Monday 11 May 2020

Neil Fulwood, "Can't Take Me Anywhere"

Neil Fulwood was born in Nottingham in 1972, where he still lives and works as a bus driver. He has published a media studies book The Films of Sam Peckinpah (Batsford), and co-edited and contributed to the tribute volume More Raw Material: Work Inspired by Alan Sillitoe. He has published two poetry pamphlets, Numbers Stations and The Little Book of Forced Calm, with The Black Light Engine Room Press, and two full collections, No Avoiding It and Can’t Take Me Anywhere, with Shoestring Press. 

About Can’t Take Me Anywhere

By Neil Fulwood

The title poem of my second collection was an in-joke between me and my wife, a phrase I’d use to account for my too-loud comments in public about politics and the state of the world, my tendency to kick against pretentiousness or elitism, even though expressions of the “pile of wank” variety are generally frowned upon in art galleries or amongst polite company. I’ve always been an opinionated little bugger, and that opinionism carries over into the poems in all of my published work.

My first full collection, No Avoiding It, was ordered into three sections: a ‘then and now’ sequence contrasting my childhood in the 1970s with the Nottingham of today; poems of work; and poems about pubs. The work poems were drawn from two and a half decades of generally pointless white collar jobs. Last year, I finally realised that the world of paperwork, make-work and office politics was untenable, chucked my job in the governance department of a healthcare facility, and trained as a bus driver. Best move I ever made. 

My latest collection, from which the featured poems below are drawn, is also in three sections but not as rigorously ordered as No Avoiding It. The first is threaded together by poems of driving, motion and travel; the second looks critically at Englishness and how recent political events have bastardised the concept of national identity; and the third acts as a counterbalance, containing poems of love and friendship as well as some lighter, knockabout pieces. I have chosen a piece from each section. 

For further details about the book, see the publisher's website here

Coast Road

Back-handed gusts of wind come off the water,
side-slam the car. I’m thinking of that poem by Heaney:
the heart caught off guard. I’ll trade that
for sharpened driving skills, on-point response
to the switchbacks and gradients of a road
supplemented with escape lanes – last-ditch
slow-downs for the brake-failed, the wheel-locked.

Earlier, the shoreline was a photo-opportunity:
a silver medal for the play of light on water;
crofters’ cottages, open land; the railway line
daring itself closer to the edge than the road.
Now: snow. Great driving flakes of it
from a grey-white sky. Push on? Turn back?
I’m thinking there’s no real difference.


Scratch the surface and fingernails snag
on Facebook posts arm-banded with hate.

Spade the earth with boot heel encouragement
and feel the bite-back of roots twisting whitely.

Christen the dull metal of the plough, drag
trenches through topsoil; repeat

till the land is scarred. Dig deeper. Sink holes.
Send Euclids rumbling into the depths of open cast.

Let shit-brown mud coat the yellow buckets
of JCBs. Unearth bones and broken skulls.

The World According to Dads

The system of the world
was plotted out in sheds and garages,
the odd codicil offered
from the earthy perspective
of an allotment.

The system was measured
in units roughly corresponding
to how far a thumb
and forefinger can be held apart;
about that much. The system,

in short, was a guesstimate
but a bloody good un.
The system was built on spare parts
and laths of pallet wood
nailed together. Duct tape was used

in plenitude. All the screws
were Philips head. That box of rawlplugs 
came in handy. The design flaws
in the system of the world
were mulled over on fag breaks

taken round the back
so your mam didn’t see. The system
was stripped down and rebuilt
and swearing was involved. 
Second time round, it worked.

The system of the world
was notarised by Messrs Black
and Decker, countersigned 
by those fine fellows Bosch and DeWalt.
There were oily thumbprints

on the paperwork.

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