INTERNATIONAL LOVE. THE DAY BEFORE LIVERPOOL LGBT PRIDE, 2017.BY STEVEN BENSON.

What format for this? poem/polemic/rant?? It is all too weak. The subject is unwieldy, too poignant, too ANGER-INDUCING:BEYOND words..

That lgbt people in Uganda are IMPRISONED, sometimes, for loving someone of the same sex (nomenclatured as “carnal knowledge against the order of nature”): this DEFEATS me. That some of these people, every year, defy this (beyond) draconian legally and socially evil system and go on their small, and ineffably moving and brave Pride march IN Uganda is testimony to the great strength of the human spirit. And it’s not only Uganda. In about 10-13 countries the DEATH penalty- yes I said the DEATH penalty- is either used or not used but is there in statute. This is some way fucked up tortured ideology, fed into by bastardisations(NOT the real message) of (British Empire) “Christianity”.

That Liverpool LGBT Pride has chosen “International Love” as its theme, this year, is inclusive, brave and, by its very inclusion,political (despite Pride’s slight ambivalence to “politics” in its presentation of the event). It HAS to be political. Everything in regard to lgbt equality issues is a HUMAN right, every personal right IS political, because we are working against sets of (hierarchically) religious and cultural and, yes, political, systems, where we have (in some countries ) NO HUMAN RIGHTS or,as in the UK( with May’s despicable alliance with the homophobic DUP and mixed lgbt equality voting record) a set of values we CANNOT assume are guaranteed. Jeremy Corbyn recognizes the struggles still to be fought in the UK AND worldwide, having a history of tackling homophobia and transphobia in countries with extremely punitive regimes, eg Saudi Arabia, where gay men are beheaded. He offers hope(though it seems to me that some people are scared of that hope: they have lived in their internalised capitalistic and personal prisons too long so they are, through no fault of their own, institutionalised, economically, politically and personally; internalised homo/transphobia being manifestations of this insidious macro/microcosmic process). Not being able to express your core selfhood/personhood is the deepest political issue there could be. By coming out/being ourselves, about our sexual orientation/gender identity (when it is SAFE to do so) we are engaging in what is itself a strongly political statement. Yes, a “statement”, whether you like to see it thus or not {heaven forfend we should “announce” it, “thrust it in their faces” or “make an issue” of it, relativistic phrases if there were any}.

I first wrote,originally, this yesterday,on the PRECISE anniversary of the partial{sic} decriminalization of male homosexual acts on 27.7.67; and tomorrow and Sunday is Liverpool LGBT Pride’s day of International Love; so it is written in the interstices, filled with the awareness of a slight relaxing of a cruel UK illegality and the fact that so many other countries do not even have the  relative “luxury” of the 1967 “Sexual Offences Act”(never mind Major’s and Blair’s raft of human rights that took another 32 years to start coming into law).


This corr

Osive

Suppur

Ating

Bubbling

Anger,

Festering

Under the

Surface; {Brought to a head on a day we “celebrate” (do you celebrate being able to have sex behind a a door locked by a Yale key??I suppose, relative to what happened previously you do, sort of)}

Gay men, in the UK, humiliated with specious “pardons” for acts which should never have been illegal,still fight for full apologies(eg. George Monatagu, self-proclaimed “Oldest gay in the Village”: watch his interviews and be moved AND ANGRY). Watch the hideous story of Wildeblood, Pitt-Rivers and Lord Montagu in the BBC’s “Against the Law”, based on Wildeblood’s brave book of the same name; almost too painful to watch, especially, ironically, in his disowning, to Woolfenden, of the queens/queans who were seen as second-rank homosexuals, as opposed to the “discrete normal{sic} homosexuals” Wildeblood had to speak about in order that respectability would win the day {strategically good but offensive}. Wildeblood was-ineffably movingly- the ONLY openly gay man to speak to the Woolfenden Committee in the 50s, prior to the law change; there are a few copies still around of his Penguin “Against the Law”; snap them up; it is an invaluable heirloom.


 

WHAT THE FUCK;

We have

Far to go;

But let us

UNITE

In one

Desire to

Keep on

Keeping On as we

Live our

Lives as

LGBT

PEOPLE

(yes, we are people

Who love people).

These are
HUMAN

RIGHTS.

Let’s be

Bright and
radiant and

Gay in the

Sunshine

(Or Rain)

As we

Transform the

Grey world

To

Multi-hued

Rainbows…

INTERNATIONAL LOVE.

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In homage to all those people (lgbt and allies) who have fought before me/us and STILL fight, all in their own ways: Jeremy Corbyn, Peter Wildeblood, the Gay Liberation Front, the Campaign for Homosexual Equality, Stonewall, John Major, Tony Blair, and(yes) even David Cameron; and for those more UNsung heroes and heroines who quietly but powerfully change the world BY BEING their (LGBT) selves and full, whole human beings. Thanks to Liverpool LGBT Pride for its espousing of International Love:)

{next, a report/ possibly pics of Liverpool LGBT  Pride, 29 and 30 July 2017}

Posted in "Pride", a la recherche Benjamin gay queer archive assembalge, ecriture cuir, gay, gay affirmative writing, Haiku poems, Jeremy Corbyn, my poems, other, queer, Queer wrting, Rant, Re-envisionning, revolution, safer spaces(guidelines), Self-actualisation, Stream-of-consciousness, Uncategorized, Utopia, working outside hegemonies | 1 Comment

MY WRITING STYLE AND HOW IT HAS DEVELOPED, PACE NAYSAYERS.SELF-REFLECTIVE AND META.(ONGOING).BY STEVEN BENSON.

My writing style has developed (for good or ill) IN DESPITE of a minority of others who proclaim their impatience/judgement of it. They do this for motives the nature of which I am unclear. Either:

  1. they just do not understand my vocabulary{dictionaries are available}/style/form .
  2.  They are a tad envious of me {arrogant of me, thus to think??}
  3. They think in little boxes about “academic” versus (in a dialectical process) “creative”. It HAS to be an either/or; in ONE box or the other.
  4. Or a combination thereof.

On the other hand, some “get”/get it and (from sensitivity or genuine admiration)suspend judgement:). The irony is that the attacks and (de-)constructive criticism/feedback on my style/vocabulary have, in actuality, refined and (semi)DEfined the “excesses”{let’s just say idiosyncrasies/quirks} in that they have made me slightly rebellious and I want to use the said the words MORE, but (SELF-)critically, when I deem appropriate(or ironic). The ironic, camp, parlous loftiness (or an attempt therat), the self-referential self-dialectic(or, I hope, dialogue) continues apace. Probably because of “defensiveness”{ a relativistic word, which changes meaning determinant on what one is defending oneself from!}, I HEIGHTEN, I (faux?) elevate it(sometimes, IF I choose; I have agency; this sister has burnt his/her bra). I, semi-desuetudinously, meander, in a non (hetero) normative fashion through the penumbrous (and, knowingly, self-tautological) liminal realms and demesnes of language, like some desultory flaneur, remorselessly peregrinating. A restless soul.

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You only strengthen and assist me! Not JUST to be “contrary”/contrary but in order that I might further self-elucidate and hone my style.; and individuate {with hommage, of course, to certain writers. who shall be obvious}.

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In a different tone, equally pertinent, I think creative writing groups and taught/semi-taught creative writing courses(or those that are a mixture of both) CAN be and, sometimes, ARE
Life-affirming

Style-developing

Constructively critical (eg ways to proceed further with your work/enhance it)…

I should know… I (co) run such a (free fall, CONstructively critical) group.{ATTITUDE!:P}

I am very clear that we should write what reflects US as members, engaged in joint(equal but different) and separate writing, sans editorial or funding constraints. WE have built up trust and support over months(which does not obviate constructive criticism). We don’t interpellate, inappropriately, “too many big words”, “that is too academic” type comments, bombs detonated into people’s PRIVATE world of writing(whether overtly written about the self, or not, ALL writing is a personal manifestation of the {complex} self). We nurture each other. The second group I attended, the last session of which was the flame that lit this rant,was, until that very session, nurturing and supportive and full of considered constructive feedback; it was a safe space (no less so than it was one for lgbtq people)… upto the point that….: a remote editor, who had NEVER attended even part of one meeting,and thus not built up trust/rapport with ANY members of the group(as had the three excellent faciliators built these up over 8 wonderful weeks): this person, towards the end of the last session, sent in editorial /”editorial” comments/”suggestions”(I was assured) to me, and, presumably, other writers/members; he recommended, (again, presumably) in the name of standardisation of the writings in the booklet,”amendments” which decimated my use of non-common-useage words{most of which are in one sentence above!}; failing to see his own (inappropriate) dearth/death of sensitivity, nor any ability to where I was coming from(genuinely) or, indeed, in a contrapuntal not incommensurate way, any irony. He did not know me: he had not been there in ANY of the 8 weeks.

_________________________________________________________________

Albeit that I might crave a bit of fame, it is double-edged, a forked tongue; because the marketplace of books/writing/publishing includes the power of the editor, which, in turn, reflects the needs of the marketplace(for its own{self}-reproduction),a, sometimes,self-devouring aspect of capitalism. Books have to sell to an actual(mainstream or niche) audience or, patronisingly and controllingly, be PERCEIVED (by the power-wielding editor) as being able to sell…. {of course, Sebald and many other writers earned, through sheer perseverance, or positions, already attained, of power within the academy, their being allowed to write idiosyncratically and quirkily;so that Sebald’s putative verbosity, and , not least, his tortuous and tortured, rhizomatic sentences, ironically, became HALLMARKS and seen as crucial to his opera.Others, struggling to be known/published, or needing money, are not so lucky or persevering…}

______________________________________________________________________________

When , in whatever context, we critique other people’s writing, we should strive to reflect,always, on the subjective experience we employ when we do so; we should NOT project our own values and insecurities on others(writing). We CAN respect otherness/difference in writing content and style sans being freaked out and, thus, judgemental; of course, there is no true objectivity, but one can/should try…. So, people might like Stephen King or Judy Finnigan; they might like Proust or Orwell. I don’t judge; so neither should you: it is a kind of intolerable and intolerant (reverse) snobbery

____________________________________________________________________________

This set of ruminations {sic! lol} is not intended to be sarcastic (although I am, understandably, a little bitter and cross) but a blueprint for CONstructive critiques, affirming safe-spaces of not uncritical (but positively so) thought on others’ writing(and speech, for that matter):
Make your own

Space

Better than a market-

Place;

Hog a

Blog

Write your

Self…

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We can be communal by respecting our differences: that is what should bring us together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in "Pride", alterity, Birth of reader, ecriture cuir, gay affirmative writing, life mirrors art, my poems, parlous loftiness, Phenomenology, queer, Queer wrting, Quirky captures, Rant, Re-envisionning, revolution, safer spaces(guidelines), safety for marginalised groups, Sebald, Self-actualisation, Uncategorized, Utopia | Leave a comment

The role of LGBT fiction in the identity-formation of a gay man

This gallery contains 10 photos.

Originally posted on Blackwell's Liverpool Book Blog:
Words by Steve Benson With the start of the Blackwell’s LGBT Book Group as the catalyst, I wanted to write about how reading gay male content fiction helped consolidate my self-identification as…

Gallery | Leave a comment

THE ROLE OF GAY MEN’S FICTION IN IDENTITY FORMATION OF A GAY MAN.BY STEVEN BENSON.

With the start of the Blackwell’s LGBT Book Group as the catalyst, I wanted to write about how reading gay male content fiction(classics and modern works) helped consolidate my self-identification as a gay man, and aided and supported me, immensely, in what was, sometimes, a traumatic process of coming to terms with my sexual orientation. Though, this occurred to me in the 1980s, sadly I do not think it has changed all that much(having watched Olly Alexander’s tortured coming out process and that of his friends and the people he interviewed for his programme on his coming out on TV recently, backed up by startlingly depressing and anger-inducing figures for youth lgbt selfharm, depression, anxiety, suicide attempts and other mental health conditions). Whilst I am not suggesting that reading is some automatic cure-all for these systemic issues, I DO, strongly, believe that, for at least SOME lgbt people, seeing positive images and role models of/for themselves in the media/writing/ music world is extremely self-reinforcing and crucial.

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There are too many fiction works to name, but they included: many many of the old Gay Mens Press imprint, books like Vidal:”The City and the Pillar”, Forster “Maurice”, Edmund White “A Boys Own Story” and “This Beautiful Room is Empty”, and Baldwin:”Giovanni’s Room”(all still in print, and still wholly relevant today). That they were THEMSELVES sometimes tortured stories reflected back the issues and difficulties at being a gay person in  the “real” (predominantly) heterosexual world at the time (and, to a slightly lesser extent, now). There were two novels, in particular, which made a big(political and personal is political) effect on me:
Barry Nonweiler:”That Other Realm of Freedom”(Gay Mens Press, 1983); and

Ian Everton:”Alienation”(Gay Mens Press, 1982).

They are predominantly bleak books, with glimspes of happiness and self-acceptance. Significantly, because I cannot divorce coming out from lgbt politics and equality battles, they were about the struggles of gay people in the very early days, not long after (partial) decriminalisation of gay male sex(1967; see the two TV series at the moment, “50 Shades of Gay”, and “Queer Britannia”), and they were largely about the internal and external politics of the Gay Left (GLF, ie “Gay Liberation Front”; see also Feather:”Blowing the Lid” for the history of the GLF, Zero Books, 2015; IN PRINT!). It is a struggle which Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party is still fighting, (cf his manifesto on lgbt rights).

What did these books achieve for me?; and what can similar (I will give examples, and perhaps we can read/discuss some of them in the group!)fiction of recenter provenance do to support lgbt people today? Well, I saw myself in the characters: torn between embryo self-acceptance and the forces of hetero-patriarchal, heterosexist society;shame and then a journey towards tentative pride. I saw that is was ok to struggle and to be gay and to get there (eventually); I saw the importance of lgbt-specific support networks (friends and groups and the Liverpool Gay Centre as it was then). The characters had similar, sometimes different, battles with self and society. I felt, no longer, excluded and occluded, but part of something: there was hope. I read the books, then I became part of that parallel (lgbt) world of growing(self) radiance.

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There was, also, the totemic “The Milkman’s On His Way”(David Rees, Gay Mens Press,1982) which was made much of in the heated homophobic discourse which was the precursor to Section 28 of the Local Government Act, prohibiting the “promotion” of homosexuality.

______________________________________________________________________________

Recenter lgbt authors have, stressed that they are not, in fact, “Lgbt/gay writers”, specifically or at all. This is a complex interface between self-identity, self-perception, the (publishing) marketplace and societal expectations. But writers like Hollinghurst (“The Folding Star”,1994 is my favourite), Cunningham (classic is “The Hours”, a take on Virginia Woolf,1999) and Leavitt (“Lost Language of Cranes”,1986), despite their chosen self-nomenclature as non gay specific, deal-in order- with subjects like under age love,AIDS and family acceptance(or not). Much more recently, we have, for example, Boyne:”The Heart’s Invisible Furies”(2017, about the fight for acceptance in Ireland) and “A Natural”(Ross Raisin, 2017, about the need for acceptance of gay people within the football world;controversially, to some, written by a straight man).

_____________________________________________________________________________

If I had to choose ONE book it would be Bartlett:”Ready to Catch Him should he Fall”(1990; re-issued 2017 by Serpent’s Tail), an ornate, passionate and brave book of gay love.

________________________________________________________________

For an historical overview, I would recommend “A History of Gay Literature”(Woods, 1998) and for lgbt recommended reads,from all eras, “50 Gay and Lesbian Books Everybody Must Read”(2009) by Richard Canning

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Please add(in the comments box below)  your own contributions to fiction which helped YOU, or you think would help other lgbt people on their journey

 

 

Posted in "Pride", alterity, ecriture cuir, gay, gay affirmative writing, gay literature, Jeremy Corbyn, life mirrors art, Novel reviews, queer, Queer wrting, Re-envisionning, Rememberances, Section 28 protest traces memory reportage, Uncategorized, Utopia, working outside hegemonies | 1 Comment

THE BROTHEL IN HUSKISSON STREET:Remembrances. Gay 80s (continued).BY STEVEN BENSON

Ok, now I have your attention:come with me on another foray into my gay past! This succeeds Princes Gate East https://towardsutopia.wordpress.com/2017/06/28/for-pride-story-writing-group-steps-to-freedompauls-gay-start-in-life-reflections-by-steven-benson/

But now we are back in the first person….so I shall give you DIRECT memories/reportage, in the form of things random, lost and found, from my gay (self) inheritance…

 

A flat next to a brothel(a down-market one{IF there are UP-market ones!});a madame, over 70 dwelling in a shoddy, seedy den…. Harmless in herself but the fulcrum for pimps and robbers (the prossies, themselves, were NO trouble!)…

One gave a client a wank in the shared back alley; well, I GLIMPSED what was going on…I was making one of my ubiquitous pies(I think) :P….

A T.V once shot through her window into the “area” below(just feet from my ground floor flat)….

My unuseable front room, because of the noise and threat of violence….

A flat (mine, not the madame’s) of variegated hues, as is my CURRENT flat(see here for current razzledazzle bathroom… it contains the C.A.B yellow and blue of the erstwhile Huskisson Street flat Razzle-dazzle/rainbow)———

I made it all myself(my first self-decorated apartment): Huskisson Street…

£10 a week rent (yes, really)

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I peregrinate, now, through this home of yore, as if it is THEN(in my memory’s eye, that is): I enter the neat (mock?) Georgian house, through its pillared portico, into a smart hallway (not the eerie liminal world of Princes Gate East) and into my new gay world( part 2) {“You are My World”, an electrifyingly swirling Communards hit from the mid 80s}. Like Princes Gate East, this flat, WAS my gay world (albeit feeling often invaded by my insalubrious neighbours, who burgled me twice and whose madame liked to “mind” my car, the implicit threat being, if I did not allow her to do this,it would be damaged/stolen!).

In effect, because of the problematic on-the-front-line sitting room, it was a bedsit. To be honest, I was not actually IN the flat that often!…..

But, I forgot, I am meandering….

The guided tour (round the flat and my memory):
I enter the doorway; to the right, the unuseable but bright “on the street” front room, only part furnished. Occasionally, I would protest the difficulties in using this space and, defiantly, play my hi-fi LOUD, but the noises(shouting) from the brothel were threatening and invasive; and it remained, just that: a protest.

To the left, centre of operations:gay memorabilia on the walls(handsome men cut out from magazines, political gay posters), Gay Mens Press imprints on the rudimentary shelves, videos (it WAS about 1986!), LPs (in a cabinet) ranging from “It’s Raining Men”{12 inch:P} to Rachmaninov, a cluttered work table; and off this, in effect, bedsit, a red-painted kitchen, with a fridge so ancient that it was full of dangerous gas, which, later, nearly poisoned me when it leaked (I car-spray painted it lurid green).

Inviting friends round for 1. meals: I recall a speciality: black-eye bean pie{what lol?} and flapjacks and scones, all made myself(even the pastry!)

2. tea-parties. They all brought differently-flavoured teas; it was caffeine-high heaven!

3. Mum and dad came, regularly, for meals too: my dad would be vociferously greeted, on the doorstep, by the madame proclaiming “Do you want business, love?”!!!!My mum, a social worker, was unphased. {I feel sadness, NOW: dad died last year and mum died in 2009. But they are there, in Huskisson St, with me, in that frozen time of memory and recall; as I, hopefully and hopelessly create an act of remembrance and try( in vain, but, in some spiritual sense, achieve it)to immortalize them and redeem them from death.

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So, as from Princes Gate East,I used my Huskisson St pad, as a base, and “went on the scene”, minimum three(usually four!) nights per week; not forgetting the physically tawdry- but psychologically and emotionally life-enhancing -Gay/Link Centre


I was a fragile thing. I, sketchily in some ways, and wholeheartedly in others, inhabited and took ownership of my (still) new gay life and self(hood). I had much fun ; and even intermittent sex and a few very brief relationships; but, concomitantly, I was yet full of angst, a residue from the last fraught months at Aber, and the two years of (self)exile back “home”(with mum and dad)in Grassendale( a definite unheimliche heimat)


It is both painful and solacing reading this, now, as I write it: how do you/I marry the past with the present(and, then, the future), even when there is not a significant disjunct between how I am now and how I was then(though that becomes a chasm, pre Princes Gate East)?. How do you manage and mediate the architectonic plates and dissonances of time?. It is a rhetorical question, merely, because, mainly, I fail to know…I do my best by making links between time past and present; I re-live, in memory only-though it can, occasionally, even, fleetingly, feel more real than the present/”present”-the past via the very act of writing, the act of remembrance and commemoration(or, sometimes, it is a threnody). I try for continuities between the eras: STILL collect books and LPs with 70s/80s garish camp covers and  even, occasionally, 12″ disco singles; and have an archive of lgbt/queer books, with a particular yen for Gay Mens Press early (rare) imprints. Through the Lps, I reclaim Ponti and others’ whacky, under-rehearsed but exuberant performances of unknown piano repertoire, which in my teens and early twenties- those years of self-tortured ambivalence around my sexual orientation, which(it makes me angry to recall) most lgbt people of that period (and, still, even now) have to go through because of hetero-patriarchal, heterosexist norms imposed on them)-gave me succour and solace and some sublimated hope and joy

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That gay life I built up, then, in the formative 80s,I continue NOW: not so much clubs and disco/hi- nrg, but (lower energy!) groups and  friends, especially safe-space lgbt groups, which are really an extension of the old Link(gay) Centre, still in my mind as a template (adapted!) for a space where lgbtq+ people can go and feel/BE safe: I  CREATED three of those groups(one with a friend); AND I am PROUD OF IT/THEM. They still meet today, and have taken on a bit of a life of their own, giving myself and other lgbtq+ people a HOME, a safe space to meet other people sans judgement. I also re-affirm my gay identity through some camp language (“girl” to my gay men friends, “sweetie” etc) to lighten up a sometimes grim, heteronormativized world. I brook no criticism or judgement for this.

And, last but certainly not least, I have found an entry point to non-lgbt-specific politics,in my love/respect/admiration for the great Jeremy Corbyn, who supported lgbt issues from the 70s and whose manifesto includes DETAILED, thought out education policies(including on trans) so kids do not have to go through what those of our generation(and later) had to endure. That was my way in to Jeremy’s other policies of hope and equality, where we are all different but equal, his rainbow coalition. In fact, that act of being included, as a gay man, in mainstream politics, is an ADDITION to the past. I have even integrated the (adopted) Welsh, Aber-esque Steve with the gay Steve, in retrospect, anyway. https://towardsutopia.wordpress.com/2017/07/13/a-gay-man-in-wales-integrating-by-steven-benson/


Time, memory, with/beyond recall…Remembrance… snapshots… time-links: THE BROTHEL IS DEAD; LONG LIVE THE BROTHEL.

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FABULOUS, EXHIBITIONISTIC, CAMP, BEAUTIFUL PIANO WRITING.TRANSCENDENTAL VIRTUOSITY.CARL CZERNY AND THE SPECTRE OF FELICJA BLUMENT(H)AL. BY STEVEN BENSON.

IMG_7345IMG_7344IMG_7346

I have a big collection of Vox Turnabout 70s LPs, with their flamboyant, camp covers, the beautiful detritus of teenage record collecting, especially of late Classical/Romantic era Piano Concerti.

But it was not just the indefatigable yet genuinely great warhorse that was/is (he is 80 now) Michael Ponti https://towardsutopia.wordpress.com/2013/06/22/re-envisionningmichael-ponti-and-sebald-inspired-by-sebalds-essay-on-jan-peter-tripp-in-a-place-in-the-countrytrans-caitling-2013-by-steven-benson/ and

https://towardsutopia.wordpress.com/2010/08/23/hommage-to-michael-ponti/

There was FELICJA BLUMENTHAL/BLUMENTAL (the surname spelling varies). She was REAL(not pseudonymous); though I am obscurely aware that some copyright battle may be ensuing between what seems to be her daughters “vanity” label https://www.branarecords.com/about-us/

and Vox, who made most of her recordings in the 60s and 70s. This is further mystified and complicated by my near- conviction that the recording on U-tube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7mWn3Z7ySk by David Boldrini and the “Rami Musicali ” orchestra is, indeed, Felicja(on her original Vox Turnabout recording with the Vienna Chamber Orchestra, directed by a definitely real conductor, Helmuth Froschauer).It gets even murkier, because on U-Tube the various concerti and recordings thereof are, lacksadaisically, all muddled together(at times); there is even a four-hands version of the said Czerny Concerto, which, according to the original LP sleeve(above) is the “Piano Concerto in A minor, op. 214″(2 hands).

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Felicja Blument(h)al was a pianist most known for having famous composers write and dedicate their works for/to her(Villa-Lobos, Penderecki, Lustoslawki), and, amongst more recherché, rareified, arcane circles, as Vox’s second(after Ponti) rare Classical/Romantic piano concerti repertoire house pianist. Her legacy, as well as Brana’s beautiful restorations(including lovely art-work), lives on, now in a recently issued 40 cd set, on Brilliant Classics of obscure classical and Romantic piano concerted works,mainly from the Vox stable (check the mammoth list of delightful unknown classics here http://www.brilliantclassics.com/articles/r/romantic-piano-concertos/ ; again, just to add, further, to the spectral, liminal demesne these recordings inhabit, the composers’ names are not in the track lists!!).

She is dead now(she would have been 109). Whilst, she, to my delight and surprise, gets an entry in the “Naxos A to Z of Pianists”, I would like to honour her (and a particular recording) in an idiosyncratic but affectionate fashion:) :

The recording is the Czerny A minor Concerto pictured above.

“Rarely, rarely comest thou, spirit of Delight”(Shelley). I had this recording in my mid/late teens; and barely noticed this coupling to my beloved (still)Field Piano Concerto 3; I have a vague memory of it seeming like what is pejoratively called “note-spinning” or “too many notes”(?Beecham). Well, it certainly HAS got a great many notes;and if I seem to be damning with faint praise, please bear with me as I attempt to caper, queerly, around the complex hinterland(an area lying beyond what is visible and known, in a broad definition) which is constituted of:

camp (in both senses of so bad it is good; AND so bad it is well… kitsch, but fun!)

parlous loftiness: trying SO hard to take flight into the transcendental but it doesn’t quite… or does it?Cf. Sebald, who in a more weighty way inhabits this non-dichotomous borderland which is the perilous mixture of camp risibility walking on the tightrope alongside (failed?) greatness; something about the labarynthine nature of the tortuous prose or all the notes, cascading in what Liszt(on Field) called “sublime passagework”, attempting to soar into the ether/the empyrean (and not quite taking flight?Make up your own mind!). https://towardsutopia.wordpress.com/2013/06/23/sebald-and-parlous-loftinessqueer-or-campby-steven-benson/

Felicja, womanfully, takes on the supremely, almost excruciatingly, difficult scalic passages,mad, sudden key-changes, and exquisite, elaborate  but tortured decoration; but she does it, not with ease (most of the time) but with the air of climbing a steep challenging mountain, and, sometimes,nearly falls of a cliff-edge, of insuperable technical dexterity, picks herself up and plods on, all the time seeming(actually being??) slightly behind the beat, as she tries to fit all the notes into the rhythym, and keep up with the orchestra.She clangs too (but without Ponti’s additional sensitivity); to be fair, this may be the Vox recording; and, if Ponti’s own documentation of rehearsal time(or lack of it) is anything to go by, these crazy renditions were probably done in one “take”(though you can actually, occasionally, HEAR the odd edit/tape splice!). Regarding the music itself, it grows on me, for these reasons:
I had a discussion with a friend about whether there was such a thing as “transcendental virtuosity” or if this was an oxymoron. Obviously not(just) “transcendental” as being almost impossibly technically difficult, but aspiring towards the ineffable/spiritual beauty/whatever you want, nebulously, to name it; we had to agree to disagree, because he thought it was an aporia: these concerti might be fun but were just what it said on the box, gloriously uninhibited but showy passagework and technical virtuosity. Well. obviously, this Czerny Concerto IS all these things(as Felicja-I like to call her that:)- makes clear through her labours; but there is something, not unanalagous to what I hear/experience in the Field (seven!) piano concerti-{though not reaching what is, in Field, an UNEQUIVOCALLY transcendental (in the spiritual sense) sheer earthly and “heavenly” beauty and moving, poignant exquisiteness.}.

It IS striving for effect(per se); but then , eg in a weird, quirky but genuinely beautiful passage in the romp that is the Rondo finale, we have an interruption… a chorale-like tune(played, precariously, by Froschauer’s horns!), which is moving in a chorale-like way, but which is accompanied by the pianist playing the most florid, extravagant, camp decoration(in the form of variation on the chorale melody).Wow! Words fail(as they often do, in the quagmire that is the towards non-referentialness of music; that is the point!). Its not just camp and flamboyant(nothing wrong with that, anyway); but its conveying of a sense of sheer joy and exhileration(mediated , slightly, by Felicja’s heroic but slightly challenged attempts at effortless virtuosity, which somehow, poignantly adds to the ineffable feeling) takes it- to me, and, perhaps to YOU, dear reader/listener too, if you accord it enough time- into the(what?) “spiritual”, “name of the name”, godhead, redemptive; it does not have to be the overt redemptive quality of a moment in late Wagner or Beethoven to do this, it can be this towards-rodomontade extravaganza of the Czerny A minor Concerto.. and, back to that Chorale, it is not sending up the chorale(and its necessitous theistic associations) but it is, somehow/unquantifiably, ENHANCING it. Words are slippery, again… I hope you get what I am aiming to express but struggling (so listen to the Boldrini/Blumental link yourself:)).

 


Finally, that orchestra: OMG, it starts SO out of tune, with thin strings and poor pitching in the horns; it is, technically, one of Vox’s worst(and that is saying something!:P); it makes the “Hamburg Symphony”(another Vox staple) sound like the Berlin Phil; here, I come to another quality of the music/performance(linked); the struggle of the pianist AND the under-rehearsed(scratch?{in both senses}) orchestra is all part of the totality of beauty; the parlous (shaky) loftiness/not quite making it but getting there nonetheless… into a realm of… complex, FRAGILE beauty, the world Bellini’s cabalettas and strettas, and Huysmans’ des Esseintes (“Au Rebours”) occupies. We have a hierarchy of beauty, the sublime and the spiritual; and we should not laugh at, or pathologize, the des Esseintes, the exquisites, of this world who create and/or appreciate this tenuous thread of exquisite, rareified beauty. Listen to Czerny LOTS of times(its revelations are only garnered through repetition and suspending judgement and this-is-not–in- the- great-canon values), hear the gorgeous melodies and the pompous, busy tuttis; perhaps listen to Shelley on Hyperion( am sure will be more technically adept; but that might well HINDER the fragility of what is going on here).

 

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So, rest in peace, Felicja… and LIVE ON in these invaluable recordings.. I shall have to listen to others of hers(though she does a mean Paderewski “Fantaisie Polonaise…)and, of course, more Czerny……..

 

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A GAY MAN IN WALES.INTEGRATING.BY STEVEN BENSON.

IMG_7342IMG_7338IMG_7334An English-born gay man in Wales; who wanted/wants to identify as Welsh, with no Welsh blood but a gay Welsh heart. I never managed this integration when I lived in “Aber”(Aberystwyth) in 1978-83; but I attempt it, in retrospect, via art, which is both quintessentially Welsh and absolutely gay( stereotypes or not  -slate/rainbows/mountains- I do not care).

IMG_7333IMG_7341Wales just became more gay

IMG_7337I integrated(made a whole self)my(adopted)Welsh self with my gay self(via-much later- a book of short fiction by a gay man I knew In Aberystwyth:). So, perhaps, I got there anyway: eventually….https://towardsutopia.wordpress.com/2016/11/23/a-coming-out-story-by-steven-benson/


Aberystwyth, mon (propre) amour 🙂 xx

 

 

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THE TANGLED SKEIN OF MEMORY. MY LIFE AND “DAVID COPPERFIELD”. BY STEVEN BENSON.

“When I think of it, the picture always rises in my mind…”(“David Copperfield”)

Memory is fleeting glimpses of the past(in picture form); memory is, also, elongated and long travails through the past. Dickens deals with both, in “David Copperfield”. Proust argues that memory is Involuntary, (that is unforced); but then if it needs a catalyst (be it a madeleine OR a book, just as Dickens himself goes in and out of HIS own memories, as he writes his semi-autobiographical epic) it is not involuntary. “David Copperfield” has been another stimulus, for me, of memory; reading it, exactly like the narrator(melded, often, into Dickens himself) who, by the very act of narrating in the now(of the writing/narration), elicits the rememberances: reading it has, for me, been a process of re-vivifying those seemingly long-gone early memories.

As I read, I am, contrapuntally, also re-living the 11/12 year old boy I was who read the book, for the first time, 46 years ago;as I, in parallel, again, re-live the act(and enhance with the acretions and diminutions of experience)of reading the tome itself, the very process of reading. Reading British Victorian literature, is, for me-as an openly gay man, (mainly!) happy with himself, now-problematic,because the books symbolise and, to a degree, embody, the self-repression and torture of that era, growing up gay but not being able to utter it(barely to myself, never mind an intolerant world). So, re-reading “DC”, especially with Holly Furnaux’s  “Queer Dickens:Erotics, Families, Masculinities”(2009) in mind-especially in relationship to what is, at the very very least, an intense friendship(and probably a homo-erotic love, because children have love feelings even if they do not actualise them till later/at all)between Davy and Steerforth:- and I really cannot be bothered arguing the hermeneutic pros and cons of the likelihood of the queer/gay text here, but it is UNEQUIVOCALLY IS here/there:- re-reading it, now, is a big act of re-clamation, not just, academically, of  heterosexualised portions of the text, but for my gay 12 year old self, who, like Davy, had unrealised feelings of love; so that via memory and recall I incorporate my 12 year old, struggling gay self into my CURRENT  gay identity, so that I am made whole in retrospect. So, this parallelizing of time-frames is doubly poignant and meaningful and psychologically necessary for wholeness (anyone averring otherwise would be attacking, in a homophobic fashion, my gay selfhood).


So, like David Copperfield,I remember: playing in the “larder”(a cupboard under the stairs), aged about 5, amidst an array of antique(even then!) tea-sets and ornaments and assorted coats, whilst my dear socialist and committed social worker mum made her phone calls. I felt safe. The larder was MY diminutive home..


 

(Memories float in and out.. in and out..)

.As I re-read “Copperfield”, now, I dimly recall I have read many sections previously; the text is ETCHED there, somewhere, waiting to be unearthed and re-vivified, in  the light of the person that boy became. I am sure Dickens would have approved of this madeleine process of his book re-igniting one’s own memories, and linking the past and present, with the awkward disjuncts that entails/ed.


This book dwells in that elusive dim, yet radiant, space between our present selves and our memories; or rather a parallel process between memories and the re-living of them in the now; also in the interstices between the writer and reader and the rememberances of both….. The healing power, via reclamation of the past, of reading and writing.

 

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FOR “PRIDE STORY” WRITING GROUP.”STEPS TO FREEDOM:PAUL’S (GAY) START IN LIFE”.REFLECTIONS. BY STEVEN BENSON.

Paul, in memory, re-entered and re-claimed his first flat(since coming out as gay ); in his act of rememberance, he walked around the land of yesteryear,but also(in vertical time) the demesne of today, as his memory joined the past and present.By that very act of the flaneurie of the past, he recalled how he had broken free and remained free.The year in Princes Gate East had probably been the most significant and character-forming(especially in regard to his unapologetically gay identity) in his whole life.

He entered the big, decaying  house,into the ramshackle, slightly uncanny hallway. It was dark; and there were spectral dead letters to unknown denizens of the past piled up on a table. The flat was at the back of the ground floor; there was no bulb in the light above the door, he remembered, adding to the penumbrous feeling of the whole house; the upstairs was like some shut off area of dark dreams.

This was a big moment for Paul; he had forced himself out from the strangling carapace of middle class, repressive surburbia, ejected himself up Ryedale Road, like a cannon ball seeking its target.

This is how it was and is (Paul is viewing the flat for the first time, walking around it, in memory, as he did when he lived there,thirty-three years ago; and, re-living it as if it were now).

Through the door… a dark(again!) bathroom straight ahead of the entrance; to the left, into the main room, which, on closer perusal,turned out to be the only room; a vast, semi-desuetudinous space, with the vestiges of a decorated ceiling (a very high one).Was it just a bedsit, then? “I suppose”, he thought, “nowadays you would call it a ‘studio'” as he gradually realised/remembered that the bedroom was poised above the main living area, somehow on top of the tiny(no window) kitchen and the glimpsed bathroom; he circumvented an exploration of the main area and headed towards the kitchen: “that’s nice”, he said: “wooden kitchen shelves”;realising, next, that they were, in fact, a ladder to the bedroom, which was a slightly uncomfortable six foot below the ceiling, all in the one vast, cavernous room. Climbing up the ladder/shelves, he found a double-bed, perched above the main space, somewhat precariously, and again, disconcertingly, filled with shadowy, unknown spaces,(which he decided to ignore!). The light bulb hung down,perilously, into the main room, at the side of the bed. Back to the kitchen, and there was an archaic small gas cooker (probably unsafe, looking back),and no fridge.

Yet it was enough. Physical space refracted psychological and emotional space. This was Paul’s gay space; and Paul’s gay base. From here he would go inward (into reclaiming his occluded gay self) and outwards(to the Gay Centre, and Sadie’s and other dens of…pleasure … and dancing… and.. friendship). Still full of angst, there was, yet, now, a strong ray of hope.. No matter the 10p in the slot gas meter and the Health and Safety nightmare that was this pied-de-terre. It was HOME; his gay home; he had come home, to HIMSELF; that is all that mattered. It had been, and still was, then (easier, now, but still not quite a finished work!) like hewing out a life from the arid stone of heteronormative hegemony; he had carved a new sculpture, but a living one. Corny, but he was re-born and re-made. This flat was the psycho-geographical manifestation of that.


Paul used to lie on his dais(bed) reading Gay Mens Press novels from the second earliest incarnation of “News from Nowhere”(another gay-friendly haven) and then fall asleep, to the sound of rats clawing and scraping above and below. He remembered in visual images, like shots of lightning in the dark sky of time and memory.

__________________________________________________________________________

Paul wanted to recall as fully and clearly as possible, given the hazy curtain of time that hid his clear vision of the past-like that eerie curtain he had seen in the old deserted ABC a few months ago:- he wanted to recall Mark, the ravenhaired Irishman from County Longford, who , one evening, had come to his flat,(having met him in the decrepit Gay Centre of the time) and who had sat with him on the sofa and whom, after two tantalizing hours and a bit of grappling, he had taken to his pedestal bed in the sky, and who had shouted, when Paul had said, amidst the throes, that he was hurting him, “I can’t help it if I love you to bits”, in a lilting Celtic accent. Mark with skin like alabaster, threaded like veined marble;exquisitely handsome Mark, who, also, conformed to Paul’s ideal of the darkhaired, slim man, he had always desired. Mark who loved Abba, so that Paul could not listen to a track by this band but think, yearningly,of him. He remembered how, the second time Mark was meant to appear, he did not turn up, with Paul,periodically and anxiously, walking the tiny distance to the 80 bus-stop on the corner of Granby St, to see if he was getting off the bus. It had been/is (recalling it) excruciating. Gone was the ecstatic feeling, following their first (and only once repeated, four years later)night of passion, when he had walked to work through Greenbank Park and all the birds of Liverpoolshire sang, as everything became three-dimensional and joyously bright-hued, like some variegated Hopkins poem. (He had the tendency to experience life through the transfiguring lens of literature). Now everything was drear and dark, like the Matthew Arnold poem; it was no longer the radiant beach of another former home, Aberystwyth, but the night-time with the tide receding, leaving him embattled, alone and confused: not for the last time!

Despite the traumas of this (the most intense of his post coming out love-passions and one of the {rarely} actualized ones), he survived and , somehow, amidst and athwart the desolate sense of loss, it affirmed his newly found gay self and identity: he had met and made love to an exquisitely beautiful man . He still, occasionally, bumped into this man, now like himself, in his fifties: he was still not badlooking. He had, in fact, told him, a few years back, about the huge effect he had had on him. Again, time was somersaulting in many directions at once.

__________________________________________________________________________

Paul did not know if he wanted to finish his story. {Neither did Steve}. When you are back in  “another country” that is the past, do you want to return to the present, especially if, in some significant ways, it is troubled? Steve found writing third person narrative hard; ok, he had made a stab at it. He found it interesting how people felt the need (privacy?/self-protective distancing?)to re-write (parts/all) of their lives as if written by/about someone else, which persona was merely a flimsy mask.


That said, I quite liked writing MY short story, Steve said.

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1140 words, 28.6.16

 

 

 

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STRONG AND STABLE.JEREMY CORBYN AND THE QUEEN. PART TWO.A FANTASY(OR IS IT?). BY STEVEN BENSON.

Jeremy Corbyn was dying to read his alternative Queen’s Speech in the Commons.

The time came(We all know about “our Therese{faux Scouse accent here}”; let’s leave that particular tediousness out!).

So, Liz read the , disconcertingly, short official Speech out, bedecked in her European Union colours hat. May, with slightly quaky voice (“strong and stable?”) gave her redoubt, embattled as she was. Then Jeremy (PLEAZE:the Right Honourable, leader of Her Maj’s Official and Loyal{sic} Opposition)Corbyn, MP, waded into May’s deep waters.

Liz, meanwhile, had been meant to up sticks to Ascot-official story-but, really, she was hiding in that lift{did you notice it as she left the Houses of Parliament?; we never actually saw her get out!}. She had a secret intercom connection with Jeremy; they had, earlier, come to an arrangement that she would listen, from the lift, (where she was ensconced),to his speech; and then give her opinion thereon.

“By jeebers”, she thought; “I like this”, as he got into his stride, as he spoke eloquently, angrily and quirkily but statesmanlikely, about the parlous state of the nation and her new “government”: re a “softer Brexit”(that chimed with her hat!), something to do with “equality”, re-industrializationism; and other matters which she knew, from her previous heart-to-heart with him, were SO dear to him https://towardsutopia.wordpress.com/2017/01/26/revolutiona-fantasyor-is-it-jeremy-meets-the-queen-a-homage-to-catherine-warners-mrs-thatchers-secret-diaries-by-steven-benson/

(Philip had complained, already, about the amassing number of Facebook groups like “JC for PM” and “We love Jeremy” that she had joined, of late,under the nom-de-plume, “the leftie queen’s Queen”).

Regarding today’s marvellous splurge of a speech, she uttered “I wish he had got in that bit about abolishing me and the rest of the monarchy; but never mind: this is juicy stuff, I love it; remind me to join that Movementum thingy(if only cos Philip, reactionary old sod, would HATE it)”.

It was a two-way link: she began to FEED the Leader of the Oposition some lines, direct into his earpiece, and by one of Jezza’s (as she had latched on to calling him in an ersatz Liverpudlian fashion) clumsy yet gorgeous segues, there it was: wow :”We are waiting in the wings to form a government”. “Oh my Royal crown”, she ejaculated, I never liked that Therese woman; he is really going for it: I am getting quite aroused. ”

Then.. she thought she was hearing things… he said it (better late than never) :”we add a new promise to our manifesto:the monarchy will be abolished and a republic will be formed”. So, he had KEPT his part of the bargain!. This surely WAS strong and stable stuff. “Talking of stable”, she cogitated to herself,{her Maj suffered from bad OCD}” have I remembered to shut that stable door after my little canter this morning?”. She forced herself back to the present excitement. “but that bloody Fixed Term Parliament Act; did I agree to THAT?; our Therese will need some MASSIVE vote of no confidence, before I can ask my Jeremy{as she had begun to think of him}to form a government, and then win a Maj(ority) in another General Election, and be MY(and the peoples’, of course!) PM.”

“Ok, Philip will go MAD, but I am going to use the Royal Prerogawahatsapp, not used since my role model, in the reign of that kindly Henry 8th, and INTERVENE. Let’s get him in power and he can, well and truly, abolish all of us(including my frightful heir, Charles; and William and Harry think it is all a terrible faff: they have even hinted that to the gutter Press!)”

Meanwhile, Jeremy, in the Chamber,was raising his voice, in a stentorian peroration, and Liz felt she was going to climax in her knickers (“he is SO masterful”):”Omg”, she moaned, “I DO love him when he is angry… And Dianne, sitting next to him; what a team: I think I might be going a tad -what do they call it nowadays?-Lesbainian”. She whispered, passionately and vociferously into the mouthpiece, “Jeremy, my darling, I shall SORT it: the monarchy is herewith finished!”

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Did she succeed in her plan? Did Jeremy become PM? Were any dirty (or “DIRTY”?) deals done? FIND OUT IN PART THREE.

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