Roddy Williams – The Atheist Poet

Posts tagged “editorial


I’m reading poetry a lot more than i used to. My problem is that I find poems rich, like a small but intense dessert. I can manage possibly two, lingering over the nuances of each, but a third knocks something from the lustre. However, I am currently dining out on two or three a day and that is working very well for me.
It really raises for me the age old question of ‘Why is a good poem a good poem?’ and although there are I suspect books out there attempting to answer the question I am none the wiser. There are poems that stand out for me and stay in the mind, but I can not fully explain what that magical element is that sets them apart from the rest.
Being a geek and somewhat OCD I have started a database of memorable poems and authors – just the titles, authors’ names and the publication details. This may seem an odd notion but the truth is I have a terrible problem with names. I get stuck trying to recall names of close friends and family sometimes. Faceless authors stand no chance unless there is something memorable about the name and even then it’s fifty fifty. This will hopefully help me keep track of the poets I like and will also help me cross reference their work in other publications.
There is one poem I am searching for at the moment. It’s by Jon Oyster (I think) and is a poem based on the Fawlty Towers episode where a guest died in bed and Basil thought it was because he was given out of date kippers. If anybody can tell me where it was published please let me know.
For me it was the final proof, if any were needed, that one can write poems – exceedingly good poems in fact – about anything.


Exercises in Poetry and Memory

Much of my poetry is – as I have discovered – a means to understanding my past, which is sometimes a place of paradox and puzzles. I have, I have to admit, long term memory problems. I think it’s all there but it seems to emerge at random times. I used to think that there was so much stuff in my head that it was overwriting the old stuff, like computer files, but came to realise that someone else would no doubt have pointed this out before and advocated that people stop reading to save their headspace.
As partly a remedy to this and partly a way of finding things in my childhood to write about I started keeping an Evernote record of things I recalled, adding them when I recalled them or else one a day by consciously recalling things that were accessible.
This has had a good result in that I am recalling other things as a result of recalling the things on the list, and having them written down helps to reinforce the connections to these memories, or so I believe. It’s early days but there’s interesting things turning up.
The other day for instance I remembered – for no reason that I could fathom – one summer’s day in the mid Nineteen Sixties. My brother had made me a dalek outfit from a cardboard box with big circles painted on the side to represent the dalek half-spheres. There were two holes in the front from which protruded a plunger and a brass toasting fork. My head was covered with an old bucket into which a Ned Kelly eye panel had been cut. Above that a spoon had been fixed into the bucket to represent the eye module. I was, it has to be said, a bit of a special needs dalek, but my imagination more than made up for the suit’s limitations. I spent at least an hour blasting our rhubarb patch with the ray from my toasting fork before stumbling my way up the steps to the road.
An old man sporting a flat cap and a raincoat that had seen better days was waiting at the nearby bus stop. I attempted a dalek-like glide over the pavement toward him.
‘Exterminate! Exterminate!’ I chanted, waving my toasting fork menacingly in his direction.
‘Bugger Off!’ he shouted, with a surprisingly loud and fearsome voice for a pensioner, and raised his walking stick. I wavered. My toasting fork adroop, I turned and stumbled back, thinking that I’d better stick with the rhubarb.
Never threaten a Welsh pensioner. They will return after decades to wave sticks in your head.

The Writing Routine

I find that I have got into a regular writing routine, which is good. It’s a minimum of an hour a day, but at weekends and days off from paid work can stretch to three or four.
There’s often an additional hour writing in bed before I go to sleep. This is dangerous territory, albeit very rewarding, since although it is quiet and I am relaxed enough for creative thoughts to flow I have been known to wake up with my face in a notebook and ink all over my nose.
Today I spent some time in Caffe Nero which, it being Ramadan, was mostly abandoned. Two customers including myself. There were some people sitting outside in the sun but I suspect most of them hadn’t bought any coffee.
Oddly, this made me feel slightly less relaxed. I find when I am thinking I tend to unconsciously study other people and when there are not enough to make it worthwhile I feel oddly frustrated on a level that nibbles at the toes of my conscious self.
Additionally, if you stare too long at one person it usually ends up with angry words or an offer of dinner. Dinner would be nice but it’s not really practical at 3.30 in the afternoon.
As I mentioned, Ramadan plays a part in this drought of customers since two of the coffee shops I regularly frequent are in areas with muslim communities. For a month every year therefore I can have a much larger selection of tables. I shall focus on this benefit and soldier on.

Facebook Ranting

I have recently been, at least on Facebook, very political what with the UK having an election imminent and have probably, I am thinking, annoyed a good few of my Facebook friends.
What I tend to forget, which seems absurd on the face of it, is that Facebook is not a diary and I am not just venting my frustration to myself.
For those of you not in the UK, I’m not going to go into the ins and outs of the political background, suffice to say that my views are to the left of most people I know. In brief, I think Conservatives are evil, corrupt and need to be wiped from the face of the political map. Some of you may disagree and feel that they need to be wiped from the face of the Earth. That is your right, and I respect it.
My father dabbled in Communism for a while before settling on Labour. Local political figures used to drop round to our house in North Wales, at which my mother and I were banished to the back-kitchen, much to her displeasure. ‘They always come round when there’s a good film on,’ she would say, but not until she was sure the whistle of the kettle would keep her words from being overheard. Having said that, my father was not really an influence. I always found his judgment suspect as he was also an unshakeable Creationist who believed the whole Adam and Eve thing which logically I could never see as being remotely possible as an actual true event, even as a child. I came to Socialism (and indeed atheism) through my own experience and convictions.
So, I’ve been posting anti-Tory posts mostly, I am now suspecting, as a form of self-exorcism of my frustration and anger. It can be a cathartic experience, but there’s the danger it’s just as likely to piss lots of people off. So… sorry about that.
I should be attempting to engage and educate people I guess, but I suspect nobody takes a great deal of notice of what I say anyway.
That’s probably a good thing. One of my first acts as World Leader would be to ban the manufacture of strawberry jelly babies, which I believe to be the Devil’s own confectionery. Nasty little pink bastards. I generally bundle them up in a jiffy bag and post them back to Bassetts Head Office without a stamp.
If that had been in the UKIP manifesto they’d have been in government by now.

My Performance Debut

I have recently had some work accepted for an American anthology, which was nice. What I didn’t expect was an invitation to read at one (or both) of the UK launches, one being in Manchester and the other at The Poetry Cafe in London.
I can’t honestly recall if I’ve ever read my work aloud in public before. I suspect if I did it was one of my more comical pieces. I can gauge an audience if I’m presenting comedy. With something that has no jokes in it it’s rather more difficult.
Also, I have done some acting in the past and had no nerves doing that, once I was on stage anyway, as I was playing a part. In this instance as it is the real me, I am sure I will feel naked before them, and very few people appreciate the full beauty of that spectacle.
Maybe I should pretend to be some other poet, a charlatan who is pretending to be me. I can treat it as a stage role, inhabit the character, get it over with.
That’s not a bad idea.