Here is the online version of “Riding the Hyphen,” a book of some of my poems. It comes free of charge. The hard copy version costs £10. To order one, email me.
Now for some background, beginning with a definition of the verb “to publish” : simply to bring forth and scatter about.
For, even now, it is easily forgotten that publishing does not necessarily mean “book.” That association came about in the late Middle Ages, when printing was invented and, these days, books may be old hat. Certainly, they do not put out words and scatter them about as widely as could be. Words uploaded in cyber-space can reach far wider. In audio form, maybe wider yet.
So when my friend, the poet Mevlut Ceylan, recently offered to have a book of my poetry published in hard copy, why was I so excited ?
I have no convincing answer to that. But I love what Mevlut and I have now made, and with such extraordinary speed. Half way through August, Mevlut flew to Turkey, where he was born and which he often visits. On this occasion, a pdf attachment had preceded him just a couple of days earlier, travelling at rather greater speed through cyberspace. Now, before the end of the month, Mevlut is back in London again, having returned with fifty copies of my book in his hand luggage, still wet from the printers, freight of friendship. The book looks beautiful.
“Riding the Hyphen” seeks to throw connecting light upon three areas of human life often feared and stigmatised by “mainstream” society. Everyone suffers as a result of this social denial and disconnection, the stigmatisers no less than the stigmatised. The fraught frontier dividing I and Thou can at any time be opened and neutralised by means of a hyphen, precarious and fragile. But how to keep your footing there, your balance ?
Soon, I hope to publish audio versions of all the poems which feature in “Riding the Hyphen.”
Here is the book’s Preface :
“Riding the Hyphen” is made up of three poem sequences, each written at very different times.
The first, called “Line Drawings,” is a collection of portraits of people with long-standing mental health problems, whom I knew and worked with in my years as manager of a mental health community centre. In effect they are songs of loss and praise, not just of individuals, but of the connection between us which persisted through years.
The second sequence, called “A Light Summer Dying,” records the death from cancer of a young woman who lived round the corner. The story is non-fictional and much of it was written almost as a set of diary entries, just hours after the events being described. The woman concerned knew I was writing and in a sense she had commissioned this work as a record to help her two young sons remember and acknowledge her, after she herself was dead and their own memories of her began to fade.
The third sequence, “The Going,” records the slow severance of the connection between my mother and me, due to her Alzheimer’s. As increasing numbers of people know, the death of someone who no longer recognises you, actually brings that person back to you in some ways, putting the present distortion between you more into the background, just the last few brush-strokes of a much fuller picture. The series records an attempt on my part to stay imaginatively in touch with the person behind my mother’s eyes, until the point is reached when I can only observe her from the outside. The ability to use language is seen as central to staying human.
All these poems are in effect about lines, lines of division and connection, of frontier and hyphen. In addressing subjects still largely blocked and cut off by fear and stigma, they reach for wholeness.