A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Thomas McColl

with Thomas McColl:

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences and biggest influences currently?

Thomas: I started writing – as in, writing with the aim of achieving some kind of publication – in my late teens, and was very much influenced by four poets I’d started reading at that time, namely Stevie Smith, Roger McGough, Adrian Mitchell and Philip Larkin, and all of these poets have each remained a big influence on me to this day. 

I don’t know whether it’s the same for other people, but when it comes to literature, music and politics, things that influenced me in my teens are the things that continue to influence me today. I’ve certainly broadened my horizons since the 1980s – and have changed (and hopefully matured) as a person – but the outlook I gained in my teens still definitely forms the basis of who and what I am. 

Q2: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer/artist?

Thomas: I don’t think there was any one pivotal moment – or, if there was, the memory of it has long ago vanished into the mists of time. I’m 50 now, and I wonder would I have been better able to answer that question at 25 but, knowing me, I probably wouldn’t.

Q3: Who has helped you most with writing?

Thomas: I wouldn’t say that I’ve received help with my writing, in the sense that I’ve never attended workshops or gone on courses. Maybe I’d have been better off if I had done things like that, who knows? I’ve always preferred, however, to simply try and work it out for myself – and I never show anyone my work while it’s in progress – and that’s what I’ll continue to do, for better or worse. 

Having said that, there are people who’ve helped me with my writing by putting me on at their event, or featuring me in their magazine, or publishing my book, or buying my book – and, while I’m hopefully giving them something too, all of these things are what help to keep a writer going through thick and thin, and I’ll always be grateful for that. 

Q4: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing & did any travels away from home influence your work?

Thomas: I was born in London in 1970, but my parents moved up to Birmingham when I was two, and I lived there till I was 20. In 1990, I moved down to London to study History at the University of North London, and have lived in London ever since. I’ve had two collections of poetry published, and both of them feature many poems where London is the setting and/or subject, and London has certainly influenced my writing (and aided my development as a writer), whereas Birmingham’s never really got a look in, for when I left the second city in 1990, I really did leave it behind in every way – till recently, that is. Now that I’ve reached middle-age, I’ve started looking back a lot more and, finally getting inspiration from the city I left behind, there’s now, amongst various London poems in my current collection, ‘Grenade Genie’, a poem set in Birmingham, called ‘Nightclubbing in Brum, 1988’. I wouldn’t say the floodgates have opened, but where there’s one, there’s maybe more…

Q5: What do you consider your most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far to you?

Thomas: It remains a poem called ‘The Chalk Fairy’. It’s from my first collection, ‘Being With Me Will Help You Learn’, and is one of my shortest poems (and so worth reproducing below in full). It’s a poem that’s definitely moved people, and has ended up having a life of its own beyond the book it was first published in, having been widely anthologised and, on account of it being in the Shoestring Press anthology, ‘Poems for Jeremy Corbyn’, even getting quoted in the London Evening Standard:

THE CHALK FAIRY

Each night I traipse 
the streets of London, 
drawing chalk lines 
round homeless people 
sleeping rough.

I’ve found 
that, even in the early hours 
of Christmas Day, 
there’s no shortage of bodies 
to draw my outlines round: 
London’s one big crime scene 
every single day of the year.

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

Thomas: I do write to relax. Writing itself is very relaxing and therapeutic – writing admin, not so much. I never watch TV now – I haven’t done for years – and maybe that’s just as well for, with the rise of on-demand TV like Netflix, I’m sure I’d find so many series and films I’d love to watch and never get anything done. 

Q7: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem/writing of yours or others? Or name or show a favorite piece of artwork if you are an artist.

Thomas: A favourite stanza from a poem of mine is this from ‘The Evil Eye’, which is taken from my current collection, ‘Grenade Genie’, and is about people’s obsession with posting about themselves on the internet (which applies as much to me as it does to pretty much everyone else)

Let’s face it, how can you stop?
It’s fame, albeit the tiniest drop – 
even if there's no-one who could possibly give a damn
about these selfies you constantly upload 
on to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Don’t you realise that you exist 
no more than you did before – less, in fact?  
You've made a pact with the digital devil,
not even to be an insect preserved in amber,
but simply an insect that's landed on a cobweb
stretched out directly in front 
of an amber signal on a traffic light –
and as soon as you're lit up no-one hangs around.

Q8: What kind of music do you enjoy? Favorite musical artists, influences, songs that inspire.

Thomas: I no longer keep up with what’s in the charts, though I do listen to music to unwind, bands that I was into in my teens, such as The Fall, The Damned, Killing Joke, Adam and the Ants, Kate Bush and Roxy Music, but never while I’m writing. I don’t understand how people can write while listening to music, but many say they do, including people who’ve written good stuff, so clearly it works for them, but their brains must be wired very differently to mine.  

Q9: Any recent or forthcoming projects you’d like to promote?

Thomas: I’m still actively promoting my aforementioned book, ‘Grenade Genie’. It came out in April 2020, just as the first lockdown in England was getting under way, so it never really got the start it deserved. Split into four sections – Cursed, Coerced, Combative and Corrupted – the book contains poems on subjects as diverse as Grenfell, the Iranian Revolution, the refugee crisis, the NHS, the end of civilisation, gorgons on Oxford Street, and not being able to remember anyone’s name! It’s available from the publisher, Fly on the Wall Press, here, or, if you want a signed copy, you can order it direct from me, here

Bio:

Thomas McColl lives in East London. He’s had poems and short stories published in magazines such as Envoi, Iota, Prole, Bare Fiction, Rising and Fictive Dream, and has two collections of poetry to his name – ‘Being With Me Will Help You Learn’ (Listen Softly London Press, 2016) and ‘Grenade Genie’ (Fly on the Wall Press, 2020). He’s read his poetry and stories at many events in London and beyond – including Landing Place, Celine’s Salon, The Quiet Compere, Birkbeck Writer’s Room and Newham Word Festival – and has been featured on East London Radio, BBC Radio Kent, BBC Radio WM and TV’s London Live. 

He’s on Twitter (username: @ThomasMcColl2) and Instragram (username: thomas__mccoll), and can be contacted via his website: https://thomasmccoll.wordpress.com/

3 Re-published poems from Peter Hague

photo by Kym MacKinnon (unsplash)

Three of Peter’s poems first published in a now defunct literary magazine called ‘Anima’.  Issues 4 – 2017 and 5 – 2018

The Fish-Eye Lens of Death

You cannot see the world
without some form of distortion.
It wraps around your head mysteriously –
half of it unsure
and held only in memory –
it is a second gone by 
and anything can happen,
especially in that blind spot 
of unnecessary coordination.
You cannot see the world
from any other place than where you are,
even with technology –
certainly not –
that would always be suspect and unsure.
It would likely be awash with trickery and invention.
No, you cannot see the road behind your back,
or those leaving as you turn.
The world makes you nervous that way –
makes you squirm,
until you rest in the fish-eye lens of death.
Then, with closed eyes
you are blind to nothing.

©2016 Peter Hague


Walking on Water

If I could walk on water, would I be a fool 
to think it was more than just tears beneath my feet?
That kind of skill never leads to very much,
like magic – its praise is never quite complete.
It will always seem a trick to some
and you would never gain their trust.
A true messiah would be an ordinary man,
whose wisdom leaves such elaborations out –
especially potential feet of rust.
If I were walking on water now,
I would be standing in a similar room,
on a similar street, in a similar gloom,
with a similar, tear-stained carpet at my feet,
and the warm blood of my own grail
hidden in defeat. 
This carpet is a map of things to bear,
with ripples instead of wear and tear.
I could distract myself and dance with castanets.
I could allow fishermen in to cast their nets.
But I would probably move myself on then
and start the process once again –
to summon an angel with a single click…
or just to hang this dripping carpet out 
and beat it with a stick.

©2016 Peter Hague

Out in the Estuary

I have the mind of a swollen river.
It has become brown and dirty these days –
scrubbing at its banks with a rebellious message; 
whispering with insidious lips.
It keeps me awake and makes no sense – 
washing at the roots of established trees, 
but I will not sign up to being part of the sea. 
I am a river – and between these falling shores 
I have set myself free.
			
I will languish in mud and bide my time, 
with an old, broken boat and other debris.
I have an enlightened opinion of my rippling life 
and let it pass into the blur it must be, 
but I will not follow that dilution into the sea. 

I need no details of waves and tides 
and have come to a halt in a soothing sludge. 
I am the torrent of spring that never was – 
I have seen too much and blessed it by 
and I am frozen like Lot's wife – looking back 
at the fresh water of new beginnings, 
yet undeniably tasting of salt. 

©2016 Peter Hague

Wolfpack Contributor: Peter Hague

5 poems from “Gain of Function” by Peter Hague


Book Review: Peter Hague “Summer With the Gods”


A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Peter Hague






3 Re-published Poems from Denise O’Hagan

Between beauty and decadence

Like a shred of satin
Crumpled and creamy
It caught my eye
Lying there, near a clothes peg
Against the brick red patio.

Luminous, exposed
Halfway between beauty and decadence
With the day’s bruise already on it:
The world’s aches
Perfectly expressed
In the throwaway gift
Of a fallen petal.

First published in The Blue Nib (Issue 39), 15 Sept. 2019
https://thebluenib.com/article/denise-ohagan/  

Separateness

The silence
Between us
Thickens and grows
And flows around us
Like a third presence
Waiting, malevolently,
For one of us to break it.

How did we
Get to this point?
Is there a line running
From the quickened heartbeat
The clutched hand
Of youth
And easy collusion
Of middle age
To this?
Was the end
Implicit in the beginning?
Or did we
Take a wrong turn
Creating a fault line
Damaging ourselves
And dislocating the ‘us’?
My thoughts are heavy, clunky
And going nowhere.

Years of misalignment
Have made us wary 
Suspicion lies coiled
Between us, serpent-like,
So we take refuge in routine,
Imbibing the evening news
With our chamomile tea
And the other rituals
Of stale, safe domesticity.

But all the while
Nuggets of resentment
Weigh down any deeper disclosure 
And neither of us
Want to admit 
To boredom.

First published in The Blue Nib (Issue 37), 15 March 2019
https://thebluenib.com/article/denise-ohagan-new-poetry/


A journey of sorts

You didn’t see me
But I turned back 
And then for years
Every time I passed that place
I’d see your crumpled form
Wheelchaired across the courtyard
Plastic bracelet pale against your wrist,
Resistance in the set of your shoulders.

Did a lifetime spent abroad
Sliced up between three continents
And all the years of travel
(good luck tiki in your inner pocket)
With their attendant rituals
Of collars pressed and briefcases clicking 
Inching forwards in countless check-in queues
Nodding acceptance of clunky hotel keys
Patient layers of rewritten drafts
Pencilled scribbles up and down the margin
Handshakes, boardrooms, coffee in plastic cups
Inhaling overblown officialdom
With cigarettes over too-long lunches
In that quiet way of yours – did all this
Stand you in good stead?
For this, too, was a journey of sorts. 

The white gash of your hospital gown
The glow of multicolored monitors
Recording your vital functions
While nurses replenished, adjusted and tweaked 
The spaghetti curls of drip lines and silver stands
With which my mother and I did hopeless battle
To ease your situation
Prompting a final, wry quip
And a chuckle from a nurse of stone:
Humour in extremis.

And on the last night 
They gave you the last rites
And then we settled down 
To wait.

First published in Eureka Street, Vol. 29, No. 18, 16 September 2019
http://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article/the-quiet-assimilators 

Bio: Denise O’Hagan is an award-winning editor and poet, born in Rome and based in Sydney. With a background in commercial book publishing in London and Sydney, she set up her own imprint, Black Quill Press, in 2015 to assist independent authors. Recipient of the Dalkey Poetry Prize, her work appears in various journals including The Copperfield Review, The Ekphrastic Review, Quadrant, Books Ireland, Eureka Street and Hecate. Her second poetry collection, Anamnesis, is due to be published in October 2022 (Recent Work Press).
Denise O’Hagan Home

Re-published poem from Linda M. Crate “have fun dancing with death” – poetry

red and gold mask with black background
Photo by Joshua Coleman (unsplash)

have fun dancing with death

you say, "it's adam and eve
not adam and steve."
but what if it were eve and lilith instead?
i fell in love with a woman once,
and i know you'd disapprove;
but she woke in me the dreaming when
i thought i was dead-
she reminded me that i do matter,
that my dreams are to drive me forward
not to be forgotten in some abandoned place;
she taught me that my scars make me 
beautiful -
she brought forth fires in my soul when there
had only been ashes before,
a faerie singing songs into my heart i
once knew
before you shut me away in that haunted
dark closet;
we were childhood friends but she was
my twin flame
knew me in ways i thought no one ever could -
i loved a woman once,
and i love her still;
i'm not ashamed to admit that now
won't hide in the closet you would nail
me into
skeletons, spiders, and moths make poor companions
as do you -
stop seeking me
you made your choices,
and i've made mine;
have fun dancing with death!
i choose love, i choose light, i choose rainbows

Bio: Linda M. Crate (she/her) is a Pennsylvanian writer. Her works have been published in numerous magazines and anthologies both online and in print. She is the author of ten poetry chapbooks, the latest being: Hecate's Child (Alien Buddha Publishing, November 2021). She's also the author of the novella Mates (Alien Buddha Publishing, March 2022). She has three micro-poetry collections out:  Heaven Instead (Origami Poems Project, May 2018), moon mother (Origami Poems Project, March 2020.), and & so i believe (Origami Poems Project, April 2021). She has published four full-length poetry collections Vampire Daughter (Dark Gatekeeper Gaming, February 2020), The Sweetest Blood (Cyberwit, February 2020), Mythology of My Bones (Cyberwit, August 2020), and you will not control me (Cyberwit, March 2021).

 2 poems by  Linda M. Crate : Once We Were Sisters & All You Gave Me Was Rage  

New poems from Linda M. Crate “all i wanted is to be loved” “i’ve outrgrown you” and more

Poetry Feature for Linda M. Crate from the Anthologies















































A Poetry Showcase by Matthew Freeman

Taxed

And I’ve seen that it’s possible
to never come out of hell
and that any revisions that are made
are made in the rain.

I knew a guy at MPC on Delmar
twenty years ago now who with trembling fingers
would chain smoke
discarded cigarette butts he found
and whatever was going on in the sky
was contending in his own mind.
He was closer than I can explain.

Other patients would talk about him
and various rumors and reasons
for his condition were passed around.
I felt that they all fell flat.

I don’t know what could explain
the sheer dignity and unutterable grace
of someone so painfully and somehow
beautifully cast about.

There’s somebody somewhere
paying for every little thing that we do.

Repetition (in the Lacanian Sense)

I can write about orchards and vines
and I can write about the Greyhound and the Metro
and I can write about Orpheus going down 
or Red errupting when they
stole his Doritos

and now sometimes I feel like I've been walking
along the bottom of an ocean
for forty long years
with only the Beatles and Jakob Dylan
to comfort me
and how I'm ready to tap out of this wrestling match
but I can't keep the metaphors straight 
and anyway in kicks the Ativan
and we begin again. Okay, that's literal.

Something much greater than sex is going on.
My nurse thinks the Ativan is causing early onset dementia.
Look, I've been demented since day one.
It's only helped me making verse.
It's been about twenty-seven years
since I could tell you what I did yesterday.
Decades have passed since my community support worker
took me in because I'd taken a month of meds in ten days.

Yes, I know, I suspect 
I've already said all of this.

Forget Whitman

Ah, so it's the moon 
that's been influencing me.
All these years and I thought it was the sun.
What a fool I was !
I mistook being terribly uptight for stability.
I thought letters involved restraint.

I've been thinking a lot about myself
and what I've discovered is
that the structure of my negative symptoms,
the wonder wall,
is slowly coming apart.

I had a pleasant talk with an intelligent 
and amiable older woman today
and when I came home I felt safe and understood.
Maybe later when I put on the Bach some feeling will come.
Maybe I'll feel like going somewhere.
Maybe when I try to take a nap
I'll actually rest.

I'm becoming devout! My mind's still a little messed up
and I'm still writing poems all day with lots of cuss words
and I'm still cussing out the devil
and I'm down with all the forms of witchery 
but Christ is handling my dispossession
and Superman's going to sweep up all my symptoms
and throw them into the sun and then plant my flag on the moon.
Finally, dear Ladylove, it's happening!
The change in consciousness we talked about to change my stance.
There's a sign and it doesn't have to be a sign.
It's all about aesthetics and forgiveness.
Forget Whitman, John Keats is going to be my guide!   

Measured

By any sane stable measure
in the heavily belated
late liberal free neo-conservative
market,
I'm an abject failure.

People malign Little Marx
but without him and the mixed economy
I'd be dead meat. On a side note
I would mention 
that I might already be dead meat
because I think
my blood stopped flowing. But
that's for a different poem.

Maybe they should make social programs for
poets. Rotten teeth? Check. Afraid of sex? Check.
But without some capital there'd be no marginal 
friction. And regardless of
whatever psych evals they give
they still don't know where
poetry comes from. You can be a loud asshole
and write quiet poems. You can be
silent for years
and then come out with some 
bombastic revelations. I thank my good buddy
Chief, who remarked when I said I was a loser,
“Artists are held to a different standard.”


Witness

Everything's complicated but
I'm doing my best
to sort it out.

Okay, yes, I take a lot of meds and
they've kept me from completely
freaking out and having to hit the hospital.
But there's a grand fake edifice
being built behind me
and I'm starting to believe
that it might, in fact, be real.

As once at Barnes-Jewish
I said to the psych nurse, “So it's true.
The government is watching me.”
“But not in the sense you're suspecting,”
she responded.

But seriously, folks, let's not get
bogged down in the mire of semantics.
Some weird shit is going down
and I'm here to witness it.

My Discernment

My repeated trips
to the Underworld or the Wilderness
or whatever you want to call it
have in some manner left me
weakened. I'm not going to quit
doing what I'm doing but
it would be nice
to say I've learned what I needed to learn.

A huge breakthrough came
when I got up to leave my room
and somehow the door was already opened
and when I got to the elevator
it opened before I even pressed the button
and no one was on it
and my immediate thought 
was not that this was from the devil
but that it was a great
gift and wonderful sign 
from God.

What's to Love

I walk a little quieter when
little Enoch is around.
I have said that he is holy.
I know that you, dear reader,
would probably think
that he's clearly suffering
from some unknown
malady.

I can't tell you what we do here all day
but there is a structure to it.
There's a rhythm. You can call me the drummer.

Today I discovered a secret method
for rising out of hell. But don't tell anyone!
It's five hundred milligrams of Clozaril.
I think though I'm not sure that I'm the only one in the know.
Walking in the rain's different from looking out the window.

I arrive later at Tower Grove Park
with my notes
and continue to put down the penetrating paranoid vibe
and so, I can take part
in the psychotic discourse but
what's much more interesting to me
is figuring out those tulips and what's to love.


Loud Bell

Parkview Place has finally grown into my home
after only fourteen years
and I love my beatnik room
and last night on the patio I actually
was thinking
“eyeball” and “eyeball”
because I was noticing the beautiful lights
and the beautiful 70's architecture
and I felt some god was preparing me to roar

and I've slowly come to understand the presence of evil.
I've been so sick
and I just thought that everyone or everything
was sick as well.
I feel like I'm going to a wedding.
Somebody's about to give birth!
There's a beautiful spirit all about us
which is taking its shape in the brain.
Send this stuff to the true psychiatrist!

And speaking of trysts I'm wondering just where
Dr Valentine is now? You get so down 
and defeated and afraid
but you keep on fighting and after fourteen years or so
you enter 
into a positive transactional analysis 
and what freaked you out about everybody 
dissipates.

So don't dwell on that guy running rampant
throughout Manhattan so angry and unconscious 
and just at the beginning of picking up on language
because you know that loud bell eventually came to the fore.

Wolfpack Contributor: Matthew Freeman

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Matthew Freeman











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