April 27, 2014#

Andrew Marshall – Master Poet

Senses Breathe In; Meditations on the path

I grew up with this guy – writing poetry together, exploring the kent coast and the hythe hills, learning love, life and all the good stuff. He’s one of the most talented people I know and his new poetry book is stunning, rich, fertile, spirit-deep. Here’s a little taster. Have a read and then go buy the book:

The Night Before/The birth of my son

The sun rolled north and down

Pulling pink and purple fillets of cloud behind

Leaving us without sight

But with satisfaction,

Sighs of the resting warmth –

Without that glorious-day-flower;

Nestled within this nights cornucopic fruit.


The world is fertile;

Its greenness gives us everything.

The empty night its final gift

Though rose, purple, gold

And even itself a touch green.


Within its flesh we had set a seed –

Coming to this night as children,

Never knowing how full the world was.

We now know and wonder –

Our thoughts fill the thought

That is your body –

Was that thought, now conscious,

Met by the thinker in your soul.


That rose sky – gateway between life and life –

We could watch eternally –

A flower never moves

But by night has closed its petals

Our sky never darkened

But is now dark

That out of colour

Your star may condense

May think itself, feel itself, will itself,

Will itself through the fertile light of day.




June 4, 2013#

The Quick

Had the honour of being part of a great collective for a year or so in recent times. The group was made up of wonderful artists, musicians, film makers, singers, poets. We’d meet up and talk art and do life and we even put on a couple of shows. It was short lived, but a really beautiful thing.

Thanks to all those involved and those who supported us. Here’s the memories:


January 5, 2013#

The Fullest debut

Wow – these guys are freaking amazing. My good friends and collaborators The Fullest teaming up with Paul Burt (who’s done a load of vids for me) to produce this MONSTER of a track. I was fortunate enough to hear the early conceptions of this track in The Fullest’s home studio. I was blown away then, thinking ‘this is one of the freshest things I’ve heard in a long time’. Now it’s all wrapped up complete with amazing visuals. Check it and share it; may the revolution begin:

December 31, 2012#

2013 ahead and a highlight from 2012

Happy 2013 y’all and thanks so much for following me and supporting the world of Sh’maya in 2012.

It’s been a great year for me, performing many shows in amazing places and to so many beautiful people. Thanks to all the show organizers, the audiences, the film makers, the readers, the listeners, the bloggers and, of course, my fellow UK poets.

One special highlight of 2012 for me was being part of the winning London Team in the first ever National Team Poetry Slam. It was a truly unique and wonderful experience for me as I was selected to be in the 3 strong team of poets representing the Capital at the competition held in Bristol on June 28th.

I’d never worked in a team situation like this before and so it was a real learning experience for me as we wrote and rehearsed together under the guidance of the wonderful Katie Bonna.

And yes, it felt really good to be crowned winners. Big thanks and love to my fellow team mates and coach – Emma Jones, Keith Jay and Katie Bonna. And also to the hot poet and organiser of the competition: Mr Jack Dean.

Here’s a little documentary showing the journey we travelled to become champions in Bristol:

December 16, 2012#

Austin Peralta RIP


Really sad to hear about Austin Peralta passing at the age of 22. Man – I LOVE his music – countless times cycling to work, his album ‘Endless Planets’ in my headphones waking me up to the possibilities of the day.

Here’s one of my favourite cuts from it:


Madness – such life, wild, vivacious, deep minor chords. Reminds me of forests and wolves and the colour brown.

And for all you Jazz heads, here’s half an hour of some of the most serious music you’ll probably ever hear:

Just watch his passion man.

Too young x


October 15, 2012#

The Kingdom Of Thy Self…and An Afterthought

I’ve started performing a new poem called Journeys – The Poet’s Track. It’s kinda like a ‘day in the life’ of me as a poet. Kinda. It goes much deeper – touches on the struggles, the ambitions, the inspirations, the journey, I guess, of me pursuing this poetry thang , and it follows he course of me taking a walk through the city.


There’s a few lines that read like this:


I’m passing billboards telling me to get wealth

That true health lies in status and the kingdom of thy self

To stack heavy on the shelf and steady on the balance

That the numbers I own are what matters


I’m searching for my talents

The word on the street tells me to be esteemed

I gotta be seen

Gotta be working on my image and polishing my celebrity

Spend energy on fame and make my name legendary

To leave behind a legacy that’s all about me


It’s true, right? That’s what the expectation is on all of us in this little place called the Western World. The mentality we’ve got into; to live a good life, you gotta build the Kingdom Of Thy Self. Get a good career – for me. Get healthy – for me. Get money – for me. Realise my ambitions, fulfill my dreams. You know, the people who’ve achieved this – they’re the heroes, they’re the role models – that life is the pinnacle we’re constantly pressured to attain to.



I was watching a TV show the other day about a couple who were building their dream house. I mean, it was pretty impressive – a beautiful house, an architectural masterpiece, no doubt about that. What truly defined it, set it apart, was its total, pin-point-perfect minimalism – I mean it was astounding how they’d achieved such non-detail in the architecture and the décor.


The woman whose house it was, was talking about how she needed it to be like this cos she found it so hard to relax, so she had to have absolutely no clutter in her home. And it hit me – what a desperate place to be in. The woman, and her husband too, put such value on her need to relax according to her desires, that they built this palace in dedication to it. Spent hundreds of thousands of pounds, time, labour, effort – even a freaking TV programme about it – because this woman needed to relax, in her way, in the environment that she needed. I mean, maybe I’m doing a disservice to them – cos I guess there was more to it than what I’ve described, but you get what I’m saying right? This obsession to serve my need cos my need is so important.


But then what disturbed me even more, was, as I was watching this couple build the kingdom of thy self, I realised – man – this is my life all over. OK, so I’m not building a literal house in order to suit what suits me, but I still build my little kingdom, get others to build it, impinge on their lives and desires, so that it’s built. For me.


I notice it when I start to shape my day around the exact number of hours of sleep I need. When I cut conversations short, cos I need to get somewhere else that fits into my precious timetable. When I get pissed off at my wife for interrupting me reading or writing to talk about something that’s important to her. It’s a disease that runs through my very blood. It’s a sickness I suffer from. It produces nothing but filth and yet I cling to it so desperately, protect it, nurture it…

Anyway, onto armoured polar bears:

I’ve started reading Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights. I’ve found it’s rocking deep places in me; Lyra and The Gyptians and the freakingly-cool-talking-armoured-bear-dude going on their honourable quest, risking their lives for the sake of saving the kids trapped in the North. It’s the same when I watch Lord Of The Rings, Indiana Jones and, screw it, I’m not ashamed, Harry Potter (genuinely one of my top 10 literary masterpieces). Adventures, quests, risk, comradeship, death, battle, and, if possible, talking animals…with armour. What is it about these things that stir so me so deeply? My conclusion is that it’s because these characters are living for something outside themselves, something greater than themselves. And that changes your entire perspective on what’s important.


I mean, you wouldn’t see a conversation in Lord Of The Rings like this:


“Aragorn – why you so stressed man?”


“I’m not Legolas. Get off my case dude”


“You quite clearly are bro – I mean, I could see you blatantly distracted in that Ork fight back there – something’s clearly on your mind…”


“Ah, ok, ok, Legs – yeah, you spotted it. I mean, man, it’s just so frustrating cos, like, due to that surprise Ork attack, it means we’re not gonna get to Eisengard til like 10pm. And taking into account dinner, getting showered and bedtime story with Gandalf, it won’t be lights out til like 11.30 man which means I’m only gonna get like six and a half hours tonight man. Plus, I’ve only had 3 of my 5-a-day today. It just affects things, Legs, you know?”


There’s just not time to get stressed out on this kind of stuff when you’re busy fighting to save the entire of Middle Earth from certain destruction. But, me, in my little world of building my kingdom, I find myself getting caught up in stuff that I step back from and think ‘seriously, what am I doing?’.


Anyone…? Winston…?


The kids at the school I work at are studying WW2 right now. It blows my mind what happened to Britain in those years – literally the whole nation pulling together, to sacrifice life, family time, food, comfort; whatever it took for the sake of the war effort. I mean, the whole nation fully dedicated to live for something completely beyond themselves – to the point of death – to the point of sacrificing ‘me’ for The Greater Build. The Kingdom Of Thy Self becomes irrelevant when it stands next to The Greater Build.


You know, I wonder how Britain would react to that kind of situation now. I used to think we wouldn’t be interested – we’d be too caught up in laziness, comfort, to agree to conscription, evacuation, rationing etc. But now I’m not so sure. I think that there’s something innate in the human spirit that, when forced to live for something greater than itself, rises up to new levels of glory, valour, courage, freedom.


We were made for this kind of stuff – it’s in our souls, in our blood and if it’s coaxed out, it’s so much greater and stronger than that sickness of ego. Put me in a position where I’m inspired, passionate about something or someone outside of me, I don’t think twice about sleep – couldn’t care less, cos being awake is so awesome. Give me a project I’m passionate about, I don’t think about food, I don’t find myself making a mental timetable to ensure everything’s fitting in place. I am simply caught up in the Greater Build.


We were made for it. So why do we live in a world where everything is pointing inwards – to me? Why do we use so much of that energy, inspiration, desire, which was meant for something great, to build…me? Who, believe it or not, will one day die and cease to be of any importance in the great scheme of things. I won’t live on in this realm we call life, and the stuff just for me – that’ll be buried with me. But, the great stuff – the stuff beyond me – and the stuff I built into lives outside of me…how about that stuff…?


An Afterthought


You know, alongside these thoughts, I’ve been thinking about God a lot. Well, I pretty much think about God all the time – can’t escape it. But, yeah, I’ve been thinking about why we live in an age where atheism is the pervading mindset, where spirituality is laughed off for the name of ‘fact’, where those who thrive are those who can give us easy-to-digest answers.

I think that a result of this self-centred mentality, is that we can only commit to something, only give something worth or validation, if it makes sense to me, in my way of thinking, my way of understanding. If it rocks my boat, then surely it can’t be real or of-worth, right?

But does this not mean, in its worst form, bigotry, ignorance and cynicism?  And, I wonder if we’re so wracked with cynicism about the supernatural, the ‘beyond’, because the thought of it simply rocks this precious, predictable, world we’ve created where we are the authority, and anything contesting that must be dealt away with. But, you know, the older I get, the more aware I am of how little I know and understand; that my ideas and theories are not so freaking incredible as I thought they were. And when I let go of the me, step into faith, wonder, humility, there’s a whole wealth of the sweetest of freedoms just waiting to be hatched…

October 12, 2012#


‘And the so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the so-called real world of men and money and power hums merrily along in a pool of fear and anger and frustration and craving and worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day. That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.’

~ David Foster Wallace
October 9, 2012#

The Quick

So I’m a member of a collective called The Quick. There’s 12 or so of us atm. Poets, writers, mcs, singers, film makers, producers, artists. We’ve been meeting together best part of a year now, collaborating, visioning for our relative scenes, and most recently, we’ve started running a series of shows. The premise behind them is that they’re secret location, secret line-up shows – no-one knows what they’re turning up to, we just promise it’ll be good. As for locations, we’re fascinated with the idea of the so called ‘dead’ places in the city – the non-venues – the disregarded, fast ignored places. We wanna take em and bring life, creativity and event to them. Our first show was in a porch. You can check it out here (you may recognise a certain poet in a hat there – dunno where we got him from…):

October 7, 2012#

Jesse Boykins III

October 1, 2012#

La Dispute


September 25, 2012#

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you…Qotaye Nelson

This is my guy – ridiculous skills and deep deep lyrics.

Check these rhymes out and I dare you not to be wowed. Watch out world:

September 25, 2012#

Rhyming Thunder

I’m being published in this new poetry book brought out by Burning Eye Books (http://burningeyebooks.wordpress.com/). The book’s bringing together 21 upcoming poets, a lot of whom I know or have seen and it’s a steaming line up. Really honoured to be a part of it. The London launch for the book is on Wednesday at Battersea Mess and Music Hall. Check my live page for more deets.


Here’s a piece that’s gonna be in the book:





September 12, 2012#

Sorry for the silence…

I’ve been doing  a  lot of this:


A bit of this:


And a whole heap of this:



Now back loud, clear and (fast-fading) tanned xx


July 31, 2012#

Treehouses and the question of reality…

So, the two places you most dream of living in when you’re a kid…

Yep, that’s right:

1) The forest base of the Merry Men in Robin Hood, Prince Of Thieves

2) The Ewok Village

Straight up – treehouses are so purely cool, that I sometimes wonder why the human race settled for buildings-on-soil as the general living idea.

Quite often when I’m dreaming of what Heaven will be like, I see myself hanging out at the top heights of huge jungle trees (I’m also, in this vision, nearly always adorned in long flowing hair, full obi-wan beard, pumped to the nines , and completely naked, but we probably shouldn’t dwell on that bit…). Living in the treetops. Kinda like Avatar, but less blue. And no tail.

My wife and I just spent a night in a tree house (www.castlecottage.info) in a forest in West Sussex to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Freaking awesome. The treehouse was owned by an old couple – Ron and Alison – who bought the land they lived on when it was an agricultural dump site – full of rusting tractors and other machinery. They cleared the land and built their house, a barn and a tree house – filled in the gaps with beautiful Edenic garden spots, all jungle bushes and mini waterfalls. Freaking awesome. Alison was the designer and Ron was the builder, with some help from an ex-Trappist monk, who’d learnt his trade when teaching out in India. Freaking awesome. Ron was telling us, over breakfast, about the building process; the challenges, the joys, and about his ‘Purist Treehouse Builder’ tendencies (apparently a treehouse isn’t a true treehouse if it’s on stilts). Freaking awesome.

There’s just something about being in a place like that. Tree trunks winding around your bed, the fact that the whole place creaks in the wind, the smell of the wood, the fact that you’re high up – with the branches, with the birds – the fact that the craftsmanship seems so close, so fresh, almost. Ron and Alison spent 20 years in Africa and the treehouse is decked out in all kinds of Safari attire – paintings of leopards, animal skin rugs, stuffed heads of cheetahs, wild winding branches that look like snakes. It felt like we’d stepped into an alternative realm for a night. Stepping into dreams, into fantasies I’d had over the years.

Here it is:


I got up early in the morning and went and sat on a hanging chair on the balcony of the treehouse, just as the light was yawning through the leaves. I drank coffee, meditated, thought, imagined the tree tops in front of me were hundreds of metres up, that I was in a different realm, a different place. And who’s to say I wasn’t?


Working, with kids, you see that their world of play can be more real than ‘real life’, whatever that is. For the period of a lunch break, they really are pirates, princesses, Ben 10s, hench Obi-Wans up a tree, and the worlds they exist in are unarguably real. And then the bell goes, announcing the end of playtime and the end of that world, and the kids go and sit in a ‘real’ classroom, doing ‘real’ work and looking and acting somewhat less alive. Real life is being most truly alive, right? And so what is reality? What we can feel and touch in a physical sense? Or what we can feel and touch on a much deeper level?

A ghost walks through a wall. Not because the ghost isn’t real. But because the wall isn’t real.

I’ve been thinking about this so much recently. In our current Western, post-post modern world, we have shrunk reality down into this tiny, life-on-a-plate, predictable, obvious thing which we ensure makes sense to us. There’s no space for deeper things, no space for deeper realities, no space for spiritual, supernatural, God… Because those are things we don’t fully understand. And therefore they can’t be real, right…?

And yet, we still obsess over love, we still write poems about the yearnings we have, we dance to untouchable music, weep over fantasy films and dream about life in really really high treehouses. Wild, unpredictable things. Things we don’t understand, things we can’t touch. And, yet, things that are undeniably real, things we do, in fact, ‘touch’ and that touch us and make us come alive in ways our predictable realities can’t.

In my experience of life, the most real things have actually been things I can’t physically touch, can’t ‘grasp’ in that sense. Things I find hard to understand, yet things that produce a reality in me far stronger than things ‘graspable’. Love, art, desire, dreams, spiritual, supernatural, God.

Sitting on the hanging chair on the balcony of the treehouse, it was this untouchable realm that was moving in me. It was oh so real and it was oh so sweet.

Now answer me this. Which is the most real big cat in this picture:


Dedicated to Robin Aldersey Taylor for helping to show me how the wall isn’t real x

July 20, 2012#

Great Poets. #4. Lacey Roop.


She’s part of a wicked little scene in Austin, Texas. All deep slam musings, raw soul and speaking the voice of a frustrated generation. When I first came across her, I’d just listen to her poetry over and over again. And then write. I think the greatest poets are the ones whose creativity goes deep enough in you so as to induce your creativity. Lacey Roop does this in me. She says stuff I wish I’d written and fills my head with things I’d like to write. Her poetry is so honest, so raw. She gives of herself in a way that is vulnerable, unswerving and wonderfully honest. The hits show it – she’s deeeeeeep x

July 5, 2012#

Great Poets. #3. Buddy Wakefield.

He’s just totally masterful. Like a whole new level of confidence, feeling, pinpoint accuracy in his performance. You know the concept of the 10,000 hours? Basically this scientific dude came up with the theory that to enter into mastery in any craft, you need to put in 10,000 hours of work – practice, performance, honing – over and over and over. On the 10, 000th hour (or there abouts, you get me?), you’ll pass over into mastery, full ownership, full potential.

I’m not sure if Buddy Wakefield’s done 10,000 hours (that’s 417 full days, for those who’re wondering – that’s a lot of time…), but he’s probably closer to that than a lot of poets. 2001 he jacked in his job as executive assistant for a biomedical firm, bought a Honda Civic and started driving round America performing poetry. He’s basically been touring ever since – show after show after show. And you can see it – such rich depth in his performance, such ease and such beauty in his words. He’s the master of the American narrative poem and witness any US slam and his influence will be there. Master Buddy Wakefield. Yes.

June 27, 2012#

Poetry and the art of Mastery

I was at the x-factor final recently (no straight up; me mother-in-law won tickets and offered them to myself and my wife, and so we took my wife’s cousin and our friend Andrea. Life’s for living, I say, so Wembley Arena, there we came). It was actually quite cool – we somehow got sat in one of the contestant’s – Amelia – family and friends’ section, had pink banners shoved into our hands, which said ‘We love Amelia’, were told to smile lots when the cameras swept over us and act like we’d known her since childhood. We were also almost in shot when Amelia’s Dad got interviewed – I dunno, maybe like the shadow of my shoulder made it onto live TV or something. Anyway, the point was that it was all cool and dandy, as you’d expect the X Factor final to be really.


Near the end of the show, when the votes were being counted up, Leona Lewis took to the stage to entertain us with her new song, a cover of Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Hurt’ (I know – Nine Inch Nails…X Factor Final…that is one courageous producer…) Anyway, she’s suddenly revealed on stage. Just her, alone, in this long red dress – no band, no dancers; nothing- just Leona, a mic stand and the MASSIVE Wembley stage. And I’m telling you man, she OWNED it. Like seriously. It was quite amusing, cos X Factor’s all like flashing lights and glam dancers and Louis vs Simon and pink banners and unadulterated, unapologetic TV pop. And then Leona Lewis rocks up with ‘Hurt’ by Nine Inch Nails.


Way to kill a party, you know?


But people were actually blown away. The whole atmosphere was changed – it was really quite incredible. The thing that got me was that – there she was, like I said, completely alone on this huge stage. And she hardly moved a muscle –  just stood there singing the song – no flashy dance moves, no wild gestures. Stock still for most of it, but full on feeling the song. That one woman managed to fill the entire arena, with her presence, or rather project the presence of the song, of her performance, to such an effective level, that all it needed was simply: Leona, alone. And Wembley was captivated. Boom.


I had another experience a few weeks ago of something like this. I was performing at a night in Brick Lane which was mainly a night of Theatre shorts. Dudley Sutton … you know, this guy:

Dudley Sutton was acting  in one of the pieces. He was playing an opium addicted great grandfather (yes, that’s what I thought too). And yes, he owned it – blew everyone else out of the water. Similar to Leona, there were no grand gestures, no movement. Dudley just sat on a chair on the stage, sucking on his imaginary opium pipe and full on enrapturing the room. It was so easy, so effortless and yet so effective.


Here’s what I’m trying to get at…


We would look at someone like Dudley Sutton and say he is a master of his craft. We would look at a performance like Leona Lewis’ and say it was a masterful performance. And that’s the point: mastery…or put in other terms – ownership, authority, control. Moments like these show artists who have managed to grasp a power over their artistry. They own it, it’s under their command, they can do with it what they like because it is utterly subservient to them. Therefore they are able to use it in such a way as to produce the performances I witnessed.


Let me explain further… People who have witnessed me perform, will have noticed that I have tended to be incredibly gesticulative in expressing my poetry. I used to thrive on it, encourage it, let it form my performative identity.  Known as the poet who flings his arms around a lot, in the name of ‘passion’ or something. But this is not mastery. Quite the opposite – what’s really happening here is that the poem is mastering me.


This, of course, implies that a poem, a piece of art, a craft (and beyond that, this can be applied to all pursuits – sport, work, even our own characters), has a life of its own. A character that is separate from its creator. Not only that, but, if allowed, it can be in conflict with its creator-  it is a wild thing, a thing that needs taming, a thing that needs mastered before it masters you.


Check out this clip from Elizabeth Gilbert:


She is showing this very thing I’m trying to say. I have indeed discovered that my craft has a life of its own. Each poem I write is, in fact, a living thing, a thing with its own will, and therefore a thing that needs mastering beyond the page if I am to use it effectively. I need to be the master of my poems for if they end up mastering me, then their effect is wild, untamed and, ultimately, depleted.


So now, I’m aiming to be like Leona, I’m aiming to be like Dudley. I’m practising stillness, I’m practising subtlety, understatement, simplicity, releasing my craft not in chaotic impulse, but in measured passion, focused guiding. Because those are the signs of strength, the signs of one who has taken his craft, put it under his control and learnt how to wield it like a master swordsman wields his weapon.


Which is the perfect link to the perfect conclusion. I couldn’t put it better myself:


June 19, 2012#

Great Poets. #2. Saul Williams.

Ok, so you’re quite often left asking ‘What the monkey-jazz was that about?’. But alongside that, you’re also whispering ‘What just happened?’. Cos it’s all about his presence man – his ability to stand stock still on stage and yet rock an entire room with his rhythms, his strength, that spirit-stirring voice. He is innately theatrical without being pretentious. He is ridiculously cool whilst being wildly unhinged at the same time. He is utterly inimitable (yes, I’ve tried). And you can guarantee that every show feels like something historical just happened. I want that. He’s awesome. I salute you Saul.

June 11, 2012#

Great Poets. #1. Kate Tempest.

She is the greatest poet of our modern times. Straight up. There’s simply no one else who can touch her and trust me – I’ve searched for them – they’re just not out there. She does something with the spoken word that is utterly sublime, impossible to pin down, but yet consistently transformative and other.

I’ve seen Kate perform a number of times and each time, I’ve been totally undone by what she does.

One time, I remember in particular, which remains the greatest poetry performance I’ve witnessed to this day. It was at the One Taste festival in Balham a couple of years ago. Kate, all baggy jeans, long curly hair, stoop shouldered, London girl, saunters onto the stage in front of about 250 people, shrugs, scratches her head, and then launches into 20 minutes of the most staggering tirade of pain, beauty, depth and lyricism. The room was totally silenced – like not just physically, but silenced on a soul level too – that’s what she’s got the ability to do – silence your soul, make you really stop and listen, hear, think thoughts that you haven’t dared to think dream dreams you never knew were there. She induces awareness, wide open spaces. She touches the spiritual realms in deep, yearning ways, and takes you there with her.

You know, I believe that there are walls, barriers, that stand between your spirit and your expression – what you feel inside, what you truly feel, who you truly are, it goes on a journey before it ‘comes out’. What we say is rarely what we truly think – how we dance is rarely how our spirit really dances. There are walls that get in the way in the journey from internal to external. Stick someone on a stage and those walls seem to get even thicker, higher, more numerous. The true achievement of the artist is being able to knock down as many of these walls as possible, making the art you express as pure and true to your spirit as it can be.

Kate seems to just have less walls. Or she’s been able to overcome them better than the average person, or something like that – I don’t know – all I know is she’s a freaking amazing poet who does freaking amazing things when she steps on a stage. Great poet #1.

June 6, 2012#

Decade Disease / Jurassic Park – the lessons learned

I finished a poem recently, which has the working title ‘Decade Disease’. I wrote it in response to the immense pressures and pigeon-holing that I see being placed upon age in current times. It seems that as you hit 20, 30, 40 etc you immediately fall into a certain category of living and this follows a pattern – namely one of deterioration of life. The older you get, the more life lessens – the next decade is one to be feared, for it means more dreariness, less ‘life’.


I’ve found myself, approaching 30, thinking – ‘man – is it too late?’. What I mean is – there’s this thing in our society that basically says, particularly in the arts, that if you haven’t ‘made it’ by the end of the 20s, then that’s it – chance gone, too late, give up. The 30s is seen as a time of taming, a stepping back, a settling down, before the 40s and ‘middle age’ and all that supposedly brings.


You know, it’s no wonder I’ve felt that pressure. Again, most particularly in the arts, who do we hail as the cutting edge, the best, the prominent? It’s either teens or20s – that’s the time you ‘make it’, right? So as a 28 year old poet who quite clearly is still on the early path to ‘making it’ (whatever that means anyway, but that’s a whole other blog post), how do I react to this? Do I jack it all in and settle down to a much more sensible and age appropriate career?


No. Obviously.


Because this notion of decade defining, or Decade Disease as I like to call it, is absurd. Utterly. We all know, deep down, that age is irrelevant – we’ve all met those beautiful old people who are younger in spirit than a lot of people 50 years their junior. We’ve also met people our own age who seem to have grown old way too soon. But beyond that, what do we define as good life?


What Decade Disease tells us, is that youth [as in physical-body youth ] = good life – the prime time in our life. And that elderliness = bad life. This is a mentality that focuses entirely on the body, the physical. It is also a modern phenomenon. Societies of the past have placed much more value on age -cultures led by Elders – the old – because they have recognised that age has depth that youth simply can’t have. They have recognised where life truly becomes good.


Where do we place the elderly in our society? We shut them away in ‘homes’, we make them the butt of our jokes, we push them away from prominence and give that stage to those who are barely out of school.


This massive imbalance of focus on youth worries me man. It worries me that our cultural role models are so young and the destructiveness of this is shown in our celebrity culture – we publicise young people’s lives, we ask the world of them – “Lead us, teach us, show us how to live”. We ask this of young minds that are undeveloped, unable to live up to this pressure and so our celebrities, our ‘leaders’ fall apart – mental breakdowns, addictions, suicides. And yet still we publicise it – put it on the front of our tabloids, our magazines – and so this is the example we uphold on how to live life – we say “this is success” because we give this kind of life the publicity, the recognition.


And yet those who have lived life, who have learnt from mistakes, who have attained wisdom and maturity and depth that only age can bring – they’re ignored and forgotten.



About the time I was thinking these thoughts, I was reading Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. There’s this speech near the end of the book made by Ian Malcolm the prophetic mathematician, as the Park is turning to mayhem, the dream is falling apart. It sums up what I’m trying to say perfectly , so over to Ian:

Most kinds of power require a substantial sacrifice by whoever wants the power. There is an apprenticeship, a discipline lasting many years. Whatever kind of power you want. President of the company. Black belt in karate. Spiritual guru. Whatever it is you seek, you have to put in the time, the practice, the effort. You must give up a lot to get it. It has to be very important to you. And once you have attained it, it is your power. It can’t be given away: it resides in you. It is literally the result of your discipline.


Now, what is interesting about this process is that, by the time someone has acquired the ability to kill with his bare hands, he has also matured to the point where he won’t use it unwisely. So that kind of power has a built-in control. The discipline of getting the power changes you so that you won’t abuse it.


But scientific power is like inherited wealth: attained without discipline. You read what others have done, and you take the next step. You can do it very young. You can make progress very fast. There is no discipline lasting many decades. There is no mastery: old scientists are ignored. There is no humility before nature. There is only a get-rich-quick, make-a-name-for-yourself-fast philosophy. Cheat, lie, falsify – it doesn’t matter. Not to you, or to your colleagues. No one will criticize you. No one has any standards. They are all trying to do the same thing: to do something big and do it fast.

And because you can stand on the shoulders of giants, you can accomplish something quickly. You don’t even know exactly what you have done, but already you have reported it, patented it, and sold it. And the buyer will have even less discipline than you. The buyer simply purchases the power, like any commodity. The buyer doesn’t even conceive that any discipline might be necessary.


So, in conclusion, I ain’t going anywhere soon. I’m not going to follow this empty pattern in our culture. But I’m gonna put in the years and let my best years be always ahead of me. Now here’s a dinosaur: