Paul McCartney can be seen on You Tube interviewed by the poet Billy Collins—and it points up the superiority of the pop musician to the poet, in our day: Collins comes across as a mere fan, asking questions of the ex-Beatle which merely elicit answers we’ve heard before. You would think perhaps a poet of Collins’ stature could have steered this brilliant pop songwriter into novel intellectual territory.  But no. McCartney was funny, charming, and interesting. Collins was diffident and dull.

Collins said what was interesting about the early Beatles was “the chord;” they were playing new chords.  But this is completely wrong.

Paul playfully pointed out how the melody of his song “Blackbird” was borrowed from a Bach riff and how jazz’s more sophisticated chords influenced the Beatles, and Paul repeated the story of how the boys went across Liverpool on a bus to learn the chord B7 from an older guy—which is really just an elaborate joke since chords can be found in a book and it only takes a few chords to play rock music; the anecdote is one of Pauls’s favorites because it points up what humble novices the Beatles were and the mock worship of a chord is the equivalent of a desire for a woman or a drug.

All of this went right over the earnest poet’s head, Collins so certain that the Beatles were “inventing new chords.” That wasn’t the secret or the appeal of their music. Billy, the Beatles were not introducing new “chords” to the world. If Collins knew anything about their music, he wouldn’t have ventured this observation; Paul was too polite to correct him; he merely turned to his rich supply of jokes and anecdotes to brush the naivé poet aside; Paul did remind Collins in passing, during his rambling reply, that pop music, including much of the Beatles music, is built on three standard chords.

It was not a correction, or a lecture; it’s not Paul’s style to be didactic or stern; he laughed at Collins, but no one knew. When faced with the assertion that the central beauty of Beatles music was the new chord, he merely dragged out the B7 story. Paul was greatly influenced by his jazz musician father. Paul probably knew exactly what a B7 was. But it’s a great story, anyway.

Collins also made the cliched observation that early Beatles music wasn’t nearly as interesting as the Beatles’ later period—when a host of characters invaded their music, like Eleanor Rigby and Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.  Well, yes, sure, the later Beatles did expand their lyric content superficially, but this makes 1967 and 1968 far more important than 1964 and 1965 in a way which obscures the Beatles’ real genius.  The early work was not just “love me do” and “yea yea yea.”  And as Paul impishly pointed out, the “sophisticated” lyric content Collins was naively hellbent on praising, was mostly due to—“drugs.”

Genius has a simplicity which the bumbling, ordinary understanding misses.  Collins hadn’t a clue what to ask Paul McCartney. Collins, the poet, was adrift on the notion that the Beatle song, “Penny Lane,” could perhaps pass as a poem.

Collins has written some very good poems and is obviously an intelligent man.

Blame the time we live in. The divide between poet and pop musician is so great, mutual interest can’t exist.

This demonstrates what John Crowe Ransom said almost a century ago: “the Modern” means specialization, and song and poetry, once brother and sister, are now different, have taken different jobs, and moved apart.

Whether this “specialization” is always a good thing, and whether poetry does not, in fact, live in great popular music, is perhaps the great aesthetic question of our day.  How long will modernism’s “specialization” estrangement hold sway?

It wasn’t like Paul McCartney was saying anything interesting about poetry. He never asked Collins about the secret to writing poetry, or seemed the least interested in what Collins wrote.  Here was the Paul that everyone hates, basking with a grin in the crowd’s adoration: “Yesterday. Maybe you’ve heard of it?  wink wink.” (This aspect of Paul’s behavior makes one long for the more sour Lennon—the truism of why they complimented each other.)

When Collins asked Paul about the difference between writing songs and poetry, Paul was certain they were different activities—which perhaps dooms McCartney’s (attempts at) poetry, and makes McCartney, on the flip side, a fool like Collins.

McCartney, surely knowing that he is a certified “failed poet,” opined that poetry to him was like writing in a “diary;” one brings in “things” to try and make them “interesting,” and this was either Paul’s way of insulting poetry—the kind Collins and modern poets write—or, it was what Paul really thinks poetry is.

But McCartney’s feeling was telling, for “diary writing” does not make one famous; and Paul was sitting their being interviewed because he is famous, and Collins, compared to McCartney is not, and no poet today is, and so Collins wanted to know what Paul thought—Paul didn’t care what the Collins, the “diary writer” thought.

Soon after the interview began, someone brought Paul a guitar, and it was his prop, his crutch, his ticket to glory; McCartney couldn’t stop nervously fiddling with it, almost as if any moment the guitar was going to demand it be played; no serious talk about poetry was going to take place in this studio—Paul had brought ‘his Yoko’ (guitar) to Collins’ sacred interview—it was the rock star’s space, not poor Billy’s. The guitar was there. And where was Billy Collins’ instrument? Billy Collins could have used his voice to quote great poetry throughout the interview; what would Paul McCartney have thought of that? Collins didn’t dare.

Collins did get to play teacher to the pop genius for a couple minutes: that’s what most poets are today—university professors. The interview was at a college because Paul is a step parent of a college student.  So Collins read a little from Paul’s book of published poetry, declaring it “good;” probably an agonizing couple of minutes for the pop star—McCartney’s “poetry”—and it must be obvious to everyone—is exceedingly average.

Collins did stumble on an interesting topic when he asked Paul about cover songs. Collins assumed that Paul had all sorts of opinions about others who covered Beatle songs, but Paul honestly said he was happy with anyone who played his music—“Wouldn’t you be happy if you heard someone on a street corner reciting one of your poems?” he asked Collins, and of course the sheepish response was yes.

This led to McCartney’s necessity-is-the-mother-of-invention anecdote, which does throw an interesting light on creation and performance: when the Beatles were first playing out in the shows that featured lots of other rock-and-roll bands, the Beatles used play-lists of “Long Tall Sally” by Little Richard (1956 hit) and other songs by contemporary artists—the Beatles in the early days played other people’s material, not their own. What happened was, that bands who went on stage before the Beatles, would be covering the same songs—which the Beatles, fearing repetition, then couldn’t play.  And so, simply to avoid this problem, the Beatles wrote their own songs.

Paul said he dreamed “Yesterday,” and that he was sure at first that he copped a song that already existed.

Paul’s humility—one which humbly celebrates that creation is nothing but a kind of absent-minded, fortuitous  imitation—was something that Collins, the modern poet and “Beatles fan” couldn’t get his head around.

For imitation is finally at the heart of the whole matter: beware, beware, said Plato of imitation—do not trust art and its imitative reality.

To imitate is—to fool.

Today we have different brands of fancy yogurt—with 0% fat. Yogurt today, aping the original product, is robbed of an essential ingredient by diet faddists. Imitation of the old is practiced by the fraudulent—to lure fans to a fad. (Animal fat is good for you. Imitation non-fat yogurt, extremely popular, is actually bad for you. We should be wary of imitation, even as we admit how ubiquitous it is.)

The young, white Beatles played black music for millions of new, white “fans.” (Viewing on You Tube recently a June, 1965 concert in Paris, when the Beatles were at the height of Beatlemania fame, I noticed that the song played by the Beatles that got the audience most exited and brought out the most police protection was not a Beatles song; it was—Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally.”)

McCartney knows what the game finally involves, and what a “fan” really is—a foolish, bankrupt, byproduct of purely cynical and expedient imitation which attaches itself to something else—race, sex, etc—specifically to cater to new audiences for new sales.

The irony that Paul’s claim to fame is called, “Yesterday,” and that, despite his enormous talent, he has not produced anything memorable or critically acclaimed in the last two-thirds of his long, productive life, hovers over his current notoriety—a notoriety still able to steamroll Billy Collins and any poet who sits across from him.

The Beatles were a business.  They were in the music business. They wrote their own songs out of necessity, and those songs were created from a knowledge of other songs the Beatles absorbed as they were growing up and listening to their parents’ music—a vast, expansive library of old, lovely, tuneful music, too large for any ear to grasp, and later, American blues and country music, rock and roll music which already existed, which they learned as they played together in Liverpool, and then in Hamburg for hours and hours, weeks and weeks, months and months, and then back to Liverpool, over a period of years: the “10,000 hours to become proficient” formula was cited by Collins. Paul agreed that all those hours of playing, especially the long hours of performing in Hamburg long before the Beatles were famous, helped tremendously. It enabled them to play a great version of “Long Tall Sally,” for instance.

Paul did mention that he had a great English teacher in school who taught Shakespeare and Keats and Chaucer. Chaucer’s dirty bits got the students’ attention, Paul recalled, and he said if he were not a rock musician, his next choice of vocation would be a teacher of literature.

Why were the two—McCartney the lyric pop song writer, and Collins, the poet—unable to connect?

Collins played the fan, and Paul, the success.

Perhaps the great divide is this: Song: I love you. Literature: Let us examine what ‘I love you’ really means.

The theme of “appealing to girls” was a strong one. When Collins brandished students’ questions at the end of their talk, he made a point of saying that some of the questions were “can I meet you, later?”

Paul has often admitted, cheekily, the Beatles were formed “to meet girls,” and when he and Collins briefly discussed early Beatle lyrics the mockery was palpable: “love me, do;” “please, please me;” “she loves you.”

But the devil is in the details, and details were what the two refused to discuss.

This is what the “specialization” of modernism has done: it has made everyone generally ignorant.

The interview, by the logic of specialization, was forced into the following category: Famous Pop Musician Interview. This is where it remained.

McCartney, a phenomenal success in his field, seemed utterly ignorant of poetry; Collins, successful in poetry, seemed utterly ignorant of song.

In the modern age, we seem to like it this way. We prefer to be blind in a sea of “experts” and “specialists,” even when it hinders a great deal of interest and pleasure.

The English teacher—the one who obviously shaped McCartney—once imparted general knowledge: Shakespeare’s poetry was simply, the world.

But Shakespeare’s towering acheivement is now considered not “specialized” enough.

The student of poetry in the Creative Writing Program New Order is now a diarist who specializes in themselves. This is the specialization which now dominates everything and fosters general ignorance.

The truth is that “She Loves You” is a lot more interesting than “I Love You”—it is a whole order of magnitude more interesting. It involves three people instead of two, and is, in fact, a master Shakesperian stroke. Collins was ignorant of this, and even Paul seemed so, as well. Early Beatle work was dismissed by both men as juvenile. Popular song, even as popular as the phenomenal success of the Beatles, was assumed—by two men who should have known better—to have absolutely no poetic interest. And somehow love songs—music “appealing to girls,” was assumed to be vacuous, when, in fact, nothing is more interesting and complex than love and its attractions.

But this is what happens in an age of specialization.

Love belongs to friendship and sex to the prostitute.

Everything is business. Everything is expediently separated out—to the destruction of the whole person. This alienation brought about by division of labor overlaps the Marxist complaint—which makes sense on its own, without having to get into a Left v. Right quarrel, or a Socialist v. Capitalist one—more specialized nonsense that covers up what unites us. Division of labor here and there has its place, obviously, but one can see how, in modernity, it simply gets out of hand, killing the whole person.

When does division help? Certainly the Marxist complaint against division of labor can get out of hand, as well.

Why should we rue the fact that Collins is Collins and McCartney is McCartney? Perhaps it is good neither artist understands the others’ art—isn’t this what makes each excellent? Isn’t it good that song is with song, and poetry is with poetry? Perhaps modern specialization and its divisions make perfect sense. We simply can’t have Shakespeare anymore: the best we can do is have a McCartney here and a Collins there.

Or: perhaps the Beatles output as a whole could only have happened because of Shakespeare, and poetry in general will decline if we forget general knowledge and indulge in highly modernist, Creative Writing Program, specializing.

Paul’s song “For No One” belongs to the Beatles earlier period, or, perhaps more accurately, the middle “Yesterday” period—and this remarkable song has no chance in the Collins universe which divides the Beatles work into unsophisticated “love songs” and sophisticated songs like “Eleanor Rigby” and “Penny Lane.”

It might be argued that Paul wrote “Yesterday” as a revenge against “Long Tall Sally,” the song that perhaps in the boys’ minds remained their best Beatlemania song, despite all their original output.

“For No One” emerged during the “Yesterday” period, and received little attention—fans liked it, but it was just another “love song.” Critics liked it, too, and some admired it as more sophisticated than “yea, yea, yea,” but Billy Collins wasn’t going to bring it up. It remains an obscure Beatle song.

But this is the sort of Modernist mistake which boasts that everything 19th century is naivé and sing-songy and no one needs to write like Keats and Byron anymore, and that crunchy content is everything. But the truth of the matter is that simple words can be very profound, and the song “For No One” is a very profound song.

The modern prose poem which Collins writes relies on crunchy content to carry its message. And humor. And Collins happens to be very good at this kind of poem—Collins really is as good in this area as McCartney is in his.

The point of this essay is not that McCartney is a greater genius than Collins—only to observe the intersection between a sensibility based on modern poetry and a sensibility based on pop music within the context of: What is art? What is significant? What is valuable? What contributes to the making of art?

Music adds to what Paul is doing as a poet in his songs: “she loves you” written on the page is not the same as “she loves you” sung with music in the Lennon-McCartney composition. But that does not mean “she loves you” is not poetry, nor does it mean that poets do not have the music of words at their disposal—they certainly do, even as metrical language and rhyme tends to be eschewed by modern poets like Collins.

Another feature of modern poetry which is relevant and makes it so different from a pop music sensibility is the pride of exclusivity—the powerful New Critic idea that worthy, sophisticated poetry needs and wants nothing from outside. This New Critical view inhibits truth, for all art is formed by what happens outside of it, and this is one more unfortunate, if noble, error the modernists made.

The truth is finally what we seek—whether it is in science, in love, in politics, or in art.

If we view poetry through the modernist lens that a poem exists on an island of its own making, we cannot possibly see the truth of what makes McCartney’s music interesting.

Collins, schooled in modernist poetry, praised later Beatle compositions like “Eleanor Rigby,” since they feature “characters” in a little drama: there on the island of Paul’s song is a unique world, a unique character named Eleanor Rigby—enough to please any modernist New Critic. And the song is a good one, spoiled a little by the lyrics which telegraph its message: “look at all the lonely people.”

But what Collins cannot appreciate is this:

“Eleanor Rigby” features an interesting metrical/music based on a pronounced dactylic/trochaic rhythm.

The character’s name in Paul’s composition couldn’t be Eleanor Smith—based on sound alone.

If her name were Eleanor Smith, it would be a different song—rhythmically and melodically. A totally different song. But in a Collins poem, changing Eleanor Rigby to Eleanor Smith would hardly matter.

These sorts of considerations are just as important in early Beatle songs as later Beatle songs. They used to be important in poetry, too. Collins, the modern poet, is fixated on Eleanor Rigby, the character, but she’s not a character. She’s a piece of rhythm. Collins, as a modern poet, has a limited appreciation of pop music. Rhythm used to be crucial in poetry, but since modernism, it no longer is.

Paul, who was writing rhythmical poetry in his Beatle songs unconsciously, attempted to write what he thought was “real poetry” for his book, Blackbird Singing, and failed.

The truth is this: poems are not islands: it matters very much how they get made, and Paul wildly successful, and, at the same time, humble and humorous and without pretence, admitted that the Beatles’ creativity was extremely imitative and accidental—the Beatles’ “creativity” existed in the context of merely expanding a crowd-pleasing playlist containing a certain type of composition which they were basically imitating in the manner of excited boys trying to please girls.

But genius can grow in any soil, and the plainer and simpler the soil, the more profoundly is genius able to display itself. Genius is not a complication within a complication; genius is that which blows complication to bits. And the truth is always the larger truth: what are all the facts about this poem-song?

Paul wrote “For No One” on a ski holiday with Jane Asher in March, 1966, roughly a year after “Yesterday” and it has the same theme, only expressed in a slightly more dramatic way. But it wasn’t on Collins’ radar because “For No One” only uses “you” and “her,” and doesn’t have a real crunchy content. It happens to be one of those exquisite pop songs which teeters on the edge of “poetry,” and yet wouldn’t really turn heads as a poem, if it were just presented on the page.

But what is amazing is that “for no one,” the phrase itself, has a meaning that is ambiguous in the song—“cried for no one” refers to the woman who is leaving the man, the woman who has now moved on—and so we have emotion (“cried”) coupled with indifference (“for no one”).

“No One” turns out to have meaning outside the song itself, if we think of Paul McCartney’s actual identity as a writer of hit songs.

The phrase may refer to: 1. the faceless crowd (which is “no one”) 2. himself, who is “no one” compared to the famous songwriter Beatle, 3. The famous songwriter Beatle, who is “no one” compared to Paul, the person, 4. John, who was pulling away from him as co-songwriter and friend, and thus, “no one,” or 5. “no one” needs or truly expresses insincere pop song emotions in pop songs.

All these work—outside of the poignant and relevant meaning “for no one” has within the song.

This is the sort of territory we hoped Collins might have ventured into in his discussion with McCartney, but nothing like this could occur. Specialization—Collins’ role as humbled modernist poet/pop fan—prevents it.

There’s a You Tube video of Paul in the studio with just an acoustic guitar, as he first auditions “For No One” for Beatles’ producer George Martin, and one is struck immediately by the confidence, the melodic invention, the nonchalant effort of the genius, who plays the song quickly, it pouring out of him, seemingly without thought. And we notice something else: “For No One” concerns the saddest situation it is possible to experience in ordinary life: loving someone who no longer cares about you—and yet, despite the poignancy and misery expressed overtly by the lyrics, Paul, as he plays it in all its expressive sadness, smiles at one point, and is thoroughly enjoying himself. He is able to be two-sided, not weighed down by the weight, Paul McCartney taking flight into a heaven of accomplishment and pleasure—even in the very misery of the subject of the song.





  1. powersjq said,

    February 17, 2016 at 11:39 am

    “If her name were Eleanor Smith, it would be a different song—rhythmically and melodically. A totally different song. But in a Collins poem, changing Eleanor Rigby to Eleanor Smith would hardly matter.

    These sorts of considerations are just as important in early Beatle songs as later Beatle songs. They used to be important in poetry, too. Collins, the modern poet, is fixated on Eleanor Rigby, the character, but she’s not a character. She’s a piece of rhythm. Collins, as a modern poet, has a limited appreciation of pop music. Rhythm used to be crucial in poetry, but since modernism, it no longer is.”

    This is literary criticism at its very best. Thank you for this.

    Just curious: why is BIlly Collins referred to as “Collins,” while Paul McCartney is most often (but not always) referred to as “Paul”?

    • thomasbrady said,

      February 17, 2016 at 2:13 pm


      Thank you.

      I think the Paul/Collins is, in a way, a kind of unconscious tribute to the Beatle: the more familiar address given to the greater figure.

      Homer is more respectful than Mr. Homer. Paul is more respectful than Collins.

      In my final edit, I was changing a lot of Pauls to McCartneys.

      On some deep level, as a poet/songwriter/fan, I also feel like I “know” Paul better than I know Billy.

  2. June 19, 2016 at 10:44 pm

    I am sorry to sound obtuse but what does “crunchy content mean? Incidentally the following book of verse also writes the world and uses rhythm and metre. Several of the poems are sonnets though The View From Westminster Bridge is not.

    • thomasbrady said,

      June 20, 2016 at 12:05 am

      Hi David,

      By crunchy content I refer to details and references which the contemporary reader finds familiar can easily latch onto and relate to without too much emotional fanfare.


  3. David Howells said,

    June 20, 2016 at 12:41 pm

    I found the excellent points made in the essay very useful as it is difficult to put into words what is so dislikeable about contemporary poetry. Of course the eschewing of rhythm and meter is a major negative but what else is there? The need to be obscure rather than deep is an off putting feature and trying to be clever rather than explicating something deep or important.
    The abandonment of traditional form leaves it like chopped up sentences, obscure prose instead of poetry. There is a pettiness of thought and a surface cleverness. I looked at some contemporary stuff and there is no feeling of pleasure or enjoyment while reading. As the author noted it is not of the world and has human reader(audience) in mind during construction which renders it of no importance and of no use to anyone apart from the writer and their circle.
    I recognise also the point that the poets tend to be professors and in a different orbit from the average reader. In my last post I mentioned David Hamilton who writes in a traditional way. Not only do the literary establishment refuse to review his work or publish individual poems but several “prestigous” journals like the Times Literary Supplement, Granta and The Poetry Stuff actually refuse to take adverts for his new book to preserve the status quo which is their own positions and influence. I welcome views on this suppression of new writers and ideas

    • thomasbrady said,

      June 20, 2016 at 1:25 pm


      I just met someone in Romania who writes for Granta. He’s a very smart guy, engaged in the real world. Anyway, please feel free to post a poem or two by David Hamilton. The Amazon link doesn’t allow me to see the poetry. I’d like to see his work. Thanks! Tom

      • David Howells said,

        June 20, 2016 at 2:07 pm

        I handle the financial and business side for Mr.H, an old friend. I have posted four from his new book Concept poems but Plastic Soup loses shape on here. Do you have an email contact?

        Plastic Soup: A Dialogue

        A jovial party goer in paper that goes laughing by.
        An elderly disheveled man stops him in the street.

        The Distressed Mariner:

        Spare a moment young man. I have a tale of alarms and anxiety to tell,
        Of my many moons weaving through small, sparkling bits of plastic that
        That surround passing creatures dragging them down and stopping their
        Breath. I have seen great horrors drifting across the seas to kill and choke.
        Worse by far than the climate change hysteria we keep hearing about.

        The Party goer:

        Who is this nutter going around stopping people, telling them his woes
        And frightening tales of world doom creeping up on us? What he has
        Seen are hallucinations from spending too long living in a bottle,
        Looking through the bottom distorts the view.

        My friends are waiting with food and drink and fun and games.
        We are the party generation and to us life is fun and older
        Folks, bores, who have seen nothing, never done what we do,
        Nor known what we know and like our parents lecture us to stop.
        We have no time for cares or worry just enjoyment and playing
        With our lives. You should see me with my red nose on.

        The Distressed Mariner:

        I am not asking for spare change! I bring alarming news to disturb your
        Festive day by what we saw on our oceanic way. We crossed an artificial
        Stew spread across the ocean from the Californian coast, across the northern
        Pacific, past Hawaii almost to Japan. Almost imperceptible sludge and slurry
        We slogged through. Through wastes of water twice the size of the USA, a
        Dead sea of plastic, not salt, no matter which way we went we were in it.

        The hundred million ton giant squid, spreads choking tentacles across the
        Ocean, and when close to land, it ejects waste not ink, onto beaches burying
        Them under plastic vomit. If I could have waved a wand or wished that waste
        Away I would have. Small pieces of floating plastic that are hard for the peering
        Eye to see float in a twirling trash heap, continually stirred by wind and wave
        Like a chronic chemical cocktail, dispersed over huge sub-surface areas from
        The rippling surface, to the sand at the bottom of the sea. Like death row drifting
        Under the oceans, a pyre not of fire but floating plastic that strangles life in its path.

        We sailed through plastic patches, areas of trawling evil bringing death into
        Life, where it was not expected and saw nothing on the surface, though it was
        There, silently suspended under the water, its size and content changing with
        Currents and winds, like a chemical chameleon flicking out a plastic tongue
        To snatch wildlife unaware into its artificial malicious maw. The drifting death
        Sags down to the ocean floor, like a crematory curtain covering the coffin of
        The sea, as it oozes over the salty waves to throttle unsuspecting living things,
        Who eat it up as it infiltrates their feeding areas, imitating their awaited diets.

        Thinking its food, they poison themselves and feed it to their children. Plastic
        Bag Jellyfish are lapped up by loggerhead turtles who turn and die gasping,
        With throats blocked by man-made drones of underwater death and devastation.
        The marauding maelstrom of murder isn’t spread evenly across the water world,
        But in different batches of sinister, stealthy death sneaking plastic poison across
        The Pacific. Much hangs down like a throttling trawling net and advances
        Scooping up everything, to smother to death in its specks of oblivion.

        A broad area of sinking air in the North pacific brings drier warmer temperatures
        Amid fair weather because of sinking air and high pressure is semi permanent
        Affecting the movement of the ocean below. High pressure winds are lighter, they
        Blow clockwise in the northern hemisphere, over open ocean. Plastic and floating
        Debris are swept into the calm inner area of the North Pacific High, where it gets
        Trapped by oceanic and atmospheric currents creating higher density than
        Surrounding water it is set in.

        The Party goer:

        We don’t want to be worried by this. We have had enough of climate change talk
        And bird shredding wind farms. Let us live and laugh and enjoy life. We work and
        Want to sample the benefits – nice holidays, partying. We elect people to deal with
        The worrying stuff.

        The Distressed Mariner:

        Yes, but are they? They make a lot of money for themselves and cover up awkward results.
        They do not want scandal about the wonder chemical creation that goes into so much we use.
        Know, young feller, I have watched it for miles and miles through smarting eyes. On either
        Side of Hawaii, in the plastic patches of the Western and Eastern Pacific, a floating, strangling
        Soup of choking death, a flotsam of footballs, kayaks, Lego blocks and carrier bags, thrown
        From ships, sometimes seepages from land and oil rigs, blown or thrown in, brushed from
        Streets by rainwater, down drains and along streams and rivers to the sea it rushes to destroy Wildlife, and follow the food chain round to our dinner plates.
        A circling circuit of chemical doom drives its way to our stomachs. The slightly submerged
        Silent submarine of slow agonising demise, spreads from shore to sea, back to shore, and
        Through bird and marine life to us. The whole chain of being is poisoned, polluted and
        Perishes without scientists concerned, just chiding victims for not disposing of it safely.

        There was little wind to move us at the North Pacific gyre, and high pressure made a vortex
        Where the ocean circulates slowly which we mariners try to avoid, like the ancient mariner
        We were becalmed, not on a still, silent sea with strange creatures running over the skin of the Surface, but a seeping, strangulating soup of evil created by unrealistic scientists. The world’s Largest rubbish dump, held together by whirling under- water currents, a sailing, drifting soup. Slowly, softly, sweetly we sailed in warm gentle breezes, we passed over the line cruising,
        Calmly, without a sign of poisonous water, even in their midst, could we see until we looked closely. No hint of the horrid rank, rancid stew we slithered through, like slurry from hell,
        Sludge from hades, but artificially created in hideous kitchens of scientific arrogance, around
        And underneath us it crept.

        Sea turtles and black footed albatrosses are now on a diet of putrid plastic and of a million
        And half albatrosses that live on Midway most have plastic in their stomachs and about
        A third of their chicks are killed by it, many fed plastic as food by their parents. Twenty
        Tons of plastic rubbish reaches Midway every year with five tons of plastic poison fed to
        Albatross chicks across the oceans.

        We were cutting through rubbish, day after day, like an ice breaker in the polar seas, through
        A plethora of plastic bits. On and on far from land through, thousands of miles of jetsam we Struggled. Every time I went on deck all I could see was submerged waste. Putrefying and Decomposing rubbish but into smaller pieces not breaking down. We cruised on clear water,
        Yet adrift on a mottled sea of poison over the top without sinking down. We looked and saw
        Bits of plastic bubbling like a fizzy drink, a reeking sea of rubbish rotating all around us.

        Modern plastics last long and their destruction endures. A grotesque galleon of evil riding just Below the waves should raise the Skull and Crossbones announcing its murderous mission to
        Maim and make victims maunder. For fifty years plastic bag jellyfish have haunted sea
        Channels choking creatures in the Pacific pandemonium; pieces of plastic swallowed, clogging
        Throats of fish and birds. More than a million seabirds every year perish on waves of death
        And are eaten as carrion and the plastic spreads throughout the chain. More than a hundred
        Thousand marine mammals die by swallowing syringes, cigarette lighters and Toothbrushes
        Each year thinking they are food. Forty thousand pieces of plastic plankton floating in each
        Square mile of sea. The plastic fish of death float along tides and currents unseen From space,
        The armada of death moves silently through the tides.

        Plasticised beaches abound and threaten health and life not man made global warming
        Hysteria, slowly spinning rubbish-laden water, silent and unseen the sludge pollutes all it
        Touches, as millions of little plastic pellets are spilt every year and work their way to the
        Sea to be separated, as moisture is drawn up to return as rain. They are chemical sponges
        Absorbing artificial chemicals like hydrocarbons and DDT. They enter the ascending ladder
        Of food. What goes into the ocean passes through animals on to our dinner plates.

        The Party goer?

        I knew nothing of this! Are these bits of individual poison connected to a whole or
        Floating freely but mingle together pulled by the tide into a harmful movement?

        The Distressed Mariner:

        This is not the cosmic flow but a wide and long seeping destroyer, built not on foundations
        But cast adrift by unseen hands and unthinking minds. Much plastic is wasted. Paying to
        Collect rubbish may help as would biodegradable plastics for disposable items, no leaders
        Are big enough to take action. The main killers and suffocaters are plastic bags, food packaging
        And plastic bottles so Charge the users a fee per unit to finance massive clear-ups? Or just
        Ban it? Alienated from nature egotistical scientists spread terror and harm by thinking they
        Have found Perfect solutions, hubris visits victims not the arrogant causers.

        The Party goer:

        Did anybody dive down to look from the bottom?

        The Distressed Mariner:

        I went deep into the layers of a poison plastic onion and toxins transferred to my body as
        I swam through a sea of poisonous plastic bits; it is frightening to see Bis phenol A, on your
        Body, and I knew that it had been passed to me from the spreading demonic drape like a
        Pebble dash wall moving round me. I had swum through it and walked along the sea bed, under
        A stifling shower of plastic pieces. There we were swimming and sailing in a Sci Fi nightmare.
        You Realise what effect we have on the environment when it lands on you then spreads all over,
        When we find out it’s nearly too late, and this is spreading into the remotest places on Earth,
        Damage is drastic and dragging us under the black seaborne cloud of Scientific horror.
        BPA is a colourless solid that is soluble in solvents, but not so much in water. It is a synthetic Estrogen, and plastics with BPA break down, into our food and water and then the body
        Which is most people; BPA is in the urine of 93% of surveyed Americans over six years-old.

        Phthalates puts pliability into plastic but water bottles become brittle with age and leak into
        Our throats through the water, through our stomachs and round our systems like little plastic Patches in the blood. It goes through our hearts, liver, kidneys and brains leaving dark,
        Damaging stains. It can be passed to our bodies in food packaging, through medical tubing
        And plastic devices for feeding, medicating, and assisting the breathing of newborn babies. Phthalates can cause cancer, asthma, birth defects and infertility in men.

        Free-floating sea life algae, plankton, and seaweed collect in concentrations in parts of
        The ocean. Small suspended, microscopic plastic particles in the upper water column lie
        Waiting with yawning maw gorging not plankton but plastic, disgorging it over marine life.
        Plastic debris absorbs toxic chemicals from ocean pollution, potentially poisoning what eats
        It. Diseases and germs cadge lifts and latch on to bits of plastic taking cholera and other
        Cruising killers from the plasticsphere to territories as yet unconquered.

        The Party Goer:
        What can we do? We are ordinary people leading our lives.
        I fear for my six year-old paddling on the coast.

        The Distressed Mariner:

        I gave up plastic bags and don’t drink from plastic bottles nor use it to cook or store food in.
        Plastic is all around , poisoning us, and those yet to be born. We have been made dependent
        On it and assume it’s safe – it isn’t! We are being bound to it by plastic chains in the mind,
        Like narcotics it sedates and poisons us.

        Turn from plastic bottles, plastic-lined tin cans and anything edible in plastic packaging.
        Minuscule amounts affect the development of foetuses in the womb. Environmental oestrogen
        Can affect sexual development, causing breast, prostate and testicular cancer, reduced levels of Fertility, and undescended testes. Plasticised rivers are changing the sexes of fish and molluscs.
        We must look beyond lifestyle, and blaming the individual as the cause of increasing cancer is Poison by chemicals like BPA which is in CDs, car parts, carpets, floor tiles and cosmetics.
        I use cotton, jute or hemp shopping bags to avoid supermarkets spreading death and misery.
        My food I store in glass, ceramic or terracotta in the fridge, my cooking utensils are of wood
        My food processor is made of glass.

        We lads scoured parks and wild places for bottles, to get threepence each when returned
        Bottles with a deposit were hard to find. They had been taken back.”

        The Party goer:

        You have alarmed me Distressed Mariner. When I meet my friends, to the computer
        We will head, to look into this and if its as you say, to my local paper and television
        Shows we will write. All we can do is dispatch our waste into bins provided and make
        Others know, and we shall do. Its up to our leaders to stop this at source.


        By train to the west from lonely nights through time and space
        Back to the past I went, and unexpectedly met myself of old, a
        Former self. Over land I travelled back to warmer days meeting
        People I used to know but met an earlier me, naïve and foolish,
        Not wanting to grow. Reminiscing with old friends who belong in
        Their worlds and are adapted to its ways. I entered their lives briefly,
        To reminisce, but did not expect what happened. I saw the sadness
        In their lives as they are second-class to tourists, their representatives
        Have forsaken them. In towns and cities locals don’t count, national
        Retailers and tourists are promoted by councils over local people.
        Outsiders are king, locals denied businesses and pubs to meet in.
        A poacher was prosecuted by the class he poaches from. In the 18c,
        Last week, he trespassed on squire’s land and unlike protected poachers
        In Africa he was fined in court by local landowners, the magistrates, on
        Whose land he poached? Social rank reigns over this small town.
        Confusion came as I recalled my unsure steps into the world, as if
        Through a window into the past I saw my young self like a shadow
        On a screen, it melted without a separate existence as my present
        Self is different and my recollections shrivelled it to nothing.
        My younger self lives in my memories but a strange and alien me lives in
        Memories of others, walking in alien corn, while talking with old friends.


        The dying embers of a burnt-out stage, light your limpid life, stave off
        The stark stun of concrete emptiness, as we looked over the stony,
        Bleak blocks of stone unadorned by beauty, saddening wastes of cold
        Council creations that deaden the soul and stem the spirit’s natural glow,
        As wanton word smiths scribble on subway walls, those dangerous tunnels
        Of sadness and fear that lead to the other side of a cemented nowhere,
        Where muggers lurk and you don’t always reach the other side.
        Urban death delivered by leaders of local empires. Vandals respond
        To official nihilism, and stencil abuse on stale, sterile walls.
        The desolation of once-beautiful cities reflects the common mind,
        As all leave and are blow away, yet this could be turned and
        Beauty reborn again, returned to ruined cities like before.
        Hatred of a people and their culture leads to destruction of their
        Ways by the those who lord it over them, who ignore their needs.
        We walked under Spaghetti Junction and our lifeless love was
        Reflected by the cold, gaunt, ghostly air, enlivened only by traffics
        Smoky waste, where weeds fear to poke above the frigid floor, where
        Fumes and noise choke, deafen and drive all life away as evil elites
        Follow to concrete the countryside and run fast trains that are already
        Quaint, already slowly, slipping down the chutes of time past. None
        Of the welcoming, heartening warmth of the streets of York and Bristol.
        Take a cup of pure water, hold it in the light, drink its refreshing might,
        Turn round, look at what’s been done, and prepare to fight it.
        Gone I rise back from the torpor of the nearly dead, the sleep too deep for the living.

        SWEET ANN

        The desperate heart imagines success to repair loss and
        I wondered could I but step into your slumbers, sweet Annie,
        In monochrome or colour would I be? Around the scenery of
        Your dream, would I see myself there as you dreamed of me,
        With you out walking, talking, laughing, happy and free?
        Perhaps kissing or just quietly walking.
        On waking would you recall us three? You and me with me
        Watching or you and me with you watching? Or would I see
        You with another as you dreamed of him, leaving me forlorn
        In your dreamscape? Gazing sadly at your dreamscreen.
        Wandering in your private world I would see
        Your wishes, fears, hopes, doubts and protect them.
        Would our conversation be your wishes, fears,
        Fantasies and desires and would you be aware of them?
        Perhaps, I could be there, acting in your fantasies?
        Or sharing deepest secrets that you do not trust to me.
        Would you awaken relieved having confided,
        Your inmost soul to my dream figure,
        Only to find that you had opened up to me?
        Would seeing me there watching awaken you
        To protect your insecurities knowing them inwardly open
        To view? Would I feature in a prediction, wish fulfilment,
        Or fear— tell me not a nightmare!
        Or, should I awaken in my own dream,

        Would it be stranger than waking in yours?
        The quiet of night brings fears, phobic phantoms
        Doubts, sometimes hopes and wishes
        To the insecure mind lying, thinking like me,
        Not dreaming like you.
        To me shapes in the dark room form, but to you
        Lights electric glow in the dark of your closed eyes.
        But when the growing glows of morn scatter the active
        World of your mind, then the fast-fading phantoms flit
        And slip beyond your memory like the Northern Lights,
        Dancing on the edge of our senses, above the North Pole.
        And sweet, singing birds, chirp you back to me.
        The is Sun fast rising, lighting the room and your yellow
        Hair, shows a sunshine sheen as saffron and amber,
        A honeyed hue lifts your lids, and lets lovely blue eyes
        Look through the fleeing haze, returning the Sun’s gaze.
        You are not with another, not even an image of me, you are
        With me lying there in soul’s communion, in imagination.

      • July 2, 2016 at 2:21 am

        Sad but another professor. Most poetry magazines are run by poets who jealously guard their pages.

        • thomasbrady said,

          July 2, 2016 at 12:43 pm

          Hill: Ugly verses of moral obligation. Good bye, “greatest living poet,” who really wasn’t. Poetry shouldn’t ever be “difficult.” Just as a plane flight or surgery shouldn’t aim to be “difficult.” Difficult happens, and it may toughen us up, but it should never be a wished end. Don’t let them fool you.

      • July 13, 2016 at 12:40 am

        I was pleased to find that learn that McCartney acknowledged the influence of classic poets like Chaucer. I was also glad to learn he used the lyrics of Thomas Dekker for Carry that Weight(Golden Slumbers). This shows how great traditional influences can inspire new popular music.

        Thomas Dekker Golden Slumbers Kiss Your Eyes

        Golden slumbers kiss your eyes,
        Smiles awake you when you rise ;
        Sleep, pretty wantons, do not cry,
        And I will sing a lullaby,
        Rock them, rock them, lullaby.
        Care is heavy, therefore sleep you,
        You are care, and care must keep you ;
        Sleep, pretty wantons, do not cry,
        And I will sing a lullaby,
        Rock them, rock them, lullaby.

        Thomas Dekker

        The Beatles

        Once there was a way to get back homeward
        Once there was a way to get back home
        Sleep pretty darling do not cry
        And I will sing a lullaby

        Golden slumbers fill your eyes
        Smiles awake you when you rise
        Sleep pretty darling do not cry
        And I will sing a lullaby

        Once there was a way to get back homeward
        Once there was a way to get back home
        Sleep pretty darling do not cry
        And I will sing a lullaby

      • August 27, 2016 at 9:40 am

        I have just caught on to this outstanding band. As a poem this would be elementary but the music makes it great.

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