Peter Finch: Zen Cymru

Peter Finch - does he really glow like this?

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I Chew My Gum


Zen Cymru

What the critics

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The new collection of poems by the master of modern angst. Not one for quiet meditations, this voice is: loud, bewildered, satirical, furious, sad, fearful and funny. This is a Wales that missed its revolution in I Chew Gum and Think of Rifles. This is a Wales beset by: rain, the ghosts of hard-drinking poets, of holy wells guarded by heifers, of sports crowds, Ikea, sheep, “enormous storm clouds”, and the Entry of Christ Into Cardiff, 2005. A health scare merits a mini-epic in The Clinic. Elvis is seen in Asda, Merthyr. Travel brings little respite, only access to foreign anxieties and temptations. We visit The Miró Mini-bar in Barcelona, look for Bélla Bartók in Hungary, take a road trip to Ireland, find more rain and that “The land gives out in an emerald flail.” America offers defunct bluesmen, a murderous Phil Spector, and over-zealous security personal near the Chelsea Hotel, NYC. Finch is a well-known performance poet and his poems have the immediacy and the dramatic impact of pieces conceived for the stage. Formal innovation is allied with themes that are resonant and deeply humane. Zen Cymru will win yet more fans to the Finch cult.

Zen Cymru CoverZen Cymru CoverZen Cymru Cover


Zen Cymru published by Seren April, 2010
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What the Critics Say

Peter Finch's collection is probably the most easy-reading, except the more you read, the more you realise that there is a melancholy core to this collection that belies the often jaunty experimentalism. This is a collection about aging, about seeing your own body betray you:

On the notes when I browse them
while the nurse is out
the sketch looks a sea anemone
still life: bladder with flower
done in biro
sideways on the urine analysis
Red cells present: too
many to number

Along side this more serious subject matter are poems in the form of indexes, about Ikea and Elvis seen in Asda, all done with his usual wit and brio. If there's nothing as experimental as his tribute to Bob Cobbing, there is plenty of playful innovation here as well as a warm humanity and humour.

But what makes this a more than interesting collection for me are all those undercurrents of mortality. Finch is a poet of celebration, but one who also sees the darkness of 'The Trial of Phil Spector':

There's a wall of guns.
Spector puts one to the dark head of
Leonard Cohen. Fires one at Lennon while
making Rock'n'roll. Another at Dee Ramone
when he won't play bass. Waves one at Ronnie when
she says she's going. Shows her a gold coffin in the basement.
Glass lid. Says you'll be in that if you
so much as speak to anyone,
you infidelious slap.

These are poems lived in the modern world of the modern man, who lives in urban Cardiff, in the present but with memories of a lively past.

Steven Waling - Strange and Beautiful, Stride Magazine - July, 2010


"Finch's interest in being alive in the 21st century is rampant and catching"

- J Brookes in Square Magazine #8 - July, 2010

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for my mother

How can I tell you about this? Me, always
full of what I am doing. I've been thirty years
trying to record how my pain can be ice rain
without knowing a thing about what pain really is.
Now, for you, the walls of the river are all that's left.
The rushing waters drive before them what was,
the past is worn to a veil of love and dust. Imagine this:
the mind giving up, saying that's it, dissolving
as you watch, all of you swept away by the rush.
Time does this, the bastard clock, the drip that wears the
stone, the feet that shape the steps. Your old self
smiles at me through collapsing mud.

We walk in the garden where the plants no
longer have names and the birds are blurs.
You are holding onto me with that clutch of
yours that crushes bones. Who are we,
mother and son in a rain which keeps getting colder?
The mouth won't answer, it doesn't know,
but the body, that remembers.

Peter Finch

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I Chew My Gum and Think of Rifles

What we needed was a
great leader in a set of Castro fatigues
with a gun. He would have
stood on the balcony they'd have
erected hastily along the front of City Hall
and told us we were worth everything
in the world and the enemy,
rich with gum and nylons, could go to hell.
Imagine that.
Strutting up and down Queen Street in
our camouflage pants with the
crowds roaring. No planes, we
wouldn't have planes. Some rusty vans,
maybe. And a truck, with a whole
crowd of us, singing and dancing on the back.

But it was never like that. We got people who
hectored us, with their hands in the till
and some fake tongue in their mouths.
Not one of them ever wore uniform.

I chew my gum and think of rifles.

Then I recall that we are a peace loving people,
full of mothers and hope. If we'd had rifles back then
by now we would have given them up.

Peter Finch

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The penis clinic in Victoriana prick todger prart pork sword skin flute throbber john thomas rusher old man glans proud slammer blaengroen carrot aardvark hatband snozzle tickle-tackle whickerbill whistle full of glowing youth Sun Star Al-Jazirah Nike Nokia Nokia

Wash of at risk posters Tattooed Taken The Risk? Take The Test. Self Harm Don't Cope Alone. Missed Pill Oops. Injecting? Fight 4 Your Rights. HIV Find Out. Mobile Don't Use It. Everyone does.

How it goes here: fear, irrelevance, inconvenience, stuttering, ignorance, ineptitude, woke with zoon's bananitis, raging smegma, inflamed frenular veins, foreskin ballooning more likely secretion and vast redness pain when doing anything. This carn't be rite number M20446591 waiting in the floor-bolted lounge chairs like a battered airport departures. No air crew. Woman with a flowing white coat loose threads seen better days files under her arms circles. Pert African with tea mugs. Helper from Aberdare green bri-nylon who puts marks on forms. Janitor who ignores the flickering strip light. Delivery of boxes. Phone goes. No movement. Time settling like low fog. Battery gone from clock. Late arrival giant Rasta seen immediately. Continuum like a brick. Feet. Arms. Hands. Head.

Ages: 18, 18, 27, 32, 38, 17, 16, 57, 20, 21, 18, 16, 31, 20, 18, 27, 32, 38, 17, 20, 20, 20.

That many of us.

At the start of the 80s Peeping Tom poetry little mag put out a masturbation issue with work from Lee Starwood, Yann Lovelorn, John Squelch, Bill Sniffit, Barry McFuz, faded mimeograph foolscap photocopied porno shots pasted in and a cover made from wallpaper. Tristan Tzara save us - the rockets are thrusting. Opal L Nations. Bob Cobbing. Names like strata nimbus. Sex and Gestetner ink. 64-mil hard sized white stacked and circumcised.

I read the poems. Harwood's White Room. 60s. Feels like the past engaging with the present and failing. The light in here smears the words. Would have changed the world but the world shifted first.

At Urology reception next to Transplants it's like the 4am flight to Gran Canaria tshirts sunhats slop loud everything but no larger. They move you to a second waiting area to keep the stats in shape. One side of me a seventy-year old on a wheeled walking frame, trouble talking doesn't stop him reading out extracts from the Daily Mail. Woman found the face of Christ in a Sesame Ryvita. White hat like a cricket umpire. To my right eighty five, shouts it, won't drink enough water to pee can't be seen until he can drink this don't want to must.

You have names here. Mr Jones. Three of them. Mr Williams. Four of those.
Mr Finch. He's three hours down the list.

Here Harwood fits. A soft pearly brightness in the mist. Lines twisting between shuffle and cough.

The walls warn me against smoking, advise me on bedwetting, tell me not to be frightened when parts of me leak, lisp, leer, illuminate, inflate, conflate, flag, fail, flounder, finish. They show me how to complain, inform me of support groups, let me lean amid their upbeat public service chatter. Leechate is feared in landfill. Here it simply seeps across the floor.

In the lane I've put six boxes of old little mags. Tlaloc. Ambit. Mainly. Element. Rumpus. Oasis. The staples rust. Damp grows on the lower pages. They fold and fade. Mould and foxing. White encrustation. Skin blemish unmoveable by cream. The poems had poor life then, none now. Most of them. Many about self. A few about love. None of them about urine. Transmissions of hope gone into dust. There are some of Mottram's Poetry Review. Best of the period a radiance. I yank them back. Most of this detritus, though, won't even burn if I lit it.

There's a photo in there too. Bunch of poets gathered to celebrate the small printing of something. Reid wearing a sombrero, J Tripp with a pint in his hand. Cobbing smiling. Bob Thomas happy just to be in front of the lens. All dead. Me, who held the camera, the only survivor.

Bloods. Wait. Biopsy. Wait. Check with light on a stick. I practise breath patterns. On the out breath how many words can I string? More than Ginsberg. Worth writing down? No.

This cure anti-viral. Side-effects: lights, nausea, skin rash (occasional), rush of creativity. Shortness of breath. Insight. Ability to manipulate paragraphs. Good recall. Remove staples.

Fix the past by deleting the cache.

Peter Finch

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Peter Finch looking left