Paul Hullah

Selected Poetry

Paul Hullah's poems are unlike any others today.
They are not only very good but very direct and moving.
'Love's Long Journey' is an example. And they possess
a shapeliness and clarity that other poets today might envy.
Their beauty is as enigmatic as it is straightforward.

JOHN BAYLEY

Fine poems, some with an enchantment that touches me deeply.
IRIS MURDOCH

Why isn't Paul Hullah's verse better known?... He often deals with
poignantly transient erotic relationships, within a European tradition
that goes back to the troubadours. He does so with modesty and wry
humour... His rhythms suggest on one hand rock lyrics, on the other
the virtuoso technical versatility of Romantic and post-Romantic
nineteenth century writers. But his conversational personality is very
much his own. I think that only a very stuffy or bigoted proponent of some
other kind of poetry could resist that candid, rueful, singing personality.

ANGUS CALDER


Paul Hullah was born in the Yorkshire countryside but since 1992 has resided in Japan. Prior to this middle-aged oriental interlude, he laid his hat in Edinburgh in a non-ivory tower, albeit whilst studying via an M.A. (first class, with honours) towards a PhD in English Language and Literature at Edinburgh University, awarded in 1992, with the popular authors Ian Stewart, Ian Rankin, Thom Nairn, and Paul Reekie (respected cult author and spiritual companion to Irvine Welsh). For well over a decade Hullah was a notoriously active figure in the British underground music and art scenes as both performer and journalist, described at the time by Sounds magazine as a 'silver-tongued devil' while one of his many unsuccessful bands, Teenage Dog Orgy, was hailed as 'legendary' by the NME. He has performed poetry readings in the Edinburgh Fringe festival, in London, New York, Tokyo, and once on an aeroplane high somewhere over Eastern Europe. He left Scotland for Japan fifteen summers ago, intending to have a quick look around and stretch his legs, and he has lived there ever since. He is still looking. As of April 2008, he will become Associate Professor of British Poetry at Meiji Gakuin University in central Tokyo.

AND HERE'S WHAT YOU COULD HAVE WON (Dionysia Press: Edinburgh, UK, 1997), Hullah's first award-winning book-length collection of poetry, attracted much critical acclaim. Reviewers variously heard echoes of W. S. Graham, John Ashbery and Christina Rossetti in the uniquely layered pieces. Touching moments of lyrical observation were given jagged, modernist edges to form a poetry where genuine pathos and subtle, ironic humour combined to address particular and universal aspects of loving and living. His second collection, LET ME SING MY SONG (Dionysia, 2000) marked a maturation as Hullah's style moved towards fiercely personal discursive and confessional poetry, whilst retaining the wit and collisions of imagery which characterised his earlier work. LET ME SING MY SONG is not necessarily happy poetry, but there is a lifting, cathartic sense of affirmation in its wise, melancholic, wholly honest acceptance of experiences experienced, justifying the favourable comparisons with Larkin and Ashbery frequently made by readers of Hullah's work. UNQUENCHED, a slim volume of haiku in English, illustrated by the acclaimed Scottish artist Susan Mowatt, was published by Afterdays Press, Scotland, in 2002. All these books can be ordered directly from †Amazon UK or from the e-mail address given at the bottom of this page. Paul is 44 years old. AGE'S BULLETS, a new volume of previously unwritten poems was published in April 2006 by Vagabond Press, Sydney, Australia. Paul is currently writing new poems for what will be his fifth collection, 'My White Blackbirds'.

The following is a selection of Hullah's work. Some, but not all of the poems below are included in AND HERE'S WHAT YOU COULD HAVE WON, LET ME SING MY SONG, and AGE'S BULLETS.




KINDLING

If winter winds
Must make you break
Your blue guitar

To use God's wood
For kindling, please
Give me a bell and let me haste

Before you bend and bust
And rend its noble frame,
So I can hear you strum

Your angel song
For one
Last precious time.

I love your song
Beyond myself
And cannot know a silence now

That wears a face I want. So
This is why and this is how
I come to be this thief I am

Bamboozled by fate's forests,
Breaking branches,
Making firewood,

And every twig and log and stick
I stack like hope outside your home
Before the frosts begin.



YOU'LL ALWAYS WALK ALONE

If a man cries in the forest
And no woman comes to hear,
Is he still wrong?

If this land lies cleft with quarries
Where our dreams once rose like hills,
Is she still gone?



LOVE'S LONG JOURNEY

Are you back from love's long journey?
I am back from love's long journey.

Did you wander in the forest?
I saw many things and wandered.

Did you send me any kindness?
I intended to send something.

Did you notice any others?
There were none for me to notice.

Was it warmer than the old place?
It was warm but always changing.

Did you learn the foreign gestures?
I did not learn any gestures.

Did you wander in the forest?
I got lost inside the forest.

Did you cut the leafless branches?
I cut all the leafless branches.

Was the journey one worth making?
I have told you, I have told you.



AND HERE'S WHAT YOU COULD HAVE WON

Up here on the High Scores board
With my all-time favourite hangover, I imagine
All the jokes I heard last night as snuff-movie clips
Or rock and roll operas without words.

In the shopping arcade all the harlequins meet
By the lime-green phone box to worry
Passers by with enquiries as to where
The next meal's coming from.

You've been gone so long. The clowns forget
To ask me how you are now. If the summer comes,
Shall we go drinking in the daytime glare again?
I will wait in the old place, up by the ruins, with the ragmen.



HORSES
for Doug Hosier, 1961-1997

Rainy days to save it for,
Sunshine to make hay while,
A horse's mouth to hear it from,
Marines to tell my tale to.

And all these things should I be here,
And all these things should you be not.

A storm to know the calm before,
Chickens not to count before they hatch,
Bushels not to hide my light beneath,
Gift horses' mouths to not look in.

And all these things should I be here,
And all these things should you be not.

Thin ice to be skating on,
Wrong trees to be barking up,
A dead horse to be flogging,
Windmills to be tilting at.

And all these things should I be here,
And all these things should you be not.

Molehills to make mountains out of,
Pigeons to throw cats among,
Eyes to pull the wool over,
Horses to be holding for a while.

And all these things should I be here,
And all these things should you be not.

Garden paths to lead me up,
Rainbows to be chasing,
A stable door to lock too late;
The horses gone, and you.



LET ME GO

I sometimes vex myself and vow
To be more like the kind
Of man I wish I often could be, wish

I was. I wash my face, put
Lip salve on my blistered lips, make
Sure I've shaved my chin, and get it on.

Those are the simply focused days I get
Things done, but nothing noisy
Happens, nothing swerves or pops or shoots.

On different nights I sometimes think
I'll just give up and let it roll.
And roll it does, it rolls and rocks, till

I'm banged up or almost ill. But
When it stops I sober up and have to pick
Its pieces up, like wearing boxing

Gloves to put my butterflies together
Having trod on them. Or trying to. This is
My life: would you be in it for a while?



REMEMBER WHERE YOU ARE

Stockpiling the sleeping pills
My vodka and my vitamins,
Only the fridge is yawning,
Empty evenings, vacant mornings.

We have to give our love right now
To all the little animals,
And big ones too:
I hope most days we do.

Some schoolgirls on their midterm trip trapse by,
Bent necks contorted, not to meet my eye,
They know that old men look at them and cry,
But do not yet know why.



SOMETHINGS MADE YOURSELF MEAN MORE
for Alf Brooks

So strange the things that people want
And waste their lifetimes looking for:
For all I want is love of yours,
To reach your door before I fall.

To reach your house remembering
Where we began, where we have been,
And come inside and stay and know,
Where we are now; where we will go.



QUICKLY (QUICKLY)

The first time someone loved me
I was on a train to Glasgow
And the rain was driving,

Splashing outside tunnels while
We kissed, our wicked
Lips locked on, exploding

As the guard came.
I am on a train to Kobe now
With Sunday schoolgirls

Going home. A newer musky scent
Is on my fingers, and Iím free
And where I want to be. The

Guard surveys my ticket, nods a
Thank you. I say thank you
Too, but in a different way.

He does not know, and nor
Do you, what meanings lash
Like storms beyond the tunnels

Of such words my love
Left loaded. I don't
Know where this train is going,

Only where it's been. A
Gentle girl with eyes like
Freedom asks me where

I live. I do not know
The answer to that question,
So I smile and tell her here.



All poems copyright Paul Hullah 2008



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