Saturday, 16 May 2015

Words of walking


For the last few months I've been writing a regular column for Bristol 24/7 magazine. They're all (sometimes rather tangentially) connected to walking in one way or another - things I've seen walking through the city, unexpected places I've ended up etc. There are links to a few of them here:
A short, sharp stab in the sole
At the pointy end of Spike Island
The art of walking
A load of dead men peeing
The ideology of our zebra crossings

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Another 'Unknown Translation'

Another 'Unknown Translation', one of these poems originally written in Bulgarian and then translated into English emerged unexpectedly ...

The day after

The men continue to gather
in the squares and streets of the town.
Why are they here? They say they’re waiting
but they don’t know what for. The women
have decided to leave them and look for
a different name for contentment.
The children have gone with them,
they've accepted their fate.

The dark sky descends from the mountains
to warn those who will listen
that there has been a mistake. The sea
promises to build castles of sand
and to destroy them again every night.
Outside the doors of offices,
we grow frightened for no reason
and write silent letters in smoke.

Nobody remembers when this began.
The airport’s full. We want our things,
the things we need, but there is
nobody we can ask.
If only some definite disaster
had appeared, if only we could
foresee when it would happen
or where it would end.

Everything we’ve lost
returns to the squares and streets
where we have to wait
while the men decide to apologise
and ask the women to come home.
Under the clouds the children play
with new friends on the beach
where the sea no longer sings.

9 May 2015
Tom Phillips


Tuesday, 28 April 2015

New poem and artwork at Colourful Star

Just a reminder that there's a new post on our Anglo-Bulgarian poetry-and-art project Colourful Star ...

Monday, 20 April 2015

Unknown Translations

Having experimented with writing in rather hazy Bulgarian and then translating the poems back into English, I've put a few together in a little e-pamphlet ... and you can download it here

Saturday, 18 April 2015

From 'Unknown Translations'

For the last couple of weeks, I've been dallying with an experiment. Rather than writing in English, I've been writing in Bulgarian (which I'm learning in a DIY kind of way) and translating the results back into English. Being far from fluent in Bulgarian, I've had to work with a very limited vocabulary and very limited knowledge of idiom and grammar. In many ways, the results have been fairly hit and miss, but one or two of these efforts (which almost certainly read very badly in Bulgarian) seem OK - perhaps because, to me, they seem to be wholly different to what I would 'normally' write and perhaps because trying to think in another language results in connections which I wouldn't have otherwise made. 

Weather forecast

Today it will rain butter,
a bookish wind will blow,
the sun will wash dishes
and the clouds will play
the bagpipes. Don’t worry.
This is normal when
love is allowed to write
the weather forecast.
It’s best to walk barefoot
and carry a big coat.

Tom Phillips, 2015

Friday, 10 April 2015

Everything looks good tonight

Everything looks good tonight
because children emerged from the dark,
laughing and singing in Queen Square,
because, beyond them, two terriers
snuffled at a wooden post,
because a conversation had only just ended,
because by the zebra crossing
someone automatically took
someone else’s hand,
because the city lights
opened out around the docks
and, beneath the Balmoral, the boat’s reflection
hung, almost perfect, upside down,
because on the last few hundred yards home
I heard people speaking Russian, Spanish, Italian,
because I had been talking with friends
from somewhere I’d been last summer,
because I was wearing the shoes I’d worn
in that place and for a moment
I could feel again the contours
of the pavements as if they’d been
imprinted on cheap plastic and canvas.

And so, yes, crossing the footbridge
everything looks good. By the old gaol gate,
someone pissed against a stone bulwark.
A cyclist went past. And I remembered
deliberately making another footbridge
pulse and shake by walking in step –
and Mike plunging into the river
from a pub terrace in Shrewsbury,
and reading ‘They flee from me ...’
for a practical criticism assignment
months after driving up the east coast
of Australia in bush-fire season
and being in love with people
I’d never see again, because
that was how it was back then,
because even flying home
was an opportunity and we sat
outside a house in Buckinghamshire,
with me jet-lagged and still smelling
of the chemicals they’d sprayed us with
in Sydney, and we were talking
at the night as it came down
and I would sleep on the sofa
when the cat brought in a dead pigeon.

Cars pass. The passengers look out.
I’m in amongst the bins and recycling boxes.
Across the valley, the city lights articulate
a kind of semaphore and I am nearly home.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Some films

It's been a while, to be honest, but, if it came to it, I'd probably say these:
Moderato Cantabile: piano lessons and gender politics in rural France (OK, I know that doesn't sound very attractive, but great nonetheless)
Tales from the Golden Age: nails the myths of totalitarianism in five short pieces
And, somewhat more obviously ...
Withnail & I, Spinal Tap, Salvador, Apocalypse Now and Lawrence of Arabia.