A year ago, as we entered a thing called lockdown, people dealt with it in different ways. As is often the case when in denial facing a traumatic situation, people routinely announced via social media that this was their opportunity to paint the fence, write THAT novel, take up ceramics or learn the clarinet.
In fact, if Netflix’s subscription rates and empty shelves in off licences were anything to go by, we coped by watching TV in our pants whilst drinking heavily.
However, one Northern poet, Raymond C Bramford actually got his act together and produced something of quality: Lock Up Yer Doubters is a collection of poetry and visual art, produced over 100 days from 23 March 2020 (the start of the first lockdown, lest we forget), until 1 July, by which time life had, temporarily as it turned out, regained some semblance of normality, albeit one without crowds or public gatherings. As Ray explains:
“It’s really just a diary. It’s actually about me and my day to day musings, meanderings and fantasising. Some of the poems would’ve come out of me eventually lockdown or no. There’s a poem called “All Persons Fictitious” where I state “none of my poems are about me – but all of them are”. So there’s the answer really. It’s not a pandemic poetry book. It’s an autobiography in a point in time.”
The format is unusual, as Ray eschews the conventional slim volume for a hefty tome more on the lines of a fine art catalogue.
“It was a happy accident. I like to add illustrations to the poems, so when I came to draft print the book in normal format the text and pics were too small and didn’t do justice some of the lovely art by my friend Paul Kenny. Plus it was a really thick book in the usual sizing. So I suggested A4 to the designer and it came out looking good and feeling accessible.”
The poems range in tone from musings on nature and good-natured riffs about upcycling, to reflections on the works of St Jerome, all illustrated with a varied selection of photos and artworks. There are also quite a few poems about Audrey Hepburn, to whom the book is dedicated.
All of this begs the question as to whether Ray is quietly engaging in the philosophical pursuit of phenomenology, the intense consideration of all that is around us?
“I’m not sure it is as deep or as intellectually searching as philosophy, it’s more – latent teenage existential angst and navel gazing – too much brandy, too many cigars and herbal cigarettes and too much to think. Plus I am to some degree a narcissist in that I do laugh loudly at my own jokes and I don’t much care if anyone else does.”
Copies can be obtained direct from the author at firstname.lastname@example.org