Friday 23 February 2024

Neil Fulwood, "The Point of the Stick"

Neil Fulwood was born in Nottingham, where he still lives and works as a bus driver. He has published three previous collections with Shoestring Press: No Avoiding It, Can’t Take Me Anywhere and Service Cancelled; a collection of political satires, Mad Parade, with Smokestack Books; and two pamphlets, Numbers Stations and The Little Book of Forced Calm, with The Black Light Engine Room Press. Additionally, he has written three books of film criticism, including The Films of Sam Peckinpah, and co-edited with David Sillitoe the tribute anthology More Raw Material: Work Inspired by Alan Sillitoe. Neil is married, no children, but has a time-share arrangement on his neighbours’ cats.

About The Point of the Stick, by Neil Fulwood
On 6 June 2023, I wrote an untitled eight-line poem about the conductor Leopold Stokowski and sent it to friends on a Messenger group dedicated to classical music. It was intended as a bit of fun: a “guess the maestro” challenge. They guessed correctly, reported that they’d enjoyed the poem and urged me to send another. And another. 

By the end of the month, at which point the Muse threw her hands up and took a leave of absence, I’d produced a sequence of thirty-nine poems, each one seeking to distil the essence of one of the great maestri, either by alluding to their personality or focusing on a formative moment in their life or career. These have now been brought together in The Point of the Stick, a collection which races allegro con brio through a century of recorded music and the maestri who dominated the podium. The poems remain untitled (a list at the end of the book provides a who’s who) and I present the following two poems in just such a format and invite readers to guess at their identity.

From The Point of the Stick

The composer-conductor 
as two-way street;
highbrow educator 
as hep-cat populist.

White tuxedo, bow tie:
podium elegance shot through
with Hollywood cool.
Surface and depth.

He conducts as if possessed
or transported. Mahler 
surges through him, 
an ecstasy of revelation.


Mr Hollywood, suave sultan
of the soundtrack; jazz
pianist par excellence; now
maestro, music night popular 

career unfolding as a preview
of coming attractions 

all the right moves made,
by anybody’s definition, 
in absolutely the right order.

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