Monday, 31 December 2007

octavio paz

There is a motionless tree

There is a motionless tree
there is another that moves forward
a river of trees
pounds at my chest
The green swell
of good fortune

You are dressed in red
you are
the seal of the burning year
carnal firebrand
star of fruit
I eat the sun in you

The hour rests
on a chasm of clarities

The birds are a handful of shadows
their beaks build the night
their wings sustain the day

Rooted at the light's peak
between stability and vertigo
you are
the diaphanous balance.

and what i didn't like

i watch a lot of films, a lot of bad films. i like them. when i go to the cinema to see whatever big movie's coming from, usually, america i sit down, engage my brain in neutral and suddenly i'm a kid again. same with sentimental movies. my days of caning it are a long way behind me so the emotional lability i had then is absent but i like a bitof sentimentality on a sunday afternoon, where children are innocent and everything works out alright.

so i've got a wide scope of viewing. and tolerance. i've watched films with great titles like mansquito and frankenfish which will never trouble my critical psyche. i've even watched catwoman. i even watched the legend of bagger vance god help me! and it wasn't pleasant. but all of these pale into insignificance next to my top three. maybe it's because i had high expectations of them. could be. but it's most likely they were just rubbish

sunshine. sneaks in at number three because it was the last awful film i watched. i saw danny boyle interviewed abourt this and he said making a sci fi film he felt the presence of all those other sci fi films. probably because he's tried to include them. dull, dull, dull. probably contains a good film but they obviously couldn't be bothered to make it

but it was far better than -

revolver. a film so bad you could be forgiven for thinking you were having a brain haemorrhage while watching it. you don't expect much from guy ritchie and anything with jason statham in it's only going to have a passing acquaintance with a quality called acting but even then. truly, truly awful.

but the winner by a country mile is -

the fountain. i could happily kick darren aronofsky in the face all day for making me waste two hours of my life on this. staggeringly bad and sunk under so much pretension it doesn't take even a second to recognise its own awfulness. i could start a campaign to burn every copy of this in order to preserve the cultural gene pool and not feel a shred of guilt. i can't say any more. even now it makes me too angry

special mentions -

which just goes to prove each to their own. perfume, which i liked most of, gets in here because t's reaction to it was so splendidly negative. i can't even joke about it without risking a smack in the mouth

but my favourite of favourites

of course it's bachelard who doesn't really fit into the other categories. i can't even remember how i came across him now. i think i was reading something about epicurus, a reading that's gone on hold since, but i'm not sure

other philosophical ramblings included the usual la rochefoucauld, which i continue to enjoy, attempts at pascal, where i failed again. i did, for old times sake, reread some hakim bey who's still very, very funny even if he didn't mean to be. i read more baudrillard as i'm cycling under a baudrillarian team name which'll be arousing some comment no doubt later in the month. me, i don't see it as being anything like as good as the telly savalas players club, who surely have the best team name in scottish cycling. i enjoyed mac auge and am quite into certeau so far.

critical theory's raised its head again due to work at the university so am currently preparing myself for a reacquaintance with althusser, lukacs and kristeva (figure that out if you can!). not that it'll make any more sense than michel foucault with whom i'm finishing the year. i read madness and civilisation and i have the same sense as when i'm off on one and people say to me - please stop now, you're talking bollocks. i'm reserving judgment for the time being

anyway, why bachelard? maybe because the poetics of space talked about home and maybe that's more of an area of concern to me than i previously thought it'd been. or maybe i just needed a mode of thinking about it. which bachelard provided in spades. and unlike normal philosophical reading (except epicurus and la rochefoucauld) it made me feel good. i wanted to sit outside on the steps and think about it. when i was cycling i carried his voice in my head. where was i? what was i doing? what was it evoking? i felt in touch with something beautiful.

so that's my favourites of the year. tomorrow i think it may have to be the things that were least liked....

Sunday, 30 December 2007

what i read and what i saw

unlike the old site i don't keep the book diary here any more but i do write it down so, as it's that time of year here's the highs and lows.

reading wise i'm finishing on a bit of a high with Geert Mak's In Europe. It is not, as it has received some criticism for, a history book, more a travel journal based around the idea of a history of the twentieth century. it's at its best when it's him getting to talk to very old people about their experiences and reflecting on it but does lag a bit when it gets too historical - people should know the broad scope of this stuff. that said there are great wee details - the wspu had a bombing campaign pre-WWI. Don't quite know how that passed me by! but anyway

top three non fiction

Ghosts of Spain by Giles Tremlett. yes, there's probably better histories of spain but i haven't read them this year and most of what i have read centres around catalunya or andalucia so i don't know super much about the subject. this reminded me of why i wanted to know more and why i really should go back and travel more

Persian Fire by Tom Holland There's many reasons why i didn't go to see 300 - too big, too stupid, too homoerotic - but mainly because i read this in the early part of the year and that was quite enough. prior to this you could've balanced my knowledge of things persian on the head of a pin but that's been well sorted out now. great topic, great narrative, every page was interesting. for some it might be surprising, yes there were empires and colonialism that didn't originate in europe. funny that.

You Must Like Cricket? by Saimya Bhattacharya. rightly this should be under sports books but that's just a category too many. basically this is about cricket, india, why people assume that all indians like cricket and what it is to be an indian who really does. up until recently, when the government did the dirty on non-european doctors in training, i worked with a lot of indian doctors. so much so that when i had to go back and work with the uk version i found it all rather odd. so reading this was like hanging out with those old workmates, male and female, something about the way he writes, a manner of expression that seems so familiar (and one of the reasons i read churumuri) and these days so absent. i liked this so much i nearly emailed him to tell him. a great, funny book even if you don't like cricket. and a sight more informative about india and pakistan than anything the bbc's provided recently

Honourable mentions to
Duende by Jason Webster which really should be up there but then it'd be a top five. spain again, this time about flamenco, guitar playing, gypsies, drugs and all manner of nonsense. even if it isn't all true it should be. brilliant
Down and out in Paris and London by George Orwell who was writing about crap jobs before douglas coupland had even been dreamt about. a must read for anyone who's ever worked in a proper kitchen.
Stone Voices by Neil Ascherson. mainly because i spend a lot of time in argyll around a lot of the sites his mum's friends discovered.

top three fiction

it has to be said i was toiling a bit for this as it's been a bit of a thin year for me for fiction but here they are

book of the year - The Rider by Tim Krabbe. yes, it's about cycling but, in the sense that literature should take you somewhere, if there's another book that gets you into the head of a cyclist i've yet to read it. nothing happens, there's just a guy on his bike, racing, very little intro and almost no ending. there's no end to the critical bollocks you could spout off about this book but i shan't. it doesn't need it.

The Goodbye Kiss by Massimo Carlotto. bored by fat american books (more to come later, oh yes) i happened upon this. a bad man does bad things and gets away with it. i don't normally like crime fiction but this did alright by me. like watching a black and white movie from the fifties. pity i can't read italian though as i think it's all that's in translation

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak which i got in a sale and never read for ages but when i did i was really into it. but not in the way i was into the the rider. it didn't make me think but what it did do was absorb me and credit to it for that

honourable mentions. there are none. the year has been characterised by being bored with fiction and i've read far too much at the expense of non-fiction in an effort, i think, to find something that's actually good that's been written in maybe the last fifty years. good effort then by steven milhauser but why bother reading more than one short story collection, there's ideas, a bit of language and then it's the same old same old. as for the rest. pardon me while i hit myself in the face with a kitchen tap rather than yet another piece of uk fiction written by guardian readers for guardian readers about either relationships and/or finding oneself. please god, never again

and while i'm at it. boys books from america. yes i'm sure your very big book does have a very direct relationship to your very small penis. but it does keep the draughts out. or i could hit myself in the head with it out of utter useless boredom. and no, you are not a university professor worried about tenure, a sports writer or someone who works in advertising, just someone who is boring me. is your name DON DELILLO? if so, please go away. thank god, i say, for susan sontag, who i read very, very slowly in order to counter the effects of all the testosterone. hope, in america, your name must be woman on this year's form. honestly, by september i started looking at books in terms of author gender and country of origin just so that i could avoid them

top films (that are actually good)

Joint Security Area. i'm not even going to attempt to write it in korean. anyway it's a film about borders, about their stupidity etc etc (insert your particular critical hobby horse here). it is brilliant. very different from the vengeance trilogy but with the same eye for the moral within the story. naturally it's getting remade in america. about the border between mexico and the us. i would rather gouge out my own eyes.....

lovers of the arctic circle. i think this is probably my favourite spanish language film. maybe it's the scandinavian connection. i'm not even going to tell you what it's about. just go and buy it.

la jetee. yes, it's old and yes, some might even argue it's not a film as such. but it's my blog and i say it is. splendid. and yet, despite all the internet what we get is the likes of this. which is funny (top stupid lyrics of the year) but not la jetee. marker is like a wake up call. get busy!

special mentions. gwyneth paltrow might be blander than a bland thing in real life but Proof, her and anthony hopkins in a film about maths, it's all good. and then her again with a pre-007 daniel craig in sylvia. about poetry. and she dies. cheery. hopkins is an autopilot in The World's Fastest Indian but i don't care. Similarly The New World survives the Colin Farrell effect but then i go to see a film called terence malick paints a fence. which some naysayers state is pretty much the same thing. slander, i say.

top films (that aren't good)

a category in which america, more or less, is without equal

blades of glory. funniest and most watched film of the year and, i think, one i've only watched sober once. has to be film of the year really. i make no apologies. and it does make a good double bill with talledaga nights. save me oprah winfrey

transformers. giant killer robots. what's not to like? sure it would've been cooler had it been all gundam and japanese but this makes up for it with its howling stupidity. and the ending is so toe curling it'll make you cry.

banlieue 13. just for the parkour if nothing else. and the plot. the banlieue is sealed off and in the grip of drug lords. corrupt politicians want to keep it that way. only our free jumping heroes can save the day. all muscle. zero brain. laugh out loud funny

special mentions (which are actually good so can't be categorised with the above)

little miss sunshine. 2nd funniest film of the year. and ample argument for why pageants are evil
stranger than fiction. will ferrell does metafiction!! well, yes he does and his blankness works well. good performances too by emma thompson and dustin hoffman. not as good as it could've been but still pretty good

Thursday, 27 December 2007

les murray

i met les murray a few years ago and found him a fine fellow. as far as i know he' s still alive and i hope he's going strong. i haven't posted anything by him for ages so here's this..

To Fly in Just Your Suit

1.30 p.m. On the poet's farm, Bunyah, New South Wales

Humans are flown, or fall;
humans can't fly.
We're down with the gravity-stemmers,
rare, thick-boned, often basso.

Most animals above the tides are airborne.
Typically tuned keen, they
throw the earth away with wire feet
and swoop rings round it.

Australian magpies, listening askance
for their food in and under lawn,
strut so hairtrigger they almost
dangle on earth, out of the air.

Nearly anything can make their tailcoats
break into wings.

Saturday, 22 December 2007

john donne

it being the shortest day and all. not that st lucy is cheery story but it does mean the days are getting longer!

A Nocturnall Upon S. Lucies Day

Being the shortest day

’Tis the yeares midnight, and it is the dayes,
Lucies, who scarce seaven houres herself unmaskes,
The Sunne is spent, and now his flasks
Send forth light squibs, no constant rayes;
The worlds whole sap is sunke:
The generall balme th’ hydroptique earth hath drunk,
Whither, as to the beds-feet, life is shrunk,
Dead and interr’d; yet all these seem to laugh,
Compar’d with mee, who am their Epitaph.

Study me then, you who shall lovers bee
At the next world, that is, at the next Spring:
For I am every dead thing,
In whom love wrought new Alchimie.
For his art did expresse
A quintessence even from nothingnesse,
From dull privations, and leane emptinesse:
He ruin’d mee, and I am re-begot
Of absence, darknesse, death; things which are not.

All others, from all things, draw all that’s good,
Life, soule, forme, spirit, whence they beeing have;
I, by loves limbecke, am the grave
Of all, that’s nothing. Oft a flood
Have wee two wept, and so
Drownd the whole world, us two; oft did we grow
To be two Chaosses, when we did show
Care to ought else; and often absences
Withdrew our soules, and made us carcasses.

But I am by her death—which word wrongs her—
Of the first nothing, the Elixer grown;
Were I a man, that I were one,
I needs must know; I should preferre,
If I were any beast,
Some ends, some means; Yea plants, yea stones detest,
And love; All, all some properties invest;
If I an ordinary nothing were,
As shadow, a light, and body must be here.

But I am None; nor will my Sunne renew.
You lovers, for whose sake, the lesser Sunne
At this time to the Goat is runne
To fetch new lust, and give it you,
Enjoy your summer all;
Since shee enjoyes her long nights festivall,
Let mee prepare towards her, and let mee call
This houre her Vigill, and her Eve, since this
Both the yeares, and the dayes deep midnight is.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

paul celan

Wie du dich ausstirbirst in mir:

noch in letzten
Knoten Atems
steckst du mit einem

How you die out in me:

down to the last
knot of breath
you’re there, with a
of life

translation (I think) is Michael Hamburger but if it's rubbsh and i'm doing a disservice to his memory then it's probably been me

W. B. Yeats

somone had a birthday recently and as it i missed it then, this belatedly, is for you. it comes from yeats' play the beauty of emer and i'm always surprised it's not better known

‘A woman’s beauty is like a white’

A woman’s beauty is like a white
Frail bird, like a white sea-bird alone
At daybreak after stormy night
Between two furrows upon the ploughed land:
A sudden storm, and it was thrown
Between dark furrows upon the ploughed land.
How many centuries spent
The sedentary soul
In toils of measurement
Beyond hearing or seeing,
Or Archimedes’ guess,
To raise into being
That loveliness?

A strange, unservicable thing,
A fragile, exquisite, pale shell,
That the vast troubled waters bring
To the loud sands before day has broken.
The storm arose and suddenly fell
Amid the dark before day had broken
What death? what discipline?
What bonds no man could unbind,
Being imagined within
The labyrinth of the mind,
What pursuing or fleeing,
What wounds, what bloody press,
Dragged in to being
This loveliness?

anna akhmatova

I Don't Know If You're Alive Or Dead

I don't know if you're alive or dead.
Can you on earth be sought,
Or only when the sunsets fade
Be mourned serenely in my thought?

All is for you: the daily prayer,
The sleepless heat at night,
And of my verses, the white
Flock, and of my eyes, the blue fire.

No-one was more cherished, no-one tortured
Me more, not
Even the one who betrayed me to torture,
Not even the one who caressed me and forgot.

osip mandelstam

A flame is in my blood

A flame is in my blood
burning dry life, to the bone.
I do not sing of stone,
now, I sing of wood.

It is light and coarse:
made of a single spar,
the oak’s deep heart,
and the fisherman’s oar.

Drive them deep, the piles:
hammer them in tight,
around wooden Paradise,
where everything is light.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

william carlos williams

it's funny the way that doing something as a reaction to someone else can often getyou into a poem you previously didn't like. as it is with me and carlos wiliams. not a fan i have to say but post black bicycle i find i'm getting it more. so i really enjoyed sorlil's suggestion of the following

To a Poor Old Woman

munching a plum on
the street a paper bag
of them in her hand

They taste good to her
They taste good
to her. They taste

good to her
You can see it by
the way she gives herself

to the one half
sucked out in her hand

a solace of ripe plums
seeming to fill the air
They taste good to her

william carlos williams

this poem may look vaguely familiar.....

The Red Wheelbarrow

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

and a for instance

no i'm not finished yet

years ago, someone stuck one of my poems up on the their website, didn't ask permission but told me i the passing. not a problem. the subject was partick thistle and its concern was folk like douglas gordon who, to me at any rate, affected an allegiance to the club.

anyway some time later it was picked up by the club forum and put up on the web again, without my permission. most of the comments were along the lines of who is this wanker but a few people got into it, and suggested renaming the team bus. in all cases it was a real laugh and surely the only time i will get the opportunity of having a supporters bus name after one of my poems

in wendy cope's world this never would have happened. in the real world i talked about their club, they talked about me, we all talked to each other and never would have done so otherwise. in my world i like to think that this is how poetry works....

wendy cope

is someone who won't be appearing on here anytime soon courtesy of recent comments on copyright. Slightly more rational follow up than i'm capable of can be found here
it seems profoundly shortsighted to me to start this nonsense about poetry when most people don't buy it, bookshops don't stock it and it's reasonably troublesome to get it published. I can't imagine how i'd have even heard of half the modern poets i have if it hadn't been for their work being posted on the internet on blogs and sites just like this one. i hope in some small way to have got more people to read nordbrandt for instance and i'm reasonably confident i have.

what next i wonder, cope certainly hints at it, performance rights? one of the joys of poetry is being able to read it out loud (though not in britain). with your mates. and one of the reasons back when i was organising readings, that i used readers rather than poets is that quite some amount of the time they're rubbish at it

t, more intermittently these days, keeps at me to do more, publish more but my reasons for not doing so are always brilliantly shown at any reading, event where clusters of these cope types congeal together. which, incidentally, is why i'm still in the hospital rather than teaching. why would i encourage children to involve themselves with lot? wankers

here's a wonderful quote from the comments from the above which i'm posting without asking and says all too much for me about the state of british arts. don't publish, don't show, don't mix and you won't have to associate yourself with these idiots. or leave.

British poetry is amateurish, always gotta be a pun for fun, contented to be third rate rhymers pumped up by the drips who write for this rag and actively exclude, ignore and fear the genuine souls pointing out the uncomfortable truth, that most of those feted are fakers and have as much presence as a vacuum. The British obsession with "light verse" is laughable and her work will be forgotten as soon as the armies of publicist promoting them stop and puff up the next wet drip to come out of the sausage factories. The rebels who get square before they are thirty. Utter tripe, "astonished pavements" and all the half arsed cack that comes out their cake holes should be prosecuted under the trade descriptions act..Wendy Cope, do us a favour and shut yer whining gob..slop slob silent the force it came and divorced me from sense and serenity shrouded in the evensong at St Hildas. Top table neo-liberal-knobs. Come the revolution at Faber and Faber, axe 'em from the catalogue and sing of the joys of being a middle aged moaner, string up their shoddy verses, the worst poets since the Edwardian lot; a straight faced pout, a snoot cocked steely glare at the oinks who dare to suggest they are not magi, but woefully inadequate shysters, the absence of a smile, the O so superior tint, no egalitarian vibe in a monarchist mindset..



oose (pronounced ooss):
Oose is dust or fluff.
Have you seen the oose under that bed?
Something dusty or covered in fluff may be described as oosy.Oose was originally the plural of oo, a Scots work for wool.

what i learned today

the oose from my jersey is not breathable......

Sunday, 16 December 2007

william soutar

since the last post i've been to the library where, conveniently they have all of soutar's work so here's a pair from A Handful of Earth

A Desire During Illness

Fevered, in mind and body, I would come
To water falling everlastingly;
And in its brightness I would stand, fixedly
With naked arms up flung, feeling the cool flood
For ever around me like a hyaline flood.
And thus, a marble statue, I would stand
Until the stream's perpetual absolution
Had changed me to the brightness of itself,
With sunlight over me and through me:
A man of glass within his glassy tower.
And after many days I would become
Apart of that pure flood; I would become
Its form which is the falling of the waters:
And men, grown weary of the changeful world,
Walking apart and seeking a green shade,
Would know this murmerous waterfall, and know
Its form which is the falling of the waters,
And is, and is not, and is there forever.

The Turn of The Year

This is the day of change
And this the hour;
The wind is holding its breath:
Each flower looks downward to the earth
As in a stare:
The listening air stands still:
Only the stream, like a bright, chattering child,
Is unaware of the foreboding peace.
This is the day, the hour,
And now the very moment fills the sky;
While the undreaming earth,
Within a trice which measures a surcease,
Is paused upon a sigh.
Life lifts a hand to turn his hour-glass round:
A leaf,
A withered world is falling with no sound.

the black bicycle

so much depends
on that front wheel

and not braking
when the back comes up

i lie in the mud
glazed with rain

the bike lands on me

Friday, 14 December 2007

arnaut daniel

so i'm browsing andrew's blog again and come across this belter of a quote re pound :

"In the United States, Pound is free to publish anything an editor will accept—including even his political balderash, which is sometimes (but not often) entertaining and stimulating. The official medical verdict, declaring him unaccountable on psychological grounds for his collaboration with the late Italian government, is actually beside the point. This new poem is excellent. I should still publish it if the author were not in a hospital but in a cell awaiting execution."

now i'm not a fan of pound but you'd have to hide under a rock, or know no-one who reads poetry, to be unaware of the enthusiasm he arouses in some. don't see it myself but each to their own. anyway, in the link above there's another link to a slideshow of the cantos, so i have a look and manage a couple of pages before the inevitable haze descends, but enough to get to the bit about arnaut, who i presume is arnaut daniel (but hey, who can tell?). so it got me back to the following, which i hadn't read in a while

En cest sonnet coind’ a leri

On this gay and slender tune
I put and polish words and plane
and when I’ve passed the file they’ll be
precise and firm.
For Love himself pares down and gilds my song
which moves from her whose glances are
the firm light rails that guide all excellence.

I tell you frankly, she I adore and serve
‘s the loveliest in the world.
Because I’m hers from head to toe
I cleanse myself, and though wind blow in winter
the love flowing in my heart keeps ice
out of the stream the coldest weather.

I burn oil lamps, wax tapers, no pretense I
hear a thousand masses put for my intention,
that God grant me by his intervention
good success with her against
whom all resistance is useless.
And when I think of her auburn hair, her
Merry body, svelte and lissom,
I love her better than if they gave me Lusena.

I love her with fire
seek her with such
excess of desire
I feel I float.
Loving without stint one loses weight.
Her heart submerges mine in a great flood that nothing
will evaporate.
She takes such usury of love she’ll end
by owning tavern and bartender.

I do want the Roman Emp.
nor to be elected pope
if I can’t
turn toward her
where my heart
is kindled to a blaze nothing can quell.
The meat
browns and catches fire, flames, cracks and splits,
and if she doesn’t heal me with a kiss
before New Year’s she destroys me, she
damns me to hell. And I
cannot turn from loving her too well.
The pain I put up with’s hard, this
solitude wraps me round and is my theme.
On this cover
I embroider
words for rhymes.
My fate is worse than his who plows a field, for
though my field’s a little bit of earth, I love,
I love it better than Mondis loved Audierna.

I am Arnaut
who gathers the wind
who hunts with an ox
to chase a hare
forever, and swims against the current.

Arnaut Daniel (1180 – 1210)
(trans. Paul Blackburn)

william soutar


Out of the darkness of the womb
Into a bed, into a room:
Out of a garden into a town,
And to a country, up and down
The earth; the touch of women and men
And back into a garden again:
Into a garden; into a room;
Into a bed and into a tomb;
And the darkness of the world's womb.

william soutar is never going to be that well known outside of scotland and even in scotland i don't he's that well known outside of people who read this sort of thing. or perth. which is a shame, or maybe it's just me, given that places he talks about are all very familiar. though i doubt it ever entered soutar's head that people might be mountain boarding down craigie hill one day.

worth a look though. in some ways, like the english poets of the thirties, soutar and his like are representative of a way of life. a way of looking, that's all but vanished now

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

but today i'm loving sustrans more....

after a voting process i've done my best to avoid sustrans have come up with the goods by getting 50 very large for their connect2 project. i'd have been a bit more than surprised if it had gone any other way. i'm sure the midlands could've done with some green space and the eden project, well i don't really care but what sustrans are about is getting people out of their cars, onto their bikes and making it easier to commute. the benefits should be beyond any need of explanation
i imagine that there may be some naysayers north of the border as we've only four projects happening but people who would say such things either don't have bikes or have forgotten how well provided we are in cycling terms compared with our southern cousins

i'm not about to go down the two wheels good, four wheels bad route, maybe more four wheels okay but two wheels a whole lot better. the governments on both sides of the border (and that welsh lot) would do well to spend less time harping on about transport on the roads and making it a whole lot easier for people not to have to rely on vehicles as their primary mode of transport.

you have to love the nasa

i've loved all things space since i was small but in recent years its aurorae and the magnetosphere that's captured my attention, an interest that has dwindled since moving south as the light pollution is so bad you're lucky to see the stars

however i've kept on the nasa mailing list and today they come up with the goods with this last info on the themis mission. now it may be that one day i get my grand thesis on language, identity and the anthropology of the hospital finished (though i doubt it) but even if i do i doubt i'll have the same sense of wow-ness i get when i'm reading the likes of this. magnetic ropes? substorms? how cool is that?

Monday, 10 December 2007


Unfold your own myth

Who gets up early to discover the moment light begins?
Who finds us here circling, bewildered, like atoms?
Who comes up to a spring thirsty
and sees the moon reflected in it?
Who, lie Jacob, blind with grief and age,
smells the shirt of his lost son
and can see again?
Who lets a bucket down and brings up
a flowing prophet? Or like Moses goes for fire
and finds what burns inside the sunrise?

Jesus sips into a house to escape enemies
and opens a door to the other world.
Solomon cuts open a fish, and there's a gold ring.
Omar storms in to kill the prophet
and leaves with blessings.
Chase a deer and end up everywhere!
An oyster opens his mouth to swallow one drop.
Now there's a pearl.
A vagrant wanders empty ruins.
Suddenly he's wealthy.

But don't be satisfied with stories, how things
have gone with others. Unfold
your own myth, without complicated explanations,
so everyone will understand the passage,
We have opened you.

Start walking towards Shams. Your legs will get heavy
and tired. Then comes a moment
of feeling the wings you've grown,

trans Coleman Barks with John Moyne

cyclocross - the evidence

I did ask my parents to look out the window to see if there was any snow so they were feeling just a tad concerned at the conditions come sunday! as it stood there was only a smattering where i was for my first endeavour at the cyclocross racing.

and what fun! having been training solely for enduros i had no rhythm for getting the head down and going as fast as i could for an hour so it was a completely alien sensation. the mud was intense but just what i need for my big race in january, though that big tyre you can see on the back just wasn't sitting right and ended up rubbing so put paid to any burst of speed i could hope to put on. kenda tyres - i am not happy!

that said while i was plugging away on my bulldozer tyres the skinny wheeled cross types were whizzing past with ease making think a cross bike would be a fine addition. all in all it was a great wee race and i'm sure to be back for next season. doubtless my shifts'll be rubbish so i won't be able to go for the championship but if i can manage a couple of the races, especially the one in mull, i think i'll be well happy. respect to scottish cyclocross - the smile well and truly slapped onto my face this week. along with all the mud....

Sunday, 2 December 2007

kathleen jamie

it's been pointed out that i missed out kathleen jamie in my list of scottish poetry for christmas. i hold my hands up and admit full responsibility. so here's this, my favourite kathleen jamie poem and one of the first i ever heard her read. sorlil (and nice poetry by the way) this is for you.....


See thon raws o flint arraheids
in oor gret museums o antiquities
awful grand in Embro -
Dae'ye near'n daur wunner at wur histrie?
Weel then, Bewaur!
The museums of Scotland are wrang.
They urnae arraheids
but a show o grannies' tongues,
the hard tongues o grannies
aa deid an gaun
back to thur peat and burns,
but for thur sherp
chert tongues, that lee
fur generations in the land l
ike wicked cherms, that lee
aa douce in the glessy cases in the gloom
o oor museums, an
they arenae lettin oan. But if you daur
sorn aboot an fancy
the vanished hunter, the wise deer runnin on; you'll hear them,
fur they cannae keep fae muttering
ye arenae here tae wonder,
whae dae ye think ye ur?

Saturday, 1 December 2007

mina loy

The Dead

We have flowed out of ourselves
Beginning on the outside
That shrivable skin
Where you leave off

Of infinite elastic
Walking the ceiling
Our eyelashes polish stars

Curled close in the youngest corpuscle
Of a descendant
We spit up or passions in our grand-dams

Fixing the extension of your reactions
Our shadow lengthens
In your fear

You are so old
Born in our immortality
Stuck fast as Life
In one impalpable
Omniprevalent Dimension

We are turned inside out
Your cities lie digesting in our stomachs
Street lights footle in our ocular darkness

Having swallowed your irate hungers
Satisfied before bread-breaking
To your dissolution
We splinter into Wholes

Stirring the remorses of your tomorrow
Among the refuse of your unborn centuries
In our busy ashbins
Stink the melodies
Of your
So easily reducible

Our tissue is that which escapes you
Birth-breaths and orgasms
The shattering tremor of the static
The far-shore of an instant
The unsurpassable openness of the circle
Legerdemain of God

Only in the segregated angles of Lunatic Asylums
Do those who have strained to exceeding themselves
Break on our edgeless contours

The mouthed echoes of what
Has exuded to out companionship
Is horrible to the ear
Of the half that is left inside them.

aonghas macneacail

A land that never

this is the land that never was
and its forest of cities with their
glass palaces where money is
woven into money that feeds the poor,
and towers, lithe as masts, from which
see - between grey mountains at ease
with the high footsteps of deer and
travellers, and the salmon-rich stream
(accessible to all) - tidy meadows
submerged in fruit, herbs and grain

this is the land where the army is
ploughing, where the ocean itself is
a ferry for every refugee without hope,
and you pick up your neighbour’s language
with fluent ease, where poets present
the daily news reports, on truth’s
wide screen, while the accountants
spread their purses out like meadows
on which grow the vessels of plenty -
with ho-ro and ho-ro, that’ll be the day

but a poet can’t deny the scene - a
world’s tears, when the news is
in his mouth like bitter filberts, and
the foolish ears of hope hear, under
the words, a choice, a road out from
stories of blazing horizons to fields where
the sun’s breath opens blooms of peace,
where a mind, blindly defiant, weaves
between green stalks, to read the perils
between an egg of new thought and flight

dùthaich nach robh riamh
translated into English by the author

just in case you fancy it here's a scots translation of the above. it's not how we speaknow but it's nearer than english

scottish poetry for christmas

given the season and as i've been talking about such things recently what might i recommend for someone who fancied some scottish poetry to settle down with over the festive season? have browsed the shelves and here's a short list from the swiss shelves, not all of which i can guarantee is till in print but hopefully it is...

The Triumph Tree:Scotland earliest poetry 550-1350. should still be out on canongate. great book, and in languages that aren't gaelic!
still if gaelic's your thing you could do a lot worse than

An Leabhar Mor The great book of gaelic, which is just lovely

while it doesn't have the artwork of the above meg bateman's collection of scottish religious poetry is a nice companion piece the the triumph tree and easily offsets the stereotypical image of scottish protestants as frigid calvinist types, even if they do seem to want to cling to it these days (did i live on the islands, er, well yes i did)

for a more up to date collection check out an tuil : anthology of 20th century gaelic poetry. again lovely and available in both the uk and the usa

all of the above are bilingual versions should you want to do that to your tongue

in english my first stop would be douglas dunn's twentieth century scottish poetry which is a fine overview
then i'd be having norman maccaig's collected poems, the hardback, which comes with a rather lovely spoken word cd. unsure if this is still available so if not and you fancy it get in touch and we can come to an arrangement

anything by meg bateman not least because everyone should be able to use the word aotromachd

anything, except her poetry for childen, by carol ann duffy. my current favourite remains he world's wife

pretty much anything by aonghas macneacail who'd i'd go as far as to say is one of our best poets in gaelic or english but, in typically scottish fashion,has books out of print!

that should about do it. and you never know, if you're profligate in your buying you might even stumble across me!

Friday, 30 November 2007

laura riding

The World and I

This is not exactly what I mean
Any more than the sun is the sun.
But how to mean more closely
If the sun shines but approximately?
What a world of awkwardness!
What hostile implements of sense!
Perhaps this is as close a meaning
As perhaps becomes such knowing.
Else I think the world and I
Must live together as strangers and die -
A sour love, each doubtful whether
Was ever a thing to love the other.
No, better for both to be nearly sure
Each of each - exactly where
Exactly I and exactly the world
Fail to meet by a moment, and a word.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

norman maccaig

Old Man Thinking

Oars, held still, drop
on black water
tiny roulades
of waterdrops.
With their little sprinkling
they people
a big silence.

You who are long gone,
my thoughts of you re like that:
a delicate, clear population
in the big silence
where i rest on the oars and
my boat
hushes ashore

philip larkin

This Be The Verse

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

on poetry

i'm reading andrew shields blog and came across the following which struck a chord not just about poetry but creating in general

"In my civilization it's customary to describe poetry as discarded, almost moribund, an all-too-exclusive art form, without power to break through. And the poets try to push themselves upon the world of the mass media, to get a few crumbs of attention. I think it is time to emphasize that poetry--in spite of all the bad poets and bad readers -- starts from an advantageous position. A piece of paper, some words: it's simple and practical. It gives independence. Poetry requires no heavy, vulnerable apparatus that has to be lugged around, it isn't dependent on temperamental performers, dictatorial directors, bright producers with irresistible ideas. No big money is at stake. A poem doesn't come in one copy that somebody buys and locks up in a storeroom waiting for its market value to go up; it can't be stolen from a museum or become currency in the buying and selling of narcotics, or get burned up by a vandal.

When I started writing, at 16, I had a couple of like-minded school friends. Sometimes, when the lessons seemed more than usually trying, we would pass notes to each other between our desks--poems and aphorisms, which would come back with the more or less enthusiastic comments of the recipient. What an impression those scribblings would make! There is the fundamental situation of poetry. The lesson of official life goes rumbling on. We send inspired notes to one another."

— Tomas Tranströmer. Translated by Judith Moffett. from "Answer to Uj Iras." Ironwood 13 (1979): 38-9.

henrik nordbrandt

this can be found somehwere in the comments in marta's excellent blog but as i can't remember where i feel no qualms about posting it again

as though through a lid

as though under many layers of old varnish
your face is dissolved
when sleeping I stare into your sleep
as though under a lid
of heavy bronze

once our dreams flowed together
for a moment, so we could see each other
so we could see
the darkness around us. So we would be
forever hidden from each other.

and if you come in there
in your dreams, you do not know
who is the dreamer
and who is the object of the dream. who
is in the dream

and who is outside
knocking. listening.
waiting. you
or i.
Who is knocking… from within

if you lift the
in me, you will see.

joseph brodsky

At a lecture

Since mistakes are inevitable, I can easily be taken
for a man standing before you in this room filled
with yourselves. Yet in about an hour
this will be corrected, at your and at my expense,
and the place will be reclaimed by elemental particles
free from the rigidity of a particular human shape
or type of assembly. Some particles are still free. It's not all dust.

So my unwillingness to admit it's I
facing you now, or the other way around,
has less to do with my modesty or solipsism
than with my respect for the premises' instant future,
for those afore-mentioned free-floating particles
settling upon the shining surface
of my brain. Inaccessible to a wet cloth eager to wipe them off.

The most interesting thing about emptiness
is that it is preceded by fullness.The first to understand this were, I believe, the Greek
gods, whose forte indeed was absence.
Regard, then, yourselves as rehearsing perhaps for the divine encore,
with me playing obviously to the gallery.
We all act out of vanity. But I am in a hurry.

Once you know the future, you can make it come
earlier. The way it's done by statues or by one's furniture.
Self-effacement is not a virtue
but a necessity, recognised most often
toward evening. Though numerically it is easier
not to be me than not to be you. As the swan confessed
to the lake: I don't like myself. But you are welcome to my reflection.

kaspar hauser speaks

To be Kaspar Hauser is to long, at every moment of your dubious existence, with every fibre of your questionable being, not to be Kaspar Hauser. It's to long to leave yourself completely behind, to vanish from your own sight. Does this surprise you? It is if course what you have taught me to desire. And I am a diligent student. With your help i have furnished myself inside and out. My thoughts are yours. these words are yours. even my black and bitter tears are yours, for I shed them at the thought of the life I never had, which is to say, your life, ladies and gentlemen of Nuremburg. my deepest wish is not to be a curiosity, an object of wonder. It is to be unremarkable. To become you - to sink into you - to merge with you until you cannot tell me from yourselves; to be uninteresting; to be nothing at all; to experience the ecstasy of mediocrity - is it so much to ask? You who have helped me advance so far, won't you lead me to the promised land, the tranquil land of the ordinary, the banal, the boring? Not to be Kaspar Hauser, not to be the enigma of Europe, not to be the wild boy in the tower, the man without a childhood, the young man without a youth, the monster born in the middle of his life, but to be you, to be you, to be nothing but you!

from the story kaspar hauser speaks which is to be found in the rather excellent the knife thrower and other stories by steven millhauser

Thursday, 15 November 2007

henrik nordbrandt

you resting in me

like a secret
sealed-up water lily
you rise through the dream
my dream
while i sink down into yours
as if we were scales
endlessly shifting balance
the heavier
always in the other’s dream.

i rest in you
like dark waters
in your mouth, drinking of your dream
like a figure of stone
farthest down in the dream
you bear me, your face
bends over me, turns to stone
over mine –
as a light increasing in strength
dissolves, so i rise again
so you sink down again into the dream
my dream
for the roles are now reversed
and i am your mother
you my child

only midway
when we are equally heavy, in half-sleep
when we are weightless
do the dream mingle.
there you are my lover
and my beloved. there
we are born

as we brush lightly.

nuala ni dhomhnaill


bare island flesh
on ocean bed
beautiful limbs spread
eagled under seagulls circling

spring rises to the temples
deeps of blood mead
a cooling fountain furnished
in the furious heat
a healing draught
for desire

irises gleam
mountain pools
on a bright lammas morning
cloudlands shining
in deep pupils
reeds lashes
rustling at the shore’s edge

and if I had a boat
to reach this shore
hale and sound
from top to bottom
a single plume
of reddish umber
to bring me on board

hoist the broad
filling sails thrust
through foaming seas
to come beside
to lie upon this shore
longing emerald

adapted from a translation by John Montague

thoughts on home

when i was wee i lived on an island in the far north of the country, far enough north that they properly don't consider themselves part of the mainland. i didn't get taught mainland history but instead learned the sagas, tales of the folk who lived under the sea and where the stones had come from. in my head it's a place of red rock, lone stones, scattered rings, abandoned brochs and everywhere the sea. i've been back, after a long gap, and it doesn't look the same, the beaches are smaller, the town has grown but at night when i think of it i spell the place names like a rhythm until sleep finds me.

when i was wee we lived in what was then a big house, a house that still has a piano in it, though the animals are gone and the trees i planted with my dad are so tall as to make me feel my age. i remember the sound of the wind in the shutters, the peat fire, and the practice, practice, practice on the piano which at the time was the only music that existed for me. i used to sit outside sometimes, out in the air, and i'd look in at the rest of them through the moisture on the window, talking,playing the accordion. i'd hear the sounds and i knew even then that home for me was going to be the distance from other people

it took me thirty years to go back. i'd lived in many places in between, gone from the country to the city and back again. i kept a careful stock of things and when i stopped long enough to unpack i'd have brief moments when i surrounded myself with them and i remembered who i was. i had made this place and i could feel my hands on it. but i kept thinking about the place i'd grown up in, kept turning up evidence of it, creeping out of my pen when i wasn't looking. so i did go back and i met the grown up versions of the children i went to school with and we talked a lot and we drank a lot and we ended up outside singing, not a just a bit of singing but a lot of singing. i couldn't join in because i missed that bit of childhood and i was too drunk to play the guitar so i slumped against the wall and bathed myself in the sound, women's voices out in the darkness.

eventually someone asked me what it as like to be back. everyone is interested i said, everyone is so welcoming. and this man who i hadn't seen in so long and who i'd barely known anyway, he said to me, you know why that is, don't you? you've come home

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

margaret atwood

Progressive Insanities of a Pioneer


He stood, a point
on a sheet of green paper
proclaiming himself the centre

with no walls, no borders
anywhere; the sky no height
above him, totally un-
and shouted:

Let me out!


He dug the soil in rows,
imposed himself with shovels
He asserted
in to the furrows, I
am not random

The ground
replied with aphorisms:

a tree-sprout, a nameless
weed, words
he couldn't understand.


The house pitched
the plot staked
in the middle of nowhere

At night the mind
inside, in the middle
of nowhere

The idea of an animal
patters across the roof

In the darkness the fields
defend themselves with fences
in vain:
is getting in


By daylight he resisted.
He said, disgusted
with the swamp's clamourings and the outbursts
of rocks.
This is not order
but the absence
of order.

He was wrong, the unanswering
forest implied:

It was
an ordered absence


For many years
he fished for a great vision,
dangling the hooks of sown
roots under the surface
of the shallow earth.

It was like
enticing whales with a bent
pin. Besides he thought

in that country
only the worms were biting


If he had known unstructured
space is a deluge
and stocked his log house-
boat with all the animals

even the wolves

he might have floated.

But obstinate he
stated, The land is solid
and stamped

watching his foot sink
down through stone
up to the knee.


refused to name themselves; refused
to let him name them.

The wolves hunted

On his beaches, his clearings,
by the surf of under-
growth breaking
at his feet, he foresaw
and in the end

through eyes
made ragged by his
effort, the tension
between subject and object,

the green
vision, the unnamed
whale invaded

rabindranath tagore

Stray Birds

Stray birds of summer come to my
window to sing and fly away.
And yellow leaves of autumn,
which have no songs,
flutter and fall there with a sigh.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

the tooth

more tooth musings as finally i get my wisdom tooth out and maybe rid my body of the low level infection that's been troubling it lately. what do i look like? a chipmunk, someone with mumps, half of david coulthard's face?

i manage to get the dentist to recover the tooth from the bin. it's the only thing i have of me that isn't in me. i'm surprised by it's molar-ity. it seems remarkably unworn and reminds me of an elephant's tooth. bits of connective tissue still adhere to it and it's a bit stained but otherwise definitely in good condition.

the procedure was interesting. i liked the anaesthetic, which wasn't something i'd seen, but kept my face numb for hours. i wasn't so much of a martyr to the cause that i managed to keep my eyes open when the dentist put the scalpel in but i was curious about the suturing esp in such a tight space. all very quick and, after all's said and done, the soreness, rather than pain, is nothing to write home about. it was much, much worse when it was in my head and i've done worse things to myself over the course of the year!

it has got me to thinking about physicality tho, mainly i guess cos i'm not allowed to exercise for a couple of days which is annoying, but i've been interested how the transition between tooth, part of me, and tooth as thing, an object, has been made. not quite as dramatic maybe as human/corpse but much the same thing. meaning/significance is really starting to annoy me at the moment, along with all the clanjamfrie that goes with it. i had a brother inlaw once who told me i thought too much, probably up there in the top five bits of advice i've ever been given and subsequently taken.

it's a tooth

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

carl sandburg

john keats on autumn you say? you can keep all that twittering i say. as i;m doing my night cycling through drifts of leaves and carpets of pine needles that in the leds look like snow it's carl sandburg i'm thinking of (and through this poem archy and mehitabel)

Three Pieces on the Smoke of Autumn

Smoke of autumn is on it all.
The streamers loosen and travel.
The red west is stopped with a gray haze.
They fill the ash trees, they wrap the oaks,
They make a long-tailed rider
In the pocket of the first, the earliest evening star.

Three muskrats swim west on the Desplaines River.

There is a sheet of red ember glow on the river; it is dusk; and the muskrats one by one go on patrol routes west.

Around each slippery padding rat, a fan of ripples; in the silence of dusk a faint wash of ripples, the padding of the rats going west, in a dark and shivering river gold.

(A newspaper in my pocket says the Germans pierce the Italian line; I have letters from poets and sculptors in Greenwich Village; I have letters from an ambulance man in France and an I. W. W. man in Vladivostok.)

I lean on an ash and watch the lights fall, the red ember glow, and three muskrats swim west in a fan of ripples on a sheet of river gold.

Better the blue silence and the gray west,
The autumn mist on the river,
And not any hate and not any love,
And not anything at all of the keen and the deep:
Only the peace of a dog head on a barn floor,
And the new corn shoveled in bushels
And the pumpkins brought from the corn rows,
Umber lights of the dark,

Umber lanterns of the loam dark.
Here a dog head dreams.
Not any hate, not any love.
Not anything but dreams.
Brother of dusk and umber.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007


looking at the from memory groups i came across the following after the map of lisboa, which lead me on to the likes of this, this and this. none of which should be taken as an indication that i favour moleskin notebooks in any way. however i do favour notebooks, and sketching, and looking at these it reminds of how limiting blogging is in terms of this activity. i remain unsure of the whole blogging thing, the what, the why and looking at these only makes this more so. i like my old notebooks, just seeing them stacked in a pile is enough to trigger a myriad of memories and as for my scrapbook!! the blog has its functions but it does none of these things. i remain unconvinced...

T often asks me how i write and most often i'm pretty much at a loss. while i was looking at youtube notebooks i came across this and to be honest, without getting all linguistic about it, it's a pretty accurate representation of the creative process as it affects me.

but for patience and daftness this made me laugh

from memory

strangemaps has been having a run of form these days and has put me on to the excellent flickr groups from memory . for some years i've thought that idle map doodling was something common only to me, that i'd be in airports trying to remember the west african countries, countries in the north of south america, in order mind, countries who border the CAR etc, but it appears, thanks to the joy of internet communication, that i am not alone. had i the basic skills the above images would not be above and i would be able to retrieve lost classics like the scottish people and their knowledge of the english counties maps or their counterpart - scottish towns, where are they?

Friday, 2 November 2007

things currently liked

the national's album alligator. somemight say this isn't the sort of thing i'd normally listen to but i'd deny it, even if there was a grain of truth in it, and point to soem fo the similarities with john cale (caribbean sunset? come on!), which may or may not exist. and talking of caribbean sunset. no cd? that can't be right.....

anyway, for those amongst us who might value a recommendation , check out the national

moon map

the ever reliable strangemaps comes up trumps yet again with this map of the moon. it's geological....

eugenio montale


Or che in fondo un miraggio
di vapori vacill e si disperde
altro annunzia, tragli alberi, la squilla
del picchio verde

La mana che raggiunge il sottobosco
e trapunge la trama
del cuore con le punte dello strame,
e quella che mature incubi d'oro
a specchio delle gore
quando il carro sonoro
di Bassareo reporta folli mugoli
di arieti sulle toppe arse dei colli.

Torni anche tu, pastroa senzi greggi,
e siedi sul mio sasso?
Ti riconso; ma non so che leggi
oltre i voli che svariano sul passo.
Lo chiedo invanoal piano dove una bruma
esita tra baleni e spari su sparsi teti,
alla febbre nascosta del diretti
nella costa che fuma


On the skyline, a vapourous
mirage, wavers at breaking-point;
an through the trees a new thing is announced
by the green wood-pecker's yatter.

Discoveries are for the outstretched hand
searching the underwood, piercing
the heart's web with its littered points,
a hand that ripens gold nightmares
in the pond's mirror
when the roarof Bacchus' car
breaks through, rams stampeding i its wake
out of scorched patches in the hills.

And are you returning, girl from the fields,
to sit upon my stone?
I recognise you, but I've no access
to what you reading flights going beynd
the pass. I ask the plain where a brief
haze smokes between shots and flashes
on glinting roofs - I ask the express train's
simmering outbursts on the steaming coast

version by jeremy reid

apologies to italian speakers re lack of diacritics - can't make blogger do this.
i've included the original not just because one should but because it sounds better than reid's version (a definition he chooses rather than translation) though when i say better that's the sound in my head rater than the mangled italian that comes out of my mouth!

things currently disliked

amy winehouse - just be quiet woman. please.

the fountain - it's a bit churlish to include the winehouse beside this but she's whining away briefly in the background so is a nap for things disliked. but darren aronofsky's film the fountain is in an entirely different league of dislike. loathing maybe, shouting at the tv, wanting to throw the dvd straight in the bin, fly to america and smack him round the head type loathing

and if it's one of your favourite films? well i'm sorry but you're a fan of misogynist, colonialist nonsense and if you can;t see well, frankly, you're to be pitied. everyone associated with this should be ashamed. except maybe ellen burstyn, who gave such an excoriating performance in requiem for a dream that she can be forgiven. but it's like a different director has made this

awful, mind numbingly bad.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

bill holm

The Icelandic Language

In this language, no industrial revolution;
no pasteurized milk; no oxygen, no telephone;
only sheep, fish, horses, water falling.
The middle class can hardly speak it.

In this language, no flush toilet; you stumble
through dark and rain with a handful of rags.
The door groans; the old smell comes
up from under the earth to meet you.

But this language believes in ghosts;
chairs rock by themselves under the lamp; horses
neigh inside an empty gully, nothing
at the bottom but moonlight and black rocks.

The woman with marble hands whispers
this language to you in your sleep; faces
come to the window and sing rhymes; old ladies
wind long hair, hum, tat, fold jam inside pancakes.

In this language, you can't chit-chat
holding a highball in your hand, can't
even be polite. Once the sentence starts its course,
all your grief and failure come clear at last.

Old inflections move from case to case,
gender to gender, softening consonants, darkening
vowels, till they sound like the sea moving
icebergs back and forth in its mouth.

wyslawa symborska

True Love

True love. Is it normal
is it serious, is it practical?
What does the world get from two people
who exist in a world of their own?

Placed on the same pedestal for no good reason,
drawn randomly from millions but convinced
it had to happen this way - in reward for what?
For nothing.
The light descends from nowhere.
Why on these two and not on others?
Doesn't this outrage justice? Yes it does.
Doesn't it disrupt our painstakingly erected principles,
and cast the moral from the peak? Yes on both accounts.

Look at the happy couple.
Couldn't they at least try to hide it,
fake a little depression for their friends' sake?
Listen to them laughing - its an insult.
The language they use - deceptively clear.
And their little celebrations, rituals,
the elaborate mutual routines -
it's obviously a plot behind the human race's back!

It's hard even to guess how far things might go
if people start to follow their example.
What could religion and poetry count on?
What would be remembered? What renounced?
Who'd want to stay within bounds?

True love. Is it really necessary?
Tact and common sense tell us to pass over it in silence,
like a scandal in Life's highest circles.
Perfectly good children are born without its help.
It couldn't populate the planet in a million years,
it comes along so rarely.

Let the people who never find true love
keep saying that there's no such thing.

Their faith will make it easier for them to live and die.

stephen crane

A man said to the universe

A man said to the universe:
"Sir I exist!"
"However," replied the universe,
"The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation."

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

robert penn warren

robert penn warren had much to say about the self, some of which i might repeat at a later date but in the mean time i found i was quite taken with this...

true love

In silence the heart raves. It utters words
Meaningless, that never had
A meaning. I was ten, skinny, red-headed,

Freckled. In a big black Buick,
Driven by a big grown boy, with a necktie, she sat
In front of the drugstore, sipping something

Through a straw. There is nothing like
Beauty. It stops your heart. It
Thickens your blood. It stops your breath. It

Makes you feel dirty. You need a hot bath.
I leaned against a telephone pole, and watched.
I thought I would die if she saw me.

How could I exist in the same world with that brightness?
Two years later she smiled at me. She
Named my name. I thought I would wake up dead.

Her grown brothers walked with the bent-knee
Swagger of horsemen. They were slick-faced.
Told jokes in the barbershop. Did no work.

Their father was what is called a drunkard.
Whatever he was he stayed on the third floor
Of the big white farmhouse under the maples for twenty-five years.

He never came down. They brought everything up to him.
I did not know what a mortgage was.
His wife was a good, Christian woman, and prayed.

When the daughter got married, the old man came down wearing
An old tail coat, the pleated shirt yellowing.
The sons propped him. I saw the wedding. There were

Engraved invitations, it was so fashionable. I thought
I would cry. I lay in bed that night
And wondered if she would cry when something was done to her.

The mortgage was foreclosed. That last word was whispered.
She never came back. The family
Sort of drifted off. Nobody wears shiny boots like that now.

But I know she is beautiful forever, and lives
In a beautiful house, far away.
She called my name once. I didn't even know she knew it.

mr la-di-dah gunner graham

a phrase that will be instantly familiar to those who endured a childhood of what the bbc once called light entertainment but which really wasn't light or entertaining at all.

none of which would be any concern except that courtesy of strangemaps i came across geographical fun. of itself geographical fun is interesting but becomes even more so when it turns out that the maps were apparently drawn by the fifteen year old lilian lancaster for her sick brother.

and why gunner graham? because lilian lancaster is reputed to be the first to sing lardy dah in new york, this being the origin of la-di-dah. you can read or listen to the whole story here tho if you follow the link through to the bbc you need to do a search for lilian lancaster once you get there

yes the days are long and slow when my legs are sore....

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

race day

a bit of bonk, a dodgy bike and well, to be honest, a healthy dose of fear curtailed the night cycling so after a disappointing first day i woke up to a lovely scottish october dawn.

stuffed myself with cake and red bull and was off on the back up bike for a fine morning's cycling. felt even better as i'd been the one ensconced in a sleeping bag all night while quite some number of those left were showing the effects of a night in the forest. i sympathised with them and they called me a solo-ing loon

lessons learned:

more night time riding
better lights
more balanced food intake
get rid of santa like belly

next race is another twenty four hours in january 'the toughest endurance race in britain'.
what could possibly go wrong!

ilam peruvaluti

This World Lives

This world lives
Some men
do not eat alone,
not even when they get
the sweet ambrosia of the gods;

they've no anger in them,
they fear evils other men fear
but never sleep over them;

give their lives for honor,
will not touch a gift of whole worlds
if tainted;

there's no faintness in their hearts
and they do not strive
for themselves.

Because such men are,
this world is.

trans A.K. Ramanujan

etre et avoir

if this isn't my favourite documentary i don't know what is

Monday, 15 October 2007

edna st vincent millay

First Fig

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends
It gives a lovely light!

stephen crane

There Was a Man Who Lived a Life of Fire (The Black Riders LXII)

There was a man who lived a life of fire.
Even upon the fabric of time,
Where purple becomes orange
And orange purple,
This life glowed,
A dire red stain, indelible;
Yet when he was dead,
He saw that he had not lived.

gary snyder

John Muir on Mt Ritter

After scanning its face again and again,
I began to scale it, picking my holds
With intense caution. About half-way
To the top, I was suddenly brought to
A dead stop, with arms outspread
Clinging close to the face of the rock
Unable to move hand or foot
Either up or down. My doom
Appeared fixed. I MUST fall.
There would be a moment of
Bewilderment, and then,
A lifeless rumble down the cliff
To the glacier below.
My mind seemed to fill with a
Stifling smoke. This terrible eclipse
Lasted only a moment, when life blazed
Forth again with preternatural clearness.
I seemed suddenly to become possessed
Of a new sense. My trembling muscles
Became firm again, every rift and flaw in
The rock was seen as through a microscope,
My limbs moved with a positiveness and precision
With which I seemed to have
Nothing at all to do.

things i am afraid of

dying in my own country

sound bites

is the name of a book by alex kapranos, he of franz ferdinand, and is basically a collection of his guardian columns about his various eating experiences around the world. as such it's not particularly good but it passes the time even if you find yourself constantly thinking it could've maybe been better if it'd been tidied up a bit

anyway, that's by the by. it was enjoyable in its way so fair play to him. i was however struck by the following quote which takes place as he's moseying about in a parisian street looking at the people :

If you stare at someone in a street in Glasgow, it's an invitation for a fight. If you stare at someone in Paris, it's because you want to look at them

many years ago i was engaged in some research about aggression and eye contact in humans and primates. i gave it up partly due to laziness and partly down to depression. are other countries so different? maybe not but at least they're not here. time for a change i think.

steps must be taken!

shakespeare map

i haven't put any pictures on here yet so here's this variation on harry beck's rather lovely underground map

Friday, 12 October 2007

the night before race night

that bit if the night that is only left to anticipation. there's no more training to be done, no excuses to be made that'll make the time go easier. we have the organisation down now, just a matter of packing the van and getting the back upbike to the shop for some last minute adjustments.

cycle round a forest for twenty four hours in the dark in scotland. in october? there's something wrong with you they say. but not as wrong as when i tell them this is just preparation for the race in january which'll be much, much harder. i was at that course on tuesday. i wish i could've had T with me to see the trees, an autumnal riot, the west coast is spikier, more coniferous.

my dad has this strange idea that i'll be trying to win, which cracks open old hurts from way back when i actually was winning in other sports. he has no conception that this isn't about winning, just finishing. that those night time sufferings are not about competing, but self abnegation, of revelation, in a space where out in the darkness there really is only you and you're never closer to yourself. and then that wild and crazy doing something wilfully daft just for the sake of it. there are no books here, no strategy, no philosophy. but he's from a different generation, a different mindset and can no more understand what i'm about than me him

i can't wait to hear to hear the sound (more of this on the forthcoming post about sound) of the cyclists, the noise of the chains, a hundred breaths drawn together, the sound of the trees in wind at night time, the ben looming above in the darkness.

it could be colder, i'm afraid of cooking but no moon means no frost. and mud. i'm worried about some of the technical sections, i'm worried about falling, though the fall a couple of days ago wasn't so bad (tho the bruise is worth a picture!). how many laps? who can say? so long as i'm not last!

last race of the year. can't wait!

Monday, 8 October 2007

the coolest thing i've heard

it should be no surprise that in the life of the swiss there's a strong element of the motorcycle. a story that's soon to reach its end it's true but the fact remains that since my early teens and the first time i 'borrowed' my mother's moped two wheels good, four wheels bad would become a credo i've stuck to ever since

the doubters may question but my response is that, despite my great affection for the van it is no more than a tool for moving bicycles, boards, kites and me, to provide shelter from the wind and tentless accommodation. i love the van but it's a daytime love whereas the love of the motorcycle is more obsessional, moves in a darkness that isn't even reached by that of the bicycle.

the bicycle i can appreciate for its apartness, the fact that the truly beautiful bicycle can only be appreciated in use, a context in which a rational aesthetic is useless, fit only for non-cyclists. or cardrivers. i can't talk about how i feel about the bicycle, it's too personal, too revealing and even so even attempting to do so is like describing dropping into a good wave - that moment beyond time which really is indescribable and the attempts to do so have only resulted in decent waves across the world cluttered up with people who indulge the activity solely for its sign value

but the motorcycle. the motorcycle doesn't even need the functional. i used to go down to the local shop just to gaze at the mv agusta F4. sure it didn't work, but look at it! and to drive a ducati 996, uncomfortable, feet numb, unbelievable brakes, but in memory, in sense, just that quality of red, of speed. and then the noise. the gsxr at foolish speeds, the whine of the japanese, standing with my daughter listening to the triumph daytona, the starting of the ducati. the best motorcycle noise i've ever heard? i used to own a moto guzzi 1100 supersport, two into one exhaust. coolest bike i ever owned. worst bike i ever owned. but the noise. the noise would stop people in the street and then the bike itself, all black with the gold logo. i started it for a friend to let him hear the sound. that doesn't sound like a motorcycle he said, that said like all motorcycles!

but anyway, i came across frederick seidel the other day. i like what i heard and googled a bit to find out a bit more about him. then i came across this

Finally, there’s Ducati. Seidel not only writes poetry about the Italian motorcycles but owns four of them, and he will describe the bored-out, street-illegal, uncomfortable pro racers that reach 210 mph in minute detail. He rides them along out-of-the-way roads near his house in Sag Harbor and sometimes on Montauk Highway, occasionally hitting 150. His new ride, the six-figure 999FO5 factory Superbike racer, one of only eight made every year, was built for him in Bologna by hand. “When the mechanics found out they were assembling the bike for Seidel, the American poet,” he tells me, “they dubbed it Moto Poeta.”

in connection with poetry this is the coolest thing i've ever heard. better than money, better than prizes. i don't care for either of these things but something like this, if even the possibility that something like this could happen then the creative life would be worth enduring...

alice munro

i like alice munro. i like alice munro because she writes so much better than many other short story writers who try to write in her style. here she is in hateship, friendship, courtship, loveship, marriage writing about disease in the story comfort

The disease had three styles of onset. One involved the hands and arms. the fingers grew numb and stupid, their clasp awkward and then impossible. Or it could be that the legs weakened first, and the feet started stumbling, soon refusing to lift themselves up steps or even over carper edges. the third and probably the worst sort of attack was made on the throat and tongue. Swallowing became unreliable, fearful, a choking drama, and speech turned into a clotted flow of importunate syllables. It was the voluntary muscles that were affected, always, and at first that did indeed sound like a lesser evil. No misfirings in the heart or brain, no signals gone awry, no malicious rearrangements of the personality. sight and hearing and taste and touch, and best of all intelligence, lively and strong as ever. The brain kept busy monitoring all the outlying shutdown, toting up the defaults and depletions. Wasn' t that to be preferred?

thomas hardy

Neutral Tones

We stood by a pond that winter day,
And the sun was white, as though chidden of God,
And a few leaves lay on the starving sod,
They had fallen from an ash, and were gray.

Your eyes on me were as eyes that rove
Over tedious riddles solved years ago;
And some words played between us to and fro
On which lost the more by our love.

The smile on your mouth was the deadest thing
Alive enough to have strength to die;
And a grin of bitterness swept thereby
Like an ominous bird a-wing….

Since then, keen lessons that love deceives,
And wrings with wrong, have shaped to me
Your face, and the God-curst sun, and a tree,
And a pond edged with grayish leaves.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

judith saunders

and here's judith saunders with something not so dissimilar to billy collins

Mathematicians at Work

hunker down on their hands and knees
and sniff the problem
poke it with ungentle fingers
rub it raw with steel wool
wad it up in a ball and cackle
then pound it flat with little mallets
watch it rise like dough (uh oh)
resume its original shape
screech, swing at it with hatchets
spatter the walls with oozing fragments
stare horrified at the shattered bits
reassembling themselves, jump up
attack the problem with icepicks
gouge holes six inches deep
and seven inches across
(chew the mangled matter
spit it out and belch) kick the thing
into a corner, remove their belts
and beat it senseless, walk off
with the answer in their pockets.

billy collins

Introduction to Poetry

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

Saturday, 6 October 2007


and i like autumn. so here's this and if you follow the link there's a bunch of stuff about translating it. i chose this translation because i like it without the rhyme and metre


Herr: es ist Zeit. Der Sommer war sehr groß.
Leg deinen Schatten auf die Sonnenuhren,
und auf den Fluren laß die Winde los.

Befiel den letzten Früchten voll zu sein;
gib ihnen noch zwei südlichere Tage,
dränge sie zur Vollendung hin und jage
die letzte Süße in den schweren Wein.

Wer jetzt kein Haus hat, baut sich keines mehr.
Wer jetzt allein ist, wird Es lange bleiben,
wird wachen, lesen, lange Briefe schreiben
und wird in den Alleen hin und her
unruhig wandern, wenn die Blätter treiben.

Lord, it is time! The summer was so vast.
Lay your shadows on the sundials,
and on the fields let loose the winds.

Command of fruits a fullness,
give them two more southern days,
urge them to completion, and chase
the last of sweetness into heavy wine.

He who has no house will not build one,
and he who is alone will so remain,
will wake, read, write long letters,
go back and forth in avenues,
driven, restlessly, by falling leaves.

full suspension

despite the tooth i get a new bike. full suspension! and what a difference. what i pick my way over and hope for the best on the hardtail i can get the head down and hammer over on the full sus. climbing seems easier too tho i can;t quite reason out why (maybe it's the distracting sculptures that are popping up where i train)

on the down side. it doesn't feel as direct as the hardtail and the view that it's bad for your skills i'll definitely support if only because i've been going so fast that if i didn't have my hard nardtail acquired skills i'd have stacked by now for sure. but while fast is enjoyable it isn't necessarily as much fun so the hardtail will definitely stay alarge part of the training schedule

will i use the full susser for the race tho? given the interruptions to trainign and worrying signs of some sort of post viralism - absolutely!

the tooth, the tooth

it's been a slow few days and pre race training has suffered what with the gap in sweden, nasty cold on return and to cap all of that, an infection in my wisdom tooth.

colds bother me these days but if you've indulged in a hefty nicotine habit you have to expect fragile lungs and mostly i manage to avoid them or grin and bear it. teeth now are a different thing. i've got pretty good teeth and me and dentists don't have to see each other much except that is for a recurring wisdom tooth infection. i get it maybe once, twice a year especially after prolonged drinking or illness. so i was none too surprised to feel a swelling starting after the cold.

most times i don't bother with the dentist. it's a struggle to get them to part with a prescription for metronidazole and analgesia i can manage for myself. but not this time! after a day i had to get T to get me to the dentist who, looking in my mouth only said 'oh dear'. it wasn't pretty. i worked the next four nights which, though painful, was better than being at home with nothing to do but pain. more dentist and i welcomed the injections and removal of bits of gum. small beer compared to the previous pain. a week later and it's finally receding but i'm left thinking about the whole experience.

i'm used to pain. if i've not fallen off, run into or been hit by something, it's chronic damage due to all of the above. but it's distant pain, feet, back, not my face. plus it's musculoskeletal pain and dealable with. at the most basic level i can rub the hurt, or rest it. not my face! no, the infection hit the nerve so it's nerve pain and there's just nothing going to be working for that. i think about how we treat pain at work, what we give, how long it takes, what it must be like to lie in a room while some stranger takes their time or won't give you what you want because they know better/it's not in the protocol/it's not your prescribed time

and then how pain affects us. i'm heartened to say that people at work notice something is wrong. i'm the leader and i don't do problems from home, it's old school, most likely stupid but i've got my professionalism and that's how i like to be seen so if i'm off form they notice. and it's difficult, difficult not to be snappy, difficult to maintain the things that make me me. normally i'm out and about blethering, at least it looks like blethering but i rarely have a non-planned discourse at work! but i found myself spending more time in the office. i felt i was failing me, failing them. i wished i had a copy of daudet's land of pain. i remembered a man with facial neuralgia, screaming and screaming.

i found myself thinking of a friend of mine who died a few years back. he had undiagnosed back pain. he lived in very rural scotland so it's safe to say his care wasn't what it might have been in a city but whatever, he never got to the bottom of it. i hadn't seen him in a long time but shortly before he died S asked me to maybe look in on him the next time i passed town. i didn't and when he did die i must've driven past where he was lying while the police were searching for him. we don't call it suicide, he just died of an illness he couldn't live with any more.after he was dead his wife dug out some old photos for the kids and one of them remarked that she couldn't remember daddy smiling and how much better he looked. S said that he couldn't stand what he'd become

i'm thinking about this just now, after a day in the sun, how fragile we are, how quickly even who we are can change. we are so lucky for those moments, take them so much for granted. maybe that's what the hospital gives me, the vision of what's coming, and to make the best of it while there's a chance