Friday, 25 December 2009

In Memory of Real Christmas Trees

If I was a musician, it would be dodgy Christmas single time, except this is a festive experiment with a twist. I gave myself a bit a brief to write a poem with all the key Christmas ingedients, but in keeping with the melancholy, social concern of the new book... in a very short space of time. This is what came of it:

IN MEMORY OF REAL CHRISTMAS TREES

Winter skies are redolent in Jade:
the blanketing twilight,
the soft cascade,
the omnipresent artist
brushes oil-paint guiding stars,
perhaps accidentally
or styled by symmetry.

The sparkle of frost in early December
turns hasty footfall into a delicate exercise,
subtle endeavours to remain upright.
Family democracies are unwound, uptight
as figures dress trees in every other window -
curators of haphazard exhibitions for curious strangers,
freed from inhibitions by discount liquor.

Though it should be fairy-lights
and 'Fairytale of New York',
Cruel Melodies play
the solemn stories of Somewhere Else:
the harmony of disparate, wistful hearts
gazing into space on Christmas Eve.
Some with nothing but the mysteries of a brown paper bag,
grimy nails, cracked fingertips.
Some tucked in a nest of plush bedlinen,
a stuffed animal clutched beneath the sleeve.

The table is set for ten.
One place remains empty,
half a pair divided
and garnered with pity,
but we smile and raise a glass all the same
to dedicated festivities in anonymous names
with talk of religion, indulgence, excess;
the memory of a figure in a wine-coloured dress,
hair tied with ribbons;
the memory of forests, singed by fire,
bare branches, black barks,
perched precariously beneath a burning sky.

Words choked, eyes misty
for every lost soul
and all that we're missing.

A muffled voice from another time
lingers with comfort despite waning confidence.
A wheezing old man raises his hands,
says we've all made mistakes,
some things we can't plan,
but if you think for a second
of our last Christmas together,
you'll surely want to make this year the best you can.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Preston FM Interview - Download

Those of you who missed my guest-spot on Preston FM this week can now download an audio recording of the whole interview at:

http://www.streamupload.com/?id=7f71fe41-0c4c-41d7-a495-ad3998e5278d

Monday, 30 November 2009

New Book - Out Now!


Good evening,

Let me begin by saying a heartfelt thanks to everyone who came along to a very succesful book launch on Saturday night, and helped to make it such a special evening! Ironically, for a writer, I find it difficult to put into words just how much your support and encouragement mean to me.

For anyone who wasn't able to make it, more photos are coming very soon! Also in the pipeline is a set of special online artwork to accompany the book, but more about that in the next few weeks...

I hope those of you who have bought the book so far are enjoying it. For those who haven't, 'In Memory of Real Trees' is now officially on sale, and can be purchased from a whole host of retailers:

Amazon (UK) : http://www.amazon.co.uk/Memory-Real-Trees-Mark-Charlesworth/dp/1445205335/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1259603460&sr=1-2

Amazon (US) : http://www.amazon.com/Memory-Real-Trees-Mark-Charlesworth/dp/1445205335/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1259603524&sr=1-2

The collection can also be bought as an ebook for just £2.99! : http://www.lulu.com/product/download/in-memory-of-real-trees/5591399

Discounted, Signed Copies : People interested in buying a signed copy of the book - at a discounted price - are invited to get in touch with me on mark.charlesworth@hotmail.co.uk
to arrange a meeting, seance or paypal transaction.

10% OF PROCEEDS FROM ALL SALES WILL BE DONATED TO THE CHRISTIE CANCER CARE HOSPITAL (REG. CHARITY # 1049751)

There is also a new interview up on the Central Lancashire Writing Network website, which gives a little more about the background behind the new book : http://prestonwritingnetwork.blogspot.com/2009/11/interview-with-mark-charlesworth-on.html

On top of all that, Monday 7th December sees me guesting with presenter Terry Quinn on Preston FM (http://www.preston.fm/) at 7.30pm, so be sure to tune in.

As always, I welcome comments and feedback, so don't hesitate to get in touch!

All the best,

Mark

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Book Launch / Further Away from Home


Rainy Sunday evening greetings all,

A little update on all things book-related, which are certainly gathering steam, as the launch date rapidly approaches. With the launch-party night, on November 28th, nearing, things are getting both nerve-wracking and exciting. I'm looking forward to meeting some old and new friends that day, from 7.30pm at The Continental in Preston (www.newcontinental.net).

Some of you will have seen me reading at a couple of events this week. I'd like to say thanks for coming along, and giving the new work such a warm response! Unlike with 'Sunrise and Shorelines', where I would read a similar selection of favourite pieces at each event, I'm trying to give everything from this book a fair hearing, so those of you who've seen me performing at several events should have a pretty good idea of what to expect from 'In Memory of Real Trees' by now.

'Postcards from the North', included with the last mailout, seems to have received a particularly good response. Among others, 'Further Away from Home' also got its first airing at Preston's 'Word Soup' this week, and seemed to go down well. Therefore, in the tradition of previewing new material with these emails, I've tagged a copy of that poem onto this message.

Should any of you want to reply, with comments, feedback, or for any more information about the book launch, I'll look forward to hearing from you here or on mark.charlesworth@hotmail.co.uk

All the best,


Mark Charlesworth

***

Further Away from Home


Abandoning the comfort of a subterranean nest;

the enveloping sheets of a warm, familiar bed;

the shelter of a domestic haunt

that, all through childhood, had been in sight,

even in the dusk and rain,

visible by a single ember burning in the grate,

and trading it all for three years in the wilderness,

was never an easy decision to make.

But standing on the brink

of a world that threatened

all the potential hope and nightmare of a fairytale,

you knew you were doing right

by treading in the wrong direction.


Taking leave from the beaten track,

ill prepared, clutching at a compass and crumpled map,

you quickly discovered that true travelling

doesn’t need a plan or guide

to diminish the crooked beauty

of an indigo night sky,

aching with myth and inscriptions of classical legends,

tales of old friends and ghosts

concealed in every constellation.


Plummeting several-thousand-feet-or-so,

rugged coastlines fight erosion

and reclamation by a violent sea,

emaciated trees cling on to every precipice you pass,

among plants with pockmarked petals and poisonous stems,

and, as you speed through,

both intimately connected and completely detached

from the landscape of sheer, sublime hostility,

you wonder if you’ll suffer the same fate of falling

as the limbless branches,

lying like littering debris

in the isolation of an unchartered ravine,

unwilling to spare or shed its secrets.


But, if you look very closely,

you can see

the length of a highway

mirroring a path through the stars,

the wilderness oblivion of possibility,

like a desert plain

snaking to the epicentre of a canopied trail,

and watched by the passengers on a restless sleeper train.


I feel I might have passed that way too,

awake until daylight

then too tired to move,

and I struggle to remember if I made that trip alone:

third year on the road – still looking for home.


Instead, there was the brief delusion of substitution

in a gloomy gallery

dedicated to achievement and progression,

an artefact of all things artificial:

warehouses hosting cubist figures and manmade machines,

scaled-down towns constructed of mirrors,

telegraph poles fashioned to look like trees,

an air-conditioner simulating authentic summer breeze,

circulating in a surgically cleansed atmosphere

but eventually joining vapour trails

scattering on the western wind,

the otherworldly labyrinth of steel and glass dissipating,

transforming into rural England.


I look round again to find

a second familiar shadow once more walks in stride,

side by side

every ticking second.

The uncharacteristic desire for abandon

is suddenly overwhelming.

I want to run out into the road,

fearing no threat of imminent collision,

throw up my arms to meet the downpour,

savouring the stain that spreads across the heavens,

bringing with it thunder

and an atmosphere charged with the eastern promise

of Indian summer,

reaching some destination at last

in a city decorated by dizzying colour

and strange sounds from twisted strings.


I feel the intensity and heat,

the healing effect of each falling droplet

as the moment rises to crescendo

and the clouds give out a final moan,

before diminishing into the distance.


When it’s over,

we stand by the roadside,

you and I together

and somehow alone

with each other.

We stroll towards the sun

as it dips from the horizon,

watching our reflections growing longer,

then disappearing entirely with disconcerting urgency.


And on a bridge, in spectral shade,

a train performs its practiced part,

slowing towards the station,

spilling a new set of stories onto a crowded platform,

and then – as though indifferent – moving on.

Always moving on.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Postcards from the North


I'd like to thank you for your continued feedback and support, both with comments about 'Damaged Goods in Transit' (attached in the last mailout) and responses to my call for promotional suggestions. People have got back to me with some very interesting ideas, and will be duly credited in the next collection's acknowledgments. As ever, it's never too late to get in touch, and I aim to reply to all responses personally. So, if anyone can think of any more marketing ideas (especially ones that involve the internet), please don't hesitate to drop me a line here. All positive contributors I use will be credited in book 3.

Now, as November is upon us, and the launch date looms ever-closer, I'd like to let you know about some events which will be going on over the next few weeks.

- On November 17th, I'll be reading as a featured artist at The Continental's regular literature night, Word Soup, in Preston. With a couple of other highly-recommended, excellent writers booked, it's shaping up to be a good night. Head over to www.newcontinental.net for more details.

- November 20th brings Lancaster's monthly Spotlight club (www.spotlightlancaster.co.uk), at which I'll be performing open mic.

- And November 28th is, of course, the book launch itself, also taking place at The Continental (see above for web address). Obviously, I hope to see as many of you as possible there, but understand - particularly as Christmas draws near - that people have many commitments, so, if you want to come along, but can't make it, why not come down to one of the other events listed above? More listings to follow shortly.

I'd also like to highlight a couple of links featuring reviews of both the first and second book.

- Andrew Hurley at the Preston Writing Network recently contributed an in-depth piece about my first collection, 'Sunrise and Shorelines'. It's an excellently written review that even had me looking at my own work in a different light, and can be read at: http://prestonwritingnetwork.blogspot.com/2009/10/review-of-sunrise-and-shorelines-by_31.html

- Fellow writer Norman Hadley (www.normanhadley.com) also shares his thoughts about 'In Memory of Real Trees' on the Lunecy review: http://thelunecyreview.wordpress.com/2009/11/05/mark-charlesworth-in-memory-of-real-trees/

And, speaking of 'In Memory of Real Trees', I'm pleased to attach another sample (see below), highlighting a slightly different side of the book to that shown in 'Damaged Goods in Transit'. 'Postcards from the North' is a paean to my much-loved homeland. It came to me on a train, travelling through Yorkshire, and attempts to rewrite the negative cliches, often associated with northern England, as things to actually be proud of.

As ever, I'd love to hear your thoughts.


Mark

***


Postcards from the North



We’ve got forty-two different types of rain,

clouds gone murky from streaming soot,

cobbled streets and old steam-trains,

smokers coughing up their guts.



We’ve got godawful cities full of godawful people,

where treacle-black rivers hide forms, drowned and foetal,

crumbling mills in the shadows of steeples,

industrial corpses and disappointing sequels.



We’ve got tea so bitter that it burns in your mouth,

and stories you’d hardly believe down south,

of twisted beasties that lurk below the bed,

the gallows of Golgotha to lop off your head.



But we’ve got hills that climb for miles,

witch stories whispered by midnight fires,

spindly webs shimmering through January gloom,

frost glittering like fairy-lights beneath a bright moon.



We’ve got The Smiths singing ‘Sheila Take a Bow’,

where Orwell’s ghost stalks a drizzle-soaked town,

Yorkshire cobbles stained with blood, myth and mystery,

Lancashire spook tales and bridges to history.



We’ve got a sleepy village on the edge of the world,

where long grass in the twilit fields

sways in the wake of a warm sea wind,

and at the passing echo of the six-fifteen train,

they say a pair of old friends can be seen most days,

contentedly lost as a melody plays;

the haunting strains of some violin tune

that someday will all but fade.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Damaged Goods in Transit

I'm currently looking for any suggestions of interesting ways to promote my forthcoming book, 'In Memory of Real Trees'. If anyone has any ideas, particularly involving the web, I'd be grateful if you'd email them to mark.charlesworth@hotmail.co.uk. Name's will be acknowledged in the third book as a thank you.

For now, I hope you enjoy this sample from the book. 'Damaged Goods in Transit' is the opening poem, and I like to think that it nicely introduces a lot of the themes and ideas which are addressed over the ensuing pages.

Please feel free to leave comments, or get in touch on the above email address with any feedback or to join the mailing list.

Damaged Goods in Transit

Are you lonely again?
Have you come here feeling lost?
Do you sit there counting out the cost?
Are you scared tonight because there’s so much to fear,
or because you’ve put your dreams on hold
for yet another year?

When it gets painful
and when it hurts,
do you find yourself asking what it’s all really worth?
How often do you wish your life away like me,
hiding beneath the pillows from everyday tragedies?

Do you ever feel you’re tearing blindly
to hopelessness, loss and apathy?
Water trickling down the plughole
into a void, expansive sea.

You turn off the lights and lay naked in the dark,
staring at the ceiling;
listening out for homesick aliens.
Do you feel vulnerable, dark and cold?
Too tired to sleep,
too empty to weep,
pray with heart and soul that something fills the hole.

Do you feel like a stuffed toy unravelling at the seams
when you stare at the news on a flickering screen?
Just a frightened, vulnerable child again:
that desperate incomprehension of suffering and pain.

Walking on ashes, smoke choking your neck,
the earth shakes and trembles like a shivering mess,
crippled by the anxiety of claustrophobic dreams,
pleading ‘what have we done?’, stifling the screams.
We walk upon gold but in blood it gleams,
take up arms to ruin the glittering streets,
we bow to the mercy of murderous thieves.
Now we’re damned straight to hell by our self-absorbed greed.

And it’s hard to have faith
when the world seems so fragile:
damaged goods in transit
through infinite space.
Are we walking hand in hand
down the executioner’s mile,
waiting for spare parts
or a last saving grace?

And as the dusky shadows fall,
you’re afraid the sun won’t rise again.
Crossing the border to the city’s edge;
into the hills and to the end,
past broken glass and broken homes,
broken dreams and broken stones,
broken fortunes giving way
to open sky above open wounds.

There’s a crimson stream which slowly runs
through fields untroubled by soldier’s tombs,
winding through miles of unexplored woods,
then bursting out from the canopied cocoon.

From the hilltop clearing, you can almost see
the scars of the suburbs stretching slowly beneath:
just writhing embryos of a larger disease
that feeds on corruption and thrives upon fear,

but close to a night sky that sparkles and shines,
you felt safe from the nightmare below.

So you carved an inscription upon a stone,
in crumbling earth planted a seed:
‘for the day when the branches are replaced with bones,
in memory of real trees’.

Monday, 5 October 2009

In Memory of Real Trees : Coming 28.11.09


Lancashire writer Mark Charlesworth, whose self-published d├ębut, 'Sunrise and Shorelines', was released last year, is set to release a second collection of poetry this winter.

Since the completion of his first book, Mark has finished an English degree at the University of Central Lancashire and has been dedicating himself to writing. His latest offering, 'In Memory of Real Trees', is another self-financed, self-published endeavour. This time, however, the book will also be raising funds for The Christie Hospital, with a contribution from each sale being donated to the charity. And it's not the first time Mark has raised money for a good cause, having become known for undertaking lengthy sponsored walks: travels which he documented on his popular online blog, before becoming established as a poet.

'In Memory of Real Trees' displays a more focused, mature style of writing and a shift toward darker territory. Its vast range of influences and subject matter culminate to form a cutting social commentary, which dissects the darkest and seediest aspects of life yet reminds the reader that there is beauty to be found even here. The poems “Shipwreck” and “Where Sickness Seeps from the Magazine Gloss” explore the cut-throat nature of modern media and its effect on our lives, whereas “Attic Room” provides a romanticism never previously demonstrated by the author. By contrast, “Damaged Goods in Transit”, the opening piece, displays the fragile line between human good and evil, a theme which is echoed throughout the book, ultimately raising the issue that whatever is happening amid the chaos of our world, the responsibility to change things is a collective one.

Over the last year, aside from contributing as a columnist in local media and speaking for the Lytham Arts Association, Mark has been a regular performer at The Spotlight Club in Lancaster, alongside various other poetry events. One of which being the open-mic night at The Continental in Preston (http://www.newcontinental.net/), where his book launch is to take place on the 28th November.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Sleeping with the Enemy

My god... has it really been a year (quite literally) since I posted here? This blog has been in a long hibernation!

In anticipation of the release of my second book, 'In Memory of Real Trees', I've been doing a bit of networking, and doing my best to start utilising the many resources out there. One which I have been particularly reluctant to actively use is Facebook, and I'd like to share my reasons why.

The idea having an active account on the site makes me pretty uncomfortable. There have been an increasing number of frightening stories surrounding its invasive nature in the news: not just the oft-cited fact that the CIA are one f the company's investors, but actual evidence of people being watched. I'm not going to reiterate the cliche that we have become a Big Brother state, to which Facebook heavily contributes (there's a trashy but enjoyable Ben Elton novel called 'Blind Faith' which already drives that point home well), but there's no doubt that Facebook could be used as a frightening exploitation of personal privacy in the wrong hands.

As a bit of a conspiracy theorist as a kid, I used to wonder whether the government had archives of personal information on each of us hidden away. They no longer need to: it's there for the taking. I can see the other side of the argument in this debate would bring up issues of Freedom of Speech, but I fall quite firmly in the camp which believes that our society is becoming a self-monitoring one; that a sophisticated CCTV-like system has been subtly interwoven into the fabric of our lives.

With all this in mind, I bow down to any accusations of hypocrisy that come with me using the site to network, catch up with old friends and promote my new book. The simple truth is that the Facebook phenomenon has become so ingratiated into our culture that it is difficult to do any of those things without utilising it. Therefore, I find myself, once again, sleeping with the enemy.