Ira Lightman makes public art in the North East (the Spennymoor Letters, the Prudhoe Glade, the Gatesheads) and lately Willenhall and Southampton. He devises visual poetry forms and then asks local communities to supply words that will bring them alive.
He is a regular on BBC Radio 3’s The Verb, celebrating Bob Dylan as poet by singing extracts and accompanying himself on the ukulele, or the anniversary of John Milton by writing iambic pentameter blindfold for a week.
His previous books are Duetcetera (Shearsman, 2008) and a raft of out of print chapbooks.
“The man who can make
the moment turn itself
inside out gathers all his
here. The result is a
revisiting of just what it
is that makes language
bump and bang, slip and
slide, thrill and squeal,
enrage and entrance
and, to put it simply, just
— Peter Finch
No precision to it, so I quit the job
of making up songs on the spot
over a hard blues riff
and accepted my guitar player’s lift
to the end of the street and
the bus-stop. That “and”
got postponed, though, as the mustard-hew mini
conked out when we slowed —
to let another car turn — not twenty yards out
from the off. We pushed our car left
where we’d meant to have crossed, as if
on that other car’s trail, free-wheeling down-
hill, twisting the car-key
never far enough round to fire up
and stay roaring. Braking
we went back for help. If I missed
my bus, I would miss my train, so I left
that story to finish itself
and walked to the stop. The timing tight,
the bus arrived, and we headed
for the great noun BIRMINGHAM,
its centre. My father
once lived here, or via, post the
divorce and I dreaded
to dwell long, in it or on it,
an historian’s wait for the next
train to Norwich: pleased, then, to catch
the planned train, a minute to spare.
Releasing, I let myself feel
how tired I’d got, as the two-carriage
train pulled out of that city, skimming
east-central England, syntactic,
propulsive. Everything’s true, true
and packed in small compass
in the England we several
roll through, a huge-windowed carriage
enclosing a space with its own laws
of speed. It is some kind of head,
big-eyed, many-personed, rhythmically moving
through empirical flatland, over which
we look sideways, as the train hurtles on.
I can see yellow fields
partitioned by green. I cannot not think
NORWICH CITY — the football club’s
colours, and a journey through England
is like that: a grammar
that’s linking up puns. Even I was a word
endowed with new meaning
when Ben, my guitarist, when
we last met in London, worriedly
called me “too thin” — something I’d been
ever since, though I’d eaten
and fattened up hurriedly. This weekend
he said, when a song was not working,
“you’re looking much better”. A word
and a curse, simply lifted.
and without a pen all day, I crave to bed you
with whatever words — but damn all words!
Reader of Carver, of Mina Loy, of the poet of Pearl,
I crave to silence you
in my bed, so that you may see me,
cry with me, silence me.
No silent girl
haunts me like you who, unobtainable,
perhaps, make me sweat, stretching for you, cry,
as light scattered in water falling
criss-crossing filigree showers
is streaming “outside”.
I’m learning from you
not to trust too soon,
to have the courage
to feel hurt.
When I’m interrupted
or neglected, me
I’ll ride along
with the other
kidnap of attention,
turn to who you
conversations they have
are bullshit, but
dare to let them know
I think so, as you show
you do, the
up on your earpiece,
simply looking down.
what you have described there
is having to survive throughout childhood
a father with mood swings
this is the latest depth of my therapy
I’ve found that I’m not out of hell
that as an adult leaving home
was the dark wood awaiting
by giving it context you’ve found my text’s secret
always in fear of his mood changes
then, now the same in your flatmate
you’ve picked to touchstone this stage of the purge
secretly writing of secrets you know
Reverie for a birthday
Shall I fall asleep again, I wonder,
thinking that a dream about
being fired as Oliver Stone’s
personal assistant does not need
to be recorded, and I think no,
and wake up to record it.
5am. And I forgot
I had a birthday card to post
and had meant to post it
late last night, but forgot,
and can’t be sure to catch
the right day’s post if I don’t
post it now. For an act of transmission
there’s a lot of retrieval,
really, isn’t there, as I coat
myself, in my bedclothes,
with my winter jacket,
turn a quiet key in the lock
deferring to my neighbours.
At the box I think
“7am? Someone might deliver it
today!” But I know the Royal Mail’s
extremes, and think myself safe.
I step back from the box
and look at a sole cloud form
at “12 o’clock”, a thumbprint
disc, in TV signal lines, of the right
summer morning’s frequency. It reminds me
of Honolulu, and every other dawn
I’ve faced at the refuel stop
of an overnight flight, the
low intensity pink-shot light
the earth is rolling into
the whiter heart of for a day.
A rook (it sounds nice
in the sound of things)
flaps at another speed horizontally
south to north across a sky scrolling
west as the earth rolls east. I’d forgotten
there were cars till the first
carries its heavy trundle past, left
off camera, like the first car in the world.
I look up, the thumbprint
thickened and diffused since I looked
and shot out streaks. In fact the
upturned bowl of perceivable sky
was full of thin cloud, now
dawned upon, and each is like dreams,
though they are the most minimal dreams,
aloft on the sky
through trapping a share
warmer than outside air
and therefore lighter. They are yesterday’s
today’s are thicker, starting to rise,
among them noon’s among them
from Mustard Tart As Lemon (Red Squirrel Press, 2011).
Order Mustard Tart As Lemon.
Read a review of Mustard Tart As Lemon.
Read Tony Williams’s review of Mustard Tart As Lemon and Phone in the Roll here.
Read more about Ira here.