Posted in Frame Drumming

Video: Incidentals’ recording session

Incidentals and Todmorden Frame Drum Group

Local blogger Krishna part of filmed Incidentals’ recording session as one of his videos of creative and spiritual events in Calderdale.

In this clip, we perform our composition Circle Dane based on Layne Redmond’s Rattlesnake variations.

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Posted in Reviews

The Seventh Quarry Issue 24 Summer-Autumn 2016 and my poems

Mirrors to the other side

rio_negro_floodplain_patagonia_argentina_2010-01-04_lrgThe Twenty-Fourth issue of The Seventh Quarry magazine edited by Peter Thabit Jones flowed like a meandering river. One turn of a page reflected the previous one. Themes sank in and resurfaced further downstream.

For instance, Bill Wolak interviewed William Heyen. William Heyen’s poems were followed by a photo of William Heyen and Stanley Barkan. and the poem “Who is Stanley Barkan?” by James Palmer. An interview with Dileep Jhaveri is preceded by Bill Wolak’s poem “After a Photo of Dileep Jhaveri.”

One theme that resonated with me kept emerging in this issue’s interviews. It was the idea of poetry as a portal into the timeless, a key to the transcendent.

As Dileep Jhaveri put it:

“The role of the poet is to take the reader along to discover spaces where this magic is innate. [The poet] then becomes a mirror or a river for the reader for a similar adventure.”

And then further along:

“The poem comes from where time and space do not exist. The poem is an encounter with eternity. [] You know the universe, and simultaneously you don’t know it. [] Poetry comes from within you, and it comes from nowhere.”

I let this idea in and it turned out that the poems I liked the most in this issue actually took me to a space beyond the concrete and the individual.


childhoodThe issue is also rich in poems about childhood, a theme close to my heart. One, “Bottles” by Tim Gardiner has this strange trope: an adjective reflected back from one object to another.

“A carefully sculpted oyster//held in a boy’s soft hand”

I got this very clear feeling of the oyster’s softness, as well as the boy’s hand. This sensation was enhanced by fact that the poem mentions glass shards of bottles immediately beforehand.

Another poem that took me into my childhood was Gareth Culshaw‘s “Butchers”. I clearly remember a similar sensation to

“I always stood behind, half seen, unheard//brown paper bags swung by finger and thumb,//the firm press and hold of a butcher’s hand.”

The various colours of meat mentioned in the poem seemed a bit “workshopped” to me though (my pet peeve of workshop poems). For me, it is smells that launch me into the past most easily. However, no denying that it can be colours for someone else.

There is this simple yet elegant sequence about early childhood in Siân Northey‘s “Shoes”:

“I barely remember my barefoot days
before the stories
before my soles in my cradle
had walked a step.”

The breath of poetry

Branch Path Trail In The Forest Autumn Tunnel
Branch Path Trail In The Forest Autumn Tunnel

“Laces” by Siân Northey struck me with the deep breath of the rhythm: “hand in hand under branches//and twigs and darkness” – through which appeared a particular tunnel of shrubs and a particular pair of hands from my past. The beginning and the end of the poem form a perfect circle, reflecting the topic: laces. It starts with stating a mystery of laces, and ends with the statement that the mystery is

why one side, at the end of every day,
is always, no exception ever,
slightly shorter
than the other side.”

I would not be able to say exactly what that means. However, it simply worked as a reference to something being off in life.

As always the case with The Seventh Quarry, there was an unexpected find from the distant shores, this time from Albania. Alisa Velaj‘s “Still” translated by Laureta Petoshati invites a gentle trance through repetition of a few key words around “Sleep” and its assonances: soul, lily, sweet, sing, flee. The mention of “his Madonna horizon” sent me to not one by two references from my personal life.

February and very early spring is one of my favourite seasons. I felt it in Kristine Doll‘s “Green” with its line “a green not yet determined.”

I liked “Marriage” by Michael Graves: a goth-flavoured incantation in the spirit of Corpse Bride, until the very end, when it turned out it was about a man. That rang a little bit alien to me.

Grant Tabard‘s “Fairytale of a First Christmas” brought about those feelings of a young unkempt ragged love affair, the feeling of being out of parental nest and finding your own relationships for the first time.

Survival Now

saveearthAs usual, the paintings of Carolyn Mary Kleefeld are lovely, charming in their sincerity and directness. I thought Carolyn Mary Kleefeld’s “Our Higher Conscience” is a bit on the nose. Having said that, its message of the current need for character, integrity and measures to save the planet is so urgent that it is worth not only reproducing in poetry magazines, but even writing on each wall in every city on earth.

Matt Duggan‘s “Zombie Land” tackles, in a more playful manner, some of the same topics: the dullness of existence in modern capitalist world, which runs on exploitation and offers the phantom release of celebrity or admiration for celebrity.

William Heyen in his interview for this issue said: “The poet is the one who integrates, who makes us realize that we of all cultures are in this together, that the bell tolls for all of us, that all is One, in the end, as we move toward our common death.” Our goal for today has to be for this death not to coincide with the extinction of humanity.

The Murky Reflection of the Shining Past

A poem about the destructive effect of industrial capitalism, “Whistle-Stop”, also by Grant Tabard has this powerful refrain: “In twenty years it would be black with mould.”

Red Pepper Magazine Advertisement by Mayakovsky and Stepanova
Red Pepper Magazine Advertisement by Mayakovsky and Stepanova

This referred me directly to a widely known in Russia poem by Vladimir MayakovskyKhrenov’s Story of Kuznetskstroy and Its Builders.” (Unfortunately, I was not able to locate the English translation.)

This poem by my favourite poet (who, incidentally, inspired my poem published in this issue) has the refrain: “In four years there will be a Garden City here.” It describes the difficulties of building Novokuznetsk Iron and Steel Plant. The striking difference between the two poems reflects the opposing goals of a capitalist and socialist society. In the former, the aim is profit. In the latter the goal is decent (in all senses of the word) life for everyone.

How unlikely is this, that not one but two poems in this issue reminded me of Mayakovsky’s poetry? Gabriella Garofalo‘s “Look, Don’t Kid Yourself” is another dark distorted reflection from our despair of global capitalism back into the explosive and visionary start of the 20th century. “Stars can’t welcome revolution” – says Gabriella.

if stars are lit
it means – there is someone who needs it.
It means – someone wants them to be,
that someone deems those specks of spit

– shouts Mayakovsky in his “Listen“.

“Stories have an happy ending, after all,//Just think of films and soaps,” – says Gabriella.

And overwrought,
in the swirls of afternoon dust,
he bursts in on God,
afraid he might be already late.
In tears,
he kisses God’s sinewy hand
and begs him to guarantee
that there will definitely be a star.
He swears
he won’t be able to stand
that starless ordeal.

– exclaims Mayakovsky.

Stars are dim nowadays. When people had a worthy goal to live for, to work for, they did not need to seek solace in soaps. Films were being made about them, and poems written.

Cross culture

The Seventh Quarry is a truly international magazine. Not only does it include poems from around the world, it also contains poems that cross international borders within themselves.

I liked “Ganesh” by Mark Floyer because it describes exactly what normally happens: an English prepschool pupil seeks protection of a Hindu God. I remember visiting a temporary exhibition on Ganesh in the British Museum. I am sure by the end of it the statue was worn from all the visitors’ touching it. And in my special Humanities high school in Russia girls wrote poems dedicated to Ishtar.

magpieAli Pardoe, (whom I also mentioned in my review of an earlier issue of The Seventh Quarry)  in his “Magpie” blends traditional beliefs about the bird from the English, Chinese and Ancient Greek cultures. As for me, however much I can speak and write in English, in my head I still call animals by their Russian names. And these can be feminine and masculine. So, to me, a mole or an eagle is always a “he”, whereas a squirrel or an owl is always a “she”, and so is a magpie.

I got two poems in this issue. “Lips” is inspired by a line from Mayakovsky‘s long poem “Cloud in Trousers

but you can’t, like me, turn inside out entirely,
and nothing but human lips become!

I put a different translation, by Andrey Kneller, as an epigraph. As a second epigraph, I used a piece of dialogue from Despicable Me:

– What about the air?
– Yes, you can touch the air.

My second poem in this issue has a long title: “The Way Through Tomsk Inspired by The Way Through the Woods by Rudyard Kipling.” The poem by Kipling tells a story about a road through the woods that “they shut”, but which still can be discerned by a careful observer. I premiered this poem at Geneviève Walsh‘s Spoken Weird event in Halifax.

I took these “they” and wrote 3 stanzas about what they shut in my home town, which happen to be a sweet shop, a book store and a swimming pool. I took the final line of the original poem “But there is no road through the woods” and applied it to every of the objects that were dear to me from my childhood. I read this one at Gaia Holmes‘ spoken word event in Puzzle Hall, Sowerby Bridge.

Posted in Reviews

The Seventh Quarry Issue 23 Winter-Spring 2016

Rigveda_MS2097Issue 23 of The Seventh Quarry had an Indian flavour. It featured interviews with not one but two renowned Indian poets: Hassanal Abdullah (by the Editor Peter Thabit Jones) and with Dr. H.K. Kaul, by Mandira Ghosh. Both poets earned my admiration with their lofty goals and their understanding of the role of poetry in modern society.

Both amaze with the scope of their work. Hassanal Abdullah wrote 29 books, among which is a 304-page epic about relations between people and the Universe. Dr. H.K. Kaul is the President of the Poetry Society (India) and his 200-page long poem Firdaus in Flames deals with political and social upheavals in India’s recent history.

One cannot help but be amazed by these two poets, who confess in their respective interviews that it is the highest aspirations of human spirit that are worthy writing about and that poetry can and should change society for the better. This, at the time when most English language poets normally reach as high as the attic, for a box marked “Grandmother”, in order to commit to poetry an old glove.

ShellsI was taken by the unassuming elegance and light-hearted wisdom of a three-line poem “Intimations of Immortality on the Beach” by Ellen Pickus. It captures perfectly the moment of surprise and delight you feel when you see something you thought was inanimate nature move on its own accord.

“Looking in to… the space” by Jonathan Beale had a line that made me wonder about composition of a poem. It read: “Two people. Genders unimportant.” The line actually made to start imagining these people and precisely in relation to their gender. So I concluded that perhaps when you want your reader to think about something, state in your poem that this something is unimportant.

Italy’s Domenico Iannaco‘s series of poems explores cohabitation within one person of a number of cultures and collaboration of different languages within one poet. Iannaco is exploring the roles what exactly countries and languages can mean to the person in which they all live. “How can I call you stranger//If we quarrel in the same language,” – quite rightly he notes.

Egypt_dauingevektenScott Thomas Outlar from America made my heart sing with his poem “Weighing it out”. It deals with the heart, to be precise, with its weighing after its possessor’s death, according to the Egyptian mythology. It is good to know that Ancient Egypt still lives.

My favourite poem from the whole magazine was “Kerouac Heart” by Mark Elias from Wales. It is a rhymed poem written in quatrains. Furthermore, alternate stanzas have “his” at the beginning of each line, and “my” opening each line. All that together creates dynamics and tension, which whizzes the reader through the poem. At the end of it, I would not be able to say exactly who “he” and “I” or relationship between them was. Nevertheless, I loved the roller-coaster.

Wellsboro_Diner_interiorAmerica’s Stanley H. Barkan contributed “The Waitress at the International Delight Cafe 1”, full of ironic descriptive lists. I loved the line “The International Delight Cafe offers everything” followed by a long list of Americanised world dishes of the lowest common denominator. Menu items like chili and cappuccino are recognised by people around the world, thus making us partake of a global faceless culture, which, nonetheless, gives us a sense of belonging.

“Patriots and Apostates” by Craig Kurtz from America is long. Surprisingly, I could not put it down. It grabbed me with its uncompromising language and anti-capitalist stance. It is not often that Western poetry engages in critique of earth-destroying and soul-destroying practices of the Global North.

I liked “A dream of dark wings” by Monica Corish from Ireland for life truth that I recognised in it: that is, the healing power of even the darkest dreams. It ends with “Whoever it is, however it is: when I wake,//my week-long hammering headache is gone.”

Waves_in_pacifica_1Ian Griffiths from Wales crafted his “Siren Song” so that it appears on a page like one swelling wave surrounded by smaller wave crests.

England’s Ali Pardoe wrote “the kitchen//where potatoes gently knock the side of the pan”, which makes me, a potato aficionado, immediately get the sense of “Homecoming,” the title of the poem.

Posted in Watercolours

Watercolour: Portsmouth Rocks

Portsmouth Rocks £50
Portsmouth Rocks £50

The title for this painting is obviously a play on words. It portrays some rocks in the hills above the village of Portsmouth (by Cornholme by Todmorden) and at the same time expresses my admiration for the place.

My favourite features in this view are: the new wind turbines on the top of the hill to the left, the forest that frames Portsmouth so beautifully in deep emerald colour in summer and the house on the hillside, tiny from this distance, although it is actually a whole terrace.

The rocks in the hills of Portsmouth protrude out of the ground, here and there, small and big. They look too me like the brittle bones of our old Mother Earth.

I used sweeping semi-circular lines in drawing, throughout. I hope this helps to express the idea that Portsmouth is a like a little earth, and, at the same time, it is part of a much bigger world, connected to everything in it.

Buy this painting for £50 at the exhibition in Todmorden Tourist Information Centre, until 29 May.




Posted in Watercolours

Watercolour: Cornholme Mills


Cornholme Mills £50
Cornholme Mills £50

This is a view from a hill above the village of Cornholme along Burnley Road down into the valley and further onto Todmorden. The chimney of the old Cornholme Mills punctuates the narrow valley. My daughter studied the history of this plant at school in the context of the Industrial Revolution and child labour. She now likes saying that she is glad she did not live a those times. The factory is the only one remaining working mill in Cornholme.

While working on this watercolour, I relied on clear lines of drawing, which allowed to maintain the impression of two hillsides sliding down onto a valley and culminating in an opposing hillside above Todmorden.

I combined more naturalistic and more abstract techniques in this painting, including my favourite “borders melt into the centre” technique, which, to me, showcases he unique qualities of watercolour paints perfectly.

See this painting at the current exhibition in Todmorden Tourist Information Centre, until 29 May.


Posted in Events, Watercolours

Watercolour exhibition opens in Todmorden Information Centre


Exhibition of my watercolour paintings has opened in Todmorden Tourist Information Centre.

Visit the Centre in Burnley Rd, Todmorden, for free until Sunday 29 May to see landscapes inspired by views around Todmorden.

I also paint flowers, which I spot in Todmorden parks.

Panel4TIC2016In addition, a landscape portraying a Irish lake and another one of a Russian river are also on exhibit.

The paintings are original and framed. They are available for prices in the range of £30-50.

For this exhibition I painted two brand new landscapes, which are available for purchase.


A few paintings from private collections feature in the exhibition and are not for sale.

Panel6TIC2016The styles presented are varied: there are three paintings which I did in an abstract style with which I have been experimenting.

Some works have been done on dry paper, while others benefited from the special effect of wet paper that gives watercolour paintings their distinct look.

I hope you enjoy recognising familiar scenery in my watercolours as well as looking at the views from lands far away.

Have a warm and sunny May!


Posted in Events, Watercolours

Watercolour Exhibition in Todmorden Information Centre during May 2016

Come see my watercolours at a free exhibition from 1st May 2016. Todmorden Information Centre is open Monday to Saturday from 10.00am to 4.00pm and Sundays 10.45am to 2.30pm.


I am presenting my favourite subjects, which are flowers and local landscapes. I admire the curves of the hills above Portsmouth and Cornholme, with their changing colours through the seasons. In addition to those, an Irish and a Russian landscape will also feature.

The paintings are framed and are available to buy at affordable prices (£30-£40). Treat yourself or buy a special gift for a loved one.