Josie Moon

Poet, Musician and Educator

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The Gauleiter and His Pig

With the European Elections tomorrow and our politics so sullied and divisive I am sharing this poem from Poems from the Swamp, my 2018 collection.

The Gauleiter and his Pig

The Gauleiter and his pig reside here

in the swamp, a septic, infected sty,

poisoned with wormwood for false prophecy.

Their respectability has that stink

of swill that clings like thin grease, that chokes throats,

an insinuation of rancid filth.

They can wash their hands, insipid Pilates,

and never know what it is to be clean.

The people have spoken, so it is claimed

across this newly grim, unpleasant land

where mandrakes strangle healthy plants,

fervoured tendrils spread amidst the sane,

sanguine folk of once fair-minded islands

made pestilential and sabre-rattling

when pigs and Gauleiters take command.

This pig and Gauleiter feed on censure,

patrol the streets, sniff out the shunned,

hunt the dreamers, the effete, the forceless,

poison the water, spread lies, deception

that find keen reception in willing ears.

These guardians of now lost Albion

with pig battalions in eager service

goose step, relentless over small town swamps,

spread venom and violence with every tramp.

People need their pigs in lipstick, patsies,

apologists, pimps and panders.

These quiet and not so quiet fascists

impose spurious jurisdiction,

shift civilisation’s paradigm

spawn bleak new dawns of moral disaster,

bring terror, trauma and catastrophe.

This Gauleiter and his wallowing pig

inhabit the swamp imperiously,

belching obscene absurdity.

The cowed folk quake and scuttle with truffles

to sate and satisfy lusty tumescence,

with Destroying Angel, Fly Agaric,

to avoid the cosh, the Taser, the mace.

But nothing placates appetites like these

where only the hunger, the greed is fed.

The sty turns seamier, with deepening stench,

while mists from the quagmire writhe and hiss,

meander in serpentine gyres and twists,

layering the space where once light fell

with impenetrable shadows from boundless Hell.

Once before, in still living memory

the fair-minded folk of a place like this

thrilled in denouncing friends and neighbours,

those whose faces no longer fit.

Trucks rattled the bones of human cargo

along tracks destined for nightmarish swamps.

Pigs and Gauleiters wallowed in loss,

caroused at perdition and extermination,

a Saturnalia of uncountable cost. 

This Gauleiter, pig, and the onlookers 

are droghers who’ll carry the weight of the swamp,

a shipment of shame beyond all atoning

long after this tale and its tellers are gone.

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A Requiem – A World Premiere

On Friday 15th February myself and the Alan Barnes Octet premiered our brand new collaboration, A Requiem, a brand new suite of music and poetry, commissioned by Grimsby Jazz Projects and supported with funding from Arts Council, England.

Having worked on the poems from the autumn of 2017 to a final tweak the day before the premiere, I was full of nervous excitement and anticipation – especially as I had not heard a note of the music and truly had no idea what to expect.

The beginning of rehearsals with our fabulous director Gill Wilde looking on

It was wonderful to be reunited with the full band again. I had been looking forward to seeing everyone again and have so many happy memories of outstanding gigs on our previous Fish Tales tour. This is truly an all-star band and each musician brings his own particular signature, which becomes apparent during the solo sections.

As we got underway with the rehearsal it was soon clear to me that the music was extraordinary. Full of twists and turns with complex rhythms and nuances; the music felt like a journey through time and through the story of war across a century that I was also telling with the poems. The music was full of drama and intrigue and I found it incredibly moving and intense.

Conversation during rehearsal

The rehearsal day was given an extra layer of excitement as Radio Humberside were broadcasting live from the Central Hall throughout the afternoon and several of us gave brief interviews in which we talked about the work and the project as a whole. Friends and colleagues also came in to give short interviews about the work they are doing in the cultural sector in the town and so the rehearsal had the feel of an event in its own right.

It was a long day and the work required considerable concentration from everyone. After only a short rest for tea, showtime approached and I really felt the nerves kick in. I now have a better understanding of my ‘gig-zone’ and my need to have some space to mentally and physically prepare for performance. It’s an odd place where in equal measure I do and do not want to perform, where nervous energy builds and I have to turn inwards in order to find the right mood for delivering outwards to an audience.

A backstage self portrait, in the ‘gig-zone’

Before I started writing A Requiem I never thought that war would be a subject I would want to work with. I spent a great deal of my undergraduate degree studying the world wars and the literature of war of the twentieth century. But it was not an area I ever wrote about in my own creative writing so when this process began I was taken aback by how I was gripped by the subject and how urgent it felt for me to write and to read and to go back to some of the literature that had so absorbed me when I was younger.

And it was not just the literature of war and the nature of conflict and its impact that gripped me, it was also the processes and rituals of commemoration and the artistic expressions of remembrance that I wanted to explore. I heard in my head the words of the Libera Me of the Latin mass for the dead;

Libera me, Domine, de morte æterna, in die illa tremenda
Quando cœli movendi sunt et terra
Dum veneris iudicare saeculum per ignem.

I couldn’t quieten the words, words I had sung over years of on-off membership of various choirs. I had the sense that the words were telling me something and I had an obligation to listen.

Using the structure of the Requiem mass for the dead gave me a clear starting point and an over-arching theme to work with. Alan and Pat liked the concept and so we all worked towards the production of words and music that would culminate in a work to both honour the dead and call for peace. I didn’t want to write a religious piece and worked carefully to ensure that my words would acknowledge all the dead of the century past regardless of creed, colour, gender or nationality and see every victim of war as first and foremost, human.

The work proved challenging to perform on Friday night. It is emotionally charged, powerful and in places bleak and dark. The subject matter is solemn and serious and I felt that solemnity around me as I delivered my words amidst powerful, strong and stirring music. However, one of the central motifs of the work is light, lux aeterna. The light always returns, however dark it has been.

Light always returns after darkness

I am now looking forward to recording the work and publishing the poems. I am also excited about touring A Requiem later this year and taking it to audiences across the country.

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A Requiem

I am delighted to announce that A Requiem will premiere at Grimsby Central Hall on Friday 15th February at 7.30 pm. Tickets are now available from the box office, call 01472 355025 to reserve in advance at £13.

A Requiem is a collaboration between Alan Barnes, Pat McCarthy and myself and is work that examines the impact of a century of warfare across the world and which asks questions about the possibility of peace. The idea germinated on a dismal late autumn evening in 2017 when I was thinking about what remembrance means and what progress we have actually made across a century in terms of understanding and attempting to stop war.

With a great deal of hard work, commitment and energy, the indomitable Gill Wilde and I put together an Arts Council application to bring the work to life. Happily our bid was successful. Not only has this new work been commissioned, it will be recorded on CD and the poems will be published in a new collection. Venues across the UK have booked A Requiem and it will be seen by a national audience. Dale Mackie has produced the artwork for the project and internationally renowned artists will perform together to create a moving, memorable and ultimately uplifting tribute honouring all who have died in conflict.

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It’s Been A While

sun & planets

The Solar System, by Vivienne May 

I have made New Year Resolutions, and perhaps one of them should have been to write more frequent blogs and to keep people better informed as to the progress of projects and work.  However, there are only so many hours in a day and it has been an intensely busy time in terms of simply getting work completed and projects up and running.

Let’s Go To Space!

The first big project of 2019 has -pardon the pun -now taken off.  Let’s Go To Space is launched – you can see the theme here. The book, songs, Youtube channel, workshops are all ready and the La Luna/Grimsby Jazz Projects team will be in NEL primary schools from Monday 14th January with the story of Cosmo and Carrie and their exciting space adventure.  With original artwork from Vivienne May and a range of fun props, sound effects and surprises, this project promises to be a magical treat for the area’s 6-7 year olds.

Poetry Cafes and Events

The La Luna Poetry Cafe plus the various open mic evenings, workshops and library events are underway and between now and April we have local, regional and national poets performing in Grimsby and Cleethorpes , thanks to grants from Arts Council England and The Society of Chief Librarians.  All dates will shortly be visible on the calendar page of the website.  I am particularly excited to be welcoming Andrew Graves, Antony Dunn and Patience Agbabi to Cleethorpes over the next three months and look forward to their performances.  It’s a real privilege to be in a position to be able to bring such great talent to the area.

patience agbabi photo - wife of bafa

Patience Agbabi 

Antony Dunn Reading

Antony Dunn on his last visit to Grimsby

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A Review of Poems from the Swamp

With grateful thanks to Rob Etty and the team at The High Window, an excellent online poetry magazine:  https://thehighwindowpress.com/

In the intriguing Preface to her pamphlet (which is, appropriately, green, with semi-translucent endpapers) Josie Moon writes: The swamp is never wholly negative but is a useful metaphor for experience, some hidden, some mundane, some to be discovered … Certainly it is dangerous, certainly it can be unpleasant, but it is a place of great psychological imperative and creative impetus. … It is a place of origin.

The pamphlet is itself a place of origin. It is a poetic foretaste of a novel set in Grimsby, the author’s hometown, and the poems are voiced by four mystical and prophetic characters. These poets know there is a higher state of existence beyond the town’s dereliction, and are seeking justice and redemption for the swamp’s forgotten people, to whom the poems are dedicated.

The authors and titles are listed in the Contents. In the voice of artist, poet and editor George Lydda, whose Eliotesque ‘The Rising’ is the second poem, Josie Moon impressively creates the tension which underlies the sequence’s movement:

Hum, hum, shhh, shhh, listen, listen.
There is rain out there, still far away
but pattering off sea and estuary 
bringing wet stings for morning.
There is ice in night’s kiss riming the street,
the sleeping street.

Deep, deep beneath the street, far away and fast asleep
dreaming begins as shadows gather on the corner
where the police station squats.

The next poem, ‘Carnival’, crosses from authentic Grimsby into fantasy. It reminds us that we are listening to successive voices, and is an early demonstration of the author’s versatility. Alisha Autrey’s aabb quatrains introduce the use of the first person, as the speaker reacts to a mysterious car driver who claims to be from 1949:

He points a long, green bony finger:
My dear, I really mustn’t linger.
The tune he hums is menacing, dark,
more the raven, less the lark.

I abandon thoughts of staying near,
turn to you and see no fear.
I say The Lord of Misrule is here.
You smile and simply disappear.

As the Preface reveals, the ideas for the sequence swam from the cracks in the pavements in the East and West Marsh areas of Grimsby, whose origins are in their names, and the sinewy phrasing, driving rhythms and intermittent rhymes of ‘The Gauleiter and His Pig’ maintain the reader’s unease about what lurks below:

The Gauleiter and his pig reside here
in the swamp, a septic, infected sty,
poisoned with wormwood for false prophecy.

The sty turns seamier, with deepening stench,
while mists from the quagmire writhe and hiss,
meander in serpentine gyres and twists,
layering the space where once light fell
with impenetrable shadows from boundless Hell.

And so we are guided through, enjoying shifts in form, tone, person, and a breadth of language that heightens descriptions and narratives. The closing poem, ‘Ursa Major’, in the serene unrhymed triplets of George Lydda, expresses a resolution. The lyrical final stanzas, especially, lodge in the memory.

No doubt in the forthcoming novel battle will play out across many more pages, but a cosmic spiritual conflict with mythological and Biblical references rumbles through these twelve poems: alongside broken lives lived among shopping trolleys, abandoned sofas and branded houses that sag exhausted against each other, we encounter an unseen hand that pushes a fool, a pirouetting jester and a blue-faced king, a lost lioness, Santa Maria and the Witch of the West Marsh. Josie Moon shows herself to be a wide-ranging, inventive, musical poet, and her live performances will lift the words vividly off the page.

Robert Etty lives in Lincolnshire. His latest collection is Passing the Story Down the Line, published by Shoestring Press in 2017. He is a member of Nunsthorpe Poetry Group, which meets in Cleethorpes.

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Winter Comes

Like the autumn, the winter arrived more or less overnight. We felt it blow in off the North Sea and felt the chill settle on us.  The autumn light has been very beautiful and our winter sky here on the east coast never fails to lift the spirit, even as darkness intensifies.

A highlight of the winter so far was the jazz and poetry gig with Dave Green and Pat McCarthy, just a couple of short weeks ago – time really has flown.  Pat and I are doing a lot of work on our set and it’s coming together with great fluency and playing well with audiences.

The Concert for Commemoration was a night to remember as well, with the choir really giving their all and with beautiful accompaniment from all of the musicians. It was a special night, long to be remembered.

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Photo 1

It has once again been a time of change, with much of the past now settled and in its place and the future looking exciting and full of challenges.  With Pat and the La Luna team we are preparing for a busy spring in NE Lincs schools. Most exciting though is the forthcoming jazz and poetry Requiem, a collaboration between me, Pat and Alan Barnes with the support of Arts Council England and overseen by Gill Wilde.  There will be more to report on that shortly.

It’s been a tense time but the ships have all come safely into port and I am immensely grateful for all the kindness and support I have received and for the affirmation of my work, which continues to be a source of joy to me.

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A Concert For Commemoration

Earlier this summer, La Luna secured a substantial Arts Council grant for the provision of a number of poetry and music projects for North East Lincolnshire.  The Poetry Cafe is up and running under the leadership of poet and teacher Carolyn Doyley and the Emerging Voices project is now well underway with young writers engaged in a year-long project. Look out for their first event in December.

One of the most exciting and challenging aspects of the project was the commissioning of brand new music for the Great Grimsby Community Choir.  The choir is constantly evolving and developing. It has great creative energy and enthusiasm and it was the choir’s willingness to try new things and be challenged that resulted in this project being possible.

The new music, which has been co-written with Pat McCarthy, Joanne Townell and myself is in rehearsal and will be performed at Grimsby Minster on November 17th.  The music commemorates the centenary of the end of the First World War and we hope it is a moving tribute to everyone who lost their lives in that terrible conflict.

Tickets for the concert are £8 full price, £6 students and unwaged. Accompanied children under 16 are welcome to attend free.  Refreshments are available at the interval.  Tickets can be purchased directly from me via email to info@josiemoon.co.uk  or from Cleethorpes Tourist Information office or the Grimsby Minster Coffee Shop.  Doors open at 7.00 pm for a 7.30 start.

 

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Holding Breath

It’s the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness and that point in the year of transition to the increasing dark.  This morning the air was grey and thick and I felt strangely sad.  I am currently waiting on decisions and changes that will shape the coming year and am experiencing a weird suspended animation that I hope resolves as autumn unfolds in all its golden glory.

The great joy of this summer has been the garden and my re-engagement with growing.  For two years I found it impossible to find any pleasure in gardening and I did wonder if it was something consigned to the pot of losses. How glad am I that I was wrong and that this year I have created a riotous, rambunctious urban garden, bustling and bursting with colour and joy. What was a very old and tired space has been reinvigorated and will continue to grow and develop as I am inspired.

There is nothing like the consolation of soil, the sheer pleasure of that communion with the earth that yields the rewards of food and flowers. Tending my flowers and herbs – vegetables and fruit next year – I have found deep peace and time has slipped away without care.

 

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National Poetry Day with Ralph Dartford

 Ralph Dartford – Recovery Songs

The Albert Room, Cleethorpes Library, 4th October, 7.30 pm.

Tickets £5 from Cleethorpes Library. 01472 323650

Advance Booking highly recommended.

This powerful show examines the personal journey through recovery and is an honest, painful and uplifting examination of the process. Recovery Songs Cropped Image

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Summer’s End

It feels as if autumn is here. From that misty smell in the air to the webs hanging between shed, wall, bench and plant pot to the earlier dusk and later sunrise, the year has turned. What a summer it has been, with intense heat here in the east and days that seemed luxurious while they lasted.  My garden has been a source of constant delight and distraction, evolving and changing over the months. It’s beginning to look a little weary and it is time for bulbs and autumn planting to take over from the summer blooms.

This can be a melancholy time, looking back over the adventures of the summer. I think of the lovely Verdi Cries by 10,000 Maniacs (give it a listen here if you don’t know it – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m1dQRgtUxu0 ) and the tender, sad words evoking a summer holiday and its end as well as something deeper and ineffable.

My summer has included some get-away time to beautiful places where the environments have been restorative and full of peace and wonder; from gardens full of statuary and majestic trees to canal walks and the signs of autumn in the hedgerows.

As the autumn settles in I am thinking about new work, poems, songs, gigs, partnerships and productions, much of which is underway. I am glad to have had such a fine summer in so many ways and glad to have been able to walk in the sunlit uplands with my best human.

Best Humans

Together in Grant Thorold Park for the East Marsh Community Day