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Peter Jukes

Monday, 28 September 2015 18:45

Super Blood Moon

Super blood moon over Dover 28 September 2015

Amarone moon

Dark fermented red

A couple whisper in the doorway

Before they go to bed

 

A fox stops in the arches

Glances at the moon and back

To the red eye of the signal

Hovering over the track

 

3.14 am 28 September 2015

 

Monday, 15 December 2014 00:00

Mid-day Torpor, Pale and Vague

This is my version of Eugenio Montale's celebrated poem 'Meriggiare pallido e assorto' (original Italian here) , first written in 1916.

The date is significant. Though the poem appears as an anti-idyll, nature poem, it's actually permeated by the carnage of World War I. 

Montale

 

Midday torpor, pale and vague

Beside the crumbling garden wall

Hear from the thickets and the thorns,

Snap of blackbird, scatter of snake.

 

Through cracks in the mud, in its wrinkles,

Marauding armies of red ants

Now breaking ranks, now interlinking

To fight over some insignificant mount.

 

Leaves quake as the sea below

Ripples its scales, and starts up 

Cicadas shaking with rage 

Screeching from arid escarpments.

 

Blinded where sun blazes

Shadowed by sad amazement

How our life and labours

Are followed like this path

By a wall of jagged glass. 

 

koudelka 2010

At least startling to me. 

Last night, while using a search function to find (unsuccessfully) a recent translation of Rilke poem, I stumbled across this sequence dated 5th May 1998. 

This is starlling to me for many reasons. Firstly, I have no memory writing it. Many of the lines and theme re-emerged in later work for the next five years, but every time I used a line again (a lot of the third poem for example about a woman I met later that year) I assumed I was ironically quoting someone else's work: perhaps something I had translated once.

Unless I'm mistaken, I was inadvertently quoting myself.

But beyond echoes and literary themes such as Orpheus and Eurydice, is the way the imagined poem prefigures, in early 1998, the events of the next five years. The more romantic sections are - almost word for word - a pre-emption of a turbulent second marriage. Meanwhile the closing section set in the Old People's home is almost like a first draft of the poem I would write about my mother's death ('Learning to Die') five years later in the Spring of 2004.

What does this prove? That I am incorrigibly predictable in my emotional responses, and that there is a pattern I impose on events which I unconsciously fulfil? Quite possibly. A more benign interpretation would be that I was unconsciously preparing for the turbulence ahead. 

I've tried, vainly, to search the internet to make sure that this isn't some kind of unattributed translation. One reason makes me doubt it. The recurrent re-appearance of the image of my dead father, especially in verse two. That image of talking to a dead father obsessed me from my early 20s (inspired by reading something in Freud's work on Dreams) and he disappeared in 1996, two years before this poem was written.  He actually died in 2008.

I note I have yet to repeat or reinvest that bit of the story.  Yet.

(The only thing I've altered from the 1998 original is to add a missing number and a title for the third poem).

 

EURYDICE AND HER FATHER

1. APROPOS OF NOTHING

Always at four in the morning

Before milk bottles sing

And babies cry

In a pool of silence

Of lamplight and silence

She waits

Darkening the page.

 

Eurydice may be

All alone

But what does she want

With any Orpheus?

 

She has her own words

Her open necked dress

And her own sharp sword

Which her father gave her

To cut off his head

Should she find him wandering

In this place of shades.

 

She will not rest

Wondering

Till the babies cry

And the milk bottles sing.

2. THE BRIDGE OVER THE STYX

Last night she saw her father in a dream

Though he had been dead ten years or more

She engaged him in talk quite normally

Though his face had decayed and his coal eyes burned

Asked him how he was and did not stop

As they walked along the river she ignored

The silence he kept and kept on talking

Everything she could to occupy his thoughts

Until they came to the bridge

 

She knew when he crossed it he would see

His reflection in the water and confront

The subject she had been avoiding

How dead he was!

It was not a lesson he could take

Like a brittle stem of clematis

You bend around a frame

He would break

And face the full horror alone

His empty eyes

Crumbling skin

What choice did she have?

The border was final.

He couldn’t leave

So she had to stay

.

Then Eurydice remembered how he’d given her a sword

One strange occasion, long ago, when she was young

The words he’d said: ‘In another world

You may be my parent and I your son’.

For the first time she understood her meaning

The trouble of the thought passed over her face

Now clearer than the water in the river

And on it her father saw his state

 

‘Eurydice, he said, free me from this misery

Look away. As the moon fortnightly

Turns away from darkness and towards the light

Just leave me behind in this place of shades.

Your presence shames me. Your kindness

Dries my heart and reminds me what I was

I hate you for it. Will haunt you for it

Don’t curse me any further by staying here

Make severance our last connection

Find the sword I gave you

Cut the strings of filial love

Do us both justice

And look away’

 

And at that moment

The dream was ended

His memory faded

Without a trace

 

3.  WHEN NO ONE LISTENS

We were gathered at the pub

She came down and sat with us

(No-one noticed) but when she left

We saw her place was empty

Then we knew she’d been.

 

And she is here at this moment

Sitting in this room, she leans over

Finishes these lines

But the moment you look up

She’s gone. You’re just read Eseoing.     

That’s how you know she’s been here

 

No one collects her e-mails

Studies her manuscripts or fingernails.

Sometimes they see her on the Underground

And ask her what she meant

But all she can do is shrug

Unable to say

 

She cannot speak

when they are listening.

 

And she was there when the prizes were given

Smiling at everyone, putting her arms

around the guests, nodding

in agreement, and even manages

to express a little sympathy

for the deceased – herself.

Practises her acceptance speech

Waits behind the curtain

But is never called

 

She was there. But nobody saw her.

 

Orpheus sat under the trees

And imagined missing her forever

But she sits under the stairs

Imagining the dark the hope

They will find her. But they won’t.

She hides so well. No one will.

 

And when no one is listening

Eurydice sings

 

At her best

When no one listens

 

3. FOUR DIFFERENT ORPHEUS'

And the fourth she can’t remember at all

 

All called Orpheus

 

4. EURYDICE IN THE OLD PEOPLE’S HOME

 

Take from her

This stroke

Of luck

This lump

Of pearl

This blade

of grass

 

Nothing is more subtle

 

Than the whole thing singing together

A chorus without conductor

When the only audience is

The voices themselves

As they rehearse

Listen!

 

Take from her

The fizz

of hair

The crystal

Of privacy

Her reflection

In her eye

 

And what is left?

 

The soul goes before the body,

The mind fails before the flesh,

 

Soon the deafness is so deep

She can no longer hear herself

 

An eagle’s feather

On an empty desk

 

5. FINALE

Maybe it’s the last thing left

When the memory of the light

Of the mountains and the sky

Of wild open spaces

Blurs behind your eyes

To the vague screens they put around your bed

And you turn to the wall

And even that fades

Into pale

Insubstantial

Hospital

Shades

 

Maybe it’s the last thing

When you look at the clock

To tell what year it is

And strangers arrive with sad

Incomprehensible faces

Bringing flowers that smell

Of someone else’s sickness

Call you mother and grandmother

And you’re dimly conscious

How the end of each sentence

Is lost in ellipses.

 

Maybe it’s the last

When fury makes the only kind of sense

How they pushed you punished you

All those years of resentment

Stole your house your son your pills

Covered you in bruises

When your life is running backward

Deeper into childhood

Back to cold flannels and wet sheets

Spooned food helpless moods

Inexpressible rages

Maybe it’s the

Maybe it’s

 

Maybe

 

And just when you think

There is no reason left

Just when you think

No coherence or intent

At the bottom of the pit

She finds it

Like a wish

An instinct to survive

But not like this

Her own residual stubborness

To live

But not exist

 

Now at last she’s back in charge

Refusing to move

Ruling the roost

 

For two weeks now

She would not eat

Would not talk to anyone

Has lost two stone

She does not rage

But sits in her chair

Has shut her mouth

To love and antibiotics

And no guilty entreaties or mellow mints

No guilty tears will move

Those lips

Only parting for

The breath

She takes

This is her last gambit and now she’s going to win

And that’s what she leaves them

Her gift

Her determination

 

Sometimes it seemed it was never going to end

They never end, the mortgage, new launches

Strange faces, the visitors

Breakfast TV,

The neighbours banging on the door

The rattle of the trolley down the corridor

Sometimes it seemed it never would

But she takes her breath

 

And this at least is finished

 

 

 

Saturday, 13 December 2014 00:00

After a Recent Reunion

 
hstones1
 
By the time we finally met
It was already a quarter of a century too late
Thinking age would not change us but it did:
 
Like two segments of a circle
Sundered by a seismic fault,
We weathered either side of the rift valley.
 
So many mornings those decades I'd wake up
After you came into my dream towards the end of sleep
The familiar voice, face, the feel of your hips
 
To abandon me again! From that grief
I'd make snow queens of delicious ice,
Then a temple of chalk - deserted memorial.
 
But a divided past cannot be reconciled,
Milestones are not history. My high road ran on
Leveled on the rubble of more  broken hearts.
 
You have recomposed me. The swimmer dips in water;
The evening settles on an edge of ochre - 
Nothing unsupported, left to chance
 
Yet I abandoned you. How did I invert it?
Ambition, deliverance, carried me away.
Damnation awaits those who march the hardest

 

Monday, 01 December 2014 00:00

Temples of Guilt

Rodin-Orpheus and Eurydice

The Great Greek poet

Recalling his nation's victories

Memorialised his heroes less than his enemies;

Hector and Priam,

Possessed and dispossessed, 

Vanquished but vindicated.

And so the Trojan horse

Was a gift after all

For what it's worth.

 

For what it's worth

They think a woman wrote the story of Ulysses

Some bored housewife in Ithaca, 

Imagining an epic husband,

And the temptations he resisted

To return and repel her many suitors,

Penelope of the suburbs. 

And Orpheus' long descent into hell

Was clearly a ruse by Eurydice

To get his attention,

Which she certainly did,

Losing her by looking back

On the threshold of escape

A  brilliant double bind catch

To ensure her image imprinted

Sinking into the darkness

For generations:

It's Eurydice we miss.  

 

So the first poets weren't torn apart

By envious furies,

But by the split in their hearts 

The fork of their fickleness

Where they built these tremendous 

Temples of Guilt. 
 
Saturday, 29 November 2014 00:00

Our Smolensk

contrails

 

“Flying is easy

The hard part is landing”

 

Just when they thought they had made it

Over the blood lands,

Through electrical storms,

Warm air turbulence,

The sky criss-crossed with their evasions

Divorce, death, debt, madness,

Ice on the wings,

Fuel surcharges,

Just then they saw

The landing strip appear

Lit up like a Christmas fair…

 

On the glide path to disaster

 

We’ll always wonder

Technical malfunction or doomed intervention?

Did their national histories shoot them down?

Or exhausted, disorientated

Having lost their horizon,

Undershot, overcompensated,

By human error, human love,

Driven into the ground?

 

 

Hail falls now

From the residue

Of their vapour trail

 

Under our feet

Cold hard bitter seed.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014 00:00

Song of Autumn

 Pairs autumn
 
 

I

Soon we'll be diving into freezing shadows.

So long the brilliance of summer so short.

Already I hear the ominous echo

Of wood logs knocking on courtyard cobbles.

 

And now Winter will take its toll: anger,

Hatred, shakes, horrors, hard labours, 

Like the sun in its arctic circle of hell,

My heart will congeal to a small red block, frozen.

 

So I quake when I hear the dropping of logs;

More deadly to me than the rap of a scaffold.

My mind is like a castle tower shattered

By a battering ram, relentless, massive..

 

Till I'm rocked by each monotonous blow,

Nails hammered in haste in a coffin,

But for whom? -  yesterday summer, autumn now!

These doom-laden sounds - like a valediction. 

 

II

 

I love your wide eyes, their emerald glint,

Subtle and warm, but I'm cold and bitter.

And nothing, your love, the bed, this fire, beats

A glimpse of sunlight over the sea.

 

Yet you love me regardless: gentle, maternal

Despite my ingratitude, unworthiness;

Lover or sister, you are that short lived bliss

Of a setting sun or a glorious autumn.

 

Cut short! The grave yawns, voraciously.

Oh let me rest my forehead on your knees,

And savour, while missing the white-hot summer,

The soft yellow rays of a dying season. 

 
 autumn-charles-baudelaire
 
Translated from Baudelaire's Chant D'Automne by Peter Jukes
Wednesday, 22 February 2006 00:00

Is Google God?

google god1

This is an edited version of my contribution to a conference and debate about the impact of the Internet on Literature, held in Barcelona in 2006: some of the thoughts have been rendered redundant by history: but not all of them. 

 What a great subject for a cafe@europa. Thanks to the internet, I am replying immediately, with my unmediated thoughts late on a Friday night/Saturday morning. I only do this because the subject is so provocative and stimulating. Otherwise I would be sleeping! I think the internet is part of the ongoing ‘electrification of the word’.

The word, the logos, is such a fixed and profound part of Hellenic thinking. It required education, expensive vellum and the social organisation of the monasteries to develop. In the age of mechanical reproduction, to be ‘published’ to be official, required either the apparatus of state or commercial capital investment.

 But what do you need today? For the means of production, just a printer and a computer. And for the means of distribution and exchange? A blog site.

My personal feeling is that the age of the word – the hieratic, priestly, authored word – is the exception. For most of history, language has been oral – fluid, shared, unrecorded. The paradox of the information age is that the written word, thanks to this computer, and this internet connection, has become as fluid as the spoken word. Literacy has returned to orality. As Mikhail Bakhtin said – it’s all just dialogue.

 

***

 

So I agree there has been a desacralisation of the word in the information age, but I would also agree that this process began with Gutenberg, with the mechanical reproduction of text.

As Walter Benjamin explained, in mechanical reproduction text loses its direct connection with handwriting, its aura or physical residual contact with its creator.

 I suppose it’s not surprising that our notions of divine creation are shaped by changes in human creativity. With mechanical reproduction, human creators became more distanced from their works, and I’m sure it’s no coincidence that the rise of information technology was accompanied by the theology of a ‘hidden god’ at work in nature, a deus absconditus, who employed intervening processes of gravity or evolution to express himself.

Flaubert draws on the same analogy when he says that an author should be in his work as god is in the world, invisible but all powerful.

 So to me, this information age begins in the early modern period, sometime around the late 16th early 17th century – appropriately for us, around the time of Cervantes and Shakespeare – when there was a sudden shift in what I’ll call the ‘technology of knowledge’.

The question is whether the last twenty or so years are just a part of the same process of speeding up mechanical reproduction, or if something else more profound has taken place.

I would also add that mechanical reproduction didn’t mean the death of god, or the death of the author, but both creators became more distant from their works and their audiences.

About ten years ago I wrote an essay for the New Statesman, updating Benjamin for the information age. I called the brief piece the work of art in the digital domain. Some of these issues were explored there, but one paradox did strike me.

 Thanks to digital technology, it was clear even then that, working alone on our computers, we could edit video, music and sound, compose and tamper with images. To me, this represented the revenge of the writer. Sound and image had also been turned into code, and could be manipulated like text. In effect, digitization turned everything into literature, ecriture, and more people into authors.

 

***

I think that is the danger in all discussions of technological innovation- the idea that the printing press, or the telegraph, or the internet, came along one day and changed everything for good.

History is not a succession of innovations, it is fragmented, parallel, and discontinuous…Nothing need ‘replace’ anything else. Every new medium has its practical constraints, and ultimately its human limitations

One common complaint i often hear about these new information technologies is that texting, emailing, and blogging are somehow undermining our standards of grammar, spelling and punctuation.

It’s certainly true that my kids ‘txt’ all the time, and message me weird coded messages on chat ‘soz dad l8 – brb’. Sorry dad i’m late for school. Be right back. However, both my msn/txt children are gr8 at school, and just as they shift their accents from the argot of the playground to the politesse of family dinners, they seem very adaptable when it comes to the rigours of exams against the acronyms of text messaging. Two styles can co-exist simultaneously, often with great wit and vigour from the cross fertilisation.

When it comes to rules of grammar, punctuation and spelling, i always remember that Britain’s most creative period of writing, and the birth place of this modern English now spoken and written throughout the world, was during the age of Elizabethan Jacobean theatre and poetry – a time in which ‘Shakspeare’ spelt his name in ten different ways, and the rules of spelling and grammar were in flux.

That’s one way that the new knowledge technologies are affecting the physics of our textuality (and no doubt our sexuality). But when it comes to ‘hypertextuality’, I always feel we are straying into areas of’ metaphysics’, indeed theology, as I pointed out in a previous intervention.

 So perhaps one way of looking at hypertextuality is to go full throttle for this quasi-religious approach, and since literature and the arts have classically offered some kind of substitution for religion, then it may be germane to ask… how does the internet affect our idea of immortality?

Years ago, as a tense teenager, I longed to have a book published. I was reading the canon of famous writers, and then books about these writers – Eliot, Lawrence, eckett – and my idea of salvation was to become famous enough that someone would write a book about me. In the years since then, many things have happened – not least a realisation of the limits of my own literary talent – but I wonder if a broader cultural shift has taken place: i.e. the decline of the book, the printed page, as an emblem of social approval, legitimacy and authority.

In the era of Hola! magazine, the National Enquirer, and in literature of intrusive scandalous biographies, probably the last thing now I’d want is to be ‘immortal’ in this way – like Primo Levi or Elvis Presley. But I wonder how the internet changes our notions of fame, immortality and Parnassus.

About five years ago, I explored with an entrepreneurial friend of the idea of setting up soul.com, in which people could upload their lives to a web space memorial, complete with architecture, music, photos, poems and songs, which would act as a repository of their soul.

We imagined it a bit like the Sims or Sim City, the difference being everyone would build their own mausoleum or utopia. 700 years ago, Dante’s image of paradiso was firmly based in the hypertextuality of books; he saw every redeemed sinner as a page in god’s library. Oddly enough, with more and more people having access to publication, we all have a chance to be at least a ‘web page’ in the library of mankind, and have our fifteen minutes of fame. We have got our place in the library in the absence of god.

This seems to be the crucial problem. In this electronic era of information technology we can all be visible. The biggest anxiety is not expression, but the lurking realisation that nobody may be watching. There is presence, but no judgement. Who is going to ‘editorialise’ this mass of human expression? We don’t have a god anymore. But we do have google. Has google replaced god?

Thursday, 31 October 2013 00:00

Photo Poetry Montages

This is an old wordpress blog, usng the classic Hemingway template, I used to combine some words and photos. 

hemingway

Wednesday, 29 October 2014 00:00

Even Longer Form

Books

I've written three books, the two most recent about the phone hacking scandal, trial and power of media monopolies. Both of these can be found on Amazon. 

 

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Links and Contact Details

Live Tweeting

Over the last few years I've created some attention with my live coverage of the phone hacking trial in London, the most expensive and longest concluded criminal trial in British history. There are various accounts and articles about this on the web, including a radio play. My Twitter feed can be found here, and a collation of evidence from the trial, and all my live tweets, can be found at my Fothom Wordpress blog. There's also a Flipboard magazine and a Facebook Page. My Klout ranking is here.

More Journalism and Books

Various journalistic articles of mine are scattered throughout the web. There's some kind of portfolio at Muckrack. The most extensive reporting is for the Daily Beast and Newsweek, but there's more at the New Statesman, the New Republic, Aeon etc. I have two non fiction books published in the last year: The Fall of the House of Murdoch, available through Unbound or Amazon, and Beyond Contempt: the Inside Story of the Phone Hacking Trial, available via Canbury Press or also on Amazon. I am currently contributing to a new site for open source journalism, called Bellingcat, and advisor (along with Sir Harry Evans and Bill Emmott) to an exciting new crowdfunded journalism startip Byline

Getting in Contact

My generic email is my first name at peterjukes.com. That should get through to me pretty quickly. My Linked In profile is here. For non journalistic inquiries, for television stage and film, contact Howard Gooding at Judy Daish Associates. Examples of my television work can be found on IMDB. This links to the site for my forthcoming musical, Mrs Gucci. My radio plays can be found in various audiobook formats on Amazon and elsewhere.

 

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