Terry Dammery

Official Website of Author.

POETRY & BOOKS

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BIO

 

Born into the London Blitz to a teenaged, single mother, Terry Dammery was raised by the Daughters of Charity in London orphanages and care homes. Since then he has spent most of his life trying to heal an inauspicious start and now lives in the English Peak District in a house that’s in the clouds. He writes poetry and prose fiction, mostly to make sense of things and walks the hills with his Yorkshire Terrier to hold back their years.

Einstein's Bicycle

 

 

 

                                    Entered for the T.S. Eliot Poetry Prize 2020

Einstein's%20Bicycle%20cover%20(1)_page-
Einstein's%20Bicycle%20cover%20(1)_page-

Einstein’s Bicycle is a slow-burn rant about life’s drama as seen by those who fill the paupers’ pit. Its heroes are the descendants of the bowmen and those who manned the gun-decks. They are the children of the levellers, those who worked the looms and spun the thread – clichés of their class, yet resilient and spirited, always conscious of their inheritance.

What begins as the sad tale of a maid in the shadow of the Cenotaph, unfolds as the celebration of a culture old as Chaucer, proud of its pedigree and its vitality to tilt at pomposity and privilege, sustained by the principle of Einstein’s bicycle - if you don’t keep pedalling you’ll simply fall off.

 

 

                                    Available to buy from all major bookshops and Amazon:

‘Einstein’s Bicycle’ 

The Preface

 

My mother died and I thought of how awful things had been.

So, I sat down and wrote the first draft of Einstein’s Bicycle.

It was difficult at first because, even though I had spent a

lifetime thinking of her, I hadn’t seen or heard of her in over

sixty years, going as she did to Australia when I was still a

schoolboy.

It was only by chance that I learned of her death and how she

had been buried in a Melbourne cemetery – the young, teenaged

mother I knew as my sister had grown old and died half a world

away. 

She was an Islington girl, born in 1922, the year that Einstein’s theory of relativity was proven and the year that Eliot’s The Waste Land was published. This latter coincidence cast my mother and my grandmother as two of Eliot’s vulgar London women, morally decadent like others of their class. 

In this role they experienced the remembrance of a wasteland along the Western Front, the General Strike, the breadlines and soup kitchens of the thirties and the declaration of another war. It was into this particular wasteland that I was born. 

 

There was nothing unique about our position. We were part of a long historical line that stretched back as far as Chaucer – noble antecedents but far from nobility. We exemplified Eliot’s low-brow, invidiously contrasted with his own high-brow – he and his Bloomsbury set exemplifying the establishment. 

 

Ostensibly, Einstein’s Bicycle is about the travails of a mother and her child through difficult times, but it was only during proof reading that I realised what it was really about. 

 

In the past, I had written a doctoral thesis on a philosopher who argued that the establishment achieves compliance through ideological and cultural means – hence subjugation is just an accepted fact of life. 

I’d felt that those thoughts were long buried but, like Eliot’s corpse, they’d resurfaced in the text of Einstein’s Bicycle which seems to grudgingly document the successful working of what is now known as ‘cultural hegemony’. 

Eliot was well placed to play a significant part in that process. With his hierarchical view of culture, his position in publishing and his affinity with the Bloomsbury set he was able to shape contemporary taste and culture for decades. 

Thus, Einstein’s Bicycle can be seen as an implicit cultural critique of Eliot with The Waste Land as the product of, and exemplifying establishment perspectives and cultural values. However, the poem, Einstein’s Bicycle, was written as a biographical narrative and not literary criticism -The Waste Land a conveyance, not the subject of analysis. 

Literature’s sway is part of a pervasive and subtle didactic, seemingly as benign as our mothers’ milk, but did no more than give me an antithetical stance on life, which it seems I have never lost. And so, while Einstein’s Bicycle is far from being a socialist tract, it is unashamedly prejudicial – you can only speak, only write, from where you stand. 

Hence, while Einstein’s Bicycle, the poem, the book is the celebration of a culture as old as Chaucer, it is also the outpouring of sixty and more years of secretly nursed emotion and resentment, that pulls together many, many scattered moments of reflection. 

 

 

Terry Dammery May 2020

Excerpt from ‘The Prologue’. 

 

 

The audience, aloof in the galleries, loved it, 

applauded its lofty tones, 

 

standing ovations, 

 

relief maybe, when really 

 

all they understood was that it didn’t vulgarise them. 

 

 

The groundlings, standing belittled below, 

 

they knew better, 

 

how you can only talk from where you stand 

 

and how they’d witnessed, 

 

stood impatiently through, 

 

a travesty. 

 

a fabrication, 

 

a misreading of national grief as cultural decadence. 

 

 

They’d paid their pennies, 

 

it seemed, just to watch the pigeons fly the yard. 

 

But they’d seen tragedy, comedy and history, 

 

knew them all 

 

and thought of fields too long laid fallow. 

 

 

Offspring, proud, of bowmen they were, 

 

wearing with pride, the wounds won on Crispin’s Day. 

 

And so, 

 

thinking to usurp the stage, 

 

they turned and raised two fingers to the galleries.

Excerpts from ‘The Tale’. 

 

 

The blood of centuries runs through our veins, 

age calcifies our bones

 

and the waters of the Thames flow sweetly through our thoughts. 

 

We walked the ways with Chaucer, rehearsed our tales 

over jugs of ale, close at the Tabard Inn 

 

and  

come tragedy or comedy, we stood crowded in the paupers’ pit. 

 

Runnymede meant nothing to us, 

knowing it was our longbows that felled the knights. 

We held our silence, never said a word, didn’t ask for more, 

but never did forget to keep our bowstrings waxed.  

 

Children of the fields, descendants of the levellers,  

we came in off the land,  

to cities and factories, mined coal and worked the looms.  

 

We saw the train overtake the barge,  

the car pass the horse and the bus replace the cart. 

There’d been plagues and there’d been fire, 

wars and subjugation, 

but integrity is the one prize we’ve never, ever lost. 

 

We are the foot-soldiers, bowmen,  

women chained to railings, 

time’s pilgrims, all of us, honing our knives quietly as we go. 

 

 

 

******* 

 

 

We have parts in a dystopia we’re not meant to grasp, 

like children who think with broken images. 

But all of us, 

we know that no-one likes a clever-dick  

and anyway, 

we’re more than slugs and snails and puppy dogs’ tails. 

 

Listed in Froissart, we stand taller than the knights, 

pedigree enough to carry a library of English classics. 

We are the Bard’s Falconbridge, Fielding’s Tom, 

Emily’s Heathcliff,  

Eliza and Harriet in the pages of Jane Austen. 

We are everywhere in Dickens and the Elegy is ours. 

 

Beware of us, for we are Prospero with his magic,  

Wyndham’s cuckoos before the tale was told, 

children of rapes, survivors of miscarriage,  

self-induced and fudged. 

And we are golden-eyed and telepathic, 

we can crumble walls 

and read men’s minds, like Rorschach with his ink blots. 

 

Sadly, we are anathemata, 

like the soldiers at the front, sacrifices to your gods, 

a title appropriated 

dug up, vandalised, from the wasteland where we died. 

Sneer at us, dismiss us at your peril, 

for we’ll be your conscience the minute you reflect, 

that all the pennies in a collection box 

will do nothing to assuage 

and know that we’ll not, never let you quite forget. 

 

For we will fill the silence of our forebears, 

who lie without, in the churchyard of St Giles.  

We’ll be the ghosts of the fallen, 

of the mothers, 

of the children, 

the Eumenides, the furies that come snapping at your heels.

 

 

‘Einstein’s Bicycle’ 

Excerpt from ‘The Epilogue’. 

 

 

Their tale, 

long as history, rehearsed and eulogised, 

minstrels and madrigals, 

book-people, existential characters, 

the players living out their parts. 

No paperback fiction, theirs, at literary festivals 

and no dystopian fears, come 451. 

 

They trod a pilgrimage severe as Bunyan’s, 

allegorical, metaphorical, 

the celebration of a culture, old as Chaucer, 

proud of its pedigree, its veuve, its nerve 

to tilt at pomposity, at privilege, 

pretentiousness, 

at the very core, the pith of conventional wisdom.

 

 

FEATURED

Einstein's Bicycle

 

 

                                    Entered for the T.S. Eliot Poetry Prize 2020

Einstein's%20Bicycle%20cover%20(1)_page-
Einstein's%20Bicycle%20cover%20(1)_page-

"The feedback so far is that people love the book, in particular the allusions and it seems that the game is to spot and source them – mine, though, are often ‘low brow’, compared with Eliot’s ‘high brow’." (01/07/20)

Available to purchase from all major bookshops and Amazon. 

OTHER PUBLICATIONS

 

WATERLINES

39

 

When the days are long and the nights short 

you fish the darkness over the top of the tide 

and in the grey light of an early dawn 

fall over it, 

feel its belly give as you trip, 

left dead on the turn, 

a few steps from where you’d fished. 

 

A porpoise 

lying bloated like a body on the Somme, 

before the stretcher party and the telegram are sent.

Waterlines, child, war, beach, coast, sea, mother, child, Terry Dammery, wounds
Waterlines, child, war, beach, coast, sea, mother, child, Terry Dammery, wounds

LETTERS TO JOCASTA

Letters to Jocasta

Like a butterfly from the lavender to the buddleia,

a bee that flies the grass for the clover

and the blackbird, its song begun in the thorn, finished in the lilac,

so, every love poem,

every billet-doux,

to anyone at all, becomes another dedication to her. 

 

And there are, it seems, no women in the mists of arcadia,

just a mother that you hardly knew,

looming dark as the holly from where the thrush sings its hymns,

each note, each word, every attempted sonnet no more than a letter to Jocasta.

Letters to Jocasta, poems, bereavement, child, mother, bond, love, Terry Dammey
Letters to Jocasta, poems, bereavement, child, mother, bond, love, Terry Dammey

FRAGMENTS

Fragments

Buddleia and butterflies on the bomb-sites, sparrows in the eaves,

privet flower, crickets, frogs, hedgerows over the lanes,

a decade given back to nature and she’d filled it with beautiful things.

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PIECES OF SHRAPNEL

DAD'S DOODLE'S

 

Honesty

And I will give you

the purple flower of Honesty,

its parchment for your thoughts

and a small sprig of Rosemary

for you to remember that I did.

 

Dad

 

I'm Alice

 

I'm not a cupboard

and I'm not a playpen.

I'm not a sweet

and I'm not molly.

I'm not furniture,

I'm not a bowl

and I'm not a crisp.

 

I'm Alice, I'm Alice!

Alice (2+10/12)

 

AGA

 

Look mummy,

Alice

me

Alice.

Grace (2) 

 

Dad's Doodles, Terry Dammery, parent, child, her, daughter, babies, mother, relationships, father
Dad's Doodles, Terry Dammery, parent, child, her, daughter, babies, mother, relationships, father

EVENTS

"EINSTEIN'S BICYCLE" 

 

BY EDALE POET TERRY DAMMERY WITH CONRAD PRESS 2020

 

ONLINE BOOK LAUNCH AT BUXTON FRINGE FESTIVAL

 

9TH & 16TH JULY 2020 @ Noon

 

Einstein’s Bicycle is a slow-burn rant about life’s drama as seen by those who fill the paupers’ pit. Its heroes are the descendants of the bowmen and those who manned the gun-decks. They are the children of the levellers, those who worked the looms and spun the thread – clichés of their class, yet resilient and spirited, always conscious of their inheritance.

 

This verse-novel begins with the tale of a maid in the shadow of the Cenotaph and unfolds as the celebration of a culture as old as Chaucer and proud of its vitality to tilt at pomposity and privilege, sustained by the principle of Einstein’s bicycle – keep pedalling or you’ll fall off.

 

​Terry lives in Edale in the English Peak District with his family in a house that's in the clouds. He writes poetry and prose fiction, mostly to make sense of things and walks the hills with his Yorkshire Terrier to hold back the years. 

 

He's previously performed at The Edinburgh Fringe 2012 with fellow Edale Poet Simon Jackson and on the Buxton Fringe 2012. He has featured extensively in Agenda Poetry, Erbacce Press, Dream Catcher, Inpress to name but a few.   

 

Einstein's Bicycle by Terry Dammery Buxton Fringe Performance Time and Schedule:

 

Contact for a Zoom invitation to one of his two performances. His book 'Einstein's Bicycle' is available for purchase from all bookshops and on Amazon ISBN: 978-1-913567-17-0. 

Online (102) 9th & 16th July at noon for 40 minutes. Free, Ages 18+

 

THANK YOU!

Many thanks to those who attended Einstein's Bicycle talk at Buxton Fringe 2020 and to all who made it happen in these strange times - Angela, Den, Alice, Grace, friends, neighbours, Buxton Fringe organisers and the general public. 

Thank you too for the lovely feedback received. More events are planned for later in the year, so please do keep in touch and watch this space.

Best wishes,

Terry Dammery

EINSTEIN'S BICYCLE

REVIEWS

"What a romp through that century with Einstein's Bicycle!

This sort of writing doesn't normally grab me but I was riveted and read it with great gusto and relish.

Made me also read up on TS Eliot and enjoyed the little digs more so as a result.

 

The Kindle was great for links to some the classical references but I thought the historical and cultural references were tantalisingly familiar and echoing kept it all really alive and almost personal and tugged at my own grasp of being of the masses/ hoi polloi.

 

And as I nurse a lovely glass of white wine just now (gewurztraminer) I am more mindful of holding it by the stem.  You can take the boy out of Jarrow but...etc."

 

Looking forward to hearing the man himself tomorrow.

Martin Coyne 

'artful, nuanced invective.’ John Reeves Buxton Fringe, 2020

"Wow! This must have been a difficult book to write. It was worth the agony. It’s a testament to the many, many lives marred by similar pain.

Today was the first time I heard the poem. It’s beautifully written: taught, sparse, echoing."

 

Vince Gibbons, Buxton Fringe, 2020

"I really enjoyed your talk and how words used by you held me spellbound. I have since ordered your book from Amazon (only one edition left) and look forward to reading it and sharing with my friends. If ever you do Zoom again or other talks please let me know.

Thanks Gen."

 

Genevieve Tarr - Buxton Fringe, 2020

"It’s a very strong book. Ought to be as well-known as Litvinoff’s poem about Eliot. And I really enjoyed the way you slipped John Ball, John Wyndham, Yossarian and Billy Pilgrim into the story. Very good."

Andy Croft – Smokestack Books

 

 

 

Einstein’s Bicycle by Terry Dammery

 

It was with keen anticipation that we settles down a couple of weeks ago to watch Edale’s Terry Dammery’s Zoom presentation of his newly-published verse novel. To our dismay and disappointment, we lost our connection after about ten minutes and it was never restored. However, in that brief time I had heard enough to make me want to buy his book.

 

The book is subtitled A cycle ride through Eliot’s Waste Land. I remember struggling through The Waste Land when I was at university so, when I was waiting for Terry’s book to arrive, I re-read it, and found myself just as perplexed as I was at 18! It was fun spotting literary allusions, and I was in awe of the writer, but I didn’t really get the hang of it. So would Einstein’s Bicycle be any more accessible?

First the title. It refers to a quote from a letter that Albert Einstein wrote to his son: ‘Life is like a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.’ The essential journey narrative of this verse poem is the tale of the poet’s childhood, and the life of his mother. Terry was born to an Islington teenager and given to a convent, where he was raised by nuns and later in care homes until he was eventually adopted. The wasteland of his own mother’s childhood is 1922 Britain, post-war, between wars, a time of no hope for ‘the pauper in the pit’, the wounded soldier. It is also the time of TS Eliot, (cast as ‘the villain’,) ‘who gave us real England, its life and blood workers and soldiers, those paupers – ‘dropped handkerchiefs’ of Terry’s own childhood – belong to the pilgrims of the Canterbury Tales, the mockers of pretension and all that.

Terry Dammery’s poem, like Eliot’s is rich with literary and historical reference, sharply witty; like Chaucer’s, it is funny, angry, poignant, and startlingly observant of its time and popular culture. It cycles through the decades, ‘bumping over history’s broken cobble-stones’ as England grows and changes and still the paupers watch by the roadside.

 

It is entertaining and challenging, and very impressive. I don’t pretend for a moment that I’ve understood it all on the first read, but I’m looking forward to reading it again and again.

Berlie Doherty - Author - 2020

The full review from Andy Croft of Smokestack Books is to be published shortly in Andy Croft's poetry column in The Morning Star - August '20.

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