~the magazine~

October 2008                                                                                                                                                                                                issn 1488-0024

Welcome to the October issue, in this issue I present to you the poet and activist, Christopher Barnes.  He was willing and able to answer some questions that I posted to him through email.  You can read his answers as well as examine one piece of his artwork and read some of his poetry.  He is a fascinating individual who has been interviewed by the BBC and has had a one man show.  He has also been a judge at various festivals and truly an interesting individual.  You can read more of his bio at the end of this part of the ezine.

Instead of me writing, lplease take the time to meet:

Christopher Barnes

The Interview

1) First of all, who is Christopher Barnes?
The hardest question of all, I don't feel that there is one whole unified person just a multitude of disconnected fragments that I have labels for:- poet, political activist, co-dependant, Northern Soulie, art lover.  Rather than these labels meeting at some core point in my personality each one has its own mask.  Some facts are that I was born in North Shields on Tyneside in the 1960s, that I was bullied at school and at home and that I have a daughter and three grand children.  I am 44 years old.

2) When did you first discover you had a desire to produce culture?
Though long term unemployment is a financial struggle it can have its advantage, it can give the time to read widely, to spend hours looking at paintings in galleries and to appreciate music on quite a deep level.   I had ten years of this kind of pleasure living a bohemian existence and answering to no one.  It wasn't until I decided to go to university and gave it up because it was too shallow that I made the move to taking my own creative instincts seriously becoming a hard working poet.  This was in the early 1990s.

3) What was your first work and when did you become a published poet?
My first  published poem was called 'Robin'.  It was published  by Purple Patch in 1991, 1500 published poems later and I truly hate the damned thing it is a typical self indulgent whine about a man I fancied, very trite, very slight.

4) You have gone beyond words, although that is obviously an important part of what you do and who you are, what other mediums have you become involved in and how has it been for you to experiment.
My relationship with words has a kind of autistic joy, obsessional yet playful.  I have taken this language play into film and onto the walls of art galleries but the words have always been the real point.  I made a digital film with the help of film makers Kate Sweeney and Julie Ballands from a workshop called 'Out Of The Picture'  where I was asked to find a picture from local LGBT history as a subject matter.  I had been involved in a protest and was photographed for the local paper and later I had written a poem about the event which is what I used without being able to use the poem I would have been much less interested in doing it.  I used the same strategy when asked to partake in a film for the How Gay Are Your Genes project but I didn't make that film I only appear in it.  Putting poetic text amongst visual art is not that new an idea but I have enjoyed doing that also a gallery can be great for your profile.  Had Newcastle won the City Of Culture bid a bus company was going to put my poems on their vehicles, I have always thought poetry should find its audience anywhere it can I even tried to get Asda to put some on their plastic bags and the council to laser them onto its buildings but to no avail.  Experimenting with getting poems off the page has been exciting even though my poems are written for the page.

5) You have done public readings and public shows of your work, what brought you to the platform and how has the experience been overall.  As well, any words of encouragement to anyone who wants to get their work before the public but just aren't sure.
I always had this crazy idea that I wanted my work to be read so putting something in the public domain was inevitable.  I am very lucky in that of all my poems since 1991 I have total confidence because I have been involved in a long term writing group which is gently but firmly critical of sloppy writing and our agenda is to bring unfinished poems and to suggest ways of improving them.  Nothing goes out that hasn't gone through their rigorous test, and after all this time we all trust each other's opinion and know what each person wants to achieve.  Never put anything out while it is new, you may end up hating it, poems benefit from lying in the draw to be brought out and brushed up now and again.  Public readings are a nightmare for me but there are times when the bullet cannot be ducked.  I am happy for my work to be on show but less comfortable about me being the show.  To promote anthologies that I have been published in and to launch my pamphlet 'Lovebites' I had to read and I hated every minute of it...odd though, you could hardly say I was shy.

6)You have a website with the BBC in which you discuss the repeal of Section 28.  Can you explain what that is, what was the struggle to have it repeal and the result for culture.
The law was to prevent councils spending money on LGBT issues which some enlightened councils had done but in the writing of it a huge amount of muddle happened and all that the Tory government could get to stick was that councils could not promote LGBT domestic set ups as a 'pretended family relationship'.  No one ever knew what this meant but the effect was that museums would not include LGBT histories and schools would not teach that LGBT writers for instanced lived in alternative domestic set ups, no council dared challenge it for fear of prosecution or loss of budgets.  Given that at least half of the cannon for English Literature is written by homosexuals or bisexuals the context of their writing needed to be severely warped and no relevant questions from pupils could be answered.  I helped organise demonstrations and leafletting of councils and schools.  Eventually Labour repealed the law but some museums still don't mention that the Roman Emperor, Hadrian loved men presumably because they think children should be kept ignorant about it.  I think children who may grow up LGBT need their heroes and heroines and need to know that LGBTs helped build this culture.

7) You are very strongly involved in the LGBT community, what is the state of culture in that community and how is it growing.
During the 1980s there was a feeling that LGBT people write only for their own kind and funding reflected this ghettoisation of the culture.  The 1990s opened everything up because the true diversity of the community at large, not just the LGBT community was becoming apparent.  A lot of sexual experimentation happened aided by  Ecstacy and other liberalising factors.  When some lesbians started sleeping with gay men labels became extremely  fluid and somewhat pointless and the sexual freedom that was happening in society went beyond identiy  politics.  Now only a few LGBT creatives would dream of not desiring a diverse audience so the norm seems to be one foot in the LGBT community and one out.

8) What projects do you have upcoming.
Tony Blair brought in a law censoring material that 'supports or gives succour to terrorists'.  Recently a young Muslim woman was prosecuted for writing a poem in favour of Jihad.  I am in the process of writing a series of poems from the point of view of individual though fictional 'terrorists'.  Whether or not they will be published is another matter, though draconian laws are sometimes repealed, censorship is an issue all writers should oppose.  I am not pro-terrorist, I am a peace activist but we must have the right to put unpalatable words into the mouths of personas or characters or literature becomes bland and irrelevant.

Is there anything else you'd like to share.
There needs to be a discussion about where poetry goes next?  Writers need to keep up with visual art theory and refresh and renew or it gets stale.

Thank you so much



Self-Portrait With Pipe (An Englishman In Amsterdam)



Reveille blasts –

the Van Gogh Museum

animating smeary spectrums

as hallucinogenics roll

into abacus-beads,

a larva-lamp brain.


Artis Zoo wafts in ether,

cawing, whinnying, bleating,


through trees,

daubs of surface drizzle.


An impenetrable

gingery five guilders

I scrape for fete

framing Rembrandt Park,

gentian violet


then on

to the steamroom

and wriggling pool,

flesh and grunts

of tracking-shot sex

across the moviehouse screen.



Last post.

At the Torture Museum I crawl,

lick lips,

a crib of skewers,

Iron Maiden’s split ‘n’ spikes,

a grill for charring heretics,


I caress

the relics

of our last liaison…


gashed fingers

cringing before the whip.


By Christopher Barnes, UK


Septic Portraits


I’ll streak you like a hussy,

black-hearted to the false nails,

sacrifice your eyes

to the glare of cussedness.

Mothered of the dice

you shot and let slip, the irascible gimbals

of the head

like a flint buzzard about to rip

rags of lively flesh.


I’ll illustrate the bending-wire,

the lack of reins,

the very sag in your ligaments,

resentment in the nose.

And in your lips the crushing rebuke

of your worst, most insuperable blunders.


I’ll fight shy of my stunts,

their awful upshots and pretty-pretty slurs,

by blurting out the following trite remark:

I won’t permit your unworthiness

to override my tender heart.


From the Francis Bacon poems





In the creepered forest

her garbling head


simpering to snore-stinging bugbears,


nodding on slithers of flesh.


Bog tracks rise,

she slides into a swirling pit,

there to deadlock ravages.


          Brought back to Spring

on a coroner’s block,

drained, graphed,

body bones recemented

for 15 minutes of fame.


She used to be someone once

but no skulled brain remembers

exhibit 5002A.




Sexual Relations & The Class Struggle*


There’s psychokinesis/in balmy air,

the phase change of Revolution./53 Campville Rd.

Realpolitik teases/the art of the thinkable,/deadlock/

then three cheers/to the plausibility of change.


My house-warming friends are Polytechnic Reds,

with piled-on theatrics./The She-Artist,/yellow-black like a beautiful boy.

The pealing queen,/window-rattling with asthma

and the He-Harlot/with the hoodlum family.


The chemosphere tests summer/as we ripen ourselves

through incest,

run-amock loves/and distracting clothes.


‘You’re using this hutch as a fuckhouse!’

she said as she ushered in another man

while I/unzipped Malik to mahogany

a kaleidoscope of releasing hormones

through the grey matter of my head.



*essay by Alexandra Kollontai, Russian Revolutionary

who theorised ‘Free Love’



Shakespeare’s Dead


“Actors can go on serenely lisping

their nancy numbers, mincing the English

language into shrivelled murmurs.”

-                    Sean O’Casey


Yes please.  Play that bit again.

Furnish the lip with instinct,

sulk like DiCaprio, to order.

Be petulant for me, a carnal imp.

Haunt dreamily over mint and honey air.

Groan like a contralto

when I say I love you.


Sabatini’s is of enigmatic age.

A white-cliffs ceiling

hung with dangling fronds: ivy,

wandering sailor, punnets of bromeliad,

Chinese evergreen.  There’s a weak-willed pulse

of blue grass fiddle, sawing, soft



On the cheroot-lacquered walls, specks

of spumante, infrequent portraits:

Engels in eggshell blue, an aphrodisiac-eyed

Kafka, and in the long-range gloom?

Is that Joan Crawford?


We eat our carbinaira, sip cokes.


Darling you were marvellous

when the wick slipped,

exclaiming your dramatic spiel

then your face cease-fired, suddenly old.



She Was Ganymede’s Daughter


Hyacinths melting

scumming glass

remind you that the heat

of late ’46

thickened blood

as it pumped

whorls to your heart.


Search for “Blue Prelude,”

black vinyl

brings forth fruits

rare hist of orange

bramble crumble

morello-cherry wine

jelly-bag gaunt,

changing lights,

summer on the hill.


Beads agonizing across a wall

in generations glisten.

Years counted by the string

row upon row gifts she gave

her lesbian of green fields.


By Christopher Barnes, UK


Some bio details...
in 1998 I won a Northern Arts writers award.  In July 200 I read at Waterstones bookshop to promote the anthology 'Titles Are Bitches'.  Christmas 2001 I debuted at Newcastle's famous Morden Tower doing a reading of my poems.  Each year I read for Proudwords lesbian and gay writing festival and I partake in workshops.  2005 saw the publication of my collection LOVEBITES published by Chanticleer Press, 6/1 Jamaica Mews, Edinburgh.
 On Saturday 16th Aughst 2003 I read at theEdinburgh Festival as a Per Verse poet at LGBT Centre, Broughton St.
I also have a BBC webpage  www.bbc.co.uk/tyne/gay.2004/05/section_28.shtml and http://www.bbc.co.uk/tyne/videonation/stories/gay_history.shtml (if first site does not work click on SECTION 28 on second site.
Christmas 2001 The Northern Cultural Skills Partnership sponsored me to be mentored by Andy Croft in conjunction with New Writing North.  I   made a radio programme for Web FM community radio about my writing group.  October-November 2005, I entered a poem/visual image into the art exhibition The Art Cafe Project, his piece Post-Mark was shown in Betty's Newcastle.  This event was sponsored by Pride On The Tyne.  I  made a digital film with artists Kate Sweeney and Julie Ballands at a film making workshop called Out Of The Picture which was shown at the festival party for Proudwords, it contains my poem The Old Heave-Ho.  I worked on a collaborative art and literature project called How Gay Are Your Genes, facilitated by Lisa Mathews (poet) which  exhibited at The Hatton Gallery, Newcastle University   funded by The Policy, Ethics and Life Sciences Research Institute, Bioscience Centre at Newcastle's Centre for Life.  I was  involved in the Five Arts Cities poetry postcard event which exhibited  at The Seven Stories children's literature building.  In May I had 2006 a solo art/poetry exhibition at The People's Theatre why not take a look at their website http://ptag.org.uk/whats_on/gulbenkian/gulbenkian.htm
The South Bank Centre in London recorded my poem "The Holiday I Never Had", I can be heard reading it on www.poetrymagazines.org.uk/magazine/record.asp?id=18456
REVIEWS: I have written poetry reviews for Poetry Scotland and Jacket Magazine and in August 2007 I made a film called 'A Blank Screen, 60 seconds, 1 shot' for Queerbeats Festival at The Star & Shadow Cinema Newcastle, reviewing a poem...see www.myspace.com/queerbeatsfestival


Our first poet,after Christopher is Robert Demaree:



He worked for the firm

That cleans our building.

The night before he died

We walked the school together.

With amiable displeasure

I had shown him things

And we lamented

(Him an old school man, too)

Unstripped wax,

Unwiped blinds and louvers,

How kids are nowadays,

Trouble getting good help:

Someone else must make some sense

Of the notes he took that night:

The company doesn’t know

Who they’ll send us now.

See, there on top of the lockers,

In the dust caught in the afternoon’s late light,

Three furrows

Plowed by the fingers of a hand which

Must have been his.






Language, quixotic, carries weight

It cannot bear.

A boy spent hours in practice—

Tennis, piano scales, free throws.

Later he practiced medicine,

His sister practiced law,

Always getting ready, it seemed,

For something else.

At the restaurant

He thought of a bad pun

And made a note:

He also waits who only stands and serves.





Labor Day morning:

Sky in the west threatens rain,

Thinks better of it.


Vernal stream is dry,

Rushing waters gone for now,

Thomas and Beth, too.


After Labor Day,

Solitary hummingbird,

Left behind by friends.



Robert Demaree is a retired educator with ties to North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. His most recent collection of poems, Fathers and Teachers, was published April 2007 by Beech River Books and is available through Amazon.com.

The second poet is Felino Soriano

Trumpet's Many Tongues # 10
—after Crisis – Freddie Hubbard

Revelations harming intuition,
the problematic being, inhuman
with reaching around the moving
waists of several thought-broken
Caring for the desolate
defines the disposition as mobile
toward the non-ambulatory
in confined clarity, anti as in trampling
spiders within the invention of human
households.  Such then
are dichotomies, the spanned spectrum
relative to rising into descend,
the challenging acceptance of difference,
humanity's encompassing and
need to prosper throughout storms
and paths leading cliffside.

Trumpet's Many Tongues # 12
—after It Might as Well be Spring – Maynard Ferguson

With requirement for tracing feet,
already conjured paths, the meaning
of virtual understanding poses
with open arms, the body of earth in
constant definitional span and spin,
light lands with light echoes
ready to travel
along the permission of specific
burgeon.  Where language delves
of contemporary enunciation,
layers of avifauna
color the initial ceiling a tone of
wonderment, excitable renditions
positing knowledge towards the on looking
stilled.  Gardens arranged in formational
imagination by the planters and sporadic
hymns, sprung and sang into reaching for
organic reciprocation.

Biography Note:

Felino Soriano is a Californian philosophy student and case manager working with developmentally and physically disabled adults.  His chapbook "Exhibits Require Understanding Open Eyes" was published by and is available through Trainwreck Press, 2008.  An E-book, published in 2008, "Among the Interrogated" is also available from Blaze VOX [books] via free download.  The juxtaposition of his philosophical studies with his love of classic and avant-garde jazz explains his poetic stimulation.  Visit www.felinosoriano.com for a publication history and for more information.

Welcome again to this page,   G David Schwartz

I’ve Been Thinking About You

I’ve been thinking about you

I don't want to think of anyone else

I enjoy thinking about you

Even more than about myself

            I keep thinking

            And thinking is truly good

            But I keep thinking

            About you as if I should

And I know I must

Because I know I can

I am surely able

To stay and be your man

            This has cause me some hurting

            Some urgency and pain

            But   I shall always love you

            Cause I’ve been thinking of you again 


I’ve Been Thinking

I’ve been thinking about you

About your delicious eyes

I’ve been wondering about you

Hope that’s not a surprise

I’ve been dreaming about you

Just like taking away

Any and all of the truth

That occurs on this day

I’ve been hoping for you

In very and many a way

Cause I know I am in love with you

For this and every other day 

My Eyes Are Getting Tired

My eyes are getting tired

Feeling filled with molasses

My face is feeling heavy

Under these bodacious glasses

But my heart, of my heart

Feels so steady with you around it 

 G. David Schwartz - the former president of Seedhouse, the online interfaith committee. Schwartz is the author of A Jewish Appraisal of Dialogue. Currently a volunteer at Drake Hospital in Cincinnati, Schwartz continues to write. His new book, Midrash and Working Out Of The Book is now in stores or can be ordered.

Taylor Graham ends the poetry section of the ezine:


He hands a crust to his dog –
molasses-speckled creature (Pit
sort of mutt) who sits
at attention by his side,
spying from the corner of its
pirate-patch bright eye.

A limousine passes
without seeing. Two girls
with cell phones in their ears.
A pampered red jalopy
jerks its clutch. They all
are going somewhere,

unlike a frayed man and his
dog. String thin as shoe-
lace binds them. No,
it’s the eyes that trust.
Crust of bread, swallowed
without chewing.


Tonight, as every night, they come,
some to hear the minstrel
coupleting old slights and wrongs,
rhyming a long-ruminated lie
the despot told, while others
stand listening in the dark
, fraying the deep cuffs
of velvet sleeves, fingering
the knife at the belt.

But imperceptibly, the minstrel’s
strain slips out of that
familiar discontent, feels its way
toward brotherhood, and praise.
By twist of rhyme, can he weave
a sky-blue flag from battle-
crimson? Listen, how the dark
corners give back an echo
of his song.


    after Goethe

Peace in the treetops,
the blue oak sleeps.
Hawk is brooding her nest.
Hardly a breeze
sweeps dry grasses
and the rock-rose hedge.
Towhee and phoebe
have left off singing.
Twilight’s waiting
for a star. Come,
find your rest.


Selling America and the Rest of the World Short

by Michael Levy


Oh! How the mighty have fallen, is a quote from the Old Testament that pertains to the collapse of past dynasties. In today's world, it deals with the downfall of the major infrastructure of capital markets in the USA and the systemic fallout all around the world.


The demise of Bear Sterns, Freddie Mac, Fannie May, Indi Bank are a few that has already caused disruption costing billions of tax payers money. Waiting in the wings of fiscal devastation are the firms such as,  Lehman , Washington Mutual, and Merrill Lynch, etc; whose shares have been devastated by speculative short sellers. The question is, have the media unjustly helped the billionaire short sellers achieve massive profits from the demise of major investment, brokerage and banking institutions. Also, have the financial institutions, in part, been hoisted by their own petard of greed.


Last month, one of the main financial TV channels had a billionaire short seller on their morning show for one hour, explaining a very cleverly thought of plan why the shares of Freddie Mac and Fannie May should go to zero. Perhaps if a professor of economics, that is not affiliation with any speculators, spoke about institutions that are in dire straits, it is acceptable. However, when a billionaire speculator is given an hour to deliver his schemes, with a self declared, vested interest in his short positions, it is totally immoral if not illegal.


This practice continues unabated. On Wednesday 9 September 08, on a popular TV financial channel, almost every segment throughout the day, had guests who were short selling speculators, talking about the demise of Lehman. The next day the stock was cut in half from already greatly depressed levels.


The same style of erroneous intellectual propaganda that drove house prices to unsustainable levels, that thrust oil up to $147 a barrel and other commodities to unrealistic altitudes, is now being spread, bringing about the premature collapse of financial houses, whose stock book values are worth far more than the current traded price. Top analysts have stated the prices have detached from fundamentals. It seems the themes played out on fear based emotions, all brought about by past greed, are driving down prices far faster than normal trading in past years, that did not have such powerful leveraged derivatives.


There is no doubt many companies in the financial arena have brought about their own destruction by their own avarice and greed. They dreamt up many derivatives and collateralized notes that were backed up with valueless assets. To cut a long story short, the bosses have been paid millions of dollars when they were kicked out and the common shareholders are left with zero. They are now been taken to the cleaners by the same type of derivatives they devised and traded ... Karma, maybe?


The government declares they are in favor of free markets and do not want to bring in the up-tick rule that would limit short sellers. They also do not want to stop naked short selling although some say it is already illegal. This means, without new regulations, the short sellers can take advantage of a bad situation and fast-track its demise with the help of the media who assigns them lots of free air space.


The founding fathers of America , built up ideas and blueprints to make it the greatest country in the world. In the past few years, sharp-witted, educated wizards have devised schemes that first of all over-leveraged complicated financial instruments. This in turn has fed the short selling vultures to sell America short and to hell with all who stand in their way. The greedy few get richer in money but poorer in spirit, while everyone else just becomes impoverish.


 Who is to blame for the farces in a USA comedy of financial errors ...

                     Is it the bosses who allowed the greed to rampantly spread?

                     Is it the short sellers who feed from avarice?

                     Is it the media who will go to any lengths to sensationalize a story?

                     Is it the government who allows it all to happen?


Perhaps all are all equally guilty and are doing more damage than any terrorist organization can do. However, they all have one thing in common... They are all extremely well educated with financial and business accruement. Lamentably, the education lacks wisdom or self respect that contains the real values and morals of humanity. If you want more proof of how obnoxious humans can sink to feather their nest, just follow the political campaign for president and observe how they degrade their fellow Americans from the opposite party.


The mighty have in-deed fallen short of grace, compassion, kindness and generosity. Negative slants have been programmed in the brains of media reporters and programmers and even the weather has become a vehicle for fear laden reporting. The quest for mastery by intellectual sophisticated, power crazed people knows no decent or wholesome boundaries.


There is no admissible truth, or acceptable wisdom, that power seeking people will correctly invest their time in, that can halt further decline into ... the slings and arrows of outrage misfortune ... Now where have I heard that before?


International talk show host Michael Levy, is the author of eight books, a mystical poet, inspirational philosopher and wellness/healthy living speaker. His latest books are "The Joys of Live Alchemy" and "Worry Causes Wrinkles" which can help a person change dark negative situations into beautiful, colorful, positive actions, that bring de-lights on the darkest of days.

Closing Words

I hope you've enjoyed reading this issue, it is great to meet and learn more about Christopher Barnes.  If you enjoyed his work or his words, why not send him a letter, I'm sure he would appreciate it.

I hope your October has started well and will only get better.  We have gone through Autumnal Equinox and we now move towards the Winter Solistice.  

November comes before that and I am looking forward to reading your submissions and including them in that issue.  If you know a poet who has never been published, let them know about abovegroundtesting, I am looking for new poets to introduce to the world.  You can be a part of that experience.

If you seek to experiment with other mediums, such as short stories, photography, artwork or other methods of expression, then let me know what you have and I will include in future issues, or if it is spoken work, there is still the podcast.

All submissions can be emailed to: abovegroundtesting@yahoo.com

All works within this issue are copyright by the authors, respect their rights.  

Be creative!


This issue is whole number 114.
October 2008