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.