Friday, 31 October 2008


so, after a night of insomnia i take it into my head to go and visit edinburgh. i want to see an exhibition at the fruitmarket called close-up. that's all i know about it. seeing the subtitle - proximity and defamiliarisation in art, film and photography - may have given me pause but as i i didn't, then it didn't. after that brief tour i head over to the city. they have the usual edinburgh paintings, all of which i've seen, then a quality couple of floors of rcahms material that is rather lovely. i could've spent more time but lack of sleep is catching up on me along with the beginnings of a nagging and persistent headache. this affects floor four, which is a very interactive drawing thing but i am soothed by floor five, which is entitled space age and is filled with all manner of paraphernalia from round tvs, models of moonlanders, various clockwork robots and a loop tape featuring the clangers. there can be few thinngs in life as soothing as the tones of oliver postgate, be they in the clangers, or my more favoured bagpuss and noggin the nog. there are children dressing up as astronauts. easily the best thing i see all day. the poetry library will not compete so i do not venture there.

it's not the exhibition itself that dismays me in close-up, more the lack of imagination. there are old botanical pictures that, to me, though interesting are pedestrian. there's nothing modern and no electron microscopy! wild and crazy close up forms this is not going to be, except maybe one of spines on a shrimps head. the rest of it is close ups of the body, none of which have any real anatomical worth and i don't see anything aesthetically pleasing. plus i'm reminded yet again just how much people are fascinated by their genitals, or rather those of others. mona hatoum has a close up of a scrotum, some other woman has a vidiot of her husband perusing her body with a camera. guess what? he's fascinated by that vagina. t puts it to me that perhaps i have seen too much in this field and i'm inclined to agree.

however outside i'm reminded of why cities are so much more interesting than towns. despite the cold i spend much time gawping at all the faces. i used to notice it more when i was on the islands, where there's much more homogeneity - we referred to it as the 'cousin factor'. as when i lived there i have the notion that i couldn't be bored so long as i had a window that overlooked the street. it even distracts me as i languish in traffic, thanks to the installation of the trams. i have my visit to fopp and beyond words, then get off home, not even bothering with a stroll in portobello. i saw no-one i knew, most have either left, are on holiday or even working. any that remain will probably only come out later and i don't think any of us would be that happy with re-acquaintance. it's like being in a memory, all the same things are being repeated, i even hear someone on the radio who sounds spookily like me. no wonder i don't visit much these days, it feels too much like repetition

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

denise levertov

In Summer

Night lies down
in the field when the moon
leaves. Head in clover,
held still.

It is brief
this time of darkness
hands of night
loosefisted, long hair

Sooner than one would dream,
the first bird
wakes with a sobbing cry. Whitely

dew begins to drift
Leafily naked, forms of the world
are revealed
all asleep. Colors

come slowly
up from behind the hilltop,
looking for forms to fil the day,
must rise and
move on, stiff and
not yet awake.


it may be that there's a poem that might be recognised here.

Friday, 24 October 2008

octavio paz


More transparent
than this water dropping
through the vine's twined fingers
my thought stretches a bridge
from yourself to yourself
Look at you
more real than the body you inhabit
fixed at the centre of my mind

You were born to live on an island

With Eyes Closed

With eyes closed
you light up within
you are a blind stone

Night after night I carve you
with eyes closed
you are a frank stone

We have become enormous
just knowing each other
with eyeys closed


More than air
more than water
more than lips
lighter lighter

Your body is the trace of your body

With you

Turquoise blasts of wind
parrots in pairs flit by
the world in flames
A tree
seething with crows
balzes and does not burn
amidst the tall sunflowers
you are
a pause of light
The day
is a great clear word
a fluttering of vowels
Your breasts
ripen before my eyes
My thoughts
are lighter than the air
I am real
I see my life and death
The world is true
I see
I inhabit a transparency

trans eliot weinberger

all this talk of poems of love lately. here's some more poems from paz. if anyone wants the originals let me know and i'll post them up when i've more time

as i said elsewhere paz's collected poems appear to be no longer available tho you can get them second hand. this is surely a wrongness. demand more paz in your bookshops!

Thursday, 23 October 2008

read this book

octavio paz

Cima y gravedad

Hay un árbol immóvil
hay otro que avanza
un río de árboles
golpea mi pecho
es la dicha
el oleaje verde

Tu estás vestida de rojo
el sello del año abrasado
el tizón carnal
el astro frutal
en ti como sol

La hora reposa
Sobre un abismo de claridades
Puñados de sombre los pájaros
sus picos construyen la noche
sus alas sostienen al dia

Plantada en el cresta de la luz
entre la fijeza y el vértigo
tu eres
la balanza diáfana

a request from rachel. if anyone's looking for it, i couldn't find it anywhere else on the internet. it appears in paz's collected poems in the hacia el comienzo section. translation here

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

wislawa symborska

The Acrobat

From trapeze to
to trapeze, in the hush that
that follows the drum roll's sudden pause, through
through the startled air, more swiftly than
than his body's weight, which once again
again is late for its own fall

Solo. Or even less than solo,
less, because he's crippled, missing
missing wings, missing them so much
that he can't miss the chance
to soar on shamefully unfeathered
naked vigilance alone.

Arduous ease,
watchful ability,
and calculated inspiration. Do you see
how he waits to punce in flight; do you know
how he plots from head to toe
against his very being; do you know, do you see
hwo cunningly he weaves himself through his own former shape
and works to seize this swaying world
by stretching out the arms he has conceived -

beautiful beyond belief at this passing
at this very passing moment that's just passed

trans by stanislaw baranczak and clare cavanagh


it occurs to me that the tuesday night group are aged collectively at around 175 years, possibly more. i do this calculation in my head as we banter about the fact that, for one of us, this'll be his last night ride in his forties. i've told them in advance that i'm not on form, that my legs are poor, but as i should've expected this is like blood in the water and we go up the hardest hill they can find. all's fair!

it's a great night, not quite freezing but not far off, the sky is clear and once we're out in the forest there's no light pollution out to the stars. in the trees there's all manner of bird life but quite what we can't tell. it is wet tho with multiple river and splash crossings. j assures us 'it wasn't like this on saturday'

on the way back we hammer it down some wee back lane. in cycling terms the definition of a race is two people on bicycles on the same road. it's just wide enough for overtaking but this is complicated by the large and abundant potholes. inevitably the jostling for position leads to some detours through the water which of course descends into the spectacle of us bunny hopping into the puddles to splash each other on the way past.

we cruise back in. true we're getting older and, for at least one of us the economic situation has brought the spectre of redundancy very close but for a brief waterlogged moment we're still daft kids soaking our mates. i find this very reassuring

Monday, 20 October 2008

the fife diet

up until very recently any mention of the fife diet would, for me, have included pies, chips, probably more pies, washed down with buckfats. now this is a terrible way to dismiss fife, which is a lovely part of the country but at the same time for every east neuk there's a kirkcaldy

but anyway, i was gratified to hear about the fife diet on R4 this week. i knew something similar had been happening in the borders but hadn't suspected anything like this so close to home. i think it's great and not too dissimilar to what me and t are doing anyway. doubtless it'll be discussed if t makes it to the organic gardeners squad we found about when i bought another kayak at the weekend.

i wouldn't have thought many years ago that in later life direct action would come to mean getting it together to source comfrey for composting. overgrow the government indeed!

Sunday, 19 October 2008

elma mitchell

This Poem...

This poem is dangerous: it should not be left
Within the reach of children, or even of adults
Who might swallow it whole, with possibly
Undesirable side effects. If you come across
An unattended, unidentified poem
In a public place, do not attempt to tackle it
Yourself. Send it (preferably in a sealed container)
To the nearest centre of learning, where it will be rendered
Harmless by experts. Even the simplest poem
May destroy your immunity to human emotions.
All poems must carry a Government warning. Words
Can seriously affect your heart.

Friday, 17 October 2008


it's a wet day, a miserable day. full of cold, claustrophobic damp, the type of day that northern european countries, but especially scotland, seem to specialise in at this time of year. what better way to get round it than to stay in, get the paint out, do some work.

i pre-empted today by having a good visit to the library yesterday. as usual around national poetry day, they've made a fuss about it, bought some new books, laid out all the poetry day postcards. i spent a bit of time last night bemoaning that these weren't as good as previous years but then i gave myself pause and thought, well they may not be what i like, but at least they're there. not unlike the poetry library, which has given me much cause to girn over the years. but in the girning it's easy to forget all the time i've spent at peace there, wrapped up in my own thoughts

so on that positive note, i thought i'd give special mention to the places that've been inspiring me lately. there are many, of course, but these are the ones that are currently catching my eye

Feltbug - i say currently, but looking at feltbug's site has been something of a daily ritual for a long time. it is a treasure trove, particularly the masterful mosaic monday posts. the day i can't get ideas from here will be the day i have truly lost hope

pintame al dia - esti's blog is both personal and hauntingly beautiful, filled with drawings that look as if they should've stepped out of an au revoir simone video. i'm particularly taken with the hand project which, for me, is without equivalent, anywhere else

one nights stanzas - i love the unrelenting upbeat nature of claire's blog. i find it the perfect antidote to any occasional grumpiness i may suffer from! quite how she manages it so young, at an age where i was concerned only with how many intoxicants i could shove down my face, is brilliant. she makes me want to do stuff and for that alone has surely paid for the coffee i will certainly buy her whenever i catch up in edinburgh

Thursday, 16 October 2008

burn after reading

so what's a 24hr race in scotland look like? something like this
but don't believe the fellow at the beginning who said it was cold. no, it was not, it was rather perfect weather, if your body was working that is. and despite what the video might suggest there were some women competing. not many but a few. they also missed the guy who got married the day before, who was squeezing in a race before the honeymoon. truly that is love!

so what's the connection with the coen brothers movie? i would go and see it anyway but making a joke about a schwinn. genius. cyclists are idiots. i'm there.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008


so these are just some of the things to see in birnam. the theme of the show was 'in transit'. after that you were pretty much eft to do what you wanted. there's all manner of other interesting things going on this weekend but as i'm cx racing i think i'll be missing it

rutger kopland

Ulumbo, a Cat

Like us he had his
quirks, but more

In the winter he loved
stoves, in summer
little birds.

Sick and as indifferent
to death as to us.
Dying he did himself.

trans by james brockway

Monday, 13 October 2008

anne frater

The Shelf

A map on the wall
following the course of each ship my father was on:
across the Atlantic;
through the Mediterranean
and down through the Suez Canal;
the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean,
the Pacific–
while we waited for his return
to the island in the Minch.

A doll for me from each country he visited,
sitting on the shelf like an invitation
to countries which I only saw
in an imagination quickened by his stories.

The Spanish dancers
frozen in a Flamenco reel;
a gaucho from Argentina on his black horse
sitting as he has done
for over twenty years;
two old ladies from Japan
the worse for age and careless handling
(although there is still one beautiful one-
her face white, her lips red),
the ones from Korea
brightly coloured in a glass box.

The world in a corner
of a small corner of the world,
images which set my feet to travelling
so that I could set my own memories
on the shelf.

trans by the author

a novelty

i surprised t on the way to the race by taking us into the place where i'm taking part in my first group show, due almost entirely to persuasion by her, and also because she'd had her gardening incident, she couldn't make anything herself (which in its way makes my point about having plenty in reserve should the need arise!). it may not seem like much but people have been trying to get me to do this for ten years, at the very least, meeting with a resistance that makes my can't-be-botheredness about writing seem almost casual!

but anyway. i rather loved it and i think, seeing as i'm still lurgied up, i may even go back today for another, longer look. of course i'm not happy that i'm one of the few who chose to use a canvas but i am happy that almost everything, well in fact everything maybe, is non-representational. there's all sorts, textile work, craft based things, found objects. it's a real treasure trove and just goes to show the wealth of imagination we have here and beyond.

anyone passing birnam and has ten minutes or more, should go and have a look

Sunday, 12 October 2008

but what actually happened...

so i kind of had it in my head that seeing as relentless was happening later this year we'd maybe just leave it until saturday morning to head north. but oh no, i get excited at the campingness so off we leave on friday. which is fine, initially as we get the tent up, the awning up and all is restful. yes, that is all fine. but then the weather starts.

we knew the tent could take it, it having been in worse before, tho not when it was anchored with rocks. the awning tho, was another matter and surely would've been in the trees had i not secured it to the van. didn't mean i wasn't up every couple of hours checking it tho. and the rain, well it was just comedy rain. ideal preparation for a 24hr race is not two hours sleep, no it is not.

even then it's not an excuse. not that, nor t's assertion that my diet wasn't right. the course was perfect, not least because they'd taken all the bits i don't like out. perfect but, it has to be said, a bit boring. i don't know who's done the fastest time but i think around 35 minutes for a fast team round. faster if you're a loon.

as it was my first lap was about 48minutes but i'd stopped for two crashes so i wasn't too bothered. my second tho was closer to an hour which i thought was a bit odd. i felt a bit cold and a bit stiff when i came in but put it down to just warming into it. the problems started (and finished) on lap three. no power in my legs, grannying the climbs, and lots, oh yes lots, of pain. no go at all. when i got back i crawled into my sleeping bag and passed out, waking up to lots of nausea and thumping head. even tho i wanted to i couldn't go back out.

i'm very, very disappointed, even ashamed. this was the best course i've raced in a couple of years and i should've bombered my way thru it. but nothing, nothing at all. i can't explain it. i don't feel viral and i know i'm fit enough. it's easy to say it's just one day bu the reality is it's just frustrating and depressing.

we packed the van, assisted in the speed of our task by a truly depressing soundtrack courtesy of nofuss, on loop tape throughout the afternoon. just how often could t put up with some dire remix of sweet home alabama? temper was showing after three! honestly, you come out to the forest to race and chill out, not feel as if you're in some dire club without hope of escape. i didn;t have to put up with it as long as t but even after a short period i was wanting to kick the speakers into scrap. leo sayer!

anyway, the future. short of getting into a team situation, which i'm not fussed for as it's bad enough having a disaster when you're soloing, i'm unsure if i'm going to keep on with the enduros. certainly i can't say i've enjoyed any of them this year with the possible exception of tenundertheben even if it was just another way to get cooked. in the short term i think it'll be cyclocross, longer term who knows? maybe even tt!

Wednesday, 8 October 2008


of the twenty four hour endurance races next weekend. no short summer nights (and hopefully, no first lap wipeouts) for me now. having not looked forward to it all summer, indeed having sworn off this race, in the end i couldn't resist it. and aside from all the cycliness of it, of all the things i get to do, packing up the van and going off with t to a bike race has to be one of my favourite things.

a fact i shall endeavour to remember at three in the morning as i slog my way thru a river...

james wright

On the Skeleton of a Hound

Nightfall, that saw the morning-glories float
Tendril and string against the crumbling wall,
Nurses him now, his skeleton for grief,
His locks for comfort curled among the leaf.
Shuttles of moonlight weave his shadow tall,
Milkweed and dew flow upward to his throat.
Now catbird feathers plume the apple mound,
And starlings drowse to winter up the ground.
thickened away from speech by fear, I move
Around the body. Over his forepaws, steep
Declivities darken down the moonlight now,
And the long throat that bayed a year ago
Declines from summer. Flies would love to leap
Between his eyes and hum away the space
Between the ears, the hollow where a hare
Could hide; another jealous dog would tumble
The bones apart, angry, the shining crumble
Of a great body gleaming in the air;
Quivering pigeons foul his broken face.
I can imagine men who search the earth
For handy resurrections, overturn
The body of a beetle in its grave;
Whispering men digging for gods might delve
A pocket for these bones, then slowly burn
Twigs in the leaves, pray for another birth.
But I will turn my face away from this
Ruin of summer, collapse of fur and bone.
For once a white hare huddled up the grass,
The sparrows flocked away to see the race.
I stood on darkness, clinging to a stone,
I saw the two leaping alive on ice,
On earth, on leaf, humus and withered vine:
The rabbit splendid in a shroud of shade,
The dog carved on the sunlight, on the air,
Fierce and magnificent his rippled hair,
The cockleburs shaking around his head.
Then, suddenly, the hare leaped beyond pain
Out of the open meadow, and the hound
Followed the voiceless dancer to the moon,
To dark, to death, to other meadows where
Singing young women dance around a fire,
Where love reveres the living.

I alone
Scatter this hulk about the dampened ground;
And while the moon rises beyond me, throw
The ribs and spine out of their perfect shape.
For a last charm to the dead, I lift the skull
And toss it over the maples like a ball.
Strewn to the woods, now may that spirit sleep
That flamed over the ground a year ago.
I know the mole will heave a shinbone over,
The earthworm snuggle for a nap on paws,
The honest bees build honey in the head;
The earth knows how to handle the great dead
Who lived the body out, and broke its laws,
Knocked down a fence, tore up a field of clover.

Monday, 6 October 2008

anne carson

Father's Old Blue Cardigan

Now it hangs on the back of the kitchen chair
where I always sit, as it did
on the back of the kitchen chair where he always sat.

I put it on whenever I come in,
as he did, stamping
the snow from his boots.

I put it on and sit in the dark.
He would not have done this.
Coldness comes paring down from the moonbone in the sky.

His laws were a secret.
But I remember the moment at which I knew
he was going mad inside his laws.

He was standing at the turn of the driveway when I arrived.
He had on the blue cardigan with the buttons done up all the way to the top.
Not only because it was a hot July afternoon

but the look on his face—
as a small child who has been dressed by some aunt early in the morning
for a long trip

on cold trains and windy platforms
will sit very straight at the edge of his seat
while the shadows like long fingers

over the haystacks that sweep past
keep shocking him
because he is riding backwards.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

nazim hikmet

On Living


Living is no laughing matter:
you must live with great seriousness
like a squirrel, for example-
I mean without looking for something beyond and above living,
I mean living must be your whole occupation.
Living is no laughing matter:
you must take it seriously,
so much so and to such a degree
that, for example, your hands tied behind your back,
your back to the wall,
or else in a laboratory
in your white coat and safety glasses,
you can die for people-
even for people whose faces you've never seen,
even though you know living
is the most real, the most beautiful thing.
I mean, you must take living so seriously
that even at seventy, for example, you'll plant olive trees-
and not for your children, either,
but because although you fear death you don't believe it,
because living, I mean, weighs heavier.


Let's say you're seriously ill, need surgery -
which is to say we might not get
from the white table.
Even though it's impossible not to feel sad
about going a little too soon,
we'll still laugh at the jokes being told,
we'll look out the window to see it's raining,
or still wait anxiously
for the latest newscast ...
Let's say we're at the front-
for something worth fighting for, say.
There, in the first offensive, on that very day,
we might fall on our face, dead.
We'll know this with a curious anger,
but we'll still worry ourselves to death
about the outcome of the war, which could last years.
Let's say we're in prisonand close to fifty,
and we have eighteen more years, say,
before the iron doors will open.
We'll still live with the outside,
with its people and animals, struggle and wind-
I mean with the outside beyond the walls.
I mean, however and wherever we are,
we must live as if we will never die.


This earth will grow cold,
a star among stars
and one of the smallest,
a gilded mote on blue velvet-
I mean this, our great earth.
This earth will grow cold one day,
not like a block of ice
or a dead cloud even
but like an empty walnut it will roll along
in pitch-black space ...
You must grieve for this right now
-you have to feel this sorrow now-
for the world must be loved this much
if you're going to say ``I lived'' ...

trans. randy blasing and mutlu konuk

Thursday, 2 October 2008

martin o'neill

on a brighter note

i've been blog browsing and come across a few finnish sites which have got me all misty eyed for a return visit. it must be so gorgeous in the autumn.

plans are in the air for a scoot along the scandinavian part of the north sea cycle route for next year but i'd love a bit of time somewhere out of helsinki where i could watch the sun set and listen to the nature