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!