Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Hammer and Tongue - They're the people that you meet, when you're walking down the street

We don’t know how lucky we are, mate
We don’t know how lucky we are
We don’t know how lucky we are, get it right
We just don’t realise how fortunate we are
We have no idea, the luck, we possess, collectively
We just don’t know how lucky we all are.
Full stop.
(Fred Dagg)

A week or so ago I wrote about how much I was struggling. And to some extent that is true. I still don't like being single. Last night I was talking to my flatmate Emma and recounting a story that involved my ex-girlfriend, and I thought that I have so few stories that involve a girlfriend. The story has to do with a battleship and a girl. If you want to know more you have to ask me. But my point is that I don't like being single, and most days I am not prepared to live with that. Desperate, desperate man. But, to paraphrase Mel Gibson/William Wallace/whoeverthehellsaiditfirst, not this day.

Tonight I have come from a Hammer and Tongue poetry slam (look to your right - it says links there somewhere and then when you've finished here, click on where it says Hammer and Tongue Poetry Slams. Oh, to hell with it. Stop now and click there. You won't regret it.) and it has made me realise just how blessed I am. In Oxford alone I have communities based around Home, my flat, my cricket team, my street and Hammer and Tongue. And these are communities that are so astounding that just one would be enough, and yet I have five. FIVE!! Or just one bloody great community I call Oxford.

Crickey Dick.

The Hammer and Tongue slam tonight was as good as it has ever been. And not just for the poetry, although that was really good. And Abe, I am so sorry you went over time and I had to deduct a point, but we'll all be bastards together. It was more for the sense of community and the love there. No, not the bullshit love you find under the Argos Christmas Tree (TM) or the equally bullshit love that Elton (TM) spits out, but the warmth and the belonging that sits in a community where no matter where you come from and no matter what you believe, you are accepeted. Having just written that, I do wonder if Mr Bush or Mr Howard would have felt so welcome there tonight. And in the spirit of me ranting and thinking without speaking. Sorry, speaking without thinking, Steve, as much as I love you and your work, and as much as I love what you've done, I didn't like your poem about the human race being a parasite, but then, that's just me and I believe we're bigger and better than that. Fuck it, if we're all gonna be parasites, stop the world, I want to get off.

Where was I? Oh yes, the love. Tonight it was as if the spirit was flowing through the place. We Christians will probably put it down to the Holy Spirit, the rest of you can call it what you like. But whatever you wanna call it, it moved me. Sometimes it picked me up and slammed me against the wall (like, when, like Buddy Wakefield asked, like, if I'd ever dreamt about living for a living - and yes, it did feel like he was asking me, rather than a hundred other people), and other times when I watched an American girl in front of me completely lose it with laughter as Steve Larkin talked about fat sex. Or what provoked me to ask the guy I deducted points from 'cos he went overtime if I could make him dinner (he turned me down, but he did hug me), and let me call myself a cunt (he amended that to Mr Cunt). Or when the last post, Angela, was shaking with nerves as she read out her two poems. Whatever, I have never so badly wanted to embrace a hundred people at once. Hammer and Tongue is just an embodiment of my sense of community, but I know that it's not limited to the firsttuesdayofthemonthattheZodiac, just like church is not limited to evenings at the Phoenix bar
or the secondthursdayofthemonthatStAldates. It's more than that.

I dunno how they've done it, but by jimminy, it is a Good Thing.

Ok, the lyrics are waxed now but I believe that if you believe in something and it's that good, damnit you're obliged to tell the world. And you're especially obliged to tell the people who put it together. You see, Steve, whe're not bloody parasites, we are so much more than that.

I didn't even mention the other communities that I count special, the people in London, Edinburgh, Auckland, Dallas, and my beloved, but never told, family. And my God.

Tonight, this morning, whenever, I am still single, but with what I have, it is more than enough.


Jim said...

hey richard..

Just read your warm and affirming description of Hammer and Tongue (i agree with it) and wanna post you a poem (below).. actually i was intending to perform it as the sacrificial poem for the last slam but we had too many people wanting to enter so I sacrificed it.. but I reckon you'll appreciate it. was good to meet you last tuesday.

go well

(another single thirtysomething bloke glad to have several loving communities - including Hammer and Tongue)

Slamifesto! There doesn't have to be a microphone
not even a stage.
Arbitrarily, we chalk out this space for unpaged poetry forms
to walk together in an oral democracy, unwritten
so the pharisees of the grand literary traditions can't
edit selecta, cut down choice.
We call this a democracy, not because we vote
But because every voice counts
and we do – we actually count
we assign numbers to words.
and that sounds absurd - ‘till you hear.
We take back the power of judgement
and hand it to our peers.

Because we are a community passing around pictures of our hearts , our ideas
in free verse,
spat from our own tongues,
spoken in our own rhythms
wrapped in our own rhymes
we get 3 minutes of time to summarise our lives,
and offer them
like freshly pressed wine
“would you like a sip
of being me,
being you,
being us…
I trust you.”

And we can remake this space anywhere.. we can!
i've seen performance poetry in off licences and outside kebab vans
impromptu slams on street corners with spontaneous crowds
applauding and giving it loud to a woman using
only the language that she always
- that we all always -
carry around.
Maybe in this way
We can fill our public spaces
With eloquent and meaningful
and the erotic treat
of voices unzipped of artifice
walking naked down the high street
strewing stanzas.
I long for a day when sharing poetry with strangers
is as easy as discussing East Enders.

Me, I wanna see a slow word movement
slow as in slow food.
language to be chewed over,
savoured like a good meal
until the flavour, taste and feel of edible syllables
is rrrrollin on our tongue
trickling warmly along our throat
and it doesn't actually have to be slow.
yo.. i'm down with those flow poets who know
how to kick hip hop patois and pop
dropping lyrical props, clip clopping
on the cochlear full stop of your shell-like
right!– that’s top stuff,
but i'm simply offering a light metaphor
because i think there is nothing better for
a community than to gather together for
feasting and talking
and good wines
so why not feast on talking
and good lines.

It begins here..
my tongue, your ear,
this sharing of hopes and fears, politics and ideas
we choose
slam poetry and scores really as an excuse
to tell each other more honestly what we are like
and if we can make a space
for human beings just talking openly
face to face
we can take apart the stage
fuck it
we’ll throw away the mic.

jt 13/11/04 see

Aym said...

I actually quite like Abe...AYM stands for Angry Young Man, although I'm not really young any more and I'm certainly not angry. Well, not all of the time...

Profuse apologies for making such a "fuss" about the point deduction (although my protestations were all made in relatively good humour!) - I can be a little bit competitive sometimes and that brings out a side of me that isn't always pretty. But what the hell...

Apologies for not accepting dinner - being a Dad and having a long commute mean that I don't often get to go out, and when I do, it's to perform or to spend time with 'er indoors.

I would like to invite you to join the Hammer & Tongue online community, as you seem well into it. Keep your eyes peeled for the email in your inbox...


Aym said...


If you can send me your email address.....

richard said...

Thank you so much for that. You're right, I do appreciate it and you've put into a poem what I was struggling to put into a collection of random words. Well done!

I look forward to many a more slam soon.