Roddy Williams – The Atheist Poet


11 January 2016

When the news came on
7 am
I was in bed
far above the world
dark as space
The TV blurred its satellite calls
up the stairs

I touched down to
that face on the screen


The day rolled on under the serious moon
I fed the cat and cleaned the litter tray
then hunted for the words

They all auditioned
Couldn’t make the grade
Are there words on Mars
I could borrow for the day?
The Martians wouldn’t say

So I’m afraid
there’s only this
poor transmission
counting down to the last line

A stylophone accompaniment might help


Heart FM (2013)

Rihanna is God’s way of telling you
to change the channel.
I have explained this
more times than Maroon 5 has been played
on this Fisher Price wavelength.
It’s not even your radio.
It’s Daisy’s.

There’s no explanation
for your choice of station
which offends me more
than bad grammar
on the office toilet door.
It’s just shit on a loop
returning to us via this
generation game style
conveyor belt of
midprice small disappointments.

Why don’t you invest
in some cheap headphones?

Integrity. Get that.

mp3 (2008)

out into the shrouded morning
streaked with branches naked
black and
dripping upwards to
exhaust their twigs on the dirty washing sky
i go
rucksack shouldered creeping like a guilty dwarf
toward the station

music bleeds into my head
has waited till i’ve reached the platform
cellos violins and keyboards painting
over the familiar view

the blistered paint
the dieseled gravel
weary towerblocks as if they’re new
the weeds that huddle tight
between the tracks
and seem to bend on cue before the
wind section
the percussive rattle of
the rails
the full brass train

crashing in
crashing in
crashing in

Bat Out Of Hell (2010)

Whispering Bob Harris is still around,
still whispering, but in a good way.
He had Meat Loaf on live in Nineteen Seventy-Eight
doing ‘Bat Out of Hell’
which they showed on tv tonight
and it drove me back on a harley to that time
I broke up with a man called Aiden
who cried out loud
so I got very drunk at home
put the album on full blast

sang along, then cried myself.

Mr Patel, who ran the newsagent next door
quizzed me diplomatically when I went in
for milk and cigarettes next morning.
‘There was a lot of terrible noise,’ he said.
‘Last night. Much terrible noise.’
‘I’m so sorry,’ I whispered, bob hoarse. ‘I know.
It’s the man upstairs. He drinks.
It’s such a shame.’

Excerpt from my Haiku Diary 13 Nov 2008

November 13 2008

I, leonard cohen,
a bunch of other people
and some good music

How Much Do I Hate Coldplay? #poetry

More than Katy Perry
But less than Les Dennis
Tim Vine and the tennis.
Less than the football
And The Phantom Menace,
A movie that sucked like a Dyson Elite.
More than Eastenders
But less than a tweet
about Bieber. He’s dreadful
and needs to be sent far away.
In space you can’t hear him.
I long for the day
We deal with the dross
of the Earth in this way.

How much do I hate them?
Far less than Kardashians,
Arse hang-out fashy-ans,
Heart FM, Gok;
He’s a pile of Wan sheet
With his smarmy, effete
And annoying demeanour.
I don’t want to look stupid
Just fitter and leaner.
How much? Less than arses;
Scary Spice, Katy Price
And the privileged classes

How much do I hate them?
This much (opens arms).
I’ll never succumb
To their dubious charms.

tom waits is missing (2011)

I was discussing Tom Waits earlier, having today listened to his ‘Real Gone’ album, an amazing bit of American Gothic Blues. I was thinking while listening to it that if David Lynch is stuck for someone to provide additional music for his new ‘Twin Peaks’ series (yes, it is coming back apparently) then Tom would be ideal. Indeed, Tom himself would make an ideal resident for this most surreal of American small towns.
Many years ago, I was having another discussion about music in general and was asked if I had any Tom Waits albums.
‘Yes,’ I replied, quite confidently. ‘I can’t remember what it’s called, but it’s a CD with a black and yellow cover.’
Later, the thought of the CD returned to me. After a fruitless search through the shelves, and through my memories to try and recall what tracks might have been on it, I came to the conclusion that I had never had the CD in the first place. Why I imagined I had was a bit of a mystery, but the mind is an odd thing and we can convince ourselves of all sorts of nonsense, particularly in regard to the past.
I started writing a poem about this incident which went through an amazing process of rewrites and revisions over a ridiculous number of years (during which I acquired a ridiculous number of Tom Waits albums and became a committed fan).
Serendipitously, the poem ended up as an extended metaphor for something else completely. It was published by London Grip in 2011.

tom waits is missing

we can’t recite our canon of cds
unless we have just three
or too much time on our hands.

but we know them when we see them
like the faces of celebrity saints
from the hello bible.

i believed
that tom waits was present,
safe as gospel
between the book of verve
and the books of whitesnake
but he’s not.

the title hovers at the edge of recall
like a maddening psalm. it tests my faith.
i pray for tracks
into empty silence, void.

then i reach that point of
shuddering revelation

the liberating moment when
i’m suddenly aware
of the loss of
something that was never there.

Albums To Hear Before You Die #014 – Queen – A Night At The Opera


Track Listing

1 – Death On Two Legs (Dedicated to….)
2 – Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon
3 – I’m in Love with My Car
4 – You’re My Best Friend
5 – ’39
6 – Sweet Lady
7 – Seaside Rendezvous
8 – The Prophet’s Song
9 – Love of My Life
10 – Good Company
11 – Bohemian Rhapsody
12 – God Save the Queen

I listened to this for the first time in about twenty years the other week. The reason I abandoned it for so long is simply that in my youth I played it to death to the extent that I could replay virtually all the tracks in my head.
I had burnt my love of it out.
Listening to it again was, well, a bit of a revelation.
Many would argue that this is Queen’s best album and in many respects they would be right. This is an album made by a band at the height of their powers and creative energy. It is exquisitely structured, and the production is flawless. There is a striking diversity in the style and subject of the tracks but it somehow fits seamlessly together. It can also be seen as the first half of a double album since their next release ‘A Day at The Races’ was designed to complement the previous album in terms of cover art, and both titles are the names of Marx Brothers films.
All the band members contributed songs to the album, and it has to be said that two of the most original, ‘Good Company’ and ”39′ are from Brian May. The lyrics on ‘Good Company’ are especially fine. ’39’, as many may not realise, is a work of Science Fiction telling of how space explorers set out, looking for a new home. Because of the time dilation effect, they subjectively experience only a few years passing, but when they return, a hundred years have passed and all their friends and family are dead.
The rest of the songs cover extremes between the kitsch hutzpah of ‘Seaside Rendezvous’ and ‘Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon’ to the Grand spectacle of ‘The Prophet’s Song’ and their Magnum Opus, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’.
The album finishes – almost prophetically – with Brian May’s iconic rendering of ‘God save The Queen’. At the time, with the band name’s gay connotations and Mercury’s outrageous glam rock style, they were in a sense anti-establishment figures and this track seemed a humorous dig at the powers that be. The wind was later knocked very soundly out of that sail during the Queen’s Jubilee when May deigned to play it on the roof of Buckingham Palace in a shameless act of embarrassing sycophancy. No longer the rebel, now firmly part of the establishment.
I say ‘prophetically’ in relation to ‘God Save The Queen’ because this track was the finale not just to the album but to Queen’s greatest years. ‘A Day At The Races’, albeit an excellent album, did not reach the creative heights of ‘A Night of The Opera’ and, in my opinion, they were not to produce another truly great album until Freddie Mercury’s brilliant swansong, ‘Innuendo’.

Albums To Hear Before You Die #013 – Boardwalk Empire Vol 1 (2011)


It’s not often I would recommend soundtrack albums but this has to be singled out as something very special. The original TV series is a very special beast in its own right, being an epic tale of the gangsters of the US during the Prohibition era. The pilot was directed by Martin Scorsese, and the series had garnered acclaim, awards and devoted fans. One of the most consummately crafted elements of this production though, is the soundtrack, jazz (in the main) of the period, meticulously researched and recreated by Vince Giordano.
I can’t tell you how impressed I am with this album, on which every track is a finely honed gem. The female singers, in particular, deserve special praise. Regina Spektor’s ‘My Man’ is a masterpiece of vampish decadence, while Kathy Brier’s ‘Some of These Days’ sends a shiver up the spine.
There is also a dark aspect to some of these songs which gives a bleak view of the sexist attitudes of the day. ‘The Dumber They Come, The Better I Like Them’ is a comic cabaret number, extolling the virtues of dumb girls, because they ‘know how to make love.’
The women themselves sing some of these songs such as ‘My Man’ and ‘Don’t Put a Tax on The Beautiful Girls’ which, combined with exquisite vocal delivery, gives an ambivalent and dangerous edge to such numbers.
The instrumental numbers are faultless, full of energy and a sense of spontaneity.
‘Carrickfergus’ however – on its own a brilliant and heart-wrenching Irish folk song – seems out of place here. I can’t find it in my heart to be churlish about this, though. It’s a minor niggle, and possibly the only fault I can find on this amazing piece of work.
I can’t wait for Vol II

Track Listing

1.”Livery Stable Blues”, performed by Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks
2.”The Dumber They Come the Better I Like Them”, performed by Stephen DeRosa
3.”My Man”, performed by Regina Spektor
4.”Dark Town Strutters Ball”, performed by Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks
5.”Crazy Blues”, performed by Catherine Russell
6.”Mournin’ Blues”, performed by Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks
7.”Some of These Days”, performed by Kathy Brier
8.”Margie”, performed by Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks
9.”Carrickfergus”, performed by Loudon Wainwright III
10.”Wild Romantic Blues”, performed by Nellie McKay
11.”After You Get What You Want (You Don’t Want It)”, performed by Kathy Brier
12.”Sheik of Araby”, performed by Leon Redbone
13.”Japanese Sandman”, performed by Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks
14.”Don’t Put a Tax On the Beautiful Girls”, performed by Kathy Brier
15.”All By Myself”, performed by Martha Wainwright
16.”Life Is a Funny Proposition”, performed by Stephen DeRosa

Albums To Hear Before You Die #012 – Ithyphallic – Nile (2007)


This, the fifth album by South Carolina Death Metal band, Nile, combines standard Death Metal, Ancient Egyptian mysticism, elements of HP Lovecraft, deep demonic vocals and occasional sweeping Wagnerian orchestration in an album which is surprisingly likeable and compelling.
One would have thought that such fantastic subject matter and orchestration would have been long left behind in the Prog Rock of the 1970s, but it seems to have transplanted remarkably successfully to Death Metal (or Technical Death Metal, whatever that may be) of the 21st Century. One could almost imagine Rick Wakeman sitting at the back of the band on a cathedral organ swaying his golden locks during some sections. I don’t there is actually a cathedral organ, but it wouldn’t be out of place, and Rick would be the perfect person to play along.
Apart from the Prog-esque first and last tracks which have a combined length of eighteen minutes the rest of the tracks are quite short, but still exhibit a variety which one doesn’t often see in the Metal genre on the whole.
I accept that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea or indeed hieroglyphed beaker of tana-leaf juice, but I recommend that you try it out at least once.
You never know what you might like until you try it.

1. “What Can Be Safely Written” 8:15
2. “As He Creates So He Destroys” 4:36
3. “Ithyphallic” 4:40
4. “Papyrus Containing the Spell to Preserve Its Possessor Against Attacks from He Who Is in the Water” 2:56
5. “Eat of the Dead” 6:29
6. “Laying Fire Upon Apep” 3:25
7. “The Essential Salts” 3:51
8. “The Infinity of Stone” 2:04
9. “The Language of the Shadows” 3:30
10. “Even the Gods Must Die” 10:01