Posts Tagged ‘Literature’
Out of the Woods; the book and one man’s journey.Oct 14 2013
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MB50 Challenge: Find us Poems for older Men!Mar 13 2013
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Are there poems to inspire us as we grow older? Many poets are men, and of course over time they all grow old. But what I am wondering is – Are there particular special poems we need to read as older men? Or put another way do older men write differently than when they were young? And do older men write differently than older women.
I began to consider these questions recently coming across a small printing press called Grey Hen Press (www.thegreyhenpress.com . Its latest publication is called Cracking On: Poems on Ageing by older Women.”For women over 50″, it said.
Poems for men over 50, and men over 50 writing poetry – do we do similar?
There are plenty of older men poets to love and admire, but among the current and living the one I would like to single out is the Australian Les Murray. Now well into his 70’s the poet is still going strong, or rather as he says simply ‘conscious and verbal’ (in fact he has nearly died a couple of times in ER hospital departments).
”Big, fat, long, hairy-arsed, man-sized”, wrote Don Paterson in the introduction to Murray’s 1990’s Collected Poems. In his life Murray has known the walkabout of all the major male issues and suffered all the shipwrecks: a violent father, a depressed mother dying in childbirth – ‘haemorrhaging like hell’, 40 years of unexpressed griefs – ‘ From just on puberty, I lived in a funeral’, boarding school traumas, sexual humiliations – ‘sex is a Nazi’, gender issues and the ‘relegation’ of masculinity – ‘The man we surround, the man no one approaches / simply weeps, and does not cover it, weeps / not like a child, not like the wind, like a man’, and recurring bouts of the black dogs of his own depressions and despair .
Then hitting 50 in the 1990’s, Murray’s creature poems began to appear. The collection was published as Translations from the Natural World and was where he discovered a maturing poetic way with a ‘herd voice’, becoming a many voiced ‘translator’ for meetings and speaking: try Pigs:
Us back in cool god-shit. We ate crisp.
We nosed up good rank in the tunnelled bush.
Us all fucker, then. And Big, huh?
Wide-ranging and often deeply unsettling Murray does not fit a single ‘older man’ poetry category, and I think would also not have anything to do with the like of the Mankind Project past or present, or men’s groups in general. Wonder and shock, unease with the ageing of the body, encounters with the strangeness of elderhood, and a general messiness: the colossal Murray sprawls across boundaries of the masculine and feminine. Reading Murray’s best work, we can feel involunatily changed at the root of our being.
Les Murray, Selected Poems. Carcanet Press (2012)
… For a companion major poet and older man from down-under try Bill Manhire (New Zealand’s inaugural poet laureate). On first meeting Mannhire appears more lyrical and approachable:
Old Man Puzzled by his Pyjamas
I am the baby who sleeps in the drawer
Blue yesterday, and Blue before –
and suddenly all these stripes.
But there is the same wide-ranging spread of subject matter, and unsettling quality as Murray within the heart of his poetry.
Bill Mannhire, Lifted. Carcanet Press (2007)
Do older men poets write differently than older women? I don’t know if they do, but I am open to exploring the possibility. So, dear MB50 readers, here’s the challenge: send us the poems you think we older men need to read, and tell us which other current and living older men poets you find the most inspiring… and if there is a printing press publishing poems for older men (like Grey Hen Press) let us know!
Peter Townshend’s Autobiography : Who I amJan 03 2013
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This is a situation where I’m delighted to admit to bias: I have loved The Who and their music since they exploded into my life in the Sixties. I have regarded Pete Townshend as a genius since Tommy, and his book provides ample support for my view.
One of my favourite verses in Quadrophenia runs:
I have to be careful not to preach,
I can’t pretend that I can teach,
And yet I’ve lived your future out
By pounding stages like a clown.
Peter Townshend really has lived out many of the major issues of maturing men, and this book is a superb description of his shipwrecks and re-inventions, embodying many of the insights and approaches offered in my forthcoming book, Out of the Woods: A Guide to life for men beyond 50 ..
I’ve recently become intrigued by the extreme pressures which it successful pop musicians, as a result of seeing the brilliant film about the Congolese group Benda Bellili – but that’s for another blog.
Pete describes these pressures vividly: the abundant booze and drugs, and the gorgeous women throwing themselves at him. These pressures meant that Pete hit many of the classic crises of midlife men in his thirties or forties.
He writes very honestly of his heavy drinking, of his underlying ongoing anger, and his work addiction “I was a workaholic, running away from the present, and probably the past … I was myself a really desperate man”. These shipwrecks forced him into one of the key moves advocated in my book: “To mature properly, I needed to reach back to my lost youth, the eight-year-old I still carried within me”.
In my book, I suggest that the underlying crisis for men beyond 50 is a spiritual one, which is echoed by Pete describing his own “deep, nauseating spiritual desperation”. He describes the profound benefits he has found through the teachings of Meher Baba. Another fascinating aspect of Who I am is the range of Pete’s musical influences: For example, he writes about Purcell’s use of elongated suspensions, which he used himself in ‘The Kids are Alright’, and how one of my Sufi inspirations, Inayat Kahn, gave him ideas for Lifehouse.
The stories of Pete Townshend and The Who are interwoven with many other great groups and musicians, including The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton. This book has plenty of vivid scenes, involving all these and more. I rate it as a must-buy!