shewhomust: (mamoulian)
Today is the centenary of the birth of Charles Causley. There's a festival in Launceston to mark the occasion, but it doesn't seem to have troubled the national media.

The first poetry book I ever owned was Dawn & Dusk, contemporary poetry for children edited by Charles Causley: it was published in 1962, so I think it must have been given to me when it was new. There were a couple of Penguin Comic and Curious Verse collections which I knew cover to cover and inside out, but they were household property, and Dawn & Dusk was mine. Causley had included a couple of his own poems, so that's where I first read Nursery Rhyme of Innocence and Experience. He's often described as a children's poet, and he did write poems for children, but he also wrote poems about children, which is not the same thing at all. There's nothing in the form or the language of this poem which a child couldn't manage: he's perfectly justified in calling it a 'nursery rhyme'. But the theme of innocence and experience, the series of disquieting questions with which the poem ends - there's nothing childish about those.

Later in the 1960s (I can't find an exact date) Causley was included in the third of Penguin's 'Modern Poets' series, and that's where I first met his Ballad for Katherine of Aragon. Being a ballad, it lends itself to being sung: this isn't the setting I first learned, and I like that one better - but this is the better performance:



The other poem from that collection of which I can still recite solid chunks is a bit of an anomaly: Betjeman, 1984 envisages an Orwellian future in which Betjeman's love for the past is applied to the disdained trivia of the writer's present. Jerome K. Jerome got there first, but Causley achieves an unexpectedly wicked pastiche:
Take your ease, pale-haired admirer,
As I, half the century saner,
Pour a vintage Mazawattee
Through the Marks & Spencer strainer
In a genuine British Railways
(Luton Made) cardboard container.

Eventually (presumably in 1997) they brought out a 'Collected Poems', a volume to get lost in> I open it now and find myself reading an old favourite, or something entirely unfamiliar. I could sit here all night. But [personal profile] durham_rambler would not forgive me if I failed to mention the Ballad of Jack Cornwell, another little-more-than-a-child whose innocence was taken from him in the Battle of Jutland:
I woke up one morning
Unwound my sheet of clay,
Lifted up my tombstone lid
And asked the time of day.
I walked out one morning
When the sun was dark
Left my messmates sleeping
Deep on Manor Park...


Search the internet and you find plenty of obituaries and appreciations, not so much poetry: which is perfectly proper, as it is still in copyright. Go buy the books. But first, a few free samples:
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
Each year S. spends a week in Durham at a Classics Summer School, and each year she invites us to gatecrash the evening session at which James McKay, one of the tutors and also, in his own words, a 'poet and reciter', reads poetry. This is fairly loosely connected to the themes of the summer school - one year, I recall, he simply read Sohrab and Rustum in its entirety. On Tuesday the menu was more mixed: some of his own stuff, some Byron (not for the first time) and a generous helping of 'my latest crush', James Elroy Flecker (hooray).

He began with The Old Ships (it is the obvious gateway drug) and ended with To a Poet a Thousand Years Hence ("I'm not going to do The Golden Road to Samarkand - you can look it up!") and plenty more in between. His reading was a little over-emphatic for my taste - readings almost always are, I'd rather you let the words do the work - but it was a pleasure to sit back and listen. Here's a sample:



(On Soundcloud, if that embed is not working.)

Of his own poems, I particularly enjoyed the one in which he used dactylic hexameter (not from the forthcoming collection, apparently, but the one after): I hadn't even known that was a thing in English, but yes, apparently so, and McKay recommended A. H. Clough's Amours de Voyage (article links to the Gutenberg text). But, wait! There's more, because that article also refers to Clough's The Bothie of Tober-Na-Vuolich, a phrase I know as part of my father's vocabulary - though I never knew where it came from, and couldn't have spelled it.

The evening ended with a chunk of Byron's Beppo. Which was fun, but a bit of an anticlimax.
shewhomust: (Default)
That summer feeling, where doing not very much still fills the day from end to end, with plenty of breaks for reading or poking about the internet. Time slips by, yet nothing seems to have happened - or at least, nothing to write home about. Nonetheless, rounding up a few things -

Last Friday we went to a wine tasting at Majestic wines. We'd dropped in the previous day, in search of rosé, and since the tasting was of rosé, and the price of the ticket was redeemable against buying wine, and we weren't doing anything else, it seemed worth a try. We weren't sure what to expect, but we caught the bus, in the pouring rain, and were welcomed into the shop by Mike who had served us the previous day and was our 'wine guru' for the evening, busy putting out chairs for the six customers. That made it one of the smallest tastings I've ever been to, and definitely one of the least formal (we were not - quite - rowdy, but we may have come close). Mike had put together half a dozen wines from six different countries at a range of prices (and showed us, with evident regret, the Bandol which his budget wouldn't cover). The hit of the evening was a Côtes de Provence in a fancy square bottle, which I thought pretentious and not very interesting, certainly not justifying its price. I was disappointed in the Chapel Down (and I wish I'd been taking notes, because I don't remember why), intrigued by the Muga, which had the flavour of Cava but without the fizz, could have done without the Route 88 White Zinfandel (pink sugar-water) and of the six preferred the Breganze Pinot Grigio, an easy-drinking blush. But I didn't like any of them as well as the La Serrana we had bought the previous day, deep raspberry red with a surprising tannic grip, and how can they possibly sell something drinkable at that price? After which we caught the bus home to a takeaway pizza and a bottle of decent red. A fun evening, good company, I'd do it again.

We've been enjoying Doctor Who. The series began while we were away on holiday, so we've been watching on catch-up, and were following along a week behind transmission. On Saturday we watched the last two episodes back to back in one feature length extravaganza - and I'm glad we did, because I would have found the cliff-hanger irritating and the second part dragged out. As it was, I didn't feel it earned its extra lenth, but that was less obvious since we'd chosen to watch at extra-length anyway. The series as a whole has been very uneven, which I suppose is what you get if you have different authors for different stories. and there have been bits of dialogue (usually when the Doctor has to say something particularly high-minded) when I've just thought 'no!' but I tend to blame the writer rather than the actor. Overall, I've enjoyed Peter Capaldi's Doctor, and I'm sorry we have entered its end-game. Nardole was fun; Bill was fine, though the University setting was one of the more alien worlds the Doctor has visited. Initially I greeted the rehabilitation (or not) of Missy as a pretty threadbare plot device (I still don't buy the idea that the Master is the Doctor's oldest, bestest friend, he just happens to be evil) but it grew on me. She gets all the best lines...

We were at the Lit & Phil last night for the launch of Peter Mortimer's book The Chess Traveller: the proposal was that Pete would start from a randomly selected point and proceed from there by bike to a sequence of other randomly selected points, at each of which he would engage a total stranger in a game of chess. What could possibly go wrong? Plenty, of course, and the sections Pete read out were very funny about what did go wrong - as always with Peter Mortimer, I'm half amazed at what he achieves and half baffled how he gets away with it. But looking forward to reading the book.

At the market this morning I bought a red hat. Nothing special, and not expensive, just a floppy sun hat with a wide brim, in a strong deep red, lined with dark green. Only later did I realise that I was already wearing purple (with which it doesn't go). No-one can say they had no warning...
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
Gail-Nina Anderson doesn't blog, though we try to persuade her. Instead she circulates good things to those of her friends she thinks will most enjoy them. A recent highlight was a poem one of her friends had written about his cat, which I liked enough to ask if I could post it here:
Far-famed despoiler of fixtures and fittings
Lion of the settee, Lord of the blanket-cave
Slayer of Summer Pigeon, Marker of territory
Emptier of food bowls, prodigious of appetite
Generous giver of fur, unbridled in bounty
His hairs travel continents by proxy
Ravager of guests, embarrassment at mealtimes
The thunder-purrer who shakes the windows
Bearer of battle scars, sombre in his years
Grievous the lamentation and wailing
When his bowl needs filling

James Anthony Tucker


ETA: The author reports that the title came to him belatedly in a "duh" moment... Beopuss.
shewhomust: (dandelion)
The Guardian's uplift supplement (and oh, how glad I will be when all the looking back over the past year and looking forward over the coming one is over, and we can take time at its own pace again!) included a batch of poems designed to restore positivity.

Positive, uplifting poetry: what could be less inviting? But I liked Tomas Tranströmer's Espresso, as translated by Robin Fulton:
It's carried out from the gloomy kitchen
and looks into the sun without blinking.

The Guardian's rather hit-and-miss search feature didn't make it easy to find, and while I was looking for it, I came across a different translation.

And then, to complete the caffeination process, the original Swedish.
shewhomust: (dandelion)
The Queen and I appear to have reached a tacit understanding: she doesn't make a fuss about my birthday, and I don't make a fuss about hers. Shakespeare is another kettle of fish entirely, and we have been enjoying a week filled with Shakespeare-related activities, mostly but not exclusively organised by the Lit & Phil, and starring the fabulous Gail-Nina Anderson.

We started with Gail's Tuesday lunchtime lecture on Shakespeare in Art: when does a painting depict a scene from a play, when a scene from a performance and when is it just a portrait of an actor in a particular rôle? Why did the pre-Raphaelites choose the most exquisitely awkward moments from the plays, and why did the Victorians think it was acceptable to paint naked women as long as you said they were fairies? Time ran out just as we reached photography.

Wednesday early evening was Gail again, this time with portraits of Shakespeare. We got caught in traffic and roadworks and other miscalculations, so we missed the beginning, but I hadn't previously come across the Sanders portrait, so that was intriguing. I've known the Droeshout engraving as the face of Shakespeare for so long that I don't suppose I'll ever imagine him differently, however strong the proof, and it really isn't that strong. Even so... Then back in time for the pub quiz, which this week had a Shakespearean theme. This could be pretty oblique (for example, a reference to the "rude mechanicals" introduced a round of questions on mechanics). The Elm Tree had clearly not got the memo, and was festooned with Saint George's crosses.

On Friday, the Lit & Phil's contribution was a showing of Rivette's Paris nous appartient (good grief, it's available on YouTube, all two and a quarter hours of it - one of Rivette's shortest films!). As Shakespearean theming goes, this too was pretty oblique: yes, the thread which holds the film together is a doomed production of Pericles, but the film is not in any sense about Shakespeare. I don't care: screen a Rivette movie and I'm there. The film deserves a post of its own, but it would just be a series of questions - actually, that's a temptation. So much to post, so little time! I would have told you that I had at least a rough idea of the plots of all Shakespeare's plays, but Paris nous appartient revealed that I have no idea at all what happens in Pericles: so that's a bonus, of sorts.

Saturday being the actual birthday, that's when we hit peak Shakespeare, starting with the morning paper: two sonnets by Wendy Cope, and a 'commemorative' crossword to entertain us on the train (no, it wasn't about Cervantes).

Back at the Lit & Phil, Gail-Nina gave us one woman's view of A Midsummer Night's Dream, complete with monkey glove puppets, inflatable bat-wings and more paintings of nude fairies. Gail takes a strictly practical view of the duties of the jobbing playwright, and explains the origins of the Dream by a desire to get some use out of that ass's head that was hanging around in the props cupboard. Why was there an ass's head in the props cupboard? Well, says Gail, it must have been left over from Shakespeare's lost nativity play - no, think about it, it's completely plausible, a well-established dramatic genre, the virtuous couple, the ruffianly innkeeper, some comic shepherds, a dramatic wicked king (Burbage would have made a fine Herod) an ox and an ass... Lost, presumably, because it was suspected of displaying Catholic sympathies, leaving the company with an underused ass's head. Come to think of it, this is why the setting, this very English woodland, is displaced to "near Athens" - at some point there must have been a scene, which didn't make the final cut, in which Theseus relives his triumph over the Minotaur (the ox's head).

Thereafter, there was winding down in the pub across the way, with good conversation and late lunch. There was shopping at Richer Sounds, with the help of [livejournal.com profile] samarcand and her magic phone (despite which we have hit a complication: more on that some other time). Then [livejournal.com profile] durham_rambler and I gatecrashed a World Book Night party at the Great North Museum: we were invited, but the party was primarily organised for the reading groups and library staff who had been involved in the 'Great North Book Run', a collaboration (if I've got this right) between PanMacmillan and the Reading Agency to promote reading for pleasure. You don't often get to commune with a narwhal over a glass of wine, so that was special. We also chatted briefly with Ann Cleeves, and with Alison O'Donnell who plays Tosh in the TV Shetland series - which handed her rather a plum in the last storyline. We barely talked about that, because we were too busy talking about Fair Isle.

Back home, we half-watched the live broadcast of the RSC's Shakespeare celebration, reading the paper through the hip hop Shakespeare and the opera Shakespeare, but enjoying the chunks of the plays. I was entertained by a sketch in which a gaggle of Hamlets correct each other's reading of THAT line: "No, it's 'To be OR not to be, that is the question'" "'To be or not to BE, that is the question'". My preference goes to "'To be or not to be, THAT is the question'", but I suspect we were supposed to take "'To be or not to be, that is the QUESTION'" as definitive, since the Prince of Wales, who had been very visible in the audience, came down on stage to deliver it. I know it was a joke, but how often do you get even five minutes of textual analysis on Saturday night television? The show closed with the ending of A Midsummer Night's Dream, and I was impressed by David Tennant as Puck.

Next weekend, something completely different: back to the Lit & Phil for Newcastle Noir!
shewhomust: (dandelion)
  • I breakfasted this morning on the last corner of a loaf of the rye / cornmeal bread. The dough had been very wet - too wet, really, I misjudged it, and as a result it was very sticky and hard to handle. But it had risen - and spread - spectacularly, which supports the hypothesis that the wetter the dough, the better the rise. If this were the only change from the usual I'd say "proves" rather than "supports", but I also forgot to add any salt. And yes, I could taste the difference. It was still good enough that I served it with cream cheese and smoked salmon as first course when J. came to dinner on Saturday.


  • The problem with being so enamoured of my own baking is that going out to breakfast, as we did on Monday, isn't the treat it should be. [livejournal.com profile] durham_rambler had been looking for a reason to breakfast at Broom House Farm, and he always enjoys the traditional cooked breakfast. I quite enjoy it, but not at breakfast time, even if I've swum a thousand metres first, so I chose 'eggy bread' from the children's menu. It was excellent, but a massive helping: two thick doorsteps of fluffy wholemeal bread. Afterwards we came home to a pot of our own coffee - and I would have made toast, too, out of sheer greed, if I thought I could possibly have eaten it!


  • The snowdrops were blooming along the lane that leads to the farm.


  • The reason we chose to breakfast out on Monday was that it was going to be difficult to fit lunch in, as I was due at the Eye Infirmary at 1.30 for laser treatment to clear the clouding in my left eye (a not uncommon sequel to the cataract operation, apparently). This went very smoothly. I had expected to be aware of the laser beam, but didn't feel a thing - other than the lens which they put in the eye to help target the laser, which felt huge and angular, especially when I had to look up, down, left, tight... Anyway, I am beginning to see an improvement in my vision, which is encouraging.


  • STAnza, the St Andrews Poetry Festival, have been compiling a poetry map of Scotland. Almost all the poems seem very recent: so far I've only found one I already knew (attached to Sule Skerry) but I liked this Egilsay Calendar.
shewhomust: (dandelion)
Jeremy Paxman, who works hard at his abrasive persona, says poetry has "connived at its own irrelevance". At present, it seems, poets write mainly for other poets, and they should aim to engage more with ordinary people.

Fortunately, he has a suggestion of how to improve matters. They say that if you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail; if you are an interviewer, every solution is liable to look like an inquisition, and sure enough:
Paxman called for an "inquisition" in which "poets [would be] called to account for their poetry", appearing before a panel of the public where they would have to "explain why they chose to write about the particular subject they wrote about, and why they chose the particular form and language, idiom, the rest of it, because it would be a really illuminating experience for everybody".
What a pity this would only apply to living poets: I'd pay good money to see Paxman grilling T.S. Eliot about The Waste Land.

I was at a poetry reading last night, as it happens, and one at which perhaps one in three of the capacity audience were poets - and that's just the ones I recognised. This was an extreme example, but in the north east, at least, it's usual to meet poets at each other's events: they read each other, they support each other, they publish each other. It's like any literary genre: the people who read it are the people who write it, and who care about it. Complaining that poets write for each other is like complaining that SF writers write for each other: who else should they write for? They write for people who enjoy the same stuff and recognise the same themes and allusions.

Last night's readers weren't obscure or difficult, anyway: they were all very accessible (possibly too much so for the rarified heights of the Forward Prize). Sylvia Forrest's poems were memories of a long-ago childhood (I can't find an example online, but here's one of her poems, not entirely dissimilar). Alistair Robinson's set was pure stand-up, but here's a more serious poem from him, and a newspaper piece about his new book (it has a puffin on the cover!). And I may have memtioned Ellen Phethean before: her new collection is called Portrait of the Quince as an Older Woman (and here's the title poem).
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
  1. The mornings are getting lighter, at last. We notice it most the days we go out early to the pool. Last Monday the sky was dappled pink; on Thursday it was veiled in grey, but cleared to sunshine while we swam. The river is high, and flowing fast, but still within its banks. What will tomorrrow bring? We shall see.

  2. But there is still winter ice to be had, if you know where to look. Such as this Flickr set of the Ice Caves of Apostle Islands.

  3. This weekend's Saturday poem in the Guardian is And by Alison Brackenbury:
    Sex is like Criccieth. You thought it would be
    a tumble of houses into a pure sea
    and so it must have been, in eighteen-ten.

  4. Clearing my desk, and indeed my entire study, is a long-term project: sorting, shelving, filing and occasionally discarding. Occasionally I discern progress. This week, I have closed the top drawer (the one that was pulled out so that things could be stacked on it as if it were an extension of the desktop); admittedly, the stack of paper on the desktop is higher and more precarious than it was, but still, I have closed the drawer. And found the 2013 puffin calendar that I bought in Anstruther - I wondered where that had gone...

  5. In the process, Gregor Lamb's Orkney Wordbook came to the top of a pile. Opening it at random I found:
    skrivver a skrivver and klanker a pancake coated with rhubarb jam (Sanday) [ON skrifli, fragment; see KLANKER]...
    klanker, klankertony, klunkertony, a big jellyfish (medusa), a scone and rhubarb jam (the jelly fish looks like rhubarb jam!), [Eng sea nettle; ON klungr bramble, ON þrn a prickle; the jelly fish, nettle and bramble sting or prick]

    On the same page, there's a rhyme to recite if you meet a long-legged hill spider or kirsty-kringlick.
shewhomust: (dandelion)
Most of last week was taken up with the Iron Age, the small but perfectly formed festival organised in the seaside village of Cullercoats to celebrate 40 years of Iron Press, one of the regions more idiosyncratic independent publishers. As it happens, we had other engagements during the week as well, but they got swept away by an iron tide and assimilated into the maritime theme. We had inadvertently double-booked ourselves for one evening of the festival, and while I bore with equanimity the prospect of missing Ian McMillan, I was sorry that we wouldn't hear the Keelers - because one of the features of the festival was that every event offered music as well as words. No problem, serendipity promptly provided an opportunity to hear the Keelers on Monday at the Lit & Phil.

I've brought away two things from that session: one is that I hadn't previously realised what four men singing a cappella could do with the downstairs room at the Lit & Phil: as one of them remarked, what magnificent acoustics - and no volume control. The other was the life and work of Cicely Fox Smith: I hadn't come across her before, and was particularly taken with their setting of Copper Ore.

And then we were into festival mode: Wednesday was play-readings in the Fishermen's Mission church, Thursday was humorous poetry in the upstairs room of the lifeboat station: "If there's a shout, stay put and you won't get in the way..."

On Friday we went to see the Zombies, on the basis that we had both enjoyed several of their singles in the 60s, and knew nothing of what they had done since, nor indeed what they had done at the time in between crafting those cool and perfect pop moments. Turned out they were a noisy and enthusiastic rock band. You can't expect musicians to keep on turning out the stuff they were playing fifty years ago; but those were the parts of their act I found most enjoyable. So now I know. Also, I have known the band for so long, I completely failed to recalibrate how people would react to their name in the current zombipocalypse.

Cullercoats Bay


Saturday morning was squally and grey: I love the seaside in this mood, and had a big silly grin on my face as we walked down to the RNLI for the morning's session. One of the morning's plans had been to take small groups of poets out for boat trips, so that they could gather the following day at Bill's Fish and Chip shop, and write sea haiku from authentic experience; this had had to be abandoned. Overcome, I started writing haiku:
Big disappointment:
Stormy weather - boat trip's off.
What? No fish and chips?

Iron Press is very keen on haiku, and one of the morning's readers was Mike Wilkin, whose book of Venice Haiku is one of the press's smallest, a dinky little A7, just room for one haiku per page. Listening to him, I thought first that the experience was like being shown someone's holiday photos: Here's St Mark's Square - and look at my ice cream in this one..., then that it was like Twitter. I was rather pleased with this perception, and felt more positive about both haiku and Twitter as a result, but I was talking later to one of the sea haiku team who told me this was wrong - or at least deprecated by the British Haiku Society. I can't blame them for not wanting people to approach their preferred poetic form as a sort of crossword puzzle, I suppose.

Iron on the beach


The itinerant banners which marked each venue in its turn were lined up on the jetty, an iron motif was traced on the beach, the band played under an awning - in the sleepless small hours I rephrased that:
On the jetty, four
blue flags beckon the grey waves.
Music in the rain.
Does in work if you need a photo and an explanation to understand it? Perhaps you don't need to understand it. We sloped off for something to eat. Also, there was a book fair with a number of small presses, and books may have been bought.

Music that evening was from Bridie Jackson and the Arbour, a bit sweet and ethereal for my taste, but generally well received. [livejournal.com profile] durham_rambler said "They're playing wallpaper strippers!" and they were, too, golden ones (bell plates, apparently: they talk about them here). Follwed by David Almond, whose first books were short story collections published by Iron.

Still misty the following morning, when a small band of runners met to run from St Mary's lighthouse to the Fishermen's Mission, where Andy Croft was to read the 13-mile long poem which grew from his residency on the Great North Run - so misty that Andy managed to miss the finishing line. Listening to poet S.J. Litherland reminisce about visiting Russia in 1987 to collect poems for Iron's Poetry of Perestroiks collection, I wrote one last haiku:
Jackie remembers
Moscow: poets, potatoes,
plenty of vodka.
I think I've got it out of my system now. The other readers were Charlie Hardwick, Sean O'Brien and Melvyn Bragg, which made for a star-studded finale - and there was music from Henwen, stunning a cappella (isn't this where I came in?) from Robin Hood's Bay:



Still not the end, there was more eating and drinking and a film about Peter Mortimer's House, and hanging around chatting to friends until hard-working volunteers were putting away the chairs and sweeping the floor around our feet - because that's the sort of party it was!
shewhomust: (Default)
‘The nation rejoices or mourns
As this happy or sombre day dawns.
Our eyes will be wet
As we sit round the set.
Neglecting our flowerbeds and lawns...


The wonderful Wendy Cope, and I won't quote the whole thing, because you have a copy of Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis of your own, don't you? But the last line is":And tonight we shall drink till we're reeling." which sounds good to me.
shewhomust: (Default)
  • Friends, of course: arriving weary at the Bears', and finding they had invited A and A to dinner, driving south of the river to visit D. and [livejournal.com profile] valydiarosada

  • Weekend newspapers: the massed attack on the prize crossword, the books pages - the lead article this week was about 20 years of the Forward prize, and the online version includes a poem from each of the winning collections (recommended: Michael Donaghy's Caliban's Books)

  • London itself: walking through Hyde Park to the Serpentine, and on to the V & A. I'm reading A.S. Byatt's The Children's Book, and was reminded (because it is about, among other things, ceramics and the V & A) of her article about the new ceramics gallery. What we saw was not what she describes, but it was an abundance of beautiful things, and I hope to return with more time to stop and gaze.

  • Music: Red Chamber Bluegrass

  • Quinces: we took the ladder into the garden and plucked the last fruit, some already rotting among the leaves but some bigger and more golden than we've ever had from the tree - a generous crop, but this one is so beautiful on its own...

The Golden apples of the sun
shewhomust: (Default)
I had to stop my bank card last night; from the unauthorised payments showing up on my bank statement, someone has been using my account to pay some sort of financial agency ("debt collection" said the lady at my bank) and to do some major shopping at Sainsbury's online. How tedious is that? ("Exceedingly," says [livejournal.com profile] desperance, who feels that if you're going to have your identity pinched, and your bank card too, you'd want it for something more exciting than shopping at Sainsbury's. International assassins at the very least, he reckons...). Tedious, and odd, too, since surely these are payments whioch pay into someone's account or deliver to someone's address, but in either case making the someone easy to identify.

But that's enough about that: let's have a poem. I first came across Catherine Graham's poems because Ellen Phethean, of Diamond Twig, has chosen several of them as her 'poem of the month'. I was particularly taken with Making Clogs at Gallowgate. her vivid description of her mother's first job. When we met at someone else's poetry reading I told her so, and she very kindly sent me a copy of her chapbook Signs, (published by ID on Tyne). This poem struck me as fitting some of the recurring themes of this blog, and Catherine has given me permission ro reproduce it here:

Making Marmalade with Marc Bolan
Riding a white swan
cannot compare with the joy of
making marmalade with Marc Solan.
His hands, so skillful
he could peel an orange in his back pocket.
Peeling (jranges
as if undressing a princess,
a diva, a whore,
before bringing the fruit gently to the boil:
Simmering
like a secret; biting her tongue,
bittersweet.

Delicious, irresistible: spread generously
at breakfast, like glittering gold leaf.

Catherine says "I often introduce it at readings with a brief explanation about going to school in the days when girls did cookery while the lads did woodwork and how, in my boredom, I would drift off into 'Catherine world'. Aaah, Marc Bolan"
shewhomust: (Default)
Lucy Mangan has written a book, The Reluctant Bride, about weddings. Can there possibly be a whole book's worth of things to say on this subject? I don't know, but there's certainly an article's worth, and Ms. Mangan said them in yesterday's Guardian.

I particularly enjoyed her advice on 'what to do about flowers':
You must have a bouquet. For the simple reason that as you come down the aisle, you have to have something to do with your hands. I wanted to carry a book, in case I got bored, but apparently this is frowned upon. As is waving, picking your nose and – even though the stress of the event means it is the ideal time to take up smoking – sparking up. So a bunch of flowers it has to be.

I hate flowers. Cut flowers, I mean. I don't spend my days shaking my fist at wildflower meadows or anything. But cut flowers – they infuriate me. Forced into life by growers pouring unsustainable amounts of resources into their production; cut down in their prime and then sold to consumers so that we can watch them as they wither and die. Could there be a more potent symbol of our idiocy and greed, of the futility and fragility of life than these wilting blossoms?

Most people, of course, disagree. Violently and increasingly vociferously as the big day draws near. In the end, I gave in. "Two standsful of your whitest memento mori, good woman," I said to the florist. "And a bouquet of barbed associations for me to carry, please." I advise you to do likewise, but sooner. Premarital rows are very draining and you need to save your energy for the ones you have with your fiancé. As all the guidebooks tell you, he is your priority now.
Her advice on 'what to do about drink' is also sound, and much shorter. And, [livejournal.com profile] weegoddess, I think you'll agree with her on 'what to do about a frock'

Random PS from the department of Other People's Words: [livejournal.com profile] rozk has committed a meta-sonnet.

Hamnavoe

May. 18th, 2009 09:18 pm
shewhomust: (Default)
Stromness panorama (I)


We've just watched a half hour programme in the BBC's A Poet's Guide to Britain series, about George Mackay Brown. Not being a particular fan of the poet, I watched primarily for the pictures of Orkney (and there were some fine pictures, Rackwick Bay, and Stromness streets gleaming after rain, and one of the door of the house where the poet was born - "Hey, that's where we stayed with [livejournal.com profile] desperance!") - and found myself gradually warming to the poem Hamnavoe which was the heart of the programme. Some of the presentation was a little tricksy, but on the whole the programme had the rare virtues of working close to the text and trusting its material, and as a result actually did what it claimed to be trying for, it opened a door to the place and the poem.

Still available on iPlayer or repeat broadcasts.

Birds (2)

Mar. 28th, 2009 08:13 pm
shewhomust: (Default)
I wrote in [livejournal.com profile] cornwell_feed about last week's book launch for Alistair Robinson's poetry collection, Stereograms of the Dead, so that's the place to go for an account of the event, and a quick overview of the book - bear in mind that I hadn't seen the book before that evening. On the strength of the evening's readings, then, this is the poem I asked Alistair for permission to post here (the more I read, the more poems I find that I really like, Manifesto, say, or If I Were A God. Which isn't to say that I like Birds (2) any less, just that it's a little book full of good things).
Birds (2)
They are like us, but also
completely different. They have
bits of bone-like stuff, sticking
off the front of their faces. Most
do colours better than us. We have been affronted
by their alternative mode of propulsion. They
don't need flutes. We will
catch them because they make it hard
for us to catch them. We will
eat them. We will display them. We will give them
meaning they do not need. When
we're Ancient Egyptian we will
wrap them in sack after they're dead and
fill their bodies with spices and give them faces like ours.
When we're clever we will laugh at such behaviour
and put all our impertinent observations in a book.



Birds (2) © Alistair Robinson, 2009, reproduced with permissin
Stereograms of the Dead, Red Squirrel Press

shewhomust: (Default)
We celebrated [livejournal.com profile] durham_rambler's birthday with lunch at Zen, as recommended by our friendly neighbourhood professor of mathematics. He raved over the green curry, which we found a bit bland - we being [livejournal.com profile] durham_rambler and me, [livejournal.com profile] helenraven and [livejournal.com profile] desperance. ([livejournal.com profile] desperance's readers will know that of course he thought it bland; but he was not alone). On the other hanmd, the starters were fun, and the papaya salad was fresh and sharp and zingy. The deep fried ice cream in peanut crust was proportioned rather like a scotch egg, a scoop of ice cream buried within a flapjack - a thinner crust served hotter would have had more drama. But the garnish of caramelised cashew nuts was yummy. So was the Argentine chardonnay: it tasted of cloves, which was unexpected, but not disagreeable (and it was fair trade, too).

Later, some of us watched Little Miss Sunshine, supplied by [livejournal.com profile] helenraven. It was very sweet, and good fun: although situations and events were rigged to manipulate the comic effects into position, it was entertaining enough that it was only afterwards I realised just how much this had been done. I loved the finale, where Olive does her dance, though for the benefit of anyone who hasn't seen it, I won't say why. Michael Ritchie's Smile remains my favourite beauty contest movie, but I liked Little Miss Sunshine.

I have Chatted! Dropped in on [livejournal.com profile] desperance's Author Chat at Flycon, and had no technical problems at all. Etiquette problems, maybe: a tendency to jump in and try to steer the conversation (She Who Must, you know...). But generally I feel pleased at having done a New Thing.

A news item about a Roman joke book is vague about the extent to which this is actually a new discovery. If, as the Guardian story says, it's a Roman joke book written in Greek, it can't be the one that cropped up forty years ago in my A-level Latin exam. The Unseen paper regularly consisted of three passages, a piece of poetry, a piece of Golden Age prose and Something Else. And in our case the Something Else was three jokes, of which I can remember two. One was I say, I say, I say, my wife's just hanged herself from the fig tree! / Really? You must give me a cutting! and the other What do you call a man who gets caught in adultery? / Slow! My Latin teacher told us she would complain to the examining board. (More jokes on the Todayprogramme).

Today's Saturday Poem in the Guardian is Fin by the wonderful Michael Donaghy.

Heard on the radio: "The duck-billed platypus gets more REM sleep than any other creature."
shewhomust: (Default)
I thought the Literature Northeast web site was dead, and bitterly regretted it, but in one last spark of life it offers us - appropriately - Peter Bennet's Danse Macabre.

Two poems

Apr. 4th, 2007 08:51 pm
shewhomust: (Default)
Roger's birthday poem by Valerie Laws.

Museum, 19 Princelet Street, Spitalfields by Gillian Allnutt - the Saturday poem in last week's Guardian.
shewhomust: (puffin)
One week today, [livejournal.com profile] durham_rambler celebrates a significant birthday; and six days from today, there will be a significant party. In the interim, we are doing significant housework. Furniture is being moved (and in extreme cases, disposed of). The linen press has been moved from the hall, but can't be put in the bedroom until the dresser from the bedroom has been moved to the spare room, which can't be done until the surplus furniture from the spare room has gone, and the items which are blocking the hall have been shifted. These items naturally include the linen press. And so forth. But progress is being made, much has been taken to the tip - and the pile of books has been moved from the foot of the stairs.

That particular pile consists of books which have not yet been read, and therefore cannot be shelved. It would be easier, in a way, if sorting through them had revealed that many of them were no longer wanted; but it was quite gratifying to discover how many books I have that I want - that I am impatient - to read. There is a rather beautiful copy of The Wizard of Oz, illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger. There is the copy of Ann Cleeves' The Crow Trap that I was looking for. There is another copy of Flecker's Hassan (I swear I'm not trying to corner the market in this book; I just have trouble leaving it in booksales).

There are several books of Eleanor Farjeon, including The Children's Bells: I sat on the stairs and turned the pages, and kept finding things I wanted to post here. I'll settle for the title poem behind the cut )

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