Monday, 31 March 2008

meg bateman


B’ e d’aotromachd a rinn mo thàladh,
aotromachd do chainnte ‘s do ghàire,
aotromachd do lethchinn nam làmhan,
d’aotrmachd lurach ùr mhàlda:
agus ‘s e aotromachd do phòige
a tha a’ cur trasg air mo bheòil-sa,
is ‘s e aotromachd do ghlaic mum chuairt-sa
a leigas seachad leis an t-sruth mi


It was your lightness that drew me,
the lightness of your talk and your laughter,
the lightness of your cheek in my hands,
your sweet gentle modest lightness:
and it is the lightness of your kiss
that is starving my mouth,
and the lightness of your embrace
that will let me go adrift.

Sunday, 30 March 2008


Now sleeps the crimson petal, now the white;
Nor waves the cypress in the palace walk;
Nor winks the gold fin in the porphyry font:
The fire-fly wakens: waken thou with me.
Now droops the milkywhite peacock like a ghost,
And like a ghost she glimmers on to me.
Now lies the Earth all Danaё to the stars
And all thy heart lies open to me.
Now slides the silent meteor on, and leaves
A shining furrow, as thy thoughts in me.
Now folds the lily all her sweetness up,
And slips into the bosom of the lake:
So fold thyself, my dearest, thou, and slip
Into my bosom and be lost in me.

Alfred Lord Tennyson (from the Princess)

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

anne sexton

Music Swims Back To Me

Wait Mister. Which way is home?
They turned the light out
and the dark is moving in the corner.
There are no sign posts in this room,
four ladies, over eighty,
in diapers every one of them.
La la la, Oh music swims back to me
and I can feel the tune they played
the night they left me
in this private institution on a hill.
Imagine it. A radio playing
and everyone here was crazy.
I liked it and danced in a circle.
Music pours over the sense
and in a funny way
music sees more than I.
I mean it remembers better;
remembers the first night here.
It was the strangled cold of November;
even the stars were strapped in the sky
and that moon too bright
forking through the bars to stick me
with a singing in the head.
I have forgotten all the rest.
They lock me in this chair at eight a.m.
and there are no signs to tell the way,
just the radio beating to itself
and the song that remembers
more than I. Oh, la la la,
this music swims back to me.
The night I came I danced a circle
and was not afraid.

laurie anderson

laurie anderson

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

wislawa symborska


Island where all becomes clear.

Solid ground beneath your feet.

The only roads are those that offer access.

Bushes bend beneath the weight of proofs.

The Tree of Valid Supposition grows here
with branches disentangled since time immemorial.

The Tree of Understanding, dazzlingly straight and simple,
sprouts by the spring called Now I Get It.

The thicker the woods, the vaster the vista:
the Valley of Obviously.

If any doubts arise, the wind dispels them instantly.

Echoes stir unsummoned
and eagerly explain all the secrets of the worlds.

On the right a cave where Meaning lies.

On the left the Lake of Deep Conviction.
Truth breaks from the bottom and bobs to the surface.

Unshakable Confidence towers over the valley.
Its peak offers an excellent view of the Essence of Things.

For all its charms, the island is uninhabited,
and the faint footprints scattered on its beaches
turn without exception to the sea.

As if all you can do here is leave
and plunge, never to return, into the depths.

Into unfathomable life.

transby S Baranczak and C Cavanagh

and made available by those nice nobel people
and because it's the time of year when i need to shake the moths out of my crap swedish here it is in swedish


En ö där allting bara klarnar.

Här kan man stå på bevisens grund.

Den enda väg här finns är den framkomliga vägen.

Buskarna bara dignar under alla svaren.

Här växer Riktiga Förmodans träd
med sina sedan gammalt utredda grenar.

Det storstilat raka Förståelsens träd
vid källan som heter Å På Så Vis.

Ju längre in i snåren, ju bredare öppnar sig
Självklarhetens dal.

Finns det något tvivel, så skingras det av vinden.

Ekot tar till orda utan anrop,
förklarar så gärna världarnas hemligheter.

Till höger en grotta; där ligger själva meningen.

Till vänster Djupaste Övertygelsens sjö.
Sanningen lättar från botten och flyter upp i dagen.

Dalen behärskas av Bergfasta Förvissningen.
På spetsen sitter Springande Punkten.

Ön är trots sin tjusning öde,
och på stranden syns små märken av fötter,
samtliga vända i riktning mot havet.

Som om man bara begett sig härifrån
och utan återvändo sänkt sig i djupet.

I ett liv man inte begriper.

trans by Anders Bodegård

Monday, 24 March 2008

henry reed

The Door and the Window

My love, you are timely come, let me lie by your heart.
For waking in the dark this morning, I woke to that mystery,
Which we can all wake to, at some dark time or another:
Waking to find the room not as I thought it was,
But the window further away, and the door in another direction.

This was not home, and you were far away,
And I woke sick, and held by another passion,
In the icy grip of a dead, tormenting flame,
Consumed by night, watched by the door and the window,
On a bed of stone, waiting for the day to bring you.

The window is sunlit now, the spring day sparkles beyond it,
The door has opened: and can you, at last beside me,
Drive under the day that frozen and faithless darkness
With its unseen torments flickering, which neither
The dearest look nor the longest kiss assuages?

brian patten

The innocence of any flesh sleeping

Sleeping beside you I dreamt
I woke beside you;
Waking beside you
I thought I was dreaming

Have you ever slept beside an ocean
Well yes,
It is like this

The whole motion of landscapes, of oceans
Is within her.
She is
The innocence of any flesh sleeping,
So vulnerable
No protection is needed.

In such times
The heart opens,
Contains all there is,
There being no more than her.

In what country she is
I cannot tell
But knowing –
Because there is love
And it blots out all demons –
She is safe,
I can turn,
Sleep well beside her.

Waking beside her I am dreaming.
Dreaming of such wakings
I am to all love’s senses woken.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

beware the festive dog

continuing on the found poetry theme here's an old favourite from the previous incarnation of the lounge. go soothingly by indeed. e totul bine.

Beware of the Festive Dog

At the rise of the hand
of policeman, stop rapidly.
Do not pass him by
or otherwise disrespect him.

When a passenger of the foot
hove in sight, tootle the horn trumpet
to him melodiously at first.
If he still obstacles your passage,
tootle him with vigour
and express by word of mouth
the warning ‘ Hi,Hi !’

Beware the wandering horse
that he shall not take fright
as you pass him.
Do not explode
The exhaust box at him.
Go soothingly by
or stop by the road-side
Till he pass away.

Give big space
to the festive dog
that makes sport
in the road-way.
Avoid entanglement of dog
with your wheel-spokes.

Go soothingly on the grease-mud,
as there lurk the skid demon.
Press the brake of the foot
as you roll round the corners
to save the collapse
and tie-up.

Found poem attributed to Edwin Miller in Japan 1935 – a note explaining rules of the road to foreign motorists – laid out in stanzas.

From River-Horse by William Least Heat Moon(p15) Secker and Warburg 2000

i am officially broken

on the new bike, practicing my lines on the local down hill section sufficiently fast that a bit of racing wth mr dh seems likely. first mistake. racing a downhill bike on a cross country bike down a downhill course can only end one way. and it did. painfully.

second lesson. if you are going to do such things then armour is definitely going to take the sting out of that fall. i, of course, eschew, such encumbrances, because i am wild and free. and sore.

third lesson. if you are going to fall off it's much better to do it on a down slope. or even a flat surface. but not highsiding off a downhill and into an uphill. no, that would be like hitting a tree. all that momentum just dissipates into....well, you. and it hurts, yes it does.

fourth lesson. you may have put on some style, some fast air and looked the part but falling off sufficiently hard to be unable to move negates any previous coolness

fifth lesson. surprising as it may seem, allowing your partner to take photographs of your injuries while you lie on the couch airing your abraded skin so that they can enter them into the 'that's got to hurt' section of the local magazine, is part of the caring process. i must remember this for work.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

rabindranath tagore

The Flower School

When storm-clouds rumble in the sky and
June showers come down,
The moist east wind comes marching over the heath
to blow its bagpipes amongst the bamboos.
The crowds of flowers come out of a sudden,
from nobody knows where,
and dance upon the grass in wild glee.

Mother, I really think the flowers go to school underground.
They do their lessons with doors shut,
and if they want to come out to play before it is time,
their master makes them stand in a corner.
When the rains come they have their holidays.

Branches clash together in the forest,
and the leaves rustle in the wild wind,
the thunder-clouds clap their giant hands and
the flower children rush out i dresses of
pink, yellow and white.

Do you know, mother, their home is in the sky,
where the stars are.
Haven't you seen how eager they are to get there?
Don't you know why they are in such a hurry?
Of course, I can guess to whom they raise their arms,
they have their motheer as I have my own.

trans by tagore?

Monday, 17 March 2008

jim carruth

jim carruth really caught our attention with this poem about the spectre of foot and mouth in scotland's farming community. we had a blether later about the lack of scottish rural verse these days and poetry that concerned work in general. the structure he tells me reflects the rhythm of the milking machine, the poem written because his father asked him to. it's even better in the context of his othr work, which reflects his feeling towards the farming life and the cows. if ever i've read a poem that should be taught in scottish schools this is it.

Three Little Words

Fear the day
father and son
gather the flock
follow the herd
empty the fields
fill the shed
close the door
load the guns
again and again
until its done
carry the dead
build the pyre

watch the smoke
cover the land
mourn the loss
share the words
love and grief
pain and death
foot and mouth

so that was stAnza

what a great way to spend a few days.

things i left out - tess gallagher speaking about raymond carver, t getting an introduction to h.d., t getting all out of shape after that first exposure to kenneth white and retreating to bed with atlantic edge because that's what had to be done! meeting so many people - were all the poets in scotland there! most of the male ones at any rate. it was a shame i didn't see robert crawford wandering about (or maybe i did and just didn't recognise him) as i'd liked to have thanked him for writing scotland's books. but mainly just hanging out with a lot of other people who are into the same thing you are. like being at a bike race but with pens!

on the way back we do that what was you most favourite thing. we both agree that, aside from running out of time, there were no negatives. so here's our impromptu in the van list of stAnza high points

favourite session - the translation masterclass
favourite reading - kenneth white
best poem heard - jim carruth's three little words
best joke - sandy hutchison
best voice/laugh - fitz kusz

and that was that. i've already made space in my diary for next year...

and then the germans

sunday saw us up early so that we could be hitting the translation masterclass and meting sorlil. as with everyone else we met there wasn't enough time to be talking (sorry about that!) before remembering there was somewhere else to be, someone else to see.

so there's a panel consisting of sandy hutchison, robert alan jamieson, ken cockburn, fitzgerald kusz and helmut haberkamm and the deal is that they're looking at translating each others work and then getting some of the rest of us to show what we've done with the same. myself and sorlil had chosen one of haberkamm's works (no offense to fitz but his was in dialect and i coudn't make head nor tail of it!) which although it was ostensibly in high german proved tricky to capture. much amusement was shown over how we had treated, or missd out, fusabstreifer in the first line. again there was lots of german happening, both high and franconian and even for the non-german speakers (me) you could really here the difference when helmut read the work we'd done first in high german, then as he'd meant it.

what a great exercise it was and i'm sure most of us could have sat for most of the day blethering, rather than the couple of hours we had. i was fascinated, esp after seeing the frisian guys, to get an insight into how another culture deals with its dialects and reflect that back into the scottish context. plus, even in the room the scottish dimension consisted of shetlandic, buckie and lowland scots, each of which has its own rhythms. then there was the pleasure of seeing how, in the case of the haberkamm poem, six different people had addressed the translating it, what strategies they'd used, the choices they'd made. i don't think i've ever been at a better session for getting right into the nuts and bolts of a work. i think this is probably only possible in a translation exercise.

but, almost as it started it was time to finish. i briefly had time to speak to robert alan, who put me onto some more translation stuff, which i promptly forgot, and i got to speak to the woman form the spl who got me into henrik nordbrandt. no time to speak to the others far less any of the audience participants and time pressure meant we couldn't get to ken and robert alan's reading in the afternoon which was a shame. what a brilliant way to spend a morning. stAnza ahould absolutely do more of this in the future.

so here's the poem that was given to us - it's the high german version so not the one that helmut prefers (a view reflected by other german speakers in the audience)

Neue Reifen drauf

nach Bertolt Brecht (vgl. sein Gedicht Der Radwechsel, 1953)

Ich sitz auf der Treppenstufe vorm Haus, dort am Fußabstreifer.
Mein Vater schraubt die Winterreifen ans Auto.
Wo ich herkomme, da mag ich nicht gerade hin.
Wo ich hinwill, da mag ich auch nicht gerade hin.
Das Gescheiteste wäre, ich würde mit anpacken
Und würde mithelfen beim Hinschrauben. Aber
So sitz ich bloß da und halte meinen Mund
Und schau nur und weiß nicht, was ich möchte.
Siehst du, jetzt sind die Reifen auch schon dran.
Mein Vater winkt, ich fahre davon.

by Helmut Haberkamm

Frankn lichd nedd am Meer (Cadolzburg: ars vivendi verlag, 1992).

and this is what i did with it

The Changing of the Wheel

I sit on the steps in front of the house, deflated,
My father changing the wheel.
I am neither here nor there,
One place or another,
Going nowhere and wanting neither.
Helping him, the old man,
Would be the smart thing,
But I’m too busy sitting, saying nothing.
There you are son, all done,
The wheel spinning beautifully under his hands.
I walk past him,
My father waves.
I drive off.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

kenneth white

again at stAnza

what to say about kenneth white? that i haven't seen him in over a decade. that in the interim i've lost the feeling for his poetics, still read the bird path, but unsure what i saw in it, even as i was still recommending poem to my coat to others.

but to see him again, to hear him again was to find him in sparkling and even better form, looking and sounding extremely well, and if anything, even more enthusiastic. t loved him, wanted to take him home so that we could listen to him some more. we especialy liked hearing scotia deserta as i'd read it last year prior to our boat trips out to corrievreackan and the surrounds. as it was he was finished all too quickly and although he volunteered to stay for a blether tiredness and the need for an early rise was devloping into a speed wobble for me so we couldn't really stay.

i would've liked to have asked him questions tho- as usual i didn't think his interlocutor served him the best - and they would've been something along the lines of....

- i think of you these days, especially when you're talking about the antilles, in something of the same mind as derek walcott. do you think this is a fair comparison? if so, and if not, how would you compare and contrast your poetics to those of walcott?

- the white field. i'm intrigued by this. i'd like to know how you see the white field in the context of the daily life. does it inform it or is one suffused by the other?

- wow, i've been reading the bird path on and off for over twenty years. is this too long?

i came out of this feeling recharged, re-energised. what a great thing....

Saturday, 15 March 2008

going to see the frisians

off i went to stAnza the other day to see, among others, frisian poets tsead bruinja and elmar kuiper

both were great fun, reading in frisian, dutch and english. i was very happy to hear these diferent languages, especially the frisian,which i didn't know existed before and this was to become a theme over the next couple of days. how refreshing, not just to have poetry and poets galore but to be abe to listen in various languages here in the monoglot heartland

and as their language is important to them it'd be unfair to have their poems in anything except frisian.

Keart it skot de man dy’t falt
as kûgel yn it boarst sjit

hy himsels ferwûnet?

Of leart de kûgel ôf priis
te sjitten op in man dy’t lûkt

yn it gûlende boarst omdat dea
út ’e loop libben ôfslút.

Ropt it lead moardman?

Betinkt dy kûgel fluitsjend
ûnderweis dy man
in libbene tel.

elmar kuiper


wyldfrjemd wie sy net dy’t my it nijs brocht
fan dyn oankommend ferstjerren ik tocht
dan sil ik sjonge sjonge om wat
ik noch fan dy wit foar de helsdoarren

wei te skuorren krij ik it ferjitboek
op skoat en begjin út dit deade skrift
dat ik net machtiger bin as
hokker taal ek dy op te fiskjen

sasto my besochtst út in wek
ûnder in brêge te lûken en
sels yn panyk wiet pak hellest sa
sil dit liet my net mije kinne

kom heit byn my de houtsjes ûnder
ik haw de krappe jongeslearskes hast oan
kom byn my de houtsjes ûnder
it iis is tin as dyn wurge antlit
út wetterige eagen stoarrest my oan
kom noch ien kear út dyn tsjûk wollen grêf
en byn my de houtsjes ûnder
it wetter sil ús op him fleanen sjen

sa brocht mem ús bliid oan de wâlskant
dêr’t ús earste reis begûn mei har
yn ús gedachten oer trochsichtich swart
oer pas op sjoch stroffeltûken en

beferzen bleien vissticks grapke
ik besocht it iis te brekken mei
bernehumor mei bernehannen
mar do wiest by dyn wiif siik thús

en hast yn it berteplak de lannen
dêr’t troch wite wintertekken grien gers
bedimme waard grien gers dat foarhinne
dyn sachte soallen koe fuotten dy’t no

sûnder faam iensum mei my oer tryst wetter jagen
as gjin oar better noch as mem
koenen dizze sleatsjes en greiden dy
dit doarp mei it tsjerkhôf fol kunde

de gouden hoanne de spitse tsjerketoer
deun by it hûs de pleats dêrsto
dysels it stjoeren it drummen leardest
dêr’t jim heit dy galoppearjen seach

it sadel in neaken hynsterêch
ier gie de skeppe foar him de grûn yn
dy’t my trijerisom syn namme liende
doe’t ik noch gjin heit hjitte koe

kom byn my de houtsjes ûnder
ik haw de krappe griene jongeslearskes oan
byn my de houtsjes ûnder
it iis is tin as de tydlike ôfstân tusken ús
no’t ik oer de grinzen hinne dy droech oansjen kin
moatst my noch ien kear de houtsjes ûnderbine
of klim noch ien kear yn `e pinne
en lit it papier ús oer it iis fleanen
jagen janken sjen

fertel noch ris hoest de learaar
muzyk dy’t dy mei de kaaien lef
om `e earen reage rjocht
yn `e sek wâdest flaufallen sabeare

ferrektest it sorry te sizzen
tsjin direkteuren bleaust koart foar de kop
thús dêrst tusken it krûme en it rjochte
dyn eigen djippe paad fan begrutsjen eidest

swier as stien lei it brek oan ferjeffenis
yn `e búk doest it krús net mear
om `e nekke ha koest en jim mem
gjin himels hûs mear hie om op dy te wachtsjen

byn my de houtsjes ûnder heit
dizze wrâld is de echte
tusken my en har wiesto de brêgeman
no is it slim simmer lizze de houtsjes
yn it fet yn `e kelder
foar ús dânsje skriuwerkes op it wetter
it wetter is as in blau laai
sa skjin sa tsjuster

tsead bruinja
(click on that last link and you'll hear him reading it as well)

Wednesday, 12 March 2008


can't get this to look quite like it does. this photography malarkey seems more complicated than it first appears

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

elfriede jelinek

trying to get into elfriede jelinek's women as lovers but just can't do it. i can't read it, can't finish it but equally i can't let it go. unremitting, relentlesly bleak, reading it is like getting punched in the face. tim parks has some suggestions on this. whatever, i can't get into it, i can't let it go.

paula has been taught to assess who is grabbing her there between the legs. is it someone with or without a future.
is it someone with a future or a work horse?
if it is a work horse, then he cannot become paula's fate. paula's brain has learned to work like a computer in such cases. here's the printout: married, two children.

and other austrian cheeriness....

also happy

to see the sun is next door's cat. so here he is

anne frater

i tried to see if there was a sound file of this kicking about but no luck. finally, it seems, the sun is shining and, even for me, gaelic seems an appropriate language to welcome it in. i'm assuming the translation is her own....


They showed me the sun today
they took it out of the cupboard
and they put it back
in the sky.

I didn't see it clearly at first
it didn't want to show its face
and it hid
behind a thick curtain
of clouds.

But the clouds grew tired of it
and they thinned out
until they eventually went
running away
before the wind caught them.

And then I saw it -
a yellow ball,round on a blue dish -
and a smile slowly spread
on my face
like the warmth on my back.

that last bit, in gaelic, looks like this (have missed out some diactrics).

Agus an uair sin chunnaic mi i -
bala buidhe,cruin air truinnsear gorm -
agus thainig fiamh a' ghaire gu slaodach
air m' aodann
mar am blaths air mo dhruim

of course you can't actually speak it from the orthography and, even if you care to hear what the language sounds like here, you have to bear mind that what's in the link is bbc gaelic, not frater's lewis gaelic, a distinction which, rather than the language and any attempt to speak it, is all too important on the islands

Sunday, 9 March 2008

walt whitman

funny how one thing triggers another. antonia leaves me this piece of whitman and i can;t not post it

I sit and look out upon all the sorrows of the world, and upon all oppression and shame;
I hear secret convulsive sobs from young men, at anguish with themselves, remorseful after deeds done;
I see, in low life, the mother misused by her children, dying, neglected, gaunt, desperate;
I see the wife misused by her husband-I see the treacherous seducer of young women;
I mark the ranklings of jealousy and unrequited love, attempted to be hid-I see these sights
on the earth;
I see the workings of battle, pestilence, tyranny- I see martyrs and prisoners;
I observe a famine at sea-I observe the sailors casting lots who shall be kill'd, to preserve the lives of the rest;
I observe the slights and degradations cast by arrogant persons upon laborers, the poor, and upon negroes, and the like;
All these-All the meanness and agony without end, I sitting, look out upon,
See, hear, and am silent.

Friday, 7 March 2008

the found poetry of phil liggett


is the word.
is the climb.

Bottom Line

The race is
no respecter
of reputation.
You're only
as good as


This man is head-bowed
He can't believe
it goes
and on
and on

elizabeth bishop

Visit to St Elizabeth's

This is the house of Bedlam.

This is the man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

The is the time
of the tragic man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is a wristwatch
telling the time
of the talkative man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is a sailor
wearing the watch
that tells the time
of the honored man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is the roadstead all of board
reached by the sailor
wearing the watch
that tells the time
of the old, brave man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

These are the years and the walls of the ward,
the winds and clouds of the sea of board
sailed by the sailor
wearing the watch
that tells the time
of the cranky man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is a Jew in a newspaper hat
that dances weeping down the ward
over the creaking sea of board
beyond the sailor
winding his watch
that tells the time
of the cruel man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is a world of books gone flat.
This is a Jew in a newspaper hat
that dances weeping down the ward
over the creaking sea of board
of the batty sailor
that winds his watch
that tells the time
of the busy man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is a boy that pats the floor
to see if the world is there, is flat,
for the widowed Jew in the newspaper hat
that dances weeping down the ward
waltzing the length of a weaving board
by the silent sailor
that hears his watch
that ticks the time
of the tedious man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

These are the years and the walls and the door
that shut on a boy that pats the floor
to feel if the world is there and flat.
This is a Jew in a newspaper hat
that dances joyfully down the ward
into the parting seas of board
past the starting sailor
that shakes his watch
that tells the time
of the poet, the man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.

This is the soldier home from the war.
These are the years and the walls and the door
that shut on a boy that pats the floor
to see if the world is round of flat.
This is a Jew in a newspaper hat
that dances carefully down the ward,
walking the plank of a coffin board
with the crazy sailor
that shows his watch
that tells the timeof the wretched man
that lies in the house of Bedlam.