admixture of affection, distance, protection, dissonance, condescension and love. It’s the cold comfort we all occasionally feel, reasonably or otherwise. Blame Plath. 

In her time she was a star

 

In her death-throes, the sun silently rages,

Furious at her weakness, bleeding dry:

The havoc of her heart, immaculate.

Fall headlong, lover, for a falling star,

Chase Venus if you must: for Venus ages,

A former debutante who longs to die.

Hold to her longing, though it lies afar,

Perfect, once, and so disconsolate.