“Playing Solitaire for Money” is a collection of lyric poems, which are contemporary in form and subject. It’s roughly split into three types of poems. The first third are poems about our globalised experience – seeing us as small parts in “a colossal machine”, bit part players in the complexities of modern society. The poems take our everyday experiences and distil them into somewhat surreal, but always truthful scenarios. The middle poems in the collection are more personal – observations on modern life, or ruminations on cinema or fiction. The last few poems are more playful – stepping out into the hidden landscapes on the edge of the city, or conjuring up scenes of middle-class absurdity. Yet there is nothing mundane in these poems. A cup of coffee in a high street chain is a chance to imagine the “impossible narratives” of the “coffee girl” serving the author; getting lost in a maze becomes a question about poetry’s use of metaphor; and, in the poem from which the title line comes, a person’s internal manias become a real life “monster”, that sits on it’s own, “playing solitaire for money.” These two dozen poems are never slight, and always repay re-reading, almost metaphysical in their warping of our recognisable realities. Continue reading
“Over and Back” is one of the older poems in “Playing Solitaire for Money”, written in 2005. I sometimes baulk at the idea of writing nature poetry. I have always lived in cities or on the edge of urban landscapes; even if my childhood was spent in that strange “edgeland” (to use Micheal Symmons Roberts and Paul Farley’s term) of the Midlands “Green Belt.” My landscape was always a man-made one, however full of wild flowers and stretches of water it might be. Continue reading
I haven’t read this poem from Playing Solitaire for Money that often, so its nice that it was recorded when I opened my short set at the 2011 Manchester Book Market in St. Ann’s Square. It’s one of several poems towards the start of the book that uses technology imagery to explore the contemporary condition. Perhaps the “colossal machine” is Google or the Wayback Engine? Or, as in Douglas Adams’ “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” a computer yet to be built.
A Colossal Machine
Rewinding our histories can’t play the tape,
For that requires a colossal machine,
That has long gone out of production,
Or has yet to be made. In part, it’s myth,
Yet we subscribe to it, our site feed
Syndicating the latest news, as if a thing
Can be dripfed to us through words.
The manual alone would be extensible,
Using a language shared by half the world’s tribes,
Competing to contribute to a shared goal.
The ultimate prize for the next life;
Our essence read, stored, accidentally erased,
Whilst the tests go on in private.
In my room I murmur a prayer.
I’ll be reading at the Manchester Independent Book Market in St. Ann’s Square, from “Playing Solitaire for Money”, along with other poets, performance and otherwise, and fiction writers on Saturday 18th June 2011. It’s always a good day, even if it occasionally (always!) rains…. I’m on at 1.20pm in the afternoon. Continue reading
A while back, I remember a Michael Mackmin editorial in the Rialto where he wondered where the political poets and poems of the day were. Around the time of the Iraq war, a number of poets contributed poems to quickly assembled collections, but, though poetry may have won the argument, it lost the decision.
It seems that we are at another moment, domestically and internationally, where writer’s who ignore what’s going on in the world can almost be accused of a dereliction of duty. Yet political writing is never easy, and often mistaken. At the same time, I’ve always thought that the majority of my writing is political, if only because I do write about the contemporary world. Continue reading
JT Welsch and Adrian Slatcher will be reading from their new Salt Modern Voices Collections “Orchids” and “Playing Solitaire for Money” respectively at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Cambridge Street, Manchester in Manchester City Centre on Wednesday 19th January 2011, 6.30pm. Free and there will be wine and an opportunity to buy the books and speak to the poets. All are welcome.
Directions to the International Anthony Burgess Foundation