Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Featured Poet #1

Five Poems from David McLean

at the edge of heaven

at the edge of heaven we jump
to land firm-footed in hell
among the happy devils
looking for love and destruction

or deaths inevitable end,
we jump when we stop dreaming
and just listen to the blood
boiling in us so we are living

a little. at the edge of heaven
they erected a wall to stop us
being children, to stop children
living, so we jump over it

like wise idiots: it's better to live a little
than be a prisoner in heaven

everything they took

everything they took was the land, the history,
the blood of the people that was stripped
from their skin by whips, pounds of flesh

and shillings and pence, everything they took,
except that it was taken by us, guilt lives
on our shoulders, it feels like home

we crawl

we crawl like babies in a world composed of memory
and nightmare, absolution is garbage scattered
under stars that are absolutely absent
never gods or mothers, just gas far off
in an empty sky, like life

life is a tomb, but concrete not marble,
it is the marbled flesh torn away from babies
by god's insistently non-existent beak.
blubber love and heaven's not above us,
but murders coming in angels' faces,

murderers appearing, so we crawl
like babies on a mattress of words,
and they are wrong, usually, they guess
what is there, they are blind,
but madmen do not care

a blind world is words to share and listens better,
a repetitive heaven

insouciant sun

the subtle insouciance of the sun
burns smoke from an arrogant ashtray
where lives are stubbed like cold summer
cigarettes every afternoon, men

like dead devils. though blood boils in us
and calls itself love or righteous
rage, calls itself a sexy cigarette, smells
sweet on the breath, it tastes like

pain, it tastes like ages and ancient
days, tastes like broken children,
like bones under us, a lying
lifetime, withered away, a stubbed butt,

but the subtle sun will not stay

they sacrifice

they sacrifice roses and telephones to the gods
when skin lives their unsubtle insurrection,
like dead geese in a field looking up
at a sun who never pretended to love them

or mean everything, though they read
everything there. roses and telephones
and skin, though they are dead men, for
we are all death itself, and this is not heaven,

not for geese or men or anyone

Biography Note:

David McLean is Welsh, but has lived in Sweden since 1987. He lives there in a cottage on a hill with a woman, five selfish cats and a stupid puppy. Details of his three available full length poetry books, various chapbooks, and over 850 poems in or forthcoming at over 360 places online or in print over the last couple of years, are at his blog at He never submits by snail mail, since he has little money and loves or at least doesn't have anything against trees. Among things forthcoming is a chapbook called Nobody Wants to Go to Heaven, but Everybody Wants to Die from Poptritus Press it will be out sometime in the summer of 09. Also, a novella Henrietta Forgets from Isms Press will be avaliable1st January 2010. He has a large 250 poem anthology called Laughing at Funerals which will be appearing with Epic Rites Publications. Last but not least, David has a 50 poem chapbook from Epic Rites called Hellbound which will be appearing in July 2009. He also edits the Epic Rites chapbook series and the e-zines Lines Written with a Razor and The Thin Edge of Staring, as well as selecting work for the radio network. David also writes reviews for Heavy Bear and Clockwise Cat.

Q@A with David McLean

CH: How long have you been writing and why did you start in the first place?

DM: Well, I first wrote in 1994 for a few months, submitted to a few print magazines and received a total of four acceptances. I had no internet then and stamps were expensive. When I started studying philosophy at a university, the writing sort of died off. Later on, I wasted sometime on trying to write in Swedish, and registering on little "communities" for amateurish hobby writers. I started submitting again seriously in December 2006 and things have gone well since then. It's the 21st century so; I like to submit by email. I have submitted by snail mail maybe a total of five times, but not recently and won't do so any more. Post is even more expensive than in the nineties.

CH: Who or what were your inspirations?

DM: Originally I liked Plath, Larkin, Auden, Eliot, and Anne Sexton. Now my inspiration, if any, is more from Baudelaire, Verlaine, Rimbaud, Trakl and some from philosophy. I like Bukowski, but don't think he's an influence. I draw a lot from popular culture, reggae lyrics, punk, rock, and industrial music, Brian Eno, PIL, Nine Inch Nails and Kurt Cobain. Film too, especially horror. I think it's important that you draw from what you are inspired by. I have a chapbook coming soon about Pinhead called Hellbound. Some of my best stuff (according to me) is about South Park, especially Butters Stotch. I love Butters, though some poets have asked me "Who is that?" - Seriously, those people and I live in different worlds. The Simpsons too, Homer is a good Everyman figure.

CH: What would you say is the hardest thing about writing?

DM: Honesty is hardest and low self esteem. Plus it's hard to judge your own work.

CH: What advice would you give to a new writer who is struggling to find his or her identity?

DM: I would advise young people starting to write poetry to ignore old geezers like me. I don't know, not to stare themselves blind on the classics, even if that means Bukowski and Kerouac, to be yourself. As an editor myself, I would say - SPELL CHECK!! And do NOT use words that you aren't at home with. I do things for Epic Rites Press. Our ideal is that the poetry be accessible. In general, write as much as you can, I write fast and revise little, usually five poems a day, often up to ten or more, but do what you want, write what you feel comfortable with. Editors are just editors, not infallible aesthetic arbiters of correct taste (Not even me).

CH: Any last Comments?

DM: I mentioned Sylvia Plath, now I read Rob Plath more, we probably deal with similar subjects, but I can't see any influence either way. Generally, don't be influenced by your contemporaries, but absolutely don't try to imitate the dead, be influenced by you, and be influenced by whatever you see as the fundamental problems. By whatever it is words address. One more thing, I don't enjoy Rilke, but he was right about one thing - love poems are hard to do and are done too often. Oh, and for the Bukowski wannabes, you have to have done it or at least seen it being done for it to be convincing.


  1. David McLean and I have been seen together in Neonbeam and Shoots and Vines. Now I feel like a stalker because Ivan has honored me with featured poet status for issue #2 of Callused Hands! It is good to know that I am in such good company. Good poems and good interview, David! -- Harry Calhoun

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